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Fatal Rendezvous Pt. 2

Posted on Sat Feb 16th, 2019 @ 3:00am by Commander Leigh Jacobs & Ensign Sienna Nora & Lieutenant Commander Arturo S'Rohass & Lieutenant Xiulan Song & Lieutenant Evan Lougheed & Lieutenant JG Vitaath Zh'challiss & Senior Chief Petty Officer Coltan Xan

Mission: Captain Lost
Location: USS Valiant

The Valiant came out of warp with the Odyssey not far behind to find a Gluak ship firing on one of a design frequently used by Orion Syndicate gangsters and pirates.

"Red Alert!" Arturo cried from the command chair. "Lieutenant M'Shlaht, raise shields but be prepared to drop them if we find the captain and need to beam her aboard! And plot firing solutions on that Gluak ship! If the captain is aboard that Orion vessel, we can't let the Gluak destroy it! Ensign Nora! Scan for the Captain! Helm, bring us closer but be prepared to evade if either ship targets us!"

Lougheed was at his station, technically the secondary tactical station it also worked for his purposes. He began analysing the tactical capabilities of the attacking Gluak ship. "They've done substantial damage to the orion vessel, her shields are failing and numerous sections are breached. The Gulak vessel is heavily armed and even with the Odyssey could out gun us."

"Sensors are having a hard time cutting through the massive polaron radiation emitting from the Gluak vessel," Nora reported as her hands frantically worked the science console in attempt to locate the Captain. Her mind kept wanting to focus on the massive Gluak Vessel that dwarfed even a Galaxy Class. A part of her wanted to urge the commander to retreat and yet the Starfleet Officer within her had a duty to her captain. Soon, she caught readings that briefly indicated a human or betazoid lifesign. She focused the sensors on the area. "I think I got a bearing but we'll need to get closer in order to get a clear transporter lock!"


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Leigh breathed hard as the escape pod launched from the Orion vessel--with a sigh of relief, she was happy to be off the orion vessel. Only now if she could far enough away before. She was suddenly slammed against the side of the small pod as the shockwave from the exploding Orion ship sent her small pod tumbling through space as the power shorted out. Outside the viewport, the stars tumbled in various directions. 'Shit!' she thought. 'Not good!'

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Aboard the Odyssey, Admiral Viktor stood from his command chair as the Orion ship exploded. He felt a wave of sadness and anger wash over him at losing a close friend. "Jacobs..." he breathed.

"Admiral!" the Odyssey's Operations Officer called out. "The Gluak vessel appears to have warped away as the Orion vessel exploded."

"See if you can pick up their escape vector while we search the area for survivors," Viktor replied.

"Aye, sir."

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{Valiant Bridge}

"Helm!" Arturo said. "Get us closer to the Orion..."

Just then, the Orion ship exploded. Arturo shielded his eyes as the viewscreen adapted to the sudden bright light.

"No..." Arturo whispered. "Helm, get us closer! Ensign Nora, if there is an escape pod with the captain in it or she's out there in a space suit or even in her underwear, I expect you to find her!"

Nora nodded. "Aye, Sir." She worked the sensors as they swept over the debris filled area. There were no power signatures being reported, causing her face to fall before something caught her eye. She redirected the sensors to the new area just past the debris field. It was a powerless life pod. Normally a pod would have been destroyed...unless it had been launched prior. She focused the sensors on the powerless pod and found a human life sign. "Yes!" she shouted excitedly before mentally kicking herself. "Commander, I have a disabled life pod at 329 mark 125, 40 kilometers off our starboard bow. I'm detecting a human/betazoid life sign within.

"Helm!" Arturo said. "Get us into transporter range of that pod! Xiulan, the moment we're within range, beam...would it be easier to beam the Captain out of the pod or just grab the whole pod?"

With the coordinates from Nora, Xiulan was already able to establish a lock on the biosignature, they just needed to get close enough for transport.

"I've got a lock on the Captain, so I can get just her and beam her directly to sickbay as soon as we're in range," Xiulan reported as her fingers worked over the tactile interface at Ops. "Although her life signs are fading fast, so a little haste would be nice."

"Acknowledged," Arturo said. "Helm, put a little pep in our step please!"

Helm acknowledged and the ship's speed increased. Moments past and then...the proximity telltale informing Xiulan that the Captain's pod was in range went off!

