NCC - 86105
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"Doubts and Dilemmas"

Posted on Sun Oct 23rd, 2011 @ 4:13am by Lieutenant Commander Linom Dekur

Mission: Character Background
Location: USS Endeavour/Bridge

=== USS Lakota / Bridge ===

Linom watched as the detachment commander left the bridge, leaving him with a bridge full of relative draftees to tend to a broken vessel with virtually no defenses, little weaponry, and very limited maneuverability. It was not, to his mind, an enviable position in which to assume his first opportunity for command.

That, too, worried him. In his life, he had been a brilliant scientist, a dutiful soldier, and a gifted engineer. Never had he been a tactical officer and his training at the academy had merely skimmed the absolute basics required of any cadet. He'd never sought command nor had he ever envisioned he'd be faced with such a situation as this. On those rare occasions where he did consider his future - typically before a performance review, rather than wasting his own time on such trivialities - he most commonly saw himself either performing research or assigned to a larger-scale engineering project; never in his dreams did command of a starship enter the equation.

But now, here he was, freshly minted the Lakota's second officer only a few short hours earlier, in the midst of a crisis of width and breadth still unknown, given a ship still a ways from complete and a crew without the appropriate training. With the ship in port, it's daily staff had been reduced to a skeleton crew, save for it's engineering complement, which had been supplemented by station operations personnel. Per regulations, that would have left at least a few operations and tactical officers aboard, but the party had largely stripped the vessel bare. He knew he had a small work crew in Engineering and probably another security detail, but that would be all.

'And I can hardly count on Venture to have left his security personnel on board,' Linom thought to himself bitterly as he sat in the captain's chair, 'given that man's own past unwillingness to secure the ship.'

Brushing the thought aside, he began to consider Commander Vann's instructions. He knew that a more capable commander would have been issuing orders already, but he was what they had and he was not about to start throwing his few remaining personnel around simply to maintain appearances.

From what he could observe, there were likely sufficient Marines aboard the ship to make a decent run of the vessel, in coordination with the ship's internal sensors, which were fortunately still fully functional. And they also had the dubious luck to not have a great deal aboard the vessel that was operational enough to be worthy of sabotage. The shield generators were still a good week from being brought online and the ship's phasers were mostly inoperative. They still had torpedoes with which to fight, but he wasn't certain he could trust the Marines - or himself, for that matter - to rightly hit anything that moved. And, as icing on the cake, the ship could barely make half impulse and, with the missing nacelle, warp speed was completely out of the question.

So, what they could do was see, hear, move around a bit, and (possibly) shoot at targets. It wasn't much, but it'd have to do.

"Lieutenant," spoke up one of the Marines behind him, her voice rather uncertain, "orders, sir?"

Dekur looked around at his motley crew for a moment and frowned to himself. Then, after seeing the uncertainty in many of their faces, he locked eyes with the most senior he saw present and launched himself into the fray.

"Lieutenant, sweep the ship using the internal sensors. Anything that looks like it might be out of place, send a squad to investigate. Phasers on maximum stun; I don't want risk killing any of our crew, but I do want any of these...things captured alive. After that, I want a roster of all remaining personnel aboard. Personnel unessential to combat operations are to be secured in quarters or assigned to damage control teams according to their abilities."

Dekur's gaze slid over to the man sitting at the navigator's station. "Do you have any experience piloting a starship?" When he shook his head, Dekur raised his voice slightly to address the entire bridge. "Has anyone here ever piloted a starship before?" No one answered in the affirmative. "Manned a starship's tactical controls?"

A staff sergeant to Linom's right cleared her throat and stepped forward. "I cross-trained in tactical while I was assigned to the Wellington's detachment, sir. I'm pretty rusty, but I think I can manage."

'Well, that's something,' Linom thought to himself as he nodded to the woman. Pressing a button upon the captain's armrest, he addressed whoever remained of the crew. "To all hands, this is Lieutenant Dekur. Anyone with experience in starship navigation, report to the bridge immediately."

