Mandel Morrison stared out the window of the forward-most section of the Lambda Paz
. Debris floated by the viewport. It was too small and too burnt to be able to identify as coming from a Starfleet or allied ship or whether it was the remains of an enemy ship. The war seemed so pointless when seeing so much death and destruction right outside the window of his ship. And for what? So that the citizens of the Federation who would survive this war could continue to live under the precepts of individual freedom and self-determination? How many would lose their lives before it was over? And who was to say whether the Federation and its Klingon and Romulan allies would win? Morrison asked himself over and over again whether, as the Borg would put it, resistance was futile.
His mind kept going back to the Paracelsus
and how it struck a mine while trying to ferry the wounded and the dying out of the killing zone. Mandel learned a very painful lesson years ago that not all sentient beings believed in humanity’s long-standing rules of war. Inevitably, non-combatants were casualties of war. But that did not excuse purposely causing the deaths of such persons, nor did it stop him from feeling sick to his stomach that all those people on the hospital ship died so suddenly.
Lisa Neeley slowly approached the window. Mandel saw her reflection cast on the transparent aluminum and gave her a light grin while keeping his gaze at the vastness of space. “Sucks, doesn’t it?” she rhetorically asked.
Morrison smiled lightly, but that hardly assuaged his somber mood over the destruction of the Paracelsus and all the lives aboard it. He shook his head trying to shake off all the negative feelings that passing debris had triggered. “Is it worth it?” he asked, turning to face Neeley.
“You bet it is,” Lisa plainly answered. “We are fighting to preserve one of the greatest organizations ever conceived. How many times in Earth’s history have we been reminded that we have to fight for what we believe in against those who don’t share our sense of right and wrong?”
“I’ve heard the speech before,” Morrison said. “It never gets any easier though.”
“Are you able to return to duty?”
Mandel’s grin quickly became a suspicious glare. “Kozar sent you, didn’t he?” he asked, half-jokingly.
“Was I that obvious?” Lisa said with shrug. “Logan wasn’t too pleased that you left your post, but Kozar said you needed to vent in your way.”
“Logan,” Mandel said with a roll of his eyes. “Goddamned stickler. He’s glad that outranking me now actually means something ever since what happened at Coridan. He’s never aspired to be a starship captain, but he gets a perverse pleasure in reminding lower-ranking officers with more command experience that he outranks them.”
Lisa grinned, but found herself at a loss for words. His sense of humor was returning, which was a good sign. She and Mandel both stared out the window during a long and awkward silence, basking in the beauty of this expanse of space that wasn’t at all diluted by the passing scraps of debris. The two stared soulfully into each other’s eyes. Knowing what was coming next, Lisa diverted her gaze towards the window. Her ominous expression elicited Mandel to see what had her worried.
Several flickers of light that were not there before were growing closer and brighter. As if he had timed to the second, Morrison raised he heard Kozar’s voice after the chime. “All hands to battle stations.”
Further down a corridor, Morrison and Neeley soon reached a turbolift. The wait seemed to last forever. This time, they kept their gazes at the lift door to avoid any more awkward silences. But without warning, the ship rocked several times. Morrison was now hoping that whoever was at tactical could keep the ship in one piece until he could get to the bridge. Another hit, and the air was hissing out of the entire section. He and Lisa grasped the walls of the corridor as they held their breaths, hoping not to be blown out into the vacuum of space before the emergency forcefield kicked in.
Morrison wanted to run back towards the observation area to try to save the people he had seen pass by earlier. But Neeley was holding him back. They were beyond saving as far as she was concerned. All she could do was save herself and Mandel. Almost instantaneously, the flying debris that was destined for the vastness reaches of space fell to the floor as the area repressurized indicating the emergency forcefield had activated.
Before they could even gather themselves from that near death experience, the ship took another hit sending the two officers down different ends of the corridor. Another hit by enemy weapon’s fire sent Neeley to the deck, leaving her powerless to stop a girder from impaling her in the abdomen.
“Neeley!” Morrison cried out with a look of horror in his face. All that was on his mind in that brief moment was whether another Starfleet Marine commander had just died on his watch.
A team of engineers had taken the wreckage of a number of destroyed Starfleet, Klingon, and Romulan vessels aboard the Lambda Paz
. The engineering officers and technicians were tasked with salvaging any usable technology from the destroyed ships to use as spare parts for any ships in the Zhamur system that were still functional. Each of them was in the process of either scanning the debris with tricorders or using padds to input inventory data.
Shinar sh’Aqba entered the bay with Commander Karlek close behind. He was one of a small handful of Klingon soldiers found in a passing escape pod after his ship was destroyed in a skirmish with the Jem’Hadar. Sh’Aqba had asked him to assist in the salvage efforts. Although reluctant because he had chosen to abandon his own ship, Karlek had decided to lend a hand in order to make himself useful. Sh’Aqba had further persuaded him as a way to repay her for allowing Karlek’s ship to last as long as it did.
“How many of my crew survived?” Karlek inquired, scooping a piece of debris that remained of his vessel.
“Ten from the escape pods we found,” sh’Aqba said while she reviewed an inventory taken by one of the officers. She then gave the human officer back the padd and ordered him to proceed with the repair schedule. “We’re still looking for others, but the longer the rest of your crew is missing… “
“They died with honor, Lieutenant,” Karlek interrupted. “Nothing more could be asked of them. In different times, I would have gone down with my ship. But we need our best warriors that are still standing to live to fight another day.”
“I’m glad you are still with us, Commander,” sh’Aqba said nervously.
She bit her lips trying not to sound like she was flirting with the Klingon. They were both officers who prided themselves on keeping their personal and professional lives separate. Shinar had even gone as far to forsake familial obligations in order to serve her ship and the Seventh Fleet. She had never believed in the rather archaic traditions of marriage on her home planet of Andor, but she understood their merits in the midst of declining birth rates threatening the survival of the species. The Klingons, she knew, had rather strict traditions as well and did not think Karlek would take kindly to being propositioned by someone betrothed to another, should he ever learn of her marital obligations.
“All hands to battle stations,”
came the voice of Commander Kozar via a shipwide page.
“We’ll have to continue this at another time,” sh’Aqba told Karlek while watching the rest of the engineering crew quickly file out of the cargo bay. “Do you have a new ship assignment?”
“The Bird-of-Prey Tigoth
needs senior officer replacements,” Karlak replied. “The captain is a capable leader, but he doesn’t have very much battle experience… “
The banter was interrupted the deck shook. Both sh’Aqba and Karlek were able keep their balance while seeing that everyone else in the cargo bay had left. Another hit rocked the room even harder. Karlek fell to his back while an eruption of sparks near the wide double-doors knocked out sh’Aqba.
The Lambda Paz
was under heavy fire from plasma torpedoes of a Jem’Hadar battleship in front of her while two Jem’Hadar were firing disruptors at the ship’s warp nacelles from aft. Quantum torpedoes pierced the hulls of the battleship, but it kept coming. Though the Lambda Paz
’s phasers and two flanking Birds-of-Prey were able to take out the fighters, another squad of three fighters picked up where the previous two left off.
The Lambda Paz
was on her own against a large wave of ships with little in the way of reinforcements.