Title: Flight of the Raptor
Edited by: Saurex Conoway
A flash of running lights and a dull green hull moves into view, passing overhead. The ship's hull is fashioned from various shades of this green and pulling back further reveals a saucer attached by a thin neck to a wide-bodied engineering hull with a yellow deflector housed inside. Twin nacelles, glowing blue and red in contrast to the ship's greenish hull, jut out on struts to form the drive section. The reader would find this design, except for the color, familiar but strange.
Its size is not overly vast, but big enough to carry a lot of equipment. Marks on the hull indicated a few run-ins with debris and possibly a few hostile aliens along the way. On the top part of the saucer, the words "USS NEOSHO" emblazoned upon the hull along with its registry number. We zoom into a lit room on this saucer.
A large number of the crew was gathered in the ship's lounge, all celebrating the return to Confederation space after a three-year tour into the unknown. The crew of this vessel was composed of a mix of various anthropomorphic humanoids and a smattering of assorted aliens.
Captain Sixx, a tall dark feathered Avian, took a drink with his bridge crew.
"I must admit," he said, "when we started, I was a little apprehensive with a lot of new faces on my ship, but over the last three years, you've all done a tremendous job. We're back all in one piece with our crew intact." A smile crossed his beak. "Not many ships can say that venturing out into uncharted space. It couldn't have been done if it weren't for all of you."
This garnered much clapping and applause as the bird raised his glass.
"We want a speech from Harry!" A female Altarian, a brightly colored reptilian race, said from the crowd everyone else started cheering from the same.
The one called Harry was a light brown male echidna of twenty-eight. He had beads in his fore spines that denoted what province he was from on his homeworld. He had a tuft of brown headfur that he kept neatly groomed. He sighed, having his quiet chat with his friend interrupted by the speech request. He was of average height for his species, so he was occasionally dwarfed by others.
"Looks like they want you to say something Harry." Jack Land said, a tall Cornerian fox, orange in color with a white muzzle, the ship's navigator chuckled. "Don't keep them waiting."
Harry stepped up to cheers and applause, feeling embarrassed.
He quieted them down. "You want a speech, I guess I'll give you one." Harry sighed. "When I joined, I'll admit I didn't know what to expect out of all of you. It was my first assignment as First Officer. I didn't know what to expect, but you've all turned into one hell of a crew and it's been a pleasure to serve with you."
"We only got that way because you are relentless." The Catarian Chief Engineer said, gathering a few laughs.
"As the Chief is fond of pointing out yes I can be, but I made you all the better for it."
There was a murmur of agreement. It had taken Harry the majority of the year to get the crew to respect him. He had a lot of problems with some of the older, more experienced crew members, but over time they warmed up to him. It was all about earning their respect and trust and in their time on the frontier, he had achieved both of those things from them.
"I would be honored if I could go on another tour with you after this old ship gets put in for a long-awaited refit," Harry added.
"I think I speak for the crew when I saw we would feel the same Commander," Sixx said.
This got more applause.
"Now, ladies and gentlemen, let's enjoy the revelry why we can. We get back into subspace communication range with the Confederation in ten hours, so let's enjoy our freedom while we have it. Enjoy yourselves and thanks for everything."
"Good speech." Land said. "I give it a four out of five."
, "I didn't see you making an effort to chip in." Harry grumbled while taking a drink.
"Burdens of command Harry." Land smirked. "Us ensigns are just expected to do our jobs."
"Yeah well, you could be there if you'd stop getting busted amigo," Harry said, taking a drink.
"I'm living the dream bucko." Land chuckled. "Flying these wonderful ships...I can't ask for a better job. You can't fly if you sit in the other seats."
"I suppose that's one way of looking at it."
"So, do you gentlemen have any plans when you get back?" A female voice inquired.
They both looked up and saw Dr. Oola, a middle aged female Altairian, approaching them. She had been the quiet mediator between everyone during the long journey and had often provided a good bit of advice when needed. When Oola spoke, she lacked the typical thick accent that many of her world spoke with. Her long years in space had all but transformed it to a delightful twang.
"I may go home for a bit," Harry said. "It's been a long time since I have seen the plains of home...maybe catch up with my aunt and brother."
"That sounds nice," Oola smiled, "and you should."
"What about you Jonathan?" She asked.
"Well, I know a remote beach back home I wouldn't mind visiting, maybe catch a few waves," Land said.
Oola perked up. "I love surfing! Come with me to Altaria. I'd be glad to show you a few tricks. "
"You surf?" Land said with a mildly shocked expression.
"There're a lot of things this old girl could surprise you with," Oola chuckled.
"I'll...think about it," Land said. "If you'll excuse me, I need to get another drink."
Oola had always been flirty with Land, but he'd gotten used to it. Land had reason to be a bit uneasy around Oola. Cornerians usually didn't get along with anything remotely reptilian. Harry had helped him get over some of his prejudices, but he still had a long way to go.
Oola sighed. "He always plays hard to get."
"You know it makes him uncomfortable," Harry said.
"Not as much as it used to." She smiled.
"Aya." Harry groaned.
"When we get back, go home, get around to that visit, and makeup with your brother. It's been far too long," Oola said sweetly. "It'll do you some good. Doctors orders."
"I will and before I forget, thank you."
"A little advice is nothing to get all mushy over Commander." The doctor smiled. "You did all the work."
Harry had gone to bed that night planning a nice long vacation and anticipating his next tour on the Neosho.
The next morning
Harry's day started like any other. He got dressed, replicated his breakfast- the same as he always had- and checked his ship's mail to find a priority one message in his inbox.
His eyes read over the header.
"Damn it!" He muttered.
Harry was angry partly because of the displeasure of the new orders he had received from headquarters. As soon as the ship had gotten in range of the subspace network, the orders had been transmitted automatically. Effective immediately, he was to be transferred from the Neosho to Starbase 186 to assume command of a new vessel that was stationed there. Starbase 186 was known for being the worst place to be transferred to. It was located near the Maxwell Nebula, a few light-years from the border of Urthean space. What he couldn't figure out was why he was needed there instead of on the Neosho. He checked who signed off on the orders and sighed.
Admiral Kramer...a teacher and mentor of his from his academy days. Kramer had promised him a ship, but why one stationed in one of the worst places in the quadrant?
The orders were already post-dated and approved.
Later, in the Captain's ready room
Harry had already explained to Captain Sixx the situation of the change in his assignment. The Captain looked at the orders and scowled.
"I can't say I'm very happy about it but Harry it's your command."
"I like it here sir," Harry said.
Captain Sixx shrugged. "I know you do, but you'd be a fool to pass this up."
"I don't want to be a glorified guard dog," Harry growled, "commander of some sort of new prototype escort vessel! I'm sorry, but I'd rather not."
"Harry...do you know what my first command was?" Sixx asked.
"No, you haven't told me."
"It was a bunch of snot-nosed brats right out of the academy in an old Spartan class that barely did warp 5 on a good day. She broke down all the time, smelled like a locker room, and I hated everything about that hunk of junk," Sixx said, "but you want to know something, Commander?"
Harry smiled. "What?"
"That junkheap was mine." Captain Sixx chuckled. "Ever rotten inch of her was mine and I wasn't going to let anyone take her from me. Eventually, I traded up when we had to put her out to pasture, but I wouldn't trade any of my time on that rustbucket for anything."
"I see," Harry said.