Killing the ship's general comm channel, Linom turned his attention to more external matters. "Staff sergeant, sound red alert and begin a sensor sweep of the space around the station. We took out a smaller transport in one of the station's shuttlebays, but it was too small to have transported the number of intruders we've encountered."

"Yes, sir," came the crisp, succinct reply Linom would have expected of any capable combat veteran.

"Helm, bring us to course zero-two-seven, mark zero-five-two, one quarter impulse." Dekur's orders rolled off more confidently than he felt, with a commanding bark and a certain tone that he only wished his nerves would share.

The ship began moving away from the station at an almost lazily pace, one which sadly marked half of their current propulsion capabilities. A quick order snapped to the person sitting at the operations console switched the viewscreen to an aft view, showing the station slowly shrinking as they pulled away.

"Lieutenant," came an unexpected voice from behind his left shoulder. Turning to look at the source of the voice, he found himself looking at an uncertain ensign from his own department, one Ensign Volaro. The Bolian woman was one of his most senior ensigns, but her confidence was so shaky he could barely see her as more than a cadet.

"Yes, ensign?" he asked, more pointedly than he'd intended.

"Sir, you asked for someone with flight operations training?" Her voice cracked slightly as she half-stated, half-asked the sentence, her nerves obviously rattled by the situation...and her superior officer.

"You've flown a starship before, ensign?" Dekur was obviously incredulous about such a claim, but stranger things had happened, he supposed.

"I training to be a navigator at the academy, before I switched to engineering, sir," she stated, seeming to withdraw further yet from his blatant uncertainty. "I checked out with my Level Two piloting qualifications before I transferred."

Linom mulled this over for a moment before nodding and indicating the navigator's station. Level Two was relatively low for piloting a starship, let alone one in combat, but it was better than an untrained Marine at the helm. "Take the conn, Miss Volaro."

"Aye, sir," she said with only a slight hesitation, her confidence seemingly buoyed slightly by his act of faith. As she moved to replace the departing Marine, the staff sergeant manning tactical spoke up once more.

"Sir, I'm reading a vessel at one-nine-three, mark one three six, inbound at three-quarters impulse. She appears to be-"

The woman's report was cut short by a sudden lurch as the ship heaved to starboard. Two of the Marines, caught out of their seats, flew across the bridge like projectiles, their bodies crashing against personnel and consoles alike until they came to an abrupt halt against the far bulkhead. Neither stood as the bridge righted itself.

"Hostile," Linom completed the statement through gritted teeth. "Helm, increase speed to maximum available and begin evasive maneuvers! Tactical, get a lock on that ship and return fire!"

The ship began to lurch beneath their feet even as the viewscreen switched to display their assailant. Much like the vessel he'd destroyed aboard the station, she was much smaller than the crippled Lakota, perhaps slightly larger than a Danube-class runabout. Her hull maintained the look that seemed customary to the "Ravagers": As if one had ripped ten ships apart and pieced them together once more from the less appealing components of each. But whatever lack of aesthetics may have gone into the ship's design, her weapons had certainly not been neglected.

"Sir, automated targeting is down! Going to manual!" The staff sergeant's voice made it clear that this was a greater problem for her than it likely would have been for a regular tactical officer, but he placed his trust in her ability to improvise. It wasn't as if he had any other choice.

The Ravager vessel shot past the Lakota, rolling to engage her forward port quarter. The staff sergeant punched off two torpedoes that shot wide of their target, rocketing off into space harmlessly. As the Lakota rolled and pitched slowly - much too slowly - small pieces of hull plating from the forward saucer section were blasted from their frames into space.

'A week,' Linom thought to himself as he frantically attempted to devise some way out of this mess, 'another week and I'd have had her together again.'

