“The Ferryman of Hell – Part 2”
*** BACKLOG ***
“Hull temperature approaching critical”, the operations office shouted. “We are losing hull integrity! Reentry forces and pressure is exceeding maximum hull design tolerances!”
Lamont dripped in perspiration as he sat wedged within the command chair in a vain attempt to counter the vicious physical forces clawing at the Charon threatening to rip her asunder. He had ordered the ship into the Vulcan atmosphere in pursuit of a Romulan torpedo that likely carried a horrific bio agent capable of killing most of the Vulcan race.
0.89 Seconds. The Charon was less than a second from being within what would now be transporter range to neutralize the torpedo and its deadly cargo. It might have been a light year. With the engines in full reverse to slow their descent the Charon was only moments away from being crushed in Vulcan’s upper atmosphere and raining down as a massive ball of flaming debris to further terrorize the living below.
The bridge, filled with smoke, haze, and increasing heat from rising hull temperatures, was a hellish place as it shook and jolted as the Charon tore her way through steadily thickening atmospheric gasses. The noise of the engines was deafening and Lamont feared that they might simply tear away from the Charon at any moment.
“HELM”, he shouted over the noise. “Cut the engines! The strain on the engines is too great and I can’t have this ship fly apart until we catch that torpedo! Angle our decent to match the trajectory of the torpedo.”
Lamont looked back up at the screen. 0.47 seconds. He could see the torpedo on the viewscreen, but they were still just outside of transporter range. He couldn’t risk using the phasers now. A hit could spray the torpedo’s contents throughout the planet’s atmosphere dooming the planet they were trying to save. It was transporters or nothing.
“Surface impact in 45 seconds”, the helmsman called out as the reddish surface of Vulcan loomed ever closer on the static filled screen obscured by the heat and flame of reentry.
“Shield failure in 20 seconds sir. Engineering reports shields emitters are above and beyond maximum tolerance.”
“Come on! Come on”, Lamont inwardly shouted to himself as the torpedo slowly grew closer.
“Primary helm controls are no longer responsive, switching to auxiliary systems. Heat shields at maximum but I cannot predict how long they will hold. Structural integrity fields are collapsing! Hull breach in progress on decks 3 and 4. Damage control parties report they are unable to reach those areas due to a loss of gravity and extreme turbulence. Main power has failed on all decks. Critical systems are switching to backup generators!”
“TRANSPORTER ROOM”, Lamont shouted, “Are we in range?”
“Almost sir”, came the reply.
“Can you get a lock from our location now?”
“Hard lock not possible sir. I need more time.”
“We are out of time chief. Do whatever you can now!”
“Standby bridge. Attempting transport.”
Everyone on the bridge went silent hanging on the forthcoming words of the transporter chief.
“Partial lock only. ENERGIZING!”
Second after terrifying second passed as the Charon hurdled through the Vulcan sky engulfed in a ball of superheated gases. If stress and tension had viscosity then one could swim through it.
“I…I HAVE IT”, the chief’s voice shouted over the comm. link.
“Helm, alter our trajectory! Pull us out of our dive! Engage engines!”
If the Charon was shaking before it was positively being ravaged now. Every surface of the ship vibrated and shook with an ever increasing resonance that threatened to tear apart the Charon at any moment. Engines strained, engineers bitterly and passionately cursed the name Lamont, panels overloaded and sparked, lights failed, gravity fluctuated, and one ambassador’s teeth nearly shattered as he ground them together holding on to the command chair with a death grip.
The surface of Vulcan was now quite distinct as its features came into view. Clouds gave way to details. Details gave way to…a mountain range.
“Helm! Level our decent”, Lamont cried out his voice nearly squeaking seeing the approaching mountain range growing ominously on the viewscreen.
“Our trajectory and extreme speed is too great sir”, came the panicked reply. “If I push the engines any harder the ship will fly apart under the stress!”
Lamont looked at the back of the helm officer as fear finally gripped him. It was very likely his desperate actions would have severe consequences which were all too apparent.
“Ease us out of the dive! Take it right to the limit!”
“Transporter room! Beam that torpedo as far into space as possible! Set the transporter beam at maximum dispersion! I want it reduced to subatomic particles scattered in as wide a field as possible! Do it now!”
Slowly, ever so slowly, the Charon pulled out of her suicide dive as the mountains in her path loomed their towering peaks reaching up like pitchforks waiting to skewer the plummeting starship.
“Engergizing! Transport complete!”
Lamont inwardly let out the tiniest of sighs. The bioweapon menace was a last over. Even if the Charon plowed into the surface of Vulcan the planet and her people were no longer at risk from the weapon’s genocidal potential.
