STAR TREK: THIRD CUTTER SQUADRON
Obion – Standing Firm
“Freedom standing by,” Lieutenant Asher stated from Tactical.
“Neera, disengage tractor beam,” ordered Captain Verj.
“Tractor beam disengaged,” confirmed Lieutenant Neera. “Freedom has tractor lock.”
On his own sensor display, Lieutenant Commander J. Ulysses Kane watched as the Excelsior-Class U.S.S. Orpheus
was towed in to one of Star Station Freedom’s empty docking ports. Since the Talarian incursion had started, four days ago, command of tactical operations was held at Starbase 375 under Vice Admiral Coburn, whilst the Border Service outpost Freedom had become the primary repair and hospital facility along the frontline. As such, the most severely damaged ships were berthed at the star station, including the Fleet ships Orpheus
and James Kirk
, as well as the hospital ship Mercy
and the cutter Peregrine
, which had survived six dah’je
ships but paid a heavy price. The only other ship in dock was the U.S.S. Silverfin
, which was undergoing a massive refit and overhaul that rendered the ship unusable for the conflict.
Behind him he heard the command chair creak, followed by the popping of Verj’s knees then her derisive snort. He looked over his shoulder and saw the heavyset Tellarite step down to join him at the Conn. A Border Dog for over forty years, she had a wrinkle and line etched onto her face for every pirate she had engaged and each ship she had helped to rescue, of all the CO’s in the Third Squadron she was the most experienced after Captain Yolix. Kane had found her to be a valuable teacher, a formidable officer and a good friend over the years he had had the pleasure of serving with her. But as enjoyable as he found her dry wit and sarcastic tongue, she was still very much a Tellarite and could be infuriatingly stubborn at times.
Ghemari emal Verj rested a hand on his shoulder. “Nice flying as always, Kane.”
“Thank you,” he said with a smile. “Any chance we’ll get some R&R this time?”
She scoffed. “Oh Kane, that’s a good sense of humour you’ve got there.”
He chuckled. It was a long-shot, but he’d needed to ask. The crew of the asteroid breaker/warp tug were used to hard work, but they needed some respite from the constant rescue and recovery operations they’d been running since the incursion had begun. Every available ship of the Third Squadron (though with the Cyclops
destroyed, the Silverfin
all but disassembled and the Peregrine
badly damaged, there weren’t many cutters left) was out on the front, shoulder to shoulder with their Fleet cousins.
The number of Fleet ships had increased over the last day, so they were starting to gain some ground and had scored a few important wins against the Talarian Republic. It still wasn’t enough to bring victory, as the Talarians had a full third of their Militia invested in the invasion, but it was enough to hold their position.
“We might have time for a drink, if so they’re on—”
She was interrupted by a priority alert from Tactical. They both looked over at the sandy haired officer manning the console.
“Asher?” Verj asked.
He looked back at them, his usually confident visage tinged with concern. “Sensors have just picked up three Talarian ships entering the system, two cruisers and one destroyer.”
From beside Kane the comm system chirped at Ops. Neera looked at the incoming comlink and then at Verj. “It’s Commander Garrett.”
“On screen,” she ordered turning back to the viewer. It took only a moment for the handsome face of Freedom’s CO to appear, like Asher, he too was worried. “I take it you’ve seen them.”
“Affirmative. None of the ships in dock are combat ready, and only two have functional warp drives. There are also no others within range. We’re on our own.”
Kane felt a cold shiver run down his spine. The Obion
was equipped with phasers and a small complement of torpedoes, but they were intended for defence or breaking up asteroids, not offensive combat. However going by the reports that he’d read about the Talarian upgrades, their destroyers were outfitted with Romulan heavy disruptor banks and Klingon photon torpedoes, whilst the cruisers had Ferengi phasers and a few had even been reported to use plasma torpedoes. The station wouldn’t be able to withstand an attack on its own, and with the crews of six ships also onboard there were a lot of people that needed to be defended.
“Commander, we will move to intercept and try to keep the destroyer busy. Can you manage the two cruisers?”
“We’ll throw everything we have at them, Captain. Freedom out.”
Verj looked around at the small Bridge and the four other crewmembers on duty. “Batten down the hatches. Red alert. Sound battlestations.”
She moved quickly back to her chair and sat down as the klaxons wailed. “Kane, intercept course.”
As soon as she’d said to Garrett what she planned to do, he’d locked the coordinates into the navicomp. “Course laid in, maximum impulse on standby.”
moved to meet the three hostiles, the crew readying for battle. He cast a looked at the jade-green Orion beside him and was surprised to see a smile on her face, but then again Neera was a scrapper—it was rare for them to put in somewhere and for her not
to get into trouble with security.
As they approached, Kane kept the crew apprised of time to intercept. Behind him he heard Asher ready their weapons and reinforce their shields, whilst Neera locked down systems and organised damage control teams.
“Weapons range in thirty seconds.”
