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Part of USS Higgs: Hide and Seek and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

Hide and Seek – 5

USS Higgs NCC-79830
March 2401
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Alex followed the Captain onto the bridge where they found the Chief Science Officer sitting at his console with Doctor T’Nira standing beside him. The pair of them were studying readings from what looked like the internal sensors. As the Captain and her XO approached the science station, Matheson asked, “What’ve you got?”

“Lieutenant Armstrong is suffering from the early stages of radiation poisoning,” T’Nira told them. “We have detected elevated levels of radiation throughout the ship.”

Alex glanced at the Captain but she refused to look at him, focusing her attention on T’Nira and Pezara. “How is that possible? Aren’t the shields protecting us?”

“They are, for the most part,” Pezara replied, “but there’s been some bleedthrough.”

Alex’s brow furrowed. “Why didn’t the internal sensors detect a rise in radiation levels?”

“Internal sensors were damaged in the Jem’Hadar attack and have been offline for repairs,” Pezara supplied.

Matheson folded her arms. “How much longer can we remain here?”

“The radiation will reach a critical level in approximately thirty minutes,” T’Nira told them. “I suggest remaining no longer than fifteen minutes.”

Alex looked to the Captain, who was worrying pale and looked like she was fighting back nausea. “Captain?”

“I’m fine,” Matheson replied through gritted teeth. Alex couldn’t tell if that was because she was holding back nausea or another display of the anger she directed towards him. 

T’Nira didn’t reach for a tricorder; she already knew what the problem was. She pressed a hypospray against the Captain’s neck and activated the device. “Hyronolin,” she explained, “it should help with the symptoms of radiation poisoning.”

“Better,” the Captain confirmed, “thank you.”

While the Captain recovered her equilibrium, Alex asked Pezara, “Any sign of the Jem’Hadar fighters?”

Pezara shook his head. “Between the radiogenic particles and the damage to the long-range sensors, we can’t see them. They could still be there, or they could’ve gotten bored and moved on.”

“The Jem’Hadar don’t get bored,” Alex murmured. “They’ll wait us out, or worse try to smoke us out.”

The CSO glanced up at him. “Why haven’t they tried that already?”

“No idea,” Alex answered.

Pezara’s console let out a synthetic alert, drawing both of their attention. Alex could read the sensor readings as well as anyone. That’s what we get for tempting fate, he grumbled silently. 

The CSO’s report was urgent but not panicked, “The Jem’Hadar fighters are firing into the asteroid field.”

“I thought they couldn’t get a lock on us because of the radiogenic particles?” The Captain asked.

Pezara took a few seconds to study what the short-range sensors were telling him before answering. “I don’t think they can. It looks like they’re firing blind.”

The asteroid in front of them exploded spectacularly as a torpedo impacted it, sending large chunks of rocks flying off in all directions, including at the Higgs. Her shields flared as the remnants of the asteroid came into contact with them. For those onboard, the deck lurched and anyone on their feet quickly found themselves crashing to the deck with a thud.

“Mitchell, get us moving!” The Captain shouted over the din of alarms and klaxons, the tension between them momentarily forgotten.

Alex’s shoulder ached from its impact with the deck but he pushed through the pain to pick himself up. “And go where?”

“Anywhere that’s not here,” Matheson’s vague orders weren’t helpful but Alex moved the Higgs further along the asteroid belt. They needed a plan if they were to leave it.

Back in the command chair, Matheson turned to her Chief Science Officer. “Is there any way we could use these asteroids against the Jem’Hadar?”

“You mean throw an asteroid at them?” Pezara asked. When Matheson nodded, he told her, “Most of them are too big for us to use a tractor beam on. For those that are small enough, we’d need to be able to take out all three ships at once. I don’t see how we do that.”

Their chances of survival were quickly narrowing. What had started out as a simple mission to deliver cargo and personnel to Galadkail Manor was turning into a fight for their lives, a fight they were probably going to lose. 

