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Part of USS Mackenzie: Mission 2: Wayward Sons and Bravo Fleet: Blood Dilithium

20 – The Most Dangerous Game

USS Mackenzie / Runabout Winona
11.2.2400 @ 1715
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Sadie Fowler scanned the ongoing sensor reports as she spoke, “SS Loche has increased speed to their emergency warp speed of 6.9 - looks like they're giving it all they've got.  They'll cross the border in ten minutes.  It looks like they'll be able to avoid any Devore contact.”

Captain Harris stood beside her station, “And the runabout?”

The science chief tapped at the console, “Max speed is warp 6 - they'll going to be slightly behind…behind enough that there is a 75% chance the Devore ships on intercept course will get to them before they get across the border.” She rekeyed the scenario, “Now an 85% chance.”

Ambrose returned to his chair and sat, contemplating his choice.  He had promised the Devore they would answer the questions if they entered their space.  Breaking that promise would not just have implications for the Mackenzie and crew but the rest of Starfleet operating in the Delta Quadrant.  He decided to try and ask.  “Ensign Atega, open a channel to the Devore ship.  Get me Inspector Jasev.”  A moment passed, and the scowling face of the Devore officer stared back at him.

“What do you want?”

“I'm trying to avoid a situation.  We have one civilian transport under our protection and our runabout returning to the border to ensure we honor the time you had granted them.  They are being pursued and intercepted by Devore ships.”

“Your point?”  There might have been a snarl in the Devore's question; Harris wasn't sure.

“The point I was making was that they may be operating under the threat of boarding or attack by the Devore - and fearing for their lives in the process.”

A deep chuckling rumble emanated from the inspector, “Isn't the point, Captain?  They're fleeing from us despite orders to stop.  Their lives are already forfeit, and prison is a likely outcome.  The longer they run, the more chance we'll just remove them from the equation.  You're in the Delta Quadrant now, Federation.”

The channel cut, and Harris shook his head as Okada stepped to the railing behind him, “Captain…this isn't good.”

“No, no, it is not.  Send a message to the Loch - tell them to head to the outpost with all available speed.”  He waited a moment, “Ensign Del Castillo, plot me an intercept course with Runabout Winona.  How much time at Emergency Warp?”

She did her calculations, “We'll meet in five minutes.  It'll still be well within the border, sir.”

Harris replied, “I am aware.  Send the Winona a message - we're coming.  Be ready for crash plan.  Engage on my mark."  He turned to the bridge, “We're about to break a rule and a promise.  Note in your logs your protests if you feel compelled to do so…but we're getting our people out of here.”  He waited for anyone to speak up, “Good enough.  Red Alert - engage!”  The Mackenzie flashed into action and was on her way.  The two Devore ships slowly turned and then lept into following the ship.

 

On the Winona, Prentice's eyes went wide, “Crash plan?!  That's…I don't know if this ship is rated for that, Chief Kondo!”

The chief tactical officer was working his console as he shouted back at the crew, “Secure and strap yourselves down.  When they mean crash, they do mean crash.”  He turned to the Chief Helm Officer, “Rated or not, you're going to have to fly this girl into the Mack.  The lives of this crew and the crew on the Mackenzie depend on it, Chief Prentice.  This isn't in the realm of maybe.  This is happening.”

Will took a moment to absorb Kondo's words.  It felt like an echo of his earlier dangerous streak in the academy, only this time; he was being ordered to pull the craziest stunt possible in order to save the day.  He repeated that several times in his head.  He hoped it would steady his hands and mind as the stopwatch on the console clicked down and down.

Natalie helped strap Ensign Menzie down, and her eyes flitted open for a moment, “Thank you, Cadet Harris.”  She passed out before Harris could respond. The assistant chief went to work securing himself into his seat.  She needed to do the same.  They'd done their share of crash tests at Harris Transport with the various ship models.  She knew the chances of survival with most classes. 

Back in the cockpit, Kondo appraised the helm officer, “Devore ships intercept is imminent.  We're going to have to drop from warp in one minute.”

 

The bridge of the Mackenzie was bathed in a dull ruby as the alert klaxons continued to ring out as they sprinted toward the Winona. Harris gripped the arms of his chair.  They would only get one try at getting this right.  Ensign Del Castillo at the helm counted down from thirty seconds of their arrival.  Okada made her last notes for the damage control teams and glanced one last time at the power controls.  They were going to face off against someone for the first time with the Mack.  There was risk, danger, and fear blended.  She decided they'd just need to serve it in cups of courage.

“Arriving in 10….9…..8….”

Fowler kept her eyes on the screens in front of her as the chess pieces shifted around on the board.  What strategy was engaged, what positioning was used - it was all part of the unknown.  She would have to focus on the known to keep her sanity.  They were headed to battle for the first time on this new ship.  The time was nearly there.

“….5….4……3….2….”

