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

7. The 194th Rule

USS Arcturus
Stardate 2401.3
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“I don’t care which laws of physics you need to break; get us between our escort and the enemy!” Lancaster shouted on the Arcturus battle bridge. While the Farpoint cnidarian fired wildly against friend and foe alike, Hokule’a with its crew of Captain Alesser, Commander Marshall, and Lieutenant Belvedere was totally drained of energy thanks to the Breen. It had Lancaster seeing red for so many different reasons at once. He was through losing people to the Breen. It simply would not do. “Bowens, extend our shields as soon as it’s possible. Get the crew off, and we’ll deal with salvage later.”

Lieutenant Solomon, normally the Gamma Shift helmsman, managed a somewhat confident “aye,” but Lancaster knew that the young man had never before been in a situation like the one they were in now. Thankfully, Bowens was a seasoned veteran of Archanis, the Century Storm, the Tkon Crisis, and every other blasted emergency the Fourth Fleet had been sucked into in the previous two years. Lancaster could see him providing a reassuring smile from the neighboring ops station—something that he never quite knew how to do well.

“Mister Solomon, you’re in that seat because I have faith in you. You can do this,” Lancaster said, the words coming automatically as if from some emergency subroutine he was unaware of in his own cognitive programming. “Doctor Sheppard, please meet the Hokule’a crew in transporter room twelve,” he ordered calmly.

Sheppard nodded and left the battle bridge, sharing a moment of empathetic eye contact with his husband before the doors to the turbolift closed. Lieutenant Solomon managed to interpose Arcturus between the enemy and their escort while Bowens extended the shields just long enough for transport. It was barely in time to prevent the Breen from applying the coup de grace against Hokule’a, their disruptor fire instead impacting the powerful regenerative shields of Arcturus.

“Transport complete, sir,” the operations officer reported.

“Alesser to Lancaster. We’re all aboard and unhurt. Pride aside,” Alesser said over the comm a moment later, much to Lancaster’s immediate relief. 

“Glad to hear it, Number One. Sheppard is going to check the three of you out, and then I want you back at your posts,” the captain ordered. “Battle bridge out.”

Lancaster glanced at Acting First Officer Armstrong.

“I know, I know… back to science,” the commander said with a self-deprecating grin.

“Yes, but you’ve clearly shown that a red uniform is in your future, Commander,” Lancaster replied, feeling overly sappy, emotional, and indulgent because of Alesser’s safety. “I should not have responded so harshly when you questioned me., earlier. You should question me. I’m sorry.”

Armstrong opened his mouth in sheer shock, which made it all worthwhile for Lancaster. 

“The science station, Commander. I’m only contractually allowed to be nice three times in any given fortnight, and I’ve just used two of those in the last five minutes,” Lancaster said, pointing to the station that Sheppard had vacated. 

“Aye, aye,” Armstrong said.

Lancaster started to chastise him.

“I know, I know. I’m ‘not a pirate,’ sir,” the science officer chuckled as he took his post. As they spoke, Arcturus continued to rock under weapons fire, but it was clear that the Dominion and Breen were suffering just as much. “Sir, the Ferengi vessel is detaching from the Cnidarian. They’re making a run for it.”

“Tactical, take care of this Breen ship and then let’s end this,” Lancaster ordered.

“Firing phasers,” Lieutenant Commander Ishida replied. “Direct hit, but they are preparing to fire again.”

“Brace!” Lancaster ordered. The energy-dampening weapon hit Arcturus, and it was enough to bring their shields down to critical levels, but they were able to weather the storm either because of their more powerful systems or because of the damage they had just caused to the Breen ship. “Fire again.”

“Phaser power cells are cycling, sir. They took a lot out of us,” Ishida demurred.

“Torpedoes, then!”

“Aye,” the tactical officer replied, sending a volley into the Breen ship that finally destroyed it. The doors to the battle bridge opened to admit Sheppard, Alesser, Belvedere, and Marshall. Lancaster barely had time to share a thankful glance with Sheppard and Alesser before Ishida spoke up again. “Sir, the Dominion battlecruiser has placed a tractor beam on the Ferengi ship. The cnidarian is focusing its fire on the Jem’Hadar now.”

“Believe it or not, commodore sir, but the Ferengi are hailing you,” Belvedere added gleefully as he sat down next to Rivera at the communications console. If he were a dog, his tail would be wagging, by Lancaster’s estimation. “Shall we let them eat static, or would you like to taunt them?”

“Taunting, please,” Lancaster replied, too pleased with their new situation to remind Belvedere of proper decorum. The viewer switched to an interior view of the Ferengi ship, which by this point had seen better days. “You know, DaiMon, the FCA gave me the code sequence to return their vessel to them, but they seemed quite unconcerned about your well-being,” the captain gloated.

DaiMon Mahret growled but could be seen breathing through his anger. “I may have miscalculated in this venture. Your reputation for benevolence precedes you, Captain Larkmaster.”