“Kane, keep us on course directly for the destroyer then takes us right over the top of her, all available power to the engines—but stay close to them. Asher, adjust shield geometry to give us as much protection up front as possible. Neera, ready tractor emitter one.”
“Aye sir,” they replied in unison. Kane was a little puzzled at her orders; he would have thought that they should have been making themselves as scarce as possible, not charging straight for them. As for the order about the tractor beam, it made little sense to him. The Obion
had six tractor beams, two forward, two aft and one each dorsal and ventral, emitter one was at the front of the ship.
Kane didn’t even need to say when they were in weapons range, as on the viewscreen all three ships opened fire. They rode through the chop and continued on course, he was ready to boost their impulse power and alter their heading the moment Verj ordered.
“Forward shields down twenty percent. Holding.”
“Standby,” was all Verj said.
The hits kept on coming, each one pounding into their shields, which weakened with every hit. As with all asteroid breakers, their hull was armoured and reinforced, Kane wasn’t sure how effective it would be against Romulan-based disruptors though. He glanced back at Verj, but she remained focused. She wasn’t a reckless CO, she knew how to handle tough situations, but unlike other cutters she’d commanded the Obion
wasn’t used to going into combat.
“Shields at forty percent!”
“Ready tractor beam and course adjustment.”
Kane and Neera nodded and sat with their hands next to the appropriate controls. His sensor panel showed that they were getting very close to the destroyer, well within the minimum specified safe distance for the use of photon torpedoes.
Kane adjusted their course by only a fraction of a degree, just enough to keep from colliding, and ramped up their impulse power, while their tractor beam locked onto the front of the destroyer. The Obion
had a powerful set of impulse engines, not as good as those on an Albacore-Class cutter, but definitely better than what the destroyer was using. With their tractor beam locked on, they wrenched the hostile ship off course. The tug jolted and groaned under the sudden clash of momentums, but ultimately won out. As the destroyer pitched upwards the two flanking cruisers continued on towards the station.
“Cut tractor. Evasive pattern theta-six. Phaser, target weapons and engines.”
Kane quickly turned the tug away from the destroyer and down the z-axis, as Asher fired off the first volley of beams from their type-ten arrays. As he switched to another manoeuvre sequence, he couldn’t help but be impressed by Verj once again. The tug had been designed to haul bigger ships and clear debris from space lanes, so she had used one of its more prominent features to their advantage and pulled off something they had never expected.
“Sensor show they have hull strain throughout their forward sections,” Neera called out, her tone triumphant. Another indicator beeped on her sensor readouts and she looked at in and announced, “The station has engaged the cruisers.”
It didn’t take the destroyer long to right itself and open fire once again. Kane dodged and ducked the majority of the disruptor blasts and torpedoes, only a few found their mark. The tug shot back at every opportunity he could give Asher, as he tried to out-fly their targeting sensors. He did notice that the closer they got to the destroyed the easier it was to keep them from landing a hit, obviously whoever had supplied them with the weapons had skimped on the sensors necessary to make them truly destructive. But what they lacked in accuracy, they made up with in volume.
The Ouachita-Class tug, like her Everest-Class predecessor, was designed to be highly manoeuvrable. When he’d first come aboard, Kane had been surprised at just what the little ship was capable of, but over the years he had come to learn exactly what the ship could handle. He had never expected to put those abilities to use in full-on battle, but the Obion
dodged, turned and pitched as well as any cutter in the Squadron.
“Captain, our phasers are having little effect on their shields,” Asher announced.
“What if we switch to photons?” she asked the Second Officer.
Asher shook his head. “We only have ten photons in the mag. By the time we could do any effective damaged against their shields, we’d be out of torpedoes.”
From Ops, Neera stated, “Captain, Freedom’s shields are down to seventy percent.”
The ship shook when a disruptor beam skimmed the edge of their shields. She looked around at the rest of the Bridge crew. “Options.”
Kane racked his brain for an idea. Given time the Obion
could continue to out-fly the destroyer and wear down their shields bit-by-bit, but the station might not last that long against two powerful opponents.
“Captain, I could modify a deflector dish to emit a resonance pulse, at the inverse frequency of their shield modulation,” Neera said quickly, her words almost tripping over each other. “If we get the right setting, it may open up gaps in their shield bubble.”
“Will it work?” he asked her.
“With so many of their systems cobbled together from other species, they might not be as reliable as originally designed, so it might work.”
“Do it!” Verj ordered as the ship shook again.
“Aye,” the Orion called, already making the modifications.
As Neera worked on her plan, Kane kept the ship moving, ducking and diving, missing the worst of the hits, whilst Asher kept their phasers firing. Kane also kept an eye on his tactical display which showed the station and the two cruisers, as well as telemetry on shield integrity and weapons output. Freedom was holding its own for now. Though armed, it hadn’t been since the Talarian Border Wars that the star station had needed to use its weaponry. Had even one of the ships in dock been able to fight their odds would have been better, but previous engagements had rendered them all useless.
