Task Force Flashburn – The Barbarian and the Bomber

For a Klingon to spill their bloodwine was an act of blasphemy. To actively spit out the warrior’s libation was almost a sin against the warrior-god Kahless himself. But when Captain Vulch’tak heard the proposal, the crimson brew sprayed from his lips onto the table. “You can’t be serious!”

Across from the broad-shouldered barbarian sat a pale-skinned and deceptively petite Y-Wing ace who now wore the title of Bolo Leader on her helmet. “Not at all, Captain. My squadron has run the numbers through our astromechs and we all agree it’s possible.”

The commotion within the frigate Coronation’s common area forced the Klingon to lean in to avoid attracting unwanted attention to such a ridiculous plot, “And how do you propose to do this? Is my crew to simply lash your ships to mine with our hair?”

Commander Yelah narrowed her eyes “Wouldn’t want your men to risk such fine frizzy locks. I’ve got my ground crews refitting all active fighters they can with magnetizing landing pads. We fly up, latch on nice and tight, then power down everything but life support so your Bird-of-Prey’s cloaking device isn’t compromised.” 

“And then what? So we ferry you invisibly into battle, risking my ship for such little glory? You may be brave for a human, but you do not know Klingon ways.”

Yelah tok a long draw from her own tankard and smiled, “I know that a distinguished Captain such as yourself, with many victories in your galaxy’s Dominion War, knows the value of drawing first blood against the enemy. My fighters don’t have to use targeting computers to crank out our torpedoes straight off our noses, just a target. You get us close, point your ship in the right direction, and we’ll give you an Imp banner to fly in your quarters as a trophy.”

The Klingon raised an eyebrow, but did not pull away, “And you bring glory to your lost commander, am I correct?”

This time, the fighter jockey lowered her eyes, “General Pellius is…was,… a great pilot. We won’t forget him, but this isn’t about revenge. This crazy Task Force idea has a job to do so that our combined fleets have a lot easier job ahead of them.”

She pulled a pad from her hip and placed it between them. “Right now, our big ships have their hands full with a bunch of wayward Cardassians without a ship of their own. While the Feds and our cruisers find them beds and blasters, we’ll miss the window to strike the Imperial walker factory just next door. Six hours there and back at your top speed, and we’ll have given the Hate’s Hammer another reason to pull away from its normal patrol. Even a stocked Star Destroyer won’t catch up to us once the Task Force heads out.  Adding the armor factory on Timbauk Seven to our kill list will look great on your banner, as well as save a lot of lives in the future! And we´ll still be on time to hit the Imp´s fighter production plant.”

Vulch’tak gave his drinking partner a long stare, followed by a toothy smile, “I stand corrected, you have surprised me. Such boldness in strategy will bring glory to my crew and the Klingon Empire! Tell me, how many of your Y-Wings are you committing to this?”

“I’ve got four pairs lined up and ready,” Yelah nodded. “Two pairs up top, two pairs inverted along your wings. Plenty of room so we’re not bumping engines. My last pair will have to stay with the fleet, not enough parts to mod all my bombers. We drew straws already to see who’s going and who’s not, but my flyers are all training on this now in their simulators.” 

The Klingon stood suddenly with his cup raised, “Then we depart at once! Your pilots and my crew will bring honor and glory back to the fleet!”

The sudden shift in attitude surprised the fighter ace, “Wait, you’re not gonna tell your superiors on that old battlecruiser of yours?”

Vulch’tak drained his tankard in one swig and tossed the cup across the room, barely missing a passing protocol droid “Let them join us in battle if they are as brave as they are old. But this! This will be our battle, our song for the halls of Sto-Vo-Kor!” In a surprisingly sober motion, the larger warrior swept around the table and took Yelah’s shoulders in his hands, squeezing them like she’d seen other Klingons do to each other. “Qapla!”

The shout stopped all passers-by for a moment, at least until those familiar with the garish nature of a Klingon simply went back to whatever business they had at hand. Yelah was thankful for the lack of questions. Now let’s just hope a few sim hours make up for just how crazy this is

*****

The plan still sounded crazy an hour later, as Yelah’s Y-Wing latched firmly onto the Bird-of-Prey’s port wing with an electronic ‘thunk’. Bolo Two was just as graceful in his landing a moment later, but cursing across the comm channel gave away that someone still had trouble.

“Lead to Six, you alright there Halass?”

A deep sandpapered voice grumbled back, “No damage to report, One. Just underestimated how strong these magnets are.”

“Copy that, ‘Thumper’”, Bolo Three piped in. “Hope you’re ready for a death-match if you scratch their paint!”

Halass shot back with a retort in his native tongue that no one else understood, but still chuckled at. That told Yelah everything she wanted to hear. “Let’s snap it up, team. Make sure you’re snug and power down everything you can.”

