Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter IV

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Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter IV

Post by Alexbright99 »

Hi everyone. We're past the halfway point for Part II with its total of six chapters. As always, I post a new quarter of a chapter each Friday. I hope you'll enjoy reading the continuation of Tony Q's story as much as I did writing it.


Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter IVa

Soothing tremors of a spacecraft in flight wake Commander Tony Q from a dreamless sleep, and he finds himself sitting in the back of a large shuttlecraft intended for public transportation. Its many seats are empty, however.

Despite grogginess clouding his vision, he sees the shuttle hasn’t escaped Earth’s atmosphere yet. It has levelled off, flying ten thousand feet in the air while broad daylight shines in through its portholes. The countless cities below resemble collapsing volcanoes, yet there’s no indication of suffering anymore. It’s unlikely anyone is left to suffer; if there is, their hardship will be over soon, swallowed whole by eternal oblivion.

As if in a reflex, his subconscious presents him with the sight of his dead father lying buried in the rubble, every bone in his body shattered. Through sheer force of will, he shoves aside the jarring memory and rises from his seat. His muscles object to being molded into any other shape than cramped misery, and even the slightest movement causes cold sweats. The metal scent of blood clings to his tattered dress uniform. He has almost gotten used to pain and filth covering his mortal shell. Almost.

Up in front, a middle-aged Starfleet officer is piloting the shuttlecraft. That must be the man who carried him to safety. With a considerable degree of effort, Tony shambles toward him, leaving a trail of muddy footprints on the otherwise pristine center-aisle carpet.

Once Tony is about halfway, the pilot says, “I hope you’re going to clean that up, because I know I won’t.”

Tony instantly recognizes the master of sarcastic delivery. “Q?”

It is indeed Q. He pivots in his chair and meets Tony’s tired gaze with a jovial smile, which quickly turns into a huge frown. “My goodness, you’re a mess! Didn’t your father ever tell you not to go playing outside in your clean uniform?”

Tony opens and closes his mouth several times in a row before gathering the coherence to say, “You’ve got a lot of nerve.”

“There, there,” Q says, patronizing him. “If it weren’t for me, you’d be busy burning to a crisp on Geary Street. Don’t humans often show their saviors a little more gratitude?”

“You son of a bitch!”

“See, how hard was that?” Q swivels back to the shuttle controls.

“After all this time,” Tony says, inching forward, searching for words, “hoping you were out there, somehow, watching over me. You were never there. And now, while I’m at my weakest, you show up to laugh at me?”

“Yes, that about covers it,” Q says cheerfully while flailing at the controls, pretending to use the interface instead of his powers to steer the ship.

Tony halts next to his former mentor. “You have no idea what I’ve been through.”

“Oh no, that’s not true,” Q says in an indignant tone. “You were throwing the biggest barbecue party in human history when I plucked you off the planet.” He smirks at his own joke.

“You refuse to understand why I rebelled.” Tony’s voice gains strength, whereas his body has none. “I couldn’t sit by and watch those Altonoids destroy all I hold dear. What choice did I have?”

“Oh, there’s always a choice,” Q says, not as upbeat as he was moments ago. “What person in his right mind would prefer being trapped inside a weak collection of biological matter over an immortal life as a supreme being?”

“A human would, out of compassion. That’s why the Continuum appointed me as one of their members in the first place, to study the qualities they lacked.”

“Yeah, but look at you! You’re an absolute embarrassment. You’re wounded, broken, bent, a limping animal. You had such potential.”

“I know,” Tony says with more sadness than they both expected. “But I gave it up. You want to know why?”

“Well, yes,” Q says, unable to resist answering rhetorical questions.

“It’s called friendship. It’s called loyalty. It’s called love. Concepts beyond the Continuum’s grasp.”

Q scoffs. “Blasphemy.” The ensuing awkward pause demonstrates Tony has made a valid point. To prevent him from scoring valid three-pointers, Q asks, “Are you familiar with another concept ‘beyond the Continuum’s grasp’?”

“I don’t—“

“It’s called failure.”


“Look around you.”

Reluctantly, Tony complies. The shuttle has gained enough altitude to enter orbit around the scorched planet. Not far ahead, a swarm of Altonoid warships besets Earth Spacedock, and battling starships take up the rest of the view. The majority of the intact ones belong to the Altonoids.

“Earth’s final stand,” Q says, nodding at the carnage. “Pitiful, pitiful. Behold their mighty, cardboard war machines, exchanging glorified laser fire and puny projectiles. Waste of ammo, I’d say. The spacedock is already lost.”

Tony hates to admit it, but Earth Spacedock is coming apart, sending red-hot chunks of hull the size of skyscrapers toward the planet it’s already orbiting dangerously low.

Q spares the starbase a tiny double-handed wave. “Bye-bye, Admiral Harriman and the poor souls who trusted him with their lives. This, Tony, my dear friend, is failure at its finest, at its purest.”

Together, they watch the starbase spiraling to its doom in slow motion.

“Sucks, doesn’t it?” Q says.

Tony has no defense to offer. Fatigue and dizziness take hold, and he silently curses his feeble condition.

“Aw, don’t feel bad about it,” Q says without making any attempt to hide his menacing tone. “Here, I know what. Why don’t I show you the state the of universe had you chosen to stay with us?”

Before Tony can protest, Q snaps his fingers and summons a universe-altering flash. Prominently in view, Earth Spacedock is still falling from the sky, Altonoid warships are still swarming all over, and Starfleet vessels are either significantly damaged or adrift like the dead bulks they are.

“Would you look at that!” Q says with faked amazement. “Nothing has changed!” Without touching the controls, he projects the astern view onto the front window. “Earth is still burning.”

Tony flinches at Earth’s image, the flames of crumpling nations too bright for his tired eyes.

“People in the back!” Q shouts.

Lifelike facsimiles of Tony’s dead friends materialize out of thin air, enough to fill nearly every seat. The senior staff of the Kennedy, his colleagues at Starfleet Headquarters, his father—they all shout “Failure!” in angry unison before vaporizing on the spot.

