Ninth Chapter WIP for 'Invisible Enemy'

Continuation from Chapter 8.

Everything written is subject to change, even the names. Also may be some continuity or plot changes from the previous chapter. Feel free to comment here or on Facebook.

Chapter 9

UCNS Venger

    Kowan grabbed her console as the ship tumbled. Amber lights pulsed, letting them know somewhere on the ship there was a compartment without pressure. The captain had passed out.

    The pilot slowed their spin.

    “Tachyon pulses detected,” Basan reported from Sensors. “Lost of tachyon stream. Conn, sensors, explosion bearing, mark.” He didn’t bother giving the bearing since the ship was still tumbling.

    “Weapons, rail gun,” Kowan said after switching comms to the weapon center.

    “No power to rail gun,” Weps said.

    Kowan saw the red lines on the port main and the auxiliary power. She routed power from the starboard main which was still online. “Power rerouting. Giving you control to fire on the solution.”

    “Aye, shooting rail gun,” Weps said. He could’ve been reporting on the weather for all his lack of excitement.

    As the ship swung toward sub's reckoned position, a whine vibrated through the deck plates of the ship and Venger shuddered as she launched ballistic weaponry along the longitudinal axis. The heavy round sped up out of the ship’s rail chamber, arcing toward the sub.

    “Let’s give a declination and spread,” Kowan advised.

    “Calculating six shot spread, forty percent probability of a strike,” Weps responded. The ship shuddered five more times. “Firing complete. I don’t recommend another salvo just yet.”

    “Concur, Weps. Standby.”

    “You have control,” Weps said and signed off.

    “XO?” Rogers said from his crash couch. “What happened?”

    “Torpedo hit, port side, sir. Punched through our aft weapons array. The explosion, high G maneuver, and decompression spun us out of control. We exceeded 10 G’s, and you passed out.”

    “I must be getting old,” Rogers said, hitting the retract button on his suit helmet ring. “Do we have a damage report?”

    “No sir. I was using rail gun rounds to respond to the target. We might’ve got her with your third torpedo, sir.”

    Rogers stretched in his seat. His eyes were bloodshot. “Superb response.”

    The ship slowed her spin and roll as the pilot took control and used the attitude thrusters to steady her on the trajectory she was on. “Steady course zero seven five point two,” the pilot said.

    “Steady as she goes,” Rogers said. “Let’s get to zero gravity so we can have help back aft.” He tapped the comm panel. “Damage control, report.”

    “Port aft struck. After weapon ring damage but operable. Port main engine room struck and blew through the earlier repair. Five weapon blisters damaged, including close-in weapons array, laser turret fifteen and sensor array echo. Lost five personnel, two dead, three lost through the decompression.”

    Rogers and Kowan saw the distress beacons on their consoles. Weapons Technician First Class Cook’s and Engineering Technician Second Class Gendry’s suits showed zero vital signs. Three suits had activated their beacons when they left the proximity of the ship’s hull. Anders, Quint, and Eddings from Engineering.

    Kowan thought of Javier Mitchum. He’d be devastated that Anders was lost in space, but knew she wasn’t dead yet. She tapped through the console, selected an emergency life system nearest the damage area, sent the location data for the suits, and launched it. “Lifeboat launched and beacon activated.” The lifeboat would hunt for the survivors and continue to pulse a stronger beacon than any spacesuit could. The lifeboat would give them added power, air, rations, and communications if the were stranded for a prolonged period.

    “Good thinking and thank you, XO,” Rogers said. He was thinking of Mitchum. He wanted to get to Engine Room Two, but his responsibility was to the ship.

    “Yes, sir. Request permission to assist in damage control efforts?” Kowan asked.

    “Granted. We’ll not be fighting at the moment and I’ll warn you if we do. See what the damage is on the port main and auxiliary.”

    “Aye, sir,” Kowan said. She unstrapped from her suit and floated to the ladder well. She looked down the shaft, seeing the compartment doors and emergency lights all around. Seeing no one coming up, she floated down the shaft, touching the ladder only to guide and propel herself to the junction that would lead her to Engine Room Two. She paused at a door, checking the pressure monitor. It was green, so she cycled the lock open and shut it behind her. Lower in the ship, crews were working to repair damaged equipment and bulkheads. Two spaces away from Engineering, she saw the space beyond the compartment lock was filled with argon. It had flushed to prevent a fire from spreading and loss of oxygen. She activated her helmet and entered the lock. Once inside, she punched Mitchum’s code and put her hand on the comm pad.

    “Javy, this is Amber. How’re things down here?”