“Lancaster. And, technically, Commodore,” Lancaster quipped. “If you’re verbally fellating me, then this must be a clear instance of the 33rd Rule of Acquisition,” he said, daring the overpaid tubegrub on the other end of the transmission to question that.

“You… You know the rules?”

“Obviously. Roughly, your 194th Rule corresponds to something Sun Tzu of Earth said: ‘Know your enemy,’” Lancaster replied. “You are my enemy DaiMon, but the 98th Rule applies to this situation: I am a man, and I have my price. My price for rescuing you.”

“Name it,” the DaiMon spat.

“Turn off the thought-maker. Let the Cnidarian go,” Lancaster replied. He muted the microphone. “And also we’re going to impound his ship, interrogate him, and throw him in a Federation rehabilitation center,” he noted to the bridge crew before unmuting. “Well?”

“Fine. Fine!” Mahret said. “It’s done. The creature is free.”

Lancaster was viewing the sensor readings on one of the armrest consoles and saw that the thought-makers had indeed been deactivated, and the creature had stopped firing.  When he looked up at the viewscreen, though, he saw a Jem’Hadar face before the transmission was cut off. The Ferengi yacht had been boarded and seized while they were negotiating.

“It’s unlikely that we would have actually been able to save him,” Alesser noted.

“The creature is free for the moment. Let’s hope it takes the Dominion long enough to figure out how to operate the thought-makers for it to escape,” Lancaster replied. “Tactical, fire at will on the Dominion fleet.”

Lancaster watched as Arcturus lashed out against the enemy. Their modern tactical systems seemed especially effective against the Dominion, but 30 years didn’t seem to take any bite out of the Dominion ships’ return fire. On the tactical plot, he saw the Farpoint creature exit the arena at high warp and felt a sigh of relief come over him. Their obligation had been fulfilled. That feeling only lasted for a moment, though, as the Dominion immediately turned to follow it—and they still had the thought-makers, as well as arguably superior engineering and scientific expertise, to perfect what the Ferengi had botched.

“Pursuit course!” the captain ordered. What was left behind, though, were three more Breen ships. Two of them pummeled Arcturus with the energy-dampening weapon again. “Return fire.”

“We have nothing left, sir. Weapons and warp engines are offline,” Ishida replied. There was a beat. “I’m detecting three more incoming vessels, sir. They’re Federation. That’s all I can tell with our systems the way they are.”

“Divert emergency and auxiliary power to the shields. We have to hold out a little longer,” Lancaster ordered. He tapped the all-call button on his armrest. “Crew of Arcturus, we have succeeded in our mission. We have liberated a being of great beauty and power. Starfleet is here, and we will get through this,” he said.

“Shield power re-routed. The third Breen ship is charging its weapon, though,” Bowens reported from ops.

Soon after, three warp flashes appeared on the viewscreen, which resolved into the shapes of the starships Achilles and Susan B. Anthony flanking the familiar silhouette of the Arcturus primary hull. The Breen ships attempted to peel off, but none of them were a match for any of the three Starfleet ships that had managed to flank them. Within moments, the three enemy vessels were reduced to debris.

“I have Admiral Dahlgren for you, sir,” Belvedere reported before the impact and relief of their rescue could really sink in.

“On screen,” Lancaster replied.

The viewscreen switched to show Admiral Dahlgren in the guest seat aboard the Susan B. Anthony, next to her commanding officer, Captain Paula Camarero. Though always genial, he looked particularly pleased. Lancaster was no stranger to working with flag officers, but it wasn’t every day that he could say he had a four-star admiral impressed with his conduct.

“Well done, Captain Lancaster. How are you holding up over there?” Dahlgren asked.

“We’ll need at least a day to get our warp engines back online and restore main power, but we’re here, Admiral,” Lancaster replied. “I appreciate you bringing the cavalry.”

“Having the other half of your ship should speed that up,” Dahlgren chuckled. “Put Arcturus back together, and then I’m beaming over to debrief you personally. Dahlgren out.”

Comments

  • I am in gentle awe of both how you're bold enough to resolve 'Arcturus saves the Hokule'a just like Lancaster ordered' in a sentence, and how it works? I'd have not written just the run-up, but a goddamn blow-by-blow of characters yelling reports etc and really, you show it's Just Not Needed. You set up the challenge, smooth it over, and move on, because there's plenty more to come. In other news, I gushed about Alesser last chapter but here I am reminded of how much I LOVE Lancaster. Comparing himself unfavourably to Bowens, reassuring Solomon more out of command instinct and training than necessarily his nature, and the whole of the exchange with Armstrong. He's an arrogant little martinet with a heart of gold and I love when he's being an ass, and when he's self-aware of how much of an ass he is. Ugh, this chapter's just great - 'Would you like to taunt them?' 'Captain Larkmaster.' Good stuff!

    May 31, 2023