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Old May 13 2010, 10:20 PM   #301
The Badger
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Re: Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

For the benefit of Duncan.

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/serious-cat

Be careful with that site though, it's addictive!

And thanks for the congrats!
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Old May 18 2010, 10:57 PM   #302
Duncan MacLeod
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Re: Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

I'm afraid this one went a bit over my head.

Seriously.
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Old May 22 2010, 11:30 PM   #303
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Re: Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

UES Enterprise. High orbit above Theta Iota 6.
17th May 2151.

Travis Mayweather shouted out. "Commander! Permission to try---"

"Do it!" Hernandez bellowed. What ever he had planned could be no worse than letting the torpedo hit.

Mayweather hit the controls. Enterprise bucked like a mule, twisting hard to one side. Red lights flashed on his console, to inform him that the manoeuvre he was attempting far exceeded recommended tolerances, as if he didn't already know. To drive the point home a siren wailed, competing in volume with Polly's yelp of sheer terror.

The torpedo was on it's final approach from lower starboard, reactor pod dead in it's sights, when Enterprise moved. The ship's motion pulled the secondary hull right into the torpedo's path. The simple electronic brain of the Mark Four tried to compensate, vectoring the thrust nozzles to power round the obstruction, but the required course change was too extreme. It clipped the hull, on the forward edge.

And detonated.

There was no blast, as such. In space there is little to carry a shock wave. But the intense heat vaporised more than thirteen cubic metres of material, mostly armour plating and some hull metal. The sudden resultant expansion had a direct kinetic effect on the secondary hull, hammering it back. Corridors twisted, bulkheads breached, rooms contorted, metal screamed. The nearest connecting fin actually bent under the strain.

But Enterprise had been designed for war. Though adapted for other purposes, it was in her hull, her superstructure, her steel, her soul. The fins had been built like skyscrapers in an earthquake zone. They could take it, and more.

The remaining torpedo, it's systems temporarily scrambled by it's predecessor's premature burst, powered on. It roared past the nearest warp nacelle, so close it's exhaust seared the paint, before heading onwards into space. By the time it's sensors had cleared it was too short on fuel to re-acquire it's target, and shut down.

"Get me a damage report!" Hernandez roared. Her voice sounded odd to her, and no wonder. The sound of the explosion had, at least partially, carried through the hull. Her ears were ringing. Still, I've heard worse. Enterprise has better insulation than the Sun Tzu did.

"Working on it!"

Let's see. With a good crew they'll have torpedo tubes reloaded in a minute, so they'll be firing soon. Unless we give them something else to think about...
"Moshiri, plot a course straight at them. Mayweather, implement at best possible speed. Gamelin, target Hotel four. As soon as you have solution, dissipate the chaff cloud and shoot tubes one and three."

A chorus of "Aye ma'am." followed, and she felt herself pressed back into the seat as the ship surged forward.

"Torpedoes away ma'am." Gamelin added. "Running hot. Twenty five seconds till impact." Not only was the range now lessened, but the Enterprise's Mark Fives were faster.

She nodded. "Re-arm the tubes, same load out."

"They're scattering ma'am." Kaufman announced. "Hotels five and six look to be running from four."

"Damage report. Secondary hull breached, sectors G-14 to H-9. Torsional stress to fin 3, within limits. No vital systems affected, but without an undamaged crystal we can't maintain this power level for long." Adams said from the engineering post.

The Comms officer piped up. "Some casualties reported, all minor."

Hernandez nodded. The living quarters were evacuated during battle conditions, non essential personal sent to emergency shelters deep in the heart of the ship. All the same the impact could have caused injuries through out the ship.

"Hotel four is turning from us ma'am." Kaufman said. "Looks like they're dumping chaff."

Gamelin said "Torpedoes still running true. They're not taking the bait. Impact in three...two...one...Positive detonations."

Two bright flashes flared on the viewscreen. The distant delta shape was thrown into a spin, one long rod hurled free.

Kaufman examined his readouts. "Hotel four has lost it's starboard nacelle...massive power fluctuations...I'm reading internal explosions..."

"Get to the life-pods..." Hernandez muttered, "get to the life-pods, get to the...No!"

The battered shape disappeared in an actinic blaze of light.

Hernandez collapsed back into the seat, dismayed. Assuming a standard crew complement, thirty eight people had just died.

No time to dwell on it, not now. "Kaufman, status of the other two ships?"

