1. Part Two of Two for Lost Thunder.
2. I promised you guys more Omega crap, so here it is, and there's still a bit more waiting in the wings including some stuff that, hopefully, may come as a surprise to y'all. A good surprise.
Three minutes later, she was still trying to figure out how to get the engines out of reverse. And perhaps more importantly, which end of the sensor display was “up.” She chewed lightly on her lower lip as she thought it over. “Huh. Ok, this is harder than I thought it’d be.”
“We noticed.” Falynn sighed and activated her comm. “Omega One to Command, we are underway, but uh… we’ll be a little… delayed. Having some navigational issues here. Request you detail us some extra fighter escort.”
“Copy that, Omega One. Shifting Elements One and Four of Sideshow Squadron to close-air support for you. Get that transport back to the Gallante as soon as you can. The other ships in the convoy have been secured and are already enroute. You’re the furthest from the extraction point, so get a move on.”
Falynn frowned. First in, last out. It was one of the phrases that people in her line of work often used. First to head into a combat zone, and always the last to leave it. It was a badge of honor, really, but she still hated how she always seemed to be the one people were talking about when they used it.
“Whose bright idea was it to put a jump point in a nebula, anyway?!” Falynn demanded of no one in particular. A glancing hit against the transport’s newly restored shields set the ship rocking and threw her against the side of her chair. Even with the seat restraints fully deployed, she felt as if she’d almost been thrown clear by that last bit of jostling. Across the bridge, one of the crewmen supporting the operation had been a little less lucky. He was nursing a wounded arm after being tossed shoulder-first into the side of a computer console.
“I think the real question is ‘whose bright idea was it to -use- the jump point in the nebula once we’d found it,’” quipped Jaheira. She was kneeling next to the injured crewman, injecting him with a painkiller and setting his dislocated shoulder back into place.
“Yeah, whose idea was -that-?!” Imoen griped from the ship’s tactical station. She was busy trying to keep the weakened shields from failing completely and letting a crippling hit through to the hull. While Dominion transports were sturdily constructed – sturdy for non-combat ships, at any rate – they’d still crumple like wet tissue paper if struck a serious hit. And the enemy fighters chasing them seemed very much dedicated to the task of scoring such a hit.
Falynn’s cheeks burned. She knew Imoen and Jaheira were just ribbing her, but the decision -had- been hers. True, it had been Imoen who’d detected the jump point in the first place, (it wasn’t on Confed starcharts,) having pulled it out of the Dominion transport’s navigational logs, but she’d been the one who’d decided that they were lagging too far behind the rest of the escaping convoy. She was the one who’d concluded that if they kept heading straight for the Gallante, they’d be overtaken before they could reach her. She was the one who’d thought that making a play for the nebula jump point (which would take them to an uninhabited system from which they could take a roundabout course back to Confed space,) was their best option. And if it didn’t work, it’d be her fault.
So this had better work, she thought to herself.
“Cipher? How we doing?”
Nalia’s voice came back promptly, but sounded harried as she threw the transport into a lazy barrel roll. It was the closest thing to an evasive maneuver that she could manage given that she was flying a big, heavy cargo-tub, and as expected, it wasn’t terribly effective. Another blast from the pursuing Dominion fighters rocked the ship, threatening to yank the control yoke from her hands, but she tightened her grip and held on for dear life. “Jump capacitors are charged, Major, but we got a little ways to go until we hit the jump point. Estimate jump transit in five minutes.” She’d already rammed the throttle forward to the stops, but she kept tugging on the lever anyway, as if she could coax just a little bit more speed out of her craft.
“Pretty sure we don’t have five minutes,” Falynn said grimly. She peered at the sensor display built into her chair and saw a huge mass of blue hot on their heels. Normally, blue was a good thing. Blue meant “friendly.” But in this case, the “friendlies” the sensors were registering were a half dozen Dominion heavy-fighters: friendly to the crew of an Orcish transport. Not so friendly to the Confederation crew that had hijacked that Orcish transport. And even with Aerie and a handful of her pilots fighting as hard as they could, their odds of getting away were shrinking with each passing second.
Frustrated, Falynn thumped a fist against the armrest of her chair and called out into the ship’s intercom. “Contact board’s lighting up! Gunners, we have bandits inbound, bearing 150… how are those turrets looking?”
The voice that replied was a familiar, husky contralto. “We got all kinds of ugly back here, Major. The Blue Devils did their job a little too well. Dorsal defensive turret is completely fried. Ventral… ventral’s partially operational – we can shoot and we can traverse, at least – but the nebula’s interfering with our targeting computers. Minsc and I can’t get a clean shot.”
Falynn cursed under her breath. “Sune’s left boob, I’m about ready to go down to the airlock and start pitching rocks.”
Imoen tapped some keys on her computer terminal. Her brow furrowed and she began nibbling on her lower lip – a little gesture that usually served to indicate that she was concentrating fiercely on something. “Hang on. I may have an idea.”
“All ears, little sister.”
