september 2009

"Status report!" Commodore Valgan literally screamed at his bridge crew. "Who is on my ship? How many? Where? What are they doing?"

"Still processing reports," the Executive Officer said. "That ship that went by us was a fast courier, the one you said was the only thing that could catch us."

"We hit it with that last shot," the Deputy Weapons Officer said. "I know we did. He won't be back." The man was trying too hard to prove he was worthy of his post. The Chief Weapons Officer was locked in one of the conference rooms.

"He doesn't need to come back," the Executive Officer said. "Whatever he was here to do, he did."

"Why did the shields go down?" Valgan asked.

"Because traitors in the shield control room switched them off," the Engineering Bridge Officer said. "They're dead now. I have transferred shield controls to the bridge. It won't happen again."

"They went down twice," the Executive Officer said.

"The traitors turned them off," the Engineering Bridge Officer said, "so I turned them back on and sent security up to the shield control room. Before they could get there, the traitors turned the shields off again. I turned them back on, and the traitors are, as I said, dead now."

"How many transporters on a fast courier?" Valgan asked.

"Two," the Science Officer responded, "according to the database. They could have made as many as four transporter lifts each."
"That's nearly fifty hostiles," the Executive Officer said. "We're going to have a serious problem since over half of the crew is locked up, including most of the Marines."

"Worse," the ESS officer said, "the internal sensors are largely non-functional. What works is confused by decoys."

"Put the ship on full alert!" Valgan said. "Deploy guards on critical systems, and send patrols to find the hostiles."

"I have already put the ship on alert," Major Kenyil, the Marine Commander, said calmly. "The problem is that all of the Marines, security troops, and others you consider loyal are already deployed guarding prisoners and the most critical systems."

"So what have you done?" Valgan demanded.

"I had the security troops guarding the officers locked in the conference rooms on Deck Four check the boom; they report that they cannot enter the Computer Compartment or the wardroom. One of them is on his way down to Deck Five to pass under the Computer Compartment and try to enter the wardroom from the ladders. I sent the Security squad that recaptured the shield controls down to Deck Four. The guards on the barracks in the rear hull report that Deck Four is clear and the engine room secure. I have sent my one roving patrol of Marines through Deck Five of the rear hull, and they're working their way down."

"What was that about the internal sensors?" Valgan asked.

"We have reports from all over the ship, and coverage is limited," the Security Commander said. "The security stations took a lot of damage when my troops received orders to arrest you, and you sent Marines to attack them. What security technicians I have left are trying to search the decks with the heat sensors from the fire suppression system. There are, indeed, a lot of people moving around on this ship, doubtless some of them being crewmen disloyal to you who have taken the opportunity to leave their posts and create mischief."

"What about...?" Valgan started to say, but his sentence was cut off by a reverberating explosion under his feet.

"What was that?" Valgan snarled.

"An explosion," the Executive Officer said. "Somewhere in the boom section."

"Tell me something I don't already know!" Valgan screamed.

"My panel is out," the Science Officer said.

"So is mine," said the Deputy Weapons Officer.

"The main view screen is dead," said the Helmsman.

"Fire suppression system reports an explosion in the computer core," the Engineering Bridge Officer said. "About half of the computer banks are not responding."

"Get those security troops in there immediately!" Valgan screamed. "What do you want?" he said as he answered the intercom.
"This is Lieutenant Polarian," came the voice. "I saw a strange Dunkar officer transport into the wardroom with a khad of armed Marines. I thought he was one of your guests. He told me to go to my quarters and not report his presence, but after hearing that explosion, I thought ... perhaps I should report the encounter. Was he one of your guests?"

"By the stars," Valgan screamed, "I am surrounded by incompetence."

"Polarian, this is Major Kenyil," the Marine Commander interrupted. "Leave your quarters and go up to the small arms locker on Deck Six. Draw a weapon, secure the arms locker, and defend it with your life. I will send reinforcements with the password 'Fidelity', do you understand?"

"Yes, Sir," the supply officer said. "I think I can do that."

"Then go do it!" Kenyil said. "Take a communicator and report to me when you have accomplished your mission."