“Deflector dishes ready,” announced Neera. “I’m going to have all three running through different spectrums; it should make it faster for us to lock onto the correct one.” She looked over her shoulder at Verj. “We will have to remain on a direct course though, sir.”
“Shields double front, Lieutenant, and have photons loaded and ready. Kane, keep us straight and steady. Engage deflectors at you discretion.”
Kane swung them around in a wide arc, missing a volley of Klingon torpedoes, before pointing the Obion
directly at the destroyer and engaging the impulse drive. On the viewscreen, three amber beams appeared from the tug and impacted on the Talarians shields. The beams remained constant, as Neera worked furiously next to him, her green fingers a blur as she adjusted and analysed the results of the beams.
It took the destroyer only a few seconds to reacquire their target, coming in from port, and open fire. Slowly they turned to face the tug, so as to make use of their most powerful disruptors.
Kane had to fight the instinct to alter their heading, pull off some crazy new sequence of manoeuvres that would keep them safe. It was unnatural for him to just sit and take a beating, and this was the second time they’d done so in less than ten minutes.
“Shields at forty percent,” stated Asher. The ship jolted hard. “Thirty-three and falling.”
“Neera?” Verj asked, gripping the armrest of her chair.
“Just a few more seconds, Captain.”
“Shields at twenty-six percent.”
The tense seconds counted down, but still Neera didn’t have any luck. Kane was ready to break off their heading the instant Verj gave the order, but he held back suggesting they alter course, wanting to give the Ops Manager every possible moment.
Suddenly her console gave an optimistic chirp. “Got it!” she called out. “Adjusting all three beams to match.”
“Asher, ready torpedoes; maximum yield. Target their warp core.”
“Target locked,” he confirmed. “Shields down to eighteen percent.”
On screen, the Talarian’s shields flickered and crackled. They launched another three torpedoes, all of which crashed into the Obion
and caused the beam on the right of the screen to dim.
“They’ve hit one of the plasma conduit junctions; I’m losing power to the starboard deflector dish. I can’t get any more out of it.”
“Asher, have you got a clear target?”
“I can’t get their warp core, but their antimatter pods are unshielded.”
“Lock on and fire!”
It took Asher just a few seconds to change target and launch three torpedoes, followed up by a barrage of phaser beams. Each strike found its mark and carved into the unshielded hull and volatile antimatter within. The brilliant explosion that flared out into space lasted only a moment, before being extinguished by the vacuum of space. When Kane could look at the viewscreen again, he saw that the ship hadn’t been completely destroyed, but rather it had been blown into two distinct sections, every deck exposed to space. Smaller explosions rippled throughout the hostile ship, plumes of fire bursting out of the ship before going out.
“Kane, bring us about, head for the station. Tactical status.”
“Our shields are at ten percent. Starboard phasers are out due to damaged plasma junction, all others fully charged. Seven torpedoes remain, already loaded.”
“The station’s shields are down to forty percent, weapons fully operational. No structural damage,” Neera added. “One cruiser’s shields are at seventy percent, they also have buckling along the port nacelle. The second’s shields are down to fifty percent, their forward torpedo launchers are out as is their main impulse drive.”
“Kane, adjust course towards the second cruiser. Neera, hail the station, tell them to concentrate fire on that ship. Asher, we’ll need all those torpedoes.”
“Adjusting heading. Weapons range in twenty-one seconds.”
“The stations confirmed orders, sir. They say they’ll open fire as soon as we’re in range.”
Kane kept his eye on the proximity sensors, watching as they got closer and closer to target. The Talarians were increasing their firing on the station, no doubt wanting to do as much damage as possible before their reinforcements got into range. When they were nine seconds away, the first cruiser manoeuvred away from Freedom towards the Obion
, trying to block their advance.
“Evasive sequence kappa.”
He smiled to himself as he input the new command. The tug feigned a move to starboard and the cruiser followed, her forward weapon banks glowing. At the last second, he slammed the ship into a tight port roll and boosted impulse power. They shot past the cruiser, which fired into empty space.
“We’re in range of the second ship,” he announced as soon as they were past the cruiser.
’s launched the first of her remaining photon torpedoes, as she did Star Station Freedom opened fire as well. The two volleys of torpedoes pummelled the damaged cruiser, which didn’t have the engines necessary to evade them. It didn’t take long for the station and ship to collapse their shields and score several direct hits, crippling the ship to the point where she was no longer a threat.
“Captain,” said Neera, a wicked smile across her face, “the first ship is turning tail. They’ve gone to warp, heading for the border.”
“Lock on tractor beams, Lieutenant. It looks like we have ourselves some POWs. Kane, get a boarding team together and secure their Bridge.”
“Aye sir,” he replied quickly getting to his feet and heading for the aft turbolift. “Mr Asher, you’re with me.”