"Sir, new contact at one-four-two, mark zero-one-eight, inbound as half-impulse! Designating hostile!" The Marine sitting at operations announced the news with a valiant effort to hide his concern, but anyone who'd fought through hell knew what to listen for and Linom knew all too well those signs. "Wait! THIRD CONTACT, bearing one-six-five, mark zero-two-nine! Also hostile...she appears to be closing on the Freedom, lieutenant!"

"Contact the Freedom. Apprise her of the contact and advise her to engage immediately!" Linom's mind was jumping from analysis to idea to concept to theory...nothing was clear and nothing brilliant came to him. He was a man of science, a man of meticulous problem-solving...of careful, thorough examinations followed by dutiful and competent action. The exact wrong kind of man for this type of crisis. As honest as he ever was with himself, he was forced to face that sobering revelation...and to deal with it.

The second ship was screaming in on them now, her own disruptors blazing blue bolts of coherent light and plasma at them as they rushed on, desperately diving and turning to avoid enemy fire while they strove to make contact of their own. The Lakota's armour gave way two, three times further, deep scars gouged into her hull.

"Sir," came the voice of the operations officer once again, "Engineering reports partial power restored to the port-side phaser banks...they are also advising to not push them too hard!"

Linom grunted at the last comment, wondering if he would do better to take it easy on them before or after the ship was blown apart, but the thought was cut abrupt as the staff sergeant quickly ignored the engineers' warning and opened up with the phaser banks when one of their assailants-now-turned-victims unsuspectingly strayed into the appropriate firing arc. On his orders, as their prey's vessel began to belch atmosphere and machinery alike, the ship suddenly veered directly towards the vessel and coughed forth two torpedoes to add to the destruction. The first flew wide, shooting past it's target by a few dozen meters, but the second drove home and struck its dorsal section. Plating and equipment flashed away with searing light and a plasma discharge pummeled the vessel as a conduit gave way. The ship, now significantly damaged, turned away, disengaging from it's larger foe.

Despite their immediate victory, the other vessel had not been lost in the skirmish. Once more bearing in on them, it was careful to avoid the revealed firing arc, engaging only along the ship's starboard side. It continued to slash in with several daring shots, then dodge back out, always using its superior speed and maneuverability to avoid the ship's single active phaser turret. For once, Linom found himself begrudging the more recent - and more advanced - ships; they might be more difficult to maintain, but they certainly had the advantage of more recent technology.

The Lakota's Excelsior-class space frame had been developed ages earlier, during a time before phaser banks were created; instead, vessels of her era relied on phaser turrets for offensive capabilities. These turrets were located in various fixed positions around the vessels, capable of firing only at targets within their respective arcs. When the phaser bank was devised, turrets were quickly abandoned in favour of the new technology, in no small part due to the immensely greater firing arc, which could cover virtually all angles of the vessel, but also because they were much more durable. If the power to a turret was interrupted at both the primary and secondary feeds, there was no alternative method to route the necessary energy. Phaser banks could be powered from a wide variety of locations along the entire bank, adding a huge advantage that the Lakota was sorely lacking at just this moment.

Linom's helm and tactical officers struggled for minutes trying to get the offending ship into a better targeting position, but the Lakota's torpedoes fell wide and her phaser turrets lay silent at every encounter. Meanwhile, her hull was being battered further into a wreck, with significant engineering casualties developing all along her starboard side. Their first opponent, having regained control of what remained of their ship, had begun limping back towards the station, no longer a threat with her weaponry largely destroyed. Terribly much longer and the ship would finally be a write-off that even the Corps of Engineers couldn't justify saving.

