From the Ashes
Distant stars whizzing by along with purple colored clouds of dust: the outskirts of the nebula.
A probe was sliding into view, followed by a graceful nose, leading up to the cockpit with a pilot handling instruments in front of him, the fuselage behind the cockpit swelling, extending into sleek triangular wings, heavily loaded with weapons, two enormous impulse exhaust ports were spewing flames.
The fighter was at the front of a large formation of identical vessels, riding the wake slightly above and behind their mothership, USS Rabin, which was travelling at high warp. In the cockpit of the leading fighter, the squadron commander, a calm, steady and confident officer, dimly illuminated by the tactical displays projected onto the canopy in front of him, was listening to the ship’s communication over an open channel.
On the Rabin’s bridge, the tension of the crew was like a high-voltage current.
The tactical officer consulted his console:
“Sir, I am reading eight distinct contacts now, one heavy, probably Orion Brigand-Type cruiser and numerous frigate-sized escorts, Vishap and Buccaneer Class, they have taken a holding position directly in our flight path.”
“Open a channel”, Shelk ordered.
“Channel open, Sir.”
“This is the Federation starship Rabin. You are on a collision course with us. I request you turn to port and maintain a distance of ten kilometers from us at all times. Please acknowledge!”, the Commodore requested.
“No response, Sir”, the comm officer answered.
“Estimated time to intercept?”, Shelk inquired.
The tactical officer checked his readouts before replying:
“ETA thirty seconds, distance ten billion kilometers.”
“Keep hailing them. Stand-by all weapons.”
“Still no response, Sir. They are holding positions.”
“Steady as she goes”, Shelk told his crew.
“Fifteen seconds”, the tactical officer reported.
All members of the bridge crew stiffened. The red alert klaxon was blaring.
Suddenly the tactical console bleeped. The officer quickly checked the reading. With shock in his voice he yelled:
“New contacts. Port and starboard. Ships decloaking. Nausicaan. They are firing! Torpedo! Torpedo! Torpedo!”
“Evasive maneuver! Brace for impact!”, the Commodore quickly ordered.
“All hands! Brace! Brace! Brace!”, the First Officer warned over shipwide communications.
On every deck of the ship the crew rapidly took brace positions, clutching consoles and walls, shortly before the ship quaked heavily when half a dozen photon torpedos slammed into her lateral shields on both sides, the impact disrupted the delicate harmonics of the warp field, it made the ship violently drop out of warp, rebounding and lurching furiously almost to a standstill.
Now deep within the nebula, surrounded by gloomy veils of mist, electromagnetic discharges crackling everywhere, the USS Rabin was boxed in from three sides. The Nausicaan ships on both flanks began to engage, while the other hostile ships which had blocked the Rabin’s path broke formation and spread out into a wide arc and commenced firing their disruptor weapons. Their beams sliced into the shields of the Starfleet ship’s primary hull, the impacts created ripples traveling across the shield grid.
“Warp engines are down. Shields at 75 percent!”, the engineering officer stated.
“Helm, full impulse, come about to port, 270-Mark-215. Target the nearest enemy ship and return fire. Strike leader, you are clear to engage!”, Shelk commanded.
The young ensign at the helm station tapped on his console and entered the data.
The ship accelerated and made a hard left turn, diving into a set of clouds while her massive dorsal phaser banks fired a series of blasts against the enemy frigates.
The cluster of tiny Federation fighters divided into groups and turned towards the attacking Nausicaan ships, opening up with phaser cannons. The Nausicaan vessels, their shape resembling horizontal stingrays, scrambled and turned, moving their forward weapons bays into firing position. Their disruptor beams obliterated two of the fighters, before the shields of the first Nausicaan raider gave away, a salvo of torpedoes from several fighters made it explode.
The nebula was now becoming the crowded stage for a violent dance, a chaotic ballet of starships, sweeping around each other, maneuvering for position, evading, attacking, firing constantly on this three-dimensional battlefield, their battle cries were a cacophony of beam weapons whizzing, torpedo launchers popping, detonations roaring, the lucid glow of particle beams was brightening the dark sky, criss-crossing like the lances of a futuristic joust.
“Comms, send a general distress call to every ship in the sector, we are under attack by hostile ships and give our position”, the Commodore told the young comm officer.
The ship shuddered from another impact.
“Sir, interference from the nebula is messing up our sensors, automatic weapons lock may be failing”, the tactical officer declared from his post behind the captain’s chair.