"I can put in a request to deny the transfer if you want Harry," Sixx said, leaning forward on his desk. "However let me put it this way: Fleet Headquarters just doesn't hand starships out every day. It's your call commander." He looked at the wall chronometer and made a mental calculation. "You've got about 20 hours before we need to make the necessary course correction to drop you off. I suggest you use that time to make up your mind."
"It's not that easy to do, sir."
"Look Harry, if you take one thing away from what I told you, it's that the shit assignments pave the path to the better ones," Sixx said. "All it takes is one missed step and you can tank your career forever."
Harry walked about the corridors of the Neosho after his shift had ended, lost in thought. It was going to be hard leaving the Neosho. The ship had been his home for the last three years. He was going to miss it.
All that work felt like it had been for nothing now that he was just leaving. He could stay here, deny the transfer and stay with his friends, but he'd also be throwing away an opportunity. He'd never turned opportunities down before. Hell, joining Starfleet had been a one-shot too, and for the most part that had turned out well.
Harry took a deep breath and let out a sigh. If he was going to do this, he was going to ask one big favor of his captain. If it was a new ship he was going to have, then he needed a seasoned helmsman.
He just wasn't sure if Captain Sixx would let him go or not.
The next day
"Lt. Commander Martinez, please report to shuttle bay 2 immediately," the communications officer said over the com speaker.
Harry shouldered his pack and took a deep breath. "I'm on my way."
Harry sighed, grabbed his communicator, and activated it. He flipped the device shut, strapped it to his belt, and grabbed his carry-all. His quarters had already been cleared and his items packed. This was goodbye and it took him a moment to get through the sentimentality of the moment.
"Computer, lights." He said as he stepped out into the corridor, leaving his room in darkness.
"Tardiness is not a wise habit for an up and coming commanding officer, Captain." Captain Sixx said as Harry stepped into the shuttle-bay.
"Traffic," Harry said with a smile, shaking the Avian's feathered hand. "And it is lieutenant commander, not captain."
"Pish posh! At the rate you're going, you'll make admiral by next year." Sixx said with a smile and a boisterous slap on the back. "I'm just reluctant to lose my first officer and the finest navigator in the fleet. Isn't that right, Mr. Land?" he said, turning to Land who was reclining against the shuttle's hatchway. "I trust you won't be sending Starbase 186 in loop-the-loops if they put you at the controls."
"I only did that once sir, for the record." Land smiled
"And the inertial dampeners still shake at fifteen degrees pitch, even after five refits, Ensign." Harry chipped in.
Land stood up and straightened his uniform. "And for the record, I helped repair every one of them. Now, sir, may we get going? It's a long way to Starbase 186 even at warp 2."
"Yes, you had better get going," Sixx said reluctantly. "Have a safe journey. I'll let the others know. They'll understand."
"We will, sir," Harry said, stepping into the shuttle. "And thank you for everything."
As the first hour of the journey passed, the two had settled into the cramped cabin and began conversing freely.
"I find it strange that out of all the people Fleet HQ could have sent out to this place they'd send us."
"That's a simple answer amigo," Harry said. "I was ordered and I requested that you come with me."
"Why would you do that?" Land asked. "I was fine where I was."
"Yes, but for how long would you be 'fine' before Doctor Oola cornered you without me to keep her at bay?"
"I could handle her."
"Oh really?" Harry chuckled. "You don't know how easily an Altairian can change your mind and all it takes is a little touch when they are in the right mood, or just a little accidental contact."
"Yeah, I've heard. I take it back. Thank you for getting me out of there," Jack replied.
"Not a problem."
"So, what do you know about this place that we're going to?"
"It's an old refurbished Keldryian base built on an asteroid that's been there forever; it sits just off the Urthean Federation border. A complement of about four thousand can service up to three ships at once. It is a small-time operation. I think the chief exec is someone named Stiles."
"So, you've never been there?"
"No," Harry said. "I can't imagine it being boring though if that is what you are afraid of. Most frontier outposts have their quirks and eccentricities."
"Well, that's a relief," Land said.
"You know not all of this job is battles and adventures. Sometimes it's just exploring the …."
"Endless boredom of light-years of nothing?" Land finished, cutting him off.
Harry sighed. "There's just no changing your mind about that, is there?"
"Nope," Land said, checking their coordinates. "Besides I was counting on some vacation time, but now I've got to make the best of it."
A proximity alarm sounded and Land merely nodded before turning back to the controls as the vector alarm continued blaring.
"We just picked up Starbase 186 on long-range sensors," he announced. With that, he hit a few buttons and projected the image on the viewport. "There she is, our new home."
Starbase 186 was built out from a hollowed-out asteroid and contained very large docking facilities. It belonged to the Keldryians until they abandoned it to the Urtheans. A few years ago, this territory had been reclaimed by the Confederation, leaving disdain in the hearts of many a Urthean.
"Wait a minute," Harry said, "something isn't right. Magnify the image."
Land nodded and did so. The image magnified and showed a larger view of the starbase. Harry squinted and then saw huge burn marks all across the base. The main power also appeared to be out.
"They've been attacked!" He said. "Jack, best speed possible!"
"Already on it." Land replied as the shuttle accelerated.
After a few moments, they spotted what appeared to be a storage locker, which was followed by a breached life pod. Eventually scoured hull plates started to drift past them as the shuttle's deflector pushed them aside.
Harry looked out the side viewport at the mess of twisted steel scattered about the gravitational field of the asteroid.
"A ship," he mused, "I've seen wreckage like this before..." his voice trailed off as he eyed one of the larger pieces. What caught his attention was that there was writing on the wreckage. "It's one of ours...it's the Drake."
"But how?" Land asked, amazed.
"I don't know, but we'd better find out," Harry ordered. "Scan for life signs."
"Scanning...I'm picking up numerous life signs on the station," Land replied. "Unbelievable, given all the damage they sustained."
"Good." Harry sighed, relieved. "Hail them."
"I'm trying, but their com system is gone."
"We'll have to go and greet them ourselves then. Move us into transporter range, and then beam us to ops."
Moments later Harry and his companion materialized into the smoky haze of the station's operation center. As they fully materialized, they could smell the overwhelming stench of an electrical fire. It was dark, but Land could see that the station's command center was shaped like a pit with different levels and stations. The lights were out and it was really hard to make out details in the gloom.
"Boy, are we glad to see you!" A figure said as he approached them.
Harry drew his phaser, but relaxed when the figure drew close enough to identify them through the haze.
"Captain Stiles," the echidna introduced himself, "and you must be Commander Martinez."
"A pleasure, to meet you, sir." Harry nodded.
"Well, gentlemen, as you may have guessed you just missed the party."
"What happened here, Captain?" Harry asked.
"For months I've been trying to get assistance out here with the Urtheans. And what do they do? They send one Harrier class ship out here and you just flew through what's left of it...poor souls." Stiles muttered, shaking his head in despair. "The Urtheans attacked yesterday. They took out our shields and communications array before we even knew what hit us. The Drake managed to take out a few of them until...well...one damn lucky shot breached their core."
"That's terrible!" Land exclaimed.
"It is," Stiles replied. "The bad news is the Urtheans will be back, and in greater numbers. We won't even have a chance. Your ship, where was it headed before you left?"
"The Archon Nebula," Land replied.
"Damn! Too far away," Stiles growled.
"If you don't mind my asking sir," Harry said, "what brought the Urtheans here in the first place?"
"Come with me and I'll show you," Stiles replied, walking over to a maintenance access tube on the wall and climbing down it. "Turbo lifts don't work above deck six, so I hope you're in shape."
