Chapter 32 snippet

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“We have a transition at the outer marker, Mister Albright,”

Chris Albright had been lounging in a chair in the base’s command center. Surrounded by multiple computer stations, weapons controls and security systems, he had felt right at home. For someone who was used to running his own company, and smuggling weapons, none of what he saw was surprising.

Chuckling, he felt a small smile cross his face. So, she had figured it out after all! That made things so much more interesting, he mused. If she hadn’t figured out the answer fairly shortly, then he would have been disappointed in his dear old friend Katherine Almir.

She had always been on top of her game before, he told himself, so he didn’t see why it should be different now. However, now that she was here, the game was afoot. It was time for him to show his old friend who was the Master now.

“Your orders, sir?” The Base Commander asked him.

“Let her approach,” he said, an evil gleam in his eye. “But charge your weapons. We’ll blow her out of space when she gets into orbit.”

“Yes, sir,”

“Katherine, oh Katherine…old friend. Have you ever heard the saying ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold?’”

Tapping his fingers on the desk before him, he started to laugh. A full, throaty sound, it released all of the stored up anger and hatred he felt at her. The bitch had taken his life once, he reflected, and thank God for the cloning process! He would have a chance to take hers in return!

“It will be very cold where you’re going to die…”

###

The planet grew on the view screen before them. Mostly covered in snow and ice, it was a treacherous environment to live in. However, no matter how many times she looked at it, she felt her stomach tightening. There was something about this that she was missing, and she couldn’t finger just what it was.

It’s been too easy, she thought, everything snapping into place. If there were a base down there, wouldn’t they have wanted to strike us already?

“Tactical, I want the shields up, full power!”

“Aye, Skipper!”

“Bring us in slow,” she said. “Port lasers at the ready, missiles on standby!”

“Aye, Skipper!’

Now lets see what’s going to happen, she told herself.

###

“They’ve raised their shields,”

Albright gritted his teeth at Almir’s cautiousness. It would have been so much simpler if she hadn’t raised the damn things at all! Why couldn’t she be stupid and foolish just once? Everyone else made those mistakes, why didn’t she?

“Oh we’re on by happy Fleet,” he muttered, sarcasm dripping. “Are your weapons ready, Commander?”

“Fusion beams are at the ready,”

“Bring them on line,”

###

“Captain!” Roberts’ voice came from CIC. “We’re reading weapons power up!”

“Increase power to the Ion Drive!”

###

“Weapons on line. They’re starting to accelerate.”

“No, no my old friend,” Albright said. “You won’t escape now! Lock weapons on target…”

“Locking weapons on engineering, sir.”

###

“They’re locking weapons on target!”

“Get us out of here!”

As she made the order, Kate knew it was already too late. They had waited for her to get into orbit to fight back. The one time that her ship would be slugging and slow to respond was now, and they knew it. Damn it, she told herself, I walked right into the trap!

###

“Weapons locked on target…”

“Fire!” Albright’s eyes glowed with glee.

###

Tina Brooks stood at the main control station in Engineering. All of her crew was at their Action Stations, and she was watching the engines tightly. Before her, the massive matter/antimatter annihilation chamber pulsed with contained energy. It’s multicolored light filled the room, making it feel alive.

It had been a long two weeks for her engines, she mused, caressing the controls. While they were still running good, she was starting to see signs that they needed an overhaul. They were getting slightly rougher on the transitions now, and she knew just how badly those affected the Captain. No, she thought, they would have to get some attention in the not too distant future.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a fist slammed into her back. Hitting her between her shoulder blades, it sent her to the deck. The sound of an explosion reached her ears, along with the sound of escaping air.

Ears ringing, she fought back to her feet, seeing the mains shut down. Around her, screams filled the air and she heard doors slam down to seal off the breached sections. Behind them, she knew she had crew who were dead and dying, but there was nothing she could do about it.

“Report!”

###

On the bridge, Kate had her hands full. The first shot from the surface had pierced their portside shields over engineering. Cutting through the armor like a knife, the impact had thrown everyone to the deck. Consoles exploded from power surges and cries of pain filled the air.

Crawling back to her feet, she could feel the artificial gravity flexing around her. If that failed, along with inertial dampeners, they were all going to just bloody smears on the stern bulkhead! Damn it, how could she have walked into this?

A cacophony of voices filled the overhead speakers. Stations throughout the ship were trying to report their status to the bridge, and to each other. It was a chaos that just made her job harder then it already was.

“Marie!” she shouted. “Kill that noise and get me the Chief!”

“Chief Brooks on private, sir,”

“Chief, report!”
“Main power is out, Skipper!” she said, sounding strange over the com. She was on canned air! How badly had they been hurt back there?

“Incoming, Captain!” Paul cried.

“Hang on!”

The cruiser lept around them, crew being thrown from their stations. Barely hanging onto her command chair, Kate grunted with effort. Overload systems crashed and a fire started near Marie’s station. The ozone smell of burnt electronics filled the air.

“Fire port lasers!” she cried.

“I can’t get power to them,” Paul said. “The relays have burst!”

“Helm, get us the hell out of here!”

“No response from the Ion drives!” Williams said, fingers working the controls.

“Chief! What do we have left?”

“We have thrusters,” she said. “I can have Ion Drive back in minutes!”

“We don’t have it!” Kate cried. “I need the power now!”

“Helm,” she said. “Get us out of here even if you have to push!”

“Tactical, give me a damage report!”

Stepping over to the plot, she looked down as the cruiser’s schematics appeared. A shocking red swath of damage was centered on engineering and the forward fusion reactor. Kicking herself, she cursed loudly. Of course the people below would know where to hit her ship! They were Fleet personnel weren’t they?

The ship rocked under another strike, the artificial gravity coming close to failing. On the screen, they started to claw their way forwards, out of the range of the weapons. If they could just get around the terminus of the planet, then they would be safely hidden from the base! Dear God, she pleaded, just give them the minute they needed!

###

Watching the screen before him, Albright smiled triumphantly. The first shot they had fired had taken down her main power! Good, good! There was no way she could escape without her main engines! As he saw the second and third shots strike, he could see the metal, and atmosphere, trailing from her crippled cruiser.

“My dear friend,” he whispered. “You were quite the soldier, and assassin. May this be considered your military funeral!”

As he watched, he saw her cruiser start to claw away from them. No, he raged, it couldn’t be! She couldn’t get away now! He had her right where he wanted her! It couldn’t be possible!

“They’re out of range, sir,” the base commander said.

“Goddamn it!”

###

Fry wiped the blood from his face as he staggered back to his feet. Lieutenant Commander Hoshi was down and no moving. She was probably dead, he told himself, as he felt the initial shock of combat wear off.
Moving as if one with his controls, he sought a way to bring back auxiliary power to the cruiser…

###

“Get us into orbit around that moon,” she snapped. “And power us down. They’ve got to have called in the reinforcement ship, and I don’t want them to find us.”

“Aye, Skipper,”

She looked around the damaged bridge, taking in the number of wounded. Punching the com unit on the plot, she took a deep breath. The bridge hadn’t been the focus of the attack, she told herself, so she would have to see how bad they had been hurt.

“Medics to the bridge, stat!” she said. “XO, you have the bridge. I’m going to see how badly we’ve been hurt.”
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