Part of USS Nighthawk (Archive): Falls the Shadow and USS Endeavour: Falls the Shadow

Falls the Shadow – 20

Bridge, USS Nighthawk
March 2401
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Warning. Hull integrity compromised. Chamber pressure low.

That seemed important. But how could it be? How could it be more important than closing her eyes?

‘Warning –

But the voice had dragged her from the seductive darkness, and now she was in the light. Dim and bloodstained though it was, it was impossible to ignore the searing ache in her left arm. Sound and pain piled together, a cacophonous symphony dragging her from unconsciousness.

Reluctantly, Daniran Kosst opened her eyes. And remembered she was in hell.

Nighthawk had been shattered. One moment they’d been in the stars above the weapon emplacements, fighting and hunting the defence systems control centre at the same time. She’d ordered Fox to take evasive action. Then there’d been an impact. The sound of shrieking metal. A thousand emergency alerts.

And darkness.

With her good hand, Kosst pushed herself up to her knees. Steam and smoke cascaded from shattered consoles and panels, refracting the alert lights to paint the chamber in dizzying red. There was no sign of movement.

When she stood and turned, she found the body of her XO draped across the tactical controls, unmoving. Almost against her will, Kosst’s legs dragged her to Brennos’s side, and she reached for the side of his neck.

Nothing.

A low, pained moan escaped her throat unbidden, but Kosst staggered away, turning to the rest of the bridge. ‘Is anyone here?’

For a moment, nothing. Then a small voice from behind the science console creaked, ‘Captain?’

It was not Daelus Percian. But there she found him, now a still, broken bundle in the arms of Abigail Fox. Her helmsman looked up from the corner she’d crawled into, cheeks streaked with tears. ‘I thought you were dead. I thought everyone was dead.’

Kosst stared for a moment at Percian – at Fox’s friend, that she’d known throughout the Academy – and knew the answer to the question she didn’t want to ask. She swallowed. ‘I need you to stand up, Ensign. We have to save the ship.’ Or run.

Fox hesitated. Then she nodded, and slid away to gently, reverently, lay Percian’s corpse on the deck. Now Kosst could see the shattered remains of the young man’s face. His console had overloaded. It had probably been quick.

‘Alright,’ Fox warbled as she stood.

‘I need you to seal and restore pressure on the bridge. Then check the state of the ship,’ Kosst said, pointing at the empty operations console. ‘Tell me how bad we’re hit. Tell me casualties.’ But instead of moving to the command chair, Kosst limped to one of the auxiliary stations. Awkwardly, limited to only one hand, she reprogrammed it to bring up the feed and commands that had been at Percian’s station.

‘We’ve got hull breaches on decks one, two, three – almost all decks,’ Fox reported, wavering. ‘Something punched right through us. We have emergency power only, and… oh.’

‘Don’t give me oh, Ensign.’ Kosst didn’t want to be harsh. But if she was soft, she worried they’d both fall apart.

‘The warp core’s been jettisoned. Logs say there was a coolant leak.’ Fox audibly swallowed. ‘Casualty reports are high. Some escape pods have launched. I’ve got a hundred life signs aboard but there’s no telling how many people got out, how many people…’

Died. Kosst tried to not think too hard about the coolant leak, about Tyrell Rhade in main engineering, holding his post long enough to eject the warp core even as the bridge was silent on orders, even on telling him what was going on. She could not control if he was alive or dead.

‘We don’t have external sensors,’ Fox continued. ‘We barely have enough power for life support, emergency forcefields, and for me to even see this.’

‘Do we have sensors? Comms?’

‘No, and… yes. We’ve got power reserves for emergency comms. Short-range only.’

Kosst closed her eyes. ‘Are there Starfleet communications in the system?’ Fox made a small noise of confirmation. ‘Put them on.’

…form up your ships on Independence, Shepherd. Let’s finish these fighters.’

‘Aye, Captain! All support wing ships, you heard him. Disengage with me and form up on Independence!’

Gul Malek, if your Hideki could lend us reinforcements…’

As you wish, Captain. Second wing, follow Independence. All other ships – we’re joining Endeavour against that battlecruiser and those oncoming Dominion vessels.

When Kosst opened her eyes and turned around, she found Fox staring at her.

‘Is that Captain Rourke?’ the ensign gasped. ‘On Independence?’

