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Literary Challenge #44 : Down the Rabbit Hole

pwebranflakespwebranflakes Member Posts: 7,741
edited June 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-fourth Literary Challenge: Down the Rabbit Hole
While on patrol in the Pelia Sector Block, an undocumented wormhole opens off the starboard bow of your ship...

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 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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  • nullunitnullunit Member Posts: 16 Arc User
    edited June 2013
    While on patrol in the Pelia Sector Block, an undocumented wormhole opens off the starboard bow of your ship...

    And Perfect World's Star Trek online sever gets unexpectedly suck into it & pops out a moment later Perfectly stable & bug free..... The End



    Yes this is a fairy tale & you asked for it! ;)
  • cosmonaut12345cosmonaut12345 Member Posts: 114 Arc User
    edited June 2013
    Commander Rose Sharon
    USS Robert April

    I imagined my fingers sinking into pale flesh - the rip as I pulled organic tissue away from twitching mechanical parts, the way the drone writhed and the stink of its fluids in the air, the scream of red alert sirens in the air as I rolled away and watched its own self-destruct systems tear it apart in a sizzle of protonic implosion.

    "Are you sure you're all right, Commander?" It was looking at me again, and what was worse Karatek was looking at me too. I can't take another medical leave, not again! Last time I spent three freakin' weeks in my niece's apartment back home, listening to jalopies rattle by outside and wishing I was back in space - if I wanted to be some ground-bound nothing, I wouldn't have joined Starfleet!

    "Oh, I'm fine, fine," I said, putting on a smile that was all shiny white teeth. "I'm just still on edge from you just poppin' out of space right in front of us like that. We were expecting Undine," I went on, putting just an extra beat on the word to cover the Species 8472 that's crawling around the back of my mind like a cockroach. "Not Borg." I saw the admiral's falchion on the wall behind him and managed not to think about picking up that blade and driving it right _between_ those augmented vertebrae, using all that strength they gave me to pry and pry and pry until it was all done.

    It nodded. "I understand. This sector's close congruence with fluidic space does make travel extremely hazardous. If not for the damage to our wormhole drive, we would have bypassed this entire area of the Alpha Quadrant." And then it talked some more, its servos clicking and its one eye on me as it paced the Admiral's ready room, and I wished to the Book I was down in the engine room and not in command. Not having to talk to it.

    "Yeah, what a shame. So, what's got you on our turf?" Back in my quarters is my mama's old heater, the Colt 1911A1 .45 she gave me when I went off to the Academy. I've used it on the Borg and it works _real nice_. I looked at Karatek again, and maybe it was his voice in my head, or just that look of worry on that ugly mug of his, but I managed not to stop thinking about the gun as the ex-drone kept talking and talking.

    "When our colony received word of the Collective's return to the Alpha Quadrant, our leader dispatched the Spartacus to offer what aid we could to our allies in the Federation. While much of our information on the Collective is obsolete, we do have a unique intelligence on the Borg shared by few others." And it looked at me like I had anything in common with a pale-faced walking corpse like him! I mean, like it!

    It was Jenni who took over, bless her, girl could talk her way out of anything. She started talking it up with the ex-drone about their little colony - some cube that broke off from the Collective en masse about forty years ago and settled at the edge of the Delta Quadrant. They've tried to stay out of history, but now that the Collective is back, they want to start pullin' their weight. Good for them, I guess.

    And so I looked him in the eye and I make myself say, "The Collective does know what happened to you guys," swallowing the Tactical Cube 1004700 that's at the back of my tongue, "are you sure you're safe taking that risk? Nails that stick up get pounded down."

    "Offering our aid against the Borg does expose our community to risk," he agreed, "but the risk is even greater if the Borg should overrun the Alpha Quadrant. We must all stand together against the threat of the Borg." And he gives me this _look_, and actually smiles at me.

    And so I managed to shake his hand when he leaves - with the April's commcode, he and his little ship will be able to head right to the Sirius Sector without running into the automated defenses, or getting a sector-wide Red Alert scrambled on their metal keesters. I even sat there on the bridge, my fingers digging into the command chair, and watch them open up another wormhole and fly out of our hair.

    A place where the Borg can do something right. I don't even know anymore.
  • morkintashmorkintash Member Posts: 0 Arc User
    edited June 2013
    Down the Rabbit Hole

    Stardate 91035.12:
    Captains log


    While on patrol in the Pelia Sector Block, an undocumented wormhole had suddenly appeared off the starboard bow of the Abigos. Eager to investigate, I hold off on our standard patrol route to take a closer look.

    "Well, it's definitely different then from the Bajoran wormhole captain, but sensors aren't able to detect if it's stable or not. In fact, sensors can't read anything inside of it, it's like a wall."
    Captain Nixon leaned his chin into the palm of his hand, imagining where it could possibly lead. The sensors seemed unwilling to make heads of anything going on inside, and jumping right in would be an unnecessary risk to the crew. "I guess the only alternative is a probe..." he thought.
    "Buuren, launch a class-4 probe that's set to return back after 3 hours. We're going to see what's in there."
    "Yes sir."
    Nixon watched as the probe streaked across the view screen and spiraled down into the wormhole -- and then suddenly back out and back towards the ship.
    "Buuren, I said three hours, not three seconds." Nixon said calmly.
    Buuren quickly read through the probes defined configuration logs, wondering where he went wrong
    "That wasn't supposed to happen," He spun around towards the captain, "The computer shows here that it was programmed for 3 hours indefinitely."
    "Run a diagnostic, it's prob --
    There was a small confirmation beep at the commander's console, interrupting Nixon.
    "What is it commander?"
    "Uhh captain, I don't know how, but the probe is reporting back data." Buuren spun back towards the captain in surprise, "Three hours worth of it."


    Stardate 91035.36:

    Captains Log:


    When investigating the probe telemetry, we had a guest show up, a Ferengi trader that was probably more interested in the wormhole then trying to pawn off stolen goods."

    "Ahh it's good to see you hoomons! I just happened to notice you in the sector and decided to drop in to say hello." The overbearing Ferengi said.
    Nixon could easily see past the Ferengie's shallow lies and knew he was here for the wormhole.
    "I do not wish to trade with you right now, but you are welcomed to stay around if you wish." Nixon said sincerely, even though he wished to be just as shallow as the Ferengi.
    "Ooh, I will captain, believe me. Say, would any of you mind trading, I have some lovely treasures that I'm sure your" -
    "I said that I do not wish to trade." Nixon said sternly.
    "-that I'm sure your creeew, wouldn't mind?" Continued the Ferengi where he was interrupted.
    "10% of the profit would be going to charity. Think about it captain, It would go a long way for the poor little boys and girls starving right now."
    It would fall a long way through your pockets before it makes it there too, Nixon thought to himself.
    "Besides, your not on any pressing tasks right now. Just a lone star ship full of bored people." The Ferengi finished up.
    The Ferengi was right about bored people. Starfleet had the Abigos on patrol duty for two weeks straight, and people were growing bored.
    "Fine, but only if you allow us to scan your ship first before making any trades."
    "Well go ahead, I"m not stopping you." The Ferengi said, spreading his arms open while laughing.
    "A physical scanning." Nixon reconfirmed.
    The Ferengi's laughter stopped and his smiling face turned upset.
    "How about I just bring over select items from my cargo that I know you Hoomons, Vulcans, and Klingons would like, hmm?"
    Nixon thought about the offer before coming to a final decision. Wondering what the Ferengi was hiding on-board the ship that he didn't want him seeing.
    "I can live with that." He said while eying the Ferengi, "But we will beam you aboard at anytime, just let the transporter room know."
    "I'll be seeing you soon captain." The Ferengi said shortly before the view screen blanked out.
    Nixon rubbed the temples of his head then leaned back in the chair with a sigh.
    "Buuren, what do you have on the wormhole?"
    Buuren poked a few commands into the console, taking control of the view screen. A third dimensional layout of the wormhole from inside slowly rotated over from a diagonal perspective.
    "From what I've gathered so far, the wormhole seems to be a passage into another reality, however it seems that time there is much slower than time here."
    "Hold up, if time there is slower than here, then how did three hours pass by in a matter of seconds for us?" Nixon asked, wondering just how that would even be possible, if possible at all.
    "Well, the passage of time in the wormhole is 721% faster than from our own time, but then the reality on the other side of it seems to be 15% slower relative of our time. Also the time is never exact, it just drifts."
    "I guess we won't be able to use it for anything then." Nixon said, hoping that it would have lead to elsewhere then to some time twisting universe.
    A small notification sound beeped from the touch pad on the side of the captains chair followed by a message from the transporter room.
    "Captain, The Ferengi is here."
    "Alright, tell him that I'll be meeting him shortly." Nixon said, rising up from his chair and straightening his uniform.
    "Aye sir."
    "Commander, I want you to report your findings to Starfleet, we'll hold out here for now and wait for further commands. You have the con, meanwhile, I have a Ferengi to deal with."

    Stardate 91035.44:


    "Captain, we found 4 pleasure holo suites, 2 lava lamps using modified disruptor battery cells, and a Tribble among the Ferengi's treasures." Said the transporter chief, stealing a harsh stare in the Ferengie's direction.
    "I said you can call me Keruko!" The Ferengi said from behind two security officers on the transporter pad.
    "Beam them back to his ship chief."
    "Aye sir."
    "Oh-ho come ooon, they weren't dangerous. The Tribble was fixed, and the lamp batteries were brand new, and what's wrong with a few pleasure holo suits?" The Ferengi said as he tried to slip around the security officers.
    "At ease men, your relieved... for now." Nixon said as he stared at the Ferengi, Keruko.
    "Captain, if I didn't know any better, I don't think you trust me."
    "No, I don't." Agreed Nixon.
    "Ohh it was an honest mistake! I'm used to dealing with less disreputable people. A few disruptor powered lava lamps can easily slip my mind."
    Nixon wandered over to the Ferengi's merchandise that was scattered out on the floor.
    "So, what are you trading with my crew?"
    "Well, see for yourself." The Ferengi bent over to pick up a glass prism which quickly changed color from his touch. Noticing Nixon's interest in the object, Keruko described it before he was asked. "It's a Mood Prism. I picked it up from a Risian tourist that was in need of something, I don't really remember. Here, take it, you can have it."
    "Nah, that"s alright. Maybe you could sell it for some profit with one of my crewmen."
    "No really. It's perfect for you, take it." Keruko insisted.
    "Ferengi don't give away their merchandise without expecting something in return." Nixon pointed out, suspicious of the Ferengi's scheming.
    "Well I'm trying to just be a friend, but if you insist on denying that, then alright."
    "A friend?"
    "A business friend. I don't have very many federation business friends as it is already. You could probably be profitable."
    "Possibly." Nixon said, taking the mood prism form the Ferengi.
    The Ferengi smiled, showing the rows of his small sharpened teeth.
    Without any warning, the ship violently shook, sweeping Nixon and Keruko off the ground and onto their backs. The lights winked out and momentarily sent the room into complete darkness before switching back on.
    Nixon quickly hopped up off the ground and tapped his comm badge for the bridge.
    "What's going on up there commander?"
    "The Wormhole just grew in size and is pulling us in sir!"
    "My ship!" Keruko yelled from behind.
    "Can you pull us out commander?"
    "No sir, we were caught by surprise and it damaged the impulse drive."
    "My ship! Beam me back to my ship! Get me out of here, we're sinking!" Keruko screamed in terror.
    "It's too late for the Ferengi's ship, it's already in the event horizon." Buuren said from Nixon's commbadge.
    "Nooo! My riches, my latinum!" The Ferengi cried out before collapsing onto his knees crying.
    "Can you bring us hard-a-port and warp out?"
    "No sir, there's already enough gravimetric stress on the hull, going to warp would tear us apart."
    Nixon couldn't think of anything else to say, no ideas, no way of escaping the inevitable. He figured that since the probe had managed to come back undamaged, that it could be possible for the Abigos and her crew to survive going through the wormhole, but then again he had no idea if things inside the wormhole could have changed for the worst since it randomly grew in size and gravitational pull.
    "If we make it through this commander, then I'll see you on the bridge."
    "Yes sir."
    As the Abigos drew closer to the Wormhole, it sped faster and faster towards its fate. Like the probe, the Abigos spun around the Wormhole like falling into a great bowl with a bright purple center.

