Passing of the Torch

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Gibraltar, Dec 21, 2019.

  1. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    A bold and ugly move but one that may have saved a lot of civilians (at the cost of a lot of invading soldiers). But as they say: In love and war .... naturally Starfleet won't see it quite like that.

    And one obvious downside to all this ... the Cardies will be mad as hell now. And who are they likely to punish for this preemptive attack?

    This is very likely to get way more ugly before it gets better.
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  2. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    I don't think I would call Raffaele a war criminal. I would say that he did the right things for both the right and wrong reasons. He was trying to slow the Cardassians down in their ascent on Federation territory. If anything, I think he should get a medal, instead of a court-martial.

    I think it's only going to get uglier from here as CeJay says.
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  3. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    They say the New Zealand Penal Colony is quite lovely in the spring. ("They" probably never enjoying the amenities of said prison). I would think Raffaele and Sorel best worry about survival than the prospects of facing a board of inquiry. I hope Raffael realizes his actions will likely implicate his Vulcan first officer as well. Sorel made no serious effort to stop Raffaele (a little neck pinch would probably have sufficed).
    That being said, that was a brilliant move by Raffaele and, hopefully, should give pause to Verun and the Cardassian attack fleet.
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  4. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Oct 27, 2007
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Really, the moral dilemma here is whether a preemptive strike is justified under certain circumstances. If it successfully prevents a broader conflict one could say yes and the CO is praised for making a bold decision. If it instead causes a war, the CO is condemned as a reckless hothead who refused to consider diplomatic alternatives.

    Starfleet tends to frown on the former, but it remains to be seen how Raffael will ultimately emerge from this unenviable clustermug.

    Well done, as always!
  5. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Nehru Colonial Command Center, Arandis IV

    Colony Director Ciadra McCullough presented the calm eye in the center of a storm of activity. All applicable contingency plans had been enacted, all preparations that could be made were underway. The population had been evacuated to shielded survival bunkers and all defensive systems were on high alert. Now all that remained was gleaning what little intelligence could be had from Starfleet and civilian sources, a mish-mash of sensor logs from civilian transports and hourly updates from Starfleet’s massive Archimedes Array.

    McCullough had been apprised of multiple Starfleet delaying actions that had bought her colony much needed preparation time, but now a wing of the Cardassian invasion force was only hours away from the Arandis system.

    Hal Lindström, the colony’s assistant director, approached with a padd in hand. His expression was drawn, even more serious than he’d been the past few days. “Boss, I finally received confirmation from Starfleet on the ship they’re sending us. You’re not going to like it.”

    She quickly scanned the document, her eyes widening in unwelcome surprise. “A cadet training ship? We’re facing a full-scale invasion, and they’re sending a starship full of raw recruits?”

    Lindström winced in sympathy. “It is a fully equipped starship, Constellation-class. Hell, they were supposed to be a sector-and-a-half away on a training mission but her captain diverted here when the invasion kicked off.”

    “I suppose under the circumstances we should be grateful,” she sighed. “I’d feared Starfleet wouldn’t be able to muster a ship to send to our defense at all. If it has to be one full of green-as-grass cadets, so be it.”

    Ai Zhijuan, the colony’s chief constable, approached wearing full body armor and cradling a phaser rifle. In the decade that Ciadra had known her, she had never seen Zhijuan so equipped. The most common crimes within the colony were occasional brawls in drinking establishments or petty theft, usually carried out by bored adolescents. The colony’s constables typically carried nothing more dangerous than a stun-baton.

    McCullough looked Zhijuan up and down, muttering, “Is it bad that I didn’t even know you had that kind of gear?”

    Lindström imparted a curious look at the director but held his tongue.

    Zhijuan was actually able to muster a small grin despite the circumstances. “Probably.” She slung the rifle over her shoulder with a self-conscious frown. “I’m going to need a priority channel to the starship when they’re in real-time comms range to arrange surface defenses with their security personnel.”

    “We’re already on it. They’ll be RT in twenty minutes and word has it they’re already putting together plans to supplement your constables and our home-guard volunteers.”

    “Good to hear.” Zhijuan affirmed. “Dare I ask who gets here first, Starfleet or the Cardassians?”

    McCullough and Lindström shared a look before the director said, “Based on what we know at present, the starship should be here at least six hours before the Cardassians arrive.”

    Zhijuan blew out a breath. “That’s a pretty narrow margin.”

    “Tell me about it,” McCullough grumbled.

    Zhijuan turned to Lindström. “How’s Fergus coming with that transporter scrambler?”

    The big Swede grinned. “Very nearly finished. For something he cobbled together out of spare parts, it’s pretty ingenious. From what little I know about the ones Starfleet employs, Fergus’ version is about twenty-percent more powerful with a third greater range.”

    “Heavens bless that man,” McCullough breathed.

    “I doubt very much if our new Cardassian friends are going to be blessing him,” Lindström said with an evil grin.

    * * *​

    Officers, cadets, and enlisted personnel jostled past one another as they navigated Sagan’s narrow corridors in response to the red alert klaxon.

    Commander th’Skaar’s voice carried over the intraship, “Now hear this, all personnel are to report to their primary alert duty stations. All those selected for landing-party detail report to transporter rooms one and two. Duty gear will be issued prior to departure. Medical and damage control teams assemble at your designated rally points and await further instructions.”

    Lar’ragos was observing Chief Petty Officer Kurati demonstrate how to don a pressurized fire-fighting garment when Commander Morozov tapped him on the shoulder and gestured for him to step out into the corridor.

    Lar’ragos followed grudgingly, glancing back towards the demonstration, clearly not wanting to miss any critical details.

    “You won’t be needing one of those where we’re going,” Morozov apprised him.

    Lar’ragos’ head snapped back around and his eyes narrowed. “Sir?”

    “Mister Bartolo tells me you were a soldier in a former life, and he suspects you were likely a good one. Is that accurate?”

    Lar’ragos hesitated. “It is, though it was a long time ago, sir.”

    Morozov nodded reluctantly. “I see. I’m truly sorry but leaving you up here to patch holes in the hull is a waste of talent. I need you down there with us.”

    Lar’ragos gestured to the blue collar of his uniform jumpsuit. “I’m Sciences now, sir. I—I don’t know if I’d do you any good down there.”

    Morozov leaned in, whispering, “We both know the likelihood of Sagan surviving the next few hours is effectively zero. Staying up here is a death sentence. I’m giving you the chance to stand on your own two feet down there.”

