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The Final Push - Part One

Posted on Sun Aug 29th, 2021 @ 11:10am by Captain Nycolas Temple & Commander Owen Nash & Lieutenant Farizah Alani & Lieutenant Mindo & Lieutenant James Smith & Lieutenant Krysia Kaleri-Smith & Ensign Aenardha Sh'vastarth & Cailus Griffin & Admiral Gordon Francis & Crewman Recruit Qaraq & Crewman Ian Milkovich & Katya

Mission: The Gauntlet
Location: USS Pandora

ON:

With the Breen now actively attempting to breach Paradise's boundaries, the time had come for the Pandora to make the final push for home. Everyone was gathered at their stations, waiting for the signal. On the Bridge, Captain Temple was sitting pensively in the command chair, eyes fixated on the viewscreen ahead.

In orbit of Paradise were the gathered forces of the Expanse's Resistance - ships from the Anh'Iran, Irokari, Delavi System, Qaraq's fleet, and a wide array of merchant marines from trade locations around this area of the Expanse. It was an impressive display of small forces coming together to create one larger army; they could only hope it was enough to repel the Alrakis Pact.

Owen sat beside Nyx in the XO's chair, knowing that soon they would be leaving and making the final journey home. After what had seemed like an eternity of exploring the Expanse and going through the various experiences they had shared, going back to Federation space almost seemed like a small jaunt but he knew better than that.

Watching the viewscreen, he examined the tactics of the Expanse's Resistance force against the might of the forces the Alrakis Pact had brought in. Whatever the outcome, it was clear that as soon as the signal was given, they needed to get out of there fast.

"Helm, stand by on our mark to leave with expediency... punch the impulse engines up to full as soon as we are clear of the station," he said.

"Yes, sir." Ensign Milkovich replied immediately. He still had misgivings about his last conversation with Captain Temple, but he had slept and passed his medical examination and was okay to serve on the Bridge.

Between the briefing and now, Krysia had spent her time with her treasured children. She wasn’t required to attend her duties whilst on maternity leave but she wanted to be a part of what was happening. With the ship departing the expanse Krysia left the twins with the ship nursery, before making her way to the bridge. Exiting out onto the bridge she made her way across to her seat offering both Nyx and Owen a smile as she gingerly sat down.

Admiral Francis emerged out of the opposite turbolift in uniform. "Captain, I want to be here for this last leg of our journey out of the Expanse. I'm not taking command, but this is not a request."

Krysia looked at Francis. “Take my seat Admiral, I can sit at Science II” she smiled politely as she moved to stand up.

The Admiral held up a hand as Krysia was getting up. "I appreciate the gesture, Lieutenant, but I prefer to stand," he said, and perched himself behind Krysia next to tactical.

"It is an honour to have you, Admiral." Nyx said.

Lieutenant Farizah Alani was tending to administrative needs in her office. She was essentially on call if needed back.on the bridge. It was one of the downsides to her new position: paperwork, and plenty of it from the glancing of her PADD. Several reports needed reviewed.

=== INTELLIGENCE ===

Aenardha sat at her desk, perusing information on her PADD. Looking for anything that could aid them in their travel, for any unseen threat. She reached out and felt about the ship. Not at any thoughts but of feelings. There was a communal feeling of concern along with a fear that seemed to have brought focus to the objective ahead. There was bravery. There also came a slight feeling of resentment as though very few, if not one person, wanted to stop this, to stop the Pandora, but that feeling was overlaid by a feeling of helplessness.

The mood on the bridge was of tense focus and determination.

“Sir,” Aenardha brought her mind back into the officer. She turned to Lt. Smith. “Should you be on the bridge? We are about to depart Paradise.”

James was deep in thought going over what his staff was doing when he looked up at what she was saying, looking around he saw that everyone was busy at there tasks. “Yes Ensign, I’m heading there now keep me informed if you discover anything that could aid us. In the meantime, your in charge here while I am on the bridge.” Smith turned and left the Intell offices and headed to the nearest turbolift before long he was walking out on the bridge and heading to his station.

=== BRIDGE ===

Owen signalled Mindo, who was standing behind him at the bridge's Engineering console. "Mindo... We'll need you to have the warp engines ready to jump to warp as soon as we can and ideally, pushing up to maximum warp as fast as they can, understood?"

"Yes sir," Mindo said with a nod. While he was usually adamant about staying down in the core, Mindo knew the next few hours would be critical, and he felt being on the bridge would allow faster response time for adjustments to the engines, shields, weapons, and other various systems.

