Tarnh managed to keep his footing as the latest barrage of enemy phaser fire sheared through what was left of his ship’s port shields. The blood-red lighting of his command bridge fluctuated for a moment before dropping, leaving the room shrouded in eerie blackness. As emergency power flowed and light returned, Tarnh turned to face Girra, his executive officer. Her face was grim as she met his eyes over her tactical console. He’d seen that look before, just once, when they were locked in battle with the Klingons in 2408. That assignment nearly cost them their lives, just as this one seemed likely to.
“Report,” Tarnh called to Girra as he stamped the console release panel beneath him – that last hit had knocked out his holographic command unit. Time to do this the old-fashioned way, he thought bitterly as the console began to rise. Buttons and panels.
“Restoring partial power to the port shield, Leader,” Girra replied, nearly shouting over the din of battle. “New signal inbound… it’s the Defiant – “
“Which Defiant,” Tarnh asked. “Sisko? Morrison?”
“Neither,” she said as she entered a number of firing orders. “It’s the Defiant-C.”
Tarnh’s eyes narrowed with tense recognition. He knew that ship, and her captain. K’grel… daughter of Korol. Come to settle the score at last, eh?
Defiant-C was a formidable vessel; a Nachthexen-class Battle Cruiser in the service of the 5th Temporal Fleet. It was the ship that took down the General Vosk, a Na’kuhl dreadnought and flagship of Battle Group Virtuous Destiny.
And it was closing on Tarnh’s ship, a heavily damaged Daemosh-class Destroyer.
“Helm, evasive pattern Lu’kri, variant 4,” Tarnh ordered as the manual command console locked into place before him. “Girra, tell Engineering to get the Time Slip online! I need that decoy before - ”
Another hit shook the bridge violently; Tarnh managed to grab hold of his console in time. Other members of his bridge team weren’t as lucky. Technician Lurnn was thrown into a bulkhead with considerable force, falling unconscious to the deck thereafter, fresh blood flowing from a nasty head wound.
“Medic,” cried Girra through the growing haze. “I want that man at his station, battle ready!” She cursed in alarm as her console screen burst, sparks and shrapnel erupting from within. She managed to avoid most of it, though a number of small shards tore through her right cheek as she moved away.
“Stay with me, XO,” called Tarnh as he entered a series of orders on his console. “She smells blood… Defiant isn’t going to give up now!” Girra grunted an acknowledgement as she shoved a junior engineering officer from his console and began to repurpose it as a tactical station. Tarnh grinned savagely as he saw the latest intel on the main viewscreen – a wing of Na’kuhl fighters was giving their Federation opponent something else to shoot at.
“Helm, come to heading 113, mark 3,” Tarnh felt a wave of adrenaline rush through his frame as he felt his ship move into an attack posture. Here it comes, you Klingon butcher. “Girra, ready the Plas-cone – I think it’s time we show Captain K’grel how much we’ve missed her pretty face!”
“It’s primed and ready, Leader,” replied Girra. “Shall I blow her a kiss?”
“With my warmest regards.”
Girra quickly keyed a firing sequence on her console, and a conical burst of superheated plasma coursed through the aether, engulfing the onrushing Defiant in a blinding, hellish maelstrom. “Direct hit,” cried Girra triumphantly. “Their shields are at critical!”
“All weapons,” growled Tarnh. “Target Defiant and fire at will!”
In a moment, the clash between the two ships came to a horrific end as a number of beams and torpedoes wracked the Defiant, then tore her asunder in a brilliant burst of energy and debris. A cheer rang out across the bridge, and Tarnh took a moment to rest against his console. One down, he thought. Only an eternity to go.
“Message from Fleet Command, Leader,” shouted his Communications officer, new to the crew and the post. Teyus? Teyunh? So many gone, he mused. I’m having a hard time remembering their names… faces.
“Report, comms,” he replied crisply. “What are our orders?”
The young officer’s crimson eyes were wide as he responded.
“Leader, we… we’re to break off and directly engage the enemy flagship.”
“Enterprise? Are you certain?!”
“Y-yes, Leader… the admiral was quite… insistent.”
Tarnh felt the collective gaze of his command team upon him. They knew taking on a ship like Enterprise was a fool’s errand. He exchanged a brief look of concern with Girra, who silently nodded. The order was given, and dutiful sons and daughters of Na’kuhl would answer.
“Helm, new course,” Tarnh said solemnly, staring at the tactical readouts on the viewscreen. A massive vessel sat, waiting within the eye of the storm before them all. “Plot to intercept. Target – U.S.S. Enterprise-J.”
The crew responded without hesitation, and the ship sped rapidly toward an unpleasant destiny. Tarnh frowned as new intel appeared upon the viewscreen. “Am I seeing this correctly,” he asked, somewhat bewildered. “Are the Terrans disengaging?!”
“They are,” spat Girra. “Treacherous ga’bruk that they are. Looks like the Vorgon are moving to follow suit.”
“Damn,” muttered Tarnh. “We seem to be running out of allies, XO.”
“By the barge-load, Leader,” she replied. “The Sphere Builders and the Krenim are still with us, though.”
“They better be,” Tarnh said. “Procyon V was their idea to begin with!”
