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

Chapter 6

USS Shepard
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Commander’s log, Stardate 77899.81

It has now been 48 hours since our first phaser burnout. The Hazari vessels have shown no sign of relenting in their attacks, and we have no indication that our defenses achieve anything other than temporarily driving them off. 

Unfortunately, our ability to even do that much may soon be compromised. We have two aft and three forward phaser arrays left – less than half of the eleven we began with. Ushaan and Rapier have only four remaining arrays between the two of them.

All news isn’t entirely unhopeful, however. Roughly six hours ago, a science team led by Communications Officer T’Vrin was able to briefly pierce the Hazari jamming field with a wide-band subspace pulse that would likely be detectable on nearby comm sensors. Of course, the pulse contained no actual information; anyone who detected it would be able to discern nothing other than its location of origin. Our hope is that the Republic will detect it, guess that it was us who sent it, given that we are now over 24 hours past our expected arrival at Virinat, and then come to our rescue.

T’Vrin’s team is continuing to experiment with new ways to break through the jamming, but as of now, that is our best hope for dearly-needed relief.

 

Commander Zelenko reclined back from her ready room desk, rubbing her eyes before she downed a shot of animazine-infused espresso. 48 hours since the first burnout meant how many hours without sleep?

She shook her head, knowing such thoughts would only increase the mental and physical fatigue she was feeling. She stood up, straightened her uniform, and strode towards the bridge, knowing the cocktail she’d just consumed would perk her up sooner or later.

 

 

“What if we used the sensors in both deflector dishes at the same time on the tachyon blips to get a more accurate bearing on them?” Tallera said, her words ever-so-slightly slurry as she leaned on Vic’s science console. “Y’know, like binocular vision gives us depth perception. Then I could hit it with more accurate phaser bursts, maybe kill the things outright.” Like many other crewmen, the tactical officer was looking quite disheveled – her hair was tousled in a clearly unintentional manner and very prominent dark circles could be seen under her eyes.

“Nah, s’a good thought, but it wouldn’t really work,” Vic responded, looking equally disheveled himself as he rubbed his temple. “That only works if you know where they’re gonna be. By the time you align both sensor arrays like that to get a really precise bearing, the bandit will already be somewhere else.”

“Uppers for my fellow night owls?” Mack said with a halfhearted smile as he approached the pair, bearing three cups of the same concoction Zelenko had consumed in her ready room. “Y’all were looking a little dreary, so I figured I’d grab some for you on my last trip to the replicator.”

“Oh god, yes, thank you,” Tallera muttered as she happily pounded down the drink like it was a shot of kali-fal, repeatedly blinking in an attempt to get the sleep out of her eyes afterwards. 

“Yeah, you’re a lifesaver, Mackenzie,” Vic agreed as he raised his glass in mock toast before downing it as well. 

“Don’t mention it, fellas,” the flight officer said with another weary grin. “Hey, we’re all in this together, right?” 

The pair nodded, then turned their gaze to Zelenko as she returned to her seat on the bridge.

“Hey Commander, any updates?” Vic called out.

“Trust me, if I hear anything new, you won’t have to ask me to share,” the Commander replied, absent-mindedly stretching her arms in front of her. “Tallera, Mack, back to your consoles, please.”

They did as they were told, and the bridge fell into that drearily tense waiting period that had come to define their defensive operation.

“Two pings again,” Vic called out after a few minutes of silence. “Bearing 302-mark-087, 135,000 klicks.”

“Opening fire,” Tallera declared, her tone almost nonchalant as proximity bursts seared into the distance and exploded. “Bandit status?”

“Eugh, they’re splitting up again,” Vic groaned, rubbing his temple again. “Transmitting bearings.”

“Mack, get us-”

“I know, Tallera,” Mack cut her off as he spun the Shepard around to get the two signals into the firing arcs of the least-used phaser arrays. His tone didn’t indicate perturbation or anger, however – it was almost reassuring.

Tallera continued firing, the two working in unison to keep the fire spread around their remaining arrays. 

“One bandit’s coming in low, you guys see that reading?” Vic spoke up.

“Yeah, moving to compensate,” Mack replied, throwing the Shepard into a harsh lateral roll to get the vessel’s dorsal surface pointed at the attacker, where they had slightly more remaining phasers. 

“They’re still coming,” Vic continued after another volley, prompting a groan from the helmsman. “Targets at 8,000 klicks, they’re gettin’ real close.”

Mack swore under his breath as his hands danced across the flight controls to keep Tallera able to fire.

“Hang on, sensor’s lagging on one bandit…” Vic said

“Recalibrate that, Travers!” Zelenko ordered, walking over to lean over his shoulder at the science station. 

“Working on it, working on it…” he muttered. “Aight, got it! Ah, hell, we’re basically between the two of ‘em!”