"Engines at full capacity," Mindo reported from his station. "We can give you full propulsion on your command, Captain. Shields and weapons systems also standing by."

"Thank you, Lieutenant." Nyx responded over his shoulder, before looking back ahead. "Ensign Milkovich, signal to the Resistance that we are ready."

"Aye, Captain." Milkovich called back, tapping at his console. "We have the fleet on open hail, Sir."

Nyx nodded, speaking up, "From the crew of the Pandora, I want to wish you all the very best in your coming battle. You are fighting for the freedoms of the whole Expanse; for every planet, system, business, and family that has been oppressed and ruled by the Alrakis Pact. Today, you send them the message that the Expanse is a free territory. An independent territory. YOUR territory." There was a round of applause and cries of agreement across the Fleet comms. Nyx smiled and waited for it to die down. "I also cannot forget that you are doing this to protect us and help us. I thank you on behalf of every one on this ship who are just trying to get back to our home and our families. The Federation will know of your bravery." He stopped there, unable to give any further commitments. "Thank you." He finished.

Sitting in her Fire Bird, Katya smiled and responded back, "Good luck to the Pandora, as well. May we see each other again soon, in more peaceful times."

Qaraq's booming voice came over the comms now. "The Resistance will toast to your escape after the battle, Captain Temple! When we meet again, the ale is on the house! Be well in your journey home!"

"And to you, too, Qaraq." Nyx called back.

"The Fleet is preparing to leave." Ensign Milkovich reported.

"Keep the comms open, I want to know how their negotiations with the Pact progress." Nyx ordered, "We need to be ready for our moment."

"Aye, sir." The Ensign nodded.

From the view screen, the Bridge could see the Resistance ships powering up their engines. One by one they slowly turned and taxied away from Paradise Outpost, heading towards their destination. Katya and her Fire Birds led the pack, their blazing red engines lighting up the space around them momentarily, giving a flurry of energy. Inside Paradise, scores of people were watching from the large windows and they cheered as the Resistance moved out.

Nyx watched the ships leave with a nervous breath; the plan was now in motion. He spoke, "The Resistance will meet with the Alrakis Pact forces guarding the Carnwennan Corridor first. They will form a barrier and push back against the Pact if required. Once we have an opening, the Pandora will head at high warp through to the Rentara Nebula. Hopefully, by the time the Pact realises we have gone, we will have made enough distance into the Nebula where they will struggle to follow us. All clear?"

"As a summer's day, Captain," Admiral Francis replied.

=== The Expanse ===

The Fire Queen lead the resistance from Paradise Outpost, the group of ships from all around the Expanse following in unison. It wasn't long however until they came upon a large fleet of Breen and Tzenkethi vessels - they were spread out in combat formation, smaller squadrons grouped together, ensuring the path forward was blocked. Katya gave a signal and the Resistance ships slowed down to face them - both sides meeting for the first time.

In the Breen's lead ship, Thot Syn watched these independent ships gathering with a quiet tilt of his head. "There are more than I considered." He commented in their garbled, robotic tone. "Is the Starfleet vessel with them?"

After a scan of the enemy convoy, the report came back negative. Thot Syn nodded, "Very well."

As the Resistance Fleet came to a complete stop, a message was broadcast towards them all.

"YOU WILL STAND DOWN IMMEDIATELY AND HAND OVER THE ENEMY VESSEL KNOWN AS THE USS PANDORA TO THE ALRAKIS PACT. WE ARE THE RULERS OF THE EXPANSE."

Katya immediately hit her comms button in response. "If you have to claim you are the rulers, then you are not truly in control. My people are free. We are ready to fight for that freedom but we are also willing to talk."

The Alrakis Fleet began to power up their weapons, targeting the Resistance ships. Another message came across;

"YOU WILL BE DESTROYED. PARADISE OUTPOST WILL BE RECLAIMED. THE PANDORA WILL BE TAKEN. STAND DOWN."

Standing by Katya's side, her mother leaned in. "They will outnumber us, my infant. What is your plan?"

"We're just going to distract them, Malka." Katya replied tersely. "Waste their time by trying to negotiate." She nodded to the ship next to her. "Qaraq will try next."

As soon as she had said it, Qaraq's booming voice came over the comm, sounding far more authoritative than the Breen. His ship took its position front and center as he made his stand.