    Stardate 91035.49:

    Nixon could feel the slight tug of gravity spin around him in the wrong directions as the ship spun into the wormhole. It was almost enough to throw him off his balance and was odd getting used to, but Keruko, who had followed him into the turbolift before he realized it, held for his life against the railing in the turbolift.
    "I'm going to be sick!" He yelled.
    The turbolift doors parted, revealing the calm and collective order of the bridge. Even when facing possible death, the ships crew was well trained in dealing with moments such as these.
    "Captain, we're inside the wormhole." Said Commander Buuren without taking a look off of his stations panel.
    "Why are we spinning?" Keruko asked, noticing the display on the view screen slowly spinning.
    "There's a gravimetric current, I'm trying to compensate the environmental controls for it."
    "How long until we're on the the other side commander?" Asked Nixon as he took his seat in the chair.
    "10 minutes sir."
    "Can't we just turn around and go back the way we came?" Keruko asked.
    "No, the gravity is too strong for us to leave right now. We'll have to wait it out on the other side before we can turn back."
    "But what if it doesn't go away? We'll be stuck here!"
    "We are well aware of the situation Keruko, we can hear about our doom some other time, but right now we're busy." Nixon said, hopping the Ferengi would stop talking.
    Amazingly it had worked. The Ferengi hadn't said a word, just sat on the steps leading down into the helm stations, probably thinking about the loss of his ship and his latinum. Nixon sat, thinking hard into everything that was happening. It had reminded him of a similar event that he had read up in Starfleet academy. The U.S.S. Voyager was pulled into a spatial funnel and barely unable to escape. This scenario seemed similar in some aspects, but was also totally different.
    He did want to see what was inside, but not like this.
    "Captain, we're coming up to the exit." The commander notified.
    Nixon shook his head out of the daze he was in and the Voyager reports he had read late into the nights during the academy.
    There was no visible exit, it just came up suddenly. The reality that the probe had detected was very different then from the time and space he knew. There were large bright pink and purple hills of light that slowly changed, like sand slowly being blown away. Stars were here too, but there was also a drifting web of bands made of some unknown energy that pulsed different colors that had everyone's attention.
    "What is the casualty reports Soibe?" Nixon asked without removing his eyes from the view screen.
    "There are no casualties or injuries sir."
    "Good. Commander when will we have impulse?"
    "I'm not sure sir. Engineering is working on bringing impulse back online. Captain, scanners are showing a ship in here."
    Keruko's head quickly shot up from the floor in the commanders direction.
    "What kind? Is it mine!?" He asked, almost pleading.
    "I don't know how, but your ship is in one piece Mr.Keruko." The commander acknowledged.
    "Yes! Oh thank the divine treasury, my fortune is spared!" The Ferengi cheered.
    "With such a small design, I guess I'm not surprised that could have survived the trip here. I doubt the gravity had hardly any effect on it." Nixon complemented.
    "And you're large Federation starship is marooned!" The Ferengi laughed obnoxiously.
    "With the gravimetric forces weighing down on the return trip back, I highly doubt anything, much less a shuttlecraft, is going to be capable of making it back through the wormhole on impulse." Said Commander Buuren, sounding a tinge upset at the mocking Ferengi.
    "We'll just have to see about that." Keroku taunted. "Welp, I'm sorry to leave this party so soon everybody, but I have places to be!"
    Keruko quickly left the bridge in a good mood and humming a cheerful tune to himself.
    "Transporter room!" He barked at the turbolift followed by devious chuckle right as the doors closed in.
    "Any ideas?" Nixon asked aloud.
    Nobody said a single word, the bridge was suddenly quiet without the Ferengi.
    "I doubt there will be anyway out for us if the Ferengi's ship doesn't make it sir." Buuren mentioned.
    "Then I guess we'll have to wait and see."

    The Ferengi wasted no time in leaving the strange reality. He was eager to return back to the space he knew, a place where he made profit in the bold life of a Ferengi Trader, Merchant, and Smuggler. The ship seemed hardly touched aside from a slight amount of hull stress, but that had been because the shields were down and structural integrity wasn't really enforced during the period he was on the hoomon Federation vessel.
    At full impulse he shot off straight into the wormhole. Everything was going fine for several minutes. The nauseating gravity shifts was only a minor inconvenience that he didn't really care much for anymore, as long as it meant progress. Then things started to slow down to the point that he was stuck in place as the gravimetric forces became stronger. The ships impulse drive was already at full speed, there wasn't anything else that the Ferengi could do. Warning lights and sounds lit up like a dabo table across the control console as the ships systems were buckling under the stress.
    "Noo!" He yelled as the ship gave into the wormhole and fell all the way back to the Abigos."

    "Well that was quick." Nixon mused as the Ferengi ship was spat out of the wormhole like a broken toy.
    "Hail Keruko commander."
    There was a short wait for a reply, but the Ferengi did eventually come around to answering.
    "What do you want captain?" The Keruko groveled, looking deflated compared to the happy Ferengi that left only moments ago.
    "To work together Keruko. There's no other option."


    Stardate 91035.72:
    Captains Log


    Engineering has successfully brought the impulse drive back online. So far I've gathered the bridge crew in the conference room to come up with a plan for us to leave this strange place.

    "This is where we suggest any and all ideas right now, even if it doesn't sound possible." Nixon said aloud at the head of the Conference Table. "So far we already know that our exit out of here is the wormhole."
    The Conference Room was just as quiet as before when Nixon asked for any ideas on the bridge.
    "I say I dock my ship in your hangar bay and we charge full impulse into that wormhole." Keroku suggested half heartedly.
    "The Abigos won't be able to stand up to the grav" - -
    "Gravimetric pull, yea yea. You know, I think you like using that word." Keroku said, interrupting Buuren.
    "The commander's right, It only gets worse near the end of it too. Brute force won't be able to win it for us this time I'm afraid." Said Lieutenant Shoy, the ships tactical officer.
    "I believe that we might have some chance if we dodged the stronger currents in the wormhole back."
    "We could tack like a sailboat moving into the wind." Buuren included.
    "That might work, there's plenty of space inside the wormhole itself to maneuver around the stronger currents if we need." Said Nixon.
    "Alright, like I said. I'll dock my ship in your hangar bay and we'll charge into the wormhole."
    "We're not charging into it Keruko, were... zig zagging and dodging currents." Shoy corrected.
    "Ok, well either way I'm docking my ship, right?"
    "Hmm, you did try to leave us behind. What do you say captain?" Buuren teased.
    "Oh now, that was different. I couldn't fit all your crew on my small little ship, there's just not enough room." Keruko said, looking around nervously. Not sure if to take Buuren's suggestion serious or not.
    "Before we put this plan into action, does anyone else have a different idea?" Nixon asked, standing up from the conference table head seat.
    "No." Everyone replied.
    "Then lets get to work."
    As the bridge officers left the room one by one, Keroku was the last remaining.
    "What is it." Nixon asked before leaving the room too.
    "You still didn't answer my question, can I dock my ship?"
    Nixon stood for a moment, trying to look as if he was thinking of the Ferengi's fate before making a final decision, even though he knew his answer already.
    "Yes, but you'll owe me someday, alright?"
    "You have a deal." Keruko grinned.


    Stardate 91035.9:

    "We're set to go captain. I have the ships sensors calibrated to detect oncoming gravity currents that we need to avoid." Said the Science office, Doled.
    "The Ferengi's ship has successfully docked in the hangar bay captain." Informed Shoy.
    "Alright, Buuren, bring us about to the wormhole entry and take us in. Doled, keep Buuren updated with the oncoming currents and the optimal coordinates to avoid them. I don"t want one of the currents hitting us." Nixon ordered.
    The Abigos plunged into the center of the wormhole with hardly any effect from the gravity currents.
    "We're only in the easy part for now sir, it's going to become rough with stronger currents the further we go." Said Doled without taking an eye off of his station.

    As the Abigos traveled deeper in into the tunnel of the wormhole, the currents were becoming stronger with each pass and the progress growing slower. The ship zigged and zagged then weaved in and out of the stronger currents that would have sent the ship all the way back to where they started from.
    With a few minor sensor miscounts in coordinates, the ship was barely caught a few times and carried back a short distance before Buuren would make a quick save.

    "Captain, were coming up on the entrance of the wormhole, we're on a twenty kilometers from it." Buuren announced in between the process of weaving through passing gravity currents that were more of a serious danger now than before.
    "It seems as if the wormhole is becoming highly unstable too, I don't think we're going to have another chance at this if we don't make it." Doled warned.
    "We're going to make it Lieutenant." Nixon said, wondering if he was right. All that mattered was bringing confidence to the crew right now, or lest they might fail without it.
    "The ship isn't moving captain, we need more impulse power to break even with the current." Said Buuren.
    "Engineering, we're going to need more power. Transfer all weapons, shuttlecraft, and backup battery power into Impulse." Nixon said into the chair comm.
    With the added boost into Impulse power, the Abigos broke even with the current, but only enough to slowly inch its way through the brunt of the gravimetric currents that zipped by the hull.
    There was a sudden loud bending sound that left an eerily reverberating echo throughout the ships decks as it was being pulled from behind.
    "Captain, structural integrity is reaching dangerous levels. Decks 12, 13, and 14 have hull breaches. Emergency shields are successfully activating to patch them up, however the shields won't hold out for long without emergency battery backup power." Doled said aloud over the bending and grinding of the hull.
    The bright purple center of the wormhole entrance suddenly vanished, bringing to view the welcoming site of stars in a familiar world. From the sudden lack of resistance, the Abigos lurched forward, far from the wormholes reach.
    Nixon leaned back once again into his chair, the rising tension draining from him.
    "We made it!" Announced Doled, surprised that they made it out of the wormhole in only one try.
    "And just in time too sir, look!"
    The view screen changed to a view of the ships stern, showing a grand view of the wormhole which had grown three times in size since the last time Nixon had seen it. This time though, it wasn't growing, instead it was rapidly shrinking down.
    "I wonder if we caused that somehow?" Buuren thought aloud. "I mean, what are the chances of a healthy and stable wormhole suddenly appearing right before you, and then vanishing all in the same day?"
    "I would say very slim." Said the captain. "Doled, how long were we in there for according to the set times in neighboring relay stations?"
    "We've only been there for a few minutes."

    The bridge watched as the rest of the wormhole winked out of existence forever, pondering the scary possibility of disappearing with it.
    The moment of silence was suddenly interrupted by the offending face of Keroku and his loud voice.
    "Captain, when are you going to release my ship from the hangar? I would like to be on my way now, I have an important shipment to make with the Romulans and you're keeping me in here?"
    "I figured you would be thanking me for saving you back there Mr.Keroku, and all you can do is demand I let you leave at once?" Nixon teased as he twirled the Mood Prism around in his hand.
    "Well none of this would have happened if you hadn't of found that wormhole in the first place."
    "Fine, fine, you can go. But if you're smuggling illegal goods" --
    "Captain relax," said the Ferengi in his same shallow lies, "I have nothing of the sort. Just medkits and food is all."
    "Right." Nixon exaggerated shortly before giving the hangar bay authorization to let the Ferengi go.
    "I'll see you around captain, we're still business partners you and me." The Ferengi reminded with a toothy grin.
    "I thought it was business friends." Nixon corrected.
    "Yea, something like that."
    The View screen winked out and back to the Pelia Sector star system as the Ferengi took off into warp. Nixon knew it wasn't the last time he would be seeing him, and plus the Ferengi was in debt to him for saving his life back in the wormhole.
    The river tells no lies. Though standing on the shore the dishonest man still hears them.
  • marcusdkanemarcusdkane Member Posts: 7,439 Arc User
    edited June 2013
    Literary Challenge # 44: Down the Rabbit Hole

    Observation

    Stars swirled beyond the transparent aluminum cockpit as Ensign Todd Mitchell threw the Manta-class star fighter through a series of tight manoeuvres.

    "How's she handling?" asked the disembodied voice of Claire, the photonic interface for the USS Valkyrie's AI.

    Of course, the single-person fighter had no room for a second person, but Claire had downloaded an avatar of her program to a mobile holo-emitter, which was afixed to the upper sleeve of Mitchell's low-level pressure suit, providing her with a realtime presence aboard the fighter.

    "Inertial dampeners are still lagging," Mitchell replied with more than a hint of frustration in his voice.

