As promised, here's Act II of "Damn the Torpedoes! Part III"
Saleb caught up with Ariel as she made her way down to Cargo Bay Two. Captain Leone ordered the cargo bay converted to be used as a bunkhouse for the Kasui troops. Although they offered Troopleader Bertas use of the many staterooms available aboard the ship, he found them to be far too opulent for his men, and they required something more Spartan to promote the close-order infantry education he pursued with them.
"Good afternoon, Commander," he said as he fell into step with her. Saleb gave her a grin, and she replied in kind. "Off to see the Troopleader?"
Ariel suddenly skipped along the corridor and sang, "The Wonderful Troopleader of Kasui."
Taken aback, Saleb inquired, "Are you all right?"
"Sorry, just a little joke. Old Earth humor," she giggled. "Yes, I'm on my way to let him know we're ready to move into position for deployment."
"I see. I couldn't help but notice that you've managed to take a majority of the Kasui men in hand."
She smiled gamely. "In my somewhat limited experience, I've found that men are generally guided by universal constants. One of them is usually located somewhere around their genitalia."
"Obviously, you're right."
"Of course, I am."
Saleb chuckled at her confidence. "I suppose with your experience, you've gained some wisdom. And a stellar sense of self."
"Oh, how so?"
"Well, for one, you seem to have little compunction for your captain prostituting you to further her own aims. One might assume that she cares little for her officers to abuse them in such a manner. Is that typical of Starfleet captains?"
He never saw it coming. One moment he was walking alongside her and the next, he felt the painful and loud slap of his back against the nearest bulkhead; Ariel's arm underneath his neck, threatening to choke him. Saleb didn't know what to find more surprising: her speed or her strength. The fury in her eyes drained all the self-assuredness he had prior to his verbal misstep, and the lack of air into his lungs prevented speech. He could only wheeze in pain, his arms reaching up to grab at hers.
She wouldn't budge.
With a humorless smirk on her face, she informed him through gritted teeth, "I might find you amusing at times, Mister Saleb, and I'm sure you think you're a charming little man, but you don't get to disparage Krystine without a little punishment."
He gasped out, "Sorry!"
Ariel relented, letting his feet touch the deck again. "I suppose I'll let you live, since you're new to this ship."
Saleb's hand rubbed at his throat. "I apologize profusely, Commander. I had no idea..."
She adjusted her uniform, as it had bunched up at the midsection with her arms raised up as they were before. With a quick tug on the jacket, it smoothed out with a snap. "You do, now. Keep it in mind."
With his eyes wide, he nodded. "Most certainly."
The lieutenant commander, for whom he now had elevated respect for, continued her brisk stride down the corridor as though nothing had happened. Her demeanor appeared to hold no malice toward him or anyone else; she moved as though she had no care in the world. When she noticed he drifted behind her, she smiled at him. "Are you coming?"
Unsure of his footing with her, he asked meekly, "May I?"
"Sure," she said, confused by his sudden shyness. "Look, you apologized. As long as you don't fuck up, I'm not going to bite your head off."
Saleb pressed his lips together and approached her. "My neck and I will try to avoid... 'fucking up.'"
"Good. It's the aim of us all, wouldn't you say?"
"Agreed." He said, hesitantly, "I suppose you and Captain Leone have a more dynamic relationship than I've perceived."
They stopped moving just outside the entrance to the cargo bay, where her hands flittered over the control panel. The door parted with a loud sliding noise, and Ariel turned to him. "You have no idea."
Farragut's shields flared under the impact of the crystalline torpedoes. The explosive shards reflected off and away from the ship. Inside, however, the ship took the brunt of the impact as the inertia dampening systems lagged slightly. The three Tristnor ships moved to swarm up toward the Federation heavy cruiser, making sure to do whatever was necessary to deter them from their goal.
Leone's hands gripped the sides of her chair to steady her through the lurching of the hull. "Damage report."
Petra quickly replied, "Shields holding at ninety-three percent. No other damage to ship systems, sir."
"Evasive pattern omega," ordered Leone quickly. "Wilson, how close are we to the facility?"
"Close enough, but we'll have to time this right," he replied. "More torpedoes inbound, Captain. The facility does not appear to have any weapons that I can see, but that minefield's got to come down before we can star transporting the troops aboard."
"First things first," said the captain. "They seem to be following some sort of coordinated pattern of attack." She pointed to the tactical display on the screen. "Like a trio of insects, attacking from all sides at once." Another lurch of the deck as a torpedo collided with the shields brought her hand back down to brace her.
"Captain, the Second Battle of Keldan Prime," called Greg. "I remember it from my Starfleet Tactics class."
She searched inward for any memory of that battle. "Go on, Greg."
"Three-to-one odds. Three Klingon D-7s versus the Excalibur during the first Klingon war."
Wilson snapped his fingers. "Right! The tractor beam!"
Leone shook her head, having no clear memory of the tactic, but she placed her confidence in theirs. "Coordinate your efforts, gentlemen. Greg has the conn."
Greg's shock was written all over his face. "Sir?!"
"You heard me. You know it better than I do."