"Ma'am, Hotel five is heading to our starboard at full impulse, Hotel six is doing the same to port...wait...Hotel six is turning, she's outside minimum safe range for atomics and may be trying again."

"Let's not give 'em the chance. Moshiri, plot an intercept course, Mayweather, engage at maximum impulse. If we can get close enough they won't dare use atomics."

"What about conventional warheads?" Partridge asked, a tremulous note in her voice. Her eyes were wide and wet, and she was sniffling.

Hernandez waved airily. "The sort of thing a Mark Four carries, they'd need a real lucky shot to hurt us. Besides, I figure they've just about reloaded. If they've put atomics in the tubes, it'll take a few minutes to change over. All the same, have we got point defence on-line yet?"

"Ah, no ma'am." Adams reported. "Still trying to trace the fault. And...power levels are beginning to fall. I'll try to compensate."

"Helm's getting sluggish ma'am" Mayweather said.

"Do your best to compensate. By the way, a great bit of flying earlier. You may have saved the ship. Where did you learn that manoeuvre?"

Even with his back to her she could tell he was grinning. "Remember the first time I took the helm? Made what I thought was a minor course correction and sent us into a spin? I just did that again."

"Well, it did the trick. Kaufman, is Hotel five still running?"

"Yes ma'am, they are almost directly astern and just entering safe atomic distance now."

"Target them Gamelin, shoot tube five when you have solution."

"Aye ma'am. Torpedo away."

A bleep from the engineering station caught Adams' attention. "Ah, we've traced the problem with point defence ma'am. Looks like a failure in the tracking sensors. I'll despatch a repair team when there's one to spare."

Polly looked up. "What sort of sensors are they."

Clearly reluctant to answer, Adams said "Huang-Blakeman Industries Hawk Eye 2.2's"

"Well then, I can fix those."

Kaufman interrupted. "Hotel five firing...not at us...ma'am, they've detonated their own torpedoes remotely."

"Our's was destroyed in the explosions." Gamelin added.

"Clever move...." Hernandez mused. "You sure you can fix it Polly?"

The scientist nodded, though not perhaps as confidently as Hernandez would have liked. "Hawk Eyes are just the military version of the Long Look Doppler array. I know my way round one of those."

"Oh, really?" Adams didn't even bother to hide the sarcasm in her tone.

"Well yes. After all, I did design it."

Moshiri leaned closer to Mayweather, and murmured "Check mate, I think."

"Look, I'll take one of those communications headsets. If I can fix it, fine. If not, I'll let you know and you can send a proper team down."

It would be better to have the system working. "Alright, do what you can." Hernandez said.

Perhaps having something constructive to do helped stave off her fears, but Professor Partridge bounded through the hatch like an over excited puppy.

Two seconds later, she bounded back in again. "Errrrr....where am I going?"

Adams muttered something under her breath, before saying "Access shaft delta, section nineteen."

"Shaft delta, section nineteen. Got it. Bye!" Then she was gone.

Hernandez reminded herself to have another word with Adams about her attitude. There were more immediate matters however. "Status of Hotel six?"

"They are heading right for us. Faint radiological traces, I think they've got a pair of torpedoes ready, but our own course has taken us within safe distance. I'm reading energy traces...they are charging main plasma batteries." Kaufman reported.

Hernandez smiled thinly. "I think we've got the advantage here. This'll surprise them. Gamelin, go for torpedo lock. We may be too close for atomics, so let's see what the focused fragmentation warheads can do. Fire tubes two and four when ready."

"Aye ma'am. Torpedoes away."

At this rapidly closing distance it took mere seconds for the Mark Five's to cross the distance. Hotel six got one shot off with it's forward battery. Perhaps someone had panicked, perhaps they'd attempted to shoot the oncoming torpedoes, but their shots were nowhere near Enterprise.

The torpedoes' impact was curiously anticlimactic. The conventional explosive warheads produced very little visible flash. Almost the entirety of the energy went into pre-cut duralinium plates, which fractured into precisely designed fragments that tore at supersonic speed into the enemy vessel.

"They've lost forward weapons ma'am," Kaufman said, "along with about twenty percent of forward armour. And they're leaking fuel."

Hernandez nodded briskly. "Maybe now they'll be more amenable. Open a hailing frequency, so we can see if they will surren---what the hell?"

The main lights had suddenly gone out, red emergency lighting flickering on instead.