Q gives him a surprisingly fierce glare. “Failure,” Q says, emphasizing each syllable. He snaps his fingers and restores the original universe in a white flash, which, painfully enough, means everything stays the same.

Without breaking off his unforgiving stare, Q commands the shuttle to evade the one-sided battle and engage warp engines. The falling spacedock, the fighting starships, and the burning planet fade into a series of long streaks of iridescent light as the shuttle hits warp speed. Finally, after too long a time, Q breaks eye contact, takes a deep breath, and leans back in his pilot’s chair.

Tony wipes away the tears that have formed despite his best efforts to mask his sorrow and asks, “So why didn’t you?”

“Why didn’t I what?”

“End my miserable existence. Get it over with. I’ve become an insect to you, haven’t I? What makes me any different from those who were killed? Why should I live and my father die?”

“Oh please, don’t give me that.”

“Perhaps I should rephrase.” There’s a subtle edge to his voice. “Why didn’t you leave me to die?”

Q crosses his arms. “Like you said, your life has become unimportant, nothing but a trivial matter. I’m free to do with it as I please. The Continuum doesn’t care anymore.”

“But do you?”

Q lets out an annoyed sigh. Instead of answering the question, he points at Tony’s bloody torso and sneers, “Maybe you should have that looked at. You only live once, you know.” Q snaps his fingers and vanishes in a flash of light, leaving Tony in a transport shuttle full of empty seats.

* * *

Starbase 43 – April 22, 2382 – Stardate 59303.3
Exhausting doesn’t begin to describe living on this starbase for the past week. The Altonoids’ sudden takeover of the Sol system has dampened everyone’s spirits. Virtually every person aboard Starbase 43 has reason to mourn. Relatives, loved ones, friends—none were spared in this horrifying attack, as survival became a matter of random luck.

Lieutenant Junior Grade Ernest Baxter dares not imagine what the incalculable refugees on this starbase are going through. He wasn’t born in the Sol system, so he cannot begin to comprehend the full scope of their trauma, but the loss of Earth and the surrounding colonies is devastating at best.

This starbase, one of the bases nearest to Earth that haven’t been attacked by Altonoids yet, has been a complete chaos ever since the invasion started. A constant flow of docking spacecraft brings in hordes of the confused and wounded. Every part of the starbase is crowded: crew and civilian quarters, passenger decks, waiting rooms, sickbays… morgues.

Baxter is on his way to a far-off section of airlocks to serve as a welcoming party of one for the occupant of an arriving shuttlecraft. The transporters are constantly in use and the turbolifts are packed, forcing him to traverse congested promenades and hallways. Wherever he goes, he gets a firsthand experience of chaos, unease, and fear… mostly fear. Nobody speaks of it, but an undeniable sense of dread fills up every room, a buildup of apprehension choking any budding sign of relief. Nobody knows what’s next. Nobody wants to know, including Baxter, so he does what everyone else does: finding some way to cope, even if that coping mechanism merely consists of keeping oneself busy.

As he reaches the correct airlock, he opens his medkit for a quick inspection. From a medical tricorder to a compact trauma kit, everything appears to be present. Here’s hoping he recalls the few superficial medical trainings every officer is obligated to partake in. By the looks of it, the spacecraft has already connected itself to the airlock. However, its pilot makes no attempt to make an entrance just yet.

* * *

An opened medkit and a bloodstained dress uniform lie in a corner of the transport shuttle that brought Commander Tony Q to Starbase 43. Using the vessel’s scarce facilities, he has patched up the more severe injuries, cleaned himself up, and replicated a fresh standard-issue uniform. He may look better, but he doesn’t feel it, sitting hunched over the helm station, watching the pilot screen.

Logging into Starfleet network,” the onboard computer says.

He has been postponing this long enough. “Access Starfleet’s personnel database. Display Lieutenant Commander Ralph Blue’s file.”

The computer shows a recent photograph of his dad, accompanied by a summarized biography and other relevant information.

Tony blocks out the image of his father happy and alive the same way he blocks out the memory of his demise—unsuccessfully. “Process the following update.” Difficult as it may be, he is the one who should do this. These words, though hard to utter, must be spoken. “Date of death: April 17, 2382. Time: unknown. Killed in the line of duty. End of update.”

Authorization required.”

“Authorization Tango Alpha Eight Five, as reported by Commander Tony…” He hesitates, as if repulsed by his full name. “Commander Tony ‘Q’ Blue.”

Personnel file updated and closed.”

He ruminates for a handful of seconds, then nods to himself and says, “Display Commander Tony ‘Q’ Blue’s file.”

Tony stares at his picture, taken the day he became first officer of the USS Kennedy. Hard to believe he was once the dapper young man on the screen. That version of him doesn’t exist anymore. That… boy was a fool, his abundant naivety rivaled only by his arrogance. “Process the following update: change subject’s full name to Tony Blue.”

Authorization required.”

“Authorization Tango Alpha Eight Five, as reported by Commander Tony ‘Q’ Blue. End of update.” The last time he’ll have to refer to himself by that name.

Personnel file updated and closed.”

Commander Tony Blue allows himself a short-lived smile.

* * *

To Lieutenant Baxter’s relief, the airlock opens, and none other than Commander Tony Q comes stumbling out. Baxter sizes up the surprisingly young commander. Granted, with twenty-six years of age, the lieutenant isn’t exactly a hoary war veteran either—his sharp but friendly features and cropped, auburn hair help maintain his youthful appearance—but somehow he’d expected the famous officer to be older. He pushes these inconsequential thoughts aside and salutes the commander. “Welcome aboard Starbase 43, Commander Tony ‘Q’ Blue. I am Lieutenant Ernest Baxter.”

For reasons that elude Baxter entirely, Tony grunts at the “Q” part. “At ease, Lieutenant,” he says, eyeing Baxter’s attire—a command uniform instead of a medical one. “This is going to be quite a spectacle,” he mutters beneath his breath, loud enough for Baxter to hear.

