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Star Trek Renegade - Chapter 1 by J. Grey

10 years ago the Federation was attacked by their most fearsome enemy, the Borg - but how far are they willing to go to protect themselves now?

Chapter 1

Wolf 359 - Stardate: 43989.1-44001.4

The Mirage maintained the highest factor of warp she could safely manage while the support and rescue fleet fanned out behind her, a mismatched group of vessels ranging from state of the art to barely space-worthy. Stars streaked past them as the energy field her engines produced bent the rules laid down by the universe, slowing down the passing of time as they travelled at speeds unthinkable to minds bogged down with traditional physics.

Lieutenant Commander Blake Girlings comm-badge chirped to attract his attention while he sat back in his temporary accommodation on board the ageing Starfleet transport, U.S.S Yorktown.

"This is Lieutenant Darrow to Lieutenant Commander Girling." A voice called out from the gold symbol on his chest.

"Go ahead." He huffed as he pressed the metallic badge, standing up to turn his attention to the circular viewport of his claustrophobic guest quarters. The stars were stretched into infinity as they passed him by, the light glowing softly over his face. He was 35 years old with tidy dark hair beginning to thin slightly that was combed backwards from his face which sported a tidy brown beard. His eyes beamed intensely into space as he waited for the incoming message.

"We have the Mirage on our scopes." Darrow told him flatly. "We will rendezvous in thirty five minutes."

"Iíll be ready." He replied solemnly with an almost imperceptible shake of his head. "How long until weíre in communication range?"

"We can hail them in ten minutes to prepare to match warp for transport." Came the efficient response.

"Acknowledged." Blake said with a sigh, this looked set to be another assignment that was going to fall far short of what he had hoped for but it was difficult to let his old friend down and hardly the time to cause trouble for Starfleet command.

The Yorktown was a gracefully ageing Constitution class vessel that had been refitted to serve as an ambassadorial transport ship after her usefulness as a front-line starship had passed. Her weapons and shields were still in place but many of her labs and equipment had been replaced with enlarged staterooms and widened corridors to accommodate various dignitaries, many of them enjoying breakfasts that stretched well beyond lunch . Her gleaming titanium hull plating had slowly dulled to a soft grey with the passing of many years in space and much of her technology had been upgraded or replaced during her service so that now she was a very different ship to her original design. Her twin impulse exhausts glowed a brilliant red at the rear of her regal saucer section as she pulled in close to the Mirage, the head of the emergency mercy fleet.

The Mirage herself was a modified Ambassador class starship with widened nacelle support pylons and much larger shuttle bays along the large spine that ran down her secondary hull.

"We have matched Warp." The Transporter chief said without a note of emotion in his voice as he lazily toyed with the controls.

"I hear this is a tricky procedure." Blake noted with a raised eyebrow.

"I am competent." The officer replied without bothering to look up.

"Itís not just me, youíre transporting a twelve year old child as well!" Girling reminded him with annoyance clear in his tone as he stepped down from the pad towards the control alcove.

The Sulusin junior officer looked up finally and met his angry glare with a look of unconcerned apathy.

"This is a relatively simple transport compared to many combat beamings I have made." He said simply. "There is no need for concern."

"I hope not!" Blake growled, turning on his heels to step back to the glowing transporter pad. "Because if anything does go wrong itíll be an empty coffin at my funeral, not yours."

"Are you ready?" The officer asked as he entered the final coding.

"Weíll be fine." He winked at the young girl beside him as she looked up with a pair of innocently trusting eyes. "Energise!"

"Has he arrived?" Commander Darren Rogers asked as he ran breathlessly through the automatic doors.

"Not yet!" Aldrov Dokks replied with a facial twitch that was meant to emulate a smile although the rows of razor sharp teeth gave her look an altogether more threatening appearance. "Any second."

"Fantastic." He sighed with relief, catching his breath and leaning heavily against the dull grey wall plating.

The transporter pad lit up suddenly with flickering blue light while the hum of the energisers filled the room. The fuzzy form of a pair of humanoids began to take shape in the cylindrical beams of light as the sound slowly melted away.

"Katherine!" Commander Rogers exclaimed excitedly as he stepped forwards, hardly able to believe his eyes.

"I thought youíd be pleased!" Blake said with a raised eyebrow and measured smile as he stepped forward. "Permission to come aboard.

Katherine ran forward past the young officer and hugged her father as he scooped her up in his stocky arms and swung her around excitedly.

"How the hell did you manage this?" Commander Rogers stammered as he put her down and wiped an involuntary tear from his eye.

