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The Last Star Trek: Chapter Eighteen - Where None Have Gone Before

...Chekov had command of the ship, and while the Russian was a very competent starship captain, he was inclined to be somewhat headstrong, and did not have Kirk’s experience in battle. Consequently, when the four ships approached firing their weapons, Chekov, instead of using the Enterprise’s warp engines to escape, chose to stand and fight...

Brian William Neal builds up the excitement level in his galactic space adventure, The Last Star Trek, to a near unbearable pitch. Is this the end of the starship Enterprise?

After thirty minutes of mostly fruitless discussion, Kirk decided enough was enough, and broke up the meeting. They were no closer to a solution than when they had started, and they were all tired and beginning to fray around the edges.

Kirk retired to his cabin to catch up on some much-needed sleep, and was therefore not on the bridge when the quartet of U-shaped ships suddenly appeared on the Enterprise’s screens. Had he been, things might have gone differently; however, Chekov had command of the ship, and while the Russian was a very competent starship captain, he was inclined to be somewhat headstrong, and did not have Kirk’s experience in battle. Consequently, when the four ships approached firing their weapons, Chekov, instead of using the Enterprise’s warp engines to escape, chose to stand and fight.

When the ships were within range, Chekov opened fire with phasers and proton torpedoes, destroying two of the ships immediately. As he was bringing the Enterprise’s weapons to bear on the two remaining vessels, six more appeared from a sector that he was not covering fully, and they opened fire simultaneously.

The Enterprise, her shields down for firing, was mortally damaged in that first deadly salvo. By this time, Kirk had reached the bridge, followed by Spock, and had taken over command, but there was little he could do. The warp nacelles had been hit in the first seconds; the aliens seemed to have known exactly what to aim for, since such precision could not have been accidental.

Nevertheless, outgunned and damaged, Kirk gave as good as he got; in the heat of the battle, with the Enterprise taking several hits on and around her bridge, no one noticed Chekov slump to the floor beside his weapons station. The bridge was in chaos, and virtually every part of the ship was registering hits as more of the alien ships joined the fight. In engineering, Scotty strove valiantly to keep some part of the ship operational, and to meet the demands from the bridge for more power, but it was useless. Finally, realizing he could do no more, Scotty left the engine room and headed for the bridge to report to his captain.

He was in the turbolift when a broadside struck the ship and destroyed the engine room; had he remained another few moments, he would probably have been killed. Unknowing of any of this, Scotty stepped from the turbolift into a madhouse. He saw Uhura at the science station, assisting Spock, and went to her. They clasped hands for a moment, then he looked around the bridge. He saw Kirk in the captain’s chair, directing operations, and Sulu at the helm trying to coax something out of the dying ship, to evade the attacking alien vessels. Then he noticed that the weapons station was unmanned. With no time to ponder why no one was there, Scotty quickly went to it and took over.
Before checking out the station, Scotty informed Kirk of the hit on the warp engines, and Kirk nodded. He already knew of that, and of the larger hit on the engine room itself. Time enough for Scotty to find that out later, he thought. If there was a later.

Scotty returned his attention to the weapons, and said, “We no longer have torpedoes, captain, and only twenty-five percent power for the phasers. But I’m thinkin’ we’re goin’ to be needin’ that for the rest of the ship.”

Kirk nodded again, and still said nothing. The others looked at him worriedly; he had given no orders now for several minutes, and they knew it was not like him. On the forward viewer, four of the alien ships began to align themselves in an attack formation, preparing to deliver the deathblow to the Enterprise; at that moment, Kirk played his last card.

“Mr. Sulu,” he said quietly, “do we still have thruster power?”

Sulu consulted his board. “Aye, sir, but only about forty percent.”

Kirk nodded. That’ll do, he thought grimly. Aloud, he said, “Then give me all the thrusters you have, mister, and take us down.”

The Asian turned in his seat and stared at the captain, confusion registering on his face. “Down, sir? Down where?”
Kirk allowed the ghost of a smile to cross his face. “To the surface, Mr. Sulu,” he said. “To the surface.”

Scotty, still at the weapons station, also turned. “Ye cannae do that, captain!” he exclaimed. “This is a starship, man! She was never designed to enter a planet’s atmosphere! She’ll burn up!”

Kirk nodded. “Maybe, Mr. Scott. Maybe she will. But will you agree that there’s a chance that she won’t?”

Scotty shook his head in exasperation. “Well, aye, she’s a hardy ship, right enough. But it’s a slim chance, captain.”

Kirk, realizing the pain that the Scotsman was feeling for his beloved Enterprise, gestured at the screen. “What chance would you give us of surviving the next attack?”

Spock, seated at the science station with Uhura, said, “The captain is right, Mr. Scott. In a few moments, the alien vessels will attack. What he is proposing is the only alternative.”

Uhura looked at the Scotsman and said gently, “It’s the only way, Scotty.”

Sulu also nodded, and the big man slumped in his chair. “Aye,” he said, in a voice so soft they almost missed it. “Aye, you’re right.” Then he raised his head, and looked directly at Kirk. “Verra well, captain. Let’s see how the auld gel can fly!”

Kirk nodded to Sulu. “Ahead all thrusters, Mr. Sulu. Take us down.”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

As they changed course for the planet, a salvo from the four ships ripped past their port side.

“Try to reach the marshy lake we landed near on our first survey!” Kirk shouted, as another near miss rocked the ship.
“It may be our only hope for a soft landing.”

The Asian helmsman struggled with the ship’s controls, fighting to take the Enterprise into the planet’s atmosphere at an angle that would not result in the failure of her weakened shields from the tremendous heat build-up. The alien ships began to pursue them, then suddenly broke away, leaving the starship to make the perilous entry alone and unhindered.

“They probably think they can get us once we’re on the ground,” said Scotty.

Uhura sat close to him, and said, “If we get that far.”

Kirk sat, calm and composed, in his chair. “Steady as she goes, Mr. Sulu,” he said. Then, “How are the shields holding up, Mr. Scott?”

The Scotsman shook his head. “I don’t know how much of this they can take, captain. Remember, we’re keepin’ most of the power for the engines.”

Kirk turned to the Asian. “Can you land her with only minimum thruster power, Sulu?”

“I think so, captain.”

“All right, then. Mr. Scott, transfer seventy-five percent of available power to the forward shields.”

“Aye, sir.”

They watched the viewer as the ship entered the atmosphere, bouncing off the thin layer of air a few times, then plunging in.

“Hull temperature, Mr. Spock!” called Kirk.

“Holding, captain,” replied the Vulcan calmly.

A roaring noise filled their ears, making it difficult for them to hear each other. Uhura looked at Scotty in alarm.

“What’s that sound, Scotty?”

The Scotsman answered, his face a grim mask. “That’s a sound I had hoped never to hear in a starship, lass. It’s air. We’re in atmosphere.”

Uhura had no task to perform as they began their long, final descent. She sat close to Scotty, giving what encouragement she could as he attempted to coax the last vestiges of power from his cherished engines. Of the others, Sulu wrestled with the helm, flying the huge ship on manual control like an aircraft, Spock sat at his science station, monitoring all systems, and Kirk sat in his captain’s chair, immobile, as if carved from stone.
And the Enterprise began her last ride.


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