    “Please don’t do this,” Lar’ragos pleaded. “You don’t know what you’re asking—”

    “That’s why I’m not asking, Mister Lar’ragos. This isn’t about what you want. It’s about what’s needed. We need soldiers. If nothing else, you can help Bartolo keep an eye on young Mister Sandhurst. We’ll have to run interference for our support personnel down there, to keep them safe so they can do their jobs.”

    The El Aurian took a deep, steadying breath and nodded. “Understood. May I be so bold as to stipulate conditions, Commander?” he asked.

    Morozov appeared curious. “Go on.”

    “I’m not fighting in this,” Lar’ragos said, gesturing to his form-fitting cadet jumpsuit. He then pointed to the ‘dust-buster’ style phaser Morozov was armed with. “Or with one of those ridiculous things. How can you expect to shoot straight?”

    Lar’ragos outlined his demands quickly.

    “Fine, go gear up.” Morozov allowed. “I’ll authorize your specialty items as a priority for the replicator. Transporter room two, twenty minutes.”

    * * *​

    As soon as the transporter’s confinement beam had released him, Sandhurst slung the strap from his engineering kit over one shoulder and hefted the supply crate at his feet in both hands. He began trudging along with his cohort towards the cluster of buildings they had beamed down near. So focused was he on the task at hand that it barely registered that this was the first planet outside the Sol system that he’d set foot on. In fact, aside from a trip to Utopia Planitia on Mars earlier that year, he’d never left Earth.

    Ahead he could see Commander Morozov speaking with a civilian as a team of colonist engineers behind them erected fortifications with robotic industrial movers along a ferroconcrete surfaced roadway.

    Lieutenant Petrich announced, “Alright, everyone set the gear down here until we know where it’s needed. Take the opportunity to re-check your phasers and confirm they’re set to heavy stun.”

    Sandhurst withdrew the bulky hand phaser from its holster at his waist and activated the setting display. He verified it was set to the appropriate discharge level and re-holstered the weapon. The moment felt decidedly surreal, as he’d only ever handled phasers in training simulations previously.

    Petrich stepped back to the group of mingling crewmen and cadets. “Mister Borensen here is directing the construction of a choke point where we’ll be setting up some of our automated phaser emplacements and portable shield generators. Latest reports have the Cardassians at four hours out from planetfall. Time is of the essence, so let’s move!”

    Sandhurst busied himself for the next hour helping to set up multiple automated phaser banks and shield generators, creating a ‘fatal funnel’ along what was projected to be a main avenue of Cardassian advance into the colony. As he worked, he noted that the civilians working alongside their Starfleet contingent were focused and professional. There were no signs of panic or disorder that he might have expected of people who were only hours away from invasion. Their proximity to the Cardassian border must have something to do with it, he mused. It struck him that if it were Earth that faced such grim circumstances, the response might have been quite different.

    As he knelt calibrating a shield generator’s emitter, Sandhurst noticed a pair of heavy duty boots step up to him. He glanced up to see an irritated looking Lar’ragos standing over him.

    “Oh, hello there,” Sandhurst offered brightly. “I thought you were staying on the ship.”

    “Me too,” Lar’ragos replied gruffly. He was clad in an ensemble Sandhurst had only seen in history holos. This was a uniform variant from the more rough-and-tumble days of the late 23rd century. The old field duty uniform consisted of a durable tan British commando-style sweater over turtleneck undershirt. Over the sweater he wore security armor that covered his shoulders and torso, also a throwback to that earlier era. His lower half was adorned in military-style cargo pants held up by an equipment belt festooned with gear. His combadge was affixed to his armored breastplate.

    It appeared that rather than the current style hand phaser the rest of them were armed with, Lar’ragos had a late-23rd century pistol phaser in a holster strapped to his leg. It was a menacing looking black and metallic number.

    Sandhurst stood, pointing at Lar’ragos’ belt as he did so. “Geez, is that a grenade?”

    Lar’ragos nodded toward the shield emitter. “Mind your work. I’m here posting guard so that you can do your thing undisturbed.”

    “Uh, right. Sure.” Sandhurst moved to where a civilian was sinking bolts into the concrete roadway to support the next shield emitter. As he opened a carrying case containing the disassembled emitter, Lar’ragos took up a position from where he could see Sandhurst and the other engineering personnel from their group.

    Bartolo walked up to Lar’ragos, fresh from a conference with Lieutenant Petrich. “The lieutenant wants us covering this area when the attack begins. We’re to hold here and give the others time to fall back to secondary positions before retreating by bounds.” He looked Lar’ragos up and down. “What the hell are you wearing?”

    The older man’s response was flat, devoid of the deference one typically showed a superior officer. “Combat gear, or the nearest thing I could find in the Starfleet database. Your people used to wear this for killing Klingons. That’s good enough for me.” Lar’ragos turned to survey the scene, frowning. “Who picked this as a choke point?” He gestured in an easterly direction. “You see that hill? It’d be very easy to flank us, take position on the high ground there, and pound us to dust with indirect fire.”


    “Mortars,” Lar’ragos offered. “Conventional explosive or plasma if we’re lucky. If we’re unlucky, they might even have photon mortar rounds. That’d make for a really bad day.”

    Bartolo gave the overlooking hill a long look. “I’m not sure who decided to make this a strong point. Probably the colonists before we arrived.”

    “Well, regardless, I’d advise sending a squad up there to secure that hill before the Cardassians arrive.”

    “I’ll be sure to mention it to Commander Morozov,” Bartolo said with a frown.

    “You do that,” Lar’ragos replied, spitting into the dirt at his feet.

    * * *​

    Dr. Cavanaugh looked around to her assembled staff who were all gathered around on her in the center of Sickbay. Nurses, medical technicians, and medical-division cadets all carried treatment satchels and medical tricorders.

    “Trust in your training and your abilities. I’ve been coaching you on emergency medicine and battle triage for over a week, and you’re ready for this. I know you’re anxious, and for many of you this will be your first time in combat. Remember to keep your wits about you, because you can’t save lives if you’re panicking. When things get hectic, and they will, remember to breath and focus on the task in front of you. Your training will kick in and you’ll know what to do.” She offered a confident smile to the group. “Please move to your alert duty posts.”

    As the personnel trickled out of Sickbay, Cavanaugh turned back to calibrating medical tricorders that would be placed in emergency medical kits to be distributed to the bridge, engineering, and other critical areas of the ship.

    “As speeches go, it was short, simple, and poignant. Nicely done.”

