Starting today, each Friday in June will feature a brand-new chapter segment of Fallen Heroes. If you are new to this story, please start with the thread Fallen Heroes Part II Prologue on this forum and work your way up from there.
A quick little recap of the previous chapters:
Side by side, two enormous Massal-class Altonoid warships flaunt the experimental phaser arrays wrapped around their hulls like anacondas strangling their victims. They each spew out four simultaneous phaser beams at Station A-12’s three-ship defense fleet. On the Kennedy’s bridge, the wounded Commander Tony Q, who’s manning tactical together with Ensign Parkin, assesses both warships’ condition with the suboptimal sensors of the doomed Sovereign-class vessel he’s on. One of the ships is in frustratingly good shape, having retreated to conduct repairs before rejoining the battle, but the other is starting to weaken at last. “Shields of the Massal we’re targeting are at 20%.”
Parkin shifts more of Tony’s weight onto his shoulder to support the commander and asks, “Should we keep focusing on that vessel, sir?”
“Absolutely. If we blow them up first, it’s one set of deadly phasers out of the mix.”
Lieutenant Sivar, the Vulcan seated in the captain’s chair and appointed acting first officer by Tony, throws him a look.
“Do you concur, Sivar?”
“I do, Commander.”
After a year spent as lieutenant, Tony hasn’t quite grown accustomed to being called a commander again.
Sivar continues, “I recommend we request the flagship to match our strategy and expedite the first Massal’s destruction.”
Tony nods. Judging from the mess of a bridge they’re on, the Massal’s destruction can’t be “expedited” soon enough. “Mr. Muntenaar, open a secure channel and hail the Wolf.”
“Aye sir,” Lieutenant Sven Muntenaar says from his ops station. Another successful enemy strike causes his console to spark. He recoils, quickly runs a hand through his black hair to remove any smoldering fragments caught in it, and continues his duty undeterred. “Captain Suzan Reynolds responding. Putting her on screen.”
Isn’t she the captain of the Satellite, destroyed early in this battle? Now, the tall brunette sits in the captain’s chair on the darkened and demolished Wolf’s bridge as if she has been in charge of the Akira-class vessel all her life, even though she must’ve assumed command after being evacuated from the Satellite’s wreckage. “Lieutenant Sivar,” she says, “please keep it brief.”
Tony leans forward and resists the urge to wave. “I’m the one who hailed you, ma’am. Commander Tony Blue, uh, Q, currently the Kennedy’s acting captain.”
A weapon impact almost liberates Reynolds from her chair, but she is unimpressed. “Did Sivar agree to this?”
“I did, Captain.”
“Fine. Keep it brief.”
“We intend to destroy the weakened Massal first,” Tony says. “We’re asking you and the Sundance to join us. The sooner we’re rid of it, the better.”
The captain decides in milliseconds. “All right, follow our lead. Reynolds out.” Her visage disappears from the viewscreen to be replaced by the Wolf accelerating toward the weaker of the two warships.
Lieutenant Malin, the blonde chief helmsman, clamps her lips together to hide her amusement, then blurts out, “She doesn’t waste time, does she?”
“Neither should we,” Sivar says.
To supplement the Kennedy’s ongoing attack, the weapon pod atop the Wolf’s catamaran-like hull fires salvoes of photon torpedoes, some of which foiled by the warships’ automated defense systems. According to Tony’s calculations, the Altonoids’ experimental phasers can disarm a quarter of all inbound torpedoes by firing directly at them, which is a remarkable but not impenetrable feat of defensive technology.
The Sundance’s saucer aids the bombardment by letting loose with her unforgiving Type XII phaser arrays. The middle and lower sections of the Prometheus-class starship may have been lost, but her orphaned saucer is still participating, though it’s apparent to Tony’s trained eye that its contribution is lacking, probably due to its missing captain and first officer. Nevertheless, their presence remains welcome.
Tony wishes the Kennedy’s quantum torpedo launcher still worked, wishes the phaser wound above his right hip wasn’t hurting so much, wishes he could stop thinking about the unfair dilemma that condemned Emily to a heartless death. Of course, wishes won’t save anyone. It’s a miracle he’s alive. It was a rare act of kindness from Q to merge him with his younger self at death’s door and give him a second—albeit slim—chance of making a difference. So he follows up the combined onslaught of photon torpedoes and phaser fire with several good shots from the starboard ventral phaser arrays, which slice through a segment of enemy phaser wiring. “So much for their shields,” he says. “Muntenaar, if possible, reroute power from the quantum launcher to the sen—”
A direct hit from the vengeful Altonoids instigates a panoply of rupturing plasma conduits and exploding equipment from bulkheads and ceiling alike, lighting the darkened bridge and revealing how, in conjunction with its red alert panels, it has started to resemble a gateway to Hades. This is where he and the other damned souls get to dwell until history corrects itself and kills them a second and final time.