Mack groaned again, throwing the ship into another lateral roll until it was perpendicular to both attackers, and Tallera opened fire with the remaining dorsal and ventral arrays at the same time.

Damnit, there goes another array,” Tallera exclaimed through gritted teeth as she pounded her fist against the console. “We’re down to just one phaser left on the ventral surface.”

“Hang on, looks like they’re retreating…” Vic continued reading from his sensors. “Confirmed. Bandits peeling off.”

 A slight sigh of relief seemed to radiate across the bridge.

“Y’know, I’m really not a fan of this ‘splitting up’ thing they’ve been doing lately,” Vic said aloud to no one in particular.

“They’ve been doing that for a day and a half now, I think it’s safe to say none of us are fans,” Mack replied as he brought the Shepard back to standard defensive position. 

“List which phaser arrays are still operational, Tallera,” Zelenko ordered, cutting the chit-chat to a halt as she returned to her seat.

“The dorsal bow-port, rollbar-port, and aft-starboard are still green,” she responded. “Bow-starboard is our only one left on the ventral side, since we just lost bow-port.”

“I suppose we’ll have to keep them out from under us then, Mr. Mackenzie.”

“Aye, Commander. Won’t let them get us between ‘em again.” 

Zelenko responded with a nod.

“The Sabers are under attack now,” S’Geras called out from the comms station. The bridge crew listened intently as the Caitian first officer monitored the situation. “Bandits peeling off,” he spoke up again a few minutes later. “Ushaan lost a phaser. That makes one left on them and two on the Rapier.”

Vic swore under his breath.

“Commander, if I could speak with you for a moment,” S’Geras spoke up, heading to the rear corner of the bridge and beckoning Zelenko to join him. The Commander nodded and followed the Caitian over as Mack and Tallera exchanged a concerned glance.

“Sir, it is becoming necessary to discuss contingency measures,” S’Geras said softly once they were out of earshot from the rest of the crew. “Our defenses are failing at a rate that will leave us completely unable to defend the convoy or ourselves in less than 24 hours.”

“If you’re asking me to run, S’Geras, you know that isn’t going to happen.”

“I’m not. But I am suggesting you consider at what point it will become necessary for one ship to run. Preferably Ushaan or Rapier. A Saber will be able to defend itself better than any of the freighters could on its own, and it won’t attract attention like Shepard would from the Hazari. And, of course, I know you’d never order your own ship to abandon the others.”

“You’re suggesting sending someone to carry word of what happened here if the situation becomes untenable, correct?”

“Yes. Dead Men Tell No Tales, as they say. The remaining ships would have to prepare for a last stand.”

“You’re right,” Zelenko said after a long exhale. “When to call it quits and send this messenger is the real question.”

“It is indeed, Commander.”

“If we end up needing to abandon ship, it’s possible that the lifepods would sustain us long enough for a Saber to get home and arrange a rescue fleet.”

“If the Hazari don’t shoot the escape pods.”

“In that case, we could-”

“Hot damn!” Vic jubilantly called out from the science station, bringing an end to the conversation between his superiors. “Commander, you’re gonna want to see this.”

S’Geras rolled his eyes, to which Zelenko responded with a shrug before walking over to Vic, again leaning over his shoulder to look at the science console.

“Show me what you’ve got, Travers.”

“Welllll, remember how you tasked me with scanning residual tachyon traces from the previous encounters we’ve had with the Hazari?”

“Yes.”

“Wellllllll,” he said again, grinning ear to ear. “The scanning’s done, and the results are what you could describe as extremely fortuitous.

“Don’t leave me hanging, Lieutenant.”

“So, it turns out that these Hazari are even more tactically rigid than we thought. Take a look at this…” He pointed at a variety of flight logs compiled by the computer. “There’s only, like, three different attack patterns they use, and each pattern doesn’t change at all between different attacks. They either use pattern one, two, or three. That’s what I call the patterns, at least.” 

Zelenko narrowed her eyes. “Why didn’t we detect this before?”

“Because the real-time active tachyon scanning is too vague. We only get blips every few seconds, and even those aren’t as precise as the dedicated residual scans. With this, we got a decently solid glance at almost everything they’ve done since they started launching torpedoes. And it turns out that at least these Hazari aren’t very creative.”

“That makes a modicum of sense,” Zelenko admitted. “They’ve probably never used cloaks before, and can’t use their normal shield-boost strategy with them activated. If I were the Hazari, I’d probably hug tightly to what I was familiar with in a scenario with this many unknowns.”

“But wait, Commander, it gets even better,” Vic said as his smile managed to grow even wider. “Before I called you over, I plugged these flight plans into a tactical program. When the Hazari attack again, after maybe four or five tachyon blips, the computer will recognize the tactic they’re using and then identify the probable flight path of at least one of the two bandits within a margin of error of, say, ten cubic kilometers.”

“That’s not much more precise than the tachyon blips, is it?”