Missing his cue, Baxter opens his medkit and takes out its medical tricorder with the finesse of a drunken Klingon, spilling an assortment of medical equipment onto the floor before apologetically putting them back in.

Tony arches an eyebrow. “May I ask what your function is?”

“Uh… yes, sir. I’m the chief helmsman of the Achilles,” Baxter says while waving his medical tricorder in the general vicinity of the commander.

“I requested medical attention, not a pilot with a medkit.”

“I’m sorry, sir. Wounded survivors have flooded the starbase, the sickbays are crammed, and the entire medical staff is swamped. All available personnel have been asked to assist in tending to the injured.”

Tony raises the palms of his hands. “Listen, this can wait. I’ve already stopped the internal bleeding and treated the serious wounds on the way here, and—”

“According to my readings you still have a few severe bruises and other physical trauma requiring examination.”

“Yes, and according to those readings I’m currently standing on my head! You’re holding the bloody thing upside down.”

Flustered, Baxter turns his tricorder around and reinterprets its data. Tony, unwilling to tolerate any further delay, limps past. “Hey, where are you going?” Baxter asks, going after him.

“I have to find Emily,” Tony says. “My wife,” he adds in response to Baxter’s puzzled expression. “If she’s even here. Most shuttles were shot down. She probably didn’t make it, but if she did…”

A vague recollection of Tony marrying a fellow Starfleet officer surfaces in Baxter’s mind. “What’s her full name and rank?”

“Huh? Oh. Ensign Emily Christina Blue.”

Baxter presses his combadge. “Computer, locate Ensign Emily Christina Blue.”

Tony grimaces. “We don’t even know if she’s—”

The starbase computer interrupts him. “Ensign Emily Blue is located on deck 814, promenade 14-Alpha.”

Tony’s aspect turns on a dime from sullen to elated. “She made it!” He hugs Baxter, who is a bit uncertain how to react to this mood swing.

“Congratulations, sir,” Baxter says while trying to escape the unexpected embrace as courteously as possible.

Tony lets go and—with newfound energy—begins searching for the nearest turbolift.

“Perhaps you should take it easy, Commander,” Baxter says, hurrying after the limping commander once again. “Your medical condition isn’t… Oh, what the heck.”
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Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter IVb

Post by Alexbright99 »

Neither Commander Tony Blue nor Lieutenant Ernest Baxter could have guessed that such a large and diverse representation of sentient lifeforms would fit into the turbolift they’re riding to Emily’s last known location. Despite the uncomfortable setting, Tony is bouncing on his toes, smirking at Baxter, who’s awkwardly pressed up against a purring Caitian.

The turbolift doors open to reveal a sea of creatures—human or otherwise—obscuring promenade 14-Alpha. Multileveled, rife with waiting rooms and restaurants, encircled by a walkway boasting a splendid view of docked starships—this promenade is an impressive feat of engineering, but the sheer amount of people currently in it exceeds its intended capacity at least threefold. It’s so crowded it’s challenging to see anything of the carpet or furniture.

They descend the main stairway and soon become lost in the masses. Wherever Tony looks, beings of all types wander around in a collective daze. Most of them are hoping to be reunited with loved ones, like Tony is now, or waiting to hear what’s next, whether it be sharing a small room with another group of survivors or boarding a vessel that will whisk them away from here.

It’s impossible to cross the promenade without getting shoved aside or yelled at by these wayward souls. Above the cacophony of talking, bellowing, squealing, and whatever you can call this racket, a newsreader is feeding swarms of refugees with updates on the current state of affairs. Tony doesn’t focus on any of it; he keeps skimming the hordes in hopes of finding his wife. So far, his only accomplishment is losing sight of Baxter.

Lieutenant Ernest Baxter is nearly getting used to navigating a starbase this congested. He has managed to maneuver himself toward a wall terminal to access Emily Blue’s personnel file. Knowing what she looks like might be a good idea when searching in a throng of this magnitude.

Commander Tony Blue considers using his combadge to reach his wife, but there’s no way they’ll hear each other over the noise. He gradually becomes aware of a building commotion and pauses to listen to the news broadcast reverberating through the promenade. “—fall of Andoria and Tellar Prime, the home planets of all founding members of the Federation have been defeated.”

“That can’t be good,” Tony mumbles as he resumes his search.

—attacks on colonies on Federation borders suggest we are under heavy attack from the outside as well as the inside.

Unlike his fellow listeners, Tony doesn’t submit to the desperation this news brings, grave as the situation may be. The prospect of reuniting with his wife defends his tenuous optimism with fervor. If only he could find her… He keeps gently nudging others aside in order to move through the crowd, and sometimes one of those persons nudges back. Tony understands this behavior, but when someone clasps his upper arm, he wrestles it free, shoves the offending arm out of the way, and hopes it doesn’t belong to an eight-foot-tall Nausicaan.

“Commander,” the arm-clasper says. It’s Baxter.

“Sorry I pushed you.”

“No problem. I think I know where we can find Ensign Blue.”

Tony must be the only one smiling on the whole starbase as Baxter escorts him to another section of the promenade. It takes a fair amount of willpower to cross a room filled with anxious humanoids and assorted beings, but soon enough they reach their destination: a lone table, a boulder in a river of people.

“She should be here somewhere,” Baxter says to Tony, who climbs the table and begins waving his arms like there’s no tomorrow. Few bother to pay attention to the young commander; they deem the newsfeed more interesting.

Just when it dawns on Tony he is making a fool of himself, he notices another person has joined him on the table. That someone grabs him by the shoulders and starts kissing him passionately. It’s Emily!

After such a whopping kiss, they take a long look into each other’s eyes. Emily slowly shakes her head. “I thought you didn’t make it,” she says, unsuccessfully fighting back tears.

Tony tries and fails to come up with a witty retort. Instead, he wraps his arms around her the way a drowning man would cling to his rescuer. He’d be perfectly content with simply holding her until the end of time.