"I've lost all helm control ma'am!" Mayweather said.

"What's going on Adams?"

"Main power is failing ma'am, the crystal's too badly degraded. I may be able to compensate with the fusion reactors but they're running hot as it is."

"Do it. How long?"

"I don't know...a couple of minutes, maybe."

A couple of minutes! Even as badly damaged as they are, Hotel 6 can rip us to pieces in that time!
Hernandez thought. I only hope that...

As if the very universe had set out to crush her hopes, Kaufman, an edge of panic in his voice, reported "Ma'am! They're diverting power! It looks like, oh God, they've got one of those particle beam weapons at the aft. They're charging it..."

Moshiri looked round. "Hotel six's current course takes them by us in...forty seconds. They'd be in the most advantageous firing position sixteen seconds later."

"We've still got some power to the main guns ma'am." Gamelin pointed out. The plasma weapons had their own capacitors.

Hernandez shook her head. "Those guns are heavy. Without main power, we can't move them to aim accurately." She sighed. "Inform the gun crews to fire if the target passes in front of them, otherwise..." She trailed off. Even if, by some miracle, Hotel 6 wandered right into the line of fire, there was still Hotel 5 out there.

She started to pray.
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Old May 23 2010, 01:54 AM   #304
USS Avenger
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Re: Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

Yea I needed my fix, and once again you didn't disapoint. Very good sequence, I like the way you handle the space combat sequences as much as I liked the "ground" combat scenes. Great detail as always, well done!
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Old May 24 2010, 04:42 PM   #305
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Re: Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

I'm sure it's on purpose but I felt like I was reading a submarine battle. Very well done.
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Old May 24 2010, 08:47 PM   #306
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Re: Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

Very exciting. The vagaries of the ship's condition added a lot of tension to an already bad situation..
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Old May 25 2010, 01:13 AM   #307
Duncan MacLeod
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Re: Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

I think it's time for the Cavalry to ride over the hill ...

... or warp into the system as the case may be.

I'm not sure my ulcer can stand this Badger.
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Old May 28 2010, 08:02 PM   #308
The Badger
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Re: Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

UES Enterprise. High orbit above Theta Iota 6.
17th May 2151.

Hernandez had always felt that the purpose of prayer was in it's name. Prayer. To praise God. To express one's gratitude and respect towards the Lord. It had always seemed selfish, for want of a better word, to pray for Him to do something. The Almighty had given her the gifts of life and His love, to ask for more could be seen as ungrateful. So she did not pray for intervention. Rather she reconfirmed her faith.

No. That wasn't quite true. There was something she did want, though it did not require any action on His part. On this ship there are people who do not follow your path. They are good people none the less. Please do not judge them to harshly when the time comes.

She opened her eyes. Her thoughts had taken just a few seconds, Hotel 6 was still ahead of them, though it's course would take it underneath in about half a minute. Approximately sixteen seconds after that...zap.

There's no up or down in space, but she lifted her eyes in what she considered a heavenward direction. I'll not ask for help, but if you could give me some sort of sign....sign...sign? No, no that would never work...would it?

Hitting the release on her safety straps, she bounded from the centre seat to get a better look at the navigation console.

"Moshiri, highlight the probable location of Hotel 6 at optimum firing range."

The navigator hit a few controls, bringing a glowing circle onto her display board. "Yes ma'am. There's a ninety percent chance it will be in this area."

Hernandez felt almost giddy with possibilities. She took a deep breath. "Alright. Access custom flight plan 'Archer Flyby One'. Specifically status at termination of stage one. Superimpose on the current display."

Moshiri was clearly perplexed, until she saw the results. "Whoa. That could work...but...Hotel 6 might detect what we are doing and change course."

"Hmm. Could we modify the plan? Give them less time?"

Checking her computer, Moshiri nodded. "I think so. But it raises another problem." She gestured to the display.

Hernandez rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "We're running out of time, running out of options. Send the appropriate data to the engineering console. We are doing this."

***

"Shaft delta, section nineteen. Shaft delta, section nineteen. Shaft delta, section nineteen." Polly muttered to herself. The trouble was, she'd not had much reason to visit this part of Enterprise before, and wasn't quite sure where she was heading. Still, all the corridors and doors were clearly labelled, so she should figure it out.