Offsetting this disturbing image and proving fate may still be thwarted, the Kennedy continues her assault on the Massal, channeling and distributing forces beyond imagination through her state-of-the-art weaponry in a bid to defend Station A-12. It’s not over till it’s over, and Parkin’s tactical input and Malin’s perfect execution of the maneuvers they come up with are a testament to their resilience in the face of danger.
“That last phaser hit took our shields offline,” they hear over the comm. Tony doesn’t have to peruse the channels to confirm it’s from main engineering; he instantly recognizes the chief engineer’s voice, which half of him hasn’t heard in seven years. “Our hull integrity is nearing single digits,” Lieutenant Commander André Soeteman continues. “We are slowly losing power throughout the ship. Emergency force fields are going down one by one.” Yes, this is terrible news, but Tony has to suppress a smile. He has missed his old friends.
“Evacuate the affected sections,” Sivar says.
“That’s the problem. We can’t reach those sections. Comm system is down in the more damaged areas. Oh, one more thing: Aft torpedo launchers have gone a bit awry. I recommend not using them.”
The nostalgia the engineer’s voice stirred is already evaporating; a disturbing silence has fallen over the bridge as the crew stares at the viewscreen, at the Massal, which has stopped firing altogether. Tony is confused. Shouldn’t this be a sign of success? Instead, they’re watching the inert warship with bated breath.
Nobody responds, for reasons unknown to Tony, so he clears his throat and says, “Prioritize getting the shields back online.”
“Aye, sir. Is that you, Tony, I mean, Commander?”
“The one and the same.”
“It’s good to have you back. Engineering out.”
The feeling is mutual yet short-lived because the reason for the crew’s shocked silence manifests itself: The Massal’s entire phaser system begins flashing on and off, a captivating but ill-boding sight, and streaks of light are racing through its thick wires as if it’s charging for a no-holds-barred attack.
Sivar opens a shipwide comm channel via his armrest and says without a hint of emotion, “All hands, brace for another Altonoid phaser strike.”
Tony guesses this “phaser strike” will be worse than anything before and spurs to action. “Parkin, we’ll target the same spot where we sliced off a segment of phaser wiring and fire all we have. Despite Commander Soeteman’s advice, don’t spare the aft torpedo launchers. In our current situation, risk aversion no longer applies.”
Parkin hesitates briefly, then complies with a resolute look on his young face.
Their strategy hasn’t changed, so the Wolf and Sundance also let loose with their weapons, anything to prevent the Massal from completing its devastating parlor trick. The second Massal seizes this opportunity to rain destruction on the three brave Federation vessels.
Though the tactical station quakes as if made of rubber, it displays the Wolf’s onslaught of torpedoes trickling to a halt, upon which she veers to port to line up her dual starboard launchers.
“Are her forward launchers running out of torpedoes?” Parkin asks Tony.
“I hope not! Muntenaar, can you figure out the status of the Wolf’s launchers?”
“Their forward weapon pod’s complement is dwindling and their bow launchers appear to have been damaged.”
The chaos of battle censors Tony’s cursing, and he readies a similar firing pattern for the Kennedy to maintain optimal use of their depleting and recharging phaser arrays—the operational ones, that is. Meanwhile, the Massal’s phaser wires keep flashing brighter and the Wolf continues veering to port, seemingly planning to unleash a massive assault with her weapon pod’s aft torpedo launchers. Simply put, it would make the most sense. So why not copy her tactic, especially now the Kennedy’s front-facing launchers are reloading?
“Sir,” Muntenaar says with a troubled expression, “though our sensors still aren’t very accurate, I can confirm the Massal is targeting us!”
“Needless to say we won’t survive that,” Malin says.
Tony clenches his jaw. “Let’s not give them the chance. Execute the maneuvers we’re inputting and align aft torpedo launchers.”
“Are you certain of this, Commander?” Sivar asks.
“You bet I am. Parkin, prepare to fire aft launchers, full spread. Add nacelle pylon phaser arrays to the mix if you can.” As the Kennedy goes into a steep turn, he hangs on to the ensign and the console while continuing to type in commands.