The Excelsior II class starship burst from the stars and banked towards the runabout Winona that had just arrived as well.  Two Devore ships flashed in from another direction and opened fire, aiming for the runabout.  Harris growled, “Helm, put us between them and weapons fire.  Tactical - fire all phasers.”  The sound of the phaser controls echoed through the ship as they skimmed across the shields of the two Devore patrol ships.

The assistant tactical chief reported, “Minimal damage to their shields.  They're attempting to flank around us.”  Ensign Dogukan Dalman let loose with further repeated phaser fire as he spoke: “Their shields are down to 90% - we have their attention.  The shuttle is stable and starting her run to the shuttle bay.”

Sadie spoke up from her science station, “Detecting two more Devore ships inbound.  Arrival in one minute.  One of them appears to be larger than the others.  Scanning for weapons and power levels.”  Harris gave her a nod of thanks as the two patrol ships turned on the Mack and started firing repeatedly.  The thunderous pounding of weapons fire on the shields reached the bridge.

Okada reported, “Shields are holding…but they haven't hit us with their….” A roar shook the Mackenzie as the two patrol ships let loose their torpedoes.  The Chief Engineer grumbled, “Shields at 90%!”

 

In the cockpit of the Winona, Prentice was fighting to get the runabout back in line with the Mackenzie as she moved to take the fire meant for them.  He was muttering curses under his breath while concentrating hard.  Two Devore patrol ships had targeted them first and punished their limited shields.  He was very thankful for the size and power of the Mack.  She was a powerhouse compared to the Eddie.

Kondo reported from his seat, “We've got two new ships coming in.  One patrol ship and…one larger patrol ship…might be a cruiser.”  A flash of disrupter fire erupted across the Winona's shields and shook the runabout roughly, “The larger ship has some firepower.  Shields are down to 60%.  Prentice, if you're going to get us home…now would be a very good time.”  Will growled as he worked the engines on the runabout, hearing them protesting as he pushed the navigational and propulsion systems to the edge.

Natalie jumped from her seat and slid down the ladder to deck one.  She clumsily strapped herself into the wall as she checked the shield systems.  The ship shuddered, and sparks erupted from consoles as the helm officer careened his way through further weapons fire.  “Shields at 50%”, she muttered.  She found the shield relay system farther back and went to work.

 

“Captain, the cruiser is targeting the runabout. Shields at 50%.” 

Harris had had enough.  “Tactical - phaser and torpedo fire authorized.  Helm - get us on position for the Winona.  We're going to take some hits.  Once they're in the shuttle bay and stopped, get us out of here.”  The bridge shuddered for a moment.

Okada's hands were flying over the console, “Shields at 80% - they're turning their fire to the runabout.”  She shook her head now, “I don't think we're going to get her back…we're going to have to transport them off.”

Ambrose had seconds to make a decision.  The Mackenzie was a strong ship, but she was a big ship.  Moving her around was taking too much time.  “Signal them.  We're going to have to drop shields to do this.”   Ensign Dalman at tactical went to work preparing to direct cover fire to keep the ships busy.  Calog Tir took off to the turbolift, tapping his badge as he went.  He would need medical, just in case.  “Helm, get us in position.  Ensign Atega - be ready for transport activation on my signal.”  She nervously adjusted the earpiece, swallowing hard.  There was so much movement on the bridge and the screens.  The academy tests, trials, and simulations were one thing.  Staring at a battle in space and grasping the possibility the crew of the runabout might not make it - that was something else entirely.

 

“They want to WHAT?” Prentice shouted, unhappy about everything that was happening.  The runabout didn't just shake at the next barrage of fire.  It thrashed as if it was battling hand to hand in the final moments of a fight gone wrong.  It hurt like hell, but at least they were strapped in instead of bouncing around the cabin.  

Kondo tapped the weapons array as the shields dropped to 30%, and the Winona threatened to shake itself apart. “We're not making it home in this thing, Prentice.”  He turned to the back of the room and noticed Harris was gone.  “Where the hell's the cadet?!”  He quickly ran to the rear of the Winona, keeping his balance as the ship continued to toss and turn under fire. Kondo nearly fell down the ladder and barely stuck the landing, “Cadet Harris!”

Natalie coughed and slid out from the engineering section, her face a shattered map of burns, her cadet uniform smoking and blood beginning to bleed through the cloth, “Goddamn, that hurts.”  The ship shook, and the lights exploded along with every console around them.  The computer announced shields had failed, and the warp core was destabilizing.  She looked up at the tactical chief, the world a cloud of confusion and pain, “My brother is going to kill me for dying.”

There was a rumble that rushed to her ears as the world around her exploded in white.

 

=^=We have them!=^=

Harris didn't have time to celebrate as he ordered, "Shields!  Helm - get us the hell out of here.”  The shots from the Devore slammed into the shields as the Mackenzie swung into position, hung in space for a second, and was gone in a flash.  The Devore ships stayed in place before a smaller patrol ship took off in pursuit.