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Literary Challenge #41 : Call to Arms

pwebranflakespwebranflakes Member Posts: 7,741
edited April 2013 in Ten Forward
Hello and welcome to another edition of our writers' challenges! :cool:

Today we start the two-week run of the forty-first Literary Challenge: Call to Arms
You've just received a priority one distress signal from a nearby space station that an enemy has boarded the facility and is trying to take command. As this station is conducting important research on a device that could be devastating if it falls into the wrong hands, it's up to you and your crew to get aboard and alleviate the threat. It's not clear who is holding those aboard the station hostage, but from the communication received, it sounds like you only have hours to create a plan and put it in action. Also, it appears that another ship is responding but it's days away from your location.

Write a Captain's Log entry recounting the events, including who the enemy was, how you were able to retake the station and what important research the station was conducting.

This is the writer's thread -- only entries should be made here.
The Discussion Thread can be found HERE.
We also have an Index of previous challenges HERE.

The rules may change from one challenge to another, but I'd like to remind everyone what the base rules are. These may grow as we move on, so also feel free to give feedback!
  • Each Challenge will run for two weeks. For 2 weeks we will sticky the challenge and let you make your entry.
  • There are no right or wrong entry.
  • The background story, questions I ask, and format requested are only to serve as a platform that you can start your writing from. Feel free to change up the back-story or the way you deliver, as long as the entry stays on topic of the original challenge.
  • Write as little or as much as you would like.
  • Please keep discussion about the entries in the appropriate Discussion Thread.
  • In the Discussion Thread, feel free to write what inspired you and what your thoughts on the topic are.
  • A few other important reminders:
    • Please heed the rest of the forum's rules when submitting your entry! All of them apply to these posts.
    • Each poster can have one entry. Feel free to edit your post to fix typos or add/ remove content as you see fit during the next two weeks.
    • After two weeks time, the thread will be locked and unstickied, as we move on to the next challenge.
    • We'll have two threads: One to post the entries in and one to discuss the entries. **Cross-linking between these two threads is acceptable for these challenges ONLY!!**
Post edited by pwebranflakes on

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  • crimpson7crimpson7 Member Posts: 76 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    It was on Stardate 9346658.9 and the I.G.V. Bloodfire was patroling the Minos Korvat system.
    I was relaxing in my ready room when commander Scratch came in and said "Captain This is a priority One subspace communication from Deep Space 209, a station deep into Undine Territory. "Let's hear it" I said. "To any ships in range this is commander T'Vara of Deep Space 209! We are under attack from an alien race! You must help us! We are trying to construct a brand new type of weapon to fight the Borg! It is a high yield device which can destroy a sun or even an entire system in a matter of milliseconds! You must help us defend it from the invaders if the device, with the name "Kit-Kat", falls at the wrong hands it would be devastating! Please you have to help us!!"
    I said to the helmsman "Mr Sulu plot a course for Deep Space 209! Maximum Warp!"
    "Course layed in"
    "Engage!"
    After approximattely 50 minutes we arrived at Deep Space 209. We were stunned from what has happened to the ships protecting the station!
    "Sir I am reading debris from 4 Federation ships"
    "Can you identify them?" I asked in agony.
    "It is the U.S.S. Gabrielle, the U.S.S. Lakota II, the U.S.S. Golf and the U.S.S. Nippon"
    "This can't be happening! I knew all of those crewmen!"
    "And yet captain", said Sulu, "the station seems intact"
    "That's weird, We should beam over and investigate"
    " Commander Aspre, Mr. Remus, Ensign Obisek and Commander Scratch you come with me, Mr. Sulu you have the Bridge"
    We went to the Transporter room, stepped on the pad and beamed over
    The first moment we stepped in the station I had all the Away team raise their weapons and be ready for combat.
    Obisek said "Sir i am not detecting any lifesigns but it seems to be some sort of a low scale duonetic field that is blocking my tricorder from getting a clear reading so we should proceed with caution.?
    As we were exploring the station Aspre said ?Sir I have detected the Duonetic field generator and I can remotely turn it off.?
    ?Do so Commander? I replied.
    ?Now Obisek can you get a clear reading??
    ?Yes sir. I am reading 12 starfleet lifesigns but they are surrounded by?? Oh God this is not good?
    ?What is it??
    ? I am reading lifesigns that match the pattern of a species which we thought was exctinct for more than 200.000 years?
    ?Who are they??
    ?Iconians, Sir?
    We were stunned as we listened to it, but immediately started setting a plan on how to liberate the station from the Iconians and prevent them from stealing the ?Kit-Kat? device.
    We were going to reclaim the blueprints of the device and if possible the device itself or destroy it. Then we were heading to the command room of the station and try to liberate the captain of the station and if possible the rest of the staff.
    We downloaded the blueprints from a nearby computer terminal and then we erased them from the system of the station. Then we found out where this device was hidden and started heading that way. But, as we were en route to the place Obisek which was a Reman told me
    ?Captain I have a bad feeling about this?.
    As we were about to enter the room I had Obisek give us some Melorazine in case we were attacked from psionic attacks. We entered the room and we could see the device. It was protected by a triple force field. One huge about 2 meters tall creature was trying to bypass the security protocols but it could not. It was a creature made of dark red matter unike anything I saw before. ?weapons at the ready? I ordered.? On my mark we take it down!?
    ?3?.2?1? Kill it!!!?. We fired at it using everything we had and eventually killed it. When it dropped to the ground I received a message through my combadge . It was the I.G.V. Bloodfire. They had detected a ship leaving orbit and then creating a wormhole and disappeared. But also they dropped a red matter bomb which had created a black hole and was going to obliterate the station along with its surrounding space. I knew we had to work quickly. I tagged the ?Kit-Kat? device and beamed to the ship then we headed towards the command room. We blasted our way through the sealed door and found Commander T?Vara hidden in a corner along with those 12 crewmen and 4 scientists. We tagged them and said to Commander T?Vara
    ?We will beam you up we do not have much time left?
    ?Did you get the device???
    ?Yes?
    ?Where is it??
    ?Aboard my ship?
    I tapped my combadge and told them to beam up the 16 people and my away team. I would remain behind to completely erase the computer banks. As my away team beamed up with the scientists, I TRIBBLE the computer banks and erased its memory. I had only one thing to do . Get the tricorder in which the blueprints of the ?Kit-Kat? were downloaded. The expanding black hole begun to drag the station towards it. Parts began to fall off the roof. I grabbed the tricorder, tapped my combadge and said ?Beam me up now!!!?
    I was beamed back to the ship and headed straight for the bridge. A course to Deep Space K-7 was plotted and we warped out of the system at maximum warp. Seconds later the blackhole consumed the station but it was torn apart by internal explosions. The Iconian body was lost along with the station. We arrived at Deep Space K-7, where we let off the scientists and commander T?Vara and headed out to fight another day. Then I hosted a big celebration at the crew deck of the Bloodfire where we were visited by Admiral Janeway ?Good work captain!? she said. I was happy to have survived this experience and that I have been brought closer to my crew which i now consider to be my family.


    Hope you like my story and please dont judge me harshly:)
    The Wildcards Fleet =/\=
    Admiral T'Vanto of the I.R.W. Dreaded Balerion (Scimitar Dreadnought Warbird) "Burn them All!"
    Admiral Atraxis of the U.S.S. Daskalogiannis (Avenger class Cruiser) "I am Iron Cat!"
  • sharpie65sharpie65 Member Posts: 679 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    Earthdate: April 3rd 2413

    Joint commanding officer's log by General Sai of the Klingon Defence Force aboard the Imperial Klingon Warship
    Mavt'Sor, and Starfleet Admiral George Aubrey of the Federation star ship U.S.S. Aquileia.

    Both Starfleet and the Klingon Defence Force are developing anti-Borg weapons and technologies in a shared remote research station near the edge of Borg space. Both the I.K.S. Bortasqu' and the U.S.S. Enterprise are meeting our two ships in the centre of the Klingon-Federation Neutral Zone. As an act of faith between our governments, the Aquileia will be travelling with the Bortasqu', whilst the Mavt'Sor will be making the journey with the Enterprise.



    "Helmsman, set a course for Research Station Gamma-Phi-107: Maximum warp."
    "Aye-aye, sir. Would you like to activate the Quantum Slipstream drive, sir?"
    "Yes, Ensign. Hail the Bortasqu', and inform them of our plan. Just make sure they synchronise their slipstream drive with ours."


    "General, the U.S.S. Aquileia and the I.K.S. Bortasqu' have taken the short route to the research station. Do you want me to hail the Enterprise and tell them to get their warp drive going?"
    "Yes, Sergeant. I would also appreciate it if you would remind them to activate their slipstream drive and sync it with our own, and also to take the longer route. Remind Captain Shon that he may want to charge his weapons when we are 10 Earth-minutes away from the station."
    "Yes, sir. Commander Winters has taken the message to Captain Shon - the good captain is undergoing a medical examination in sickbay."

    **************

    At Research Station Gamma-107-Phi, a Borg Cube was arming weapons with the intent of destroying the station and all of it's research. The station commanders - a Caitian scientist by the name of Kassaira and a Ferasan named Prr'aiat - had sent out the distress call on a Priority One channel to all nearby ships, Federation or Klingon. Within moments, the U.S.S. Aquileia and the I.K.S. Bortasqu' were on the scene, the station almost destroyed and the Borg cube floating ominously nearby. 5 Earth-minutes later, the U.S.S. Enterprise and the I.K.S. Mavt'Sor appeared, all ships with weapons charged.

    **************

    "Hail the task group and try to open a channel to the station. Admiral Aubrey to all ships, lock phasers, disruptors and torpedoes on that Borg Cube - fire at will. Mavt'Sor, have your fighters target their shield matrices. All hands, prepare for emergency chevron separation, and prep the Aquarius for launch."
    "Yes, Admiral. We have launched our B'Rotlh Birds-of-Prey, as well as some advanced Tachyon Drones to help deplete the Borg ship's shields, and are firing disruptors now."
    "Understood, Mavt'Sor. Aubrey to chevron, get as many people off that station as possible - we'll watch your back. If you can get the station's black-box as well, that will be a bonus."


    30 minutes later, the Borg cube had been destroyed, although all ships in the battle group had suffered heavy casualties - the chevron section of the U.S.S. Aquileia had suffered enough damage to render it inoperable, whilst the Aquarius auxiliary craft had needed manual redocking. The support craft of the I.K.S. Mavt'Sor had been destroyed, although they could renew their payload at the Qo'Nos shipyard. All but five of the research station's crew had perished, including Prr'aiat. The data recorder had been successfully obtained from the wreck of the station, with the weapon and equipment schematics backed up on each of the four ships' primary and secondary computer cores.
    MXeSfqV.jpg
  • amurorx0amurorx0 Member Posts: 0 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    Captain's log:

    The Gespenst and Ra Cailum are responding to a distress call from the USS Alteisen Riese, currently stationed at a small, remote research station in the Gamma Quadrant.

    The message was heavily distorted, only maintaining enough integrity to garner an implication of a siege underway.

    The Gespenst is 4 hours out, but the Ra Cailum has reported engine trouble, thus will be unable to assist for at least two days.


    "Computer, halt recording." I spoke out to the cabin before me, followed by the familiar chime of the computer acknowledging the command.

    As I pulled myself from my bunk, I thought to myself "Another day, another battle."

    Trudging toward the armoury, I pondered the trouble that lay ahead: Who are my enemy? What do they field? Why do they attack? How can I fend them off?

    Unwittingly, I passed by the door to the armoury, thus spun round to head back in.

    "Mathis, wake up!" I barked to the lifeless armour standing before me.

    "Whits up, laddie?" Mathis cheered back to me.

    "You were able to support me EVA during your first deployment. Just how long can you safely function EVA?" I asked the armour's computer.

    "Well, according tae my memory bank, I'm certified tae keep yeh alive fur a month." Mathis beamed in that irritatingly cheery voice.

    "Thank you for the info, I'll see you in a bit." I saluted the armour before leaving the armoury, heading for the bridge.

    "Captain on the bridge!" Fat Ram Dos barked, snapping to attention.

    "Knock it off." I said to him, stepping over to the tactical board behind my chair. "Zazhid, Fat, get over here."

    We prattled through the charts for the system, formulating tactical options for best, and worst case scenarios.

    "This is not gonna end well for someone, probably me... again." I sighed to myself as I took the chair.

    ERROR

    Log file corrupted. Continuing at next available data segment.


    Tek tried to tell me something, but as usual, all that came across was a garbled mess.

    "On screen." I said to him, guessing he was receiving a signal.

    Tek obliged, shaking his head.

    The viewscreen flickered into life, a very weak signal coming through from Cagalli.

    "Station destroyed..... Doobenwulff...can't...XN..."

    The viewscreen flickered back to the forward camera, a dark haze of stars streaking past at warp factor 9.9969.

    "Fat! Get in the Alt! Zazhid, the Weiss... Mathis!" I called out. "Show time"

    ERROR

    Log file corrupted. Switching to backup system.


    We had barely deployed from the Gespenst when the enemy began to attack us, with weaponry I cannot begin to describe.

    "SCATTER!" I screamed over the open comm line, the three of us moving in separate directions as a beam of devastating destructive force tore past our former position, shearing off the port nacelle of the Gespenst.

    "What the heck just hit us?!" Six yelled out.

    "Analysing the beam now. Gimme a few minutes oan that, awright?" Mathis blurted back.

    "Never mind that. Just find Cagalli!" I barked to Mathis.

    "Don't need to, boss. Her transponders online. She's in the main research lab on the station. And she is -"

    ERROR

    Log file corrupted. Continuing at next available data segment.


    "Where are we?" I asked Mathis, since I had just breached the station right where a map was located.

    "Looks like we're just off Cargo bay 7. 2 miles of walkway between us & Cagalli." Mathis noted. "Picking up unregistered life-signs. Two seem to have heard us enter and are approaching rapidly. Activating defensive systems now." He added.

    The armour's many panels opened, with the normally white visage quickly taking on the appearance of being ablaze. The large horn weapon on the forehelmet split, settling into a wide V shape atop the faceplate, which had retracted within recesses in the cheekplates, revealing a new, angular plate. Panels in the forearms shifted, revealing phaser apertures astride the wrists, while the largest plate raised itself away from the arm, pressing out a squared-off handle.

    The backpack widened, revealing more thrusters, which roared into life as the first assailant began to lunge.

    He was a hulking brute: 9 feet tall and easily 6 feet wide, his skin was a mottled crimson hue, almost stretched beyond its limits as the thick, powerful musculature beneath strived to burst forth. His speed was alarming, as his size indicated he would be slow, yet he had lunged with the speed and ferocity unmatched by any Alpha Quadrant race, taking me by surprise.

    The brute plunged through the bulkhead behind me, emerging once more from the gaping void. He spoke to me, in a deep booming voice "Where is the one called Cagalli?"

    ERROR

    Log file corrupted. Continuing at next available data segment.


    "Dammit! That one stings to high dole. Got any other bright ideas, Mathis?!"

    "Aye, just one: Charge the right arm's phaser arrays, and sock him in the jaw!" Mathis remarked, his voice noticeably more sinister without its usual cheery tones.

    "Here goes nothing." I sighed, as the thrusters roared into life once more, propelling me toward the hulking brute at 150 miles an hour, plunging my fist deep into his jaw via a solid right hook.

    "NOW! Eat my magnum!" I roared at him as the phaser arrays blasted his head into smithereens, an eyeball landing before my visor "Don't go losing your head now. Time to pull Cagalli out of here."

    "****! Weapons affline. System Failure in 5 minutes." Mathis winced, sounding as if in pain.

    ERROR

    Log file corrupted. Continuing at next available data segment.


    "CAGALLI!! MY OFFICE... NOW!"
    Ikuzo, Trombe!
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • asardetemplariasardetemplari Member Posts: 448 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    The Subcommander looked out of the "clean room" into the room below. Scientists were carrying out experiments that could very well get them shut down by Starfleet. Genetic manipulation, bio-organic weaponry.... this was all illegal, or course. But logical. Who knows what the Klingons were doing? Then, as she blankly looked on at the works, commotion came from below. A large container of sticky, oily black fluid shattered, and it consumed the scientist that was holding it, when the scientist was released, he attacked and bit another, then another. The subcommander scrambled over to a console, called in two of the MACO Adapted Commandos, and closed the room off. She then opened up the Emergency Distress Channel and sent out a standard distress call, then sat and watched the security monitor as the creatures, once great scientists, ravaged the halls and making more creatures out of them to bolster their ranks.....



    Stardate 90860.0
    The Gantrithor is on route to the Eta Eridani sector, on the border of the Klingon-Federation space. Since the invasion of the Borg, our sides have shared a remarkable time of peace and prosperity, with trade and technology being shared once more. It's remarkable really. After years of bloody conflict, once again the prime powers of the Alpha Quadrant have come together to push the Borg invaders out of our space. The crew is acclimating themselves to the Jem'Hadar Dreadnought Carrier I was able to salvage from the 2800 battlegroup that attacked Deep Space Nine recently. We are just perusing the galaxy, looking for Borg transwarp signatures.

    As I exited the ready room, I was greeted with the primal gaze of my Caitian first officer, I wasn't paying attention, and bumped into her, spilling my tea on both of our uniforms.
    "Oh! Sir! I'm so sorry!! I didn't burn you did I? Oh, just let me get that...."
    "No worries, M'Tesis. I can get it. Not a captain without doing a few things myself, am I right?", I said.

    She purred and skipped off of the bridge to change. I just walked back into my ready room and opened my wardrobe. I made it my business to acquire past-era Starfleet uniforms. I pulled out a purple tinted jumpsuit with a badge sewn into it depicting an NX-class starship, and slipped out of the now damp uniform, and pulled the jumpsuit on. I once again exited the small room as soon as the.. There. Zipper's on. So the door opens, and outside are my Terran crew, looking at me. Incredulously, I asked, "What are you staring at?"

    The Trill piped up, "We recieved an automated distress signal from Starbase 8462, they're requesting assistance from ANY ship in range."
    Without hesitation, I sat up in my command chair and told the Andorian to set a course, and to prepare the Peregrine Interceptors.

    Hours later, we arrived at the starbase... all the lights were out, part of it was destroyed like something exploded IN the starbase, and there were no shuttles or ships to be seen.
    We drifted the dreadnought around it to get a better look, only to find there wasn't a back half of 8462. The crew looked on in shock, and as to get ahold of them, I sat back in my chair and called to the MACO marines aboard to board the starbase and assess the situation. Twelve hours passed and out of the eight shuttles I sent, only one came back with two survivors. One expired shortly after, the other was so traumatized, he hung himself from the medical bay girders. 24 marines all lost their lives on the starbase, but they brought back valuable information: The Vulcans were experimenting with bio-organic weaponry and were going to use it on a nearby Klingon colony, starting another war.

    Upon learning this I convened a council of sorts in the Dreadnought's war room. The decision was unanimous. Destroy the facility before it could be salvaged and hurt anyone else. By the time we got back to the bridge, there was a fleet of blackened Federation cruisers slowly lumbered into view. Without a command, M'Tesis fired again and again, destroying the cruisers in single shots. Before she got to the last one, it rammed the bridge, sucking most of the crew out. The Trill, the Vulcan and the Liberated Borg... all gone in an instant. M'Tesis was about to be sucked out as well as me, but the emergency force fields activated. Only if they activated sooner, I thought. Then the helmsman - an Orion female, snapped into action and put the Dreadnougt in full reverse, as a stunned M'Tesis blew the last cruiser away, the warp core explosion barely damaging the shields.

    Solemnly, the flight back was silent, as opposed to the raucous roar and songs of celebration and victory. Three of my friends, gone in an instant. That's how we ended up here.

    "So that's my report, Director. Now where is my pay you promised me?", I asked the shadow in the darkness.

    "You'll get your pay, Captain, don't you worry.", a thick Southern accent echoed in the hall.

    "And I require a bonus for... casualties sustained..", I insisted and emphasized this part.

    "And you will. Once I deliver this report, you will be back in Starfleet."

    "No! I will not be under the heel of dusty senators resorting to bio weaponry to fight your enemies with. After I get my pay... I do not want to be pulled into Starfleet's mess. I'm done!"

    After that, I grabbed my money and left Earth for good, and set course for Terjas-Mor to spend it.
    latest?cb=20160406061118&path-prefix=en

    Dreadnought class. Two times the size, three times the speed. Advanced weaponry. Modified for a minimal crew. Unlike most Federation vessels, it's built solely for combat.
  • cmdrscarletcmdrscarlet Member Posts: 5,137 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    3 hours ago

    Lieutenant Christa Harrington's eyes widened looking at the PADD. She was sitting straighter in Captain Beringer's Ready Room as she read and re-read the information presented. "Captain, that's where the Black Talon Project is located!"

    Kathryn lifted her hand to both calm and silence the excited Lieutenant. "I know. Details are limited and I just learned the Cordorba is en route to the station as well. She's days away but I want this situation resolved before then. We are going to make sure your Project stays on that station."

    ---

    1 hour later

    "Captain, their forward shields are down!" Anthi's usually calm demeanor disappeared at the climax of the battle.

    Kathryn stood and pointed at the burning starship on the screen. "Weapons, Fire!"

    From the lower rear hull, a large missile was ejected. Its bio-neural intelligence quickly scanned the area, locked on the enemy ship, activated thrusters and primed the warhead. The Solaris banked to starboard as the warhead sped toward it's victim three kilometers away. The Orion Brigand Cruiser coughed a torpedo at the missile but was shot down by the massive projectile's point-defense system. The missile penetrated the forward hull like a needle into a puss-filled bruise. Internal atmosphere vented for a half-second before the detonation ripped the ship apart. Chunks of burning hull and thousands of small debris, metal and organic, blossomed from the fireball that consumed the rest of the ship.

    On the bridge, Kathryn looked away from the screen to the crew on the bridge. "Good work everyone. Anthi, you and Karl are on the assault team. Omazei, contact Lieutenant Harrington and Commander Aldet to meet us in transporter room two; you have the con. I'm giving this op two hours with reports. At that mark, bring in the M.A.C.O. Team for clean-up and recovery."

    The Trill Science Chief nodded gravely and started tapping at her console.

    ---

    10 minutes later

    The Assault Team was assembled in the transporter room and all were strapping kits and checking weapons. The click-and-clack merged with the hum of the ships engines to be the only sounds around them. Kathryn noticed the concentration on the team's faces and decided something more needed to be said. "Ok, I need to say something before we head out. The Orions on the station have lost their way out. That means they'll be fighting to get out of a corner. They'll be more vicious on defense, so we need to keep up the offense. There are two objectives in this order: security of the crew and preservation of research material. Lieutenant Harrington is on the Team for the secondary goal." She looked at each of the team as she spoke. "But there is a tertiary objective: enemy combatants are to be treated with extreme prejudice."

    Medical Chief Aldet Tdeni, spoke after several seconds of silence, his human baritone voice almost booming even in his attempt to keep it conversational. "Sir, is that necessary?"

    "Yes, Aldet. The research conducted on the station is highly sensitive and therefore valuable to the war effort. For that reason, only the research staff and this Team are allowed to walk away from this situation."

    Security Chief Karl Melango spoke next, "What about the Cordoba?"

    Kathryn looked in his direction. "They will be turned around if ... when ... we succeed."

    Anthi was next, her Andorian antennae twitched nervously as she spoke. "These are Orions, Sir. Are we here because of your vendetta?"

    Everyone looked at Kathryn for a response. They all knew bits of her past but no one was really sure what was truth or fiction. For her part, she looked down, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she looked back to Anthi, her affect was neutral as if she resigned herself to what was said next. "'Duty to Starfleet before duty to self', that is what I said to Admiral Decker when I spoke for this crew as we joined the Dawn Patrol Task Force. Thank you for keeping me honest Anthi. Right now, we are alone, so my orders are for the safety of the station crew and protection of the research."

    Kathryn felt insincere saying it but her words were true and she hoped by saying them she would believe them. But she could tell her First Officer was not convinced. Looking at the others it was hard to tell if they were convinced either, yet she knew they would follow her orders. Kathryn slung the phaser rifle over her shoulder, nodded, and turned to step onto the transporter pad.

    ---

    1 hour later

    She lifted the rifle to her shoulder and squeezed the trigger. The orange beam raced to her target, burned through the shielding and pierced into the helmet. She raked the beam down into the torso as the body convulsed to death. Releasing the trigger deactivated the beam and silence returned to the darkened corridor after the armored soldier collapsed. Kathryn peered down the hallway and waited a few seconds. Not hearing more sounds, she exhaled in relief and looked at her assault team. Everyone's armor was scored in various places but the Team was intact and doing very well. They were looking down a corridor with a side path a few meters to the right. The research hub was at the end of the hallway and the greater concentration of the remaining invaders and station crew were kept.

    Kathryn motioned for Aldet and Karl to advance down the side path, the other two with her against the final door. As the team split, Christa set up a phaser turret at the intersection of the hallway while pointing toward the door. Anthi watched the doorway while Kathryn turned to face the path they came from.

    Harrington whispered, "Turret is set up and primed."

    "And you are sure the suit doesn't conceal anything the user holds?" Kathryn whispered over her shoulder.

    The Engineer nodded as she made a final adjustment on the remote turret.

    "Ok. Anthi, you're up."

    The Andorian took a few steps back and lowered the assault gun to quietly place it next to Kathryn who then slung her rifle over her shoulder to heft the large weapon. Anthi removed a folded cloth from her backpack and started fitting into the black body suit. She zipped up to her TRIBBLE, reached behind the new layer and tugged at her Andorian combat knife before zipping up to her neck. Pulling forward a cowl than covered her head, she tapped a code onto an unseen pad within the suit above her right breast. Anthi suddenly became invisible excepting for a very faint silhouette seen only barely as she moved toward a Jefferies tube.

    The hatch plate moved to the floor by unseen hands, a few seconds passed and was lifted back into place.

    Kathryn smiled. "By the way Harrington, next time I tell you to turn over everything to me, do it. This time I'm glad you didn't." She tapped her badge twice.

    Her badge vibrated as Karl responded silently. She tapped twice again to send the code designed to let Karl know that Anthi and Harrington's stealth suit were deployed.

    ---

    5 minutes later

    Kathryn looked at her PADD as it revealed the technical layout of the room beyond the doors. She grinned as the enemy red dots were congregated near a console, while the station crew green dots were huddled in a corner next to a single red dot. Anthi's blue dot slowly moved toward the lone red one. The rest of the Assault Team surrounded the room at both entrances. If Kathryn opened her door the turret would have a clear line of sight to the enemy. It would be too easy.

    ---

    Inside the room

    Anthi was three meters away from the Orion guard. He was a hulk of a man and was menacing the crew with a deadly stare. His back was to Anthi as she approached. She unzipped the suit, reached for her knife and charged. One scientist saw the knife appear out of nowhere and became visibly terrified. The Orion spun to look and raised the disruptor pistol as the blade flashed across his neck. Anthi grabbed the pistol and twisted it away with one hand. She spun the knife in her other hand then drove it hilt-deep into an eye socket. She was splashed with orange blood.

    Outside the room

    The blue and red dots touched. This was it. Kathryn pressed the trigger to the assault gun and braced herself. That was Harrington's sign to open the door. As the door hissed open the group of Orions spun around to face the attack. They drew weapons just as the assault gun released its charge. The automated turret clicked at it found targets and started firing large phaser bolts as well.

    The group of Orions burst into mists of blood and puffs of smoke as the barrage of phaser bolts chewed and burned into them.

    ---

    5 minutes later

    "Solaris, this is the Captain. Crew is secured, Team is safe, situation under control. Stand by."

    "Understood, Captain. Glad to hear your voice. Standing by."

    She looked down the hallway to watch Anthi removing the stealth suit out of sight from everyone else in the room. Aldet was scanning the station crew with his tricorder and conducting necessary triage. Christa was talking with the lead researcher at a console, schematics concerning the stealth suit were visible between them. Karl was inspecting the Orion bodies for anything considered valuable to determine the 'why, who and what' of their coming to the station.

    Kathryn walked to and knelt down to an Orion body. She tore at an arm sleeve. Karl watched her and looked at the exposed arm. A dark scar ran down the arm. He recognized the gang symbol and looked to Kathryn.

    "Is that -"

    Kathryn interrupted but did not look away. "Yes." She pulled out a tricorder and started scanning the bodies. Karl stood and watched, knowing the Captain owned the situation. Anthi walked up to Karl, surveyed the scene and waited as well. She finished and stood. "None of these." Kathryn stalked to the lone sentry Anthi dispatched and repeated her scan.

    Once the scan was complete, the display informed Kathryn there was a match. She opened a smaller PADD strapped to her thigh, keyed in a command and struck through a name from a list. When she returned to Karl and Anthi, she pointed a thumb over her shoulder. "That was one of them."

    ---

    Now

    "... and all enemy combatants were neutralized and the station was secured. Replacement parts and components are being transferred as we speak."

    "Good work Captain Beringer. Are you sure you don't need Codorba to assist? Maybe a joint patrol of the system perhaps?" The Captain's bald head shined in the light of his Ready Room. He smirked slightly in a way that was inherently charming to Kathryn, but she couldn?t tell if that was a genuine feeling from her or not.

    "Thank you Captain Daikar but unfortunately that will not be necessary." Unfortunately?! Kathryn's thought disappeared quickly. "By the time you arrive we'll have handled that and anything else. But if the situation gets worse I'll be sure to contact Starfleet with a special note to you?" She rolled her mind's eyes to herself.

    "That would be welcome. I hope to hear from you in the future either way. Daikar out."

    The screen went blank and Kathryn sighed in relief and looked at Anthi sitting on the other side of her desk. The First Officer leaned forward in her chair and rested her arms on the table. "Kathryn, officially speaking, have you told anyone in Starfleet about the details of your past?"

    "Do you think my judgment is biased?"

    Anthi sat back. "Not really, but I'm not in the mood to start doubting you."

    "Good. Let me know when that happens. To answer your question ... no, and for the record, that is how it will stay."

    "So, what happened here was ... coincidence?"

    Kathryn nodded and smiled. "Luck more like it. So, lucky me, right?"

    "Hmph."
  • marcusdkanemarcusdkane Member Posts: 7,439 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    Literary Challenge 41 - Call to Arms
    When the Stars Go Out

    On the forward viewscreen, the stars streaked towards the Valkyrie as it raced toward the planet Mu'Na. Captain Amanda Palmer glanced around the bridge, the crew all going about their duties, every console in use. Not a single aspect of the ship was damaged, something for which Palmer was eminently grateful for. Closing her eyes briefly, she recalled the warmth of her soak at the Yuki Pocari bath house, relishing the memory, allowing it to warm her once more.

    "Captain," the Mumbai accent of Midshipman Ramesh Kumar interrupted her reminiscence. "I'm receiving a priority one distress call from the Icarus research observatory, they are under attack from Klingon forces and fear they will be boarded."

    Palmer did not immediately open her eyes, instead, she breathed deeply and clenched her jaw. Was a simple mission too much to ask for...

    "Ensign T'Natra, what is our ETA at Mu'Na?" she enquired, folding one long leg over the other at the knee.

    "At current velocity, nineteen hours, Captain," the Vulcan navigator crisply reported.

    "Are there any other starships in the vicinity which could assist the observatory?" Palmer enquired.

    "Aye, Captain," replied Commander Brandon Mayer from ops. "The Enterprise is within range, and already moving to assist, but we are still the closest ship, and will arrive first."

    "Very well," Palmer replied. "Helm, lay in a course for the Icarus observatory at maximum warp. Mister Kumar, contact the observatory. Tell them that we acknowledge their distress call, and advise them of our ETA. Additionally, please hail the Enterprise and inform Captain Shon of our engagement."

    "Aye, Captain," Kumar acknowledged, operating the communications console with a confidence normally reserved for seasoned communications officers, not third year cadets.


    Lieutenant Commander Meliden Bowen frowned at the black synthleather strap in her hands and placed it on her desk. It had long ago ceased to strike her as strange that her office was on deck two, and separated from main engineering by four decks, now she simply enjoyed the solitude it afforded her.

    "Compu- Claire, please make a complete scan of this device and create a workable replicator template," she said, momentarily forgetting the software upgrade which now afforded the Valkyrie's computer AI status.

    "Working," replied the synthesized voice of the computer library access information retrieval engram. "Template complete."

    "Do you know what this is?" Meliden asked, popping a broken, lozenge-shaped piece of equipment out of the wrist-strap. It had a four-directional control interface, and a series of other buttons which appeared to mirror the functions of a tricorder, but no display monitor was visible, only a raised, rectangular feature, and a round holo emitter in the center of the device.

    "It is a prototype Type 6T tactical tricorder," Claire replied. "It has been extensively modified however, as the device was originally designed to be integrated into the gauntlet of heavy duty tactical armor, and was not originally outfitted with such memory capacity."

    "I've never seen one before," Meliden admitted, turning the device over in her hands, running her thumb over the massive dent in the casing.

    "The Type 6T never went into production," Claire explained. "Preliminary testing found that a large number of Betazoids, Deltans and Humans found the device created vertigo-like sensations when used, and the project was suspended."

    "According to my preliminary scans, none of the internal components are damaged, just the external casing," Meliden said, placing the tricoder on the replicator tray beside the desk. "If the outer casing was replaced, would the device be functional?

    "It would," Claire replied. "Do you want me to make the necessary modification?"

    "Go ahead, and begin induction charging of the power cell," Meliden said, before she realized that she was now talking directly to the Valkyrie's computer just as easily as she would any crewmember via comm badge.

    On the replicator tray, the tricorder shimmered as if captured in a transporter beam, momentarily losing solidity, then re-appearing. The damage to the exterior case was gone.

    Suddenly, music began flowing from the comm speakers. A simple, repeating, flowing melody which Meliden eventually identified as Ludwig Van Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.

    "Claire, why're you playing Beethoven?" she enquired.

    "I am not," replied the computer's interface. "The music is being transmitted wirelessly to local speakers by the Type 6T. Upon charging, it would appear to have continued to run the last operation selected."

    Reaching out, Meliden went to press a button to see if it would deactivate the music, but something momentarily dazzled her, a flash of azure light across her peripheral vision, and she involuntarily squeezed her eyes shut. In the darkness, she saw lines and text imprinted on the inside of her eyelids. Opening her eyes, she held the tricorder in front of her, and looked directly at it. An operating system menu appeared clearly in front of her, superimposed onto her retina by the device.

    "Oooh," she cooed. "Aren't you beautiful!" Scrolling through the menus, she began to synch the device to her desktop terminal as the music continued to play. Teraquads of data appeared, archived and foldered.

    "Unauthorized subroutines are infiltrating my operating system," Claire reported.

    "Block them!" Meliden snapped, dropping the tricorder to the desk, and focusing her attention on the desk terminal.

    "Unable to do so, the programming is sophisticated enough to over-ride my system," Claire replied. "Diagnostics reveal no harmful malware, but the Type 6T is now a fully integrated device, with full access to my libraries, as well as a remote access to the communications and transporter systems."

    Meliden scrolled through the streaming code on her terminal, occasionally recognizing a functional command, or a clever exploitation of holes in the computer's operating system. The programming really was a work of genius. Many codes were tagged RLR and RLK, and things began to fall into place. Only a Starfleet science officer would have the ability to create a program which integrated so perfectly with a starship's computer core.

    "I don't know who you were, but I like your style," Meliden muttered in admiration of the tricorder's former owner.

    She clicked on a file labeled A and M, and immediately, a holo image appeared on the viewscreen, of a young dark haired boy, almost inverted, with a hoverboard strapped to his feet. The next image, was of a young girl, staring intently at the camera. Although she was a pretty child, with delicate features, her slate grey eyes glared from the viewscreen with an intensity which sent a chill down Meliden's spine. A folder labeled P had images of a handsome dark-haired man, with a confident wry grin, and Meliden recognized renowned engineer Paul Kane. The tricorder held a complete family album, as well as playlists of music and memo notes.

    Replacing the tricorder in the wrist-strap, Meliden placed it on the desk, and reached up to tap her comm badge.

    "Bowen to Kane: Siri, you're not going to believe what I've just found on that tricorder you gave me..."


    "We will be reaching the Icarus observatory in five minutes, Captain," reported T'Natra.

    Palmer turned to Lieutenant Elyse Fisher at the mission ops console to her left.

    "What do we know about the Icarus observatory?" she enquired.

    "It's a Starfleet weapons testing facility, housed in a J Class stellar observatory in orbit of Gienah," replied the strategic operations officer. "Extremely classified and sensitive work, I've been able to get no information from Command about the nature of their current projects, only that they are insistent that it not fall into the hands of the Klingons."

    "Any identification on the attacking force?"

    Years serving with Palmer allowed Elyse to understand the message in her captain's verbal shorthand.

    "If the reports from Icarus are accurate, it would appear to be a ch'tang class bird of prey," she replied, a note of tense foreboding in her voice. "We might have quite a fight on our hands, before the Enterprise arrives..."

    "It's just a matter of timing, and knowing where to stick the knife, Miss Fisher," Palmer replied, drumming her fingers on the arm of her command chair. "Mister Chanos, please prepare a tricobalt device for transport, and then ready an assault team to secure the observatory."

    "Aye, Captain," replied the Bolian chief of security, turning control of the tactical console over to his deputy, Lieutenant Arlandria Chambers, before crossing the rear of the bridge to the turbolift.

    "Long-range sensors are detecting the Klingon ship," reported Mayer. "They would appear to be holding position within transporter range of the observatory. I'm picking up damage to the observatory and residual signs of weapons fire, as well as a strong voltarium signature."

    Palmer frowned.

    "Voltarium?"

    "An artificial unstable radioactive element," Mayer clarified.

    "Thank you, Commander, I know what it is, I was merely surprised at its presence," Palmer replied, resting her elbows on the arm rests of her command chair and steepling her fingers. "Commander, can you pinpoint the location of the voltarium?"

    "Aye, Captain," Mayer crisply responded. "Sensors are picking up massive quantities aboard the observatory."

    "Are you detecting any aboard the bird of prey?"

    "No ma'am, it's all aboard the station," Mayer confirmed.

    "That means the Klingons haven't got their hands on it yet," she mused. "How long till we reach the observatory, Miss T'Natra?"

    "Two minutes, Captain," she replied, not needing to check her console for the answer.

    "Maintain present speed until we are nine seconds from the station, then perform an emergency down-warp behind the Klingon vessel."

    "Aye, Captain," T'Natra responded, entering commands into the helm.

    "Palmer to Chanos: How are we doing, Commander?"

    "Tricobalt device made safe for transport," Chanos' voice reported over the intercom. "Only a point five percent reduction in yield."

    "Excellent... Bridge to transporter room two: Lock onto the modified tricobalt device with Commander Chanos, and prepare to beam it to the engine room of the Klingon vessel we are approaching on my mark."

    "Aye, Captain," responded the voice of th'Shaan. "Coordinates locked in, standing by for your command."

    "Captain," said T'Natra. "We are less than twenty seconds from the station. Preparing for emergency down-warp..."

