Chapter 14: Battle Lines
Commander Johnson was trying to figure out if their ruse would work. The Gryphon was at full stop and defenseless . . . with a Romulan vessel parked dead ahead of them. Lt. Higdon had bridged the Gryphon's holo imager and communications systems in an attempt to convince the Romulans that their Commander Demar had control of it. The Romulans should see Demar's image and hear his voice in place of Johnson's. The Romulans were now hailing them. She hoped Higdon's idea would go off without a hitch.
Lieutenant (jg) Anderson spoke. "Sir, they are still hailing us. What should we do?"
Johnson looked over to Higdon who shrugged her shoulders and said, "You have to try something before they get suspicious."
Johnson nodded in agreement. "Return the hail."
The viewscreen came to life with the face of the Romulan ship's First Officer. "Commander Demar, have you secured the vessel and taken over the crew?"
Johnson answered. "Yes, our forces have overwhelmed the crew and we have control of this Federation vessel. Unfortunately the spy we planted loaded a virus into the computer system and we can't do anything unless we get the codes to undo the virus."
The Romulan looked over to one of his crewmates. "Upload the virus doctor to Commander Demar's ship." He then looked back at his viewscreen. "You will have your codes, sir. What shall we do meanwhile?"
Johnson replied, "Stand fast, while we download the virus doctor."
"Yes, sir," said the Romulan First Officer.
Johnson looked over to Higdon who was frantically installing the virus doctor. Seconds later the computers came up and the ship's systems that had been down came back to life. Higdon gave Johnson a thumbs-up and Johnson nodded.
"We have downloaded the virus doctor. Now we need to run some preliminary tests to make sure the systems work properly," said Johnson.
The Romulan First Officer nodded in response. Johnson then walked over to the security station. "Sergeant Guidarini, as soon as I get the Romulan to drop their shields, target their ship and fire a full spread of quantum torpedoes. We will take some damage, but we fry them in the process."
Guidarini nodded and started to put Commander Johnson's plan into motion. Johnson looked to the viewscreen again. "OK. Lower your shields so that I may beam back over."
The First Officer motioned to a member of his crew to lower the shields. Johnson smiled and said, "Thank you. I will beam over momentarily."
"Yes, sir. We await your presence," replied the Romulan.
Johnson looked toward Guidarini who locked target onto the ship and pushed the torpedo release controls. Four blue orbs shot forth and slammed heavily into the Romulan Bird of Prey, ripping off a port side wing and blowing the neck section of the ship apart into millions of pieces. They clanged off the Gryphon's regenerative ablative armor as the crew hung onto whatever they could to weather the storm. After the last fragments disintegrated before their eyes, they all cheered at the marvel of Commander Johnson's performance and quick thinking.
Johnson lowered her head and let out a sigh of relief. They did it. They saved the ship and took out one of the enemy vessels that would have been marked for station Deep Space Nine. After coming down from her adrenaline rush, Johnson straightened up, moved to the center seat, and sat down.
"OK. Let's get this ship on the road. We have to catch up with those other Romulan ships and take them out before they get to the station. Sergeant Guidarini, assume Tactical and contact Commander VanEseltine and tell him we need him on the Bridge. Petty Officer Post, hail the station and let them know we are on our way," ordered Johnson as she looked ahead.
Guidarini responded, "Aye aye, sir."
Petty Officer Post looked back to Johnson. "I have Deep Space Nine for you, sir,"
"On screen," Johnson acknowledged.
Lt. Colonel Smith's face appeared on the viewscreen. "Smith, here. Good to hear from you, Gryphon. We were worried that we'd lost you."
Johnson came back, "Well, sir, it seems we got out of the fire on this one, barely. We were sabotaged by a Romulan spy and the ships systems were virused and knocked down. We managed to coax the Romulans into giving us the virus doctor for it. We have full power and all systems are functioning normally. We can be back at the station within minutes."
