PART V - The Battle for Earth Concludes
|Stardate: Sept. 03, 2096
"Status, Mr. Warwick?" Beta bellowed at the Weapons Officer, the elevator doors closing behind Xuriya after following the 2nd Officer out of the turbo lift.
"The Vorcian Ships have reduced speed to sub-light, Commander. Sensors indicate their main propulsions units are still engaged. Stargazer and our accompanying task force ships have adjusted fusion light speed accordingly. Galactic Fleet Vessels remain in pursuit and are maintaining a stationary velocity."
"Eighty thousand kilometers, holding steady," the Navigator replied, having returned to his station.
Beta stared at the main viewing screen, pondering thoughtfully in the Command Chair. "Why had the Vorcians abruptly reduced speed, knowing we can now overtake them and attack?" Her eyes remained focused on the main viewing screen, staring intensely at the magnified view of the Vorcian ships when the reason for their change to sub-light speed became startlingly obvious.
"Lieutenant Xuriya," open a secure channel to all task force ships, she shouted, standing and walking towards the communications officer's station.
"Secure channel open, Commander."
"This is Commander Beta to all task force ships," she began. "Polarize hull plating and make ready all weapons. The Vorcians have ........"
"Commander," the Weapons Officer interrupted, swiveling his chair in Beta's direction. Sensors indicate enemy shield power fluctuations; they're charging weapons," he quickly announced, a bewildered expression emerging.
"They've outdistanced the range of the Vulcan dampening telemetry; they're attempting to re-activate their shields," Beta quickly conjectured.
"Commander, the Vorcian ships are executing course changes; it appears they are regrouping," the Navigator reported.
"The Vorcian vessels have engaged impulse engines; moving ahead at one quarter impulse power," the Helmsan added.
"Helmsman, takes us out of fusion drive and engage impulse engines, ahead one quarter impulse power, maintain stationary velocity.
Beta wheeled around and proceeded back in the direction of the main viewing screen. "They're turning, maneuvering for attack. If their shields become fully operational, we'll be outgunned," she voiced sternly, turning again and walking toward the weapons officer. "What's their current shield strength, Lieutenant?"
"Thirty percent and rising, Commander. Stargazer hull plating polarized at 100%, all weapons charged."
"Is the secure channel still open?" Beta asked, turning her attention to Xuriya.
"Aye, Commander. Task force ships confirm your secure message and discussion with Lieutenant Warwick was received and understood. All Galactic vessels have polarized their hull plating and have charged weapons; awaiting further orders. Secure channel still open."
"This is Commander Beta to all task force ships. On my command to 'cloak and proceed,' Group 2 vessels Orion, Reprisal, Valiant, and Yorktown will engage cloaking and set a course to reposition at a distance of ten thousand kilometers behind the Vorcian ships. Group 1 Vessels Stargazer, Parthia, and Centurion will remain uncloaked and initiate a frontal assault on the enemy vessels after confirmation Group 2 is in position. Group 2 Vessels will decloak and engage the enemy ships with all weapons at maximum power on my further command. End of message."
"Group 1 Galactic ships responded with acknowledgement of your transmission, Commander," Xuriya confirmed.
"Keep this secure channel open, Lieutenant."
"Status on the Vorcian ships," Beta asked, directing her attention to the Weapons Officer.
"Sensors indicate regrouping will be complete in 3 minutes."
"Group 2 vessels, execute cloaking and proceed," Beta ordered. The Group 2 ships engaged their cloaking devices and moved undetected in a wide arc as they proceeded to move around and behind the Vorcian vessels.
"Commander, the Vorcians are bound to take notice that half our starships are now cloaked," Lieutenant Warwick.
"If they successfully activate their deflector shields to one hundred percent, it will be a moot issue for them," Lieutenant. "Provide a status on their shielding's current strength."
"Forty percent and increasing, Commander."
"Time remaining to regroup?"
"One minute, thirty seconds."