The three of them climbed what felt like an eternity down into the bowels of the starbase. As they did, Stiles filled them in on the prize the Urtheans were intent on capturing.
"A few years ago, a new ship prototype was sent here to finish development," Stiles said. "It was code named The Pathfinder Project. The idea was to develop a ship that could be used as a smaller, multipurpose vessel that could handle itself in a firefight."
"Why didn't you use it yesterday?" Land asked, panting as he exited the maintenance tube.
"Because in the first strike the bay doors were damaged severely and we couldn't get the ship out of the dry dock," Stiles said as he continued down the corridor. "Believe me, I was looking forward to cleaning their chronometers with it."
They finally reached their destination, a large observation room with huge windows looking down into the dry dock.
"Well, there she is Mr. Martinez, the reason you're here," Stiles said with no sense of enthusiasm.
Harry's eyes swept over the graceful looking ship.
Its design was simple and striking at the same time. It appeared to be a typical saucer, but towards the aft it tapered to a more box-like structure. Between these changes were what appeared to be cowls over what he assumed were the warp engines. On the ship's belly appeared to be a set of lower decks where the deflector sat neatly tucked between the engines below the saucer. It appeared to have standard armaments along with two pairs of a type of heavy phaser cannon tucked under the engine cowl. There were strange brass colored hull plates that appeared to be movable. Harry figured it may have had possibly four or five decks, assuming the lump on the top of the saucer mid-way was the bridge deck.
"What class is it?" He asked.
"It's a heavily refitted Darrian class starship, about a generation ahead of the others specially designed for space-to-planet operations."
"Whoa," Land exclaimed, almost pressing his muzzle against the glass trying to get a better view.
"Seems like a lot of work to get a Darrian to look like that." Harry noted.
"You should have seen it when they brought it in here," Stiles chuckled. "It was at the insistence of the lead designer that it be built of the Darrian superstructure."
"Project leader?" Harry asked.
"You'll meet her in due time," Stiles said.
"So why do the Urtheans want to get their hands on it?"
"This ship's development has been on the down-low since the project began, but unfortunately word got leaked somehow," Stiles said, "and they've got it in their heads that they want this ship, no matter the cost."
"I would like to see it," Harry said.
"That's fine with me," Stiles answered. "I have a business to attend to in ops. For your quarters go to administration." He walked back down the corridor. "You get today off, but tomorrow you're both going to be busy, starting at 15:30."
"Understood," Harry said.
Harry and Land stepped onto the small bridge and examined it. It was fairly small as starship bridges go, with stations along the starboard and port sides as well as two tucked in the back along with a schematic of the vessel. Forward of the command chair was the flight control station; which was a semicircle with one seat in front of it. On his old ship, the control panels were made up of many switches and dials along with some touchpads. On this one, however, all the panels were touchpads.
Land's curiosity got the best of him, so he went over and touched the com station, which was black from disuse. As his paw came in contact with it, the panel lit up and instead of regulation controls, strange green alien symbols flashed across the entire board. Then they suddenly scrolled horizontally and vertically on the board.
"What the hell?" Land grumbled with disappointment.
"For once, I can agree with you amigo," Harry sighed.
"Damn! This has gotta be the weirdest thing I've ever seen!" Land exclaimed.
"Excuse me gentlemen, what are you doing on my ship?" A feminine voice demanded amid the swish of the bridge doors opening. "I already told the last group of parts scavengers to stay out of here!"
They both turned to see who this visitor was and from the attitude, Harry guessed she was from Corneria. She was a female fennec fox clad in a white lab coat which was marked here and there by plasma burns. On her head, she wore an old-fashioned headset, which she was using instead of a combadge at the moment.
"And another thing! You can tell your captain that I'm working as fast as one person can!" She said glaring at the two of them.
"I assure you that we aren't scavengers," Harry said.
"Well then what are you doing here?" She asked, but then her eyes fell upon the three bars on his collar. "Oh," she said, "you must be the new commander that was being sent here. Martinez isn't it?"
He nodded. "And you are?"
Feeling a bit ashamed, the vixen replied. "Chief Engineer and Project Leader Fara Phoenix from Corneria Arspace and Development...plus whatever other stupid titles you want to address me with."
"Nice to meet you," Harry responded and then nodded towards his companion. "This is my helmsman, Ensign Land."
"Charmed," Land said, still occupied by the odd controls. "What kind of control system is this?"
"Damn it," Phoenix growled as she noticed the control board, "I just fixed this last week!"
She touched a clip on the control board and flipped it open. She quickly ran over to a storage locker at the back of the bridge, retrieved a plasma welder, and started to work on a data junction within the console.
"Ms.," Land interrupted her, "you didn't answer my question."
"It's just a minor glitch in the system," she said offhandedly, working fast to correct the problem.
"That's a hell of a glitch," Harry mused.
"Look, there's a lot of things about this ship I can't go into because it's classified, so I'd appreciate it if you'd stop asking." Fara snapped at Land. "Need to know kind of stuff and you don't need to know any of it."
"Ms. Phoenix, it's fine. I would rather know what I'm getting into than not," Harry said.
Fara sighed and put her tools down, closed the console, and put the kit up.
"This vessel was designed to be a hybridization of alien technology with some of the Confederation's more bleeding edge concepts...or at least, it was supposed to be."
"What do you mean by 'supposed' to be?" Harry asked.
"Originally development of The Pathfinder Project was overseen by Admiral Kramer," Fara replied. "However, when he and his ship disappeared several months ago, things kind of ground to a halt. I intend to see the construction of this ship completed one way or the other."
"So, what's causing that?" Harry asked, motioning to the panel.
"Short version, we haven't worked out the nanite repair function yet. The alien technology keeps trying to assimilate everything and occasionally we have to give it a good knock to get it to stop." Fara replied.
"What other surprises should I be aware of?" Harry asked.
"The rest is mostly Confederation technology. The inertial dampening system is enhanced with G-Diffuser technology to allow for enhanced maneuverability."
Land's ears perked up at that. "Oh, I can't wait to try that out."
"If it works," Fara sighed, "we still have a lot of glitches to iron out on this ship. That should do it." She gave the consul a smack and it booted up again.
"Well, if you could, can you get me an overview of the whole ship?" Harry asked.
"Sure. I-" She was interrupted as a button on the headset lit up. She talked into the microphone and then frowned. "Powers out on deck 5 again. I have to go. Look, you should be able to get the ship's schematics from the station's computer. Nice meeting you."
With that, she ran quickly out of the bridge for the nearest turbolift.
"Interesting lady." Land said.
"A bit unorthodox, to say the least," Harry said, "I want to find out more about this ship. Let's see what we can dig up on the computer."
After several hours of reviewing the ship's systems and controls, Harry and Land were relaxing in one of the station's recreation areas and enjoying a meal.
"So Jack, do you think you could fly her if you had to?" Harry asked.
The fox looked thoughtful for a moment. "There isn't much I can't fly Harry. I mean, the setup is a little strange, but it's nothing I can't figure out in time."
"Good to know," Harry said. "It's quite the vessel...Pulse Phaser Turrets, quantum torpedoes, adaptive shielding, some kind of ablative armor deployment system. Whoever designed this thing, they intended this ship to mean business." Harry sighed wearily. "It's a warship. I wasn't even aware the Confederation had any intentions to build such a thing."
"Why do you sound so disappointed? It sounds awesome," Land said. "We've been handed the keys to it and you're moping that it's a battleship? It's your ship Harry! You've been wanting one for a long time."