    Not taking her attention from the tactical view of the system on her arm rest, Palmer's eyes were locked on the chronometer.

    "Hold your course and speed..." she decided.

    "Aye, Captain," T'Natra replied, surprise registering in her voice. "ETA now at eight seconds..."

    "Steady..." Palmer began to count in her head

    Seven... Six... Five...

    "Emergency down-warp NOW!" Palmer commanded. "Chief th'Shaan, Energize!"

    Around the edges of the viewscreen, the streaking stars fluctuated, and there was a coruscating whiteness as the Valkyrie dropped out of warp, replaced with the ungainly sight of the ch'tang class bird of prey directly ahead.

    The collision alert warning flashed on the viewscreen, before the Klingon ship transformed into a cloud of orange and yellow destruction.

    The Valkyrie punched through the cloud, and out the other side, like a phoenix rising from the fire, the ablative armor handling the heat and debris, like an umbrella deflecting the rain.

    "Excellent work, people," Palmer congratulated her officers. "Helm, bring us about, and take up a position by the observatory. Palmer to Chanos: Commander, you may now transport your assault team to the observatory. Prepare for heavy resistance, any Klingons aboard the observatory have nothing to lose. Allow them an honorable death, if that is their choice."

    "Aye, Captain," replied Chanos' gravelly voice. "Energising now."


    No sooner had the transporter beam released him, Bellic Chanos saw a mek'leth swinging towards his head. However, sparring with the grandson of a dahar master had more than prepared the tactical officer for whatever the foot-soldiers of the Empire had to throw at him. Dropping his phaser rifle, the muscular Bolian moved in toward his attacker, crouching, then rising, in a flawless mok'bara form, the heel of his palm driving upwards to slam the Klingon's jaw together with enough force to break his teeth, and he flew backwards off his feet to lay in a crumpled heap.

    Thanks, Ryan... Chanos thought somberly as he picked up his rifle and the fallen mek'leth.

    "Commander, I'm picking up a dozen lifesigns, accompanied by Federation comm badge signals four hundred meters ahead, and one deck down," reported Lieutenant Anton Jarre. "It looks like the Klingons have secured the researchers in one of the cargo bays."

    "Acknowledged," replied Chanos, casting an eye over the half-dozen officers of his assault team. "Stay sharp, we have no idea how many more Klingon troops we will encounter. Let's move out."


    Gustav heard the sound of phaser fire from beyond the cargo bay and heard the distinctive hiss of a Federation phaser. Moments later, the bay doors opened, and a Bolian in tactical armor entered the enclosed space.

    "I'm Commander Bellic Chanos from the Federation Starship Valkyrie. Who's in charge here?"

    Gustav raised his hand.

    "I'm Professor Gustav Rotwang, the head researcher," he said, getting to his feet. "Are they gone? The Klingons?"

    "All dealt with," Chanos replied. "What happened, Professor? Why did the Klingons attack you?"

    "We've been working on a weapon system," Gustav began. "A torpedo capable of making a star go supernova."

    "As with a trilithium warhead," Chanos stated, but Gustav shook his head.

    "Not quite, Commander. By comparison, a trilithium warhead is like a fire-cracker in a kasawa melon. Trilithium inhibits the nuclear reactions within a star, creating an implosion which creates a subspace shockwave. We have been experimenting with voltarium to create a device which instead destabilizes a star's gravity.

    "A sun's gravity exerts a tremendous amount of pressure inward, while the ongoing fusion reaction exerts a constant outward pressure. Therefore, a star is in a constant state of balance. Our aim was to unbalance this equilibrium by negating the star's inherent gravity, causing a runaway fusion reaction of stellar proportions. With no gravity, the hydrogen gas which was undergoing fusion disperses in all directions, exploding and destroying everything in its path."

    Chanos was silently awed by the concept.

    "The Klingon ship has been destroyed, and their boarding party has been neutralized, but is there any way that this information could have been transmitted to the Empire? Is there any chance that they could have broken your encryption codes?"

    "They did not need to," Gustav replied quietly. "When I refused to co-operate, those Klingon dogs threatened my daughter! They put my Maria in an airlock and began the cycle! I had no choice, Commander, surely you understand the position I was in?"

    Silently, Chanos sympathized, knowing to what lengths he would go to to protect his own family, if someone was to threaten his wife or nephew. He looked about the cargo bay, and the traumatized scientists, but could see no children.

    "Where is your daughter now, Professor?" he asked, suspecting he already knew the answer.

    "After I told them, they opened the outer door anyway! They thought it was a joke, and laughed at my weakness. What kind of animals would do that to an innocent child?"

    "If it is of any comfort, they no longer live either," Chanos said, reaching up to tap his comm badge. "Chanos to Valkyrie: Captain, the observatory has been secured, but the project data has been compromised. I have a dozen civilian scientists here who may be in need of medical attention."

    "Understood, Commander," Palmer's voice responded. "You may have to wait a while though, we rather have our hands full here. You might want to prepare for more boarders."


    Palmer clung to the ops console, trying not to be thrown to the deck by the pounding the Valkyrie was taking from the Negh'Var class battle cruiser. At almost six times the size of the Nova class vessel, Palmer knew they were ludicrously out-gunned, but she had no intention of withdrawing. Not while she had crew on the observatory, or civilian lives to protect. Such was her sworn duty as a starship captain.

    "Miss T'Natra, take evasive action!" she snapped, as she watched the battle cruiser drawing ever closer on the viewscreen.

    "Aye, Captain," replied T'Natra, "Initiating evasive maneuvers..."

    On the screen, the collision alert began to flash again.

    "Ensign, I said evasive action!" Palmer shouted.

    "Aye, Captain," T'Natra repeated, suddenly veering off to starboard, and bringing the Valkyrie perilously close to the forward hull of the Klingon cruiser, flying within the radius of the disruptor banks.

    "Firing phasers," Mayer reported from tactical.

    As the Valkyrie passed along the hull of the Negh'Var, the ventral phaser banks lashed out, joining the two ships with a golden beam of energy. As the Valkyrie approached the port nacelle, T'Natra threw the ship into a steep climb, before banking round and swooping back down to make another run along the hull from stern to bow. Palmer felt her stomach lurching as her eyes fed conflicting motion information to what her body told her was solid ground.

    "A little advanced notice would be appreciated in the future, Miss T'Natra," she said. "This is a starship, not a fighter..."

    "Understood, Captain," replied T'Natra with that maddening Vulcan calm. "Could you possibly disable the proximity alerts? I am not going to hit anything..."

    Tapping an override command into the ops console, Palmer glanced across at the Vulcan woman beside her, and saw an excited sparkle in her charcoal grey eyes.

    "Are you enjoying yourself?" she enquired.

    T'Natra's gaze did not shift from the viewscreen, and her slender fingers continued to dance across the helm console like a concert pianist, but she did raise an eyebrow.

    "There is no need to be insulting, Captain," she replied dryly. "Although it is rather stimulating to have a challenge. It is a shame my shift will finish in five minutes..."

    Palmer smiled at the sublime humor, then glanced at the viewscreen and had a thought.

    "Brandon, target a spread of quantum torpedoes on -- these coordinates..."

    From the Valkyrie's rear torpedo launcher, blueish white globes sped away, before slamming into the raised section of the Negh'Var's upper hull.

    "That should take care of their communications array..." Palmer muttered. "Helm, prepare to come about for another pass..."

    "Captain," called Mayer. "Sensors are picking up another starship approaching, it's the Enterprise!"

    Dropping out of warp, the Odyssey class cruiser charged into the fray, unleashing wave after wave of quantum torpedoes and scouring the Negh'Var with phaser fire. Finally overloaded by an onslaught greater than the Valkyrie could dish out, the Negh'Var began to break apart, explosions breaking through from deep within the superstructure.

    "Captain, incoming hail from the Enterprise," Kumar reported, clinging to his console as if his life depended upon it.

    "On screen," Palmer ordered, as the Valkyrie banked away from the exploding Klingon ship.

    "Sorry we're late, Amanda," said Captain Va'Kel Shon. "I trust you are not too severely damaged."

    Palmer glanced about the bridge and shook her head. A few consoles had overloaded, and an ODN bundle had come loose from the ceiling.

    "Nothing we can't handle ourselves, Captain, but we appreciate your intervention," she replied. "I still have an assault team on the observatory. May I suggest you evacuate the research staff? You have more extensive facilities aboard the Enterprise to deal with them than we can offer."

    The Andorian captain nodded.

    "Not a problem," he replied. "Have you any idea what all this mess was over?"

    "As yet, no," Palmer admitted. "My chief of security is on the observatory, and he has reported that whatever the researchers were working on, the data has been compromised, although we have no way of knowing if that has been transmitted to the Empire."

    "We can only hope not," Shon replied. "I'll contact you when we have the researchers aboard. Enterprise out."

    Taking a deep breath, Palmer slowly rose to her feet from behind the ops console.

    "Bring us back to the observatory, Miss T'Natra," she said. "Brandon, contact Commander Chanos and have him prepare the researchers for evacuation to the Enterprise. You have the bridge, Commander. If you need me, I'll be in my quarters..."
    909d7cda93335d83bb43d3459b4dfcd5_zpsayiqcsfi.jpg
  • maverickdude05maverickdude05 Member Posts: 0 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    "Captain's Log, stardate...oh hell let's just start from the beginning..."

    "I can't believe it, finally some shore leave!" Barclay exclaimed.
    "Please try to contain yourself for the next 3 hours Commander Barclay" Foley said with a calm excitement

    Admiral Ryan Foley, although he prefers the title of captain, and the crew of the Enceladus have been operating non-stop combat runs for about 8 months straight. They had been granted a 4 day shore leave on the planet of Risa on their way back to ESD to be debriefed.

    ****

    The senior staff is currently having dinner in the captain's quarters:

    "I don't quite see the logic in spending the day laying on the beach doing nothing." Foley's first officer V'lar blurts out.

    "Well clearly, it's illogical to not relax!" the CSO, Amanda Barclay (Yes, daughter of Reg) replies.

    "I think that--" In mid sentence, Foley is interrupted by a Red Alert.

    "Report" Foley says as he exits the turbo lift stepping onto the bridge.

    "Sir, we received a distress call from a research station in the Bomari system. The Dark Angel is en route but over a day away. I was unaware we had one there..." Lt. Commander Korva says to Foley, inquiring at the same time.

    "Plot a course, maximum warp. Looks like Risa will have to wait." Foley orders.

    ****
    42 minutes later...

    "We are coming in now sir....what the...?" Korva says.

    Every console has the Greek Letter Omega displayed. Foley walks over and types in a code on his captain's chair console. The displays return to normal.
    "Everyone here will ignore what they saw. Status of the station?" Foley quickly says.
    "Sir, it appears that somehow a group of Orions secured the station. They are making their way to the operations center. Once there, they will control the station." V'lar reads from the console.
    "V'lar, you have the bridge, contact Starfleet Command, tell them exactly this, Omega Directive, our position, standing by. That's all. Korva, Migati, Nerrak, and Twelve, meet me in transporter room 1."

    The transporter room always felt cold to Foley, but he shrugs it off and simply says, "energize"

    ****
    Station

    The tingle of the transporter wears off as they beam into a dark and damp hallway. Clear signs of weapons fire and a dead security officer lays on the ground.

    "This way" Foley says as they draw their weapons.
    The lights flicker on and off as they proceed through corridors of pure silence say the sounds of vents releasing coolant.
    All of a sudden disruptor fire starts.

    "Go home Starfleet, or die like your puny friends" a deep male voice shouts.
    Foley nods to Korva, his chief of security and a Klingon could not wait to engage the Orions, she opens fire, dropping one of the Orions before getting pinned down again.

    "The Orions were waiting for us, they have us outnumbered four to one sir" Twelve shouts.
    "Get ready to-" Foley is interrupted for the second time today

    -The com on the station sounds-
    ~~"Orions on the station, this is Lt. Commander V'lar of the Federation Starship Enceladus. We have three starships surrounding the station. Please do the logical thing and surrender to the officers on the station. If you do not, I will have no choice but to destroy the station and you. You have 10 seconds to comply."

    "There is no way Starfleet could get here that fast..." Foley says to himself.

    The Orions talk to themselves for a second before dropping their weapons.
    Foley and his team secure the prisoners before they are beamed to the brig on the Enceladus.

    After beaming to the ship, Foley notices they are re-docking. He smiles and walks to the turbo lift.
    "Bridge"
    A fleet of starships arrives and the Enceladus is relieved.

    "You lied V'lar, not very Vulcan of you." Foley says with a smirk on his face.
    V'lar looks and him and she simply says, "I did not lie sir, while in Multi-Vector Assault Mode, the Enceladus is numerically three separate ships."
    "Technicalities V. But thank you for the rescue. I know you have only been my first officer for a month, but I made the right choice. You will be a fine captain some day." Foley says as he and V'lar walk out of his ready room to the bridge.

    "Helm, Risa. Maximum warp, we only have three days left. Engage." Foley says as he sits in his chair.
  • khayuungkhayuung Member Posts: 1,876 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    Captain's Log - Listed stardate 2413-04-05
    Access Classified
    Audiovisual Replay Authorization S31
    Audiovisual Replay - Operation Rabbit Hutch

    Audiovisual Replay notes - At 2413-04-04, standard Earth time 2200 hours, Task Force Seven was diverted from standard assignment patrol to converge in Eta Eridani. This operation was officially recorded as a response to coincident Klingon and Borg incursion. In actuality, a blockade happened on Starbase Redacted. Hostile complement: Strike fleet of cruisers, support vessels, and boarding assault craft. Enemy unknown. Origin unknown. Capabilities unknown.

    Involved personnel: Starfleet Archaelogy department complement, New Romulan Science Team 4 and seven Escort teams.

    Starbase Redacted classified transmission signal ceased 20 minutes post contact. Presumption FUBAR. Cypher Nine was to divert all ships in command to Starbase Redacted and coordinate tactical resolution. Failsafe protocol in effect as per CO discretion. Extreme prejudice authorized.

    This Audiovisual Replay was taken from Cypher Nine headcam. For eyes only.


    USS Aegis, Transporter Room Two

    "Headcam online, Admiral," Pion's voice sounded throughout the Aegis's Transporter Room Two. The lights were dimmed as protocol for the advanced tactical escort prototype while at Red Alert and under cloak. Engineering had the colours tuned to a deeper orange, a setting that conferred adequate illumination for most humanoids to see while minimizing power drain on crucial systems. Pion however, did not have that setting in her, so the photonic officer shone in the dark like a celestial being as she tapped away on the pattern buffering console.

    The ship was in silent running with warp muffler running at full capacity, but even that failed to completely cut out the subspace hum of her warp core being taxed deep into the red. As such, over the hushed whispers of power armoured tactical officers in the Aegis? various assault transporters, they knew their ship was pushing Warp 19, underscoring the urgency of the situation.

    "All hands, sound off," Vice Admiral Kha Yuung said over the entangled fermion transmitters.

    "Beta squad, ready." Captain Nishizumi replied first.

    "Gamma squad, ready." Said another Hazard in thick Caitian accent.

    "One of Five, ready." That was a handful of Hachi?s liberated Borg waiting at Transporter Four.

    Yuung looked at his own complement of Borg officers in mat-gray MACO armor, Eleven and Hachi, then acknowledged, "Alpha squad, ready. Stay frosty, Sevens."

    "Hoo-ah," the other squads replied.

    "The Yamato is signalling as ready, Admiral." Pion reported next.

    "Good," Yuung said. "Proceed as planned."

    "Aye, Sir."

    With that command, Yuung mentally called up a passive sensor feed into his armor's HUD. He counted eight katamaran-style ships holding orbit around the Starbase behind them. The result was blurry and fuzzing, the effect of passive sensors having typically poor resolution at such ranges. There were also smaller ones, possibly frigates and escort craft, shaped in ridged domes like Terran coral -- Kha however could not tell exactly what the ridges were for with his vision this obscured. One by one, their aft warp nacelles lit up and the fleet moved into a new formation. This told Yuung that the rest of the uncloaked Task Force, even though they were still a couple hours out, was already alerting the blockading forces with their warp signatures. All fine and dandy, as the Yamato dreadnought cruiser and the Aegis were warming up for short-range transwarp. With his signal, the two cloaked vessels would jump in and engage the Unknowns in pincer fomation. With the split second transition from cloak to shields, the Yamato and Aegis would dimensionally shift their MACO-shrouded Hazards into Starbase Redacted. Each squad was to sweep their designated sector for any personnel and their cargo, recover them, and beam back. Stealth was key in this mission, as the complete lack of intel as to who and what were these aliens here for meant many assumptions had to be taken so direct conflict was best avoided. In fact, they would have favoured a more diplomatic approach, had the Unknowns not ignored all of Starfleet's hails, shot down every ship in range on their way into the starbase, and good ol' Drake had not rung him to say that there was a problem.

    And so, here Kha Yuung was, hurtling through subspace with his best men, going to clean up a mess started by a careless Section Agent, again. Drake assured that the errant officer has been duly dealt with, but that made him feel as much better as a spot of Romulan ale would have. Drake even felt sorry enough to give Yuung a name of the item he was searching for, 'Rabbit's Foot'. And in spy terms, that's like giving the Admiral the full roster of every operative working behind Federation lines. Needed but useless at the same time.

    The deck shifting slightly beneath his feet as the Aegis suddenly barrel rolled made Yuung's heart sink.

    "They have detected us, somehow!" Pion announced. "Powerups detected on parts of the Unknown hull again. They are firing some sort of antichroniton cannon at us!"

    "Ryzak, Evasive manoeuvres." Kha ordered. "All hands, drop positions!"

    On command, photonic rails materialized on each transporter pad, and Kha grabbed on as the Aegis rolled in another direction, barely avoiding bare hull hits from the prismatic energy blasts. The admiral then noticed silver-white puffs erupting from the larger twin-hulled vessels into streaking parabolas.

    "Torpedoes? Are those torpedoes?" Pion wondered aloud.

    Up ahead, the Yamato's two hangar bays were rolling aside shutters as the ship dropped her guise. Out screamed a cloud of shuttlecraft as point defense turrets on cruiser and small craft alike spun to life, all of them spitting a hail of fine phaser bolts that lit the whole of space with exploding missiles and energy bursts. The Aegis carried on, still under cloak, using the agile dreadnought and shuttle wing as cover while banking and weaving through the few stray comets that managed to get through.

    "Remind me to thank Uras'kalan for equipping those shuttles with PDTs." Yuung noted.

    Pion started tapping on her console faster.

    "Countdown to drop. Ten... Nine..."

    Kha tucked his phaser battle rifle under his free arm. "On my mark!"

    "...Three... Two... One!!" Pion finished.

    "MARK!"


    USS Aegis, Ops Bridge

    "We have lost the view feed."

    Captain Ryzak spoke as his CO's point of view cut out from his console. A stray bolt to shields rocked him and his crew about their safety restraints for a bit. Even then, his Vulcan calm stayed in voice and in posture.

    "Dimensional shifting has introduced a microvariance into the fermion coupling signal, Sir." Pion's avatar at Science Two reported in a much more frazzled tone. "Attempting to compensate."

    "With haste, Photonic Officer," Ryzak said, then turned to Tactical.

    "Takes us about to vector 270 mark 084 and fire a cannon volley, maximum spread."

    As Ryzak glared intently at the unfolding battle, the saucer ship Aegis instantly banked to port as ordered, tearing away from the dim starbase and her hull guns burst to life, lighting up the hostile shields with impact ripples as she went for a strafting run.

    "Target the small craft as they emerge. Fire at will."

    The escort's firestorm shifted focus into dense cones sweeping the space around her. Her aft cannons converged on a fleeing frigate, rippling on a sliver of forcefield before the rest of the fusilade rended through the hull and left an exploding wreck in its place.

    A computer alarm went off; the conn reacted; and the Aegis banked starboard, impulse at full as a twin-hulled cruiser had lumbered into the tiny ship's path. A array lit up across the frame as the unseen gunner locked on and fired. It however caught the shielded saucer of a pitching Galaxy-X. A brief exchange of beams and cannons followed before a phaser blast shredded the katamaran ship's glowing deflector. Suddenly robbed of its shields, the Unknown started peeling off; but the ever-efficient Yamato had a full spread of shining silver quantum torpedo shrieking out of its wide angled launcher and crumpling half the target with subatomic eruptions.


    USS Yamato, Main Bridge

    "Target is heavily damaged, Sir."

    The bridge at red alert lay dimmed as Commander Hayase, temporarily assigned to Tactical One, read off the sensor report.

    "Launch a cluster torpedo and keep pace with the Aegis," Captain Minase replied.

    A puff of contrail flew out from the aft launcher pod and momentarily ceased as the cylinder popped open like a death blossom, scattering dark leaflets into the vacuum. Then, each transphasic seed lit impulse and swirled off with haste. For a moment, there was a meteor shower in deep space, then the bomblets smashed home. Some glanced off a hastily erected forcefield, others blasted into geysers of fire and debris, and a few penetrated the ruined hull, crossed the internal void and slammed into the other secondary fuselage. Unnamed shadows shifted as crew within a towering boom that could pass for a bridge scrambled for safety before as a lucky salvo reduced it to a tangled hulk.

    "Target is out of combat."

    "Harasho, Number One."

    On the main viewer, the Aegis cleared the firing line and fading back into cloak, bolts and torpedoes whizzing into nothingness.

    "Circle around and shoot anything that tries to get back at the station. Attack Pattern Delta."

    Minase tapped her combadge.

    "Pion, what's the hold-up? We need an update on the boarding parties, now!"

    "I'm just a computer!" wailed Pion's disembodied voice. "I can't just wave away a fermion decoupling, not without rebuilding the harmonic signal first!!"

    "Then, do it!"

    "Almost done...!"


    Starbase Redacted, Deck 15

    "This is Beta Squad," Captain Nishizumi said as she watched the rest of her five-woman team pack themselves into the Jeffrey's tube junction. The glare of the lighting was almost blinding and the officers were spared only because their MACO suits had adapted with tint. "We're two decks away from our intended position, but we're intact."

    "Have you been discovered?" Minase's voice crackled over the semi-compensated frequency.

    "No, we have not engaged any hostiles yet, or is there any semblance of a red alert at all," replied the boarding party captain. "The lights have been turned on really bright."

    She glanced down at her Science officer Isuzu's tricorder.

    "We're reading every EM spectrum from microwave to gamma ray and the atmosphere is flooded with GN particles. We can't move near Engineering without disrupting some kind of radiation field and getting some kind of attention."

    The engineering officer paused to check the proximity alarms of her improvised explosive devices she planted on the way there.

    "But no one is coming towards us for now."

    Another pause as their acting CO considered options.

    "Alright, Beta squad, work your way to Engineering. Take the long route if you have, just get there in 10 minutes and kill the lights."

    "Yes, Sir."

    Nishizumi nodded to her team and started climbing.


    USS Yamato, Main Bridge

    Iori had her arms crossed, left index finger tapping on her arm, and sharp annoyance creased visibly on her face. She had specifically told Kha that dimensional shifting to penetrate the starbase shields even with MACO protection was a very bad idea, especially with a 30% chance of just a fermion link disruption at best. But now she had lost contact with 3 boarding parties, the Admiral's included, and the only one she found was off course.

    And so, here was Minase Iori, having to clean up the mess of a reckless Section Agent while getting pounded by lifeforms hell bent on turning the Yamato to scrap if they could. Even though she and most of her crew of 1000 was not even part of the shadow organization.

    "Pion, where is everyone?!"

    "I'm rebuilding the second harmonic signal, just searching for a quantum frequency to latch on to."

    "Time, Pion. Time."

    "I estimate another 7 minutes and 22 seconds."

    "My people are getting killed down there for all I know. You have 5!"

    "No waaay..." the computer complained.

    "Captain," Minami at Science Two said next as she looked back from her aft-facing terminal. "I have LOS comms with Gamma squad."

    "LOS comms?" Commander Kosaka noted to her captain in a questioning tone.

    "That means we've got a squad in big trouble." Minase replied. "Patch us through."


    Starbase Redacted, Main Space Dock, Outer Hull

    Lt Comm Aric Jorgan, tail floating like a sail behind him, was sprinting for his life, if bipedaling rapidly across neutronium bulkheads while being gravo-magnetically attracted to the hull in a zero G environment could be considered sprinting. Having hot-wired the auxiliary comms array into a signal booster, the tactical officer had to clear the vast open expanse to a half-destroyed maintenance hatch where the rest of Gamma Squad was sheltered. After making an unceremonious transport into open space, they've spent precious seconds looking for an entrance into the starbase, but the best they got was a crumpled doorway that would not let anyone through.

    "At least it would give us half a second of breathing before getting vaporized by energy bleedthrough," Aric noted wryly.

    "Gamma squad, report!" Minase said over standard comms.

    "We're in the middle of nowhere, Captain!" Jorgan replied then almost jumped as the wave of impact washed over them as a beam penetrated the starbase shields and singed the hull half a click behind them. "Front row view to the biggest turkey shoot in this sector. Not that I care for the scenery, but the door's locked!"

    The squad rocked a little as an alien torpedo erupted a little too close for comfort.

    "We've covered about a square click of dock hull, Captain, but there's still no way in. You're going to have to guide us, can't scout properly with so much danger close."

    The squad's tricorders bleeped in their ears once. Aric pricked his ears on instinct and quickly scanned the horizon.

    "Multiple bogeys coming out of their holes!" Jorgan yelled. "In this horrid weather? Are these hairballs on hypernip?"


    USS Yamato, Main Bridge

    "Helm, move us between Gamma Squad and the oncoming fleet," Minase said while typing furiously. "Aegis, you're going to have to help us thin the flock."

    "Acknowledged, Sir."

    "Captain," Ayase reported again. "I've managed to work out the frequency of the starbase shield and tied it to our own. We can merge forcefields with the starbase and allow our weapons to fire on the starbase hull."

    Iori nodded. Finally, some good news.

    "Bring the rain, Mister Ayase."

    "Captain, I've found a working Jeffery's tube going in at Deck 9 on the anti-spinward side," Tojou reported from Ops. "It's 2 kilometers away and there's lots of debris in between, but I can guide them there."

    "Make it so!"


    Gamma Squad, Phaser Bait

    The five man team of reds were double-timing along the holographic guide line projected into their HUDs while the stars criss-crossed with flame and fire.

    "Glad you could make it to the party, Yamato." Jorgan said as Eri passed over his party on sensor view, lining up the starship's phaser arrays to burn out hostiles closing in on them.

    "Remember, if you see a bunch of guys with the flashing UV strobe, DO NOT SHOOT. That's US. It's a little low-tech, but if they scramble your sensors you can still see it on periscope."

    "You don't have to tell me that," Eri replied as she dabbed on another cluster of aliens and vaporized them. "They teach us that in the Academy too, you know."

    "Acknowledged, Sir," Jorgan chucked at Eri in between huff-puffs and phaser shots. MACOs had a good rivalry going with Starfleet since their revival. And with many officers regarding the "Redshirts" as "a necessary evil", the grunts just rarely got along with the shipsters.

    But as the venerable dreadnought lumbered in to blot out the sky, Jorgan couldn't help but feel a little more at ease. He hip-fired at some figures in the distance, catching the lead troop in what he thought were the shoulders, then a bolt of flaming orange came down and took care of the rest.

    Inwardly, he cursed the silence and smell-lessness of EVA combat. Federation training tempered his hunter's instinct into a fine blade, but the Caitian often found space fights to be as if he was watching a holonovel rather than getting up close and personal. Oh, what rush it would be to feel the shockwave wash over, or smell the burnt paint of a downed bogey vaporized by starship bombardment!

    He changed rifles, cocked a round into place, then fired off the underslung proton torpedo launcher into the distance, blasting another group off into orbit. He then signaled his squad to take cover behind another auxiliary sensor tower before piling in himself. A bright flash above saw the Yamato shields weathering rainbow antichroniton blasts while launching shining torpedoes in reply.

    Aric smiled. For now, it will do.


    USS Yamato, Main Bridge

    Things weren't as rosy as it seems. Even if the shields were holding, antichroniton particles exerted a direct effect on the hull beneath. Especially when time in the affected sections immediately under the hit was passing faster than different parts of the ship, command and control had almost completely shut down in those areas when orders that hadn't been issue arrived and people were bumping into their past and future selves as the chroniton fields elapsed and dispersed.

    Pion replicated herself into chroniton-infused clones then posted them to the affected sections while everyone else was evacuated deeper into the ship's core, were the tachyokinetic converters were able to keep chroniton levels high enough to counter the antichroniton effects. That worked well, but that required immense power diverted from Auxiliary to the ship's emergency batteries, which meant that the Assimilated equipment didn't have enough power to repair the ship at their usual pace. And since Eight built the Yamato around regeneration, the Yamato was slowly losing the war of attrition.

    Iori was mentally racing a hundred parsecs an hour. They needed to either find a breakthrough, or the remaining away teams find the 'Rabbit's Foot', or there's be more exploding hulks in the middle of nowhere.

    "Could had been worse," Iori mused wryly as the ship jostled slightly to several hits to the stoarboard shields. "The bridge consoles could be blast officers into space without seatbelts."

    "Yes!!"

    The Pion on the bridge -- if that was the original Pion -- cheered in victory, prompting a not-amused glare from Minase in her direction.

    "I've finished reharmonizing the fermions!" The Photonic officer explained. "Kha and the Liberated squad have just checked in."

    "On screen!"


    Starbase Redacted, Shipyard

    Yuung felt this would have been better called a graveyard as his group floated silently through the vacuum. The void was thickened by debris and the photon emitters have all been smashed, providing perfect cover for the infiltrators as well as providing the perfect atmosphere for a summer's night of horror stories. Once functional Mirandas and Oberths were now spoke-tangled wrecks for him to bounce about. A couple of Borg joined Eight and Eleven, the rest of Five's squad had phased into a deeper part of the starbase and were working their way up.

    Which leaves them in their current state, bouncing across half a click of wreck. This wasn't Kha's idea of a quick operation. The group then landed on a shattered saucer-section and quickly magnetized to the hull. In a low crouching gait, the MACOs bound forward under artificial gravitic pull and stopped just short of the edge. Eleven raised his finger over the edge, CMOS chip on the tip faintly gleaming as he scanned the last few decameters to the Jeffery's tube they detected.

    "Two targets standing watch." Eleven replied. "Another 2 by the turbolift doors. Power levels indicate that the area has been shut down."

    "Looks like they have this place covered," Yuung said. "Two, tactical analysis."

    The female Borg officer took a moment to download Eleven's data records and her eyes shifted as she scanned through an invisible readout.

    "Sir, these are quadrupedal lifeforms with highly developed musclature possibly capable generating a hundred Newtons of force. They carry antiproton assault weapons with edges that appear meant for close combat. Lifeform not registered in database. Assigning designation Species 56453219."

    She took another moment to formulate.

    "Recommend stealth followed by disabling nanite infection before tactical disposal, Sir."

    "Sounds like a plan." Yuung said as he signaled the Liberated to break into 2 groups, leaving him at the perch. The Admiral scoped up and peered at pair of hostiles standing watch over the Jeffery's tube access.

    "Yamato to Alpha squad. Come in, Alpha squad."

    "I'm a little busy," Kha breathed.

    "Status report?"

    "We're down to 5 men, but we're close to the target area."

    "Acknowledged." Iori said. "I told you this was a bad idea."

    "We'll see."





    [To Be Continued]


    "Last Engage! Magical Girl Origami-san" is in print! Now with three times more rainbows.

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  • grylakgrylak Member Posts: 1,572 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    Captain's Log. The Sentinel has received a distress call from Science Station Gamma Twelve. They are under attack from a hostile force and we are on course to intercept. I have called the TRT to the Meeting Room for the mission overview.


    As Emony entered the Meeting Room, she slid a finger in the collar of her uniform, giving it a slight tug to free some space. They had just been issued with new uniforms, and it was still a bit tight. Everyone else was already there. Captain Stunshock, Commander Talaina, Xui Li, and the Tactical Response Team. Only called into action when a standard away team was not enough. As Emony sat down in the chair, Stunshock cleared his throat, his customary way of signalling the meeting was now starting.

    "Science Station Gamma Twelve has been attacked by unknown forces. We were unable to get an I.D. on the attackers, but they are essentially a small fleet."
    "State of the station?"

    That from Ttorkkinn, the bulky Saurian who had been assigned to the ship as the TRT commander, following incidents with some of the members. That was the trouble with such an elite group of gun ho members. Personalities often clashed.

    "Still intact. We believe the attackers are after the rift generator that was being developed at the station."
    "Rift Generator?"

    Grimworm, the 8 foot green giant sounded confused.
    "What does it do?"

    Stunshock motioned to Xui Li, who promptly took over.

    "The staff of the station was attempting to create a hole in space. They were hoping this would create a portal to other dimensions, other universes that we could start exploring."

    Grimworm muttered a curse under his breath.
    "Most of this galaxy is still unexplored, and they want to go off looking for more trouble?"
    "We are not here to judge them Grimworm. Please continue Xui Li."

    The Operations officer nodded in thanks to Stunshock before continuing.

    "It could also be used to instantly move a ship from one point in space to another, including across quadrants. They submitted numerous reports to Starfleet, indicating they had succeeded in opening small portals, roughly the size of a peach, but for no longer than seven point two seconds."

    "Peach?"

    Karry held her fist up to Grimworm.

    "About the size of your fist. Well, not your fist. But my fist."
    "Ah."

    "The last report submitted indicated they were about to test a new configuration of their phased compensator coils. That report was submitted two days ago."

    Talaina frowned.
    "So you're thinking this rift worked, and attracted these attackers?"

    Stunshock nodded.
    "It's certainly plausible. The station only has a small compliment of crew, it's a small research outpost away from any inhabited systems. Regardless, we need to get in there and rescue the scientists, and prevent this generator from falling into enemy hands."

    Ttorkkinn nodded.
    "Get my team on that station, we'll secure it Sir."
    "Yes, I know. We'll beam you to the lowest part of the station. It should be quiet. While your team work their way up, we'll hold off the fleet. Familiarise yourself with the station layout, we'll arrive in 2 hours. One more thing. Take Gar and Mirat. I know-"

    "What?"
    Roderick almost jumped out of his chair.
    "We don't need those two on this team!"

    "Roderick, you need trained guns on this mission. And those two know how to fight."
    "But-"
    "ENOUGH!" Ttorkkinn barked. "Roderick, a Breen and a Jem'Hadar will prove useful in this situation. End of."

    Satisfied that Ttorkkinn had settled it, Stunshock steepled his long claws and continued.

    "Take the full force. If you can't secure the rift generator, destroy it. Such a device can not be allowed to fa-"

    The comm. went off.
    "Captain, you're needed on the bridge. We're receiving a comm. from the Typhon."
    "On my way. "

    Stunshock stood.
    "Sort the plan, we'll be there soon."

    Stunshock then left the Meeting Room.


    **********************************
    The Sentinel approached the system. Stunshock sat in the Captain's Chair, the TRT already down in the Transporter room, ready to go. He leant on an armrest, stroking the side of his goatee.

    "What have we got?"

    Ensign Willie Wurz on Tactical replied.

    "There are two cruiser ships circling the station. There are also over a hundred smaller fighters buzzing the area. I don't recognise the ships Sir."

    "Ok. Jenna, get us within transporter range of the station. Wurz, try to restrict fire to only those ships firing at us, and hold fire until they shoot first. We don't need to draw extra aggro. Talaina. Make sure Security teams are ready in case we get boarded."


    The Sovereign class ship swept into the area, cutting through the small fighters that all turned and opened fire on the vessel. The shields fluctuated as they were hit by an unknown type of pulse cannon attacks from the fighters.

    "Within transporter range sir."
    "We can't lower beam the team aboard without lowering shields."

    Stunshock pushed a button on his armrest.
    "Transporter room. Is the TRT ready?"
    "Aye Sir."
    "Link with Tactical. The instant they lower shields, beam them aboard. Wurz, get those shields back up ASAP. All hands, brace for impact."


    As the shields quickly dropped, the team was beamed over to the station. The shields came back up almost instantly, but the ship still shook from the damage.

    "Jenna. Evasive. Keep us moving, but close to the station in case we need to pull them out."
    "Aye Sir."
    "Wurz. Fire at will."


    The sound of phaser banks and torpedoes rang out as the Sentinel tried to fight off so many attackers. The two cruisers seemed to be ignoring the Starfleet vessel, leaving the fighters to do their work. This went on for a good ten minutes. Shields on the Sentinel were down to 54%, and for every fighter that exploded, another two seemed to appear to take its place.


    "Ttorkkinn to Sentinel. We've rescued the scientists, but we?re pinned down. We can't get to the generator. "
    "Can you blow the station?"
    "Not from here. We've taken cover in a Panic Room. Roderick is badly injured. Those cruisers keep beaming reinforcements over."
    "We'll see what we can do. Hail when you're ready for beam out."

    Stunshock spun to Wurz.

    "Target those cruisers and fire Hargh'Pengs. Draw their attention."

    He then turned to Jenna.

    "Keep us moving."


    The crew performed their duties as the two ships were hit by the powerful torpedoes. They broke away from the station and started firing powerful beam weapons with a sustained blast at the Sentinel. The ship rocked violently to the side as consoles exploded.

    "Shields down to 31%. We can't take that kind of firepower for too long."
    "We just need to give the TRT time to get to the generator."

    The Sentinel corkscrewed around, shifting the ventral shields to face the cruisers. Another impact showered Wurz in sparks, sending her to the deck in a shriek.
    "Talaina! Tactical!"

    The Andorian First Officer configured her console to take over Tactical duties. Having been the Tactical officer on the DarkFyre, their previous vessel, she was well aware of what was needed here. The ship kept trying to distract the invaders as much as possible as some crewmembers took Wurz down to sickbay.

    "Captain! The Typhon's coming in!"
    "On screen!"

    The Starfleet Carrier Command Ship dropped from warp in the thick of things, spraying the area with their pulse phaser turrets. They started launching their own Mark VI, V and III Valkyrie fighters, using their modified technology to help thin out the numbers of the aliens.

    "Open a channel."
    "Channel open."
    "Typhon. We need to concentrate fire on the cruisers. We have a team on the station."

    "Copy that Sentinel. Focusing fire now."

    The Typhon and the Sentinel both came about, pouring their weapons at the cruiser on the left. Hull fractures started crawling across the hull, the Typhon seemingly knowing exactly where to hit to cause maximum damage, Talaina automatically shifting her aim to hit in the same spots. A flash of light signalled the ship's destruction, the two Starfleet vessels instantly switching to the right cruiser. It didn't fare any better.

    With the support cruisers destroyed, the fighters started swarming around the station again.

    "TRT to Sentinel. Request Beam out!"

    "Captain! Reading a disturbance within the station. The Rift Fenerator may be about to implode!"

    Emony checked her scanners.
    "Talaina's right. Massive disturbances consistant with a dimensional rift."
    "Transporter room! Get our people out of there!"