"I would have to get a communicator out of supply," Polarian said. "But securing the arms locker sounds more important. Should I do ...?"

"Get to the arms locker now!" Valgan screamed into the intercom. Polarian said he would follow his orders.

"You, you, you, and you," Valgan pointed to members of his bridge crew he thought he could spare, "get down to Deck Six and meet this idiot at the arms locker. Kenyil, lead them!"

"It is done," Kenyil said, leading the designated officers and technicians to the turbolift.

"Security Commander," Valgan said. "Have the mobile Marine squad in the rear hull move immediately to the engine room and guard it. Contact the guards on the conference rooms on Deck Four and order them to execute the prisoners and prepare for further missions. Report when that is done."

"It is done," the Security Commander said, turning to his panel.

"This is an extreme step," the Executive Officer said quietly. "Is there no alternative?"

"I need mobile troops," Valgan said, "I have only two mobile khads, the security guards trying to break into the computer room, and the Marines I sent to the engine room. I just stripped the bridge of officers to create a third, and that will not be enough."

"Those officers would have been valuable prisoners to give the Kzintis," the Executive Officer said.

"Those officers are dead weight," Valgan sneered. "They are a liability, and as dangerous to this ship and our mission as the hostile boarding parties we still haven't found.

"And I still need more troops. Get to your panel, go through the list of crewmen on duty, and send whomever you can spare to the arms lockers. Assign loyal officers to lead them. And tell the deck crews to stop loading that scatter-pack and report to engineering for guard duty."

"There are no enemy ships within a light year," the Executive Officer said. "I could strip all of the gunners. Those compartments are fully manned."

"No," Valgan said. "We must assume that the hostile boarding parties will accomplish at least part of their mission. They will do something to slow us down and we will be in a fight with those frigates within minutes. Take half of the gunners and technicians from each compartment, but leave the rest."

"What about the guards on the barracks," the Executive Officer said. "Shall they open the doors and start shooting?"

"Too great a risk," Valgan said.

"I can cut off air circulation," the Engineering Bridge Officer said. "That will make them lethargic in an hour, dead in two or three."
"Do that," Valgan said. "And turn the temperature up, as high as it will go, so they will breath faster."

"Open up," Wanekla said to the locked hatch after inputting the codes that Kurs had given her. She was more than slightly surprised that it did. Leaving the hatch standing open, she crawled ten meters down the access tunnel, stopping to disable another security camera. She reached an identical hatch, and opened it with the same codes. This time, she remembered to place a weld-charge on the hatch rim, which would stop it from closing. Another ten meters, another dead security camera, and she had reached the third hatch, and decided it would be enough.

Inside the third hatch was an array of controls she did not understand, nor was there any way to figure them out since they were connected to the valves by electric cables, and the valves were some distance away.

Looking back at the datapad Kurs had provided, she compared the three-dimensional drawings to what she saw before her. Some of it matched, but there had been new controls added ... years ago by the look of them ... and she simply didn't understand what the new items did. Not that it mattered. The drawings Kurs had provided gave her all she needed to know. Confirming twice that she had the right controls, she opened three valves, venting the deuterium slush in three of the fuel tanks to space.

Scrambling as fast as she could, she reached the second hatch in seconds and, without confirming anything, reached for the identical controls, opening three more tanks to space. Scrambling even faster, she reached the open first hatch and turned the three now-familiar valves. She hesitated for a split second, considering the idea of operating some of the unknown controls, then decided against it and moved back the way she had come. Once out of the access tunnel, she placed two welding charges to keep it shut.

"Commodore!" the Engineering Bridge Officer said, "someone is venting fuel out of the portside tanks!"

"Shut the valves!" Valgan ordered. "Do I have to think of everything myself?"

"The valves are not responding," the Engineering Bridge Officer said. "The circuits to the override valves are not responding, either. Kiya! My entire control panel just went dead. Restarting the software."

"How much fuel are we losing?" the Executive Officer asked.