    Since his repatriation from Mu'Na, he had spent almost every off-duty hour in the shuttle parking bay on deck five, rebuilding and repairing his fighter, replacing hull panelling and internal systems with a steady competence.

    Rather than requesting assistance from Lieutenant Commander Meliden Bowen, the Valkyrie's chief engineer, Mitchell had instead enlisted the assistance of the computer library access information retrieval engram, and an unlikely friendship had developed between them: Mitchell craving companionship following his months of captivity in the Mu'Naii prison, Claire keen to exercise her integration subroutines and develop experiences outside of those programmed into her matrix, or which the ships sensors fed directly to her processors.

    "I thought pilots liked to get a feel for what they were flying," Claire remarked dryly.

    "There's a difference between a feel and being slammed around a cockpit," Mitchell replied. "I'm probably going to have internal injuries by the time we get back in the shuttle bay."

    "So inertial dampeners and the impulse manifiolds need further attention," summarised Claire. "I've allocated the resources, and they'll be ready for when we return."

    Rather than replying immediately, Mitchell scowled at the sensor readings, then tabbed the intercom.

    "Mitchell to Valkyrie: I'm picking up an elevation in the proton count, as well as an increase in neutrino emissions," he reported. "Are your sensors reading anything?"

    "Confirmed, Ensign," came the reply from Captain Amanda Palmer. "It appears to be the accretion disk of a wormhole. Transmit the coordinates and return to the Valkyrie, I don't want you getting pulled through."

    "Understood, Captain," Mitchell replied. "Reversing course and transmitting coordinates now. ETA ten minutes."
    ***

    "Approaching the coordinates now, Captain," Ensign T'Natra reported crisply from the helm of the USS Valkyrie.

    "Bring us to a full stop, Miss T'Natra," replied Captain Amanda Palmer, as the streaks on the forward viewscreen resolved into constellations and stars.

    "Aye, Captain, now reading full stop," stated the Vulcan navigator.

    "Are sensors registering anything?" Palmer enquired.

    "Aye, Captain," replied Commander Brandon Mayer from the ops console. "Detecting elevated neutrino emissions off the starboard bow. The wormhole should manifest within moments."

    "Prepare a class four probe, and launch as soon as the event horizon resolves," Palmer said, rising from her command chair and heading towards the turbolift at the rear of the bridge. "Commander Chanos, you have the conn."

    "Aye, Captain," acknowledged the Bolian tactical officer, turning his console over to his deputy, Lieutenant Arlandria Chambers, and moving to the command chair as Palmer entered the turbolift.
    ***

    Lieutenant Will Mayer looked up from his console, as the doors to astrometrics opened.

    "Probe telemetry is coming through now, Captain," he reported, as Palmer moved to stand beside him.

    "What can you tell me, Will?" she asked, her gaze drawn to the massive viewscreen.

    "Nothing out of the ordinary," replied the dark-haired astrophysicist. "Neutrino emissions, gravitons and some anti-protons."

    "Stellar cartography has matched probe telemetry, Captain," reported Ensign Tilly Campbell-Black from a side console. "The probe is in orbit of Barzan II."

    Palmer tilted her head quizically toward the young officer.

    "It would appear that the Barzan wormhole has finally stabilized and stopped spinning," she mused.

    "We might be able to stabilize this terminus with a series of verteron emissions," Mayer proposed.

    "Not quite yet," Palmer decided. "We need to observe the wormhole's behaviour first, and ascertain if, and how frequently the wormhole shifts, or if one or both ends are now fixed."

    "Aye, Captain, I'll begin correlating the information as soon as more is received," Mayer assured the captain.
    909d7cda93335d83bb43d3459b4dfcd5_zpsayiqcsfi.jpg
  • gorvar1gorvar1 Member Posts: 0 Arc User
    edited June 2013
    Doutra sat up straight as she awoke from her nightmare. Her heart was pounding, cold sweat ran from her head and the gut wrenching emotion of fear was only slowly ebbing away. She was still gasping for air as the person next to her in her bed stirred awake. Despite him being half-asleep still, he knew the routine and was already massaging her shoulders. His soothing hands calmed her down as the feeling of dread went away.
    "It's alright." Tovan said and held her close." It's alright Do, I'm here."
    She placed her hand on his and took a long, deep breath.
    "You alright?" he asked, to which she nodded." Where were you this time?"
    "It wasn't Virinat." Doutra replied." It was a different world. The sky was green, it had three suns. I think. There was smoke, fire." She shook her head. "A horrible screeching sound, things flying overhead. Other people like me running, screaming.." she left the dying unsaid.

    Tovan placed his hand under her chin and turned her head so she could see into his warm, brown eyes. She smiled as she strayed his green war tattoo above his right eye before she kissed him deeply. A long moment later both broke the kiss.
    "Thank you." she rested her head on his chest." I Wouldn't have done this without you."
    "What I'm here for..." he kissed her head and held her in his arms. He opened his mouth but the communicator went off." Captain, this is Z'nod." A gruff voice said on the other end. Doutra shook her head with a smile and took it up." What is it Z'nod?"
    "Can you report to the bridge, I think there is something you should see."
    "On my way." She replied and tossed the bed sheet away and began to dress in her uniform.
    "You mind if I sit this one out?" Tovan smirked as he leaned back.
    "Get dressed, Centurion Khev." she teased as she threw his uniform at him." Lest I court martial you."
    "Aye aye, Captain." He chuckled and dressed as well.

    The duo got on the bridge as the Officer of the deck turned around to face them. Despite being a part of the proper crew, Z'Nod preferred to wear his dark blue outfit with a long cloak with the only symbol of his allegiance to the Romulan Republic hanging around his arm. Doutra knew the Remans were a though, prideful and stubborn people and having her crew of mostly Romulans listen to his orders was hard enough. After all it had not been to long ago that Remans fought and worked for the Romulans as slaves and if it weren't for D'tan and Obisek's friendship there may have been war between the two former inhabitants of Old Romulus.
    She was glad she managed to persuade him to have at least the symbol on, early days she thought.
    "Captain, we picked up something on sensors."
    "Show me." Doutra said as she took her seat in the captain's chair. Z'nod motioned to the science officer who showed what they found on screen.

    It was a large gaping hole in space which seemed to swallow the stars themselves with large blue circles around it which gave it a magnificent, yet a fearsome beauty.
    "An wormhole, Captain." Z'Nod stated." Neither the Republic nor the Empire have found this one before in the Pelia Sector Block."
    "Get me Srri-ook." Doutra said." I want to hear for myself if that's true."
    "Aye captain." Z-nod bowed and made the call to their Gorn Science officer who served with them on the R.R.W. Spirit of Virinat as an ambassador of sorts for the Klingon empire. Commander Gorvar suggested the man himself, and Doutra could not deny the Gorn who stuck out his scaly neck for the Romulans during the Khitomer debacle.

    An moment later, a grouchy and angry looking Gorn entered the bridge. Unlike Gorvar, who was large and well build, Ssri-ook was a smaller Gorn who was light and lithe. There were at least two sort of casts on the Gorn homeworld she read. One were soldiers, like Commander Gorvar and the famous General Ssharki and others were the tinkerers like Ssri-ook. He also seemed quite twitchy compared to his more stoic looking brothers.
    "Yes, yes what is it?" he hissed." Was busy sleeping, had double shift."
    Z'nod motioned to the screen which made Ssri-ook's eyes as large as saucers." You knew about this?"
    "No, no no no. Would prove valuable military resource for the Empire." He rubbed his clawed hands together before he began scanning on his console." Found something." He paused." Something coming through portal. Something big."

    The bridge crew looked on as a heavily damaged ship jumped through the wormhole. The ship was a bird of prey and guessing of the damages all over the ship it meant it barely survived a struggle.
    "Mogai Heavy Warbird." Tovan turned to Doutra." Tal Shiar, Captain."
    "Red alert." Doutra said calmly as the lights of the ship fared red." Shields full, weapons armed."
    "Permission to obliterate the enemy?" Z'nod asked.
    Doutra thought for a moment before she glanced to Ssri-ook. "How badly damaged is it, Ssri?"
    "Shields barely operational, one phaser bank operational." the Gorn gave her a feral grin which showed his rows of pointy teeth." Engines down."
    "Life signs?"
    "Thirty Romulan, one unknown. Easy pickings." Ssri-ook declared.
    Doutra nodded and stood up." Gather the boarding parties and scramble the Scorpions, we're going in. Z'nod, Ssri-ook you are with me. Centurion Khev you have the bridge. I want those shields down before our shuttles have warmed up. We're bringing this ship in for the Republic."
    "We are being hailed by the vessel Captain." He looked at Doutra." They are asking for our assistance. They think we are one of them. You want us to reply?" Tovan asked as Doutra and her two crew men entered the turbo lift.
    Doutra smirked and said before the doors closed in front of her." Hail the Tal Shiar and tell them tghe people of Virinat are coming for 'em."
    Tovan smiled back and nodded." Aye aye, captain."

    The Spirit of Virinat decloaked near the wormhole and immediately opened fire on the damaged warship. The Spirit' Scorpion fighters went first and easily took care of the Scorpions the Mogai launched while the five shuttles followed suit. They dodged the half-baked phaser attacks while the Spirit took down the Mogai' shields. Immediately the boarding parties teleported inside, led by Captain Doutra. The few security personel left in the ship were overwhelmed by a deadly combination of angry Virinat survivors and Remans who waited a long time to avenge the crimes committed by the Romulan Star Empire.
    Doutra fired her assault rifle as she took down a Uhlan who tried to run to his comrades inside the room which housed the unknown life sign, probably an prisoner. Ssri-ook jumped inside and let his feral anger loose upon the survivors as Doutra ran over to a stasis pod in the middle of the room. The window was still covered in ice which meant the Tal Shiar just picked up the stasis pod from space. Doutra wiped her glove over the glass to see what was inside.
    "Captain, this is Z'Nod. We have control over the bridge." The Reman said over the com.
    "Captain, this is Virik. We captured the engine room." One of her Uhlan's said." It might take some work but I think we can get this bird up and running in no time."

    But none of that registered to her when she saw what was inside the stasis pod. It was a male. Tall. An humanoid creature with red skin, blue hair and white spots just like hers. she looked at the Gorn who looked just as puzzeld as she was. Now Doutra knew she was not the only one of her people anymore.
  • cmdrscarletcmdrscarlet Member Posts: 5,137 Arc User
    edited June 2013
    The maw of the wormhole gaped open and inviting: the swirling periphery also pulsating in a mesmerizing rhythm. The core of the storm was a very bright white, illuminating the black space around it. The Solaris was washed in the brightness of the opening even thirty thousand kilometers away from the celestial event. Inside the bridge, the crew watched the scene through the main viewer. Only the Science Chief, a Trill named Omazei looked toward her console in concentration. Data streamed on various screens revealing various telemetry.

    "Omazei, anything?" Kathryn did not look away. Several minutes passed since the second probe was launched. Its intent was directed into the center of the wormhole. The first probe was still in a circuit collecting data about the periphery.

    Omazei's fingers were in dedicated motion across the console, small beads of sweat dotted her forehead. "There is more than enough information to keep astrometrics busy for days."

    Kathryn, not satisfied with the cryptic answer, walked up to the Science station and started staring at the readout. Having a strong background in astrometrics before her Captaincy, Kathryn's review of the data surprised her. She quickly excused Omazei's answer and let the Science Chief do her job.

    Minutes passed. Both Kathryn and Omazei silently looking at the data with Kathryn more as an observer. Another minute passed when First Officer Anthi Ythysi walked up and quietly cleared her throat. "Captain, is there anything we should be concerned about?"


    A few seconds passed and Kathryn had to force herself to look away from the screens. "No. Not yet. Maybe not at all." She looked back at Omazei and said, "Is that really what I think it is?"

    "I think so Captain."

    Anthi crossed her arms, her Andorian temperament under the surface. "What do we think it is?"

    Kathryn stood and faced her XO then looked to the bridge crew. "Out there is a portal to another universe."

    Karl Melango, the ship Security Chief stood and said, "What kind of universe?"

    Omazei responded, "As you know, with the revelation of the Mirror Universe, the idea of existing Multiverses is obviously no longer fiction but fact." She paused and pointed the viewscreen. "This wormhole is leading to a new universe ... an 'anti-verse'. Visually, everything is in negative: space is not black, but white, stars emit black-light. Everything is the same, scientifically speaking ... it just looks different."