    On the screen, the station started rippling, its hull becoming like paper in the wind before it crumpled within itself. A large rift hung in space, giving a brief glance through to another world, one with hundreds of those alien cruisers. One of the Typhon's fighters flew towards the rift, firing at a small target. The rift generator exploded, collapsing the rift and trapping the remaining fighters. They turned and started trying to flee, but the Typhon and her fighters prevented them from escaping. As the last one exploded, Stunshock hit the comm. panel.

    "Transporter room! Have we got them?"
    "Yes Sir. Some injuries, but all present."

    Talaina turned in her chair.

    "Sir. Captain Tolbar is requesting to beam over for a debriefing."

    "Have him meet me in Sickbay."

    Stunshock got to his feet and made his way into the Turbolift.



    As Stunshock entered the Sickbay, he noted everyone around. Survivors were on numerous biobeds and clustered around. He spotted Wurz undergoing treatment. And the TRT was gathered around one bed, where Luawra was working. Stunshock approached.

    "Report."

    Karry turned to her Captain.

    "We got all the survivors off the station and destroyed the rift generator."
    "Good. At least it won't fall into the wrong hands. What happened?"

    He nodded to Roderick, who was immobile on the bed.
    "We were in a cargo hold, fighting the enemy. Some blasts hit the crates and they fell over on him."
    Ttorkkinn turned.
    "Mirat was meant to be covering him. I intend to have a full inquiry about this."

    "Doctor? How did we do?"
    Luwara didn't turn from her patient as she answered.
    "A couple of contusions. Wurz will be off her feet for a few days, but she'll make a full recorvery. But Roderick has suffered massive internal bleeding. His organs are failing and his spine is crushed."

    "It was a deliberate attack. The hostiles targeted the crates, intending to knock them down. Mirat should have seen this. Jem'Hadar are meant to know battle tactics like that, he should have been paying attention."

    "Easy Grimworm. We don't know Mirat's side yet."
    "No, but when we do, I will break his face."
    "No. No you won't."

    Ttorkkinn glared at Grimworm, making his authority clear. The Hulkanian just let out a huff and crossed his immense arms over his chest.


    "I want the rest of you to get checked out, rest and make a report by the end of tomorrow. I'll deal with Mirat."

    Stunshock turned as he saw Captain Tolbar enter with another of his officers. Stunshock walked over.

    "Captain. Commander."

    "Captain. This is my First Officer and Flight Leader of Red Squad, Commander Cooper."
    "Captain."
    "Shall we go to the Doctor's office?"
    As the three officers made their way there, Tolbar asked what Stunshock knew about the attackers.
    "Not alot. Just what we got off sensor scans. I'm curious how you knew their weak spots."
    "You have Commander Cooper to thank for that."
    "Oh?"

    "Yes Sir. I've encountered this race once before, back in 2377, during the Titan System Incident. They are a species known as the Kam'Jahtae, the ancient ancestors of the Hurq. Back when I was an Ensign, the Sentinel, the predecessor of this ship, accidentally awoke a ship of theirs from stasis and they attempted to open a rift to bring an invasion force through. The Typhon was able to stop the invasion back then, and we have never heard from them since."
    "Our scientists believed the rift that was opened by these scientists linked to wherever the Kam'Jahtae were located, where that original rift had opened to."
    "And that is why there were so many of them. Thank you for the help."

    "We'll provide aid with your repairs and secure this system while you take the scientists to the nearest starbase. I'm sure we'll meet again Captain."

    As Tolbar and Cooper turned and left, Stunshock looked over to Roderick. With such extensive injuries, it was doubtful he could continue with the TRT. Organs could be replaced; bones could be knitted back together. But the spine was still a dangerous place for injuries.

    "Hang in there Frank."
    *******************************************

    A Romulan Strike Team, Missing Farmers and an ancient base on a Klingon Border world. But what connects them? Find out in my First Foundary mission: 'The Jeroan Farmer Escapade'
  • superhombre777superhombre777 Member Posts: 147 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    October 2411

    If Admiral Leavenworth had been here in person, T'Panna would have strangled him. She had the impression that the elderly human was intentionally rambling in order to get an emotional response from her. Rambling about what happened to Captain Carter wasn't going to make anything better.

    "...I have decided to forget about your indiscretions with Captain Carter. I am going to cancel his court martial, which would have occurred eight days from now. I doubt he will be able to attend anyway. I am also considering promoting you to captain to take Carter's place."

    Her response was polite and calm, the exact opposite of the fire inside of her. "That is very kind of you sir, but don't you think that is a bit premature?"

    On the screen, the human shook his head. "It has been two days now and your doctors don't have a clue what to do. Starships can't function long-term without captains."
    ---

    Three days ago

    A small glimmer of light caught Carter's eye. He casually pushed T'Panna down onto the couch and whispered into her ear. She nodded and continued talking. "Life has been so much better since we got together. I don't know what I would have..."

    Then Carter sat up and fired at the intruder. This time it was only a holoprojection of the Section 31 agent, so the beam went straight through and hit the far wall.

    "It is good to see both of you this evening. Unfortunately I don't have time for pleasantries. I need your help immediately."

    Carter stood up and walked over to the projection. "I am done playing games with you. Go to hell." He poked his finger through the projection of the agent's eye.

    The agent was calm. "It's not that simple this time. The Gorn have found my secret research facility and are currently laying siege to it. We have lasted seven days, but I don't think we can hold much longer. Under normal circumstances you would never know about this. However, I can't just blow up this lab and move on to my next one since we have made some outstanding technology advances that are worth keeping. Do the right thing and help me out."

    Kerna'tharan and three security officers entered the room. Carter turned to face them. "Would you be so kind as to destroy the holoemitters in my quarters so that I can be off-duty? This pesky individual here doesn't seem to understand that I am not interested in helping him."

    Three seconds and a few shots later, the projection disappeared. "Thank you very much. Am I correct in assuming that there are no ships nearby?"

    The Jem'Hadar nodded. "Aye sir. Will that be all?"

    Carter smiled. "Yes. Thank you for the prompt response." He turned around and then hailed the bridge. "Were we able to trace the signal this time?"

    Hillel replied. "We were. Jarvis' new system worked like a charm. The signal came from an unnamed planetary system on the far edges of the Mempa sector. It is about seven hours away at maximum warp."

    "Set a course and engage at maximum warp. Have the helm drop us out of warp ten thousand kilometers outside the system. Carter out." This is one of those times when a slipstream drive would have come in handy, he thought. If only the brass cared about us...

    T'Panna came out of his bedroom, fully dressed in one of the spare uniforms she kept in his quarters. "I assume I won't need this uniform for a few hours?"
    ---

    Seven hours later

    This was the weekend where alpha and beta shifts were twelve hours long so that gamma shift could have time off. The general consensus was that everyone loved having the days off, but no one enjoyed working longer shifts to give their crewmembers rest. It didn't take counselor ch'Raul's dual doctorates to understand why this was true.

    Alpha shift started in a few hours, but Carter had called them in early. T'Panna was the only person from alpha shift who looked completely awake. Carter knew that she didn't get enough rest last night, which further reinforced his awe at the Vulcan ability to control outward appearance.

    Carter scanned the room and then stood up. "I have no idea what to expect. Section 31 deserves to suffer, and it sounds like no one here is in favor of us risking our necks to save them. Be on your guard, and remember the plan. Dismissed."

    A few minutes later, the Reaper left warp ten thousand kilometers outside the unnamed system. Glotz, the Denobulan operations officer, reported that there were four Gorn ships attacking a partially-cloaked facility orbiting the second planet. Based on the amount of wreckage, it looked like thirteen Gorn ships had already been destroyed.

    Carter looked over to Kerna'tharan. "Go ahead and destroy the Gorn."

    "With pleasure, sir," Kerna'tharan replied. "Initiating attack pattern delta."

    The Reaper took a beating, but managed to destroy all four ships in less than ten minutes. It would have been quicker if the space station hadn't stopped firing on the Gorn as soon as Reaper opened fire. One word crossed Carter's mind: cowards.

    There was silence on the bridge for a few moments after the last Gorn ship was destroyed. Carter had just ordered Glotz to retrieve the Gorn escape pods when the station hailed them.

    The agent on the screen showed no signs of fatigue. "Thank you for coming. I doubted your faithfulness, but I can see that you were just putting on a show for your crew. You are dismissed."

    "Don't you think it would be better if we stayed and kept guard while you made repairs?" And beam all of you into the brig when you least expect it, Carter thought.

    "That won't be necessary. We don't detect any more adversaries, and four other Federation vessels are en route. We will be well defended by the time the Gorn come back."

    "I doubt you will ever tell me what you are doing here, so there is no point in staying. We will be on our way. Carter out." Then he smiled turned to face Glotz. "What ships are on the way?"

    "Esquiline, Nottingham, St. Louis, and sh'Taal, sir."

    "Add that to the navigation log. We will have to look into the crew of each ship later. Will we be able to execute the plan and be out of range before they detect us?"

    Glotz nodded affirmatively, so Carter gave the order to start.
    ---

    Seen from space, Reaper's retreat was fairly standard. Shields were down, and the ship was moving away at full impulse. But at five kilometers out, a tricobalt torpedo was fired straight at the station's center of mass. A hard turn to starboard and was shortly followed by the dual phaser beams and a quantum torpedo.

    Two runabouts were dispatched to chase anyone who tried to escape. The station fired at Reaper and managed to cause a hull breach on the lower starboard side of deck five. That was the extent of their luck though. The battle was over once the station's shields dropped and Reaper beamed all life signs into their brig.

    Kerna'tharan and Chief Engineer Jarvis led a scouting party to retrieve as much data as possible. Meanwhile, Carter and ch'Raul talked about the best method to deal with the captured agents.

    "You are facing a court-martial for disobeying orders and getting involved with Section 31. If you handle this situation well, it is highly likely that the admiralty will finally understand where your allegiance lies and drop the charges."

    "My allegiance is to Starfleet, not the morons on top," Carter replied. "But I agree with you. I just need to keep my opinions to myself when I announce that I have succeeded where the admiralty has failed."

    "You might want to phrase that in a better way. You didn't succeed where they failed; you took advantage of a rare mistake made by Section 31 and exploited it for the benefit of the fleet. Make it sound like you were just doing your duty."

    "What's the fun in that?"

    ch'Raul never missed an opportunity for a snide remark. "Your fun is being able to see T'Panna every night instead of a four-hundred pound Denobulan cellmate in New Zealand."
    ---

    It was time to destroy the station and leave before anyone else arrived. Carter had retreated into his ready room to work on his remarks to the admiralty. T'Panna assumed that Carter would enjoy giving the order to obliterate the station, so she hailed him. Fifteen seconds later, she hailed him again. Then she stood up, walked over to the door, and overrode the controls.

    Carter was on the floor in an awkward heap.
    ---

    It only took a few minutes for the medical staff to detect traces of an unknown neurotoxin. Unfortunately, it took half an hour to figure out how Section 31 had attacked Carter.

    Kerna'tharan and Hillel replayed the security footage again. Even though Kerna'tharan was the security chief, Hillel was doing the talking. Hillel wasn't particularly close to T'Panna, but he had more tact than an angry Jem'Hadar. "It appears that the assailant was wearing some sort of personal cloak. The footage shows a hypospray appearing out of nowhere and then being applied to Carter's neck. Then it disappears again.

    "There is no evidence to suggest a beam-out, so whoever did this is either onboard, or they beamed out using technology that we don't have access to. We have confined all non-essential personnel to quarters, but I doubt we will find whoever did this."

    T'Panna paused for a moment and considered her choices. In the long term, it would be beneficial to determine the loyalty of each captain that was rushing to Section 31's aid. Getting this information would involve stretching the truth a bit.

    "We are going to stay and pretend that we got here too late. Then we will use the assistance of the other ships to find any survivors and hopefully a cloaked shuttle. In a day or two we will report our findings."

    "Your orders are to lie? I thought that Vulcans..."

    "Lieutenant Commander Hillel, my orders stand. Do you want to formally protest them?"
    ---

    Two days later

    T'Panna left the ready room and entered the bridge. Everyone's eyes were on her. Expressions ranged from sympathy to rage.

    "Command has written off Carter for dead, but I refuse to lose hope. However, they have given us permission to hunt down the responsible party and bring him or her to justice. We will drop off the prisoners at K-7 and dig through the logs of "Esquiline, Nottingham, St. Louis, and sh'Taal to figure out more about Section 31. I will not rest until justice is served."

    T'Panna looked into the eyes of every bridge officer. It was clear that they were of one mind. She sat down in her seat - the first officer's seat - and began to cry.


    Timeline:
    2398
    • Odyssey, a Luna-class science vessel, launched
    2408
    • Odyssey qualifies for a ten-year refit. It never happens.
    • April: T'Panna joins the Odyssey crew as second officer / head science officer
    2409 2410
    2411
    Crew (still haven't figured out all the casting yet):

    Captain Everitt Carter (human male)
    • Mitch Pileggi
    • Age: 57
    • Bald, goatee
    First officer: T'Panna
    • Minka Kelly with slightly pointed ears
    • Age: mid-30s
    • Named after Vulcan grandmother
    • Is 1/4 human
    Operations: Glotz (Denobulan male)
    Helm: Lt. Alastair Simeon (human male)
    Counselor: Commander ch'Raul (Andorian chaan, which is male)
    • Doctorate doctorate in clinical psychology, and a second one in pantheistic religions
    Doctor: Evans (human male, British)
    Chief Engineer Miguel Jarvis (human male, Hispanic)
    • Dating Amanda Carpenter
    Lt. Amanda Carpenter (human female)
    • Gets demoted from Gamma shift acting captain
    Librarian: Alice (photonic).
    • Intentionally appears as a teenager
    • Ellen Page
    Security: Lt. Cmdr. Hillel (human male, Middle Eastern descent)
    • Middle Eastern
    • Wife Isabella (Olga Kurylenko)
    • 4 year old daughter
  • ironphoenix113ironphoenix113 Member Posts: 0 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    Bryan was studing the displays of various frontlines in the Athena's strategic command center when one small report in the Orion sector caught his eye.

    "Athena?" he called out, and the AI's new holographic image, a beautiful women with light brown hair, gleaming blue eyes, and pale skin, shimmered to life in front of him.

    "What do you need, sir?" She asked.

    "What sector is that?"

    She stood thinking for a second. "Starbase 24, sir." She said at last.

    "Any communications from that sector?"

    "Playing now sir."

    At first there was nothing but static. After a second however, the signal finally cleared up enough to get through. "Repeat, this is Starbase 24, we are under attack by the Klingon Empire! We need immediate assistance! Our defense grid cannot hold them off much longer!"

    "Athena, tell them that the 1st Assault fleet will respond and will be there soon. What is the threat estimate for the sector?"

    "Very high, sir. The 10th fleet has already responded, but they're outnumbered more than four-to-one."

    "Send the signal for the fleet to gather. We have a long day ahead of us."
    *******

    Bryan stood with the other senior officers of the fleet, looking at the holographic display showing the battle near Starbase 24. The 10th was in bad shape. They were unable to hold their ground against the seemingly implacable Klingon armada, and were losing ships faster than they could eliminate them.

    "Bryan, if you could handle the briefing?" Leyla asked.

    "Yes ma'am," he replied, before turning to the other senior officers, "At 0914 hours today, Starbase 24 was attacked by Klingon forces under the command of General D'ald. At present, the 10th is engaged in defending the base, but they are out numbered four to one. I'm sure some of you have reservations about facing such long odds, but Starbase 24 is vital to the Federation supply lines. In addition it serves as the server housing for some of Starfleet's most classified data. As a result, we can't let the base be destroyed or fall into Klingon hands. Now, even with our aid, the fleet will still be outnumbered about two to one at best. At worst, the 10th will be wiped out by the time we arrive and we'll be out numbered by about five to one."

    "Now then," he continued, beginning to manipulate the hologram to illustrate his plan, "here's the plan. When we warp in, we'll be warping in from their flank, so we'll have the advantage initially. We can drop out of warp, and immediately hit them in the side. That advantage won't last long, so we need to do as much damage as we can in that time. Once we lose the element of surprise, we're going to try and turn it into an all out melee, and draw the Klingon armada away from the base. The Klingons have already boarded the Starbases according to latest intel, so I want to prevent them from getting any reinforcements aboard. In addition, while we're en route, we will launch assault shuttles to deploy MACOs to reinforce the Starbase security forces. It will be a risky maneuver, especially considering the fact that we will still be moving at high warp when the shuttles are launched, but I have confidence that we will be able to do it."

    Bryan 'tapped' the hologram, zooming in on the battle. "Battle plan will be as follows: Battle groups alpha, beta, delta, gamma, psi, and omega will be the main body for the attack. Their goal will be to move right into the middle of the fight and push the Klingons out. Battle groups epsilon and rho will guard the flanks, making sure no Klingon raiding vessels can attack from the side. The carrier group will hold back and deploy fighters to any sector they're needed. Support vessels will be tasked with detecting cloaked vessels and giving their positions to the battle groups. Rules of Engagement are weapons free once we enter the sector. Any questions?"

    Vice Admiral Valensiya, captain of the Venture class Dreadnought U.S.S. Aspire, and flag officer of battlegroup gamma, raised her hand. "What do we do if we can't break the Klingon advance?"

    "Glad you mentioned that," Bryan replied. "Athena, would you mind explaining your plan to them?"

    "Of course, sir," The AI said, her hologram shimering to life to Bryan's left. "Once we arrive, I will begin backing up all of the data to the servers at Starbase 1. In addition, if the Klingons do break through, then I will set the data transfer protocol to be my highest order process, which should speed up the process exponentially. Once the backup is done, and we are unable to hold, I will wipe the servers clean and fill them completely with junk data. That should result in the Starbase being completely useless to the Klingons."

    "Anyone else?" Bryan asked, but nobody else spoke up. "Very good. What's our ETA to the staging area, Athena?"

    "About five minutes, sir."

    "All right. Remember the plan everyone. Good luck to you all."
    *******

    The Athena dropped out of warp near the 1st Assault fleet's starbase, known as Nova Prime to find most of the fleet already gathered there. A handful of ships had yet to arrive, but the vast majority had arrived and were ready for battle. The Athena took her place at the front of the fleet's battle group Omega, the most battle-hardened group of the entire force.

    "It's a grand sight, isn't it Bryan?" Ibalei said, walking up to him in the observation room.

    "It sure is," he replied. "We've never done an operation on this scale before. Should be pretty impressive to behold."

    "I agree. The full capability of the fleet is finally being brought to bear."

    Bryan turned to face his wife. "Have you said goodbye to your family yet?"

    She paused for a moment and closed her eyes before answering. "I didn't. And I'm not going to because of what they did shortly before Zizania and I were Joined."

    "Right," he replied, brushing a strand of deep red hair out of her eye. "Sorry, I nearly forgot your parents didn't approve of us being together either."

    She looked into his eyes sadly. "Don't worry about it. It's not like I really had much of a choice in the matter."

    "Well, maybe when this war is over we can-"

    "Sir," Athena said, appearing right beside him. "The fleet is almost ready."

    Bryan sighed. "Well, I guess it's time. Let's get up to the bridge."
    *******

    "Admiral on deck!" Justin called as Bryan stepped off of the turbolift and into the Athena's bridge.

    "All sections, report." He called, tapping the intercom button on his chair.

    "Tactical here," Lieutenant Commander Kerry Avalrez called from her station, "We are good to go."

    "Engineering is ready and able, sir," Six called.

    "Operations," Lieutenant Syfil said, "Scorpion fighters are ready for launch and hazard systems are online."

    "Medical reporting," Syiseda called through the intercom, "We are ready to go."

    "Science is good to go, as always," Ibalei said to Bryan's left.

    "Preparations are complete. We are ready for battle. Aara, signal the flagship that we're ready."

    "Sent, sir," the Orion called.

    They all waited in silence for a minute. Bryan could almost picture preparations on the other ships as the prepared for the coming battle. MACOs getting their gear together, fighters being moved to the flight decks of the carriers, crews making last minute adjustments to their ship systems. Eventually, Leyla finally came on via intercom. "Attention all ships, this is Admiral Leyla Blaze on the Seraphea, You are cleared to warp to Starbase 24. Remember the plan, stay with your command ships, and don't let the Klingon fleet through. All ships, engage!"

    At that, all 160 ships of the fleet warped out, leaving no trace of their presence behind.
    *******

    The fleet had been traveling at warp 20, a benefit of the fact that the entire force had been equipped with Asynchronous warp field generators, for about half an hour, when they finally began getting reports from the battle. What they heard was not good. Even though they were only about a minute or two out, the 10th fleet would be effectively depleted by the time they arrived.

    "Mayday, this is the 10th fleet!" An extremely worried voice came over the intercom, "We need immediate assistance! We are heavily outnumbered by a Klingon armada at Starbase 24! Fleet is down to 25 percent strength, and the Klingons have boarded the Starbase! Repeat..."

    "10th, this is Vice Admiral Bryan Mitchel Valot of the U.S.S. Athena, we are coming in to assist. We are less than one minute out. Just hold on a little longer."

    The fleet dropped out of warp, and the joined the battle in earnest. The leading groups of ships from the 1st warped in right on top of the Klingon's flank, driving into them like a spear. Ships exploded left and right as cannon blasts, beams, and torpedoes all shot away from the federation ships, tearing apart the Klingon fleet and giving the 10th some much needed breathing room. The ships of the 1st fought as if each individual ship were four, savagely tearing into the Klingon's fleet, driving them back and inflicting immense losses. The Klingon fleet was caught completely off guard by the sheer force of the assault from the Federation fleet, giving ground as their ships were torn apart.

    The entire battle seemed to simply open up like a book in front of Bryan. He could see exactly what ships were where, what areas needed the most help, which ships were the keys to unraveling the Klingon fleet, and so much more. Bryan immediately began calling out orders to his ship and battle group, and they surged into the Klingon force, carving a path into the heart of the Klingon formation. pushed the Klingons, not giving them inch, and pressing them back further and further. Slowly, the Klingon forces began to attempt to pull away from the battle as more and more ships fell to the onslaught brought by the 1st Assault Fleet.

    "Sir, the Klingons are attempting to pull back!" Athena said.

    "Good," Bryan replied, still studying the patterns in which the battle flowed as astutely as if it had just begun. "How are the assault teams doing on the Starbase?"

    "Admiral, this is the ground team." Justin called over the intercom, right on cue, "We have successfully cleared all control rooms. My best teams are getting ready to move in on the server room right now, and in addition, the device you asked us to secure was retaken as well."

    "Very good. Casualty report?"

    "Approximately forty present injured, with twenty percent of injured being removed from fighting. In addition, approximately four percent KIA."

    Bryan winced. "Anything else to report?"

    "Not right-" A blast cut he transmission out for a few tense moments. "Get up off the floor you lazy-" the transmission cut for another brief moment. "I said return fire, not cower behind cover like a little girl!"

    "Justin, is everything alright?" Bryan asked.

    "Yeah, Klingons ambushed us is all. Two injured, but otherwise we're all still here."

    "Sir, report from the Starfleet detachments to Omega force," Ensign Aara called from the comm station, "The Victory reports that they'll be here soon to reinforce us. ETA, one hour."

    Bryan watched the battle as it occurred around the Athena. "Battle probably won't last more than twenty more minutes." He said. "Tell them to go back to their original posts."

    "Are you sure, sir? We could use all the help-"

    "Aara, in one hour, we'll all either be victorious or dead. Either way, Four of Ten's battlegroup won't be much help."

    "Very well, sir."

    The battle continued to rage on, at times feeling like an eternity, at others feeling like an instant. The Athena turned elegantly in the middle of the fight, phaser beams lancing out in all directions, torpedoes speeding away from their tubes to slam into Klingon warships. The ships had taken a lot of fire, but in spite of everything that had hit her, even with some hits making it through her mighty shields, the ship fought on.

    "Sir, the Klingons are starting to pull back!" Athena called out.

    "Good. Aara, get me the Serephea."

    "Bryan, what is it?" Leyla asked impatiently.

    "The Klingons are starting to pull back. Should we pursue?"

    "No, we've lost enough ships already."

    "We could trap the Klingon fleet here and force them to surrender if you want."

    "How?"

    "An experimental device, on the Starbase, known only as Project Spider's Web. It's designed to be able to trap an entire fleet in a sector without causing damage to the ships or preventing our forces from entering or exiting."

    "Do it."

    "Aara, contact the Starbase. Tell them to activate Project Spider's Web."

    "Done, sir," She replied.

    Almost as soon as she did so, space seemed to ripple briefly outside the Athena's windows.

    "Sir, my sensors indicate the Klingons are unable to form a stable warp field," Athena called.

    "Caught like a fly in a spider's web," Bryan said, smiling a little to himself. "Aara, open a channel to General D'ald's flagship."

    "You PetaQ'!" The Klingon general spat as soon as he appeared on the screen. "What have you done?"

    "Trapped you here," Bryan said, carefully keeping his voice level. "I hereby request the surrender of you and your fleet."

    "Nothing you say will convince me to surrender to you cowards."

    "You call us cowards," Bryan replied, his voice dangerously quiet, "And yet you can't even engage us in a fair fight. Whenever you go to battle with us you out number us. Yet, somehow, we still hold the line against you."

    "You have no right to-"

    Bryan signaled to Aara to cut the channel. He stood smiling at the blank screen until Aara called "They're hailing us, sir."

    Bryan held up his hand and slowly counted down on his fingers. When he got to zero, D'ald's face once more appeared on the viewscreen.

    "You have a lot of nerve for a human."

    "So, what's your answer, D'ald? Will you surrender and allow your men to live, or let them be cut down in an unwinnable battle?"

    The entire bridge was silent for a minute. Bryan and D'ald stared at each other the entire time, neither one wavering in the other's gaze.

    D'ald was the first to brak the silence. "Fine. You can have your victory. Just this once."

    "It only needs to be this once," He replied icily. "You won't be going to war ever again."
    *******

    Bryan sat staring at the computer in his ready room, finishing his report to Starfleet command about the battle that had just taken place.

    "Sir," Aara said through his combadge, "There is an incoming transmission for you. Not sure from who though."

    "Athena?" He called to the ship's AI.

    "Unsure," she replied. "Can't trace it. It's almost as if the transmission is coming from nowhere at all."

    Bryan sighed, already knowing who it was coming from. "Put it through."

    "Greetings Bryan."

    "Franklin Drake." Bryan replied with a touch of annoyance. "What do you want this time?"

    "I understand Section 31 has you to thank for protecting our classified intel."

    "Not your classified intel, Drake. We were there to protect the Starbase, aid the tenth, and protect intel that belongs to Starfleet. That your undercover agent's roster is also stored there is only happenstance."

    "How did you-"

    "I have my ways. And the answer is still no Drake. I will not ever join Section 31. You all have too much power. Power can be abused if not regulated. You all will never accept any form of regulation. Now then, if you'll excuse me, I have a ship to run."

    "At least consider-"

    Bryan cut the channel before he could finish the sentence. "No means no Drake," he muttered to himself. "Athena, check the entire system for traces left by Drakes' transmission. Chances are he wants to watch and see what I'm doing so that he can keep trying to recruit me."

    "All ready done, sir."

    "Good."

    Brya sighed. Ever since the Driffen's Comet incident, Section 31 had been deperatly trying to recruit him for their 'cause.' Every time they contacted him, he turned them down, stating the old adage about absolute power. And yet, each time, they continued with the same speech about the grater good.

    Will they ever leave me alone? Bryan thought to himself. Sighing, he finished the report and sent it to Starfleet command, knowing full well that Section 31 would end up reading it too.
    Vice Admiral Bryan Mitchel Valot
    Commanding officer: Odyssey class U.S.S. Athena
    Admiral of the 1st Assault Fleet
    Join date: Some time in Closed Beta
  • chivalrybeanchivalrybean Member Posts: 9 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    Captains Log, USS Havrage, on a scientific survey in the Arcanus cluster. We have received a distress signal from a nearby resupply and refueling space station EXL-4X. Before the message cut off abruptly, the officer mentioned invaders on the station. We are the only ship in the area available to help. Hopefully we can arrive in time to help.

    Supplemental -
    We received a short communication. Earun was only able to make out something that sounded like "blockade". We are about to drop out of warp. Weapons are ready if we are attacked. Hopefully the mere sight of a well outfitted Starfleet vessel will prevent anyone from firing carelessly. If there is a fight, however, I've instructed Hwodwoo to scramble enemy sensors and Sam X to shut down enemy systems. With a show of superior abilities, perhaps we won't have to fire back.

    However, if there is a great threat, Thik is ready to let our cannons let loose.

    Supplemental -
    We dropped out of warp to find no ships of any threat around the station. There is something stopping communication. Transmissions are being sent by the station and some of the various ships in the system, but nothing is getting through. Earun is trying to configure the sensors to receive the signals being sent from the communications arrays that she has been able to detect as powered and emitting data. Thik is preparing a team to beam to the station.

    Supplemental -
    Earun is still working on communication, and Thik has beamed to the station once Thoren assured me the interference had no effect on transporter usage, and we beamed over an Epohh and beamed it back in the same condition it left in. The away team have transmitters to enhance their location signals and transporter patterns in case anything goes wrong. If it does they can send a pulse to let us know to beam them back.

    Supplemental -
    Earun was able to tune the sensors to one specific ships communication array, a ship that appears to be outfitted for research. There are sending a shorter wave signal to another ship in the area that cuts through the static. We can't yet hear both sides of the conversation, but it appears they did a similar thing with their sensors as we did to communicate with each other. Clever, those science types. The other ship is using a different frequency. It also seems that a certain vessel came into the system just as the communications started getting blocked, according to what we could hear. Thoren just informed me the away team is requesting to beam back. I will meet them in the transporter room.

    Supplemental -
    Thik has informed me much of the station is locked down, doors are closed and shut down, emergency force fields activated, systems deactivated, but they were able to get some information. It seems the invaders are Pakled, and the person they spoke to seemed to think they only wanted help, but something went wrong, and since they entered the system, thinks started going haywire. There is a Pakled ship in the system and Earun says it is entirely possible it is the source of the jamming. Thik is preparing to beam over to see if we can help. I'm sending Sam X over. He has expertise is computer viruses, and he suggested something like that might be in use.

    Supplemental -
    The communications block deactivated soon after Thik and Sam X beamed aboard the Pakled ship. I then received a message from the Pakled captain. He was visibly uncomfortable. It looked like he had somewhere else he wanted to be. First he explained they had gotten help from the station, and it seemed to be working. He then told me a story, which Sam X corroborated, that they had found in their travels a strange communications device which they had installed on their ship before knowing fully what it was. Then they had a medical emergency and needed help. They tried to configure the communications device to send out a distress signal, instead, the blockage occurred, so they beamed to the station, which had been perceived as an attack. He then explained the cook had served a bad batch of some dish made from some food they now believe they paid a Ferangi far too much for, and most of the crew was suffering from constipation. He told me they just wanted to find something to "make them go."
    Chewson Pwan - VA
    S.S. Doff Lundgren
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • shevetshevet Member Posts: 1,641 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    Personal log: Tylha Shohl, officer commanding, USS King Estmere NCC-92984

    "Launching Alpha. Launching Bravo. Charlie and Delta flights, prep for immediate launch." Anthi Vihl's steady, professional voice has no edge of tension. I wish I was that sure of my own.

    King Estmere has crashed out of subspace at the fringe of the asteroid belt surrounding the Delta Gracilis facility, weapons ready, Scorpion fighters already shrieking off the launch rails. The main viewscreen is coming to life now, showing the tactical situation as our sensors establish it.

    At the communications console, F'hon Tlaxx is unaccustomedly serious, as he repeats, in an undertone, "Delta Gracilis, this is the USS King Estmere, responding to your priority one distress call. Please advise regarding your situation. Over." A pause, and then, again, "Delta Gracilis..."

    "Launching Charlie. Launching Delta." Two more flights of Scorpions streak out into the void.

    I look up at the screen. The Scorpions are out there, shifting rapidly into their attack formation. The facility is marked by a blinking diamond on the map. The drifting asteroids show as vague, lumbering presences, inert and harmless.

    There is nothing else on the screen.

    "Sensor scan," I order. My mouth is dry. "Rig for tachyon detection, and charged particle bursts." The enemy must be cloaked, it's the only explanation. Well, my ship has resources: if an invisible enemy is out there, we can pierce that cloak, reveal and defeat them.

    The awful alternative is that the enemy has already been, and gone. But the research station's transponders are active, its power levels are high, there is no sign of debris or energy weapons discharge on the sensors....

    There is no sign of anything on the sensors.

    King Estmere noses her way through the asteroids, towards the massive chunk of chondrite that supports the Delta Gracilis base. The Scorpion fighters fan out, weapons ready. Beyond the range of conventional sight, space is flooded with signals, our active sensors pinging out charged particles and exotic wavelengths, sampling space, sniffing for the enemy... and finding nothing.

    "Please advise regarding your situation. Over." F'hon's voice is growing hoarse.

    And then a voice comes over the speakers. "Thank God!" It is cracked, hysterical. "King Estmere, you have to stop them - they're coming round for another pass - oh, God, help us! Help us!" The voice abruptly cuts off.

    The facility is only a few kilometres ahead of us, now. I can see it on the screen: intact, untouched.

    "Well," I say, to no one in particular, "sounds like we have a problem."

    ---

    King Estmere holds station three kilometres off the facility, still at red alert, her fighters weaving around her in patrol patterns. But I'm more and more convinced that it's not that kind of fight....

    But it is a fight, of some kind. The sensor scans have convinced me of that, at least.

    "One hundred and twenty-five life signs," Samantha Beresford reports, tight-lipped.

    Even Anthi gasps, at that. The crew complement at Delta Gracilis is supposed to be over three thousand.

    "The station's defence grid is inactive," chief engineer Dyssa D'jheph reports. "No indications as to why... no sign that any of those phaser arrays has been fired in months. Station main power is still online, life support and structural integrity are both one hundred per cent. Main deflectors are offline, but - as with the weapons systems - there's no sign of damage."

    I look around the conference room, at the strained faces of my senior officers. F'hon is next to speak. "Apart from the initial distress call," he reports, "there's only been that one, brief, communication. Um, records indicate the distress call was authorised by a Dr. Tamik, the station's director... we might have a voiceprint match for the other one, a human scientist called Damon Stevenson - it's a little doubtful, the computer gives us eighty-eight per cent. Aside from that.... nothing. Automated challenge-response just gets back dead air on all channels."

    "OKay," I say. "So... it's consistent with the station being attacked and its defenses overwhelmed... with the minor detail that there are no physical signs of anything happening. Is it just me, or is that weird?"

    There is no laughter, not even nervous laughter, in response. "All right, so let's consider our options," I go on. "It seems to me... we can call for backup, we can keep station and try to get communications back with the survivors... or we can go in and find out what happened, on the ground."

    "I'm going to take a guess at which is your preferred option," Samantha Beresford says dryly.

    "Damn right," I say, "but I don't want to go in completely blind. Anthi, what do we actually know about Delta Gracilis?"

    Anthi picks up her PADD. "Structurally, it's a standard class-B space-environment science outpost with an additional two research modules, a tactical command centre, and the defence grid," she says. "The research is classified, of course, but the general pattern is high-energy dimensional physics. Dr. Tamik is on record as saying that his research programme is our best shot at taking the war to the Tholians, but he's not specific as to why, or how. Sensor scans read negative for any sort of Tholian incursion," she adds, "apart, of course, from ourselves."

    "With all the Reman gear aboard," Dyssa mutters, "King Estmere's barely recognizable as a Recluse carrier any more."

    "Okay," I say, "what about security systems? What sort of challenge can we expect if we beam in?"

    "We must assume most of the tactical teams are... among the casualties," Anthi says, and there is something bleak in her expression as she speaks. "As for automatic systems - there is an onboard defence system, using security holos similar to the ISIS system on Facility 4028. Their IFF should let us pass in unsecure areas, but we could have trouble getting into the laboratories or the station's central admin complex. Having said that, though... there is no sign of active holo-emitters on the station at this time."

    "Not yet," F'hon adds in an undertone.

    "Something to watch for," I say, resignedly. "Well, let's get moving."

    ---

    The tactical teams beam in to the station's reception area, securing a bridgehead before they let me in. There is no sign of damage in the big, round room with the tasteful abstract murals and the transparent dome overhead. Still, I am in full battle armour, and my phaser pulsewave is a reassuring weight in my hands.

    Soledad Kleefisch has taken charge of the reception room; besides her, there is a young ensign - a human, named Colton, I think - and the Ferengi cyber-warfare specialist, Klerupiru. She is standing over the reception desk's computer console, a frown on her sharp-featured face; one finger is nervously pulling at her uniform collar. She is something of a Ferengi traditionalist, I remember, and doesn't like wearing clothes. Her other hand is moving on the console, tapping briskly at the controls.

    "All quiet," Soledad reports. "Tac teams are fanning out from this location. So far, nothing to report."

    "Something pretty odd here," Klerupiru says in an abstracted voice. Her eyes flicker towards me for an instant, then turn back to the console. "Lots more activity than I'd have expected, and... multiple timestamps on the data logs. Overlapping... sometimes conflicting.... It's weird. Sir," she remembers to add.

    "Can you get through to anything useful on that console?" I ask.

    Klerupiru bites her lower lip. "I'm not sure.... It looks like someone's enabled a priority override on it, allowing top-level access to the base systems... except it's intermittent. Weird. The command priorities seem to vary, as if the security settings are constantly being reset. I don't know what's causing it."

    "A virus attack?"

    "Possibly...." Klerupiru's voice trails off as the console absorbs all her attention again.

    I turn away, look around. It's a typical room on a typical base, quiet, tasteful to the point of blandness... and there is no sign that any sort of battle has been fought here, no explanation for the distress call. If I listen, and taste the air with my antennae, I can hear a distant tramping of feet, and I know that it's just my own tactical teams exploring the immediate area. There is nothing strange, nothing out of place -

    The four black figures pop out of nowhere, faceless behind mirrored visors, bulbous in body armour. Their weapons are ready, and the air is suddenly full of scorching heat and the dull blatting sound of plasma weapons.

    I'm already moving, ducking out of the line of fire, bringing up my own gun. Someone is screaming. The phaser pulsewave crashes in my hands, and one of the attackers flickers and vanishes as swiftly as it appeared. Two more of the attackers are already impaled on lines of sick green light from Soledad's split-beam disruptor; the last one is trading shots with Klerupiru, who has ducked behind the console and brought her phaser out. I blast that one down, and turn to Soledad's antagonists, but they are already flickering out. Holograms, their matrices shredded by the disruptor fire. But their weapons had a real enough effect -

    Ensign Colton is down. I slap my combadge. "Medical emergency! Plasma weapons burns!" The ensign is moving feebly, his upper body charred. He was wearing standard issue armour, basic gear, not enough for the situation. I kneel down beside him. "Hang in there, Ensign, help's on the way." His agonized eyes give me no acknowledgement.

