Shield of the Federation
by Randy O. Green
Part two of six
Major-Commander Antonius Terralis of House Pentalion smiled in satisfaction at the opportunity the Admiral had given him as he ordered the Sling and the Rapier to follow him. He now had an opportunity to regain some of his prestige among the leaders of his house.
He was shorter than most Romulan males. His frame was compact and powerful. He also had a sharp thin nose, which gave a cruel aspect to his appearance, and he nursed a hatred for the Federation deep within himself.
So he savored this chance. As a Major-Commander, he felt he should have been captain of one of the new FireHawk heavy cruisers by now. But there were not enough of those yet to give one to each deserving captain. He suspected the poor results of a "privateer" raid he had led the year before against the Federation might have had something to do with his being sent to a ship that was not as powerful as he should have had. At least he was alive. His connections had saved him, but his house benefactors had made it clear that they would not burn any more political capital to save him again. So, for now, he would have to wait for command of a FireHawk behind other captains less deserving.
Antonius Terralis crinkled his nose at the smell in the air. The Furious was a new-construction SparrowHawk, and sometimes the ventilation system wafted strange odors through the air. He could not identify the scent that currently drifted through the air, but it was not a pleasant one. Disgusted, he settled back into his command chair, noting for the hundredth time that it was not as comfortable as the command chair on a FireHawk would have been.
He felt himself beginning to sink into the dark mood that often troubled him since the privateer raid. With an effort he pushed his depression away and concentrated on ordering his thoughts for the battle ahead. He had been given an opportunity to redeem himself and he would make the most of it.
His future depended on doing do.
Bridge, USS Groton
Jankae finished signing the weekly fuel usage report and handed it back to the young ensign. The extended period of travel at high warp, first rushing to take over the Republic's patrol route, and now to aid the Republic itself, was playing havoc with their fuel reserves. They would have to request an emergency re-supply from a fleet tanker as soon as possible.
He turned to his communications officer to give her the order, but stopped as his sensor officer caught his attention.
"What do you have, Lieutenant?" he asked. Normally the sensor operator on a Federation starship was a full-fledged science officer. The new light cruiser class was not meant as an exploration vessel however, so a science officer had been judged to be superfluous for the present mission. The sensors still had to be manned, though, so Jankae had made it a practice to rotate different officers through the position to gain experience that would broaden their working knowledge of the ship.
Today a young Tellarite junior lieutenant from engineering, Klahish, was filling the position. He turned back to his panel as if to verify the readings. Then he spoke.
"Picking up three contacts closing rapidly, Sir." The accent of his native tongue made it hard to understand him, but Jankae was used to it and deciphered his speech with little effort.
"They'll be in tactical warp range soon, Captain."
Klahish peered into the lab station again. After a moment he straightened and turned back to face Jankae.
"The computer has classified them by warp output as one light cruiser and two destroyers. Romulan. They are still too far away to identify them by specific variant."
"Let me know as soon as you get them identified. Comm, get a message out to the Genghis. Tell them that we have three intruders. Upload all data to them from Lieutenant Klahish. Also, send out the standard challenge to the intruders. I don't expect a reply, but I want to make sure we make the attempt." He turned back to face forward. "Helm, prepare to slow to tactical warp combat speeds. Lieutenant Arnold, weapon status?"
The human consulted his instruments. The Cygnan knew that this was the human's off-shift, as it was Jankae's, but whenever a Red Alert sounded on a Federation starship, the "A" team reported to their duty positions. The other shifts were bumped to either supporting roles or damage control teams or, as in the case of the second shift bridge crew, to auxiliary control.
"Photons are being held at standard levels. Phasers are energized and all phaser banks are fully armed, Captain."
"I don't want to have to try and overload the photons while eating plasma torpedoes. Increase them to full overloads. We may only get one good shot, and I want it to be the hardest one we can deliver." Jankae paused for a second. "By the way, nice playing today, Arnold."
"Thank you, Sir." The young man flushed with pride at the fact that his captain had taken notice of him.
"No reply to our hails, Captain," the comm officer announced.
"As I expected. Keep trying Lieutenant," he shrugged. He hadn't really expected a reply. Next he flipped the intercom switch on the side of his command chair. "Shuttlebay control, send a team to drone storage and pull out enough drones to load out shuttle number one as a full scatter-pack. Make number two a wild weasel. We need them as soon as you can get them." Jankae was glad that he had been able to get extra drones before this patrol began.
"Aye aye, Captain," the disembodied voice of Shuttlebay Control answered him. He flicked the switch off; confident that the specially prepared shuttles would be ready when he needed them.
The opening of the turbolift door caught his attention. He nodded in recognition as his XO stepped out. Lieutenant Commander Jonas Smith, a human, had just finished a stem to stern inspection of the ship at his request. Even though he had faith in the Groton, the ship was of a new design, which had only been tested in combat against Romulans a few times. He trusted the human's intuition, and had sent him on this inspection prior to the Groton's first battle to catch any problems before they started. He watched as the human made his way to stand beside the command chair, then motioned for him to speak.
"Captain, the ship is ready for battle. There were a couple of minor issues, but they have been taken care of." The human flashed an engaging grin, and he found himself smiling in reply.
"Lieutenant Commander, if you don't mind, we'll discuss those issues later. Now if you please, can you see to the disposition of our Marines?"
"Aye aye, Captain." The human turned and strode off to the back of the bridge to his station. Jankae faced forward again and settled back into his command chair to wait for the enemy.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Reno Smith looked up from where he was entering the serial number of the electronics kit he was about to use into his maintenance tricorder, a task that had to be completed to satisfy the supply weenies. Twenty feet away a team of four crewmen supervised by a shapely brunette was wrestling the third drone onto the portside rack that turned an administrative shuttle into a bus vehicle for the deadly missiles.
