Part of USS Resolute: Protect Arriana and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

8 – Men of a particular caliber

Arriana Prime
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“Okay, heads up,” Mason swept into the shuttlebay with the meanest looking rifle Tav had ever seen slung over his shoulder. It wasn’t a starfleet weapon, that was for sure, which meant it was probably from the same place as the canon strapped to the Chief Engineer’s shoulder. 

Tav looked over at the big engineer, and then shook his head. No, there was no way that thing had come out of a factory. Even he could recognise a jury-rig when he saw one. 

The captain walked through the crowd to stand in front of one of the shuttles that would take them down to the surface, and looked around. 

“Okay I know you’ve all been assigned to teams and briefed on our objectives,” he said, his expression grim and his deep voice carrying around the shuttlebay. 

“Most of you have seen some sort of combat, so if you’re looking for some great rousing speech here… well, I’m shit at them, so pretend I said something inspiring here, okay?  The good news is, I’m a shitload better at shooting than I am making speeches,” he said, flashing a quick grin, and just like that, the mood in the shuttlebay changed. Eased a little as a small chuckle rolled through the group. 

Tav shook his head to himself. Again, he had no idea how the captain did it. They were about to go into battle, which was enough to rack tensions higher on a ship, but this wasn’t just an ordinary battle. They were about to face the Dominion, one of Starfleet’s very own bogey-men, but the fact that the captain was so blunt and no-nonsense… not scared… helped a lot. Instilled confidence in the group. 

At least, he didn’t seem to be scared. Tav was. In fact, he was quaking in his damn boots. 

“Long story short. We’re putting boots on the ground in three locations, all picked for their proximity to strategic locations. At least two have, or did have, active planetary forces still active nearby. Your missions are to secure your objectives and hold them against Jem’Hadar forces. Any questions?” 

There was silence in the shuttlebay, punctuated by the slight shuffle of boots and rattle of a rifle sling somewhere. 

Mason nodded. “Okay, good. Remember your training, stick to the plan and remember the holodeck program we ran you through. Right, saddle up.”

“Sir. Yes, sir!” 

The groups split up and headed for either one of the shuttles or the runabout. Their only route down to the surface since transporters were out of the question. 

Tav didn’t follow the group, and approached the captain instead. Hefting his rifle onto his shoulder he cleared his throat. 

“Sir, where did you want to assign me?” he asked. He’d sat in on the briefings, all of them but he hadn’t gone through the holodeck program. He could guess what it was though, a bit of last minute combat training to get people prepped for battle. 

Mason frowned as he looked down at Tav. “Are you sure you’re ready for this, kid?” he asked. There was no hint of concern in his voice or his expression. If there had been Tav’s pride would have forced him to lie.

“No, sir,” he replied. “But I’m going anyway.”

Mason studied him for a few moments longer and then nodded. 

“Stick with me,” he ordered as he turned and headed for one of the shuttles. 

 

It didn’t take them long to reach the surface, and on the journey down, Mason looked around his team. They’d split the combat forces into three teams. One was his, while the other two were commanded by Bennett and Gunnar respectively. He had no concerns about either. They would get the job done, as would he. There was no other option. He wouldn’t allow there to be. 

“Bring us in low and fast,” he leaned in and ordered the shuttlecraft pilot as they approached their drop off point. “As soon as we’ve de-bussed, then get the hell out of here.”

The pilot nodded, expression grim but determined. Mason turned to the crowded shuttlecraft. 

“T-minus ninety seconds people. Lock and load, ready to move.” 

There was movement, contained and efficient, as everyone aboard checked their weapons and centered themselves. Mason turned to Rennox, in the jumpseat behind the pilots chair. 

“Stick to me like glue, kid. You step where I step and if I tell you to run—“

“I run,” Rennox interrupted him, flashing a small, nervous grin. “Just like with the pirates. Got it, sir.”

Gods, the kid was cocky. Mason hid his grin and gave him a hard look. “This is not like the pirates. We’re up against Jem’Hadar, so you’re going to need to look alive and keep your wits about you.”

“Sir,” Rennox nodded, his grip on his rifle so tight that his knuckles practically glowed white. 

“T-minus twenty!” the pilot called out. “Beginning final approach now.” 

“On your feet, people!” Mason bellowed, taking up position as the rest of the team stood. “What do you think this is? A sunday afternoon walk? Look lively!”