"She was at Starbase DS4, where I was sent from, and her mother said she could spare her for a few days." Girling explained. "She canít stay, the Yorktown has to leave in a few minutes."

"Of course!" Commander Rogers agreed enthusiastically, turning to his daughter. "This is no place for you!"

"I just wanted to see you, Dad!" She shrugged. "I know this is going to be a dangerous mission."

"No, not at all." He tried to reassure her.

"No." Blake agreed with a slightly irritable edge to his voice. "All the danger will be long gone by the time we get there."

"So welcome to the Mirage!" Commander Rogers began gesturing grandly at the spartan interior of the hospital ship while the crew scuttled busily around them.

"Thank you!" Blake said without sincerity.

"I gather you donít much want to be here." Rogers suggested with a wry smile.

"I signed on to Starfleet for the chance to explore." He shrugged. "Of course this Borg incursion has caused a big shake up through the ranks but I hadnít expected to find myself aboard a mercy fleet vessel."

"Youíd rather be defending the Earth from its enemies?" The Commander ran his hand through his greying hair and ran his eyes over his portable terminal while he reviewed the young officers records.

"Now that you mention itÖ" Blake said, allowing his words to trail off suggestively.

"You donít think this is an important mission?"

"Of course it is!" Blake said suddenly, stopping to face his superior officer. "I donít mean to imply otherwise."

"Then what?" Commander Rogers smiled, cocking his head thoughtfully to one side while his keen eyes bored into the young officers.

"The Borg apparently tore the fleet to pieces at Wolf 359. Of course I think that sending in a mercy fleet to scour for survivors is a noble and vital function of the Federation." He began. "Iím grateful that you thought to ask for me but I just donít see how I can fit into this."

"Youíre an officer aboard a Starship, the same as all of us, a cog in a machine perhaps but a machine dedicated to an end we all believe in!" He explained, offering Blake just enough of an explanation to leave most of his questions unanswered.

"Commander, I have been posted all over the fleet!" Girling began in annoyance. "I was bounced from one temporary posting to another since I left the academy. Iíve served with security, engineering and minor command assignments, and now here when I have no medical training."

"So?" Commander Rogers shrugged, dropping the pad to his side and raising his eyebrows knowingly. "Weíve known each other a long time, Blake. Donít you know whatís going on?"

"No Sir." He replied, his brow furrowing with confusion. "What is going on?"

"I knew your father for many years." He began with a smile. "He was a fine officer."

"I know you were close friends, I assume thatís why you requested me for this assignment." Girling raised his hands in frustration.

The silence stretched for several seconds that felt much longer to the young officer, adrift in a sea of mindless bureaucracy and teased by the growing suspicion that the man in front of him had at least some of the answers he was looking for.

"We need to go to the bridge!" Commander Rogers said simply.

The Turbolift streaked along the narrow shaft, powered by an electro-magnetic field that made the car smell faintly with a whiff of electrical ozone.

"This ship needs security and command level tactics as much as any other Starship." Commander Rogers explained.

"Really?" Girling asked. "Itís reasonably rare for a regular Starship to need to defend herself."

"This is not a regular Starship!" The Commander grinned. "We go to where the violence has already happened and could well happen again, itís not unusual for pirates, salvage scavengers or even spies to be amongst the debris of a damaged vessel."

"I see." Blake replied thoughtfully as he grudgingly become more interested.

"Once we attended a damaged Miranda class vessel and were confronted by three Romulan scouts who were operating under cloak trying to beam the key systems out for intelligence purposes." The Commander continued while the Turbolift display changed direction showing that they had begun final ascent to the bridge.

"What happened?" Blake asked.

"Weíre doctors not warriors." He shrugged. "They had their shields down for transport when we detected the debris bouncing off their cloaked hulls and the computer predicted their hull outlines. We beamed over canisters of Anaesthazine gas designed to rupture at the Romulan air pressure."

"You put them all to sleep?" Blake smiled at the simple cleverness of the tactics.

"Then we took all the survivors from the damaged vessels and left the Romulans on board a ship with no key systems while we towed their ships back for analysis." Commander Rogers continued as the lift car drew to a silent halt and the doors slid open with a hiss.

"Sounds like a reasonable tradeÖ" Blake agreed.

"Welcome to the bridge!"