"Not like this," Harry relented, "I was hoping it would be a science vessel or a light cruiser."
"We're on the border of the Urthean Empire, the Confederations number one antagonist," Land said. "We can make a name for ourselves out here, be heroes fighting the bad guys. You seriously don't find that exciting at all?"
"No, I don't," Harry said flatly.
Land shook his head. "Well fine. I'll keep all the fun for myself."
"Would you two mind some company?" Fara asked. She was standing there with a tray of food and had approached while they talked.
"Sure," Harry said.
"So, I saw you two still poking around the ship. What do you think?" Fara asked.
"It will be impressive when it's completed," Harry said. "What I want to know is why Fleet HQ would condone building such a thing."
Fara shrugged. "I don't ask questions. I was just brought on to make it happen." She took a bite out of her food and then swallowed. "What do you mean by calling my ship a thing?"
"He means a warship," Land said.
"So?" Fara frowned.
"War is not one of the Confederations prerogatives," Harry said.
Fara burst out laughing. "Wow, it must be nice coming from a world that didn't get wrecked several times over the last few decades. The Confederation has lots of neighbors who don't like it. The only reason they aren't more hostile is they don't want a Keldryian Battleship suddenly showing up and laying waste to them with those ship crusher beams. However, there are only so many of those bad boys floating around out there. Eventually, the Confederation is going to need to rely on something more than that to keep the barbarians from overrunning it. It's only a matter of time until one of those threats gets ballsy enough to make a push into our borders to test just how many Keldryian cruisers are lying in wait for them. That's what my," she noticed Harry glaring at her and huffed, "our ship is for. If it makes a good first impression, maybe they will push more like it into production.
"RED ALERT! ALL HANDS TO BATTLE STATIONS!" Stiles's voice blared over the intercom. "THIS IS NOT A DRILL! REPEAT, THIS IS NOT A DRILL!"
Without a word Fara bolted from the table. Harry stood up and walked over to Land. "Saved by the bell this time amigo. Let's get going."
As they came off the elevator they stepped down into the lower operations area where a huge display table showed all of the station's current systems status.. Stiles was standing by the tactical officer.
"What's the cause for the alarm, sir?" Harry asked.
"You'll see in a moment. On-screen, tactical," Stiles replied.
On the forward wall, the rectangular screen's covers parted and it came to life. The image on the screen showed a small object that seemed to be split into three parts.
"Magnify," Harry said.
The image flashed as the sensors reached out to see this incoming ship. It had three pentagonal hulls that were joined catty-corner to a central fuselage by two large columns.
"Great, Urtheans," Stiles groaned. "How far?"
"They'll be here in about five minutes," the tactical officer replied.
"Raise shields," Stiles ordered.
"Shields raised, but they're only at 42 percent. They'll be ineffective against Urthean weaponry," the tactical officer reported. His panel beeped and he turned toward it. "I don't believe this! Captain, the Urthean ship is hailing us."
"Of course. That's unlike them to send one scout ship to finish off the kill." Harry commented.
Stiles also seemed shocked. "Answer it."
"Allied Starbase," a deep voice said over the speaker, "we request permission to discuss the terms of your surrender. If you do not allow us to transport our envoy to your station, we will destroy you."
"Permission granted," Stiles said, choking on his words. He slashed his finger in the air and the transmission was cut. "Like hell." He muttered.
"Friendly bunch of gringos," Harry said. "What do you suggest we do?"
"We do nothing! I'm going to personally tell those bastards to stick their proposition up their impulse engines. You, on the other hand, Commander, will go down to the ship in dry dock and prepare the welcoming committee for the fleet that's waiting for our friend's response."
"Yes sir," Harry said proudly.
"And another thing, Commander," Stiles said before going into his office, "I don't like my response to a challenge not to be backed up."
The whole station was on yellow alert when the Urthean Scutta arrived. The vessel had a long, almost shoebox-shaped hull, with nacelles that were swept back away from the main hull. They requested a parley and Stiles, much to his chagrin, permitted them the chance, hoping that as long as they were talking they wouldn't attack them.
A tall, slim Urthean was standing in Stiles' office as Harry arrived. As per formal Urthean military style, he was decked out in full burgundy uniform with black slacks, pauldrons, jackboots, and buttons and buckles that all shined with blinding brilliance. His chest was adorned with medals from wars only his empire knew of and he was spit and polish from his ear tips to his boots. As Harry entered, the tall red fox with strange oversized ears looked at him with a predatory glare that sent shivers up his spine. The envoy's fur was the color of arterial blood and he had vicious glowing red cybernetic eyes.
Harry made his way behind Stiles' desk and stood beside him.
"Ok Commandant, we're all here please get this over with," Stiles said.
"My name's Commandant Xoxiandelan De Montcalm and as all of you know, we know about the battleship you have in this facility's dry dock. This is a threat to Urthean safety and it will not be tolerated."
Stiles sat stoically behind his desk, fingers interlaced. "Commandant," he said calmly, "that ship is here to protect Starbase 186 from hostile forces that threaten this station and the Confederation. We are not preparing for any type of hostile actions against the Urthean Empire."
Xox snorted. "That is a Confederationalist lie."
"It is not a lie and we will only use it in our defense. If anyone, including your kind, attacks this station again, you will be met with serious force."
"Then you will turn it over to us or I will be forced to act on behalf of the Urthean Empire."
"Like hell, you will," Stiles growled.
"Surely you jest," Xox said. "According to our readings your station's defenses are running on minimal power and it would take way too long for reinforcements to arrive. It would be in your best interest to hand the ship over and we can end this little matter once and for all."
Stiles was getting angry. Harry knew if he was half the man he thought he was, he would never agree to that. Letting the Urtheans have unbridled access to fleet technology would be the worst thing they could do.
"Don't be unreasonable Captain," Xox warned with a malicious smile. "If you don't agree to my terms, within two hours I will return and slaughter every man, woman, and child on this station. Then I will take your precious ship's shattered hull and have it displayed in Warrior Square with your heads on a pike around it." Xox picked up a picture from Stiles' desk and examined the young girl who had her father's eyes on the lap of an attractive female echidna. "Of course, we wouldn't want that to happen." He grinned, showing his razor-sharp teeth and squeezing the picture until the frame bent and the glass cracked.
Harry saw Stiles' eyebrow twitch; a clear sign that Xox had hit the right button. Stiles stood up and came nose to nose with Xox.
"Listen here you overdressed, overbearing pompous bastard," Stiles rumbled, "I want you off my station and out of sensor range before I have you beamed out into space!"
Xox continued to grin. "You have two hours."
He dropped the picture and left the office. The security detail that had accompanied him to the station's control center escorted him back to his ship.
Stiles picked up the broken frame and tried to smooth out the crinkled picture.
"So that's that isn't it," Harry asked.
"They would have come no matter what I did or said," Stiles muttered sadly, his fingers trembling as he kept trying to correct the picture. "She's turning ten, you know….starting fifth grade. Her mother was right. I should have never brought them out here!"
"Sir, I'll stop them," Harry said.
Stiles looked over to him.
"Send out a distress call. I'll take that ship to them and make them regret coming here for it," Harry said. "If I fail, I'll scuttle it. Either way, they'll get nothing."
"You sound very confident, Commander. What makes you think I'm not going with you?"
"Because you need to stay here with them," Harry said with a slight nod to the photo. "I will stop the Urtheans. You worry about them."