“T-Minus ten!” 

Then there was no more conversation. The shuttlecraft dropped onto it’s mark and then the doors were open, the team spilling out in a classic debus formation. The first out took positions to cover the rest as they spilled out of the shuttle, Mason the last off, Rennox hot on his heels. 

“GO GO GO!” he shouted back at the pilot, and barely before his feet had left the ramp the shuttle was in the air again. 

Rifle light in his hands he took his position in the circle, every sense he had alert for anything that might indicate the enemy was nearby. 

It was a lovely day on Arriana Prime, in the height of the planet’s summer. The sky was blue, the grass was green and birds chirped in the trees around them. It was idyllic. Perfect. It was a scene that was just missing a nice picnic and some llanarian cider. 

“Remember the holo,” he said in an undertone, his voice carrying through the earpieces of all his team. “Moving out in charlie formation, I’ll take point.”

He moved as he spoke, the grass whispering against his booted feet as the team made its way silently into the treeline and into the woods beyond. Mason didn’t let his attention wander, even as the sun beat down pleasantly across the back of his shoulders. His eyes were wide, but he didn’t allow his gaze to settle on anything in particular, instead viewing it all as he moved, silent as a wraith. 

Their objective was over the rise, a small farmhouse with bonded walls. Simple and rustic, but strategically important. Which the Jem’Hadar also knew. The intell they’d managed to gather from local comms chatter said that there were only a small number of them in the area, trying to take the farmhouse. Mason intended to ensure they didn’t. 

But first, they had to get there. 

His eyes narrowed, and he lifted a hand, hand in a fist. The team behind him froze, weapons at the ready. For a moment he wondered if whatever had pinged his senses was just a ghost, the product of him not being in combat for years. 

Something registered, a flicker in the corner of his eye, and a second later he had his rifle in his shoulder. 

 

Holy fuck!

Tav managed not to scream as the world became something out of his worst nightmare. He’d begun to think it wasn’t so bad. The day was nice, and even though his heart had pounded in his ears, his nerves had begun to ease. He’d begun to think that they could really do this. That the reports of the Jem’Hadar in the area were nothing more than suspicion and rumor. 

He’d even begun to envision himself on guard at the farmhouse when they secured it. Holding the line against the might of the Dominion so they could set up a staging ground on the plains behind it and start getting civilians out of the area. 

That was his primary job. Once they were in position, he needed to liaise with the Morningstar’s rafts and guide them in to start loading the civilians that the even now the Resolute were trying to contact.

But his daydreams were shattered when the captain stopped, fist raised. Tav had taken half a step before he remembered that was the field signal to stop. Instantly, he crouched, eyes wide as he watch Mason as much as he tried to study the scene around them. 

Their surroundings looked exactly the same as they had a moment ago. When he’d been watching a beautiful purple butterfly waft it’s wings lazily on a nearby white flower.

But the captain had seen something, his big body coiled with tension. Even though he wore a starfleet combat uniform, there was something… not starfleet about him. Something darker and infinitely more dangerous that sent a shiver down Tav’s spine. It was like looking at the captain, but he wasn’t the captain anymore, he was someone else who looked exactly like him. 

“Contact! Twelve o’clock!” Mason bellowed, and started shooting. 

Tav squeaked, trying to yank his rifle to where he remembered the twelve o’clock firing position should be. He couldn’t see anything, so he just fired the same way as Mason. The air was filled with phaser and plasma beams as battle was joined, their hidden enemy firing back. 

The big captain stood upright next to him, like some sort of avenging angel. His face was hard, and his eyes narrowed as he aimed and fired with machine-like precision. In front of them there were grunts and then two bodies fell, Jem’Hadar appearing out of thin air into crumpled heaps on the ground. 

“Let ‘em have it!” Mason shouted.

The team fanned out, each member’s face grim as they launched into their prepared battle plan. Smoke grenades were thrown, hitting the ground and rolling to belch out a light purple gas like the wings of the butterfly he’d seen. It filled the air in a shimmering, glittery haze. 

Tav frowned. He didn’t remember smoke grenades looking like that… then his breath caught in the back of his throat as he spotted the edge of an arm. Then the side of a leg as its owner moved… the turn of a head. 

“Open fire!” Mason bellowed. 