"My neutronic brain has reasoned they have timed completion of their regrouping with deflector shield strength reaching fifty percent. They feel confident they can successfully attack and destroy the pursuing task force with minimal damage. What's their shield status, Lieutenant ?
"Forty-five percent, and still rising."
"Commander, Group 2 ships confirm they're in position behind the enemy vessels; they remain undetected," Xuriya reported.
"Time remaining to regroup, Lieutenant Warwick?"
"Thirty seconds, Vorcian shielding at forty-eight percent."
"Group 1 Starships, prepare to go to full impulse power, fire forward laser cannons, maximum power on my command."
"Less than ten seconds remaining to regroup, Commander."
"Full impulse power....., NOW. 'FIRE,' Beta shouted.
The Group 1 Starships closed the distance with the Vorcian Vessels within seconds, firing and scoring multiple hits on several enemy ships. Beta's decision to attack succeeded in creating confusion, the enemy ships scattering like dust after a meteor strike on a dead moon.
"Group 2 ships, decloak and engage," Beta ordered.
Starships Orion, Reprisal, Valiant, and Yorktown decloaked and immediately attacked the scattered Vorican Vessels, firing their laser canons at will, the constant barrages of both Galactic Fleet Groups weakening the half strength shielding of the enemy vessels. A few of the Vorcian ships managed to counterattack with their disrupter cannons, their power so enormous each hit resulted in a ten percent or greater reduction in hull polarization.
"Commander, polarization at sixty percent," Lieutenant Warwick reported, the Stargazer rocked violently by two more shockwaves, both impacting the hull section of the ship near engineering.
Xuriya turned toward Beta. "Commander, the Chief Engineer is hailing you."
"Go ahead, Chief."
"Commander, the plasma coils are beginning to buckle. I don't know how much more they can take. If we lose the coils we'll lose both fusion drive and Impulse engines."
"Understood, Chief. Lt. Warwick, can you strengthen polarization adjacent to Engineering?"
"I can, but it will reduce overall hull polarization to 40%."
"Do it," Beta ordered.
Another disputer blast struck the top of the Stargazer behind the bridge, sparks and smoke filling the enclosed space as exhaust fans worked overtime to facilitate ventilation. As soon as the shockwave dissipated, Beta stood and walked quickly toward the Communication's Officer.
"Lt. Xuriya, damage report."
"Reprisal and Reliant report two Vorcian Vessels have sustained damage and appear to be fleeing. Orion has lost forward laser cannons; the Yorktown's targeting array has been damaged; they're firing weapons visually. Group 1 and 2 vessels report ship wide minor to severe shockwave damage, seventeen injured, 5 fatalities. All Galactic ships report hull polarization less than 30%."
"Lt. Warwick, status on enemy vessel shielding," Beta ordered.
"Less than 30%."
"Commander, the Parthia and Centurion report a third Vorcian Vessel is fleeing," Xuriya announced.
"This is Commander Beta to all Galactic Fleet vessels; at my command all ships will follow Stargazer into a closed elliptical orbit around the remaining Enemy fleet to prevent any further escapes; maintain distances no greater than fifty thousand kilometers; confirm when in position. Helmsman, enter the required coordinates," Beta ordered.
"Coordinates entered, Commander."
The inertial navigation system quickly placed the Stargazer into a tight oval circle around the Vorcian ships, the remaining Galactic Fleet vessels following suit. Beta paced back and forth between the command chair, communications, weapons, and the main viewing screen.
"This is Commander Beta to all Galactic Fleet Ships, it is imperative you target and neutralize the shielding of the remaining Vorcian ships before their disrupters depolarize our hulls. Now is the time to hit them with all weapons, maximum power. Loss of shielding is to be immediately followed by enemy ship destruction. All ships will tighten the orbit proportionately in unison with canon and torpedo fire. On my command all ships will 'Fire for Effect.' Hit them with everything you've got."
