“Behind Enemy Lines”
Stardate 74082.4; January 30, 2397
Written by Chris Adamek
Neelar Drayge’s favorite table was repaired. It was a small victory—and perhaps one bordering stupid—but it was a victory nonetheless, and the young Bolian couldn’t help but smile as he approached the gunmetal gray table sitting in the center of the mess hall.
He carefully ran his fingers over its smooth, cool surface, admired its shapely curves, and then seated himself across from the table’s only occupant, Bator. “This is a good omen if I’ve ever seen one,” said Drayge excitedly. “It’s almost like the original… the only thing missing are the people to sit at it.”
“Things change,” said Bator, sipping at his beverage. “Erin is gone. There still hasn’t been any word from Rachael or Captain Christopher. I suppose we’ll have to find new companions to sit with us.”
Drayge immediately banished such thoughts from his mind. “I’m not going to give up that easily. In fact, I’m sure that one day soon, we’ll all be gathered here sharing laughs, just like we used to.”
Bator smiled slightly. It was a rarity for the Phobian to express any emotion, and this display gave Drayge nothing but hope for his dream to come true. But Bator’s smile quickly faded into something more serious, and he drew himself closer to the table. “The sentiment is nice, but in all reality, the chances of the Starlight being destroyed in the coming weeks is high. I wouldn’t grow too complacent just yet.”
There was always a flip side to the coin—and as much as he hated to admit it, Drayge knew that Bator was probably right. Still, he refused to relent. “A Bolian can dream, can’t he?”
Bator nodded. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Drayge sighed, and allowed his eyes to wander about the mess hall while Bator enjoyed his beverage. Considering the first shift was set to begin in about twenty minutes, the mess hall was relatively quiet; on most mornings, the place is literally bustling with activity. Still, the majority of the tables were full, and there were a good number of people simply wandering around—Lucas Tompkins being one of them.
The chief engineer stood at the replicator speaking with Lieutenant Fellows. Though Tompkins seemed pleased with the conversation, Fellows was hardly interested, and politely excused herself after a few minutes. Tompkins shrugged and meandered through the mess hall for a few moments before his eyes briefly locked with Drayge’s. He summarily grabbed a chair from an adjacent table and pulled it up alongside Drayge.
“Hey,” he said quickly, “did you hear?”
Since he had no idea what Tompkins spoke of, Drayge assumed he had not. “Hear about what?” he asked.
Tompkins licked his lips. “An Elorg fleet just started an invasion of Romulan Space,” he said grimly.
Drayge’s heart nearly skipped a beat. “That’s not good,” he murmured.
“Hell, it could be the end of the Romulan Empire,” said Tompkins. “They were already in pretty bad shape after the attack at Aurillac VII.”
“Then again,” said Bator, “the Romulans did seal their borders after that incident. We have no idea what has been going on inside Romulan space over the past year.”
“I’d like to think they’ve been building some bad-ass weapons,” said Tompkins. “They’re certainly going to need them. Hopefully they’ll be able to keep the Elorg busy long enough for us to score some major victories—I mean, it’s been weeks since the Federation has won a battle.”
“And the battles that we have won came at a high price,” added Bator.
“Well, if we succeed in collapsing the Elorg rift, it will be the first in a long line of victories,” said Tompkins confidently. “We just need to get the ball rolling… gain some momentum, you know?”
“Oh yeah.” Drayge tried to muster some enthusiasm, but for some reason, the prospects of staring down the gates of hell didn’t resonate with him very well. “Actually, I’ve been trying to not think about it.”
“It is a big job,” admitted Tompkins. “But we can handle it. When I served on the Grissom during the Romulan War, we saw more than our share of intense action. This is a cakewalk.”
Drayge nodded. Though Tompkins was undoubtedly trying to calm him, Drayge was already familiar with the Grissom, its myriad adventures, and its ultimate fate—the Romulans thoroughly decimated the ship. Still, Drayge feigned ignorance. “I just wish Captain Christopher was here,” he said.
“Captain Landsberg is a more than adequate substitute,” said Bator.
Drayge forced a smile to his face. “I’m sure he is…”
For the past several minutes, Ryan Landsberg listened intently as Admiral Grayson outlined the Starlight’s mission to collapse the Elorg vortex. Though the Admiral was explicit in what he wanted to be done, after listening to him speak for several minutes, Landsberg summarily noted that Grayson was a bit vague when it came to how these tasks were to be accomplished. But for the benefit of the bridge crew, who had yet to hear the exact details of the mission, Landsberg remained silent.
In a nutshell, it was the Starlight’s mission to penetrate Elorg space, seek out the interspatial rift allowing them to enter the Beta Quadrant, and then blow the vortex to smithereens. To Landsberg’s chagrin, he knew that while it sounded like a simple task, it would prove to be anything but.
“Of all the tactical operations about to begin,” said Grayson, “this one is the most important. We only have three weeks to mount an offensive—three weeks before Admiral O’Connor is back on duty. Thus, it is absolutely imperative that you succeed in your mission, otherwise O’Connor will turn around and continue to drive this operation into the ground.”
Landsberg stared briefly at Grayson. Three weeks was not a long time—and it was certainly not enough time to conclude a war that was entering its third year. “Maybe if the Romulans put up a fight, we’ll have a chance,” said Landsberg. He wasn’t optimistic about it, and considering the look of doubt plastered to Grayson’s face, neither was the Admiral.
“You should take nothing for granted,” he told Landsberg before quickly shifting gears. “I have assigned the Alexander and the Johannesburg to accompany you to the rift. You can expect heavy resistance—and heavy losses.”
It was a joke—it had to be. Landsberg couldn’t think of any other possibilities, for it was a certainty that three ships didn’t stand a chance against the Elorg fleet. Hoping he wasn’t alone in his thinking, Landsberg turned to Harrison for his reaction.
The Commander was equally perplexed. “Forgive me, Admiral, but if this mission is of such consequence, why not send additional ships to render aid?”
A concerned look slowly fell upon Grayson’s face, but he didn’t go so far as to provide an answer. Instead, he sighed, and allowed his concern to deepen.
When he closed his eyes, Overseer Xi’Yor could already hear the battle cries. He could see wicked orange flames consume the hallowed battlefield, and feel the enmity of the Federation he was about to crush. There would be no surrender, no retreat. Nothing but a complete and decisive victory.
The target was ambitious—a massive, heavily armed facility guarded by hundreds of Federation vessels. It was ground zero for all of the Federation’s activities, and without it, all of their coordination efforts were certain to crumble—a sentiment that brought an immediate smile to Xi’Yor’s ashen face.
Peering at the viewscreen through vivid orange eyes, the Overseer could already make out the mushroom-shaped curves of Starbase 241. Though it was still light years away, Xi’Yor found himself yearning for this battle to begin; unlike his rampage in the outskirts of the Federation, the Overseer knew that this battle would be epic. It would be bloody. And it would be the beginning of the end…