As Enterprise loomed, closer and closer by the moment, Tarnh saw what remained of his main battle group converge and fire upon the massive Federation vessel. Her shields flared… but held. Deadly bursts of phaser fire lanced outward from her, with terrifying results. Smaller ships were instantly annihilated, while larger vessels, badly damaged, were left to be eliminated by the support ships charged with protecting the enemy flagship.
Not that she needs much protection, thought Tarnh darkly. She’s the death of us, all on her own…
Suddenly, a massive beam of energy streaked forth from Enterprise, striking the Sphere Builder command ship with terrible force. In moments, the gigantic vessel was collapsing in upon itself, utterly crushed by an unrelenting, irresistible force.
For a moment, Tarnh’s bridge was as silent as the grave.
Girra’s voice broke the silence. “What in the cold star’s name was that?!” she barked, her voice breaking with panic and shock.
“The Tox Uthat,” said Tarnh, strangely calm in the face of such devastation. “We are undone.”
“Leader?” asked Girra. “Your… your orders, sir?”
Tarnh closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them once more, he saw the viewscreen filled with the bloody spectacle of war, the ships of his comrades falling one after the other, the enemy triumphant. He straightened and turned to face his people.
“Helm, set a course,” he said, still quite serene. “Evac Site Six. Emergency Impulse, best speed. This fight’s over.” As his orders were carried out, Girra gave him a slight smile of approval, one that quickly faded as new intel appeared on the viewscreen. A wing of Alliance fighters were closing on their position, weapons-hot.
“Time to intercept,” called Tarnh, already knowing the answer. Too fast, too soon. Girra’s reply was drowned out by the sounds of weapon impact on the shields and hull of the battered destroyer. Cries of anguish filled the air as the bridge shuddered and burned.
“Aft shield is gone, Leader,” cried Girra. “They’re locking torpedoes!”
“Engineering, this is the Leader,” Tarnh said grimly. “Ready the Temporal Drive.”
“Destination,” came the reply from his chief engineer.
“What stardate, Leader,” asked the engineer, his voice rising. The sounds of calamity in the engine room came through the speakers.
“One week from today,” shouted Tarnh as enemy torpedoes closed on the ship. “Do it now! Engage!”
The lights dimmed on the bridge as the Temporal Drive began to propel the vessel into the timestream, going dark as the first torpedo struck its mark.
Tarnh felt himself being violently shaken as his senses returned to him. He looked up from the deck, into the wide, red eyes of his executive officer, who was bellowing his name repeatedly.
“Two things,” Tarnh managed to croak out, his voice hoarse from smoke inhalation. “First… a sit-rep. Second… do it quietly. My ears are ringing enough as it is, woman!”
“Yes, Leader,” she said, a good deal quieter. “We’re operating on emergency power only. Main power is offline… impulse is offline… weapons…”
“Girra,” asked Tarnh as he managed to sit up. “What isn’t offline?”
“Life support, thrusters, sensors, short-range comms… and that Ferengi replicator you insisted we steal from Drozana Station.”
“Wonderful. Bring me a shot of Aldebaran Whiskey. Strike that,” he said with a lopsided grin. “Make it a double.”
“It will be done, Leader,” she said with the smile of someone who cheated death.
Tarnh headed over to a damage control team working on a power conduit and grabbed a modulator. “Let’s get the old girl running, shall we,” he said to the crewmen nearby.
The young communications officer spoke once more. “Leader,” he said as the main viewscreen flickered to life. “Look.”
Tarnh turned to see what he was pointing at. It was a bright, brilliantly burning golden star.
“Prugiv,” he said softly to his astonished science officer nearby, gaping at the monitor. “Identify that stellar body. Astrogation… confirm our location and temporal disposition.” He studied the viewscreen in silence as Girra walked next to him and handed him his drink.
“I think I’m going to need one of these, Leader,” she said as she took in the sight before her eyes.
“Permission granted,” Tarnh said quietly. “And bring me another while you’re at it.” He downed the emerald liquor quickly and smiled as Prugiv confirmed the star’s identity.
It was Na’kuhl.
His smile wavered slightly as the Astrogator spoke. “Leader,” she said hesitantly. “We… we’re in the 31st century. I double-checked, compensating for stellar drift…”
“At ease,” Tarnh replied. “Look there. Our star burns bright once again. Miracles are usually something to behold and appreciate, don’t you think?”
“Picking up a warp signature, Leader,” said Girra. “Federation registry, Wells-class. They found us.”
“That was quick,” Tarnh said, shaking his head. “Battle stations, all hands.”
“Leader, we’re being hailed,” the comms officer said. “Their captain wants to speak with you.”
Tarnh gave a resigned shrug. “Put them onscreen, comms.”
The image of a Na’kuhl male appeared onscreen. He was wearing a Federation uniform. Tarnh blinked in slight wonder at the sight.
“I’m Captain Gubret of the U.S.S. Janeway. To whom do I have the honor of addressing?”
“Leader Tarnh of the N.V. Salvation… at your service.”
“Welcome home, Leader Tarnh. There’s a world waiting to receive you nearby.”
Tarnh couldn’t help but smile as the first of his tears hit his cheek. “Delighted to hear it, Captain,” he said softly, turning to his jubilant crew.