Kosst knew she should have been delighted. The last she’d known of the battle, their plans had been on a knife-edge, and with Nighthawk taken out, there was no clear way for them to achieve their objective. Now their missing ship was back, their missing captain was back – and giving orders, with Jericho ominously silent.

But she had to swallow bitterness before she could reply. ‘It sounds like he’s here. With reinforcements.’ The squadron leadership could squabble with and scheme against each other and still ride in like heroes, it seemed. But Nighthawk had paid the price for that in-fighting, hung out to dry by Rourke’s betrayal and Vornar’s absence and Jericho’s judgements. They could attempt acts of great heroism to pull this crisis out of the fire. Meanwhile her crew were just dying, not saving the day.

Kosst shook her head and focused on her screen. ‘Our part isn’t done,’ she said, to herself as much as Fox. ‘Abigail, come here.’

Bewildered at her captain’s use of her first name, Fox was slow to join her. But the young helmsman’s expression fell to awe-struck sorrow as Kosst gestured to the display with her good hand. ‘Daelus did it?’

‘His program was running even after we were hit. But, yes. He did it.’ This time, Kosst swallowed a lump, not bitterness. ‘That’s where the system defences are being controlled from. I’m transmitting it to the squadron.’

Fox sucked on her teeth. ‘That’s in the orbital complex above Izar V. That’s not going to be easy.’

‘Better than needing to get to III,’ Kosst mused. That’s their problem, she didn’t say, as the transmission got away. Only moments later, the tone from the squadron changed.

Are you seeing this, Independence?’

Looks like Nighthawk pulled through.’

‘Permission to get the fighter wing up close and personal and land my team there?

You’ll need an escort.’ Kosst heard the hesitation in the voice she recognised as Rourke’s, but the answer came from a new voice that the comms display told her was from Pathfinder.

You should take Independence, Captain, and escort in Commander Shepherd.

There’s still that battleship, and the Triumph -’

But Commander Valance pressed on, undaunted. ‘Pathfinder and Endeavour have got Triumph, Captain.’ A moment’s pause. ‘Trust me.’

The discussion broke down to a flurry of exchanges then as the squadron split themselves up; one wing going after the main bulk of Dominion forces and rescuing the Triumph, the other breaking through, deeper into the system, to seize control of Izar’s defence emplacements.

Kosst sagged in her chair, closing her eyes. ‘Put me through to the ship, Ensign.’ Fox’s footsteps retreated and the bleep of comms systems activating came moments later. Limbs leaden, Kosst sat up.

‘This is Captain Kosst. All hands report to secure shelter locations, or get to the escape pods. Reinforcements have arrived. The Jem’Hadar are off our back.

‘Hold your heads high. We did our duty. The squadron is armed with the knowledge of how to take control of Izar’s defence systems. If there is victory today, it’s victory won by Nighthawk. Now, look to yourselves and your comrades. Now, get safe.’

Kosst’s hand braced on the edge of the controls as she finished the communication, and she looked back up to Fox. ‘That includes you, Ensign.’

Fox didn’t move. ‘Why not us, Captain?’

‘There’s no telling how many people are alive on Nighthawk, trapped, unconscious. I’m going to sweep the decks.’

Fox shook her head. ‘I’m not letting you go alone. Your arm…’

Kosst looked down at the injury. The dull ache had not gone away, and now adrenaline was fading, its thud was intensifying. ‘…get the medkit.’ As the ensign moved to one of the lockers, the captain’s eyes fell back on her console. Internal sensors were not operating well. Comms were working, giving her the distant buzz of the squadron’s condition, the battle raging millions of kilometres away, far from Nighthawk’s reach.

Was that it? Was it over for them? Was the only thing left to help her crew, and wait to discover if they were victorious? Even though defeat could mean Nighthawk’s survivors would perish anyway, or fall into Dominion hands?

Kosst reached for the controls, and accessed the recorded messages in their comms databanks.

‘I can’t fix your arm, Captain, but I can get you a painkiller,’ Fox reported as she arrived with the medkit. Her eyes landed on the controls. ‘What’re you doing?’

‘Sending one more transmission.’ Kosst rolled her shoulder back, so Fox could more easily apply the hypo.

‘Of what?’

Kosst tapped the final command, and a new voice filled a new communications channel. Even on Nighthawk’s limited resources, the pre-recorded message could reach across the system.

People of Izar. My name is Sophia Hale. If you’re hearing my voice, Starfleet is here. We’re fighting for you. And you are not alone.

