EPISODE 5.50 - “Torment and Woe”
written by Travis Cannon
The Great Hall of the So'jan Senate was clambering with noise. The senators gossiping about what had been so important to wake them at such a late hour. Senator Ru'kon sat amongst his piers in the area designated for the Ru Clan. Being the senior member of his clan's representatives, he was placed at the base of the stairs behind a marble desk. Each clan's senior representative had a similar spot designated in front of his clan's space, each having instant access to the floor of the senate.
Across from them, against the flat side of the half-circle hall was the throne of the king, last occupied by King So'mal. It now remained empty, though many, including Ru'kon, believed the So'mal's son-in-law, Chancellor Ar'kon, which to occupy that seat as king. However, Ar'kon was absent at the moment; along with First Legate Hasz'fos, who's seat on the ruling dais was empty.
Ru'kon leaned back and spoke to some of his colleagues, whom all seem to agree that this meeting was indeed very usual. Ru'kon concurred with them, but he had a feeling that something momentous had just occurred in their war with the Federation.
Suddenly the back doors burst opened and the retinue of So'jan military officers from Colonel to Petty Officer came marching into the room behind Major Admiral Isen'ko, the oldest and most senior member of the Admiralty. He took a spot on the ruling dais to the left of the throne, the ceremonial seat of So'ja High Command, normally occupied by the Supreme Admiral. Ru'kon figured Admiral Da'note must be away on important war business to not be at this meeting. Isen'ko adjusted his medal filled sash as he took his seat. His retinue stationed themselves behind him, all looking rather grim.
Following their entrance was Hasz'fos with his own entourage of aides, whom were all mumbling to themselves and looking rather nervous. He quickly took his spot on the right side of the throne, taking his seat and taking a deep breath. It was not until one of his aides spoke to him that he stood and approached the ancient marble lectern, the ceremonial speaking place of the First Legate. He took the ceremonial orb and banged it against the small iron plate on the center of the lectern.
The Great Hall became silent.
“All rise for the Chancellor of the Senate and So'jan People!” Hasz'fos voiced carried throughout the vast hall.
Everyone stood, including Ru'kon and Admiral Isen'ko.
The doors opened again and Chancellor Ar'kon came strutting into the Senate Hall dressed in bright yellow robes and with the matching headdress. Murmurs came from the standing senators, a few gasped. Such dress was no that of an elected official such as a Chancellor.
Ar'kon approached the throne. He stood before it and bowed, showing fervent respect to King So'mal and all kings that had come before. He then turned back towards the throng of senators.
Hasz'fos struck the iron plate with the ceremonial orb. “Be seated.”
The senators took their seats, along with Admiral Isen'ko.
Ar'kon raised his arms wide, as if embracing the amassed throng.
“Fellow members of the So'jan Senate!” he cried. “Today is a great day. Today is the day that the So'jan people finally take back that which is rightfully theirs. The second So'jan kingdom has arrived... and its name is the Coalition. With the hearts and minds of the people of So'ja as my guide I hence forth accept the crown and throne of the So'ja Coalition, the Kingdom of the So'jan People!”
With that said, Admiral Isen'ko stood up and approached the Chancellor. One of his aides followed with a yellow plush pillow carrying the crown of the kings of old.
Ar'kon removed the yellow headdress and knelt before Admiral Isen'ko, who took the crown from the pillow and held it high for all to see. And then Isen'ko lowered the golden circlet down on Ar'kon head. Isen'ko stepped back and pounded his chest with his fist and saluted Ar'kon in the so'jan tongue. Then both the First Legate and his entourage followed suit, hailing Ar'kon as king. The military officials joined in.
The senators remained shell-shocked. Their republic had been lost. Ar'kon had become king without a single weapon being fired, without a single person raising a figure to object.
All of the eyes turned to Senator Ru'kon, who being the most respected member of the Senate would hold the most influence in what was to be done next.
Ru'kon took a deep breath and sighed. There was nothing that could be done. Ar'kon had the backing of the military and no one could fight against them. He slowly stood, feeling his years of planning and scheming to eventually achieved that which was not impossible slipping away. He looked towards Ar'kon.
“Long Live the King, Ar'kon the First,” he hailed, the defeat in his voice visible to all. He then bowed deeply.
A crooked smile formed on Ar'kon's mouth as he saw his political rival concede to him. He looked up and watched as the rest of the Senate followed Ru'kon example. After much hailing and saluting, Ar'kon beckoned his subjects to their seats.
“Fellow members of the So'jan Senate!” cried King Ar'kon, arms spread wide. His phrasing was now an insult to most of them, but he did not care. “The time we have dreamed for is at hand; The mighty Federation will fall... before us!”
Huge roaring pits of fired littered the countryside, the hills, and the valleys. In the cities the sound of crowds rushing through the streets in a panic was obscured by the blaring alarms that rang through the hot air.
A sudden hush spread across the valley. All eyes turned to the heavens, where a burning ball of fire, blazing with blue plasma, hurled towards the ground.
There was a great scream.
There was a thunderous clamor.
There was a ghastly silence.
Captain Benjamin Kelsoe leaned back in his chair, adjusting his weight slightly, his eyes never leaving the PADD. It was getting good. He never thought this would happen to him, but it had. After sixteen years of searching, he had finally found it: A good book that he could not put down.
The clock read two hundred and thirteen, and yet he found himself wide awake, riveted to this fictional story that was written nearly four hundred years ago. Granted, much of the colloquialism of the 21st century seemed odd and a bit confusing, but still... the story was compelling. Adding to the fact that the main character was an orphan, like Kelsoe was, it made for a good read.
The door bell chimed.
Kelsoe groaned inwardly, not wanting to miss a moment of the book, but he had duties and obligations as a starship captain.
“Come in,” he said, pulling his eyes away from the PADD.
With a hiss the doors opened and Commander Tuff walked in. He paused, mid-step halfway through the door.
“Your up?” he said, partly startled.
“I haven't gone to bed, yet,” Kelsoe said standing. “I... uh, couldn't put this book done.” Kelsoe said, tossing the PADD down on his side table. “By the way, thanks for the recommendation.”
“Harry Potter popular amongst my kids,” Tuff said. “I never thought I'd get into it as well, but J.K. Rowling's a great storyteller.”
“So, what's up?”
Tuff took a deep breath. “A message just arrived from Starfleet Command...”
“It's not good, Ben.” Tuff's eyebrows arched in a way that showed that he had been troubled by the news.
“What is it?”
“It's about the Tealuians,” Tuff admitted.
“Yes?” Kelsoe probed warily.
All Tuff could do was shrugged. “That was it. It was about twenty minutes ago. I receive a cryptic message from Starfleet Command about something happening with the Tealuians.”
“Are they entering the war?”
“I wouldn't think so,” Tuff responded. “Those bastards don't seem the type to fight overtly. They're more of a covert bunch. I've never taken them for having the aggression to fight out in the open.”
Kelsoe nodded in agreement.
“Is that it?”
“Am afraid so,” Tuff said. “Though there was something about expecting another message at two hundred thirty hours.”
Kelsoe glanced over at the clock on his end table. “We're almost there.”
The intercom chirped.
“Captain, you're received a message from Admiral Anton. Shall I patch it through to your quarters.”
“Yes.” Kelsoe said, turning towards the view screen mounted on his wall.
Within moments Kelsoe was looking into the tired eyes of Admiral Harold Anton.
“Admiral,” both Kelsoe and Tuff nodded in salute.
Anton acknowledged the two and glared across the screen at Kelsoe. Tuff cleared his throat.
“I'll be leaving, then.”
“No,” Anton interrupted. “I want you to stay, Commander. What I have to say, you'll need to hear as well.”
“Sir.” Tuff inclined his head, staying put next to Kelsoe.
“Admiral?” questioned Kelsoe.
“We have reporting coming in that the Tealuian planet of Minark has been destroyed,” Anton said. “A horrendous lost of life.” Anton voice choked up. “We estimate casualties close to a billion Tealuians. Minark was one of the their most populous planets.”
“What happened?” Kelsoe asked.
“We're not entirely sure,” Anton admitted. “But long range sensor sweeps are still being analyzed, but from the initial results we can confirm that the destruction was not natural.”
“The Coalition?” Tuff inquired.
“Likely, but we're not ruling out anything,” Anton affirmed. “Not as long as we have a man like Tyson Calok still out there with Dr. Eyota in tow.”
“So that's been confirmed, sir?” Kelsoe asked.
“Yes,” Anton nodded. “Our sources with in the Resistance have sighted him on Ka'al with Calok and amongst So'jan senators and military officials.”
“Could they be using technology from his sub-space research?” Tuff inquired.
“Again, we are still analyzing the sensor scan, but I believe it might be possible,” Anton inclined his head. “The worst part is the uncertainty amongst the intelligence community. No one saw this coming, and I mean no one! The Tealuians didn't know what hit them.”
