He itched to deal some damage.
Seated behind the controls of Challenger, Travis watched the countdown on his board tick off the time remaining before they reached the source of the distress signal. Luck had been with them – five more minutes and the NX-03 would have been too far away to receive this signal in time to do anything about it. Just the nature of the threat caused his muscles to tighten up and his jaw to clench. Nausicaans.
“One minute,” he announced as he concentrated on pushing the fury aside. Right now, it didn’t matter that the Nausicaans had been plaguing the shipping lanes even worse than before the Xindi attack. It wasn’t relevant that his brother would probably never walk again thanks to these bastards or that his mother had been forced to sell the Horizon for scrap after the damage the old ship had taken during a recent engagement. And it certainly didn’t matter that his sister was gone, dead or sold into slavery no one knew. No. All that mattered was the job.
“Battle stations,” Captain Hernandez said in her calm, reassuring voice he knew was masking her worry about the coming encounter. She always did this right before combat, withdrawing into herself so she was an impossibly remote ice queen and Travis wondered if she knew how much it terrified the newest members of the crew. “First Officer, orient on the nearest hostile upon exit. Tactical, get me targeting solutions as soon as possible.”
“Aye, ma’am,” Travis said as he reached for the controls that would bring them back to impulse. He heard Galahad reply in an identical tone from the weapons board. “Reverting to real-space in five, four, three, two, now.”
Challenger shivered slightly as she slowed, almost angrily, and Travis wondered briefly if the young ship was irritated that they were no longer able to stretch their legs at maximum velocity. From the moment he first felt her jump to warp, he likened the NX-03 to a young racehorse, eager to get out there and prove just how fast she could go. He loved that about this ship. Enterprise had never quite felt like this to him.
“Multiple contacts,” Lieutenant Reed announced from the tactical board. “One Nausicaan corvette, two J class freighters, both lightly damaged.” He paused before continuing. “One Vulcan type four explorer, heavily damaged.”
“Get me firing solutions on that Nausicaan,” the captain ordered. “Communications, hail them and order them to stand down or we will fire.” There was steel in Captain Hernandez’s voice.
“No need,” Travis muttered. “They’re running.” With a flash, the Nausicaan corvette sprang away, vanishing at warp speed, and Travis fought the instinctive urge to pursue. He scowled briefly before noticing the debris field that looked to have been another Nausicaan ship. Following the Xindi attack, Starfleet had started a massive upgrade program with Earth Cargo Authority, ramping up Boomer offensive and defensive systems so they could hold their own against scum like this.
“Maintain alert status,” Hernandez ordered, “but get us closer to that Vulcan ship.” Travis heard her lean forward. “Commander Mayweather, can you match that spin?”
“I can,” Travis replied before shooting a glance toward Reed. “Ready grappler,” he ordered.
Matching the Vulcan ship’s uncontrolled tumble turned out to be more difficult than he’d expected, but Travis managed it, fighting with Challenger’s anxious aggressiveness the entire time. He knew that most people didn’t really believe him when he said starships had personalities, but right now, everyone could feel it. Whatever they’d done to Challenger’s engines during her construction had turned her into a beast.
“Life signs?” he heard the captain ask as he feathered the maneuvering thrusters once more.
“There’s a lot of radiation interference,” the girl at the science board said. She was from Alpha Centauri and, though Ensign Dometz was officially twenty Standard years old, every time Travis looked at her, he thought she was barely into her teens. If he hadn’t actually pulled up her record, he’d insist she was maybe twelve or thirteen. “But I am reading four. Three humans and a Vulcan.” Travis gave a quick glance to Lieutenant Reed.
“Deploy grappler … now.” It was an excellent shot and Travis exhaled in relief even as he triggered another burst from the jets.
“Firing second grappler … now,” Galahad announced. This too struck home and Travis keyed in an automated program that would allow Challenger to slowly reduce the spin to non-existent. He felt the NX-03’s thrusters begin firing in slow succession and glanced down at the digital readout.
“Ninety minutes until vessel is fully stabilized,” he announced before glancing back. “I could reduce that a lot more from their bridge.” Hernandez frowned slowly before giving Dometz a look. To her credit, the woman-child knew what the captain wanted to know.
“Transporters are not advised, Captain. Radiation levels are still too high.”
“Then we take a shuttlepod,” Travis said. “I’ll need Kelby to help with the engines and Doctor Yuris for the wounded.”
“Take Chang as well,” the captain instructed. “He’s got extensive zero-gee training.” Travis nodded as he stood.
“Pass the word,” he instructed to Baird, smirking at how eagerly the newly commissioned ensign leaped to obey.
