Part of USS Shepard: Arsenal of Democracy and Bravo Fleet: Blood Dilithium

Chapter 5

USS Shepard
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“Firing prox blast from ventral S2 and and P2 arrays,” Tallera relayed as her hands danced across her tactical console, sending bolts of energy searing from the bottom of the ship into the blackness of space.

“Viewscreen to estimated blast area,” Zelenko ordered, and the starfield in front of them switched to a slightly-different starfield before orange phaser proximity blasts could be seen exploding far in the distance.

“Bandits likely veering off again…” Vic declared as he gazed at his science console readouts. “Confirmed. Damn, the second I come close to giving Tallie a target lock, they turn tail and run.”

“At least we’re able to ward them off…” Zelenko replied. “They’re not exactly accomplishing anything by charging our defensive lines.” 

Vic shrugged in response.

“Ushaan just detected the other pair, they’re opening fire,” S’Geras called out. After a tense few moments, he spoke again. “Bandits peeling off.”

“The hell are they trying to do?” Vic asked, his tone equal parts annoyed and curious. “They haven’t achieved anything since their initial attack, all they’re doing is giving us target practice.”

“I’m not sure,” Zelenko said back. “Mack, please continue reading their dossier from Starfleet Archives. See if you can find any other information about their behavior or tactics.”

“Aye, Sir.”

The bridge sat in silence for a few minutes. The mood in the air was too tense to be boring, but too still to be stimulating, instead creating an unpleasant slurry of the two emotions as all read from their consoles or stared into the starfield on the viewscreen.

“Commander, I’m picking up four incoming plasma torpedoes,” Vic spoke, breaking the silence. “Bearing 313-mark-342 at 158,000 klicks.”

“Looks like they’re trying something new,” Zelenko said, sitting up straighter in her command chair. “Tallera, point-defense fire.”

“Already on it, Sir,” Tallera replied, quickly working to lock her arrays onto the glowing ball of teal energy soaring towards them. “Targets locked, firing standard beam from ventral arrays… targets destroyed.”

“Well that sure didn’t work,” Vic said with a smirk. “So if they launch from far away, we can shoot down the torps before they get here. But if they try to close the distance, we can detect ’em and hammer ‘em with prox blasts. Wonder what they’ll try next?”

“I’m not sure, but that at least tells us that the Hazari view what they’ve been doing as a failure,” Zelenko reasoned, leaning against her left armrest and bringing a hand to her chin in contemplation. “Mack, any new details you’d care to share?”

“Uh, it says here that their normal tactics are pretty rigid, and involve attacking in pairs,” the helmsman replied, sitting up straighter as he spoke. “Almost always with one ship hanging back as support to buff the other’s shields. They clearly can’t do that here, since flying cloaked means no shields.”

“Yet they still are attacking in pairs,” Zelenko pondered. “So they’re likely still applying at least some of their conventional strategies to this new scenario. They may still be trying to act with the mentality of combat and support roles within their pairs, too. Travers, are you able to detect residual tachyon energy from their previous attacks?”

“I should be able to, yes,” the science officer stated, beginning to configure his console for the task. “One of the benefits of staying in one place, relativistically speaking. Why do you ask?”

“Could you use that to plot out the specific paths the raiders have taken, as opposed to the rough estimates from real-time tachyon emission scanning?”

“Eh, maybe…” Vic said as he chewed on his cheek. “It’ll take a while, though. That’s a whole lot of data to analyze, and compiling it into actual motion tracking will be an absolute RAM vacuum for the main computer. And that’s not even getting into how you’d need around two dozen or so different samples to get any useful tactical data or pattern recognition out of it. Maybe even more than that.”

“Can you give any sort of estimate on how long it would take?”

“Well, given how long it takes a computer core like ours to analyze sensor data, and how frequently these attacks have been coming in… days, maybe. And that’s really as specific as I can be, there’s way too many factors at play here to give you a real answer.”

Zelenko rubbed her temple for a moment. “Get that started,” she ordered. “Since we’re not going anywhere for the foreseeable future, we should have the time.”

“Aye, Sir,” Vic nodded, and then went to work on establishing the new sensor settings.

The bridge fell back into that silence that wasn’t quite boring yet wasn’t quite tense.

“Two tachyon sensor pings in Rapier’s sector,” S’Geras spoke after a few minutes. “They’re engaging.”

“Back to the shoot-and-scoot tactic, I guess,” Vic sighed. “These Hazari really don’t-”

“Hang on…” S’Geras cut him off. “Rapier is reporting a phaser burnout in their starboard array. They’re pivoting to compensate.”

Tallera couldn’t help but clench her jaw. Burning out the arrays was what she’d been most nervous about since she began firing proximity blasts; using arrays in that manner was very taxing on any type of phaser anyone had developed up until now, and she’d been very careful to spread her fire to each of the Shepard’s eleven arrays to ease the load on them.

Unfortunately, Saber-classes like the Rapier and Ushaan only had four phasers, yet had an equal load to spread.

Rapier is reporting that the bandits have split up and pressed their attack from two angles. Rapier is engaging in hard maneuvers to keep them in the targeting arcs of their remaining arrays.”

