“The Ferryman Of Hell – Part 1”
Banking into the bright light of the Vulcan sun, Nevasa, the USS Charon’s silvery hull bore the harsh scars of battle. Dark blemishes, like organic bruises, dotted her frame where she had been viciously pummeled by a determined and deadly enemy intent on her destruction. As the ship turned to bring her weapons to bear upon the Endless Sky twin streams of burning, energetic plasma trailed out in its wake as the determined starship bled energy from her wounds into the cold, unforgiving vacuum of space high above the Vulcan home world.
“Direct hits on their aft quarter”, tactical shouted on the Charon’s chaotic bridge. “Their aft shields have failed!”
Lamont managed to take a breath. In the last few minutes he felt as if he had stopped breathing. “Continue to fire at will.”
Lamont pondered opening a channel and insisting the Endless Sky surrender. Obsession had blinded those aboard the Romulan ship to reason. Logic or words had little chance of success now and would only serve to inflame the fanatics aboard the Endless Sky.
“Vulcan defense forces are responding to our hails. Perimeter ships are closing to assist, but remain several minutes out.”
Lamont was suddenly reminded of his political experience which instantly terrified him more than losing the Charon. Those who clung to an idea or belief with overzealous, blind passion often turned desperate when their hopes and dreams appeared to be slipping away. He had witnessed such behavior firsthand and had been instructed on methods and techniques to help calm such tensions however such things were relegated to the realm of a conference room. How did he handle irrationality in combat?
The Charon continued to press her biting attacks against the burning aft quarter of the Endless Sky while dodging increasingly wild and disorganized counterattacks. The Romulans were firing blindly in an attempt to hit the nimble Charon as her helmsman deftly evaded the worst of their attacks. The Charon remaining dead astern of the Romulan cruiser and her punishing forward weaponry which she had managed to avoid thus far. Charon was no match for the warship, but could for the moment out turn, out maneuver, and out run the Endless Sky assuming Lamont could keep the ship in one piece.
Lamont bit his tongue as the Charon shook absorbing another punishing disruptor blast to her forward shields which were nearing failure themselves. As the bright green light on the viewscreen subsided he could see shiny filaments of metal breaking free from the scorched upper saucer and littering the camera’s field of view with shimmering specs of metallic confetti. The shields were near collapse and only a thin layer of ablative hull armor stood between them and the Romulan disruptor beams which sought to slice their way into the Charon’s superstructure.
Where were the Vulcans? Where were the planetary defenses?
They couldn’t hold the line forever without backup and Lamont was reluctant to order the ship and crew to their deaths to stop the Endless Sky if the Vulcans were only moments away. Did he issue the command to again ram the Romulans in a desperate bid of his own to stop the ship committing suicide to save the Vulcan race or did he have the right to be selfish and wait – wait to see if events on razor thin margins played to his favor thus sparing the Charon and her crew from the ultimate sacrifice.
He hated command and the life or death decisions that hung on split-second decisions. The stakes were too high and there were too many lives at stake to make irrational, human moves based upon instinct or gut feelings and yet it was precisely what he had to do – now without time for consideration or further discussion. He had to choose.
“Helm…alter course to…”
“SIR! The Endless Sky has fired upon Vulcan!”
Lamont’s words abruptly lodged in his throat nearly choking the ambassador turned commander and planetary defender. He instantly jumped to his feet in horror as a lone Romulan torpedo left the Endless Sky on a trajectory for the reddish Vulcan planet in the distance.
“TACTICAL! LOCK ON AND DESTROY THAT TORPEDO!”
“Sorry Ambassador, it’s out of range!”
“EMERGENCY IMPULSE POWER! Follow that torpedo! We must intercept and destroy it at all costs!”
“Sir the Endless Sky will likely attack with its forward weaponry! The shields are already near collapse.”
Lamont ignored tactical’s warning. Nothing else mattered now – the game had changed once again.
“Engineering, divert all power to the engines. I don’t care if they overload and explode we must intercept that torpedo before it reaches Vulcan! Helm, do everything possible to get us into weapons range. Tactical! Target the weapon and standby to fire as soon as it is in range!”
Lamont hovered over the helm console like a mosquito seeking blood as the Charon accelerated her engines straining to comply with the commands being issued. She rattled and shook as internal dampeners and structural integrity fields already at the breaking point struggled to remain operational and cohesive. Scorched holes on the Charon’s once pristine hull now spewed metal fragments in a fine mist as outer layers of the ship’s metal skin began to flake away. Romulan disruptors and torpedo impacts had left their mark and there was nothing Lamont could do about the damages now. Everything was irrelevant now – the Charon, her crew, their lives – it was all forfeit. The only thing that mattered was stopping that torpedo at any and all costs.
“Time to interception”, Lamot barked hanging off the back of the helm officer’s chair his eyes making the journey from screen to helm to screen a dozen times a second.
“We won’t catch it in time”, helm responded the voice flat devoid of all life.
“Go to warp!”
“We’re too close to Vulcan sir! We’ll hit the atmosphere before we can decelerate to a safe speed!”
“No time! Warp 1 now! DO IT”, Lamont bellowed without hesitation.
The Charon quickly complied and her engines glowed to life as the ship elongated and jumped into FTL speeds for the brief time needed to overtake the speeding Romulan torpedo whose deadly payload could spell death for the Vulcan homeworld and perhaps the race itself.
“Computer has initiated emergency engine shutdown!”
Lamont could only manage a cringe as the Charon dropped from warp just outside weapons range of the elusive torpedo which was approaching the edge of Vulcan’s atmosphere. He raced back to the command chair and threw himself into its cushions bracing for the inevitable fate that awaited him and the ship. The tactical readouts on the viewscreen did not lie and they were still almost a full second behind the Romulan harbinger speeding toward the Vulcan surface.
“ALL ENGINES FULL REVERSE! EMERGENCY DECELERATION! ALL DECKS BRACE FOR COLLISION AND ATMOSPHERIC ENTRY INTERFACE. TACTICAL, DIVERT ALL SHIPS POWER TO THE SHIELDS NOW!”
He had committed them. Already tendrils of Vulcan’s atmosphere were licking at the Charon’s shields as she strained to reduce her speed plunging into the planet’s atmosphere in a suicidal bid to stop the Endless Sky’s planet killer. As the Vulcan surface loomed on the viewscreen Lamont managed to swallow as his stomach turned from the rapid deceleration and gravitational forces exerted upon dampening systems never designed to handle such intense forces. History might judge him the reckless fool in no position or place to command during such a crisis, but it could never call him a coward.
1.4 seconds stood between success and destruction of an entire people. Wide eyed and dripping with cold sweat that bit at his skin like a thousand daggers, Lamont was confident that the Charon would soon live up to its namesake as the ferryman of hell. The only question now…was when.
[ TO BE CONTINUED … ]
<< For those aboard the Charon…plan on a hell of a bumpy ride. I’d stock up on ice packs and pillows assuming the replicators are working. DON’T call Engineering, they’re busy enough as it is! >>
Commander Ian Lamont
Ambassador, Acting Captain, - seriously stressed…