Sooner than feared, she asks him, her sweet voice unable to mask its sad implications, “Where’s your father?”

Tony lets silence speak for him, for saying it aloud would break her heart as much as it did his. She understands, as she always does, and draws him nearer. They’ve been through hell. No words could weigh up against the feeling of hugging each other, resting their heads on each other’s shoulders.

Lieutenant Ernest Baxter watches the two embracing officers and decides to wait a little while before telling them the floor is better equipped for standing on. As the moment passes, the news broadcast catches his attention. “This just in. The Alpha Centauri system has been completely overrun by Altonoid forces. Not a single planet has been spared by the enemy fleet. Latest intelligence reports confirm the Altonoids are progressing to nearby systems. If you are in the vicinity of Alpha Centauri, prepare to evacuate.

Panic cascades through the hundreds of people who have huddled together by the news monitors. Alarmed, Baxter hops onto the table, where Tony and Emily have downgraded their hug to a blissful holding of hands. “Did you hear that?” he asks them.

“Hear what?” Tony says, too busy doting on his wife to re-enter the real world just yet.

“The Altonoids have taken Alpha Centauri and are spreading out to nearby systems.”

“Alpha Centauri? That’s mere light years away,” Tony says, adopting Baxter’s worried tone.

“Exactly. I am under orders to send you to quarters RD4372. Undoubtedly, the evacuation will begin soon, but you’ll have to go there first. Understood, sir?”

“Yes. RD4372.” He exchanges a concerned glance with his wife. Baxter is preparing to leave, but Tony isn’t done with him yet. “Lieutenant.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Thank you.” Despite the bittersweet circumstances, Tony offers him a genuine smile. “You’ve earned yourself a commendation. Your captain should know he has such a fine officer on his ship. Tell me, who is currently in command of the Achilles?”

“Captain Stephan Rinckes,” Baxter says politely before disappearing into the crowd.

* * *

With the flashlight atop his heavy phaser rifle as his only light source, Captain Rinckes creeps through the corridors. Red alert panels snaking the walls flicker on and off, showering the passageways in an intermittent red hue. Other than that, his surroundings are pitch-black. The captain’s dark blond hair partially covers his hawk-like features as he checks his rifle’s status indicator. Its energy levels are running low, although he can’t remember firing it. His sleeves are torn, his knuckles bloody, but he can’t remember his last fight. There’s nobody around, not here, not in the last couple of corridors. So why does he feel as if a thousand eyes are watching his every move?

The hallways’ curvature makes it impossible to see beyond the next twenty yards. Seconds, maybe minutes, pass by until he encounters a lone doorway on the left bulkhead, its broken doors crooked but intact enough to shield the room behind it. Quietly, almost surgically, he peels open the doors and aims his phaser rifle as fast as his tightened muscles allow.

The room is empty. Even the window, which should display an elaborate star field, show him nothing; his flashlight shines into an infinity of darkness.

Suppressing the urge to give in to the void, Rinckes backs out and collects the strength needed to press on. Before he can set off, a shadow rushes past, through a corner and into the endless maze. Rinckes’ heart misses a beat and compensates by pumping twice as fast. Compelled yet apprehensive, he initiates pursuit, his rifle lifted so he can follow its flashlight’s vague light blot. There are no sounds other than his panting and heavy footfalls as he dashes through the never-ending passageways in search of that apparition.

Rinckes halts near another doorway—or is it the same one?—to catch his breath. After mustering his courage, he quickly turns his upper torso along with his phaser rifle to shine its flashlight through half-open doors into an empty room. No stars in the window. He is all alone.

From out of nowhere, voices begin whispering to him. Startled, he swings around but sees no one while these whispers encroach upon him and grow furious. He can’t make out what they’re saying and panic swells, choking him with invisible hands.

His flashlight goes dark, engulfing the corridor with the same infinite darkness he saw through the window. Despite an uncontrollable urge to call for help, all he can say is a soft, desperate, “Melanie.”

Rinckes opens his eyes and stares at a dun barrier he comes to recognize as the ceiling of his quarters aboard the Achilles. As the confusion between sleeping and waking wears off, he slowly sits up and rubs his temples. The computer detects the captain has woken and automatically synthesizes him a glass of water with the small replicator on his nightstand. The captain soothes his dry throat with a sip of ice-cold water and realizes he is covered in sweat. This nightmare is no stranger to him; it’s intensifying with each visit. He tries to shrug it off, as always, and inspects his attire. He has been sleeping in uniform once again. It is becoming a bad habit. “Computer, what is the time?”

The time is 2312 hours.

This prompts the captain to jump out of bed. He permits himself the luxury of rest as infrequently as any starship commander should during an invasion this cataclysmic and it is wreaking havoc on his sleep schedule. What was to be a quick nap became a lengthy slumber. After allowing himself thirty seconds to tidy his appearance, he hurries out of his quarters.

As the memory of his bad dream fades, Rinckes enters a turbolift and bumps into its sole occupant: the chief medical officer.

Like the captain, Doctor Chris Kingsley is in his mid-forties. With his short, red hair and boyish face, the doctor has the guise of a bully, and he has adjusted his bedside manner to match. His mischievous grin doesn’t help either.

“You have been waiting for me,” Rinckes observes.

“Indeed I have, Stephan.” Dr. Kingsley is the only staff member on a first-name basis with the captain, a privilege not to be overused in public.

“What is it you want to tell me?”

As usual, Dr. Kingsley has his answer ready. “I have prepared sickbay for evacuees in need of medical assistance. I have assigned all medical personnel to their respective duties, making them pull double shifts. I have sought to it that nobody on this ship can move a muscle without knocking over a stack of medical supplies and… Well, I did everything you asked.”

“Good,” Rinckes says. A short silence ensues. Nondescript elevator music would have been fitting. “And that’s why you decided to wait several minutes in the turbolift nearest to my quarters instead of using your combadge?” He knows this question will encourage the good doctor to speak his mind.