    Cavanaugh started with a quiet gasp then turned to see Captain Tinubu standing behind her, the merest hint of a smirk gracing her features. “I really wish you wouldn’t do that, Captain.”

    Tinubu shrugged. “Sneaky captain’s prerogative.” She gestured to the CMO’s nearby office. “Join me please, Doctor.”

    Cavanaugh followed her into the office. The doctor waited until the captain had seated herself in a guest chair before the she slid into the seat behind her desk. “What can I do for you, Captain?”

    As was her habit when delivering bad news, Tinubu began without preamble. “Carol, I’m going to need for you to collect your staff, to include all of your cadets, gather what medical equipment and supplies you can muster and beam down to the planet. You’ll be supplementing the civilian medical community in the colony and helping to treat our surface battle casualties.”

    Cavanaugh’s eyes widened in alarm. “Captain, we’re about to go into battle with—well, I’m not even sure how many Cardassian ships. There are sure to be casualties on board. I can’t leave that kind of workload behind for untrained personnel to cope with. It wouldn’t be medically ethical, and it would be an abrogation of my Hippocratic oath!”

    Tinubu’s eyes softened and she leaned forward, exuding candor. “Carol, this is a one-way trip. We have no chance of stopping the Cardassians in orbit, only slowing their advance and hopefully whittling down their numbers in the process. Once we’ve engaged them, our life expectancy will likely be measured in minutes.”

    “A suicide-mission, you mean?”

    “I’m afraid so,” Tinubu confirmed. “We won’t last long enough to warrant keeping medical personnel onboard. You’d all just die needlessly with the rest of us. At least down on the surface you can help make a real difference.”

    As she slumped back in her chair, Cavanaugh shook her head in disbelief. “It can’t be that grim, that certain, Adi. It just can’t.”

    “And yet it is,” Tinubu countered. “Believe me, this isn’t how I saw my career ending, let alone my life. Regardless, this is the card we’ve been dealt. We have an obligation to place ourselves between our colonists and the rampaging Cardassians.”

    Cavanaugh briefly covered her eyes with her hand, fighting back tears. “I meant that I’m not ready to lose you, or th’Skaar.” She laughed bitterly through her grief. “I’m a physician, death is part of my profession, and yet I can’t wrap my head around losing either of you. After everything we survived in the Tyresian Expanse, to think that things should turn out like this!”

    “Every story has an end,” Tinubu said quietly. “I’m not looking forward to it by any means, but dying in defense of the helpless isn’t the worst way to go.”

    Cavanaugh stood abruptly, turning away from Tinubu. “I’m glad you can be so cavalier about this!”

    “I’m being realistic, Carol.” Tinubu stood, reaching out a hand and placing it on the doctor’s shoulder. “I will miss you my friend. I hope you and Evgeni come through this. At least our little ‘family’ would live on through the two of you.”

    The doctor’s shoulders shuddered as she wept silently, unable to form a reply.

    “You have thirty minutes to assemble your people and equipment, Doctor.”

    With that Tinubu exited as silently as she had entered, leaving Cavanaugh to collect herself.

    * * *​
  6. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    It sounds like Sagan is going to need reinforcements for the reinforcements.
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  7. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Oh oh, Pava is on the ground and geared up for a fight. The Cardassians may as well turn around and go back home if they knew what was good for them.

    Actually, while I think Pava will make a decided difference here, I don't expect this to be an easy fight. Pava is a reluctant soldier and very much out of practice and cadets are green and untested. This is gonna get ugly. But I have little doubt that this will be a defining episode for all involved, particularly for those who survive the next 24 hours.
    Gibraltar likes this.
  8. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Once more into the breach for our beloved poet/soldier. His reluctance is understandable, considering the decades (centuries) of war he has experienced. Hopefully, his "superiors" will heed his advice. I hope Starfleet understands that when it comes to war, Pava Lar'ragos didn't write the rule book. He burned it.
    And poor Donald. He has no idea . . .
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  9. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    USS Sagan

    “Cardassian attack force has dropped out of warp at the system boundary, Captain,” Ops reported. “Four cruisers, three destroyers, five escorts, and eight troop carriers in javelin formation.”

    “Acknowledged,” Tinubu said, turning her gaze to th’Skaar at the helm. “They’ll either hold that formation and drive straight for the colony or they’ll split up and attempt a pincer or envelopment maneuver.”

    “Yes, sir,” th’Skaar answered. “Only time will tell.”

    “ETA?” she asked.

    “Thirty seven minutes if they maintain their course and remain at three-quarters impulse, sir.”

    Tinubu called over her shoulder to the tactical officer. “Status of our minefield?”

    “We’re dropping the last string now, sir. Estimated ten minutes until that’s completed.”

    Lieutenant Vantley turned back from Ops to regard Tinubu. “Sir, I’m obligated to point out that deploying mines is in direct violation of several Starfleet regulations and Federation laws.”

    Tinubu smiled grimly. “I’ll be sure to note that in my log, Lieutenant. However, as Starfleet traditionally doesn’t pursue posthumous courts-martial, we’re not likely to face prosecution.”

    The bridge crew shared in a moment of mordant levity before Tinubu directed them all back to the mission at hand.

    “Our priority will be the troop ships. We’ll try and draw the cruisers out and then double back to make a run on their transports. The more of those we can destroy or disable, the better chance the colony has to survive until help arrives.”

    The bridge crew nodded their understanding.

    “I thank you all for volunteering to remain behind with me,” Tinubu offered. “It was easy to speak the words of our oath when we were first inducted. This... this is where our true mettle is proved. May fortune favor our endeavor here today.”

    * * *​

    Civil Safety Shelter #2 – Nehru Colony

    Daniel Craddock stepped into the small operations room that controlled the shields and power systems of the bunker complex, nodding to Nina Acharya as he did so.

    “Safety seals check out,” he reported. “Atmospheric processors are optimal, and we’ve topped off the replicatable matter stores.”

    Acharya blew out a relieved sigh. “Glad to hear it. Now we can button this baby up tight and wait for the cavalry. It’ll take the Cardies a lot of time and firepower to punch through our shields.”

    Cardies, Craddock reflected. It was strange that for the briefest of moments, he’d actually shared Acharya’s dread of the Cardassians. He was legitimately sad that Nina was on ops duty today, as he rather liked her. Hers had always been a calm, steady, and positive influence on the people around her.