"Not that much," the Engineering Bridge Officer said, waiting for his panel to reboot. "Maybe ten percent per hour, and we can only lose those nine tanks, the upper half of the portside bunker, twenty-percent of the total capacity. Those were the bleed valves, not the primary gate valves. Those are normally open only when we're refueling and need to purge the tanks. But the loss is steady and I won't be able to stop it without climbing down there and turning them by hand. In an hour, we will have lost enough fuel that we cannot maintain emergency speed all the way to the rendezvous. In two hours, those nine tanks will be dry. They knew what to vent; the lower tanks on both sides are almost empty, since we normally use them first."

"Do something!" Valgan ordered.

"Do you want me to go down there?"

"No, I can't spare you," Valgan said. "Send someone from engineering, and send someone with a weapon to guard the starboard bunkers. In the meantime, what can you do from here?"

"I can transfer fuel from the venting tanks to the lower tanks," the Engineering Bridge Officer said. "That would save half of it, but we still can't make rendezvous."

"Communications," Valgan ordered, "signal the Kzintis that they'll have to come forward to meet us."

"That's a risk they may not want to take," the Executive Officer said.

"Capturing this ship is worth the risk," Valgan answered.

Teams One and Three, Deck Four, Demonslayer, Portside Midships Barracks

Rakarra held up his hand, watching as each member of Team One and Team Three signaled they were ready. Rakarra dropped his hand, and both hatches slid open.

Two members of Team Three crossed the corridor into the opposite compartment, finding it empty as expected. Two more turned right and headed aft, disappearing around the corners. That gave Team Three an interlocking and multi-layer defense. The four men in the two barracks rooms provided a crossfire toward the forward part of the ship, while the other two provided a last-ditch defense to protect Rakarra's back as Team One attacked the engine room. Sergeant Koff waved to the Dunkar Marine who had come to the forward intersection to investigate what he had heard, and said. "Continue to guard the prisoners. We're guarding the engine room." The Dunkar gave a vaguely salute-like wave and disappeared back around the corner, talking into his communicator.

Rakarra faced the rear hatch as it opened, and in a flash was upon the Hilidarian guard, grabbing his throat with one hand while driving his dagger - a weapon anyone but a Slirdarian would have considered a short sword - into the dragon's back. Spinning around to place his back against the far bulkhead, Rakarra held the struggling Hilidarian firmly while Sergeant Kleed stepped forward and drove his own knife into the dragon's throat. There was surprisingly little blood, but then the physiology of Hilidarians was very different from humanoids, and cold-blooded animals didn't bleed all that much.

Dragging the guard back into the barracks, Rakarra dumped the now lifeless corpse onto the deck and led the three other members of his team into the corridor.

Sergeant Zopic-tin was hustling his team back into the shuttlecraft spare parts locker when the main hatch to the handling deck started opening. The hatch was fully six meters wide, but stopped after opening only a meter.

"Koolik, they want us in the engine room," came a voice. "Let's go!"

Zopic-tin jumped back, pressed the switch to close the hatch to the spares locker, and pressed a button on his communicator to detonate the deck-breaker charge in the the shuttle maintenance shop. The sound was deafening, but the hatch to the spares locker held. Zopic-tin pressed the switch to reopen it, but it would not.

"Probably warped," Melik-dor said. "Let me try." He popped open the plate over the controls and, using a tool from his belt, crossed two wires. The hatch slid aside with a groan, jamming before it was fully open. "The motors are burned out," Melik-dor said. "I doubled the voltage to get more power, and they couldn't take it."

"It's enough," Zopic-tin said, sliding through the opening, followed by Pristak and the Yeoman. They advanced on the open door to the handling deck, noting a number of crewmen laying on the deck, some of them dead. Those still alive were quickly dispatched by the team's daggers.

"Nice of them to get the drones out of storage," Melik-dor said.

"Not really," Zopic-tin said, "I wanted to fort up in the drone locker, because it is armored. Now we either have to move one of the warheads, or make a last stand in an open compartment with a dozen ways in and out."

"Then let's get busy," Melik-dor said, starting to work on dismounting one of the nuclear warheads from the missile body.

"Commodore," the Security Commander said, "report from the Marines guarding the prisoners in the rear hull. The Marine squad has taken positions in the central corridor."

"Excellent," Valgan said.

"Have you heard from the Marine patrol itself?" the Executive Officer asked, "or just from the guard detail?"