Alex wasn’t afraid to die, though if he thought about it long enough he would come up with a list of regrets a mile long. What upset him most about the idea was the pain it would cause his friends and family. They’d already suffered through that once when thanks to some temporal shenanigans, he didn’t want them to suffer through that again. Though this time, there would be no doubt as to his fate.

“What else do we have in his system?” Matheson asked.

With his focus on piloting the Higgs through the asteroid field, Alex was only half listening as the Captain and Pezara worked through their options. There wasn’t much else in the system they could use to hide effectively from the Jem’Hadar and trying to outrun them was a non-starter; they’d be lucky to make it out of the system before those fighters caught up to them.

The Higgs darted left and right around asteroids, dipping under them and rising over them. Pushing the envelope of what the compact Nova-class starship was capable of, Alex skirted as close as he could to the large chunks of lifeless rock; in some cases getting as close as a few hundred metres.

“Helm, alter course; bearing two-eight-one mark zero-three-five,” Matheson sounded like she had a plan.

Captain Matheson’s order penetrated his focus as clearly as a ringing bell, there was no mistaking the course she’d given him, but when Alex input that heading into the navigational computer, he started to doubt himself (not something that he was accustomed to). That must be a mistake, he thought. “Captain,” he spun in his chair to face Matheson, “that course will take us directly into the heart of the Daylos star.”

“Thank you for starting the obvious, Commander,” Matheson replied with a steely gaze. Alex could feel the eyes of Shepard and others on them, no doubt wondering what had caused such a frosty response from a woman known for her warmth and kindness, but he held the Captain’s gaze.

Eventually, Alex turned back and altered the Higgs’ course, taking them out of the proverbial frying pan and into the literal fire. The one good thing about the Dominion’s decision to fire torpedoes blindly into the asteroid field was that it allowed them to establish a rough position for their ships but there was no telling how long it would take for the Jem’Hadar ships to spot them once they emerged from the asteroid belt.

The Higgs cleared the belt and hurtled at full impulse towards the heart of the Daylos system. “We’re clear of the effects of the radiogenic particles,” Alex announced.

“Where are the Jem’Hadar fighters?” Matheson’s question was quickly answered on the viewscreen when a trio of purple dots appeared beside the asteroid field. “Have they seen us?”

Pezara shook his head. “Not yet. They’re still firing into the asteroid belt.”

“Good,” Matheson said. “How long until we reach the star?”

Mitchell glanced at the countdown timer on his console. “Two minutes.”

“Captain, we’ve been spotted,” Pezara announced urgently. “The Jem’Hadar ships are moving towards us.”

The map on the viewscreen disappeared, replaced by a view of the three Jem’Hadar fighters chasing them down.

Matheson gripped the armrests of her chair tightly. “Come and get us.”

“Weapons range in ninety seconds,” Fournier announced.

Alex checked the timer. The Jem’Hadar fighters would be able to get a couple of shots off before the Higgs entered the star’s corona. He pushed the impulse engines as hard as he dared, but the increase in speed was negligible.

“Captain, radiation levels and hull temperature are rising,” Pezara announced.

The Jem’Hadar fighters slowly closed the distance between them and the Higgs. Alex watched on the navigational sensors as the three purple dots edged closer and closer. Red circles surrounding each of the dots indicated the range of their weapons. The instant the Higgs entered one of those red circles, the ship was rocked by a fierce barrage of polaron beams and torpedoes. The Jem’Hadar were determined to finish the job they started before the Higgs reached the star.

“Shields are down to thirty-three percent!” Fournier shouted.

The news from the helm was no better, “Warp drive is offline. Impulse engines have sustained heavy damage. We can only manage one-third impulse.”

The momentum they’d established would carry them into the star’s corona at full impulse but when it came time to emerge, their speed would be severely limited. “Fournier,” Matheson barked, “Activate the metaphasic shielding.” 

As soon as Fournier acknowledged the metaphasic shields were active, Pezara announced that the hull temperate and radiation levels were dropping back to normal. Under the best of circumstances, the metaphasic shields would only protect them for so long and the Higgs was far from her best.