    There is the whine and glare of a transporter, and Samantha Beresford is there with her medical kit. She winces at the sight of Colton's injuries. "Nasty," she comments, her hands moving swiftly. "All right, Ensign, let's get you stabilized for transport and off to sickbay. Pronto." A hypospray hisses, and Colton's face relaxes a little. Samantha hits her own combadge, issues terse orders, sparkles away with her patient.

    I take a deep breath. Now, there are signs of battle, all right; the walls are scarred from plasma burns and the fringes of our own weapons' discharges; the air is hot and bitter with expended energies.

    Klerupiru clutches at her brow and swears under her breath. "This doesn't make sense," she says. "Sir, those were holograms... weren't they?"

    I nod.

    "But the holo-emitters were offline!" Klerupiru positively shouts. "They were offline the whole time! They still are offline!"

    "Maybe someone beamed in mobile emitters?" I suggest, doubtfully.

    "I'd have seen the transporter signatures." Klerupiru gestures at the console, which has escaped, miraculously unscathed.

    Another mystery. "Warn everyone to be on the alert," I tell Soledad.

    She nods, and then her hand goes to her headset comms. "I'm getting a message," she says. "Sir, it's Commander Lolha. She says they've found someone on level two. Just beneath us...."

    I heft the pulsewave in my hands. "Let's go."


    ---

    There are signs of battle on the next level: burn marks on the metal walls, the sign of phaser fire. Lolha and her team are crouched around a doorway, one that's been hastily barricaded with furniture - a desk, a computer console tipped on its side. The Tellarite gestures for me to keep my head down as I approach.

    "He's not shooting at us," she says, "but he's shooting."

    "At who, then?"

    "I don't know," says Lolha. "He's off his pointy-nosed human head, from the sound of it."

    A line of orange light stabs out from behind the barricade, to splash harmlessly against the opposite wall. "His phaser's nearly drained," Lolha says.

    I raise my voice. "You in there! Can you hear me?"

    "Stay back!" A panicky, breathless reply.... It sounds like the voice on the communicator, earlier. I decide to take a chance.

    "Stevenson? Damon Stevenson? I'm Tylha Shohl, from the King Estmere. We're responding to the distress call."

    "You're too late! They're everywhere!"

    "Stay calm." I try to put an edge of command into my voice. "My tac team is outside this door now. You're safe. We can transport you to our ship right now, if you want."

    A white face appears behind the barricade: Stevenson. His eyes are wide, his dark hair disarranged, fear is etched on his features. "I don't - Get back!" Fear, and disbelief. "Can't you see them?"

    He raises a phaser pistol. I flinch back as the bolt hisses past me, aimed at nothing. "Get me out of here!" he screeches.
    He leans out, over the barricade, looking at - something. Something I can't see.

    Hallucinations. It has to be hallucinations. Some chemical or biological agent, released into the base's atmosphere, driving the inhabitants insane -

    Then a patch on the front of Stevenson's tunic chars black and spits out sparks. A second patch, close by, does the same; then a third. The phaser drops from his hand and he slumps over the barricade.

    We all turn around, peering comically down the long, brightly lit corridor. There is no one there. There is no one in sight except us... and the dead man.

    ---

    Several hours later, Samantha Beresford is looking tired and irritable in the King Estmere's sick bay.

    "Ensign Colton is out of the woods," she tells me. "We've replaced his lung and six of his ribs - temporary prosthetics while the cloned tissue grows in. He should be good as new in a month or so. As for the other one -"

    "I was thinking," I say hesitantly, "about some sort of hallucinogen...."

    Samantha snorts. "You can use hypnotics and hallucinogens to create some psychosomatic effects," she says. "You can hypnotize someone, touch a piece of ice to their skin, and a blister will form if you tell them it's a hot coal. What you can't do is hypnotize the cells of their body into burning from polaron fire. That's what killed the scientist from the base. Not hallucinations. Three shots from a high-density collimated polaron beam. Probably Jem'Hadar."

    I shake my head. "We'd have seen it," I say. "Jem'Hadar shroud technology isn't perfect - and the beam would have stood out. Besides, Stevenson could see whoever - or whatever - killed him." My antennae twitch as my frustration rises. "It doesn't make sense. None of this makes sense."

    Samantha runs her fingers through her hair. "You saw the security holos who attacked Colton...."

    "Yes." I frown. "I assume that's what they were... but there are things wrong there, too. Klerupiru is sure the holo-emitters were offline. And plasma weapons... they're not standard on security holograms."

    "So what is it? Ghosts? Are we fighting ghosts?"

    "I hope not. Not again...." I sigh, and pinch the bridge of my nose. I'm tired, as well as frustrated. "I've pulled everyone off the base for the moment. Until we've got some better idea what's happening."

    Samantha pulls a face. "We've lost seven more of the remaining life signs," she says. "Sir, I think we need to get a better idea quickly."

    "You're right." She is. But I don't feel any better ideas coming on. My combadge chirps at me. "Shohl."

    "Skipper." F'hon's voice. "Message coming in for you. We have contact with the USS Finlandia."

    "Put it on a screen in sickbay."

    ---

    The face on the screen is that of a Vulcan woman, intent and composed. She has unusual reddish-brown hair and a disconcertingly level gaze. "Vice-Admiral T'Pia, Starfleet Science Command," she says. "We have received the distress call from the Delta Gracilis facility, and your own request for further assistance. Finlandia is twelve point six hours from your position at maximum warp speed. Please advise further."

    "I wish I could." I shake my head. "The situation here is - confused. The facility appears to be under some sort of attack, but we don't know how, or by whom." Tersely, I recount the sequence of events. Damn Vulcans, all they ever want is facts.

    At the end, T'Pia's face is unchanged. "The situation is, as you say, confused. What assistance do you require?"

    I think fast. "Hold off," I say. "We've no guarantee this - whatever it is - won't spread to the King Estmere. Until we've identified the - the problem - it wouldn't be wise to risk another vessel."

    T'Pia gives a brief, mechanical nod. "Finlandia's resources are at your disposal," she says. "We are a science vessel - we may have investigatory facilities that you lack. If you can transmit your data, we will review and analyze it."

    "That might be the best thing you can do for us," I say. "No, wait. You're with Starfleet Science - can you get any background for us? Any idea of what Dr. Tamik was working on, and what might have gone wrong?"

    "That is a possibility. I will do what I can." A faint frown crosses T'Pia's face. "I am reminded of something." She closes her eyes in concentration, opens them again. "I reviewed all available data on Dr. Tamik and Delta Gracilis when we heard the distress call. I am unable to determine any relevance in the information we have - however, one item may be of interest to you. Dr. Tamik requested data concerning an incident involving your own vessel. There was a mirror universe incursion, I understand."

    I repress a shudder, thinking of my insane mirror universe counterpart and her dreams of conquest. "There was. Tamik was interested in it? What did he want to know?"

    "Unknown. The request for information was included in the digest of comms traffic from the base. I merely remark on the coincidence."

    "It's something to go on. If we can find Dr. Tamik...."

    "I will contact Fleet Command and make representations on your behalf. I may also be able to obtain assistance from the Vulcan Ministry of Science. We will do whatever we can to assist you, Vice Admiral Shohl. Good luck. Finlandia out." The screen goes dark.

    ---

    In the briefing room, a hologram of the base revolves slowly in the air, semi-transparent, bright spots marking the approximate locations of the remaining life signs. Six more have winked out.

    "I've, um, I've got something that might help." Klerupiru is hollow-eyed, exhausted. "There's, um -"

    "Spit it out," I tell her.

    "I think I've got command codes for the security systems," she says. "They're supposed to be secure, but, well, you know people...."

    Klerupiru managed to establish a link into the base's computers before we pulled out. And, it transpires, she's been working at it continuously since, tracking traffic, prying into recorded communications. Ethically, it's highly questionable. But she has results, and that's all that matters to me right now.

    "With those codes, we can transport people directly to central admin, and the secure labs," I say. "Damn sight better than fighting ghosts all the way through the base.... Good work. Now, where to aim for?"

    Dyssa takes over. "The only thing I've got to go on is power consumption curves." She stabs a finger into the hologram. "This lab here is using more power than anything else in the place. And it's right underneath central admin, too." Her finger moves up, to rest on a bright spot. "There's a life sign reading in that approximate location. We can't get a transporter lock on it, directly...."

    "So," Samantha says, "if the mountain won't come to Mohammed -"

    Some human proverb; I don't know the background, but the meaning seems clear. "All right," I say. "Klerupiru, clear me for access. Let's go see Dr. Tamik."

    ---

    "Just you and me?" Zazaru asks, as we reach the transporter room. Her face is calm, her manner composed.

    "You're the science officer," I say, "you talk Tamik's language. Also.... You remember that business with the mirror universe? Our counterparts on the Presa Gran?"

    "I'm not likely to forget it." Zazaru's Trill spots show more strongly as her face pales. "I still have nightmares about it."

    "I'm sorry," I say. "But - well, one of the few things we've got to go on is that Tamik was asking about that incident. I don't know why, or what he wanted to know -"

    "But I would be best placed to understand his thinking," Zazaru finishes for me. "Makes sense."

    "Thanks." We reach the transporter pads. Klerupiru is standing next to the operator at the controls. "Everything ready?" I ask her.

    "I've transmitted all the overrides I could find," she replies. "Um - sir, the computers are still acting pretty weird. I think the codes are all consistent, but -"

    "We'll be on our guard," I assure her. I turn to the operator. "Energize."

    The world sparkles, fades out, comes back different.

    We're in an office like a million other offices across the Federation - very like Admiral Semok's office on ESD, in fact: bare, functional, without ornamentation. Zazaru and I are standing in front of a big desk - and behind the desk is a man.

    He looks up as we beam in. He is thick-set, bulky, with dark hair turning grey at the temples, above those unmistakeable pointed ears. "Dr. Tamik?" I say.

    "Oh, no," he replies, "no, no, no, this won't do at all."

    He reaches across the desk and taps at something on a console. Then he looks up at me and frowns. "Are you still here?"

    "Are you Dr. Tamik? I'm Vice Admiral Shohl, from the King Estmere. We're responding to your distress call. This is my chief science officer, Commander Zazaru."

    He blinks at me. "I don't have time for this," he says in a high, complaining tone. "Computer, reset and delete branch with extraneous Starfleet interference."

    Zazaru and I exchange glances. Nothing else happens. Tamik sits behind his desk, fingers drumming impatiently beside the console. This man is a Vulcan, I remind myself: for him to be showing this much emotional affect, he must be perilously close to a nervous breakdown. I try again. "Dr. Tamik, we are real. We're really here, and we need to deal with this situation. One of my officers has been injured already, and at least one of your staff is dead - probably more, possibly many more. We must -"

    "This is getting out of hand," Tamik announces, without even bothering to look at me. "Computer, recalculate baseline and adjust." His hand descends on the console, his finger touches an icon -

    - and he vanishes.

    No transporter sparkle, no hologram flicker. There is not even a puff of displaced air to mark his going. The chair behind the big desk is suddenly empty, and that's all there is to it.

    Zazaru and I look at each other. "What do you think's going on?" I ask her.

    "I'm... not sure, sir," she says. "Perhaps we should look at that console?"

    "Perhaps we should see if Klerupiru can get access to it," I mutter, as we cross to the other side of the desk. The control interface is complex, marked with icons I don't understand; from the furrow on her brow, it seems Zazaru doesn't understand them either. There are diagrams, too, higher mathematics - very much higher - and images of branching, fractal structures....

    Things begin to fall into place. My eyes widen in alarm, and I slap my combadge. "King Estmere, respond please," I say, and, "Zazaru. Scan for anomalous quantum energy signatures. Not mirror universe."

    "King Estmere responding, sir," says F'hon's voice. "What's wrong? Do you need help?"

    "Just checking," I say. I look questioningly at Zazaru, while she sweeps the scanning beam of her tricorder around the room.

    "Multiple anomalous signatures," she says doubtfully. "You're right, sir, they're not mirror universe. But my readings are... still confused...."

    "Several different levels of them," I say. I study the branching diagram on the screen. "Possibly a whole lot of them.... Tamik was talking about taking the war to the Tholians. Dimensional engineering, the sort of tricks the Tholians play with subspace tunnels and spatial inclusions. Somewhere in Tamik's lab, he has a machine that... that fractures reality."

    "It's...." Zazaru shakes her head. "It's possible, sir.... I remember our mirror counterparts telling us about an infinite number of possible worlds. If Tamik has found a way to superimpose anomalous quantum energy states.... But how could he use it -?"

    "Perfect camouflage," I say. "Send in an attack force in a quantum-shifted state, and the enemy won't respond, because they won't exist to the enemy - until they do. Circumvent defenses, maybe, by shifting to a reality where they're not there.... Oh, it makes some sense, all right. It even explains some of what we've seen. The multiple timestamps on the computer logs - different things happening at the same time, but in different realities. The enemy that was real for Stevenson, but not for us. Tamik, just now, tried to remove the reality where we exist... and now, I think, he's shifted himself to one where we don't."

    "But -" Zazaru's frown is deepening. "Objects in spacetime interact with each other. If you shift the quantum signatures so that some of those objects no longer exist - how do you predict what interactions will be affected? And how do you communicate with the things you've shifted out of existence? I can't see any way to keep this under control - you'd end up with chaotically branching world-lines -"

    I point to the console screen. "I think that's exactly what we've got," I say. "And Tamik thinks he has some way to control them... but I'm guessing he's wrong."

    "So what do we do, sir?"

    I bite my lip in thought. "Stop the problem getting any worse. Find Tamik's machine and shut it down. It must be in the lab below us...."

    "What happens then, sir? Do the multiple realities collapse back into one? Or would the divergent world-lines... spin off, into universes of their own?"

    "I don't know." I heft my phaser pulsewave. It's probably useless, but it's still reassuring. "Only way to find out is by doing. I'll take the chances, I think. King Estmere, beam Commander Zazaru back to the ship."

    "Sir -" Zazaru's protest is cut short by the shimmer of the transporter beam. With my useless gun at the ready, I head for the door.

    ---

    The door of the lab opens with Klerupiru's stolen codes.

    It ought to be dramatic. There should be flashing lights, strange machines pulsating with energies. Instead, there is a neatly arranged workbench, a computer console behind it, a power supply... and a simple metallic cylinder, as tall as me and about a meter wide, with a few status lights blinking on it.

    This must be it... but whatever it is doing, it is on a level of reality far too fundamental for me to detect it. My antennae twitch nervously as I approach it. If I'm right... then I'm approaching it through a tangled jungle of world-lines, of probabilities, what-ifs and might-have-beens. But there is no sign. My footsteps echo in the empty laboratory, and the machine stands impassively before me. There is a metal plaque affixed to it, I notice, at about eye level; there is an inscription on it. To my surprise, it's written in an extinct human language. It reads:-

    EX UNO PLURES

    "Oh, very droll, Dr. Tamik," I mutter. Out of one, many. Indeed.

    "Sir?" Klerupiru's voice: I've left my com link with the King Estmere open.

    "Never mind," I say. "I've found Tamik's device. I don't think we have time for me to figure out how it works... I'm just going to pull the plug."

    The power supply, at least, is standard. I open the housing, toggle the shutdown codes, and, for good measure, pull out the plasma manifold from the EPS conduits. Good luck restarting that from a remote console. I stand up -

    And I freeze. I am no longer alone. A dozen black-armoured figures are around me, phaser rifles in their hands, aiming at me.

    "I'm Vice Admiral Tylha Shohl," I say, rapidly, hoping they are programmed to respond. "Responding to a priority one distress call. I am authorized to be here."

    The security holos stand there, impassive. Then, with a faint flicker, they wink out.

    "Nice work, Klerupiru," I say, with some feeling.

    "Um." Klerupiru's voice sounds nervous. "Nothing to do with me, sir... the security computer's gone into shutdown. I think.... I think it's finally responding to all that conflicting data, all the weird timestamps. It's gone into failsafe mode. Sir, life signs are popping up, all around the base -"

    My eyes widen. The world-lines have started to coalesce. "That means every other computer on the base might do the same thing! Klerupiru, get control!" I turn and race for the lab door. "Alert medical and damage control teams!" With the computers offline, the whole base could become a disaster area. If it isn't one already.

    A voice sounds from the air around me. "Security alert! Restore function to Laboratory Alpha immediately! Detain any unauthorized personnel!" Tamik's voice. Damn.

    "Shut that idiot off and give me the base's PA system!" I order. There are stairs up to the admin office - I don't dare risk the turbolift, not now. "On it," says Klerupiru. Then, "All yours, sir."

    "This is Vice Admiral Tylha Shohl of the King Estmere," I say, and my voice booms back at me from a dozen different sources. "Remain calm. We are evacuating this facility. Medical teams will be with the injured shortly." I'm guessing there are injured. "Dr. Tamik is relieved of his post as director, on my authority, effective immediately."

    I sprint for the door of Tamik's office. He knows the systems here, he will try to regain control -

    He is pounding furiously on his console when I burst in. I don't have time to reason with him. I raise my pulsewave, and the blast of orange light flings him against the back wall, to rebound and fall limply to the floor.

    I check my settings. I did have it on stun. Pity.

    ---

    "Finlandia is four hours away," T'Pia says from the screen in my ready room. "Our medical teams are prepped to receive casualties. Also, I have obtained full endorsement of your actions from Science Command and the Federation Science Council. Dr. Tamik will answer for his breaches of ethics."

    "Good." Three hundred and eighty-four dead, in the end, and over a thousand seriously injured - caught in attacks by the Jem'Hadar, the Klingons, the Tholians, a dozen unknown aliens, or in some natural disasters; anything that might have happened, and did happen in one of Tamik's subsidiary realities. King Estmere's medical facilities are full to overflowing, Samantha Beresford and her team working around the clock. A lot of casualties, for a war with no enemy.

    "Dr. Tamik's reasoning seems to be fundamentally flawed," T'Pia observes with that typical Vulcan calm. "The mere act of shifting objects out of baseline reality.... abrogates basic principles of causality. Causes without effects, effects without causes. Tamik appears to have hypothesized some overall meta-causality principle which would allow him to exercise control over what objects were real, at which level of reality. This hypothesis was not borne out in practice."

    "Maybe," I say. "Though... we got the distress call. In some hypothetical, alternate reality, Tamik had enough sense to make that call... and it got through to us." I give a short, forced laugh. "It almost makes me believe there is a higher power watching over us."

    "Superstition," says T'Pia bluntly. "Random factors operated in our favour, that is all." She pauses, then adds, "If, indeed, they did. Who is to say that this is the baseline reality in which Dr. Tamik began his project? I believe you, yourself, were concerned that he might have - shifted - you out of the real world, into some subsidiary branch of his world-lines. Would you, or I, even know if that were true? We check for anomalous quantum signatures only by comparing them to our own...."

    It's a possibility. And it's a haunting one. "As you say, we'd never know. And... in this reality, whatever it is, we won. I guess we'll have to live with that."

    "Logical. Finlandia out." The screen goes dark.

    I can see my reflection in it. Last time I studied my reflection, I was worried there were too many of me. Now, I'm worried that there might be too few.

    Real or not? I can never know. But, in whatever world I'm in, there is work to be done. So I go and do it.
    8b6YIel.png?1
  • sparklysoldiersparklysoldier Member Posts: 106 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    Azera Xi: Dead Drop

    Captain's Log, Stardate 90901.63 - The Roanoke has received a priority one distress call from Starbase 343 and should reach the system within a few hours. The automated message indicates that an unknown enemy has seized control of the station, and further attempts to contact the base have failed. Starfleet is responding with all available ships in the sector, but the nearest vessel is several days away. The transmission makes reference to a discovery that, should it fall into the wrong hands, might jeopardize the Federation's war efforts; according to the briefing Starfleet Intelligence sent us ahead of the mission, that may be an understatement.

    "It's called the Orb of Space," Azera explained as she swiveled her chair away from the display panel on the wall to turn back toward the spacious observation lounge and the senior officers gathered around the conference table. The paused image flickered silently behind her shoulder, displaying the familiarly crystalline hour-glass shape of a Bajoran Orb within the open doors of its bejeweled ark along with an overlayed stream of technical data.

    "Three weeks ago," she leaned forward as she continued, "the Federation science vessel Polaris discovered the Orb during a routine patrol of the Zenik System. After initial scans showed unusual and potentially dangerous readings even for an Orb, they brought it to Starbase 343, where it's been in quarantine and undergoing more extensive tests ever since."

    "Captain," Dr Umliz interrupted, the Bajoran medical officer's brow furrowed in thought, "why wasn't the Bajoran government informed about this? The discovery of a new Orb is one of incalculable significance. Was Starfleet intending to keep it for themselves?"

    "I wish I could say," Azera Xi shook her head sympathetically, "what I do know is that Starfleet Intelligence claimed jurisdiction over the research and classified all of it top secret almost as soon as the Orb reached the station. Our engineering team's been reviewing the findings sent to us just a little while ago, and... well, Nyzoph should probably take it from here."

    "Yes sir," the Andorian engineer nodded to the young woman at the head of the table, and he tapped a few flashing buttons built into the polished surface to bring up another display filled with rolling columns of numbers, "the orb emits a continuous stream of verteron particles that loop around it like a magnetic field, forming a kind of dormant verteron node like the ones in the Bajoran wormhole. The science team found that specific subspace pulses could activate the Orb and instantly transport its users across interstellar distances, like an Iconian gateway."

    "What's the range," Corspa asked, leaning closer beside him to study the readings.

    "They were just about to start testing that," he shrugged a little to the first officer before glancing up to the captain as well, "but the equations suggest its only limit is the particle horizon. It could reach anywhere in the observable universe with the right sequence."

    "That's incredible," Auslaz whispered to herself, and then she took a breath before speaking louder, "but I thought there were only nine Orbs. Is this one of them?"

    "Ten," the ship's doctor gently corrected her, "counting the Orb of the Emissary found during the Dominion War. This isn't one of the Orbs known to Bajor, but it's been speculated since then that there could be other Orbs whose existence has been forgotten. But Captain, you said it's called the Orb of Space, so I take it the ark container had Bajoran inscriptions."

    "According to the report," she nodded, "though in a very ancient script."

    "I see," Kwam replied with a thoughtfully worried frown.

    "So anyone who gets their hands on it," Angel spoke up, the handsome security chief resting his chin on one fist as he stared up at the image on the wall, "could instantly transport themselves anywhere in the galaxy. The Klingons, the Orion Syndicate, the True Way Alliance, even the Dominion itself would all love to get their hands on something like that."

    "We haven't detected any ships around the station," Azera answered with a small frown, "but that could just mean they're using cloaking devices. Whoever's responsible for this attack, we have to assume that they're trying to steal the Orb of Space. We'll arrive at the station in less than an hour: I want battle stations ready in case we have to fight our way through."

    "Aye captain," each of the officers replied in turn, and with a parting nod from Azera they each began to rise from the table and make their way back to the bridge.

    "Captain," Dr Umliz's voice rang hesitantly over her shoulder, and Azera jumped a little from her chair, smiling shyly at the sight of the Bajoran doctor as the last of the bridge crew slipped through the hissing doors to leave the two of them alone in the lounge.

    "Yes, Doctor," she tilted her head a little curiously as she stood up to face him.

    "I didn't want to say anything in front of the others," he answered quietly, "but this may be more serious than we've been told. If I could have five minutes of your time..."

    Azera wasn't sure she really had five minutes to spare given the circumstances, or that sickbay couldn't use those five minutes to better prepare itself for any casualties. Then again, she'd never seen such a look of suspicion and dread in Kwam's eyes before.

    "Sure," she replied a little tremulously, "go ahead."
    * * *

    The shimmering glow of the transporter beam faded away to leave the away team engulfed in billowing white mist. The arched bulkheads and side corridors seemed to loom and sway around them through the unnatural fog, the winding passageway within Starbase 343 as murky and humid as a jungle trail. The group gathered closer, squinting through the rolling mists and choking down the strangely electric scent of the air, and then Auslaz spoke up.

    "It's the environmental controls," the science officer's voice rose above the beeping readout of her tricorder, "humidity and ozone are both extremely elevated, and most of the other gases are ionized. Sensors are having a hard time cutting through all the interference."

    "Any survivors," Azera asked as she looked left and right through the swirling gloom.

    "I'm picking up over a hundred life signs five decks below us," the young Trill nodded as she waved the handheld device around the walls and floor, "along with multiple casualties scattered throughout the rest of the starbase. The station's on minimal power and the docking clamps are locked, so it looks like they've barricaded themselves in the sublevels."

    "Can we reach them?"

    "Not right now," she shook her head with a frown, "turbolifts are inoperative. Most of the primary systems are offline, and I'm getting some kind of interference from the command center on Deck 1, like there's a dampening field. We'll need to restore power before we can..."

    Something clanged through the corridor behind them, something large, heavy and metallic that shook the floorplates beneath each thudding footstep. The team instantly twisted around with its phasers aimed into the roiling white fog, Corspa and Angel stepping slightly ahead of both the captain and the blue-clad science officer shaking her head in confusion.

    "Scans aren't showing anything," Auslaz tried to explain as she tapped buttons on her tricorder, waving it back in the direction of the shuddering footsteps and then banging it against her knee to no avail, "there's a lot of interference, but there should still be something!"

    "Whatever it is," Corspa tersely replied, raising her weapon higher, "it's big..."

    Azera listened to the approaching footsteps, focusing intently to separate each thud from the echoes it sent through the fog and down the length of the hall. One two-three... four five-six. She tapped a finger against her left palm in time with the oddly familiar rhythm of those footsteps even as she kept her phaser raised, listening to the slow-quick, one-two tempo.

    Then she caught a glimpse of the large arachnid shadow through the fog, six glittering metal legs lifting and carrying its upright, oblong shape across the floor as the sea-green beams of its search lights swept through the haze. It looked like a robot, a spider-legged machine scanning the hallway with each mechanical footstep, but anyone in Starfleet would recognize that clicking cadence, and the powered exosuit that encased its living crystalline pilot.

    "It's a Tholian," Azera muttered, and then she spoke louder as it suddenly stopped and began to swivel its glowing visor toward them, "everyone, take cover!"

    The away team leapt aside into two halves as they ducked down opposite sides of an adjoining corridor, Angel and Azera peeking around the left corner at the intruder as Corspa and Auslaz braced themselves behind the right edge of the intersection. A sizzling radiation beam sliced through the empty corridor as they crouched lower, and then a stream of orange phaser beams swept back through the hallway, bathing the white fog in a fiery red glow as they danced around the stalking, armored alien. The hissing beams vanished after a moment and the creature suddenly stopped, uttering the shrill clicking sounds of its native language. Then it began to skitter forward again, flooding the misty corridor with a hissing purple beam.

    "I've got an idea," Angel whispered to Azera as he adjusted his handheld phaser's settings and glanced out into the main hallway again at the striding creature. Then, before she could say a word of protest, the security chief flung himself into the open passageway, rolling across the floor into a crouching aim at the Tholian and firing off three quick phaser blasts before it could adjust its aim. Each of the shots flashed through the robotic carapace, the exosuit flickering like static around the energy beams before turning solid again, and he dived behind the opposite corner as it raised two silver-clad arms to fire its own indigo beam at him.

    "That was crazy," Auslaz hissed under her breath as he clambered upright beside her and Corspa, and she smacked her tricorder across his arm, "you could have gotten killed!"

    "Sorry," he rubbed his arm and frowned a little, "but it should have worked. Those shots didn't even bounce off a shield, they just went right through the thing like it's not there."

    "Wait a second," Auslaz suddenly jolted upright in realization, even as Corspa and Azera continued to fire their phasers down the hall, "hang on, let me check something..."

    The science officer aimed her tricorder again, her fingers racing across the controls to scan the hallway with a new range of settings, and she gave a satisfied nod as the device flashed a readout of both the armored alien and several energy sources surrounding it.

    "It's not real," she showed her tricorder's readings to Angel and Corspa, and then she called out across the misty corridor, "Captain, the Tholian's a hologram! Somebody must have sabotaged the security holoprojectors to simulate an attack. The changes to the environmental controls are just to obscure the readings so we wouldn't recognize it at first."

    "Can you shut it off," Azera shouted over the hiss of another radiation beam.

    "I think I can," Corspa called back as she holstered her phaser and unclipped a small spherical device from her belt, "I'll adjust a photonic grenade to target the hallway projectors instead of the hologram. That should at least give us some breathing room."

    The Andorian tactical officer finished arming the grenade and lifted her arm to throw it around the corner - and then she turned around with a sharp cry at the sight of a transporter beam glowing across the hallway, leaving only a ghostly afterimage of the captain.
    * * *

    Azera Xi twisted wildly around as the beam faded away, a luminous blue void gradually coalescing around her into a large steel-gray chamber. A raised octagonal ring of wall-mounted consoles stretched around her on every side, lined by a thin metal handrail that almost gave her a feeling of being trapped, caged within the sunken core of the empty room. Command consoles surrounded her, turbolifts lining the bulkheads... the operations center, she realized...

    ...and the searing pain of a phaser beam stabbed across the back of her shoulders.

    Her legs wobbled beneath her and suddenly crumpled forward, knocking her backward and slamming her head across the floor. She groaned and tried to lift herself back to her feet, and her legs lay still and lifeless below her waist. The young captain looked around with a growing panic, trying to bend her arms and sit upright, only for her arms to remain as limply unmoving as if she'd been asleep. She fought to swallow the fearful whimper rising to her throat and tried to fling her whole body sideways, and felt just her head rolling sideways against her shoulders as the rest of her body lay motionless, paralyzed from the neck down.

    "Your spinal cord's been overloaded by a calibrated phaser pulse," Azera heard a familiar voice somewhere overhead, and she struggled to lift her head up from the metal floor to see him, "the effect will wear off in an hour or so, but by then it'll be too late. And I'm afraid your telekinesis won't be of much use either: this room's been equipped with a suppression field."

    The lingering pain of the phaser blast began to give way to a dull throbbing heat spreading across the small of her back as her dark eyes rolled and fixed on the crewcut blonde man standing above her, his featureless black leather uniform, the jagged scar running down his right cheek and the humorless scowl that met her own wordless glare. He holstered his weapon without another word as he began to pace the room, then he spoke again.

    "Captain Azera Xi," Franklin Drake gave her the slightest formal nod, "we finally get to meet in person. I just wish it could have been under better circumstances."

    "And I wish it'd never been at all," she snarled, "what are you up to, Drake?"

    "Yes, I do get that a lot," the Section 31 agent smiled faintly at her defiance, "you know, we really don't give Federation phasers enough credit. Such versatile devices..."

    It occurred to her that he seemed to be stalling, either buying time or just reluctant to answer her question. She tried to clench her frozen hands as she spoke again.

    "You're after the Orb, aren't you?" she hissed up at him, "who needs double agents and deep cover when you can send assassins right into the Klingon chancellor's bedroom?"

    "That would be a great advantage to Section 31," he agreed, and he turned around from the communication panel he'd been studying to face her again, "unfortunately for us, there's really no such thing as an Orb of Space. That was just the bait. The prize is you, Captain."

    "But the reports came from Starfleet Intelligence," she murmured to herself, and then her eyes narrowed with realization, "because you're the one who sent them to us. And you staged the attack on Starbase 343. These people have been hurt, some of them killed... why!?"

    "To make the trap more convincing," Drake shrugged, "it's unfortunate, but everyone here swore their lives to protect the Federation, and their deaths won't be in vain. We won't squander the opportunity your presence here has given us, the way the rest of Starfleet did."

    "My presence," Azera Xi shook her head weakly, then she gave an exasperated groan as she glared back up at the rogue officer, "of course. You mean Species 1's presence."

    "Admiral Kane was clever," Captain Drake continued as he paced around the paralyzed girl with the predatory calm of a tiger, "he knew enough about Starfleet Intelligence to guess at the lines of communication available to Section 31, so he hid his report about you in plain sight, right under our noses. But the moment you found out who you really are, it was only a matter of time before we read the right reports and found out too. And while Starfleet's more sanctimonious elements may have been content to let you run around the quadrant playing captain, we have much better uses for you, and the insights you can offer us about the Borg."

    "Well, I guess there's no choice but to tell you everything," she rolled her eyes and answered him with sarcastic resignation, pausing for dramatic effect before she continued, "it all began when I was 4 years old and built the very first Borg drone. But since I hadn't learned how to read yet, I mixed up the on and off switch and they've been out of control ever since."

    The black-clad operative just looked over at her with a wryly amused smile before continuing to slowly circle the command room, his arms crossed behind his back.

    "The real answer's probably locked up somewhere in your unconscious, but honestly, we're not interested in what you might know about their origins. We don't care where the Borg came from, we only care about ending them. The Borg are a plague that's been infecting this galaxy for thousands of years. Every time someone discovers a cure, they mutate, they 'adapt' and keep spreading. But with you, we finally have a sample of the original strain."

    He paused for a moment, glancing down at Azera to see what she had to say. She met his curious look with a silently smoldering fury, and so he resumed his explanation.

    "Every piece of cybernetic technology they use," he said, "was designed for your species. When their nanoprobes rewrite someone's DNA, they become more like you. Your physiology is the mold for every Borg drone that's been assimilated since, a blueprint for their biological core. And now that we have that blueprint, we can begin to devise a real weapon against them. Something that attacks their fundamental nature, that their nanoprobes can't adapt to overcome. A neurolytic pathogen written with your DNA could kill every last one of them."

    "You self-righteous TRIBBLE," she spat at him.

    "A ship is on its way right now to take you to one of our secret facilities," he replied as calmly as if he'd been remarking on the weather lately, as though he hadn't heard her insult at all, "I'll already be gone by the time it arrives. To be honest, I was tempted to just stun you and leave you here for them. But I respect you too much to do that without facing you myself and explaining the reason for your sacrifice. And let me be clear, it will be a terrible sacrifice."

    She gathered her breath for another retort, but he'd already started speaking again.

    "You'll die," he explained tonelessly, "and then you'll be revived, again and again while our researchers hone and test the pathogen to make sure your immune system can't possibly adapt to it. Then they'll infect you with the Borg's nanoprobes and start the process over again to test their reaction to it as well. The only solace I can offer is that once we've learned everything we need to know, it'll finally end, and your death will save thousands of worlds. And if you truly care about saving the Federation, you'll want to do what's right, no matter the cost."

    "And if you truly cared about the Federation," her body twitched with suppressed rage as she shouted at him, "you wouldn't be standing here betraying everything it's stood for!"

    "Spoken like a true idealist," he answered curtly, "we'll just have to agree to disagree..."

    Drake's words slurred away into a confused stammer for a moment and he shook his head with a groan, lifting one hand to his forehead and glancing around the flashing consoles and steel gray bulkheads around him. Then he slowly smiled, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath before opening them again to look down at the intensely staring girl.

    "You're trying to get into my mind," he smirked, "well played, but it won't do you any good. We do have ways of protecting our thoughts against telepathic intrusion."

    "Good," Azera muttered as she narrowed her gaze, "that'll make it easier."

    "What are you talking about," he asked warily. Her voice had been perfectly calm, all the fear and anger he'd grown accustomed to vanishing entirely - and as he felt her mind twisting smoothly through his thoughts again, his muscles clenched with the panicked fury of a tiger that's just now realizing it's been looking at the bars of a cage from the wrong side.

    "It's not your mind," the pink-haired captain replied, "that I'm interested in."

    And with those words, Drake's legs instantly gave out beneath him, sending the operative tumbling forward across the polished floor. His nose smashed open beneath the weight of a head suddenly as limp and heavy as a bowling ball, and the arms he'd tried to fling down to catch himself dangled like wooden planks from his shoulders, as utterly detached from his being as if they'd been amputated. His pained cry gave way to a choked gurgle as the blood from his broken nose snorted back up into his windpipe, and his eyes widened for an instant with the cold dread of suffocating facedown on the floor, his arms and legs useless to roll him the few inches it'd take to save his life. Then a boot kicked him hard across the side, flipping him onto his back and leaving him gasping the air with relief even as his spleen ached from the blow.

    "What did you do," he choked up at the calm young woman standing above him in her dark command uniform, "how can you be... you don't even have a working spine!"

    "No," Azera shrugged, then she smiled again, "good thing yours is working so well."

    "You," the black-suited operative hissed, all the panic building through his paralyzed body distilled through his wide brown eyes, "you're attacking my brain stem..."

    "Oh, just enough to borrow the motor pathways," she answered as she lifted her right hand to casually wiggle her fingers and study the back of her hand. She flexed her palm to make a fist and then reached both her arms over her head, languidly arching her back before turning to pace around the room in precisely the opposite circle he'd traced while talking to her.

    "Of course," Azera Xi continued with a sardonically regretful frown, "since your brain's busy moving my body around, the rest of your body's just out of luck for the moment."

    "Telepathic neural targeting," Drake grunted from the floor, "that's a Lethean technique."

    "I dabble," she shrugged with cheerful modesty, and then she turned away at the sound of a small beeping alarm from one of the communication panels behind her. She raised her palm toward the paralyzed operative as she listened intently, then hopped lightly over the railing and darted up to the station console for a closer look at the readings flashing across it.

    "This must be the ship you mentioned," she called back over her shoulder, "so I guess you were expecting to be gone by now. Well, I suppose we should answer them."

    Azera pressed a few buttons and an open audio channel chimed through the room.

    "Unknown vessel," the young woman sternly called out toward the ceiling, "this is Captain Azera Xi of the Federation starship Roanoke. Identify yourself immediately."

    "I don't know if this ship even has a name," the familiar Andorian accent of her chief engineer replied through the channel, "but it's Commander Nyzoph, Captain."

    She sighed a little with relief and glanced down to relish the way Drake had closed his eyes with frustration and leaned his head back against the floor before she continued.

    "Hi Nyzoph," she grinned broadly, "I'm glad to hear your voice - otherwise this was going to be a really awkward conversation. So what kind of ship did they try to send?"

    "An unregistered Orion frigate," he answered, "I'm not sure which is more dangerous, the disrupter cannons or this antique warp core. They did have a cloaking device, but since you'd already guessed that part, we had a tachyon grid waiting for them. We've seized the ship and locked its crew in the cargo hold. Syndicate pirates, from the look of things."

    "Understood," she nodded, "have you heard from the away team?"

    "Yes sir," his voice chirped through the console, "they've disabled the holoprojectors, shut down the dampening fields and transported the injured to sickbay. Four dead, fifteen wounded, with minimal damage to the station itself. Corspa was about thirty seconds away from having Lieutenant Onplav beam you back - she'll be glad to hear things are going smoothly."

    "That makes two of us," Azera smiled softly, "Azera out."

    "So you knew all along," Drake growled from the middle of the room as the captain tapped the communication panel again and turned back around to face him, "how?"

    "Well, since you were nice enough to tell me your plan," she smirked, "I guess I can return the favor. All those science details your report gave about the Orb of Space were very impressive, they had our engineering staff completely fooled. But you really shouldn't have tried to pass a story about a fake Orb onto a ship whose doctor used to be a Vedek.

    "Azera Xi to the Roanoke sickbay," she tapped her golden combadge.

    "Dr Umliz here," the ship's Bajoran doctor answered through the audio link.

