"The Long Road"

Author: Admiral Jeffrey Pike
Date: August 16, 2384
Location: Bridge

"You know Ryan, Tyran may not have the best ways of doing things, but he is often right. He and Kira make a good team, and when they work together have always produced good results."

"You mean, I should have let them off stealing the *Pendragon* and going up against four Kelvan battle planets? They're lucky they got off with only being confined to quarters!"

"No, I'm not saying that, what they did *was* wrong, but the results ended up good. In the original Talosian illusion, we were fighting the Kelvan Battle Planet after it had destroyed most of the Federation. Kira and Tyran conspired together and sent us back in time, to Cardassian space where we destroyed the planet before it reached Cardassia Prime. Maybe with some more thought, their plan may have merit."

"Well, we'll come to that decision later when we speak more with them."

Any further discussion was curtailed at this moment by a rough jolt and an explosion outside the ship. The deck bucked under the bridge crew's feet and sparks flew from the back of the Ops station. Smoke began filling the air. "Kelvan fighters!" shouted McMillan. "They snuck up on us from behind!"

"Armor!" ordered Pike.

"The Kelvans knocked out the armor generator," said McMillan as another blast rocked the ship.

"Raise shields," barked Evans. "Return fire." He seated himself in his command chair.

McMillan's fingers danced across her console, and outside, the *Ronin's* phaser arrays glowed brightly to life. In rapid fire, phaser beams licked out at the swarming Kelvan fighters. One by one they began exploding as they were picked off by the *Ronin*.

"Where are these fighters coming from?" asked Evans.

Pike grunted and replied. "Probably left over from one of the Battle Planets Tyran and Kira destroyed. That would also explain why it's so easy to destroy them -- once the Kelvans that were remotely controlling them were killed when the Planets were destroyed, the fighters switched automatically to autopilot."

"One more fighter wave coming in from astern," called McMillan. "Looks like a lot."

Sure enough, a large group of fighters was gaining on the *Ronin*. The wave split in two, half of them coming in from the *Ronin's* starboard flank, the other group angling to come in from port. McMillan scrambled to target them all, but as the phaser beams started slashing at the attackers, it was clear they wouldn't be able to get all of them. Evans suddenly shouted, "Brace for impact!"

The phasers had picked off most of the fighters, but two had broken through. Their own weapons were firing, hitting the *Ronin's* shields over and over again in the same quadrant, and the shields were beginning to sputter. One final blast from the fighters, and the shields were down! The fighter pair straightened their course toward the *Ronin's* aft quarter, weapons continuing to fire. Bereft of it's protective shielding, the *Ronin* was helpless. Each enemy shot connected with the hull, sending melted hull plating flying.

"They're going for the engines!" shouted McMillan.

"All phasers, fire at will!" ordered Evans. He was gripping the arms of his command chair tightly, as if he could somehow transfer his will to survive to his ship.

McMillan scrambled to comply. The *Ronin* flashed angry orange beams at the Kelvans, overwhelming them, but the Kelvan fighters managed to launch one more attack of their own before the seeking phasers found them. The Kelvan beams slammed into the port transwarp nacelle, which flared brightly under the assault, then went dark. Explosions resounded throughout the entire ship, and plasma gushed from the nacelle's open wound.

The battle was over; space was suddenly silent and dark once again. All the Kelvan fighters were destroyed, and amidst the expanding debris, the *Ronin* spun lazily about its z-axis. On the bridge, the crew slowly picked itself up off the deck and began checking their stations.

Evans had managed to keep his seat, but he got up now and offered Pike his hand to help him regain his feet. "Damage report," he said, sitting back down. Pike sat in the vacant chair at his side and ran his fingers through his mussed hair to straighten it out.

The bridge stations began reporting their damage. It was considerable, but nothing that couldn't be repaired -- except for one thing. The Kelvans' last attack had been right on target, and had turned the *Ronin's* transwarp drive into a pile of junk. The standard warp drive was still fully operational, but the *Ronin* was currently several thousand light-years from Federation space.

At hearing the damage report from Engineering, Pike and Evans looked at each other, each knowing what that meant.

Pike sighed and said, "Gonna be a long trip home...."