The ship's chief engineer, sitting in the captain's chair, couldn't help but think that the commodore or Commander Vann - or even that bastard Venture - could have deftly batted away this Ravager terror and saved the Lakota from her final doom. They had the knowledge, the skill, and the raw talent for engagements such as these and Linom was once more faced with the simple fact that he did not. They were capable tacticians, trained and trained well by Starfleet's finest with centuries of institutional memory drilled into them, each more than able to extract the vessel from just such encounters. While he, Lieutenant Linom Dekur, Chief Engineer and Second Officer of the Starship Lakota, was merely a gifted engineer and-

It struck him like a Valduvian meteor shower. Suddenly, unexpectedly. Out of nowhere, he was back in his element, the numbers and equations fluttering along through his mind with the simple ease of years of practice. Concepts and analyses danced about within the lofty confines of his mind, each coming together and pulling apart, combining and intertwining in the play he often indulged in during his leisure hours. And, as it came together, one simple thought served as the conclusion to his logical rhythm: 'I'm not a tactician...but I AM a gifted engineer.'

"Helm, put us on a direct course for the station, one quarter impulse," Dekur ordered suddenly, breaking him minutes of silence like the crack of lightning. Ensign Volaro's head whipped around in alarm, her concern mirroring that of the rest of the bridge as she contemplated that her commander had just made the fatal tactical error that would lead to their collective demise. The look on her face asked the question she couldn't quite force past her lips, but Linom simply gave her a wicked, lop-sided smile.

"Now, please," he said simply, the pleasantry only adding to the demonic demeanor that seemed to have settled into his persona. She turned about slowly and settled the ship on it's new, disasterous course and reduced the speed by over half.

As expected, the Ravager vessel burned in with renewed haste, sensing it's victim ripe for the kill. It's disruptors lashed across her ventral saucer section, wrecking havoc deep into the habitation sections within, but it did not matter to Linom. Even as they moved back out to dodge another torpedo, he pressed the communications stud on the command chair.

"Engineering, this is Dekur," he said calmly, his mind already timing the whole affair. "Take the magnetic constrictors offline and shut down the starboard P-T-C. Route the port-side P-T-C through the impulse ion-generator manifold and standby to engage the warp drive."

Ensign Volaro hissed slightly as she heard the orders. Whoever was in charge in his Engineering department, however, unwisely did not. "Sir! That'll-"

"I know very well what that will do," Linom replied coldly, cutting off the man's objection before he could truly begin, "and if I must do it myself..." Linom's voiced trailed off, leaving the threat to the other engineer's imagination.

"Aye, sir," came the half-resigned, half-terrified voice of the engineer replied at length, then cut the link.

The enemy vessel made two more runs as the ship slowly made it's way towards the station, each one cutting deeply into the hull and destroying systems and plating alike. Linom knew, intellectually, that they were very fortunate that nearly the entire crew was on the station, or else the casualty list would be enormous. As it stood, the most he had to worry about were the handful of crew who'd been left aboard as a skeleton party or had chosen not to join the festivities, in addition to a few squads of Marines. And yet, as he took notice of the incredible damage the Lakota was racking up, he couldn't help but be hurt deeply that the ship was made to suffer so greatly. And, as he considered that train of thought, he realized it wasn't simply a sentimentality for an inanimate object, but that he was also counting on something he dared not share with the crew.

As he ticked off the seconds, awaiting his department's completion on his modifications, he typed a simple message onto a PADD and buried it deep within the computer command codes. He knew that, if he was wrong, the ship would likely not survive, along with his crew. He was scarcely one to take leaps of faith - he was, after all, a man of pure science - but he'd seen the proof once before and knew that, against all odds, the evidence was there to lend the smallest hint of credibility to his suspicions and, just this moment, that was enough.

A chirp from the communications system announced the waiting link, drawing Linom back to the moment. Pressing the stud, he acknowledged the source. "Sir, modifications are complete. I hope you-"

"I do," Linom said quietly, then cut the link even as he thought the unspoken qualifier: 'I hope.'

"Helm, prepare to engage the warp drive on my mark." Dekur waited patiently as the vessel came back on another run. The ship's structural integrity was falling fast and he knew that it could only stand another two, three attacks before it began to fail critically. As the ship bore down upon it's laimed target, the Cardassian could only watch as she once more pummeled the vessel's primary hull. His timing had to be precise, the distance perfect. Too far away, it would fail...too close, the enemy would crash upon the already beleaguered hull, destroying both vessels.