Dr. Kingsley jumps at the chance. “You are on your way to welcome the new first officer aboard, right?” He doesn’t await a reply. “Among my medical staff, I have fumbling and stumbling cadets who are older than him. Sure, his service record is exemplary, and several high-ranking officers have recommended him for the job—”

Rinckes lets out a grumble. “And when Starfleet selects him as our new first officer, there isn’t much I can do about it.”

The doctor’s eyebrows rise to the point of breaking. “You didn’t protest?”

“Why should I?”

“You and I both know ‘Tony boy’ managed to climb the ranks solely because he had a benefactor with the powers of God,” Dr. Kingsley says, making a lot of expressive gestures, as he is prone to do when ranting. “The kid is twenty years old.”

“Technically, he might be older,” Rinckes says, his calm demeanor contrasting with the doctor’s stridence. “He has spent a few years as a Q, unbound by the space-time continuum. He could’ve lived entire lifespans over the course of those years.”

“You mean he could be a driveling old geezer masquerading as a young man?” The doctor snorts at the suggestion. “Why not request a Mausaurian first officer? With their reversed aging, you could have a wise XO the size of a toddler. Sure, you’d have to change his diaper and read him a bedtime story once in a while, but other than that he’d make one hell of a fine officer you can carry wherever you go.”

“Chris, are you questioning my decision to comply?” Rinckes asks as the turbolift doors open.

“Um… Yes! And I’m pretty damn sure I’m not alone in this.”

Rinckes brings up a subtle smile. He has gotten used to the doctor’s antics. “There’s one way to find out who’s right,” he says while stepping out the turbolift.

Dr. Kingsley follows him. “Please, Stephan. Let me come along.” He tilts his head and widens his grin. “I don’t want to miss this.”
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Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter IVc

Post by Alexbright99 »

“He’s running late,” Commander Tony Blue says to his wife. After staying at the starbase itself for half a day, he was assigned first officer of the Achilles and directed to this XO’s office, which doubles as their sleeping quarters for the time being, what with the overflow of evacuees. The previous XO, Commander Jennings, must have been a highly capable first officer to be field-promoted and given his own command during a crisis like this. He has left Tony with big shoes to fill.

Ensign Emily Blue has seated herself on a banquette. “The captain is entitled to be late,” she says. “And it’s your duty to make sure he never will be again.” Tony’s lack of a humorous reply prompts her to showcase a reassuring smile. “Relax. You’ll do fine.”

Tony rubs his fingers to stop them from tingling. “I’m grateful Starfleet has given me this chance, but it’s been three years since I last served aboard a starship. I was a completely different person back then.” He shifts his weight on the desk he’s sitting on—his desk, in his office, on a starship with a crew of over 400, of which he’s second in command.

“Yes, you were a different person, someone with three years less experience, not counting the virtually infinite knowledge you gained as a Q.”

Tony sees where she’s getting at but dismisses the idea with a soft groan. “You know that’s not true. It has faded, mostly. There’s a limit to what you can store in this frail collection of carbon and water.” He realizes too late how harsh this must sound. “Sorry,” he adds immediately. Emily disapproves of him talking bitterly about being human, and the presence of a slight wrinkle in her nose reveals her displeasure. That wrinkle always means business.

Luckily, the door chimes, and Tony quickly dismounts his desk. Emily gets up to stand by his side and gently squeezes his arm as a token of reconciliation and support. “Come in,” Tony says to the door in his most mature voice.

Captain Rinckes and Doctor Kingsley enter the XO’s office. The interplay between the captain’s austerity and the doctor’s flippant smirk makes Tony’s stomach tense up.

“Commander Tony ‘Q’ Blue,” Captain Rinckes begins.

“In fact, if I may be so bold,” Dr. Kingsley interjects, “he dropped the Q from his name a few hours ago.”

The captain is unimpressed with this tidbit of information. “Commander Tony Blue, then.”

“Hi, I’m Doctor Chris ‘Q’ Kingsley,” the doctor says as he vigorously shakes Tony’s hand. “I figured I might as well adopt the Q, since you weren’t using it anymore.”

“Chris, that’s not funny,” Captain Rinckes says.

“Sorry, sir. Couldn’t resist.”

Captain Rinckes clears his throat. “Doctor Kingsley is our second officer and chief medical officer.” He gestures at Tony’s wife. “Doctor Kingsley, meet Commander Blue’s wife, Ensign Emily Blue.”

“Ah yes,” Dr. Kingsley says while shaking her hand with the same fervor. “The ensign you nearly got killed two years ago when you decompressed an entire shuttle bay.”

Captain Rinckes doesn’t know how to react to this reminder other than blinking up a storm. Tony and especially Emily will never forget how, in the heat of the moment, Captain Rinckes had carelessly opened a shuttle bay door during their escape from Station A-12.

Emily intervenes to keep the awkwardness from spreading. “All right, Doctor, if your knowledge of our medical records is as amazing as your knowledge of our personnel files, we’ll be in safe hands.”

The doctor acknowledges her riposte with a nod and a wink.

“Commander Tony Blue,” Captain Rinckes says in a formal tone. “Sorry for the lack of decorum, but our strict schedule doesn’t allow any. You are hereby officially appointed first officer of the USS Achilles. I’m sure you’ll go above and beyond to serve to the best of your abilities.”

“I will, sir. Thank you.”

Captain Rinckes directs his attention to Emily. “Welcome aboard the Achilles. I have arranged for you to meet with our security chief. He’s waiting for you in the armory. Your first shift will begin shortly and I need you to acquaint yourself with the security staff. Be assured, serving on a top-of-the-line starship will be more demanding than guarding a quiet museum.”

“Yes, sir,” Emily says, doing her best to take that last remark in stride. With a brisk pace, she walks out of the office and into the corridor.

Once she has left, Captain Rinckes says to Tony, “I have an assignment for you.” Dr. Kingsley crosses his arms and listens closely as his grin turns sardonic. The captain either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. “I need you to—” A chirp from his combadge interrupts him.

