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Old April 7 2013, 05:56 AM   #194
Gibraltar
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 8)

Chapter 8

USS Europa


The petty officer manning the Ops console looked back at the empty command chair, sighed, then turned the opposite way to address Juneau at the Science station. “Lieutenant, the Ferou fleet has jumped to warp, resuming their previous heading at Warp seven-point-three. The Romulans don't appear to be pursing.”

“Acknowledged,” Juneau answered absentmindedly as she toggled controls in rapid succession.

Lightner blinked at the viewer, frowned, and dropped his eyes to scrutinized his navigational sensor readings more closely. “Uh… where did Gallant go?”

That finally broke Juneau’s concentration on the Science board. She glanced up, “What?” Juneau turned back to her display and opened an active sensor window. The frown that took hold of her features mirrored Lightner’s own. “No debris…” she murmured.

Ops called out, “I just played back the sensor telemetry, it looks like Gallant cloaked.”

“Oh… shit,” Lightner breathed. He turned in his seat to fix his startled gaze on Juneau. “That’s not Gallant.”

A look of realization spread across her face. “Masada,” she said quietly. “What the hell is going on here?”

*****

Romulan Warbird Cinecaar


“Decloak and raise shields,” Xerix ordered.

“We aren’t in weapons range of Europa yet, Commander,” advised the centurion at the weapons station.

“Yes,” Xerix purred, drawing the word out. “I want them to see us coming. It’s important they have time to savor the approach of their impending deaths.”

“As you command. Dropping cloak, activating shields…”

*****

USS Europa

“Romulan warbird decloaking dead ahead,” Ops noted.

"All stop," Juneau instructed.

At Tactical, Tiedermeyer advised, “They’ve just raised shields and activated weapons. Their targeting sensors are locked on us, Lieutenant.” The Marine officer’s eyes narrowed as his gaze bore into Juneau at the Science station. “Perhaps you should retake the command chair… sir?”

Juneau ignored the jibe, choosing instead to toggle the transceiver array. “Romulan vessel,” she called out, “we have identified the escort that fired on your ships as the rogue vessel Masada that we previously briefed you about. You’ve been tailing our ships for months, you know none of ours are equipped with cloaking devices. We have not initiated hostilities. You, on the other hand, have just destroyed a ship hosting Starfleet representatives.”

The lack of response was telling, and Juneau addressed Tiedermeyer without looking up from her console. “What do we have for weapons?”

“Minimal phaser power,” he assessed. “The antimatter injection system in our torpedo launchers was knocked offline, and all we have is two standard photorps hot in the forward tubes. That won’t be enough against their shields.”

Juneau stared at the silhouette of the oncoming warbird on the viewer as she struggled to calm her racing mind. C’mon Olivia, she chastised herself, you’ve seen Sandhurst and Ramirez pull off miracles before in seemingly hopeless situations. What would they do right now? Standard weapons aren’t an option, so what else do you have? She saw the smoking, battered bridge of Gibraltar in her mind’s eye, Sandhurst’s calm presence in the center seat, buoyed by Ramirez’s tactical acumen.

“Lieutenant?” Tiedermeyer urged.

Lightner spared a glance over his shoulder at Juneau, his expression grim.

“Standby weapons,” Juneau ordered. “Manual targeting only, no sensor lock. I don’t want to telegraph this.”

“Telegraph what, sir?” Tiedermeyer asked, an edge to his voice now.

Sandhurst and Ramirez both played to their own strengths, Juneau reflected. He was an engineer, she was a tactician. They both fell back on those roles for inspiration. You’re an Ops chief… what tools do you have? Eject and ignite the antimatter pods? No, our own shields would never hold up to the detonation at this range. Reconfigure the navigational deflector array? No, that would take hours to implement…

It came to her so suddenly that she snorted a strangled sounding half-laugh, prompting startled and desperate looks from the others on the bridge who doubtless wondered if she was losing it. The idea was so deliciously unconventional that for a brief moment she was blind to the raw barbarity of it. That realization slowly sank in as her fingers danced across the console, bringing the desperate gambit to life.