    Craddock stepped forward as he withdrew the plasma torch from his tool belt. He activated the device and jammed it against Acharya’s neck as she began to turn, reacting to the sound of the torch igniting. Her scream was mercifully cut short as the torch killed her almost instantly.

    He eased her body gently to the floor, struggling with overwhelming regret for having had to murder her. It was his duty, of course. It had been for just such an eventuality that he had been surgically altered and sent to live here among the Humans some two decades earlier.

    He was from a poor family, and his service to the state had provided his parents and siblings with food and shelter, things they would have otherwise lacked. Now, despite his reservations, he would carry through with his mission. To refuse or to fail would result in the death of whatever family of his still remained on the homeworld. Such was the price of obedience to the Obsidian Order.

    Craddock severed the communications and data links to the colony’s main operations center, knowing that an armed response would arrive within minutes to investigate. However, the same formidable defenses that were designed to thwart Cardassian invaders would prevent the colony’s constabulary from making forced entry before it was too late. He locked and secured the door to the operations room and sealed all of the shelter’s interior pressure doors to prevent anyone inside from attempting to stop him.

    He then released the primary safeties on the bunker’s fusion reactor and spent long minutes introducing the painstakingly crafted computer viruses smuggled to him weeks earlier that would disengage all remaining safety overrides and allow the reactor to go supercritical.

    Two thousand of the Nehru Colony’s thirty thousand inhabitants would be consumed in the ensuing explosion. The facility’s shields would prevent the five-megaton detonation from annihilating the rest of the colony, but the collateral damage would be extensive.

    Eight kilometers away, another surgically altered Cardassian operative was carrying out the same treachery in Shelter #5. Following these attacks, it was expected that the remaining shelters would be evacuated to prevent any additional sabotage from claiming further lives.

    That would send tens of thousands of civilians into the streets just as the Cardassian invasion force touched down, throwing what had been a prepared defense by the constabulary, home-guard, and Starfleet ground forces into utter chaos. Now their foes would have to struggle to shepherd panicked civilians as Cardassian troops closed in.

    Craddock, or more correctly Agent Velis Kinaar entered the final command string into the computer to push the fusion reactor into overload.

    He paused before toggling the final key stroke and closed his eyes. “My life for Cardassia,” he whispered before unleashing hell upon the very people he had spent the last twenty years with.

    * * *​

    A famished Sandhurst was munching on a Starfleet survival ration bar when his combadge chirped and Morozov’s voice issued from it. Sagan has signaled that they’ve engaged the Cardassian force in high orbit. We can expect Cardassians on the surface in minutes. Be prepared for them to beam in or to come down in landing craft. This is it, people. Take up your assigned positions and remember to confer with your civilian counterparts.”

    He took a swig from his canteen and then put it back in his backpack. Hefting his pack onto his back, Sandhurst fell in the with the rest of his engineering support team as they moved to a small bunker constructed from newly poured ferroconcrete over a tritanium mesh. From here they would monitor the status of their portable shield generators and automated phaser emplacements, ensuring that the power feeds from the firehose like EPS trunk running between them was maintained.

    As he hustled towards the bunker, he could hear a familiar voice raised in agitation.

    “So, you’re telling me nobody’s going to clear and secure that hilltop?”

    Sandhurst paused to see Lar’ragos facing off against one of the colony’s constables as Cadet Bartolo stood by.

    The constable looked to Bartolo. “Is this guy one of yours or is he some kind of historical reenactor who wandered in here?”

    “Don’t talk to him, talk to me!” Lar’ragos demanded, taking a step closer to the man. “If the Cardies get a fire team up there, we’re finished. This whole elaborate ‘choke point’ of yours is going to last all of five minutes, and then they’ll sweep into the colony through here.”

    “I don’t know who the hell you think you are, Cadet, but you’d better step back before—” the man reached out a hand to push Lar’ragos back and was surprised when Bartolo caught his wrist and forced his arm down.

    “Trust me,” Bartolo said, “you really don’t want to do that.”

    “I’m not trying to get into a pissing contest with you,” Lar’ragos pressed, “but you’re ignoring some very basic rules of surface warfare here.”

    “I understand you think that,” the man replied hotly. “Just what makes you such an expert?”

    Lar’ragos paused, shooting a guilty look at Bartolo before replying to the constable. “Because I used to plan and execute attacks just like the ones the Cardassians are carrying out here.” He pointed to the hill. “And seizing that high ground to use it against you would have been a priority for me.”

    “Well, if you want to hike all the way up there and—”

    A breathtaking flash of light erupted to the west, causing all of them to reflexively cover their eyes. A shockwave convulsed the ground just a moment before a wall of wind and debris knocked everyone standing in the open off their feet.

    People cried out, crawling or scuttling behind whatever cover was nearest. Amid the coughing and cursing someone began screaming, “Orbital bombardment! Orbital bombardment!”

    Sandhurst had fallen backwards into the makeshift bunker during the explosion and came staggering out to help Bartolo, Lar’ragos and the constable to their feet. All three men were blinking rapidly, trying to clear their vision from the effects of the blinding flare of light.

    “What the hell was that?” the constable croaked.

    “Something went boom,” Lar’ragos said helpfully.

    The group heard the whine of intermittent phaser and stunner fire as panicked defenders began shooting at sensor ghosts and fluttering debris in the twilight.

    Bartolo groused, “That’s just great. Now they’re giving away our firing positions.”

    The Starfleeter’s combadges erupted with static, followed by Morozov’s voice which sounded tinny and distorted with electromagnetic interference. “This is Morozov at Colony Operations. We’ve detected a fusion explosion at one of the civil defense shelters. It appears the shields there contained much of the detonation, which is why we’re all still here. The colony director is telling me that shouldn’t have been possible, and they’re looking into it. For now, maintain your defensive positions under cover in case this isn’t an isolated incident. We have no verified reports of any Cardassian boots on the ground as yet. I repeat, no verified reports of Cardassian troops on the surface. Sagan and the colony’s orbital defenses are still are engaging the enemy.”

    Sandhurst looked up and could just make out faint traces of energy beams and flashes in the darkening sky he presumed were explosions.

    Bartolo chucked Lar’ragos on the shoulder. “I’m going to go get our people sorted out and instill some trigger discipline. Sagan’s doing their job, it’s time we did ours.” He pointed to Sandhurst, and then up to the hill that had so agitated Lar’ragos. “Take Sandhurst and a squad up there and set up the last of our phaser turrets. I don’t want the Cardassians dominating the local terrain.”

