The Klingon combat shuttles that the Vondem Rose had come with weren’t exactly the best shuttle design in the galaxy but Trid had to give them their due, they were reliable and solid little beasts. The craft weren’t very aerodynamic, opting for a ‘fight the atmosphere’ mentality via the twin mechanisms of excessive engine power and incredibly powerful thruster systems. All more likely installed to account for combat damage during an assault and needing redundancies to ensure a good drop.
After all, where was the honour in dying on the way to the fight? Much more honourable to hit the ground dazed, confused, concussed and then die.
Today’s shuttle, charitably called ‘Shuttle 1’, the naming pool hadn’t settled on one and their deck chief, a klingon, claimed she didn’t see the point in naming a shuttle, was flying in a remarkably good fashion. Better than she expected in fact having not flown one yet and having only heard others talk about the experience. She expected it to be rough, bumpy, threatening to kill its passengers as much as whoever it landed on top of. But instead it handled surprisingly well. Controls were slow to respond, but when they did, they came with a lot of kick to them.
“Sorry,” she said after another correction had clearly been far too much for the poor inertial compensators to fully handle. “This thing kicks when it wants to.”
“Whoever designed these things must have had a targ he thought was absolutely funny to base a shuttle on,” Captain Sidda muttered from her seat in the back.
There was no dual seat setup like on Federation shuttles, at least not on the ones the Rose had. The rest of the space was for warriors to prepare for combat, or to evac wounded who might live to see another battle. Strictly utilitarian.
“Klingon shuttle, remain on your assigned flight path,” came a voice from the comm panel and Trid sighed before jamming a finger on the console briefly.
“Shuttle…Ro,” she said, assigning the name on a whim, “acknowledges.” Her hands went back to the controls, rebalancing the craft’s flight path and making corrections to the limiters on the thrusters. Adjustments would need to be made to the response times, the power of thrusters tuned down. But she’d make a suitable little shuttle with a bit of love and care.
There was no followup to her acknowledgement but at least there wasn’t a volley of weapons fire either.
“I’ll have us on the ground in five more minutes, Cap,” she said as she settled the craft onto a nice and proper flight path. No more jarring and jostling from atmospheric interfacing, just smooth flying to the space port and settling the craft down.
“Hey Trid,” R’tin spoke, sounding like he was at the far back of the shuttle. “We’re going to have to give this thing a tune up when we get back to the Rose. The starboard engine is making some weird noises back here.”
“Define weird,” came Sidda’s demand.
“We’re probably not getting as efficient a run on the engines as I’d like and more likely to burn out the starboard in a few dozen hours of usage,” he said. “But we’ll be fine. Nothing to worry about. We can fly on one engine. Right Trid?”
“Uh yah, sure,” she said, glad no one could see her face as continued flying.
The city they were heading to, T’ma’ru, was the only real settlement on the entire planet, outside of some limited mineral extraction operations far, far away from this place. It was a place of distinct differences, with privilege and power on display in the seaside resorts and accommodations, the wide avenues from the spaceport to the resorts and the governor’s palace perched upon a large rocky prominence, forming a looming edifice of Romulan power over the have-not’s of Ta’shen.
The other part of the city, the vast majority by far, was clearly where the workers lived and carried out the supporting roles and jobs to cater to the entertainment of their ‘betters’. The streets were more crowded, the buildings far less glamorous or clean. It was a part of T’ma’ru that no senator of their families would ever have to see once they arrived planetside, unless of course they wanted to go and indulge themselves.
“Serfs and slaves,” Sidda remarked as she loomed over Trid’s shoulder slightly, looking out the window at the city below. “Either way, poor bastards, the lot of them. The Star Empire never shies away from showing its true colours.”
“Prophets,” she muttered. “Seriously, slaves? I thought it was just propaganda to scare little children.”
“And in the Star Empire, the lack of slaves in the Federation is how they know they’re better then everyone else. After all, it’s only natural that a Romulan should be elevated above all others.”
“A tired opinion I’m glad is on the way out,” Revin chipped in from elsewhere in the shuttle. “The only time a romulan should be elevated..”
“Okay, that’s enough,” Sidda said very, very quickly. “Set us down and no need to be fancy. They think we’re all barbarians anyway, fancy flying isn’t going to impress them.”
“Right you are.” And with that she proceeded not to try and impress anyone, just comply with directions from traffic control and settle the shuttle down inside the encircled landing pad that had been assigned to them.