    "So, is there another Solaris on the other side?" Chief Engineer Thel Ythysi spoke up but didn't look away from the viewscreen.

    "Possibly, but not probably," Omazei responded. "More research is needed but the probe does not detect another ship. I can't postulate anything beyond that."

    Kathryn stepped toward her command chair. "Omazei, catalogue this location. Send your findings to Starfleet and launch a third support probe. Set it to transmit back to us. Karl, set a class two special warning marker. If this wormhole becomes stable then Starfleet needs to send its best. We have a patrol to complete and we are not in the best space to sit and wait. If the wormhole collapses then at least we have something. Morgan, set course back onto the patrol route."

    "Aye, Captain." Morgan Kell tapped some controls on the navigation console.
  • danquellerdanqueller Member Posts: 484 Arc User
    edited June 2013
    -

    The ship sped on.

    Looking up from the display at his post on the Bridge, Subcommander Tosik listened to the engines for a moment. Normally a deep rumble barely registering on the ear, they now roared with a sound he would have expected from a set of ground power turbines racing beyond their maxium rated revolutions, and Tosik knew that the similarity was not that far off. He could well imagine the forces straining on the engines as they were called upon to generate more and more speed, for periods well beyond what had ever been expected of them.

    Shaking his head, he turned to look his Commander. "I must again caution that we are in danger of serious drive failure. Despite what the Master Engineer claims, these are hardly factory-new engines, and trusting them to hold up at these speeds for anything but a short sprint is tempting the Elements."

    She nodded, displaying no emotion as she returned his gaze without sign of the concern she had to share. That self-control is what had first impressed him when he had arrived aboard the ship, and now it steadied the crew around them as she replied. "Your concern is noted. However, our options are limited at this point."

    Tosik gave a deep sigh as he turned back to his instruments, knowing exactly how right she was. They had been tasked with tracking a Borg tactical Cube under cloak as part of their liason with Starfleet, with the Republic hoping to reap the benefits of discovering a Borg logistics node in the Pelia Sector that their Federation allies had not found yet. The R'uhuv had executed this mission perfectly, and settled in for what seemed would be an extended period of tailing their unsuspecting quarry back to it's base. All had gone according to plan.

    Until a previously unreported wormhole had opened up right off their starboard bow. The sudden appearance of this event halted the Borg Cube in its tracks, and they had likewise come to a halt, fearing their drive emissions might be detected if they passed beyond the Cube. Tosik had thought there could not be a more serious situation for a cloaked Romulan ship than to have a Borg vessel gain enough of a sensor trace to lock onto it with one of their tractor beams.

    That is, until he saw what emerged from the wormhole.

    He called up the latest data from his sensors on the huge ship that had wasted no time in destroying the Borg Cube with a single, devestating beam that seemed to consume the very matter of the Borg ship and turn it into the source of unbelievably violent explosions that the formidable adaption capabilities of the Borg never had a chance to counter. As they had watched the Cube rip itself apart, the unknown ship had swung slowly towards their own position, and it had not required a detailed observation period to realize that the massive vessel was not hindered in the least by their cloaking device.

    Even their attempts to run had proven ineffective. Their ship was hardly the latest in stardrive technology, and the other ship had quickly gained on them shortly after they had gone to warp speed. Only by dropping out of warp suddenly had they eluded capture, as it seemed the larger vessel's manueverability did not match its abilities in outright speed, and their flight had become a series of near-miss encounters as the larger vessel kept overshooting their track.

    Now looking at the readings from the latest pass, Tosik called up a datafile he had been analyzing before their pursuer had once again overtaken them. Comparing the two sets of information, he nodded to himself and reported "Confirmation on unknown vessel. This type of ship has been encountered by both Starfleet and Klingon Defense Forces, with multiple engagements on file. Starfleet designation is listed as 'Planet Killer', subreference 'Doomsday Machine'. Threat level highest."

    The Commander did not say anything for a moment, then spoke carefully. "'Planet Killer' does not sound appropriate for Starfleet ship classification policies. What race uses these ships?"

    "No race." Tosik read more of the file, his alarm growing "These are automated weapons capable of destroying planetary systems and using the debris as fuel. Data indicates the beam is composed of...absolute-pure antiprotons??" he frowned in disbelief. Such a composition was beyond the abilities of any known race, and would produce a beam that could not be stopped by any material means. Indeed, the crude anti-protons generated by the anti-matter/matter systems of other races were of such devestating capabilities that they were used in photon torpedoes and tricobalt devices.

    The Helmsman looked over, and a look of curiousity grew on the Human Augment's face. "That is, indeed, quite impressive, and explains the ease with which it dispatched the Borg. Our own shields will likely only stop a few such strikes if we angle them for deflection hits, so I don't recommend we try a head-on attack. But the vessel must have its own shields, or it would be mutually destructive to have two of them meet. What of those?"

    "No shields." Tosik shook his head in amazement. "The weapon is encased in layered neutronium to a depth of...." the Science Officer's voice trailed off as he re-read the data.

    "Subcommander?" the Commander prodded after he had been silent for too long. "What depth to the armor?"

    "Indeterminate, but at least tens of meters thick!" Tosik's voice was awed "Commander, this cannot be! We can barely manufacture a millimeter thick coating of this type of matter for the strongest of hullmetal, and that can only be done in special orbital yards where the great mass of such material can be handled. With the described level of neutronium, the vessel would have the mass of a typical solar system, and the gravitational pull of a dead star!"

    The Commander looked at the main screen, where the cone-shaped Killer was again turning towards them. "And yet, it does not. We must concern ourselves with more pressing matters, however. How many of our plasma torpedoes will be required to breach that hull?"

    "Commander, that is an impossibility." Tosik turned to look at her. "Neutronium of that level has no known method of being penetrated. No weapon known could do what is required, and I don't think even a nova would do more than make that ship glow in space."

    The Commander sat in her command chair, staring at the image of the Planet Killer growing once again. For long moments, she said nothing. Then she looked around the Bridge. "We cannot fight. We cannot run. We cannot hide. We can dodge, but only until it adjusts its own attack pattern to anticipate one of our evasions. Suggestions?"

    Tosik searched his own brain, looking for some trick of physics that might turn the tables. Perhaps something that would force neutronium to dissolve? Not likely. Use the ship's deflector array to generate a subspace field to attempt a disruption of whatever drive system the Killer utilized? That seemed possible, but would require too much time to set up, and would almost certainly require many attempts before any success. No, that way would only provide just as many chances for the weapon to destroy them.

    Before Tosik could go further down his mental path, the Helmsman cleared his throat in the way that always seemed to Tosik to challenge the authority of the Commander. As all eyes turned to him, the Human smiled grimly. "If we cannot dodge forever, perhaps what we should ensure is that we only need dodge once...."

    __________________________


    The R'uhuv ran once more, but this time with a purpose. The small warbird flew across space with warp plasma streaming from its overtaxed nacelles, small arcs of energy lancing across the hull as random charges were induced across the ship.

    On the Bridge, Tosik held onto his console as the inertial compensators failed to counter all of the forces acting on the ship. First one way, then the next, the crew were pulled by the small changes in course that kept the Planet Killer following them from a direct interception, and thus kept them alive for the next few minutes.

    Looking up, he saw the strobing icon on his display that he had been waiting for, and called out "Target ahead. Zero-one-five mark two three! Contact in two minutes!"

    "Good! Very good!" Helmsman Rycho grinned as though he were enjoying the race, and Tosik would not discount that possibility. The Augment always seemed to treat any challenge as a personal game, and this plan of his certainly had the hallmarks of the Human tendency towards gambling. "Commander, I will require authority to act without your order on the final turn, as it will be too short a time to ask your permission. Do I have this?"

    "Carry out your orders, Centurian Rycho." The Commander said, watching him carefully "You have full authority to act as necessary until this ship has completed the maneuver."

    Tosik shook his head, not liking the smile of the Helmsman as he set the ship on the final approach to their goal. The Human had just been given more power than he had ever had aboard the ship, and Tosik wondered how much that would change the strange dynamic between the Commander and the Augment in the days to come. Shrugging at last, he decided he would worry about it then, assuming they had those days coming.

    One minute passed, and it seemed the plan would at least be executed correctly. If it would work would be the will of the Elements. Then without warning, the Planet Killer surged forwards with sudden speed, blurring on Tosik's screen as the distance readout dropped to zero in a fraction of a second.

    The ship veered wildly as the Helmsman reacted with unbelievable reflexes, his laugh of victory seeming out of place until Tosik realized the Planet Killer had passed above them and already reached the place they had wanted to send it.

    The Planet Killer was just beginning to turn again when it vanished back into the wormhole it had emerged from.

    As he watched the wormhole destabilize from the uncontrolled entry of the massive weapon and then disappear completely, Tosik found he had to sit back in his chair to breath again.

    Looking around the Bridge, he saw that even the Commander seemed to have given herself leave to relax from normal conduct. Sitting back in her own Command Chair and giving him a small smile, she nodded and said "Science Officer, please scan our immediate area and confirm that the wormhole has not reappeared. Then make a full systems report and bring it to me when you have it. Ensure Engineering is especially careful in inspecting the engines for damage."

    She stood, and said to the rest of the Bridge. "Well done. We have once again proven ourselves the equal of the Federation and the Klingon Empire in facing and defeating a foe they themselves have been tested by. Let our Glory be known in the Log, Subcommander!"

    As Tosik nodded the order, he watched the Commander turn towards her Ready Room. Before entering, she ordered "Now, back to our original mission. Find me another Borg ship, and please don't lose it this time."

    -

  • patrickngopatrickngo Member Posts: 9,809 Arc User
    edited June 2013
    Stardate 85866.3, IKS Herdthinner, Pelia Sector...

    Commander of Scouts had no name. He had a service number courtesy of the Klingon Defense Force, and a Rank, but no name. Among the less tradtional Lowland clans of Ferasa, the practice of earning names had fallen long out of favour-a concession to the Klingons who held dominance over his race, but among the Mountain Clans, the Traditional Clans, a name had to be earned and given.

    Without a name, among the Mountain Clans, there would be no honour to the Family, and breeding rights would be restricted to the lesser or the least-a harsh reality to face.

    Commander of Scouts stood beside HIS Captain, Kurn of House K'Lek, who called him 'scout' in the way that Klingonoid beings, with their dim hearing and weak eyes nicknamed everything that had no proper name.

    and Commander of Scouts tolerated this treatment, for he was a Warrior first, last, and always.

    And holding the rank would, if nothing else, elevate his future offspring's chances to earn the honour of at least a Partial name among the Mountain Clans.

    "What do you think, Scout?" Captain Kurn asked, "Is it worth the effort?"

    "They are enemy ships." Commander of Scouts said, "Freighters, but Federation registry, and their escort is...careless...too careless."

    "Too Careless?" Kurn asked, looking at his Ferasan first officer, who licked his lips and nose. "Explain."

    "We have intercepted traffic that insists there is a hostile presence-a Borg presence, in the system, Kurn'K'lek-Captain." Commander of Scouts replied, using the style of his people-something that the Klingon and Gorn crewmen often found amusing.

    "Quite right. This looks like bait for a trap." Kurn said after a moment, "Science officer, shrouded scan, are those truly freighters or are they what our opponents call 'Q' ships?"

    "Their movement indicates more mass than they should have for mere Freighters, their impulse drives are running at a very high power for their rate of accelleration." Science Officer was a lowland Ferasan, her public name was actually 'K'rrana', but since the Mountain Clanner had joined the crew, she had to chafe under traditional restrictions that were humiliating-being addressed only by her position or her rank on the bridge.

    "Those are the prey, then." Scout Commander said, "Federation combat-modified freighters, designed to lure unsuspecting raiders into a trap."

    Kurn smiled, "I concur...battle stations, charge weapons and transfer control to my console, Scout Commander, plot a decloaking strike and put it on my display."

    Scout Commander typed in a series of adjustments, both to engine power, and weapons systems, along with a set of preplot course changes designed to hit the armed enemy ships.

    "I'm picking up Neutrino emissions, Captain!" Science Officer suddenly announced, "also random particle bursts near the targets..."

    "On screen." Kurn ordered, "Scout, your evaluation?"

