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Part of USS Nighthawk (Archive): Falls the Shadow and USS Endeavour: Falls the Shadow

Falls the Shadow – 6

Bridge, USS Nighthawk
March 2401
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‘Good news,’ said Commander Kosst as she emerged from her ready room into the Nighthawk’s bridge. ‘I’ve had word from SB514…’ But her voice trailed off at the sight that greeted her.

Lieutenant Tyrell Rhade was slumped in his seat at the bridge station he rarely assumed, head in his hands. Ensign Fox knelt beside him, a hand at his back, while Ensign Percian hovered nearby with the air of one who wanted to offer comfort but didn’t know what to do.

Kosst’s hands dropped by her side. ‘What’s happened?’

Percian straightened, looking like he’d been caught out doing something wrong. ‘Sorry, Captain; Lieutenant Rhade just got back…’

‘We cleared out entry to that collapsed facility in the northern district.’ Rhade straightened and scrubbed his face with his big hands. ‘They were all dead down there. Some must have been crushed, but a few we maybe could have saved if we’d been quicker…’

Percian sucked his teeth and began to pace. ‘If I’d managed to pierce that radiation obstructing the transporters…’

‘The power station’s containment field had been intentionally targeted,’ Fox reminded him, expression creasing at his visible distress. ‘The Jem’Hadar meant for this.’

‘The Jem’Hadar maybe,’ rumbled Rhade, big shoulders hunching up. ‘But if we’d still had the teams from Endeavour…’

Kosst’s back turned to steel. ‘Ty.’

‘If the squadron had stuck around instead of running off, eager to kill Dominion -’

Lieutenant.’ She took a sharp step forward. ‘You said yourself this morning, it wasn’t a matter of manpower. You had to take the task slowly, or you could have brought everything down on top of them. Then there would have certainly been nobody to save.’

Rhade looked up, dark eyes bleary. ‘I said that so we’d feel better about ourselves as we worked because we didn’t have a choice. All day I felt it. Felt them begin to flicker away from my consciousness. I knew we were too late before we got down there, but I…’

From across the bridge, stood at tactical, Commander Brennos raised his voice. ‘You said you’ve received word, Captain.’

Kosst rallied, the eyes of the younger officers falling on her. However right or wrong Rhade was, everyone hoped for a diversion. She cleared her throat. ‘TG514’s patrol has arrived in the region. They’ll be keeping up the defence of Vamuridian and any other nearby targets. It’s time for us to leave.’

Fox looked down at Rhade, but squeezed his shoulder quickly before heading back for her station. ‘If we gun the warp engines, we should be able to catch up with the squadron soon enough…’

‘They won’t be too deep into the nebula,’ Percian agreed, looking relieved to have something else to think about. ‘The plan was for them to reach the periphery and begin scanning – for what little good that does with Ciater…’

‘A difficulty that’ll make all the difference on our upcoming attack,’ Kosst said, breathing a little easier now the moment was breaking. She looked at Rhade before thinking better of her next words and turning to Brennos. ‘Commander, recall our teams on the surface. I want us underway ASAP.’

Her bridge crew swung into action, but Rhade stayed put, his face slumping back into his hands. Kosst glanced around, then realised that as both captain and friend, nobody else was going to deal with their Betazoid engineer and his feelings as big as his muscles. With an apprehensive sigh, she headed over.

He didn’t move, so she had to sink onto her haunches to be level with him. She dropped her voice. ‘Talk to me, Ty.’

‘There’s not much to say,’ he rasped, dragging his hands down his face. ‘The Dominion hit these people, but caring for them is a lower priority.’

‘They’re being cared for. Our job is to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.’ The words sounded hollow, even to herself, and she sighed. ‘They did this intentionally. Stretched themselves out for maximum devastation before pulling back and consolidating their hold. Forced us to spend time helping people, saving people. And spend a little bit of ourselves along the way for the people we couldn’t save, so by the time we face them, we’ve lost resources and resilience. They want to wear us down like this.’

