The stars were a glowing shell of white pinpoints surrounding Vulcan in the velvet black of space. The planet herself, proud Vulcan, land of fire and sand, was a strange inversion of the cold serenity of the voice. Her shining surface, gleaming goldenrod beneath the trinary star of the system was marred by black smudges across her surface. Dark hulls, Romulans come to their ancient homeland one final time, had plummeted through the windswept skies and crashed into those rocky highlands. The white-on-black stars shone endlessly on, down at the black-on-white smoke columns that stained the Vulcan skies.
"Target acquired, s'thora. Fighter squadrons request ..." it was just as well that Vulcans are not prone to employ colorful metaphors. T'Reah's raised brow when her console exploded however was worth at least several of those.
"Redirect the Kir wing towards the Warbirds attacking the capitol and …"
Another explosion rudely cut into the Commander's sentence and she barely had time to acknowledge her tactical officer limping to another console before the young V'Shar agent clinging to the center chair like a Shavokh nestling digging her talons into her first prey shouted above the noise. "Rala is sending a distress signal. They …"
On the viewscreen, the proud, wounded V'Ket cruiser turned its sleek, amaranth prow towards the so unwisely close-flying Warbirds over Tat'Sahr. Escape pods hurtling from her tattered hull, Rala accelerated.
"We have confirmation! Vaek'Riov tr'Sahen is dead and the Endless Sky has been taken- it is on a course that will take it into one of the suns. It also appears the wormhole is collapsing leaving us with no escape. Several of the other commanders have thrown their ships towards Vulcan to avoid capture."
"Fools." tr'Jinata's almond eyes flared at the disappointing news "it's not too late- the Vulcans are still disorganized and the Federation reinforcements have not yet arrived. Tell the remaining commanders to follow my orders. There will be plenty of time to die later. Target all remaining weapons on Shir'Kahr. We have lost but let us leave the thaessu-a with memories that will last for generations to come."
"Ie Rekkhai. Orders transmitted. Target acquired."
Countless faces lifted to the blazing white skies when a massive dome of transparent garnet hues sprang up to arch over the city. Countless ears barely had time to acknowledge the sudden hush falling over buildings and living beings alike, recognize the faint, steady hum as that of Shir'Kahr's defensive shields before the rumble of energy impacting with unbridled ferocity seemed to make the very ground under their feet shake.
Thunder rolled through the streets as if one of the fiery storms that swept across the desert and only reached this deep into Xial once in every generation had unleashed its fury, turning day into night, howling through the air ... only this was no storm, and beyond the energy straining under the relentless barrage Nevasa shone in all her splendor.
[Vulcana Regar, V'Shar Headquarters]
"The Endless Sky is proceeding on course, S'haile. Several warbird impacts reported over Gol and the Vil'tan flats. Emergency response underway. Shields over the capitol are holding."
'For now' was what the graying woman standing in the sunlit office did not add, nor did she need to.
Neither of the two Vulcans so much as flinched or batted an eyelash when the shields over Regar hummed to life, but the dark eyed male settled his sharp gaze on the holographic screen floating over his desk. Surprising it had taken them this long to attack the spaceport.
[Outskirts of Shir'Kahr]
There was no warning other than the ruby lights flickering above, and the incessant screech of failing energy. For a moment that seemed to stretch into eternity, and then - silence. Silence that was broken by emerald fire raining from above turning everything it touched to ashes.
[USS Quantum Fury]
The small ship barely slipped past the apex of the wormhole as its giant orifice collapsed upon itself unleashing a turquoise shock-wave. The wave of energy rippled outward but was immediately distorted by the physical forces of the rusty planet: it bent and twisted until it formed a ring that wrapped around Vulcan before dispersing into the depths of space.
The bridge was a much less stunning sight as wires dangled loosely from broken ceiling panels while several consoles smoldered and sparked. Khiy gently dabbed the sweat from his brow using his sleeve as he studied the carnage through the haze of smoke "what is our situation?" He asked.
"Alive." Kaen commended dryly while leaning precariously to the left to avoid a pair of dangling wires which sparked "for the moment at least."
"We have sustained minor damage." T'Ern was the epitome of serenity as she spoke. The Vulcan operations officer didn't even seem to acknowledge the violence being displayed on the viewscreen as she read off her status report in a dry and matter-of-fact manner. Khiy had to admire her resolve. His eyes however were now keenly focused on the viewscreen which displayed the remaining Romulan ships in orbit firing relentlessly at the planet.
"What are they firing at?"
Nik Nok's lanky frame slipped past the command chairs and to an auxiliary console on the other side of the bridge where he played with it for a moment. "A large Vulcan ssssettlement- Ssshir'Kahr " The Selay finally hissed "the city'sss defensssive ssshield is adsssorbing the bulk of the weapon fire but isss beginning to conssstrict leaving the outssskirtsss open."