Even by Enterprise's standards, this area was cramped. She had to hunch herself up to make any headway. She also had her arms wrapped across her chest, though that was for different reasons. Didn't expect to have to do any running. I'll have to re-configure the material to give me a bit more support up there, otherwise I'm going to give myself a couple of black eyes.

"Ah! Section nineteen." She skidded to a halt in front of a heavy hatch, spun the locking wheel and hauled it open. On the other side was a small wall mounted cabinet, and a hatch on the deck. The cabinet held a couple of tool kits. She grabbed one, secured the main hatch, and opened the lower one. A ladder led down into the darkness.

"Good thing I'm not afraid of the dark. Or cramped spaces. Yet."

She descended, noting with interest that it was noticeably colder down here. I'm on the underside of the ship here, right next to the hull. Let's see, there'd be some decking, a grav plate, the hull metal and some armour between me and vacuum. I'll bet the military tried to save money by leaving proper insulation out of this area.

She reached the bottom, heels ringing against the metal, and shivered. In the red glow of the emergency lighting her breath condensed into mist, and she slapped her hands together for warmth.

"Ah, but I've got another trick up my sleeve...or rather, on it." She tapped a certain point on her left wrist, just above the pulse point. Diva Matrix might have designed the outfit, but it was to Polly's specifications, and the material was developed by the Professor herself. Within seconds the microscopic thermal regulators embed in the polymeric material had gone into effect.

"Aha! Toasty warm!" she grinned.

There were two access shafts, heavy hatches covering their entrances. The one to the fore of the ship was marked 'Alpha/Beta', the aft one 'Gamma/Delta'. She opened that hatch and looked, with some disquiet, within.

"Yeah. I'm not scared of cramped spaces." she told herself. "Really. I'm not."

She put the tool kit in first. There wasn't enough room to drag it at her side, she'd have to push it in front of her. Getting her head and shoulders in was easy enough, the next bit was rather a squeeze. Finally she managed to pull herself in, propelling herself onward with a slithering motion. When she'd got far enough from the hatch it's automatic sensors, as a safety measure, swung it shut with an ominous clang!! that reverberated though her body.

She winced, slamming her hands to her ears to shut out that dreadful sound. "Relax, relax," she told herself. "every-thing's gong to be OK."

It was at that point that, distant but still audible, the collision alert sounded.

***

"Stage one completed." Adams reported from the engineering console. She double checked her safety straps. This was going to get rough.

Kaufman said "Hotel 6 has fully charged their particle weapon, and has passed beneath us. They'll be at their optimum firing point in...twelve.. eleven... ten..."

"They're still on course ma'am." Moshiri added. "Wait...they're changing course, may have spotted the cloud."

Hernandez raised her voice over the collision alert. "Ensign Gamelin, OPEN FIRE!"

The three aft cannon fired as one. None of them were aimed any where near the Neptune, but they didn't have to be. Each super heated plasma bolt tore into the cloud of fuel ejected from Enterprise just seconds previously. The fuel, a synthetic compound used in the ships impulse drive, contained it's own oxidant, allowing it to burn in a perfect vacuum.

And burn it did. Hotel 6 had detected the cloud and attempted to escape, but was still close enough to the centre to be engulfed. Perhaps it could of survived, if in perfect condition. But with it's armour shattered, it's hull broken, it's fuel leaking, it was doomed.

To ensure Hotel 6 had no time to detect and avoid the trap, Hernandez had taken a risky decision. The fuel had been ejected and ignited at the last possible second. Enterprise was on the periphery of the inferno, and did not escape unscathed. The rapidly expanding cloud was thick enough to have a significant kinetic force, knocking the ship hard and sending it tumbling.

And on the underside, noticed by no one, a few square meters of armour plating, held in place by a faulty batch of adhesive, worked loose, drifting off into the void.

"Mayweather, can you stabilise us?" Hernandez asked, as soon as it was quiet enough. The explosion had been loud."

"I'm trying ma'am, but I still got no response from the helm!"

"Damn it. Kaufman, status of Hotel 6?"

"Ah, it's difficult reading anything through that mess ma'am. But it looks like they're in a bad way."

Hernandez sat back in the chair. Part of her felt proud at coming up with such an unorthodox strategy. Part of her was ashamed. She'd taken Captain Archer's fireworks display, and turned it into a weapon.

Moshiri looked round. "The fireball's burned out now Commander."

"Thank you. Put Hotel six on the main screen please."

"Yes ma'am."