    "Doctor, if you have a moment, Mr Drake is curious to hear how you knew that the Orb of Space was a fake, that the mission was probably a trap to lure us to Starbase 343."

    "Oh that won't take long," he replied amiably, speaking loud enough for the glowering intelligence officer to hear him as well, "you see, the ancient Bajoran language incorporates many of the concepts of what humans would call 'relativity theory.' More specifically, it describes both space and time with a single word. So the Orb of Space translated into its original name would really be the Orb of Time - and as you know, we've already found the Orb of Time."

    "And there you have it," Azera beamed, "any other questions?"

    Franklin Drake seemed to have stopped listening entirely now, his eyes fixed blankly on the ceiling as he lay motionless on the floor. Then his body suddenly twitched in a spasming flurry of movements from his head and neck, and he looked wildly around at the room in renewed panic until his bewildered stare caught and held fast to the salmon-haired woman.

    "Captain Azera Xi," he stammered hesitantly, "what... what happened?"

    "What do you mean," she asked suspiciously.

    "I don't think we've met before," he tried to move again, his head bouncing against the metal floor as the rest of his body lay frozen, "but you're the captain who saved Vega Colony from the Borg, aren't you? My name is Franklin Drake. I don't... why can't I move? The last thing I remember is that I was on an assignment in the Bolarus Sector... a Romulan ship decloaked... and everything else is a blur. How did I get here, Captain? What's going on?"

    Azera stared intently down at the confused operative, her own doubts starting to grow as she watched his eyes darting around the room with bewildered fear. He looked up at her with plaintive confusion, shaking his head once more... and then his eyebrow twitched.

    "Oh you're good," she rolled her violet eyes and turned contemptuously away as she tapped her combadge again, "I think I've heard enough, but have fun telling our security officers how the evil Romulans made you do it. Captain Azera Xi to the Roanoke."

    "Yes Captain," Luverala's abashed voice piped through her communicator.

    "Will you beam Mr Drake directly to the brig?"

    "Aye sir."

    A wavering chime hummed through the air as the shimmering blue light of the transporter beam caught Drake's immobile form, and she sighed and shook her head a little as she watched him fading away into the empty air. Then she spoke through the open channel again.

    "Is he behind a force field?"

    "Yes sir," the Betazoid engineer, and the ranking officer on the sparse bridge while the away team worked on the station, replied, "security just confirmed his arrival."

    "Understood," she nodded, and she finally let herself relax, giving a heavy sigh of relief as her mind slipped loose from the cold black web of his chemically encrypted engrams - and her sigh gave way to a startled squeak as she suddenly tumbled backward and slammed across the floor again, the leaden weight of her paralyzed limbs an oddly familiar sensation now.

    "Luverala," she nervously asked the empty air, "are you still there?"

    "I'm here," his voice rang through the combadge.

    "Oh good," she replied quickly, "could you also beam me straight to sickbay?"

    "Locking on now," his voice quickened with alarm, "are you okay?"

    "I'm fine," she sheepishly muttered, "I think I'll just lie here and catch my breath..."

    The azure glow of a transporter beam swept around Azera, and a moment later the operations center and its steel-ringed array of consoles stood silent and empty.
    * * *

    Captain's Log, Stardate 90902.17 - Franklin Drake's currently enjoying the hospitality of our ship's brig, along with the Orion mercenaries he hired, and we're on our way to Earth Spacedock to remand them to Federation custody. While the frigate crew's willing to cooperate, they have little information other than their anonymous client's coordinates to a remote dropoff point that's light years away from any star system or known base. Drake continues to insist that he's the victim of a Romulan brainwashing scheme, and unfortunately I've found Starfleet Command to be less skeptical of his claim than the situation seems to warrant.

    "You have to be kidding me," Azera scowled into the small raised viewscreen on her ready room desk, and then she tapped a button to switch the image on it to the larger black panel across the surface of her desk before she flopped into her cushioned chair. Admiral Quinn's stately, gray-haired face seemed to stare up through the desk and, after blinking up at the soft white glow of the overhead lights for a moment, she leaned back down toward him.

    "His medical scans show signs of neural trauma consistent with a Tal Shiar mind probe," the admiral frowned, "and he did pass an autonomic response analysis."

    "He's probably had that 'neural trauma' ready and waiting for years," Azera Xi's voice rose with exasperation, "and passing an ARA scan just proves he's a sociopath..."

    "Captain," Admiral Quinn interrupted her, and his voice dropped a little, "frankly, I agree with you completely. This isn't the first time Drake's name has come across my desk, and I only wish I could say this time will be the last. He has a powerful ally somewhere in the highest ranks of the Federation, and whoever it is, they want to keep him in Starfleet Intelligence."

    "Even if Starfleet Command buys this story," she stood up from her chair to lean over the glowing panel of her desk, "he's been compromised by his own admission! How can he possibly keep a classified intelligence post after claiming he's been a brainwashed spy?"

    "He'd have to be medically cleared first," the admiral replied, and he spoke again after a thoughtful frown, "people like Drake, the ones who introduce themselves as Section 31 agents and dress in black uniforms, they're just flunkies, overgrown cadet boys living out their spy holonovel fantasies. The real heads of Section 31 are smart enough to stay in the shadows and let them do all the talking. For all his bluster, Drake is a puppet, nothing more.

    "I don't know why they're pulling the strings to keep him at his post. Maybe they think he's still valuable somehow, or maybe he's a loose end they'd rather cut personally. He might even have some kind of leverage over the rest of Section 31 that's forcing their hand. But whatever their reasons, he's undoubtedly lost any position of authority he had with them."

    "We don't know that," she insisted, "and he'll still be giving orders and coordinating intelligence just like he was before. What if he tries something like this again?"

    "We'll be watching him," Admiral Quinn reassured her, "I've been chasing Section 31 for a long time now, and one thing I've learned is that they never return to the scene of the crime: to do so would risk exposing themselves. Section 31 isn't a secret Starfleet organization, Captain, it's a rogue network of Starfleet criminals. The only way they can avoid capture is by operating in total secrecy, and they lost that advantage by making an open move against you. They had one chance to capture you, and Franklin Drake blew it. They can't afford to try again."

    "I'd feel a lot more confident about that with him in a detention facility."

    "So would I," Quinn nodded sympathetically.

    "So Drake gets away with everything he did by claiming the Tal Shiar put him up to it," Azera Xi snarled under her breath, and then her voice began to grow softer as she continued thinking aloud, "and that he... can't remember anything that happened..."

    "Captain?"

    "Excuse me, Admiral. I just have to write an addendum to my report, that's all."

    "Azera Xi," Quinn frowned with concern, "I understand your frustration, but the official story isn't going to change. The people protecting Drake will make sure of that."

    "Oh no," she smiled mysteriously as she sat back down, "I wouldn't think of challenging the official story. I just think it could use a few more twists and turns, that's all."

    "Captain," the admiral began, then he sighed and smiled ruefully, "just be careful, okay?"

    "Yes sir," she nodded to him, and, as soon as the call ended and the display panel on her desk went dark again, she lit it back up with a few more taps of her fingers across the polished surface and began to quickly type one last entry on her post mission report.
    * * *

    "Captain," Franklin Drake said earnestly as he rose from the plain bunk bed on the far side of the spacedock brig to stand before the seemingly empty doorway and the glowing white force field projectors lining it, "whatever I might have said before, I want to take this opportunity to apologize now and assure you that I have the utmost respect for you. I don't know why the conditioning snapped when it did, but I'm glad to be free from it and myself again."

    "No need to apologize," Azera answered coldly from the other side of the force field, and she took a silent breath, glancing back and forth between the pair of red-clothed security guards standing at attention before she continued in a softer, more compassionate tone, "I'm sure you've heard about my report, about the plan you described and what you intended to do."

    "It's horrible," he shook his head grimly, "I can't believe even the Tal Shiar would stoop to that kind of vivisection. I hope... I just hope I can earn back your trust someday."

    "I hope so too," she said softly, "I guess you've also heard that, under the conditioning's influence, you claimed to be a member of Section 31 and that you were acting in the Federation's best interest. That you've been claiming to represent Section 31 for months now."

    "That's the worst part of it," Drake made a scowling face and looked away, "that the Romulans would use me to turn Starfleet against itself, to sow that kind of distrust..."

    "Yes," Azera nodded sympathetically, and she waited for him to look back up at her before quietly continuing, "well, there's something else I didn't mention at first. I've already reported it to Starfleet Command and they've begun an investigation, but I respect you too much to just leave it to them without facing you myself and explaining the situation."

    If he recognized her choice of words, he didn't give any hint of it; he met her calm gaze with a mixture of curiosity, forlorn guilt and all the admiration he'd professed for her.

    "You see," she continued, "the Section 31 cover they must have implanted you with slipped for a moment at the end. You actually talked about being a Romulan spy."

    "What," he asked, and she only caught the subtly hissing undercurrent of surprise in his voice because she'd been waiting for it. She glanced shyly down, allowing him to regain his composure and assume a look of startled innocence before she spoke again.

    "I don't know if you were gloating or desperate," she quietly explained, "or maybe the programming simply went awry, but you said that restoring Franklin Drake would never work, because you were never Franklin Drake at all. You said this entire personality is just a construct that the Tal Shiar created, and so long as it exists, you'll always be loyal to them."

    "That's absurd," he snapped with an outrage he caught only a second too late.

    "But sir," Azera said gently, never letting the sympathetic lilt of her voice drop, "if you don't remember what happened on Starbase 343, how can you be sure?"

    Drake clenched his fists, his eyelids twitching as he stared intently through the force field at the slight pink-haired girl standing calmly before him. And then he finally spoke.

    "Of course," he said quietly, "we can't be too careful, can we?"

    "I was worried at first," Azera continued with an appropriately thoughtful frown, "about the impact bringing this information to light could have on your career. But I know that, as someone who truly loves the Federation, you'd want me to do what's right, no matter the cost."

    "I appreciate your candor," Drake answered through tightly gritted teeth.

    "Don't worry," she smiled reassuringly, "I'm sure once Starfleet Intelligence finishes digging through your history, interviewing everyone you've met, investigating every friend you've ever made and all the other details of your life, we'll uncover the real Franklin Drake."

    "I can't wait to meet him," he muttered dryly, and then he glanced up with a look that, for all the smoldering anger it held, also harbored a disturbingly genuine gleam of admiration, "it's a shame you became a science officer. You'd have fit in well at Starfleet Intelligence."

    "Coming from you, Mr Drake, that means," Azera flashed him a warm smile that only heightened her icy glare, "well, I think you already know how much that means to me."

    Azera turned away from the glowering operative and, with a parting nod to each of the security officers, began to walk back down the dimly lit corridor toward the turbolifts that led up into the bright open lobbies of Earth Spacedock. Then she twired around again, walking backwards as she cheerfully shouted down the hall at the brig's glowing doorway.

    "Good luck, Captain Drake! Remember, stand tall - don't ever buckle under!"

    She turned back around to board the turbolift and finally gave up on trying to conceal her grin as the doors slid shut, leaving Drake digging his nails into his palms and pacing furiously around the holding cell as the light from the turbolift gave way to shadows again.
  • sander233sander233 Member Posts: 3,992 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    You tried to spit at the sun
    To put it out like a burning ember
    She has a porcelain soul

    As you crawl under the moon, make it heard
    Make this bed and sleep forever
    She has a porcelain soul

    'Cause the life you live is less than alive

    As they scream "let them burn"
    You know she'll burn at the hands of your king
    As they scream "let them burn"
    You know you won't, you won't forgive them

    She crawls through the dirt like a four-legged spider
    He's there leading beside her
    And the serpent's tongue is wrapped around her neck
    Let them burn, let them burn

    And he knows that she died inside
    And he knows

    Open hands hold porcelain souls
    Into the eyes of a traitor
    I still see a believer
    The witness is here...


    Mike Murphy, Stephen Keech, Devin and Brennan Chaulk of Haste the Day - "Porcelain"




    PORCELAIN HAMMER


    Starbase 51 - Beta Antares System - Stardate 88062.78

    Cmdr. Ibear looked out the viewport and sighed. The Andorian operations chief suddenly could not understand why he had been an active participant in marring what was once a beautiful Khyzon-type strike escort. Of course he understood the advantages of integrating all of the reverse-engineered Borg technology - firepower and deflectors drastically upgraded, increased warp and sublight speeds, shield and hull resiliency improved by an order of magnitude. A few hours ago he had been almost giddy as he helped Domingo and the starbase engineers perform the final range-of-motion tests on the salvaged Borg cutting beam they had integrated into the ship. But then he stepped back and looked at the monster he had helped create. The blackish-green of the Borg superstructure showing beneath seams in the sleek hull. Ruptures in the hull surface around assimilation nodes like so many infected wounds. The nasty hump of the subtranswarp coil over the topside warp nacelle. The spines of the transceiver assembly sprouting around the deflector array like ugly blackened fangs.

    As a young thei growing up on Andoria, Fozzter'Dayn th'Ibear had built models of the Khyzon, the Kumari, the Charal and other great historic ships of the Imperial Guard. The first time he and the Tiburon had gone into battle alongside their modern successors, he was nearly overcome with excitement. The Andorian ships may have earned their reputations for being "glass cannons," but they were amazingly effective in short-term engagements. Then a month ago, Starfleet Tactical Systems had approached Admiral LaRoca seeking to gain support for a program that promised to convert an Andorian strike escort into a pocket superweapon. Cmdr. Ibear had been the first to volunteer to join the program. Now, looking the finished product, he only hoped the performance gains would offset the aesthetic sacrifices.

    "Hey Fozz!"

    Ibear turned and saw his shipmate Rusty ambling over. "What?"

    "Aren't you gonna join the party?"

    Ibear tilted his head toward the station's mess and rec area. He could make out a few dozen voices talking and laughing, the clinking of cocktail glasses and ice cubes, and music. Earth Jazz, 20th Century - Thelonius Monk, if his ears and memory served him right. "In a while," he told the security chief. "I just want to look at her for a minute or two."

    Cmdr. LaRoca Rusty joined him at the viewport. "Beautiful, isn't she?"

    "Well, she used to be." Fozz glanced at his dromaeosaurid shipmate. "But then you would like her like this, all fangs and claws. Your people have no appreciation for true beauty."

    "Not true," Rusty argued. "Deinons have great appreciation for art in all its myriad forms. We're just incapable of creating it ourselves."

    Fozz was about to say something else when suddenly the lights went out. "What the-" Then the sounds of the party were replaced by sounds of weapons fire. Then alarms went off. Doors automatically sealed themselves. Red emergency lighting glowed along the floors and ceiling.

    "C'mon!" Rusty said, taking off in a 75kph sprint.

    "Where are you going?" Fozz called as he ran after him.

    "Weapons locker!"

    "Hang on! We need to figure out who's attacking us, and call for help. We need to go to the Ops center."

    "If the station's under attack, they've probably already taken Ops," the security officer figured.

    Fozz thought about it for a second. "Weapons locker first, then Ops."

    They took the turbolift down to the station's armory, which for the time being was clear of intruders. Fozz grabbed a high-density beam rifle and a turret fabrication kit, while Rusty picked out a pair of phaser compression pistols and several stun grenades. The turbolift brought them up to the Ops level and they were immediately shot at. In the dim red light they were unable to make out their attackers. Rusty rolled a stun grenade down the corridor and provided covering fire with his pistols while Fozz set up a turret outside the door to the Ops center.

    Rusty's security override opened the door. They gunned down more shadowy invaders to clear the Ops center and sealed the door behind them. Fozz went straight to the internal sensor grid. He swore under his breath. "Well, at least we know who's attacking us."

    "Uh huh," Rusty replied as he stepped over one of their bodies to reach the comm station.

    "This place is crawling with their lifesigns. Looks like most of our people are contained in the rec room, except... Oh damn, they're coming up, Rusty!"

    Cmdr. LaRoca activated the comm panel. "Computer, open a priority one channel to STS Storm Station and the USS Tiburon!"

    The door exploded inwards. Fozz took out the first two through the doorway before he literally froze up. An enemy science officer had put him in a stasis field.

    Rusty started shooting blindly toward the door while giving the computer directions. "Computer, transmit standard protocol automated distress signal. Encrypt command functions and library access with fractal algorithm Barrrister Pi Twenty-two, authorization LaRoca-Romeo-Four-One-Lima-November-Seven."

    While he was momentarily distracted with the computer he didn't notice the figure that rolled around the corner to his left, until he was shot by a phaser on maximum stun. Rusty's muscles spasmed and he dropped his pistols. He forced his body back under control and rushed his attacker, toe claws raised. He was hit again. This time he went down, twitching in agony. His attacker stood up, and shot him again to make sure he stayed down. Rusty stared at the man in the Starfleet uniform who'd shot him. Just before he blacked out he whispered "You son of a..."


    USS Tiburon NCC-68636 Celes Sector - Same time

    Deputy chief engineer Yumi watched the 1.2-meter-long spotted fish as it swam placidly beneath the Admiral's fingertips. "How much bigger do you expect your... shark to get? Sir."

    V. Adm. LaRoca pulled his forearm out of the tank and shook the saltwater off onto the ultra-absorbent carpet. "I don't know. The largest male specimen of Triakis semifasciata on record was one-point-six meters in length. However, Rudyard here is only four years old and so far is growing much faster than normal for his species. Living in space might have something to do with it. So I think if we tack on a ten-centimeter margin of safety to that record size, we should be able design a tank that would be comfortable for Rudyard for the rest of his life."

    "Alright, I have a few aesthetic options I've come up with." The dark-skinned Ferengi female pulled a plastic screenprint from the side of her oversized engineering PADD and laid it on the Admiral's ready-room desk. "Pick the one you like the best and I'll factor in the design parameters and have the fabrication staff get started first thing in the morning." Despite her job title designating her has the deputy chief engineer, LCdr. Yumi was usually the senior engineer on the Tiburon. In practice, chief engineer Cmdr. Hector Domingo was usually on some off-ship assignment, like this month when he was overseeing some sort of prototype assembly at the Beta Antares Shipyard.

    Jesu leaned over his desk and thoughtfully examined the options displayed on the screen print.

    "Bridge to Admiral LaRoca."

    LaRoca looked up at the hidden overhead speakers. "Go 'head."

    "Sir, we're receiving an encrypted call on priority one," reported Lt. Pakray, his tactical officer of the watch. "Omid and I can?t unlock with our command access codes. Shall I patch it through to your ready room?"

    "Stand by." LaRoca looked at his desk again. "Umm... that one," he said, selecting a design that blended fluid curves with natural rock. "Thanks, Yumi."

    "My pleasure, Admiral," the Ferengi replied as she gathered up her plans. "Good night."

    LaRoca sat behind his desk and watched her leave before addressing the speakers again. "Okay, Pakray, put it through."

    "Please provide command access code," the computer voice demanded.

    LaRoca's jaw clenched. He recognized the distinctive voice of the AU26 computer interface, currently used by only one organization within Starfleet. "Authorization LaRoca-Two-Three-Three-Whiskey-Alpha-Charlie."

    "This is a priority one distress call. Starbase 51 is under attack. Please coordinate response efforts with Starfleet Tactical Systems." That was it. The channel automatically closed.

    Jesu LaRoca swore as he left his desk. He walked quickly out to the bridge, spotting his acting operations officer, Lt. Omid Enfanfar, directing Beta Shift. "Omid, wake up Marq and the rest of the senior- no, wait." LaRoca remembered where most of his senior staff was at that moment. "Marq, Maria, Hacksaw, K'Jetsk, you... and who's the senior security officer on board?"

    "Ah, that would be Lt. Amraam, sir," the Persian officer replied. "He's the deputy chief of security."

    "Amraam..." Jesu muttered a curse in Spanish. "Okay, him too. I want them all in the flag conference room in ten minutes. Except Hacksaw; I want him in my ready room in five."

    "I'm on it, sir." Omid jumped toward the turbolift.

    LaRoca turned to his conn officer. "Dusty, where's the nearest transwarp hub?"

    Ens. Dustin Massimino scrolled through his navigation screens. "That would be... the Maro system, sir."

    "Set a course. Maximum warp." LaRoca then addressed Lt. Pakray at the adjacent TacOps station. "Contact Maro Transwarp Control and request priority routing to Beta Antares. Then get a hold of Admiral Davis, Starfleet Tactical Systems. Put him through to my ready room. Then join us in the conference room."

    "Alright-"

    "You have the bridge, Dusty." Jesu LaRoca disappeared back inside his ready room.

    The Tellarite tactical officer made the calls as ordered and looked at the Human seated to his right. "What was that all about?" he wondered.

    "Don't ask me," Dusty replied. "I'm just the driver."

    Hank "Hacksaw" Miller appeared in the starboard turbolift and walked straight to the Admiral's ready room, ignoring the bridge crew. He wore his typical shipboard attire of a black pullover shirt and black synth-cotton trousers, adorned with no rank insignia and only a flat black Starfleet combadge without any division markings. He found the Admiral engaged in conversation with someone on his wall monitor. LaRoca pointed him to a chair without interrupting what was clearly not a social chat.

    "Derecho Station has one standard distress call to cover all emergencies, so 'attack' doesn't necessarily mean 'attack'," the man on the wall was saying. Miller recognized him as Admiral William Davis, director of Starfleet Tactical Systems. Davis was out of uniform and disheveled, and probably had just been pulled out of bed. "But the auto-distress call would only be activated if either someone didn't have time to talk, or if everyone in Ops was dead."

    "So what's going on, Bill?" LaRoca demanded. "What sort of situation might we be looking at?"

    "The only answers that come to mind are sabotage to the fusion core or a major attack. Sabotage seems the most likely to me; Starbase 51 is not supposed to exist, and you can't attack what doesn't exist. However, between your people and the ex-Borg drones we brought onsite there are a lot of unknown variables on the station."

    LaRoca bristled. "My people are not unknown variables, and they're certainly not saboteurs."

    "I'm sure you're more qualified to judge than I am," Admiral Davis offered. "But from my perspective, I am in no position to rule anything out. All I know is the twenty-three people I have there; every one of them I know personally and they all have weekly DNA screenings and monthly psych exams. So I'd start looking at those former drones."

    "Our recovered personnel have been screened just as thoroughly," LaRoca argued, using and emphasizing the more politically-correct term for Liberated Borg Starfleet officers, "And besides, none of them have any idea where they are."

    "You'll have to figure it out when you get there, Jesu," Davis said with a sigh. "I'll send you what backup I can but it will be at least a day, probably two, before I can find a ship with a qualified Captain and crew and get them briefed."

    "Understood. I'll keep you informed. LaRoca out." He closed the channel and looked across the desk at Hacksaw Miller. "Starbase 51 has gone dark," he told him.

    Miller nodded. "I guessed as much. Is anything else going on there besides Project PORCELAIN and the OMEGA research?"

    "Davis says no, but I don't think I believe him. But if he is working on something else it will be small enough that he doesn't think we'd find it. What about on your end? Are there any special intelligence projects going on there that I ought to know about?"

    Miller shook his head. "Just the usual reverse-engineering of recovered Borg and Undine technology, but that's all in the hands of STS under the OMEGA umbrella."

    LaRoca nodded. Starfleet Tactical Systems was uniquely positioned at the intersection of Shipyard Operations, Advanced Technologies and Starfleet Intelligence. They were responsible for developing new weapons and defensive systems. Quantum warheads, tricobalt devices, resilient shields and the AEGIS defensive matrix had all been their products, not to mention virtually all of the equipment built specially for the MACOs and Task Force Omega. Starbase 51 was the ultra-secure facility where they integrated all of their newest devices onto testbed ships, or else developed new ships around their concepts. Project PROMETHEUS, Project PHALANX and Project PUSHOFF were all famous STS triumphs that originated from Starbase 51. But there were also many dark projects that never saw the light of day. Project PARAMOUNT. Project PRORATE. Project PREDATOR. And now, Project PORCELAIN would join one of those lists.

    Miller went on "On a personal note, Jesu, I'd like to be on whatever away team you send over to check out the station. I want to make sure our people are okay."

    LaRoca leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. He was trying not to think about the trouble his officers - and his brother - might be in. "I take it you're a little concerned about Traa'cee."

    "More than a little."

    LaRoca gazed for moment at his staff intelligence advisor. Hacksaw Miller was one of the very few Humans he knew with a history more interesting than his own. Born on a colony world near the Cardassian border, his family decided to relocate when the treaty placed their planet on the wrong side of the neutral zone. As a teenager he got into trouble quite often. As a young adult he hopped freighters from starbase to starbase looking for work. In 2381 he met Cmdr. Carlos LaRoca after saving him from a Dopterian assassin. He was encouraged to join Starfleet and did so, impressing recruiters with his natural skills at piloting small craft and eventually wound up serving alongside Carlos LaRoca's son, Jesu, as his wingman in their Peregrine fighter squadron. After the friendly-fire tragedy that nearly ended Jesu's career, Miller chose to resign rather than accept demotion to ensign as Jesu had done. He worked as a mercenary pilot-for-hire before being recruited by Section 31 to insert and extract agents for them. Admiral LaRoca had made contact with him a few years ago when they both wound up on the same assignment, and they'd worked together ever since. Physically, Miller was unremarkable; Anglo-Saxon of average height and built, closely trimmed blonde hair, and the sort of face you forgot the moment you looked away, apart from an old d'k tahg scar on his right cheek. But he had a very diverse and often deadly skill set and many contacts throughout the galactic underworld and the intelligence communities of not only the Federation but also the Klingons, Cardassians and even the Romulans. Since he came aboard, Hacksaw had kept his distance from most of the crew. He had developed a strong attraction to the Vulcan tactical officer, however.

    "Have you told her how you feel about her?" LoRoca asked him.

    "Yeah. Well, at least, I tried to. I'm not sure if I got through. I mean, it's hard to tell with Vulcans."

    LaRoca nodded sympathetically. "Permission granted. Now back to business. Do you have any theories as to what might be going on?"

    "Only speculation. It wouldn't be helpful to you."

    "It might be."

    "Okay, if I had to guess, I'd say an Undine infiltrator worked his way in there and he's trying to keep the technology of PORCELAIN out of Starfleet hands. Mind you, that's just a wild guess; I don't have enough facts to make it an educated one."

    "I was thinking the same thing." LaRoca said. "Let's go break the news to the others." He stood and went out through the back door of his ready room into his flag conference room where the others were already seated. They started to rise but LaRoca waived them back. "As you were." Miller took a chair and LaRoca went to the replicator and ordered espresso. He turned around to face the table, took a sip of his coffee and said "Nothing I'm about to tell you leaves this room."

    Marq nodded his large bald head. "Understood."

    LaRoca finally sat down. "As you all know, several of our senior officers are at the Beta Antares shipyards working on a new prototype development. And as most of you know, about ten minutes ago I ordered a course change that would take us to Beta Antares at best possible speed. What you don't know is that your shipmates are not working at the shipyard itself, but actually at Starbase 51 - also known as STS Derecho Station - a highly classified dockyard facility in a remote part of the Beta Antares system. They are working on Project PORCELAIN - a reengineered Andorian escort derivative integrating Borg technology, including plasma torpedo weaponry, cutting beams, subtranswarp engines, graviton deflector dish, and regenerative shields. Essentially, the idea was to initiate the controlled assimilation of one of the most powerful tactical starships available to us, infusing it with Borg technology to make it even meaner, tougher, and faster. Preliminary simulations show combat effectiveness improved by almost a factor of ten."

    Five officers stared at him slack-jawed. K'Jetsk, the Reman science officer, remained placidly unreadable. Miller fidgeted with his combadge.

    LaRoca pushed away from the table and began pacing the room. "A short time ago, we received an encoded distress call indicating that Starbase 51 had suffered some sort of attack. Because of the highly classified nature of the facility, the distress call was not broadcast. So far we are the only ship en route to Beta Antares. Our mission is to approach Starbase 51, assess the situation, render whatever assistance or defensive effort is needed, recover our people if necessary, and above all to prevent Project PORCELAIN or any other classified Federation technology from falling into enemy hands."

    "Why wouldn't they have contacted Starbase 47 for help?" Marq wondered.

    "Because there is no one there who knows Starbase 51 even exists," Hacksaw answered

    "But isn't there a flag officer assigned to the yards at Starbase 47?" Marq persisted.

    "Normally, yes," LaRoca replied. "However, according to the last status report, Rear Admiral G'Dahn is inspecting Project PORCELAIN right now."

    "Ah."

    The constant hum of the warp engine dropped an octave in pitch and the stars streaking by out the viewports doppler-shifted and became pinpoints. "Admiral, sir, we've reached the Maro Transwarp Hub," Ens. Massimino reported over the intercom.

    Jesu LaRoca looked at the ceiling and gripped the back of his chair. "Take us in."

    "All hands, this is the bridge. Secure for transwarp. Initializing transwarp in thirty seconds."

    LaRoca looked to his acting ops officer. "Omid, as soon as we arrive in-system, I want you to direct our sensor arrays to the vicinity of the outermost planet."

    "Aye, sir."

    "Ten seconds."

    "Meeting adjourned. You may return to your posts, just as soon as... well, you know."

    "Three... two... one... now."

    The universe outside the viewports disappeared in a blue flash. Most of the crew members shut their eyes to block out some of the sensory overload induced by true infinite velocity. After a moment it was over. The universe returned to normal, as did the crew after a brief wave of dizziness and mild nausea. LaRoca led the way out to the bridge. "Hacksaw, take the helm."

    Behind him, Lt. Enfanfar tapped his combadge. "Specialist Robinson, report to the bridge on the double."

    "Robinson," Marq repeated. "Isn't that the girl from the late 20th Century that Temporal Investigations left with us?"

    "Yeah," Omid admitted. "She's a bit eccentric, but she happens to be the best sensor analyst I've ever seen."

    LaRoca took the command chair. "Hacksaw, set a course for Beta Antares Eleven, full impulse."

    "On it," the former fighter pilot replied.

    "Not warp?" Marq asked, taking his seat next to the Admiral.

    "Not until we know what's waiting for us. Omid?"

    "Aligning sensors now, sir." The Persian man hunched over the console, and was joined a moment later by a dark-haired Caucasian woman wearing her own casual interpretation of the Admiral's relaxed shipboard dress code. "What do you make of these readings, Robinson?"

    "Hmm. Hard to see what's out there with background radiation being put out by the planet and the ionization field from the leading trojan cluster. Lemme try and compensate... Hmm... there's a few small power signatures... and what appears to be some concentrations of... tetryon particles?"

    Omid nodded assent. "It looks like it's all clustered here around this small moon."

    Specialist first class Rain Robinson examined her readings a moment longer. "That's no moon," she said slowly, dropping her voice in pitch and affecting a poor imitation of a British accent, "that's a space station!"

    "Why are you talking like that?" Omid asked her.

    "What, you've never seen Star Wars?"

    Omid answered with a blank stare.

    The temporally-displaced sensors officer looked around the bridge and caught a variety of confused looks. "The original Star Wars? None of you? Maaaan... for living in such a supposedly advanced society, you're all pretty culturally deprived..."

    Jesu LaRoca knew what she was talking about but didn't make that known. Instead he asked her "Would you care to elaborate on your analysis, Miss Robinson?"

    "Right, Admiral, sorry. Um, from what I can make out, the moon has been hollowed out part way in a series of geometric chambers, including two large caverns easily large enough to dock a starship. Most of the energy readings are coming from one of those caverns. There's also four tetryon sources spaced evenly around the moon's equator at altitude of a hundred and eighty kilometers."

    "Anything else in the vicinity?"

    "No... the other moons are all solid rock and ice. There's some interesting mineral signatures in some of the asteroids, but that's it."

    "These aren't the asteroids you're looking for," LaRoca declared, prompting a snicker from Robinson. "Maintain continuous scans, concentrating on likely hiding spots. The planet's poles, trojan asteroid clusters, places like that. And keep an eye on Starbase 47 and the shipyards."

    "Aye, sir," Enfanfar affirmed.

    "Those tetryon traces could be coming from the warp cores of cloaked Romulan warbirds," K'Jetsk pointed out. "Even at idle, the forced quantum singularity they use as a power source emits a tetryon field."

    "Hmm, good catch," LaRoca mused. "We know the Romulans like to play with Borg technology. If the Tal Shiar caught wind of Project PORCELAIN it would definitely pique their interest."

    "Admiral, I'm detecting no sign of any ships, Federation or otherwise, in the vicinity of Beta Antares Eleven," Robinson announced. "Apart from the tetryon signatures, that is."

    "Thank you, Miss Robinson." LaRoca stood up and addressed the ceiling, out of habit. "All hands, this is the Admiral speaking. We are approaching a highly-classified Starfleet weapons research and integration facility. Anything you see or hear while we are on this mission is to be considered Delta-top-secret and must not be discussed with anyone. That is all." He sat again and looked to his conn officer. "Hacksaw, I want to be within five hundred kilometers of Miss Robinson's moon-station as soon as possible. Warp power at your discretion."

    "You got it." Hank Miller keyed his helm controls. "Warp nine-five to the designated coordinates."

    Marq raised an eyebrow at that. Exceeding warp eight inside an ordinary solar system was tricky enough. Doing so in a binary system, even one as distanced as Antares, was considered ill-advised. Going beyond warp nine was technically possible with careful calculations but only ever done when someone was trying to either impress the brass, or scare the pants off them. Planets and asteroids zipped by for a second or two, then they came to rest with the hollowed-out moon that was Starbase 51 a few hundred kilometers away. "Well done," Marq grunted.

    "Thanks, Marq," Hacksaw Miller replied, knowing his informality irritated the first officer.

    The comm panel at the TacOps station began blinking, and Pakray spoke up. "Admiral, we are being hailed by the station. Shall I put it onscreen?"

    "Please."

    Admiral G'Dahn was standing in the Ops center. The red emergency lighting gave his face a demonic appearance. "Admiral LaRoca, greetings. May I ask what you are doing here? Checking up on your officers, perhaps?"

    "No, I'm here to check up on your station. About half an hour ago we picked up a distress call that originated from here, and it looks like you've lost main power."

    "Yes, one of the laser initiator subassemblies failed catastrophically. One of the operations technicians here panicked and sent the distress call. We cancelled the call after a few seconds. I'm honestly surprised that anyone heard it."

    LaRoca looked into the room behind the Vulcan Rear Admiral. "G'Dahn, are you the only one in ops?"

    "For the moment, yes. Most of the starbase staff and several of your officers are working on repairs to the power plant. The power failure could not have come at a worse time, Admiral. We were in the middle of a celebration. You see, we had just finished the final component test for Project PORCELAIN. Tomorrow we plan to take the ship out to the test range, assuming we get the power online."

    "Do you require assistance?" LaRoca offered. "I can beam an engineering team over right away."

    "That won't be necessary. The base staff here know these systems and your people do not."

    "Well, alright then. If you're sure you don't need any help..."

    "We don't. You may be on your way, Admiral."

    LaRoca smiled. "Actually I don't have anywhere in particular I need to be. I thought I might wait here to see how PORCELAIN turned out."

    G'Dahn's jaw clenched. "As you wish. Goodbye, Admiral." The transmission was terminated.

    LaRoca pointed to the screen, now showing the hollow moon. "That Vulcan was lying to me."

    "Are you sure?" Marq asked.

    "Positive. He has no idea how the automated distress signal works. He would not be left as the watch officer in Ops without basic understanding of the comm system. And he was discussing Project PORCELAIN on an unsecured channel. Either he was not Rear Admiral G'Dahn, or he is trying to tell me he is under duress. Either way, there is something seriously wrong over there. And I think I know what it is." He turned back toward the sensor station. "Miss Robinson, can you scan for lifesigns?"

    "Sorry, Admiral. I can't make out much detail through all the ionization and radiation out there."

    "Can you at least tell me approximately how many lifesigns are on the station?"

    "Maybe... Yeah... I'd say... between one hundred and a hundred and twenty."

    "You're sure it's over a hundred?" LaRoca confirmed.

    "Yup. Pretty sure."

    LaRoca looked at Marq. "The station's normal complement is twenty-three. Adding G'Dahn and his entourage, thirty, tops. Four Liberated Borg. Rusty, Fozz, Ming, Traa'cee, Teena... Barrister, but he wouldn't show up. There should be less than forty people over there. So there's sixty-plus who don't belong." LaRoca glared at the screen. "Starbase 51 has been taken."


    Starbase 51

    "...*****, I'll kill you..." Rusty said groggily.

    "Now, what did I do to deserve that?" LCdr. Yoann Teena wondered.

    Rusty's eyes cracked open as he slowly regained full consciousness and he looked up at the science officer. "Sorry... I was talking to G'Dahn." He tried to sit up. "Ow."

    "Lie still," Yoann ordered. "You took at least three hits from a phaser on heavy stun. I did what I could for you with the equipment here, but it's been a long time since my biochemistry classes at the Academy."

    "I'm alright." Rusty rolled his tail out from under him, rose up into a sitting position and scratched his chest. He looked down at the holes burned through his undershirt over his singed scaly skin. "I guess my jacket's ruined."

    "Yeah. Don't scratch. I couldn't get the dermal regenerator to work on you."

    Rusty looked around the station's infirmary and spotted two Romulans guarding the door. "How many Rommies are here?"

    "I don't know. When they beamed in to the rec center it seemed there was at least one of them for every one of us."

    "Is he well enough to rejoin the others?" a Romulan soldier asked.

    "I think so," Yoann answered. "I should take a hypo for his pain-"

    "Treat him here," the Romulan ordered.

    Yoann subtly unloaded the ambizine sedative from the hypo and replaced it with an analgesic combined with formazine stimulant, and injected the mix into Rusty's neck.

    His eyes brightened and he flexed his long, clawed fingers. "Thanks. I feel much better."

    "Let's go," the Romulan ordered, gesturing with his rifle.

    The Starfleet officers let the Romulans walk them back to the rec room, where the others were being guarded in small groups. Rusty and Teena were seated with a few STS scientists and engineers who had been working on Project PORCELAIN. Rusty quickly scanned the room and took note of missing officers. "Fozz, Traa'cee, Ming and Captain Grimes aren't here."

    "Keep your voice down," hissed Lt. Andrei Kurkov, an STS test engineer. "The Romulans took them away for questioning."

    "What about G'Dahn?" Rusty whispered back.

    "He went upstairs. A few minutes ago, the Romulans suddenly got real nervous and G'Dahn and their leaders went up to Ops."

    Rusty's mouth curled into his version of a smile. "Maybe my distress signal got through."


    Tiburon

    "I believe there are between sixty and eighty Romulans on the station holding our people hostage," Admiral LaRoca stated, "and four warbirds surrounding the place. We need to make them leave. Suggestions?"

    Pakray had an idea. "Sir, we could fire on the warbirds while they are cloaked. With their ships destroyed, the Romulans on the station would be forced to surrender."

    LaRoca had thought of that. "If we attack one and engage at close range we would probably destroy it before it could decloak and raise shields, but then the other three would come after us and that would be a tough fight."

    "And that still leaves us with a hostage situation," Marq pointed out. "The Romulans are at their most dangerous when they're backed into a corner."

    "I could beam in a full assault force," Hacksaw Miller suggested. "We take the station while you take the warbirds."

