The Fall of Terra #30:


HMS Minotaur.

The bridge was a mess.

There wasn’t much left.

She had seen the Captain disappear in a hail of debris from the consoles on the starboard side of the bridge.  The feedback from the sudden gravimetric reverse from the asteroid had shorted out a quarter of the ship’s systems, whilst violently destroying another handful.

Half the bridge crew in an instant.

Commander Lin’War was struggling to stay conscious, blood leaking from a dozen holes.  He had been hit as well, but a combination of luck and his hardy Rijiin constitution, had kept him going.

Oknoff was alive, intact even, suspiciously so.  He was cowering in the corner of the bridge, far from any injury.

The attempt at stopping the asteroid had turned into a massacre.

Oh, they had done something, splitting the moon-sized rock into several smaller pieces, and sent all but one of those on different courses.  But the Navy ships, having expended their long range energy weapons, suddenly found themselves without power.  Or at least some of them.  She could see other ships still had running lights on, engines flickering with small amounts of emergency power.

The Minotaur had been lucky.  They had been at the very outer edge of the asteroid’s energy vampiric effect, draining some of its power, but not all.

Hell had broken loose out there, though.

Ships without engines were ripped apart by the same explosions they had caused, small chunks of rock spinning away and smashing into them.  The big rocks just flattened other ships without so much as a tremor, like a freight train with bugs on its windshield.

She had seen dozens of starships wink out of existence in a heartbeat.

The Enterprise was still floundering, thrusters flaring along one side, but it was moving in circles, as if on auto-pilot.

Scarlett hadn’t escaped injury, a piece if debris slicing her forehead open.  Thankfully, despite the masses of blood, it was superficial at best.  Her limited medical skills had come in handy and she had repaired the damage herself, albeit messily.

She wasn’t sure who else was alive.

“Who’s alive?” she shouted.  The ship was rumbling around them, the engines out of timbre with each other.  Something bad had happened belowdecks, enough to knock the engines out of alignment.  She looked over at the helm, and saw the young pilot struggling, bashing his console, and trying not to sob.

“Scarlett,” a voice groaned.

It was Lin’War.

He was weak, incredibly so.

“Commander?” she worried, rushing to his side and trying to take his weight.

He tried to wave her off, but he was too weak.  His fur was matted with blood, mostly his own, but some of it was splatter from the demise of the captain.  His breathing was ragged.  He had minutes, if not seconds, to live.

“Get the ship back to Terra,” he wheezed.

It was heartrending to see her XO like this, a once tall and proud warrior laid low by injury.  She struggled not to end up like Oknoff in the corner, or the poor helmsman still at his station, giving up his fight against sobbing.

“I’m just an Ensign, sir,” she whispered so nobody else could hear.

“There’s nobody else left,” he replied between gasps of pain.  “Oknoff is nothing more than an administrator at heart.  Get this ship and its crew home to base, Ensign.”  He said the last part loud enough to be heard across the bridge.  “You’re the captain now.”

Lin’War died before she could protest, his large furred body sagging into her arms, threatening to topple over.  He had pushed something into her hand before he passed.  She let him down to the deck as gently as she could, closing his eyes.  Her hands shook from fear.  What the hell did she know about command?  Where was Vivaera when she needed her?

Scarlett didn’t look over to where her friend’s console used to be.

There wasn’t anything there except fire and smashed components.

She stood up, and discovered Oknoff had recovered.

He was marching towards her, soot, or something like it, plastered across one side of his face and one hand.  There was a small burn on his right cheek, but he was intact.  The bastard even had an indignant look on his face; he had heard some of the exchange.

“Now see here,” he called.  “I am the senior officer.  Not some fresh-faced Ensign.”

She glared at him.

“Not according to the XO, sir,” Scarlett protested.

“The XO’s dead,” he growled, “I am next in line.”

“And yet he gave me command,” she spat back.  She held up the Commander rank pins Lin’War had pushed into her hand.  “Brevet promotion.”  He started to protest, but she turned and stepped over to the helm.  “Helm, what power do we have?”

The question snapped the young helmsman –who was in fact older and more senior than she was- out of his gloom.

“Ma’am?” he said automatically.  “We’ve got sublights, thrusters are barely functional, although some of the engines aren’t responding.”

“Can you shut them down to prevent any misfiring?”

She was working on adrenaline and fear now.

She barely knew what she was saying.

“HOW DARE YOU IGNORE ME!” bellowed Oknoff.  “I AM THE SENIOR OFFICER!”

“No you’re not,” she said coldly.  “You’re a coward, who lost his mind and soiled himself in the corner of the bridge whilst the rest of the crew stood at their stations and died.  And don’t even get me started on what you were doing before that.  Make yourself useful, Lef-tenant Commander.  Contact as many of the other ships as you can, and see who is still alive.”

He opened and closed his mouth a few times like a fish, before slumping down at the communications console, and setting to work.

A voice groaned nearby, not belonging to the six others still alive.

She frowned, and searched around.

The voice groaned again.  She saw a booted foot sticking out from behind a console near the command chair.  Why did the voice sound familiar?

“I don’t believe it,” she gasped.

It was Vivaera, impossibly blown clear of the starboard side of the bridge.  She was alive and breathing, groaning with each breath, but still going.  There were painful looking burns up one side of her arm and chest.

She blurted out a sudden burst, sobbing for a brief second.

It wasn’t sadness, but joy at her friend being alive among all this death and destruction.

“You still alive?” she asked.

Vivaera groaned in pain, but her eyes levered open, and she pulled herself to a sitting position.

“Commander Scarlett?” called Oknoff, his voice a sneer.

Vivaera looked at her curiously.  “Commander?!  How long have I been out?”

Scarlett called over one of the other bridge crew and ordered them to give her medical attention.

“We’re going home soon,” she reassured Vivaera.

Stepping away from her friend, she felt a new sense of strength, as if knowing her friend was alive gave her power.  She felt the rank pins in her hand and jiggled them before quickly putting them on her uniform, as if someone might take them away at any moment.

“Commander Oknoff?” she said.

There was horror on his face.

“There’s… there’s nobody else.”

“What?  How can that be?”

“Nobody else is answering, Commander,” he said, falling automatically into his training and duty.  He pointed to all the sensor contacts, and the lack of life signs, even on the moving Enterprise.  At that point, she thought, he probably didn’t want command.

“We were lucky to survive,” she breathed.

He could only nod.

“Start broadcasting a signal,” she ordered.  “Maybe someone back home can…” she trailed off.  “What the hell’s that noise?”

Oknoff shook his head, and then heard too, a hissing noise.

“We must have sprung a leak,” he suggested humourlessly.

“Engineering reports we’ll have FTL in an hour.”

Scarlett sighed.

Maybe they weren’t going to survive after all.

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