Imperial Romulan Forward Logistical Base 37: Syrcanis Belt, Romulan Star Empire
"Fuel transfer at eighty-seven percent, Sir!" the centurion shouted from his control panel. The final wave of warbirds was almost complete with upload. The sub-commander ran over and checked the station's fuel levels. The deuterium pressure was approaching ten percent of normal. This meant the only thing preventing the super-cooled liquid from transforming into the most volatile explosive gas in the galaxy were the forcefield thermal curtains built into the cathedral sized holding tanks only a hundred meters beneath their feet.
He looked up at the looming silhouette of the D'Deridex in front of him. For the briefest of moments, he let himself look forward to the triumph of watching these ships leave his station, join the fleet, and finally warp away. It meant that his crew had accomplished their mission flawlessly and served the Star Empire to the best of their ability. It also meant his first hot meal, sonic shower, and real night's sleep in almost a week.
"Get the Paraktar clear of the bay as soon as upload is complete," he ordered. "They've been full an ordnance for almost half an hour and they're just waiting on fuel."
"I know Sir," the centurion replied in a tone dangerously close to insubordination. "I can't bring the transfer rate over 2000 liters per minute with the main tanks this low!"
As soon as he said it, the centurion's eyes filled with terror. The sub-commander was well within his rights to reduce him two steps in rank for such a thoughtless statement. Instead, his officer's tired gaze softened. He placed a hand on his subordinate's shoulder.
"I know, Sebalius," the sub-commander said. "You have done the work of a hundred men in the past four days. For that, I am nothing but grateful."
"Thank you, Sir," the centurion replied with a weak smile.
"Don't worry, it's almost time to rest…"
Emergency klaxons echoed across the entire ordnance deck. The centurion looked down at his controls.
"Thermal curtain failure in primary tank two!" he yelled.
"What!?" the sub-commander shouted. The pressure in the deuterium tank soared five hundred percent in just a matter of seconds as the fuel began to evaporate uncontrollably.
"Hit the repress valves now!" the sub-commander screamed desperately. The centurion desperately slammed a series of levers shut, but the pressure continued to rise at an astronomical rate.
"They're not working!" the centurion said as his voice broke into panic.
"All of them? That's impossible!" the sub-commander said checking the status indicators. To his horror, every single valve had been fused into the open position. "Emergency vents! Blow the gas into space!"
The centurion tried, but the last failsafe measure was also not functioning…
With the breakneck speed of operations over the past five days, they hadn't had time to shut down the system and conduct safety or maintenance checks. Both men looked at each other as they realized their station had been sabotaged. The pressure spiked well above the tolerance of the fuel lines and continued to rise.
The sub-commander stood erect and silently straightened his uniform tunic. Then, he turned the centurion.
"For the Senate and the People of Romulus…" he said as his mind drifted back to thoughts of his wife and sons back on the homeworld.
"It has been an honor, Sir," the centurion replied with a salute. "Jolan Tru."
The fueling lines ruptured. A million metric tons of super-heated hydrogen vapor streamed out. When it made contact with the oxygen in the station's atmosphere, it instantly detonated into a fireball that engulfed the entire base. The station was ripped apart into burning chunks in only a matter of seconds. The twenty warbirds in the loading bays were instantly incinerated. The thirty D'Deridex orbiting nearby in the security perimeter were consumed in the resulting shockwave. Another fifteen vessels were hit with flaming debris and drifted away critically damaged. Only five warships managed to escape under their own power. The survivors cloaked themselves and warped into hiding. It was Romulan standard procedure to preserve combat power in the event of a catastrophic attack.
Five hundred thousand kilometers away, a Romulan security skiff hid in a cluster of asteroids. Its occupants watched the entire event unfold. Valaa reached into the pocket of her fatigues and pulled out a cigarette. She lit it and blew out a puff of smoke that filled the cabin.
"I told you they wouldn't find anything until it was too late," Tubango chirped.
"You're a man of your word," Rellas said solemnly. He didn't take his eyes of the firestorm still consuming the last bits of oxygen left in the debris.
"There were so many ships damaged and destroyed. How much of their fleet do you think is left?" Esrak asked hopefully.
Rellas leaned over and tapped Valaa who was still smoking her cigarette. She reached into her pocket and handed him a crumpled pack covered in Yridian writing. The Gralluscan pulled out one of the paper tubes, put it to his lips, and touched a flame to the end.
"Not enough to survive much longer," he said blowing out a puff of smoke.