“What's the plan, sir?” Kelsoe inquired, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
“I'm ordering what ships we have available to mass near Paos...,” Anton said. “Ben... I know I don't have to ask you twice.”
Kelsoe took a deep breath through his nostrils as he looked up at the view screen.
“We're on our way, Admiral.”
Ar'kon leaned back and laughed. Drink had been brought, and he was celebrating in private with a select group of friends and sycophants. The drink was flowing. Appetizers were just being brought in. A tray of Ka'al delicacies was placed before Ar'kon, and he eyed the confections with delight. White First Legate Hasz'fos was in the midst of telling another one of his terrible humorous antidotes, Ar'kon reached over to the silver tray and picked one of the delicious confections and popped it into this mouth, savoring the unique and expensive flavor that only the most wealthiest of all so'jan could afford.
Hasz'fos was finishing up his antidotes when a sudden burst of noise arose from the antechamber. The hubbub inside the hall subsided as the great doors were thrown open and Admiral Isen'ko came marching in with a retinue of support staff behind him. He expression born on his face was not a pleasant one.
“You majesty,” Isen'ko bowed. “I bring grave news from the front.”
“Yes,” Ar'kon inclined his head, curious of what had brought the admiral into the hall.
“Minark has been destroyed, my lord,” Isen'ko said.
“What?!” Ar'kon gasped in disbelief. “How do you know?”
“We intercepted Tealuian communications,” Isen'ko confirmed. “There is little doubt that the planet has been devastated. From what we've gathered the cause was not natural, but done with some vast and powerful weapon.”
“Was it us?” Ar'kon asked, looking from Isen'ko to Hasz'fos and back.
“Negative, majesty,” Admiral Isen'ko asserted. “I've been in constant contact with Supreme Admiral Da'note since the news broke. We are not responsible.”
“Then who is?” Ar'kon inquired.
“Calok,” came an eerily soft voice.
Everyone turned to see the tall Tealuian Xojo Manjala said in the doorway. His great large eyes were as black as ink, tears streamed down his pale flesh.
“Tyson Calok has betrayed us all!” wailed the devastated Tealuian.
A smirk grew across his face.
“What is it?” L'mar inquired, staring at Calok from across the table.
“Oh, nothing,” Calok grinned. “Xojo's finally discovered his true purpose with us.”
“Really,” humphed the Romulan. “Took him long enough.”
Calok stood. “We must prepare the fleet for Starfleet.”
“Starfleet?” L'mar sounded skeptical. “Starfleet has no idea what's just occurred.”
“I'd wouldn't be too sure about that, Telek,” Calok said, placing his hands behind his back. “Starfleet has many sources at its disposal. You should know that above all others.”
L'mar grimaced. “What of Eyota?”
“He's been sent for,” Calok said, matter-of-factly.
“Can we trust this Ba'dal?” L'mar asked, referring to the So'jan colonel who commanded the 3rd Command Group.
Calok smiled. “If we couldn't would I be here?”
The Romulan nodded in agreement. “So I take it you we're pleased with the results of the weapons performance?”
Tyson Calok's grin widen, and his red eyes seemed to glow more fiercely.
“It worked perfectly against the Borg,” Calok said. “I had little doubt that once I combined it with Oppressor technology it would do has I willed.”
“Where did you pick up the Pulse, Tyson?” L'mar asked, longingly, knowing that he would most likely never great the answer to that question.
Calok arched his next and glared across the room at L'mar, his grin faded.
“There are wonders out there, Telek,” Calok murmured, staring off into space. “Wonders so beyond anything that any living being could have dreamt.” He sighed. “Ah, the wonders to behold, Telek. That is what I have done. I have witnessed things that you could never possibly imagined. I have seen miracles, and have watched as nothing became something. The knowledge of our ancestors is so beyond anyone that the mere thought of it brings a shiver to my spine...”
A deathly silence followed as Calok's last words hung in the recycled air of the room.
“So... there are still things out there that even you are afraid of?” L'mar question hesitantly.
“To not be afraid would be foolish,” Calok said. “And I am anything but foolish.” Calok inclined his head, signaling that this conversation was over. He turned back to the table and pressed a small button to open up ship communications. “Colonel Ba'dal, would you come to the conference room.”
“Captain, we're approaching Paos,” Zimmer reported from the helm.
Kelsoe nodded. “Drop out of warp.”
Zimmer moved his fingers over the console, swiftly carrying out his orders. Kelsoe watched as the view screen displayed the Pioneer's deceleration from warp. The streaking stars slowed and became stagnate. The orb that was the planet of Paos came into view. A group of vessels could be seen in orbit; the makings of a expeditionary force.
“Bring us into a parallel orbit with the rest of the fleet,” Kelsoe ordered.
The Pioneer gracefully came up along side the closest starship, the latest Emperor-class vessel to come out of Spacedock, the USS Stefansson.
“The Stefansson is hailing us, sir,” Tracy said from her post.
“Open a channel,” Tuff stood up beside his captain.
Tracy gave a nod and pressed the appropriate buttons.
“Captain Burt,” Kelsoe nodded.
“Ben,” Captain Connor Burt started out across the screen and smiled. “It's nice to see the Pioneer.”
Beside Burt was his first officer, Commander Sally Romero, a spunky human from the Italian peninsula. Her dark hair was tied in a regulation pony tail. She exchanged a curt nod with Commander Tuff.
“So I take it you've settled in on the Stefansson,” Kelsoe said.
“No exactly, Ben,” Burt said. “Still learning the ins and outs of the ship, but she's a good ship...”
Kelsoe nodded, understanding how attached a captain can become to his ship, even during the first days of his command. It was like that with him and the Pioneer. Your ship was like an extension of you. Part of you. Family. You take care of it and it takes care of you.
“Can't say I'm too worked up over Minark,” Burt said.
“They were innocent, Connor,” Kelsoe said. “You can't blame all Tealuians for Xojo's actions.”
“At the time his actions were sanctioned,” Burt asserted. “Ah, but that's the past, right. Times change. We're at war, and the Tealuian Alliance was a nice buffer zone between us and those damn scalys.”
“So when are we off?” Tuff chimed in.
Kelsoe looked over at Tuff and then back at Burt.
Burt merely shrugged and looked towards his first officer.
“Admiral Truman's orders are to wait for the mission commander,” Romero said.
Burt looked back at Kelsoe expectantly.
“It's not me,” Kelsoe said.
“We have a ship dropping out of warp,” Craig said from his station.
Kelsoe turned. “Identification?”
Craig's eyes narrowed as he read the lettering from his console.
“It's the Skyfox, sir,” Craig said. “And she's hailing us.”
“Everyone,” Ar'kon said, standing up. “Leave.”
Hasz'fos and his retinue quickly pick up and left the hall, along with all the guest. The Admiral and his party remained, along with the tall pale Tealuian. Ar'kon stepped down from his throne, adjust his yellow robe as he walked. The crown felt heavy. Then again, wasn't that the phrase he had heard the humans saw when speaking with father-in-law; heavy lies the crown. He thought it seemed appropriate. The closing of the great doors brought his attention back to the present.
Ar'kon glared across the room at the Tealuian, Xojo Manjala.
“What is it you mean, Tealuian!” barked Ar'kon.
“I mean what I say,” Xojo said. “And I say what I mean!” His four feet shuffled across the stone floor as he walked up to the King of the So'ja. “Tyson Calok has betrayed us... all of us.” He made a wide gesture with his arms.
“How can that be?” Ar'kon said. “Calok has been my fateful advisor.”
At that Admiral Isen'ko humphed. “He was anything but fateful, my liege.”
Ar'kon's head snapped towards Isen'ko. “Explain yourself, Admiral!”
Isen'ko exchanged a look with his lieutenant, before continuing. “You mean, sire, that you did not know of his fleet.”
“Fleet? What fleet?” demanded Ar'kon.
“The 3rd Command Group,” Isen'ko said. “It was given to him. According to the documents, you signed over command of the 3rd yourself.”
“What!?” Ar'kon was baffled. “I signed no such document.”
“Really now, sire,” Isen'ko said. “Do you really read everything that comes across you desk for your signature?”
Ar'kon stood there with his mouth open, unwilling to speak and admit that Admiral Isen'ko was right. The old man was right! How it annoyed him. And how it feared him. If he had signed that, what else has he signed without knowledge.
“So Calok has control of one of our fleets,” Ar'kon said, feeling to the need to sit down after saying it aloud. “And the fleet make up?”
“Fifty hybrid battleships, twenty-five destroyers, twenty warships, four fighter wings,” Isen'ko rattled off. “And one mass driver.”
“You would not have had Mass Drivers if it was not for Calok,” Xojo interjected.
“By Ba'gee I know that, you faar'kon!” railed Ar'kon, now stumbling back towards the throne. “And the human... Eyota?”
