entry: Stories of Sacrifice
BLUEBERRY FIELDS FOREVER
He kept his blind eyes set on the stars behind the window of his ready room. Many times he overheard his crew talk about the soothing beauty of the stars when observed from a ship at high warp velocities, how they could be observed with awe allegedly for eternity and sought as a source of everlasting comfort. This wasn't the first time he strived for their comfort, nor the first time he wondered if having a sight would have made any difference.This is all so wrong.
He turned the tips of his forked antennae towards the padd he was gripping tightly in his pale hands and toward the cold words the padd was displaying in yellow capital letters. He wrote those words a long time ago. At least it felt like a long time since the war of 2405 started. Correction
! He realized in his musings, that he didn't actually write the words, he just downloaded the file from the database of formal templates. It said:
TO WHOM IT MIGHT CONCERN, BY SUBMITTING THIS LETTER, I, [here goes rank, name surname], RESIGN MY COMMISSION AS AN OFFICER OF STARFLEET (optional: ON ACCOUNT OF [here goes reason]). I AM GREATFUL FOR THE OPPORTUNITIES THE SERVICE PROVIDED ME AND LEARNED MANY GREAT LESSONS IN LINE OF DUTY, SUCH AS [here goes example of meaningful experiences]. THANK YOU FOR PROCESSING MY REQUEST. REGARDS, [rank, name surname]
He hasn't found the strength yet to even fill in his name: Thyan, captain of the U.S.S. Deaconia
. If Thyan had missed one thing more than all else after submitting the letter on the padd, it would be the magnificently beautiful Excelsior II class vessel entrusted under his command. Thyan loved the ship and took a lot of pride in sitting in her central seat and deciding the course of her travels. But then, since the war machine took over the Starfleet, Deaconia
, as every able cruiser, was repurposed as a ship of war, and as Aenar, Thyan detested the very concept of war.
So many times Thyan got close to sending the message contained in the padd to Starfleet HQ but something inside always prevented him. Two weeks ago, when returning from the previous mission with the ship badly damaged and multiple casualties, Thyan had even brought the padd with him into Admiral Quinn's office on Earth Spacedock along with after-action reports but was swayed from putting it on the table by a shower of compliments the admirals had prepared for him. The official title of 'The most brilliant tactical mind of Starfleet' engraved on a golden plaque threw him entirely out of balance. That day Thyan forgot about the padd in his hands, thanked Admiral Quinn, and left to supervise repair works on Deaconia
. Next time then, he had thought.
Yes, true, for someone it might have seemed like an admirable victory when a ship caught sneaking behind enemy lines got chased by a fleet of Klingon warships into the accretion disk of a supermassive black hole and was the only vessel that also emerged from it. A fleet of twelve of the finest Klingon ships destroyed at a cost of medium damage to a single Starfleet ship and not a single photon torpedo wasted. On an imaginary calculator of the Starfleet top brass, it must have looked like an impressive result, not so much in Thyan's white eyes. First of all, he didn't consider his maneuver as brilliant as others described it. It was a desperate move made on the spot. He simply assumed that Klingon captains would follow Deaconia
's course blindly and wouldn't think of also reconfiguring their deflectors to decrease ships' mass at the last moment to maintain escape velocity. He was right and the event horizon swallowed their entire task force, while Thyan's ship got free. Not unscathed though.
Starfleet Intelligence believed the enemy fleet was on its way to destroy Starbase 24, which at the time was weakened by waves of assault to the point it would have fallen to another surprise attack, which would open the path for invaders to multiple Federation colonies near the border. Starfleet Command argued that in that mission Thyan saved not only his ship but then also the station and then also billions of lives across multiple planets. But the way Thyan understood it that was a hypothetical scenario of what might have happened. He didn't care for 'what ifs'. He rarely used them in the calculus of his tactical projections. All Thyan cared about were facts, and real people, especially those he lost under his command that day. All he saw in the eye of his mind were faces of the fallen and black scorched scars on the hull of Deaconia
. As Aenar he couldn't grasp that anything could be worth this amount of damage and suffering. Or any amount.