    “On it, sir,” Lar’ragos nodded. And he meant it. Whatever Bartolo lacked in experience, the young man made up for it in raw charisma and solid judgment. He was a natural leader, the kind that inspired loyalty, even in a man nearly four-hundred years his senior.

    * * *​

    The troop compartment of the aged drop ship reeked of solvent, lubricants and the stink of too many nervous men crammed together into too tight a space.

    Dal Durak Var wondered if this old workhorse of a landing craft had ever carried his father into battle a generation earlier. He reflected bitterly that while he and his comrades would have to descend into the target planet’s gravity well on this rickety museum piece, risking being blotted out of the sky by enemy weapons, the Second Order’s elite commandos and shock troops would be allowed to utilize the Union’s new transporter technology to simply materialize on the surface.

    Such was the fate of a Cardassian conscript, he mused. To suffer countless dangers and risk spilling one’s blood in the dirt of an alien planet, all for the greater glory of the state. He gripped the barrel of his pulse rifle that sat butt-plate to the deck with its neck held between his knees. The ancient scatter-gun was cocooned in a leather scabbard slung over one shoulder.

    Var jostled against the hard, narrow jump seat as the drop ship screamed into the atmosphere, maneuvering violently to try and throw off the enemy’s targeting scanners.

    Across from him Arvik sat rigidly in his seat, his face a rictus of naked terror as the craft plummeted down the gravity well.

    “Is this the grand adventure you’d hoped?” Var shouted across to him.

    In response, Arvik struggled valiantly to keep from throwing up.

    Var glanced over his shoulder out the milky, pitted viewport just in time to see another drop ship holed through by a phaser beam. Flaming bodies tumbled out the breach as the craft yawed wildly and then exploded.

    Var returned to studying the juddering barrel of his rifle as his recently departed comrades rained towards the surface far below like blazing comets.

    * * *​

    “Tighter turn radius,” Tinubu gasped as she pulled herself back into the command chair.

    Consoles flickered, fizzled and sent gouts of sparks into the already smoke-laden air of the bridge. The reek of burning electronics and plastics assaulted Tinubu’s nose as she reflected distractedly that Ensign Kaigler’s body had broken her fall after the last volley of Cardassian missiles had savaged Sagan’s port shields.

    Th’Skaar’s only response was a pained grunt as he slewed the ship between a Cardassian destroyer and the wreckage of a frigate they’d immolated during their last pass through the enemy formation.

    “Two enemy transports to starboard!” Lieutenant Saadeh called from the Science station, one of the few left operable on the bridge’s outer ring.

    The Tactical console chimed repeatedly, signifying outgoing phaser fire directed by th’Skaar on the cruiser as Sagan streaked past. He swung the ship hard over and suddenly visible through the wavering, static-filled viewscreen were two of the large troop ships disgorging a swarm of landing craft.

    “Torpedoes!” Tinubu ordered. An instant later, crimson orbs of destructive energy rifled from Sagan’s forward tubes to blast apart both transports and a handful of drop ships caught in the troop ship’s death throes.

    Another jolting impact seemed to slam the starship sideways, beginning a lateral spin that th’Skaar struggled to correct.

    “That’s it for the port and ventral shields!” Vantley cried out from Ops, as he labored to glean data from flickering readouts.

    “Phaser energy is dropping,” th’Skaar growled, throwing a few weakening beams at a cruiser that had just stumbled into one of their mines.

    “EPS junctions are out all over the ship,” Vantley confirmed. “Engineering has their hands full just trying to keep the main reactor online right now.”

    “Okay, let’s fall back to the planet,” Tinubu ordered. “The defense grid can take some of the heat off us. We need to pick off the rest of those drop ships.”

    “Still… still trying bring us around,” th’Skaar gurgled, forcing himself to ignore the bluish blood welling from his neck. “Helm’s… sluggish.”

    A cruiser, flanked by a damage frigate, bore down on the wounded Sagan as she slewed to-and-fro under diminished helm control.

    Knowing that th’Skaar had his hands full with flight control, Vantley quickly reconfigured his console for weapons control and lashed the oncoming vessels with a volley of torpedoes and the last of their dwindling phaser energy.

    The prow of the oncoming cruiser buckled under the onslaught and she veered hard away, trailing atmosphere. The frigate, however, continued on undaunted.

    Saadeh cried out a warning, “Collision course!” as she tried in vain to reroute all remaining shield power to cover that quarter.

    Tinubu shouted, “Emergency power to shiel—"

    The two craft met at a combined velocity of nearly half-impulse, one-eighth the speed of light. The blossoming antimatter explosion that marked their union could be seen from the surface.

    Sagan’s fight was now bequeathed to her personnel on the surface of Arandis IV and the civilians they sought to safeguard.

    * * *​
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  10. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    Holy crap! This is getting exciting.
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  11. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Oaky, so here I thought that maybe ... just maybe, they've got a snowball's chance in hell to somehow repel this invasion. But hey, that was before I realized the Order had some deep-cover operatives on site to further create chaos, death and destruction. And now Sagan (RIP) has gone bye-bye too.

    Yeah, no need for a Kobayashi Maru for any cadet who survives this.
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  12. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    I agree with CeJay. I think this is their Kobayashi Maru... if they survive.
  13. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    No battle plan survives the first encounter with the enemy . . . especially, when the enemy has already infiltrated your defenses and, quite literally, blown up said plan.
    You write battle sequences so exquisitely well (he said, with envy). Kudos for another edge-of-your seat ride!
    At least we know Pava and Donald survive. Not too sure about anyone else, though . . .
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  14. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Colony Operations Center – Arandis IV

    Chaos reigned as frantic console operators tried to determine the source and reason behind the massive detonation. The electromagnetic pulse that had accompanied the explosion was wreaking havoc on all manner of data systems, especially as the aging LCARS operating systems in use here were not hardened like their military-grade counterparts utilized by Starfleet.

    Morozov stood from where he’d sheltered behind a bank of consoles, thankful that the transparent aluminum windows had withstood the blast. He desperately wished he were out on the front line with a phaser in his hand rather than trapped here as a glorified data-jockey. Morozov glanced towards Director McCullough as she picked herself up off the floor and immediately moved to study the colony’s status monitors.

    “It was Shelter Two!” someone called out above the din. “We’d just lost data telemetry and comms with them. We sent a squad of Home Guard to make contact but hadn’t heard back yet.”

    “The readings are consistent with the bunker’s reactor overloading,” a technician announced.

