“Captain’s Personal Log, stardate 89257.3, U.S.S. Juno, Captain James Holkham commanding. We are currently en-route to C209 with the Banthar vessel in tow. After the capture of that ship, the crew’s morale is quite high.
The crew are still very uneasy after the abductions; however, the events of last week seem to have strengthened the friendships between many of the bridge crew. While terrible, what the Banthar did to us may have helped the crew’s friendships...
While she has been aboard, Riannah has formed a strong friendship with most members of my alpha watch. Over the past few days I have seen her sitting with Sonak playing Kal-Toh, in the gymnasium with M’Gila, and playing darts with Bashir, Laren and Barek. I was disturbed to find - though I hardly blame her - that our experiences with the Banthar have put a terrible fire in her that, it seems, is unquenchable.
However, we hope to be granted shore leave upon our arrival at C209, and a week on Deneva IV would be a welcome reward for the crew.”
On the bridge of the starship Juno, Jadzia Dax sat in the centre chair, watching the play of blues and oranges flash across the main screen. It was an impressive sight. A bright white light shone in the centre of the screen, with a rippling tunnel of blue streaming away from it, around the ship. The occasional streak of orange flared from the centre, and dimly visible behind the swirling curtain of blue energy, stars flashed past, long streamers of rainbow light trailing behind them.
There was a slight swishing noise as the doors behind her to the conference room opened, and she looked round to see captain Holkham walk around the tactical console towards her.
“Captain on the bridge.” She said, loudly enough for everyone to hear, as she vacated the centre seat for him.
“Report, commander.” Holkham said, as he sat down. She sat down on a chair to his right.
“The marines report that they now have complete control over the Banthar vessel. The remaining crew have been confined to their quarters pending our arrival at the Starbase, and most damage sustained in combat has been repaired.”
Holkham allowed himself to smile.
“Excellent. Mr. Laren, how are we doing?”
“We have cleared Deneva System’s Oort cloud.” Laren reported from the helm.
“Jump back into normal space. Close this hyperwarp conduit once we’re clear.”
Laren manipulated a few controls, and there was a muffled ‘boom’. The shimmering blue and orange tunnel that had been surrounding the ship evaporated, revealing the stars, the galactic plane, and a large, darkened planet ahead of them.
Trealor, sitting on Holkham’s left, smiled.
“Unless I’m much mistaken, we’ve arrived in time to watch dawn on Deneva IV.”
“M’Gila, signal the StarBase. Tell them we’re ready to be brought in remotely.”
“Aye, sir. They are ready to pull us in.”
“Switching helm to remote control” Laren tapped in a few commands, and leant back in his chair.
Everyone else did the same, as dawn broke over the limb of Deneva IV.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the right-hand side of the planet brightened. The rings became lighter, and, suddenly, the larger of the Denevan suns exploded from behind the planet’s crescent, and as it was magnified by the planet’s atmosphere, everyone on the bridge briefly shielded their eyes before the light dampeners activated.
The smaller, fiery blue sun came now, a little way to the south of the larger, making the rings glow slightly silver.
The sunrise had revealed an amazing sight - a large space station orbiting over the night side of the planet. It consisted of a large central structure, and four long arms, each with a large tower on the end. Connecting the arms was a large ring that stretched all the way round the huge station, and there were dozens of ships docked around it.
Guided from the station, the Juno manoeuvred her way into the tower at the end of one of the arms. The enormous space doors slowly slid apart, and the Juno entered the huge docking bay. Slowing down, it came to a halt in front of a docking Gate, and connected with a loud clang.
Julian Bashir was sitting at his desk, in his office in sickbay. He was finalising the crew medical overview Holkham had asked for. Suddenly, a noise brought him sharply back to the Juno. A metallic creaking - the ship was groaning slowly. Then, with a clang, the groaning stopped, and Holkham’s voice sounded throughout the ship.
“Bridge to all hands. We have just docked at StarBase C209. Prepare to leave the ship.”
Bashir smiled slightly, to himself. Leaning forward slightly in his seat, he got back to work.
He was distracted a second time a few minutes later, when he heard the sickbay doors open. He looked up, and through the window into sickbay, he saw Commander Dax step in and look around.
“Can I help you, commander?” A voice asked to her left.
Slightly startled, she turned.
“Why so formal, Julian?” She asked, stepping over to him.
“Well, I thought that if you were ill...”
She smiled slightly. “Not at all. I came to ask if you were ready to go.”
“Go? Go where?” He asked, cautiously.
“A shuttle for Deneva IV leaves in a couple of hours, from shuttlebay two. I thought maybe you should join us.”
“Most of the command crew are going. Jim, Riannah, me, Sonak, M’Gila, Laren, and a few others. It would be a shame for you not to come too.”
He smiled wanly. “I wish I could, Jadzia, I really do. But I’ve got this report to finish for-”
At that precise instant, the sickbay doors parted again and Holkham walked through.
“Ah, Doctor Bashir. How are you doing with that report?”
“Well, I’m afraid I need a couple more hours’ work on it, sir, but-” Holkham held up a hand.
“Julian, the events of the past few days have had a massive effect on all of us. Now, in two hours’ time, there is a shuttle leaving for Deneva IV. I am ordering you to be on that shuttle - you need shore leave, doctor. I’ll see you in two hours on that shuttle.” He nodded to Dax. “Jadzia.” And walked out.
Dax turned back to Bashir, her eyebrows raised.
Bashir decided it would be less hassle to simply admit defeat.
Jim Holkham decided to go straight to his quarters after he left sickbay. He walked through his doors a few minutes later, to find that he was not alone.
A woman was bending over the sofa, and neatly-ordered piles of clothes were strewn all over his quarters. Hearing the doors open, she straightened up. She was wearing a uniform identical to Holkham’s, although it was white, not red.