"Just from the guards," the Security Commander replied.

"Contact the patrol and ask where they are," the Executive Officer said. The Security Commander did so.

"They report being inside the engine room," the Security Commander said, "but have sent half the team up to the shuttle deck to find out about ... some explosion."

"What explosion?" Valgan roared.

"Commodore," the Engineering Bridge Officer said, "I am getting a fire alarm in the drone handling room, where the crew was loading a scatter-pack."

"And you are telling me now?" Valgan demanded.

"I don't have automatic scan of the alarms," the Engineering Bridge Officer said. "I have to check them manually, in rotation."
"Why?" the Executive Officer asked.

"Half of my computer system isn't working," the Engineering Bridge Officer said. "And I just lost most of the rest. Make that all of the rest. My engineering monitor circuits are not reporting. That explosion was right over the engineering computers. It must have been another one of those deck-breaking charges."

"Switch to the backups," the Executive Officer said, "the ones in the main computer in the rear hull."

"Trying," the Engineering Bridge Officer said, "but I am getting a lot of gibberish from some of the circuits. Somebody has seriously compromised those computers."

"Use the override systems in the forward computers," Valgan ordered.

"Those are already dead," the Engineering Bridge Officer said. "The forward computer is totally dead, the engineering computer is not responding, and the mainframe computer is corrupted. The local computer in my terminal is not able to handle the entire ship. I can look anywhere I want, but only one place at a time."

"Same here," the Security Commander said. "I just have the local terminal, and it's got one percent of the power of the mainframe."

"Same for me," the Helmsman reported. "I cannot process navigation data fast enough to safely maintain this speed."
"Maintain speed anyway," Valgan ordered. "If we slow down now, we're all dead."

"Wait a minute!" the Executive Officer said. "If the Marines are inside the engine room, who is in the midships corridor?

Team Two, Forward Deck Four, Computer Room

"Sergeant," the combat engineer called, "the deck is clear. Can someone hand me the deck-breaker?"

"Very well," Doran said, moving to the hole in the deck. Together, he and the second engineer lowered the heavy explosive device into the waiting arms of the two men in the pantry. Through the open door into the ward room, they heard a burst of disruptor fire.
"What was that?" Doran said, clicking his communicator.

"Someone climbed up the ladder," the rifleman on guard said. "I shot him."

"Very well," Doran said.

"Charge placed," the engineer said, climbing out of the hole in the deck, followed by the communications technician.
"Stand clear," Doran ordered. "Detonate."

"What was that?" Valgan asked as the second explosion rumbled through the deck plates.

"My navigation displays are dead," reported the Helmsman. "Switching to local backups.

"Fire suppression shows an explosion in the pantry, which has penetrated the deckplates into the navigation compartment," the Security Commander said. "A technician reports that everyone there is dead or wounded, and all of their computers are damaged and off-line. There are major electrical fires."

"Sir, the technician sent to the fuel tanks reports the access hatch is welded from the inside," the Engineering Bridge Officer said. "He has gone to get cutting equipment."

"I told the Marines guarding the prisoners to go back and identify these Marines who have appeared amidships on Deck Four," the Executive Officer said.

"The Marines in the engine room report that deck crews are all dead on the handling deck, killed by the explosion over the engineering computer, or stabbed. The scatter-pack has been damaged and is not usable, and a warhead is missing from one of the drones. They report that the hatch to the drone locker will not open. They are trying to force it."

"Sir, I only have the navigation files for about ten parsecs," the Helmsman said. "When we get that far, I'll be flying blind. I'll have to reduce speed or the sensors cannot provide sufficient warning of obstacles."

"Negative," Valgan said. "Use your best judgment and keep our speed at maximum." Valgan cursed his decision to send the bridge navigator with the Marine commander.

"You are Polarian," Kenyil said, rather than asked. "Fidelity."

"At your service," Polarian replied. "I haven't heard or seen anyone, but I heard an explosion..."

"Everybody heard that explosion," Kenyil said. "I assume responsibility for this arms locker. Take your weapon and get to the turbolift. When I signal you, take the turbolift to the wardroom, keep your weapon hidden, and tell them some story about wanting to get some food or looking for somebody. It will cause confusion and allow us to enter the compartment unnoticed."

