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I watched the Empress as she squirmed in her seat. Tears were falling down her pale cheeks. I wanted to touch her, hug her and make all of her pain go away. She was already going against protocol by talking to me, but to hear her in my mind? I needed to step away, despite every bone in my body wishing to stay with her. “I’m sorry, Empress,” I murmured. “I need to head back to the bridge. There were several Alphan ships preparing to…” The ship rolled. The Empress fell off her seat and into my arms. My entire body sizzled, warming me from the inside.
“Whitlock to Cullen!” barked my communicator.
“Cullen here,” I responded, holding the Empress against my chest.
“Get your ass up here! We’ve got four Alphan battle cruisers on our tail,” Jasper growled.
“On my way,” I answered, tapping my communicator. Empress Nirabelle was clinging to me. “Empress, I have to go back up to the bridge.”
“Can I stay with you?” she asked, her blue eyes dim and sad.
“Yes. Come with me,” I said, taking her hand. She lifted our joined hands, pressing them to her cheek. She shuddered but appeared to calm immediately. I also felt more focused. She looked up, her eyes determined. I led her to the turbolift, barking to the computer, “Bridge.” The ship was hit twice more as we rode to the bridge. Exiting the lift, I guided the Empress to the seat to my left. “Stay here, Empress.” Turning to my crew. “Status.”
“Shields are holding. We have two Alphan war birds and one battle cruiser,” Jasper explained. “We have yet to return fire.”
“You initially said that there were four,” I said, arching a brow.
“One disappeared, sir,” Commander Braxas said from tactical. “It was there and then it was gone.”
“The Alphans have something called cloaking technology,” Empress Nirabelle explained. “The ship is not gone. It’s just cloaked, hidden. They cannot fire while cloaked.”
“How can you find these cloaked ships? How many of them are there?” Jasper growled. His eyes were blazing and he was ready to attack the Empress. I stepped between them, glaring at my first officer angrily.
“I don’t know, Commander,” she said, shrinking back. “I think they may have two or three ships that can be cloaked, but we don’t honestly know. It’s new technology. One of those ships are what caused the death of my father.” Her voice hitched and she twisted her ring on her finger.
“Be respectful, Whitlock,” I snapped as our ship took another hit, causing us to deviate our course. “Drop out of jump speed. Ready phasers and torpedoes. This shit is ending now. Commander Braxas, did you get a read on their tactical systems?”
“They are armed to the teeth, Captain, but their ships are older and in disrepair. The war birds only have forward shielding. The battle cruiser has no shield that I can detect,” Victoria explained.
“Commander, fire at the lead ship. Only to disable, not destroy,” I said.
“Captain,” Jasper hissed.
“I want to get out of this with a diplomatic solution, Commander Whitlock,” I growled. “Yes, the Alphans are monsters, but I have to try. Fire, Commander!” On the view screen, she shot two torpedoes to the battle cruiser. She hit one of their engine necelles, crippling their jump capabilities. The other hit along the wing of the battle cruiser, causing a good part of the hull to vaporize.
“Sir, we’re being hailed,” said Lt. Riley.