"You're a very honorable character, throwing yourself into the fire for a man you hardly know," Stiles said. "Why?"
"To be frank, I have nothing to lose. You have a family. Protect them." Harry sighed, "I can at least buy time for reinforcements to get here. Plus, I've never been a fan of bullies. Taking this one down a peg or two might be worth it."
Stiles seemed to calm a bit. "The ship is yours, Commander," he said, shaking Harry's hand. "Give them one hell of a fight."
Everyone assigned to the ship was called to meet in the empty, unfurnished mess hall. Harry walked through the double doors and up the elevated platforms till all could see him. All of them, about 50 souls, looked haggard and disorganized.
"Attention," he shouted over the din. They quieted down and formed up. "Very well, I need the bridge staff to come forward immediately."
Land and Fara were already towards the front, but the others made their way out of the rabble. One was a Cornerian wolf with grey fur and dark eyes who looked like he had a chip on his shoulder. Another was a rather bulky grim-looking Echidna with a scar over one of his eyes and white markings on his spines. A younger female echidna with red hair with pink highlights and a com officer's bob fastened to one of her spines elbowed her way to the front. Finally, a black-furred echidna with blonde head fur, about Harry's age, with a medical officer's smock stepped up.
"Pardon my briefness, but we need to get introductions out of the way. I'm Lt. Commander Harry Martinez. I have been given command of this ship by Starfleet Headquarters effective as of my arrival on this station. My associate, Mr. Land," he motioned towards Land, "will be our Con officer. He's a top-notch pilot, a bit over-ambitious at times, but he is one of the best."
Land stuck his hand up and the others nodded at him and he nodded back.
"I've already met Ms. Phoenix, as I'm sure the rest of you probably know her, so let's have some names please." He said, stepping down to meet them.
"Ensign Terri-Lu." The younger female echidna spoke up. "Communications, Ships Computers Department."
"Please tell me you know how to deal with this ship's nasty glitches," Harry said.
"I haven't seen one I can't get around," she smiled wryly.
"Good to know."
Terri nodded confidently.
Harry stepped up to the grim-looking red echidna who was slightly taller than him and giving him a somewhat bemused look.
"Do we have a problem crewman?" Harry asked.
"No sir," he replied, banishing his smirk.
"Name and rank?"
"That's it? Just a mononym?" Harry asked.
"It's what I go by." The echidna grunted.
"Fair enough. Position?"
"Tactical and Security Officer."
Harry regarded him a moment longer. His eyes seemed to be staring through the distance of experience and numerous trials. He didn't even blink meeting Harry's gaze. An officer like this could be relied on.
"Good. You'll have your hands full, I'm afraid. Go get the weapons systems online. I want them ready when we depart, understood?"
Jakar grinned. "Yes, sir," he said, turning and quickly making his way out of the room.
Harry moved over to the echidna with the black fur.
"Doctor Lt. Richard Okan, sir," he said, extending his hand warmly. "It's a pleasure to meet you, sir."
Harry returned the shake. "Doctor. Are we equipped to deal with battle triage?"
"Sickbay is fully stocked and ready to deal with anything you can throw our way, sir." He beamed. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
"Have you been in a combat situation on a starship before?"
"A few times," Okan said confidently. "If your flight officer is as good as you say he is, I'm that good operating under pressure."
Harry couldn't help but smile. "Good to know."
He didn't need a Medical officer having a breakdown on him in the heat of battle. He moved over to the wolf, who met his gaze with disdain.
"And you are?"
"Lt. Commander Don Rivas," the wolf replied, "I was the acting captain until your transfer."
"Sorry to hear that. I need someone familiar with the ship and crew. Can you run the operations station?" Harry asked as neutrally as possible.
"I suppose so," Rivas relented. "I know the ship well enough. I've been here since they hauled the damn thing in here."
"Good. What can I expect of the crew?"
"We've drilled as often as construction allows. They perform adequately," Rivas said. "Everyone here knows their job."
"Good. I expect all of you to give me the same respect you did Commander Rivas, is that understood?" Harry spoke up looking to see everyone nodding. "For now, you'll be my Exec, understood? If you have any problems with that, we'll discuss it later."
Rivas nodded cooly and Harry stepped up the platform.
"The situation is this: We have a small Urthean fleet coming to destroy this starbase and capture this vessel," Harry said bluntly. "Neither of those things are going to happen, not on my watch. We have called for help, but we're going to have to buy time for reinforcements to arrive; which means we're going out to intercept the enemy and test this ship's metal. In the event we pull this off, I will be glad to get to know the rest of you. But, for now, we have a lot to do and not a lot of time to get it done. Everybody report to your battlestations. We need to be ready for action in under twenty minutes."
The crew dispersed rapidly, leaving Harry there with Fara and Land.
"I'm needed in engineering," Fara said excusing herself.
"Well, that could have gone better." Land said.
"Yeah, it could have amigo," Harry sighed.
The ship was abuzz with activity as everyone took to their stations to bring the ship out of its slumber. Torpedoes were loaded into their tubes. The bays were fully stocked as crewmen ran checks on the equipment. The warp core was powered on and the plasma coils warmed up. Pulse phaser cannons were primed and checked as the crew hustled from point to point to get the complete final flight checks.
Harry was in the captain's ready room, which pretty much had a terminal and no chair, talking to Captain Sixx on a very static filled com channel.
"Wow, you got yourself into a bind didn't you Harry?" Sixx said.
"Look, we can't let this thing fall into Urthean hands. I'm going to try to buy as much time as I can, but I need all the help I can get. Captain Stiles has sent a distress signal, but you are the only ship that's even remotely close."
"Even at maximum warp, I don't know if we'll get there in time," Captain Sixx sighed, "but we'll try."
"The ship can do it, sir. She may need to be in spacedock a bit longer on your next refit, but you can push those engines to nine point two if you have to," Harry said firmly.
Captain Sixx nodded. "I'll relay the message to the Monitor. She's just at the edge of our sensor range doing some surveying. She's a recently refitted Zimmerman class, so that might just give us the edge we need. Hang in there commander. We'll try to get there as soon as we can."
"Thank you, Captain," Harry said.
Sixx nodded and closed the channel.
Now even if they did fail, perhaps the station could still be saved. This lifted a bit of a weight off his shoulders.
That task being done he headed for the bridge.
Harry sat down in the captain's chair and scanned over the readouts on his monitors as he ran down a preflight checklist.
"Mr. Jakar, are the weapons systems ready," Harry asked.
"Phasers are charged and we have a full complement of torpedoes."
"Mr. Rivas, defense report please."
"Shields are online, ablative armament deployment systems are on standby," Rivas replied.
"Mr. Land, please tell me your unique talents have got a handle on those controls?" Harry asked, looking forward.
"No worries skip, I got this," Land said, turning in his chair and grinning widely.
"Ms. Phoenix?" Harry asked.
"Engines are primed, G-Stabilisers are ready and we have full power to all systems," she said looking at her station. "That's it. She's ready as she'll ever be." Fara said smiling at the readouts on the engineer's station.
"Ensign Lu, signal station control that we are ready to disembark."
"Aye, sir," Terri said.
"Now all we need is a little time and a lot of hope," Harry said as he sat back in the command chair, looking around at the different faces on this bridge and wondering if he would ever have time to know them all.
"Sir, we're cleared to disembark," Terri Lu said, "Captain Stiles wishes to speak to you."
"On screen," Harry ordered.