“Well, we’re here,” Alex asked, turning to face the Captain. “What now?”

Matheson smirked at him but there was no warmth to it. “Now we fight back with science,” She turned to her CSO. “Pezara, where are the Jem’Hadar fighters?”

“They’re holding position orbiting the star,” The Chief Science Officer responded.

Alex glanced over at Lieutenant Shepard’s console, where the Ops Officer was monitoring the hull temperature and radiation levels. Both were already on the rise. It wouldn’t be long before they reached dangerous levels. I hope whatever the Captain has planned, she does it soon.

“Fournier, I want you to reconfigure the tractor beam emitters to fire a particle beam at the surface of the star,” Matheson ordered as she moved to the science console.

It still wasn’t clear to Alex what the Captain’s plan was, but he trusted that she knew what she was doing. You have more trust in her than she does in you, he thought bitterly. While Fournier went about her work, Matheson and Pezara huddled around the science station working on the calculations on which spot to target on the star’s surface.

“That’s it,” Matheson finally announced after several minutes of work. “Fournier, throw  a tactical display up on the screen.” The Daylos star took up half of the map on the viewscreen. A delta in the corona indicated the Higgs with three purple dots waiting patiently.

Matheson returned to her seat. “Pezara, overlay the projected path of the solar fusion eruption.” The three purple dots appeared well inside the predicted path of the solar ejection. “Exactly where we want them.” She turned again to science, “Pezara, transfer the target coordinates to tactical.”

“Aye, Captain.” The anticipation on the bridge increased as they prepared to put the Captain’s plan into action. The solar eruption she was going to initiate would get close enough to the Higgs to cause the hull temperature and radiation levels

The transfer took a few seconds. “Coordinates received,” Fournier announced. “Ready to fire on your command.”

Everyone on the bridge held their collective breath, waiting for the Captain to give the order. Alex gripped the edge of his console so tightly that his knuckles were turning white.

“Fire.”

The particle beam shot out at the surface of the star. Within seconds the hull temperature began increasing faster as the star reacted to the particle beam. Superfluid gasses burst forth from the surface, ejected outward in the direction of the Jem’Hadar fighters.

“Captain,” The urgency in Pezara’s voice was not a portent of success. “The Jem’Hadar fighters have detected the eruption. They’re scattering.”

The three purple dots started moving in different directions as they tried to escape the solar fusion eruption. The silence on the bridge was such that you could hear a pin drop. They wouldn’t get a second chance at this, so it had to work and right now that was far from certain.

“Looks like two of them won’t be able to escape it,” Fournier reported. “The third has moved far enough out of range.”

Sure enough, two of the purple dots disappeared as the solar eruption engulfed those fighters. Two ships, the Jem’Hadar on board and their Vorta handlers. Alex surprised himself when he felt a pang of remorse for taking those lives. It was easy to see the Jem’Hadar as heartless murderers, but they were genetically engineered to obey the Founders; they had no choice, no free will. 

“Captain,” Now it was Shepard’s turn to be urgent. “Hull temp and radiation levels have reached dangerous levels. We have to leave, now.”

The course was already plotted, Alex just needed the order. The problem was the remaining Jem’Hadar fighter would be waiting for them. While the odds were evened, the fight would be tough; it would be the fight for, and of, their lives.

“Helm,” Matheson said, “get us out of here.”

Alex’s index finger had never jammed down so hard on his console before. The Higgs engines propelled the ship forward. With the damage she’d sustained, the Nova-class ship would never come close to reaching full impulse but she could still move quickly enough to get clear of the star in less than a minute.

“Fournier, target the remaining Jem’Hadar ship,” Matheson ordered. “As soon as we’re clear of the star’s influence, throw everything we’ve got at them.”

Matheson opened a shipwide comm channel and as she spoke, everyone on the bridge steeled themselves for what was to come.

“All hands,” the Captain’s grave announcement echoed around the bridge, “battle stations.”