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Part of USS Polaris: Infiltrate and Liberate Nasera (The Lost Fleet – Part 1) and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

When The Skies Became Fire (Part 3)

Nasera System
Mission Day 13 - 1808 Hours
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As the USS Polaris barreled towards the orbital platform at ramming speed, the chaos of battle was drowned out by the gravity of reality.

The explosions of consoles and EPS relays no longer mattered. The first aid administered to wounded colleagues no longer mattered. Even the shields no longer really mattered. At this point, even if they broke apart under the relentless barrage of incoming warheads, their momentum would deliver the scraps of their massive vessel to its target.

All they could do was wait for the inevitable.

“Ryssehl to Polaris,” came a decisive voice over ship-to-ship comms, piercing the veil of their demise. “Abort! Pull off! We have a solution. We’re going to blow this bitch.”

For a moment, Fleet Admiral Reyes hesitated.

If they aborted now, they would not get another shot. The ship would be chewed to pieces long before they ever made another successful approach, and the rest of the squadron did not have time to come around before the station unleashed armageddon upon the civilians of Nasera City. But Ryssehl Th’zathol was Commander Lewis’ most trusted friend. Admiral Reyes trusted Commander Lewis more than anyone, and if he trusted Ryssehl, that had to count for something. She just hoped with all her being she wasn’t making the wrong choice.

“Conn, bearing three three zero mark six zero, all engines full.”

The Polaris banked hard, up and to the left, pushing the inertial dampeners to their max as the Odyssey class ship narrowly missed the spaceframe of the orbital station.

“Ryssehl, you’re still on board the station?”

“I am.”

“You better be right about this. You only have thirty seconds before the station has a firing solution on Nasera City,” the Admiral warned. “Is that enough time for you to plant your explosives and get off?” She was pretty sure she knew the answer.

“No, we won’t be getting off the station,” Ryssehl replied in a calm and collected tone. He had already come to terms with his reality. He’d known from the moment Grok gave him the timer. “We were dead either way. This way, you all don’t go with us. You still have a planet to save.”

There was silence for a moment. She knew the sacrifice he was making, and he knew his sacrifice would save fifteen hundred souls. There was nothing further for either to say.

Crewman Nam Jae-Sun, standing beside Ryssehl on the station, had one last request. “Admiral, please tell my parents I love them,” the young man asked, his voice quivering with fear. He was afraid to die. “And that I did my duty.”

Before the admiral could respond, the line cut off as the orbital station exploded.

The admiral placed a hand on her heart and closed her eyes. Crewman Nam wasn’t even thirty years of age, and Ryssehl was a disgraced former officer. Today, they were heroes.

A tear ran down her cheek.

Below them on the planet, Commander Jake Lewis heard the last words of his dear friend as the team moved through an inner courtyard of the governor’s mansion. But reality sank in when the explosion of a thousand warheads lit up the evening sky, bathing them in a deep orange glow.

Lieutenant Kora Tal could sense the pain the Commander must have felt. She had seen how fondly he regarded his Andorian colleague, how close their bond was. She’d really never seen the aloof spook that way with anyone else. In that quiet moment between duels with the Jem’Hadar, she turned to check on him. 

“You need a moment?” Kora asked Lewis, her voice filled with compassion and sorrow. She’d only met Ryssehl at the start of this adventure, and she and Nam Jae-Sun were only passing acquaintances, but even her heart pained for their sacrifice.

That moment of compassion was the last mistake Kora Tal would ever make. 

From the quad she was supposed to be sweeping, the one she’d only momentarily drawn her eyes from, a polaron burst lept forth as a Jem’Hadar soldier unshrouded. It hit her in the back.

Lieutenant J.G. Jace Morgan swung around, unloading a spray of fire in the direction of the new assailant. The Jem’Hadar soldier took cover behind a pillar, giving Commander Lewis a chance to rush to Kora’s side. But there was nothing he could do. The energetic polaron particles from the Jem’Hadar rifle had fried her internal organs immediately on impact. Lewis came beside her just in time to watch the light leave her eyes.

While Lewis looked down at Kora, Lieutenant J.G. Morgan and Dr. Lisa Hall dueled with the assailant in a frenetic firefight. Commander Lewis looked up at the exchange. He was over it. He was just done. It was time to end this. He grabbed a flashbang and chucked it at the pillar behind which the Jem’Hadar had taken cover.

The flashbang went off, and Commander Lewis moved swiftly. But he didn’t draw his phaser. Instead, he went for his boot knife. This was personal on so many levels.