"Establishing pattern lock, transporting now," Xiulan reported as she worked, the telltale sound of the transporter controls operating followed by a moment of silence. "Sickbay reports successful transport, we have her."

"Advise the Odyssey we have Commander Jacobs and that we are unassing this area RFN!" Arturo said. "Helm...unass this area RFN! Bridge to Sickbay!"


{Sickbay, Deck 2; USS Valiant}

"Kalor, here," came the nurse's reply. "Commander Jacobs is stable and concious."

Jacobs sat up on the bio bed as the room spun in response. She pushed herself to her feet, stumbling a bit as the room slowly began to stop spinning.

"I'm fine, commander," Jacobs said. "I'm on my way to the bridge."

"Ma'am! You need to be checked out and cleared medically," Kalor protested.

"Not now, Ms. Kalor!" Jacobs snapped as she continued out of the sickbay and towards the bridge with Kalor following behind.

{Bridge; USS Valiant}

Jacobs entered the familar bridge and couldn't help but grin at the familiar faces that looked back at her. "Glad to see you didn't destroy my ship, Commander," she joked.

"Welcome back!" Arturo said. "And of course I did not destroy the ship!"

Jacobs sat down in the chair. "Hail the Odyssey."

A moment later Admiral Viktor appeaered on the view screen. "It's good to see you again, Commander," Viktor grinned.

"You as well. I'm guessing you locked in the Gulak's warp trajectory?" Jacobs asked.

Viktor nodded. "You know me too well, Commander. We have no choice but to pursue them. Their trajectory is taking them to the Rochanie System near the Klingon Border. However, it's a mostly unexplored system. I will contact the Klingon High Council to see if they can render assistance as we're the only Starfleet Vessels in the sector at the moment and any Federation reinforcements are a day away at maximum warp. So unless the Klingons decide to help--"

"We're on our own," Jacobs finished and let out a sigh as a wave of doubt washed over her. This new Gluak vessel was vastly more powerful and larger than the last one they engaged and that one had destroyed a Tholian Dreadnaught without much trouble. Yet, she had to exhibit confidence--not just for her but for her crew. "Just like the old days, sir. Let's kick their ass."

Viktor smiled. "Like the old days, commander. Viktor, out."

"Mr. S'Rohass, lay in a course to the Rochanie System with the Odyssey and engage at maximum warp," Jacobs ordered.

"Aye, aye, Commander," Arturo replied. "Matching course and speed with the Odyssey."

Jacobs tapped a few commands into the console next to her chair. ETA to the Rochanie System was three hours. "Lieutenant Me'Shlaht, we have three hours to get the ship as ready for combat as possible. See to it that it happens." Jacobs paused for a moment. "I'll be in my ready room if anyone needs me. You have the bridge, Mr. S'Rohass," she said as she stood from the chair and headed for the Ready Room, feeling alone despite being surrounded by people.

"Of course, Captain," Arturo said. He reluctantly let the relief helmsman take over Flight Control and resumed his place in the command chair. After Leigh had retreated, Arturo turned to Colt. "You should check in on her. I'm assuming since she got up here so quickly, that she did not submit to an exam."

Lougheed sent the request to the Odyssey for their sensor readings of the engagement for his report. He noted the Captain's departure. A few moments later he rose and stepped off the bridge. He pressed the chime to her ready room door.

Colt watched as Evan left his post and spoke softly to Arturo. "Let Lougheed talk with her a bit first. She knows him better than she knows me. I'll corral her later."

Arturo nodded. Contrary to what some officers might think, Chiefs, Senior Chiefs, and Master Chiefs were the ones who ran Starfleet. If an officer truly wanted to succeed, letting the chiefs do their thing was the way to go.

<>

Jacobs let out a nervous, yet determined sigh as the Odyssey and Valiant dropped out of warp. The image before them, chilled Jacobs to her core as she stood. There was a vessel that matched the one that attacked the Orion Vessel, as well as four other smaller ones orbiting what appeared to be a station of some sort. "Get me readings on what we're seeing!" Leigh ordered, hoping her fears would be unfounded. Had they just traveled to the Gluak's homeworld?

"Gluak Battlecruiser for lack of a better term, four ships that appear to be heavy destroyers or cruisers. Weapons are not currently charged." Lougheed reported, "Life signs on the fourth planet small population into the millions, class O planet, mostly water, a small continental archipelago along the equator and several other island chains."