Holkham smiled. “Do you need a hand, Riannah?”
“Oh, it’s you, Jim. Have you heard? There’s a shuttle leaving-”
“For Deneva IV in two hours, yes, I know. I’ve just been to sickbay. It seems that Dax has done the persuading for me - I think Julian’s agreed to come with us.”
Trealor smiled. “Good. It’ll be good for the command crew to get some leave together. It’ll help restore morale.”
Holkham nodded. Picking up a bag, he began to help Trealor pack.
An hour and a half later, Dr Bashir left his quarters for the shuttlebay. The Juno was a vast ship - nearly one and a half kilometres long, and with a crew of two thousand. So, as his quarters were on deck two, and shuttlebay two was on deck 75, and at the far end of the ship, he had a very long way indeed to travel.
He walked to the far end of the corridor and pushed the ‘summon’ button for the turbolift. While he waited, a door behind him opened, and he turned to see who it was.
A tall woman, with three pips on her collar and cuffs, long black hair and a red uniform, was stepping out of her quarters fastening a large canvas kit-bag. She finished zipping it up, and turned to the turbolift.
Noticing Bashir, she smiled.
“Julian. So, I persuaded you, then?”
He nodded. Before he could say anything, however, the doors behind him swished open, and he and Dax walked into the turbolift.
“Deck 75, Shuttlebay Two.” Bashir told the computer, and they felt the turbolift move under them as it sped them through the ship.
**SERVICE RECORD, FLEET ADMIRAL RIANNAH TREALOR**
Complete listings of all postings and promotions:
Operational Description, Report of Starfleet Medical/Counsellor’s Office (2363):
Riannah Trealor is a tough, if somewhat unorthodox captain who has been noted for taking extreme chances. However, her dedication to her crew and Starfleet, combined with her thoughtfulness, intelligence and diplomacy have combined to give her a well-deserved reputation throughout Starfleet. Her talents in engineering and science have given her some valuable hands-on expertise, and this allows her to earn keen friendships among her crew, and she can often be seen assisting in engineering while off-duty. Aside from science and engineering, Trealor also became a renowned fighter pilot in the academy, winning every single flying competition she participated in at the academy.
Her crew have noticed a distinct lack of formality about her, which helps her to bond more freely with her crew, while keeping a tactful distance as starship captain. Her sense of humour and intelligence have combined to make her a renowned negotiator and a tough captain who is well-respected by her entire crew.
Nahaz gazed intently at his computer panel, surveying the stolen document from Starfleet. So this was the profile of the woman who was making his duty difficult? No matter. She would be dead inside a month, if all went well. Touching a console on his armrest, he sat back as his chair turned so that he was facing the central viewscreen of his bridge.
“Helm, set your course for the Mayacephalon System. It’s about time the Banthar showed the Federation their true colours.”
The bar was snug, warm. As the four of them went through the main doors, they looked about them. To Bashir, it seemed as if the bar had been built with every single race in the Federation in mind. There was a large pot, containing a plant with large, feathery green-gold leaves - an Andorian Palm. There were Terran orange trees in the far corner, and an elegant, spiky Vulcan Sandspine. There were a few other people there, sitting and talking over their drinks, and the barman stood off to one side, polishing a glass.
Dax was intrigued that the man was using older methods of cleaning, rather than simply replicating a new one. Though, looking about her, she could see very few signs of 25th century technology, save the lights and a large screen set in one wall that was showing the latest news bulletins.
Trealor thought she recognised the barman, though dismissed the thought, as she had met thousands of people in her career, most of whom it was unlikely she would see again.
Holkham, at the front of the group, led them over to the bar. The barman looked up.
“Ah, sir. What may I get for you and your friends?”
The barman took their orders and indicated for them to sit down at the bar. They pulled up bar stools and sat, taking their drinks from him.
He returned to polishing his glass.
“I used to be in Starfleet, myself.” He told them.
“How did you know that we were?” Dax asked.
“I can tell from the way you walk - the way you hold yourselves. Anyway, I used to be in Starfleet - in the Airfleet, actually.”
Trealor leaned closer, interested. “You were a fighter pilot?”
The barman nodded. “Yep. That’s right. I flew a Jay in the Kalrathaan War, off the Endeavour.”
Trealor stared. “But Endeavour was destroyed well behind enemy lines. How did you get back?”
“My squadron found that one of those big Starfleet ships got caught behind enemy lines too. They picked us up. Must’ve had - what - ten times her complement of fighters? You know, I-”
He broke off, staring intently at Trealor. “Heavens! Captain Trealor! An honour to see you again, ma’am!”
Trealor smiled. “It’s Admiral, actually.”
Dax was looking at Trealor in amazement.
“You were a captain?”
“Of course I was. You can’t come straight out of the academy and get a Flag Commission, can you? No - I was the Captain of the USS Galveston during the Kalrathaan War.”
Bashir nodded. “I’ve heard of that ship. Is it true you were caught for three years behind Kalrathaan lines?”
“True as Dammit.” The barman affirmed. “When Endeavour was destroyed, I was picked up by the Galveston and Captain Trealor. You caused quite a stir in Starfleet when you got back, didn’t you?” He smiled, looking at Trealor.
“Ahh, I remember being on Galveston.” The barman continued. “It was dangerous, but they were among the happiest experiences in my life. She was one of the big Miami-class ships. Not one of those fiddling little Adelaide or Osiris-class ships. We were a family aboard Galveston. Everybody knew everybody else. I can remember our first approach. She was surrounded by fighters- looked like a flying hornets’ nest. Beautiful sight, that.”
Trealor smiled, rather embarrassed.
“Captain’s Personal Log, stardate 89264.5, U.S.S. Juno, Captain James Holkham commanding. After a week’s shore leave, we have finally left the New Deneva system. As Riannah predicted, the week spent on Deneva IV has helped bring the crew together after the awful experience of the Banthar capturing of the bridge alpha watch.