And yet, there he was, on yet another daring intel mission with Deaconia
deep behind the enemy lines. Something, most likely his Starfleet training, or maybe his upbringing on Andoria, which both filled his mind with optimism and noble ideas, kept him going. Thyan's latest orders sent him and his crew to the Sha'Kurian territory, where black ops away teams retrieved intel vital for future war efforts. Should the mission succeed and he brings the ship safely home again, with this intel, Thyan thought, it is going to violently turn the tides of war in Starfleet's favor. This mission was so vital, so special and so insanely impossible that Thyan couldn't bring himself to refuse. He knew there was no other captain that could possibly pull it off.
And at that moment two weeks ago, when accepting the latest orders, he didn't even bother repeating his mantra: 'next time'; next time for submitting his resignation. There is always a next mission, even more important than the last one. There is no way out of that circle. What an awful gift for a peaceful Aenar, Thyan wondered, is a mind of a brilliant tactician. Or what a curse! He gripped the frame of the padd even tighter, knuckles on his hands turning more pale than usual when the doorbell rang and interrupted his dismal line of thoughts.
"Come in", Thyan muttered, tilted his head, and turned his antennae towards the door.
Skorilon, the ship's Xindi-Reptilian first officer came in and stood in attention at a respectable distance from his captain. "I have the routine report ready for your approval, captain!"
Thyan didn't need to see the admiration in his XO's eyes. His telepathic senses told him all about how much Skorilon looked up to him and his famous genius, as most of the senior crew did. Such was the common reason why they had requested a transfer to Deaconia
after all, extremely dangerous profiles of all missions notwithstanding. They all stood firmly behind their captain, bearing faith in his reputation of tactical brilliance. Sensing Skorilon's devotion, loyalty, and stubborn optimism, Thyan would hate to disappoint him so he never showed his modesty on the outside, nor any doubts he harbored regarding his own Starfleet commission.
"Sum it up for me, commander."
"Ehm," Skorilon started nervously and looked down at his own padd, "We should cross the Federation/Klingon border in four hours. We are almost home, sir. So far, no signs of detection on the side of Klingons. Stealth protocols seem to be working. Also, the engine room reports they managed to install and integrate the Sha'Kurian device successfully into Deaconia
's systems, but Chief Two of Five admits she doesn't understand the underlying principles that technology is based on. To put it in her words: We have no idea how it works and thus not even if it works."
"I see," Thyan replied. "Let's just hope it was worth the effort."
Suddenly, the lights turned red and sirens sounded out. "Red alert", the computer announced and was swiftly followed by: "Captain to the bridge." Both men exchanged worried looks and turned toward the door. "Report!" Thyan commanded once he and Skorilon stepped side by side into the dimly lit command center.
"Sensors detected four Klingon ships – two Bortasqu' class heavy battlecruisers and other two are Qeh'Ral class battleships, flying in formation and...", operations officer on duty hesitated for two heartbeats, but quickly recovered, "...and under cloak. Sir, I'm not sure how..."
"That's alright, lieutenant," Thyan said and turned to Skorilon. "At least there is your proof that the Sha'Kurian sensor enhancement works. It can truly see through Klingon cloaking technology. We have to get it home for SCE to look at, urgently." He directed his antennae back to the ops officer. "What's the heading of the Klingon patrol, lieutenant?"
"That's the reason for the red alert, sir. Once they came into sensor range, enemy ships changed course. To intercept."
The bridge fell quiet for several seconds and in such unnatural silence, the ambient beeps and whistles of computers became almost deafening. Everybody knew that going toe to toe with even a single Bortasqu' warship would be a challenge and nobody wanted to know the chances of surviving in a battle with basically four of such.
"Project their course. Interpose ours as well." Thyan ordered. He dropped the habit of calling the 'On screen' line since the battle five months ago when Klingon disruptor pulse destroyed half the bridge module including the main viewscreen. The crew had a hard time adjusting to looking out of the force field-sealed tear in the bulkhead directly into the dark depressive clouds of micronebula they had used as a hiding spot during emergency repairs, so Thyan had ordered the hole patched up with duranium plates and after finally reaching safe harbor of Station 39-Sierra weeks later Thyan decided not to have a new screen installed. Instead, he relied on three-dimensional holographic images just as those that just now, by his order, started forming in the air all around the bridge. Thyan's antennae found it easier to read such images than a two-dimensional viewscreen. It also helped him to visualize the disposition of ships in his mind. And it felt like playing simple 3D chess game.
