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Old November 29 2012, 08:11 AM   #88
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 4 continued)

Chapter 4 <cont'd>

“Captain to the bridge,” Lightner called out, his voice carefully controlled. “The Voranti have found us.”

It had been nearly a week since Galaxy and Europa had rendezvoused inside the nebula, and in that time the engineering teams of both ships had worked tirelessly to patch the larger vessel as best they could.

T’Ser strode out of the ready room, moving to slide into the command chair as Lar’ragos gracefully vacated it.

Shanthi spoke up from the Science station. “I’m detecting eight confirmed Voranti ships, and another possible six in what looks to be a potential envelopment maneuver at the edge of our sensor range.”

T’Ser remained expressionless as she toggled the comms to Galaxy’s bridge. “Captain Scott, we’ve detected inbound Voranti hostiles. Eight confirmed, six more probable. We’re sending you our sensor telemetry.”

“Acknowledged, Europa,” Scott confirmed via audio. “We’re initiating auto-separation sequencing now. I’ll be commanding the saucer-section while Commander Worf heads up the battle-section. We’ll need the saucer’s additional torpedoes and phaser arrays.”

On the verge of arguing the point, T’Ser accepted the logic that with Galaxy’s starboard warp nacelle still under repair, there was no outrunning the Voranti at impulse. “Understood, Galaxy. Europa, out.”

She exchanged a brief, grim look with Lar’ragos who was seated to her right before activating the intraship and ordering, “All hands, stand to battle stations. Support personnel assemble at secondary action stations and prepare for emergency medical response and damage control duties.”

T’Ser called back to Verrik at the Tactical arch. “I want a full spread of photons loaded fore and aft. We’ll save our remaining quantums for when their shields are depleted to twenty percent or lower.”

Ashok surrendered the Engineering console to an enlisted rating and addressed the captain as he moved for the aft turbolift. “I’ll be monitoring the reactor core personally, sir. I would remind you that even with Captain Sandhurst’s assistance, the existing reactor assembly is still very fragile and prone to stress-related damage.”

“Copy that,” T’Ser replied. “We’ll try our best to minimize the strain on the core, Lieutenant.”

The two starships thus became three, maneuvering back to back into a triangular formation, facing outward towards their incoming opponents.

On Captain Scott’s command, a repeating message was broadcast from all three vessels, explaining the unfortunate circumstances leading up to the lethal misunderstanding that now threatened to consume all of them in a catastrophic spasm of violence. If the Voranti heard and understood the transmission, they gave no indication.

Despite Starfleet’s protests and warnings, the Voranti fleet crossed the invisible line in the sand that Scott had drawn at five-hundred kilometers distance from them. Still, they waited for the aquatic species to initiate hostilities, so that posterity could record that the Federation did not begin what might well be the final battle of the Voranti people.

At four-hundred twenty kilometers, the Voranti unlimbered their weapons and opened fire.

Europa’s phasers fanned out in lightening-quick succession, intercepting and destroying over ninety percent of the incoming missiles targeted on the explorer. Verrik replied with a brace of photons that savaged the forward shields of three incoming cruisers and left a smaller patrol craft adrift, holed amidships.

Now Verrik modulated the ship’s phaser resources, tasking some at lower power to automated missile intercept, while others were directed at full power to hammer the deflectors of the approaching craft.

The Voranti’s advance was vigorous, fueled by their righteous anger and heart-rending loss, while Starfleet’s defense was a dispassionate counterpoint. The starships engaged in a mechanically efficient application of force that selectively whittled down the numerical strength of their opponents by exploiting weaknesses as they appeared.

While the Voranti people had engaged in many running battles during their long sojourn from deep in the heart of the Delta Quadrant, and had proved quite successful in these engagements, they had never been forced into a cauldron of misery and destruction the likes of which Starfleet had survived in the Dominion War. Starfleet, despite all its protestations to the contrary, had become very good at killing when it proved necessary.

Volleys of photon and quantum torpedoes raced outwards to sunder the second wave of Voranti ships, which by now were forced to evade the glowing wreckage of their first wave of comrades during their approach.

T’Ser stood from her chair, her arms folded defensively across her chest as she watched the slaughter unfold. She sensed Lar’ragos rising to stand beside her. “They’re not going to stop, are they?” she asked him in a low tone.

“No, Captain. They’re not,” he replied with just the right amount of regret in his voice. “If we allow this to go on much longer, they’ll realize it’s a lost cause. Then they’ll move to ram us, perhaps at warp speed.”

T’Ser offered the smallest of nods in response. Taking a breath, she called out, “Computer, release level two safeties on Weapon Alpha One, authorization T’Ser-Tango-Charlie-Bravo-Seven-Oh-Five-One.”

'Alpha Weapon level two safeties disengaged,’ the computer replied obediently. ’Enter command authorization to deactivate level one safeties and to arm Weapon Alpha One.'

She did so via manual input on the XO’s console.

'Code accepted, level one safeties disengaged. Weapon Alpha One is now armed. Enter executive officer counter-authorization to initiate weapons release for firing.'

“Recognize Lieutenant Commander Pava Lar’ragos, launch authorization Aedeph-Nu’ar-Nox-It’zeam.”

'Code accepted. Weapon Alpha One has been loaded into forward tube one and is ready for launch.'

Lar’ragos took a step back, giving T’Ser the room, both physically and psychologically, necessary to make the decision to employ one of the Federation’s new nightmare devices.

There was a brief pause during which the bridge was illuminated by the violent death throes of yet another Voranti ship meeting its end in anti-matter fueled entropy.

“Mister Verrik,” T’Ser said slowly, drawing out each syllable. “Your target is the three vessel squadron at coordinates two-zero-nine, mark zero-four-zero.”

“Target locked,” he answered crisply.

“Fire Weapon Alpha One,” she commanded.

The launch tube cycled and Verrik announced, “Weapon is away.”

Seconds passed as the viewer’s tactical overlay traced the device’s trajectory towards its targets. Some fifty kilometers out from the three Voranti craft, the weapon cylinder stopped dead in space, converting its momentum into a single burst of energy that was invisible to the naked humanoid eye. The overlay registered a briefly lived sphere of gravimetric shear that encompassed all three ships for perhaps one-tenth of a second.

The visual image of the Voranti formation was marred by a distortive flicker. For a moment, T’Ser’s eyes struggled to identify what she was seeing as the ships slowly but surely began to lose cohesion, dissolving into a micro-molecular cloud of constituent elements. They crumbled like day old sandcastles in gale-force winds.

T’Ser appeared momentarily horrified, while Lar’ragos looked intrigued.

“The three ships in the targeted area have been… completely neutralized,” Shanthi said quietly, not daring to look up from his sensor display.

“Remaining Voranti vessels are coming about and executing evasive patterns, Captain,” Verrik advised.

“Maintain fire with conventional weapons,” Lar’ragos ordered after a long moment in the face of T’Ser’s awkward silence.

T’Ser retreated silently to her chair, sitting with exaggerated carefulness, her attention clearly someplace else.

“Signal Galaxy that we are engaging a pursuit course if they should care to join us,” Lar’ragos instructed

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