Nelson Mandela, 2372
“We make it out of this in one piece and you’ve got yourself a date, mister.”
“I’ve already picked the wine.”
Maya nodded sharply. “See you on the flipside, Captain. Donners Out,” she said and terminated the link, causing Terrence Glover’s visage to disappear from the screen. She couldn’t quite keep herself from smirking. True, the man was insufferable at times but in a situation like this, even she couldn’t deny his charm entirely. She glanced back towards the forward viewports and that smirk dropped from her face. The Nelson Mandela
was just minutes away from making contact with the enemy.
The irony of the situation didn’t escape her. While she didn’t get a chance to pick her crew, Agamemnon
’s runabout had remained unnamed when she had come aboard and she had promptly christened it after one of her heroes from Earth history. A man of supreme integrity and more importantly, a man of peace. She had envisioned taking this vessel to make first contact with alien nations, to assist those in need or to carry out diplomatic missions.
Instead its first duty would be taking it into battle. She tried hard not to think what the vessel’s namesake would have thought of this if he were still alive.
She turned away from viewport and looked around the runabout’s cockpit. The vessel was crammed tight with heavily armed security personnel and Marines, most of which showing the kind of stone-faced mask of determination on their faces as one would expect from a group of people trained to fight and kill within moments of insertion into hostile territory.
This made Wayne Daystrom stand out even more. The sole officer wearing a science blue uniform instead of combat fatigues could have otherwise easily been mistaken as another combatant, considering his large frame. But his face mirrored only anxiety.
Maya stood from her chair behind the Xelation pilot and pushed herself through the crowd of armed men and women to get to her science officer. “Lieutenant, you ready for this?”
He looked up at her with a look of all too obvious insecurity and doubt. When he realized that it was the captain who had posed this question, he did his level best to appear more certain of himself. “Yes, sir,” he said after some hesitation.
She didn’t buy it for a moment. “Come with me,” she said and led him into one of the back compartments for a little bit of privacy. Once there she immediately turned to face him, fully aware that they had little time for prep talks. “Wayne, I need to be able to count on you. I know a combat mission isn’t easy and it’s probably not something you ever expected having to do–“
He shook his head. “It’s not that.”
Maya shot him a quizzical look. “What then?”
“Going down there to … destroy Omega. It just feels wrong, sir. I can deal with the fact that we are going into battle, I always accepted that I wouldn’t be able to avoid that in Starfleet, but being the attacker and for no other reason than to destroy technology we don’t think they should have. Are we absolutely certain we are doing the right thing here, sir?”
The captain considered that for a moment, turning to look towards the many armed guards around her. Then she looked him straight in the eye. “If you’re hoping to get reassurances from me that we’re doing the right thing, I’m sorry to say but I cannot help you.”
This had clearly not been the response he had hoped for and his blank expression gave proof to this.
Maya sighed. “Do you think this is what I signed up for? Leading men and women into battle. This goes against everything I believe in but at the same time I know we don’t have a choice. We have already seen what the Xenarth can do with Omega and we cannot allow them to try again. The stakes are too high.”
“I understand this,” he said, nodding meekly.
“Frankly, at this point it doesn’t matter if you do or not. I just need you to do your job. Follow your orders and if you cannot do that, tell me now.”
He seemed taken a back for a moment by her harsh tone, a strong departure from her usually more emphatic attitude. “I can do that, sir.”
She nodded sharply. “Good. What about Elborough and Altoss,” she said, referring to the two other science officers assigned to the teams going after the other generators.
“They know what to do and how to do it,” he said.
Maya placed a hand on his shoulder. “For now, focus on what must be done. Leave your doubts and concerns on the runabout. When all this is over, I know of a splendid counselor you can talk to.”
He nodded again, a little firmer this time. “Yes, sir.”
Amaya turned and saw two security officers approach her. Redmon O’Shaugnessy was a tall Irishman with a mob of red hair and the bulky kind of build preferred among security officers. He was Mer’iab’s chief lieutenant. By his side was a slender Vulcan woman, hefting a phaser rifle and a stern expression written across her face.
O’Shaugnessy held up a padd. “Lieutenant Mer’iab would like to speak to you, sir,” he said.
Maya turned back to Daystrom. “Get ready, we’ll make planetfall soon.”
The science officer understood he was dismissed and returned to the cockpit while Maya took the padd off the security officer and activated it to find the Aurelian already expecting her.
“Captain, I would like you to reconsider your role in this mission and remain on the runabout after you land.”
She rolled her eyes. “We’ve been over this, Lieutenant.”
“I understand that but I simply do not believe your presence is required on the ground. You can easily assume operational command from the runabout.”
Maya shook her head, growing impatient. “It’s not the same, Lieutenant.”
The security chief looked visibly pained as he spoke again. “Sir, I … I could not forgive myself if something were to happen to you down there. It has been brought to my attention that … perhaps your insistence to lead this away team is due to my disagreements with Lieutenant Sh’Fane. I’d be happy to … cede command to Sh’Fane if you prefer and if it would help keeping you away from the enemy.”
Maya couldn’t help but smile at that offer. Under other circumstances she may have even called the gesture kind of sweet. “I’m glad my safety is this important to you Lieutenant but I didn’t join Starfleet to play it safe. And I’m not here because I don’t trust you and Sh’Fane. I need you both to lead your respective teams.”
Mer’iab knew that the argument was lost. “I have assigned Lieutenant O’Shaugnessy and Chief Petty Officer V’Ner to shadow your every step. They are two of my best and I would greatly appreciate that, once you take enemy fire, that you follow their instructions as closely as possible.”
What went around, came around, she thought. Had she not only just finished giving a similar speech to her science officer? “You’ll find me quite able to handle myself, Lieutenant.”