It was a sickening site. The once pristine craft was now twisted and blackened. Jets of burning fuel poured from an open wound.

"Magnify. Isolate the area around the escape pods, and magnify further." she ordered.

The screen now showed several rows of hatches. One was blasted open, allowing a look inside.

Hernandez felt sick. "Well, now we know why no one escaped from Hotel four. They have no life pods. Comms, open a channel. Tell them we are going to attempt a rescue."

Kaufman's console squealed for attention. "Hotel five has launched two torpedoes! Eighty seconds until impact!"

Hernandez swore. "Comms, tell them we're going to rescue their comrades! Get them to abort!"

The main lights flickered on. "We're getting power back, but it's slow." Adams said.

Mayweather checked his controls. "Helm is still non-responsive. We're still tumbling."

Gamelin added "Ma'am, I could launch countermeasures, but they only go fore or aft. These torpedoes are coming from the side."

"Launch them anyway. If we get really lucky, they may prove tempting enough to those torpedoes."

"Aye ma'am."

"No response from Hotel five." The comms officer announced.

Hernandez picked up her handset, typed in a number. "Professor Partridge, how are you doing?"

"Well, apart from being shaken around like the inside of a maraca, and deafened, and generally---"

"Have you made any progress?" Hernandez interrupted, trying to keep the impatience from her voice.

"Ah, I've found the problem, one of the linkages burned out. EMP I'd say, probably from that first explosion, you'd think a military component would be better shielded, but there you go. I'll have it replaced in a couple of minutes."

"We don't HAVE a couple of minutes! We need it NOW!" Hernandez snapped. On screen, as if to reflect her mood, Hotel six shook from an internal explosion. Glowing white hot, molten metal chunks sprayed forth.

"I see." Polly said softly after a moment. "Then I shall attempt to do it faster. Partridge out."

Hernandez put the handset down and turned to Adams. "We damn well better have enough power for point defence." she growled.

***

Shaft Delta was quite deep in the bowels of the ship. Polly had crawled about ten meters along Gamma before reaching a second hatch. This lead to Delta. The tracking sensor was located behind a panel another five or so meters on. It was on the ceiling, so she'd had to twist over onto her back to get to it.

The panel had come free easily enough, revealing a network of wires and components. Despite having her nerves frazzled by whatever it was that had shook the ship and roared like thunder, it hadn't taken her long to find the fault. After her brief conversation with Hernandez she fished a small box out of the tool kit. Spare parts. Shouldn't take her long, providing she had no more distract---

BANG!! She yelped and convulsed in fright as what sounded like a gunshot echoed through the shaft.

"What the hell was that?" she demanded of the universe at large. Lifting herself on her elbows and craning her head right back she could see something new further along the shaft. It was a metal rod, glowing white hot. Even at this distance she could feel the heat it radiated on her face.

"Hello, how did you get here?"she wondered. It looked to be poking into the shaft from below. That was odd, as there wasn't really anything of the ship below here...

And then it was gone, shooting back down out of sight with an audible pop!

"Oh, don't go. Was it something I said?" she chuckled. And then she noticed another popping noise, this time in her ears. The skin on her face began to tingle. A piece of paper, some sort of requisition form from the tool kit, flew past her before disappearing down the hole the rod had left behind.

Hull breach...

She blinked, calculations dancing through her head in an instant. If she moved now, right now, she could get through the hatch to the safety of Gamma shaft. But that would mean abandoning her work.

And Maria had sure sounded insistent...
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Old May 28 2010, 11:27 PM   #309
Duncan MacLeod
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Re: Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

Not Polly!
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Old May 29 2010, 12:42 AM   #310
USS Avenger
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Re: Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

Duncan MacLeod wrote: View Post
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

Not Polly!

LMAO Duncan, I am sure Polly is going to be ok, its Polly, she can't be killed! Badger would never ever do that to us! would he...?

Badger once again well done, as always very enjoyable, I always look forward to reading more of this story.


Oh and please please please don't hurt Polly, I am not sure if Duncan would ever recover.
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Old May 30 2010, 12:32 AM   #311
Duncan MacLeod
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Re: Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

I don't know if he would or not.

That's what worries me.
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Old June 2 2010, 08:27 PM   #312
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Re: Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

That was fun. Now lets see you dodge torpedoes.
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Old June 3 2010, 08:56 PM   #313
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Re: Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

Killing Polly would not be good. She's the comic relief! And described well as the visual dessert.
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Old June 5 2010, 10:23 PM   #314
The Badger
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Re: Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

UES Enterprise. High orbit above Theta Iota 6.
17th May 2151.