Thyan was of exceptionally slender and tall figure so as he walked around the bridge his head towered above the tiny holographic ship models and lines that connected them on the transparent hologrid. He could easily detect that the lines representing his ship's course and that of their enemies connected way before the blue plane indicating the border of the Federation. Even at maximum warp, there was no escape. They will have to face the Klingons.
Thyan reached out with his telepathic senses and savored the emotional atmosphere of the bridge. As expected, there was tension and fear, which was a natural and healthy reaction. There was also confidence and expectation, both directed towards him. He pointed one antenna in the direction where Skorilon was standing near his chair and met his gaze. The officer was full of hope, despite the odds. Thyan found it inspiring.Very well, then. Let's see if there are any micronebulae or supermassive black holes this time around
. "Overlay the tactical grid with a map of local space. What options do we have?"
"There is a gas giant in nearby Epsilon Irae system," offered Skorilon a suggestion. "Its atmosphere is impenetrable by sensors. On critical warp we can reach it before they catch up on us."
"And spend weeks hiding in the layers of a stormy atmosphere trying to avoid seeker probes?" Thyan wondered. "Under other circumstances, perhaps. But we have a delivery to make, asap. And we can't deviate from our course. If we did, the Klingons would know we detected them under cloak. We cannot divulge our newly found advantage. No, our current course will bring us near this unnamed system," Thyan said and pointed a finger at an average yellow star with no planets. "Adjust our course only enough to bring us to the edge of the star's photosphere and order full stop once we reach that point. Make it look like a technical issue. We will take our stand there."
sat motionless inside of a stellar corona, a stone's throw of what would officers from the astrometric lab describe as chromosphere, and waited. Waited for the much stronger and more numerous enemy forces to catch up with their prey.
Thyan, back in his central chair of the bridge, was focusing his senses on the four holographic representations of enemy ships, moving along their vector. The quartet was approaching his ship in tight formation and slowed its pace soon after Deaconia
hit its proverbial breaks near the star. Sneaking and stalking like a pack of feral hybors
, Thyan thought, closing in, eager to land a killing bite
"Status?" Thyan asked with an ever-leveled voice.
"Metaphasic shields holding, captain." the lieutenant at the ops station replied. "Enemy ships are keeping course and speed. Should we... ehm, arm our weapons, sir?"
"Negative." Thyan felt a slight nausea at the thought of ordering to fire the ship's weapons. Even long ago at Starfleet Academy, he managed to pass battle-oriented training simulations only through disciplined self-denial, and even that was all just playacting. No!
He never had to order firing at another ship before and he won't this time either. "Besides, we can't spare the energy for weapons. We will need all of our warp core's output distributed evenly between shields, integrity field, and engines."
"Sickbay to bridge." a deep cracky voice sounded from the intercom.
"Captain Thyan speaking. Go on, doctor."
"As ordered, radiation protocols are in effect on all decks, the whole crew is inoculated and sickbay increased capacity in case of large amounts of wounded." Next garbled noise sounded like a groan or a sigh. "I very much hope you people up there know what you're doing."
"Thank you, doctor!" Skorilon stepped into the dialogue, scowling at a tone with which the ship's Tellarite CMO dared to speak with his captain. "That'll be all, bridge out." With the channel closed, Skorilon looked up at Thyan. "We are ready for your maneuver, captain."
"Not yet, number one. Wait. The timing needs to be precise. Ops, let us know exactly when Klingons get in weapon's range." Yes, we know what we're doing
, Thyan answered the doctor's query in the privacy of his mind. Which doesn't mean it can't go horribly wrong
. Maybe it was a good thing that Loriam, the ship's young Vulcan science officer, didn't join them on this mission in favor of addressing some complicated family matters on Weytahn. Thyan wouldn't care to hear the precise odds of success of his latest battle plan.
"Aye, sir. They are coming in weapon's range in 5..., 4..., 3..., 2..., NOW!"
Immediately once they were able, Klingon ships decloaked and opened fire. Deaconia
's forward shields lit up with dozens of impacts from point-defense disruptor turrets, doing little damage at their uttermost effective distance, but creating an impressive visual spectacle nonetheless.
Thyan raised from his chair, stepped forward, and put a hand on ensign Kolez's shoulder. "Your turn," he whispered.