Bridge to Captain Rinckes.” Tony recognizes Baxter’s voice. “The Altonoids will be arriving sooner than expected. Their ETA has been reduced from six hours to one hour from now.

“Understood, Lieutenant. Do what you can to speed up the evacuation.”

Aye, Captain. Bridge out.

Captain Rinckes sighs. “Commander Blue, I want you to report to the bridge and assume command. Undock from Starbase 43 as soon as possible, but make sure every evacuee is given the opportunity to board the ship before we leave. Is that clear?”

“Crystal clear, sir,” Tony says seriously, dutifully, and—above all—nervously. He starts toward the corridor but halts upon realizing Dr. Kingsley is shadowing him.

Captain Rinckes has other plans for the doctor. “Chris, go to sickbay and make certain everything is in top order. We cannot afford any delays.”

“But, Stephan.” The doctor doesn’t even try to mask his disappointment. “Every member of my staff knows exactly what to do. I’ve briefed every single one of them personally. We could—”


Just as Tony walks off and the doctor wants to throw in the towel, he spots Tony’s limping gait. “Look!” he says, overtaking the new first officer and pointing at his legs. “He’s wobbling! The kid needs medical attention. I can’t let him to go the bridge and take command without my supervision.”

Confronting the doctor, Tony says, “If you’d read my medical file, you would’ve known I have spent two hours being patched up in Starbase 43’s main infirmary prior to boarding this vessel.”

Dr. Kingsley’s smug smile plays up again. “Still, it would be advisable—”

“I’ve been declared fit for duty. I’m about to obey the captain’s orders, and I suggest you do the same.” And with that, the commander exits his office.

Before the doors shut behind him, Tony hears Dr. Kingsley say to the captain, with unmistakable sincerity, “I like him already.”

* * *

A turbolift brings Commander Tony Blue to the bridge of the Achilles. When its doors open, he notices the command center has benefited from the same modern design and technology as the rest of the ship. Especially that hovering, translucent holographic interface in the back half of the bridge appears to be every bit as modern as impractical. The prominent three-dimensional viewscreen displays the innards of Starbase 43, which is smaller but otherwise similar to Starbase 9 and Earth Spacedock, right down to the layout of its docking area.

The crew is staring at Tony in such abrupt silence that he suspects he has forgotten to put on a rather important part of his uniform.

He hasn’t.

Tony heads for the captain’s chair, currently occupied by an attractive officer in her early thirties. Her ethnicity is hard to ascertain, but with her tanned skin and dark hair, she has an exotic flair about her. Her face is all business, however; if she looked any more serious, her ponytail would explode, Tony’s sure of it.

He walks up to her, and his slight—but evident—limp sends his self-consciousness teetering over the edge of embarrassment. The only one here who is emitting friendly vibes is Lieutenant Baxter at the helm. Next to him sits a Vulcan ensign, manning the OPS station. The science station is operated by Lieutenant Kels, twenty-three years old and renowned for being one of the youngest chief science officers in Starfleet. She’s also the only Andorian bridge officer, undoubtedly masking the loss of her home planet like everyone else here—by burying it in professionalism. The other stations are staffed by lower-ranking officers. Even they are staring at Tony.

“Hi there,” he says. Really? Hi there?! he scolds himself internally. Too late to do anything about that. Keep going. “I am Commander Tony Blue.”

He is greeted with a few muffled hi’s and hellos.

The attractive but serious officer rises from the captain’s chair. She’s shorter than Tony, which doesn’t stop him from feeling intimidated. “I am Lieutenant Commander Erin Crow, chief tactical officer.” Ice drips from her voice. “So you’re the new first officer?”

“That’s right,” Tony replies, squeaking rather than speaking.

“Shouldn’t you take command of this vessel, then?” she asks, as if challenging him.

“Yes. Please return to your station,” Tony says—with the correct timbre this time. Before she can follow this command, he adds, “What’s the status of the evacuation?”

“Everything is going according to plan. I trust you’ve studied Commander Jennings’ evacuation plan? It was his last action before his transfer.”

“I haven’t yet been able to wade through every detail. I’m merely interested in its status.”

“As you wish.” Erin Crow accesses her station, located behind the empty second officer’s chair. “Evacuation is 10 percent complete, as predicted in Jennings’ report. We have sped up the process according to his emergency evac procedures.”

“Thank you, Commander,” Tony says with forced politeness and he sits down in the captain’s chair. The bridge crew is still intently watching his every move. “Carry on,” he says in a slightly insinuating tone, reminding them successfully to get back to work.

Tony can’t help but notice that the bridge, with its rectangular shape, resembles an abundantly spacious coffin lined with the drabbest of tan colors. The cold demeanor of most of the crew doesn’t elevate the atmosphere either. How he misses the Kennedy.

* * *

Like her husband, it has been a while since Ensign Emily Blue last served on a Federation flagship. In fact, she had last set foot on a proper starship two years ago, when this very same vessel transported her from the Garcon Nebula to Starbase 9, which was destroyed by Altonoids shortly into the war. It seems like ancient history to her.

Her first mission entails being stationed halfway one of several passenger gateways connected to the ship, supervising an endless stream of evacuees in all shapes and sizes. They pass by without as much as a side-glance and disappear into the ship’s corridors, following the directions of Emily’s new colleagues.

She insists on giving the hundreds of evacuees a sweet smile, yet her cheeks are already starting to hurt. In this capacity, she feels like a redundant greeter, but she’s here to intervene should any trouble arise. Her phaser strapped to her belt, prominently in view, serves as a reminder that despite her cuddly appearance, she’s a force to be reckoned with whenever anyone should decide to exhibit unacceptable behavior. The Achilles is no cruise liner, Security Chief Lieutenant Gibbs had instructed her. Order should be maintained.

Countless droves of people are pouring out of the waiting rooms in this vast docking area, which is flooded in flashing red light, indicating the starbase has gone to red alert. Shuttlecraft are flying around in frantic disorder. Standing on her toes, she spots a Norway-class vessel loading up evacuees as well. Everybody is trying to get off this starbase, and fast.
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Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter IVd

Post by Alexbright99 »

No sign of the captain yet. Commander Tony Blue is fine with his absence, because the evacuation is running on schedule.