The image of Admiral Viktor appeared on the view screen. "Commander, seems we have our hands full. I'm not seeing any signs of the Klingons, so it seems we're doing this on our own." There was a sound of resignation in his voice.

Leigh nodded. "I suggest we hit the station and smaller ships first before they can get them launched and then turn our attention on the large Gluak battlecruiser."

Viktor grinned. "I agree Commander. See you in hell."

"Not before me, sir," Leigh grinned back before the view screen returned to the image of the system that showed the battle cruiser beginning to change direction towards them. "Mr. S'Rohass, set a course for the station and engage at full impulse. Lieutenant Me'Shlaht, target and destroy the smaller ships. Mr. Lougheed and Ms. Song, keep an eye on that battlecruiser and see if you can detect anything that can give us an advantage against that thing!"

"Aye, aye, Captain," Arturo said. His fingers danced across his console and the Valiant leaped into action, launching itself towards the station. "ETA to weapons range is two point six eight minutes and counting down."

Lougheed gave an affirmative response and turned his focus to the scanners. "Song can you try to hack into their comms, if we can get their frequencies we might be able to get a bit of an edge." He said across the bridge to the Ops Chief while focuses on trying to find weak spots in their hull.

"Try? Consider it done!" Xiulan said with a grin as she probed the frequencies to try to find what the Gluak were using. "I'm detecting multiple frequencies, I think I'm going to need a moment to figure this out," the blind linguist said, then stuck an earpiece in one ear to help her untangle the unusual frequencies she was picking up.

The Odyssey and the Valiant closed the distance to the smaller Gluak vessels and station they were docked at. "Me'Shlaht, lock weapons onto the closest ship and work your way back. Wait until we close to within 15 kilometers and fire everything we have."

A moment later, the Odyssey and the Valiant unleashed their weapons in a magnificent display of power as phasers, quantum torpedoes, and pulse phaser bolts ripped into the smaller ships, causing many to explode, severely damaging the station in the process.

There was a flash of bright purple light that lit up the port side of the view screen. "What the hell was that?" Jacobs demanded.

Nora was wide eyed, reading the sensor logs that came in. The Odyssey was just hit by the battle cruiser's main weapon! Showing moderate damage to their engineering section and several hull breaches. Their shields are down to thirty percent!"

"Jacobs to Admiral Viktor, come in!"

The image of Viktor sitting in his command chair on a smoke filled bridge appeared. "We're still in the fight, Commander. But we can't afford another hit from that primary weapon."

"We'll try to take it out for you. It would be best if you hung back while we keep them busy up close."

Viktor nodded. "We'll cover you the best we can. Viktor, out."

Arturo's fingers danced across his console as he maneuvered the Valiant through the incoming fire, with very little of the enemy's weapons fire achieving any direct hits. Glancing blows, on the other hand.

"I am doing the very best I can to keep us from taking a direct hit, Captain," Arturo said. "But even I zig when I should zag every now and again. May I suggest we end this as quickly as possible, preferable BEFORE I get my zig confused with my zag?"

"That weapon of there's uses a considerable amount of power and seems to need to charge up. If we do an attack run right down the middle and unload a full spread of quantums right as its power is peaking we should be able to take it out, and hopefully the rest of the ship with it. The downside is if we're wrong the entire ship will likely be vapourized when their weapon fires." Lougheed said.

Arturo shook his head. "If we fire into it as it powers up, we'll be vaporized by the resulting explosion before we can pull away. Unless the Captain objects, we should go in after it fires and before it completely powers up. The resulting feedback through their system from even a partial power up will disable the Gluak ship, and if that causes the ship to explode, it will almost certain take long enough that we'll be able to get clear. We have no idea what their power source is, or what their projectile ordinance is, or how many warheads they have, or how much fuel for their sublight engines they are carrying. The explosion from your plan could destroy us and the Odyssey."

Leigh watched as the monstrous ship grew in size, knowing she had to make a decision now. "Do as Arturo says."

"Aye, aye, Captain," Arturo replied as he worked his console and began angling his bobbing and weaving in such away that he could easily move into an attack run on their main weapon. "As soon as they fire their weapon, I'll start our run. Lieutenant Me'Shlaht, stand by to fire a full spread of quantum torpedoes as Lieutenant Lougheed suggested."