The space port, at least the one they had landed had, was clearly geared more for visitors, not for bulk cargo, like the large landing fields they’d flown over on the edge of the city. Each bay was isolated from the others with reasonably high walls to afford privacy and security. The building itself looked immaculate, clearly what was supposed to be the first impression of T’ma’ru to honoured guests arriving by shuttle and not just beaming down from orbit.
Down and post-flights complete, she’d spent a few minutes briefing Grelka on what pre-flights should be, and which steps were truly required. The ship was built with combat pilots in mind after all and proper steps weren’t always in the cards. Then she was passing Hendricks at the aft ramp where he checked she had her phaser on her hip. “Charged Trid?”
“Can I check?”
She gave him a look that said ‘Am I stupid?’ before relenting and letting him confirm her weapon was ready. It wasn’t a modern phaser, probably older then she was truth be told, but it still did the job and unlike the disruptor in Sidda’s holster, or the sword on her hip she insisted on bringing with her, had a stun setting. That’s when she spotted Revin’s weapon and turned to Hendricks, nodding her head in Revin’s direction while questioning him with her eyes.
“Orin checked her out on phasers a week ago. She’s not a great shot, but she’ll give you cover if it comes to it,” he replied. “Just…don’t stand in front of her. Or let her close her eyes. Or do, maybe?”
“Right…” she said, drawing out the word. “You and Grelka run into any trouble, just close the ramp and raise the shields. This thing is designed to take a beating.”
“From small arms,” he corrected as she walked away.
Sidda, Revin and R’tin were all standing around, waiting, halfway between the shuttle and two Romulan guards waiting at the exit from the pad. They wore something that looked like a take on the Star Navy uniform, but was just off enough. Something she’d never seen before, but their behaviour said Navy enough to her.
“All good?” Sidda asked.
“We’re good. Grelka’s got the shuttle comms listening in case we need them. Hendricks is prepared to slam the door shut if a guard so much as looks at him funny I think.”
Their exit through the terminal of the spaceport took them only a couple hundred metres of walking and nearly a half hour of questions, scans, more questions, disdainful looks and finally being allowed on their way when documents and calls came through letting them pass, with their weapons even, though special disdain had apparently been levied on Sidda’s weapons. For Trid’s part she didn’t like this one bit and could see that same concern on Sidda’s face. Revin and R’tin were both impossible to judge, having adopted rather neutral expressions and maintaining them perfectly.
The ground car that awaited them had no driver, merely a computer that asked for a destination before starting its journey along the left hand side of the smaller avenue she’d spotted on the way in. While smaller and not nearly as grandiose as the other, which would have hosted the odd visiting dignitary heading directly for the governor’s palace, it was still an ostentatious display of status.
“I’ve never seen such an unnecessary bald face display of wealth,” she found herself saying as she watched the city go by. The buildings along the avenue clearly were facades, to give the impression even the lowest here on Ta’shen were well off.
“Neither have I,” Revin said, watching it all impassively. “But it doesn’t surprise me.”
“Big egos need big roads,” R’tin chipped in. “The Republic’s a bit better. The Free State too. But it’s a Romulan cultural thing that’s changing slowly. The old traditions just weren’t serving the state as well anymore.”
“Didn’t help the Orion empires of old either. Or the Cardassians. Had to fail the Romulans eventually.” Sidda’s tone was icy. “Honestly surprised a place like this still exists within the Star Empire, but then again some powerful sponsors probably helped keep it going.”
“Now that doesn’t surprise me at all,” R’tin said. “Cronyism is alive and…”
R’tin stopped speaking when Sidda and Revin opposite R’tin and herself both winced at something behind them. All she saw was the bright light that flashed over the buildings on the street, noticeable even in the late morning, casting shadows where shadows shouldn’t be.
She turned just in time to see the rising mushroom cloud over the spaceport. And in time for the second flash of light, bigger this time, much bigger, that must have engulfed the entire spaceport. The shockwave swept over the city and towards them, funnelled down the avenue by the buildings on either side. It wasn’t the wave of devastation it would have been closer to the spaceport, but enough to violently rock the ground car and send her and R’tin falling towards Sidda and Revin.
Before she could even regain her seat Sidda was already on her communicator. “Grelka, Hendricks, answer me dammit!”
Static was the only response.
Then the sirens started to blare all over the city.