‘Yeah,’ Rhade said roughly, and did not look mollified as he straightened. ‘But if it didn’t work as a tactic, what kind of arseholes would we be? I’m alright, Dani. I’m just going to be pissed off about this for a while.’

‘Then take it out,’ she said, standing as he did, ‘on gunning our engines so we catch up with the others.’

It seemed to work. Not just in the moment, sending Rhade down to engineering to make them ready to get underway, but in the hours that followed, once Nighthawk broke orbit and left the desolation of Vamuridian behind. It wasn’t safe for the squadron to hurtle towards the Ciater Nebula at maximum warp – anything could have been waiting along the way, but with the path cleared, Nighthawk could go hell-bent-for-leather catching up.

Even though they were heading to danger, Kosst could feel spirits on the bridge lighten. Leaving Vamuridian behind was only a part of it – now they were on the offensive. Not merely scrambling to respond to whatever the enemy had thrown at them, but taking action, seizing control. And still, Kosst thought as she watched her officers work, they were so young. Nighthawk had seen very little direct action during the fall of the Star Empire, mopping up trouble from behind Triumph once the bulk of the fighting was done. They had not faced the devastation of war. Neither had she.

Nor, she knew, had most of Starfleet.

There was a likelihood she should say something. Dig deep and find the words to soothe everyone’s frayed nerves, make them confident in their belief in one another and their training. But anything she could think of sounded hollow, performative. Kosst was still playing in her mind with words to the effect of them all being the sum of what everyone aboard had ever faced when there was a chirrup from Science, and Ensign Percian sat up.

‘Captain? Picking up something on sensors.’ When she looked over, he was peering intently at his display, fingers running over controls. ‘I’m struggling to get an ID – they’ve been running on low power. Smaller than us…’

‘Ensign.’ Brennos’s brusque voice cut through. ‘Is it Dominion? Breen?’

‘Not Breen; I’m picking up no signs of organic components.’ Another chirrup from the sensors, and Percian pressed on with victorious urgency. ‘Contact! Sir, it’s a Jem’Hadar fighter, they’ve just gone to full power and are turning tail.’

‘They must have been scoping us out,’ said Brennos. ‘Sir, if they’ve detected the squadron…’

‘Then we can’t let them report in,’ Kosst concluded. ‘Red alert! Fox, put us on an intercept course.’ The deck surged like a sea ship breaching a fresh wave, the slightest tilt as the Nighthawk came about faster than the speed of light to run down this fighter. ‘Percian, keep an eye out in case they have friends.’

‘Captain.’ Brennos’s voice remained that low, tense tone. ‘We’re going to have to be on our feet against even one Jem’Hadar fighter.’

‘I know, Commander, don’t worry. We live on our feet.’ Kosst frowned, hearing the brag clunk even as she said it. But it was too late to salvage that bungled moment of attempted inspiring bravado.

‘We’re in weapons range,’ Fox called minutes later. Already travelling at full speed, Nighthawk had been able to pounce on their enemy before they could get far.

‘Open fire, Commander Brennos – target their engines. I want them winged.’

There was the distant whine of Brennos firing phasers, the hum through the whole ship as the Nighthawk unleashed her weapons, and on the viewscreen Kosst could see the bright lights lancing towards that distant pinprick of purple against starlight. A second later it was lit up, rippling against shields, then the Jem’Hadar fighter began to bank.

It had begun.

‘We’re going to try something,’ Kosst said, heart in her mouth. ‘Fox, start an attack run straight on. Brennos, fire only fore-facing phaser arrays for now.’

‘Captain?’

She grimaced at the question. ‘You have your orders.’ It was a gamble, and one where if she was wrong, she’d do more than look stupid. But if she was right…

‘They’ve come about to face us. Beginning their attack run,’ Fox called.

Nighthawk shuddered as enemy weapons fire raked across her, but a glance at the display confirmed for Kosst their shields could take it. She gave a thin smile. ‘Fox, make it seem like we’re trying to keep them off our aft-starboard. Percian, I want you cutting power to non-essential systems and getting ready to pump it into our phaser array – but don’t do it yet.’