    “Not possible!” McCullough raged. “There are a dozen separate safeties to prevent that!”

    “It can’t be a coincidence,” Morozov said to the director. “There may be Cardassian infiltrators or commando units here already.”

    “Not a chance,” came the response from a Home Guard colonel manning their communications station. “We’ve got personnel guarding all critical infrastructure—” he stopped mid-sentence, touching a hand to his comms earpiece.

    One of the technicians looked up from her console. “The bunker’s shields remained up just long enough for the shield blister to contain nearly eighty percent of the blast.” She shook her head in disbelief. “If not, the explosion would have taken out most of the settlement.”

    McCullough’s face paled as the full weight of the disaster finally settled on her. “How many in that shelter?”

    There was a brief pause before someone answered, “Around twenty-two hundred.”

    There were collective gasps and mutter curses in response.

    Morozov took the opportunity to open a comms channel to all Starfleet personnel on the surface and update them as to the source of the explosion and the status of the Cardassian’s incursion. ““This is Morozov at Colony Operations. We’ve detected a fusion explosion at one of the civil defense shelters…"

    Just as he completed his transmission, two troubling reports arrived nearly simultaneously. The Home Guard colonel called out, “Shelter Five reports they’ve just subdued a systems technician who tried to seize control of their Ops room. He killed two people before being overpowered by constables.”

    A sensor operator at a nearby station also noted, “Reading antimatter explosion in orbit. One of our satellites just recorded a spacecraft collision in the ionosphere.” He shot a guilty glance at Morozov. “I—I’m sorry, Commander. I’m detecting energy signatures and debris consistent with a Federation starship warp reactor breach.”

    Morozov’s head dropped fractionally as he struggled to maintain composure. Two of his oldest, closest friends were dead, along with nearly a hundred and fifty others who’d volunteered to remain aboard during Sagan’s final stand. He’d known that this was the likeliest outcome, but part of him had still held out hope for some kind of miraculous last moment reprieve. There had been so many close calls in their time together aboard Prokofiev, the kind odds-defying narrow escapes that led one to subconsciously believe that the no-win scenario was just a myth.

    No longer.

    He raised his gaze to meet McCullough’s expectant stare. “I’m sorry about your ship and crew,” she offered.

    Morozov nodded numbly in response. “Spasibo,” he murmured.

    “Commander,” she pressed regretfully. “I’m going to presume that it’s the Cardassians behind the destruction of our civil shelter and the attempted takeover of the other. What would you estimate the probability is there will be attempts on the other shelters?”

    “Can’t say,” he replied heavily. “If it’s the Obsidian Order that’s turning colonists into saboteurs, there could be dozens of them. They are very good at what they do.”

    “Should we evacuate the shelters?” McCullough asked.

    “Sensors now tracking inbound craft entering the upper atmosphere… they look to be landing ships,” a voice called from the back of the room.

    “I wouldn’t,” Morozov said, wincing at this latest report. “Now is the worst time to fill your streets with panicked civilians. I’d send Home Guard detachments to secure the ops rooms of the remaining shelters. It sounds as if they’re sending single operatives to each bunker.”

    McCullough nodded, gesturing to the Home Guard colonel. “Get a squad to each bunker’s ops center.”

    “Orbital defenses are continuing to engage the Cardassian ships in orbit, planetary defenses now opening fire on the descending drop ships.”

    Morozov folded his arms across his chest as he watched the outbound weapons fire on the tactical plot map. He crossed his fingers surreptitiously under his arms, murmuring a silent prayer to whatever deities oversaw this region of the universe that their aim would be true.

    * * *​

    Lar’ragos led a team of ten Starfleet personnel up the hill, lugging two mobile phaser emitters, forty meters of coiled power cable and a bulky sarium-krellide battery pack between them. Most of the group were armed only with hand-phasers, though three of them cradled the awkward, bulbous-ended Type-III rifles that Starfleet had recently issued. These were weapons, Lar’ragos suspected, that had never been tested under actual combat conditions.

    He had studied Starfleet history thoroughly before enlisting and knew that the organization had a tendency to forget lessons learned at great cost by previous generations. Vicious battles had been waged against the Xindi, Romulans, Klingons and a host of others, but despite the brutality of those conflicts, Starfleet would inevitably bend back towards a more pacifist stance. This trend historically culminated in a lowering of the Federation’s collective guard just in time for the next war to break out.

    Starfleet personnel and civilians would then die needlessly before the more martial among their ranks rose to prominence and rediscovered the secrets of warfare that the service as a whole had forgotten. It was a damned shame, Lar’ragos thought, given how incomparably rare a gift the Federation was to the galaxy.

    It was full dark by now as the group huffed up the steep incline following a narrow switch-back trail. The only ambient light was provided by Arandis IV’s twin moons, both in waxing crescent that delivered an anemic light onto the surrounding terrain.

    A stuttering coughing sound issued from the east and the team’s heads turned as one in that direction. A volley of photon torpedoes, launched from their silos by compressed gas, ignited into fiery red brilliance as their thrusters kicked in and slashed skyward.

    “That means assault teams are landing,” Lar’ragos remarked to the others. Securing the chest strap of his backpack, Lar’ragos started off again, double-time. “Let’s get to the top and set up our observation post.”

    Just as the team crested the hill, brilliant strobes of phaser fire began to erupt from emplacements along the western ridge of the valley. They turned to observe the blossoms of distant explosions in the night sky where the beams terminated, followed by flaming debris that fell like bright smears of luminous liquid flowing across dark glass.

    Lar’ragos directed the others, and the group unpacked their backpacks to begin assembling the portable phaser emitters they’d lugged up the hill. Meanwhile, the El Aurian removed a tube-like device from his own pack and began setting it up on a base plate. Chief Petty Officer Schäfer knelt next to him, retrieving a large carrying case from his own pack and setting it down gently next to Lar’ragos. Schäfer unfastened the clasps on the case and opened it to reveal dozens of ping-pong ball sized spheres swaddled in padded egg-crate, each emblazoned with tiny cautionary emblems.

    “Do you know how to use this?” Schäfer asked him.

    “Oh, yes.” Lar’ragos picked one of the spheres up and examined it gingerly. “To hold the high ground while in possession of a photon mortar is no small gift,” he breathed reverentially.

    Schäfer shared his conspiratorial grin. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,” he quoted from ancient scripture.

    “Amen,” Lar’ragos agreed as placed the mortar round back in its case and returned to assembling the mortar tube.

