Part of Phoenix: Bad Moon Rising

Bad Moon Rising – 9

Main Engineering, Phoenix
March 2157
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It was early morning, and he was warm in his bed, comfortable in that state of semi-consciousness, all the world a cocoon of darkness and thought. Soon he would have to act, but for the moment he could rest, stay cosy, reflect, even if the alarm was about to go off.

Then it went off, and Hawthorne was jerked into full consciousness as he realised that wasn’t his morning alarm, that was an emergency klaxon, and he was lying flat on the deck of Main Engineering. His left arm screamed as he put weight on it, and it was with wheezing difficulty that he rolled to his knees and took in the sight around him.

Darkness. Smoke. The stirring and still bodies of his engineers. The main console of the warp core, that thundering heart of the whole ship, blazing with a warning that had to be connected to the klaxon roaring in his ears. Even with the world slow to rush back to Hawthorne’s clarity, he was an engineer in his bones, had built half the systems in his ship, and he knew what had happened.

Coolant leak.

He staggered to his feet, and waved his good arm towards the main doors. ‘Out! Everyone out!’

Petty Officer Radetsky came staggering out of the smoke, and had to clutch at Hawthorne to not fall. ‘Sir, we don’t have long…’

‘I know,’ said Hawthorne. ‘Go, go.’ He fell back with him, limping to the main doors and the communications panel there. He jabbed at a command. ‘Bridge, this is Main Engineering.’ Only silence met him for a long moment, and with a soaking gasp of air that almost made him cough, he jabbed again. ‘Bridge!’

It was Takahashi who answered, not Lopez. ‘Theo, how bad is it down there?

Hawthorne paused to wave more stumbling engineers out. ‘I have about twenty seconds before Main Engineering floods with coolant, so I’ve got to seal us off and vent this compartment. You better not get us hit again.’

Takahashi paused for far too long. ‘…we’re working on it.

‘Oh,’ said Hawthorne, realisation sinking in. ‘We’re completely buggered, aren’t we?’

We’ll be totally screwed if you can’t restore control of Main Engineering. Good luck.

‘And to you,’ said Hawthorne, and cut the comm feed. He could hear all the hidden messages: Goodbye. You’re on your own.

He ducked out through the main doors of engineering and looked up and down the row of sputtering, injured, bloodied engineers. Some had helped others out, some had dragged others out, and when he looked back towards the warp core, he could barely see its silhouette through the smoke. Hawthorne reached out and grabbed Radetsky. ‘Is that everyone?’

Radetsky shrugged. ‘I don’t know. I don’t – I don’t know.’

He had about ten seconds before he was going to have to seal that door. Hawthorne looked back into Main Engineering and lifted a hand to the control of the emergency blast doors –

– and horror rose in him as he saw a figure dragging themselves through the smoke along one of the railings towards the door. A figure he recognised.

Maria!’ Hawthorne leaned around the door-frame, as if getting inches closer would bring her metres nearer. ‘Get over here!’

Lieutenant Maria Carvalho leaned heavily on the railing, and looked up. And just as he knew there was no way she’d make it to him in time, he saw her face clearly through the smoke, and saw the sheer terror in her eyes. ‘Help me,’ she said, or might have said; her lips formed words he couldn’t hear, but he knew she wasn’t giving him permission to leave her to die.

Hawthorne took a step back and hit the control panel next to the arch to bring the heavy emergency doors thudding down so he could vent the whole chamber. And watched her through the screen as he did just that.

* *

Lopez swore as the next bout of weapons fire from the Decius thudded into them, and another emergency klaxon sounded. ‘Somebody switch them off, I know we’re fucked.’

‘Main Engineering is venting,’ said Takahashi.

‘Oh good.’ The sing-song voice of indifferent panic was back. ‘At least then Hawthorne can get back up close to the warp core before it overloads and kills us all.’

Black gave a hiss of frustration. ‘My targeting feed is so bad, I can’t get a good torpedo lock on the Decius, and they’re just eating our aft phase cannon fire.’

‘The two scouts are two minutes out!’ came Shepherd’s high-pitched warning.

‘I can run or I can dodge right now,’ said Antar tersely. ‘I can’t do both at once, so somebody get protection on our asses.’

Lopez drew a slow breath. ‘If anyone has any really wild ideas, now’s a great time.’

Takahashi gestured a bit wildly. ‘I could… try to flood their comms with a whole bunch of their own useless data and see if it disrupts the coordination between the three ships?’

‘They don’t need three ships to kill us,’ said Black.

‘What I need,’ said Antar, ‘is about ten seconds of breathing room and a certainty we can get to warp safely.’

‘Theo didn’t say we couldn’t go to warp, I just think if anything goes wrong, we need another four minutes before he can get back into engineering and do anything about it,’ said Takahashi with a wince.