The ‘affirmatives’ rolled in, and she could see Bolo Two’s fighter go dark next to her. “Bolo Lead to May’Siq, we’re locked down here.”

“Target coordinates locked, engage warp drive!” Vulch’tak’s order came, and the Bird-of-Prey banked away from the rest of the Task Force, leaping forward into a streak of iridescent green.

Almost instantly, she heard the main comm channel light up with a Starfleet signal, “This is the U.S.S. Diamante, calling departing forces, state your mission parameters. We didn’t copy your flight plan.”

The Klingon’s response came first as a hearty laugh, “And that is why you’ll never have a seat in Sto-Vo-Kor!” Then the channel was cut.

“Place your bets now, Bolos. My odds say the Feds hold back and leave us hanging.” Two posted to the squadron channel, making Yelah grimace. “So let’s make sure we don’t need them. Keep chatter to a minimum, you’ll have plenty of time for debt collection on the trip back.”

Once she had the confirmation from all her flyers, the Commander closed her eyes and slunk back into her seat, letting the prismatic pinpricks of warp travel wash over her. Speeding past the lightspeed barrier this way calmed her pulse in a way hyperspace travel never would. Maybe because there’s not supposed to be abominations from the deepest parts of nightmares stalking us in this universe… she let herself muse. “Rattler, make sure you’re tied into the May’Siq‘s sensors. Anything comes across our path, you ping the other droids.”

The bubble-headed R2 unit behind her gave an irritated buzz, insisting that Yelah didn’t need to ask it to do something it had already done. She just shook her head at the droid’s cantankering and let her eyes drift along with the stars.

*

Rattler’s high-pitched warble jolted her awake, which annoyed Yelah, more so at herself than the noise. But the stilled stars above her canopy replaced irritation with alert. “Status check.”

Surprisingly, the Klingon leader’s voice answered her first “We’ve located an Imperial patrol dead ahead and closing. We are cloaked and holding position until they are in firing range!”

 No no no no no no! There’s not supposed to be anyone out here! Yelah’s mind raced, made even worse when she saw Bolo Two’s cockpit suddenly light up. “All fighters, standby! Keep your power in check until we need it! Rattler, confirm the Bird-of-Prey’s ID!”

On her Y-Wing’s display, she watched her R2 paint the familiar boxy picture of an Imperial Carrack-class cruiser, calling itself Lunar Impaler. And indeed, 350 meters of Imperial firepower was barreling towards them as fast as its sunlight engines would push it. A fact made even worse when Rattler noted that the cruiser was scanning every particle of dust and space directly in front of it.

Yelah’s fighter shuddered slightly as the Klingon starship’s wings lowered into their classic attack position. We’ve got surprise on our side, but it has to be perfect.  “Bolo Lead to May’Siq, hold your fire! We can’t let that cruiser send an alert out!”

“Do not presume to dictate our battle plan!” Vulch’tak practically screamed over the channel, “Their broken hull will be a fine trophy!”

“And if you charge them head-on, they’ll rip this ship to pieces!” the bomber ace countered. “We have to hit their main comms dish topside, and a cruiser like that will have its guns facing forward and out, not to the rear.”

She took the Klingon’s silence as a clue he was at least listening. “Get above their centerline and let them get past, and we’ll take out both that dish and their engines before those turbolasers beat you up too much!”

A low growl answered her plan, only for the Bird-of-Prey to begin rotating ‘upward’ from its position, flipping over the Lunar Impaler in a tight arc, but keeping its nose pointed at the cruiser’s heart.

“Bolo Flight, power-up and prep your torpedoes for dual-fire. Target the comms array and the center spine, and fire as the Klingons do! We’ll only get the one shot before that cruiser puts its shields up!”

“Bolo Two, ready!”

“Three, armed to launch.”

“Four copies all.”

“Bolo Five, angling the shot!”

“Bolo Six, two hot and ready.”

“Bolo Seven, ready to pop!”

“Eight, ready for visual lock.”

It was only a few seconds to wait, but it felt like hours in Yelah´s chest. The Lunar Impaler plowed straight on, seemingly blinded by its pursuit of what it couldn’t see. Her fingers tightened around the Y-Wing´s trigger and her breath came rapid and shallow. The Bird-of-Prey kept itself within barely three kilometers of the cruiser in its flip, ensuring that any Imperial crewman that saw the Klingons de-cloak would have no time to respond. 

