Part of USS Arcturus: Return to Farpoint and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

6. Dancing Under Fire

USS Hokule'a
Stardate 2401.3
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In Timothy Marshall’s capable hands, the Hokule’a danced through the onslaught of weapons fire coming from the enslaved cnidarian creature, as he attempted to get a clean shot on the Ferengi vessel. The vessel-lifeform was large enough and fast enough that it was managing to keep both the escort and the Arcturus saucer section from doing so, which was beginning to agitate Captain Alesser—right as the readings of the Dominion-Breen force reached them. 

Arcturus is authorizing lethal fire against the Ferengi if the opportunity presents itself,” Lieutenant Belvedere reported from the communications station. 

A modification like that to the rules of engagement meant that Lancaster was shifting into the wartime playbook. So often, Starfleet officers had to hold back even when they had superior technology to their opponents, but now the gloves were off. Not that it really mattered if they couldn’t get a shot off on the Ferengi.

“Mr. Marshall, I’d really like a firing solution, please,” Alesser said.

“I’m doing my very best, sir,” Marshall replied as he provided a frantic set of commands to the helm. “Wait, they’re altering course… Coming straight at us! It looks like they have the Ferengi ship encased in some sort of shield bubble.”

“Tactical plot,” Alesser ordered. The computer complied, raising the display pedestal forward of the command chair to show a map of the conflict. Alesser watched in real-time as the alien entity grabbed the Ferengi ship in some sort of beam and pulled it up against the underside of its hull, safe from the Starfleet ships as it made a beeline for the newcomers. “I guess we’ve figured out who the buyers are. Follow them, and join the attack on the receivers. Go,” he ordered.

The abrupt change in course by the cnidarian suddenly had Hokule’a, the Arcturus’s saucer, and all of their support craft chasing it. It was moving at sublight speeds that far outstripped their own capabilities, which gave Alesser an idea. The cnidarian was already between Arcturus and the Dominion.

“Marshall, prepare to go to warp one. I want a five-second burst on my mark,” Alesser ordered. “I want us right on top of them. With any luck, we’ll also briefly confuse their sensors.”

“Aye, captain,” the helmsman replied. He cleared his throat and turned to look at Alesser. “I feel like I should say that if my calculations are slightly off, we could run into them. Which would be… bad.”

“Yeah, might scratch the paint. I trust you, though,” Alesser replied, giving him a wink. Marshall nodded, seeming pleased with that reaction as he turned back to his station. He tapped the ship-to-ship control on his chair. “Alesser to Lancaster. I’m going to use a precision warp jump to catch up to the cnidarian. If we can take out a few more receivers, we might weaken the hold the Ferengi have on that thing.”

Lancaster appeared on the viewscreen to respond. “I’m not sure I love that idea, but we’re seconds away from facing off against an enemy we can’t handle if that cnidarian is bolstering them. I’m ordering the saucer section to withdraw and warn Starfleet. You have one shot to take out the remaining receivers, and then I want you back onboard. Understood?”

“One good shot is all we need. I’ll see you in a few minutes,” Alesser replied.

Lancaster’s blue eyes flickered in a moment of emotion before the channel closed. On the tactical plot, Alesser saw the runabouts and fighters converge with the saucer section moments before it warped out of the field of battle. The stardrive section was once again taking fire from the cnidarian, but Arcturus had just come within range of the Dominion and Breen ships, letting loose with a massive volley of torpedoes that managed to damage several of them. The stage was set for Hokule’a to ride in and even the odds.

“Course laid in, captain,” Marshall reported. 

“Go,” Alesser ordered. For five brief seconds, the stars on the viewscreen were distorted as streaks when the warp engines engaged. Leaping across the battlefield, the nimble escort ended up right on top of the creature’s dorsal surface. “Fire!”

With precision strikes from the pulse phaser cannons, they managed to take out two more of the receiver spheres on the surface of the cnidarian, leaving it with just two remaining connections to the thought makers aboard the Ferengi shuttle. Alesser immediately saw a change in the creature’s appearance, its surface seeming to fluctuate in opacity for a moment as the central well of energy changed from the angry red it had been since the Ferengi enslaved it to its normal blue and then an unsettling green hue. The cnidarian lashed out against the Dominion and Breen forces, spinning wildly before also firing again on the Federation forces.

“Incoming!” Marshall announced.

Moments later, Hokule’a was struck with a glancing blow from the cnidarian’s energy weapons. Alesser was nearly thrown out of his chair, and sparks flew around the bridge. Even as Alesser’s ears were ringing, it still seemed like a net positive to their situation—the creature wasn’t yet freed, but it was now a wild card.

“Get us back to Arcturus before the captain has our asses,” Alesser replied, realizing what he said only when Belvedere glanced back at him with the smirk of someone who was about to say something even more appropriate. “If we make it back to the docking cradle, you get one lewd comment not befitting your rank or office, Mr. Belvedere,” the first officer warned.

Belvedere bit his tongue, and once the course had been laid in, Marshall cocked his head back towards his comrades.

“What do I get?” the helmsman asked, with the wide-eyed naiveté that he always seemed to default back to even after an impressive feat like the micro-jump he’d just accomplished.  

“You can be the subject of my lewd comment if you like,” Belvedere quipped.

“Deal!” Marshall laughed. The ship rocked again, more gently than the prior time, and Alesser was about to ask if it was from weapons fire or flirtation. “Sir, we’ve got a Breen interceptor on our tail.”

“Aft torpedoes, full spread. We just need to keep them off long enough to get back home,” Alesser ordered. Once Hokule’a successfully docked, he would be back by Lancaster’s side to help him resolve the situation—and they could retreat, if necessary. That thought was his overriding priority now that the field was getting too hot for them to attempt another strike on the cnidarian; the escort simply wouldn’t stand up to the combined fire of the enemy vessels as their primary target. “Fire!”

A flurry of photon torpedoes burst out of the aft launchers, striking the Breen interceptor head-on. On the viewscreen, Alesser could tell that the strike had slowed them down, but the interceptor was still intact.

“Enemy shields have been damaged,” Belvedere reported. “They’re firing!” 

Moments later, all of the systems aboard Hokule’a went dark, the tell-tale result of being struck by a Breen energy-dampening weapon. Evidently, they’d had some time to make some improvements to the defenses Starfleet had developed in the 2370s. Alesser braced himself on the command seat, but the follow-up volley he had expected never came. They were dead in the water, so close to home, but literally powerless, at least until someone decided to finish them off.  For all of the anxiety and dread swirling in Alesser over his own fate, he was focused on what he hoped wouldn’t be his last glimpse of Michael Lancaster’s eyes. 

Comments

  • Hoo boy. This is the best Alesser chapter yet, I think, and perhaps the most we've seen him in action - especially in a command role? But it develops him a lot for the reader. Obviously we see him as the bolder, more Riker-esque, roll-the-dice kind of commander, with a risky stunt to save the day, and that's a great contrast to Lancaster (who might do something risky, but would definitely at least ACT like it was a more calculated risk). But his behaviour with the bridge crew, the lighter touch, the increased banter, tell us not just more about Marshall and Belvedere, but how they perceive and have related to Alesser. They would DEFINITELY not try to make these jokes under Lancaster! So yes, great Saving the Day, but also great work showing us why Alesser isn't just Lancaster's XO, but *Arcturus's* XO.

    May 31, 2023