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Previously... Chapter 10:
“We have visual,” Sirol reported.


“Oncreen,” Fludicus’ command was followed by the bridge viewscreen showing two ships in space. Other than their dark grey paint jobs, they (apparently) had all the markings of Hideki-class vessels.

“Let’s get this on. Battlestations,” Fludicus cried.

The Red Alert klaxon began to ring throughout the ship.

And Now...

The Last Days of the USS Starlight Pony (Chap 11)

Lieutenant Rimba took up the duty officer station for bridge communications aboard the CDS M’Gruran. It was quite a moment for him to do so, especially with the fact that in most circumstances the bridge is an all-female affair. It was a fulfillment of his dreams, although now as a Starfleet officer rather than a local defence officer.

Since he was a cub, he had dreamed of serving aboard a starship. He visited an older Caitian escort when he was twelve, and had a moment with destiny when he touched the bridge panels of a comm station. He had prepared throughout high school to apply for the Caitian Defence Force, but an error landed him being accepted into Starfleet Academy. 

It was a big day when he left his family for the stars. They threw a party on that day, a quiet but happy affair.

 That was five years ago.

He wondered time and again what would he be if he had gotten his wish of serving in the Caitian Defence Force. Then again, the Caitian Defence Force never left the home system.

He found himself prepped up to be a Starfleet officer through an accelerated education programme, given a battlefield commission as an ensign at the end of his second year. With the Klingon War in full swing, he served on the frontlines for the first six months of his commission before he was rotated out of the battlefield. Since that first tour, he had seen another frontline assignment along the former Romulan Neutral Zone. Other than that, he had taken up a number of postings on various space stations, helping coordinate ships to and from the frontlines.

After all those months serving in Starfleet, Rimba was due for a long shore leave. He looked forward to returning to his homeworld and meeting with his family and pride to show his latest achievement: a promotion to his present rank. His month-long leave would prepare him for his next posting: a liaison for Starfleet on Cait.

A fitting place for a war veteran like himself.

He still sought to serve before he went on leave though. He found that the M’Gruran was making a stop at Cait as he prepared for his journey. He applied, and was accepted as part of the rotation of duty officers who come aboard of come off the ship. Such was the need for officers and crew throughout the Federation and Starfleet that even those coming supposedly as passengers would contribute to the ship in any way possible.

Captain Neytiri entered the bridge several minutes into his shift. For the past few days Neytiri seemed focused on something that had something with the stop at Cait. Whatever it is, she looked focused as ever on the situation at hand as she ordered the ship to leave warp.

Leaving subspace, the M’Gruran entered the edge of the Cait system. Rimba could only wonder as the viewscreen began to show the star and planets of his home, much like how recalled them on his journey to Starfleet Academy. 

There was something different however. Rimba could not help but notice that there were a few more ships moving around the Cait system. Cait was reputed to be one of the quieter parts of the Federation, being deep within Federation space and not being a hub of economic or military value. Few ships would normally be seen in Cait, so seeing more would mean that Cait was now being ramped up to contribute more to the ongoing conflict.

The M’Gruran then made its approach to Cait space dock. Its design, similar with those across the Federation, could not hide the fact how much Cait was vital the to the Federation, evidenced by the sheer number of ships coming to and from the station. 

Rimba’s console began to beep, “Captain, Cait Space Dock is hailing us. What are your orders?”

“Patch them through,” Neytiri called.

A few moments later, an audio channel crackled to life, “This is Cait Control. Identify yourself.”

“This is Captain Neytiri of the M’Gruran,” replied Neytiri, “Requesting permission to dock.”

“Our sensors has your ship flagged as Starfleet,” the voice from Cait Control replied, “Please verify.”

Neytiri knew of the security phases granted for heightened access in Caitian space, “Having hunted my prey throughout the savannah of stars, I return with the kill to present to my pride.”

“Verified. Welcome home Neytiri,” Cait Control replied. There was a moment’s silence before the voice resumed, “We have someone who is expecting your arrival.”

“I believe it would be Elder Hehos,” Neytiri replied, “Please advise him to meet me that the docking bay.”

An awkward silence followed Neytiri’s words, where then replied Cait Control, “Elder Hehos indeed looks forward to meeting you. However, there is someone who wishes to see you on a more urgent basis. Expect to see... her... at Docking Bay Four.”

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

The USS Starlight Pony dived at its two unsuspecting targets, phaser banks blazing. The two grey Cardassian ships, clearly caught unaware had seconds to evade and turn on their defences.

The ship closest to the Starlight Pony took a direct hit that disabled its engines. A second phaser beam punched through its rear, snipping of a section of its tail.

The other ship was more fortunate. After narrowly missing the few phaser shots, a phaser beam found its mark, only to be dissipated by its shields.

Aboard the Starlight Pony, Fludicus looked at the escaping vessel with some interest. His face betrayed a smirk that showed when he met something beyond his expectations.

“This,” Fludicus said, “is way too easy.”

“They are getting away,” Mirra reported, “I suggest we pursue them and maintain fire.”

“Agreed,” Fludicus replied, “We cannot let them get away to call in reinforcements. Helm, pursue at full impulse.”

“Aye commander,” Gepba complied.