I am pleased to note a particular air of happiness about the Alpha Watch, that is new to the bridge. And, I must say, it suits them. The atmosphere on the bridge is more relaxed - less formal. There now seems to be a bond between most alpha-watch members. Riannah is confident that the entire crew will eventually pair off. And, I must say, that after the example set by Jadzia and Dr Bashir, I would not be surprised.
Barek has promised to give us a concert of his Bajoran Flute in the main lounge later today, and I don’t want to miss it.”
Jim Holkham walked onto the second level of the main lounge some minutes later. The room had been darkened, leaving the room lit solely by the light of the slowly rippling hyperwarp conduit visible through the windows facing forward. The speed at which the conduit seemed to be moving seemed to hide the fact that they were travelling at many thousands times the speed of light.
A space had been cleared in front of the windows, and a music stand stood alone in the middle. Crewmembers were seated all over the lounge, and it was very full.
He sat down at an empty table, and noticed that he was right next to the table that Bashir and Dax always used. Surely enough, they were sitting there, their hands together in the middle of the table.
The doors opened, and admiral Trealor walked in. She spotted Holkham and sat down next to him, as the crowd on the main level below them applauded. Barek, looking rather flattered, walked onto the main platform and picked up his flute from the stand. Everyone went quiet.
It was among the most beautiful sounds Holkham had heard. It was a slow, mournful tune, but the notes were wonderful to hear - that tune seemed ancient, almost as ancient as the Bajoran civilisation.
He leaned back in his chair and let the music wash over him.
Captain Jaina Lanzethi crossed her legs in her command chair, watching the main screen on her bridge. The galactic plane cut diagonally across the screen, stars and nebulae glowing. In the centre of the screen was a small disc of light - a planet some way off.
Her ship, the frigate USS Leyban, was about to start patrolling the outskirts of the Mayacephalon system. She turned slightly in her chair, to talk to her tactical officer, who was standing in front of a large console directly behind her chair.
“Commander, give me an analysis of the system.”
“The Mayacephalon system has fourteen planets; most terrestrial. There are six gas giants and eight rocky planets, though the outer three are just oversized planetoids. The central stars are of the smaller end of the yellow main sequence. There are colonies on the third, fourth, fifth and seventh planets. The planets in question are type K, L, O and M respectively. Apart from the occasional civilian craft, I am detecting no other vessels in the system.
Lanzethi nodded to herself. “Very well. Helm, take us into a parallel orbit of the system with Mayacephalon Ten.”
Nahaz was leaning forward in his chair, examining the system profile report on the main screen.
Fourteen planets. Four habitable to the Federation- all colonised. Two habitable to the Banthar - untouched. Six gas giants, two stars, twenty-seven small civilian craft, and one Federation Adelaide-class frigate. It was as he intended - undefended.
“Helm, drop out of warp and activate the Null Space Shielding.”
Lanzethi looked round as her tactical officer’s console beeped.
“Captain, I - oh.”
“What is it, commander?”
“For an instant, I picked up a warp signature on the other side of the system. It lasted only for a second and disappeared. “
The science officer spoke up from the other side of the bridge.
“This area of space has quite frequent warp echo anomalies. I doubt it is anything to be concerned about. I picked it up too, it matched the exact frequency of the anomalies.”
Lanzethi nodded. “Very well. Science, continue your scans.”
In high orbit over Mayacephalon VII, something was moving. To a human observer, it would have been hard to distinguish which end was which - were it not for the fact that it was moving.
What was currently the front of the curious vessel was a long, tapering triangular main hull, with two sets of long, slender warp nacelles, with sublight engines along the backs of the pylons,; and along docking boom. However, that is where the normality stopped. Instead of simply ending, the back of the ship was considerably larger than the front, which alone was a good kilometre and a half long.
The back of the ship was amazing. There was a large globe-like structure, about two hundred metres across, with eight very long projections coming out of the back forming a cone along the ship’s axis. The ones at twelve, three, six and nine o’clock had vertical (or horizontal) pylons connecting them to a long central tower-like structure. This long slender projection was very complicated, surrounded by girders and with curious bulges along it. At the ends of the eight long pylons were large crystals, all pointing to a large structure in the middle of the central tower.
There, the central line split into four, forming a cage of sorts, large enough for a whole squadron of fighters to fly through. There was a crystal at the ‘top’ and one at the ‘bottom’, where it joined the main structure. At the ‘top’ of the cage, the structure continued forming a long pole-like construction with another large crystal at the ends.
It was a weapon. The entire ship was a vast weapon. And it was flying right at Mayacephalon VII.
“We are at the required three planetary diameters from the surface.” Announced the helmsman in front of Nahaz.
“Excellent. Bring us about; viewscreen to aft view. Begin the charging process. Target the tectonic fault line and fire the guidance beam when ready.”
The vast ship stopped. Directly in front of it, Mayacephalon VII dominated the heavens, taking up a good half of the visible universe.
Slowly, the ship turned about its central axis, until its main structure was pointing squarely at the planet below.
“Anything on sensors, lieutenant?” A thoroughly bored Lanzethi asked her tactical officer.
“Right.” Declared Lanzethi, rising. “I’ll be in my ready room. Number One, you have the bridge.
A thin flickering beam of light burst from the end of the main structure of the Banthar ship and connected with the planet.
“Guidance beam in position.” The weapons officer announced. “Priming main weapon.”
In the bowels of the massive vessel, titanic power generators burst to life. Throughout the innards of the main pylons and tower, huge magnification crystals slid into place. Entire decks were evacuated as reactants coursed through the ship and touched. The ship vibrated slightly as enough power to ignite a star coursed through it.