“Acknowledged, Lieutenant. Adjust manually if necessary”, Shelk told the man.
While the Rabin banked and swung wildly, trying to avoid incoming fire, one of the Nausicaan raiders closed in from behind her with the Brigand cruiser and two pairs of Orion and Gorn vessels swarming her from the front.
“Hostile directly behind us, he is firing!”
The ship rocked again. A shower of sparks rained from the wall-mounted consoles in the rear of the bridge.
“Full spread of torpedoes, all aft launchers, fire!”, Shelk instructed.
The weapons pod launched four photon torpedoes in rapid succession which hit the pursuing Nausicaan and disabled him.
A silver flash, a fighter was racing by, cannons blazing, an enemy torpedo came right into its path, the pilot spotting it too late, he smacked his instruments, the thrusters kicked in, the craft screamed into a tight turning roll, but the wingtip made slight contact with the projectile, the fighter’s shields absorbing most of the energy, though sending it into a tumble, the torpedo broke up and exploded.
Meanwhile the four frigates engaging from the front met USS Rabin with a heavy barrage of disruptor fire, the fierce yellowish beams pierced the forward shields and mowed into the dorsal hull, the resulting explosive decompression in that area ripped off the paneling containing the ship’s hull registry.
Rabin’s bridge crew were almost knocked off their seats by the brutal tremors. At her engineering station the duty officer was alarmed by the sight of her console, a section of the diagram showing the ship’s deflector shields blinked warningly.
She turned her head towards the captain’s chair and shouted:
“Forward shields failing. Hull penetration on Decks 6 and 7, sections 1 through 4.”
“Send medical and damage control teams to those decks. Come to starboard 180, fire all bow weapons. Helm, take us into those clouds and shake them off!”, the Commodore barked his orders.
“Yes, Sir”, the ensign responded.
The Starfleet vessel began a complete turn, her forward torpedo tubes released a burst of projectiles which hit each of the oncoming enemy ships and then the ventral phaser banks followed with deadly accuracy, impaling one Gorn craft and damaging another. The massive Orion cruiser was hobbling closer, joining in with a cannonade by its fore turrets along with torpedoes. The Rabin dove into a dust cloud, a pair of photon torpedoes raced after her, but lost their target lock and passed by harmlessly.
A group of fighters, already decimated by the clash with two Nausicaan raiders which they had just dispatched, now made a coordinated turn like a flock of birds and began an attack run against the cruiser, they fired their phaser cannons, hundreds of bursts hit the flanks of the immense vessel, its shields first lighting up from the impacts, then partially collapsing, the fighters made a close pass, their weapons punching holes into the cruiser’s hull, spraying blistering debris.
At the same time two enemy frigates were chasing after the Rabin right into the thick mist of the nebula, firing weapons blindly, their disruptor beams flashing up the clouds around them.
“We got two on our tail, Sir. I can’t get a weapons lock!”, the officer at tactical said.
Commodore Shelk, cool and intensely concentrated replied:
“Prepare a full volley, all aft launchers, set fuses to minimum proximity. Full power to aft shields.”
The two raiders came closer, one scoring a hit on the ship’s port dorsal pylon.
The tactical officer pushed a few buttons on his console, entering the commands and then rested his fingers on the starshaped firing display.
“Ready, Sir”, he said.
“Fire!”, the Commodore shouted.
Numerous photon torpedoes shot out of the weapons pod’s rear tubes in a wide arc, three of them racing by closely to the first pursuing enemy vessel, they detonated in huge balls of fire. The combined force of the antimatter explosions nearby severely damaged the frigate and put it out of action. The second raider was still in pursuit.
“Prepare for a full stop. Stand by tractor beam and all ventral phasers!”, Shelk told the crew.
“What is that supposed to achieve?”, the engineer asked in bewilderment.
“Taking the bull by the horns”, Shelk barked.
The box-shaped Gorn vessel was moving forward, pushing through the murky haze, occasionally firing its forward weapons.
Suddenly the USS Rabin appeared in a clearing in front of it, decelerating and pulling up at the same time. The Gorn ship went into a hard nosedive, trying to avoid a collision. It passed underneath and was about to overtake the Rabin which now engaged her tractor beam from an emitter on her bow, fixing the smaller ship into position before her phasers cut it to pieces.
