Author's note: This part is the most action-packed and most emotionally loaded as well as most immersive one to date. I dare say it might even be the best part of the whole series, and the cliffhanger is...... well, you'll have to read on if you want to know...
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Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,11, 12 and 13 linked below:
=== August Bridge ===
Greener pulled up the file from his past when he fought in what was called the Species 8472 war. It wasn't really an all-out Federation war, but the Undine of those days were in many sectors of Federation space and the Endeavour figured out what it took to destroy them.
"Ok, we need to see if they begin to move," said Caymen.
"They could have popped up closer to Sol but they would have been destroyed. If they work their way in from here, they can blow us apart in pieces. And it's quite possible they have more motherships in other areas of charted space." Caymen continued.
"Once we have a vector, we get in front of them. They will send their ships after us, and we will move - like a Checkers game. And once we have their trajectory, we can make a decision. Understood?"
"Aye, Captain. Helm standing by... with your and Tactical's permission," acknowledged Senna.
Though she didn't want to simplify things and think of this as a drifting race, the principles were much the same. Get in front of your opponent and keep them from passing you. Senna studied the displays and maps, familiarizing herself with the area of space that will soon become her new racecourse. Once Jolan found and identified the vectors with his tactical analysis, she will know what course to take.
Jolan ordered up a superimposed view of the sector near them on tactical two.
"I'm going from memory here, my padds are on the marine deck, and I can't leave my post, but I had just hard copied the latest tactical intel and fleet locations last night. I wish I had the data chip on me, it would help." Jolan stated, motioning for Senna to join him so she could compare notes while he expanded the display to include the adjoining sectors.
Senna got up with Chief Vega taking the conn as she went over to Jolan. "Okay, the bubble we have here is the vicinity of the two light-years around us."
he keyed up a feed from the navigation sensors, and they added the nearby systems, if any, in-range as well as any nebula or fields of debris, or asteroids. The display itself was an eight light-year window, blank save the bubble from the ship's readings in the two light-year radius.
"Per the last reported patrol route...”
A two-five-five Starfleet emblem came up on the display with the fourth fleet logo.
"...should be here... eight to twelve hours out of range at max warp. Outpost two-three-five..."
An additional emblem came up
"...is the closest base near us, but not the most defensible. I've got other areas I could put in inside a 24 hour window for emergency warp."
Jolan's hands dancing over to his primary console, began running a level four strategic assessment in the computer, he plugged in data, to the best of his memory, and slowly punched in more bases and ships, and even planets, the number of vectors shifted.
"Captain, you wouldn't happen to have a copy of the tactics, or battle records from the 8472 war, or perhaps a copy of USS Voyagers combat encounters? I've got so many vectors here we would need a fleet to defend it. If I had something about undine battle tactics I could narrow it down to maybe a dozen or so vectors, and I'm just guesstimating here. "
Senna studied Jolan's map and display and had it pushed to her helm console. She then went back to the helm station, relieving Chief Vega.
Jolan plugged in known combat scenarios, and what he could remember of federation defenses and fleet movements; as more came to him, slowly he filled in the display expanding it out to a full twenty-four hours. Jolan ran a diagnostic on the weapons, he now had complete control, and his modifications were intact and pre-set.
If the August didn't succeed in blocking the Undine, he was gonna do his damnedest to slow them down somehow. He carefully calibrated the aft targeting scanners getting them as precise as humanly possible short of actually targeting the undine. He overlayed the previous scans from the frontal defensive fire he had pulled and mirrored the images in an effort to "ghost lock" the weapons just to make sure his shots would count, when he was satisfied he resumed plugging in his tactical data.
Londance stood from his seat and made his way slowly to Senna saying "Would you perchance be planning on forcing this vessel past regulation in an attempt to... drift?" he asked, a grin spreading across his face Senna looked at Londance for a moment.
