Part of USS Mogrus: Ih’shikaen Mnhaeu (A Family Bargain) and Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

Heroism at Any Cost

The Oumoren System
June 7th, 2400; 1500 hours
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The lights in the medical bay flickered just as Muninn finished running the dermal regenerator over Asenth’s wound.

A nasty blow, but ultimately superficial. Asenth blinked up from where she sat on the edge of the biobed at the momentary darkness and gripped Muninn’s arm. Muninn held the girl close and listened. There: the telltale shudder in the deck plating. Kinetic vibrations as the ship’s hull responded to the energetic stresses of the shield, the emitters taxed to bursting by some distant onslaught.

“Are they attacking?” Asenth asked. She did not sound afraid, for all that her eyes were wide as shadowed moons. But it was this itself, the sheer neutrality of her tone, that let Muninn know just how far the girl was into a state of panicked shock. To have gone through everything she did back on Oumoren, only to have it repeated with such intimacy here… it made Muninn’s heartache to think of it. 

“Yes,” Muninn said. She wanted to be cautious, to say as little as possible: to lie, even. But she did not because she owed Asenth at least her own full measure of reality, as an anchor to stem the tide she could see lapping at the girl’s mental walls. Truth and trust. Sometimes, in life, you were left with little else.

“Will they get us?”

“Shavar is an incredible pilot, Allan is smart, and this is a hard ship to hit. Combat in space is either about staying close enough to hit the broadside of the metaphorical barn, or else stay back and let sensors do all the target locking.” She was rambling, her evasion obvious. But Asenth just nodded. And then, slowly, the teen leaned forward on the biobed and rested her head on Muninn’s chest. And Muninn, as tenderly as she could manage, medical instrument still clutched in one hand, wrapped her arms around the girl and rocked her silently as the deck shivered from yet another strained impact.

***

“Evase pattern Delta-Sigma-Seven! Cut all power from phaser emitters and open the torpedo bay!” Allan’s commands were clear bells in the singed Bridge air.

“Sir!” Shavar acknowledged, while his fingers danced across the controls.

“Two more misses,” Lish called out from the tactical display. The Bolian had recovered enough, clearly, to handle his duties under the circumstances, but very nearly wished he were still in medically-induced coma and thus blissfully unaware of the trial for their lives presently underway. “Countermeasures are working, for now.”

Maria had returned to the engineering section, and was no-doubt furiously working to keep their little ship together for as long as she could. 

“Are we going to fire on them, Sir?” Shavar asked, with a glance back at his captain.

Allan, who grasped the arms of his command chair with white knuckles, frowned. This was the sort of moment that changed lives. Ripples from what he did here could spread throughout the sector, even the galaxy. In his mind, he saw the Remans filling the warbird’s corridors. How many? Hundreds? Thousands? And against all that life, the crew beneath his charge, facing down a madman bent upon revenge. Allan held no illusion that Hartresk shared similar deliberations. To the Reman revolutionary, Starfleet was just another enemy to be destroyed. A continuation of the same Imperial violence that he had struggled beneath his entire life. And, in the mind of someone like that, any risk—any sacrifice—could easily be approved. The grim accounting of the righteous and the holy: all lives in service to the ideal, to the dream.

“No,” Allan said. “But we might not need to.” The right arm of the command chair bore a holographic touch panel, which he now flipped open. Various small screens flowed up in a blue haze, offering him a full picture of the ship’s status. He pressed his finger into the area and watched as a new line of information emerged.

“Torpedo bay is open,” Lish called out, “but we’d have to place them all in a very small section of their shields to break through, I don’t know if the computer can handle that at more than fifty or sixty kilometers, and even then, they might have countermeasures…”

“Ready five torpedoes and program in a yield of one-hundred percent, with a proximity fuse of seven meters from shield detection,” Allan said.

Lish looked around, gaping. “You want me to blow them up before they hit?”