In the meantime the Orion cruiser was in the midst of a throng of Federation fighters, its turrets shooting in all directions. The small attack craft swept past while performing their assaults, releasing torpedoes from their underwing mounts, some of them were intercepted in the rapid fire before they could reach the hull of the mammoth ship, but many were hitting their mark. Another swarm of fighters had just destroyed the last remaining Nausicaan ships with cannon fire and were just about to get into attack formation and approach the cruiser, when on Orion Buccaneer plowed right through them, four of the tiny craft were shattered on contact with the frigate’s frame.
The bridge of USS Rabin shuddered from another hit.
“What is our tactical situation, Lieutenant?”, the Commodore inquired.
The tactical officer studied the readouts of his station, the monitors flickering from the damage the ship had already sustained.
“More than half of the enemy vessels have been disabled, but the cruiser is still largely intact. Shields are down to sixty percent, regeneration can’t keep up anymore, auxiliary power is weakening. We have lost about half of our fighter complement. They are really getting hammered out there”, the officer reported.
“Bring us about, set a course for that cruiser”, Commodore Shelk ordered.
The USS Rabin veered and moved in on the cruiser, the latter’s disruptors destroyed three more fighters before a phaser blast from the Starfleet ship stunned it momentarily. But the behemoth recovered and began to match the Rabin’s course, accelerating.
Shelk tapped on a button on his chair’s armrest and opened a channel:
“Rabin to Strike group, disengage and keep your distance!”
The remaining fighters dispersed and withdrew into nearby clouds for cover.
The huge Brigant cruiser, relieved from the fighters’ charges, now made a run for its Federation opponent and opened fire with its weapons, disruptor beams streaked along the exposed warp nacelles of the Rabin, making them spew steamy plasma. The Rabin countered the assault with her phasers. It was a vicious struggle - last man standing.
“Collision course, engage at full impulse. Transfer all available power to forward shields. Prepare to execute Defensive pattern Picard-Delta-Two!”, Commodore Shelk ordered.
Right in the Rabin’s path the cruiser was moving towards her, gaining, firing, it's shields still largely swallowing the barrage discharged by the Starfleet vessel. The four remaining frigates also participated, their fire impacting the Rabin’s hull from multiple angles, weakening her shields even more. The ship pressed ahead, violently yawing and banking, dodging incoming attacks. She was firing all her forward weapons now, deadly hails of photon torpedoes left the forward bow launchers as well as the rear weapons pod, slamming into the enemy ships, the phaser arrays were rotating between targets, sending out devastating beams, which took two more raiders out of action. But the hostile onslaught was taking its toll. Hit after hit weakened the Rabin’s defenses; her primary hull, already spangled with charred burn marks, was getting perforated, entire sections were being torn out, exposing the trashed interiors underneath.
The bridge was shaking violently under the ruthless attack, the crew holding on to their stations for dear life. Monitors shattered, drizzling sparks.
“We can’t take much more of this pounding!”, the engineering officer asserted.
“Fifteen seconds to collision!”, the First Officer stated.
“Hold your course. Stand-by on my mark”, Shelk maintained.
“Forward shields failing”, came the warning from the tactical officer.
The Commodore counted down:
In the very last moment the Rabin’s thrusters activated and the ship steered left for a close lateral pass on the cruiser, she made a roll to starboard, rotating on her longitudinal axis and bringing all her dorsal weaponry to bear on her opponent for a full broadside. The phaser banks on the upper saucer were blasting away at the flank of the adversary, the weapons pod simultaneously enfiladed with torpedoes. The Rabin’s close range assault caused massive destruction on the enemy’s outer hull, ripping enormous chunks of its structure away, the cruiser began to reel, clouds of debris were drifting into space.
But when the Starfleet vessel had cleared and was about to turn, the Orion ship’s rear turrets began laying down an equally furious fire, shelling the Rabin with utmost intensity. Disruptor blasts penetrated the ship’s aft shields, two torpedoes raced after the ship, the first riddled her port impulse engine, the second blew the weapons pod to shreds, the entire structure holding the pod in place buckled and collapsed with a deafening shriek of metal. Still with a lot of momentum, but now out of control, the ship careened and finally cartwheeled.
On the bridge the entire crew went flying. Bulkheads disintegrated, console displays shattered, a plasma relay burst into flames, the ceiling lights blew out, plunging the room in darkness.
The three enemy vessels left operable, though all damaged from Rabin’s last offensive, slowly swung around for the kill.