    LaRoca shook his head. "Way too risky. Luckily, Barrister isn't here to give us the actual odds of success, but I know I wouldn't put money on it."

    Lt. Amraam had been silent so far, but he shared his thoughts now. "We have to negotiate. Talk to the Romulan commander, find out what he wants, and figure out a way to get our people out without giving it to him."

    LaRoca regarded his Ferengi security officer with a thoughtful gaze. He generally liked the rest of the Ferengi as a species, and he generally liked troublemakers, but he didn't like Amraam. For some reason his personality just rubbed the wrong way. But Amraam got along well with Rusty and most of the rest of the security staff, so he let it be. LaRoca avoided being around Amraam as much as possible. Perhaps that was a mistake. It now seemed they thought alike. "You're right," he said. "When torpedoes fail you, it's time to use words." He turned to Miller at the conn. "I want to get a little closer without showing our hand. Do you think you can position us under the moon's south pole without looking like we're lining up for a shot on any of their cloaked ships?"

    "I think so."

    "Do it." LaRoca looked to his first officer. "Bring the diplomatic advisory board into the conference room. I'm going to need all the verbal firepower we can muster."


    Starbase 51

    Ming and Fozz were brought back to the rec room, visibly shaken. They made their way to Rusty and Yoann's group. "What did they do to you?" Yoann wondered.

    "Ugh. Nothing permanent," Fozz answered, massaging his forehead at the roots of his antennae.

    "They hooked us up to some sort of neural interface and forced us to relive our worst memories," Hector Domingo told her. "Some things from the Dominion War I thought I forgot... I tried to forget..."

    "What did they want to know?" Rusty demanded. "Did you tell them anything?"

    "They never asked any questions," Fozz said, still dazed. "But I felt them... in the back of my mind, somehow. I think they were accessing our memories directly, distracting us with some, while they searched for others." Fozz looked around the room. "They still have Traa'cee and Grimes."
    * * *

    Capt. Frank Grimes sat in the interrogation chair with a smile on his face.

    "You are making things difficult for yourself, Captain," Commander Nivek declared. The Romulan adjusted the neural interface with his control PADD. "The more you try to resist, the more painful this will be."

    "This isn't painful at all," Grimes lied. But his telepathic resistance training was paying off. He had placed all of his vital memories in an imaginary hiding place, and he kept moving it around in his mind to keep it away from the probing Romulan neural scanner. And he recalled the advice of his Cardassian instructor: The best way to resist torture is to torment your tormentors. A man may be able to endure great pain, but no man can stand to be laughed at.

    "Let's see what we can do about that. Perhaps this episode from your childhood?"

    Grimes was forced to remember the day before his seventh birthday. His family's pet German Shepherd had given birth to a litter of pups a few weeks before. One of them had wandered too close to the swimming pool, fallen in and drowned. Young Frankie had experienced the full horror of discovering the lifeless little animal. Frank Grimes looked Nivek in the eye and laughed out loud.

    "You... you are a psychopath," Nivek stated.

    "Not at all," Grimes answered, grinning maniacally. "I just laugh when I see dead puppies."

    "Let's find something else."

    Capt. Grimes found himself in sick bay on the USS Quasar, watching his first officer slowly die, and die horribly, of the mysterious virus that had infected half of his crew. He chuckled, stared at Nivek, transposed his face on his dead first officer's, and laughed until he was gasping for air.

    "Stop that!" Nivek insisted. "You cannot possibly find this amusing!"

    Grimes found a way to laugh harder still.

    Nivek stormed out of the room. A moment later, two guards game in. Truncheons whirled in their hands.

    Grimes stopped laughing.


    Tiburon

    The diplomatic advisory board was Admiral LaRoca's select team of FDC attaches. They travelled with the Admiral and engaged in any number of activities on his behalf; assessing political stability on one planet, promoting cross-cultural relations on another, attending embassy functions, repatriating refugees, and even occasionally instigating defections. They each had their own personal shuttle and a security officer assigned to be their personal bodyguard. They were LaRoca's eyes, ears and hands in whatever sector of space he visited.

    The senior advisor on the board was Ennari, fifth host of the Dai symbiont. Though Ennari herself was in her early thirties, Dai could claim to be one of the few people alive who had met the legendary Starfleet Captain James Kirk. The Trill had become something of a legend in the Federation Diplomatic Corps. It was said she could calm a room full of bickering delegates just by aiming her intense gaze at each person in turn until they fell silent. LaRoca had once attended a party with her and he swore he could feel Ennari Dai's eyes from across the ballroom.

    Stazratts was the oldest member of the board after the Dai symbiont. He was a Gorn, and like LaRoca's friend General Ssharki he had been hatched and raised on the joint Federation/Hegemony colony world of Cestus III. Unlike Ssharki however, Stazratts never left home for over a century until 2405, when the Hegemony annexed the entire planet with the Klingon Empire's backing. Stazratts evacuated with his Human friends, and since he was already a dual-citizen within the Federation he was welcomed into the Diplomatic Corps. Like all members of his species he was patient and pragmatic, and possessed an excellent memory for detail. These traits combined with a deep personal desire for peace made him a natural diplomat.

    Ivan Sergei Jovanovich came from a family of farmers living outside of Volgograd in Russia. He joined Starfleet through the ROTC program at Moscow University. His old country wisdom and congenial spirit made him a valued asset on peacekeeping missions. He left Starfleet on a medical discharge after being blinded by a phaser stun to the face. Rather than accept regenerative surgery, he elected to be fitted for a VISOR. He applied to the FDC, where he quickly discovered that his ability to see in extravisual spectrums was extremely useful for negotiating with dishonest persons.

    The newest member of the board was Kugid, an Orion who had been thrown out of the Syndicate when he negotiated an unauthorized prisoner exchange. He reached out to Starfleet Intelligence and exchanged his knowledge of Syndicate operations for asylum. LaRoca found his cunning and unscrupulous nature useful when he needed an envoy to reach out to another duplicitous species, such as the Ferengi, Karemma or Cardassians. Kugid quickly adopted the culture of Earth, specifically that of the American Ancient West, and liked to lounge around wearing cowboy boots, which was somewhat fitting for his practice of "cowboy diplomacy."

    The fifth member of the board was a Bajoran woman named Nimosu Roor, who was presently attending a multicultural religious symposium on Rigel V.

    LaRoca sat at the head of the conference table, with Marq, Stazratts and Ivan on one side, and Ennari, Kugid and Hank Miller on the other. After bringing the board up to speed on the situation, he hailed the starbase.

    After almost a minute, Admiral G'Dahn responded. "Hello, Admiral," he said. "I'm afraid I have nothing further to report."

    "I don't want to talk to you, G'Dahn," LaRoca announced. "I want to talk to the Romulan who put you up to this."

    G'Dahn raised an eyebrow. "I beg your pardon, Admiral, but is this some sort of Human joke?"

    "I wish. Our sensors have detected four cloaked warbirds in close proximity to the station, as well as dozens of lifesigns over there which do not belong. Now I don't know if you're being held hostage by the Romulans or if you actually are one, but I don't care. I just want you to step aside for whoever's in charge over there."

    G'Dahn stared at his screen for a long while before responding. "Admiral, I am afraid you have allowed your imagination to run away from you. I suggest you recalibrate your sensor systems. Goodnight." With that, he closed the channel.

    "Well, that didn't work," Miller observed.

    "The Romulans want to avoid a confrontation," Ennari declared. "They think they can get what they're after and leave without giving us a target or even any proof that they were ever there."

    Stazratts concurred. "I believe that right now, Tal Shiar operatives are interrogating our people and extracting information from the computer systems. They are most likely planning to take all the information they can on Project PORCELAIN and the OMEGA research, steal anything that's not welded down, and warp away, leaving us with nothing but sensor readings."

    "And our people?" Marq asked. "And the evidence on the station?"

    "Our people will be executed, and the station will be destroyed," Kugid figured. "We can suspect the Romulans were here, but the evidence will point to nothing more than a terrible accident."

    Miller agreed. "Sounds like a textbook Tal Shiar operation to me."

    "Okay," LaRoca summed up. "They don't want to talk to us because they have nothing further to gain. We can't fight them off or we will lose a lot of people. We can't do nothing or we will lose everyone and everything on the station. So what do we do?"
    "I'm afraid I don't see any possible solution," Marq said, dejectedly.

    Ivan spoke up. "In Russia we say: 'All things are possible except skiing through a revolving door.'"

    Miller gave him an odd look. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

    "It means every problem has a solution if you look hard enough," Stazratts said. "Even Ivan's revolving door. If you make the door large enough, and match its rotational velocity to the speed of the skiier, you can ski through just fine."

    "I never thought of that," Ivan muttered.

    LaRoca stood up. "Let's get out there are get our heads together. Somebody will have to have an idea that's crazy enough to work."


    Starbase 51

    Traa'cee gazed at the ceiling, trying to find patterns in the cracked and faded paint. She tried to distract herself from her fear. The Vulcan could feel her emotional control slipping away; cool logical rationality being replaced by anger, sorrow, and terror. Doubtless this was the intended effect of the drugs the Romulans had pumped her with. The fact that she knew the cause of her distress brought her no comfort.

    The door opened. She recognized the Romulan who entered. He had introduced himself earlier as Commander Nivek. He looked frustrated and angry. Or perhaps she was projecting her own emotions. Useless garbage cluttering the mind... Nivek approached her and placed a device on her forehead, a little larger than a cortical stimulator.

    "This is a neural interface," Nivek explained. "It will allow me to access your memories." He raised a PADD and activated the device.

    Traa'cee could feel her mind being searched. It felt like a one-way mind-meld. She tried to block it, and hide her thoughts, but she couldn't. Her fear got in the way. Fear of what that thing would find...

    "I have already gained all the knowledge I need from your friends," Nivek announced, with a cruel smile. "I'm only doing this because I want to hurt you."

    The device locked on to a buried memory and dragged it to the surface of her mind. "Noooo..." It was a fairly recent memory - only just over two years old. "No." And it was horrible. "NO!" It was the discovery that her father, Ambassador Sokketh, had been murdered, "NO!" and that the man she and LCdr. Jesu LaRoca had just escorted to P'Jem was not her father, but an Undine infiltrator. "NO! NO! NO! NO!!" She screamed the word over and over again and nothing happened. The memory remained.

    Nivek had lied. She did have information he wanted. He set the device to retrieve it while keeping the memory of her mission to P'Jem in the front of her mind. "I'm going to leave you alone with your thoughts now." He left the room, and sighed with satisfaction. After the difficulty with Captain Grimes, it felt good to have a subject cooperate so beautifully.


    Tiburon

    "I thought I was having trouble getting sensor readings because of the background particles," Spfc. Rain Robinson explained, "But it turns out the baddies are using some sorta scattering field. Once I realized that, I was able to find gaps I could get pulse readings through. The baddies are definitely Romulan. They're all over the station. And I've found all of our people, too. Most of them are here in this large central room, which looks like a dining commons or something, but there's a coupla isolated lifesigns here on the top level - one Human, one Vulcan, both faint."

    "Nice work," LaRoca said.

    Hacksaw's face tightened as he stared at the fading Vulcan lifesign on the monitor.

    "If you have their lifesigns, can't we just beam them out?" Marq wondered.

    "No," Omid told him. "The field is inhibiting beamout. The Romulans are probably using isolinear transponder tags on themselves and their gear to get through, but we can't transport anything out."

    "However, we could beam things in," K'Jetsk announced. The Reman was a recent addition to the crew, a former member of Obisek's resistance cell. He was a skilled combat medic who enjoyed using his psionic powers along with exotic sciences to confound the enemy. "I recognize the configuration of their scattering field. It's a common Tal Shiar pattern. We can tag objects and beam them to the starbase."

    "What sort of objects?" LaRoca asked.

    "I was thinking canisters of anesthezine gas."

    "I've got something better," LCdr. Dr. Maria Espinoza announced, "Triaxonol. Absorbs through the skin in less than a second, or through the mucous membranes within a few milliseconds. With the right concentration, it would knock everyone out before the Romulans knew what was happening. It would not, however, affect Barrister or the Borg, and it will have no adverse after-effects on our people."

    "Then we could beam in communicators, transponder tags, and weapons to Barrister's position..."

    LaRoca swore. "It's all in the hands of that damned android. How'd it come to this?"

    "Do we know where Barrister is?" Marq asked Robinson.

    "I have a positronic signature here, in the corner of that large room where it looks like they're holding almost everyone. There are four nearby lifesigns that are consistent with Borg drones."

    "Perfect," Amraam spoke up. "Barrister and the Borg are together. That simplifies things."

    "We could also beam in a strike team," Miller suggested. "How long does it take for triaxonol to dissipate?"

    "After ninety seconds it should be safe to beam in," said Maria. "The effect wears off after about six minutes, however. Longer for species with lower metabolic rates, like Romulans and Vulcans."

    "Perfect," LaRoca declared. "We have a plan. Let's figure out where we want to send our canisters. K'Jetsk, Maria and Amraam, if you could please go and prepare a surprise for our guests."


    Starbase 51

    Lt. Barrister the android was mentally simulating non-lethal option number forty-seven for disarming his Romulan guard, as well as calculating the probability of all Starfleet personnel leaving the starbase alive and free of Romulan custody, attempting to determine the etymological origin of the acronym "SNAFU" and working on his composition of a concerto for piano and strings. His thought process was suddenly interrupted by a cloud of light gray gas that filled the room, spouted by several canisters that had appeared from nowhere. The Romulan guard in front of him collapsed in an unconscious heap, as did everyone else in the room apart from the Liberated Borg and himself.

    A small stack of crates also appeared before him and a voice addressed him from it. "Barrister! Come in!"

    "Admiral? I'm here, sir. The Starbase was taken by Romulans, but I believe they-"

    "I know."

    "They are unconscious now, apparently anesthetized by-"

    "I know! Dammit Barrister, if there was ever a time I needed you to not be Barrister, it's now."

    "I cannot cease to be myself, sir. However, if you wish, I could imitate-"

    "Shut up. Listen carefully. I'm talking to you from a combadge in the top crate. Put it on. In the crates you'll find more combadges, isolinear transponder tags, and weapons. You and the Borg work together. Disarm the Romulans in the room with you, tag them for transport to the brig, and distribute badges and weapons to our people. You have about five minutes before the gas wears off. Oh, and if you find Admiral G'Dahn, he's probably a traitor. Tag him for transport too."

    "Understood, sir. And may I say I am most gratified that you have come to our rescue."

    A heavy sigh could be heard from the combadge before it chirped off.

    Barrister opened the crate and placed the active combadge on his chest. "Five of Seven, Five of Eight and Two of Three, please move throughout the starbase disarming every Romulan you find and applying transponder tags. Six of Eight, if you will please pick up the crate with weapons and accompany me, we'll see to our people."

    "Acknowledged," the Borg said together, and they set about their assigned tasks.


    Tiburon

    Admiral LaRoca walked Hacksaw to the transporter room. "Omid is going to beam your team into the OMEGA lab. Your first priority is to secure the labs, then Ops, then our people."

    "Jesu-" Miller started to protest.

    "I know, you're worried about Traa'cee. I'm worried about Rusty. But information security comes first. Besides, there're three Vulcans on the station. That isolated lifesign could be G'Dahn just as easily as it could be Traa'cee, or it could just be an STS techie."

    Miller's professionalism took over. "I understand."

    LaRoca slapped his friend's shoulder and returned to the bridge. "Have those warbirds out there moved yet?" he asked.

    "Not yet," Rain Robinson reported. "It doesn't look like they know what's going on."

    "If they're watching their sensors they'll figure it out when they see all of our transporter activity," Pakray said. "Unless they are much stupider than I give them credit for."

    "You'd better call the tactical team up here," LaRoca told him, "in case they decide to make us fight them off."


    Starbase 51

    Hacksaw Miller, Lt. Amraam, K'Jetsk and two security officers beamed into the OMEGA research lab and found four unconscious Romulans on the floor. Miller holstered his wide-beam phased-polaron pistol and went straight to the active computer terminal. "Good, they didn't get past the encryption locks."

    Amraam and the Human security officer removed Romulan transponder tags from the research materials and equipment in the lab while K'Jetsk and the other security officer checked out the Romulan officers. K'Jetsk stood watch with disruptor rifle at the ready while the Klingon tagged the Romulans and disabled their weapons. The Romulans dematerialized a moment later. "Are we secure here?" K'Jetsk asked.

    "I think so," Miller answered. "Amraam?"

    The Ferengi responded by dropping a handful of Romulan isolinear tags on the floor and crushing them under his boot.

    They repeated the process in the other research lab and took the turbolift to Ops. Finding it empty, Amraam activated the internal security net while Hacksaw contacted the Tiburon to report their progress.
    * * *

    A Trill warp theorist was the first Starfleet officer to recover, followed by Fozz and an Andorian research scientist. Barrister and Six of Eight reached Fozz just as the chief operations officer staggered to his feet. "Whoa. What happened?"

    "The Tiburon beamed over an advanced anesthetic aerosol compound, sir," Barrister reported. "Please take this combadge."

    "And here is a weapon for you," Six of Eight added, offering a phaser pistol.

    "Thanks." Fozz attached the badge to his uniform and activated it. "Ibear to Tiburon."

    "Tib here," LaRoca replied. "It's good to hear from you, Fozz."

    "Are you ready to beam us up?"

    "It's not quite that simple, I'm afraid. There're four warbirds out here and I don't think they'll just walk away."

    The others started to come to, and the last of the Romulans was transported away.

    Rusty stood up with a sigh. "I'm getting real tired of getting knocked out." He looked around and noticed the situation. "Oh, I guess we won."

    "Is that you, Rusty?" Jesu called out.

    "Yeah, it's me."

    "How're you doing, bro?"

    "I'm alright." Rusty did a quick headcount. "Traa'cee and Grimes are missing."

    "Hacksaw's team will find them. You need to get the starbase crew to man their stations. Have the engineering crew check the reactor for a bomb or some other sort of sabotage. We think the Rommies were going to blow the station when they left."

    "Okay. What do you want the rest of us to do?"

    "The rest of you get to test-fly Project PORCELAIN a little earlier than scheduled."

    "I was hoping you'd say that," Ming said. "Give me five minutes to get her warmed up, and those Romulans out there will be dead before they can pray to all four Elements."
    * * *

    Miller's team advanced through the upper levels until he called a halt at a T-intersection. "Those two isolated lifesigns are up this corridor. They weren't anesthetized. They're probably our people."

    "We'll hold the hallway while you check them out," Amraam said. "Careful, though - that Vulcan might be G'Dahn."

    Miller overrode the lock on the first door and carefully peeked inside when it hissed open. "Frank."

    "Hi, Hank," said the man strapped down to the chair. "It's about time you showed up."

    K'Jetsk entered the room and grimaced. The Human was a mess of bruises and broken bones. He scanned him with his medical tricorder.

    "I don't feel quite as bad as I probably look," Capt. Frank Grimes said.

    "Your injuries, while not severe, are nonetheless extensive," K'Jetsk told him. He injected him with a painkiller hypo and tapped his combadge. "K'Jetsk to Tiburon, I'm tagging a human officer. Please beam him directly to sickbay."

    "I'm sure the infirmary here can take care of me once it's up and running," Grimes started to argue, but then he disappeared in a transporter beam.

    Hacksaw and K'Jetsk approached the next room with weapons drawn. The door opened, Hacksaw looked in and gasped in horror. "Traa'cee!"

    She was in the grips of a seizure. Green blood seeped from her nostrils, ears and the corners of her eyes. Her mouth was continuing to form words in the Vulcan language long after her voice had given out.

    Hacksaw threw down his pistol and rushed to her side. He frantically unstrapped her restraints and whispered "It's okay. I'm here. You'll be okay."

    "Miller, that device on her forehead," K'Jetsk pointed. "That might be causing the seizure."

    Miller removed the neural interface device. The seizure stopped, and Traa'cee's body became lifeless in his arms.

    "No!" He screamed. "Dammit, Traa'cee, don't die on me!"

    K'Jetsk calmly tapped his combadge. "Tiburon, lock on to Miller's transponder and beam two directly to sickbay. Medical emergency." He watched his shipmates beam out, then picked up Hacksaw's pistol and the neural interface device and jogged down the corridor where the security officers were waiting. "The Romulans will be recovering from the effects of the triaxonol now," he told them. "Let's proceed with caution."

    The remaining Romulans were occupying the administration offices in the top level. The first group of didn't put up much resistance as they were just waking up. A few phaser bolts on heavy stun knocked them out again and they were secured for transport. The Romulans in the next room were better prepared; they had barricaded the door and taken cover behind desks inside the room. They were no match for Amraam's training. His men melted the door with a barrage of phaser fire, and he lobbed a stun grenade through. In the confined space of the office the one grenade was enough to deal with all four Romulans.

    Once they had been transported away, K'Jetsk took a tricorder scan. "Two rooms, four life signs. Two Romulans and a Vulcan in the first one, one Romulan in the second."

    "How do you want to play it?" Amraam asked. "The Vulcan could be a hostage, or he could be G'Dahn."

    "Who could still be a hostage," K'Jetsk pointed out. "He may have been lying under duress."

    "So, stun 'em all and sort it out after?"

    The discussion was rendered moot when one of the Romulans rolled out into the hallway and shot one of the security officers in the chest with a disruptor pistol before anyone could react. The rest of the team quickly cut him down. The second Romulan leaned out the door to throw a plasma grenade. Amraam shot him in the shoulder, causing him to drop it. The grenade went off, burning the Romulans to death.

    K'Jetsk ignored their gruesome immolation and tended to the downed Klingon. He applied a flexseal bandage to the wound and started to heal the internal injury with his portable vascular regenerator. "Check the Vulcan while I stabilize him for transport," he instructed Amraam.

    "On it." The Ferengi and his Human colleage stepped over the smoldering remains of the two Romulans and entered the room with their rifles at the ready.

    G'Dahn was cowering in the corner. "Please don't shoot me," he requested. "The Romulans took me hostage with the others. I was forced to lie to Admiral LaRoca."

    Amraam tapped his combadge. "Commander LaRoca, this is Amraam, come in."

    "What's up, 'Raam?" Rusty replied after a few seconds.

    "Boss, we've secured Admiral G'Dahn. He claims he was a hostage. Can you confirm that?"

    "I can confirm that TRIBBLE shot me three times," Rusty answered. "Tell him he's a lying son of a *****, stun him, and beam him to the brig."

    "You got it, Boss." Amraam aimed his phaser rifle at G'Dahn. "You, sir, are a lying son of a *****." And with that he shot him.

    K'Jetsk joined the security officers as G'Dahn was beamed out. They entered the last room and found a Romulan behind a personal forcefield generator. K'Jetsk recognized the uniform of a Tal Shiar commander. "You are under arrest," he announced.

    Commander Nivek grinned. "No, I don't think so. I will be leaving as soon as my ship closes to transporter range. However, I am willing to answer a few questions while I wait."

    K'Jetsk lowered his weapon and opened his combadge channel to the Tiburon. "What did you do to Commander Traa'cee?"

    "Ah, you would be referring to the effects of the neural interface. You have only yourselves to blame for that. I was on my way to remove it when you gassed me. If it is left engaged for too long it causes permanent neurological damage. Often fatal, in fact."

    "Why did you come here?" Amraam demanded.

    "I thought that should be obvious," Nivek replied, "even to an ignorant worm like you, or a deluded slave like your friend there. Curiosity. We wanted to see where your research of Borg technology had taken you. Your results are most impressive. Unfortunately your ship arrived before we could steal your prototype. But with the data we collected I'm sure our scientists will be able to improve upon our own Borg hybrid warbirds." A communicator on his wrist beeped. "Time's up. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to vaporize that ugly ship of yours." And with that Nivek was beamed away.

    "Tib to away team," Admiral LaRoca called. "The Rommie warbirds just decloaked. Three of them are converging on our position. You've done your job. Stand by to beam up.
    * * *

    Cmdr. Hector "Ming" Domingo monitored the power levels of the semi-assimilated warp core and the temperature levels of its two-stage coolant system. The core put out way too many zetawatts of power. He could only hope that the reinforced magnetic field modulators he'd installed in the EPS grid would be able to handle it. If not, Project PORCELAIN would rip itself apart, like the Defiant prototype almost had. One of the Project PRORATE test ships actually had blown itself up, Ming recalled. That was in the years just after the Dominion war, when he started working for STS with Admiral Sander.

    Project PORCELAIN he thought. What a name. As far as he knew, PORCELAIN didn't even stand for anything. Admiral Sander may have come up with some wildly reckless designs, but at least the names he gave his projects made for some poetic acronyms. Like Project PREDATOR - Prototype Ready for Experimental Deployment, Advanced Tactical Offensive Response. The program had been cancelled when the Starfleet Procurement Committee in the Federation Council realized that this "offensive response" could blow a hole through a planet. That kind of firepower may be useful now...

    He snapped out of his musings. The core had finished warming up and was operating at peak efficiency. "Engineering to bridge," he reported. "We're ready to go."
    * * *

    Cmdr. Ibear didn't care for the PORCELAIN moniker either. He much preferred the name the ship would receive if and when she was commissioned into service. She had a dedication plaque all made up and ready, wrapped in plastic and stashed in a drawer in the desk in the ready room. She was to be called USS Hammerhead.

    The Hammerhead boasted massive firepower for such a small ship. Six forward-firing advanced Andorian heavy phaser cannons were upgrades over the original equipment, as was the aft phaser turret. The main armament was the wing cannons, which had been modified to fire either massive bolts of shield-draining tachyon particles or overcharged blasts of phaser energy. Additionally, the Hammerhead had been fitted with a cutting beam - a weapon normally found on a Borg Cube. And then there was the torpedo launcher, modified to fire adapted Borg weapons referred to by the team as "Omega torpedoes" that really were not torpedoes at all, but were actually bolts of high-energy plasma. But they behaved enough like torpedoes that the name fit.

    He took a final look around the small bridge to see that everyone had settled into their stations. Rusty had the most piloting experience of the group so he took the conn. Barrister had run numerous tactical simulations and was most familiar with the Hammerhead's offensive capabilities, so he was at TacOps with the weapon systems hot-linked to his console. LCdr. Yoann manned the joint shield distribution and automated damage control station. Lt. Andrei Kurkov, the STS test engineer, would monitor the regenerative structure as well as the performance of the weapon systems.

    He took his seat in the command chair and acknowledged Ming's report. "Alright, Ming. Let's see what this little monster can do." He nodded to the conn. "Take us out, Rusty."


    Tiburon

    Lt. Stikvaa followed the rest of the Alpha shift tactical team out of the turbolift. He was yawning almost uncontrollably. "Admiral, sir. Wha-ha-a-ah-uh. Why'd you wake me up three hours before my shift's s'posed to start?"

    Marq frowned at the junior officer's insubordination, but LaRoca instantly forgave his best helmsman. Everyone who knew a Gorn knew better than to disturb his sleep. A bit of grumpiness was to be expected and accepted. That was actually showing restraint - Stikvaa could have completely destroyed his cabin and the security officer sent to rouse him, if he hadn't exercised self-control.

    "Three Romulan D'deridex warbirds on an intercept course. Dusty's already got us pointed at one of them. I'm hoping we'll take it out before the other two join up."

    "Well, yah-haaw. That sounds like fun." Stikvaa took over the conn station and adjusted the seat.

    "Do you need coffee or a hypostim?" Ens. "Dusty" Massimino quipped as he moved to the stand-by jumpseat.

    "Both," Stikvaa grunted.

    "Time to intercept, Sticks?" LaRoca asked.

    Stikvaa checked the nav display. "Ninety-eight seconds, sir."

    "The Peregrines are deployed and stan
    16d89073-5444-45ad-9053-45434ac9498f.png~original

    ...Oh, baby, you know, I've really got to leave you / Oh, I can hear it callin 'me / I said don't you hear it callin' me the way it used to do?...
    - Anne Bredon
  • jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 8,378 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    Captain's Log, USS Bastogne NCC-93385, stardate 90201.5.

    The
    Bastogne is en route to Starbase 114 for a well-deserved shore leave, after our - rather unusual encounter with the famed Guardian of Forever. We will also be rendezvousing with the Kirk there, to transfer Lt. Paris back to her ship. Charming girl - don't know if I'd be as gracious toward someone who kidnapped me and shoved me two hundred years back in time. Profits, I wasn't that nice to Drake last time we spoke, and he hadn't kidnapped us - just dragooned us.

    All systems are nominal, which makes a nice change. I think Vovenek's getting bored.


    Grunt sat back in his command chair, fingering his brand-new commander's pip. He knew it was supposed to be SOP for an officer to receive a new command on being promoted to full commander, but he also knew how badly stretched the Fleet shipyards were - why, they'd recently been pulling old Andorian escorts out of mothballs and putting them on the front lines! Half of the admirals seemed to be flying around in commandeered Breen and Jem'Hadar ships, because Starfleet's production lines just weren't able to keep up with the losses being taken on the Borg front. No, all in all he really didn't mind staying with the old TRIBBLE a little longer...

    "Captain," Roclak interrupted his reverie, "we are receiving a distress signal. Priority One."

    "One? Where is it, what ship, and how long will we take to get there?"

    "One moment... Sir, it's not from a ship at all. The signal is being interfered with, probably at the source, but it's identifying as a research station. Something about True Way, and something else about 'temporal generators'."

    "Temporal? That's not a very comforting word, Rock. Especially not today."

    "I agree, sir. However, we're the nearest ship - the Termigant is next nearest, but it would take over three standard hours to arrive. We can be there in thirty minutes."

    "Very well. Tell Termigant that we're responding to the signal. Don't acknowledge to the station - we're going to want to try to keep the advantage of surprise. Gydap, anything on sensors?"

    "Yes, sir," the Andorian replied. "I have one Galor-class cruiser, with an odd irregularity to their energy outputs. It looks like their main reactor's having some issues. Also, their transponder is offline. Definitely not Cardassian military."

    "Nothing else?" Grunt asked, surprised. "We're kind of far out from the True Way's usual turf - they only sent one ship?"

    "So it would seem, sir. Incidentally, the station doesn't appear on any standard navigation charts of the area. Inquiries into this region are met with the same data precautions as those around Section 31's pet slingshot at Bepi 113."

    "'Curiouser and curiouser,'" Grunt mused. "Ms. Shelana, please stand by on weapons, and have a few of your young men in the transporter room prepared to board the station."

    "Don't you plan on boarding the Cardassian ship?" Roclak asked.

    Grunt smiled. "Rock, if Shelana leaves enough of that ship to board, we'll consider it."

    Shelana chuckled. "If."

    Grunt touched a control. The Red Alert klaxon began howling through the ship. "All hands, this is the captain," he announced. "All hands to battle stations. Repeat, all hands to battle stations. We have a stop to make before getting that leave."


    It was an inoffensive little orange dwarf star, the kind a Klingon would have found homey. It hosted only three planets, one close-orbit gas giant and two rocky outer worlds too small to hold atmospheres. Orbiting the second of those rocks was a medium-small space station, accompanied by a beat-up Cardassian cruiser with no identifying marks on her hull.

    A few light-seconds away, space twisted violently for a moment, before expelling a Starfleet cruiser, multiply-painted and proudly emblazoned USS Bastogne.

    "Ms. Shelana," Grunt said, "you may - indulge yourself."

    "Yes, sir," the Andorian tactical officer replied, with a feral grin. "Thank you, sir."

    Lances of energy, blue and orange, speared through the endless night, enhanced with Shelana's own shield-piercing frequency modulations. Purple flares of Hargh'peng torpedoes streaked toward the Cardassian craft, already beginning its ponderous turn toward battle. Its own weapons returned fire, raking Bastogne's shields and shaking the ship's occupants.

    "Shields holding at 90 percent, Commander," Gydap reported. "Minor fluctuation in the impulse drive."

    "On it," Vovenek reported on the intercom.

    "I thought you said everything was nominal!" Grunt complained.

    "And I thought you said we were headed straight for a starbase. We were nominal for going to a starbase. Nobody said anything about flying into combat!"

    "Continue firing at will, Shelana," Grunt said. "That sort of thing can't keep happening to this poor ship right now."

    Shelana didn't say anything; the phaser and disruptor banks spoke on her behalf. The shielding surrounding the Cardassian ship wavered - and its overworked portside shield generator suddenly exploded through its hull. The Cardassian's engines wavered and died, and her port weapons ceased firing.

    "Her port shields are down, sir," Gydap reported.

    "Rock, send a standard surrender offer," Grunt ordered.

    "Aye, sir. Transmitting." The Klingon grinned slightly. "Reply received. If the translator's working right, they have no concept of Klingon anatomy - what they're inviting me to do is physically impossible, even after a few drinks."

    "Very well, no one can say we didn't try. Shelana?"

    The Bastogne's fire increased with the addition of the aft phaser turret, tearing through the hull of the enemy craft and causing a massive series of explosions. In moments, all that remained of the former Galor-class ship was a rapidly-expanding cloud of gases and metallic debris.

    "That's what I thought," Vovenek said. "They looked like they were in even worse shape than us."

    "That's what they get for being racists," Grunt pronounced with satisfaction. "There are a lot of people who make better engineers than most Cardassians. You, for instance, my Pakled friend."

    "You're making me blush," Vovenek said.

    "How can you tell?" Roclak replied, straight-faced.

    "Rock, hail the station. See if you can find out what's going on there," Grunt said. "Gydap, I need a sensor sweep of the station. Look especially for Cardie life signs."

    "Scanning... Sir, I can't seem to get a look inside the station. There's a sensor-scattering field, which ordinarily I could compensate for, but on top of that there seems to be some sort of temporal issue going on - some of the signs I'm scanning seem to be shifted by several seconds from the neighboring data." Gydap shook his head. "I never did like temporal mechanics. I like it even less these days."

    Grunt sighed. "I know the feeling. Anything yet, Rock?"

    "Still scrambled, sir, but I did get a fragmentary audio of one of the True Way trying to reach their ship - I think he was looking for instructions on whether to start executing hostages."

    "Well, that does increase the level of urgency a bit. Rock, Shelana, we're off to the transporter room. Rock, please have the quartermaster deliver our usual boarding supplies from the armory. Shelana, download whatever you can get on the floorplan of that station to our tricorders. Vovenek, come up to the bridge and keep a sharp eye on sensors. Let us know the microsecond anyone without a Starfleet transponder gets within range. Gydap, you have the conn. If trouble starts, try to get us out - but judging by the levels of precaution surrounding this installation, your first priority is to deny access to this station to anyone not from the Federation. By any means necessary, Mr. Gydap - and our survival is secondary to this."

    "Aye, sir, I have the conn." Gydap touched the audio link in his ear. "Er, Chief Wayne's compliments, sir, but he says there's a lot of interference from whatever they're working on over there. He says he can beam you in there, but if you want beamed out, you have to shut it down."

    "Then we'd better get this right. Let's go, people!"


    The azure sparkle died, and Grunt and Roclak found themselves in what looked to be a storage area, along with their escort, two young human males from Shelana's security troops.

    Grunt tapped his combadge. "Grunt to Bastogne. We're here. Storage B, all right. Is Shelana's team in place?"

    "Aye, sir. They're ready on our signal."

    "All right, let's see what we can see." Grunt tapped the channel closed. "After you, Rock."

    The Klingon slid the door open, poking the muzzle of his pulsewave disruptor out ahead of him. When nothing attacked, he peered around the corner. "Looks clear," he said. "Ensign Michaels, it's your turn."

    One of the Security men stepped forward and out the door. "Scanning... nothing, sir. Ready to sweep this floor."

    Grunt, Roclak, and the other Security man, Lt. Singh, moved out. A distance down the corridor, after several rooms with no occupants, Michaels held his hand up. "Just a second, sir - thought I saw something..."

    Looking around the crate he was behind, Grunt saw what Michaels had spotted. "That - that's us. How is that possible?"

    Roclak already had his tricorder out. "It's a temporal anomaly," he said. "What you're seeing is where we'll be in a few minutes. We're going to be running into this a lot, I think."

    Grunt frowned. "You know something, Rock? I'm really getting tired of all this temporal TRIBBLE."

    "Trust me, sir," Roclak said dryly, "I've already promised myself that if we ever wind up on Earth in the late 19th century, I'm going to find the human writer Wells and kick him in the head until he forgets all about his time machine idea."


    Two floors above them, Shelana paused, panting slightly. Her custom bat'leth dripped with Cardassian blood.

    "Commander," one of her men said in an awed voice, "that was amazing. But don't you think maybe we should take prisoners or something?"

    "If they wanted to live," she replied, "they shouldn't have attacked a Starfleet facility. Especially a secret Starfleet facility. They'd probably have been killed to shut them up anyway - I'm just speeding things up a little."

    "Um, sir, all due respect, but I'm pretty sure that's not what Starfleet does."

    "That's what you think," Shelana said, with a feral grin. "There's a man I know of named Drake who might disagree with you. Enough chatter - we still haven't found any hostages yet. Let's move."

    '

    Seven minutes, eight rooms, and four Cardassian patrols later (although in fairness, three of them were the same patrols, just in different times), Grunt stopped his group just outside a door labeled, "Operations".

    "Shh. Hear that?"

    Roclak cocked his head for a moment. "I don't hear anything."

    "Yeah, I forgot - human and Klingon ears are mostly just for decoration. Voices on the other side of this door. Sound agitated. Probably our targets. Set weapons to stun - I'm willing to bet the hostages are in there too." Grunt tapped the control panel, and the door slid open quietly.

    A group of True Way loyalists stood near a control panel, several of them pointing weapons in the vague direction of several civilian scientists. Some of the scientists bore bruises and other marks. "Daron to Nessil," one Cardassian repeated into a communicator. "Daron to Nessil. Requesting information as to disposition of prisoners. They are unwilling to talk to us. Please respond." He looked at another of the True Way. "It's useless, sir - all I get is static. There's too much interference from the experiments here."

    "Or from Starfleet," Grunt said, stepping out of a shadow. "Please surrender. It will make all of our lives easier, and save you a rather nasty headache later."

    The response was immediate - poorly-aimed fire began to splatter around Grunt and his party. Phaser beams and pulsewave blasts, somewhat better aimed, fired in response. Suddenly, a blue-clad form slid gracefully into the crowd of attackers, striking at any who managed to avoid the phaser barrage. In a matter of moments, every Cardassian in the room lay on the floor.

    "Mok'bara, Rock? Really? Showing off much?" Grunt grinned.

    "Not showing off, sir," Roclak replied soberly. "Well, not much, anyway. But you said 'stun' - and my disruptor doesn't have a stun setting. Besides, I didn't want any stray shots to hit the hostages."

    "Hmm. Good point." Grunt turned to the scientists. "I'm Commander Grunt, of the starship Bastogne," he said. "We're here in response to your distress call. First question - do you know of any other Cardassians on the station?"

    "There were two or three sent out to keep an eye outside the room," one civilian, an older human male, replied. "And another group upstairs..."

    "Shelana to Grunt," Grunt's combadge interjected. "We found and neutralized three groups here. No sign of hostages."