"Very well," Polarian said. "I'm not stupid. I know that I'll probably end up dead or wounded."

"As will most of us," Kenyil said. "But we have to take back control of the computers. Traitors are trying to take the ship."

"That went without saying," Polarian said as he left the compartment.

Kenyil began passing out weapons to his comrades.

"Has Demonslayer slowed?" the Commander asked.

"Negative," the Weapons Officer answered. "I am detecting a cloud of fuel trailing from the ship. Someone is dumping some of the tanks."

"How much fuel?"

"Not that much, so far," the Weapons Officer said. "If it continues, they'll have to slow down or find a way to refuel, but if they can stop the leak, they'll still make it to the Tigermen at current maximum speed."

"Very well," the Captain said. "Even if they stop dead, we've got time to stand to. Update Dragon Fire and Dragon Thrower.

"Junior Watch Officer, continue current course and speed. Let the rest of the crew sleep. I'll be gone for a few minutes, but I'll be back. Have some food sent up here for your people, and get me something to eat."

"Meat and bread?" the Junior Watch Officer said. "The doctor told you not to eat any sugar."

"So you remind me, Klipf," the Captain laughed at his nephew. "Fine, meat and bread. But see if they have any fresh fruit to go with it. The doctor said I could eat that."

"Very well, Sir."

Rakarra had only three men, a Dunkar private named Pirish, a Hilidarian private named Hirik, and Sergeant Kleed with him as he moved down the corridor, toward the engine room. He started to signal to the two men from Team Three to join him, but firing started from that direction, and he broke into a run toward the engine room. Things were going critical, and quickly. He might have only seconds to attack the engine room before his rear guards collapsed under pressure.

Reaching the hatch, he slapped at the control panel, but nothing happened. So much for the easy way, Rakarra thought to himself. Obviously, with the ship on alert, they remembered to actually lock the kailish door. He motioned to the Dunkar Marine with him, who tapped in the security code provided by Kurs. Again, nothing happened. The Dunkar opened the panel and tried to short out the wiring.

"No go," the Dunkar said. "The circuits are working, but the hatch is welded shut from inside and the override has shut down the motors before they burned out."

"Explosives!" Rakarra snapped, flipping a satchel charge from one shoulder, and another from the other. "Set the charges!" The Dunkar moved to comply while Rakarra led Sergeant Kleed back around the corner and out of the blast zone.

Rakarra was organizing his attack, watching the two riflemen from Team Three firing into the centerline corridor for all they were worth. One of them went down, and Rakarra sent Sergeant Kleed to take his place. That left only Rakarra and the two riflemen for the key assault intended to stop the ship. The point of my spear is getting very thin, he said to himself. A noise from the barracks compartment startled him, and he turned and fired, assuming that Demonslayer's Marines had broken into the compartment to outflank Team Three. Only her quick reactions saved Wanekla from sudden death as she dived under his blaster fire.

"The ship is leaking fuel like a sieve," she reported. He grunted in reply. A hatch in the transverse corridor opened, but before Rakarra could react, Kurs stepped into the corridor.

"The computers are totally compromised," the ESS man said, taking his carbine from a Dunkar. "I have placed a charge in the transformers and will detonate it on your command."

"Very well," Rakarra said as the Dunkar returned around the corner. "Wanekla and Pirish take the left, Hirik and I will take the right."

"Where shall I be?" Kurs asked.

"I cannot give you orders," Rakarra said. "You can remain here and block the corridor, or you can join in the assault."

"It shall be my honor to fight under your command, Sir," Kurs said. "You may command me as you would any Marine private."

"Then you shall be with me, on my right," Rakarra said. "You will be in front of me, not for glory, but because I am taller and can fire over your head. Hirik, go reinforce Sergeant Kleed's position."

"So it shall be," Kurs said. "How is the attack to proceed?"

"Wanekla and I shall arm grenades to throw when we clear the hatch," Rakarra said. "You and Pirish will have the detonators, and will trigger them together. Once you do, we will all take one count, then turn and run down the corridor, into the smoke caused by the blast. Once through the hatch, Pirish will start firing from the left, and you from the right. Wanekla will have the center sector of fire. I will target what I think is most important.