"If it came to it and the Captain ordered it... absolutely. Regulation performance envelopes were designed for 'safety'. In... situations as this, we know those don't hold up. Just give the word and I'll fly circles around that monstrosity," replied Senna.
Londance looked over to Caymen, "I believe we may need to override the August's safety protocols to allow helm a bit more leeway with this upcoming task, as well a second helmsman." he stated.
Greener shook his head. "We're going to need more than that..."
Kurtis consulted the padd Chief Quinn had given him as he finished punching in the new matter/ anti-matter equations. "Okay Chief we're as ready as we're ever gonna get to firing this puppy up." Kurtis reported.
"Good job Lyden, Now I want you to kill the interlink between the Engineering Computer and the Main Computer. Pull the Isolinears and sever the hard-line, I don't know how they got into our systems but they are not going to kill our power this time around," said Quinn.
"I'm on it Chief," Kurtis replied As he started entering commands into his panel he keyed the sequence to start the Core.
"Okay, Everyone! I want you all watching the computer cores. If you see something that does not belong, Isolate it and Confirm with me Or Lyden!"
While Quinn was saying this the Warp Core began to Rumble back to life, and when it began to put out it's normal vibrations, Quinn let loose a sigh of relief and started to Reroute power to the Vital systems.
"Engineering to Bridge, Full warp Power available at Captains Discretion."
"Thank you, engineering." Caymen stood once more. "Ok, begin the drift and bait process - let's see where they go."
The ship began to move in front of the Undine, shooting down a few scrub fighters here and there, and the August's fighters kept up in defense.
Eventually, the mothership began to move.
The checkers match began and the August was able to keep in front of the mothership. It was difficult to work for tactical and helm, but they kept in front of her, blocking her path. One thing became clear - they were indeed headed for Earth.
Caymen sat down and sighed - it was 2378 all over again. But why? Why now, and what was with this older technology?
"The only way to stop them is with a warp core breach at full ship's power, right inside their main mothership's core."
The words sat like heavy stones in mud, sinking into the minds and hearts of the bridge crew. They all knew what it meant... but Greener had to say it to make it real.
"We will destroy the August to save the Federation."
Reports from Starfleet Command began coming in and Grant and Stark were hesitant to bring them up. More motherships were appearing in other Federation border sites. Caymen instructed Grant to send their plans back to Starfleet in case they had long forgotten his work those 30 years ago. Greener breathed in deeply and exhaled.
"Alright, Ms. Nogumo, please get with Lieutenant Madwan and deploy all shuttles. Prepare for emergency beaming to any extra-ship craft we have."
Senna heard the order and knew that there weren't enough shuttlecraft to get the entire crew complement off the August safely. With the August's transporters, even the cargo ones configured for quantum filters to handle personnel, it would take nearly an hour to transport off the crew.
Nevertheless, as her mind tried to sort out other options, she started the process. She turned to her backup helms Chief Vega. "Chief, get all pilots to the shuttles and prepare for immediate evacuation," Senna ordered as she prepared a comm channel with Zoteke.
=^=Acknowledged. I'll have the Dunham deployed asap.=^= Zoteke confirmed.
Time seemed to slow to a crawl then for Zoteke. Zoteke and his squadron had been busy picking off the slowing flow of fighters and projectiles coming at the August and had begun to wonder what the situation was on the August.
His consciousness wouldn't admit it but seeing the number of systems down on the mighty ship made him wonder if Ahrund was ok.
As the systems began coming back online his confidence had grown that they would soon be fixed up enough to take the fight back to the enemy... a really BIG enemy. When he realized what the Captain was planning his heart sank and a physically excruciating pain stabbed through his guts.
He'd taken this post and brought his son here to get away from the main war zone. They'd found a home. Now that new home was gonna blow up.
The comm message, sharp and loud coming through, Senna's canned voice over the comm, about launching all shuttles and auxiliary craft and coordinating with the fighters snapped his business mode back into full gear.