With the Valiant moving swiftly to it's target. "Weapon is about to fire!" Nora shouted.

"Evasive maneuvers!" Leigh commanded.

At Leigh's command, Arturo started yanking and banking. Well, he was flying using a keyboard, so there wasn't much yanking going on, but there was a whole lot of banking! To the left, to the right...


The massive energy beam narrowly missed the agile Valiant. "Fire full weapons!"

Smaller explosions followed rippled out from the weapons impact and the massive ship seemed to shake. Within the vessel, The Gluak computer system in nanoseconds of detecting the feedback, shunt all systems connected to the primary weapon down and shielded the power core that powered the weapon, denying the catastrophic result that would have happened had it not done so.

"I'm reading moderate damage done to their structural integrity fields and shields," Nora reported. "But they're still in the fight!"

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In engineering, Warrant Officer Nalla Kalor looked at the engineers bustling about as she entered, monitoring consoles and backing up systems. Her eyes then went to the warp core and grinned. Raising her Type 2 phaser, she fired, causing the entire ship to lurch as several consoles exploded in retaliation.

"What the hell?!" a nearby engineer exclaimed in shock and horror at what she just witnessed. "What is--"

The human engineer never finished her sentence before being killed by a second phaser shot from Kalor. "I will willingly die for my people to rise again!" Kalor boasted.

The Security Officers guarding the outer entrance rushed in before one was hit by a phaser from Kalor. The second officer fired, causing Kalor to stumble.

The officer aptly thumbed the setting to kill and fired again. This time Kalor fell to the deck, dropping the phaser. The security officer rushed over, securing the phaser while keeping his trained of Kalor's body. "Petty Officer T'Ral to Bridge. Warrant Officer Kalor fired her phaser in engineering. She also killed an engineer and my patrol partner."

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On the bridge, Leigh couldn't believe her what she was hearing and yet the Valiant was losing power to all systems. "Jacobs to engineering! Damage report! Can you get systems back online!"

"Captain, permission to leave the bridge and assess the situation in Engineering." Lougheed said getting to his feet.

"Make it quick, and see why Lieutenant Zh'challis isn't responding," Leigh replied. She could only watch as the massive battlecruiser loomed before them, powering it's weapons.

Colt moved to follow Lougheed. "I'll go with you, Lieutenant," he said. "It sounds like people are hurt down there and if Kalor was a Gluak spy, then I'm the only medic left. Plus, you know, ex-Raider and all."

"Let's go Senior." Lougheed replied as the two moved out of the bridge.

"Captain! " Nora exclaimed. "The Odyssey is moving to shield us!"

"Viktor to Jacobs, we'll give you as much time as possible but the sooner you can get going, the better," Viktor said as the Odyssey flew in front of the Valiant as an energy beam struck the Odyssey instead of the Valiant.

Arturo tried hitting a few buttons on his console, but nothing happened. "We're immobilized, Captain. If the Gluak target us...wait...give me a second...I think I can bypass to Auxiliary Power from here...it's going to take me a moment. Please standby..." from that point all anyone could hear from Arturo was muttering about the bypass procedures and some muttered curses when something didn't work. "Just another...Well, maybe a few more anothers..."

"All the time in the world, commander," Jacobs said sarcastically while grinning from her chair. She only knew by the image on the view screen that the Odyssey was taking a beating

"Got it!" Arturo said. "Captain, there isn't enough to divert to shields without cutting maneuvering and even if we do that, the shields would only take a few hits from their standard weapons. They wouldn't do anything against Big Bertha no matter what the setting. I'm going to send enough to Tactical for them to arm a brace of quantum torpedoes, lock onto that gun, and fire at it, and then I'm going to put everything else in propulsion and maneuvering. I managed to get to the reserve batteries as well. I'll use those to sure up our structural integrity fields. Between that, my bobbing and weaving and our ablative armor, I think we can get close enough to make this work without dying, and then get away unharmed...relatively. My suspicion is that we'll be cutting it very close and the resulting explosion may severely damage us due to our being unable to get to a safe distance should the Gluak vessel explode."

"Do it," she ordered. Leigh thought back to an old Earth poem. 'Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death. Rode the six hundred. “Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns! he said. Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred,' she recalled the first verse. She could only hope the outcome was different than that of the 600 men of the Light Brigade.

