Although it had felt as if he had been hours, Lif had only lost consciousness for a few seconds. The lights around him were flickering wildly and he could smell the acrid fumes of burned plastics, flesh, and blood. Thick smoke was making it difficult to see more than a few meters.
“What hit us?” he could hear his voice ask. He couldn’t see his counterpart through the smoke but he could hear him coughing. “What was that?”
Tenn responded from somewhere at the back of the bridge. “From what I can tell, some sort of high powered, planet-based plasma weapon. The Razor’s Edge has taken heavy damage. Our damage report is still being compiled.”
“That’s impossible. They shouldn’t be having any planet-based weapons,” Culsten responded.
Lif felt a strong hand reaching out for him and pulling him back onto his feet. “Are you all right?” Garla asked.
He nodded at her when he finally recognized her face, slightly bruised but otherwise unharmed.
He felt a stinging pain in his shoulder. “May have dislocated something but I think I’ll live.”
Garla nodded and then quickly darted away. At first, he wasn’t sure where she was going until the smoke was beginning to dissipate thanks to atmospheric filters and he managed to see the destruction that had been caused on the bridge. Many of the computer banks had blown out and their screens had shattered. Very few of the officers who had manned them were still at their stations.
He spotted the lupine officer who lay still on her back, a large metallic fragment lodged deep into her skull. The younger officer was kneeling next to her, his face wet from tears and his own blood as he tried desperately to revive her.
Garla found a still working control station. “We’ve lost main propulsion and shields and we are drifting,” she said after looking over the ship status, apparently finding the controls not at all so different from what she was used to. “I’m also detecting another energy build-up on the planet.”
Lif turned back towards the front of the bridge where he could see Sentinel Culsten crawl back in his chair. He watched on his screens as another energy blast was being flung through space and into their direction. Considering how much damage the first strike had done, he doubted very much that they could survive a second hit.
“Spirit of Flame has been hit,” Tenn said from the back. “She has taken heavy damage.”
Lif forced himself not to feel relief that it hadn’t been them. No doubt the other ship had suffered casualties as well.
“We have to get out of here now,” Tenn said. “We are a sitting target.”
“Main propulsion is offline,” said Garla as her fingers raced over the consoles of the computer stations. “But I might be able to transfer some power from the primary weapons platform to give us a sub-light pulse that should get us out of the system.”
“No,” Culsten said, his chair now turned to face the back of the bridge. “We have to finish off that array.” He urgently began to enter commands into his console. “New assault patterns: Sentinel-Nine-Five. Get us into weapon’s range of that planet and give me a targeting solution on that weapon.”
Tenn hesitated for a moment longer but then bowed to his commander’s orders and returned to his station even if most of his officers were already injured or incapacitated.
Lif could see through the forward windows that the other two ships slowly turned toward the planet. Too slowly, he thought, more like limping animals rather than predators out for the hunt. One of the ships, he wasn’t sure of her name, was quite noticeably venting large amounts of drive plasma from her starboard engine nacelle.
“Sensors are having difficulties to pinpoint the weapon’s exact location,” Tenn said, his voice strained.
“Then we just have to turn that entire blasted planet into glass,” Culsten shot back, his eyes staring at the object of his ire with furious intensity.
“The weapon is firing again,” said Garla who apparently had her eyes on sensors now as well.
Culsten nodded as she stood from his chair. “Evasive. And pinpoint the origin of that beam,” he said as he turned around to look towards the control stations behind him. “Let’s zero in on that weapon and take it out of commission for-“
But even as he spoke, Lif could see the energy beam blasting up from the planet and towards them, and whatever evasive actions were being taken, it was clear it wasn’t going to be enough.
He had just enough time to brace himself for what he knew was going to be inevitable.
The impact shook the Yellow Rose with enough force to rip everyone to the deck, once again filling the command center from thick, acrid smoke from the chain reaction of computer stations that exploded in a spectacular shower of sparks.
Lif had seen Garla go down when the console she had been working on had erupted and he rushed to where she had landed the moment the deck had stopped moving beneath him.
There was blood trickling from the corner of her mouth and he feared the worse. She was barely conscious and yet managed to look up at him as he hovered above her. “Transfer energy to the engines. Get us out of here now,” she said, struggling to keep her tone firm.
He nodded quickly and stood, his crisis management training, which was mandatory for Starfleet bridge officers, quickly asserted itself. One of its tenets was to get a starship out of danger first before seeing to those who had been injured, even if they required critical care.
As he desperately searched for a computer console still operational, he spotted Tenn emerge through the smoke, a nasty wound on his forehead blooming with bronze-colored blood.
“We have no defense against that plasma weapon. We must withdraw if we are still able,” the justicar said.
Lif could just about make out the shape of the sentinel at the front of the bridge, shaking his head. “They shouldn’t even have that weapon,” he insisted angrily.
“That doesn’t change the fact that they do and that it is killing us,” the Kridrip said, clearly not afraid to stand up to the sentinel.
Lif had finally found a working station and tried hard to remember how to make it work. It had been a long time since he had operated a Krellonian starship and even then, those had been mere shuttles. This was far more complicated.
“I’m instructing the fleet to withdraw,” said Tenn, apparently having grown tired of waiting for orders from his commander. “Can you get our engines to work?” he asked Lif when he realized what he was up to.
He nodded as his fingers flew over the controls, entering new commands while shutting down error messages brought on by his input errors and failing starship systems at an equally rapid pace. He felt he was getting a handle on things. “I’ve managed to transfer energy from weapons to engines to initiate the impulse burst pulse,” he said. “I think.”
He looked back to the front of the bridge, mindful that he hadn’t been given any order yet by the captain of the ship.
But his counterpart seemed to be just staring out of the forward viewport.
“By the Infallible Creator, this shouldn’t have happened,” he mumbled angrily.
“Do it, activate the engines. The other ships are already on escape vectors,” Tenn said as he gave Lif a sharp nod.
He pressed down hard on the panels. “Engaging,” Lif said and then immediately had to hold on tight to the console as the ship lurched forward and away from the planet and its deadly plasma weapon. It wasn’t the smoothest ride he had ever experienced on a starship, but given the circumstances, Lif was thankful the ship responded to his commands at all.
Once he was certain that they’d be able to escape the system without taking another hit, his eyes returned towards his counterpart, seemingly steaming in his chair and refusing to make eye contact with anyone left alive on the bridge.
Once again, Lif’s hopes that perhaps he could have been a better or maybe a wiser man in another universe felt frustratingly unfulfilled.