"Commander," Stiles said as soon as he was visible, "we've picked up a Urthean fleet lurking on the edge of our sensor range. At least five battle cruisers that we can tell. We'll try to hold down the fort down here as best we can until help arrives."
"Thanks for the heads up," Harry said. "Anything else?"
"Godspeed Commander. If we make it through this, I'll buy a round for all of you."
"Thank you, sir," Harry nodded, "I'll bring her back in one piece."
Stiles nodded and the screen cut out.
"Fara, release the docking clamps," Harry ordered.
Fara nodded and a dull thud resounded throughout the ship as the umbilicals disconnected from the vessel's hull.
"Take us out Mr. Land, three-quarter thrusters. Nice and easy."
"Aye, sir, thrusters at three-quarters reverse," Land confirmed.
Land entered the command and then ran his finger across the directional indicator. The small saucer-shaped ship moved rapidly, backing away from the center of the starbase and Land spun it to face the doors, deftly changing the thrust to forward. The ship careened toward the bay doors as they slid halfway open. He quickly slammed the lateral rotation controls and spun the ship on its side as it slid between the doors and away from the station.
"Mr. Land," Harry swallowed, trying to ignore his thundering heartbeat, "I said nice and easy…."
"I know you did skip, but this thing is a bit touchy," Land said, eyeing the control board cautiously.
"I hope so," Harry said, "Ops, can you get a fix on the warp trail from Xox's ship."
"I have it bearing 65 mark 32," Rivas said. "It appears to be heading for the Argelius star system."
"Ms. Phoenix, do we have warp power?" Harry asked.
"I've got, at best, warp six," she sighed, "it was the best I could do in twenty minutes. We haven't tested them past that. I think they'll hold if you need more."
"They'd better," Harry said, "because that's why you're here. We don't need any malfunctions today. Conn, set a course to 65 mark 32, warp six."
"Aye, Aye skip." Land replied, activating the warp drive.
"Estimated time of arrival?" Harry asked, drumming his fingers on the armrest of his chair.
"About two minutes," Land said as his control panel started to beep. "Well, I'll be. I just picked up a small Urthean fleet coming out from behind the Argelius star on long-range sensors, right where Stiles said they were."
"How many ships?" Harry asked, his face darkening.
"Seven...no six. Two huge frigates and four Delta class cruisers," Land responded. "And I bet all of them are packing a dozen fighters apiece."
"Prepared for an invasion," Harry mused, "not today."
"They've just spotted us," Jakar reported.
"Put us directly in their path and raise shields," Harry ordered.
The ship glided through space and came to a halt in front of its massive opponents.
"They are hailing us," Terri Lu said.
"Open the channel," Harry said.
The screen switched from the starfield infested with enemy ships to Xox's face.
"Ah," he leered, "so you have decided to give me my prize ahead of time."
"Not at all. We're here to ask you to return to your side of the border and we will forget this whole incident ever happened," Harry glared back.
"Hmm...and where is your Captain," Xox said, faking concern. "Did he decide not to join the fray?"
"He is attending to more important matters," Harry retorted, "like you should be instead of trying to start personal wars."
"You look confident," Xox snarled, angered by Harry's remark. "I will be glad to remove that smile from your face, personally."
With that, the screen went blank.
"Tactical! Arm weapons. Mr. Land evasive maneuvers!" Harry snapped
"Too late!" Land cried as four torpedoes slammed into the ship's shields.
Harry braced for impact, but the ship only shook slightly. He was surprised, but recovered quickly. "Tactical, pulse phasers to full power and target the support pylons on the main ship. Mr. Land, bring us about and give weapons a clean shot."
"Aye, sir," Land said, his eyes glued to his work.
The small ship sidestepped another volley of Urthean torpedoes and bolted toward Xox's ship.
"Target locked," Jakar said.
"Fire!" Harry ordered.
Two glowing points appeared on the front of each of the ship's nacelles and suddenly hundreds of shots were hurtling towards the target. The rapid-fire barrage struck and overpowered the Urthean shields as they concentrated on a small area. The volleys of fire tore holes in the armor of the Urthean ship. This was answered by a compression beam, which knocked the saucer ship off course. Land quickly drove the vessel down the lead ship's backside. Weapons fired a hail of torpedoes into the lower half of the main pod, destroying the ship's warp engine. Plasma fires erupted from it and the lights of the Urthean ship fluctuated as it began to drift out of control.
"One down, five to go," Land cheered.
"Don't celebrate too soon, Ensign," Harry advised, watching the smaller ships break formation and begin to give chase. "Here they come!"
Countless volleys of Urthean torpedoes and compressor beams slammed into their shields. On the bridge, the deck suddenly pitched upward.
"Damn!" Phoenix cursed, "G-Stabilizer two just overheated and shorted itself out! It's going to be a rough ride!"
"Can it take it?" Harry asked.
"I made this thing to take a pounding, but this is the first one she's ever gotten," Fara said, bracing herself as the ship shook again as another compression beam struck. "I have no idea how long it will hold out."
On the viewer, she watched as they returned fire and one of the Urthean ships managed to soak the hit with its shields this time.
"Looks like the power curves are already about on the verge of going off the scale," she observed, "and if they get too far out of balance, we're in trouble."
"Commander, our shields are fluctuating. If we take another direct hit I don't think they'll hold," Jakar said from his console.
"What about the secondary mode?" Rivas snapped at Fara from across the bridge.
"What now?" Harry asked.
"No! no absolutely not!" Fara snapped. "We don't even know if that works properly!"
The ship shook again as it took more enemy fire and the lights pulsed with the fluctuation in power.
"The ship has ablative armor and enhanced weapons systems," Rivas explained as a console shorted out. "If we activate the secondary mode, it will give us a better chance. It's what she's built for, sir."
"Harry, we haven't fully tested it!" Fara pleaded. "It could completely shut us down and turn us into sitting ducks!"
"Captain," Rivas said with conviction, "it will work. If it doesn't, we aren't much better off."
The ship rocked again, more severely this time, and the lights began to flicker on and off.
"Mr. Rivas," Harry said reluctantly, "engage the secondary mode."
The ship's overall sound changed as the alien components warmed up. The lights dimmed and a sickly green glow filled the bridge. With that came an eerie hum that was deep and menacing, but sounded far away.
"Let's hope this works," Harry said. "Helm, bring us about."
On the outside of the ship, armor systematically appeared and plated itself over the more critical areas. Compartments on both sides of the forward saucer snapped down, revealing strange alien turrets.
"Main powers back," Fara said wearily watching her instruments.
"Good. Mr. Land, get us on a pursuit course."
The stars wheeled past on the screen and the ship was quickly closing on a Urthean vessel. They accelerated and came up on their target. Three green orbs shot from the side-mounted turrets on the saucer and dissipated into the Urthean ship's shields.
"Their shields are down to fifty percent," Land reported.
"Lock on a tractor beam and take out their engineering section. Let's make an example. I don't want to use these things more than I have to," Harry said.
On the ship's ventral side, an emitter snared the larger ship's hull. It responded with a volley of torpedoes that struck the shields. With the engineering section in its grasp, a green beam shot from the same emitter and tore a chunk out of the Urthean ship's hull. The tri-hulled ship shuddered as its atmosphere suddenly dumped into the void and the inertial dampeners buckled under the loss of mass. The ship crumpled in the middle like an aluminum can and explosions rippled over its hull.
Two other Urthean ships converged on their coordinates, double-teaming the smaller ship.