“This is going to be close”, the helm officer shouted. Lamont closed his eyes and held on. He didn’t want to see his end.
With a bone jarring crunch the Charon struck something solid. Alarms sounded. Crewmen flew. Smoke and fire filled the bridge.
And then the chaos ended.
“We clipped the edge of one of the higher mountain peaks sir”, came the shaken voice of the tactical officer. “Moderate damage to the ventral hull. Shields are…somehow still holding.”
The viewscreen angle changed and Lamont, who had reopened his eyes, now saw a giant dust cloud spread out from the mountain peak they had just grazed and which had very nearly been their final resting place.
The bridge erupted into cheers and shouts despite the damage and injuries. Somehow, by some miracle, they had managed to survive.
“Status”, Lamont suddenly shouted as training finally encroached upon the sheer awe, joy, relief, and excitement that coursed through his own exhausted and injured body.
The shouts and congratulations slowly died away as the crew snapped back to their normal professionalism.
“Helm, do we have enough control and power to reach a stable orbit?”
“Checking. If we maintain a stable climb and orbit window, yes, I think I can get her back up sir.”
“Do it. Tactical. Go to yellow alert. Shutdown all weapons and divert power to the engines and to assist with damage control activities. I want a deck by deck report of our status, damage, and casualties. Inform sickbay it has authorization to draft any and all non essential personnel to care for and assist the wounded. All non-essential areas are at the disposal of sickbay until further notice. Security. See that all damaged areas of the ship are sealed off and coordinate your activities with engineering and damage control parties.
Communications, contact the Vulcans and inform them of our status. We are no longer in a position to fight. It’s up to them to finish the Romulans. Ask if we can get a military escort and additional engineering and medical assistance. We just saved their bacon. The least they can do is send a few ships to help.
Tactical – any idea where the Endless Sky is?”
“Sorry, sir. Long range sensors have failed and short range sensors are degraded. If they held their course they would have also entered the atmosphere. I can only assume they changed course.”
“Keep an eye out for any Romulan activity and stand ready to take evasive action if needed at least until the Vulcans arrive with reinforcements. Keep whatever shields we have left up.”
“Sir, I have the Vulcans on the line. They have acknowledged our request and are dispatching two ships to assist.”
“The Endless Sky has altered course toward the Vulcan sun and appears to be on a collision course. Vulcan defense forces are currently engaged with the remaining Romulan ships.”
“What about the captain? What about the away team”, Lamont asked with what little energy he had remaining.
“Sorry sir, command has no information on their whereabouts at this time, but has offered to keep us informed of developments.”
Lamont nodded. “Thank them for their assistance.”
“Helm, continue course and speed. Secure standard orbit when possible.”
Letting out a sigh, Lamont sank backwards into the inviting cushions of the Charon’s command chair. Exhausted, hurt, and mentally spent – the ambassador closed his eyes as his thoughts drifted to the fate of the captain the first officer, and the away team. What fate had befallen them? Only time would tell. There was nothing else he could do. The Charon was too badly damaged to do any more than re-obtain orbit and lick her grievous wounds.
If somehow the captain and executive officer had not made it off…
Lamont shuddered to think that this chair might somehow be his for a considerable amount of time. Right now he was too exhausted to care. He simply wanted to sleep, but knew that sleep would be hours away until events stabilized themselves.
“Communications. Contact Starfleet Command and inform them of what has transpired. Include our logs and sensor data. Inform them of the captain and first officer’s status and request…instructions. “
“Congratulations everyone. You have done your ship, uniform, and the entire Federation proud today. It appears that we were able to do the impossible despite the stakes and the cost. The battle may have been won, but there is still a long road ahead. The Vulcans will be along soon to assist with repairs and with the injured. Until then let us remain focused on our duties.”
“Someone please find me a pot of hot, black coffee. Coffee is on the house. I am buying.”
Some light laughter helped break the tension which was slowly beginning to unwind. Lamont could sense everyone was concerned about the CO and XO and what had befallen them. Lamont was no replacement or even a good substitute, but they were stuck with each other until further orders were forthcoming. In any event it seemed as if he had gained some credibility having led the Charon through hell and back. He was no hero. He was only glad he was still alive.
Only one question remained. If Captain Rehu had somehow survived…how many hours of life did Lamont have remaining before she returned to end his life for the damage wrought to the Charon?
At this point he didn’t care. Dying at her hands given his present state would not be entirely unwelcomed.
~ FIN ~
Commander Ian Lamont
Ambassador, Acting Captain, Coffee & Sleep Deprived