‘Oh no, something going wrong at warp?’ said Lopez. ‘That’d be terrible.’ She snapped her fingers. ‘Okay, here’s how we slice this: Antar, you’re going to have us lose a bit of ground while, Helena, you try to stop us from dying if we let the Decius get right up close.’

‘I… don’t know how I’m going to do that,’ Black admitted.

‘It’s that or we die tired. Shepherd, I need you to calculate how much warp plasma we can vent and still go to warp. We’re going to limp, and then let it all loose in the Decius’s face and run.’ Lopez turned in her chair to stare at the rather numbed science officer, clearly out of her depth by her sudden field promotion. Lopez was trying to not think about the fact that Sawyer West’s corpse was right next to her. ‘Shepherd.’

Shepherd shook her head quickly. ‘Yes, Captain. All the warp plasma we can spare.’

‘If this goes wrong,’ said Black, fingers flying across her controls, ‘All we’re doing is opening ourselves up for a quick death.’

‘Better than a slow one,’ Lopez growled. ‘Do or die time; everyone ready?’

‘To do? Yes. To die?’ Antar shrugged. ‘Might as well.’

‘Alright, slow on my mark -’

Nat!’ Takahashi sat bolt upright. ‘I’m getting something on comms!’

‘If it’s Sekarth tell him to go f-’

‘Captain, we’ve got Starfleet ships dropping out of warp!’ Shepherd sounded as disbelieving as Lopez felt. ‘The Dragonfly, the…’

‘The Buran,’ breathed Takahashi. ‘Captain Sharpe’s hailing us.’

On screen!’

The Buran had been finished and launched not long before the Phoenix, and under far more auspicious circumstances. To see her bridge on the viewscreen was like Phoenix was her dark reflection; though she was at tactical alert, her bulkheads and consoles gleamed, clean and intact. Captain Sharpe was a stocky women, square-jawed and gruff of voice. ‘Looks like you’re in a pickle, Lopez.’

‘You want to trade pleasantries, or you want to save my ass, Sharpe?’

Sharpe looked over her shoulder. ‘Shoot that warbird, would you, Commander?’ Then her eyes snapped back to Lopez. ‘Keep running, Phoenix. We’ll cover your escape.’

‘This supply depot -’

‘You’ve screwed the pooch too badly on that for today; let’s get through this without losing one of our best ships and we can fuss about the Rommies’ hiding space another time. Buran out.’

Black cleared her throat after a moment. ‘The Buran is engaging the Decius, with the Dragonfly providing supporting fire.’

‘What’re those scouts doing?’ said Lopez, jaw tight.

‘They’re…’ Shepherd took a moment to find her voice. ‘They’re breaking off.’

‘So’s the Decius!’ called Black. ‘They’re falling back to the depot.’

Lopez sank back onto the command chair with exhausted relief, but before she could begin to rest, Takahashi spoke again.

‘We’re being hailed.’

‘Tell Sharpe that we’re running -’

‘It’s the Decius.’

She sat up, and now she thought she might throw up. ‘Put it through.’

You’re very lucky, Phoenix.

Lopez stared at the blank screen, the Romulans never transmitting through visual. ‘Going to crow at me, Sekarth?’

No. No, I think we’re even now.’ His voice was low and thoughtful, and there was a pause. ‘You fought cleverly. You fought bravely. You fought well. Grieve for your dead however you humans do it. I’ll see you on the battlefield another time, Lopez.

The signal went dead, and Antar made a low noise of disgust. ‘They actually dipped their wings a moment there.’

‘Son of a bitch,’ Lopez hissed. ‘Can we go to warp? Set us a course for Vega, at whatever pace we can get, in formation with Buran and Dragonfly.’ With a groan, she pushed herself off the command chair. ‘Helena, end tactical alert, and get me a damage assessment.’ She hesitated as she looked to her left. ‘Tak, I… I need a full casualty report.’

She didn’t linger as he nodded, limping as she moved towards the aft of the bridge. There was no specific wound, but everything ached, and she didn’t think it was mere physical ailment that had her movement stiff, pained as she reached the side of the science console and met the gaze of young Chloe Shepherd.

They did not say anything, and Lopez stepped around the controls to take a knee beside West’s body. Shepherd had rolled him over when she went to his side, and it must have been momentum that had once made Lopez think he was stirring, because he was very plainly dead, the side of his face a charred mess from where one of his control panels had detonated at him, his eyes blank and unseeing.

He would need moving, but for the moment, as the bridge of the Phoenix settled into the drained aftermath of the brutal beating they had taken, slinking away from defeat, all she could do was put her hand on the lapel of the uniform jumpsuit of the body of Sawyer West.

‘…oh.’