The tired vessel’s hull groans and creaks as if it were duct-taped together. Fortunately, Malin is a skillful enough pilot to tread the tightrope between agility and mechanical sympathy. “Aft phasers and launchers lined up.”
“Mr. Parkin,” Tony says, baring his teeth. “Give ’em hell!”
The phaser arrays on the warp nacelle pylons shoot mile-long, scarlet beams of pulverizing energy toward the Massal, and the deck shudders as the aft launchers strain to fire a full salvo of photon torpedoes—a total of sixteen according to the tactical readouts. The chief engineer had ample reason for his warning, because the shuddering intensifies into a violent rattle that throws everyone from their chairs and stations and culminates in a double explosion that’s distant but not quite distant enough.
Muntenaar crawls back to his ops station. “Twin aft launchers have destroyed themselves. Significant hull breaches, deck 3. We’re venting atmosphere. Sealing emergency bulkheads… They’re not responding!”
Tony daren’t ask for a casualty report, realizes this damage is his responsibility, and buries the accompanying guilt for later evaluation, if he is permitted to live through this. As their photon torpedoes travel through open space at breakneck speed, he looks pleadingly to the viewscreen, hoping and praying this sacrifice was worth it. One by one, the torpedoes strike the hull. The Massal’s phaser array was already untangling at its weakest point, courtesy of the incoming phaser beams it had to contend with, and its entire system starts flickering in a different pattern implying extensive damage and impending failure.
The Wolf has lined up her aft launchers as well and is firing what she’s got from her most powerful asset: her weapon pod. A dozen of her torpedoes slam into the Massal’s damaged hull, carve straight through, and explode from inside the enormous Altonoid vessel. The Massal’s structural integrity fails completely, deforming the rectangular warship as the detonating torpedoes compound further explosions from within, which spread across its decks with unstoppable force and tear off large sections of outer hull. The generated heat unravels the phaser wires; towering flames fueled by the Massal’s escaping atmosphere consume them whole. Within seconds, the Massal disappears in the sum of all cascading explosions and blows up in a final, grand display of interstellar pyrotechnics. Once the vacuum of space has extinguished the inferno, there is nothing left of the mighty Altonoid prototype but debris in various sizes and dark stains on Station A-12 and the surrounding ships’ exteriors.
“Yes!” Malin cheers. “That’s one menace down!”
Their celebration is cut short by another explosion rocking the deck, so nearby it resembles the disorienting effect of a concussion grenade.
“Hull breach on deck 2,” Tony hears Muntenaar shout over the ringing in his ears. “We shouldn’t have fired those launchers.”
“There’s a cloud of Altonoid rubble suggesting otherwise, Lieutenant,” Tony says. “Are the emergency bulkheads responding?”
“Barely. Without them, we’ll—”
“Engineering to bridge.”
“Proceed,” Sivar says.
“When I say ‘don’t fire the aft launchers,’ I mean ‘don’t fire the aft launchers!’” A deep sigh from the chief engineer. “We have to stop the hull breaches near the twin aft launchers from spreading. I’ll conduct the repairs in person. In the meantime, I strongly advise you to keep us out of battle. We’re going to lose many more crewmembers if our emergency force fields keep failing. Our warp core’s absence is draining our main battery.”
Temporarily withdrawing from the battle is the last thing on Tony’s mind. However, what other choice do they have?
“Agreed,” Sivar says. “Please instruct your staff to continue their efforts to contact crewmembers who are stuck in hazardous areas. Find a way to boost or preserve the main battery and allocate additional resources to our combat and defense systems. It would be wise to utilize this period by cooling our weapons.” He looks at Tony, who nods his reluctant approval. Unwilling to dawdle, Sivar stands up to help one of the tireless bridge engineers lift a heavy piece of debris.
Tony analyzes the one remaining Massal warship, which is faring considerably better than the three Starfleet vessels combined, and wonders: Has his assuming command of the Kennedy had a positive influence or has he made a bad situation worse? He cannot be sure, even with the first Massal blown to smithereens. He recalls he and Emily had been stuck on the station for most of the Station A-12 Debacle. Once they’d managed to escape via shuttlecraft, they narrowly avoided the devastated, rudderless Wolf crashing into the station.
As they fled the macabre sight of the Wolf’s wreckage clutching the space station and the Kennedy’s eviscerated stardrive section slowly rotating to nowhere, it was clear all participants in this battle had been lost, except for one: a victorious Massal-class prototype.
The one attacking them now.