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Part of USS Republic: Die a Hero…

Die a Hero… – 5

USS Republic
August 2401
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“I don’t believe you.” Cat Saez, Republic’s fighter squadron leader, had made her way to the bridge to check on a few mundane details and most importantly stick her beak into the affairs of the bridge officers. She hadn’t expected to stumble into a conversation between a collection of junior officers about weird knacks they all had. Someone had started it as an open-to-the-floor icebreaker and she’d walked in just as the ship’s helmswoman, Willow Beckman, had declared ‘I can guess within a few degrees whenever the ship changes course’.

Her rebuttal clearly wasn’t helping her in what seemed a pointless endeavour to if not make friends with Beckman, to at least be able to work amicably with her. Willow’s eyes settled on her, narrowing as joviality fled to be replaced with coldness and seething that Cat seemed to inspire just by being in the same room.

Sometimes the bus drivers and the fighter jocks just never got along. But not if she could help it.

“Try me then,” Willow said, defiance edging her words and reinforcing the squint in her eyes.

“Oh, can we please?” asked Jenu Trid from her place at Operations on the starboard side of the bridge. “Wait…I’m the watch officer.” She spun her chair around to face the bridge, looked between Cat and Willow, then smiled mischievously. “Right, Willow, stand in front of the viewscreen facing us.”

“Uh, why?” the young woman asked.

“To eliminate anything that might give changes away,” Trid answered. She then pointed straight at Cat. “Go on, test her,” she commanded as she then pointed to Willow’s now vacant station.

Cat found herself smiling, shook her head and shrugged as she descended the steps down from the back of the bridge to the fore, walking over to the helm station. She could feel Willow’s eyes on her, daring her to make a mistake, sound some sort of alarm – anything so that Willow could step in and prove herself.

She didn’t sit herself down, just looked at the helm controls to orientate herself with Willow’s preferred layout, looked up to make sure Willow was where Trid had told her to stand, and then entered a series of commands to the ship’s systems. RCS thrusters fired to gently nudge Republic around on her three axes of rotation where she sat hanging in space, still guarding the wreck of the Madeleine.

And with a chirp from the console, the manoeuvre was complete and all present eyes turned to Willow. She was standing very still, eyes closed, as if meditating. It only took a second for her to answer. “You changed our heading to zero-nine-seven mark four-six and then rolled the ship fifteen degrees to starboard.”

“Huh,” Cat said, then entered another series of commands to the ship, again spinning Republic on the spot.

And again Willow answered quickly after the ship stopped moving. And twice more this routine played out.

“Well?” asked Trid. “How far off was she?”

“Within one degree every time,” Cat conceded. “Okay, I’m impressed. What’s the trick?”

Willow actually smiled at that. A smile that said ‘I can do something you can’t’. “No trick,” she answered. “Just always been able to do it.”

“Inside an inertial compensator field, with artificial gravity, and barely moving the ship.” Cat whistled, nodding her head in respect. “It’s a neat talent you got there Lieutenant. I think I know who I want on my team next time we have to do orienteering exercises.”

“If we’re all done spinning my ship around like a top,” Captain MacIntyre spoke up, having slipped onto the bridge while everyone was distracted, “how’s your attempt to track down the Eponine, Lieutenant Jenu?”

“Still refining the details sir,” the Bajoran woman answered. “But I can tell you they did head initially in the direction of the Badlands after slinging around this system’s largest gas giant to try and hide their warp trail.”

“New Maquis, same old hiding places.” The captain stepped up to his seat, but just stood behind it, hands settling on the headrest. “Ensign Jacobs,” he said to the junior tactical officer on duty this watch, “target the Madeleine please and prepare a photon torpedo. Trid, bring it up on screen please.”

The crippled ship soon occupied the viewscreen, the visual from one of the many cameras dotted around the ship’s hull. The damage that Selu had done to it with a single phaser blast was evident and indicative of the ship’s forthcoming fate. An entire wing had been cut off with surgical precision, the warp nacelle on that side sliced open such that it would have to be rebuilt to ever even be considered for travel.

And with an order to target and prepare a torpedo, the captain had made up his mind on any attempt at salvaging the ship, or just leaving it here for someone else.

“Uh sir, could I make a suggestion?” Cat asked as she stepped away from the helm, Willow returning to her station now that things were happening on the bridge once more. She ascended the steps to be on the same level as Captain MacIntyre. “Instead of torpedoing the Madeleine, could we use it to give the Night Witches a live fire target for some torpedo runs?”

“Not a bad idea, but we need to be getting back on Eponine’s trail.” His smile was apologetic. “Mr Jacobs, fire when ready please.”

“Aye sir,” came the young man’s bland response as he went through the rote actions of selecting and confirming his target, checking his selection one more time, then idly tapping a button labelled ‘Fire’ that caused Republic to spit forth a torpedo.

It found its home deep inside the unshielded and armour-rent hull and unleashed pure energetic fury as matter and antimatter quickly annihilated each other in the torpedo, then imparted all of that energy to the Madeleine’s interior. The flash of light was countered by the viewscreen and the Republic barely bucked as the shockwave lapped at the ship. Most likely wouldn’t have noticed a thing.

“Right then,” MacIntyre announced. “That done, let’s get the show moving again. Beckman, plot a course for the Badlands, maximum warp. Jenu, keep refining the plot and feed it to Beckman. Lieutenant Saez, what are you up to at the moment?”

“Nothing much to be honest sir. Came up to the bridge to check in on the current situation before getting on with some paperwork I need to catch up on.” Cat figured honesty was the best policy with Captain MacIntyre. It had played out well so far.

“Excellent. You have the conn.” And he was off, making for the turbolift off the bridge with haste.

“Sir?” Cat asked quickly, catching him just as the doors to the lift opened.

“I’d prefer if Trid was able to just focus on refining the track and you’re here and bridge qualified, yes?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Excellent, good luck then.”

“Oh thank the Prophets,” Trid declared as she turned back to her station. “Not that I don’t mind babysitting the bridge, but these New Maquis folks know what they’re doing.”

As Republic jumped to warp, a comfortable silence settled over the bridge, giving Cat plenty of time to contemplate the centre seat before eventually sitting herself down in it. Holodeck training sessions and simulators just didn’t carry the same gravitas as the real thing. But eventually, she settled into it, which summoned a glance and accompanying glare from Willow before she sunk herself into the duty of watching the ship’s course.

“They never quite prepare you for how twirly the chair is,” Cat said after a few moments more than a few experimental turns in the chair.

“Or that if you do a full rotation it squeaks,” Trid said over her shoulder. “But hey, maybe we don’t tell the captain about that just yet, yeah?”