A communique from Redemption
scrolled across her screen and Turner toggled her comm system on. “Starbursts, this is Lead. We’re pulling out. Repeat, we’re pulling out.”
Her remaining pilots acknowledged the order. Turner pulled her own fighter around, boosting her engines in order to close the widening gap between herself and Redemption
. The battle had turned into a rout and most of the Hegemony forces seemed to be concentrating their fire on the fleeing Behemoths, leaving her people relatively free.
“Lead to squad, keep your eyes on sensors in case we get buzzed on the way out. Provide cover to Redemption as needed. If you see any of our allies in needs of assistance, run it by me first. Clear?”
A chorus of voices responded.
“Alright, check in.”
Turner mentally marked each of the surviving members of Starburst Squadron as they radioed in. By the end of it, she felt sick to her stomach. Four pilots. Only four pilots left. Then, as the last pilot called the all clear, Turner felt a jolt.
“Where’s Starburst Eight?”
Silence. Turner checked her screens again. Starburst Eight had been with them in the melee and she had not received any update to his situation that might indicate he had been shot down. Turner knew that his two wingmen, Ten and Twelve, had both been casualties, though.
“Did anyone see what happened to-“
A beep cut her off and her eyes flew back to her screens. A blue icon had appeared on the furthest edge, back towards Onyx Station. Turner was about to hail the lone fighter when Starburst Eight’s comm line broke through a haze of static. Turner could picture the young human male, his Asian features creased with fear.
“… danger. Repeat… I’m… trapped… side. Need assistance… This is… Eight. Please…”
The static rose to a crescendo and then the transmission was cut. Turner saw three green icons appear on Eight’s tail. More of the Hegemony tadpoles, coming after her man.
. He had got caught on the far side of the station and had missed the call to regroup. Turner could see at a glance that he wasn't going to make it. Not without help anyway.
“Two, you have command. Get them back to the ship.”
“Negative, Lead. This isn’t your job.”
Turner allowed herself a tight smile at Claf’s harsh voice over the comm. He had always been overprotective. “I’ll be fine, Two. I’ll buy Eight enough time to get clear and then I’ll be right on your tail. Get them out of here.”
“Lead that is a-“
“That’s an order, Two. Go.”
Before he could respond, Turner swung her fighter’s nose back around and kicked energy from her phaser banks to the engines. The inertial gravity struggled to keep up, pushing her back into the seat. She could see Eight now, a lone point of light surrounded by flashing green energy bolts. Come on
, she urged the engines, almost rocking back and forth in the seat in an attempt to get the fighter to move faster. Come on.
The ship’s sensor suite issued a strident alarm, echoing with beeps and alert indicators as the fighter entered range of the enemy tadpoles. Sensor locks erupted across her board, red lights vanishing only as Turner veered the ship hard to starboard. Throwing the fighter up, she checked the sensor locks had disappeared before throwing herself back into the fray.
Closer to Eight, the comm static cleared enough for her to get through. She punched the command on her screen.
"Get your ass out of here, Eight. We've been called back to roost."
Eight - Airman Chaiyamo - responded. "Noted, Lead. Thanks for the assist."
Turner did not respond, kicking her fighter up and over an oncoming enemy fighter, phasers spitting red fire at another tadpole. The other fighter disintegrated, reduced to fiery pulp beneath her guns. Checking her sensors, she noted the icon representing Chaiyamo fleeing for Redemption
. A single tadpole was on his tail. Turner jigged her stick and brought her fighter around. Risking a quick drain of her port shields, she raced forward until the tadpole came in range. Shunting power back, she toggled her weapons' control to quantum torpedoes. Centering the stick, she waited for the light to turn green before firing off a shot.
The torpedo lanced from behind the cockpit, lighting her screens in a blaze of white. Turner tracked it forward and watched as it punched through the tadpole's rear shielding, bursting into flame when it struck what passed for engines. The tadpole erupted into fire, flesh shriveling and expelling a flight-suited Laurentii into space.
"You're clear Eight, now-"
Turner cut off as her fighter jerked around her. She did not need to look at her screens to know that her speed had suddenly fallen off. What the-
Looking up through her cockpit, she saw the vast shadow of a Behemoth rapidly approaching her position. Glancing down at her screens, she saw the worse possible truth. The ship had her in a tractor beam.
"Coming back for you, Lead," Chaiyamo's voice burst through the comm system. On her sensor screen, she saw his fighter beginning to reduce speed as he brought his nose around.
"Negative," Turner snapped, her stomach dropping. "Do not come back here. There's nothing you can do."
"That is an order, Eight. Get the hell out of here or I'll shoot you myself." To emphasize the point, she activated the tracking system on her weapons and settled it over the fleeing starfighter.