=^=I suggest 2 escorts for the Dunham, and one for each other craft. We can take in 2 more people per fighter as well.=^= Zoteke answered Lt. Nagumo's comm.
Then, flicking the comm to another frequency he opened a comm to the marine section on the August.
=^=Zoteke to Lena. Get the Dunham fired up and out here. Make sure you warm up the transporters!=^= he ordered.
Then the big Ktarian reached into the leg pocket of his flight suit and activated the little comm badge he always carried with him. He then punched up the piece of code he'd prepared during his off-hours and ran the routine through the computer. Immediately his transporter had a lock on the twin of the little comm badge. If he needed to Ahrund would be behind him in the cockpit in seconds just by the push of a button.
=^=Listen up Shepherds. Every flying bucket on the August will launch in a few moments.=^= he informed his Squadron, Wings Alpha, and Beta holding defensive formation around the August.
Jolan saw the fighters form into full-on defense pattern, his son's fighter knowing full well what may happen didn't bother to hesitate, when he heard his sons voice on the comlink
"roger lead assuming formation theta 2 defensive"
=^= We're their bodyguards! Verspaget, Yeager will cover the Dunham which Lena's flying out as we speak. Jason, stick with the Danube. I will stick with the Yacht while Janssen and Zok each will take a Delta flyer.=^= he layed out his initial plan.
Zoteke went on rapid-firing orders as he thought of them speaking to his squadron
=^=Remember, we're bodyguards... bodyguards take the bullet for their marks!=^= he said, hoping it would lift up the depressing tension he could feel rising.
=^=Zoteke to Cpt. Trask. How do you plan on deploying the 2 delta flyers, the Danube and the yacht? Any special orders for us?=^= Zoteke commed.
He wanted himself and his squadron to be as prepared for what was going to happen as he could be. Jolan cursed to himself, then responded
=^= Trask to Shepards... if we do end up sacrificing the ship there may be crew on-board for the final approach. DO NOT I repeat do not attempt to rescue them. Your goal is protecting the life pods and auxiliary craft=^=
Jolan hesitated a bit then resumed
=^=Jason, i know i never was really around, and I know we have our differences, promise me you will find your mother and your sister after this is over, due to the situation, somebody needs to man the weapons while the August closes into the target area, it's my duty as Chief Tactical officer and my duty to this beloved force I've put over 20 years of my life into. Don't be a hero, keep those people, your crew, family, and friends safe...i love you, and I'm sorry son...Semper Fi!=^=
=^=Zoteke, look after my boy for me, godspeed Shepards,=^= finished Jolan as he forced back a trickle of tears.
Zoteke breathed in to reply but found he couldn't think of anything to say that would make a difference. Jolan knew Zoteke, and knew he would do everything he could for the man's son. A second or two passed before he finally decided on;
With the channel closed, Zoteke's mind focussed back on their duty.
Zoteke felt the best thing to do was to stick together, forming a protective barrier around the SS Dunham, who'd be stuffed with up to 50+ people. He had no idea what Captain Greener had in mind after the August was gone, and no idea what Captain Trask was up to.
"Commander Davowski, please prepare the August for emergency evacuation using all escape pods and the available craft I just mentioned. Use the captain's yacht, even."
Londance looked at the Captain with a solemn understanding etched on his face, "Aye, sir."
Turning to his console he tapped the lower-left corner activating the ship-wide intercom, a beep resounded on all decks, "This is Lieutenant Commander Davowski, all hands prepare to abandon ship. This is not a drill, I repeat - all hands abandon ship. Department heads send frequent reports on your staffs evacuation status. Nonessential personnel such as family members take priority."
"Engineering," he said tapping his badge, "At our next warp hop matching the mothership, we're going to need a slight burst of warp and then maximum power to the warp core."
Kurtis looked sharply over at Quinn as the call to abandon ship came over the com system. "Aye Captain," he replied as the realization of what Caymen was probably going to do hit him.
"Captain... you're not thinking of doing what I think you're thinking of doing are you?"