“Main crystals primed. Beginning firing sequence.” Said the weapons officer.
In the middle of the ship, a large emitter crystal glowed and spat a huge beam of light. Eight deflection crystals dissected the beam and sent its smaller fragments off to different parts of the ship.
Each crystal on each pylon glowed ominously.
Without warning, a beam of strong green light erupted from one of the pylons, to connect with the crystal in the large gap in the main tower. Another one followed suit; and another ; and another, until all eight pylons were shooting pure energy at the central crystal.
Nahaz relished the feeling - a Federation world would be demolished at his single word of command. He drew himself up in his seat.
“Fire!” He shouted.
And in the bowels of the ship, another crystal burst to life. With a shudder that shook the ship, a ninth beam of light lanced out, straight down the central tower.
It rippled through other crystals, gaining strength and energy; to cut right through the tip of the main crystal, which was now glowing with huge power.
The vast beam, with its eight fiery limbs supporting it, burst from the end of the tower with unbelievable force, to ripple down the guidance beam and deep into the core of the planet.
Where it touched the surface, a feathery plume of pure white light erupted, climbing back up the beam of light, growing at the base, until it burst. A massive shockwave erupted from the contact point; a massive ring of light hugged the ground, burning away forests; cities; oceans. A slight pulse of light traversed the nine beams, and a second wave erupted at the contact point. This one was pure flame. Instead of dying away, a circular sheet of fire was blasting out of the column of energy connecting the ship to the planet.
Oh Nahaz’ bridge, a cutaway sensor diagram of the planet showed the main beam, cutting through the planet like butter, until it reached the core.
Suddenly, the eight beams of light coming from the pylons evaporated; the main beam cut out and the plume of light died. The sublight engines of the weapon ship roared, carrying it away from the planet that would otherwise be its doom.
Nahaz watched the planet slowly; ever so slowly shrink away on the main screen of his bridge.
The planet was now unrecognisable. The initial shockwave had traversed the entire planet, now. Not a scrap of blue or green was left - the entire planet was a seething mass of molten rock.
And the second wave, pure fire this time, has almost engulfed the entire globe.
“Minimum magnification - zoom out!” Nahaz ordered. The image on the screen shrank - the planet was now much smaller on the screen.
And then, the fiery wave consumed the whole planet. Now, Nahaz thought, would be the point where his new ship would kick home.
And the globe on the screen flashed brilliant white, becoming a huge cloud of fire. Nahaz looked away from the blinding scene. Looking back after a moment, he saw that a ring of fire and energy had erupted from the heart of the cloud, following the equatorial line of the planet. The ring was continuous, however - it did not die away. With a force that shook his massive ship, the wave of flame shot overhead. The screen was filled with the rushing flames and debris, before they died, too. The fireball had faded, now. And on the screen was an image that made even Nahaz go slightly cold.
Like half a broken eggshell, the remains of the planet loomed on the screen. It was as if it had exploded sideways - almost half the planet remained - but just the crust. The inner layers had been gouged out by the explosion, leaving a thin husk behind. The screen was full of debris - small fragments of rubble and debris. But, nevertheless - where there had once been a thriving colony, was now a huge asteroid field. And Nahaz leaned back in his chair and laughed.
“Di Maggio to captain Lanzethi!”
“Lanzethi here, what is it, commander?”
“Ma’am, come to the bride at once - you’ve got to see this!”
“On my way.”
Lanzethi walked through her ready room doors onto the bridge, and stopped dead. On the screen was a rapidly expanding cloud of ashes and debris - though in the background was what at first sight seemed to be half a broken eggshell. Then, she realised it was the remains of a planet. Debris shot past the screen as she watched, aghast.
“What happened?” Se asked, faintly.
“Sensors picked up a massive energy detonation on the far side of the system. We fired a hyperwarp probe, and it got there in a few seconds. We got a visual just as the fire-cloud was dying away.”
“Which planet was it?”
“Mayacephalon Seven.” Was her first officer’s reply.
Holkham was enjoying the concert. Barek was a very good musician indeed. He would have to do this again.
And then, he heard a new noise. Someone had activated the intercom system.
“All hands, this is the bridge. Starfleet Command has declared General Alert Code Zero. All hands to battle stations. I repeat, all hands to battlestations. Anyone near a monitor should turn it on, now.”
Before Holkham could register what he had just heard, someone on the lower deck turned on the main monitor in the lounge above the main windows.
It was a news bulletin.
“...just received a transmission from the starship Leyban in the Mayacephalon system. According to the Leyban and millions of civilian witnesses in the Mayacephalon system, Mayacephalon Seven was destroyed ten minutes ago. We cut now to a transmission received from a ComTel buoy in high orbit over Mayacephalon Seven.”
The screen changed to a picture of the planet. It was blue and green - full of life. But, hanging over the limb of the planet was a ghastly sight. A vast ship, obviously Banthar in origin, was suspended, poised over the planet. As the crew of the Juno watched, aghast, the eight pylons around the central tower spat beams of energy to a point in the middle, and huge jet of light connected the ship with the planet.
The crew watched in stunned disbelief as the weapon unleashed millions of joules of pure energy onto the planet; as the ship manoeuvred away, and as Mayacephalon Seven blew apart in front of their eyes.
Trealor suppressed a sob as the explosion cloud died away, revealing the ghastly sight of the planetary crust, still intact over what would have been almost half of the planet. The interior of the planet was gone, leaving the thin crust behind. It reminded Holkham of a broken eggshell.
The presenter continued his speech.
“According to Starfleet sources, the Banthar vessel that destroyed the planet went undetected by the Leyban throughout the course of the disaster. However, the fact remains that the Federation can now add the fifty-two million people of Mayacephalon Seven to their casualty list, as the war with the Banthar takes an infinitely more violent turn.”