Imoen’s fingers blazed over the console and her eyes darted from left to right, quickly skimming the information being printed up on her display. “I was poking through the cargo manifest,” she muttered, still sounding a little distracted. “We’ve got those stolen Confed weapon prototypes, but those only take up a tiny bit of room in the cargo bay. The rest of the hold’s filled with… dah-dah-DAH! Tricyclene gas.” She grinned.
Over in the commander’s chair, Falynn did the same. “Oh, really?”
“You wouldn’t happen to have access to the storage tank venting systems, would you?”
The crewman Jaheira was treating looked back and forth amongst the other faces on the bridge. The medication Jaheira had given him had started to kick in, dulling the pain in his shoulder, but without diminishing his alertness any. “Does that look mean the Major has a plan?” he inquired, hopefully, as he caught the small smile on Falynn’s face.
Jaheira nodded as she finished up her work and closed up her medkit. “Yes. Yes, it does.” She held out a hand to help the crewman to his feet.
“Well, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?”
She smirked and her eyes twinkled with amusement. “You’re only saying that because you haven’t had much experience with her previous plans.”
Omega One heard her teammate’s jibe but let it pass. After all, Jaheira’s statement had that one extremely annoying thing going for it – it was true. Instead, she focused her attentions on getting herself and her people out of this fine mess they’d landed in. First order of business was to make eye contact with her younger sister and give her a quick nod. “Ok, Immy. Stand by.”
Next up was to open a communications channel to the fighters flying escort for them. Things were about to get messy, and they needed to be warned to get the hells out of the way. “Omega One to Sideshow Escorts. Do you copy?”
“Sideshow One reads you, Omega One. No pressure, b-but… could you maybe hurry up? I-I’m not sure how much longer we can keep them off you.” As if to punctuate her statement, a shot from an orcish fighter flashed past her port wing to strike the fleeing transport dead amidships. The shields flickered a sickly yellow, patches turning dark red as the field generators struggled to dissipate the energy of the impact. The already overloaded systems wouldn’t hold much longer.
“That’s why I’m calling, Seraph. I need you to do something for us.”
The response that followed was partly “laconic fighter-pilot wit” and partly Aerie speaking from experience. She’d flown enough combat operations with the Omegas to have some idea of how Falynn’s mind worked. Someone had once said there was a fine line between genius and madness. Falynn sometimes seemed like the kind who could jump either way. “I’m not going to like this, am I?” the elf asked, her tone dry.
“Can I say no?” She threw her fighter into a snap-roll to starboard, pulled three revolutions, then reversed, hauling the flight stick back over to the left, pulling it towards her, stomping on her rudder pedals and lighting off a quick burst of her afterburners. The sudden and complicated maneuver left the enemy fighter chasing her in the proverbial dust. Before the orcish pilot had even finished processing what he’d just seen, she’d pulled an impossibly fast 180 degree reversal and put a full barrage of weapons fire into his cockpit. His ship came apart. One down, still five to go.
Instead of dancing around the subject, (They didn’t really have time for that sort of thing, anyway, and Aerie was a little too busy with intricate flying to banter much,) Falynn blurted it right out. “Aerie, the transport’s holding tanks are full of Tricyclene gas.”
The starfighter pilot winced, and then her blue eyes widened as realization quickly dawned on her. “I knew I wasn’t going to like this.”
“I told you you wouldn’t.”
She didn’t reply to that. Too busy. There was just enough time to comm the rest of her flight. “All units, disengage immediately. Repeat, all units, disengage!” Even as she issued the order she was personally leading the withdrawal. She fired a couple of shots at the Dominion fighter harrying one of her pilots, then peeled away and bolted for the bow of the Omegas’ transport. “Back on my wing, we’re forming up in front of the transport. Acknowledge receipt of instructions, over.”
As expected, her pilots thought she’d lost her mind, but they were professionals… or semi-trained, quasi-professionals at any rate, and they did as ordered despite their confusion. But disengaging from a dogfight was no easy task. There was a lot more to it than simply flipping one’s ship in the opposite direction and turning the engines to full. It required a lot of careful maneuvering, a complex sequence of point and counterpoint, and that took time. But as always, time was the thing they needed the most and had the least of. The Sabres of Sideshow flight did their best, pulling the Dominion pilots into fast, tight turning battles where the Confederation pilots, with their more maneuverable craft, had the advantage. They’d get in close, forcing the orcs to slow down and turn as hard as possible in order to keep a bead on them. Then, just as the enemy was getting ready to line up a shot, they’d break out at as sharp an angle as they could manage, using their superior acceleration to bolt out of distance of the Dominion weapons before they could be fired upon. It was a risky set of maneuvers – if the Dominion pilots managed to make their turns in time, they’d find themselves directly behind their targets, in perfect firing position.
“We’re clear, Major, but whatever you’re gonna do, do it fast. Without my unit covering your exit, they’re going to turn their guns on you.”
“One last thing…”
Aerie groaned but didn’t bother to ask what. She knew what Falynn was going to say.
“We don’t have anything to ignite the gas with. There’s one functional turret left on this tub, and it’s aimed in the wrong direction.”
She sighed. “The Sabre’s particle cannons. Can I use those?”