As per orders described by his captain earlier at a briefing, the Saurian ensign at the helm started the sublight engines of the powerful Excelsior II class cruiser; he didn't waste a second and began steering the vessel towards the star. "Collision course with the star laid in, full impulse speed on."Deaconia
plunged into the inferno of the inner corona. The ship immediately started shaking as wave after wave of super-heated gas and stellar matter emanating from the white-hot surface hit its shields.
"Shields dropping, but slowly," someone shouted their report through the racket of the turbulence. "Engineering attempting to compensate. Structural integrity holding so far!"
"Acknowledged. What about Klingons?" Thyan inquired.
"Following us in, matching our speed, shields buckling" answered the lieutenant at the operations station and turned over his shoulder to face his commanding officer. "Just as you predicted, captain."
Thyan just nodded. He was counting on Klingons pursuing no matter where to.
"Sir," Skorilon said, shaking of the deck reflected in his faltering voice, "If we transfer reserve power from auxiliary and batteries to impulse, we'd be faster, we could increase our distance. Their fire wouldn't reach us. The pounding from the heat and radiation itself is bad enough."
"Negative, number one," Thyan said. "We will need that energy later. Besides, we want Klingons to keep firing, despite the cost to our shields." Violent turbulence increased in intensity, forcing Thyan to slump back into the central chair before he could be tossed against a bulkhead. He gripped the chair's armrests with both hands to steady himself. "We can't let Klingons get the idea that they can just switch their weapons off and that we are anything but a clueless scaredy-cat desperately running away – an easy pick even deep inside the corona. Their bloodlust is their undoing."
"Hull integrity at 40% and dropping." came in another loud report. "Gravitational forces are tearing the hull apart. We can't survive another minute of this."
"Steady," Thyan commanded in firm, reassuring voice. He was grateful the bridge had no viewscreen, no way for his crew to watch the deadly wall of fire in front of them and closing fast. So much light would blind anyone who wasn't blind already.
"Ensign Kolez, are you familiar with the term U-turn?" Thyan asked.
"You know what to do then. Wait for my mark." Thyan tapped his delta-shaped combadge. "Thyan to engineering."
"Two of Five here."
"Chief, I want you to use the aux energy and batteries to activate warp engines. Give me at least warp 2, anything less won't do. Pull additional energy from any system if needed."
"Uh, captain... forming a warp bubble inside this heat storm will most likely..."
"I know." Thyan interrupted. "You have your orders."
Somehow something in Thyan's words made the chief engineer forget her concerns. His power to inspire worked its charm one more time. "Understood. You will have warp at your command. Engineering out."
It was nearly the time. Thyan reckoned that executing this maneuver would be pointless unless at least a hundred kilometers from the surface of the sun. They were about to cross that point any second.
"Ensign Kolez, reverse course. Comms, open ship-wide channel: Everybody, brace for impact."Deaconia
decelerated abruptly and started turning along two axes in a desperate attempt to rush out of the trap for which it used itself as bait. Two of the Klingon ships flew right past her at full speed and were vaporized the moment they touched the melting surface of the star. Third was lost in a solar flare that resulted.
Gravity forces so close to the sun were far too strong for inertial dampeners to compensate. They pinned the bridge crew deep into their chairs. To reach a button on an LCARS panel turned into an exhausting toil. Thyan found he couldn't even lift his head from the headrest. He pointed his antennae up at a flickering holographic map and noticed one last Klingon warship turning as well. Thyan was surprised by the unexpected mindfulness of its commander. They recognized the trap at the last second when it was still possible to escape it. Or was it really?
Thyan managed to push a few words through his clenched teeth, "Why... aren't we... at warp... yet?"
"We are, sir!" came the answer from the direction of the helm. "Warp field is forming but it's weak. We don't have enough juice to stabilize it."