“Gone,” Isen'ko said. “Along with all his equipment and research.” The old admiral paused, giving his king time to absorb the news. “Calok's used us from the beginning.”
“What about the 3rd, surely they are still loyal to us?” Ar'kon gasped.
“We can only hope,” Isen'ko said. “But judging from their actions, I would saw that they follow Calok.”
Ar'kon could not believe what he was hearing. But then a sudden thought struck him. He turned towards the Tealuians, his eyes watering with anger.
“I thought your race were telepathic, could you not sense his betrayal?” Ar'kon demanded.
“Alas, I could not,” Xojo said. “Calok's mind... his mind is dark and... and powerful.” The fear was literally visible in the Tealuians voice and countenance.
It was true. They had all been betrayed.
Ar'kon slipped down into the throne. He took a deep breath and filled his lungs. “I can see it now,” Ar'kon said. “How he influenced my decisions, sometimes forcing him to do things I would not. And now we... we are engulfed in a major war with the Federation. Maybe... maybe he was the real instigator?”
Isen'ko exchanged some glances with his lieutenants. “Perhaps you should rest, sire. And let us handle the affairs of state.” And then he added. “As it should be.”
Ar'kon now saw why the military had so eagerly given him the crown. “This is what you wanted?”
The admiral nodded. “We've always believed in war, Ar'kon.” Isen'ko spoke. “As you tutor, I thought I taught you that.”
“When you speak to me, you will address me as King!” Ar'kon bellowed, pulling himself up from the throne.
Isen'ko merely laughed, along with his retinue of lieutenants. “You're father-in-law, King So'mal. Now there was a great leader. So'mal understood things. He understood how the world worked. He understood that the So'ja have and will always be a people of war.”
Ar'kon shook his head. “No... that's not true. I put up the front of hatred and fear because I was told that the Federation was using Ba'l as a puppet.”
“Lies,” Isen'ko said. “Lies that Admiral Da'note knew you would believe.”
“They cannot be lies,” Ar'kon asserted. “Even Ru'mal believed.”
“Granted, some things were true,” Isen'ko nodded. “Ru'mal understood the need for keeping our warrior past, but he did not approve of our methods. He thought we went to far.”
“We have... we did!” Ar'kon blurted out.
Isen'ko bared his teeth. “Silence you pu'tak! There's an outsider present!” Isen'ko stepped over to the Tealuian.
“You we're his alley,” Isen'ko said. “He brought you here. You were a puppet, used and abused for your knowledge of your people.”
“I see that now, Admiral,” spoke the Tealuian. “I do not need reminding. And while we are on the subject, let me remind you that you allowed Calok free reign one your world. You gave him everything and he did not even have to use his powers to do so.”
“What?” muttered Ar'kon, slumped on his throne.
“Your feelings towards the Federation are your own,” Xojo said. “You were not manipulated by him to hate the Federation. Someone else did that.” Xojo craned his neck towards Isen'ko.
Isen'ko nodded. “Well done, Xojo Manjala of Minark... or should I saw of Minark, the destroyed world!”
“Aaahhhh!” the Tealuians screamed, but not allowed... in his mind.
Isen'ko clutched his head in his hands, groaning with pain. His eyes were blinded by white lights, as the pain increased. Ar'kon stumbled forward and collapsed. Isen'ko roared in pain and anger. He felt his legs give out from under him and he fell, hitting the steps to the dais. As he fell he could here his lieutenant howl in agony as the Tealuian used his mind powers on them. He tried to shift to see what was happening, but the pain was overwhelming and everything went blank.
Commander Peter Bradford woke up sobbing. He could not help it. He was not strong enough. He was unable to prevent Calok from obtaining the classified information he held in his brain. He tried, and he had failed. Calok had got what he wanted and now Bradford had been left to die in this prison cell, the smell of feces on the floor and sewage from the vents.
Bradford knew he was going to die here. He just knew it. Starfleet would not come for him. There would not be a Starfleet when Calok was through with them. The man wanted vengeance, and was going to take it out on the whole universe.
A sound came from outside. Bradford looked up towards the bars of the cell, and looked pass them to the iron door which lead to the stairway. He heard a grunt and the sound of some tumbling down the stone steps and thudding hard against the door. Bradford eased himself towards the back of the cell, fearing what was coming, though he knew not what it was.
Silence, followed by the shifting of locks and deadbolts. The iron door swung wide opened and a tall graceful figured stepped in.
He immediately recognized the person and clutched his head fearing the worst. The order had come down. He was going to die! But then he noticed the dark figure laying at the base of the open door. It was the guard. His skull was cracked opened and bleeding.
The tall figured rushed to the cell door, and Bradford saw the flash of keys. He heard the lock click and the hinges creak as the cell door swung open. He looked up at his savior.
“Come... we haven't much time,” said Xojo Manjala.
Captain Kelsoe, along with twenty-eight other starship captains, sat quietly in the mess hall, which had been converted into a conference room, aboard the USS Skyfox as Captain Sarah Tellening finished her briefing.
“...And all the long range sensors have been able to read was a high energy pulse that matched the readings of the Mass Driver which the USS Ticonderoga was able to obtain on stardate 58524.79,” Tellening was saying. She paused, a brushed a strand of dark hair from her eyes. “Starfleet believes that Minark may have been attacked by the Coalition. Sensor readings are sketchy, as I said before, but our analysis still assert it was a mass driver. Our official orders are to warp to Minark and assess the condition of the planet, and if need be, assist in any relief there may be.” Tellening finished, folding her arms across her chest, waiting for questions. “All right. We depart in two hours... get your ships ready.”
The captains all stood, some breaking off, talking amongst themselves. Kelsoe and Burt stood still, spoke briefly with Captain Riganoff, and then waited for the room the clear.
Tellening still stood at the head of the table with her arms crossed.
“Ben,” she said softly, breaking the ice.
“Sarah,” Kelsoe inclined his head in acknowledgement.
“Captain Burt, could you give us a minute?” Tellening asked, it was more of an order.
Burt looked from Kelsoe to Tellening, debating whether or not to leave his friend alone with an old flame. It took him a moment before he made his decision.
“No problem, ma'am,” Burt gave a curt nod. Then he leaned over to Kelsoe and spoke softly, “I'll be outside, if you need me.” With that Burt left the mess hall, leaving Kelsoe and Tellening alone, staring at one another.
“So... I thought the Skyfox was assigned to the Ninth?” Kelsoe put forward, his voice faltering, not really knowing where to start.
Tellening put her hands on her hips. “We've been transferred.” She paused, waiting to speak, but not. She lowered her hands and ran her finger along the edge of the table as she slowly, suggestively, tip-toed towards Kelsoe. With in moments she seemed to have traversed the room and now stood before him. Their eyes locked.
Kelsoe could feel the old passion within him raise at the sight of Sarah Tellening, the unmistakable curve of her body beneath her Starfleet issued uniform. He could sense her passion for him, as well. It was almost light an aura around her. It screamed passion; passion that he had felt all those years ago on the bridge of the Skyfox when he served as her executive officer. It was a passion that had never really left him, even when he fell in love with Anne and married here. It was a passion given to him by Eros, a lustful kind of passion. A passion of heat and flesh and desire.
And it was a passion they shared.
Without hesitation Kelsoe grabbed Tellening, and pulled her into his arms, holding her in a long impassioned embrace. And then they pulled away. Tellening bit her lower lip and looked up into his eyes, reading his emotions from his.
“Yes...,” she said, grinning seductively. “It has been a long time.”
Kelsoe raised his eyebrows, and stepped back. “I'll say one thing for us... we always had a lot a passion.”
“Had?!” Tellening protested. “I think it's safe to say that we still do!”
Kelsoe felt the heat from with in and knew she was right. Tellening reach out and pulled him towards her. “Why fight it, Ben?” she asked. “We have no regulations stopping us now.” She was right, and Kelsoe knew it.
His mind seemed to click with the sudden knowledge that she was right. Whatever it was that they had... that they have... it was worth exploring. Even now. Especially now. Carpi diem. Seize the day. If he was to live then it might as well live. After all it would be what she would want, his beloved Anne. She would want him to carry on, to live and enjoy living. Sarah Tellening was a part of that. She was a part of his life. She had been since before Kelsoe had known Anne.
“You know what?” Kelsoe asked playfully, leaning his forehead against hers. “I think your right.” He leaned forward and kissed her. Feeling her lips against his, partly open. Her smell was intoxicating. Before he could help himself he had swept her up in his arms in another impassioned embrace.
“Good,” Tellening smiled. “Because if you hadn't agreed with me, I would have had to tease you about eyeing that young strong Major Morgan.”
Kelsoe smiled and laughed, and for the first time in a long time, he actually felt happy. He held her head in his hands, pushing her back from his face. He kissed her again. She kissed him back in return.
There was a whoosh sound as the mess hall doors opened and Burt stopped mid-step as he saw them pull away from each other quickly.