Kosst stood, though she needed Fox’s help to do so. ‘Hope.’ Together, the two women moved stiffly for the Jefferies Tube that would lead to the next deck, lead them to somewhere someone, likely, needed their help.

…I do not pretend to imagine that I understand what you have been through under the Dominion. What you have lost. What you have sacrificed. And I do not have the right to ask anything of you…

Fox stopped halfway, and Kosst grabbed her arm with a hint of urgency before she realised the young woman was staring at the body of Percian.

Kosst instead squeezed her arm gently. ‘Abigail.’

‘He was so smart.’ Fox’s voice shook. ‘He could have gone anywhere in the fleet. They offered him postings on Odyssey, on Sirius. Why’d he come here?’ Kosst hesitated. She suspected the answer, but now did not feel like the time to say it. Fox didn’t stop, though. ‘Why’d he come with me?’

Kosst swallowed. ‘I can’t answer that. But if he hadn’t been here – if I’d had a science officer an inch less smart – then we wouldn’t have this chance to win the Battle of Izar.’

Fox drew a shaky breath. ‘Yeah. Yeah, you’re right.’ She swiped at her eyes. ‘Let’s see who we can save, Captain.’

Staying on this shattered ship for even a moment more was dangerous. At any second, a power relay could overload. Emergency forcefields could fail. The hull could buckle and breach somewhere new. Bulkheads could collapse and crush them. But so could that happen to anyone trapped aboard.

…but if you have been waiting, now is the time to step up. Now is the time to act. As one. Because only together can we win this.

So onward they went, into the belly of a dying ship, as all around them the skies burned.

Comments

  • Oh man, I thought Nighthawk was completely done for and then you deliver this emotion punch. A cross of hope and relief and devastation all at once. Crew lost, the ship broken, but their mission nominally a success. The emotional weight will hit heavier and dang that will be something to work through. Kosst keeping Amy on track is so true to keeping someone busy so they don't feel in the moment. And do she wouldn't either. But Hale's speech at the end...beautiful. but what about Hale? The people want to know!

    June 7, 2023
  • The structure of this is mad - mad good! I love the interlacing of the Nighthawk's situation with the fleet's communications channels - it's a brilliant way to connect the story without having to force-feed a bunch of narrative/exposition-heavy work into the story. It flows and flies like a perfect paper airplane - it's so flippin' smooth! Not only that, but the emotion is HEAVY here - the helmsman cradling the dead officer just about broke me...and the story didn't stop there. It's dripping in feeling without feeling like an overdose - the balance between the deaths on the Nighthawk and the saving grace of the fleet around them had me running along with this story as I read. I'm with McGig - I was worried we were going to lose this ship and these two...but they held on to the end of this story, at least. Looking forward to more. Incredible stuff.

    June 7, 2023
  • This was a wonderful and emotional post to read. I enjoyed every second of it. The thing I liked the most is that you showed that Starfleet is not immortal and can also lose by paying the main price for it. The nighthawk did its job and it did it excellent so I hope who survived this would get out alive, they deserve that much. Great job on this story!

    June 7, 2023
  • Ya had me over here trying to keep tears from falling, as McGig said that it is a cross of hope, relief, and devastation all at once. So many lives were lost to save countless others while more are unknown if they are still alive or not. Though some relief came when they found the information that their science officer had found right before he died, to me he died a hero in a way cause without that there be no telling how this battle would go. Relief that Rourke was on the Independence and he had friends. War is tough even on both seasoned and new commanders no matter how you split it or think you prepare for battle. Great story and can't wait to see what happens next and how all of this ends!

    June 8, 2023
  • The story was great, but it was dwarfed by the style. From the staccato of short sentences creating the feeling of battlefield chaos to the one and two word paragraphs to drive emphasis, this was a master class in using the construct of your prose to evoke an emotional response. You mentioned comms was a cheat code to exposit the battle, but it led to something much more compelling. One piece that stood out to me particularly was the “That seemed important” thoughts-only paragraph up front that’s ringed by something that should very much be cared about, which itself is ringed by something else we should care about (the battle) that feels wholly unimportant here. Another nice touch in this post was the analogy created by the macro message from Sophia Hale and the micro experience of the two on the Nighthawk. She speaks of hope, and they draw on hope. She speaks of what they’ve been through, as they go through something. And she speaks of the time to act, and they act. That particular construct reminded me of an approach JMS used to use in his storytelling, and it landed just as well here.

    June 8, 2023