“Looks like that’s everything. Everybody start boarding!” called the burly, shave-headed warrant “wups! Not you, ensign!”
“Lieutenant Jenst said I could go if there was room” Sheridan said.
“Not without a suit. We don’t have an airlock, and I can’t wait for you to get your suit. Sorry kid, next time”
“That’s my friend out there!”
“Sorry to hear it, but you’re holding us up. We’ll do our best for him. Now scat, so we can depressurize the bay.” Turning, Chief Warrant Officer Caswell, Ship’s Bosun, entered the shuttle, as Sheridan ran out of the bay and the pressure tocsin wailed.
In the passageway, Sheridan pounded the bulkhead in frustration. Almost. Almost, and my own stupidity kept me from it. Dammit! You better come through, Rory!
Inside the bay, once the atmosphere evacuated and the bay doors slid open on their tracks, the ungainly large recovery shuttle rose and slowly made for open space, followed by 4 sleek fightercraft. Only space stations, starbases, and ships like Lemuria could carry such shuttles. It looked like an enlarged, boxier shuttle perched on a warp sled with hinged spars paralleling the nacelles, and a corvette’s tractor assembly slung beneath the sled. The nacelles were five times the size those of a personnel shuttle. Despite all this, it was a lovely thing to Sheridan, watching it on the screen in Flight Control. Lieutenant Jenst watched him from her console, concerned, but not intruding.
In a canyon on the frozen ball of rock, lieutenant j.g. Greg Roberts, his braid no longer quite so shiny and dazzling, was reevaluating his life. The snot-nosed kid had found the canyon, the snot-nosed kid had figured out how to rig the useless drive to keep providing power to heat the suits, and the snot-nosed kid had thought to evacuate the shuttle’s atmosphere to reduce their heat signature when the Klingon started bombarding them. And the snot-nosed kid had been the one to realize they couldn’t use their beacon while the bloody damned Klingon was still up there. All he’d managed was to set them down without cracking the craft. He’d hated the strutting way lieutenants and jaygees had sneered at him for being a puppy of an ensign, and here he had been doing it himself! Way to go, Greg, way to go. At this rate, maybe you’ll finally learn something by the time you’re in the Old Spacer’s Home
The ground trembled again, with the odd sensation of noise coming from the base of the shuttle, but not from outside, as vibration traveled through the ground, but not through a non-existent atmosphere. At least this canyon seemed to be clear of ice.
“I think that was further away” Damn, kid, can’t you see I’m trying to think better of you, and here you go stating the obvious!
“Maybe” Rory added, tentatively.
Well, hell, Greg, the kid’s as scared as you are and trying just as hard not to show it.
“Yah, maybe so” he allowed.
“Bosun, I got a bogey in a low orbit over the rogue. They’re firing at the ground, so it’s not our boys. I’m sending two ahead to chase him away,” reported the lead fighter pilot. “Cade, Be’en, go knock that bastard out of our sky,” she continued. Two fighters peeled off and swooped on the Klingon fighter in a pincer.
The Klingon was a better pilot than his late wingman. He arced up and over to attack the new threat, but he was still outnumbered, and taking fire from two different directions. In a tiny metal flivver like that, without shields he was vulnerable, and swiftly blossomed as a fiery bloom in the sky.
on the ground, Campbell and Roberts were startled by the vibration of their hatch opening. “What the hell - ?” Campbell began, cut off by Roberts “start the damn beacon!”
“Wha- why? If he’s still - ” “It doesn’t matter, we’ve got company down here” as he reached over Campbell and started the emergency beacon transmitting.
A spacesuited Klingon entered the shuttle, disruptor in hand.
“I’ve got a distress beacon below!” Cade reported. “C’mon, Be’en, let’s go!” The fighters descended rapidly to stoop on the source of the SOS.
Lieutenant Roberts called the Bridge “Captain, the recovery team reports one Klingon fighter destroyed, but apparently there’s a detachment on the rogue planet, and they may have our people. I’d like to take the ship there and beam down an assault team.”
“Negative, Lieutenant. This’s a diversion to slow us down. Send 3 squads of marines in assault shuttles, two more fighters, and two more personnel shuttles with a medical team. Tell them they are to rendezvous with Kearsarge when she comes through here, we’ll see them up later.”
“Ah, roger that, skipper. TacO out.”
“Sheridan, get your suit. We’re sending more shuttles. As soon as you’re dressed out, start prepping shuttles 4 and 5, and the first three assault shuttles. Bosun will brief you when you meet up with him.”
Sheridan saluted sharply and loped out joyfully.
The flight was barely clear of the ship’s warpfield when Lemuria accelerated after the Klingon taskforce, leaving them alone. Sheridan finally had time to be nervous. Just as he was boarding, Lieutenant Jenst had pulled him aside “Look, Austin, don’t screw this up. I don’t know what we’ll be heading into, so you’re all I can spare. You’re the ranking officer on this sortie until you rendezvous with the recovery flight. Bosun is overall in charge. No heroics, no stupidity, got it?”
“I try not to make a fool of myself more than once a day, ma’am,” he’d gulped, as he felt the sudden weight of responsibility, yet also amazed at how glibly he’d responded.
“I know you can handle pressure. I’ve read your record. Just remember, this is serious. Don’t be a hotdog. Once you get our people out, you’re not returning here. You’ll rendezvous with Kearsarge. You’ll all come home whenever we get a chance. Until then, it’s all on you and Bosun. Now, march!” she’d turned and strode off before he could think of a reply, and he’d boarded the shuttle slightly dazed. Now he had nothing to do but try not to think of all the ways he could foul up a rescue.