PHASE IV : THE LOKI ARC ( 45 of 66 )
: “ No Rest for the Weary ”
TCS Endeavour; Flight Deck
1600 Hours, 14 Feb 2681 (2681.045)
“We are gathered here today to pay our last respects to those brave pilots who have given their lives in the line of duty. Sacrificed themselves in order to protect the greater good."
Their caskets lay still on the flight deck.
"These heroic pilots, our comrades, our friends will be terribly missed. But they will not be forgotten. A part of them will live on in each and every one of us."
The blackness of those caskets echo the darkness each of them endured.
"They will be remembered for the efforts and sacrifices they put forth. And we will honor them by fighting in memory of them. And we will overcome the darkness that threatens us to ensure that their deaths were not in vain."
The line of caskets lift off from the deck and hover in place.
"But for now, we will commit their bodies to the vastness of space and allow them, as they deserve, to rest in peace."
The caskets slowly glide towards the magnetic shields at the end of the bay, penetrating them with a low hum and a ring of light, before drifting silently away.
Captain Griffin loosened the collar of his
dress uniform as he solemnly made his way through the ship towards his quarters.
He quietly observed his surroundings as he walked slowly through the corridors
of the ship. On occasion, he would see an overhead light flickering or access
panels open with tools spread out beside them. The crew continued to repair the
damage done to the ship during the last Nephilim encounter, most likely their
toughest battle yet in this war. On the other surviving ships of the Aurora
Battle Group and the 8th Cruiser Squadron, similar operations were underway.
Turning the corner, he met up with one of the techs in the area.
"I can't allow you to go down that way sir," he said as he raised his hand. "We've had to refit an entire section of electronics and wiring in the corridor about ten meters down. You won't be able to get through, sir."
Griffin looked down the corridor. Sure enough, the faint flickering of light could be seen reflecting off the metal walls and he picked out the sound of laser welders firing in the distance. With a sigh, Griffin nodded slowly towards the technician and then doubled back the way he came until he could head down an open path to his quarters.
Finally he arrived at his door and keyed in his access code on the small control panel beside the sliding door. The door clicked, indicating that it had been unlocked and Griffin opened the door and made his way inside. He took off the jacket of his dress uniform and tossed it onto the back of a chair before dropping down on the couch and closing his eyes.
TCS Endeavour; Medical Ward 03
Victoria Sullivan lay quietly in her bed. The IV needle that had been attached to her left hand was now replaced with a bandage that pressed against the puncture. She continued to stare at a monitor that had been set up in front of her. Now, it simply showed the busy flight deck as the crew attempted to get the fighters repaired and running for their next inevitable encounter with the Nephilim. Not so long ago, the funeral proceedings for the deceased pilots had dominated the screen.
The sound of footsteps caught her attention and she turned her head towards the door of the small ward. It opened and her sister Julia stepped in with a weary smile on her face. Victoria returned the smile.
"How're you holding up, sis?" Julia asked.
Victoria shrugged slightly, the bed under her hindering her movement slightly. "I don't have anything impaling me anymore," she said as she held up her left hand. "So I'm doing better."
Julia nodded as she sat down in the chair beside the bed. "Good. I'm glad to hear that."
"Glad? You look like someone lifted an Excalibur off your chest."
Julia shot a look at Victoria. "Well of course I do," she snapped. "Do you realize how worried I was during that hour where you were unconscious? I couldn't even think straight!"
Victoria bit her lower lip lightly as emotion poured out of her sister.
"I was so afraid that you'd were..." Julia glanced at the monitor. "That you would end up like some of the others," she said as her voice trailed off. There was a brief silence in the room.
"I know," Victoria said quietly. "I know."
Julia fought back the tears. "I can't believe how much we've lost in such a short time."
"The most frightening part about it is that it's not even over yet."
The room went silent once again, as the two sisters simply looking at each other, their eyes conveying what the other was thinking.
About The Same Time
Iceman sat quietly on a stool beside a counter top in his quarters. Sitting on the desk were the pictures of lieutenants Amber Roberts and Jenn Mackenzie, two pilots he'd befriended over his years in the service. Both pilots were now simply footnotes in a logbook somewhere, commended for their valiant actions in the previous battle with the Nephilim, one that had proved to be the last for both of them.
He got up and walked over to one of the cupboards and pulled out a bottle, looking at it as he walked back over to his seat. He opened the bottle and set a glass down on the table. He didn't drink except for a few times during the early part of his career. It was over ten years since he had his last, ever since a pilot died because of his stupidity. And now, here he was, ready to drown out his problems with the bottle.