The numbers ran down swiftly, approaching the one Dekur had calculated as being as best in the middle of the margin of error. And then, the moment was upon them.

"Mark!" he barked, sending Volaro's finger smashing down upon the panel.

For the most minute of milliseconds, nothing happened. Then, without any warning, a blue field suddenly burst forth from the ship's impulse engines. The field expanded rapidly aft of the ship, dissipating rapidly as it expanded. But not rapidly enough, for the attacker's vessel drove squarely into it as it passed just aft of her starboard impulse engine, catching it at it's strongest point.

The Lakota herself shook dramatically as the engines overloaded, power conduits burst throughout the ship, panels blew apart, and her warp drive went into emergency shut down. The red din of emergency lighting filled the bridge as the secondary generators began to slowly cycle online, basking the bridge in an eerie glow through the haze of smoke from burnt controls. As the crew began to recover and pick themselves up from the floor, stations began coming online once more, though there was little left to control.

Linom, coughing as he pulled himself out from underneath one of the guardrails encircling the lower center of the bridge, took in the sight of the carnage he'd wrought upon his own vessel. The staff sergeant who had manned the tactical station lay very still upon the deck, a shard of her panel driven deeply into her face. From the look of surprise permanently etched into her expression, she'd lived long enough to know she was dead, but not long enough to have truly suffered. Two other Marines had severe electrical burns upon their hands, but nothing that a decent sickbay couldn't mend. A variety of bumps, bruises, and a broken arm adorned the rest...all in all, better than he'd expected.

The Marine at the operations station, bearing one of the more grotesque bumps Linom had seen on his right forehead, managed to seat himself once more and began punching commands into his panel. He was met by a number of sounds indicating command failure, though he did eventually find a few successes in the mix.

"We're, we're still here...uh...the ship's listing about quite a bit on all axes, but its intact," he managed to stammer out through what had to be a truly nasty concussion. "Primary systems are offline. Life support is at minimal sustainable levels. Warp drive is offline. Impulse drive, weapons, R-C-S thrusters, all offline. Communications available through secondary antenna, no subspace comms. Forward and ventral sensors still operating."

Linom nodded as the man proceeded through the damage assessment, but was forced to eventually cut him off. "And the enemy?"

"Uh..." the Marine stammered, then began punching in new commands to the controls. "Enemy ship is aft of our vector of movement, spinning, sir. No power signs, sir? What'd we do?"

"We used the warp drive to generate an ionic pulse that probably fried every system on their ship...and every nerve in their bodies, I suspect." Linom's matter-of-fact delivery of his explanation proved that he knew precisely what he'd been doing, but his moment of intellectual victory was cut short by Volaro's interjection.

"And should've done the same to us, too," she stated, her eyes narrowing on her control panel. "The pulse should've taken all of our electronics - and us - along with them, completely fried. But somehow, the S-I-F and radiation shielding spiked heavily just a moment before the pulse flared...then dropped once more after the pulse. How'd that happen? You, lieutenant?"

Linom looked at her for a moment, then gave another, smaller, lop-sided smile. "You might say that, ensign." He left the question largely unanswered as he turned back to the operations station. "Get a message out to the Freedom and DS7. Let them know our situation and inform them we'll need cover in case another one of those...things comes after us. And we'll need to be tractored back to the station for - further - repairs."

Linom spent the next several minutes issuing damage control orders to the various Marines on the bridge - including one Ensign Volaro, whom he sent back to Engineer to restore internal communications - before sitting down in the command chair once more. When he was confident everyone was once more engrossed in his work, he pulled out the PADD once more and typed another command, retrieving the file he'd added to the command code earlier, edited it once more, then saved it.

The text had been simple, amazingly simple given what they'd just accomplished, but it'd been critically important for him to do, for the three words had been the most sincere, the most emotional he could ever recall having written.

'Thank you, Riven.'


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