"Twenty seconds till impact!" Kaufman announced. "First torpedo looks to be heading for the front of the Enterprise, second is going astern."

"Have we enough power for the ECM?" Hernandez demanded.

Gamelin at gunnery checked his display. "Not quite ma'am. We'd just be making ourselves more prominent."

"Alright." She took a deep breath, steadying herself. "Comms, sound the collision alert. All hands, brace for---"

"Point defence is back on-line!" Gamelin interrupted.

Hernandez punched the air. "Bless you Polly! OPEN FIRE!"

Three defence batteries had a clear line of sight to the incoming torpedoes. They swivelled in their cradles to optimum firing positions. Each battery consisted of six light plasma cannon arranged in the manner of an ancient Gatling gun. Individually they were low powered, at least by the standards of ship to ship combat. But they didn't need to hit hard. Constant accurate fire was the important factor here.

The three batteries laid down a withering barrage of plasma, each firing so fast that multiple bolts looked like constant streams. The lead torpedo flew straight into the lines of fire. In a fraction of a second it was torn to shreds.

The batteries swivelled to acquire the second torpedo. In the time to do so it had gotten close enough to the hull that one battery lost line of sight. The other two opened fire. Their target was too close, moving too fast, for accurate shooting. The batteries compensated by filling the projected area with as much plasma as possible. Several bolts hit. One, by chance, pierced the fuel tank. The resultant explosion destroyed the targeting computer leaving the remainder to slam hard into Enterprise's hull. The warhead was crushed before it could detonate.

On the bridge Mayweather looked around with a mixture of surprise and delight. "Are we still alive?"

Moshiri checked her pulse. "Looks that way."

"Point defence got 'em both, ma'am." Gamelin said, slumping slightly in his chair. He looked drained.

I know how he feels. Hernandez thought. She ordered a damage and casualty report.

"Main power's coming back on." Adams said. "I'm not sure how long I can hold it though."

"Then let's finish this." Hernandez said. "Mayweather, bring us about, face Hotel five. Gamelin, get a target lock. Use active sensors. I want them to know we're targeting them."

Kaufman looked up. "Ma'am, Hotel five has diverted power from weapons to engines."

"They're moving." Moshiri added. "Looks like they're running for it, trying to get behind the planet."

Hernandez snatched up her handset. "Transmit this, all frequencies." The comms officer gave her a nod. "This is Commander Hernandez of the UES Enterprise. Move to geo-stationary orbit immediately or I will open fire. Respond!"

"I've got a partial solution," Gamelin reported "but they're jamming us and dumping chaff."

Hernandez cursed. "Anything? she asked the comms officer.

"Not from Hotel five. But we're getting a signal from Beowulf one. They say they have recovered the Premier and the dilithium and request landing clearance."

"Ma'am, I've had a look at Hotel five's course." Moshiri said. "They're going into the planet's gravity well, very deep, very steep. Given the max power output of the engines, it'll be at least half an hour before they can come back this way. And it'll strain their systems bad. They could let gravity slingshot them out, but that'll add a couple of hours to the trip."

The lights flickered slightly.

"We're in no shape for a fight. Let's get Beowulf One back, and use this time to put right the worst of the damage." Hernandez said. "That reminds me." she added, tapping a number into her handset. "Bridge to Professor Partridge, come in please. Bridge to Professor Partridge. Come on, Polly, are you there?"

Silence.

There was a sharp intake of breath from Adams. "Commander, I'm getting the damage reports....there's a hull breach registered in section nineteen. Shaft Delta is showing...a total vacuum."

Hernandez went cold. Ahead of her Moshiri and Mayweather exchanged shocked glances.

She hit her safety belt release and stood. "Get a medic and an engineering team to meet me down there. Moshiri, you have the bridge."

"Aye ma'am."

Adams was bristling. "Ma'am. May I respectfully remind you that there is still a hostile present. This is a combat zone, and as the senior military officer present after yourself I should---"

"You're an engineer." Hernandez snapped. "Fix the damn ship."

***

Beowulf One. On approach to Enterprise.
17th May 2151

Lieutenant Reed poked his head round the hatch and into the main bay. "Captain, I think you better see this sir. You too, Mister Tucker." He sounded grave.