"We have no idea how many personnel are present," Rakarra said. "If I command 'charge' then we will advance into the engine room, killing everyone we see. If I signal 'back' then we will each continue firing while all four of us pull a grenade from our harnesses and throw it. If we do pull back, we will meet here. Clear?" Everyone nodded. "Then prepare. Kurs, you may trigger the attack when ready."

"Honored," the ESS man said. Locking eyes with the Dunkar across the junction, Kurs pressed his detonator just as the Dunkar did. Two explosions, one distant and enormous, one closer but smaller and muffled by bulkheads, erupted.

Kurs found himself standing in the blasted hatchway, firing his weapon for all it was worth, without really remembering the run down the corridor. His first sweep, from the portside bulkhead to the warp core, was unthinking, volume fire designed to suppress the defenses. As he swung his weapon back to the right, he took time to aim individual shots at engineers, control panels, and even a tool cart which erupted with a satisfying spray of flying metal.

"Back!" called Rakarra, and Kurs continued to fire his carbine wildly with his right hand while he pulled a grenade from his belt, leaving the safety clip behind, and tossing it into the engine room. He backed down the corridor, firing his carbine until it ran dry, then drew his pistol with his left hand and fired it through the open hatch.

Polarian held the empty meal tray in his left hand, and the phaser pistol behind his back in his right hand. The phaser was set to kill, and Polarian marveled at the thought. He had never before held a phaser set on kill. Truth to tell, virtually all of the phaser shots he had fired in his life had been with low-powered training phasers that would not hurt anybody.

He had rehearsed what to say. "I am returning my tray," seemed the simplest. If he tried to say anything more elaborate, he would be cut off by the crack of a disruptor. If he actually reached the end of a sentence and paused, the natural reaction of whoever he faced just might give him a second to get off a shot and dive for cover.

He knew that the odds were against him, and that he was probably walking into an ambush set by people who would shoot before they even realized who he was. Death was a possibility, serious injury was more than likely. "I am returning my tray," he said aloud, and found his voice calm and clear. After all he was an officer, even if not a warrior.

Polarian watched as the indicator reached Deck Four and the turbolift car slid aft, out of the vertical shaft and into the wardroom docking port. He was timing his one-sentence speech for the opening of the door when the explosive charges detonated, crushing the car's door and knocking him unconcious. Strangely enough, the tray saved his life as the largest piece of torn metal struck it instead of ripping into his abdomen.

The Hilidarian Marine, flat on the deck behind and under a mountain of furniture, blinked as the charges placed on the turbolift door exploded, despite knowing that the blast was coming. Opening his eyelids, he saw motion and realized that two grenades had entered the wardroom, flying upward through the ladder wells on both sides of the forward bulkhead.

The Hilidarian blinked again as the grenades, both of them high explosive types with tungsten shrapnel, exploded, one in mid-air, the other as it struck the overhead. The barrier he had built with tables and chairs stopped most of the flying metal, but high velocity shreds struck him in both legs and the back. It would never have occurred to him to remark that use of such weapons inside a starship was almost unheard of, as they caused massive damage to decks and bulkheads. Sparks flew, and some kind of liquid began spraying from places where the metal had ripped open conduits.

His tail slapped against the detonator behind him, setting off the first of the anti-personnel charges tied to the ladders and facing down both wells. A scream told him at least one of those trying to climb into the wardroom had been hit. The explosion that buckled the deck under him knocked out his breath. Someone had placed explosives, a lot of them, against the kitchen ceiling. Not enough to break the deck, but enough to disrupt his aim. Even so, he shot one of the men who climbed a ladder into the wardroom, and another tail flick detonated the second and last anti-personnel charge facing down each ladder well. He was shifting his aim to the other ladder when another grenade exploded, and shrapnel dimmed his eyes for the last time.

"Engine room reports they are under attack!" the Engineering Bridge Officer reported. "Combat ongoing!"

"Send... " Valgan began, realizing he had no troops not already committed.

"I have assembled a dozen gunners and technicians on Deck Six Aft," the Executive Officer reported. "Send them to the engine room?"