    “Blown to shit, exec,” Javier said, his voice strained yet professional. Kowan heard the anger in his voice, but whether it was the repairs, the enemy, or the captain, she wasn't sure. She listened to Mitchum’s readout mixed with the sound of her own breathing inside the helmet. “Port main thrust is out, but can restore power through port generator. Auxiliary is out for the moment, but can be restored. Starboard main and generator were operational. Engine Room Two is at vacuum and thrust repairs are needed with vacuum. Estimate for hull repair is half day so that's out of the question. Coupling that was damaged buckled under overthrust though that was negated by the damage to the engine room. No fires, but there's ablative and hull debris to clear from the engine room before major repairs can begin. Can have auxiliary online in an hour, port power in thirty minutes. Ship is in half power lineup on starboard main. Fusion cores are intact and operational. You coming in to assist?”

    “Yes,” Kowan said as the lock cycled and she was in the forward junction. She moved to the pad on the opposite side as the lock shut. “I’ll assist in auxiliary. That’ll give us thrust and rail gun capability back in the fight.”

    “I appreciate it,” Mitchum said, grunting as if he were struggling under a weight, though the ship was in free fall. “I do, have a crewman trapped in the after section of the port main. Once she's out, we can get beck under standard G to get work done.” He paused, and Kowan’s suit picked up his private circuit. She's let go of the pad and spoke to him suit-to-suit. “I heard the lifeboat launch for my engineers.”

    “Seemed the right thing to do, Javy,” Koran replied.

    “You didn't have to, but Venger isn't done by a long shot.”

    “Nope. Let's get her fixed and underway. That sub is still out there.”

    “I think my engineers will think the port side of Venger is unlucky.”

    Kowan laughed at the ridiculousness of the notion. Mitchum managed a laugh. She got to auxiliary and assisted the electricians in rerouting the auxiliary power to alternate systems they found still functional. Mostly the Auxiliary Compartment was in good shape. Debris from the torpedo and hull had severed power conduits from the core to the rail system. As she worked, Kowan kept a read on her suit’s tactical display, related to her from the ship. Sensors had nothing detected, which meant worse than nothing. That sub was still out there and on her own mission. She also thought of home and her family. It couldn't be helped. Though she was working with crewmen shoulder to shoulder, her mind drifted within its own isolation. She wondered how her husband fared. He was stationed onboard the Megatron, an Annihilator class cruiser who'd gone to meet the Hegemony Fleet  in Eagle nebula. She also thought about her children Lucy and John, whom she hadn't seen for more than a few days since the war began. They lived with their parents on Kauai, hoping for a return to normalcy. She tried to remember the age of her children when she realized that today was John’s tenth birthday. Half of his life was spent waiting for his parents to come home. That was a depressing thought, and it made her want to choke the enemy sub commander who kept her from sending a message off to her little boy.

    “Sir?” a crewman asked, and Kowan realized she'd sighed out loud.

    “Nothing. You can button this up?” she asked, covering up her. Wandering thought. She admonished herself and refocused on the tactical issue at hand.

    “Yes, sir. Power’s back for weapons systems.”

    “All right, you got it. I'll check over at Damage Control and head back up to get back in the fight.”

    “Give’em hell, sir,” the electrician gave a hearty smile and salute. Some people relished this shit, she thought. War was hell and death, not a damn game. The gravity warning sounded in her suit and she grabbed the ladder just as the ship regained gravity under thrust. She climbed back up through the ship, listening to her own breath drowning out her thoughts. Her suit chirped. She typed the command code on the pad as she returned to the pressurized portion of the ship. She slapped the helmet retract. “XO.”

    “XO, I want you to go to auxiliary bridge. We're in the thick of it now,” Jolly said.

    Kowan frowned. They were getting in close to the sub and he was concerned that the bridge may be struck. She wanted to be in the bridge and close to sensors and the captain. She'd taken command at the moment he lost consciousness. The auxiliary bridge was every bit as functional as the main bridge - it was smaller and near the hardened warp core. She was only a compartment away now. “Aye, sir.”

    “Good work in auxiliary. We're back to near battle ready. We will not get many more chances to halt the sub’s advance to the shipyard, but we've got to do it.”

    “Thank you, sir.”

    Kowan went to auxiliary bridge, manned by a battle station team and Weps and the Supply Officer Tanaka, who managed and led Damage Control efforts. Weps moved to the Pilot/Weapons couch as she entered and she sat in the command crash couch. She punched in the controls and the captain sent his authorization codes to her console for ship control override when necessary. She passed ship controls to Weps, who would use them when necessary for the weapons arrays. Next she brought up the bridges displays, mirroring the bridge and seeing what they saw. She ran through the systems scan, flagging systems that needed attention after this was over. She had an angry knot in her stomach, and she knew it was because she was preparing to take command of Venger. It felt wrong because it was wrong. She was the Executive Officer, not the captain. She wanted to be the Venger’s CO in the right way, through selection. War had a way of making things more expedient and complicated. She thought about Rogers and then about Anders and the bodies floating in space. She dismissed that Jolly had any premonition about his fate. He was a smart tactician and a brilliant mathematician. He'd just ran the odds as the sub brought Venger down notch-by-notch. Well, she wasn't having any of it. She settled back, scanning the sensor arrays. The sub was out there, and if she was injured, Venger would find her.

Kenneth Britz