Someone turned the screen off.
There was a stunned silence, broken only by the quiet sobs of some crewmembers on the lower level. Then, after a while, Dax stood up.
“Alright, people. You heard the bridge. Battlestations! Let’s move!”
People got up all around them; Dax kissed Bashir briefly and almost ran to the doors. Holkham dimly felt a hand on his shoulder.
He looked up into the eyes of Admiral Trealor.
“We should go to the bridge, Jim.”
“Captain’s Personal Log, stardate 89264.9, U.S.S. Juno, Captain James Holkham commanding. Following the destruction of Mayacephalon Seven, Starfleet command has issued General Alert Code Zero. The sheer weight that simple decision alone carries, is more than many people can bear. The last time General alert Code Zero was declared was at the start of the first Dominion War, when Starfleet was concerned about the possibilities of founder infiltration.
The destruction of the planet has had a profound effect on Starfleet. Admiral Kelvin has ordered Task Force One to assemble over Arcalon Prime, ready for a retaliatory strike against the Banthar. As the Juno is the flagship of the Deneva Fleet, I can only hope that we suffer as few casualties as is possible.”
“This is the target area.” Kelvin was saying. The Juno’s command crew, and the captains of the various other ships in the fleet had assembled in the Juno’s main conference lounge.
Kelvin was a man in his late fifties, with grey hair and a round, stern face. He was not especially tall - in fact he was shorter than most other people in the room. He was standing with one hand behind his back and was indicating a point on the main viewscreen. Like Trealor, who was sitting to one side, he was wearing a white uniform, and on his collar and wrists, he had one more pip than Trealor.
“Our intelligence buoys report that the Banthar weapon ship which destroyed Mayacephalon Seven is currently re-fuelling at these shipyards.” The view on the screen moved, to show a large, spider’s web-like structure, with the weapon ship indicated in the centre.
“Starfleet Command has told us that our main objective is to capture the weapon ship - not destroy it. If capturing it turns out not to be an option, we must destroy it and then get the hell out of there.”
“What will I be required to do?”
“As Admiral of the Fleet, you will keep your flag here. I myself will transfer my flag to the Enterprise and direct the other half of the fleet from there. Admiral Trealor, you must keep in mind that this weapon ship is responsible for the deaths of fifty-two million innocent people. Capture or destruction of this ship is pivotal to the mission. All other objectives are secondary. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir.” Trealor responded.
“Excellent. Well, are we all agreed?”
One of the captains sitting around the table raised his hand.
“So we’ll be concentrating our fire on the weapon ship?”
“No. The bombers will go in and deliver their payloads on the station and any support craft, while the fighters pull the teeth on the weapon ship. The fighters will take out the shield generators, marine barracks and weapon systems, while leaving the main superweapon alone. Then, the Juno will move in, beam their marine complements aboard, and we will escort the weapon ship back to Federation space.
If it seems we cannot capture the ship, at my express command, all ships are to direct their firepower on this point.” The screen behind him obediently changed angles again to show the point where the eight pylons left the rest of the ship. “Once the vessel has been eliminated, the salvage vessels will recover what they can. Believe me,” He said, looking around at them. “We won’t go home empty-handed today. Right. Get back to your ships. Trealor, you stay here and direct the main assault force. I will stay back with Enterprise and the other ships, standing ready to assist if required.”
“Captain Holkham, you will lead the main attack force. You will be leading the starships Constellation, Avenger, Midway, Denali, Alaska, Capricorn, Excalibur, Saratoga, Leyban, Lexington, Gettysburg and Aleutian.”
“The rest of you know your duties. Right. Return to your ships. This meeting is over.”
High above Arcalon Prime, something was moving. A huge mass of ships and fighters was moving as one through space.
At the head of the formation, the starship Juno and her twelve attendant ships flew ahead of the rest. And, on the bridge of the Juno, all was hushed.
“How many ships?”
“Twenty-four. Led by Trealor and the Juno.”
“Schematic on screen.”
Nahaz turned to survey the main viewer. Twenty four shapes were displayed on it. It was hard for Nahaz to distinguish which ship belonged to which class - they all looked so similar. There, however, unmistakably, was the Juno. Behind her a ways was an identical ship. A label next to it read ‘USS ENTERPRISE’. Nahaz pondered.
Enterprise - wet, nasty name, that - was almost in the centre of the formation.
If he could only...
“Helm, disengage the docking clamps. Put a bit of space between us and the station. Tactical, power up the main weapon and activate the null space shielding. Engineering, reconfigure the main weapon for ship-to ship combat.”
Deep in space, there was a flash of light.
Appearing from nothingness, or so it seemed, twenty-four huge starships materialised in formation. And, in the background, the enormous Banthar space station loomed.
“Flight ops, launch all available fighters. Signal the other ships, and tell them to do the same. M’Gila, get me the Midway.” Holkham commanded from the centre chair.
“Channel open, sir.”
“Midway, this is the Juno. Launch as many fighters as you can, then fall back with Kelvin’s group. Instruct the Galveston to replace you.”
The man on the screen replied.
“Aye, sir. Launching fighters and falling back.”
The screen reverted to stars.
“Crystals reconfigured. All systems primed. We are ready to fire on your command.”
“Excellent.” Nahaz stood up. “You may fire when ready.”
And for the second time, in the weapon, eight beams of energy converged on the centre crystal, and a ninth cut through the middle.
But instead of a beam, a searing bolt of pure energy, like some ghastly comet, erupted from the end of the tower. And a tiny subspace radio point guided it straight to the Enterprise.
“Captain, picking up a massive energy reading at 213 mark 7 off the port bow.” Sonak called.
“Onscreen.” Holkham instructed, standing up. When the screen changed, Trealor and Dax stood up, too.
A huge rippling ball of energy was on the centre screen. And it was steadily getting nearer.