"Aye, aye, Captain," Arturo said. An alarm went off on his console and his fingers stared dancing over the controls. The Valiant lurched into action as the Gluak's main cannon took a shot at them. Arturo deftly avoided the shot and started their attack run on on the cannon. "They're powering up the big gun again. We have another shot at this. Beginning attack run. Me'Shlaht, lock on to the enemy's main weapon, arm a brace of quantum torpedoes. You may fire when we are at optimal range unless this order is countermanded. Everyone brace yourselves please."

The Valiant zipped through incoming fire from the enemy's lighter weapons, it's structural integrity fields straining, taking only a glancing blow here and there. Though glancing, each hit took off some of the Valiant's ablative armor. When that was gone, the ship would be completely vulnerable. As he worked, Arturo responded to Leigh's quote with the next verse of the poem.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!" Arturo began, his vocal training from the stage evident as he spoke in a powerful voice for such a small person. "Was there a man dismayed? Not though the soldier knew. Someone had blundered. Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die. Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred."

"Really? REALLY! We're quoting poetry while flying to our untimely doom!" Xiulan called out as she clung to her station for dear life. "Fine fine, canons to the left, canons to the right, canons in front of them, volleyed and thundered," she then paraphrased. "Now can we do something that won't get us killed? I cracked the Gluak comm channel, but I don't know what Lougheed wanted me to do with it!"

"I'm...a little...busy...at the moment...my love," Arturo said, his maneuvers requiring more concentration. "Be a dear and call the man and ask what he had in mind. Otherwise, when we get the shot lined up, we're going to fire, and in the interests of full disclosure, my lovely wife...I'm not 100% sure we can get clear of what will hopefully be the resulting spectacular explosion!"

"That sounded uncomfortably orgasmic..." the blind Operations Officer grumbled, then slammed her hand on the comm, "Lougheed!"


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[Engineering]

Lougheed entered Engineering and almost didn't know what to do first. Kalor was on the deck with a phaser trained on them. The warp core was offline and a pair of engineers where busy trying to get it back online. "Report!" The Lieutenant's voice boomed through the bay causing everyone to stop and turn.


"The warp core was severely damaged when Kalor fired her phaser at it, Sir!" reported an engineering ensign.

Colt went over to the engineer who'd been shot and scanned him with a medical tricorder. He shook his head. "He's gone, Lieutenant." Colt turned to the Master-at-Arms who'd been shot. "Him, too."

"Damn." Lougheed said angrily.

Colt rose and went over to Kalor's body and spoke to her prone form. "It looks like he only shot you once or twice, so I know you're still conscious. I'm going to check the back of your neck. My friend here is going to dial his phaser to the highest setting and if you do anything aggressive or uncooperative, he's going to shoot you until you have the good sense to die. Since you just murdered a friend of his, I don't think he'll have a problem with this plan."

T'Ral remained silent, keeping his phaser trained on Kalor.

"I am not afraid to die, Starfleet but can you truly say the same. The Gluak will once again be recognized as a fearsome people," Kalor said calmly

Colt shrugged. He checked Kalor's neck and, sure enough, there was the tail of one of the parasites sticking out of the back. How had that happened? He and Security had checked everyone...hadn't they...wait...Kalor joined the crew at the last minute...they must have missed her.

Colt turned to the MA. "Call for some back up and take her to the brig. I'll help cover her until they get here. Tell them to arm up with compression phaser carbines, and set the dials all the way up. The carbines, not the rifles. Rifles are hard to maneuver in this little ship." Colt drew his phaser. "If it was up to me, this young man and I would open fire on you until you finally vaporized. Try anything, and it will be up to me, and I swear to you, I'll do it and sleep easy tonight."

"Lougheed!" The comm sounded off with the voice of Xiulan Song from the Bridge. "Hey, I cracked the Gluak comm frequency, now what do you want me to do with it?"

"Lougheed to Song, find something to give us an edge over them." He said closing the channel.

Vita climbed out of the jefferies tube. "Get the anti-matter injectors primed, we're going to have to flush the plasma from the nacelle and start them up cold."

"Lieutenant what's the status of the warp core." Lougheed said approaching the Andorian.