“Catching up, huh?” Burt queried with a grin.
Tellening gentle touch her lips and she backed away from Kelsoe, never taking her eyes off of him. “We'll talk again, Ben... after the expedition to Minark.”
“Looking forward to it,” Kelsoe responded with a smile. Tellening nodded and left the room.
Burt followed her with his eyes and after she left the room and the mess hall doors had safely closed behind her, he let out a loud whoop.
“Whoa, man, was that what I thought it was?!” Burt said, raising his hand and giving Kelsoe a slap on the shoulder. “You two, huh? You're back together.”
Kelsoe grinned. “It appears so, Connor.”
“Well it certainly took you two long enough,” Burt slapped Kelsoe on the back. “Damn man, how long did you think she'd wait?”
Kelsoe merely shrugged, just happy to have confirmation that his amorous encounter with Captain Sarah Tellening of the USS Skyfox was not a figment of his imaginings.
The electronic chirp of his commbadge brought him from his pleasant reprieve.
“Kelsoe here,” he said tapping his commbadge.
“Valdez, sir,” came the lieutenant voice. “You're need aboard the Pioneer.”
Kelsoe nodded to himself. “On my way. Kelsoe out.” He looked over at Burt. “Not a word, Connor, you hear me. I just want my private life to be just that... private. Understood.”
Burt nodded. “Understood, Cap'n.”
“Good,” Kelsoe said, grinning and patting his friend on the back. “See you on the other side.”
Supreme Admiral Da'note in the command chair of the CWS Kal'sa. He nodded to the Maj, who ordered the view screen on. With a flicker the screen magnified the planet in the next parsec.
“Ah, Dealu,” Da'note hissed, intertwining his fingers together as he brought his hands together, and laying them to rest on his lap. “Beautiful, isn't it Colonel.”
Colonel Val'gar, a short, yet aggressive looking so'jan turned from his executive officer position and grunt. “Too blue,” he grumbled.
“The Tealuians are like that, Val'gar,” Da'note said. “They like things that are different from our likings.”
“We're receiving a transmission, Admiral?” the major working the helm inquired.
“Open,” Da'note commanded.
The screen blinked and Da'note was greeted by the face of Admiral Isen'ko.
“Admiral,” Da'note inclined his head. “How is our 'king'?”
“Better,” Isen'ko said. “After I explained everything to his majesty, he seemed to calm down. But I must say, I believe he is right about Calok.”
“As you know Calok has control of the 3rd Command Group under the command of Colonel Ba'dal,” Isen'ko explained. “We've received word that the 3rd has attack Minark, on Calok's orders. Since that rumored attack began, we have not received any communications from the 3rd.”
“So Calok has began what we already were planning,” Da'note said, off handily. “We were always going to attack the Tealuian Alliance.”
“But not this way, not so overt,” Isen'ko said, narrowing his eyes.
“They may be,” Da'note shrugged. “But right now all of Starfleet's attention will be focused on the Minark system, completely unaware that we are stationed on the other side of the Alliance's territory, preparing to invade Dealu.”
Isen'ko grinned. “So we use Calok like he's used us?”
“Let's just say that we are going to take advance of the situation in which our mutual friend has created,” Da'note said. “And after we have all of Tealuian space, then well deal with Calok.”
“We'll never be able to deal with him, sir,” Isen'ko pointed out.
“Then he'll use us again,” Da'note grinned. “As long as our goals remain the same we'll work with him. When that changes, then... then we'll find a way to deal with him. And the same applies to our king... Ar'kon. When he's served his purpose, well get rid of him and restore the rightful line of royal blood.”
Isen'ko nodded, pleased with what he was hearing. “Understood.” He paused. “Any final orders before I institute the communications black out on this end?”
“Yes,” Da'note hissed and leaned forward. “Have Ru'kon arrested. I've gotten tired of the senator making plans sub-rosa.”
The Admiral straighten his sash in glee. “It will be my pleasure, Supreme Commander,” Isen'ko said. “May Ba'gee guide you well.”
“And you, old friend.”
Da'note leaned back in his chair as the view screen switched back to the image of Dealu. He gripped the arms of his chair and felt the pulsating of the Kal'sa's engines. A twisted wicked smirk grew across his face.
“Colonel Val'gar,” Da'note ordered. “Tell the fleet to prepare for warp.”
Kelsoe stepped up onto the bridge from his ready room. Tuff was right behind him, grinning.
“That's good news, Captain,” Tuff said. “Let's just hope we get out of this mess in one piece so you have time to enjoy it.”
Kelsoe nodded. “Damn right, Rob.”
Braxis merely raised an eyebrow as he heard the conversation. “Indeed.”
“Commander Braxis,” Kelsoe said in a cheerful mood. “Report.”
“All systems are operating at optimal proficiency,” Braxis reported, turning his attention back to his station.
“Good to hear,” Kelsoe said, and stepped into the center of the bridge with Tuff. He turned and gave Tuff a nod as he took his seat.
“Ensign Carson link our communications with the rest of the fleet,” Tuff ordered. “Mr. Valdez, kept a link up with the Skyfox's tactical officer. Craig, continue all sensor scans.”
All the bridge crew responded to their duties with speed and skill. They were trained well, and in Kelsoe's opinion, one of the best in the fleet.
“Mr. Zimmer,” Kelsoe spoke as he leaned back in his chair. “Prepare for warp, engage on command from the Skyfox.”
“Now!” hissed the Tealuian.
The four legged alien and the badly beaten Starfleet officer rushed across the courtyard. The sounds of cheering could be heard in the distance. Bradford almost tripped over on a loose stone, but was able to keep up and dive behind the tall bush just as a door open and a so'jan admiral dressed in his finest stepped out with a flock of guards behind him.
The admiral marched right passed them, straight across the courtyard, and exited through the archway leading to the main palace complex.
Xojo and Bradford exchanged glances.
“What was that about?”
The telepathic Tealuian remained serious. “Internal politics on Ka'al are difficult to explain.” He paused, arching his long neck around the side of the bush. “Come, this way. My shuttle is docked at the palace's private landing pad.”
After a few seconds of checking the surrounding ramparts and battlements around the courtyard, the two fugitives ducked out from behind the bush and darted towards the gate.
“Captain, the Skyfox is hailing the fleet,” Tracy announced.
“Open a channel,” Kelsoe commanded.
“This is Captain Tellening to the fleet,” came Sarah's voice. “Prepare to enter warp.”
“Mr. Zimmer, bring us along side the Skyfox,” Kelsoe ordered.
“Yes sir,” Zimmer's fingers moved quickly across the console in front of him. “Receiving coordinates from the Skyfox.”
Kelsoe nodded, and took a deep breath. They were just on an expeditionary mission, but something just did not feel right in his gut, like something was wrong.
“Engines at full,” came Joanna's voice over the intercom. “Ready for warp speed.”
Tuff acknowledged. “All stations, prepare for warp speed.”
Kelsoe watched as the Skyfox, Crockett, and Ulysses jumped into warp.
“Mr. Zimmer,” Kelsoe said. “Punch it.”
He watched as the stars sped up and stretched striking pass as the Pioneer entered subspace to reach warp speed.
King Ar'kon stood at the railing of the palace balcony with a retinue of senate officials, including Senator Ru'kon and First Legate Hasz'fos. The forces of the Coalition had mobilized in the square below. Ka'fa was abuzz with activity and excitement. Crowds had gathered to witness the parade of the triumphant soldiers of the Coalition. Ar'kon's dreams for power and glory were preceding nicely. And despite his earlier skepticism of his own destiny in the things to come, he knew that the So'jan people where behind him. Behind their king!
He raised his arms in the air as the vast crowd in the square roared with delight. A smug grin grew across his face. Besides him Ar'kon could hear Ru'kon sigh.
“Why so glum, Senator?” Ar'kon inquired, continuing to wave at the people in the. “We have our Kingdom back. The So'jan people have a king again.”
“Things are not exactly as Ba'gee would have blessed,” was Ru'kon response. Odd for him, since the senator hardly attended temple.
“Ba'gee was never one to bless you, was he, Senator?” Ar'kon clapped as the trumpets sounded, signaling the beginning of the march.
“I was never one for temple, sire,” Ru'kon said, spitting out that last part.
Ar'kon narrowed his eyes, but still kept them on the crowd of his subjects. “I take it you are not pleased with how the High Command has waged this war.”
“The High Command does not crown the king!” Ru'kon interjected.
“The people crowned me,” Ar'kon replied.
“Huh,” scoffed Ru'kon. “Then you are more deluded then I thought.”
“Careful, Senator,” Ar'kon grinned. “Remember, I am the king now. I could have you hanged for such slander.”
Ru'kon exhaled in defeat. “I submit to your rule as king, though do not expect me to bask in our glow, sire.”