"THIS IS QARAQ, CAPTAIN OF THE DELAVI DEFENSE FORCE. PARADISE STATION AND THE PANDORA ARE UNDER THE PROTECTION OF MYSELF AND THE DELAVI PEOPLE. STAND DOWN OR WE WILL BE FORCED TO-"

The searing, gut-wrenching noise of several disruptors firing drowned out Qaraq's address as several beams hit the Delavi-II. The ship's shields were instantly penetrated, and soon the starboard nacelle exploded as the other burst into flames. The force of the concentrated impact sent the small craft into a nauseating spin and the ship drifted like a spun dreidel, nearly colliding with another Resistance craft...

From the Fire Queen, Katya screamed as she watched the devastation occur, "QARAQ!"

The Resistance had no time to react as the Alrakis Pact ships started firing mercilessly upon them, a barrage of phasers and torpedoes bombarding across the battle field.

=== Delavi-II ===

Amid the chaos, the flashing of lights, the sounding of alarms, the burning smells, the sensation of heat, the spinning, the voices, the static, came a thought exploding into Qaraq’s mind.

There was a dragon breathing fire down upon a village made of ice. The ice burned but did not melt. No people ran in any direction looking for safety. The dragon stomped about and roared into the sky. From out the flames, came a singular person, an Aenar female which he recognized as Ovetsya. He knew her by another name but also knew her true name. She possessed a set of bright peridot eyes that looked right back at him in the mind. She stepped forward without injury or any sign that she had been burned.

“I am Ovetsya Sh’vastarth of the Aenar. We do not hand out these thoughts regularly or freely. I would say that you should consider yourself lucky, but knowing this thought has been triggered means you are in a dire situation. There is no need to make contact for I have already been alerted. I am on the way and you will be safe soon.”

Ovetsya smiled and looked back at the dragon as it roared into the sky again, sending a column of fire up into the atmosphere.

=== The Pandora ===

The Bridge was in shocked silence as the long-range viewscreen showed the events in the Expanse.

"Bloody hell!" Owen said in response to the attack that took pace before them.

"Report!" Nyx immediately cried out.

"Critical damage to the Delavi-II. It will not last much longer." Ensign Milkovich replied. "I'm having trouble getting life signs in all of the chaos. Qaraq... may be alive."

They saw the Resistance ships start evasive maneuvers, hoping to avoid the rain of destruction falling upon them.

"Sir." Ian tentatively spoke with a hard swallow. "The Alrakis Pact have engaged the Resistance fleet. This is the moment of distraction we needed to leave. We can head to the Nebula now and they won't follow us."

In the Intelligence office, Aenardha sat there as a thought came rushing to her. There came, with it, a few seconds of memory and then a flood of feeling as though a self-diagnostic. She slapped her commbadge.

Back on the Bridge, =^=” Bridge, this is Ensign Sh’vastarth. Mr. Qaraq is alive but injured severely.”=^=

The battle, as it unfolded on the viewscreen, showed that the Alrakis Pact ceased firing upon the Delavi-II, leaving it to its fate, but opened fired upon any ship attempting to get within transport range.

Nyx looked around the Bridge, seeing the choice in front of them. He shook his head, "I know this is our chance to escape, but I won't leave our friends out there."

"Captain, its my place to remind you that the plan requires us to take the chance when presented to make a run for it," Owen said cautiously, knowing his place but also what was agreed with the others. "We're not here to get involved in an engagement, that would give the Alrakis Pact the opportunity they need to destroy the ship and also take out Thac in the process."

"Thank you," Nyx nodded, before looking back to the Helm. "Full warp to the battlefield."

Without hesitation, Milkovich turned back to his console and laid in the coordinates. On the Captain's word, the Pandora's engines powered up and she zoomed away from Paradise.

=== Expanse ===

In the battlefield, Katya was trying to follow Qaraq's careening ship. It was spinning through space like a leaf in a tornado, plasma fire burning from what remained of the nacelles as it continued to quickly break apart. In the chaos of the battle, with Alrakis and Resistance ships flying around them, weapons firing blasting all around, Katya was only focused on her friend. The Fire Queen was being repeatedly pummelled from the Breen phasers, as her shields rapidly drained from the constant pressure.

"We have to take evasive manoeuvres!" Mauricio called out from his place on the Fire Queen as the fighter shook once more. "We're getting hit too hard!"

Katya growled, her eyes focused, "I must save him!"

"WE CAN'T IF WE'RE DEAD!" Mauricio shouted. "Which are going to be very quickly!"