    Without warning, a high-pitched whine filled the air and nearly two dozen cascading columns of energy began to form in a cluster near the hill’s peak.

    Lar’ragos froze, momentarily transfixed by this sight, only to be spurred to action by Chief Schäfer’s shout of, “Transporter! Take cover!”

    The team scattered and Lar’ragos drew his phaser pistol as he moved to take cover behind an outcropping of rock.

    A phaser beam from one of their number caromed off the transporter’s annular confinement beam, prompting a shout of, “Cease fire, cease fire!” from the chief. “Wait until they’ve materialized!”

    There was a horrendous shrieking sound, like dozens of voices howling in surprised agony as the contents of those beams began to roil and distort. Then, as suddenly as it had arrived, the transporter effect faded, the harrowing screech echoing for a moment longer before blessed silence fell upon the hilltop.

    “Mother of God,” the chief muttered.

    “What— what the hell was that?” Lar’ragos stared at where the apparition had been an instant earlier.

    Sandhurst stepped forward, illuminated by multiple flashlights. “Transport scrambler field,” he said with a knowing bob of his head. He squinted against the light from the palm beacons for a second before turning and stumbling away a few paces to evacuate his stomach into some scrub brush. After a few shuddering gasps he continued, “I heard – heard one of the Home Guard soldiers saying that they’d cobbled together a homemade transport inhibitor.” Sandhurst rose shakily, looking pale. “Seems pretty effective.”

    A roaring sound emanating from the direction of the incoming drop ships caused the assembled Starfleet team to crouch and look for cover. Nearly fifty jets of drive flame, all that was visible from a wave of guided missiles, flashed overhead to impact the western ridge where the colony’s planetary defense phaser arrays were housed. A rippling string of explosions tore across the ridge with secondary detonations following in their wake.

    “This… is getting intense,” Sandhurst muttered aloud to himself. He stumbled on his way back to where he’d been calibrating the newly assembled phaser emitter at the top of one of the trails to the crest of the hill. He felt a strong hand help him back to his feet and turned to see Lar’ragos aiding him. “You were right about war, this is crazy.”

    “We’re not even to the worst parts yet,” Lar’ragos said, more to himself than to Sandhurst. He shook his head fractionally and gestured in the fading glow of the explosions for Sandhurst to resume his work.

    * * *​
  15. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Sandhurst has a knack for the unconventional, whether it's whirling-dervish holograms or transporter scramblers. Now, as the battle unfolds, I would put my money on Pava to stir things up and make the Cardassians pay their pound of flesh for their aggression.
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  16. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Alas, that wasn't Donald's doing, but the transport inhibitor field the colonists erected to cover the entirety of Nehru Colony. It certainly made an impression on him, though.
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  17. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    One could be forgiven to think that this is story is taking place at the height of the well-documented and brutal Dominion War. But it turns out the early days of the much less covered Cardassian Incursions were just a brutal and chaotic, which makes Pava's musing about Federation war preparedness even more prophetic.

    Have a feeling this will get uglier still before it gets better.
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  18. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    The drop ship bucked and slewed wildly as the pilot tried to evade incoming phaser and torpedo fire. What inertial dampening systems the old craft did have were primitive, and the passengers in the troop compartment were spared little of the g-forces generated by the ship’s wild maneuvers. There were gasps, groans, and the sound of someone retching further down the line.

    Var felt the thumps of the craft’s missile payload dropping from the wing pylons and heard the whoosh of the rocket motors igniting even over the roar of the drop ship’s own engines. The overhead lighting turned from orange to red, an indication that they were approximately two minutes from their landing zone.

    Urtrim, their platoon’s So-Dal, stood and grabbed hold of a steady bar above his head. The grizzled old sergeant called out above the whine of the engines, “Establish a perimeter around the ship when we egress. Make sure you know what you’re shooting at before you pull the trigger. We’ve lost many of our comrades in orbit, and more on the way down, so we can’t afford to go killing each other by accident. Our enemy has phasers that are more powerful than your pulse rifles. They also have surface shields. They are more advanced technically, but they are soft! We have been hardened by life on Cardassia. All the depravation, the hunger, the violence… surviving all of that has made each of us stronger than the mightiest among them. Remember that and show no mercy!”

    The roar of guided anti-personnel rockets leaping from their pods signaled that the drop ship was saturating the landing zone.

    “Weapons check!” Urtrim ordered.

    Var checked the charge on his rifle’s energy magazine and made sure that his three extra e-mags were secured in the pockets on his tactical vest. He leaned forward and moved his grandfather’s ancient scatter-gun in its leather scabbard across his back from where it had dangled over one shoulder on their descent. His knife was securely sheathed on his belt and a coil of garotte wire was secreted in the inner wrist of his right tactical glove. He wore the heavy, padded, leather-like armor of conscript service. It would absorb physical blows and some shrapnel, but it would be useless against phaser weapons.

    Now Var heard and felt the chatter of the drop ship’s plasma turrets opening up from the ship’s nose and sides, as the gunners bathed the landing zone in fire to suppress any remaining opposition to their disembarkation.

    The engines whined louder as the craft slowed to land and the egress ramp at the front of the compartment slammed down with a crash.

    “Go, go, go!” Urtrim yelled, prompting the troopers to rise in unison and charge forward with a collective cry of, “For Cardassia!”

    Var followed the man in front of him down the ramp and onto the soil of an alien world. His boots kicked up dust and ash as the drop ship’s nose cannon chattered away only two meters above him. Var threw himself down onto his stomach, sweeping the area immediately in front of him with the nigh-vision scope of his rifle. The air was heavy with the smell of burned vegetation and the ground was pocked with craters.

    Behind him the engines of their drop ship roared as it lifted off. Another of its sister craft some two hundred meters to their left had unloaded first and was already airborne, only to be struck by multiple phaser impacts. The craft had no shields, and it’s antiquated polarized hull plating was insufficient against the state-of-the-art Federation phasers fired from the cluster of commercial buildings ahead of the advancing troops.

    The stricken drop ship struggled valiantly to rise, even as flames licked the hull from a ruptured fuel line. Another fusillade of phasers halted its escape attempt by severing the ship’s left wing and engine pod. Its nose dropped and with a protesting death-scream from its remaining engines, the craft slammed into the ground and cartwheeled in a flaming, rolling explosion. This maelstrom of destruction tumbled through the enemy’s defensive line and sent debris raining down for hundreds of meters in every direction.