The Jem’Hadar, his senses overwhelmed by the flashbang, didn’t see Commander Lewis coming until the rage-filled killer was right on top of him. Lewis lunged and thrust the blade of his knife into a soft spot just below the Jem’Hadar’s feeder tube. He drove it deeper and deeper into his neck, all the way up to the hilt, staring his opponent directly in the eyes as he watched him die. That moment of revenge gave him at least a moment of satisfaction.

As the Jem’Hadar crumpled onto the cold stone floor, Commander Lewis re-shouldered his rifle and prepared to move again. He briefly glanced over his shoulder to check on his teammates. Dr. Hall drew up alongside him, but Lieutenant J.G. Jace Morgan was just standing there staring at the body of Lieutenant Kora. Hadn’t Jace learned anything from what had just happened? Lewis wondered. If you drop your focus for just a second, you die.

“Leave her,” Lewis ordered firmly. “We will mourn later.”

They still had a Vorta to find.

A few kilometers away, Lieutenant Commander Brock Jordan, Ensign Elyssia Rel and Chief Petty Officer Ayala Shafir were consumed in a firefight of their own. They traded their phaser blasts with Jem’Hadar polaron blasts in the basement of the control center, dodging and weaving between the racks of computer equipment.

“We can’t stay here any longer!” shouted Jordan as he took cover behind a network rack. “We have to go.” There’d already been too many deaths today. He was the Deputy Commander of the Hazard Team, and he was going to do his damndest to make sure Ayala Shafir and Elyssia Rel got home safely.

Chief Shafir tossed him a shaped charge before laying on the trigger again, spraying another volley of cover fire down the aisle to slow the Jem’Hadar advance. “If we blow the switch room, the defense system goes inoperable,” she explained as she tossed a similar charge to Ensign Rel. 

The team fanned out as they moved, placing charges against pillars and racks as they continued to spray the Jem’Hadar with suppression fire. Methodically, they made their way through the room towards the bulkhead that would take them to freedom.

Lieutenant Commander Jordan popped the bulkhead to open. “Go, go!” he shouted, laying down a barrage of fire to hold the Jem’Hadar back.

Chief Shafir went first, followed by Ensign Rel. They crawled as fast as they could through the narrow utility tunnels, trying to get around the first bend to safety as the tunnels were far too narrow for the bulk Jem’Hadar to follow. 

Ensign Rel, a dozen meters behind Chief Shafir, could hear the exchange of weapons as she crawled. But then it went silent. She looked back just in time to see Lieutenant Commander Jordan fall over in front of the bulkhead. He had taken a glancing shot to his lower leg, but he was still alive. They made eye contact, and he shouted: “Go Elyssia, go!”

The last thing Elyssia Rel saw before she turned around the bend of a junction was the Jem’Hadar swarming over Lieutenant Commander Brock Jordan. They lifted him up and dragged him away. Ensign Rel crawled faster, trying to catch up to Chief Shafir.

“Ayala! Wait!”

Chief Shafir looked back, a questioning look on her face.

“They got him. They got Brock. But he’s alive,” Ensign Rel explained hopefully. “It was a glancing blow. Right before we went around that first bend, I saw them dragging him off the floor.” They needed to go back for him. They could save him.

“We can’t go back for him,” Chief Shafir replied. “There’s too many of them, and they’d cut us down before we got off our hands and knees.” One simply didn’t have enough hands to shoot while dragging themselves along the ground of the narrow tunnels, and there was absolutely no cover in the tunnels. They’d be fish in a barrel for the Jem’Hadar to chew up.

Ayala Shafir pulled the detonator out of her pocket. A good couple hundred meters down the tunnels, they were far enough to safely blow the charges.

“Ayala, we can’t.”

We won’t,” Ayala Shafir replied grimly, her eyes dark with guilt over what she was about to do. “I will. And I will live with that guilt forever.” She would not ask Elyssia to do that. The young flight controller still had a bright future ahead of her. Ayala Shafir, on the other hand, had already booked her ticket to hell. This would just be one more sin to bear on her broken soul as she crossed the river Styx.

“He’s still in there Ayala.”

“If I don’t press this detonator, the Dominion will retake control of the defense system. And then they will unload the might of Nasera on our ships, and all of this will have been for nothing.”

The two locked eyes, grappling with an impossible choice. Brock Jordan was the Deputy Lead of the Hazard Team, a man they’d relied on and learned from over the last two years. He was like an older brother, a man full of respect and good intention that you knew would always have your back. He could have gone into the tunnel first, but instead he ushered them ahead. And now, Ayala Shafir was going to kill him.