The fleet followed the U.S.S Mirage into the debris field that had once been a Federation staging post. Proud Starships that had gone out on a mission to protect their homeworld and their own sense of individuality now drifted lifelessly in space with shattered hulls and dead crews. The gleaming plating of the vessels were scorched with weapons fire as the Borg had dropped any interest in assimilation and simply ploughed through the fleet destroying everything in their path. Perhaps it had been a measured act to demoralise the Federation or perhaps a demonstration of impatience or aggression but in the end it mattered little in the face of the aftermath of such immense hostility.

The bridge of the Mirage was plunged into silence. Captain Harrow stood at the raised section in the centre, stepping gingerly forward from her chair towards the holographic main viewer in awe of the spectacle unfolding before them.

"Iím detecting the wreckage of 35 distinct vessels." The Vulcan operations chief reported with a respectfully lowered voice that sounded like even he was disturbed by what he saw. "I detect the debris of at least 4 more that were probably completely destroyed, at least I am not detecting their registries."

"39 vessels?" Commander Rogers said rhetorically in disbelief.

"You would have to include the automated defences, attack drones and base mounted weapon platforms to fully appreciate the degree of violence weíre witnessing." The Captain noted, partially lost in her own sense of shock.

"One ship did this?" Blake asked, momentarily forgetting his rank as he stepped forward. "Itís unbelievable."

"One Borg cube!" Lieutenant Nerus agreed from behind him. "A race integrated into their own technology. Massively advanced compared to us, apparently."

"We have a job to do, people!" Captain Harrow called out, snapping herself from the chilling spectacle and rousing her crew to action.

"This is Lieutenant Commander Blake Girling on temporary assignment." Commander Rogers stepped forward to introduce him to his captain. She looked into his eyes for a second and easily read his thoughts.

"Donít worry, Mr. Girling, none of us have ever seen anything like this before either!" She smiled supportively.

"Iím sorry, sir!" He shook his head. "I just canít believe what Iím seeing."

"Youíre assigned to serve as mission control officer in section 1." She told him in a more authoritative tone.

"Yes sir!" He said, taking some effort to drag himself back to the grim reality.

"This hospital ship is divided into 5 sections." Commander Rogers explained. "Triage-1, Triage-2, surgery, engineering and control."

"Right." Blake nodded that he understood.

"Iím head of triage-1, we beam aboard survivors and fix them up or send them on to surgery. We have a small officer team to co-ordinate our efforts." He said.

"How small?" Blake asked, looking from face to face of the officers around him, feeling a little lost as if floundering wildly out of his depth and wearing a rock of considerable proportion around his neck that robbed him of the ability to swim.

"We are it!" Lieutenant Nerus said flatly.

He turned to look at her, a short Vulcan female who looked around his age but was probably much, much older. Her hair was very regulation and jet black as Vulcans hair always was and her eyes were fixed on his and devoid of warmth.

"Blake Girling." He offered redundantly as he raised his hand in greeting.

She looked down at his outstretched palm as if it contained a decomposing rat but finally accepted his greeting only grudgingly. She shook it once without gripping properly and then withdrew her hand and gripped them both behind her back while continuing to stare blankly at him.

"You are my superior officer." She said simply. "However you will require my assistance in adjusting to your new post."

"Donít I know itÖ" He replied grimly as he glanced back at the scene of devastation before him.

The Mirage Impulse exhausts glowed dimly as she slipped forward at barely more than thruster speed into the debris field followed by the other 8 craft of the mercy fleet. She banked to port and began drifting into the most densely packed area of wreckage as her advanced sensors probed every inch of space and twisted metal for signs of life or a body were life could be induced to return.

"Triage-1, we stand ready." Nerus reported curtly through her comm-badge. "It is our duty to provide information to the bridge of our status and capacity."

"I get it." Blake agreed with an annoyed expression. "I have done this kind of thing before."

"Hospital vessels tend to be slightly different to normal Starship operation." She continued. "Here our duty is not to explore, we are autonomous in our mission parameters and are required only to save as many lives as possible."

"I have figured this out for myself!" He grunted as he tapped in his command codes into the triage-1 command station terminal.

"I hear you have undergone a series of brief temporary assignments." She said conversationally as she worked with the data pouring in from the bridge. "Congratulations."

"Congratulations?" He huffed. "It seems that everyone knows whatís going on here but me."

"I would have thought it was obvious." She remarked, clearly relishing her superiority.

"Perhaps you could offer your opinion?" He suggested.

"I do not feel it is my place to draw presumptions without additional information." She replied flatly.

"I could order you." He sneered, relishing his superiority.