"Kalor shot it with a high power phaser. It cause the emergency system to shut the core down and purge the reaction chamber. It was that or a core breach. We're restarting it now but these aren't meant to be flipped on and off." Vita shouted as she set to work on the main console next to the core.

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{Bridge; USS Valiant}

On the screen, sections of hull were blown into the void of space as a Gluak polaron beam ripped into it. Atmosphere and a few bodies were sucked out following the hit before the emergency fields could be erected. The Valiant closed to within weapons range, moving at a slower pace due to losing the warp core--only temporarily, Leigh hoped. "Fire now!" Leigh ordered.

The Odyssey followed suit as several volleys of quantum torpedoes and phasers burned their way through space towards their target.

Find something to give them an edge? Xiulan's ears burned as she heard those word over the comm; why did he have her waste time cracking this damned frequency when he didn't have a plan to use it in the first place?! Well Xiulan was nothing if not quick on her feet, so to speak, and using the algorithm she used to crack the frequency, she quickly translated a nasty computer virus into Gluak coding. With no clue if this would have any effect at all, the blind Linguist transmitted the virus to the Gluak ship.

Meanwhile, as soon as the Valiant's quantum torpedo barrage left the little ship's forward torpedo tubes, Arturo altered course and pulled away, transferring as much power as he could to the engines, leaving only enough power in the structural integrity fields to keep the ship the ship from flying apart under the strain, and then only just. System after system overloaded as the Valiant made a...valiant...effort to pull away from the Gluak ship before it exploded. It was a...valiant...effort, but Arturo was the kind of pilot who could do these kinds of calculations in his head. They weren't going to get completely out of range of the explosion. There just wasn't enough time with the power available.

On the bright side, the Gluak ship was cooperating and appeared to be doing its level best to die in an extraordinarily violent series of explosions that threatened to take the Odyssey and the Valiant with it. Xiulan's virus seemed to have disrupted the systems that prevented the expected overload on their first attack run. Small explosions could be seen occurring throughout the ship. The explosions were getting larger and more violent. Things were very clearly going to come to a head any moment.

Arturo glanced at his sensors. The Odyssey was making a much swifter getaway than the Valiant was capable of. Maybe, just maybe, if Arturo could get them far enough away, the Odyssey could pick them up...or at least what was left of them.

"Xiulan," Arturo said. "I'm ever so very glad I'm your husband, and if we die here, just know that knowing you has been, without a doubt, the most rewarding experience of my life."

And then the Gluak ship exploded. The shock wave slammed into the Valiant from behind, and the accompanying electromagnetic burst fried her remaining functional systems. With only minimal power to the structural integrity fields, the force of the shock wave broke the little ship's back and sent her tumbling end over end. Now it was the Valiant experiencing minor explosions and fires on almost every deck.

Arturo, who like any good interstellar motorist had been wearing his seat belt, was still in his seat. There were fires on the bridge and blown consoles everywhere. He checked his own console. It was still functional...but just barely. Arturo managed to get the all call working. He didn't need the status report he was going to ask his wife for in a moment to know it was time to leave. "Commander S'Rohass to all hands. Now hear this! All hands abandon ship! Repeat, abandon ship! This is..." Arturo was about to say 'this is not a drill' out of habit, but stopped and chuckled. "If any of you think this is a drill, then you need more help than I can provide."

"Xiulan!" he called out. The diminutive Caitian unbuckled and quickly went to check on his new bride. "Easy. There. Take it easy. I hate to ask, but I need a status report. I assume we're all going to die if we don't get off of the ship quickly, I just need to know how long we have to prevent that from happening."

Unlike Arturo, Xiulan had been thrown from her station in the explosion. Once her husband got her upright, she checked her console. "Tactile interface is dead, I got nothing," she said, but then grew still; she definitely didn't have 'nothing' when she heard a low groan from the ship. "We definitely need to get out of here; I think I hear the frame buckling, and if it does we'll have ship-wide hull breaches as the Valiant breaks apart."

"Alright then," Arturo said. "Let's get you up. I'm going to put you in your seat and check on everyone else."

Arturo got Xiulan in her seat and then went to the command chair. "Captain...Leigh, we need to abandon ship, right now. I need you to get Sienna and Xiulan into the bridge escape pod. I have to do something. Do you understand?"

