Characters: Tomás Darquin, Tylo Narsh, Anakin Solo, Validenn, Hellecat Brannon
Tylo shouted as the doors to the shuttle slammed shut. “Nail it, Solo!”
He spread his arms across the cockpit, bracing himself where he stood. The others were farther back, crammed into the shuttle in awkward positions. They had overloaded the shuttle horrendously with passengers, people stuck in every available space. The able bodied, like Ensigns Darquin and Helle, strapped many of the wounded into the acceleration chairs, then tried to hold down the rest of the injured on the floor of the main compartment as the awakening engines rattled the hull. It would be a wonder if they even were able to lift off. And they could forget about any evasive flying, Tylo told himself. The number of injuries it would cause was unthinkable.
Anakin sighed, watching the power gauges almost reach the critical point, the engines howling as Striker started to rise from the surface of Minbar. “Tylo, get Validenn out there covering us. We’re as agile as spoo right now, and half as fast!”
Darquin stopped himself when he realized he was preparing himself for a sprint. Even after all his training on Minbar, his initial instincts were still to bolt for the nearest Starfury. He sighed, barely audible under the roar of the engines, and crawled against the growing g forces to the wounded on the floor behind Ensign Helle.
“Val! Oye! Stop playing around and get out there. What’s in that blasted Minbari cabeza of yours?” Tylo had enough to worry about right now without wondering if his escort would help them or not.
“I understand, sir! No need to repeat yourself,” quickly came Validenn’s reply.
Red and orange washed over the cockpit viewports as they crashed into the atmosphere, blasting through it and into space. The shuttle shook, unseen forces tearing at it and the lives inside. Minbari prayers were being mumbled, a slight Spanish one from Tylo.
Then with the brilliance of a bursting sun they shot into space, into the deep black void, and a sigh of relief was heard from all. “That was close…,” Helle said breathlessly. This experience was more than she had planned for. She had been able to handle the wounded — she was in medical, it was her job — but the intensity of the rest of this mission was more than she had ever experienced.
“This is your captain speaking,” Anakin said over the intercom. “The no smoking sign is activated, as is the fasten seatbelts sign. Please put all seats and tray tables in their upright and locked positions. We’ll be experiencing some turbulence.”
“Aye yai yai.” Darquin leaned over to Helle. “Heaven help us if there’s an in flight movie.”
Helle stared at the intercom speaker in a daze, amazed. “I can’t help but wonder…how anyone can find humor in this situation.”
He looked into her face to gauge her reaction, but it was an unreadable mask of contrasts, the girlish countenance clashing with her serious gaze. He shrugged to himself and took a chance, speaking his next thought. “It’s either that or lose it, I –“
He stopped when she lurched forward and suddenly snapped her head around to throw a glance over her shoulder. In the tight press of bodies, seatbelts and personal space had become optional accessories. Feeling one of her fellow passengers pressing himself a little too closely, she hesitated for a bare second before shifting her weight onto the toes of her right foot and bringing her heel down hard on his foot. Hearing his muttered curse, she turned slightly and with a voice that positively dripped ice said slowly, “Oh how clumsy of me! I’m soooo very sorry.”
Darquin did his best to hold back a grin, blushing slightly as he pictured what could’ve happened, and looked ahead into the cockpit.
Anakin motioned to Tylo, the both of them huddling over. “There are five ships coming in,” he whispered, pointing to the sensor display. “And they aren’t friendly.”
“Que ahora? Go for the Phoenix, full burn. If we rattle apart on the way there, at least these guys won’t get the glory of killing us… And get Validenn on the comm’s. Maybe he can distract them until we get in the Phoenix’s firing range.”
“Oh geez.” Val looked at his scanners. There were five very fast blips on his screen. And they were all headed for the Striker.
“Validenn to Phoenix, are there any pilots on board that could fly a fighter? I’ve got five bogies incoming, and I don’t know if I can handle them all!”
“This is the Phoenix, we are fresh out. Sorry.”
Sorry? That’s all they could say?
“Well, this should prove interesting….”
Val slammed the throttle and screamed towards the five Minbari fighters. It didn’t take long for them to figure out his intentions, and green beams shot across his cockpit. He pulled up hard, launching a missile in the process. He was very glad that the Zen’Tha fighter was a merging of Minbari and Vorlon technology. It proved more agile than the Whitestar ships.