And as soon as their nose was straight down on the Carrack´s main comms dish, she heard the command ¨de-So’ ‘ej qul!¨

¨Set marks and fire two!” Yelah howled, and two proton torpedoes lanced forth from her nose. Within the same breath, she could hear her wingmen call out the same shot, commands all but drowned out by the May´Siq´s disruptor cannons raining emerald fire into the Imperial target´s spine. The large communications dish shattered into a thousand flecks of metal and Bolo Squadron´s shots tore right through it and deep into the Impaler´s savaged backside. Yelah could see the internal explosions and bleeding atmosphere, illuminated by Klingon shot after shot raking down the cruiser´s length before hitting the engine block and ripping one of the Carrack´s sublight engines right off the rest.

The blocky Imperial cruiser began a slow rotation, trying desperately to bring its port-line guns against the Bird-of-Prey, but it was a losing battle now. The more agile Klingon scout kept its nose to the mortal wound it had already inflicted and continued to rip chunks of metal out of the Impaler. With little resistance, Yelah ordered her Bolos to save their torpedoes and pump as much laser cannon into their target as possible. 

The next problem arose when the fighter ace spotted the first escape pod pop free of the doomed cruiser, followed by another, then two more. ¨Bolos, hold fire, the Impaler is dead!¨

“Lead, each of those pods will have a distress beacon on it, “Two reminded her. “That could be good bait to pull any other patrols away from the Walker factory.¨

“Or give them advance warning that we’re coming, boss.” Four countered. “It’s not like they will…”

The point suddenly became moot as the first escape pod popped in a ball of fire, courtesy of a Klingon disruptor shot. Yelah had only enough time to gasp as the Bird-of-Prey vaporized each escaping capsule. But they were fleeing! How is there honor in that?

“Sithspawn! They just slaughtered them!” Two confirmed, to which Five added “Might have been the merciful thing to do. Do you know what these ridge-heads do to their prisoners?”

“Stow it, Bolos!” She yelled into her headset, far louder than she thought she had. A sick mix of revulsion, pity and fear brewed in her stomach, but the bomber ace didn’t dare show weakness now. “What’s done is done, and we’ve still got a mission to finish. Power back down until we reach our target!”

Her squadmates acknowledged, though the mirth in their voices was gone. She couldn’t blame them, “General Pellius wouldn’t lose his cool like that…” she whispered into the recycled air of her canopy. Not even the eerie calm of warp speed steadied her voice or her hand.

“Lead, Two.” Her wingman chirped in on a private channel. “You okay, boss?”

She hesitated in answering that. This was my plan…this, this is my doing…  The thought played over and over, unwilling to let her mind move past the fear she imagined in the eyes of those vaporised Imperial crewmen. 

“Brinn, where are you right now”

That got her attention, pulling her violet eyes over to the dimmed canopy of her wingman. “I don’t know, Krull. We all agreed that we’d never make it back on our own fuel supplies…so, I’m the one who baited Vulch’tak into this…but I never imagined they would be this ruthless. Even the Imps take prisoners.”

“They also blow up innocent worlds and erase entire species,” he countered. “I don’t like it either, but I also don’t like burying our friends and families.”

The muscles in Yelah’s jaw tightened. “I miss them too…” From her backseat, Rattler chittered a positive tune, and Bolo Leader let her body relax for just a second, “And we’re all that stands in the way of a few trillion more cases of longing and regret.”

“Took the words right out of his mouth, boss. Pellius would be proud.”

She smiled to herself, trying to remember what certainty felt like, “He’ll be even prouder when we all get back and drink these barbarians under the table.”

Krull chuckled over the channel, before it was interrupted by that feral Klingon bravado and the snap acceleration back to warp speeds. “Ten standard minutes to target! Are your pilots prepared for death and glory?”

“Glory, all day! Death, they’ll have to catch us first!”

**************

A scene I’ve been slowly adding to since I published the original in the series, which I admit is a hodgepodge mess for now. But I’ve been in a writerly mood lately, so I thought it was time to finish it.

I hope you all enjoy.

2 thoughts on “Task Force Flashburn – The Barbarian and the Bomber

  1. Mayumi Hirtzel says:

    I dug this a lot! Yelah’s and Vulch’tak’s motivations and characterizations come through clearly and cleanly. The dialogue and setup are detailed enough while still staying tight, and the space battle scene has a nice flow to it. Good job keeping things quick during the actual fight, then giving the Y-wing squad some cool-down time for reflection.

    The dichotomy between the Klingon idea of honor and the Alliance thought on the same makes for an interesting lesser conflict. Certainly, war is ugly and complicated. That comes through nicely, here.

    Glad to see you’re writing!

    • Thank you, Mayumi!
      I also enjoyed playing with that idea of ‘honor’, and how that definition changes just from person to person, let alone different races.

      Like Kaibus before her, Yelah is a character I hope to use more in the future. Someone to put through her trials and watch her grow.

      Now, to see if I can settle on how to do Part 2!

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