“And ask Ambassador V’Lar to join us on the bridge,” Hernandez added. “She might be able to identify this vessel.”
With Travis at the helm of the ‘pod, it took them less than twelve minutes to deploy from Challenger and hook up to the Vulcan starship. Both Chang and Kelby grumbled the entire time, the former about not having enough time to grab more than the four or five weapons he was carrying and the latter complaining about how much he hated spacewalks. Yuris said nothing, but then, he was so very Vulcan at times like this that Travis could sometimes forget the doctor wasn’t just a robot.
“We have hard seal,” he announced long moments later. “Chang, get the door. Challenger, this is Mayweather. We’re proceeding in.” He paused. “Do we have an identification on this ship yet?” The voice that responded was unmistakably that of Ambassador V’Lar who had been aboard since that mess with the Vulcans several weeks ago. She was nice enough for one of her species and, as an added bonus, wasn’t involved in a pissing contest with the captain to decide what was best for his career.
“Lieutenant Commander, the vessel in question is the T’Muna-Doth. It was lost to Orion pirates sixty-two years ago.”
It was slow-going, even after they managed to breach the outer airlock. Internal hatches were vacuum-sealed – that was probably due to some stupid automated system; Horizon had been like that for years until Travis’ dad got sick of electrical shorts triggering it and ripped the damned thing out – and they had to be careful of any survivors so simply blowing open a hatch (which was always Chang’s preferred solution) wasn’t an option. Even with a fusion torch, it took a long time to cut through the hatches. Engineering turned out to be a no-go: evidently, it was open to space, which Travis hadn’t noticed on their approach. To his very great surprise, Kelby simply turned around and retraced his steps to the shuttlepod, muttering the entire way. From the words Travis did catch, he figured that the engineer was going to cross the hull of the Vulcan ship and enter engineering through the already prepared hole.
“Both are injured but not critically,” Doctor Yuris announced once they breached the living quarters and found two of the three humans. “I am highly concerned about the level of radiation they have been exposed to,” he said. “Are we certain that we cannot utilize the transporter? It would expedite their treatment.” Travis quickly relayed the question.
“Get them to the shuttlepod,” Dometz said long minutes later. “We can lock onto them there.”
“Chang, help the doctor,” Travis ordered, inwardly smirking at the foul look on the MACO’s face. No one knew the specifics of why Chang and Yuris hated each other, but sometimes, it was worth the fireworks to make them work together. Travis hefted the breaching equipment. “I’ll get started on the bridge.”
He was only halfway through the hatch leading to the bridge when Kelby contacted him.
“It’s a no-go on maneuvering,” the engineer announced over the commline. “Looks like they had to eject their warp core and the damage this pig has sustained means she’s not going to fly anytime soon.”
“I’m going to see what I can do about sealing off the radiation leak,” Kelby continued. “Challenger, I heard you are able to transport to the shuttlepod. Please have Petty Officer Jacobsen and Crewman Xi suit up and bring their gear. They’ll know what I need.”
“And tell Jacobsen he is not to send Wilcox in his place this time,” Kelby added. Travis smirked at the irritation in the engineer’s voice.
“This would be easier if you let me use just a little bit of explosive,” Chang said as he drew alongside Travis. The MACO lieutenant grinned at the scowl Mayweather shot him before accepting the torch and taking over.
“How long until we’re through?” he asked. Chang shrugged.
“Seven minutes?” the MACO guessed. “Maybe eight?”
It was closer to eight than seven and by the time they pulled the ruined hatch open, Travis could see that Chang was exhausted. Fighting that breaching torch was nearly as hard as wrestling with a pissed off bear. Sure, there wasn’t much gravity here to complicate matters, but still, you were trying to push a really hot flame through starship armor. Taking pity on him, Travis climbed up the ladder first, scanning quickly for the remaining two people. He found them at once – both looked to have been seated when this ship was hit but only the larger of the two was still mostly in his chair. The man’s foot had been caught when he was thrown free and, just at a glance, Travis suspected it was sprained or maybe broken, but the female … the female was Vulcan. He blinked at her face, his eyes widening in recognition as he took a closer look at the man.
“Omigod,” he breathed, forgetting for a moment that he was transmitting across a live connection. “Medical emergency! Yuris, get up here now!” Travis stumbled closer. “Chang, get your ass in here! I need a medkit now!” He knelt beside the woman and fumbled with his gloves, tearing them free before placing pressure on the open wound that still slowly leaked blood.
There was no way in hell he was going to let Subcommander T’Pol die.