"We have them now," Xox said on the bridge of the remaining frigate, which was taking potshots at the enemy. "Have the Zaladin and Martok move in to assist. I want prisoners."
"Yes, Commandant," the navigator replied as the message was relayed, "they're moving in."
To Xox's surprise, something terrible happened. The small Confederation ship suddenly unleashed a hail of green energy orbs at his ships. Their shields collapsed and faded to nothing. The enemy vessel grabbed its prey with a tractor beam, similar to an ant grabbing a leaf, and then fired another beam that split one of the tri-hulls clean off. The enemy then turned laterally and repeated the process on the Zaladin, tearing a chunk out of her drive section and causing the ship to crumple inward on itself as major parts of it's superstructure had suddenly been removed.
"Commandant! The Armageddon and Kodos are retreating!" The navigator exclaimed in disbelief.
Xox glared at the screen to see two of his ships blast off into warp. "Damn those cowards! We'll just have to do the job ourselves. Head towards the Starbase! We shall punish them, personally."
The large Urthean ship turned on its axis and entered warp.
The last of the attackers suddenly broke off and warped away.
"The Urthean ship has powered down weapons," Mr. Land said enthusiastically. "They're heading back toward the border."
"Congratulations people. Job well done." Harry said. "Stand down from red alert." He could feel the deck plates stop thrumming as the ship powered down and the bridge was returned to its less spectral lighting. "Ms. Phoenix, your ship has proven very valuable in a fight."
"I must say, I'm impressed," Fara replied, "in all that fighting we received only minimal damage."
Land was listening to his crewmates rejoicing until he turned to his sensor board upon hearing a warning chime. His expression turned from joy to horror and his ears flattened to his head.
"Ensign?" Harry asked with concern after getting out of the command chair and relaxing. Upon getting no response he walked over to his friend's station. "Mr. Land is something wrong?"
"Oh, sweet mother of creation!" Land muttered.
"What is it?" Harry asked.
"Look," Land said as he pointed at the sensor screen.
It displayed ionization trails of ships, five of them toward Urthean space one the opposite direction. "I didn't see it, sir." Land said.
"Which one is it?" Harry asked.
"The leader's," Land replied.
"Follow them!" Harry ordered, jumping back in his chair. "Best speed Mr. Land."
Land nodded and set the course, jumping the ship into warp.
"Once more unto the breach commander?" Fara asked as she stepped up beside him.
"I just hope we're not too late," Harry growled
The station shuddered under the blows of its Urthean attacker. Xox had come in moments before and just unleashed a fury filled attack upon the station.
The relentless strikes of the Urthean weapons against the base's shielding caused the whole thing to shudder and Captain Stiles braced himself in Ops, watching his station's defenses be rapidly obliterated. Repairs from the prior assault had not been completed, so there was little they could do to fight back. He knew it was only a matter of time before the shields would fail.
"Our shields have just failed! Urthean boarding ships are attaching to the outer hull!" The Catarian tactical officer said, wiping the sweat off his brow.
That settles it then, Stiles sighed internally.
"Close the emergency bulkheads on the habitat area," Stiles said, "and send security teams to intercept."
Stiles placed his hand on the phaser at his hip. "Be ready for anything!" he ordered.
Just then, the wall began to glow red under the heat of a plasma torch and circular holes started to appear as the boarding ships cut their way inside. Stiles drew his phaser quickly and fired into the breach as the bulkhead fell to the deck. One Urthean fell to the ground, stunned, tripping up the ones behind him. The others returned fire. Stiles dove behind a console and shot another Urthean in the chest, causing him to fall into the command area. The Urtheans took cover behind a computer console on the upper deck and returned fire. Stiles peered up at the ceiling and saw a light hanging from the ceiling above his attackers. Taking advantage of the poor engineering choice, he fired two shots at the light's support. It fell from the ceiling and crushed the Urtheans.
That was a lucky break, but Stiles knew it wasn't going to be that easy next time.
"There they are!" Land said. "Their shields aren't even towards us."
"Let's go people. I want to hit them fast and hard." Harry said gripping the arms of his chair as the Urthean ship grew on the screen.
"Let's rock and roll!" Land said with his confidence renewed.
"We have them now." Xox smiled, running his fingers through the tuft of his hair. Suddenly Xox's face came in contact with the deck plating as the ship pitched upward. With a taste of blood in his mouth and rage in his soul, he stood back up.
"What was that?" He demanded.
"YEAAHA!" Came a battle cry over their Comm system.
The ship unleashed a volley of torpedoes into the weaker rear facing shields of the Urthean ship. The Urtheans returned fire, peppering the side of the ship. Fara's station exploded into sparks. Harry and Land looked over in concern.
"I'm alright," she said, "but we just lost the G-Stabilizer system. Switching to inertial dampers."
Land looked back at the screen and turned the ship rather sharply to avoid a torpedo, but it suddenly slipped as if it was ice and momentarily lost control.
"What the hell," he yelped, "why is this thing flying like a dead elephant?"
"You're going to have to watch your steering, mister," Fara replied. "Without the G diffusers, she's going to handle pretty sloppily. I told you; too many hits in standard mode will throw off the power curves and disrupt the system."
"Now you tell me," Land muttered.
Jakar suddenly grunted, slamming his fists into his console.
"What's wrong?" Harry asked.
"Weapons just dropped offline," he growled, "massive power system overload on deck three."
"Do we have anything else.?" Harry asked.
"If you get desperate, we can put evac suits on and start hucking things at them." Fara spat. "I've got overloads all over the board!"
Suddenly the deck shuddered under an impact and the power dimmed. Outside the ablative armor suddenly retracted back into the hull and the lights of the ship flickered as the secondary mode suffered a system failure.
"We've lost the ablative armor and shields are down to 13 percent," Jakar reported.
Xox's ship took advantage of its opponent's disability and slammed several compressor beams into it. The beams tore through its shields and slashed the hull beneath like butter. The beam sliced the cutting weapon almost clean off. The lights flickered and the ship shook violently, and the emergency lighting came on.
"We're sitting ducks!" Land said, but the final blow never came. With the ship disabled, the Urtheans turned back to the station.
"We can't let them just take over the station," Land snarled.
"There is nothing we can do," Harry said. "We're dead in space."
Everyone was suddenly silent.
"Commander, surely we just can't quit!" Land protested.
Suddenly, haltingly, the main power came back online. An audible groan went through the ship as the ship's various damaged systems responded to the swarm of nanites which began to repair them. On the bridge, Fara's engineering station suddenly became a hive of activity as several key systems were restored.
"What in the world?" She exclaimed. She then accessed the station. "I don't believe this! The alien components are repairing themselves...and the rest of the ship! From the looks of this...we'll be repaired in...I don't believe it...fifteen seconds!"
Harry suddenly let out a whoop and slapped the arm of his chair. "Looks like we're back in business! Jakar, get some target locks for when the weapons come back online!"
"Aye, Sir." Jakar replied.
"All primary systems are back online," Fara said, still in disbelief. "Photonic missile systems are operational."
"Weapons locked and ready to fire." Jakar reported.
"FIRE!" Harry ordered.
A stream of photonic missiles fired from the forward part of the Raptor's saucer, slamming into Xox's ship's shields. They pounded it relentlessly until the shield generators on the ship overloaded and shorted out.
"Lock on the phasers and finish the job," Harry said as he glanced over at Fara.
"Sorry Commander, phaser systems are still out of commission," Fara said annoyed. "I'm trying to get them restored."