“Just do it, man!” Allan yelled, losing some of his cool. Their own shields were falling dangerously low, despite the added energy flow from the now-offline phaser banks. “I’m not going to try to destroy a ship full of kids, dammit. We’ve got to be clever. Shavar, as soon as those torpedoes blow, I want you to give us a one-point-one second burst of warp. Course, nine-seven-seven, mark seventeen.”

“That would put us right next to them!” Shavar, though his tone betrayed no small amount of anxiety at this prospect, was already setting the command. Good man, Allan thought. The pilot really was as good as Allan had hoped he would be.

“Right behind them, actually,” Allan said. “Once they veer to avoid the continuing volley, and keep their shields intact. Lish, how’s it looking?”

“Ready!” cried the Bolian.

“Fire!”

On the viewscreen, half a dozen bright red globes burst from their position and arced toward the Warbird. Then, brilliant flashes as the first exploded. Their camera angle veered along with the Mogrus, as the little ship angled toward its new trajectory. Then the stars and the warship both seemed to stretch momentarily as the photons were bent around the little ship’s suddenly stabilized warp field. Then, like a rubber band snapping back into place, everything settled; the stars were once more distant pinpricks, and their view of the warship now saw them looking back at the rear of its warp nacelles.

Green light lanced out at them from a disruptor point along the warbird’s sleek spine, but they easily evaded the beam. The much larger ship, with its incredible mass putting it at a disadvantage against the nimble Mogrus, could not bring its forward weapons to bear now.

“Can’t… keep this up… forever,” Shavar said. His voice sounded strained as he manually adjusted the evasive pattern based on the slow movements of their adversary.

“We don’t have to,” Allan said. He hoped fervently that he was right. “Just long enough for the conspirators to sort themselves…”

“Sir!” Lish’s panicked shout brought Allan around. “There’s another ship coming in. They’re a friendly!”

Allan looked back to the viewscreen, which now focused in on a Starfleet light cruiser emerging from a blur of high warp several-thousand kilos out from the action, just within the limit of their firing range. Twin beams of brilliant umber shone in the blackness as the cruiser opened fire on the Romulan ship, the phaser energy pouring across the Warbird’s shields in a great crackling storm.

Allan felt his heart sink at the sight. He snapped his fingers at Lish. “Get me a line to that ship!”

“Can’t,” Lish called back, “the Romulans are filling the subspace bands with interference.”

“Then get me a damn radio signal!” Allan shouted. “I don’t care!”

The Wardbird lumbered slowly toward its new antagonist, disruptors firing staccato bursts of viridian. A newer model D’deridex would have been more than a match for the smaller Federation vessel, but the Reman’s captured warship had not been refitted in decades—if ever. Allan watched, horrified, as a quantum torpedo left the Starfleet vessel and slammed into the D’deridex’s shield’s causing them to flicker dangerously.

“Salvation, your time is shit,” he muttered to the bridge. 

***

Hartresk growled at the Reman tactical officer, Ekteth. The warbird’s bridge smelled of smoke from a burning power relay that the suppression system struggled to quell.

“We can’t repel firepower of that magnitude!” the officer repeated, pointing at the data on his tactical screen.

“We’re not ready for full combat, sir, we’re just not!”

“We’re not going to let them just destroy us!” Hartresk yelled back. He knew that his control of the situation was slipping from his grasp. Where was Janus? He needed to know what the status was of their fighters. A D’deridex carried dozens of the small Romulan attack ships, designed to provide a cloud of cover in just such a situation as this, to keep a field of defensive fire between the big ship and more nimble attackers.

“Rotate the shield array,” he yelled, “keep them from overloading the emitters, and reroute all power from the engines.”

“Sir?” cried Ekteth in alarm.

“We can’t outmaneuver them! We must out-gun them.”

The officer nodded and opened a communication channel to the engineering deck, while Hartresk looked back at the viewscreen in time to see several of their disruptor pulses make contact with the attacking Starfleet ship. They were taunting him! One torpedo out of the dozens they surely possessed. And their calls to stand down, to surrender… he snarled at the thought. Federation law would never take him away in chains. He would see death’s eyes first, rather than let himself become yet another casualty to Federation brainwashing.