“Energy readings are at 3 million terajoules. It seems it will not dissipate before it reaches us.”
“He’s right.” Kelos agreed, with alarm. “It won’t dissipate in time.”
Trealor took a split second to realise what was happening.
“SCATTER THE FLEET!!”
Nahaz watched as the Federation vessels split up. The Juno turned half over and shot off to the left; while other ships did the same in other directions. Fighters poured out between the ships as if the formation were bleeding silvery dust and the Enterprise rose slightly, then shot downwards. But the carriers were not so manoeuvrable. Slowly, the starships Midway, Wake Island, and Islamorada turned to port or starboard. However, the fleet was not nearly as scattered as it should have been.
Suddenly, the burning bolt of energy burst into view, shimmered for a moment, and the screen cut out.
And the image re-formed. A searing white light blazed in the centre, like a supernova. A wave of seething fire and debris erupted from the detonation point, sweeping hull fragments, starships and fighters along in front of it. When the explosion had died away, the reports form the sensors had come in.
Two starships destroyed, three crippled, one badly damaged, and five lightly damaged. And, fifty-two fighters destroyed.
Nahaz nodded coolly to himself. He cared not now whether he was destroyed along with his ship. But, he had dealt two blows to the Federation with this weapon that no amount of time or rebuilding could restore.
“All ships, this is Admiral Kelvin aboard the Enterprise. Juno, you are to continue with your attack. Long-range sensors have picked up enemy re-enforcements approaching, though they won’t be in range for an hour at least. Good luck, and remember - we want that ship alive. Kelvin out.”
The Juno and her twelve companion ships roared onto Nahaz’ main screen and immediately opened fire.
Despite the null-space shielding, the initial blasts shook the ship from bow to stern.
Fighters broke formation and spiralled towards their targets. In a matter of seconds, fiery clouds of energy were blossoming all over the weapon ship.
“Their main shields are down. Sensors indicate that we have taken out their main weapons and marine barracks.” Kelos reported from the tactical station.
“Excellent.” Holkham tapped his combadge. “Holkham to lieutenant Kell. You may begin beaming over.”
“Our marines are beaming over - marines from the other ships are doing the same.”
Nahaz looked up as the intruder alert sirens wailed.
“Intruder alert, deck 33, section 10!” shouted his tactical officer in alarm.
“Cut off life support to that area and seal it off!” Nahaz barked.
Lieutenant Kell suddenly found it hard to breathe. Everyone around her started coughing; gasping for air.
Coughing herself, she tapped her combadge.
“Kell to Juno.”
“Juno here, what is it, lieutenant?”
“They’ve cut off life support! We need to be beamed back immediately!”
People were fainting around her, and, dropping her phaser rifle, she was trying desperately herself not to succumb to the encroaching blackness, when the welcome tingling of the transporter swept over her.
She found herself in one of the cargobays; and Bashir was there with a medical team ready to receive them.
“Our marines reported that the Banthar cut off life support to their area the moment they beamed aboard. They’ll just do that again if we beam over again.”
Kelvin shook his head. “Wear down the ablative armouring around their bridge. Expose it to space if you have to. Once the armour’s thin enough you should beam marines directly onto their bridge.”
“Right. What about those Banthar re-enforcements that we were promised?”
“We’re only detecting one ship. It’s a small one, too. It should reach us in a few minutes, but it’s so small we’ll be able to destroy it in a matter of seconds.”
Behind Holkham, Trealor stood up to face the viewscreen and Admiral Kelvin.
“Admiral, our science officer has discovered that the Banthar have the ability to create null-space shields around their ships. It’s possible that that small ship is just a large null-space generator. If so, they might be using it to hide more ships.”
Kelvin nodded. “Understood. We’ll turn our ISHTAR Array on it. We’ll keep you posted, and captain?”
“Get me that weapon.”
“Excellent. Kelvin out.”
“Sir, our re-enforcements are arriving. They have one of our sister-ships with them. They recommend that we target the group of ships nearest them, and they’ll target Trealor’s group.”
“Right. Power up the main weapon, and fire on my command. Target...” Nahaz surveyed his panel. “...the USS Enterprise.”
“Understood, sir. Charging main array now.”
Holkham, Dax and Trealor stood up as one, as, on the screen, eight points of light appeared on the Banthar weapon ship.
“Status, Mr Kelos?” Dax asked.
“They are powering up their main weapon. They will be able to fire in a few seconds.”
“Kelos, target all weapons on their main emitter and fire.”
Lancing beams of fiery light erupted from the Juno’s phasers as a spread of iridescent torpedoes burst from the torpedo cannons along her hull.
The phasers connected with the main emitter, but nothing happened.
Holkham frowned slightly as the torpedoes shot towards their target, glowing like bright stars.
Suddenly, the torpedoes veered away from the main crystal and exploded at random points.
“Kelos, what he hell’s going on?” He asked.
“They have localised null-space emitters around their vulnerable points. I cannot get a lock on their main weapon.”
“They will be able to fire in ten seconds.” Sonak warned. “They appear to be targeting the Enterprise.”
“M’Gila, warn the admiral.”
“Aye. Juno to Enterprise, you have been targeted by the weapon ship. Initiate evasive manoeuvres now.”
On the screen, a searing beam of light connected one of the pylons with the main crystal in the centre of the array. A second appeared, followed by two more. Within a second, every pylon had a fiery counterpart connecting it with the centre crystal.
And then, a ninth point of light started to glow increasingly brightly at the very tip of the main tower. With a blinding flash, a blast of rippling energy erupted from the tower.
“Aft view!” Holkham shouted. The screen switched to a view of the heavens, framed by the Juno’s nacelles. The bolt of light burst from the top-right hand corner to connect with one of the ships visible on the screen. There was another flash and in place of the ship on the screen was a huge cloud of fire and debris. The bolt died, and the fireball slowly faded.