"Great," Land commented, "we don't have any weapons and they don't have any shields"
Xox's ship was in poor shape. His navigator had been killed and he was bleeding from several deep cuts. The blood soiled his uniform and ruined its color. His invading forces on the station had sustained massive casualties and were forced to retreat.
"No, I won't be defeated this way!" He roared, throwing the dead navigator's body from his seat. He turned his ship to face his accursed enemy. He was going to take them out by ramming them.
"Has he lost his mind?" Harry snarled as the Urthean ship plowed towards them.
At the last second Land, made the ship sidestep, twisting between the three hulls and avoiding the collision. Everyone braced themselves during the harsh maneuver.
On screen, the Urthean battle cruiser came around. Its remaining compressor beam cannons were glowing hot and trained right at them
"Mr. Land, do you have any more in that bag of tricks?" Harry asked.
"My bag of tricks is starting to run a bit low, sir!" Jack said exasperated.
The ship shuddered as the compressor beams repeatedly slammed into its shields. One of the unattended consoles exploded and power conduits overhead shorted out, raining debris down on them.
"Captain, that last hit disabled our engines. Shields down to 15 percent," Jakar reported.
Another hit caused the main power to flicker off and the emergency lighting came back on.
"Fara," Harry asked, "do we have anything left?"
"Not much Harry," Fara coughed harshly, her lungs filled with acrid smoke from the burning console in front of her. "Whatever triggered that second wind, doesn't want to do an encore performance."
Suddenly the ship lurched as something grabbed a hold of it.
"They've got us in a tractor beam," Land reported. "I can't break free"
"They're making a run for it and taking us with them!" Harry cursed slamming the armrests of his chair in frustration. He'd be damned if he would let the Urtheans have this ship. He activated the command console and started putting in the self destruct codes-a last act of defiance to deny the enemy their prize. He hated to do it, but he wasn't going to let them take them prisoner either. Perhaps seeing their prize blown into glittering dust would be enough to make them leave the starbase alone.
He regretted that this was how his first and only command was going to end. He caught sight of Fara looking at him in horror when she realized what he was doing and he mouthed, "I'm sorry."
"Captain! Look!" Land suddenly shouted, pointing to the screen.
A torpedo came from nowhere and obliterated the Urthean tractor emitter, followed by a volley of phaser fire that raked across the Urthean ship's hull.
"Standby Commander Martinez," a familiar voice said over the com system. "The cavalry has arrived."
"Captain Sixx!" Harry exclaimed as his former Captain's face appeared on the viewscreen. "Good to see you again, sir."
"You're lucky we got here when we did," Sixx noted as the screen went back to the starfield where the Neosho and Monitor were beginning second attack runs on Xox's ship. Both ships fired crimson beams, obliterating the remaining turrets on Xox's ship and rending huge scars along its hull as they continued to deliver blow after blow.
Xox's ship took a slow turn as the other ships continued to take out its remaining systems. Soon it streaked away at warp, heading back for Urthean space.
Xox limped over to his command chair. The bridge was filled with smoke and debris and mostly lit by fires from the blown stations. He sat down heavily as sparks showered him. He was enraged, beaten, bloodied, and humiliated.
However they let him get away, and he would be back. This humiliation would not go unanswered.
His cybernetic eyes glowed bright red in the darkness.
"Know this, rodent," he spat, "you may have won this round, oh yesss...but I will return and you will pay for this!"
He slammed his fist into the armrest, breaking it.
Harry sighed with relief at the sight of Xox's ship streaking off into the stars. It was over for now, but he was sure that wasn't the last he saw of the Urthean. The battle was won and they'd saved the station. The ship was in one piece, and that was all that mattered.
The Urthean threat has been averted. Commandant Xox's has returned to Urthean space and has not returned. Casualties on the starbase were minimal. The same cannot be said for the Urtheans. We managed to destroy most of their invasion fleet and I'm sure that they'll be back once they've recovered. Repairs to the starbase have been sped up by the repair crews of the Monitor and Neosho, as neither vessel was damaged in the skirmish.
Our small ship, which served us well in battle, has... unbelievably... repaired itself using its automatic repair systems with only minimal help from the crew. I am still suspect of the alien parts that could endanger the ship and station, however; Ms. Phoenix tells me that it is operating within normal parameters.
Stiles, Harry, and Sixx stood in the observation bay overlooking the ship.
"That's one hell of a fighting machine," Sixx stated to his former first officer. "What I want to know is if she can be trusted."
"It's just a ship sir," Harry retorted. "I don't think she will cause any harm."
"Uh-huh," Sixx said reluctantly before cracking a smile. "Well I'm sure it's in more than capable hands. Commander Martinez, take care of yourself. Captain, if I were you I'd keep a watch out for him. He's a good officer, and I bet by the time we retire he'll be a fleet admiral."
"I'll take your word for it," Stiles replied, shaking his hand. "Have a safe journey."
"Thank you, Captain," Sixx said. "See you around Commander."
With that he turned and headed down the corridor back towards his vessel.
"So, Commander," Stiles said, turning and heading down the corridor with Harry at his side, "there is still one matter still yet unresolved."
"And what would that be, sir?" Harry asked.
"Well, our ship doesn't have a name," Stiles finished. "She can't be addressed as 'Confederation Starship' every time we come in contact with another ship."
"You're right," Harry admitted, "but I don't think it deserves a common name."
"It is not an exploration ship. There is something predatory, menacing, cunning about it. It was built to withstand a beating. It is almost as if it's a cold-blooded creature." The idea suddenly hit him. "Raptor." He said.
"Raptor, sir," Harry replied. "Something my grandmother told me about long ago. They are part of a now-extinct species and believed to still be around, in myths that is. They steal bad people away and eat them." He smirked. "I think it's a somewhat appropriate name."
Stiles nodded. "Very well Commander...Raptor it is. I'm sure the fleet register will flip when they see that entry." He laughed. "That will be too bad because I like it!"
One week later the ship was commissioned as the N.C.X Raptor. The Monitor and several delegates came to the christening ceremony. Fara was a bit upset about the name, but quickly got over it as the pride of something of hers being recognized snuffed the envy. The following weeks at Starbase 186 were peaceful ones and the Urtheans were quiet for a long time. At last, Harry found time to relax.
He stepped onto the bridge of his ship carrying a package and looked around. The maintenance crew had been through and the air was crisp and clean. This was his first command and his assignments were not as permanent as he thought. Several nearby star systems needed to be watched and given assistance. He unwrapped the package he was carrying and pulled out the dedication plaque. Its gold hue seemed to match with the mauve, streamlined bridge. He placed the plaque on the bulkhead near the starboard aft entrance. Fara stepped onto the bridge and was startled.
"Commander!" She gasped, "what are you doing here?"
"Oh just taking care of unfinished business, " Harry said, admiring the plaque. "You?"
"I just like admiring my ship. It smells so new! Every corridor is clean and it's peaceful compared to the station." Fara replied.
"Yes, this ship does seem to have a sort of eerie quaintness about it," Harry replied. "At least when docked."
"I want you to know I still don't like the name," Fara stated, "but I'll get used to it."
"Mm-hmm," Harry said. "Tell me Chief, have you ever played paricii squares before? Mr. Land and I are needing one more person for a tournament against the Station command staff. Would you care to join us?"
"I don't see why not," Fara replied. "Lead the way."
With that, they stepped into the airlock, departed the Raptor, and entered into the station's merchant area, leaving the Raptor to float alone in its slip, waiting for its next adventure.