Archer and Trip exchanged glances. Reed stood aside to let them ascend the short, narrow flight of stairs. He didn't follow them, he'd already seen and the cockpit was cramped enough as it was.

"Alright, what's the..." Archer started. He broke off as he saw the view through the windscreen.

It looked as if some monstrous beast had taken a massive bite out of the secondary hull, a semi circular gash just ripped away. It wasn't clean, the edges all twisted and jagged. Part of the superstructure remained like the bones of a dead animal. Even now parts glowed with a dull red heat.

Archer sagged. There was no gravity aboard the Beowulf, magna adhesion fields providing traction, but still he needed to grab the back of the pilots seat for stability. It felt like someone had scooped his guts out.

"Jesus..." Trip said softly.

Reed's voice drifted up to them. "How bad?"

"Ahhh, ah reckon it looks a lot worse than it actually is." Trip said, after a moments consideration. "Most of the damage is to the secondary hull, low priority sections. There's some on the main hull, but it don't look too bad from here."

"What about casualties?"

Archer answered. "Assuming they were at alert, secondary hull would have been evacuated. Hopefully no one'll be to badly hurt."

"Hmm. I'll get my people on standby just in case. Dent and Dumont can join the medical teams. Mister Tucker, M'boto and Priest are at your disposal. If you need any one else just tell me."

"Thanks Malcolm."

The next couple of minutes seemed to drag for Archer. Beowulf One received landing clearance from Enterprise. Oddly, it was Haleh Moshiri who gave the final authorization. It seemed Commander Hernandez had had to leave the bridge for some reason. Archer hadn't known her for long but that struck him as unusual.

The pilot suggested, politely yet firmly, that they both return to their seats. Once there Archer strapped himself in automatically. He was vaguely aware of the landing procedures, but didn't pay any real notice to them. It was only when the rear hatch opened that he pulled himself together.

"Right. Malcolm, get the Premier to the sickbay. Hoshi, Corporal James, go with them, get yourselves checked out. Those three---" he gestured to the prisoners "---get 'em some place secure. Separate them, I don't want them cooking up a story between them."

Reed nodded. "Very good sir. It's a pity we don't have a proper brig on board."

"There is one in the original design." Archer admitted. "Ours was removed, replaced with extra storage. To be honest I didn't really think we'd need one. By the way, Malcolm, good work back on the station."

Doctor Locke was waiting for them in the shuttlebay. He quickly assessed the Premier before giving him a shot and ordering him taken straight to sickbay.

"Any casualties?" Archer asked.

"A few, mostly from getting knocked about in the scuffle. Bruises, scrapes. Crewman Crispin managed to break her arm, that seems the most serious injury. But..." he trailed off.

Archer leant closer. "What is it Philip?"

Locke glanced at Tucker, calling down to Engineering to get things dilithium replacement operation in readiness. "We've not yet accounted for everyone. Professor Partridge is missing."

***

The hatch to section nineteen was wide open when Hernandez arrived. There were a couple of engineers present, one struggling to help the other into an emergency pressure suit. They saluted. She responded without slowing down.

According to the notice on the front of the small cabinet there were five emergency survival hoods stored within. She allowed herself a moments hope as she pulled the door open. One, two, three, four...five.

Maybe there was a mistake. Maybe they put an extra one in here by mistake and she took that one...As much as she wanted to, she couldn't quite make herself believe that.

The floor hatch was open. She dropped through, pressing feet and hands to the ladder's side rails and sliding down. "Below!" she called, not wanting to land on any one. Millington, the assistant medic, was already present, along with a crewman in engineers fatigues.

"Status?" she demanded.

The engineer gestured to his computer pad, linked by a wire to a panel over the aft hatch. "Shaft Gamma is fine ma'am, but Delta's a vacuum."

Millington held up a syringe. "I've got the bi-ox compound, and the decompression chamber is on standby, but..." he trailed off.

The pad chirruped. "That's weird.' said the engineer.

"What is it?" Hernandez asked.

He shook his head, perplexed. "There's a series of fluctuations in the energy flow...coming from Delta...they're numbers, prime numbers."

"She's alive!" Hernandez grinned. "And she's signalling us! Can you open the hatch to Delta?"

"Yes ma'am. I'll have to de-pressurise Gamma first."

"Do it."

The hatch to Gamma swung shut and the distant rumble of pumps began. After almost a minute the crewman said pressure was low enough to open the hatch. There was a faint whoosh as the residue shot through.