“What’s the status of Kelvin’s fleet?” Dax asked.
“The beam missed the Enterprise. It hit the USS Andromeda. Reading two ships destroyed - Andromeda and Santorini, and five damaged.” Kelos reported.
Holkham had not ordered the screen to revert to a forward view - and it was this oversight that saved the Juno from destruction. On the screen, jut visible, eight tiny jets of light connected and a point in the centre glowed very brightly.
Holkham stared. “Helm, evasive manoeuvres! Now!” He shouted.
Obediently, Laren manipulated his controls, and the Juno rose slightly in space before going into a graceful dive. And, just as she dove, a fiery ball of light shot between her nacelles, to hit - not a Federation ship, but the Banthar weapon ship.
Nahaz realised what was about to happen, and pushed a button on his computer panel.
There was a clanging noise as huge clamps lifted and the bridge module of the ship shot upwards, away from the huge weapon ship, which promptly exploded.
As the screen was still in aft view mode, Holkham saw it happen. He watched as Nahaz’ bridge module shot away from the doomed ship, and as the bolt of light connected with the huge Banthar weapon.
He shielded his eyes and looked back, as a gargantuan explosion engulfed the weapon, and a shimmering shockwave burst from the explosion.
“Brace for impact.” His voice echoed throughout the ship just in time. The shimmering wave crashed against the Juno’s aft shields and shook the ship violently. The main viewscreen cut out to static briefly, and reverted to stars as the shockwave passed.
Two thin nacelles extended from the jettisoned bridge module, which shot away into warp.
“Helm, return us to our previous position, and, M’Gila, order our force to about turn and engage the re-enforcements. Kelos, power up all weapons, and revert the screen to forward view. Sonak, damage report.”
“Our aft shields have buckled slightly; and reporting minor hull fractures on the aft facings of the warp nacelles. Other than that, no damage.”
Dax tapped her combadge. “Dax to sickbay, how many casualties?”
“None, commander. We are standing by to receive some, however, and the marines have recovered.”
“Excellent. Dax out.”
From the bridge of the Enterprise, Kelvin watched, impressed, as the Juno rose, and gracefully righted herself. Her twelve attendant ships with her, she turned to face the oncoming Banthar ships, and Kelvin leaned back in his seat. He looked to his left, at the captain.
She stood up.
“Helm, take us in. Tactical, one we’re in range, fire at will.”
Holkham leaned forward in his chair as the Juno shot towards the Banthar ships, which were now visible. It was a blessing the Banthar didn’t have cloaking technology to speak of, as, though invisible to sensors, the Banthar ships were still visible.
“Kelos, target the ship generating the shroud, and fire all weapons. Power up the Stargun as well - it may come in handy.”
“Aye, sir. Targeting the null-space ship now.”
The Juno dove, plummeting towards the small ship. Holkham thought it looked a lot like an old stealth bomber from the 20th century, as phaser beams from the Juno’s banks danced over its shields.
“Fire torpedo cannons three and four. Target the null-space generators.” He ordered.
Eight burning blue torpedoes shot towards the Banthar ship and exploded. Eight small explosions erupted from the skin of the Banthar ship, which was blown apart by the impact of eight ion torpedoes.
As the Banthar ship exploded, a sphere of what looked like water appeared around the explosion and began to steadily get larger.
“Sonak, what’s that?”
“It’s the null-space field collapsing. When the wave hits a Banthar vessel, it will reveal it.”
Sure enough, the wave seemed to part to allow something through - and a large Banthar ship appeared.
“Tactical analysis, Mr Kelos.”
“A Banthar heavy cruiser, Belanath-class. Seventeen disruptor ports; eight torpedo launchers. Crew of eight hundred.”
Other ships began to appear, too. A few small ships, that Holkham recognised as the destroyer variety, with two triangular wings. And then, Holkham thought the wave must be de-stabilising. A huge ship was materialising in front of them. Its front section was small and spearhead-shaped. However, its aft end looked similar to a spider’s web pulled into a wide cone shape. Eight long pylons and a long central structure made the vast ship at least four times the size of the Juno.
“It’s another weapon ship. Reading minimal armaments, but heavy anti-fighter gun emplacements. It’s the one that fired on us and destroyed the other weapon ship.”
“What’s the size of that thing?”
“Five kilometres long, fifty decks in the command section; main weapon diameter of three kilometers from pylon to pylon.”
Sonak raised an eyebrow. “Sir, I am detecting a number of weak points along the weapon array’s superstructure. I recommend we fire at those points - that will cause the overall structure to collapse.”
“No. Kelvin wants one of those things captured.” Holkham tapped a button on his armrest. “Holkham to Kell. What’s your status?”
“We can board that other weapon ship as soon as you give the word. Marines from Enterprise are already aboard.”
“Excellent. Energise when you’re ready.”
“Kell reports she is aboard with one hundred other marines.” Kelos looked up from his console.
“Excellent.” Holkham replied, as the deck shook beneath him. “What was that?”
“We are being fired upon. It’s the heavy cruiser.”
“It would have to be, wouldn’t it?” Holkham said under his breath. “Very well. Helm, bring us around; tactical fire aft weapons.”
Holkham gripped his armrests hard as the deck bucked beneath him. Behind him, a circuit in the ceiling blew, showering sparks everywhere. In front of him, one of the consoles that swept out from the walls exploded, shorting out the consoles near it, and causing the crewmen operating them to shield their faces from the sparks and energy. The image on the viewscreen shimmered slightly.
“Kelos - torpedo cannons one through four, full spread - fire!”