Iceman poured himself a glass and stared down at the gold-colored liquid. His eyes never left the glass as he picked it up and raised it up to eye-level. With a lightning fast motion, he whipped the glass against the wall, watching it shattering into what seemed like a million pieces while its contents sprayed out in all directions, staining the wall and whatever was nearby. Silence followed.
He shook his head slowly as he got up and took the bottle over to the sink and poured the alcohol down it.
He would never allow himself to make the same mistake again.
TCS Endeavour; CIC
1812 Hours, 14 Feb 2681 (2681.045)
The Combat Information Center had become more
of a home to Commander Heather Stevens than her own quarters were since the
beginning of the Nephilim conflict. She had spent a countless number of hours
sitting in the darkened room as she analyzed and interpreted information in an
attempt to gain an advantage over the numerically and perhaps technologically
superior Nephilim fleet. It became increasingly more difficult for her to pull
out subsequent rabbits out of her hat.
Stevens sighed heavily as she poured herself another cup of coffee. It never used to be something she enjoyed, but she had gotten used to it. It had, after all, become the only constant in her diet these days.
She was bathed in light from the corridor as the door to the CIC opened. The shape of a backlit figure stood in the doorway for a moment before walking in. "I thought you'd still be in here," said the figure. It was Commander Garrison of the Black Dragons squadron.
Stevens smiled wearily, her face lit only by the glare from the monitors now that the door had slid shut. "Yep," she said quietly. "My home away from home, you could say."
"When was the last time you had any rest?"
"Now don't you start too, Garrison," she retorted. "I've had so many people ask me that question that it makes me sick."
"Then I guess that means that I'm not the only one who sees how hard you've been pushing yourself lately," he replied calmly. "After all, there's got to be some reason that everyone keeps asking you the same question over and over again."
Stevens looked at him. She wondered who Garrison thought he was. A doctor perhaps? "Look, Commander," she said forcefully. "We have to push ourselves in this war. If we don't we'll never be able to get an advantage over the enemy when we need it. The odds are already against us as things stand. We can't afford to just sit back and do things as we'd normally do."
Garrison nodded slowly. "True, we can't sit back. And while we have to push the limits, we have to make sure that we don't go over them," he said, just as calmly as before. "If we go over the limits, we risk burning ourselves out completely. And that won't do any of us any good."
Stevens turned her head back to the monitor and stared at it quietly for a moment. "Is there a reason you came down here for, Commander?" she asked without turning her head back to look at him.
Garisson hesitated and looked at her. "Yes, Commander," he said flatly. "Colonel Taylor asked me to relay this report to you. He's got his hands full at the moment."
Stevens took the data-pad from Garrison, still refusing to make eye contact, and placed it down beside her. Her comm unit beeped and activated it. "Stevens here."
"Commander," the voice said. "Your presence is required on the bridge."
"Acknowledged," she said as she got up from her seat. She glanced at Garrison. "See Commander, there's no rest for the weary," she said before walking out the door. Garrison just shook his head.
TCS Endeavour; Bridge
About The Same Time
Commander Stevens walked off the lift and onto the bridge. The place was once again a buzz with activity. In the middle of it all, Captain Griffin and Admiral Miller were discussing some matter of importance, at least that's what she assumed as she walked up to the two officers.
"Now what do we have, sir?" she asked as she stood up beside the two men who were both at least a couple inches taller than she was.
"What we have, Commander, is a problem," replied Admiral Miller. "A big one."
Stevens glanced at him and then to Griffin. "Battle Group Valkyrie is in serious danger of being overwhelmed by superior Nephilim forces," he told her. "We were able to take out that our target rather quickly because of the fighter patrols the Nephilim were running in order to find the Valkyries. And it seems that they have found them."
Stevens' eyes widened. "What's their status?" she asked, concern stamped on her face.
"All we know for sure is that the Nephilim are hitting them hard. We can't get anymore than that with the bugs blanketing them with jamming signals," replied the Admiral.
"Right now, we're headed directly towards the position of the Valkyrie group. Fortunately for us, despite the damage to the engines of a couple capital ships, our escorts can keep up with us," Griffin informed her. "I want all departments to be ready for when we crash the bug's party, Commander."
"Yes sir," Stevens said as she turned around and darted for the lift. This was no time for formalities.
"Oh, and Commander..." Stevens stopped in her tracks and spun around, her eyes fixed on Griffin.
"Pray that we can get there in time."