"A-Aye, sir. Uh, Lieutenant Nieves, sir? I'm going to bank us hard about in ten seconds. I should put the emitter within range of the first vessel, and then we'll jump out at full impulse power with the third."
Wilson grinned. "I'm looking forward to it, Lieutenant. At your command."
Greg began to count it off, and Leone noted the tremor in the young man's voice. When the countdown reached one, the ship rolled very suddenly, keeping the same side to each ship as they maneuvered around Farragut. "Now, Lieutenant!"
"Activating tractor beam," announced Wilson. The beam lanced out and grabbed hold of one of the ships.
"Reversing roll maneuver," said the helmsman as his hands flew across the console. The Tristnor vessel locked in their grip moved with them... and into the hull of the other Tristnor ship moving in the opposite direction.
"Releasing tractor beam."
"Moving to the direct us to the other ship."
"Activating the tractor. We've got him."
"Reversing course, full impulse," reported Greg. "This may get a little bumpy, folks."
On the screen, the two Tristnor ships seemed to scrape and vibrate against one another until it became too much. The hulls of both the ships gave way as both of them attempted to alter their course away from one another, but without the benefit of knowing which way the other would go, they made the wrong decision and intensified the collision with disastrous results. Both ships disintegrated as fragments flew in all directions, like two shattered mirrors colliding at high speed.
Farragut shuddered under the impact of two more torpedoes fired from the vessel they had a hold of. "Greg..." warned Leone.
"Aye, sir," replied Greg. He called back to Wilson, "Lieutenant, we should be able to dispatch this guy with a couple of torpedoes, now."
"With pleasure." She heard the near-glee in Wilson's tone as he spoke. "Torpedoes away!"
And away they were, as yet again the hulls of the enemy vessel proved ineffective against the antimatter warheads of their photon torpedoes. The tractor released them and the remaining Tristnor vessel drifted, powerless.
"Any sign of a power buildup in their core, Wilson?" asked Leone.
"No, sir. Not that I can see, so far. It's possible we might have disabled their command computer."
"Or killed their command crew," offered Greg.
Wilson leaned forward. "Should we finish them off, sir?"
Leone considered that thought, but Starfleet regulations were clear. "No. They're in no position to mount a defense, right now. But, it gives me an idea." She tapped the communications control on her chair. "Bridge to Elannis."
"Elannis, here. Go ahead, Captain."
"Commander, is Troopleader Bertas with you?"
"Yes, sir. Along with Mister Saleb."
"Good. Troopleader, we have a Tristnor vessel dead in space. Would you like to add a ship to your faction's collection?"
Bertas' gravelly voice seemed to bounce off the bulkheads. "It would be my pleasure to take such a prize off of your hands. I can have a platoon ready for transport shortly."
"Very good. Commander, take them to the nearest transporter room and stand by to beam them out." The captain ordered, "Wilson, as soon they're beamed aboard, we move to our primary objective."
"Yes, sir. Have you any thoughts as to how to dispatch the minefield?"
Leone tapped her fingers along the side of her chair, but Ariel was still coordinating the troops below decks. "Since the lot of us seem to be taking our cues from the past... Wilson, do you remember the Battle of Vorkado?"
Wilson grinned. "I'm on it, sir." He slapped his commbadge. "Mister Reynolds, I need another two torpedoes, double-yield."
The chief warrant officer replied in good humor. "Right away, Lieutenant. Give me sixty seconds and they'll be ready in the forward tubes."
As soon as the channel closed, Wilson chuckled. "Everyone should have a chief warrant like that."
"I'll make sure to put one in your Christmas stocking this year," Leone remarked out of the side of her mouth. "I have the conn," she added, realizing that she hadn't yet taken her back from Greg. "Well done, Greg."
"I follow in your fine example, Captain," oozed Greg.
Leone bristled at the shameless display of flattery, but Wilson managed to get in a choice phrase. "Little something on your nose, Lieutenant."
Greg reached up to brush at it, and then turned his head to fix Wilson with a glare when he realized the joke.
They didn't have to wait long when Reynolds contacted the bridge to let them know the torpedoes were ready for use.
"Fire when ready, Wilson," ordered Leone.
"Aye, sir. Firing torpedo number one." The torpedo advanced quickly and entered the minefield. Wilson said nothing. The phaser beam lanced out and hit the torpedo with deadly accuracy, causing the casing to breach and the warhead to explode with its double-yield warhead taking out a majority of the mines on the one side of the facility.
"Damage to our target?"
Wilson scanned the station quickly. "Minimal. No signs of fracturing."
"Very well. Continue."
"Aye, sir. Firing torpedo number two." The same phaser beam lanced out and impacted against the torpedo, causing another large chunk of the minefield to explode prematurely. The collective energy being released looked very impressive on the screen.
Leone smiled, rising up from her seat. As she was about to give the order to proceed, Wilson interrupted her.
"We have a new problem!"
Wilson's tone was urgent. "The facility is building up a power overload. They're going to self-destruct!"
"Greg, full impulse. Get us within transporter range!" She whirled back around to face the viewscreen. If the facility destroyed itself, it would take the only way home with it.
I'm working on Act III, don't fret!
Comment is invited.