"All Galactic Ships report they're in elliptical orbit around the Vorcian Vessels," Xuriya reported.
"Standby Weapons," Beta directed as she exchanged gazes with Lt. Warwick.
"Ready when you are, Commander."
Beta turned and stared directly into the main viewing screen. "FIRE," she yelled.
The elliptical orbit trapped the Vorcian Ships as they reeled from massive cannon and torpedo hits. The enemy vessels returned fire, the accuracy of their disrupter weapons diminishing as the Galactic Fleet ships tightened the orbit .
"Their shields are buckling, Commander," the Weapons Officer reported.
"Continue the attack," Beta responded, the secure channel still open and transmitting to the task force ships.
One by one, the remaining Vorcian Vessels began to break apart, disintegrating into enormous fireballs as debris scattered in random patterns, each exploding ship creating its own spectacular mini supernova.
"Task force ships report Vorcian Vessels destroyed, Commander," Xuriya reported.
"Lt. Warwick, can you confirm?" Beta asked.
"Aye Commander," the trapped Vorcian ships have been destroyed," the Weapons Officer replied.
"Commander, shall I set a pursuit course for the the Vorcian ships that escaped?" the Navigator asked.
Beta looked slowly around, noting the physical and emotional exhaustion of her Bridge Officers. Smoke still billowed from overloaded circuits, damaged equipment and displays.
"No," she answered somberly, directing her answer to the entire Bridge Crew. "The return of three heavily damaged warships out of their original total will send a clear message, similar to the message conveyed in the, "Battle of Midway" back in the 1940's twentieth century. "We've destroyed their ability, and hopefully, their will to continue. It's a Diplomacy issue now."
The Galactic Fleet task force set a course for return home. It was decided the Battlecruisers would remain in Earth orbit, civilian technicians ferrying back and forth as they worked in tandem with crew members to affect repairs. All orbiting repair stations sustained damage and required repair as well. None would be available for docking until rebuilding was complete. Repairs would be a massive undertaking, a mixture of refitting, reconstruction, and rebuilding. It was anticipated several Starships would require, 'shakedown' cruises after they were deemed ready to re-enter service. Similar planning was underway for repair of damage incurred to infrastructure on the planet, which was worldwide in scope and complexity.
Captain Foxwell carefully positioned the portable monitor to the side in response to Beta's visit. He was sitting up, his head bandages removed earlier in the day. Several medical staff personnel were still gathered around his bedside as they made room for Beta.
"Doctor Rivera tells me you'll be cleared to return to duty tomorrow, Captain."
"Thanks to you," Foxwell replied. "I've read your report; to say you did one helluva job is an understatement. I'm putting you in for a commendation. I'm also recommending you for command of your own Starship."
"Thank you, Captain," Beta replied. "With all due respect, however, I would prefer to remain aboard the Stargazer."
"Why?" Foxwell asked, a puzzled expression appearing. "You proved again you're the best Second Officer in the fleet."
"Let's just say I've developed an affinity for the Stargazer, its crew ..., and my Captain," Beta replied.
Captain Foxwell was hard pressed for a response; he was obviously moved by Beta's dedication and loyalty. "Tell you what," the Captain responded whimsically, "as difficult as it is, I'll belay my recommendation regarding your own command, IF you can manage to crack even the slightest smile."
Beta appeared befuddled by the Captain's request. She furrowed her dark eyebrows, a puzzled expression replacing her normal stalwart appearance. She looked around the cubicle, glancing at staff gathered around her and the Captain in an attempt to gauge their reactions. It was obvious they were having difficulty restraining themselves, some with their hands over their mouths, others deliberately staring downward at the floor, trying to hide their expressions.
Finally, Beta gave in, managing to crack the faintest smile, although with noted effort, but it WAS a smile.
"There, she said, I smiled."
The room exploded hysterically, the Captain falling back on his bed, howling as the medical staff joined in.
Beta glanced bewilderingly at the combined laughter. "Totally unreasonable," she scoffed.