‘Returning fire with forward-facing phasers,’ Brennos called, and sounded like he’d cottoned on to her plan.

‘They’re trying to slip past us!’ Fox yelped as the Jem’Hadar fighter hurtled towards them.

‘Let them! Give us a little weight to our manoeuvres for the moment, Fox, let them think they’re even quicker on their toes.’

‘They’ve come about,’ barked Brennos. ‘They’re settling in at our aft-starboard.’ A fresh note of urgency hit his voice. ‘Sir, they’re pumping all power to their weapons.’

‘Percian – do the same. All power to our starboard phaser array.’ Nighthawk rocked at the next wave of enemy weapons fire, and this time alarms blared as their shields took a hammering.

‘They’re – they’re staying put,’ Fox reported, sounding confused.

A small wave of relief flooded Kosst at that. Her theory was sound. Now it was time to see if her practice was, too. ‘Brennos? Hit them with everything we’ve got.’

It felt like the bridge itself surged in brightness as the Nighthawk unleashed every phaser array she could bring to bear on the enemy that had settled at their haunches like a dog sinking in its teeth. Their phaser systems, always with the capacity to take power but with the ship rarely able to spare it, unleashed utter hell from their starboard. From their aft launcher, a flurry of torpedoes spat into the breach, and for a moment, the two ships hung close together, skirmishers entangled instead in a vicious broadside.

Then as Kosst watched on the sensors, the Jem’Hadar fighter spun away, its power readings fluctuating wildly. Fox whooped.

Percian gasped. ‘Captain, they’re – they’re listing! Reading multiple hull breaches on multiple decks!’

‘They’re losing power and are drifting,’ Brennos confirmed, with the slightest hint of relief. ‘Life signs are vanishing – they’re venting atmosphere. Do we finish them off?’

It was not the sort of question Kosst had expected to be asked, even at a time like this. ‘No,’ she said quickly, but realised how this sounded, and realised it was not exactly what she meant. ‘No – there’s nothing we can do with Jem’Hadar POWs. Starfleet policy is clear. But I want to recover their computer. See what they spotted while they were out here and who they’ve been talking to.’

Fox turned on her chair, peering at her. ‘Captain? How did you pull that off – what did we just do?’

Kosst sighed, rubbing her brow. ‘In the war, the Dominion showed they had a good knowledge of our starships and their capabilities – they’d been spying on us for a while. They exploited every advantage they could get. Older ships, like the Miranda-class, really struggled against them because they were slower and, above all, because they had really bad weapons coverage.’

Percian stared with dawning realisation. ‘You let them think we were designed along the same parameters as a Miranda-class.’

‘I thought it possible that our similar profile would make them jump to conclusions about our capabilities, and get over-confident parking themselves somewhere they thought we couldn’t hit back. But we have better phaser coverage and aft-facing torpedo launchers.’ Kosst shrugged, not because she was casual about her success, but because the fading adrenaline was leaving her a little light-headed.

‘That’s brilliant,’ Fox said, with all of the awe of a junior officer likewise too dizzy with success to realise they were being a little dramatic.

‘It was effective.’ Kosst raised a hand to forestall any gushing. ‘Now, lock us on a tractor beam. Let’s see if we can pull the brain out of that ship.’

Comments

  • I know you're not a big fan of writing space battles but this was wonderfully done. Just the right length to not be some drawn-out written piece and engaging at the same time. A brilliant idea, a clever tactic and an enemy that's 25 years out of date all combined into a neat trick. Also enjoyed getting to see Kosst be a badass, taking her wee ship into the face of the enemy and then blow a raspberry at them before planning to pick them over for intel. Lovely!

    May 13, 2023
  • This was brilliant and kept me on the edge of my seat as I was reading, space battles can be really hard to write but you made it seem easy. I liked how Kosst took a gamble and it paid off, hopefully, they will get information from that ship to help them know what they were up to and who they were talking to. Can't wait to see what happens next!

    May 15, 2023