“Smart move, Senator,” Ar'kon said. He had not taken up the tradition waving position that some many royals have. One arm up, waving his hand back and forth, like he was superior to everyone he saw below him in the square.
He turned his head slowly to speak with Hasz'fos, when suddenly the doors behind him opened and Admiral Isen'ko stormed out, dressed as always in formal dress uniform, with an entourage of soldiers. He pointed his scaly finger at the Senator, his pointy yellow nail slicing through the air.
“Seize him... now!” he barked.
The Senator protested as the guards grabbed him and yanked him away from the king. Ar'kon turned from the square and addressed Isen'ko.
“Admiral, what is the meaning of this?” he asked, wary of his dealing with the admiral after their last conversation.
“Senator Ru'kon is being arrested, your majesty,” Isen'ko hissed.
“On what charges?” Ar'kon asked, glancing from Ru'kon to Isen'ko.
Isen'ko merely grinned. “Treason.”
Kelsoe sat on the edge of his chair. Something didn't feel right. He couldn't explain it, but he had a bad feeling about the Minark expedition. Like something bad was able to happen. He glanced over at Braxis. His Vulcan friend was staring intently at nothing, deep in thought. His brow furrowed a bit, as if he could sense Kelsoe's thoughts, and the aura the came from him. Braxis' eyes twitch as he quickly looked over at his captain, and then returned his attention to his own thoughts. The movement was barely noticeable, but Kelsoe had caught it. For a split second he could swear that Braxis was thinking the same thing.
Meanwhile, Tuff was up at the tactical station chatting with Gervasio Valdez. Kelsoe was barely able to make out what they were saying, but he heard enough to know the his first officer was checking up on the additions to the shields and defense shields.
Lieutenant Craig and Ensign Tracy Carson were both standing at the operations station, supposedly maintaining the massive communication link between all thirty ships in the expedition force, but Kelsoe knew that they were really comforting each other. They had hardly had time to have their honeymoon before the Pioneer was called out on assignment, and now they were headed into a situation that did not look good.
He inhaled deeply trying to calm his nerves, but he found it difficult. The passion that had ignited between him and Sarah, it was overwhelming. Never in his wildest dreams would he have guessed that they would ever had gotten together again... especially not after Anne. But Burt was right. It was time that he moved on. Anne would have wanted it. She would not have liked seeing him feeling sorry for himself and neglecting an opportunity to be happy. She would want him to be happy, and he was. For the first time he felt the warmth he had when he fell for Anne. It was a warmth that he had been missing.
However, present circumstances were bleak.
The Federation was at war, and her enemy was aggressive and powerful, aided by a madman was access to unbelievably ancient and powerful technologies, which, when turned against them, proved to be devastating. He could only hope that his worst fears had not come to pass.
Had Tyson Calok discovered the planet killer weapon.
During the probes into his mind, Kelsoe had sensed something in Calok. Though he was in complete control, Calok had aloud part of his concentration to slip, anger consuming him, giving Kelsoe a brief glimpse into the craze mind of the psychopath.
He shuddered. Tuff had rejoined him, he was looking down at the console between their chairs, reading the constantly updated sensors. Tuff looked up and nodded, grimly, understanding Kelsoe mood.
“Coming up on the Minark system,” Zimmer called out from the helm.
Calok at on the bridge of the CWS Revenge, waiting for his plan to bare fruit. Colonel Ba'dal turned around from the executive officer's console.
“Sir, we're picking up the Federation fleet,” Ba'dal hissed. “They'll enter the system in under a minute.”
Calok grinned, and his red eyes glowed. “Prepare the fleet.”
“Arrival in five, four, three, two, one,” Zimmer counted down.
“Take us out of warp,” Tuff called from his chair.
Kelsoe looked up at the view screen and watched as the speeding stars slowed down and the Pioneer prepared to exit subspace and return to normal space. Then, suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the klaxons sounded and the bridge lights flashed to red.
The screen showed the remains of USS Crockett twisting chaotically around their arrival point, the planet of Minark, though very badly damaged, with great craters on its surface, was still intact. A blue pulse beam hit the Crockett hard at the base of its saucer, causing the vessel to shudder. The saucer portion of the Excelsior-class ship cracked and tore away from the main body and started swirling out of control towards them.
Kelsoe gripped the edge of his chair.
“Mr. Zimmer!” he cried.
Zimmer punched desperately the helm, pleading the Pioneer to dive. The entire bridge shook as the shield was hit with disruptor beams and torpedo detonations nearby, probably impacting on the defense screens of the other ships. At the last possible second the Pioneer's bow drifted down, narrowly missing the spinning saucer from the Crockett.
“Defense pattern zeta!” Tuff shouted over the klaxon alarms.
The screen shifted as the Pioneer pivoted left.
“Increasing port shield strength,” Craig called out from his station.
Kelsoe nodded, acknowledging.
A torpedo impacted the shields, causing the Pioneer to veer to her starboard, bring the USS Ulysses into view. The Nebula-class vessel was missing a nacelle and was spinning. Kelsoe watched as a streak of So'ja attack fighter wings swept past bombarding the saucer with torpedoes. Behind them was a Destroyer which pummeled the Ulysses with disruptor blasts. The Ulysses' lights blinked a few times then dimmed. Escape pods were being launched. Kelsoe and the rest of his bridge crew watched in horror as the Destroyer and fighter craft fired upon the helpless pods.
“Put us between the escape pods and the Destroyer!” Kelsoe ordered.
The Pioneer did as it was commanded. The ship swerved around and blocked the Destroyer with its starboard side. The shields were hit with plasma discharges as the fighters attempted to ram their hull.
“Beam the survivors to sickbay!”
“Bridge to sickbay, prepare for causalities,” Tuff informed Dr. Braga.
Kelsoe stood as the Pioneer shook under his feet. His eyes were fixated on the view screen. The Ulysses seemed to be vibrating, as if it's belly was rumbling.
“Captain, I am picking up a power surge from the Ulysses warp core,” came the calm and flat voice of Braxis.
Kelsoe's eyes stayed on the image before him.
“Mr. Zimmer,” he said, looking down at the helmsman. “Back us off to a safe distance.”
He turned around and walked back to his command chair.
“Mr. Valdez, activated the Deflective Hull Platting,” Kelsoe commanded.
“Right away, air.”
The ship shook again, as the Destroyer came down on them. Zimmer worked furiously at the controls. The Ulysses drifted out of view as the Pioneer turned, encountering more fighters and so'jan destroyers. The Third Fleet locked into a duel with enemy forces. A shockwave hit them from behind and the Pioneer's inertial dampeners did a fair job of compensating, but Kelsoe knew what it meant. The Ulysses' warp core had imploded.
Calok had watched with glee as the three Starfleet vessels had immediately come under attack by his fight wave of Destroyers. The one Excelsior-class vessel had been surprised and was taken out like a fly. The other, thought, seemed to have been more prepared, having exited subspace with her shields raised. He leaned back and watched from the safety of the Revenge's bridge, as the rest of the Federation fleet dropped out of warp and entered into conflict with his ships.
Then he saw it. Coming out from underneath the broken saucer of the Excelsior-class vessel.
“Kelsoe,” he muttered. He turned to the communications array. “Corporal,” he barked. “Order the Vek'ev to destroy that ship!”
The so'jan nodded and relayed the orders to the commander of the Vek'ev.
Calok watched as the Vek'ev swerved right, nearly hitting a fellow Destroyer. It fired upon the Pioneer, but the damn Federation vessel turned and took the blasts on its port side, negating the torpedo damage. Calok pounded his fist on the arm of his chair.
“Ba'dal!” he screamed. “Launch the fighter wings! Have them pick and stab at Starfleet like mosquitoes on dogs!”
The so'jan Colonel nodded, not fully understanding the metaphor, yet understanding the order hidden within.
“Launching fighters, sir,” hissed the Colonel.
“Tracy!” Kelsoe called out as the so'jan destroyer pursued them.
“Where the hell is the Stefansson?”
“I don't know , sir,” Tracy reported. “She's not appearing on my boards.”
Damn it, Kelsoe thought. They needed Burt in this type of dog fight.
The ship took another hit from a torpedo on her starboard side and the science station erupted in sparks and Braxis was blown out of his chair, landing on the floor with some burns on his face. Tuff rushed over and checked on him. He looked up at Kelsoe with a grim look. Kelsoe watched as Tuff tapped his commbadge. The ship shook again, and Kelsoe returned his attention to the view screen.
Where's Sarah? was all he could think.
Sarah Tellening clung to her chair as the Skyfox took a beating from a so'jan warship. She had suspected that they would be heading into a trap, but had not been entirely certain. She had voiced some concerns about the mission to Starfleet Command, but Admiral McCloud felt they were unwarranted. Damn how she hated that man. She regretted having a fling with him on Risa, but that was old news. Ben had accepted her back and she wasn't going to allow any damn scalys to ruin her day.