Katya's mother was watching the mayhem pass by their windows. She could hear the voices of their Resistance allies on the comms line.

"We're getting destroyed out here!"

"They just keep coming!"

"We're hit. We're hi -"

Malka stepped forward, "My infant, we must lead our forces. If we don't, they are defenceless."

"No." Mauricio frowned, looking at his screen. He turned to Katya and Malka with a smile. "Help is coming."

Suddenly, in a bright blue flash, the Pandora appeared in the middle of the battle.

"Fire phasers!" Nyx called out on the Bridge. Ensign Milkovich immediately responded by stabbing his finger at the console.

The phaser banks around the ship's hull lit up and a single stream of energy burst from the Pandora, targeting the ships that were hounding the Fire Queen. They broke off their pursuit and the Pandora continued to fire after them.

No sooner had the Pandora arrived on scene, did Admiral Francis whirl to Lieutenant Mindo and yell, "Get him out of there!"

The words were barely out of his mouth when Qaraq's ship finally, almost mercifully, exploded into the emptiness of space.

There was silence on the bridge for what seemed like a very long time.

Mindo turned from his console. "One survivor beamed directly to sickbay. Life signs very faint."

Francis and Temple exchanged a glance, and Francis nodded. "I'll be in sickbay."

"Go." Nyx nodded emphatically, "We've got this." As Francis moved to the Turbolift, Nyx looked to Ops. "Ensign, report to the Resistance that Qaraq was safely rescued."

"Aye, Captain." Ian replied, sending out the message.

"Well, that's not what we had planned, but a life saved is always a positive," Nash said. "Now, are we still able to get out of here?" he asked, as the situation with the battle before them became clear.

"Warp engines at full power and standing by," Mindo reported.

Nyx held up his hands, "Taking out Qaraq has sent the Resistance into disarray." He said firmly, "We must help to hold the line until Katya can restore order. Ensign, turn about and complete attacking run Alpha-Sigma. Full torpedo spread."

"Aye sir!" Ian called back, his hands dancing over the screen.

The Pandora banked around and started firing upon the Alrakis forces in quick succession. The Starfleet vessel acted as a shield for the smaller ships, taking the big hits upon them while they attempted to reorganise themselves.

From the Bridge of his vessel, Thot Syn titled his head as he watched the Pandora's display.

"Destroy them." He commanded. The Breen ship went into action, manoeuvring around to pursue the Pandora...

=== INTELLIGENCE ===

Aenardha sat there at her desk. She could see the viewscreen on the Bridge from all the public vision she tapped into. Everyone save the captain. She could also feel the tension or just about everyone aboard the Pandora. The Pact had so openly and brutally fired upon the Devlavi-II. She could also feel Mr. Qaraq in sickbay. With his injuries, he was slowly succumbing. But Aenardha felt about and, eventhough he was the only Broot she had ever met, save for his son briefly, she felt she had an idea of the base mental pattern of the Broots. If she could tell the race of everyone inside a room based on their mental patterns alone, why would this idea, shooting into her mind, not work?

Closing her eyes for added concentration, Aenardha reached out with extreme effort; almost painful. She focused on the base mental pattern the Broots. ~~~’This is Aenardha Sh’vastarth of the Aenar, kinfam of the Broot, Qaraq. I bear his mark and will show it to all who answer the call.’~~~ Along with her words, she sent out a series of images from the past several moments. There was a twinge of a vibration, a pain, deep inside her mind. Feeling it was endurable, she pressed on.

Not sure if this idea of hers was even working, Aenardha fell back on something she had seen so many others hold confidence in, hope.

Then there was a word in Aenardha's head. The word had a meaning deeper than could be defined. A word no letter could spell, no voice could utter. The word itself to be heard only by the few who shared it. And it could only have come from one person... someone aboard the Pandora. Aenardha felt the source of the word emanating from sickbay. It was Qaraq. And he was dying.

Aenardha’s heart sank with that knowledge and added it to what she was already pushing out. With her antennae flittering, that twinge deep in her mind exploded into something far more painful and she could finally understand what people meant when they used the word ‘migraine.’

That migraine also brought darkness. There was suddenly no thoughts to pick up on, no telepathic vision to utilize, and no telepathic hearing. She could only hear the sounds within the Intelligence office. One of the crewmen called out her name and the voice echoed within the cosmos of her own mind. She heard the stamping of feet, felt a spinning and swimming sensation washing over her, felt herself in freefall, and the tabletop of her desk slam against her face.

OFF

 

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