"Don't ask, just prepare it," Caymen said gruffly, lashing out a bit in frustration.
"I'll explain later." The captain turned to his XO and stared into her eyes, each knowing what was coming. They had only served together as commanding officers a week or two and now this.
"Computer," said Caymen reluctantly, "set self-destruct sequence Greener eight-four-seven-two, two-minute count-down timer, pending my final command. Authorization Greener-Charlie-Mike-Echo-Eight-Eight-Seven."
Stark nodded sternly and cleared her throat. Her crisp soprano voice steady as she uttered her own code.
"Computer, Commander Alyssa Stark. Confirm auto-Destruct Sequence. Authorization, Stark two-three-November-Echo-Nine.”
"Sir, even if we do this, somebody needs to keep the ship intact until she makes it... they're going to detect the overload. I volunteer to stay aboard till the August is safely on target; I can always beam off on the final approach. There has to be another way, though, what about if we use the tricobolt devices inside the ship, or a string of torpedoes." Jolan finished as he stood up rather defiantly.
"I'll also want to give it a little extra bang; I'll override the torpedo safeties in the armory," Jolan added before sending his vector possibilities to the helm. He then shifted his focus to Security one and two, now monitoring the evacuation progress.
"I've got my staff assisting the security teams with the evacuation. I've also had the armory techs clear out the ships complement of small arms and survival essentials, each shuttle is getting a portion of phasers and survival supplies. My teams will leave after they and the marines get everybody off. I've also got men posted to the bridge dedicated escape pods on deck two in case of panic"
Londance sighed before turning to the captain, "I too volunteer to stay behind. Someone will need to pilot the August until..." he trailed off.
Greener shook his head. "It shouldn't need to be that way."
A chime sounded from Londance's console, after reading it he turned back to the captain, "Caymen the Romulan science vessel Ka'tya is in the next sector over, requesting permission to contact them. I would like to see if they can rendezvous with the escape pods."
Greener nodded. "Yes, please do so."
But then the crew realized their signals were not getting through. They weren't just not being answered, they were being blocked!
As Quinn Heard the Auto-destruct timer go off He yelled, "EVAC Everyone out! I'm sealing Main Engineering in 20 seconds,"
Kurtis turned to Callaway, "Jeannie, you're in charge of getting everyone to their shuttles and escape pods."
"Quinn to Bridge, All of my people are out. Captain, Permission to Go down with the Ship. With the amount of power we're going to have to go through the Core, It'll go up before we get into position Unless I keep it stable."
"No one will go down if we do this right," Caymen responded in his comm, not sure if the message was received.
Amidst all the chaos and near franticness going on around the ship, one little guy was sitting with a frown on his face looking into a PADD. When someone had picked him up to carry him to an escape pod he'd kicked and screamed so wild he'd been able to free himself and ducked out of sight.
Now he was getting worried that might not have been hist smartestest idea.
The comm badge was active and there was a system locked on to the badge but why wasn't Daddy beaming..…
Bright sparkles enveloped Ahrund suddenly, and a few seconds later he found himself in a huge seat, strapped in tighter than a sardine in a can. He didn't care though cause in the reflection of the canopy in front of him he could see…
"DADDYYYYYYY!" he yelled quite loudly, hurting his own ears through the speakers in the helmet.
"Ow.. sowwy... But me help! Ahrundje now help you? Me ankwee with badpeople. They make home go broken." he announced solemnly and began tapping at his PADD with vigor.
Zoteke felt guilty somehow for beaming Ahrund to his fighter instead of any other crewman but the hell with it he thought. This was far too much like the Starbase when they'd lost Ahrund’s mother. He couldn't let Ahrund go through this without him.
Seeing that the little guy was very much involved in whatever he was doing with the padd he felt enormous relief before focus, absolute focus, unified him with the Sparrow in ways he hadn't thought possible.