Leigh groaned--her side, elbow, and head hurt from hitting the deck before crawling back into her command chair. It took a moment for her to comprehend what Arturo was saying to her. Here she was, losing another command. With a reluctant sigh she nodded and hit the intercom. "Attention all hands, this is the Captain," she paused, not really wanting to utter the next words as if it were a nightmare. "Abandon ship." Leigh pushed herself up to her feet and looked down at Arturo. "You better be right behind us, Commander or I'm kicking your ass. Alright, Nora, Song, get to the nearest escape pod, now!" she ordered before taking Song's arm to escort her.

"I will be, I assure you," Arturo said. I hope. he thought. "Me'Shlaht, you'd better get out, too." Then Arturo left to save a dear friend. Xiulan wasn't the only lifeform on the ship that would need help getting to an escape pod. Arturo only hoped he had time for this admittedly harebrained rescue mission.

Arturo made his way through the corridors often knocked from side to side or forced to walk on part of a corridor wall when the ship pitched to one side or the other. The inertial dampening fields and artificial gravity were clearly both failing fast. By the time he got to the small quarters he shared with Xiulan, he had more than a few bumps and bruises, and both his uniform and some of his fur were singed. He had to force the hatch to their quarters. Once inside, he found everything in disarray, but Arturo found that what he was looking for was still intact and breathed a sigh of relief. Gerri the Fire Lizard's terrarium was still welded to the little table in their quarters and the table was still welded to the floor. Gerri was, however, looking both indignant and terrified.

"Don't worry, my dear little friend!" Arturo said. "I would never leave you to die in such a place!" Arutro carefully opened the terrarium lid and scooped Gerri out. Gerri made grateful noises, comforted by Arturo's presence. Knowing Gerri had to be kept warm, Arturo put the lizard in his uniform jacket and held him close so he wouldn't fall out. "What do you say we get out of here, little one?" Gerri made what sounded like an affirmative response. "I agree. Hang on!" Gerri responded by digging his claws into Arturo's shirt.

Arturo made his way to the nearest escape pod. It was empty. Arturo got in, but, before he launched, he transmitted a final call from his commbage. "Commander S'Rohass to anyone near escape pod J372. If you can here this, please respond." No response came. Arturo waited a full two minutes, but when he saw the hull start to buckle, he was forced to launch with just himself and Gerri. Once clear of the ship, he activated the comm in the pod. "Arturo to Xiulan! Do you read?"

"I'm here," Xiulan said from her pod. Her mind was a bit addled, likely from a concussion from being thrown from her station moments earlier, and so she was fumbling with her seat restraints. She felt someone else's hands on hers, probably the Captai'sn, but she couldn't quite tell from the heat signature with her brain feeling so fuzzy, and these hands helped get her strapped in. "We're in a pod and launching, we're okay. Tell me you're alright."

"I'm fine," Arturo said. "In a pod and already launched, and, even better, I have someone with me who will be very happy to see you when we are reunited. I know I must have worried you. I'm so sorry. I just couldn't leave the little fellow behind."

Little fellow? It took a moment for Xiulan to realize just what Arturo was talking about, and when she did she rested her head back onto the bulkhead with a groan.

"You crazy, stupid, adorably sweet cat... You went back for a lizard?!" Xiulan exclaimed. "Not that I'm not happy Gerri will survive, but what if you hadn't made it out? I can replace him, I can't replace you."

"My dear wife," Arturo said. "Whenever you worry about me, just remember: Your husband is brave and true of heart and so must always win!"

Gerri chirped, and Arturo laughed.

"And so is Gerri," he said. "Stay safe, my wife. I'll see you soon."

-------Engineering----------

Colt picked himself up off of the deck after taking a moment to determine that he was actually okay. He quickly looked around. He saw T'Ral on the deck across the room from him. Neither of them were where they were before, and Kalor was missing. Colt checked T'Ral only to find that the man was dead. He found Lougheed. After examining the man, Colt pulled hypospray from his kit, inserted an ampule, adjusted the setting and pressed the hypospray against the Intelligence Officer's neck, injecting him with enough stimulant to get him on his feet again.

"Lieutenant," Colt said. "We need to get the Hell out of here. I'm going to check on our lovely Andorian engineer, and then, if she isn't dead, the three of us are going to unass this starship before it breaks up. You read me, Lieutenant?"