“Ok sir, I’ve got them covered for now, but I don’t know how long I can hold them,” Val yelled over the fire.
“Do your best,” Tylo replied.
“I plan on it.”
Looking out the viewport Val saw an explosion. His missile hit. Bringing his weapons to bear on the rest of the ships, he sent a few blasts down the middle of their formation, causing them to break up and follow him.
“This is good…,” Val said as the remaining four fighters pursued him. The green blasts were all around him now, his cockpit flashing with an eery green glow. Checking his scanners, he noticed one of the ships was breaking off its attack and heading for the Striker.
“Oh no you don’t,” Val whispered. He flipped his fighter over and sent a volley of fire, blowing the attacker to pieces.
“Nice shot!” Solo said over the comms.
“Tha–” Just then one of the fighters hit him, causing the ship to spin out of control. Val was slammed hard against his seat, the starfield spinning and blurring. Reaching for the controls with all his strength, he managed to bring the ship under control.
“Computer, damage report!”
“Damage substantial. Engines at half power. Weapon systems at 1/3 power. Port engine nacelle destroyed. Life support at 25%. Auto repair systems activated.”
“I love Vorlon technology….” Thankfully the Zen’Tha could survive with only one engine nacelle. Unfortunately, his maneuverability and speed were sliced neatly in two. Val brought the ship about as fast as he could under the conditions, sending more fire to distract the attacking Minbari fighters.
“This isn’t working…,” Val uttered. What was he going to do now? The remaining three ships didn’t care about him now, and there was no way he could catch up.
“Don’t get worried, Val….miracles happen…,” he said nervously.
Just then, one did.
“Sorry we’re late. I do hope everything is ok,” an unknown voice said over the comms.
“Better late than never. You think you can handle those fighters over there?”
“No problem. Phoenix out.”
Darquin allowed himself a sigh of relief, watching the white hot pieces of the Minbari fighters fly past the viewports and fade into the darkness. Throughout the compartment, an eerie silence pressed down on the passengers and crew during the attack. It was as though every breath had stilled and every heart had stopped, waiting to see if there’d be any need to inhale or beat again.
The sound of debris bouncing off the ship’s hull broke the spell. A scream ripped the silence apart. One of the acolytes was having a panic attack and in the confined tense space of the shuttle, it was bound to spread rapidly. The growing tumult of screams drowned out Darquin’s orders for silence and calm.
Quickly trying to push her way towards the man thrashing and screaming in fear, Helle found her way blocked by others attempting to get away from his flailing arms and fists.
“Let me through!” she shouted, shoving at the shoulder of a tall man blocking her view of the panic stricken acolyte. Instead of moving however, he grabbed her shoulders and shook her like a rag doll.
“We’re all going to die, don’t you see?!?” he screamed, wide eyed with fear.
Helle’s head snapped back and forth viciously with the ferocity of the attack, dulling her brain with a blanket of disorientation. With no apparent effort he sent her flying backwards against the bulkhead with terrific force.
“I’m getting out of here!” he yelled.
In an instant his crazed stare fixed on the exit door and Helle dimly saw what he intended to do.
“Captain!” she screamed over her shoulder, holding onto the wall for support. “Somebody help me!!”
Someone shouted in Minbari. A Minbari Ranger bolted in front of the door, extending her fighting pike with a flick of the wrist over her muddied uniform, standing guard with a no nonsense expression on her face as a few other Rangers forced their way to key positions within the crowd. Helle could hear another fighting pike click into battle readiness just as she saw someone throw their pike around her tall assailant, pinning his arms against his body. He wiggled like a worm against the restraint before one leg fell out from under him as if to kneel, revealing Darquin who was shoving his foot against the back of the man’s knee.
The taller man bucked and nearly knocked him off his feet, refusing to give up. Darquin let himself fall against the man’s back, holding him down against the floor. As his captive wriggled, he shouted, “Skintab!”
Helle quickly pulled one out of her kit and slapped it onto the back of the tall man’s neck. His strength began to wither almost instantly.
Striker swam through the debris, the Phoenix coming into plain view now in the cockpit viewports, turning its docking bays to the shuttle while the crew onboard watched for more intruders.