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Part of USS Mount Shasta: Too Far is the Sky and Bravo Fleet: Ashes of Deneb

1.9 | Just Out of Reach

Main Bridge, Deck 2, USS Mount Shasta
April 2401
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“Red alert! Shields up!”

“They’re targeting the shuttle, Captain.”

“Helm, flanking speed, hard about. Move to intercept.”

Commander Al Ganbold leaned forward and embellished the captain’s order. “Try to position our dorsal shields to take the impact, Mister Cohen.”

The viewscreen displayed the perspective from the Mount Shasta’s bow as it swung swiftly around, the nerve-wracking scene swiping into view. Above the teal crescent of Correolan IV, the Ferengi marauder ship was bearing down on the shuttlecraft McCloud, the Ferengi ship’s rusty crescent closing in on the McCloud like a scythe sweeping a field.

The Mount Shasta raced into range just as the Ferengi ship probed McCloud’s shields.

“Transporters!” Captain Abigail Ralin shouted.

“Negative, sir,” Ensign Melanie Da Silva replied from the tactical station. “Ionic…”

“…Interference from the planet,” supplied Lieutenant Prek Brod from the captain’s left hand. “Typical,” he added.

That practically amused him, Abigail thought. And then, sensing his emotions, but not too much. I guess that’s good.

They watched, distress growing in the pit of every stomach, as the marauder loosed a volley at the shuttle as it shot its way around the planet’s northern polar region to escape the attack. As the observed the little silver glint crest the planet’s apex, the first torpedo clipped the McCloud’s starboard nacelle, the other two torpedoes speeding past and into the void.

“Da Silva, fire at will.”

A searing bolt lanced across the dark and sliced a long, lateral shot across the top of the sweeping ship’s largest section. It rocked under the impact, but the Ferengi shields held.

Even at red alert, with status reports being shouted from all corners of the bridge, Captain Abigail Ralin remained focused on the two junior crewmen at the forward position, the conn and ops stations. Practically cadets. She could the fear radiating off of them. Plenty of young Starfleet members had been jittery, unfocused, wracked with trauma in the wake of Frontier Day — but this felt different.

From the tactical station behind her, Abigail heard Melanie’s report reach her through her concentration. “The shuttle’s being pulled into orbit, Captain. They’ll crash if they can’t—” 

Abigail cut her off. “Pursuit course, ready the tractor beam.”

“Aye, sir.”

Al surveyed the console at his command chair. He leaned sideways toward Abigail and said quietly, “Captain, we don’t know their condition. They might be able to fly out. We’re leaving our flank exposed.”

She appraised him. He was genuine, but frustrated.

“Captain,” Prek said before she could reply, “If we can break their shields, their DaiMon will negotiate.”

Another voice came across the intraship comms. “Captain,” said Commander Joel Bush.

Abigail wanted to laugh. Instead, she let out a measured sigh. “Yes, Commander.”

“Captain, I know we’re all new here, but could you please let me know before we fly into combat… Sir?”

Al — and Prek — suddenly grew very worried about Abigail’s ability to sense their emotions.

Damn, she thought. He’s right. 

“Anything else, Commander?”

“Yes, Captain. Could you please tell whoever’s at the ops station to reroute the EPS conduits away from auxiliary systems if you want your ventral shields to have a snowball’s chance on Vulcan of surviving a direct assault?”

There was a small moment of stillness on the bridge as each officer processed the information.

“Ops!” Abigail intoned. “Explain.”

The young man at the forward port station stammered for a few seconds before his words coalesced into something close to a sentence.

“I’m sorry, Captain, I forgot— I failed to initiate—”

Al cut him off as he rose from his seat and leaned over the ops station.

“No problem, Crewman,” he said, though his voice held a faint quiver. “Watch me.” He began input commands rapidly. “Just make sure you don’t forget again.”

“Shield modulation in progress, Captain,” Melanie reported.

Prek spoke quietly. “That means we’re vulnerable for a few more seconds, Captain.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant,” she said equally quietly. Then she spoke to the room. “Tractor range?”

Melanie responded by simply counting down. “Three. Two–”

Al returned to his seat just in time for the impact to nearly throw him out if it.

“Report!” Abigail barked as they regained their composure.