“Watch it!” she yelled over the klaxon alarms, as the Ulysses burned before them. She watched as the Pioneer swooped in and took barrage of hits from the Destroyer and the insect-like fighters of so'jan design.
Her ship had already taken quite a beating. Smoke was felling the bridge and moisture was already forming on her forehead. She took a deep breath, and nearly coughed from the intact of smoke. The bridge air smelled of burnt circuit boards and wall panels.
“Signal the fleet,” Tellening commanded. “Send them the instruction for attack formation gamma five.”
Her tactical officer nodded.
“We're receiving orders, sir,” Tracy called out over the alarms.
Kelsoe shook his head.
“Turn off those damn alarms!”
An unknown crewmember quickly obliged him with his request. The bridge became slight, except for the sounds of battle.
“Report,” he said, turning to watch as a medical team came to examine Braxis. Tuff was still by the science officer's side.
“Its from the Skyfox, sir,” Tracy read from console before her. “She's ordering a gamma five attack formation. Kelsoe nodded, remembering it well. Captain Tellening had outlined different attack formation and battle groups during their briefing in orbit of Paos, just in case something like this had happened. The plan called for a division of the ship's into four groups. The Skyfox in command of Group A, the Pioneer with Group B, Group C under the Ticonderoga, and the José Mendez rounding out with Group D.
“Who do we have with us?” Kelsoe asked.
Craig looked down at his console as the information came up on his screen. “The Repulse, Crazy Horse, Persephone, Jefferson, Hood, and the Marques,” he read out the list.
Kelsoe nodded. “Gervasio, set up a link with all the other tactical officers. Inform them that we'll be taking the center with Group A.”
“Aye,” Valdez quickly went to work.
Group D, under the flag of the José Mendez, group up quickly and turned as one to engage the right flank of the so'jan fleet. Two Destroyers roared past the José Mendez, as the Excelsior-class dove into the enemy lines. The USS Endeavor and USS Panama were right behind. As the so'jan fleet attempted to close ranks around the attack group, the José Mendez and USS Pinafore took out the fighter wings as they encircled the Wellington. Just then two So'jan battleships, those damn hybrids, burst through and pounded the Panama with a blast from its primary weapon, the pulse cannon. The Panama took a direct hit to one of its nacelles and sailed out of control. A warships and destroyer turned on the Endeavor and pummeled the vessel with an array of torpedoes and disruptor blasts. The Nebula-class vessel spun slightly, taking the hits in stride, before a wing of fighters collided with the ships deflector dish, causing the ship to heave into a dive, giving the so'jan a clear view of her saucer section, which they took full advantaged off.
“Group D is starting to make a dent in the right flank,” Craig called out from his station. “Thought it appears both the Panama and Endeavor have taken serious damaged. The Panama is dead in the water, and the Endeavor has several hull breaches, but seems to be holding her own.”
“You beat she'd be, with Susan Masterson in the command chair,” Tuff said.
Kelsoe turned to him with a quizzical look.
“We graduated from the Academy together,” Tuff quickly asserted, before a volley of torpedoes from the so'jan destroyer pursuing them hit.
Sparks flew up around the helm and Zimmer cradled his head behind his arms. The Pioneer drifted off course for a moment, before Zimmer was able to regain control. Kelsoe gripped the back of Zimmer's chair.
“Hold her together, Mr. Zimmer,” Kelsoe spoke softly.
“Don't worry, sir,” Zimmer responded. “I intend too.”
“Group C is making their run now on the left flank,” Valdez reported.
“On screen,” Kelsoe called out.
The screen flickered and showed the Ticonderoga leading with the Omaha and Shadowcat not far behind. Kelsoe almost whistled at the brilliance of Captain Markev Riganoff's tactics as his attack group quickly engaged fifteen Revenge-class hybrid battleships, ten destroyers, and five warships. He watched as the Ticonderoga rose up above one of the hybrids and quickly took out her bridge. The battleship had been in the process of firing her primary pulse cannon, when Riganoff had taken her out. As a result the weapon backfired and the ship imploded, sending debris scattering. The Omaha happened to be underneath the battleship at the time, and the two side wings curved down hitting the deflector shields of the Excelsior-class ship, before slicing through a portion of the ship's hull, rending the Omaha motionless.
“They're fine, sir,” Tracy said. “Captain Stonn's telling the fleet their fine.”
Kelsoe took a deep breath of relief. He was having trouble watching helplessly as other Starfleet ships took a beating and were either destroyed or damaged. He was itching to get into the fight, and he wouldn't have to wait long.
“The Skyfox is hailing,” Tracy reported.
The screen flickered and Kelsoe saw the disheveled face of Sarah Tellening. Her hair was messed up and she had a bruise on her right temple. Other than that she appeared to be okay. Smoke drifted in from off screen.
“Not looking so hot, Sarah,” Kelsoe heard himself say.
Sarah raised an eyebrow. “Not bad yourself,” she said. “As Group C and D continue their attacks on the enemy flanks were going to hit them hard in the center. My tactical officer has located a ship sitting such behind the center line, it's a Revenge-class battleship and carries the markings of a flagship. My best guess would be that whoever is in command of the so'jan fleet is on that ship. I'm going to take my group and try and take them out. I'm going to need you and group B to clear the path.” She paused for a beat. “Do you think you can handle that, Ben?”
Kelsoe grinned for a moment. “No problem, Captain.”
“All right,” she replied. “Let's get on with it, then. Tellening out.”
The screen flashed and she was looking at the approaching lines of the so'jan center lines. She watched as the Pioneer along with the other ships in her group made a u-turn and sped on ahead of the Skyfox.
“Be safe, Ben,” Sarah Tellening spoke softly to herself.
Kelsoe turned to his crew. The alert lights continued to glare red, and bridge lighting was dim. His cheek was smeared with a black mark from debris and smoke hung low on the bridge.
“Tracy,” he said as he made his way back to the command chair. “Open a channel to rest of Group B.” He sat down and gripped the arms of the chair.
“This is Kelsoe to Group B,” he spoke. “We're going to clear a path through the center to allow the Skyfox and Group A a shot at the enemy flagship. We'll proceed on my mark.” Kelsoe signaled Tracy to terminate the channel. “Mr. Zimmer, I want to see some fancy flying.”
“No problem, sir,” Zimmer said, looking over his shoulder from his seat at the helm.
“Kelsoe to Group B,” Kelsoe said. “Now!”
The Pioneer tilted toward her port and then fully banked left, dipping down and into the enemy lines. The rest of Group B was behind, in a V-shape formation. The Marques was right behind the Pioneer, followed by the Jefferson and the Hood. On the starboard side was the Repulse, Crazy Horse, and the Persephone.
“Mr. Valdez,” Kelsoe called from his command chair. “You may fire at will.”
The phasers burst forth across the path of the Pioneer, eliminating an approaching fighter or two, and sending another spinning widely towards a Revenge-class battleship. Kelsoe watched on the view screen as the fighter collided with the battleship's bridge, causing the battleship to veer down, out of control.
“Quantum torpedoes, now!” Tuff shouted, as he stood up to watch the battle.
Two burst of light shot out from the Pioneer and impacted the nearest So'jan Destroyer.
“The Skyfox is beginning her run!” Craig called out from his station.
“On the screen,” Kelsoe ordered.
The screen flickered to show the Skyfox swing into position, in front of the Pioneer, with the Horatio, a Streamrunner-class starship, swooping in behind to provide cover. Immediately the so'jan lines began to fire. Blue pulse cannons erupted from the tips of the Revenge-class battleships and green disruptors discharged from the warships and destroyers. Small so'jan fighter swarmed around the nearest hybrid battleship like insects around a flame. The USS Brittany and USS Charleston came into view and began picking off the fighters as the battleship slowly began to move.
The bridge shook violently with another hit from the so'jan warship to their port side. Tellening was almost hurled from her chair, the hit was so violent.
“Keep her steady, Mr. Alvarez,” Tellening called out to her helmsman.
The battleship, with its fierce hawk like wings was turning towards them. She could see from the faint glow at the tip of the ship's nose that the Revenge-class ship was preparing to fire its primary weapon.
“This is the captain,” she spoke on the ship's intercom. “Prepare for impact.”
Then just as the battleship fired its primary weapon, the Horatio dove in front of them and took the majority of the blast. The Horatio spun slightly and Tellening could tell the ship's shields were weakening.
The battleship veer up and fired its disruptor beams, impacting the weaken defense shields of the Horatio. Tellening was about to give the order to fire upon the battleship when she noticed that from below the Fleming and Kransnowsky emerged both firing their quantum torpedoes and phasers upon the hybrid battleship. She wasted no time in ordering her ship to do the same. The Fleming and Kransnowsky were joined by the Skyfox and the battleship seemed to weakened.
Just then, Tellening felt a vibration and she looked towards her operations officer. He nodded and punched a control button on his console. The view screen flickered to a new image, showing the USS Pioneer and her group coming down up the hybrid with all weapons.