    Grunt tapped his badge. "That's because they're all down here, Shelana. And it sounds like you've taken out the last of the attackers. Any prisoners?"

    "Any what, sir? I think you're breaking up."

    "Acknowledged. Stand by for beamout once we get this place shut down. Grunt out." He tapped his badge again. "Well, it looks like you're safe now, Mister... ?"

    "Doctor, actually. Dr. Hassan, lead researcher here at Anderson Station. We were working on a device that might have actually reproduced the abilities of the Guardian of Forever - have you heard of the Guardian?"

    "We're familiar with it," Grunt replied with a grimace. "Why in the name of the First Shopkeeper would you want to do that?"

    "Just think of the research possibilities!" Hassan said, eyes gleaming. "No more trying to understand events through a historian's 'interpretation' - we could actually see the Rihannsu leave Vulcan, or the flight of Cochrane's Phoenix, or Archer's speech that founded the Federation, or - or anything!"

    "Or what you were doing in your quarters last night," Grunt continued conversationally. "Or what someone said to you late one night in grad school. Or when something else happened that you'd rather not be general knowledge. Have you ever heard of a group calling itself 'Section 31'?"

    "Why, yes," Hassan replied haltingly. "There- there was a man who offered us this station, and the funding to complete our device. Mr. Drake, he said his name was - Frank Drake, I think. He said he represented a group of investors called Section 31..."

    "And he'd make sure nobody stole your device, right?" Grunt snarled. "Except him, of course. He'd profit by having a private time machine!"

    "Is that - if that's what he expected, then I'm afraid he was going to be disappointed," Hassan said. "We only developed a viewing portal. Actual interaction with the past was too difficult - we still don't even have a theory how that could be possible. No clue how the Guardian does that."

    "Hmmpf. He'd still have the perfect spying device. I'd really rather he not have that. Besides, we fought some Cardies in the corridor that were time-shifted, so you were onto something." Grunt pondered for a moment. "Can your device be moved? We've got a cruiser here - we could take you straight to Starfleet Command for protection."

    "Not moved as such, no," Hassan replied, "but if necessary, we can reproduce the research elsewhere - we have all of our notes, we'd just need funding. Why? Is this Mr. Drake a criminal or something?"

    "Or something, yes. Very well, Doctor, please have your people gather their belongings and notes, shut down your device here, and prepare for departure. We'll take you to Earth Spacedock."

    "Really?" Dr. Hassan brightened. "I've never been to Earth. That will be different, at least." He turned to his people, most of whom still seemed stunned by this sudden reversal of their fortunes - again. "You heard him, guys!" he called out. "We've got, what, maybe half an hour or so? An hour?"

    "One hour, tops," Grunt replied. "And please make turning your machine off a priority - it interferes with comms and transporters."

    "Certainly, Captain! Nothing simpler!" Hassan touched a control on the panel nearest him. "There you are - system deactivated. So much easier than getting it spun up in the first place."

    "Thank you, doctor." Grunt tapped his combadge. "Grunt to Bastogne," he said. "Do you read?"

    "Bastogne here, sir," Gydap replied. "What is your situation?"

    "Perfectly normal, Gydap," Grunt said.

    "That bad?" replied Vovenek's baritone.

    "Gydap, we're processing the hostages now. When they're ready, in an hour or maybe less, we'll be beaming them aboard for transport to Earth. We also have some True Way for the brig. Once everyone is aboard, I want this station blown up."

    "Blown up??" Gydap and Vovenek replied together, disbelief apparent in their voices.

    "Drake started the project here. He wanted them to build him a time machine. I don't want him to have one. I'm here, and have a starship. He isn't, and doesn't. Therefore, I get what I want, and he doesn't get what he wants."

    "Agreed, sir. We'll be standing by to beam everyone aboard. Passenger quarters are being prepared. How many guests?"

    "About a dozen. Somebody'll have to double up. That part's not my worry - I'm a starship captain, not a hotel manager."


    An hour and ten minutes later, Grunt sat in his ready room, Admiral Quinn on the viewscreen. "And so we evacuated the station, sir. We're bringing the researchers - and their research - straight to you."

    "You say Drake commissioned this?"

    "Yes, sir. That's what Dr. Hassan tells me."

    Quin drummed his fingers for a moment. "Commander Grunt. You now have direct authorization from this office to scuttle that station. Don't give Drake a chance to get his filthy paws on anything they did there."

    "Aye, sir. Ah, I, well, sort of took the initiative, sir. The station's already gone, and irradiated just to make sure. Mr. Roclak assures me that no coherent data can be extracted from it at this point, and Dr. Hassan concurs."

    "I see. I don't generally encourage my officers to destroy assets, Commander, but in this case you followed the prudent course. Please bring everything you found to my office soonest. I've already cleared your ship through traffic control."

    "Thank you, sir. We'll be initiating transwarp shortly. Bastogne out." As Quinn faded from the screen, Grunt strode through the door to the bridge.

    "Courts-martial all around, then, sir?" Roclak asked.

    "No, Rock, the admiral actually ordered me to do what we did anyway. Gydap, please prepare to initiate transwarp to Sol system on my mark. The admiral's already given us clearance."

    "Standing by, sir. Have been since you went in there."

    "Good man. Initiate transwarp - now."

    Space puckered and stretched, and the Bastogne vanished as if it had never been. All that remained behind was the wreckage of a Galor-class cruiser, and an expanding cloud of radioactive gas and metallic dust.
    Lorna-Wing-sig.png
  • ambassadormolariambassadormolari Member Posts: 709 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    God damn them all! I was told
    We'd cruise the seas for American gold
    We'd fire no guns, shed no tears
    Now I'm a broken man on a Halifax pier
    The last of Barrett's Privateers
    -Stan Rogers, "Barrett's Privateers."
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIwzRkjn86w



    He stood in the main atrium of the space station, arms folded as, around him, smoke billowed and flames crackled between toppled pillars and ruined walls. Ruddy red light flickered from the alarm klaxons, and the air was ripe with the tang of flame, smoke and blood. Just to his left, a portion of the wall had been blown out into space, a forcefield now covering the hole and giving him a glimpse of the magnificent starscape and the sleek shape of the Oricar hovering menacingly in the void. Before him, gathered in a huddled, terrified, weeping mass, stood the remaining crew of this space station-- eighty, all told, barely half of the original number. The other half had made the mistake of trying to fight the Orion boarders.

    He felt like a conqueror, like a true corsair, like a terror of the void. For the first time since he had lost everything, Lynathru felt satisfied.

    "Ladies and gentlemen," he said with a wide, beaming smile to the prisoners, "please stay calm and try not to make any sudden moves. As of now, you are all prisoners of the good ship Oricar. I have no wish to hurt any more of you, and I am certain that a lot of you are quite nervous. Rest assured, if you all behave yourselves, then I promise you will not be treated badly." The prisoners, by this point, was too frightened to respond. The last man among them who had shown any sort of defiance was now lying at the back of the pile, barely conscious and almost black with bruises, courtesy of the Oricar's enforcers.

    It had, Lynathru reflected, been satisfyingly easy. A small depot station like this, located far at the edge of Federation space, had had almost no chance to defend itself when the Oricar had dropped out of warp in front of it. A few crippling volleys of disruptor fire had been enough to drop the station's shields and knock out what few phaser emitters it had. With the shields down, Natari had given the order to board, and as Natari's mate, Lynathru had been given the honour of leading the boarding action. It was an honour that Lynathru had accepted all too happily.

    Two dozen of the ship's brutes had beamed onto the main halls and concourses of the station to eliminate the Federation security teams, while Lynathru and his own handpicked enforcers beamed onto the station's bridge itself, aiming to eliminate or imprison the station's command staff. The ensuing firefight had been quick and brutal: two members of Lynathru's party had been felled by phaser fire from quick-witted Federation officers, but they were no match for the combat experience and brutality of the Oricar's enforcers. Almost everyone in the bridge was killed or subdued in under a single minute, and Lynathru had personally gunned the station's commander down with his twin disruptor pistols, blasting the human before he could so much as yell an order. The rest of the battle for the station had been just as quick: the crew of this station were the dregs of Starfleet, low-level officers qualified for starship duty, along with civilian contractors, labourers and merchants. They had put up a spirited, but futile fight against the more seasoned Orion boarders, and had died in droves for their efforts. Before long, the fight was over, and those who hadn't been butchered by the Oricar's crew had had the good sense to surrender.

    And now, here Lynathru stood with his armed enforcers in front of the pitiful remnants of the station's crew, waiting for reports from the rest of the boarding party as they scoured the cargo holds. A depot station like this usually served as a hub for whatever trade went on in the region, and indeed, two trading vessels-- a Pakled merchantman and a Koberian freighter-- had had the misfortune of being docked here when the Oricar had attacked. All told, there was plentiful bounty to be harvested from this station, and the remnants of the station's crew would be useful as well-- either as slaves back on Terjas Mor, or as hostages in case any Federation ships arrived on the scene. Though hopefully, the Oricar would be long gone by the time Starfleet picked up the station's distress call.

    At Lynathru's side, Raco, his subordinate, glowered at the prisoners, his ugly, slab-like face twisting in a frown. "They're a sorry-looking bunch," he grunted. "If we take them back to Terjas Mor with us, they'll likely only sell for medium price." He rubbed his chin, a chin that had been bent out of shape by the same numerous brawls that had broken his nose several times over. "If you ask me, we should just space the lot of them. It would save more room in the Oricar's cargo holds."

    Lynathru turned and fixed Raco with an icy glare. He was slightly taller than Raco, though not as stocky, and while the former wore only a pair of faded brown coveralls and a flimsy tunic that exposed his muscular chest, Lynathru was clad in an armoured suit of black iron plates edged with the indigo blue of Natari's house. The armour denoted him as Natari's mate, and, therefore, as someone to be taken seriously among the Oricar's crew.

    "Well as it so happenes, I wasn't asking you," he replied. "If we have room on the ship after Sharrad and his lot have finished their looting, then we'll take them with us. If not, then we'll leave them here for Starfleet to deal with."

    Raco raised an eyebrow at Lynathru, the motion barely visible under the metal plates that adorned his bald scalp that denoted him as one of Natari's serviles. "You'd leave them alive? Mistress Natari might not like that."

    Lynathru's response was heralded by a confident, charming smile. "Oh, leave our Mistress to me, Raco," he replied. "I know how to talk to her."

    The statement was true, after a fashion. His marriage to Natari had been one of convenience: after Lynathru's inheritance had been squandered by his idiot of a mother getting herself and the family barge blown up, he had been forced offer himself as a mate to the leader of the third most powerful corsair house in the whole of the Syndicate. Natari was a shrewd-- and admittedly beautiful, woman-- who knew that a corsair as experienced as Lynathru would be a valuable addition to her forces. Both of them knew that theirs was a partnering of convenience, nothing more, and were happy about it. Natari got to absorb what little wealth was left of Lynathru's house, and Lynathru...got to see action again, out in space, instead of suffering the hellish limbo of near-poverty on Terjas Mor.

    The only real bone of contention between the two of them, though, was the matter of handling prisoners. Natari and her crew had earned a grisly reputution, both in the Syndicate and the Federation, for murdering prisoners who were either too worthless or too numerous to be taken as slaves. This had never sat well with Lynathru: massacring prisoners was a sure way to make more enemies than a corsair could afford. Blood, in the long run, was too expensive, and he had pointed out as much before to Natari. She had simply given him a whistful smile, and had told him, in that typically playful voice of hers, that he was adorable when he worried over nothing.

    As if on cue, Lynathru's communicator beeped. He pressed it. "Lynathru here."

    "Ah, Lynathru, so nice to hear that the Feddies didn't kill you," came Natari's teasing voice. "I was worried that I might have to go hunting for a new mate if things didn't go well."

    Lynathru smiled. "Yes, that would be terrible, wouldn't it?" he replied. "It would be damned selfish of me to inconvenience you by dying."

    He heard Natari's soft laugh on the other end. It was a disarming, girlish giggle, a sound that always set Lynathru at ease. "I take it the action went well?"

    "Very well. We've lost only half a dozen men. Sharrad is down in the cargo holds, gauging value and tagging crates for transport as we speak." He glanced at the prisoners, who continued to stare at him with uncertain terror. They were mixed-race lot, like all Federation crews, and Lynathru could spot Humans, Bolians, Vulcans, and even the odd Caitian in the mix. "We have also taken quite a few prisoners, Mistress. As far as I can tell, the majority of them are labourers, tech specialists, and the odd engineer here and there. I think they could be useful to us." He wondered, idly, if these prisoners understood or even appreciated the favour Lynathru was trying to do for them.

    He heard Natari give a whistful hum on the other end. "Hmm, perhaps," she replied. "Though you should probably hurry. Our longe range sensors have picked up a warp signiature at the periphery of the system. We may have company soon."

    Lynathru felt the skin on his neck prickle at the news. Starfleet's response had been much quicker than he had anticipated. He glanced out the ruined wall again at the sleek, galley-like shape of the Oricar floating in space. "How soon?"

    "Unknown so far," came Natari's response. "The gas clouds at the edge of the system are throwing off our sensors...oh dear."

    What happened next happened so quickly that Lynathru's senses barely registered it in time. There was a brilliant flash of light, like the birth of a new star amidst that endless starscape, and a second later a long, silver shape glided into view just below the Oricar. Lynathru caught the impressions of a disk-like saucer, an elengant, elongated body and a pair of gleaming blue nacelles. A Federation cruiser, he realized. An Excelsior-class.

    And then, with a deep hum, there was the brilliant white flash as ten humanoid shapes materialized into the atrium.

    Swearing loudly, Lynathru acted on instinct, springing forwards towards the prisoners. The foremost among them-- an auburn-haired Human woman in a tattered mechanic's coveralls-- shrieked as Lynathru grabbed her by the hair, twisting her around as he pushed her in front of him. Even as the other prisoners erupted into a chorus of cries and screams, Lynathru drew one of his disruptor pistols and pointed it at the squirming human's skull. In front of him, the humanoid figures fully materialized, revealing more Humans, Andorians, Bolians, VUlcans...all wearing the distinctive black-and-primary colour uniforms and triangular badges of Starfleet.

    "None of you move!" Lynathru yelled, even as his enforcers and the Starfleet away team all pulled their weapons free. He pulled the sobbing woman's head back further, keeping his pistol levelled against her temple. "Drop your weapons, or the prisoners die!"

    Eveything seemed to slow down. The Starfleet team seemed to waver as the enforcers levelled their disruptors at them. Raco was yelling something and then, suddenly, Lynathru felt something nudge against his booted foot.

    He glanced down. There, at Lynathru's foot, was a small, metallic sphere, a tiny readout on its surface blinking repeatedly in ruby red.

    "Oh, you TRIBBLE--"

    There was a flash of light like a sun going nova, and a second later Lynathru was staggering backwards, clutching his eyes as he screamed. His eyes felt like they were burning, and his ears were drowned in an awful, shrill ringing. He stumbled backwards, feeling himself brush against scrabbling, twisting bodies as he stumbled drunkenly, tried to get his bearings straight.

    Angily, he willed his eyes to open. Painful light intruded on his vision once more, stinging his irises, and everything was blurred and out of focus. A flash grenade, he realized. Those Federation TRIBBLE had used a flash grenade on him, and now his human shield was gone. The ringing slowly began to subside, however, and he heard familiar sounds at the edge of his hearing-- the flat, spitting pulse of disruptor fire and the more noisome screech of Starfleet phasers.

    Breathing a curse, he pulled both of his pistols free. In the swirling, blurred haze of his vision, he could barely make out a black and red shape moving. Steadying himself, he raised both of his pistols to fire--

    --and lurched, his shots going wide, as something slammed into him from the side. He crashed to the deck in a clatter of armour, dazed. The next thing he knew, heavy blows were raining down on him: feet stomped and kicked at him, and his head snapped to the side as a heel smashed against his temple. Colours darted across his vision, and he could feel something cold and liquid trickling down his scalp, even as his ribs buckled and ached beneath his armour as he was stomped on, again and again. Louder than even the screech of weapons fire, he could hear angry voices shouting "Orion," "pirate," "TRIBBLE" and "murderer" over and over again.

    Shaking himself, Lynathru lurched upright and lashed out blindly with an armoured fist, and felt it slam, satisfyingly, against someone's face. His vision began to clear, and he saw that he was being surrounded by a gaggle of bodies in ragged worker's outfits and ruined civilian attire. The prisoners, he realized, her ganging up on him now that rescue had come for them.

    Snarling, he lashed out, hammmering a booted heel into one Human's kneecap with a gruesome crunch of bone, and then spun, his spinning legs knocking another two assailants off of their feet. Spinning back to his feet with practised ease, he saw an angry Bolian lunging at him. Having lost his disruptors in the earlier sprawl, Lynathru was left only with his bare hands-- which he used to catch the Bolion's lunging fist, before grabbing his outstretched arm and, with a deft twist, throwing him into another assailant that had been trying to rush him from behind.

    Lynathru's senses returned to him, and in a single moment of wonderful clarity, he was aware of everything: the furious firefight between the Starfleet people and the enforcers, the Oricar and the Federation ship trading weapons fire out in space, and the tidal sprawl of prisoners who were now railing angrily against their captors with fists and curses. And Lynathru, unluckily enough, was caught in the middle of that sprawl.

    Unfortunately for these civilian scrubs, however, Lynathru actually knew how to fight.

    He exploded into a whirl of movement, blocking easily-telegraphed punches and shouldering and elbowing away anyone opportunistic enough to take him from the back or side. What few blows actually connected with him were soaked by his armour as he laid into his assailants with punches, chops and kicks, breaking ribs, arms and faces with brutal efficiency. His heartbeat pounded in his ears as he fought a path through the crowd. He was stopped, momentarily, as a rather hefty Human caught him from behind, compressing him in a bear hug. Against any other species, this might have worked, but Orion males were known for their prodigious physical strength. Grabbing his attacker's wrists, Lynathru dropped forwards, throwing his assailant into another three of his comrades, knocking them all over like bowling pins.

    Suddenly, there was another flash, and his entire body shook, almost knocked off balance by a heavy vibration. An overwhelming smell of ozone told him that his personal shield had just taken a hit, and had just shorted out. Spinning, Lynathru saw a Starfleet officer standing amidst the firefight-- a tall Andorian male with short-cropped hair, calmly aiming a phaser rifle at him...

    Wasting no time, Lynathru lunged forward, grabbing the end of the Andorian's rifle and pushing it upwards just as he fired his second shot, the ochre bolt fizzing uselessly into the ceiling. He was met by the Andorian's fist, which slammed across his right cheek and snapped his head to the side. Spitting blood, Lynathru retaliated by slamming an armoured elbow into the Andorian's face, and heard him cry out in pain as his nose was broken. As the Andorian staggered back, Lynathru, keeping a hold on his opponent's rifle, pulled him forwards and dropped low, knocking his opponent's feet out from under him with a leg sweep. As his opponent crashed to the floor, it was a simple matter for Lynathru to finish him off with a quick, brutal stomp to the neck.

    Before Lynathru could even grab for the Andorian's phaser rifle, however, something exploded quite violently nearby. His entire body was hit by the full force of the shockwave, and he was aware of pain surging through his entire body before he slammed into a bulkhead, and everything went dark...


    *****

    "Lynathru!" A familiar, gruff voice Said as a pair of hands shook him roughly. "Lynathru, are you alive?"

    Slowly, Lynthru's eyes flickered open. As his vision slowly blurred into focus, he could see Raco standing over him, an ugly-looking phaser burn on his shoulder. In the background, Lynathru saw flames and smoke billowing everywhere, and heard the discharge of energy weapons somewhere in the distance.

    He blinked. He was lying propped up against some sort of flat surface. A wall...he remembered being propelled into a wall by...an explosion of some sort. His back and arms were a throbbing mass of pain, and pins and needles shot through his right arm when he tried to move it. The side of his head felt wet, and each breath he took felt like a knife in his lungs. "What...happened?" he asked, surprised at how ragged his voice sounded.

    "A photon grenade exploded next to you," Raco replied flatly. "Everyone's dead. Dead or dying. The Feddies are going through the station gunning down everyone."

    The news was enough to make Lynathru sit upright. Past the smoke and the flames, Lynathru could see bodies littered all over the floor of the atrium. Some were those of Starfleet officers or the station's workers. Most of them, though, were Orions. With a sickening feeling, he realized that the only reason he was still alive right now was because the Feddies had taken him for dead.

    He glanced to the side, searching for the hole in the wall. All he could see was smoke. "Then...contact the Oricar...and request that Natari...beam us aboard..." he managed to rasp. Hopefully, the Oricar was still in one piece, somewhere out there...

    "I already have," Raco replied. "Mistress Natari sends her regrets."

    Lynathru blinked, as Raco's words slowly sunk in. The full, horrible realization of what Raco had meant hit home, just as Raco drew his disruptor pistol.

    Moving quickly, Lynathru reached forward, ignoring the searing pain in his ribs as he grabbed and pulled on Raco's wrist, wrenching his hand to the side to ruin his aim. The disruptor fired, the sizzling emerald bolt searing the bulkhead next to Lynathru's head as Raco, off-balance, came falling forwards...

    ...and was impaled, throat-first, on Lynathru's dagger as he pulled it free from his belt. Warm green blood slithered down Lynathru's arm before Raco jerked back, gurgling wetly as he pawed at the dagger now lodged firmly in his throat. As Lynathru watched, the other Orion toppled onto his back and lay, flailing spasmodically as his fingers tried in vain to get a grip around the dagger's handle. After a few seconds, Raco gave a final, pathetic gurgle and went still.

    Leaning back against the wall, Lynathru took several deep breaths, wincing a little as the lingering pain in his spine flared up again. It took him a few seconds to realize that his arm-- the one now soaked in Raco's blood-- was shaking. Thoughts raced through his too quickly for him to dwell on. Natari had ordered this. Natari had told Raco to kill him. Here, in the chaos of a botched raid on a Federation outpost, Natari had tried to have him assassinated.

    He grimaced. He had been stupid, he realized, to not have seen this coming. Natari had only chosen him as her mate so that she could assimilate his family`s wealth and territory. And now that she had that, he realized, she had no further need of him-- no one would question Natari if Lynathru died tragically in a botched raid in Federation space. It was the Orion way: Natari was simply securing her place at the top of the food chain.

    Angrily, he kicked at Raco's cooling corpse, and winced as the motion caused pain to surge through his ribs again. Around him, he could see the omnipresent cloud of smoke begin to build up further and further. He had to get out of here, he realized: if he stayed here, the flames or the smoke would eventually kill him. Come to think of it, he had to get off the station entirely: no matter who found him-- be they Orions or Starfleet-- he would most certainly be killed on the spot.

    Taking a deep breath, he braced himself against the wall and, slowly and agonizingly, stood up. A hiss of pain escaped his clenched teeth as his battered ribs and spine protested, but he still managed to stand up to his full height. The front of his armour was a buckled, scorched mess, and it was a wonder that it was still intact. Taking a deep breath, Lynathru turned and began to limp away from the sound of distant phaser fire. He only hoped that he remembered the brief map he had seen of the station's interior correctly...


    ****

    Almost ten minutes after the battle had begun, the Oricar broke off from its engagement with the Federation Excelsior, atmosphere and plasma leaking biliously from several ruptures in its hull as it retreated. Those members of the boarding party who could be rescued were beamed back as the Oricar limped away towards the edge of the system. Relentlessly, the Excelsior pursued the Oricar, hammering her with phaser fire until the Orion ship finally jumped to warp, escaping. The remaining Orions on the station, abandoned by their ship, fought with the desperate ferocity of dead men as the Starfleet away teams closed in on them. Furious room-to-room fighting raged across the station, but in the end, the Federation triumphed. Every single Orion left on the station was either killed or injured in the aftermath of the battle. Every Orion, that was, except one.

    Unnoticed amidst the chaos of the battle, a lone shuttle had flown out of the station's bays, zipping at full speed in the opposite direction from the Oricar. Aboard, Lynathru sat in the pilot's seat, battered and weary, as he plotted a course. He knew that his options were limited: Natari was head of the third most powerful corsair on Terjas Mor, and had the eyes and ears of Melani Di'an herself. She had agents in every smuggler's haven in the quadrant-- Drozana, Tazi, Deep Space Nine, and even Ferenginar were all off limits to Lynathru now. And no matter where he ran to, he was certain that Natari would try to finish the deed and eliminate him.

    And so, he plotted a course for the one place where he knew he would have any real safety: Qo'noS. The homeworld of the Klingon Empire.



    *****

    The loud, angry buzz of the Notqa's shipwide communicator woke Lynathru with a start. He jolted upright, and almost banged his head against the low-hanging ceiling of the Klingon bunk. He let out a tired groan as he blinked rheumily. Even after his rough year of officer training in the KDF, he still wasn't used to sleeping on the flat metal slabs that the Klingons used as beds.

    Searching his discarded shirt for his wrist communicator, he found it and slapped it. "Yes?" he grumbled.

    "Commander, we've just recieved orders from KDF command," came Kovor's voice on the comm. "We're to patrol the Kahless Expanse until further notice."

    Lynathru groaned. "Aren't there any other ships in range who can carry out the patrol instead?"

    "Yes sir. The I.K.S. Norgh'a'Qun, under General Ssharki. The General is the one who relayed the order to us."

    Lynathru bit back the urge to curse all generals everywhere. "Alright, set a course for the Kahless Expanse then, maximum warp," he ordered. "I'll be on the bridge as soon as possible."

    "Yes Commander." And with that, the communication ended.

    Sighing, Lynathru started to dress, slipping on his armour. He had not been sleeping well these past few days, and it wasn't just because of the hardness of Klingon beds or the stress of his new command. It was the fact that he lately kept having the same dream...or rather, memory...over and over again each night. He hated this particular dream, because nothing ever changed: no matter what, he was still betrayed in the end, still forced to flee for his life. Still reduced to a fugitive, where once he had been a prince among corsairs. The fact that he was relatively safe gave him little comfort.

    Standing up, Lynathru found the bottle of blood wine he mostly drank the previous night, and emptied its remaining contents into a used goblet. "Here's to you, Natari," he muttered, downing the rest of the foul stuff in a single gulp, before tossing the goblet aside and exiting his quarters.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • danquellerdanqueller Member Posts: 484 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    Captain's Log.

    Stardate....hmph. It is not important. Is there time....here? It was not supposed to be like this.

    I do not blame my crew. The Uka'Vor has ever exceled at her tasks, and it is questionable if any ship could have done more. Even an old, half-discarded K'tanga-class such as she was possessed such ability as other ships in the Fleet, and against this....

    Still, I know my duty. I will execute it. Hear my words, Warrior of the Empire, for they are true, by blood and by blade! Upon the honor of House Karuth, I so swear!

    The Uka'Vor was completing her assigned patrol in the Yerha Nebula when we received a high-priority automated emergency message from Station Kor-One-Four-One, which had been established to perform special experimental research on the nebula. Of note, a subspace weapon capable of inverting the warp fields on a target ship showed promise, and it had been linked to a special warp generator to identify the effects on a ship carrying this weapon. We were on assignment to keep prying eyes from discovering these experiments, yet it seemed we had failed somehow, for the station was now in an unknown enemy's hands.

    As the only ship assigned to the project for security reasons, we immediately set course for the station under full cloak. In the hour before we arrived, my officers suggested several plans to retake the station, almost all ending with the facility badly damaged or destroyed. This was unacceptable, as this would almost certainly result in the loss of all data held on the projects to date. More, we knew that our backup ship would be enroute with orders to destroy the station if we failed to retake it, but the nature of the sector would prevent its arrival for several days.

    And days we did not have. Upon examination of the potential of the inversion device, my Science Officer noted something that seemed to have escaped the scientists of the project. If the weapon were linked directly to the station's own power generators, the resultant increase in output would allow it to produce a directed subspace wave on the order of that which resulted when Praxis exploded many periods ago. It would literally cut space apart like a dagger. And the new colony of that upstart Romulan Republic was within the range she predicted for such a strike. Too much coincidence, too much opportunity to ignore. Clearly, whoever had taken the station intended just this.

    Knowing how many Klingon lives would be lost if we failed, I informed my Assault Commander to ready his troops to retake the station at any cost. I then provided the Gunnery Officer with the codes that would lower the station's shields at the proper time, informing him that I would take it as an insult if he dishonored the ship by letting his weapons fire without my order to do so. Kaur was the kind of ambitious warrior who needed to be reminded of the penalty for insubordination on a regular basis, but I could not afford the loss of his marksmanship, especially this day.

    We dropped out of warp in full cloak, to find the station intact. A full series of passive scans confirmed that no evidence of attack or damage was present, and I began to understand that the enemy we faced were our own people, tempted to seize power or perhaps a side effect of the device, I could not know and may never know. It is even possible there were aliens controlling them, though I have heard that excuse used many times before a field execution, so what did it matter? I ordered the ship to assault the station, and if any of the personnel aboard survived, I thought I would have ample time to determine the cause at my leisure.

    When our cloak dropped and our override codes failed to strip the station of its defenses, I knew we had only seconds before the heavy weapons on it reacted to our arrival. It was on my order that the Uka'Vor rammed the shields, breaching them and driving her prow into the first pylon of the facility. The damage to both was extensive, but it brought the opportunity for our warriors to transport onto the target, so it was a good day to die for those aboard my ship who were in the forward torpedo room.

    It was my Science Officer who noted the massive flux in the station's power core, and I remember seeing the entire station outlined in purple light as every surviving instrument on the bridge flew into chaotic overload. Kaur must have had a reflexive finger on the firing controls, for I do not believe he could have gotten off the disruptor shots that caused the station to stagger in the time we had before the universe tore itself to shreds around us.

    I must state now that I believe the staggering of the facility kept the weapon from finding its intended target. Certainly, I remember seeing the station coming apart even as my own ship caught part of the purple light on its port nacelle as it leapt from the station. Then, everything came apart around me, and I knew no more.

    I regained consciousness at some point, and found myself in my Command Chair, in what remained of my Bridge. That I could breathe with the entire back section torn away caught me by surprise, of course, but the red, smoke-choked sky that shone through it caused even more concern to me. I was on a planet! The Uka'Vor could not land on a planet! What madness was this?

    If only it were so. If I were on a planet, then at least rescue could be hoped for. If I were mad, then I would not have to endure the knowledge that I am not. But this is not to be.

    No, as I surveyed the wreckage of my ship strewn across the landscape, the flows of lava and the absence of any of my crew, or even of their bodies, I knew it was not so. For I could see the fortress far across the field of molten rock, and see the symbol wrought upon its gates.

    Hmph. I have spoken too long, and this recorder has only a minimal storage capability left to it. I am placing it on the Uka'Vor's emergency beacon, and will send it into the molten sea, which my father once said legends claim flow to the peaks of Qo'noS itself. I know it is probably folly, but what else have I to do? The beacon is rated for temperatures well above that of the magma, so I have no fear of it succumbing to that, and it is possibile that someone, somewhere, sometime may receive this, and know of the fate of the Uka'Vor.

    For I stand now, looking at the gates of Gre'thor, and will do so for ***@#

    <Recording Limit Reached. Data Corruption Past Retrieval>

    <End File>

  • fu11ofstarsfu11ofstars Member Posts: 36 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    Well, I'm impressed by your choice for the last round, so I suppose I owe you a little something out of the ordinary.

    It was stardate 87001.4.

    The Lewis & Clark had been ordered by the Old Man to pick up a "special delivery" from a research station in the Xarantine Sector, in the R735 Gamma system.

    Now, I think I've already mentioned we had made a career of doing odd jobs that command saw fit to spare typical Starfleet crews from. And Admiral Quinn, the Old Man, knew, however many ships we'd had shot out from under us from over the years, the Lewis & Clark being our most recent, we were good at what we did.

    One of those things was collecting special deliveries from out-of-the-way research stations, so I had an inkling of what we were in for. Or so I thought.

    About three hours out, we received a distress signal from the very system we were hurtling towards. It was too garbled to understand, mangled by layers of jamming.

    We contacted command and it was the Old Man himself that answered us. The package we were after was of supreme importance, something that could end the war with the Klingons once and for all. He couldn't say more, even on a secure channel. It was a level of caution I hadn't heard from him before, and I have to admit it rattled me.

    The only other ship was two days away, and so I ordered us to maximum warp.

    Now, entering a system under attack from an unknown enemy takes a fair bit of thought. Luckily, we'd gained some experience in the matter.

    A rookie would head straight in, skimming the ecliptic, and get blown out of the sky for their trouble. A more practiced hand might try to drop in from 90 degrees above or below. And that could work if whoever were trying to kill them were relatively new to spaceflight and not yet used to thinking in three dimensions. 45 degrees is a craftier option, but a hardened enemy would be waiting.

    We came in at 32.7 degrees.

    We'd done our best to mask our warp signature--another handy skill we'd picked up--and made it all the way to the station on the fifth world out with only a few fleeting contacts slipping by at extreme sensor range.

    We arrived at an ordinary looking planet, without sign of an invading force and no subspace transmissions. Which meant only one thing.

    It was the Klingons.

    Of course, it might have been the Romulans, too. But, eventually, you get a sense about these things. And it had been at least 20 minutes since a Klingon had shot at us, so it seemed about time.

    Besides, during those days, no matter where we went or what we did, it always came back to the war with the Klingons.

    We didn't have to wait long for four birds of prey and a Negh'Var to decloak.

    We'd faced worse odds on a few occasions and come out alright. But combat can be a funny thing. There's always the issue of luck and, as I've said before, luck can be ugly.

    At the end of it, we survived, but just barely. We lost warp power and impulse output was down to 25 percent. Communicating with anyone that couldn't hear us shout was impossible, and save for a single torpedo launcher, our weapons were all offline. Even if they hadn't been, our sensors were in shreds.

    And 34 of my crew were dead.

    About the only thing working on board were two replicators and one transporter room, so our only option was to beam down to the station. Despite the usual objections, I insisted on coming along.

    I expected to see an army of Klingons as soon as we materialized, but instead, there were three of the station's scientists, each with a phaser rifle slung on their backs and one or two pistols stuffed in the belts of their jumpsuits. Behind them, a Klingon warrior was slumped against a wall, an ugly black burn from his right shoulder to his left hip.

    It was a sad thing that I didn't even blink at the sight of the body there. Instead, I asked directly about the package we'd come for.

    Without much of a word, one of the researchers led us down a series of halls to a heavily armored door. She typed a code into a pad on the wall, and the door slip open with a heavy groan. I took a step into the room beyond.

    It was empty.

    I reacted the way that any sensible person would. I started to laugh. I kept laughing until tears were running down my cheeks.

    I could half feel the strange looks from behind me from my crew that had accompanied me down and from the lone scientist who'd lead us here. But in that moment, there was only the sound of my laughter echoing in the huge empty space in front of me.

    As I was to learn on the long, slow trip out of the system, there never was any special delivery. And the researchers at the station weren't researchers at all. They were Starfleet Marines. The entire place had been established as a ruse, as was our mission there, to lure the Klingons' attention away from an assault on a strategic system in the Archanis Sector.

    Like most things in those days, that assault turned into a stalemate.

    Now, I think that in every life, there comes a moment when everything changes. I suppose there are a lucky few of us that leave the same world we're born into. But for the rest, we live on shifting ground.

    I know, I had my own history of mischief, of pulling the rug out from under the feet of those around me, of practical jokes. And I'd settled into a Starfleet career of misdirection and subterfuge. But, for the first time, as I stood in that doorway to an empty room on an unremarkable planet in an otherwise unimportant corner of the galaxy, I wondered if those decisions had been the right ones. I wondered if the Starfleet I was now part of was the same Starfleet I dreamt of joining as a child. I wondered what the war with the Klingons had done to us, to me.

    Like anyone at my line of work, I didn't let those thoughts trouble me for long. As we limped back home, it was easy enough to get lost in the work.

    Seven of the crew had asked for burials in space, and so we conducted a series of ceremonies. For the rest, we turned cargo bay two into a makeshift morgue.

    But, after that, the banter was gone from my talks with the Old Man. I briefed him on events, and at one moment I thought he might be on the verge of an apology, but then we were back to trading in formalities.

    Even later, it would all become clear that those few moments of laughter would lead down a road away from everything I knew, to this very place, here and now.

    But that's a story for another time.

    For the moment, now, I think we should instead discuss your plans for the next round.
  • knightraider6knightraider6 Member Posts: 370 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    USS Scylla, 0745 hours

    "the feed lines from the main deuterium tanks come in there, the tanks themselves are on deck 11. We've made a few modifications that the Captain suggested that have increased the output by fourteen point six percent."

    The eager young ensign followed along behind chief engineer Vran Pyrl, making notes on a padd "I didn't think the Akira class could be boosted past eight percent, they were already pretty high output from what I understood...and what is fuzzy lump on the injector housing? Is that a Caitian? And is she naked?"

    Chief Pyrl looked up and sighed, the big Andorian shaking his head "That's the Captain, it seems she fell asleep there last night." He walked over to a device in an alcove in the wall that looked like a smaller version of the ships warp core."this should wake her up"

    "is that off a type six shuttle pod?"

    "Very good Ensign, it was salvaged and deemed unrepairable, so the Captain turned it into a coffee maker." Chief Pyrl said as he powered the device, the magnetic bottle in the drive compressing the coffee and injecting it into what had once been the intermix chamber, the scent of the brew filling engineering.

    "but..that...that's insane Sir."

    "How long have you been an engineer Son?"

    The Ensign stammered "I graduated from the academy last month Sir."

    The chief just grinned as he placed a mug under the output of the coffee engine, filling first his own then pulling the Captains mug off the rack, with the name 'Dr M. Schrodinger, Aperture Warp Division' in blue letters, filling hers as well. "If it works, it's not insane. And it makes the best damn coffee in the quadrant."

    He looked at the name on the side of the mug "Schrodinger? That's not exactly a Caitian name is it?"

    "I was adopted, thanks chief!"

    Squealing like a little girl when your Captain seemingly appears instantly behind you is often not the best way to introduce yourself to your new commander but he recovered fairly quickly, snapping to attention. "Ensign Tokage reporting for duty Captain." he stammered, trying desperately not to look below her face.

    "Nice to meet you Ensign, I see the Chief is giving you the tour, welcome aboard. Oh, also Chief? We're still having that replicator issue with uniforms disintegrating when exposed to an EM field."

    "I hadn't noticed Captain" he said diplomatically. "But I'll get on it."

    She refilled her mug and smiled "Also the intermix was a bit off, got it re-calibrated before I dropped off, I think we're having another injector going south on us-" she stopped in mid sentence as the lighting changed, Red Alert klaxon blaring. She reached for her combadge out of reflex then growled when she remembered it was with what was left of her uniform, instead hitting the panel on the wall "Bridge , Schrodi, what's up Corspa?"

    Her first officer responded "We've received a priority one distress message from the Mirfak system. There is a Federation research center there that is under heavy attack."

    "I've never heard of anything at all there."

    "there's nothing in the computer about it either, in fact when we tried to access system information, everything but the name was redacted, flag level or higher."