    Scout Commander dialed in a series of readout feeds directly off of Science Officer's station, and overlaid it on his attack plan.

    "The source is coming from off the enemy's port bow, approximately twenty thousand Kellikams, and it is intensifying-do we break off the attack?"

    "No. Execute battle plan, if this is another ship, we must get it scanned and recorded to warn the rest of the Fleet." Kurn ordered.

    "Executing." Scout Commander stated.

    They began the attack run.

    Scout Commander had interpreted the scan data differently than Science Officer had-he noted where the 'cargo' holds seemed to have extra doors, where he would put targeting arrays, launch points for warheads, and most importantly, phaser strips.

    The bird of Prey dropped her cloak at full engine power, and cycled disruptor beam and cannon fire to strip the first enemy ship of his weapons.

    Kurn in turn used this preplanned data with the flawless efficiency of a Warrior Born, and the enemy's deception was met with disruptor and torpedo fire, jackhammering into systems intended as a means of ambushing, rather than coping WITH the ambush.

    The enemy responded in kind, hammering the old Ki'Tang class ship with whithering return fire, and with linked fire from the other 'Q' ships.

    The bridge boomed and echoed as grav-plating flickered and integrity fields thrummed.


    The first false freighter tumbled as it died in the silence of space, but they were outnumbered, and out-gunned. A flash hammered the bridge itself, combined energy and projectile weapons striking with uncanny precision to tear a rent in the hull of the bridge, and shining actinic light across the Captain's station-Captain Kurn howled briefly as vacuum sucked away air-only to be stopped midway when SI fields activated.

    Not, however, before the Klingon's body tumbled outward into the revealed starfield.

    Scout Commander leapt across the bridge to the captain's helm, and started working with the savaged console to restore backups. "Engineering, Maximum power to shields and engines, new course Thirty six by one twenty eight by forty." Scout Commander snarled into his mic.

    "We can't cloak." Science Officer observed.

    "I know. We have to out manuever them." K'Tirr said, and looked up.

    "What is That?" A gigantic torus of light shone through the tear in the hull where the bridge monitor had been.

    "Wormhole." Science officer told him, adding, "The prey are falling back from it..."

    "Do we have communications?" Scout Commander demanded.

    "um...yes, from the same direction, we are recieving a distress call from...from the Emperor's ship, Scout Captain." Science officer announced.

    "Then, that is where we must go." Scout Com- no, not anymore! Scout Captain turned to his scientist, then to the engineer-a Gorn, and then to the only Klingon left on the bridge, a Leutenant. "Engineer, we are going through that worm-hole. Get whatever team you can to slap a patch on our broken hull, we have more important business than raiding shipping."

    "Yes Captain." the Engineer hissed.

    The Leutenant fingered his D'Ktag, but remained at his station, as Scout Captain favoured him with a ferasan Smile, displaying the long killing fangs of the Mountain Clans of Ferasa-framed in the lynx-like features that distinguished them from their lowland cousins. "Do you wish to challenge my authority, Klingon? or come to the aid of your Emperor as you know you ought?" He asked.

    "I serve the Emperor." Korag, son of Kurn, said stiffly.

    "Then see to your post-I want full weapons systems ready for whatever we find on the other side of that worm-hole." Scout Captain told him.

    "we are heavily damaged." Engineer observed.

    "That hole won't stay there forever, we must go through it while it is here." Scout Captain said simply.

    "Engaging warp-wings then...we should be able to cross that barrier in two minutes." Engineer said, "assuming, that is, that we survive the transit."

    "Science officer, do you have any information that might aid us in making that transition?" Scout Captain demanded.

    "Yes, I am remodulating our deflectors to ease our passage through..." Science Officer informed him.

    "One minute." Engineer stated.


    And down the hole they went.

    Somewhere Else...two hours later.

    "The battle is in progress, Scout Captain...I read a K'Tinga, and two Hegh'ta in addition to the Emperor's Negh'var and a full score of...Breen? warships."

    "condition of allied ships?" Scout Captain asked.

    "The K'Tinga is squawking warp-core warnings, and deploying escape pods, The others are...well, the Emperor's ship seems to be functional-for the moment, but the escorting Hegh'ta vessels are showing severe battle damage."

    "Weapons, charge up, Engineer, our Cloak system is active?" Scout Captain asked.

    "Yes Captain." the Gorn hissed.

    "we may die, but we will die with our honour." Scout Captain said, "We will Engage the largest hostile vessel first, if we survive that, we can aid the Emperor in mopping up the smaller craft..."

    "Why the enemy's cruiser? the frigates are the more immediate threat!" Korag asked.

    "Because the smaller vessels are not strong enough to take the Emperor's flagship alone-they require that Chel'Ghett to provide them covering fire and shield support. We kill him, they will be forced to withdraw-or if they do not, they will die semi-honourably." Scout Captain stated, "Range?"

    "Five thousand Kellikams, the Cruiser seems focused on the Emperor's flag vessel..." Korag said.

    "Good, bring weapons charge to three hundered percent, and load a tight spread volley through the fore torpedo system, proximity and impact detonators only."

    "Nothing fancy this time?" Science officer asked.

    "Only if you have somethign fancy to add." Scout Captain told her, "DO you have something to add?"

    "Tachyon beam pulse is ready off the forward deflector-it may help with their shields..." she told him.

    "At least we have patching over the hull here." Scout Captain observed, "Disengage Cloak on my mark...mark."

    The displays turned from red to yellow, and Scout Captain fired all weapons from his own console.

    The Breen cruiser's attentions were focused on protecting the smaller, harder to hit frigates chewing at the Emperor's flag-vessel, and this strained her shields and power systems. The combined volleys from cannons and turrets firing at double-rate and the deep burst damage from overloaded heavy disruptors slammed her shielding to the breaking point-just as the tight spread of torpedoes hit her hull at the point Scout Captain determined her warp-core had to be in order to fit the asymmetrical shape.

    they flew through the resulting explosion with the crew braced for impact, re-cloaked in the shining waves of energy from the enemy cruiser's death, and turned to face the next target-one of three enemy Frigates.

    "Weapons power?" Scout Captain demanded.

    "Still at fifty percent, but rising." Korag told him.

    "Load another salvo in our torpedo launcher-Science officer, status of the Emperor's Vessel?" he demanded.

    "Shield systems portside are down, she's taken a beating and I read uncontrolled fires on four decks." Science officer announced.

    "Downed shields...means they probably have a boarding party or three on that ship." Scout Captain surmised, "Ready to engage the secondary targets, one at a time if possible, begin with the outliers, no reason to give our prey more warning than they already have."

    "who would-why would there be Breen here?" Science officer asked idly.

    "You have a fix on our position?" Scout Captain asked...

    ---

    "...Sanek system, which means we've travelled a very long way through that wormhole." Science Officer stated, "We are decidedly not in Pelia Sector any longer."

    "Well...I guess we will worry about how to explain that when the Emperor demands an explanation..." Scout Captain mused, "Status on the other KDF vessels in the area?"

    "IKS Y'Ton is still operational-she is with the Third Reserve, under command of Major D'Moj, but the Cruiser Bat'leth and the IKS Baugh are no more, and obviously, the IKS Balth is still barely holding them off."

    "Transmit my compliments to Major D'Moj, and ask if they care to coordinate our efforts, meanwhile, hard to port, increase engine power by twenty percent and begin overcharging the disruptors, we're going to take that Frigate right over...there" Scout Captain ordered.

    it was almost predictable, the Breen vessel started banging away with active sensors, revealing a build up in graviton charge-they were readying tractor beams.

    "Five thousand Kellikams! Decloak!" The Herdthinner rippled into view of the breen frigate on a shower of bright, eye-searing light from her disruptor banks and cannons.

    The Breen ship's commander locked on with tractor-just as the volleys slammed his shielding away and paved a path for a cluster of Photon Torpedoes to meet with his bare hull.

    The T-beam vanished as its source evaporated, and Scout Captain hauled the yokes around, bringing her through a snap-roll and into an immelmann manuever that lined up a second breen ship in her gunsights.

    The breen reacted as any rational being would, they engaged their tractor-beams and fired off a heavy torpedo unique to their particular engineering culture.

    Unfortunately for them, the IKS Y'Ton, a Hegh'Ta class loaded with heavier weapons, came at them from their now-unprotected flank, smashing the small Breen vessel like a bottle of Sshrowwl under a forgehammer's blows.

    For the next few minutes, the two Birds of Prey systematically wiped out the Breen who lacked wit to flee, until only the Emperor's flagship remained.

    "Prepare for boarding actions, Engineer, you have the conn." Scout Captain announced, "Try not to get the ship killed if the Breen rediscover their courage."

    "We're being hailed by Major D'Moj." Science Officer announced.

    "um...on my terminal, since we no longer Have a screen." Scout Captain ordered.

    The face was unexpected-green, female, Orion.

    "Good fighting, Scout Captain." the Major said over the link. "What fleet sent YOU?"

    "Um...we were responding to a distress call. We're normally assigned to 11th Fleet's scout section." Scout Captain replied.

    "That's...sweet Maker, that's all the way over in the Pelia sector!" the Major said in open surprise, "were you in for refit?"

    "Negative, we...fell down a wormhole." Scout Captain told her.

    "Whatever-I am prepping to beam aboard, we have reports of breen on the ship." the Major said.

    "Then we will coordinate-I will bring a team to assist in suppressing them." Scout Captain told her, "IF you feel it would be of use."

    "well...we're on an actual mission to speak with the Emperor, so I'll take that offer-you focus on suppressing the Breen and clearing our path."

    "Agreed." Scout Captain used the klingonoid 'nod', "See you over there."

    "What about the Y'Ton?" Science officer asked, joining Scout Captain and three Bekks at the transport pad. "They were supposed to be here-something about fighting a new threat to the Empire, and needing to consult the Emperor directly."

    "We are their backup." Scout Captain stated. "We weren't supposed to be here, but we are."

    Science officer joined him on the pad, and the transporter energized...


    To have a name is to be someone,
    to be important, to have status.
    The Nameless are uncounted millions,
    only the BEST have a full name...
    Our names come to us from our Heroes.
    Listen now, to the tale of K'Tirr Raollriit,
    the unconquerable one, the last Ferasan Warlord,
    who fought the Klingons until they offered us,
    the children of his followers, power over our
    destiny...


    -Mountain Clan Ferasan Naming ceremony, verse one.


    "The Ferasan word-among the mountain clans, for 'Alien'...they have two words.
    ONE is "Klingon". The other translates as 'food that talks.' They are our most barbaric cousins. They are accursed, you see-monstrous and vicious."


    -H'rrakrawwl, Caitan sociologist, explaining some of the cultural divides that separate Caitan from Ferasan.



    IKS Balth, Engineering Deck...

    The Breen like it cold-this bothered the Klingons in the boarding party far more than it bothered Scout Captain, his muzzle sticky with alien blood, his claws dipped in Breen fluids, he smiled again-the smile of a Ferasan is not a gesture of friendliness-it is the display of fangs-and the mountain Clans held on to their fangs, kept clean and polished with careful dental treatment. He licked blood from the fur on his hands, and from around his muzzle, tasting the Breen's fear.

    "Advance." Scout Captain ordered. Science officer, being from the more civilized lowland tribes, did not, as her captain did, indulge in releasing the fury, did not taste the spoor of fear from their foes, nor tear their foes' flesh with tooth and claw once the range had closed.

    The Ferocity of the mountain clans was what made the Klingons respect them, it was what allowed the 'primitive' minority on Ferasa easy access to the Klingon military.

    He hunted, leaving his boots behind-they were in the way, as he moved with oily speed through frozen decks, his ears-feline ears, swivelled to seek out heartbeats, and breathing sounds, speech and clicks of equipment, and when he found them he stalked them...

    Three Breen were trying to force a terminal in the Engineer's office.

    Claws tore the armored helmet from the one standing guard, and disembowelled him with feline speed, then Scout captain leapt and came down on the biggest of the remaining two-latching with his hands and raking with his feet, literally running through the breen's torso in a shower of blood and gobbets of flesh while the smaller one released the smell of their alien urine, and tried to flee the sound of it's screaming comrade.

    Scout Captain unleashed a hunting roar, and the breen ran right into the fire-triangle of the ambush.