Tellening watched as the battleship heaved and the shields gave way. The Fleming swept right and rotated three hundred and sixty degrees, constantly firing. One of their torpedoes hit the mark and the battleship groaned and the pulse cannon, which was in mid-built up, seem to intensify for a moment, until the top fin of the battleship cracked and fell down up the main body of the ship. With in second a bright light filled the screen.
The left flank of the so'jan lines was being overwhelmed by Group C. The Ticonderoga and Fortune zoomed past the closest hybrid.
“Mr. Hogan,” Captain Riganoff turned from his chair and looked up at his tactical officer. “Next time we come around, I don't want to see this ship in our way.”
Lieutenant Curtis Hogan grinned. “You got it, Captain.” He immediately sent word to the rest of their group.
The Shadowcat and the Lincoln darted past the Ticonderoga and Fortune as the later two prepared to turn around for the attack run. The Shadowcat and the Lincoln swooped around the battleship in a serpentine pattern, all the way firing phasers at maximum charge. The battleship's defense screen began to weaken.
The Ticonderoga and Fortune approached, ready to begin their attack run. They set up to mimic the movement taken by the Shadowcat and the Lincoln, but something went wrong. A stray shot from a so'jan warship engaged with Fortune struck the Fortune, causing the Miranda-class vessel to lose control. And she missed her spot on their serpentine attack run, colliding with the battleship close to the vessel's bridge. The nacelle of the Fortune buckled against the battleship's hull then bounced back into space, alone... without its saucer.
Riganoff watched with horror as the Fortune lost control and veered off course colliding close to the battleship's bridge. But despite the lost of their comrade ship, Riganoff saw a chance that they could not let slip.
“Target the enemy bridge and fire!”
The Ticonderoga, Shadowcat, and Lincoln turned around in a Z-shaped formation and pummeled the hybrid battleship with phasers and torpedoes. The battleship buckled and swerved right, ramming into a destroyer nearby, both exploding and sending wreckage down to the planet below.
Meanwhile, the Pioneer and her assigned group began to pester the twelve hybrid battleships blocking the path to the Revenge. Two warships swope past them, and fire, green light blazing through the dark void of space. The Repulse and Jefferson turn to pursue, as the Hood and Marques, with the aide of the Pioneer begin to swarm around the closest hybrid.
From the bridge of the CWS Revenge, Calok watched with displeasure. A nervous Petty Officer stood beside him, with a report PADD. The Pioneer and the two other Starfleet ships continued to rain down destruction on another one of his battleships, vessels which should have been standing their ground better than they were.
Calok grabbed the PADD from the nervous Petty Officer. He immediately turned upon the so'jan and hit him repeatedly with the flat display device.
“Sir,” a corporal distracted his attention. “Two Federation starships have made it through the lines and are approaching our position.”
He tossed the PADD aside and stood up, gripping the arms of the chair. “Fire the Plasma Pulse!” Calok growled.
From her seat on the smoke filled bridge of the USS Skyfox, Captain Sarah Tellening watched as the Merrimack and Fleming made it through the enemy lines. They had to dodge back forth between the tightly packed battleships, yet had come out relatively unscathed. She looked up at their target. The CWS Revenge loomed ahead, and impressive and frightening looking beast of a ship. Though like his companion battleships which had succumb to the might of Starfleet technology, it would too... she hoped.
Suddenly a blue plasma pulse shot out of the vessel's weapon nodes and struck the Merrimack head on. The Nebula-class ship's saucer shuddered as it crumbled away, engulfing the rest of the ship in a blaze of flame and plasma. A piece of the saucer burst out and swung up striking the Fleming starboard nacelle.
Tellening slammed her fist on the arm of her chair as she watched the Fleming limp away.
Across from them, on the right flank, the Independence and Pinafore, along with the Wellington had been in the midst of a brutal duel with several warships, when - without warning - a battleship swooped in with a swarm of fighters that had encircled the Wellington and disabled it.
Sarah watched as the Wellington veered port and impacted shields with the already damaged Panama, causing the later ship to loss containment of their hull breaches. On fire and out of control, the flaming Panama spun around uncontrollably, ramming into the port side of a so'jan warship.
The Skyfox shook.
“The Ticonderoga and Sutherland are under attack, and the Sutherland just lost a nacelle,” came her tactical officer.
The screen flickered just in time to see the Lincoln swooping in above the Sutherland to protect the Nebula-class ship that was missing a nacelle. Just at the Lincoln came into place two so'jan destroyers rammed her from the starboard side, causing all this ships to explode.
The Skyfox shook again, but this time from a disruptor blast. Tellening nodded to her tactical officer, who switch the view to the aft cameras. Two warships were coming up behind them, along with a swarm of fighter crafts.
“Tellening to Horatio and Brittany,” Tellening spoke through the ship-to-ship frequencies. “We're going to make a run at the Revenge, give us cover.”
“Both ships acknowledge,” Alvarez said from the helm.
“Very well, Mr. Alvarez,” Tellening said, gripping the arms of her chair. “Take us in.”
Calok grinned as he watched the battle unfold. The melee between the fleets was beginning to turn to his advantage. It appeared that his various lieutenant we beginning to get a grip on their new charges. The hybrid battleships were indeed powerful, yet still required a steady hand to operate. Only the Revenge, which he himself had perfected, worked flawlessly.
“Three Federation starships are attempting another run for our position,” the corporal at tactical said.
Calok leaned forward. “I see that they are being pursued. Fire at that Galaxy-class ship... target their deflector dish.”
The so'jan corporal nodded.
The three ships formed a V-shaped formation, with the Skyfox in the middle. From the bridge, Tellening watched as the Revenge came into view. She glared at it and wished quietly to herself that they would finally make it through. But before they could come into weapons range, and single blue pulse shot out from the Revenge and struck the side of the Brittany, taking out a starboard nacelle and damaging the deflector dish.
“We dead in the water,” Captain Bernard Seymour reported.
Sarah Tellening nodded. “Nothing more you can do, Bernard, get you ship to safety.”
The Brittany pivoted right and rolled away from the battle.
Calok's eyes gleamed with satisfaction. He thumped Colonel Ba'dal on the back. Ba'dal merely coughed and looked confused. Calok narrowed his eyes.
“Colonel,” he said, stepping back up the command chair. “Contact Commander L'mar.” He sat down. “Instruct him to being bombardment of the planet.”
“With pleasure,” hissed Ba'dal, his yellow eyes widening with glee.
“Commander!” the corporal ran up to the command station.
L'mar turned from the massive view screen and accepted the PADD which the corporal held in his hand. He looked down and examined its contents. A smile formed across his face.
“Prepare all systems,” L'mar commanded. “And take us into orbit of the planet.”
Captain Sarah Tellening gripped the arms of her chair as she saw the Horatio receive a hit from the pulse beam coming from the Revenge. The Skyfox shook as the shockwave reached them.
“How're we doing?” she asked her communications officer.
“The Zhukov and Pinafore, along with the Independence and José Mendez are fairing well on the right flank. They've managed to destroy three destroyers and two warships.”
Meanwhile, on screen the Horatio begins to spin out of control.
“On the left flank the Ticonderoga and Omaha have managed to destory another battleship, but the Omaha was badly yet when another battleship and a warship joined the fight.”
The Horatio slowly comes under control as the Charleston moves in to assist.
“Order the Horatio to withdrawal and Charleston to take up a position on our port side,” Tellening interrupted her communications officer. And then quietly to herself she asked, “Where's Ben.”
“We're through!” Zimmer cried from the helm.
“That was some damn fine flying there, Ensign,” Tuff said. “Damn fine!”
Kelsoe pulled himself up to his feet and coughed as he inhaled some smoke. The science station to his right was out of commissioned, most of the console and screen had exploded. He thought of Braxis and wondered what was going on in sickbay. Then he looked up at the screen and saw it.
A massive beast of a ship, and unlike the other Revenge-class ships, to which it gave its name, this one was more in control of itself and its surroundings. Calok had to be on that ship.
That's when he saw the Skyfox and the Brittany on the view screen. The Brittany had just been hit and was veering away from the battle. The Horatio was hit and was losing control. But it quickly regained its balance, and the Charleston moved in. A moment later the Horatio steering left to leave, and Kelsoe's hunt jumped. He thought of Sarah on the Skyfox, and of the Revenge bearing down on them with Calok's weapon.
“All right, Mr. Zimmer,” Kelsoe said, stepping up behind his helmsman. “Take us in.”
“Crazy Horse, Repulse, and Persephone acknowledge,” Craig called out from his station. Kelsoe nodded.
The Pioneer swooped down like a vulture, followed by the other three. A warship came out of warp right in front of them and began firing. Kelsoe gripped the back of Zimmer's chair and the Pioneer dove under the warship. Behind them the Persephone took the brunt of the attack.