A dozen torpedoes slammed into the Banthar cruiser’s hull, sending energy rippling over the hull and back onto the shields. As the torpedoes from the Juno hit it, it spat its own spread of yellow torpedoes at the Enterprise which was circling its stern. The Enterprise - the Juno’s sister ship - turned sharply away to avoid the mass of torpedoes. Only one torpedo hit, but it did massive damage. The torpedo swerved slightly, lined itself up with the aft quarter of the Enterprise’s port nacelle, and dove into it. The aft end of the nacelle exploded, and as the torpedo made its way down the length of the nacelle, the transparent aluminium along its entire length shattered. When the torpedo hit the insides of the Bussard collector at the end, it exploded, sending debris flying inside the nacelle, rupturing warp coils and shattering the few shards of transparent aluminium that remained. The burned-out shell of the nacelle cracked with the energy discharge, and huge curtains of plasma billowed out from it.
The Enterprise veered of-course, feebly returning fire from its aft phasers as a Banthar destroyer swooped in for the kill.
“Report!” Kelvin shouted.
The captain moved the body of her weapons officer off his console.
“We’ve lost the port nacelle and we’re leaking plasma. We’ve half-exhausted our complement of ion torpedoes and our shields are at thirty percent.” She smiled slightly as she read off the last of the list. “We still have 73% power to the phasers, though we’ll never be going to warp again.”
The turbolift doors opened and relief crewmen and medical teams flooded onto the bridge.
The captain resumed her seat.
“Ma’am, Banthar destroyer coming up on us fast!”
“Signal our remaining fighters. Tell them to cover us. Helm, bring us about - tactical, fire anything we’ve still got that works.”
The Juno swerved sharply to avoid being clouted by the Enterprise’ remaining nacelle, and turned to face the heavy cruiser.
“Sir! Lieutenant Kell reports that the Banthar weapon ship is riddled with traps and enemy troops. She suggests targeting their marine barracks.”
“Good idea. Tactical, you do that. Target their marine barracks and fire phasers. Try not to get any of our men in the process.”
The Banthar cruiser turned to the Juno and fired, its magenta disruptors momentarily overloading the shields.
The Juno reeled as a fiery hole opened up on the neck connecting the two hulls.
“Major hull breach on deck fifty. Emergency force-fields in place and holding. The weapon ship’s marine barracks have been destroyed. Reporting minor hull breaches on decks forty-five through fifty-five. We have lost our ventral thrusters.”
“Kelos, is the main stargun charged?” Dax asked.
“Fire.” She ordered.
There was a deep whining noise as the Juno’s main weapon fired at the Banthar ship.
The ship seemed to distort slightly around the impact point before the entire starboard wing blew itself to shreds.
“The Banthar ship is dead in the water. The remaining ships are concentrating their fire on the weapon ship.” Kelos reported.
“Order our remaining ships to target their weapons systems. You do the same, Kelos, and fire at will.”
The few remaining Starfleet vessels all fired at once, and the space between them and the Banthar became criss-crossed with phaser-fire and dotted with bright blue ion torpedoes.
“Sir, I’m picking up two more waves of ships, converging on our position.”
Holkham closed his eyes, and turned round, opening them again.
“I’m picking up Banthar re-enforcements, more of them, and - and - twelve Kalrathaan warships.”
Holkham looked at Dax, who smiled.
He stood up. “Hail the Kalrathaan.”
The screen switched from a view of the battle to a picture of a rather aggressive-looking Kalrathaan. Dax thought he looked like a cross between a Kazon and a Cardassian.
“This is captain Korzal of the Kalrathaan Tenth Battle Fleet. We thought you could use some Kalrathaan blood on your side.”
“This is Captain James Holkham of the starship Juno. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.”
“The pleasure will be ours, I assure you. We’re picking up some Banthar re-enforcements heading our way - you might want to ready your ships.”
“We’ll do that. Tell your men not to fire on the weapon ship - that’s in the process of being boarded and captured by our men and we wouldn’t like it destroyed.”
“Understood. We should meet after the battle, captain - I would like to hear your tale. Korzal out.”
Nahaz was watching the battle from his bridge module, using a small sensor probe he had concealed near the battle site.
He watched as the last of the first wave of ships was destroyed, and laughed softly as the second wave warped in and started pummelling the Starfleet ships.
However, his glee was short-lived. Also warping in were twelve ships of a completely different design.
They had semi-circular forward hulls long, wide nacelle pylons and enormous semi-circular nacelles that stretched for hundreds of metres above and below the ships. He recognised them at once.
“Kalrathaan!” He spat.
“Captain’s Personal Log, stardate 89265.2, U.S.S. Juno, Captain James Holkham commanding. We have successfully captured the other Banthar weapon ship and are currently heading back to Starbase C209 with the remainder of the fleet. The Kalrathaan have towed Admiral Kelvin and the Enterprise to the nearest Kalrathaan shipyard where Enterprise will be repaired.
However, Lieutenant Kell, after capturing the Banthar vessel, managed to translate a display on the bridge.
It seems that this weapon ship is one of seven. After our successful attack today, however, we have reduced that number to five. It seems this war is far from over.
Riannah has plans for the weapon ship we captured, and I suspect that our capturing of it has put the fear of god into the Banthar.
Riannah, after a discussion with Admiral Kelvin and captain Korzal, has decided that the Juno be re-assigned to her previous mission of exploring the Omega Sector - and, I am glad. Although she feels we have been invaluable on the front line, every excursion against the Banthar brings more suffering - more casualties. So, in four days’ time, we set out for the rim of this arm of the galaxy.
And, after a lengthy discussion with admiral Kelvin, Dax and I have come to a conclusion about meetings with top brass - I quote from Dax: ‘It’s like making sausages the old-fashioned way. You don’t want to be in the room while it’s happening, but the results are always good.’ I feel the same way.”
Proceed to Episode VI
|Last modified: 10 Apr 2012