Tips of Thyan's main sensory organs were still focusing on the position of the remaining enemy contact and its sensor readings. It was also trying to activate its warp engines and run. Except it lost way more strength to the lethal environment of the corona than the better-shielded Deaconia
did. The moment the Klingon ship's warp bubble formed it immediately collapsed again; the Bortasqu' burst into billions of tiny flickering pieces, causing a massive shockwave.Deaconia
's engines shone with energy at last and the ship shot through corona back into the safety of black empty space right before it'd have been swept by the antimatter wave. With dampeners strained to their limits the impact of the warp jump rocked the vessel so hard Thyan felt his ribs breaking against safety belts of the chair. For one blink Deaconia
lost its shields, its decks flooding with deadly radiation. Myriad exotic particles overwhelmed Aenar's sensitive antennae and after seeing for the first time all colors of space, visible and invisible, his senses overloaded, his mind drifted away, past the giant koala guarding the dreamscape and beyond the black rainbow and he lost his frail, troubled consciousness.
Frightening sounds of thunder woke Thyan up. When he quickly surveyed the room with his antennae he noticed the noise was actually made by crewmen cleaning up debris. From his surroundings, it appeared the sickbay was hit hard as well when the ship engaged warp inside the thick layer of stellar gases. Skorilon was leaning over Thyan's biobed and despite his Xindi-Reptilian face being hard to read Thyan sensed the relief his first officer felt upon his captain's awakening.
Thyan got up on his feet, felt the spot on his chest where he assumed his broken ribs were hurriedly stitched together with bone-knitter, and took a padd with a report from Skorilon. The sheer number of casualties he observed being triaged on all beds and over the floor and wherever there was space enough for a stretcher, already told him the report was going to be bad. He didn't wait to be released and left the room.
Thyan was aware of the ancient terran naval tradition of captain touring his ship before the battle. A hopeless battle, to be precise. But he altered the tradition for himself. He always walked the corridors of the ship after
each hopeless battle and there have been many such tours since the war erupted. And now, just as before, Thyan went to every deck and every section to survey the damage personally. He felt every broken relay, ruptured conduit, and every hull breach as if wounds to his own body.
As Thyan found out the ship took severe structural damage when it hit warp speed. Large portions of hull plating were torn off, mainly off the ventral side of the saucer, its pieces pierced and wrecked the dish of the navigational deflector. The right nacelle exploded after colliding with an extra dense chunk of stellar matter, leaving just a charred pylon behind. The ship was limping forward at low warp speeds using its remaining nacelle. By the time Thyan returned to his ready room Deaconia
crossed the border and continued safely toward the nearest Starfleet repair facility.
Thyan once again found himself in front of the small window of his darkened private room, seeking the solace of stars passing by beyond the transparent aluminum.
He knew well what the admirals were going to do when the ship arrived at spacedock. They will celebrate the victory against impossible odds. They will rejoice in the destruction of multiple enemy warships without a loss of a single Starfleet vessel. And they will decorate Thyan with one more medal, commendation, or honorary title. The thought made him sick. He braced himself against the glass.Over there.
Thyan trained his antennae at a pale distant star that he believed was Epsilon Indi. In the star system, there was a gas giant called Andor, and in its orbit a moon called Andoria, or rather 'Fesoan' in his native tongue. Thyan's thoughts led him to the city deep below Fesoan's Nothern Wastes, where his people resided. A place where he grew up and a place he left behind in favor of Starfleet Academy. What would other Aenar back home think have they known he just destroyed four ships, killing thousands of their crew, albeit blood-thirsty enemies? Would they regard the excuse that he never actually fired a single shot? Probably not. The harm was done and directly or indirectly Thyan was responsible. There was no excuse, nor forgiveness. No home waiting for the return of the prodigal son.
Only now, in his exile of consequence, he learned to appreciate the idea of home. In his mind, Thyan pictured vivid memories of his time on Andoria before leaving the frozen world behind. Distant feelings of happiness permeated eerily lit images of the mindscape. Warm light on a winter's day.Strange
. Why couldn't have he felt just as happy back then as he did now, remembering those ancient times? Perhaps he would not have been tempted so easily by the lure of sparkling stars in the night sky. Perhaps he wouldn't have left. But then, what good could "what ifs" bring Thyan now?
He turned away from the window and stars beyond and headed for his desk. He found the padd left there in a hurry and glanced at its contents. "To whom it might concern..." Should he sign? Or should he delete it?
It was past the time to walk away, Thyan thought, and even if, there was nowhere to return to. He felt like stuck between two stars, two enormous gravity wells crushing his soul from opposite ends, melting it in all-pervading white light.
He tightened the grip on the padd and took a deep breath. There was much to consider and the night had only just begun.