"You could not." She stood up from her console to stare unwavering at him while logic chewed away in the recesses of her structured mind. "I would be forced to infer that your lack of knowledge is derived from officers superior in rank than myself and that it is their wish that you remain uninformed."

"SoÖ" He sighed, crossing his arms in front of his chest. "Youíre not just pretending to be a Vulcan, are you?"

"I fail to see what purpose it would achieve to impersonate a member of my race." She shrugged.

"I tend to agree." He nodded with a slight smile.

A bleep suddenly pierced the distant sounds of medics preparing to work and replicators generating stocks of drugs and implements.

"We have found survivors." Nerus noted with enough surprise to make her eyebrows twitch slightly. "We are two minutes from beaming range, apparently the radiation from the damaged vessels is cutting down our scanner range so we will need to be in immediate proximity."

"Understood, how many?" He called out as he began towards the medics station.

"At least 20 aboard the wreckage of the USS Bellerophon "

"Hear that?" Blake Girling called out. "Weíre receiving injured in just under two minutes."

"Weíre ready!" Commander Rogers said with a smile. "How are you doing, Blake?"

"It isnít what I had expected." Blake admitted with a nod and a controlled grin that continued to slip beyond his control and spread quickly across his face.

"It never is, every single time we go out." Rogers grinned back.

"I can imagine, Sir!" Blake nodded.

"I never got to thank you properly for escorting my daughter to come and see me." Commander Rogers said as he grabbed up a medical tricorder and flipped it open to check the battery life.

"It was no trouble." He smiled. "Sheís a great kid, we had lots of fun with her beating me repeatedly at various card games."

"She is." Rogers agreed as he flung the tricorder unceremoniously onto his desk and began loading hypo-sprays with pain killers. "I donít get to see her that much."

"I guess not." Blake watched as the burly doctor scampered around checking the equipment that had been checked very thoroughly already by the utterly competent staff.

"It cost me my marriage." He explained, pretending he was more involved in his checks than he actually was. "Iím damned if itís going to cost me my relationship with her too."

"Iím sure sheíll understand." Blake offered. "I hardly saw my father but I knew that what he was doing was important."

"He was a good man, your father." Commander Rogers smiled. "I miss him a lot."

"So do IÖ"

Two automated escort vessels took their position at each side of the devastated hull of the Bellerophon while the Mirage drifted into position to transport the survivors. The defence ships were sleek vessels deployed by a carrier ship at the rear of the fleet. They were variations on the standard perimeter defence ships that were able to accommodate a crew and were equipped with improved sensors and computers to make them slightly more capable. Both of the small cylindrical vessels were capable only of high Impulse speeds but heavily armed and programmed to defend the hospital ships at all costs.

Captain Harrow peered into the ship before her in the viewer as if looking through a window.

"Any sign of activity?" She asked.

"The ship is dead-in-the-water." Her operations chief confirmed. "Most of the outer hull has fractured and power is gone but I am detecting 20 distinct life signs although each are very weak."

"Excellent." She grinned. "Do you have a transporter lock?"

"Not yet." Sallox reported as his fingers danced deftly over the control panel. "I am having trouble cutting through the radiationÖ"

"Boost power to the transporters and targeting scanners." She instructed impatiently as she took another involuntary step forwards to the main view screen.

"I have them!" Sallox cried out loudly.

"Drop shields for transport." Captain Harrow ordered.

The Mirage floated serenely above the debris field shielded behind her automated escort ships. Suddenly the lead ship erupted into silent flame as a beam of coherent energy tore effortlessly thought it, instantaneously crippling its powerful defensive shields. The blast expanded violently as the emergency systems dumped the anti-matter storage tanks too late to prevent the main tank from completely detonating. The blast tore into the Mirage, shaking her from her fixed position and throwing the hull of the Bellerophon into her secondary hull with a gut wrenching shearing force that sounded through the entire ship.

A second beam streaked out from nowhere and connected with the port nacelle. With no defence from her shields the plasma flow was easily disrupted and the radiator grill of the drive module erupted in a furious blast of twisted hull plates that showered out in all directions, embedding themselves in the ship or drifting out into the debris field.

"What the hell is going on?" Blake cried out. "ReportÖ"

"Unknown." Nerus admitted, struggling to coax any information through her console along the damaged relays. "We have been hit by weapons fire and have collided with a solid object."

"Not the Bellerophon?" He yelled above the noise of emergency klaxons and raised voices. "There are survivors there."

"I do not have that information, all command networks have been temporarily severed." She reported. "Along with sensor relays and the internal comm system."

"Whatís going on?" Commander Rogers barked above the noise.