She reached out a trembling hand to toggle open the comm channel again. “Romulan vessel, don’t do this. You’re putting us… you’re putting me in a corner. Please don’t start a war today that neither of us can afford.”

Juneau knew it sounded weak. It was a pleading cry for mercy, yet she could not in good conscience follow through with her plan without giving them one final chance to reconsider their attack.

The voice-only reply from the Romulan commander was chilling in its brevity. “You have chosen sides against us today, human. History will remember the Federation’s treachery, just as it will remember our exquisite retribution.”

Juneau closed the channel, muttering, “Okay, then. So much for diplomacy.” She went back to her systems reconfiguration as she announced, “Helm, start backing us away, one-quarter impulse.”

Tiedermeyer gestured for a crewman manning a nearby auxiliary console to relieve him at Tactical as he stepped away from his post. “Lieutenant Juneau, I cannot allow you to do nothing while the Romulans strafe us. I’m taking command.”

“I am doing something, and I have a plan,” she replied distractedly. “Resume your post or get off the bridge.”

Masada’s back,” observed the NCO at Ops. “She’s making another attack run on the Romulans.”

“Great,” Juneau grumbled in response. “Only they’re not attacking the ones threatening us.”

Tiedermeyer shifted uncertainly at the far corner of the Tactical arch, knowing that one step further forward would commit him to an act that might either save their lives or end his military career. He stared at the invisible seam in the carpet there that formed his Rubicon.

He suddenly realized that his anger stemmed from fear, and his fear was rooted his distrust of Juneau and her capabilities. He didn’t have a clue what to do in this circumstance, what orders he might give if he chose to sit in the captain’s chair, but he didn’t have any confidence that Juneau did either. Tiedermeyer was first and foremost a Marine, schooled in the sacred necessity of a strong chain-of-command. In that moment he understood with a kind of out-of-body clarity that he could either die flailing madly for control of the ship, or die honorably at his post, like a Starfleet Marine.

Tiedermeyer turned back and resumed his position wordlessly just as Juneau instructed, “On my order, fire a full spread of whatever we have left at them. Target everything against their forward shield grid.”

“We’re now within each other’s weapons envelope,” said Ops. A second later Europa was pummeled by a pair of disruptor bolts that crashed into their weakened shields.

“That was a one-third power discharge,” Tiedermeyer calculated. “They’re toying with us.”

Juneau breathed, “Here we go. Fire weapons.” She gave the order without force, as though by afterthought.

The Tactical board warbled to broadcast their outgoing salvo as brief flashes of phaser fire and two torpedoes arced downrange in a woefully insufficient reply to the Romulans’ opening volley. At that instant, Juneau unleashed the full might of Europa’s grossly overpowered primary sensor array, the most formidable device ever produced by Federation science to be slaved to a starship.

Romulan shields operated on the same principle as Starfleet’s. The shield frequencies rotated constantly to allow certain specific types of energy and matter to pass through, or to increase the effectiveness of blocking them. Thus, the combined phaser and torpedo strike from Europa caused Cinecaar’s shields to commit to a relatively narrow range of frequencies necessary to protect against the incoming collimated energy and photon warheads.

The sudden bombardment of massive amounts of simple microwave radiation emitted from Europa’s sensor array overwhelmed the Romulan shields’ ability to quickly reconfigure to meet the new threat.

On the warbird's bridge, Xerix found himself screaming alongside his crew before he’d even realized what was happening. The commander gasped in agony as he held up his hands to watch in fascinated horror as his skin blistered and bubbled for no discernable reason. The visual evidence of his torment ended when his eyes burst in their sockets an instant before his blood began to boil in his collapsing veins.

The others, Romulans and Reman alike, fell to the deck, writhing in a macabre ballet of death.

And just like that, it was over. Lightner pitched Europa hard starboard, allowing the unblemished but lifeless warbird to fly harmlessly past. Cinecaar was now a smoldering tomb, home to the broiled remains of nine-hundred souls.

Juneau stood shakily and walked over to the command chair, lowering herself into it with a shuddering sigh. “Wow. That actually worked,” she remarked to no one in particular.

*****
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Last edited by Gibraltar; April 7 2013 at 06:22 AM.
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