Consecutusque cohortis ad Rubiconem flumen, qui provinciae eius finis erat, paulum constitit, ac reputans quantum moliretur, conversus ad proximos: "Etiam nunc," inquit, "regredi possumus; quod si ponticulum transierimus, omnia armis agenda erunt." - Suetonius.
tr'Ihhilan closed his eyes with dreaded anticipation as a bright yellow beam of searing energy hurtled through the dark vacuum towards his fighter. A blinding flash illuminated the veins of his eyelids causing him to instinctively turn away expecting to be engulfed by flames but the heat never came. Realizing he was still alive tr'Ihhilan opened his eyes and let out his anxious breath. As a dark shadow draped over his fighter he looked above to see a great bird eclipsing the brightness of the sun. From the massive D'Dherex's glowing beak a beam of emerald fire slammed into the Cardassian Galor which has just shot at him. The Cardassian ship jerked upwards in a vain attempt to meet the predator that had latched it's teeth upon it but the ship's aureolin shielding collapsed before it could complete it's maneuver. tr'Ihhilan wished he could have seen the expression on those Cardassian's faces as their ship flared and ruptured into an field of cascading metal.
His eyes turned to his control panel as the comm flared to life "all fighter squadrons. This is Khre'Riov t'Rehu. I have taken command of all forces in the hearth-system. Our ships will concentrate on the Cardassians, I need you to destroy the commonwealth vessels. I am certain you know their weaknesses."
That they did. Who among them wouldn't be intimately familiar with their own ships? Those shameful traitors dare to attack Ch'Rihan? He opened a channel to the remaining squadrons "you heard the Khre'Riov. Focus attacks on all commonwealth vessels. Target their dorsal wings and primary neck joists."
"Understood" echoed back in dozens of static filled replies.
[IRW Hhveir Ri'hwathech]
"Cardassian Galor destroyed. Tholian vessels are breaking off their attack and moving to intercept us." Raha barely had time to celebrate her kill as several of the blips on the tactical screen turned and began to converge on the Hhveir Ri'hwathech. "Cardassians are still concentrating their fire on the capital- the senate's shielding is beginning to constrict and the surrounding complexes are in flames."
One thing at a time, Shiarrael urged her mind to calm as she studied the tactical display on the main viewer. The fighters were now swarming the commonwealth ships like angry hornets whose nest had just been stirred. The Tholians were moving towards her own forces and trying to form a buffer between them and the Cardassian ships most of which were still concentrating their fire on the planet. If she could find a way to neutralize the Tholians they could take out the Cardassians while they were vulnerable deep in Ch'Rihan's gravity well "what is the status of the orbital defense satellites?"
"The Hvei'khenn was able to break the jamming. Sunside stat-" Lai paused as the Hhveir Ri'hwathech shook violently. A crackle echoed through the bridge as one of the auxiliary engineering consoles overloaded in a shower of sparks and began to smolder. "Sunside station is preparing a firing solution for the Tholian vessels as you have asked but it will take them a few more minutes. Also, a planetary distress signal has been issued. Reinforcements should arrive shortly."
Nodding her head Shiarrael left the command throne and popped open one of the emergency boxes pulling out an extinguisher. As the ship shuddered beneath her feet she stumbled towards the smoldering station and fired the device creating a cloud of chemical smoke that bathed the console in white powder. "Tell them to hurry. Order the other ships to ignore the Tholians and concentrate fire on the Cardassians."
"Khre'Riov! We can't!" Raha coughed as the acrid smoke created a thin haze which lofted around her "the Tholians will tear us to shreds!"
"Then let them tear us to shreds!" Shiarrael snapped back and tossed the extinguisher canister to the floor "better us then I'Ramnau." The ship shook violently again and more sparks erupted from several stations. Above them a large beam collapsed and fell crushing the command throne where Shiarrael was headed. The Khre'Riov lost her balance and fell to the floor but braced herself in a defensive roll until she hit the edge of her destroyed chair. Letting out a litany of curses she grabbed onto the felled beam and pulled herself up. "status!?"
"Shields are at twenty-five percent!" Raha shouted as she tried futilely to fan the smoke away "all Tholian ships are converging on us- preparing to fire!" She looked up at the view screen as the image shifted from the tactical display to a view of the Tholian ships. Like a pack of wild Thrai smelling a wounded beast they were about to go in for the kill.
Shiarrael stared at the screen for a tense few seconds before reaching to her side and drawing her blade. "This will not be your day!" She shouted at the top of her lungs at the viewer and then looked at Lai "full power to engines!" Both Raha and Lai turned and looked at Shiarrael as if she had gone mad but she ignored their expressions "now!"