The Commodore was struggling to get back on his feet, his bridge was in ruins, the crew bloodied and bruised, small fires were burning all around, the room was full of smoke and white steam from the automatic fire extinguishers, ruptured pipes and wiring was hanging everywhere, sparks were sputtering through the darkness and debris littered the deck.
“Damage report!”, Commodore Shelk demanded.
The engineering officer climbed back into her seat. At first the damaged console refused to give her any readings.
“The weapons pod is history. Port engine is down. Structural integrity on both pylons is failing. Six shield generators are not functional. Phasers are down to fourteen percent.”
“Full thrusters. Get us back into the clouds, Ensign”, Shelk instructed.
The Brigand cruiser was now plunging after them, firing.
The bridge rocked with another impact.
“Return fire and get us out of their range!”, the Commodore told his crew.
“Complete shield collapse imminent!”, the engineer warned.
Now the tactical officer noticed a proximity alert message on his monitor.
“New contact. Bearing 021-Mark-068, two large vessels approaching at high warp.”
The Commodore gulped with shock.
But with a relieved smile the Lieutenant triumphantly announced:
The USS Valentine and the USS Sutherland snapped out of warp and opened fire immediately with their phaser banks. The Sutherland blew one of the frigates to pieces with her first salvo and disabled the other with further blasts, sending the raider tumbling into nearby clouds, spilling burning plasma. The Orion cruiser managed to land one lucky shot on Valentine’s bow, but a quick series of her massive phaser streams disabled its shields before a triple of quantum torpedoes rocketed towards it, hitting the cruiser midships and pulverizing it in a huge sphere of flames.
On the bridge of USS Rabin, the comm officer checked her console and announced:
“We are being hailed.”
Commodore Shelk climbed back on his captain’s chair, which was tilting from the recent damage and said:
Captain White appeared on the viewscreen, the audio heavily filtered and the visual with massive static.
“Are you and your crew alright, Ghee?”
Commodore Shelk looked around for a moment, then he weakly grinned and answered:
“Sure, we’re fine. The place needs a little sweep, that’s all. I had everything under control, really. Had them right where I wanted them!”
“No doubt about it”, Captain White chuckled.
With the threat of attack eliminated the three Starfleet vessels were now holding position in the nebula. The Sutherland had secured the incapacitated USS Rabin with a tractor beam. A swarm of yellow worker bee repair shuttles were hauling spare parts into place on the Rabin’s aft section for emergency repair.
In the conference room onboard USS Valentine, the three commanding officers had congregated, Commodore Shelk, Captain White and Captain Phil Elson.
Elson was pacing the room nervously while the other two men were sitting.
“So let me get this straight: you are saying that these Section 31 people have successfully infiltrated all major institutions in the Federation and could have spies onboard each of our starships and that their leader, the Head of Starfleet Intelligence, murdered his predecessor and last but not least, the attacks by Patronage forces are nothing but ploys to deceive the citizens of the Federation and make them support their interventionist policies?”
Shelk and White looked at each other first and then back at him, nodding.
“Yeah, that’s pretty much it, really”, Shelk commented.
Elson shook his head incredulously and scoffed:
“And I suppose you can prove all this?”
“As soon as Aq’Numi is able to restore all our computer files I have the evidence to show that Commander Low sabotaged the Valentine on orders from Director Jefferson and the rest we will find onboard the cloaked vessel”, Captain White responded, trying to calm his friend.
“By the way, I would like to see the ship now, Ghee”, he continued while turning to the Commodore with an expectant look.
Shelk gave him a sheepish smile and said:
“Yeah. About that…”
White looked at him with shock in his eyes.
“Don’t tell me it was destroyed during the attack?”
“Ugh, no, you can’t just see it right now.”
“Now you are losing me, Ghee”, White countered.
“Don’t worry. I’ll show it to you soon, but we need to get back to Earth as soon as possible.”
“What about your ship? You can’t go anywhere with all that damage!”, Elson reminded him. Shelk just grinned.
“Which is exactly where you come into play, Phil. Conveniently you already have a tractor beam locked on the Rabin. I fly ahead with Jeff and you can tow my ship to the Solar system.”
Captain White nodded, liking the idea. Both men got up and began walking towards the bridge. Captain Elson however rolled his eyes in annoyance and shouted after them:
“This is the second time in a week that I have to haul one of you guys back to the drydock. My ship is not a tow truck, you know!”