“The Hazari know what’s wrong,” Zelenko said softly, her brow ever-so-slightly furrowing. 

“Bandits launched torpedoes,” S’Geras continued, his tone growing more intense. “They’ve closed to 10,000 kilometers. Rapier maneuvering evasively and firing point defense.”

“Shit, they’re almost in hammerlock,” Vic said, alarm evident in his voice.

“Hammerlock?” Tallera asked.

“Sorry, old spacer slang from grandpa,” the science officer explained. “It means the raiders are nearly inside the minimum range for Rapier’s point defenses to work.”

“Shit indeed,” Tallera replied with a concerned grimace.

“Torpedo impact on Rapier’s ventral starboard quarter,” S’Geras announced. “They’re sending audio to the fleet now.”

“Channel open,” Zelenko ordered, tensely gripping her armrests.

“All escorts, this is Rapier,” a desperate voice called out over the bridge’s intercom. “That last torpedo impact overloaded an EPS conduit for our ventral phaser array, we’re down to half our guns. Requesting immediate assistance, we are no longer able to hold off bandits and are in immediate danger of destruction.”

“Their dogfight has led to the Rapier drifting closer to our defense sector than Ushaan’s,” S’Geras explained to Zelenko. “We may be the only ones who can help in time.”

“Mack, get us to relieve Rapier, now,” Zelenko ordered. “We cannot afford to lose an escort. Tallera, fire the moment you gain a clear targeting solution.”

“Aye, Sir. Coming about now,” Mack called out.

“Targeting systems are working to make sure we don’t hit Rapier with support fire,” Tallera added.

“Oh, hell, Commander,” Vic spoke next, looking to Zelenko with wide eyes. “Detecting two tachyon blips in our sector, approaching fast at bearing 195-mark-037. 131,000 klicks.”

“I can’t target those two and get a solution on cover fire at the same time,” Tallera said, her voice cracking ever-so-slightly. This had become a clear, binary choice for Zelenko; save Rapier, or protect their sector. Ushaan likely wouldn’t be able to move to cover their space before the raiders got very close.

“Protect Rapier,” Zelenko ordered, jaw clenched tight. “Order Ushaan to move to protect our sector.”

“Aye, Sir,” Tallera responded, voice cracking slightly again as S’Geras began relaying the massage to Ushaan. “Solution nearly ready…”

“Another torp impact on Rapier,” S’Geras reported. “Their shields are failing.”

“Solutions ready! Firing prox blasts!” Tallera just about slammed her fist down on the firing controls, sending repeated blasts into the area around Rapier from the four forward-dorsal phaser arrays.

“Checking tachyon readings…” Vic spoke. “Confirmed. Bandits are peeling off.” 

“Thanks, Shepard, you sure saved our rears,” Rapier’s CO spoke over ship communications. “We thought we were goners for a moment there.”

“Commander, we just received word from Ushaan,” S’Geras said, his tone uncharacteristically heavy. “They warded off the attackers in our sector. But not before two transports were destroyed.”

Zelenko closed her eyes and let out a deep breath. 

“Ship names and crew complements, please,” she ordered.

“Commander…”

“Do as you’re ordered, Number One.”

S’Geras sighed “SS Chandra, Wallenberg-class, crew of 53. And SS Peraxi, Tuffli-class, crew of 139. But you made the right decision, Sir. If we’d lost an escort, the whole convoy would-”

“That’s enough,” she cut him off, still staring intently at the viewscreen in front of them.

“Sir, I hate to continue the bad news,” Tallera spoke next. “But when we were providing cover to Rapier, the port-rollbar phaser array burnt out. I’m sorry, I had to use suppressive fire to blanket the area given how close they were and how quick they were moving, and-”

“No need to apologize, Ensign. You did everything right,” Zelenko replied, her tone softer than Tallera had ever heard it before. The commander stood, then strode closer to the viewscreen. “How are the other arrays looking?”

“The other ten are all still operational, but they’re starting to feel the burn, so to speak. Some will eventually start to fail.”

Zelenko pursed her lips and nodded. “S’Geras,” she said, spinning to look her XO in the eye. “Contact Rapier and Ushaan. Tell them to alter defensive stance from three sectors to two, with them working together to cover the same one. They don’t have enough phaser banks to work alone without burning them out. Tell the convoy to reduce dispersion and tighten up.”

“Aye, Sir,” S’Geras replied, and began typing into his console.

Zelenko crossed her arms and exhaled deeply through her nose, turning her gaze back out to the starfield on the viewscreen. Looks like the Hazari finally found a winning tactic… she thought, not daring to voice such pessimism to her crew. They know it, and we know it. I sure hope T’Vrin can break through that jamming soon.

Comments

  • The action keeps on going and got me thinking about what the Hazari was up to. Their attacks seemed to be chaotic at best, confusing until I began to read and it all started to make sense that what they were doing ended up with some results that they were wanting. Will they try that tactic again knowing that the crew of the Shepard is onto it, or will they try something new? Hopefully they can stop them before anyone else gets hurt/destroyed.

    November 16, 2022