“No, but because we’ll know where the ship will be thanks to the tactical program, we can use the two deflector dishes to perform simultaneous high-focus scans in the ten cubic kilometer area right as the ship flies into it, and if I’m right, we’ll get a much, much more precise tachyon scan than before. Small enough to get a torpedo lock on. If we tried that with the normal tachyon blips, the ship would be somewhere else once we got the sensors pointed at them.”

Zelenko nodded along as he spoke. “Lieutenant, if you’re right, then you’re gonna get one hell of a commendation when we get home.” She gave him a pat on the shoulder. “Work with Tallera to implement the program. Let’s see if Victor Travers is as smart as he thinks he is.”

“You got it, Skipper,” Vic beamed as he leapt from his seat to work with Tallie at the tactical console. Zelenko took his seat at the science console to monitor for any incoming bandits.

Twenty minutes later, time came to test Vic’s new plan.

“Two tachyon blips, bearing 043-mark-276 at 132,000 klicks,” Zelenko called out, standing and returning to the captain’s chair as Vic bolted back to his seat.

“Alright, Tallie, now or never!” Vic called out as he began plugging data into his program.

“Fire proximity blasts as you normally would,” Zelenko ordered. “We don’t want them figuring out that we’ve got a new plan.

“Aye, Sir,” Tallera confirmed as the Shepard rolled to put the bandits in the arcs of its dorsal arrays. “Prox blasts away.”

“Still calibrating program with tachyon blips,” Vic called out. “Almost there… aight, got it, we know which tactic they’re using. Mack, bring the nose to 085-mark-325 so I can use the deflectors on ‘em.”

“On it!” Mack announced as the Shepard turned its bow towards where Vic’s program estimated one of the bandits to be.

“Scanning now!” Vic announced. “C’mon, baby, c’mon… okay, Tallie, you got a lock?”

Tallera’s eyes nearly popped out of her skull. “Holy shit, I do. Torpedo lock, right off our bow at 97,000 klicks.”

Fire,” Zelenko ordered, her hands clenched tight on the forward edges of her armrests.

Three proton torpedoes soared into the void from the Shepard’s rollbar-mounted torpedo launcher, the bridge crew on the edge of their seats as they watched them shrink into the distance… before they saw the telltale explosion of a warp core.

“Yes! Splash one bandit!” Vic declared, jumping from his seat with his arms triumphantly punching the air as the entire crew erupted into an unprofessional but well-deserved cheer. “And the other one’s already bugging out again!” 

“Hot damn, Travers, you may have just saved us all,” Zelenko chuckled as she shook her head. “Well done, LT. Contact Ushaan and Rapier. Tell them how to do exactly what we just did.”

“Aye, Sir. I’ll have to tweak the instructions a bit; they’ve only got one deflector each, so their sensors’ll have to work together to get the proper location like we did.”

“Then by all means, do it. If we can take out two attackers before they realize what’s up, we can work together to chase down the other two the old-fashioned way.”

“Hell yeah, Commander,” Vic said with a smile as he got to work.

For nearly half an hour, the crew sat waiting once again, before S’Geras broke the silence.

“The Sabers detected another attack,” he announced. “They’re engaging per Lieutenant Travers’ instructions.”

“Looks like the Hazari might think what just happened was a fluke,” Zelenko smiled. “Just like we hoped.”

“About time our luck turned around,” Tallera smirked.

“The Sabers just got target lock,” S’Geras continued. “Both are firing… confirmed, target destroyed. Two down, two to go.”

The bridge crew again erupted in cheers.

“And there goes their ability to split their attacks,” Zelenko smiled contently. “We’ll wait and see what the bandits do next, but tell the Sabers-”

“Hang on, we’re getting more from them,” S’Geras cut her off. “They say the bandit that they didn’t destroy just rushed the convoy.”

“What?” Zelenko asked in befuddlement. “Are they shooting at any transports?”

“No torpedo launches detected,” Vic replied. “No tachyon blips either, the ambient energy releases from the transports is obscuring our sensors.”

“I couldn’t shoot at them anyway,” Tallera spoke up. “Any prox blast inside the convoy would damage the transports.”

“So, what, is he just hiding? What’s his long-term plan for-” Vic paused, briefly furrowing his brow before widening his eyes in surprise. “Oh hell, high-yield plasma emissions right off our bow! It’s heading right for us!”

The Hazari raider soared over the Shepard at a range of less than ten kilometers, launching a salvo of plasma torpedoes at point-blank range towards the vessel below as it passed.

Comments

  • Just keeps getting better, now with them finding a way to detect them long enough to get a shot in is just genius, kudos to Vic for figuring that out based on his findings. With 2 down, there are still 2 more to go, will they be able to defeat the other two? Great job with this chapter and can't wait to read what happens next especially with them now shooting at the Shepard.

    November 24, 2022