    Rather than seek immediate escape, their platoon’s drop ship made a beeline for the source of those beams and saturated that defensive strongpoint with it’s remaining rockets and a sustained burst from its plasma cannons. As it passed over the main defensive line the ship released two cannisters that detonated twenty meters from the ground, saturating the area in a wave of superheated plasma.

    Var rose to a kneeling position, scanning the area through his rifle’s scope. He could see some of the drop ship’s fire absorbed by the enemy’s shields, but those energy blisters only protected specific areas. Between the shield bubbles Var managed to make out what looked to be burning bodies and equipment scattered haphazardly.

    A few enthusiastic conscripts in Var’s platoon began shooting at the defense line but were quickly stopped by So-Dal Urtrim’s angered shouts to cease fire. At this range all they were accomplishing was giving away their position.

    Urtrim assumed a low crouch and motioned to the platoon to rise and follow him. He occasionally paused, touching a hand to his comms earpiece.

    Var followed along, glancing back and to the sides trying to catch a glimpse of Arvik. Var wondered idly why the first defensive line was still there. The plan, at least to his limited understanding, had been for their commando and shock-troop units to transport in behind the primary and secondary defensive positions and attack them from the rear just prior to the main assault force making contact. That didn’t appear to be happening.

    So much for our plans, he thought darkly, clutching his rifle a bit more tightly.

    * * *​

    From atop the hill, the Starfleet team watched as a flight of Cardassian drop ships flared out and disgorged their cargo of soldiers some five hundred meters shy of where Bartolo and the others had established their choke point in the commercial complex.

    As Lar’ragos and Chief Schäfer finished assembling and ranging in the mortar, one of the drop ships was knocked out of the sky only to cut a blazing swath of destruction through one of the more heavily defended portions of the outer perimeter line. One of its sisters then delivered a devastating attack on the defenders with shockingly primitive weapons. There was frantic, confused comms traffic over their interlinked communicator network, panicked voices drowning one another out calling for help.

    Cadet Waller, who was monitoring comms and message traffic on a tricorder, relayed, “Colony Ops is ordering the defensive line to pull back to the buildings. They’re going to leave the surviving automated phaser canons to cover their withdrawal.”

    Schäfer raised his binoculars and switched to thermal imaging. “The troops those ships dropped off are on the move. Four hundred and seventy meters out from our line. I’m counting… somewhere in the vicinity of three-hundred and fifty of them.”

    Lar’ragos spared a moment to take a glance through the chief’s binoculars as one of the departing drop ships roared overhead. “We took a pasting down there,” he noted with a dissatisfied grunt.

    Phaser beams began to lance out from the upper stories of the commercial buildings as sporadic plasma bolts lashed back in angry reply from the advancing Cardassians.

    Schäfer clapped Lar’ragos on the shoulder. “Let’s help cover our people as they fall back, Cadet.”

    “Aye, Chief,” Lar’ragos confirmed. Schäfer scanned the position of the Cardassian infantry with his binoculars and transferred the coordinates to the mortar’s ranging computer.

    “Set the shells for stun discharge,” Schäfer instructed. Lar’ragos looked skeptical but followed the senior enlisted man’s instructions. True, Bartolo had placed Lar’ragos in charge of this group, but now wasn’t the time to have a pissing match over authority. The El Aurian harbored doubts about the wisdom of merely stunning enemy soldiers in this situation, but Starfleet’s ethos had been drummed into him continuously during his first year at the academy.

    Lar’ragos set the charge on the sphere as ordered, then double-checked the projected impact coordinates before dropping the sphere into the tube. There was a quiet ‘pop’ as the charge launched on an electromagnetic pulse. “On the way,” Lar’ragos called out, a habit ingrained in him centuries earlier that he’d completely forgotten.

    A minute and a half passed, during which time seemed to crawl. As they awaited the weapon’s impact the group atop the hill watched as shoulder-fired missiles reached out from the advancing Cardassian formation to blast apart sections of the commercial buildings’ upper stories. The returning phaser fire from those locations began to slacken.

    Finally, having completed its two-kilometer arcing trajectory, the photon mortar round detonated some ten meters above a squad of Cardassians with a bright blue flash. The dozen soldiers within the blast radius immediately collapsed to the ground, insensate.

    “Range is good,” Schäfer judged. “Fire for effect!”

    As Schäfer continued ranging targets and uploading the data to the mortar, Lar’ragos continued to calibrate and drop the spheres. Working in tandem, the two men managed to fire a round every four-to-seven seconds, walking the charges along the front wave of the Cardassian advance.

    The forward ranks of troops faltered, though rocket fire from among their positions continued to savage the commercial structures, where multiple fires were now burning despite the best efforts of the buildings’ fire-suppression systems.

    Now the surviving automated phaser turrets began firing, bathing the follow-on formations of soldiers with stun energy. The beams reached out, fanning back and forth to cut down swaths of men like grain before the scythe.

    Lar’ragos primed another round, but before he could drop the sphere into the mortar’s waiting maw, the ground around him erupted and he felt himself catapulted into the air. He returned to consciousness a moment later, laying on his back and blinking dazedly skyward. A flurry of plasma bolts flashed across his vision, stitching a line of destruction across the hilltop only meters from where he lay.

    A Cardassian drop ship screeched overhead, clearing the top of the hill by a scan fifty meters. The craft’s cannons rained destruction down across the crest of the hill in zig-zag patterns. Lar’ragos’ mind wandered lazily and he absently pondered why nobody had been scanning the vicinity for strafing aircraft. It occurred to him after a moment’s consideration that his team was made up largely of his fellow cadets. They were watching the show down below, he surmised. They’re used to enemies beaming in to attack, not using landing craft that double as air-support. This is an older kind of warfare, one the Federation no longer understands.

    He brought up a trembling hand to activate his combadge, only to withdraw it with a painful start as he touched the scalding, faintly glowing dent in his armored vest. Lar’ragos realized just then that he had not breathed since waking and so attempted to draw in a gulp of air. He couldn’t.

    Well, he thought numbly, we’re off to a great start…

    * * *​
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2020
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  19. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Oct 27, 2007
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Fantastic entries, just getting caught up. Great way to shift POV from the Cardassians back to their Starfleet opponents, so we can appreciate both sides of this bloody conflict.

    This really shows how Sandhurst was seasoned at the beginning of his career. A true trial by fire.

    Thanks for keeping this going!
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  20. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    Keep kicking Cardassian butt. Lar'ragos and Sandhurst will save the day!
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