“Evacuation halfway complete,” Lt. Cmdr. Crow says.

“Almost fourteen hundred evacuees in ten minutes. Not bad,” Lt. Baxter says—out of turn maybe, but the commanding officer doesn’t mind.

“That means we have about forty-five minutes left. That’s more than we need,” Tony says, trying to sound reassuring despite inadvertently reminding everyone the unstoppable Altonoid fleet is a mere forty-five minutes away.

A console starts bleeping, which is never a good sign. This particular warning signal originates from the tactical station. Lt. Cmdr. Crow immediately checks to see what’s causing it, and her expression transforms from serious to seriously worried. “They’ve tricked us again.” The crew goes dead quiet, pausing to hear what’s next, even though they’re bound to dislike it. “The Altonoids are much nearer than our sensors led us to believe.”

While Tony tries to remain poised after having had the rug pulled out from under him, Lieutenant Kels is tapping hurried commands into her science station. “It’s true,” she says. Her blue skin has become a tad gray, the Andorian equivalent of blanching. “They’ve masked their hull signatures from our long-range sensors with some sort of temporal field. How is this possible?”

“Good old Loïdian engineering,” Tony says, though it’s nothing more than an educated guess. “How close are they now?”

“I can’t be completely sure,” Lt. Cmdr. Crow says, sporting her ever-present scowl. “Sensor readings are still garbled. They could be right on our doorstep.”

“What are we going to do?” Lt. Baxter asks, voicing everybody’s thoughts.

With all the confidence he finds within, Tony composes himself and says, “We’re going to inform the captain.” Somehow, he presses the correct button on his left armrest. “Bridge to Captain Rinckes.”

No reply.

“Bridge to Ca—”

I’ve seen the data,” the captain says over the comm. “I’ll be there shortly. Rinckes out.

“He is a man of few words,” Lt. Baxter says, noticing Tony’s puzzlement.

“Some things never change,” Tony says with a wry smile. He directs his attention to the Vulcan at the OPS station. “Sivar, how many—” Realizing he called the Vulcan by the wrong name, he shuts his mouth, shocked at his error.

The ensign swivels to face him. “I am Ensign Surtak. Who is Sivar?”

Sivar, the USS Kennedy’s science officer. Tony can’t believe he’d actually one day miss that guy, with his inability to laugh, his unfaltering placidity, his unwillingness to use contractions in his speech. This always got on the commander’s nerves, but Tony would trade in quite a few amenities in life just to have Sivar annoy him once more.

Ensign Surtak raises an eyebrow. “Sir?”

“Um… right,” Tony says while regaining focus. “How many operational shuttles do we carry at present?”

“Twenty-four in total, although I do not—”

“How many of them are equipped with functioning transporters?”

“Sixteen, sir.”

“Let’s put them to good use.”

“What are you suggesting, Commander?”

Tony had almost forgotten about the Vulcan tendency to ask the blindingly obvious. “Boost power to transporter systems,” he says, leaning forward in his chair, “especially the large cargo transporters. Lieutenant Baxter, clear all moorings and request permission to undock. Commander Crow, assemble a team of crewmen and make sure the shuttles’ transporters are overheating with the sheer amount of evacuees beaming in. I don’t want us to overstay our welcome, but I also don’t want anyone left behind.”

The crew carries out his orders without protest, except for a questioning grimace from Lt. Cmdr. Crow as she passes Tony on her way to the turbolift. He ignores her unspoken discontent and concentrates on the viewscreen.

* * *

Uproar surges through the masses. “What is going on?” Ensign Emily Blue shouts at Lieutenant Jeremy Gibbs, the imposing, blond chief of security, who crosses a river of stampeding evacuees to reach Emily.

“The new first officer has ordered the passenger gates closed. I can think of only one reason: The Altonoids must be nearer than we thought.”

Emily gestures at the frightened evacuees who are trying to traverse the gate before it’s sealed off. “We can’t leave them!”

“Let’s hope your husband knows what he’s doing. Come along!” With that, Gibbs joins the rushing crowd in their push for the ship. Emily does her best to keep up.

The entire starbase has become even gloomier than it was moments ago. Instead of a safe haven, it has morphed into a gigantic death trap, like the attic of a burning house filling with smoke. Desperate people are trying to get themselves and their families to safety, and although some attempt to knock Emily aside, she can’t blame them for being scared.

Once Gibbs and Emily have reached the airlock, the security chief guides her toward the airlock controls, just around the corner, where six of her new colleagues are waiting for them.

“We’ve received word from the bridge. We’ve been cleared to depart,” a tough Coridan security officer says.

“We have to close the gate now,” another officer says.

With a short-lived trace of reluctance, Gibbs comes to a decision. “Ensign Munroz,” he says to the Coridan. “Stay here and close the airlock on my command. The rest of you, draw your weapons and follow me.”

* * *

On the bridge of the Achilles, tension is mounting to nearly tangible levels. “Helm, why aren’t we departing yet?” Tony asks.

“The chief helmsman is adhering to protocol, Commander,” Ensign Surtak cuts in. “Passenger gate 2 has not been disconnected.”

Tony balls his hand into a fist. “We have to undock right away. We might…” He almost said “we might be too late already” aloud.

Surtak types a handful of commands into his U-shaped OPS console and says with enviable calmness, “It appears airlock 2 is closing as we speak.”

“Now we’re talking! Mister Baxter, as soon as you can, maneuver us toward the doors.” Tony sits back, unable to keep his left foot from tapping a nervous rhythm.

* * *

Hordes of refugees stare in confusion at the phasers being pointed at them as airlock 2 is sliding shut, denying access to their last chance of survival. Emily can hardly bear to look them in the eyes. She’s one of seven officers who are aiming their phasers—set to stun for all the difference that makes—at the refugees to prevent them from making a desperate dash for the airlock. She hopes no one is foolish enough to do so; she would have no choice but to open fire. The corridor behind her empties as those fortunate enough to have made it aboard disperse.