    "Lovely, what's our eta?"

    "Fourty three minutes at warp 8, being we were allready out in this part of the middle of nowhere. next closest ship is the USS Agamennon, but she?s nine hours away."

    "Alright, I'll be on the bridge as soon as I get cleaned up."

    Twenty minutes later, she wasn't clean clean, but good enough, at least the engine grease was out of her light tan fur. She was short for her species, less than two meters, almost looking leopard like with light spots "What do we have?"she asked Corspa as she entered the bridge.

    "I believe the English phrase is not a damn thing" she replied, looking frustrated at the terminal. "Everything is classified, even a system survey from seventy years ago." she said, her antennae turning a lighter blue the way they did when she was upset.

    She sat down on the captains chair "ETA?" she said as she pulled up the system info on her own monitor and typing in her command authrorization. "nuts..it won't tell me anything either, Rear Admiral or higher clearance needed. I hate going in blind."

    "myself as well Captain, eta is eleven minutes-wait. We're picking up something on sensors, it's a damaged Federation shuttlecraft, just out side of the system. Captain, it seems the emergency signal is coming from that."

    "Curiouser and curiouser, bring us in closer and hail them, maybe they have a damn clue whats going on around here."

    It was only a few moments before they were in communication range "Hailing the shuttle , that's odd, it seems to be using an unfamilar encryption sequence..."

    Schrodi's ears perked up at that, and looked over the console as well. "It's using some kind of..oh damnit, I've seen this signal before.."

    The scarred wounded human on the viewscreen didn"t look any happier either as he got a look at who was responding to his emergency alert. "what are you doing here, I thought the Agamenon was supposed to be in this sector?"

    The caitian just smiled, showing more teeth than she usually did to humans as this tended to unnerve them, but the section 31 agent was on her 'unnerve or annoy' list. "nice to see you too Drake. We found a planet that a Galaxy class ship was better equipped to survey than we were, so Captain Evans went on to look it over while we filled in on her patrol route-and yes we cleared it with command."

    "Fine, I don't have time to argue. There's a Gorn assault group attacking a research station in the system-"

    "What are they researching?"

    "You don?t need to know that."

    She rolled her eyes "Fine. if your shuttles moveable, bring it aboard otherwise we"ll beam you over. Corspa? have security on standby for an assault, and someone wake up medical, tell Dr Emudia to prepare for possible casualties."



    Mirfak system, 0915

    It was a good system to sneak into. There was a large asteroid belt, with hunks of rock and ice far bigger than an Akira class ship like the Scylla to hide behind. Oddly enough though, there were no Gorn, at least none attacking the antique, no ancient station in orbit of the systems sole planet. There was wreckage of several Gorn cruisers however, looking as if they were plastic toys melted by a child with a magnifying glass.

    "What the hell happened to them-wait, I don't need to know" Schrodi growled , glancing over at the black uniformed human on her bridge, his wounds bandaged and in fresh clothes.

    "you're learning" Drake smirked "But it seems we have a bigger problem. there?s several dozen Gorn on the station, as well as the scientists working on the project."

    "Well whatever it is, it melted duranium as if it was putty-usually anything high enough temperature to do that would vaporize the less dense understructure, but in this case it hasn't, so I'm thinking some sort of new wonder-weapon that can generate stellar core temperatures on a given target without damaging what you don't want damaged. Warp cores should have gone, yet on that one, it's untouched." she said pointing at one of the ships on the screen.

    Drake said nothing, as she sighed. "Right, well it's obvious by now that this has gone from an attack to a hostage situation. Are we in danger from your new toy Drake, or can we come in closer?"

    "if the, no. it's damaged" he said looking at the station "So they can't use it against us."

    "right, bring us in and hail them."

    That took longer than they thought, either the Gorn couldn't figure out the communication systems on the hundred fifty year plus old station, or they were damaged. "Ra'wiq Sara, my forces are holding this station. Hostages we have, will eat if you do not transmit computer security codes!"

    "Commander Michelle Schrodinger, commanding USS Scylla. I must see the hostages before any decision can be made."

    There was a moments pause on the other end, then the viewer switched. There were a half dozen battered and bruised scientists, bodily chained to support pillars. Corspa gave a nod to the captain, that matched the number of friendly life forms. "Very well, they must be entered manually. I will beam over in a moment."

    Fortunately she had her finger on the mute button, for as she expected Drake erupted in fury "NO! They will transmit that data to their forces, you?d be just giving them the cascade device!" Fortunately she also had her security chief come to the bridge as well, the short Tellarite easily holding him in place. "The captain knows what she?s doing, unlike you stinky.. You wouldn't know the truth if it bit your smelly TRIBBLE."

    Drake was incoherent with rage as the Ra'wiq replied "you have five of your minutes, otherwise my crew become hungry."

    "Wouldn't want that" Schrodi said as the screen went back to the view of the nearly derilict station. "You can let him go now Ponta." The security chief let go, looking down at her hands "I'll have to get these sterilized now after handling him."

    He whirled on Schrodi "Commander you are committing treason against the Federation, you don't understand the gravity of the situation!"

    She just smiled, her tail swishing "Oh I understand more than you think" she said, tapping the com "Chief Eng? Meet me in transporter room one with the boots from my eva locker."



    four minutes later.

    Five angry Gorn were never a good thing to see when you arrived anywhere. Neither was finding out the replicator bug with the uniforms also had issues with the transporter. One of the Gorn troopers had reached for her communicator when she arrived only to have to bend for it, fumbling as it bounced off the deck amidst the dust that used to be clothing. "Really need to get that fixed" she muttered to herself as she was led into the stations control center clad in her underwear and bulky boots. The hostages looked like they had seen better days, but seeing a almost naked caitian led in was definetely not what they expected, nor what the Ra'wiq did either.

    "what is the meaning of this?"

    Schrodi did her best to look cowed, her ears back as one of the Gorn volunteered "She is unarmed Ra'wiq!"

    "Yes, I can see that, but now I have to look at this..mammal." he turned his back "Unlock the computer system or the hostages, and you, die!"

    she glanced around one more time, then shrugged as if in resignation. The hostages were secure, and there was a reason why they didn't build things like they used to in some cases... "Coming right up" she says as she tapped a couple keys on the console.

    "What are you doing, I can not read that!"

    "The code is in Caitian, there aren't the right letters in standard."

    That seemed to either molify or confuse him as she tapped out a sequence. "There, unlocked, I just have to hit the final key" she said as she planted her feet,an unavoidable hum coming from the EVA boots as they locked to the deck plates. "Activate."

    Gravity reversed suddenly, one second the deck was down, then the ceiling was. The Gorn troopers flailed and yelled as they plunged towards the ceiling four meters overhead, landing with crunching thuds. A second after that, the graviton field switched ninety degrees, pulling them screaming across the ceiling to the far wall, away from the also screaming but fortunately well secured hostages. three seconds later the field flipped again, pulling them and everything else loose back down towards where the floor was, blood, broken disruptors, and vomit filling the air. the yells started to taper off as the graviton generators cycled the field every two seconds until there was a large bang from under one of the floorplates, cutting the gravity off completely.

    She unlocked her boots and kicked off the deck, trying to avoid the worst of the mess as she went to check on the hostages.



    One very long shower later.

    her fur was still damp, but she was clean again, and this time her uniform wouldn't fall apart. She hoped. The survivors of the Gorn attack were just as non communicative as Drake was about what they were after, but that wasn't her problem. Nor had any of the Gorn survived either, she had probably let the bouncing go on a bit longer than she should have. There was a knock on her ready room door "It's open."

    Franklin Drake looked a lot more like his usual smirking self "I talked to the scientists, sadly we lost Dr Carroll, he was the brains of the project, but the Gorn did not manage to get anything useful. I also" he said, looking as if he swallowed a bug "want to apologize. That was a brilliant piece of improvization you did to take out the Gorn."

    "Just be glad you hide your labs in stations that should have been retired a hundred years ago Captain Drake, anything more modern and that wouldn?t have worked at all."

    He actually smiled at that "Well we work with what we have. Anyway, of course this doesn't go into your official log."

    "of course not" she replied, frowning just a bit. it looked like there was dust on the front of Drake's uniform..or deconstructing fibers. "Anyhow this is where you tell us to get lost, right?"

    "Yes, my superiors are inbound, and it would be better for everyone if you were not here when I reported to them, nothing against you or your crew of course Commander, you're just not cleared for this."

    "Don't forget your shuttlecraft then, though one of my techs looked it over, it's good to get your back to the station, but I wouldn't trust it past that."

    "It belongs to the station anyway, I'll be beaming over to the ship when it arrives."

    She nodded, seeing a few small flakes fall off his sleves..yep, they still haven't had time to fix that replicator uniform bug. "well then,until next time" she said. He nodded and left her office, heading for the turbolift. She followed him out, sitting down. "is he off my ship yet?"

    "his shuttlecraft just left, and we've got something inbound on long range sensors."

    "Get us out of here." she said, tail tip twitching. "I don't want to be within ten light years of Captain Drake when his uniform disintergrates when he beams over to report to his bosses."

    Lt Commander Corspa made a face "Thank you for that lovely mental image Captain, course laid in. Commencing getting out of here." she said as the Scylla went to warp.
    "It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a live lion. And usually easier." R.A.Heinlein

    "he's as dangerous as a ferret with a chainsaw."



  • edinator96edinator96 Member Posts: 0 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    Hey Guys

    This is mine so far, More is on the way

    Crewman: Kittel, Cathryn Rennae
    Authorisation Code: 82DE6

    Acting Captain?s Log

    *Voice is Shaken*

    The Captain?s in Major Surgery. He took a hit? For the good of the Crew. The Station. The Ship. HIS Ship. He always did put the ship first, loved it to pieces. You should have seen his face when he got command of it. A mirror Assault Cruiser, brand new out of Utopia Planita, painted with the Terran markings. It was up to him to name it as well. He chose the perfect one. The I.S.S Alexis. Beautiful she was, Though not as loved as she is now, by everyone. The Crew?s holding its breath. It?s like a Borg vessel in here at the moment, everyone?s praying for Captain Edbetter to live.

    *Bursts into tears, recording cuts, Voice is now solemn and controlled*

    This day started out like any other, Lotar trying to ?play it cool? with Ciara, Monty taking a trip to Engineering as a warp coil had just vaporised (Not a good sign, I admit). Tek, Concentrating on the last concert (for a Breen, he had a good music taste). Three of Eight had just arrived from his quarters, which were modified to allow him to sleep away from the collective, and was just settling down into his chair. Then the Transmission arrived. The Captain was off of the bridge in his ready room at the time so I had to take it. I issued the command casually ?On Screen? and Admiral Zzvek popped up. Instantly I Straightened my uniform out, Sat up Straight and answered in my most formal voice. ?Good Morning Admiral?
    ?Good morning Commander Kittel? he Chirped (We?d been friends in the academy, Long Story)
    ?How may I help you Sir?? I questioned politely
    ?I Need to speak to Captain Leadbeater?
    ?Certainly Sir, Is this a Private call??
    ?Yes it is?
    ?Then I?ll patch you through to his room?
    ?Thank you?
    I leant over to the panel in the captain?s chair, pressed the Comm button and spoke clearly ?Captain?
    A groggy ?what?? came back over the channel.
    ?Admiral Zzvek wishes to speak privately?
    ?Patch him through?
    ?Understood Captain? I turned to Admiral Quinn ?Goodbye Admiral?
    His voice boomed back ?Good day Commander? and the transmission ended.

    15 Minutes later, Edbetter appeared at the ready room door, his face solemn and tired. He obviously rushed to get up from bed. ?Good Morning Captain? I said light-heartedly.
    ?Good morning Commander? he grated through clenched teeth
    ?Permission to drop Formalities Sir?? I questioningly asked
    ?Permission Granted?. He heaved a sigh of relief.
    ?Did the Admiral want anything??
    ?He did in fact, We?re taking a trip to Xendi Starbase 9?
    ?Does that mean we get an early vacation?? I said Sarcastically
    ?No, there?s actually some Xindi there, A few frigates apparently?
    ?Nothing out of the ordinary then?
    ?Nothing at all?. He gave me a Hard Stare. I could feel his gaze press down on me like a tonne of bricks. So I stared back, And he kept going, and going, and going, and going? and going, until Three pointed out I was in HIS seat and I promptly moved. ?Thanks Three? he yelled over his shoulder
    Three replied ?Sir I don?t like?? But the captain cut him off
    ?Where?s Monty?? He turned to Ciara who was at the Engineering console.
    ?Monty?s down in Main Engineering fixing the vaporised Warp coil, She shouldn?t be long?. Ciara didn?t even look up from her console.
    Edbetter muttered ?I knew it was a bad idea to make my Helmsman my Chief Engineer?. He turned to the console by the side of him, pressed a button and spoke ?Monty, my beloved pilot, how?s the coil replacement going??
    A Muffled ?Almost there? came back followed by a clang. Edbetter raised an eyebrow ?everything ok??. All of a sudden, Monty appeared on the Bridge out of the turbo lift ?Everything?s fine, I?ve got my best Engineer on it?. She gazed around at astounded faces and snapped ?What?? and Walked smoothly to her chair.
    Edbetter turned to me and said ?please instruct our Helmsman to our course Catheryn?
    ?Will do, Monty, Lay in a course to Xendi Starbase 9?
    ?Got it, Co-ordinates locked in, Standing by?
    ?Awaiting your orders Captain? I said monotonously
    ?Let?s get underway, Take her out, Maximum Warp?
    ?Aye Sir?
    The View screen blurred and then cleared as the Alexis went into warp. All you could see was starry streaks in the vast blackness of space

    ?We?re about to Approach the Station Captain? Monty chimed
    ?Shields up, hailing frequencies open? Edbetter barked.
    ?Shields are up Sir and We?re open to communication? came a voice from behind us, Lotar?s to be precise. All of a sudden, the Alexis? warp cut off and the ship made a grinding noise. All heads turned to Monty. ?What?? She said Irritably ?If something goes wrong it?s my fault is it??. Edbetter nodded. She Sighed ?I?ll fix it later, Anyway, two Xindi craft in sight of the starboard bow, manuvering in on impulse?.

    The Alexis jolted as the impulse engines engaged and the ship drew ever closer to the two Xindi craft. ?Captain, incoming transmission? Lotar informed Edbetter.
    ?On Screen? he replied. A Xindi crewman appeared on the view screen. ?I am Captain Leadbeater of the I.S.S. Alexis. May I ask what is your business here??
    The Xindi captain replied ?I am Commander of this Vessel, I am here to take this station for my own?
    ?I?m afraid I can?t allow that, why do you want this station??
    ?They stole from us, a very rare piece indeed?
    ?What is it they stole??
    ?I cannot disclose that information to you, we will leave when done?
    ?Can we assist in any??
    ?Multiple warp signatures detected captain? Three of Eight interrupted.
    ?Shut the comm channel, who?s are they?? Edbetter exclaimed as the screen showed the incoming ships.
    ?Two Xindi Battleships Incoming!? Three shouted
    ?Call, for backup, Get as many??
    Edbetter was interrupted by Three again. ?Three warp signatures incoming, Federation Ships!?
    ?Identify?
    ?The U.S.S. Enterprise, the U.S.S Excalibur and the U.S.S Scorpion?
    ?Open friendly channels?
    ?Channels open?. Three faces suddenly appeared on screen.
    ?Edbetter, We heard you could use a hand? Shouted Captain Shon
    ?I appreciate it, If we diffuse the situation, I owe you a drink? He glanced at the other two faces. ?You too Kira and Hirsya, nice to see you after all this time?
    ?Zzvek told us you may need a hand from how? Lacsidaisical you were this morning? Kira said
    ?Shon, Kira, Get the Battleships, Hirsya and I will get the Frigates?
    "On it" All three said simultaneously.
  • gulberatgulberat Member Posts: 5,505 Arc User
    edited April 2013
    Star Trek: Online
    Tales of Alyosha Strannik

    "The Interdictor"




    "We're two days out from Deep Space 11 at Warp 9.5," Captain Sengupta was saying in even British tones as devoid of accent as the American accent I had been taught. "We do not expect you to engage the Tal Shiar alone, however." Sengupta turned to his helmsman to issue a command. "Lay in a course for Deep Space 11.

    "We will see you presently. Sengupta out."

    He turned again the instant before the channel went dead. "Engage slipstream."

    Oh my Lord, he hasn't been cleared!

    "Nyet!" Horror animated my human features; the tension throughout my body and the preparatory boost to my telekinetic cortex, however, was quite real. "Do not engage superwarp--repeat, do not--"

    Sadness rolled like a wave from my first officer--a deliberate telepathic push. "They've already gone to slipstream, sir. Their intention seems to have been to emerge at the same time as we arrive at Warp 9."

    I turned to Ensign Mirrsh. "I want Warp 9.5 as long as you can sustain it."

    "Sir," the Saurian helmswoman advised, looking up even as her plum-black fingers keyed in the computations, "that will have us arriving approximately fifteen minutes ahead of the Indomitable. We will be without tactical support against an unknown number of Romulans."

    "I'm well aware of that," I responded--rather snappishly, but under the circumstances...

    I tapped my commbadge. "th'Valek, Temm, ch'Sherrin, N'Vek--report to the wardroom on the double. We have a serious problem on our hands."

    And if we couldn't find a way to solve it--Captain Sengupta and the Indomitable were almost surely headed for a fiery demise.



    Five minutes later

    "As you know, we just received a distress call from Deep Space 11. We were already en route to deliver information to the station about our recent encounter with the Borg. What I have not been at liberty to share until now is the purpose for DS11's requesting that information. What they were after was less Borg tactical information and more...superwarp impact data. There are very few live sensor scans of such events, and they needed that data. The reason is...they have developed a prototype transwarp interdictor.

    "If the Tal Shiar force has consolidated its control of the station...they could have the interdictor. And they may be planning a test on the Indomitable. That's why we're risking arrival at the station without cruiser support."

    "Begging the captain's pardon," the Romulan chief of maintenance interrupted, "but may I ask what sort of device is in question here?

    "This does not leave this room," I emphasized. No matter what the Romulan reputation...I had very personal grounds upon which to trust the Mol'Rihannsu technician. "But I'll allow Commander Temm to explain the general principle." Succinctly, I almost added. But Temm had to know that, under the circumstances.

    The Bolian chief engineer stood. "In theory, a transwarp interdictor could be used when the beginnings of a slipstream or non-gated transwarp aperture was detected, to collapse the end of the corridor just as the ship was about to come out of it. At those speeds, there'd be no way to brake or do any sort of controlled egress. The targeted ship would break up immediately on impact and the explosion would propagate at superwarp speeds. Not enough to do a Hobus and wipe out everything in its path--"

    "Excuse me?" N'Vek hissed.

    "Ahem..." Temm blushed...or...well...azured. N'Vek didn't look much calmer--or feel like it either, to judge from his neural output. "Unfortunately from a technical standpoint--though on a nearly microscopic level compared to Hobus--the comparison holds. The effect would be enough to destroy unshielded ships, stations, and satellites too close to the explosion."

    Lieutenant ch'Sherrin crossed his arms and glowered. "The Borg would adapt to that thing in a snap. Maybe already have, if someone else has thought to try it. But the uses in conventional warfare--or terrorism...they're enormous. Just imagine what the Tal Shiar would do..."

    "The Indomitable will become their proof of concept if we don't stop them," I said. "There's no countertechnology out there. We have an hour to invent one. Or a way to at least detect the thing so we can destroy it. ch'Sherrin, start preparing a surgical strike team to go after the interdictor and retake or destroy it."

    "And what about potential hostages?" Thraz softly asked.

    I aimed a telepathic 'broadcast' at Thraz just as he had at me. There were no words but the emotions made it clear: I have no wish to do this--but I see no other way.. "I'm afraid the results of losing the interdictor would disrupt the balance of power galaxy-wide. It could even lose the Federation a war. Or more than one war. The hostages will have to be second priority to securing the interdictor.

    "I'll want you to work with Temm to find a way to detect or counteract the transwarp interdictor. Lieutenant ch'Sherrin and I will work on the battle plan. We'll reconvene in an hour. That leaves twenty minutes until we arrive. N'Vek...you'll also be with me. Dismissed!"

    I caught N'Vek's eye on the way out. Once everyone else had exited, I gently asked him, "Are you going to be all right, supplying tactics against your own people?"

    The Romulan Republic exchange crewman fixed me with a long, resigned look. "They forfeited any claim to being true Rihannsu when they crawled in bed with the Iconians. Still...I appreciate your consideration."

    "I couldn't help some concern given that your people have...shall we say...far more redeeming characteristics than my species." And I also couldn't help the bitterness that crept into my voice at the mention of other Devidians.

    "I should also add," N'Vek reminded me, "that any actions against the Tal Shiar will be strongly supported by Obisek. I will not report the classified details of our objective, but I am sure he will celebrate the demise of our mutual enemy."

    His hand reaching reflexively for an honor blade that, out of deference for Starfleet sensibilities, he did not wear on duty, N'Vek bowed.



    We made our first drop out of warp just outside the heliopause of the system primary, in hopes that the star would obscure our energy signature long enough to do what we needed to do.

    "Signal lock established," ch'Sherrin announced. "Beginning uplink with station systems."

    "Any signs the Romulans have spotted us?"

    "Negative. Our sensors--and station sensors--show no change in Romulan activity patterns."

    "Th'Valek--any signs of tampering with the station computer?"

    "Numerous logs indicating unauthorized access, sir. Unable to determine if they accessed any of the classified data."

    "Then we'd better assume it is compromised before we take control. Disconnect your console from the main network; we can't have them piggypacking a virus on the station's return signal and shutting us down. Initiate as soon as you've disconnected."

    Thraz opened up his console and pulled a series of network cables and isolinear chips--only those running directly to the comms relay stayed intact. "Remoting into base defenses now. Initiating in three--two--one--"

    "Full impulse! Now!"

    The Chin'toka leapt into action as two planets away, the remaining automated defenses of Deep Space 11 let rip once more on the Tal Shiar. Once our impulse burn was complete, we arrived to a scene of...

    Pandemonium.

    Nimble as DS11's computers were, there were still times when it looked as though the station's phasers and torpedoes had locked onto us instead. The Tal Shiar didn't know what to do--they'd been sure the station was subdued and now...well, it had conspired to provide cover fire for our arrival.

    An ungainly D'Deridex angled to broadside us. The Chin'toka came about. They surely expected canon fire, but then--

    "Subnuke!" I crowed: subnucleonic beam--a 'science specialist's toy' I'd had installed aboard the ship as soon as I took command. Bet you didn't think a little escort could do that!

    The directed radiation charge ripped from our deflector dish, bypassed their shields, and tore right into their systems, wreaking havoc upon data and power transmission conduits. Lights flickered across the gargantuan vessel as it struggled to shunt power to critical systems.

    Two Mogais squared up on the Chin'toka next, placing themselves between us and the D'Deridex. Two more continued picking away at DS11's reawakened defenses. Lieutenant ch'Sheriin never even looked up from his display at their approach, so involved he was in coordinating the Chin'toka's defenses with the station's.

    "Find the weak points of the D'Deridex! And..."

    I watched the battle play out onscreen. Nine minutes and the Indomitable would attempt normal-space ingress. There had been no countertechnology. No detection method found. No way to accurately duplicate years of classified Starfleet research in an hour. The only hope--to destroy everything in the system, and with the station slowly wearing down from the Mogais' strafing runs--

    Those turrets--major base systems--they should've gone down by now! DS11 isn't a defense outposts--how could they be holding up this long--

    "It's on the station!" I nearly catapulted from my seat. "They're pulling their punches against the station--that's why. We've got to get the strike force over there now

    "And drop our shields in the middle of battle?" ch'Sherrin yelled. Not the time to be arguing his captain's orders.

    "Lieutenant!" I shot back in an icy tone that reminded him of that fact. But there wasn't time--nor was it appropriate--to press the point any further. The Chin'toka rocked from a salvo of heavy plasma torpedoes from one of the Mogais. "We can't take a chance on launching shuttles through this.

    "Strannik to Temm! Polarize hull plating now. th'Valek, deploy energy-scattering field." Then I signaled the transporter room. "Prepare to deploy! Your objective is the station. On my mark--"

    I turned to face ch'Sherrin. "Initiate a three-second shield cycle. Three--two--one--drop shields--now!"

    I wished I could go with them. But the truth was underneath my sturdy human appearance, I wasn't built for heavy combat. My telekinesis was a great help, true, but to use it too much would blow my cover as a human irrevocably. And if I got stunned, went unconscious and slid out of phase--my skin crawled with a faint electrical current to think it. All I could do was pray for their success and act as best as I could to hold the Tal Shiar off until the strike team shut down the interdictor...



    Two days later

    We were seconds early--and seconds too late.

    The Indomitable arrived just an instant after the strike team found the interdictor. I shouted for them to blow the damned thing, just as I'd cried out for Captain Sengupta to abort slipstream--they had to have already been doing so, my cry of visceral alarm notwithstanding. But I couldn't help it.

    The slipstream tunnel had stopped collapsing and tried to stabilize--but the opening was too small, too chaotic. The Indomitable shot out...and clipped its starboard nacelle on the edge. Warp-core breach iin progress from the surge caused by the impact, Captain Sengupta had ordered all hands to abandon ship and then set a course straight for the D'Deridex, whose own systems were just starting to come back online--

    The dual core breaches had created a massive explosion followed by the implosion of the Romulan singularity drive--a writhing, undulating sort of explosion that seemed to pulse forwards and backwards in time, a terrible miniature Cepheid variable which generated a shockwave that took out two of the Mogais and cast the other two adrrift.

    Likewise the Chin'toka and DS11 suffered heavy damage, though the casualties there--and here--paled in comparison to the Indomitable. Of a crew of 847, only seventy-eight had made it to the escape pods and cleared out of range before the catastrophe.

    Captain Sengupta went down with his ship--as did so many other brave beings.

    Comsat logs revealed that the Tal Shiar never successfully got out a signal announcing the particulars of the transwarp interdictor to their comrades in other systems. The interdictor prototype--destroyed, and the data secured.

    But at such a cost.

    The Vesta-class Chalcedon has been pressed into service as a warp tug, thanks to Starfleet's wartime logistical difficulties. Its own tractor beams and those of its Danubes are acting in concert now to pull us to 39-Sierra for repairs.

    Captain T'Lenn is trying her best to assure me that I couldn't have anticipated Starfleet's decision not to brief Sengupta in on the full situation. That we'd done the best we could in light of the situation. In an uncharacteristic dose of nearly-open resentment I'm sure I would have sensed had I been in the same room with her, she came close to calling out the admiralty as incompetents for not inserting some sort of automatic warnings into our ships' computers like the ones triggered in the event of certain other highly classified directives.

    It doesn't help now as I stand here in the Chin'toka's sickbay--they're mostly our people by now, as the Chalcedon's facilities were better equipped to handle the mass casualties from the Indomitable and DS11.

    A word spoken sooner on my part, I keep thinking, and so much of this bloodbath could have been averted.

    I can do little to help the injured. And some I shouldn't assist, lest I cruelly prolong their suffering instead of offer mercy. Occasionally I can help pull someone back from the brink. But not today.

    All I can do now is place my hand on Ensign Gabaren's head and surreptitiously supply her with just enough extra neural energy for her to hear the entirety of the Bajoran equivalent of last rites.

    When I withdrew contact, I shut off every one of my body's photoreceptors, plunging myself into total darkness. And though it wasn't my natural means of expressing it, those around me understood when they saw the image of their captain standing there, stock still, with closed eyes and his eyelashes wet with the appearance of a barely-suppressed outpouring of tears.

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  • zidanetribalzidanetribal Member Posts: 218 Arc User
    edited March 2016
    Literary Challenge #41: Call to Arms

    LC41: Necrohol
    Captain's Log, Stardate 86998.99. The Lord English is responding to a distress call near one of
    the more neglected corners of Federation space. The last known visitor to the region was USS Enterprise-D, responding to the destruction of Delta Rana IV in 2366. Now Lord English is delving into the region of space locals call "The Husnock Necrohol" after its vanished residents.

    ===

    "How much information do we have on the situation?"

    The senior crew of the Lord English sat around the observation lounge table as Chief Engineer T'Shaanat brought up a presentation on the main viewer.

    "The signal is coming from here," she said as she pointed to a spot between the Tholian Assembly and Sheliak Corporate, "far from any star system, although there is a high concentration of trianium particles in the area, indicating heavy use of fusion reactors. It is close to Tholian space, and a Tholian vessel is approaching it at maximum warp, although it's still a few days away."

    T'Shaanat then highlighted a large swatch of unclaimed space around the area where she pointed.

    "The area where the signal is located is known as the "Husnock Necrohol" by various sparefaring parties. According to data gleaned from Tholian and Sheliak databases, the Husnock were a savage species known for ultraviolence, having conducted destructive raids on the border colonies of both factions for millennia until their sudden disappearance in 2366. Neither the Tholians nor the Sheliak seem eager to move into the territory, and there are rumors that the entire region is haunted by the vanished Husnock."

    Chief of Operations Kovat Vystan brought up a video of an elderly human female scientist amidst a backdrop of explosions and weapons fire. Although she seemed to be speaking, no audio could be heard.

    "Systems engineers have cleaned up the distress call as much as they could, but the audio portion of the call seems to be lost," he explained as he zoomed in on the face of the female scientist. "Facial recognition identifies the message sender as Dr. Kila Marr, a xenologist whose last known project was researching a crystalline entity with the Enterprise-D in 2368. After the mission's failure, she was unable to find work in the Federation; she dropped off of the map during the Dominion War."

    Kovat then brought up a classified Starfleet Intelligence file on Dr. Marr, listing her skill sets and activities.

    "Judging from the limited data on Dr. Marr's activities within the past fifty years, Starfleet Intelligence believes she's using the research she gathered on the crystalline entity to create graviton-based weapons powerful enough to shatter hulls. SI wants us to secure Dr. Marr as soon as we can. The primary concern is the Tholians; Marr's research could prove highly effective against Tholian warships, and SI believes the Tholians know this too. The Tholians must not get their hands on Dr. Marr's research, or else it will give the Tholians an insurmountable advantage."

    At the end of the presentation, Commander Kay Taylor summed up the situation.

    "Whatever Dr. Marr's transgressions are, we as Starfleet officers are tasked with rescuing those in need, no matter what the situation calls for, not to mention the risks to the Federation if Dr. Marr's research falls into enemy hands. The Lord English is crewed with the most adaptable and daring crew in Starfleet, as per Admiral Lee's instructions, so even with the little information we have, Admiral Lee and I are confident that we will be able to take anything on. Report to your stations at 0900 hours and be ready for anything. Dismissed."

    As the senior officers filed out, Taylor nudged Vice Admiral Lee, who had been napping in the corner.

    ---

    The Lord English arrived at the coordinates of the distress call. A grotesque space station shrouded in fine particles and copious amounts of radiation greeted the ship as a single shuttle angled towards the station at half-impulse. On board the shuttle, the Android systems engineer R-66Y conferred with the Tellarite assault squad officer Lieutenant Dlad and the Trill Nurse Emunai. The fuzzy picture of Chief Technician Newa began briefing the team over the comm channel.

    "The heavy amounts of hyperonic radiation in the area will prevent us from beaming you off in an emergency. Most of the station is damaged, you'll have to find an airlock to dock with to enter. Lifesigns are erratic, as are power readings; the radiation leakage from the station is interfering heavily with sensors. It'll take ten minutes before any other shuttles reach the station if you're in trouble."

    Further communication ceased as the shuttle entered the plume of radiation which surrounded the station. Lieutenant Dlad swore mightily as the shuttle docked with the station.

    "Krognik's TRIBBLE! What kind of human witch would get us sent to a forsaken station in the middle of nowhere?"

    R-66Y was the first to exit the shuttle. Unfolding his tricorder, he quickly took stock of the situation.

    "The atmosphere is a stable Class-M, but there are no signs of life of any sort. There's a strong probability whoever attacked the station left with the scientists."
    "Phinda's tears!" Dlad replied. "We got here too late."
    "Lieutenant Dlad," R-66Y replied, "although we are unable to secure Dr. Marr and her team, we may still be able to secure her research, per our orders. I think we should try to access the main computer."

    The away team moved unmolested through the station, pausing only to note the occasional suspicious stain and gash on the station's corridors. There was no sign of the station's crew. Soon they entered the computer core room. Devices of Federation origin were connected to the core, so it took only seconds for R-66Y to compress the core's contents and transfer the data to his tricorder.

    "Computer, please access the logs of Dr. Kila Marr in chronological order," he said as the transfer finished.
    Log of Dr. Kila Marr. Ever since the outbreak of the Klingon-Federation War, I've had to stay one step ahead of Starfleet Intelligence agents. They must think I'm a danger to the Federation because I won't play by their rules anymore. But the true danger is still out there. I've heard through the grapevine that the Tholians have found another Crystalline Entity, and that they're plotting to breed them like some massive attack dog! The Federation may not care, but I won't have another mother lose their son like I lost Raymond.
    I've hired a few Orions and Hirogen from a slippery Ferengi called Madran. We're heading to a region of space near the Tholian Assembly to keep watch. Sten is worried that the Orions and Hirogen will make off with our research, but that's just Vulcan pragmatism on his part. Pitting the Orions and the Hirogen against each other will buy us some time while we figure out how to turn the graviton beam into a one-hit knockout. We're taking residence on an abandoned space station that Matron Deshni says was owned by a dead race called the Husnock.
    The Orions have been antsy. They think the dead souls of the Husnock will consume us for disturbing their slumber, and the Hirogen are getting fed up. Sten think we should-

    "Will you get on with it, you rustbucket!" Dlad exclaimed in exasperation. "We don't need to know everything about Dr. Marr!"
    "Computer, please access the last entry in Dr. Kila Marr's logs," R-66Y replied in apology.
    I wouldn't have believed it, but there's no other explanation. The Husnock are back, just like the Orions said, and they've taken possession of the Hirogen! Matron Deshni has already been ripped in half by Alpha Kinon, and the rest of them are advancing on the computer core! I've given Sten what little data we have on graviton weapons, but I don't know where he can go. The station is swarming with grotesque Hirogen with pieces of metal in their skin ripping Orions and my research team apart with their bare hands and teeth! The Federation has to know! The Husnock-

    "Husnock? What are the Husnock? And where is anyone? Did the Hirogen take them as trophies?" Nurse Emunai asked.
    "I wouldn't put it against those TRIBBLE," Dlad responded, "but even if they took everyone off the station, they would have left something behind, a limb, or a bone, anything they didn't find worthy prey. The Hirogen aren't this clean. We haven't even found a corpse."

    As if on cue, a powerful impacted rocked the station. The corpse of researcher Sten fell from the ceiling, shaken loose from its bonds, and landed on Nurse Emunai. Most of his skin and musculature were bitten off, and a small PADD fell from his hands clenched in rigor mortis.

    "Krognik's TRIBBLE!" Dlad exclaimed in surprise. "This pointy-ear's been eaten!"

    Without missing a beat, R-66Y picked up the PADD. He quickly ascertained that it was Dr. Marr's graviton beam research.

    "We have what we came for, let's get out of here," he stated, as he moved Sten's corpse off of Nurse Emunai. "I believe the station is about to collapse."

    Dlad stared at a figure behind R-66Y.

    "I don't think it's the station's fault. Look!"

    A scarified Hirogen with metal shards sticking out his body crashed into the viewport above the computer core room. A crude device attached to his wrist began blinking rapidly. R-66Y's android brain recognized it for what it was, and uttered a short statement.

    "It's a bomb."

    The resulting explosion decompressed the entire room, blowing Dlad, Emunai, and R-66Y into the vacuum. Lieutenant Dlad and Nurse Emunai slowly suffocated in the vacuum of space, but there was nothing R-66Y could do about it. He noticed that the destroyed hull of a Hirogen Seeker Frigate near the station, which was quickly fading from view.

    As R-66Y cleared the radiation surrounding the station, he was greeted with a peculiar sight; Lord English was being attacked from all directions by an odd collection of ships in disrepair. Hirogen, Orion, and Cardassian ships were sending shuttles and attempting to ram Lord English. A grotesque vessel that R-66Y had never seen before was pummeling the ship with antiproton weapons; R-66Y noticed its design drew parallels to the station he and his team were so unceremoniously ejected from. With his trajectory bringing him near the stricken Lord English, he was able to snag a hold of a section of damaged hull plating and re-entered the ship through a ruptured cargo bay door. He quickly hailed the bridge.

    "Admiral Lee, I have secured the data, but I'm sorry to say that Lieutenant Dlad and Nurse Emunai didn't make it."

    In response, Lord English lurched as it hit warp speed, leaving the station and the Husnock Necrohol behind.

    ---

    Back in Federation space, Admiral Lee sat down with R-66Y. His arm was in a sling and his uniform was torn up. R-66Y began inquiring as to Lee's injuries.

    "Admiral, have you seen a doctor? You look like you need immediate medical attention."

    Lee waved R-66Y off with his good hand.

    "My injuries aren't as severe as some of the others on the ship, Robby. While you were on the station, we were jumped by a whole slew of starships which proceeded to ram us repeatedly. We kept getting boarded, and it took us a hell of a fight to even start pushing them off. Most of the crew is in sickbay with bites and cuts. What in Heaven's name were those things? They looked like some of the species we're familiar with, but they were all cut up with shards of metal all over. I should have paid better attention at the briefing."

    In response, R-66Y handed over his tricorder and the PADD he recovered.

    "We couldn't retrieve Dr. Marr, and the little information we were able to get from her research shows that it was not as advanced as Starfleet Intelligence thought. However, what I gathered from her logs is that she believed the Husnock had somehow returned and that they are the ones responsible for the attacks we've suffered."

    Lee rested his chin on his good hand as he mulled the revelation over. After a time, he spoke again.

    "In any case, it's Starfleet Intelligence's problem now. I'll focus on sending condolence letters to the families of Lieutenant Dlad and Nurse Emunai. If the Husnock really have returned, we may be in quite some trouble. I'll forward what we have to SI, Robby. You can go back to your duties."

    ===
    Captain's Log, supplemental. We are meeting up with Admiral Starfyre of the USS Fermion to offload our wounded. Our rescue mission into the Husnock Necrohol has failed tremendously. Dr. Marr has not been recovered, and the data we have is not the prize Starfleet Intelligence wanted. The Lord English has lost 147 crew members in the melee, and the only thing we have to show for it is the knowledge that the Husnock Necrohol may not be as empty as we thought. With the Federation-Klingon War raging, it may be some time before Starfleet can act in the area again. I only hope that nothing bad comes out in the meantime.
    Post edited by zidanetribal on
  • pwebranflakespwebranflakes Member Posts: 7,741
    edited April 2013
    Another great turnout, and another set of incredible stories! Nice work, Captains! I hope you choose to participate in the next one. :)

    Speaking of the next one, I am going to unstick this as I prepare to post up #42. As always, if you have not had a chance to post your entry yet, feel free to do so!

    Cheers,

    Brandon =/\=
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