Tav shoved his rifle butt into his shoulder. Or at least he tried to. He overshot and smacked it into his chin instead. Swearing, he managed to get it into the right place. He aimed and fired, his heart hammering all the time. The scene became a blood-bath. The smell of blood and burned flesh, battlecries and screams of pain filled the air. 

Then the Jem’Hadar broke free, dropping their shrouds to charge the Starfleet team. With a snarl, Mason shoved Rennox down into cover. Casting his rifle aside, he yanked the big combat dagger from his back holster free and charged, bellowing a llanarian battlecry. 

Tav was frozen in place, watching as more starfleet officers surged forward, combat knives in their hands. In the middle of it all was the captain, engaged in a deadly dance as he wove through what was left of the Jem’Hadar unit. 

He lifted his arm, a combat knife bigger than a small sword slicing through the air. 

Tav flinched as a round object flew past him, his brain refusing to identify it as amber blood splashed across the white flower, its butterfly resident long gone. Silence fell and he looked up, breath rasping in his ears, to find the captain standing nearby, his chest heaving as he looked around. 

The Jem’Hadar were all dead, scattered around the starfleet team. Some slumped, some in more than one piece.

“H-how…?” he managed. “I thought we wouldn’t be able to see them?”

“Jem’Hadar can shroud themselves,” Mason explained in a deep voice as he wiped his blade clean and slid it away into the holster. “But they can’t shroud the air around themselves. Most humanoid eyes are drawn to movement, so all we needed to do was ensure we could see the movement of the air instead.”

Tav blinked. “So…”

“We added glitter to each grenade’s payload.” Mason grinned. 

It wasn’t a nice expression. It was dark and deadly and… totally alive. Like something within the captain had woken up from slumber. 

“Okay people, let’s move out. We’ve a farmhouse to secure and some people to get to safety.”

Comments

  • It felt like watching a band of brothers episode as they try to land into enemy territory and trying to freaking survive the hell that was made for them. Great post that showed the down to earth vibe of the situation. Thought I do notice that Mason is enjoying himself a bit to much :P

    May 28, 2023
  • Haha! A perfect glitter bomb - I bet the Founders never thought they would need to come up with a defence for that. I loved the originality of that plan. Furthermore, I think Tav is becoming my favourite character on the Resolute. His absolute innocence in wanting to show his commanding officer he is 'tough' enough, coupled with his naivety/lack of experience in combat, makes him a character you can give sympathy to. I can certainly see him going far!

    May 28, 2023
  • Are we sure there’s no such thing as a Starfleet Marine? Because man Mason certainly feels like one from his BFG and that not-speech-speech to his movements and his tactics. This post was also a great study in contrasts, from Mason and Trav to the idillic summer ambiance to the heat of battle. A very enjoyable read all around, and most of all, this post did a phenomenal job describing combat, something that can be hard to do. I felt like I was right there, charging across Arriana Prime with the team.

    May 29, 2023
  • Loving the low-key buddy cop vibes of Rennox and Raan. (Okay, I may be exaggerating a little on buddy cop, but it's there, there's something there between them.) Renonox's "No, sir, but I’m going anyway" really got me. Aw, bless. And then Mason offered to watch over him. Even more charming, until Rennox could start to seeeee there's something different about Raan. I enjoyed that tension intertwined with how much as Raan is looking out for him. Rennox's first experience of battle was heartbreaking and terrifying, and all the more undercut by glitter bombs. Love it.

    June 1, 2023
  • I lost it when you wrote this. "if you’re looking for some great rousing speech here… well, I’m shit at them, so pretend I said something inspiring here, okay?: Freaking hilarious. Tav comes off as a coward, but this is the bravest man in this He lacks the skills, is terrified, and does it anyway. I really love this character Yeah, Mason is cool, but Tav is human.

    June 2, 2023
  • Jem'Hadar versus dormitory pranks, I think I know who wins. Glitter bombs is fantastic! Now I just want to see a series of Wallace and Grommit contraptions and shenanigans mopping up Jem'Hadar. Seeing this fight from Tav's perspective was inspired, letting us view the Raan from the outside as well as the terror of a firefight from someone totally not used to the idea. Give me more of Tav, but please, let him keep some of his innocence. He's a brilliant everyman to give a perspective from!

    June 3, 2023