"Easy, easy..." he heard Petty Officer 3rd Stephanie Turner say as the team tried to ease it upon the rack. She was prettier than most, and had turned many an eye upon the Groton. At the moment, none of her team seemed to notice her beauty as they struggled with the nuclear-tipped missile. All of the crewmen were sweating profusely.
Suddenly, one of the crewmen, a slightly built kid not long out of tech school, lost his grip. Luckily the missile was almost on the rack and the huge Rigellian next to him managed to shove it the rest of the way into place. It slid down the mount and came to rest with a resounding clank against the base.
"Be careful with that!" Turner yelled. Smith grinned. Turner may have been pretty, but she had a temper like a Centauran lizard ox. She continued to harangue her team for another three minutes as they connected an electronic harness to each missile on the port side. She ended up by cursing the name of the Kzinti Captain who had first come up with the idea of the scatter-pack and every captain she knew of since then that had used a scatter-pack as a tactical crutch. Except for Captain Jankae of course. She knew he used one only when it was absolutely, tactically, necessary and was therefore, above reproach.
On the starboard side, a second team led by another Petty Officer 3rd was bolting on another set of racks. Once they were finished, Smith knew Turner's team would start the process of attaching three more drones to that side. The work was arduous and mostly done by hand.
He reached into the case and pulled out the first of several components that he would need to ready the shuttle for its special role. When this job was completed, the shuttle would be able to broadcast an electronic signal that would fool the unsophisticated tracking sensors of any plasma torpedoes targeted on the Groton into thinking that the shuttle was in actuality, the Groton itself. A most useful function, he thought.
One he hoped would not be needed.
Antonius Terralis leaned forward in his command chair, lips half-parted with a soundless snarl. The light cruiser had turned to give battle. The moment that marked the beginning of his ascension back into the ranks of the elite was at hand. He almost pitied the opposing Captain who stood in his way.
"Major-Commander, we have an incoming message from the Owl. It states that they have detected another contact, destroyer class, following the light cruiser. It will be able to join the battle soon," his communications officer informed him.
"Acknowledged," he scowled in reply. This changes things ... but not much. He would engage the light cruiser himself, and order the Sling and the Rapier to intercept the oncoming destroyer. A Federation destroyer could be a fearsome foe if it had time to fully arm its photon torpedoes and if someone blundered within range of the overloads. He grimaced. It was another thing he had learned well during the privateer raid. It was also something he knew the captains of the two ships should not allow to happen, since he had pounded it into their heads in exercises over the past six months.
He sat back in his chair and a smile flitted over his lips. Time to see if the two had learned their lessons. The crucible of combat was the best education a fledgling Captain could get. The smile faded from his lips before it could fully form.
He knew. He had learned this lesson the hard way.
"Captain, it looks like the Romulans are splitting their forces," Klahish spoke. Jankae twisted in his chair to face the engineer as the Tellarite continued to consult his instruments. "Sensors indicate that the Sparrowhawk is dropping to combat speed just over three hundred thousand kilometers away. The two destroyers are giving us a wide berth. I don't know if they're trying to cut off our escape or flank us."
"They probably have orders to engage the Genghis." Jankae mused, more to himself than to the Tellarite. "Let me know if they drop to combat speed. And notify the Genghis if they continue on." He turned back to face the main view screen.
"Aye aye, Captain," the Tellarite answered.
"Arnold, are the photons fully overloaded yet?" Jankae asked impatiently.
"Yes Captain, they just finished fully arming."
"Good. Hold them with impulse and reactor power, but keep 25 percent of the impulse power for discretionary use."
"Aye aye, Captain."
"Helm, maintain warp two point six."
"Shuttlebay Control," he asked, after flicking the intercom switch. "Are those two shuttles prepared for their special missions yet?" He let a hint of impatience show through in his voice.
"Yes, Captain," the disembodied voice of Shuttlebay Control answered him.
"Good, keep the engines warm on the other two. We may need them." He flipped the switch off, trying to think of anything he might have forgotten, but he could think of nothing. He had done everything by the book. The Groton was as ready for war as he could make it.
"Sparrowhawk is heading directly for us, Captain, warp speed two point eight eight," Klahish reported.
Just in time, he thought. It looked like this Romulan was in a hurry to embrace his destiny.
"Captain, the Groton has just notified us that only one Romulan engaged them. The other two, a SkyHawk destroyer and a K5, apparently have orders to keep us busy."
Captain Shrin Tasrt nodded, the tips of his antennae making little circles as he slowly digested the news his first officer, an Arcturian named C'Dlett, had given him. He had expected to find the Groton pressed hard by the three Romulans. It was more tactically sound, in his opinion, for the enemy squadron to try to overwhelm each Federation ship one at a time, not subdividing their forces to face each defender they met. He momentarily caught himself wishing that there were one more Federation ship nearby, even if it was just a police ship. Then the odds would have been even.
But there were no other Federation ships nearby. The Genghis would have to face these two alone. He didn't particularly fear the two ships, even if they had a nominal edge in firepower. The SkyHawk was a capable design, but in his opinion, the K5 destroyer was a heavy frigate at best. All the intelligence reports he had seen indicated that the Romulan military was having some difficulty in their transition to both the ships they had bought from the Klingons and the new designs they were now fielding. Evidently the old traditions and methods of operation died hard.
He also knew that the captains they assigned to their smaller ships weren't veterans. They could be counted on to make an error or two. He didn't consider himself a veteran either, but he considered Star Fleet training to be superior to that of the Empire. When either of the two opposing captains made their errors, he would insure that the Genghis was in the right place to make them pay. After all, it was his job to make sure that enemy destroyer captains didn't grow up to become cruiser captains.
He never bothered to think that the enemy captains had the same job.