“Direct hit to the stardrive section, Captain. Ventral shields are at 10 percent.”

“Captain!” Shouted the helmsman, Cohen. “The nav deflector is down, I have to fly by hand.”

“Steady as she goes,” Al replied.

“Ralin to Engineering.”

“Bush here.”

“I need a tractor beam now.”

Bush didn’t have anymore time to jaw over the comms, though he yearned to lodge a few dozen complaints. For now, all he said was “Aye, Captain.”

Ralin eyed that viewscreen. The shuttle hadn’t yet breached the atmosphere. They continued to race toward it. “Da Silva, fire at will.”

The screeching burst of the torpedo of the torpedo launch alert rang out, and a sortie of three photon torpedoes  each landed squarely against the fluttering, failing shields of Ferengi ship.

“Their shields are damaged,” Melanie reported before adding to her uppercut with a dizzying jab from the phaser banks.

“Tractor status,” Abigail asked.

Al glanced at his armrest console and, when the ops duty officer failed to respond, he spoke up. “It’s powering up, looks like Bush pulled some magic.”

Abigail gave him a hopeful glance and felt him appreciate it.

“Now, Captain!” he said finally.

“Da Silva!”

The blue fan of energy stretched out and clutched the shuttle. A ripple of relief spread over the crew before they returned their attention to their pursuers, who sent another harsh shot, this time across Mount Shasta’s dorsal section, as the marauder rose to target the saucer. Sparks sputtered from an overhead panel on the bridge, but Melanie remained focused on targeting the weakest parts of the enemy vessel. As she scanned, however, she realized something that made her blood run cold.

“They’re targeting the shuttle again—”

The words were barely out of her mouth before a phaser beam pierced the already damaged nacelle, triggering an explosion that violently knocked the McCloud out of the grasp of its home ship. The tractor beam flickered and disappeared.

“Pursuit course, reestablish tractor lock!”

Abigail could feel Al reeling from the order.

“Captain—” he began, before he was again interrupted, or perhaps joined in complaint, by Prek.

“One good shot, and they’ll send us into a tailspin, too. Or destroy half the ship.”

Abigail didn’t have time to equivocate. The pressure was mounting, it was baring down with its incredible weight. She looked right at Al and spoke quietly.

“The crew is my top priority.”

Al’s eyes softened.

“Captain!” Prek shouted, unmoved, “There’ll be no crew to protect!”

Her eyes still locked on Al, she simply nodded once. “Hit them as hard as you can,” she told Melanie.

Another salvo of torpedoes fractured their shields, and the marauder powered down its weapons. Before they hailed the Ferengi, Abigail looked up to Melanie.

“Ensign. The shuttle?”

The breath caught in Melanie’s throat. She cleared her throat. “They’ve entered the atmosphere. We couldn’t catch them with the tractor if we tried.”

Abigail stood. “Ganbold, I want you leading a search and rescue party. Prek, you’re with him.”

Al rose, too. He took a long deep breath. When Abigail turned to look at him, genuinely surprised — perhaps even hurt? — that he didn’t respond affirmatively and immediately, he finally spoke up.

“Captain,” he said, clearly pained, “I have to protest this course of action.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning we don’t know that those Ferengi won’t fire again, or that they don’t have friends in the neighborhood.”

“Or,” Prek said, rising to join them, “Whether they already have friends waiting to ambush the McCloud and their rescuers on the surface. We didn’t even know this world had life. And it looks practically like Genesis.”

Abigail was more dumbfounded and frustrated than angry. They weren’t wrong. As she considered, Al tried to pull her along.

“If anyone can keep them alive, it’s Skell.”

“That’s his whole job,” she admitted.

“We have to trust in them, Captain.”

She sat, and the other two followed, exchanging agitated looks.

“Hail Starfleet,” she said. “Full report. Keep the Ferengi ship in your sights, Da Silva, and stand down to yellow alert.”

“Aye,” Melanie said as a flurry of work continued, the bridge officers reorienting their work.

Abigail continued. “Hail the Ferengi vessel and request their surrender. No conditions.”

“Aye, Captain.”

“And Number One, Mister Prek,” she said finally, “I’d like to see you in my ready room. Now.”