Lougheed appeared to be waking up alright, so Colt went over and helped Lieutenant Zh'Challiss to her feet. "Let's go, Lieutenant. We're leaving. Now."

"Aye Sir." Vita managed to reply.

The three of them made their way to an escape pod, entered it and launched it. Once free, Colt activated the pod's comm. "Xan to Jacobs. I've got Lougheed and Zh'Challiss and we're clear of the ship. Kalor got away and I don't know where she went. Advise you inform Odyssey immediately in case she is aboard an escape pod or perhaps the shuttle. Hopefully, if she took that, she's long gone. I'd rather not have her running loose on the Odyssey in the middle of this clusterfuck."

----------------------------------------------------

Leigh nodded. "Acknowledged." Leigh was pushing the escape with all the power the the pod could muster. She set a course for the Odyssey and took a moment to look out the aft port back at the Defiant as it drifted in space, expending it's last moments of life. A moment later, the hull cracked as the ship began to break up and within a second, the break hit the engineering section. There was a blinding light as the Valiant exploded. The sight saddened Leigh as she turned back to focus on piloting the small pod and opened the comm channel. "Jacobs to Admiral Viktor. Please be advised--be on the lookout for our head nurse, Warrant Officer Nalla Kalor. She has been infected my the Gluak parasite and was the cause of the Valiant losing power by firing a phaser at our warp core."

"Understood, Commander," came Viktor's reply. "We detected the shuttle leaving the Valiant a minute ago but it went to warp almost immediately before we could react. We'll start transporting you and your crew aboard and then set a course to Starbase 239. Starfleet is already sending a taskforce to the system to open possible negiotians with the remaining Gluak."

"Aye sir. Thank you for your aid," Jacobs replied solemnly.

"Anytime, Commander," Viktor replied. "Standby to be transported."

A moment later, Leigh, Nora, Xiulan, Valywen, and three other crew dematerialized in a blue transporter field and almost immediately found themselves in the transporter room on the Odyssey.

After Leigh and the others stepped off of the pads, Colt, Lougheed, and Zh'Challiss arrived. When they stepped down, Arturo was beamed aboard. Sticking out of the top of his uniform jacket was a lizard the color of cooling lava.

Colt smirked. "Welcome aboard, Commander. Is that a lizard in your jacket or are you happy to see us?"

Arturo grinned. "Can't both be true? I'm very glad to see you all made it. Everyone, this is Gerri. Gerri, this is everyone." Gerri chirped, then snuggled in against Arturo. Without his heat lamp, the lizard was dependent on his favorite furry biped for warmth. Arturo walked over to his wife and gently touched her cheek, then leaned up to give her a soft kiss. "I'm very glad to see you." Gerri chirped, causing Arturo to laugh. "Gerri is very glad to see you, too."

Xiulan pouted when she felt Arturo kiss her. "I can't tell if I'm angry at you for taking such a stupid risk, or relieved that you're both here and safe," she said honestly.

"I'll ask you the same question I asked Colt," Arturo said. "Can't both be true?" Arturo took Xiulan's hand and put it on Gerri's head. "Our little family is safe, wife. We're safe, and so, it appears, are many of our new friends."

"I'm gonna kick your ass later," Xiulan said in promise to Arturo as she rubbed Gerri's head ridges. "Definitely after a trip to Sickbay, I think I hit my head earlier."

"Well then let's get you to Sick Bay," Arturo said. "Captain, permission to escort Xiulan to Sickbay?"

"Go ahead. I'll be on the Odyssey's bridge," she replied.

"Thank you, Captain," Arturo said. "I'll report to you as soon as I have Xiulan and Gerri squared away."

Arturo escorted Xiulan out of the Transporter Room and off to Sickbay.

Evan gave Leigh a small smile, glad to see she was in one piece. "It's a shame that we lost the Valiant, she was a tough little ship." He said. "I'm going to check on our people and I'll get a final casualty report to you and the Admiral."

"I'm going to check in with the Odyssey's Chief Corpsman and see if they can use an extra set of hands," Colt said. "Unless you want me to come with you to see the Admiral, Captain."

"No, that's ok," she said with smile that was more forced than geniune. "And thank you, Mr. Lougheed." Leigh turned and exited the transporter room. She was frustrated, tired, and angry. Inside, she wanted to scream but outward, she maintained her composure as she entered the turbolift.

 

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