He was about to speak up again in protest but she preempted him. “Don’t worry, I’ll do as you ask.”
“Two minutes to orbital bombardment,” the pilot called out from the front, causing Maya to glance up momentarily.
“We’re out of time,” she said, looking back at the Aurelian officer on the padd. “I’ll follow my orders and you follow yours, Lieutenant. I want you and every single person under your command to come back from this. Understood?”
“Good, Donners out,” she said and closed the channel. She gave the padd back to the Irishman and then looked the two security guards over quickly. “Looks like we’re going to get real well acquainted over the next few hours.”
“Looking forward to it, sir,” said O’Shaugnessy.
“I will be right beside you, sir,” said the Vulcan.
“Good times,” she said and then turned back towards the cockpit, quickly realizing that her shadows were already trailing her.
“How we doing, Ensign?” she asked the Xelatian.
Space-Wanderer looked up at her. He had long and flowing purple colored hair but perhaps the most fascinating aspect of his people was the golden mask covering every last inch of his face except for a glowing blue screen where she assumed his eyes were. Maya had encountered a few Xelatians in her time in Starfleet but the only thing she knew for certain about his people was that nobody she had met had ever seen what their actual faces looked like. The secrecy surrounding their appearance was comparable to that of the Breen. She had learned however that in their culture, mature Xelatians were given names appropriate to their profession.
“Clearing cloud cover now,” said Ensign Star-Wanderer. “The fleet is assuming formation to allow Agamemnon
to begin their bombardment.”
She nodded and then switched on the comm that would link her into every shuttle and runabout which was taking part of this operation. “Attention all vessels, make sure you stay in your formation no matter what. And find something to hang on to, this might get rough. Donners out.”
The clouds cleared and Amaya got her first peek at the facility containing the Omega generators. The most domineering feature was the massive tower, easily reaching six-hundred feet into the air. This was what Ket had called the Star Portal. Designed to use Omega to trans-phase an entire population into another galaxy it had since been re-appropriated by the Xenarth Aggregate to function as a massive Omega canon with a destructive yield Amaya had already witnessed with her own eyes.
Otherwise the facility wasn’t much to look at. A few transparent domes and landing platforms dotted an area twice the size of Agamemnon
. The few weapon emplacements she could see were not a significant threat. The Xenarth had never expected a direct assault on this facility.
She felt the vibrations before she saw the light show.
Then one phaser beam after the next pierced the sky with ear shattering roars, hitting various pre-arranged targets on the surface. The weapons emplacements were the first to go. Then the domes and the landing platforms were taking hits.
Donners watched the spectacle with fascination. Had those phasers been operating on full power, they would have shredded the facility to pieces and potentially destabilized the Omega molecules being generated within. Instead they did exactly what they had planned, making a lot of noise and blowing up a great deal of dust and smoke. A perfect distraction.
The next strike was the one designed to do the real damage and a layman would have been hard pressed to notice the difference. But Donners, with her engineering background, immediately spotted the more powerfully modulated phaser blasts, seemingly way off target as they hit nothing but empty land just outside the facility’s perimeter.
As those high powered beams drilled themselves deep into the soil, Cuffe
continued their otherwise less effective assault on the facility itself, ensuring that every last Xenarth inside felt as if the sky was about to drop onto their antennae.
“Best light show I ever saw,” said Chief Holly as he watched the spectacle even as the runabout and the rest of the small-vehicle fleet approached.
The assault force split up into four separate groups already designated as Omega One, Two, Three and Four. Maya would lead the first group, Mer’iab the second and Sh’Fane the third. Their objectives were simply enough on paper. Penetrate the compound, reach the Omega generators, shut them down if possible and destroy them before beating a quick retreat.
Omega Four was lead by Cuffe
’s security chief Lieutenant Meldin, his job was to locate the boronite storage facility and ensure not a single trace of the material remained after the assault.
If everything went to plan, the four teams would completely neutralize any chance for the Xenarth to generate the Omega molecule ever again.
Maya tried hard not to think of what would happen if they failed as she looked out of the viewport as they headed towards a large cloud of dust which had been blown high into the air following Agamemnon
drilling a massive hole into the surface of the moon.
“Please tell me you know where you’re going, Wanderer,” she said. “I can’t see a thing.”
“Sensor resolution is clear, sir. There is definitely a hole there.”
“Hope you’re right, kid” said Holly, straining his eyes to be able to discern anything through the cloud of dust they were heading into. “Otherwise this is going to be the shortest away mission in history.”
The runabout shook slightly as it hit the dust cloud and debris, the absence of a fiery crash however was enough to convince her that a shaft had indeed been opened up.
“We’re below the surface,” said the pilot. “Minus twenty meters and descending.”
The dust cloud had disappeared and given way to complete darkness. Maya found the controls for the external spotlights and was quickly greeted by the sight of a precisely drilled vertical tunnel. “Remind me to congratulate the gunners on Agamemnon
and [iCuffe[/i] when we get back. This is fine work.”
“If their Starfleet careers don’t work out, they’ll always have a future in asteroid mining,” said Star-Wanderer without looking up from his controls.
Maya smirked, realizing for the first time that the man behind the mask had a sense of humor. It was impossible to tell if he had smile on his lips however. Or lips, for that matter.
Far below she could see that the drilling beams had ripped right through the outer walls of the underground compound which now lay obviously exposed which would allow her and her team easy entry into the facility.
So far, so good, she thought but with little illusions that everything in the coming hours would be as easily achieved as their insertion.
Trying to remain positive, she followed her own advice and banned any doubts out of her mind as she faced Chief Holly and the rest of her team. “Everyone, get ready to move out.”