“You’ll have to make sure they’re dialed up to full strength, but yes, the Tricyclene’s plenty volatile. A good bit of charged energy ought to do it. The trick…”
“The trick will be getting clear of the blast wave once the explosion triggers.” She nodded grimly and her hand tightened around her flight stick. She took in a deep breath and flipped the visor of her flight helmet down over her eyes. She normally flew with it up since the glare sometimes obscured her vision, but if this plan of Falynn’s went awry – and there was an rather significant chance of that happening – she was risking damage to her ship and possibly even a hull breach. Better to make sure her suit was fully enclosed in case she needed to punch out. “I understand. And… and it seems to be your only chance. I’m ready when you are.”
“Ok…” She could hear Falynn take a breath over the comm channel, and pictured her turning her head to Imoen over at the transport’s tactical station. “Do it, Immy.”
“Roger. Venting the Tricyclene.”
A vapor cloud began to stream out the back of the transport. While it was a sickly, putrid yellow, it was still hard to see against the backdrop formed by the rest of the nebula. Aerie was expecting it and knew what to look for, but the Dominion craft wouldn’t. As far as they were concerned, there was nothing to watch out for – their attentions were focused on shooting down their target, not keeping alert for any counterattacks. That would make Seraph’s job just a little easier. She hoped.
She waited just a few more moments, giving the transport time to finish venting its cargo, then took a deep breath and hauled the flight stick inward, pulling the Sabre into a steep climb that eventually became a half-loop.
The enemy pilots reacted quickly to her sudden maneuver, but not quickly enough. Even as they shifted to turn their guns on her, she lined up on the center of the expanding cloud of gas. She squeezed the trigger, holding it down until her guns stopped firing, their capacitors temporarily emptied of power. Immediately after loosing that barrage, she flipped her plane back over and lit her burners, boosting away from the expected explosion.
The blast wave caught up with her fighter a few seconds later, the energy from the detonation washing over her shields, causing them to flicker and rattling her around inside her cockpit. But other than that, she’d hardly been touched. The Dominion fighters couldn’t say the same. At least one had been vaporized completely by the explosion. Three more were mortally wounded, fires burning away the last of the oxygen inside the cockpits. The fifth was the luckiest of all: his fighter tumbled slowly end over end, apparently all maneuvering capability gone. Atmosphere leaked from minute cracks in his canopy and the surrounding frame, but with no chance of timely rescue, he’d have until his air ran out. Not a pleasant way to go.
“Omega One, this is Sideshow One. Looks like it worked. Your six is clear. For now.”
The cheers that came back over the comm channel brought a small smile to her face. “We owe you one, Seraph,” Falynn responded. “Thanks for the assist. Cipher says we’ll be making jump transit in a few. So get your wing back to the Gallante. We’ll see you in a bit…”
“Affirmative, Omega One. Out.”
En Route to Blockade Point Kilo
Several Hours Later…
“To the flyboys and flygirls who helped get our asses out of the fire on this one… even if we didn’t really -need- your help. Thanks for lending a hand and proving you’re worth at least as much as tits on a boar.”
The gathered crowd laughed and raised their glasses in salute to Imoen’s tongue-in-cheek attempt at a toast. Coming from anyone else, her words probably would’ve started a fight, but the little, redheaded troublemaker had an almost miraculous ability to sass people and get away with it.
“We owe you guys, and we’re not the kind to welsh on a debt. Drinks are on us. Cheers!”
The offer of free alcoholic beverages probably had a lot to do with that general feeling of goodwill, but Imoen liked to believe it was her natural charm and sparkling personality that did it.
As the party began to pick up all around them, Falynn pulled Aerie aside and thrust a drink into her hands. It was cold, blended, laced with enough alcohol to put down someone three times her size, and packed with a quart of strawberry mixer. Imoen had, of course, made it herself.
“I can’t drink this. It’ll kill me.”
“Just take a sip. Immy’ll feel bad if you don’t try it.”
Sighing, she put the rim of the glass to her lips and took an experimental sip. Truth be told, it was actually quite tasty, but she could taste the alcohol on the back of her tongue. If she polished off the whole thing, all that liquor would hit her like a sledgehammer. She vowed to nurse this one for the rest of the evening, and put on a little smile for the Lieutenant’s benefit.
Falynn snickered. “Good girl. Now just hang on to that glass for the rest of the evening and whenever you get the chance, dump some of it into the potted plants.”
The pilot chuckled softly in response and nodded her head in acknowledgment of the sage advice. “So, what’s going on?”
A shrug. “Not much. Just wanted to thank you in person for bailing us out of that jam. I know there’s whole pro forma BS where I’m not supposed to let on that you did actually save our bacon, but… well… I’ve always bucked tradition.” She laughed lightly, gave the elf a friendly pat on the shoulder, and received a warm smile in response.
“You’re welcome. I’m glad I was able to help. Even if… well… even if you guys always end up putting me in the toughest situations.”
“Heh. Yeah, I’m real sorry about that…”
Aerie smirked at her and rolled her eyes. “No, you’re not…”
Falynn paused for a moment, a little startled by Aerie’s retort. Then she started to laugh. “Well, a little…”
Omegas, Operation Lost Thunder (Part 2/2)
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