Across from them on the right flank, the Zhukov was struck in the deflector dish by a so'jan fighter, which had the support of eight destroyers and two warships. The deflector hit, thankfully did not destroy the Zhukov, but however it did damage their deflector shields, giving the destroyers and warships a window for fire upon and destroy the Zhukov.
The Fleming was still in view, with its one missing nacelle. It was skidding towards the planet, and with not deflector shields, it wouldn't survive the atmospheric entire.
Kelsoe spun towards Tracy.
“Tracy, can you raise the Fleming?”
Tracy shook her head, frustrated. “They can't respond, sir. I think their communications array may be damaged.
Kelsoe turned back to face the view screen, and watched helplessly as the Fleming burnt up in the atmosphere of Minark. That's when he saw it. THe massive egg shaped vessel looming off in orbit of the planet. It had just come out from the dark side of the planet, which had hidden it from sensors. It was in the process of positioning itself to bombard the planet's surface.
“We're in orbit, Commander,” the corporal hissed with glee.
L'mar turned to face the massive wall screen and looked out at the pale planet before them.
“Energize the driver generators and prepare to bombard the planet,” L'mar ordered.
A hiss of glee arose from around the bridge.
“What the hell is that!” Alvarez asked.
“A Mass Driver,” Tellening asserted, looking over at her science officer for confirmation, who nodded in the affirmative. Tellening took her eyes off the view screen for a moment.
“Hail the Pioneer.”
The view screen flickered and she looked up just in time to see sparks flare behind the handsome face of the man she loved; Benjamin Kelsoe.
“Sarah,” Kelsoe merely nodded, shifting his feet as the Pioneer shook from a shot.
“Ben, I'm going to need to you to occupy Calok's attention while we deal with the Mass Driver,” she said.
Kelsoe nodded. “I can do that.” He paused. “And Sarah... good luck.”
“You too, Ben,” was her reply before the channel was terminated.
Kelsoe watched as the Skyfox, along with the Kransnowsky, banked right to advance on the Mass Driver. With any luck they might be able to stop it. A sharp jolt brought his focus back on his immediate situation.
He turned and sat down in his command chair. Tuff remained standing.
“Advance on the Revenge,” Kelsoe ordered.
“All hands, prepare for attack!” Tuff said.
The Pioneer rotated in space to turn on the massive Revenge. The Crazy Horse and Jefferson trailed behind her. What was left of the fleet was beginning to fall apart, Kelsoe knew that this was their moment. The moment that they would either break or break through.
He hope it was the later.
As they pulled away from the left frank Kelsoe say the Thomas Paine receive a blow from two hybrid battleships. The José Mendez and the Pinafore crossed over from the right flank to assist, while the Repulse zoomed past them towards the Skyfox and the Mass Driver.
“More Starfleet vessels approach, sir!” hissed the corporal from tactical.
Calok glared over at him. “Destroy them!”
The screen in front of him flickered to the view of the starships. One of them caught his eyes.
“Wait! Magnify the hull of the lead ship!”
The screen flashed and he saw the damaged saucer and familiar letters of the ship he despised the most.
“Kelsoe,” he muttered.
“Destroy them, you fool!” Calok swung his arm and the corporal's head was thrown against the console in front of him. Calok pulled his arm back and the corporal was thrown across the bridge. “Colonel,” Calok stared down at Ba'dal. “Carry out my order.”
A fury of disruptor and plasma blast burst from the Revenge and hit the Pioneer and her fellow ships with a destructive force. The Jefferson and Crazy Horse shuddered and slowed as the damage they took caused them to lose momentum. The Pioneer, however, continued to advance.
The Skyfox and the Kransnowsky, now joined by the Repulse advance on the egg shaped Mass Driver. The enormous orifice from which the plasma projectile comes was glow blue and was becoming brighter as the second passed. The strange patterns the covered the entire Mass Driver began to light up, all different colors, with spiral designs, making the planet killer look like an evil black Easter egg.
From the bridge of the Skyfox, Sarah Tellening watched as the Mass Driver's power began to surge towards ejection of the projectile. She could sense that they were too late for the first plasma projectile and a nod from her science officer confirmed her suspicions. The ship suddenly shook, and she turned her attention back to the view screen.
The Repulse jumped out ahead of them and was speeding towards the firing chamber of the massive killing vessel. Tellening watched, stunned by what she was seeing. If her guess was correct, the Repulse was going to sacrifice herself to save the planet below.
The Excelsior-class USS Repulse rushed forward as the light displays on the Mass Driver intensified. The beginnings of the projectile could be seen and with in moments the Repulse was there, in front of the firing chamber taking the massive plasma projectile, like a bodyguard taking a bullet for his asset. The Repulse convulsed and broke in half sending shards of hull and debris scattering.
“We can't do this,” Sarah said, shaking her head. “Sound the retreat!”
“The fleet is in hazard disarray,” Craig called out from operations. “The Skyfox has ordered a retreat.”
“No,” Kelsoe spoke softly. Tuff turned around and looked at his captain.
“We're going to take Calok out, now... once and for all!” Kelsoe spoke with just conviction and Tuff could not argue with his captain.
The Pioneer approached weapons range.
“The Pioneer is in weapons range, sir!” hissed the major who took the dead corporal's position at tactical.
Calok grinned and leaned forward. “Fire the Plasma beam!”
He sat back and waited for his own secret weapons to charge up. A weapon the Pioneer had witness destroy two Borg cubes. Now it would destroy them.
“Sir, I'm picking up a massive build up in power,” Valdez asserted from his station. “The power signature match that which the Pioneer encountered in the Dallos Cluster.”
Craig's eyes opened wide. Kelsoe had not been with them on that occasion.
“Sir!” he called out, rushing from his station. “Those readings on Valdez's screen come from the weapon Calok used to destroy two Borg cubes.”
“We can stop him, Lieutenant!” Kelsoe replied. “We can stop him.”
Craig looked up to Tuff with pleading eyes. Tuff nodded, and gestured for him to return to his station. Craig did so, and began prepping the ship for the coming onslaught he knew they would soon encounter. But before he did, he went over to his wife and embraced her.
No one on the bridge seemed to mind, not even the captain.
The Skyfox and Kransnowsky limped over towards the Revenge. The beast of a ship was powering up and the blue light of the plasma weapon began to burst forth. The beam flew out towards the Pioneer.
Kelsoe saw the beam.
Then, suddenly, a flash engulfed the screen and the Stefansson appeared before the Pioneer and took the bulk to the plasma beam. Its shield absorbing the most of the energy.
The screen flickered as Burt appeared.
“Sorry, we're still figuring out this warp core,” Burt grinned.
Kelsoe almost grinned himself, but the Pioneer was in bad shape. Tracy called out that the Skyfox was again calling for a retreat. He nodded.
“We've been order to retreat, Connor,” Kelsoe said.
Burt was looking off screen and nodded. “Just received word over here. Don't worry, we'll be on time... this time. Stefansson out.”
The screen flickered back to the view of the Revenge hovering in space. The So'jan fleet was amassing around their flagship, and in the distance the Mass Driver could be seen bombarding the planet Minark with plasma projectiles.
Calok grabbed the back of his command chair and pulled it from the deck, tearing the metal rods that had held it down. He flung it across the bridge, striking a petty officer as he emerged from the lift. Calok hallowed in rage. He turned to Ba'dal and pushed him out of the way. He punched the console before him and opened a channel.
Kelsoe watched as the Stefansson joined up with the Skyfox and the rest of the fleet. He was about to order Zimmer to set a course when the communications station started wailing.
“We're receiving a transmission from the Revenge, sir,” Tracy said as she stood up.
“On screen,” Kelsoe gave the command, though something in his gut had told him not to.
Everyone became fixated on the view screen as the image flickered from the vast So'jan fleet to the dark interior of an enemy bridge. Staring back out at them were a pair of glowing red eyes.
“Hello, Captain,” came the haunting voice of Tyson Calok. He leaned forward, his face coming out of the shadows, lit from below. A true demon incarnate.
Tuff remained standing, but was soon joined by Kelsoe. Kelsoe stepped forward slightly and glared at Calok.
“What do you want, Calok?” Kelsoe demanded.
“Only to speak,” was Calok's response.
Kelsoe inhaled deeply through his nostrils. “Well, then speak.”
Calok grinned. It was not a pleasant sight, fore such a grin was done by someone who had just achieved what he wanted.
“Very well, Captain,” Calok said, his red eyes barring down on the captain. “I have only one word to say to you, Benjamin Kelsoe.”
“Yeah, and what might that be?” Kelsoe demanded.
For a moment everything around Kelsoe seemed to spin and become a blur, his eyes however remained fixated on the deep red glow of Calok's eyes. The spinning continued, he closed his eyes, feeling dizzy.
Then it stopped, and he opened his eyes.
To be continued...