“Sir, I can’t raise engineering.”

“What?” Hartresk rounded on the tactical officer again. Anger flooded him, mixing with a fresh burst of fear. “Out of the way!” he grabbed Ekteth and pulled him from the chair. But his own attempts to bring the channel to life failed.

No, not a failure. The line was open, they should have been receiving him.

The doors of the lift onto the bridge opened and Hartresk glanced over. There stood Janas and several other officers, finally. “Janas!” Hartresk called out, “get down to engineering. Something’s wrong down there, they’re not answering…” he broke off when he noticed the disruptor in his old friend’s hand.

One of the other officers realized what was happening at the same time as Hartresk and reacted even faster. The officer pulled his weapon free and got off a wild shot before he was vaporized. His scream echoed even after his body had been reduced to so much dust in a flare of green light.

Hartresk was already leaping for cover by the time Janas and the others left the lift and spread out, taking out two more of the bridge crew who were brave enough to go for their weapons. Hartresk crouched behind a console, his own weapon in his hand, his mind working furiously. But, even as he looked for an advantage, he felt a black pit of sorrow and rage clenching in his belly. Not Janas. Not Him. Of all the people aboard, of all his old friends from whom he might have expected some traitorous move, never once had his fears fell upon Janas.

“What are you doing?” he yelled, half stalling for time, half struggling with disbelief.

“I’m so sorry,” came Janas’ voice from the other side of the room. “I tried to explain things to you, old friend.”

“What things?” Hartresk could hear the traitors moving, spreading out. They would surround him, take him in a moment’s time. He looked furiously around for some advantage. Met the terrified eyes of Ekteth, standing with raised hands just a few meters away.

“We can’t keep killing everyone who gets in our way,” Janas said. “We can’t just bloody our way through to victory. Not this time.”

“You believe in the revolution!”

“I do. But I believe that your way will see the end of it. I tried to get you to see that. I did.”

“No… no! Traitor!”

Hartresk kicked Ekteth in the leg. The tactical officer screamed and doubled over, then exploded into dust as three panicked disruptor blasts struck him at the same time. In the split second that followed, Hartresk rolled out from his hiding place, his weapon raised, and he took aim, and he fired.

***

The big D’deridex fired a spread of torpedoes, several of which struck blue clouds of energetic particles as they impacted the Starfleet cruiser’s shields. Allan watched from the bridge, knowing that, soon, the captain of that ship would have to authorize a full-scale attack. The cruiser would aim for nonessential systems, of course… but with the shape that the Romulan ship was in, cascading failures would spread like fire. Fire in a pressurized can.

“Ensign, come around to four-eight-one mark fifteen, maximum impulse.”

Shavar had already initiated the command before he took full stock of what it meant. “But sir, that’ll put us between them.”

“I know,” Allan said. “Until we can break through that communication’s block, we have to do something. That old ship can’t take structural damage. They’re held together by integrity fields, and you know the sort of stresses at the core of a D’deridex as well as I do, Ensign.”

They were already speeding in close, barely a hundred kilometers out from the Warbird’s shield limit. In the viewscreen, Allan saw the Starfleet cruiser’s phaser array abruptly hold fire as the smaller Raven-class dipped into their firing zone.

The relief he felt surprised him, considering that his career had probably just vanished as surely as the cruiser’s targeting lock.

“Power surge coming from the Warbird,” Lish called out.

Allan winced, bracing himself for a nearly point-blank impact. At that range, the Warbird’s disruptors might be able to overwhelm their shields completely, depending on how many of their weapon arrays were pointed in the right direction. But then Lish spoke again, confusion and relief evident in his expressive tone.

“…Wait, they’re powering down! Communications are coming back online as well.”

The viewscreen flickered and the fairly-purple face of a man in Starfleet uniform, four gold pips on his collar, appeared there amid a haze of static. “…the hell are you playing at, Mogrus?”

***