    Not that he, himself had forgotten weapons...not hardly-but fear is a powerful tool, and humanoid species, no matter their sector of origin, still live with certain primal fears that could be exploited...

    Three more such ambushes, and the breen were in a collective panic, they gathered in an open area with good sight-lines, and set up a perimeter well designed to protect from a wild beast.

    Unfortunately for them, beasts are not particularly clever, but Ferasans and Klingons are.

    "Use grenades." Scout Captain ordered, "Then lay down a pattern of fire to herd them and force them to keep their heads down."

    The slaughter opened a path to the engine room, which Major D'moj's team had already secured.

    "You look a sight." the Orion said, she wasn't dressed like an Orion-she wore leathers from neck to toe, bulky and utilitarian.

    "Had a snack on the way in." Scout Captain joked.

    "Obviously-we're going up to the Bridge level, you think you can put some shoes on?" she asked, "it's the Emperor, after all."

    "yes, Major D'Moj." Scout Captain replied. Science officer handed him his boots with an amused flick of her left ear, and tail, she also gave him a handiwipe to use before putting them on. While he was busy, she treated the thousand minor cuts and wounds he'd accumulated. Scout Captain purred appreciation, but only recieved a sniff in return from his science officer, a reminder that there would always be a class divide between the technically sophisticated lowlanders, and the Mountain-dwellers.

    "Two pronged attack again?" Scout Captain asked.

    "No. first of all, there is only one working turbolift, and it would take you too long to go up the tubes. secondly, your warriors still have unused munitions, and third, you had the wit to bring a science-officer, we're probably going to need her to support the assault."

    "Understood."

    "also, I don't need you throating everything you see or 'snacking', Scout Captain-this is Kahless' ship. Try to control your...urges." D'Moj ordered.

    "It was just a tactic to frighten the enemy-those at the command level are unlikely to be so easily...frightened." Scout Captain stated.

    "Keep that in mind. disruptors and blades...though I suppose your claws might be effective."

    The team boarded the turbolift...


    Command Level

    In spite of the Orion Major's warning, Scout Captain wound up tearing several breen apart on the way from the lift, to the Bridge deck-it was fast, and the way it got the enemy's attention allowed the rest of the force to make it through relatively unscathed-only three warriors dead, and only superficial wounds to the rest.

    Kahless himself was everything the legends held him to be-unflappable in battle, wise, a natural leader that even Scout Captain, whom had met many Klingons, would follow in an instant. Truly a Chief of all Chieftains, a Lord of Lords, a warrior's saint.

    "You have done very well." Kahless told them as the last Breen lay moaning and dying, and the Klingon crew commenced removing the bodies and returning the ship to full operation.

    The Emperor stepped aside, and spoke with D'Moj, her Klingon first officer, and another Klingon from the ship's company. Scout Captain heard the entire conversation...but it was irrelevant. He wanted to get back to his ship, to get the gore and the blood out of his gray and black fur, to be clean again.

    After a bit, the Emperor dismissed the Major, and turned his attention to Scout Captain, Science Officer, and their remaining Klingon Bekk.

    Scout Captain knelt in a posture of respect, eyes down and ears forward.

    "Stand up, let me see you." the Emperor said, pointedly at Scout Captain in the dialect of Trade.

    "What is your Clan, Ferasan?" The Emperor Asked.

    "I am from the Many waters clan." Scout captain said, in Klingon, respectfully.

    "What is your Name?" the Emperor asked.

    "I have no name, for I have not earned one." Scout Captain told him.

    "Not even a Partial Name?" Kahless asked, "You command a ship of the fleet."

    "I have a service number and a rank, but I have not earned so much as a partial name." Scout Captain told him.

    "you...remind me...of someone I...I knew, I met, in battle. same humble manner, same mad courage, same...same markings even. K'Tirr. You look like K'Tirr."

    "I am deeply Flattered, Dominant one." Scout Captain said, "but K'Tirr is a treasured name, none has carried it since..."

    "Since my day. I know. A name can only be given by a Clan Chief...but I am chief to all the Clans, am I not?" Kahless asked.

    "Yes, Dominant one, ever since you defeated K'Tirr Raoullrrit in a single combat that ended the war." Scout Captain said, "You were his only defeat, and you pronounced him undefeated over his dead body."

    "You know your traditions and your history...now know this-I expect you to do your utmost to live up to the honour I am about to impose upon you-a name is more than a source of respect, it is a statement of responsibility to all who look up to you. You are now K'Tirr, you have the partial name K'Tirr, your records will show it by the end of the day, by the end of the week, all of your people will know that you are K'Tirr, you will have to earn the rest of a full name, but this I give you as your charge, your duty, and proof of your honour...now, return to your ship, and show the universe what I see in you, live up to your Name."
    whatever.

  • aten66aten66 Member Posts: 650 Arc User
    edited June 2013
    *Final Draft*
    Captains Log
    Stardate: Unspecified

    After leaving the Zemet System in a routine patrol through the system to check for Undine activity, the U.S.S. Oregon has found her self adrift after hitting an unexpected ion storm. Repairs are on their way and my Chief Engineer Chassidy tells me that they are going at spectacular rates to fix the damaged systems. Though my Chief Science officer Zinuzee has said an unusual subspace anomaly has opened on the starboard side of the ship. I have ordered her to meet me in my ready room to relay this new information.

    *****
    Zinuzee seemed uncomfortable as I poured some Saurian Brandy into my glass of Earl Grey. "I'm sorry Commander, do you want a glass of Earl Grey tea?" I asked her, "I add the brandy for a kick to get the workday moving." She merely gave a stressed out smile, crooked at the fact I wasn't taking this seriously. She chose to move on after the awkward silence filled the room.

    "Sir it seems that a wormhole has opened off of the starboard side of the ship" reported Zinuzee, "it appears that the ion storm has reacted with the unstable portals into Fluidic Space, to open this new wormhole." She grabbed her P.A.D.D. and brought up a probe telemetry to the view screen of the captains cabin. "We've sent multiple probes through since the wormholes opening, and each time we've got reports from across multiple sectors from other federation spacecraft, even from our Romulan allies in the Tau Dewa Sector" she continued, " I suggest we send a two manned shuttle to check out the properties within, as we have observed that a main cavern like hub is at the center of the anomaly, before the probe is spit out of subspace into real space."

    'Ahh, Z, always one to get to the point quickly,' I thought to myself, before I swished my tea in its cup, 'I shall have to tell her to visit the counselor to make sure she relaxes enough.' I took a swig of my tea and brandy, and swung my chair to face my fish tank
    I was wondering what she thought of my actions, so I decided to 'ham it up' by expressing a face of contemplation. I could see in the reflection of the glass I got what I wanted. She looked dejected, almost like she thought I was purposefully ignoring her, and when I couldn't take it anymore I cracked a smile. "Lighten up Z, I know your looking for recognition for your work, and you've done a fine job, but I need a little more Lexis in your attitude, not Zinuzee. Her face blanched in utter shock, before looking down and recomposing.

    "Yes sir,' she said, her voice quivering a bit in tone at 'sir', showing something of exasperation. Her face took a more cheerful expression as she let a little more of her hosts emotions into play. She stood up and stretched for emphasis, like she hadn't had control over her actions. "Thanks a lot love-muffin, I forgot how demanding miss stick up her..." I would have let her finish that sentence but under the immediate circumstances I couldn't let her be in control.

    "Now Lexis, I can't have you have complete control, just cause Z is sulking doesn't mean I'm letting a newbie have complete control over scientific data" I said absolutely serious at my personality deficient science officer/friend. She pouted but let control over the mind slip back into the control of Zinuzee, her bonded Trill symbiote.

    "You wonder why I only let her out at parties..." she muttered towards me.

    "Really? I thought that was because you have very little friendliness, being from a war driven universe and all that," I said nonchalantly, swirling my hand in the air for emphasis. She merely 'hurumphed', and pulled a stray hand of her brown hair behind her ear that had shaken loose from the perky girls earlier good-natured rant. "I'll think about your suggestion, but I can't let two officers be stranded in the Delta Quadrant because of my recklessness over this uncharted wormhole of wonder," I continued, "I also want you two to have a serious conversation with counselor as of 0700 hours, dismissed." I waved my hand and Zinuzee Lexis departed from my ready room.

    *******

    "Down, down the rabbit hole we go..." I muttered at myself, looking down at the maw of the wormhole, its eerie, blue glow shining onto the dark deck of Ten Forward. I sat at a table sipping a fresh cup of Earl Grey, this time with honey instead of brandy, and drifting between sleep and the waking world. A child shrill laughter filled my ears, and I jerked around looking at the dark corners of the mess hall to search for the source. I knew no children would be awake at these hours, let alone be allowed here without permission from there parents, or me. I saw the glint of two eyes in that shadows, and rubbed my eyes to focus again, and all I saw was the lone bartender shining the glasses, with the glow of the wormhole reflecting off the glass. But I swore, before I looked away, the glint of wise, yellow eyes and the glint of purple cat-eyes staring back at me.

    ********

    I had taken Z's request into consideration and the next day decided to send both Zinuzee and my third in command, Anitara, a New Romulus Commander I recruited from my Embassy, into the wormhole. That was over three hours ago, and I was officially flipping out after their two hour curfew passed. I had decided to take my personal shuttle, the U.S.S. Cordius into the vortex.

    *********

    I was amazed at the colorful swirl of the vortex as I entered, reds, greens, blues, and purples divine all meshed together in a rainbow cascade of swirls. I was fooled by the pretty colors and swirling waves of energy and lured into a false sense of wonder, only to be horrified by what I saw next. Once I had gotten through the long tunnel in the blink of an eye, I found myself in the center chamber of the anomaly, a giant, cavernous, walled off space within the center of this unstable vortex. In this space sat the dead hulks of over twenty different ships of various and unknown design to the Federation and any other galactic power, as well as some not seen in centuries, but what drew the eye was the giant hulk of a twenty-second era Federation space station at the center. I had seen depictions of many space stations from various species across the Federation and could tell from my academy days it was an early terran design, one probably lost in the era of expansion in the early Federation days.

    I breathed in at seeing the dead remains of these relics from across the known universe. Tholian, Trill, Saurian, Bolian, an early Suliban Cabal ship, one I could identify as Kobali, Deltan, and even a Borg Probe to name a few of the recognizable species. Then I saw one that intrigued me, for I hadn't noticed it at first docked with the Borg Probe, something reported to me from my allied contact within the Romulan Republic, Ace Chernok, as a mysterious and dangerous species. An Elachi Frigate, partially adapted from the Borg Probe's nanite probe system, but largely retaining its individuality. I had scanned it and stored data for further research and as proof of this reclusive enemy.

    I had scanned the anomaly for the my officer's shuttle and found it docked to the old husk of a starbase, I set the shuttle to dock with the space station, hoping to find my missing crewman before I had an ulcer from all this stress.

    **********

    The first thing I noticed was that it was dusty, and that it was dark. I hate the dark, more then a Orion Slavers guild, more than Nauscians, more then a Borg Cube, more than a battalion of Klingon Warbirds, I hate the freaking dark; the only thing I hate more then darkness, is when my weapons are in the hands of a nit-wit. I don my trusty headlamp, secure my Tsunkatse Falchion, and turn on my headlamp to light my way in this dark epitome to a lost era. I traced my way to the Z and Anni's shuttle, and followed the dust laden footprints they had made on their own journey in this station. I traced them to a children's containment facility, a children's playroom filled with books, something unique to a station of this era. I noticed two books taken off of their shelves, both open on the table, one facing down and one facing upwards towards the ceiling, though it was moved and put back down in a different spot. A little blonde girl was shown on the cover, and anthromorpic animals were shown as well, and for once I recognized the book before me. But in a flash of light so blindingly, I dropped the book, and was drawn into a black void on nothingness.

    ***********

    I woke up to a splitting headache as the sunlight shone onto my face through a dense amount of purple tree limbs. It took me three seconds to realize I said that the tree limbs were purple. 'What the heck?' I thought to myself as I sat up and got closer look at my surroundings. I saw that I was in a clearing of trees, the ground was covered with green and orange leaves from the purple trees, and blue shrubs I hadn't noticed at first.