Kurtis turned to Quinn, "You ain't going it alone Chief. You can court-martial me later, but you're going to need my help so don't even think about ordering me out of here." As Lyden said this Quinn walked over to a console and started typing in Commands.
"Well, Kurtis you could do some good but they are going to need a good Engineer on the Dunham, So I can't let you Stay. You can save more off the ship." As he said this he started a Site-to-Site transport.
"Goodbye Friend, I wish I had time to get to know you better."
"Damn it Chief, you're not thinking this..." Kurtis insisted as the transporter beam grabbed him.
After the Transporter took Lyden, Quinn activated a transporter inhibitor in Main Engineering. He tapped his combadge and said, "Quinn to Dylan,"
"Well I guess you are staying too, Sam, I'm on the Bridge, I Stepped into the Conference Room and am watching Sensors." said Anna Dylan.
"Well I guess this is It, I think I know what the Captain is planning, and You must know because of the power use."
"Yeah Anna I do, we'll stop em but.. I want to say this now because I may not have a chance to say it later. I still Love you. I blame myself for us not working together before."
As Quinn said this the Computer announced that only one minute remained on the Countdown. Taking the opportunity Dylan said,
"No Sam, it was me, I'm sorry."
"If we make it Anna. I Want to know something. Will you Marry me?" asked Quinn.
"Yes, Yes I will. I love you." said Dylan.
"I love you too Anna, Good luck. Quinn out," said Quinn as he closed the Channel.
"Engineering to Bridge. Everyone in the Engineering sections out, Almost all of the life-pods are launched, and I have Lyden On the Dunham. Whatever happens Good luck, Sir. Also if we make it you have a Wedding to may need to attend, Sir. Quinn out."
Greener chuckled. "You got it, Commander. Godspeed."
Kurtis rematerialized on the Dunham's transporter pad, she hadn't launched yet. He slipped quickly off the ship and began coordinating the loading process for the shuttles yet to launch.
"Captain, all shuttle crews are reporting ready to launch. They are filled to capacity with all non-essential personnel," reported Senna. "And if I may... there is some sort of Starbase or Outpost, if the chart is correct only 2.3 Light-years from our position. It isn't too far a deviation if we could get Undine angry enough to follow us... I'm sure we can evade it long enough to get in range. That way our lifeboats and escape boats would have a higher chance of survival," concluded Senna. "Make it so!" shouted Caymen.
The last of the crew assigned to the shuttles loaded up, and the shuttle pilots had finished their pre-flights when Kurtis noticed that the shuttle bay doors weren't opening. "Dang it! Now what?!" He cursed under his breath and dashed to the shuttle bay control tower.
Try as he might though the door command console refused to open the shuttle bay doors, and to make matters worse the IFF scanners were not registering the shuttles as friendly craft so that they could pass through the shuttle bay's forcefield. Kurtis shut down the forcefield and keyed in the command to explosively decompress the main shuttle bay, but... nothing happened.
"For the love of God! Can't one thing go right today?!"
Thinking quickly, Kurtis ran down the catwalks and slid down a ladder arriving right next to the manual control mechanism for the bay doors explosive release charges. He pulled the charging handles to the twin charges and triggered the explosion. The doors blew back on their tracks; the sudden decompression of the chamber caught Kurtis before he could grab onto something and he was sucked out into space.
Aboard the Dunham Jeanette swiftly locked the transporter onto Kurtis's combadge, but with the shuttles all full to capacity she did the only thing she could think of, and beamed Kurtis directly to the bridge.
The transporter beam faded out and Kurtis had rematerialized lying flat on his back on the bridge between the viewscreen and the helm and ops consoles. He sucked in breath after breath of lifegiving oxygen. Propping himself up on one elbow he looked at Captain Greener and said the only thing that came to mind.
"Permission to come aboard Cap'n…"
Caymen about broke out into laughter.
"Permission granted, Lieutenant." He then tapped his badge.
=^= All remaining hands, prepare for self-destruct! =^=
To be continued in Part 15!
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