"Weíre working on it." Blake told him as he worked at his own consoles. "We have injured on this deck, looks like youíre going to be busy."

"25 wounded on their way." Nerus confirmed.

"Can we patch into the local sensor grid?" Girling asked, turning to face her.

"Explain." She inquired as her mind began working on his idea.

"Sensors are relayed to the bridge, can we cut the line to the sensors on this level and get the information directly?" He asked, not familiar enough with the ship to know himself if it would be possible.

"Yes." She said suddenly as her mind fed her the connections she would have to break into. "It will give us only an incomplete local report, long range sensors are not on this level."

"Give me anything you have." He growled in anticipation as he opened the wall panels with his security codes and began drawing out hand phasers to arm them with as a precaution against begin boarded.

Injured people were led in through the open access portals by equally wounded comrades. Medics scurried up and took them to their work-stations for examination and emergency treatment. Blake looked on in silence as the efficiency and calmness surprised him. There was none of the panic, the screaming and anguish of a Starship rescue mission, simply an efficient crew performing efficiently.

"Both of our defence escorts have been destroyed and our port nacelle has been rendered inoperative." She began. "A vessel is approaching but I canít get a fix on it. The fleet is responding but they will have to pick their way through the debris so they are unable to offer immediate assistance."

"We need to buy them time!" Girling said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "Do we have phasers?"

"We have power to the weapons array but the targeting scanners are inoperative and bridge control is not operational." Nerus said. "We should consider abandoning this ship."

"We canít!" He disagreed firmly. "There are too many people aboard."

"We will likely be destroyed by the next attack, it is logical for as many people to escape as possible." She persisted calmly.

"If we can buy the fleet some time we might all make it." He replied with fierce resolve as he called up the library computer. "We could manually align the phasers if we could get to the control station."

"We can reach it!" She replied with a raised eyebrow, intrigued at his suggestion.

"Theyíve obviously tried to incapacitate us, they wonít be expecting us to fire on them, it might buy us the time we need!" He said hopefully, not entirely convinced.

"It may." She agreed.

The doors erupted into a flaming ball of fire as the phaser beam tore through them.

"Doesnít anything on this ship work any more?" Blake Girling grumbled as he returned the weapon to his hip.

"We are only concerned with the phaser control." Nerus reminded him. "Doors can be replaced later.

The phaser control station was a meagre cube of steel plates with none of the carpeting or wall coverings that were evident on even the most spartan space fairing vehicle. It was a dingy box designed only for the routine inspection and testing of the upper banks. Sickly red light bathed the room which was beset with heavy trunking and pipe-work and a single large console at the far wall and a circular Jeffries tube access portal.

"Letís get on with this." He said urgently as he ripped the grey panel away from the control console. He slung it to the floor with a loud clatter where it lay with the label warning people not to remove it facing upwards.

"I can bring a sensor image to the viewscreen." She offered as the panel lit up with a hazy and distorted image. "I still cannot get a read-out on the vessel although it is closing rapidly. It is using the hulls of the Starfleet vessels to mask itself from us."

"If we fire from here we should still be able to hit it." He replied but his statement was more of a question.

"Indeed." She nodded as she reset the systems from inside the control console. "The sensor probe beam will now act as a targeting marker for the phasers."

"Perfect." He shrugged at the distorted image that cackled with electronic noise with a renewed sense of hope.

"You will have to target them here and I will go into the Jeffries tube and fire manually at your signal."

"Go!" He told her. "Set your Comm badge for local person-to-person communication so Iíll be able to contact you to tell you when to fire."

"Agreed!"

The ship listed out of control as main power was still unavailable and the reserves were all busy setting force-fields to seal in some of the damage and maintain the internal atmosphere. Triage-1 was set in the upper section of the main hull at the top of the vast circular saucer. Even with the enormous damage she had sustained, two of the upper phaser strips were still functional.

Lieutenant Commander Blake Girling sat in silence, the only sounds in the tiny control room were those of his own heart thumping in his chest and his own laboured breathing.

"Girling to Nerus, are you in place?" He called out over his intercom.

"I am." She confirmed. "It is a good thing indeed that your experience of Starship operation is so wide."

"I guess so." He smiled weakly while his eyes remained fixed on the makeshift viewscreen waiting for any movement from behind the wreckage of his fallen comrades ships. "Maybe you could fill me in on your theory?"

"Perhaps." She acceeded.

"Now would be as good a time as any." He said hopefully, scanning every inch of the screen.

"It is clear that you are being groomed for command." She said simply.