    "Good to see you are awake captain, I was afraid you had been affected more then we were by the transportation effect," said an unknown voice, one that I had fuzzily recognized. I tried to talk but a wave of dizziness overcame me, as I attempted locate the voice. "It's ok captain, you may be disoriented because of your telepathic abilities, being in-tune with reality and all that," said Anitara, "I know Zinuzee had trouble adjusting without Lexis with her." It took a second to comprehend that. "Don't worry captain, they're not dead....just not...normal." She looked at me and smiled at my clumsy attempt to stand that failed when fell back. "Though nothing in this place is normal, is it cap, since the trees are purple and blue, not to mention all the strange critters running around" She said smiling a beaming smile, before looking up the hill behind us at two approaching figures.

    "Hello, silly~billy is awake now?" said one voice. I looked at the two bodies as they approached closer to the crude encampment I finally noticed built around me.

    "Be quiet Lex, he may not know yet," said the second stranger. I thought both voices were familiar but couldn't place it. "Captain, it's us, Zinuzee and Lexis," said the second stranger. My eyes bugged out at the short, ginger colored haired lady in front of me. She was the same height as Lexis/Zinuzee, with a shorter hairstyle and the obvious change of clothes, favoring a classic and popular red and white robe over the Terran Empire clothes Lexis/Zinuzee wore. "Captain, umm, our best guess is that this anomaly, whatever it is can't distinguish between host and symbiotic organisms, and here I am in humanoid form," She blushed as she said this, obviously taking enjoyment in the freedom from a joint personality filled body.

    "Wow," was all I could say, "Umm, is this permanent." She looked gloomy at this and shook her head and shrugged signaling she didn't know.

    "Well she is enjoying it while she can *giggle* " said Lexis grabbing onto Zinuzee's arm in a friendly way.

    "Sir, we believe you've seen the graveyard in the center?" this was Anitara who said this. "We believe that somehow the space station is at the center of this mystery." She looked to the other two and they both shook their heads in conformation of something I didn't know. "And we've found a settlement of some of the ships," she continued, "We've made contact with the survivors of the ships, as well of what's going on to some degree."

    "Lead the way," I merely said and followed the party of girls over the hills and through the woods.

    **********

    They led the way to a hap hazardously built circle of structures that were rummaged and refined in patches. Overall it reminded me of an old earth Shantytown where poor humans had once made towns for themselves to congregate in. We were met with a welcoming group of a Kobali female, Saurian male, and a Trill woman, though many other species milled about in an automated way like it had been a repetitive task for awhile. I was surprised to see that, though many of the people had a sunken and depressed look on themselves, they showed no signs of malnutrition or any damage to themselves. "Welcome to our house of cards that we call home Captain Son'aire, and we hope you feel it will soon be your home as well," she said, "We've had so few soldiers left after the last raid from the Black King and his Phantom, the only person who has stood a chance is the Ace of Hearts, a rogue warrior that escaped the Queen of Hearts and her Cards before she could turn him." I was puzzled at her terms of speech, but one look at Anitara told me not to mention it, and that she would tell me later.

    "Ok, umm, I'll think about this, but I really need to catch up with my crew members," I continued, "Is there anywhere I can rest after this long day and take this all in?" The Kobali looked at me unsure, then quickly smiled and told the Saurian to show me to a guest quarters on the outer fringe of the establishment. What I heard before I left was familiar.

    "Oh dear, oh dear I'll be late and the queen will have my head." she said, before the Kobali woman left in a rush. Once at our residence, I calmed down a bit, and asked my crew what the heck was going on.

    *********
    Zinuzee sat next to me, while Lexis sat in the chair next to the bed, backwards in her typical fashion, while Anni stood in the center of the 'room' ready to regal me with this new tale. "It all started with a girl, this little blond girl was the sole survivor of an early federation space station that was attacked by Romulan forces in the early days of the Romulan-Earth War, with one other survivor, the so called 'Queen of Hearts' who has recruited many of the survivors, Saurian, Trill, Klingon, even the Kobali woman we met, is on her side," she continued on, "The Kobali woman is a mediator, one who is protecting the interests of the Queen and keeping the settlement neutral in the conflict." She sat down contemplating how to continue.

    "Oh, oh, me me!" said an excited Lexis, "I'll explain the plot hole to you Captain!" I merely raised my brow at her choice of words, while Zinuzee rolled her eye's at her other half. "So the space station fell into this wormhole, and the Queen was in a boarding party that had attacked the station, so she, like, survived and all that, though none of the other humans or Romulan, like, survived," she took a deep breath before continuing on, "So rumor has it she found the little, blond girl crying in the children's library, while the space station was being rocked and destabilized from open tearing and damage from the Romulan, and she was crying over an earth, book, 'Alice in Winter land', or something like that..."

    "Wonderland, you dolt, a terran author named Lewis Carroll wrote it," said Z, annoyed at her lack of education in fine arts.

    "I'm familiar with a poem of his, but the rest of his written work escapes me," I said. Lexis pouted at being interrupted, and began to be in a foul mood. Zinuzee chose to continue after Lexis started pouting.

    "So this girl is crying at all the death, while the Romulan is left in confusion as she began to show compassion to this lone girl," she continued, "Then the shaking stopped and an unearthly glow occurred, and a celestial being, think Q, appeared in front of them, and took them into this place, modeled after the book." She looked around the room, no point of interest arousing her curiosity, and returned her gaze to me after sighing. "They think the being reacted on emotion, creating a world of joy for the girl to forget her sadness, and a new life for the Romulan officer, to watch over the girl and protect her. They never found the being again, it disappeared, but before it left, it told the woman and the girl that many would come from far and wide through the wormhole to this place of care-freeness, safe from the war beyond offering new life to those in its embrace. And many did come, lost ones who were welcomed under this woman's ruler ship, warriors and princes popped up, to keep peace in this new system. The creature didn't count on the Borg stumbling onto this place. There was a new war in this place and many died, some assimilated, and now the Borg threat is dead, though pockets of them show up form time to time. The most notable is under the ruler ship of the Black King, a madman who came to this world, said to rule a fearsome creature of the dark woods that came with the Borg."

    "An Elachi,' I stated, and all turned to me confused at this. I chose to tell them my sighting of the Elachi Frigate that was partially assimilated, and said that this beast could be an assimilated piece of their technology. "We don't know much except from the occasional Romulan Republic reports of their forces, but even so we know very little." I said this and everyone agreed with me.

    "One thing is for sure sir," aid a new voice form the doorway. I turned to see the a figure decked out in armor with an ace imprinted on his breastplate over a red heart. He went to remove his helmet and I was shocked to see a familiar face.

    "Ace Chernok, you skittery Epohh, you!" was my reply, jumping up to hug the younger man, my friend, who has saved me on more then a few times.

    "Good to see you, you old Federation Dog," he said laughing heartily, "It's good to see you are here to rescue these fair maidens and their fair protector, and slay the evil monster."

    I laughed at him, and took his words in delight. "How did you end up here?" I asked, " It seems strange to find you here with us as well, it is just to coincidental, is it not?"

    "I was checking Elachi subspace activity, and I stumbled upon this wormhole in my research shuttlecraft, and could not escape its pull when I tried to leave, for my shuttle was not meant for subspace travel," he continued, "I learned of these peoples plight, and offered to help, but was forced to work for the Queen. I chose to leave her rule and protect these innocent bystanders, and here you find me now." He looked around, looked outside the open doorway, and shut the door behind him. "I believe that this girl, the same blond girl, was put away because she threatened the King's rule, and disagreed with the Queen's choice for war instead of peace, and was put in this maze for her own protection," he said, "I believe she could be the key to ending his threat to this world, I believe she knows where the entity is and is in contact with it."

    "Where is this maze?" I asked him, my interest piqued at this maze. He smiled at me and seemed to take delight at this.

    "She resides at the center of this maze, the maze itself resides outside the castle, open to all to enjoy though very few that do have returned to their families and those that have, have suffered the Queen of Hearts wrath," he smiled, looking at me, and continued, "And I believe you could be the best chance we have at finding her." I was confused at what he meant, but when he pointed to my sword at my back, I was even more puzzled. "Your the only one whose weapon, energy based or not, has stayed with them and it might mean you've found special favor with the entity. You can find her Gregs Sharvan Son'aire, you are our hope to end this madness."

    *********

    I stood before the maze and the dark sky, that loomed only over the maze and not the rest of this 'Wonderland'. 'Ah ha ha, are you so sure you wish to go in there my friend, I do believe not everyone wishes to end their lives on account of the Queen's wrath, especially by searching for the one she respects the most." said a voice I didn't recognize. I turned around, seeing nothing but empty air and a few wind blown leaves. "You won't find me that easily my friend, but *rumble* maybe I can trust you?" said voice, then a shimmer could be seen and the voice was revealed to be a Suliban, one that I assumed belonged to the Suliban Cabal cell ship outside the station. I knew that this one was dangerous, he still most likely had the genetic modification from Temporal Cold War incident of the 22nd Century, and as such had an array of deadly and illegal mutations that could kill me at any second. "Don't worry, I won't kill you, I'm no longer part of the Cabal, I've been thought dead longer then you've been alive child, I know my cabal failed, you're wariness is proof of that." he said smiling a crooked and deranged smile, a Cheshire grin, showing his time within this time-locked planet has affected his sanity.

    "Why should I believe your word Suliban?" I bravely put forth, even with the insane sociopath inches from me. He merely smiled as a response, waved and disappeared with his camouflaging abilities. "Well, curiouser and curiouser this gets now." I said walking into the gloomy maze. The maze hedges miraculously parted to show me the way straight to the heart of the maze. "Well crud," I said sitting down on a nearby rock, "It's official, I've gone insane." I hung my head and propped it in my hands, looking at nothing I began to talk to myself, to straighten things out

    "I understand the Kobali, Ace being here as well, Zinuzee getting a body and enjoying it, I could stand the weird planet, the mad Suliban, even that there are Borg on this planet, and a mysterious 'Beast' under the control of this Black King, heck even that Tholians, Xenophobes, were helping a Romulan woman who is the 'Queen of Hearts'," I continued, "But when a hedge, not even one that talks, but a plain old hedge, mysteriously and miraculously open up to show me the way, I know I must be a few Tribbles short of a Zoo." Wow, that had felt so much better once I got that out. I picked myself up, dusted off my trousers, picked up my sword, and headed straight to the center to meet the girl who could save us all.

    *********

    It was a long and boring journey to the center of the maze, and I would not regale you with the tale of how long it was, but it was many hours of walking for how huge this maze was. 'Thank you magical maze, you were a great help once I got to the center,' I thought wryly, 'You lead me to the center, and I end up getting lost.' I finally rounded a corner when...*WHAM*... I had hit a moving object, preferably a bus or old style locomotive, and what I found was strange. I was lying on my back on the ground, dazed and confused by what hit me and the fact I wasn't dead yet, and found something, no things licking my face. I pushed them away and sat up, covering my eyes as the suns glare had blinded me, and once they adjusted, found myself looking at a Targ pup and Sehlat cub, barely to my knee, looking at me.

    "T. D., D'om, where are you?" shouted a close sounding voice of a girl. Then further down the maze hedge, turning the corner was a blonde girl in her early teens, and she approached me and my two new companions. "There you are you silly things, I thought I lost you my friends," she exclaimed joyously, "Oh, who have you found in the maze?" She looked at me curiously and then turned to scold the two creatures. "You know the queen doesn't want me to see anyone!", she said in a scolding tone before turning to me in a sweeter tone, "I'm so sorry my friends have bothered you, but we must leave now, thank you and have a jolly good day!" She cheerfully turned around and started to skip down the maze, before turning around puzzled that her friends did not follow her. The Sehlat followed the girl and pawed at her harmlessly, while the Targ pup yipped at me at tugged at my pants to come to the girl. "D'om stop biting that man, and T.D. stop pawing me, you little rascals, stop it now." She started to walk away but stopped when both animals stood in her way. "Fine, I'll see how different he is then the rest, though I still don't know what I could do..." she trailed of in her sentence, biting her fingernail in thought, before turning to me. "I don't know what these two think about you, but they seem to think you are different then the others who have come searching for me, so what is your deal," she said impatiently, her hands on her hips, and her foot tapping on the ground.

    I decided to tell my tale of how I ended up here, how I met my friends, that I had access to weapons to slay the 'Jabberwock', as the girl called the phantom beast, and that I had strong support from my friends, and experience on my side. "That is why I believe we could stop the fighting, capture the Black King, and save this world from misplaced tyranny," I told her to finish of my tall tale.