As the Federation vessel lunged into its pursuit, Fludicus opened a channel to his Chief engineer Thron, who was aboard the Hideki prize vessel, “Change of plans Thron. You ought to go to our latest kill close by while we chase the other. Watch your six out there.”

As Thron acknowledged Fludicus’ latest order, the remaining Cardassian vessel suddenly made a hard turn to starboard. Being smaller and more agile, it made an about-turn just as the Starlight Pony passed by, as though it was going to face its opponent. Despite the fact that the Cardassian vessel had to contend with its superior Federation opponent, it became clear that the crew aboard had prepared for the onslaught of broadsides from the Starlight Pony.

Fludicus could only admire with a grim smile as his ship circled round to lay down volleys of phaser fire.

“Tell me when we can break their shields any moment from now,” Fludicus said, “How long do we need?”

“It seems like they had hardened their shields,” Mirra reported, “We are going to need to lay down some more fire power or more time before they break.”

“Divert more power to the weapons.”

“We could risk overloading the array’s conduits or fusing the banks in the process,” Mirra warned, “I advise against that.”

“Concentrate fire on one section of their shields,” Fludicus said, “we have to find another way to take those shields down. Any ideas?”

“We could try to adjust our fire to match with their shield’s frequency,” Sirol suggested, “The Enterprise-D was badly damaged by rogue Klingons using that technique.”

“Mirra, rotate our phaser frequencies,” Fludicus ordered, “Let’s see if they remodulate their shields or hold fast.”

The phaser fire continued to pour upon the Cardassian vessel, initially with little results. However, a few phaser beams managed to pass through the shield and made several direct hits on its hull.

“Their remodulating their shields,” Mirra called out, “and likely to be calling for reinforcements.”

“Photon torpedoes. Take out their shields and comms,” Fluidcus seemed focused on the moment, as though he had the attack planned all along, “Go for their weapons after that.”

As two torpedoes struck the Cardassian vessel with the desired effect, Sirol observed the unusual sensor inputs coming onto her station’s console, “Commander, it looks like there’s some sort of distortion - or spatial displacement  coming towards us.”

“Range?” Fludicus asked.

“Weapons range.”

A gasp left his lips, “Tell me you are joking,” Fludicus was clearly unprepared for the answer, “Why did you not pick that up earlier?”

“It just came on sensors,” Sirol repiled, “I suspect whatever it is, it is as big as us.”

“Status on shields?” Fludicus asked.

“Our targets’ is offline, “ Mirra replied, “We got ours at full and ready.”

“Break off the attack,” Fludicus ordered, “Focus our weapons on the distortions we detected.”

“Aye sir.”

As the Starlight Pony began to take up a defensive position, something seemed to stir amidst the sea of stars. On the bridge, the viewscreen at first showed no change. Suddenly, like a ghost appearing out of nowhere, a ship emerged out of cloak. Its stingray design betrayed its Cardassian origins, however it was clear with a second look that it was an all new design. Unlike the usual Galor-class, the bridge seemed to be embedded into the hull, flaked by its hull fins. Two forward pylons stood out to greet the Starlight Pony, like tusks of an Apex predator. Its tail fork was longer than usual, with the ship cladded in a grey finish with yellow highlights.

Fludicus was surprised by the Cardassian vessel’s very existence. After all, the Cardassian ships that he had encountered up to now were based on what every Starfleet officer learnt from Dominion War 101: the standard Galor, the nimble Hideki, and the formidable Keldon classes. This ship did not match any of the three.

Fludicus was far more worried was its cloak. Cardassian engineering was considered inferior to that of the Federation. In fact, it took two or more Cardassian warships to take on a similar classed Starfleet vessel. Evidence of the Cardassians developing Cloaking technology may not bode well for the Federation...

Then again, one could give the benefit of the doubt to the Cardassians themselves given the fact that they had developed social and political reforms to their society. Since the Dominion War, they have pretty been forced to rely on very limited resources and the very limited Federation aid to Cardassia (not much accepted on their part).

“Tactical analysis Mirra,” Fludicus ordered.

Mirra had already started before Fludicus gave out the order. She began to report back almost at once, “Standard Cardassian armaments similar to the Galor-class. Disruptor arrays and cannons. Standard deflector shields. Possible compressor beam, but we would need to make a more detailed scan to confirm.”

“Keep our forward shield up at full. Aim our phasers in a concentrated pattern,” Fludicus responded, “We may only have one shot before it gets messy.”

“Cardassian warships are inferior to Starfleet - I mean traditionally,” Mirra said, “We clearly have the advantage.”

Fludicus disagreed, “Not this time. They got us off guard with their cloak. Who knows what else are they hiding. That should start making us worried.”

“That is not to mention whatever jamming or masking technology they have,” Sirol added, “I am detecting some sort of unusual features on that Cardassian ship. Enhanced sensor arrays, conduits similar to cloaking devices. Something look like a warp signature masking system.”

“Anything new on weapons?” Fludicus asked.

“Still nothing out of the ordinary,” Mirra replied, “More curious is that they have yet to power up weapons.”

“A curious move indeed,” Fludicus agreed, “are they trying to provoke us into making the first move?”

“It could be possible,” Mirra replied, then noticed something new, “ The Cardassian ship is hailing us.”

“Any guesses?” Fludicus asked Mirra. Seeing his first officer shaking her head, he shrugged his shoulders, “Let's find out what we got. Onscreen.”