Khiy frowned. There was no choice. If they waited for reinforcements who knew how much damage the Romulans might do to the planet in the interim. His thin fingers laced around the cold metallic armrest as far as they could as he leaned forward "power up weapons, target the nearest Romulan ship, and fire."
As the final word rolled off his tongue the Quantum Fury twisted and dived towards one of the warbirds- it's emerald wings etched with feathers. A torrent of blue spheres were unleashed from the weapons bay and they held little mercy as they ripped into the elegantly framed ship. What started as a slow conflagration soon enveloped the Romulan ship and the Quantum Fury hurried to her next target.
Even after the disastrous entry into the planet's atmosphere, it was still possible to discern the shape of precisely what was hurtling towards Tar'Hana like a mortally wounded bird falling from the skies. Warya had seen those things before and his fur bristled as a menacing growl emanated from the old Sehlat's throat. But the still afternoon air carried no scent of the hated foe, only fire and ashes and a rumble like distant thunder.
Looking over the pitiful remnants of her bridge, T'Meni gave a curt nod of acknowledgement as her soot-caked comm officer announced the arrival of the Guardians. Cutting into the remaining Warbirds like vengeful desert spirits, the sleek red cruisers did not even deign to slow and regroup but headed for their targets without regard for … well, anything.
"Shields have failed, s'thora."
"Random chance seems to have operated in our favor then, T'Reah."
They were Vulcans. They did not laugh, or make any sound at all. None of the nervous gestures that come with the realization one has survived against all odds. But all eyes traveled to the viewscreen where fighters danced and spun over the planet and the V'Ket tore the attacking fleet to shreds. Too late for Rala. Too late for many.
[Shir'Kahr, Hours Later]
High above the city, the stench of smoke, of fire and death, was mingling with the clean, sharp winds whispering of wide open deserts. T'Khuts bloated bulk leaned over the western hills, bathing the wounded city in soothing burgundy light even as the first stars tried to shine through the haze enveloping the capitol. Tonight, Vulcan's sister planet found the ceaseless fires spewing from the volcanoes dotting her rugged surface reflected in the ring of destruction that was the outskirts of Shir'Kahr.
A gust of wind sent Lorot's robes to fluttering before the middle-aged Vulcan could gain control of the saffron fabric but the woman leaning against the balustrade, watching the fires glow in the distance, seemed to pay no heed. Surprisingly small, this Rihanha clad in the Yel-halitra's sturdy, practical uniform, but he certainly knew better than to judge by appearance. Especially … in this case.
"Kholairlh-a ihir hann'yyo'iry- that your city has been spared from complete disaster. At least the sacrifice of so many lives has not been in vain. So many of my crew..." Shiarrael spoke softly letting the breeze carry her bittersweet words to Lorot. Her hands tightly gripped the abrasive stonework as her chest twisted into knots of conflicting emotions- anger, hatred, and yet subdued elation that they had succeeded.
The Vulcan tugged on his stubborn robe and stepped next to the Rihanha, watching the firelight cast shadows on her elegant, yet weary and sorrowful features.
"It is my understanding that not the Elements are owed gratitude, madam, but you. Without your intervention the destruction of this planet might have been unavoidable."
"My intervention?" Shiarrael tone was incredulous as she stared at the glowing skyline "if it were truly up to me I would have left your people to their own devices. You should save such words for my crew- they are composed of greater mettle than I. Your people's subterfuge has caused too much misfortune- too many lives have been squelched. For what? Do not expect me to rejoice over your salvation at this moment, there is too much pain from where it came." She turned and looked at the Vulcan- her glimmering eyes reflecting the dim glow in the horizon as her hair fluttered restlessly " leave me be, I wish remain here just a little while longer, alone with my thoughts."
There were many things one could have replied, but the Vulcan had been dealing with outworlders enough to know that none would suffice. Not pointing out the logic that the billions of lives saved had been innocent of the treachery, nor that the emotions running rampant after an event such as this were prone to be … overwhelming.
Casting one last glance at his city burning under the uncaring stars, Lorot gave the deep, courteous bow few non-Vulcans were accorded and retreated silently. As if remembering a thought that had momentarily slipped his mind, the Vulcan under the high, elegant arc of the doors leading onto the balcony and turned to study the shadow outlined by T'Khut's glow. And then kept his peace after all.
Left alone in the stillness of the Vulcan night Shiarrael shifted her gaze back to the fire-light that dotted the horizon. The amber glow illuminated her soft olive features as rivers formed beneath her violate eyes. "Mnahe afw'ein qiuu; rh'e hweithnaef. Mrht Heis'he ehl'ein qiuu." She whispered letting the wind carry her words deep into the sands of Vulcan.
Captain Shiarrael t'Rehu
Lt. Commander Sakarra Tyrax