Smith smiled a little. "You better hurry up or you will miss the party. It seems we have two Romulan Birds of Prey making their way here. We sent out the Defiant to take 'em out and to look for you."
Johnson swivelled a little in her chair. "We will intercept the Defiant and engage the Romulans before they get to the station. Make sure there are a couple of cool ones waiting for us when we get there."
Smith chuckled. "OK, Commander. I'm not sure they will let us back into Quark's, but I'll see what I can do. Good luck, Gryphon. Do us some justice!"
With that, the viewscreen went black. Johnson gazed into the starfield in front of her, contemplating leading this maiden ship into battle.
Kennard turned around and looked like she made a revelation. Jasienski looked surprised and wondered what was wrong with her cohort.
"Julie, I've got it. It's been there all the time!" exclaimed Kennard.
"What has, Lynda?" asked Jasienski.
"The secret to this whole story. At least I think I know, but there is really no way to prove it."
"What kind of gibberish are you speaking? You pull me out of interrogation and you tell me this. What exactly do you know?" asked Jasienski.
Lynda paced around. "Julie, the Romulans are just a small piece of this big puzzle. There are some other players in this game we are in and we are just starting to see the picture now."
Jasienski looked at Kennard. "No. You seem to be the one who can see the whole picture. I don't know what you are talking about."
"Can't you see, Julie? Cook gave us plenty of hints. Now all we have to do is follow up on them."
Jasienski leaned against the bulkhead and thought for a minute. "Yeah, she did say some funny stuff. Do you have any hunches?"
Kennard nodded. "You bet I do. The only problem is we have to get off the ship and get back to headquarters to find out."
"No way, Lynda. We are stuck here for the long ride. We will have to make Ops from here on the Gryphon. Let's get a copy of the interrogation record and we'll analyze everything Cook told us and figure out what we can glean from that."
Kennard agreed, "Yes, that sounds good. I hope we are just dealing with a simple Romulan and Dominion plot, but I think we are gonna find out we aren't the only ones playing chess today."
The Gryphon sliced through space at warp nine, trying to catch up to the Birds of Prey.
Commander VanEseltine came onto the Bridge and immediately walked over to Commander Johnson. "Good job, Commander. What brilliant execution. I knew you could get us out of that jam."
Johnson smiled then motioned at Higdon. "Yeah, well, give most of the credit to Lt. Commander Higdon. If it wasn't for her quick thinking and computer program, we wouldn't have been able to pull this off."
"Well, I'm just glad that we are away and that systems are on-line. I need you to assume the Helm again, Commander. We will need your flying skills for when we get into battle."
Johnson got up out of the center seat and walked over to the Helm. VanEseltine sat in the Captain's chair and looked at the crew on the bridge. He noticed Chief Urban was missing.
"Where is Chief Urban?"
Sergeant Guidarini spoke. "Sir, we lost the Chief when he saved Commander Johnson from being executed by the Romulan Commander. He died valiantly, sir."
VanEseltine bowed his head. "I'm sorry to hear that, Sergeant. Urban was a good man."
"He died in the line of duty doing what he wanted, sir. He will not be forgotten."
"No, he won't, Sergeant. Commander, how long until we intercept Romulan vessels?" asked VanEseltine.
Johnson looked back. "We should reach them in three minutes at current speed. They are about ten minutes away from reaching Deep Space Nine."
VanEseltine rubbed his bearded chin. "OK. Are we going this alone, folks?"
Johnson leaned back again. "No, Commander. The Defiant has been sent out to engage the Romulans as well."
VanEseltine looked over to Guidarini. "Sergeant, where is the Defiant now?"
Guidarini looked down at his tactical station. "Sir, they are closing in on the Romulans. Looks like they should be engaging them right about . . . "
"Damage report!" yelled Worf, as his ship took another hit.
Decker yelled back. "Shields holding at 40 percent, sir. Their shields are down to 50 percent on one of the Romulan ships and 70 percent on the other. They are moving pretty fast, sir."