“Ayala…” Ensign Rel began to object again, but her voice trailed off as the memories of her symbiont began flooding into her consciousness. Those past lives, they gave her strength to say what needed to be said: “Do it.”

Ayala closed her eyes. Her hand quivered. But then she pressed the detonator.

The tunnels shook as the charges detonated, blowing apart the basement, the network switches, the Jem’Hadar and Lieutenant Commander Brock Gordon. Elyssia Rel cried out in despair. Ayala Shafir didn’t even have the air in her lungs to scream.

A dust cloud blew down the tunnel from the force of the explosion. Stardust, Ayala thought to herself. Someday they would all just be stardust. In that moment though, even her old adage didn’t help. Jason Atwood had died because she hadn’t covered his back. That one hurt badly. But Brock Jordan died because she pressed the button. She had killed him, knowingly, after he had ensured they were safe. That was a dagger to the heart.

Comments

  • Good golly, you weren't kidding! So much death! As the reader mops up their tears, we know that each of them died willingly - an incredible act of valor for each of them. The losses are sharp cuts on already open wounds - but that's the fun of writing flawed and growing characters. I'm looking forward to the valley of feeling and reconciling with the various losses that our crew will face. The pace of the battle and the op on the planet are masterfully paced - you're dragging us kicking and screaming knowing that you're about to do to us and them...but it's such a fulfilling feeling as a reader to have raced through it all dodging along with them to get to the end and feel those feels and hope for hope along with them. Who will replace our fallen brothers and sisters? What future for the squadron is ahead? Lots of answers but more questions.

    May 24, 2023
  • God almighty. I don't recall reading a story that turned into such a bloodbath with characters being offed left, right and centre. Part three has been as gripping to read as the first two. Your use of description is terrific, so much so that I can visualise it all, and even feel like I'm there living through it with your characters. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading your story thus far and look forward to seeing what's still to come.

    May 24, 2023
  • Oh my goodness, the red shirts are flying over this post, and you made me like the characters only to rip them out of my heart like a Game of Thrones action. Thought their actions have turned the tide for the better for sure, the teams are making progression and it felt like I was there. Damn good job!

    May 28, 2023
  • This is a master class in why we shouldn't get attached to characters, making me feel the same way I felt when a certain young Trill was unceremoniously murdered by a Pahwraith in Dukat. These people are giving their lives, not for the Federation, but for their ships. This is war, and you capture the tension, the stakes, and the sadness, with ease. As always, I feel compelled to read more. The tide has turned, for now. Will there be anyone left by the end? I sure hope so.

    May 28, 2023
  • Oh that hit me in the chest, the pain that must have felt to have to do that. I about had tears running down my face when I began to read this, with war usually meaning making decisions that no one really wants to make. The pain they both must be feeling to have to press the button that would not only kill the Jem'Hadar and destroy anyway for them to take control of the weapon platforms but to kill a fellow Starfleet Officer. I think he accepted his fate as soon as he ushered both of them to get out. Like Anjin said I wonder how many people will be left by the end, how will they come out victorious, and at what cost. Great job!

    May 29, 2023
  • Allison Reyes

    Squadron Commander
    ASTRA Director

  • Gérard Devreux

    Squadron Deputy Commander (Mobile Element)
    USS Polaris Commanding Officer

  • Jake Lewis

    Squadron Intelligence Officer
    USS Serenity Commanding Officer

  • Dorian Vox

    Squadron Strategic Ops Officer
    USS Diligent Commanding Officer

  • Cora Lee

    Squadron Engineering Officer
    USS Ingenuity Commanding Officer

  • Lisa Hall, Ph.D.

    ASTRA Lead, Cultural & Psychological Research
    Chief Counseling Officer

  • Ayala Shafir

    ASTRA Staff Researcher, Computational Systems
    Intelligence Specialist & Hazard Team Operator

  • Elyssia Rel

    Flight Control Officer
    Hazard Team Operator

  • T'Aer

    Private Contractor
    Sebold Logistics

  • Grok

    Private Contractor
    Sebold Logistics

  • Brock Jordan

    Deceased; Formerly
    Assistant Chief Intelligence Officer
    Hazard Team Deputy Lead

  • Jace Morgan

    Deceased; Formerly
    Operations Officer
    Hazard Team Member

  • Ryssehl Th'zathol

    Deceased; Formerly
    Private Contractor & CEO
    Sebold Logistics