Once the airlock has sealed with a final metallic clunk, a force field activates to protect the people trapped in the passenger gate. It’s meant to keep them safe, but now it forms yet another impenetrable barrier between salvation and certain death. As the Achilles sets off with aft thrusters roaring, Emily watches these poor souls through the airlock’s window hatch. Officers, civilians, children—they will be shown no mercy by the Altonoids.

If there’s one thing she has learned in her short career, it’s that following orders like these is harder than one thinks when signing up for the job. She’s about to turn away and deal with this on her own terms when the first couple of rows start disappearing in multiple blue transporter beams.

* * *

In the main shuttle bay, most of the parked shuttles are emitting blue light due to continuous transporter activity. Small groups of relieved evacuees are stepping out to be guided to their temporary housing by a cordon of Starfleet officers. Lt. Commander Erin Crow oversees this part of the evacuation from the bay’s control room, which offers a marvelous view of Commander Blue’s effective strategy.

“We’ve managed to increase the shuttle evacuation rate to 160 evacuees per minute,” an enthusiastic young officer standing next to her says. “That combined with our increased transporter usage has drastically improved our overall evacuation rate. Was this your idea?”

Erin Crow grits her teeth.

* * *

The Achilles glides through the vacuum of Starbase 43’s docking area. The base has opened its space doors to unveil an unlimited field of stars and the inherent promise of escape.

“We are proceeding toward the exit,” Lt. Baxter says. “Initiating Pythagoras maneuver.” As enormous as those doors are, Starbase 43 was built in an era when starships were comparatively modest in size, and the Achilles is too wide to fit through without tilting 30 to 45 degrees. The chief helmsman has to be careful not to hit any shuttles or passenger carriers intent on leaving the starbase at all costs. They’re buzzing past, under, and over the Achilles in a death-defying scurry for freedom. It reminds Tony of that old saying of rats abandoning a sinking ship.

“Evacuation is 68 percent complete,” Ensign Surtak reports once the Achilles has squeezed through the space doors. “Your plan appears to be working, Commander.”

Tony nods in approval. His anxiety hasn’t waned, but for the moment it appears he hasn’t forgotten how to command a starship. On the contrary, the initial hostilities toward him are dwindling, or maybe that’s merely because he sent Lt. Cmdr. Crow to the shuttle bay.

Just as Tony allows himself to settle back, Ensign Surtak announces, “Captain on the bridge.”

Tony jumps up to stand at attention. He glances to his right and sees Captain Rinckes stepping out of the turbolift. For some irrational reason, he feels a cold shiver running down his spine as the captain approaches the center of the bridge with his usual lack of cheeriness.

“Seems like you’re running the show today,” Captain Rinckes says, halting next to his first officer. “At ease, Commander.” With his tall and muscular physique, the captain is a daunting figure, especially from this close. “I heard other ships are copying the shuttle strategy you conjured up.”

“Once again we’re on the run,” Tony says.

Captain Rinckes stares off into an unseen, distant place of emptiness and says, “Just like old times.” It gives Tony the creeps, so he steps aside and lets the captain sit down on his rightful chair.

“Viewer aft,” Captain Rinckes says, and the viewscreen displays a three-dimensional, shrinking image of Starbase 43. “Continue on course for another 5000 kilometers, then hold position. Ensign Surtak, how many evacuees do we have aboard?”

“2624 out of 3478. Evacuation rate steady at 375 evacuees per minute. Estimated time of completion: two minutes and twenty seconds.”

“Is that enough?”

Lt. Kels—still a touch pale—processes the data on her console. “Impossible to say.”

“The Star Scream, Nova, and Arancibia have undocked too,” Lt. Baxter says. “They’re assuming combat formation with us.”

“What?” the captain scoffs. “Do they actually believe we’re going to defend the starbase? Signal them to leave upon completing their respective evacuations. Starbase 43 is lost; our primary objective is to get the evacuees to safety.”

“Along with us,” Tony says with a wry smirk.

“You think we should stay?” Captain Rinckes replies without friendliness or humor. “I can have a shuttle prepared for you in seconds if you want to stay.”

Before Tony can say anything funny, the tactical station starts bleeping again. Tony rushes over to it and pushes the nervous ensign manning it aside. It takes a moment to interpret the incoming data. Everyone watches his every move until he says with a slightly trembling voice, “They’re here. They’re about to enter visual range.”

“Damn!” Captain Rinckes stands up and studies the viewscreen, looking for the first inevitable sign of trouble. “Tactical analysis.”

“Two hundred and fifty-eight vessels primed for battle.”

The captain remains speechless, as does the rest of the crew.

“But, sir,” Tony says, his gaze fixed on the tactical station. “Not all of them are Altonoid. Sensors are reading twenty-eight vessels of a different origin.”

“Explain, Commander.”

Tony swallows a big lump in his throat. “They are S’Prenn, sir.”

This leaves the bridge crew absolutely baffled, and they express their befuddlement with shocked gasps and soft muttering. The captain silences them by speaking up, a thin veneer of anger and disbelief coating his words. “Impossible. They would never ally themselves with the Altonoids.”

“The Altonoids and S’Prenn are charging weapons,” Tony says, dismissing a sudden onset of lightheadedness. “They’re almost on us.”

“We require at least one additional minute to beam the remaining 397 evacuees aboard,” Ensign Surtak says.

“And that’s just us,” Tony says. “The total evacuation is far from complete.”

A dark cloud obscures the stars on the main viewer, an ominous cluster of hostile starships, most of them featuring the Altonoids’ typical rectangular design. The others are indeed S’Prenn in origin, having the appearance of colossal spiders, ready to swoop down on their prey.

Lt. Baxter hesitates for a split second before asking the question on everyone’s mind. “Your orders, sir?”

Captain Rinckes watches as the fleet of warships approaches like a swarm of hungry locusts.
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