Worf looked ahead. "This is unacceptable. Attack pattern Echo Lima. Fire a full blast from the phaser banks, followed by a vertical spread of quantum torpedoes."
Decker nodded in acknowledgment of the command and swung the Defiant around, blazing away with phasers and launching torpedoes. Brilliant red streaks flamed forward from the Defiant's Gatling phasers. They found their mark, slashing into the shields of the first Romulan Bird of Prey.
"Direct hit, sir. Shields compromised on starboard hull, sir. Following up with torpedoes now," said Decker.
One by one, blue balls of quantum light made their way from the Defiant's torpedo tubes and flashed forward, smashing hard into the damaged Romulan Bird of Prey. Bright explosions appeared, fizzling out quickly as the vacuum of space denied oxygen for their flames.
The Defiant rocked violently as the failing Romulan ship rammed hard into the Defiant. The Bird of Prey exploded fiercely against Defiant's shields, tearing down the remaining shields and sending the Defiant reeling. Crew members flew out of their seats and were flung around all over the bridge. The front port hull was smashed, compromising its integrity.
Worf pulled himself back into his chair. He looked and saw that Decker was not as fortunate. A large beam had fallen and landed heavily upon him, killing him where he lay. Shields managed to make it to the Helm, bloody himself.
Worf wiped blood from his forehead. "What is our status, Shields?"
Shields shook his head in disgust. "Sir, main power and reserves are off line right now. We are working strictly on battery power. Shields are down to 5 percent since I'm channeling auxiliary power to it right now."
Worf appeared distressed. He looked at the cracked viewscreen and saw the other Romulan ship coming around for another pass, hoping to finish them off. Worf slammed his fist down on the chair. "This is not the way for a warrior to die, defenseless as a baby."
Shields face lit up. "Not so fast, sir. Look behind the Bird of Prey!"
Worf looked up and saw the Gryphon come out of warp directly behind the Bird of Prey. The comm system, audio only, came to life. "This is Commander VanEseltine with the USS Gryphon. Stay put. We've got your back, Commander."
Worf smiled and opened his mouth, emitting a loud yell that only a Klingon could. It rattled throughout the bridge of the battered Defiant.
The Gryphon swooped in and lined up the Bird of Prey. Johnson was doing her best to keep up with the speedy ship. VanEseltine looked over toward Guidarini. "Sergeant, do you have weapons lock?"
Guidarini looked back up from his tactical panel. "Yes, sir. We can fire when ready."
VanEseltine waited for a long moment, waiting until he could see the Bird of Prey in his sights. When it started to cloak, VanEseltine knew he didn't have much time. "Fire!"
The Gryphon spit forth barrage after barrage of red phaser bolts that hammered the Bird of Prey hard, knocking out critical systems that prevented it from cloaking. The Bird of Prey swung around and attempted to return fire. Green beams of disruptor fire glanced off the advanced shields of the Gryphon augmented by the capabilities and upgrade of the Minos computer. Guidarini fired another burst from the phaser banks then let loose with three torpedoes that finished off the crippled Bird of Prey.
VanEseltine clenched his fist in approval then looked over toward Guidarini. "Great shooting, Marine!"
Guidarini nodded, he knew he did his job well. "All in the days work of a Starfleet Marine, sir."
VanEseltine looked over toward Lieutenant (jg) Anderson. "Lieutenant, beam aboard all the surviving crew on the Defiant and hail Deep Space Nine. Let them know that catastrophe is averted for now."
Anderson acknowledged the order. "Aye aye, sir."
Battle lines had been drawn and, until they could figure out what was going
on, the Romulans and Federation were now at war. The future would reveal why
they were at war.
|(Next chapter never became available.)|
|• Honor Among Warriors: The
Gryphon Story, © 1998 by William D. Smith, is reproduced from
the May 1998 issue of Gryphon Trek
Gazette with permission.|
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