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The sigh passed swiftly and softly over the vast gray bulkheads. The Akira-class vessel listed sideways, her body torn open. A black starlit sky mercilessly ripped tiny hands clutching at her, and she cried out, a moan ripping through her core. Eileen sagged.

Twin plumes of fire billowed and rolled, welcoming her tiny charge into its arms, and she felt a surge of power tremble through her torpedo tubes, eager for a small recompense. Energy pulsed through her veins. Eileen heaved her warp nacelles forward without success. Too much internal bleeding. Her bio-neural gel packs dripped slickly over deck tiers.

“It’s not a good day to die, Eileen,” said Steven, patting her tactical console awkwardly. “I just upgraded your systems.” Eileen saw him glance at the communications officer. His name was Sutok, Eileen remembered. He was never gentle, not like her Lyla. But she still did not wish to see the green staining his uniform. His console sparked against his face.

Lyla made a gentle sweep of fingers over her master systems display down in engineering.

“Come on, old girl.” Lyla wiped a streak of sweat from her brow as it threatened to spill into her eyes. Her hand drew away blood. Eileen’s pulse quickened and then slowed, the thrums of her heart beating in quick slow ebbs. Lyla was her best friend. And she was hurt. Eileen couldn’t lose her, she couldn’t!

Lyla pressed her hand hard on the console, her head falling forward and one of her shoulder blades sticking out sharply from a tear in her yellow and gray uniform. “Jack, I don’t think she’s going to make it.”

It was Lyla’s breath catching and then the momentary throat clearing that roused Eileen. She knew Lyla. The woman was choking back a cry.

“Casualties, Lieutenant?” Jack’s voice was hard. That was good. There was no defeat in this man.

Her dear friend paused. It wasn’t that Lyla had to think. She knew the numbers. Eileen watched her close her eyes and bite her lip so hard she drew blood, her hands fisted against the console.

“Fifteen, sir.”

The answering silence pierced Eileen. She felt cold and empty and allowed herself only a moment of hopelessness to seep into her pathways.

“All hands, this is the captain…”

Her circuits simmered and hissed, igniting her phaser banks.

“Abandon sh--.”

Threads of fire cut through the nacelles of the massive vessel towering over her smaller form. The beast trembled and groaned. Eileen trilled a happy chorus of chuckles straight from her auxiliary power core.

“Whoa, what was that?” Steven yelled, whooping, triumph and smoke crackling against his vocal chords.

Eileen’s hummed. She wasn’t about to let Lyla or Jack down. Not even Steven, though he was one of the orneriest tactical officers she’d ever known, always making dry quips about the strength of her weapons.

We’ll just see what he says now.

But in all honestly, Steven had also been the most caring of her banks and tubes of any tactical officer with whom she’d served. He’d never let any green ensign slack off in her offensive upkeep.

Eileen sighed again, life support struggling to maintain minimum levels. Her circuits popped and sizzled, remembering Samara of the little hands ripped from her only moments ago, sucked out into space. Samara who had drawn on her decks as a child. Samara who had failed her first entrance exam to the academy. If not for that, she wouldn’t have even been on Eileen. She would have been in San Francisco, not dead against the stars. Fourteen years that child had been nestled in the womb of her bulkheads. Stubborn child had probably been trying to help.

She had one quantum left. Eileen tilted and trembled, not yet completely blackened in battle. The scorching blaze of the enemy had yet to fully snuff her gleaming surfaces. She was not about to go down without a fight. She sheltered precious cargo. And not one more would fall on her watch.

The torpedo burst forward, careening from the launch tube of the feisty Akira-class vessel. It hurtled towards the core, the weak underbelly of the hulking ship, goring through the metal plating. The enemy craft blazed bright; belching fire and ice, sulfur and carbon dioxide as it tumbled into the gravity of the planetary body.

Eileen ascended higher, now a giantess watching her foe shrink.

“She did it,” said Jack, grinning in shock as he leaned forward. He shook his head in disbelief, watching the downed brute of a ship spin, breaking up in the atmosphere. He patted the arm of the captain’s chair gently.

Eileen breathed softly, reveling in the loving gesture.

“Looks bad for a captain to doubt his own ship, ya know,” Steven drawled. “I mean, I know the old girl isn’t exactly the most talented in that department, but give me some credit for spiffing up her lacking systems.”

And he had the gall to sound affronted. Hmmmph!

Eileen shimmied a bit, sparking a tiny surge of power, right up through the tactical console.

“Yeooww! Son of a…,” Steven began, catching his captain’s frown. “…tribble,” he finished, sucking on his singed fingers.

The Akira-class vessel chuckled softly, her attention turning to Lyla as the young engineering officer fluttered a worried brow, her fingers flying over the master console that was already beginning to translate commands into gestures that soothed Eileen’s scorched conduits.

“I’m sorry I doubted you, my friend,” she said. Her smile was genuine, though sad. “I should have known you wouldn’t go down easy.”

No. She never would. She was the USS Eileen, NCC 63559. And at least this once she agreed with Steven. Well, there was a first for everything. Today was not a good day to die. Eileen fired up her engines, determined to make it back to base on her own steam. It would not due for Steven to be spreading it around that she had to be towed back.

Lt. Sakorra Reed

COS

USS Drake

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