There was a moment of hesitation and then she heard Chaiyamo's broken voice over the comm. "We'll be back for you, Lead. I promise."
"Give my regards to the captain," Turner replied.
A feeling of relief washed over her as her airman's fighter increased speed. She could see on the sensor screen that the nearest tadpoles were too far away to catch him. More, a cluster of friendly tadpoles were on their way back to provide him cover. Chaiyamo would get away.
, she thought wryly.
Falling back in her seat, Turner took a moment to watch as the fleeing Laurentii forces, Redemption
in amongst the giant Behemoth ships, reached the edge of the system and jumped into slipstream space. A handful of the enemy forces joined in pursuit, but it was a small enough number that Turner felt comfortable that it was nothing but a token force. Her people were away.
Time to pay the piper
, she thought, as her ship began to shudder. The Behemoth was drawing her in. You better keep my people safe, Ba'el. Cause I won't be able to.
“Slipstream velocity reached,” Barani announced from her position at Ops. “We're away.”
Prin felt more than heard the sigh of relief that raced around the bridge. She allowed herself a small smile before turning her attention back to the situation at hand.
“I want a damage report from all stations within the next ten minutes.” Remembering something, she added, “And someone get in touch with our support ships and let them know what has happened.”
The Benjamin Sisko
, the Highland
, the Tiberius
and the Gorkon
had all accompanied Laurentii forces to some outlying planets as part of a joint scientific and military taskforce. Prin had forgotten all about them in the chaos of the battle, but now she wondered whether they were safe or if the coup on Onyx Station had affected them as well. Prophets, don't let there be any more bad news.
She was half way to the Ops station when the turbolift door swished open. Prin turned in time to see Admiral Qwert stumble out, leaning heavily on his cane. His eyes met hers and she felt a surge of fear and despair.
"Admiral on the bridge," one of the security officers said.
"Are we clear?"
"We left the space around Onyx Station minutes ago, Admiral."
"Thank the Exchequer."
"Where are the others, Admiral?"
Qwert rubbed a hand over his left lobe. "Ambassador Benjamani is dead." He winced slightly as he said the words. Prin was surprised to feel a little stab of pain at the news. Benjamani might have been a manipulative shrew, but she was still a Federation citizen and duly appointed ambassador. Another person lost under her watch. "The remaining survivors are in sick bay."
Prin took a step towards him before she even realised it. "How is the Captain?"
Qwert's eyes opened wide. "I assumed you knew. He wasn't on the station with us."
"Lieutenant, drop us out of warp, raise shields and-"
Prin spun back to face the Ferengi, feeling her face suffused with blood. "We have to go back for him!"
"You have to get this ship to safety, Captain." She went to argue, but he raised a hand. "Captain Sarine must be considered be missing, if not dead. Our Laurentii allies informed me that a ship left the station moments before the battle broke out. They believe that Captain Sarine was on board. Going back to Onyx Station would serve no good purpose.”
Qwert took a step towards her. “That means you are in command of the Redemption
until we find him. And the best way to do that is to liaise with what remains of our Laurentii allies. You know that your captain would not want you to send yourself, his ship and his crew back into the middle of a war zone on the off chance you might be able to locate him. Or do I need to remind you of the fire power that station has now that it is under that mad man's control?"
Before Prin could argue the point with him, Barani turned from her place at Ops. "Excuse me Commander, Lieutenant Vareen needs you down on Deck 9."
Prin rubbed a hand over her face. "Tell Vareen that whatever Lieutenant Dax has done she will just have to-"
"She is adamant that you need to go down there yourself, Commander. Doctor Malok is dead."
Prin felt as if the air had been pulled from her lungs. First Kane, then Benjamani, now Malok. What by the Prophets was happening on this ship? She felt Qwert's eyes on her. His words echoed in her ears. You know that your captain would not want you to send yourself, his ship and his crew back into the middle of a war zone.
Damn the big-eared Ferengi, but he was right. Ba'el would tell her to suck it up, get on with the mission and do her damned job. And at the moment, her job meant getting Redemption
to safety and sorting out the mess down on the lower decks.
"Tell Vareen I'm on my way."
As she stepped into the turbolift, Prin saw Qwert looking at her, frowning. She held his gaze until the doors closed, cutting off his intense scrutiny. Only then did she squeeze her eyes shut, trying to ignore the intense pain that flared in her gut. Ba’el. She couldn’t believe he was dead.
No. There was no body. No one knew what had happened to him. Until someone gave her some proof, she refused to believe he was dead.
Ba’el Sarine was out there somewhere. And with the Prophets as her witness, she was going to find him.
So ends Volume III Onyx
This arc of Star Trek Restoration concludes with Star Trek Restoration Volume IV Darkness