"Ma'am, I'm now reading a total vacuum in both Gamma and Delta."

Hernandez began slapping her hands together for warmth. It really was cold down here. C'mon, c'mon...

"Ma'am! The hatch between Delta and Gamma has just shut! I didn't do it."

She gave the order to pressurise. Some one at the top of the ladder called down. A stretcher team had arrived. She shouted back an acknowledgement.

"Soon as the pressure's high enough, get this open."

"Yes ma'am. I could override the automatics, save us some time."

"Do it."

There was a loud crack. Hernandez felt her ears popping. The hatch swung open. She darted forward, half hopeful, half dreading what she might see.

As it turned out, she couldn't see much. "Pass me that flash-light. Polly? Polly, can you hear me?"

In the flashlights beam a shape shuffled towards her. It was probably the professor, nothing else down here should glisten that much, but it took Hernandez a moment to work out exactly what she was seeing. There was no room to turn around in the shaft, and Polly was crawling backwards towards her. She peered closer. There was something distinctly odd about her appearance.

"Whoa. OK, er, that's more than I wanted to see...OK, you two," Hernandez said, turning to the engineer and Millington, "about turn. Face that wall, now. Get your noses to it and don't turn round till I tell you otherwise. Now!"

They were confused, but they obeyed. Hernandez turned back just in time to help the scientist out. "Professor Partridge, I presume?"

"Mmmf mmmf! Mf mmf mmmf mmmf mmf, mmf mmmmf---"

Hernandez held up a hand. "I can't hear a word your saying, but I'm very very glad you're still able to say anything."

"Mf mmf!" The professor's head was encased in a tight fitting hood made of the same material as the rest of her outfit, apart from a transparent panel for her eyes.

"You look like the world's most perverted ninja." Hernandez observed wryly.

Polly pinched the material at a point just below her left ear and drew her hand down under her chin to the same spot on the right side. Even though there was no visible seam or fastening, this action left a slit in the material. Digging her thumbs in she peeled the hood off her head, letting it hang down at the back of her neck. Her face was flushed, and she took a deep breath.

"My word what a curious sensation," she gasped, "but not totally without merit."

Hernandez clicked her fingers. "I thought I noticed something weird earlier. That thick bit at the back of your collar!"

"I'm a coward, Maria. If I'm gonna live on a space ship, I wanna have a space suit handy. And what's more handy than one you wear all the time?"

"You don't always wear that though." Hernandez pointed out. "What about those miniskirts?"

"Some days I'm braver than others. Why are they facing the wall? Have they been naughty?" Polly asked, pointing at the two men.

Hernandez glanced at them. "I couldn't help notice, as you were crawling backwards towards me, and believe me I really couldn't help notice, that you clothing seemed to be even tighter than usual. Now normally I'd say that was impossible, but..." She looked Polly up and down.

Polly beamed. "Ah, another one of my genius ideas. The clothing's tight enough to act as an elastic pressure suit, much like the ones the marines use, only far more fashionable. Now, they use modelling clay to fill out all the nooks and crannies, as it were, but I didn't fancy that. So I activated a molecular adhesive system, built into the fabric, to ensure everything is as form fitting as possible."

"I'll say. You look like you've been shrink wrapped for extra freshness."

"Yes, it is rather tight. Bordering on the intrusive. You didn't tell me though, why are they facing the wall?"

"To preserve your modesty."

"I'm impressed Maria, you said that with a straight face. Ooh, one drawback here, the adhesion system uses up a lot of power. The heating system's gone off line. Gosh, it really is chilly down here isn't it?" she added, looking down.

Hernandez blinked. "You have a heating system in there too? Perhaps you should put that back on."

"Good thinking." Polly tapped a few points on her wrist, and her clothes returned to their customary shape. "There. I now know what Vulcan's feel like in those loose flowing robes."

"Ri-iiight." Hernandez drawled.

"Hey! What's going on with the big space battle? Did we win?"

"C'mon Polly. Let's get back to the bridge. I'll tell you on the way."

Five minutes later, Millington finally dared to look around at the engineer. "Do you think we can move yet?"
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Old June 5 2010, 11:12 PM   #315
Duncan MacLeod
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Location: New England
Re: Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

"Do you think we can move yet?"

I'll never be able to look at an English Muffin quite the same way again.

And thank you for saving Polly, Badger.
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