"Do it!" Valgan ordered.

"Major Kenyil reports that his troops have seized the wardroom and are cutting through the computer room doors," the Security Commander said.

"What's happening?" Valgan demanded as the ship shuddered.

"We're dropping speed," the Helmsman said. "I don't really know why; it's not anything I did."

"Major damage to the engine room," the Bridge Engineer reported. "Half of the engineers are dead, and there was a major firefight. The raiders have been driven off, but the warp controls are damaged and cannot handle the power the engines are producing. One of the engineers shut down the overdrive system, dropping us to warp three, less than that, actually.

"There also was an explosion in the power transfer compartment. Two of the main transformers are out, but the other four are handling the load. Safeties are tripping all over the ship, and the computer systems are totally compromised, which is not just keeping me from telling you what's happening, but is causing safeties to trip when they don't need to."

"Get us back to emergency speed!" Valgan ordered.

"Impossible," the Bridge Engineer said. "The warp controls cannot handle it. We're limited to warp two point nine without major repairs."

"How long?" Valgan demanded.

"Not sure," the Bridge Engineer answered. "I would guess at least an hour, less than that if we can stop."

"Listen to me," Valgan said. "We're not going to stop, and if we stay at warp three, we're all going to die, in combat or by torture. Now tell the engineers to do what they have to do, but get the overdrive system working and get us back up to emergency speed."

"Shut up!" Valgan roared. "We're going to have to fight those frigates, and I can beat them, but if we're not moving in one hour, I will personally execute you on the spot."

"Sir, the navigation..." the Helmsman said.

"You too!" Valgan screamed. "Shut up and shift to combat maneuvering. When the engineer has the power back, make the best speed you can. Don't crash us into anything, but take risks. If you cannot do that, then I'll cut your throat and fly the ship myself!"
Team Two, Computer Room, Deck Four

"Weld the doors," Doran ordered. "Detonate the charges in the chart room." Explosives placed against the welded doors of the chart room on Deck Six blew the doors into the Emergency Bridge, sending blast and fire up into the pantry and Computer Compartment. "Down!" Doran ordered, jumping feet first into the hole in the deck, then into the hole in the next deck. He burst into the Emergency Bridge with his weapons blazing, only to find it empty. He stood among the wreckage of the compartment while his team joined him.

"Where now?" one of the engineers asked. Before Doran could answer, anti-personnel charges placed in the Emergency Bridge by Major Kenyil cut them all down. The last thing Doran saw in this life was the impossibly large barrel of Major Kenyil's pistol.

"They're trying to crack the door circuits," the Commo Technician reported.

"Can you stop them?" Sergeant Zopic-tin asked, looking up from the half-disassembled drone warhead.

"Wait," the Commo Technician said, "there, I just sent a high voltage charge through the panel. That burned somebody on the other side."

"Good," Zopic-tin said. "Have the Yeoman take over your duty and get your commo gear up and running." The Commo Technician leapt to obey the order. Everyone worked at their tasks. The Commo Technician reported that his gear was working and he had a signal from the Dragon King.

"They say that Demonslayer has dropped speed," the Commo Technician said, "and the frigates will catch us within half an hour, probably less. If they can hold us, cruisers will be here in three hours. They also said a Tigerman cruiser is on its way here at top speed."

"Don't reply," Zopic-tin said. "We don't want to give away that we have that capability."

"I know that," the Commo Technician said, his stress showing as annoyance. "How is it coming with the warhead?"

"If it were easy, ships would be blowing up every time somebody didn't like his dinner," Zopic-tin said, forcing himself to laugh.
"They're trying to cut through the door," Pristak reported.

"Fire the anti-personnel charges," Zopic-tin ordered. Pristak pressed a button on the tricorder and heard a satisfying rumble from the other side of the hatch.

"That should slow them down," Pristak said.

"The next thing they will try to do is cut into the compartment from above or below," the Armorer said.

"That's why I picked this spot," Zopic-tin laughed. "The armor plate is 20 centimeters thick, and they'll need days to get in. Not even a deck-breaker can get in here."

"What about four or five of them?" the Armorer asked.

"Get back to work," Zopic-tin snapped.