"You think?" He said in surprise as a faint smile spread across his face.

"I do." She agreed. "It is not unusual for a potential command officer to be given a short tour of various assignments to better familiarise himself with Starship procedure."

He watched as a dark object began to emerge from within the torn ribs of an Excelsior class vessel in the distance, its heart clawed out by a weapon of unimaginable power.

"Are you ready?" He asked, beads of sweat tracing down from his head and prickling uncomfortably under his uniform.

"I am." She confirmed.

"Fire."

A glowing beam of orange light streaked forward from the front phaser bank out into space towards the stricken Excelsior class hull. A bloom of orange flame tore forth from the impact point sending a shower of sparks and distorted energy from the enemy vessels shields. Whatever it was, it banked from the blast as if in retreat, more shocked than wounded. A second phaser beam struck out at the alien ship followed by another, both hitting the shields and hiding the craft behind a bloom of flame and raw energy.

The ship slunk behind another destroyed vessel as a forth beam tore through space wildly and completely missed.

They fired a single volley in return that hit the Mirage's upper hull and shattered the upper phaser banks in a huge blast of energy as the power lines blew out across the upper hull..

Suddenly the alien vessel erupted in flame as five more ships opened fire as reinforcements finally arrived, along with a dozen automated defence vessels. Phasers struck at all points as each ship fired continually and followed up with a spread of high-yield photon torpedoes.

"Commander Girling?" Nerus called out over the closed comm channel. She laid crouching in the cramped service tunnel waiting for a response but none was forthcoming. There was an exit hatch not far from her position so she began to crawl, her familiarity with the vessel already telling her it would drop her into a main corridor where she could quickly return to the control room.

"Commander Girling?" She repeated into her comm badge as she continued crawling up the tunnel. The plating was hard and cold beneath her hands and the soft rubber flooring in the centre did little either to aid her progress or minimise her discomfort, although as a Vulcan she ignored the latter and struggled against the former.

She kicked down the exit panel and hefted herself into the main corridor, wondering what she would find. She was faced with everything bathed in red lighting from the emergency systems and the muted Klaxons warning of the red-alert condition. People were urgently scampering up and down tending to emergency signals and their wounded comrades around her.

"Crewman!" She called out to a passing Betazed officer. "Has the Comm system been restored yet?"

"Yes sir, it has." He replied, tears forming in his glassy eyes from the pain of an injury to his left forearm. She glanced at the shattered limb he was nursing which was dripping his thick red blood to the floor.

She stepped forward and took his comm-badge, hoping that hers had simply malfunctioned.

"You get to the infirmary immediately." She instructed.

"Yes sir." He breathed heavily and ran off on his way.

"Nerus to Girling." She said impatiently into the communicator.

"Nerus to Triage-1, medical emergency in phaser control room 3."

Commander Rogers dug the Hypo-spray into the mans neck so hard it actually hurt the wounded crewman before he moved swiftly onto the next one.

"I need a refill here!" He shouted to anyone who might be listening as he moved from one body to the next, followed by a troop of inexperienced young medics.

"Commander Rogers." Lieutenant Nerus called out from the doorway.

"Yes?" He asked, spinning from his work to see the filthy and dishevelled Vulcan female.

"Can you spare a moment?" She asked coldly, her head hung slightly and her hands clamped before her.

"A moment, yes." He agreed in irritation, handing his tools to a young officer and walking over, wiping the blood from his hands as went.

"I have unfortunate news." She offered.

"Iím surrounded by unfortunate news." He quipped with a disproportionately cheery smile. "It goes with the territory."

"Commander Blake Girling rigged a manual phaser lock to engage an enemy vessel and buy us the time we needed until the fleet could join us." She explained.

"Heís a good man." He nodded proudly. "Just like his father, quick and resourceful. I hope he chooses to stay with us for a while."

"Iím sorry to report he was killed in the action when a weapons strike breached the hull." She stared into his eyes, hers reflecting a measure of emotion she was unable to totally conceal.

"He was sucked into space?" He asked, his voice cracking and his face dropping the cheery facade.

"Yes." She said regretfully.

"We could find himÖ" Commander Rogers suggested, empowered by hope as he spun around to begin issuing orders.

"Iím afraid not." She said forcefully, dragging his attention back to her. "I have analysed the flight data. He was hit in the head with debris and was killed instantly, resuscitation seems unlikely."

"I donít believe this." Rogers hung his head in his hands. "I wonít believe this."

"Iím sorry." She replied helplessly.

 


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