Lai turned back to his station and tapped his console. The Hhveir Ri'hwathech lurched forward suddenly. The burst of speed apparently startled the Tholians as their wedge shaped vessels twisted out of the Hhveir Ri'hwathech's path in different chaotic directions. As the Tholians broke away several bright beryl beams snaked out from Ch'Rihan and struck at them.
"Defensive satellites are engaging the Tholians." Raha let out a relieved sigh as she momentarily watched the fireworks display on the view screen. "Other ships are engaging the Cardassians- they are breaking away from their attack on the capital and turning to intercept us." But it was too late for them to react now. Raha prepared a firing solution for one of the Keldon class ships. It vainly twisted away from the planet to meet them but it was too slow and too deep in Ch'Rihan's gravity well. As she prepared to fire the tactical console began beeping wildly. Raha studied the readouts and then looked at Shiarrael with a panicked expression "one the Cardassian ships has dived into the atmosphere towards I'Ramnau! Sensors are detecting an energy build up in their warp core... if they breach both I'Ramnau and Ra'tleihfi will be destroyed!"
"No!" Shiarrael dropped her blade and ran behind Raha studying the tactical readouts herself. Her brow's creased tightly as she felt a knot form in her gut as hard as granite. If that ship detonated not only would it take out both cities but it would likely destroy a large section of the continent. "No, no, no, no!" She slammed her fist into the back of Raha's chair and turned to Lai "break away and take us into the atmosphere after them. Prepare tractor beams and docking clamps!"
"Khre'Riov." Raha said quietly- her tone filled with exasperation and dejection "we may not be able to overcome their velocity enough to pull them out of Ch'Rihan's gravity..."
"We will try- and if we can't then we will drag them into the middle of the apnex sea." Shiarrael gritted her teeth as the Hhveir Ri'hwathech began to vibrate beneath her feet. The view screen was now covered by a golden halo of fire that clawed at the ship's beak. "Faster!" She shouted at Lai. The friction of the entry may very well tear them apart but if they didn't stop the Cardassians it wouldn't matter. She had not planned for this- they were certainly a bit more desperate then she anticipated.
"Five seconds until we reach the Cardassian ship." Lai announced.
"Raha! Take out their engines!" Shiarrael shouted and watched as an emerald beam seared out from the Hhveir Ri'hwathech's beak and struck the Keldon's tail- the red glow of their impulse drives blinked and then grew dim.
"Their engines have been disabled!" Raha shouted. The ship was shaking so violently she could feel it in her bones. Was this it?
Shiarrael's finger nails dug into the hard cushioning of Raha's chair as she knelt down to brace herself. The Cardassian Keldon was growing quickly on the view screen. She quietly counted down in her head as they neared it. Three...two...one... The ship lurched violently and most of the operational stations erupted. It felt as if the ship was being ripped to shreds around her as it groaned and whined like a wounded beast. The ship continued to jerk wildly as they seemingly fused with the Cardassian ship.
"Docking clamps and tractor beams locked!" Lai shouted. "Beginning ascent!" The entire ship seemed to ululate as the deck trembled intensely.
Shiarrael continued to grip the chair back tightly as she watched the view screen readouts. It was slow but they were beginning to reverse the velocity but it seemed to be taking a severe toll on the ship. She pulled one arm away from the chair and pressed her hand against the deck begging the Hhveir Ri'hwathech to stay together long enough. "How much longer?!"
"Energy readings are becoming critical!" Raha stared at the readout's her eyes widening "computer estimates thirty-seconds until the Cardassian core breaches!"
"We've broken the atmosphere!" Lai shouted. The view screen image was dominated by the view of Ch'Rihan but it was slowly growing smaller.
"Full power to engines!" Shiarrael screamed "everything we have!"
"Fifteen seconds!" Raha shouted. Her eyes focused on the view screen for a moment before she glanced back at her station "We're far enough away that the explosion shouldn't affect the planet!"
"Break clamps and disengage tractor beams. Get us away from them!" Shiarrael looked at the view screen as the Hhveir Ri'hwathech released its grip on the Keldon. Without its engines the Cardassian ship simply tumbled away towards open space. As the Hhveir Ri'hwathech began to pull away the Cardassian ship erupted into a blinding white fireball. Shiarrael turned away just as the deck seemed to heave. Her grip on the chair slipped as blackness fell over the entire bridge.
[To Be Continued...]
Captain Shiarrael t'Rehu