    "Fine, the name's Alyiss by the way," was all she said, before gesturing to her pets to follow.
    *********

    After a few hours of strategizing, making makeshift weaponry, and laying out a plan, we found ourselves on the edge of a dark forest, the so called lair of the Black King. I thought the forest fit him, an old decrepit castle was said to lay in the center of the dark forest of English oaks, black oaks, black cherry trees, and towering redwoods, though each were different colors than their earth counterparts, with leave colors hosting hues of oranges, reds, yellows, blacks, and blues. "Time to go in," said Lexis with a grin.

    *********

    A lithe, pink form with yellow eyes darted quickly from the underbrush that they were hidden in, watching the retreating form of the ill-fated heroes slowly lose shape among the dark overhang of colorful and dark trees. If one was watching they could see it head straight for the castle of the Queen, to warn her of the loss of her citizens.

    **********
    We began walking, when a mile in it began to be so thick, I swore I could see eyes reflecting red in the shadows, and when I turned to look back I swore I saw purple eyes and a Cheshire grin. 'No, no, your just getting paranoid, it's dark and your eyes are playing tricks with the color of the leaves. We kept on walking through the dense thicket, wary of the howls we heard.

    *********
    2 Hours later...

    We came upon a split in the road, where a hooded figure lay resting at the fork in the road, under a signpost showing 'Hard' and 'Easy', each respectively to the left and right roadway. The hooded figure's face was shrouded and useable by light or torch, and the figure wore a robe of tattered brown, though ribs were shown beneath his rags. "Beware the easy path that is chosen, take the hard path, for the riches it rewards are beyond a king's wealth," said the hooded figure, pointing to the easy path. We looked at each other, Lexis, Zinuzee, Ace, and Alyiss, then to me, unsure of which path to take.

    "The left!" shouted Lexis with glee, "He said to take the Hard path, so why not?"

    "But he gave it in a riddle, isn't that strange?" asked Zinuzee. She began to argue with Lexis as to the answer to this riddle. Ace meanwhile examined the signage after he politely asked the robed and hooded figure to move where he was being sniffed by both T. D. and D'om. I chose to look at the hooded figure, before turning to ask Alyiss' opinion on the matter. She was staring at a cracked teapot on the side of the road, bending over to examine it, picking it up, and looking inside of it, startled she dropped it, and a mouse scurried away, opposite the way she picked it up, into the forest. I chose to follow her as she went after the mouse, determined to see where the odd creature went. What I saw was a path, hidden by overgrown weeds and bushes, well walked by other's in the past. "Over here," I called out to the other's, but no response was given.

    "I'm sorry Gregs, but no one may follow you now, it is merely you and young Alyiss that may go beyond the gatekeeper's watchful eye, for you chose the hard path, not traveled by others, instead of being led astray by the easy way, following a signpost designed to trick others into winding back to the edge of the forest," said a voice I didn't recognize. It was figure in a black robe, black pauldrons on each side, and a face obscured by a metallic mask covering it's entire face. The ears were Vulcan, or Romulan, though it was an impossibility, as the last Romulan was the Queen, while there were no Vulcan ships outside the space station. "Don't worry, I'm not the Black King, but I can say you've met him already, and he has it out for you my friend," he chuckled at 'friend', "Friend, such an amusing word, I hope we are friends Son'aire, you may be the last chance for my freedom." And with those cryptic words he stepped into the shadows, and disappeared from sight. "She's just beyond the hill Son'aire, she needs you" were the haunting words that ringed in the air as he left.

    "Gregs!" shouted Alyiss, and I was aware she was over the next hill. I ran to meet her, afraid of what I might find.

    *********

    Standing seven feet 5 inches, over the small, teenage 5 foot 2 inches of Alyiss, stood the towering form of a partially assimilated Elachi Commander. It made guttural sounds as it reached for Alyiss, it's assimilated hand looking sickly, pale, white tinted green by the Borg nanoprobes running through it's veins, before not being there after a quick slice from my blade. The monster roared in pain, it's one eye closing, the other frozen open by the drone eye piece emitting the classic, ever-present, green laser guidance system they used. Metallic plates covered they body of the Elachi as Borg replicative nanites had began to eat away and replace organs for efficiency, I saw this happen as it replaced it's severed hand. The Elachi was sickly looking even from the reports given by the Romulan Republic, seeming a gray-ish, white in totality, and from what I could guess, it's system kept rejecting the nanites, while the nanites kept repairing these rejected components.

    "Run Alyiss," I told the scared girl, frantically, "Run far away, go over the hill!" She complied and I saw her form disappear over the hill. "So your the Jaberwock ehh?" I said, "Well, let's see how you fare against me beast!" I began to parry the beast's swift attacks, and then it's eyes closed and energy swirls began to occur. I swung my sword into the ground, trying not to get swallowed by the vortices. "You know, I read about the Jabberwock once," I told the hulking Elachi, "How the Jabberwock was a terrifying creature, who's claws could kill, and jaw tear you apart." I began to hack at the beast's body, doing no damage to the metal plates. "And the one thing I remember?" I asked the beast. The beast tilted it's head, studying me as to my next move, while I myself was desperate, huffing trying to return breath to my lungs. "It was killed pretty easily by a knight," I said delivering my last blow to the Assimilated Elachi, " 'The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!/He left it dead, and with its head/He went galumphing back....' Maybe it's something you can tell your King" The body finally went still, and the head rolled away, before the whole of the beast turned to dust and was blown away. I turned away and went to follow after Alyiss, who went to rejoin the rest of the group.

    **********

    "Where did you go sir?" asked Z, always curious as to my doings, "We went looking for you for a hour, but couldn't find you?" I smiled reassuringly, and went to comfort the shaking form of Alyiss, being cradled by the sympathetic and motherly form of Lexis. I stood over her, leaned down and hugged her, before righting my stance and leaving the dark, crowded forest for the light open sky.

    ***********

    Just outside the edge of the dark forest.....

    Alyiss stood behind us wary of the shadowy forest, as our group set up a camp for the night, it was twilight, and a roaring fire was needed to beat the cold. "Ahhh!!" a scream was shouted outside or warm circle. We all stood alert, my friends makeshift weapons drawn, my sword in hand, looking towards where the cream was heard. A limp form was seen outside the crackling light thrown towards the shadowy forest, and whimpers were heard from the Targ pup and mews from the Sehlat cub surrounding the form. We drew close and saw it was Alyiss, limp from fright, from an unknown terror.

    "I warned you against finding the girl, you've undone all I've worked for..." said a whisper in the shadows. Suddenly a flash of gigantic teeth and sharp, long nails were in front of my face and I jumped back but did not scream, though my heart beat incredibly fast. "I warned you, and you fought the beast, you are my enemy now, Gregs Son'aire, you have not seen the fear I've given this girl over the years," the voice of the Suliban was now clear, "She must stay here! I have nothing left, if she leaves, this all goes away!" The Suliban revealed itself, gesturing towards me, purple eyes gleaming in the fire light. "She will end this world, kill it, if she awakens the entity, it will find us in here, it will see the damage the Borg caused, it will cleanse this world for her," his rant continued, "I cannot leave, this is my home! She must stay, or she must die!" He began to rush towards Alyiss, arms and nails extended to kill, before a shadowy blur blocked him from killing Alyiss. The flash of silver from the firelight revealed the masked man I met in the forest, any harm from the Suliban gone in his one sacrifice. "What! You ...you.." the Suliban trailed off on fear, his murderous rage quenched by the fear at seeing the masked man. The mask dropped from his face, revealing the form of a Romulan officer, though changed drastically, for half the face was that of a Borg Drone, the eye piece shining red in the night. The Romulan smiled, before knocking the Suliban unconscious.

    "Halt in the name of the Queen!" shouted a voice far off away from the fire. We all looked to see a pink Kobali, the same one from earlier, surrounded by the alien clicks of Tholian guards, standing near the fire. "Do not harm the Suliban...my Lord!" the Kobali said, before she knelt before the Assimilated Romulan man. The man walked across the length of the fire, dragging the Suliban, tossing him to the Tholians, and tapped the Kobali's shoulder.

    "Rise my loyal assistant, the Black King must be taken to the palace, he is merely confused and lost," he said gently, "I have returned from my self-exile, and I have Gregs Son'aire to thank for it." He turned to face the crowd of soldiers to address them. "He slayed the 'Jabberwock', he freed me from having to forever guard the beast in fear of the Borg's return, and he and his friends our new heroes," he said, "Let us return, now, to our palace, and celebrate."

    ********

    We learned the story of the King of Hearts, a tragic one indeed. He came long ago to this land, a spy among many ships, who once trapped in this land changed his life around. He wooed the Queen, married her, and ruled this land for a while before the Borg came, and when they came with the Elachi, they could not escape from this pocket world with all their technological prowess. Locked away from the collective they splintered, some freed themselves, while others adapted and destroyed, assimilating others. The King tried to end this war, was assimilated in return, but before he became one with the Borg, the last of the collective died. Those Liberated Borg that remained, freed him before he was killed, some chose to leave to parts unknown, while he chose to remain in the forest, learning of the Assimilated Elachi and becoming eternal guardian to protect the world from this deadly creature. Now he could return to his people.

    We eventually dealt with the Black King the Suliban, named Skar'Tar, ex-advisor to the King and Queen, and had a great party and celebration, then we tried to find a way home. We talked it over, wanting to figure out a way to contact the Entity, we decided to travel around the land trying to find any mysterious object or unknown corner we could utilize. We eventually stumbled upon a cavern, the very cavern the Elachi guarded, and found a book, a small, dusty, worn book on top of a stone table. We knew this was the portal to the subspace anomaly, a tether between worlds as it were. We left all we could in knowledge of our world, departed with tearful farewells. And then we went home.

    ********

    We retrieved our shuttles, combined the tractor beams of our shuttles and towed the Borg and Elachi ships outside the wormhole. We were greeted with three vessels, the U.S.S. Oregon, I.R.W. Nausci'lint, and U.S.S. Gea. After returning to the Oregon, we all fired on the two ships, decimating them so no trace of the technology remained.

    After aligning our reports, Ace and I parted ways, we had things to go do, and new planets to explore.

    End Log
  • shevetshevet Member Posts: 1,640 Arc User
    edited June 2013
    Personal log: Tylha Shohl, officer commanding USS King Estmere NCC-92984

    The halo of blue-white fire hangs in space. I can imagine it striking reflections off King Estmere's gleaming hull. It looks... fabulous.

    "I'm getting some... interesting readings, sir," says Zazaru. The Trill scientist's soft brown eyes are thoughtful.

    "How stable is it?"

    "That's one of the interesting things," Zazaru says. "Verteron decay levels are... virtually flat. This one might prove fully stable, like the Bajoran wormhole. There are some other things -" Her attention turns to her readouts again.

    A stable wormhole. Quite a find - especially if it goes somewhere interesting. I exchange glances with Anthi Vihl. "Orders, sir?" she asks.

    "Rig a class II probe," I say. "I'm trying not to rush into things, so much."

    My exec almost lets a smile through her professional mask, for an instant. "Programming a probe now, sir." Over at the ops console, F'hon Tlaxx is already setting up the telemetry channel.

    Still, the minutes pass like hours, and I'm tempted to get up and pace around the bridge. We've made a few changes to King Estmere's bridge, mostly rigging chairs in front of the Tholian pop-out consoles. We still have to live with the interface designs and the crazy gravity layout, though. I keep myself in check, settling down in what I hope is a dignified attitude on my command chair.

    "Launching probe." More minutes tick away.

    "Getting telemetry now, skipper," says F'hon, and whistles. "Looks quite something...."

    "Do we know where this thing goes?" I ask.

    "It doesn't exactly go anywhere." Zazaru looks up from her console, for the first time in quite a while. "It's a sort of... spatial inclusion. A pocket in space. And there's something inside."

    F'hon puts it on the screen, and we stare up at the image... a blue-green globe, marbled with fleecy white clouds, the glare of the wormhole making a soft haze around it. A class M world.

    Quite something, indeed.

    ---

    The huge bulk of King Estmere barely shudders as we cross the threshold of the wormhole... or whatever we decide to call it. This spatial inclusion is a new phenomenon, and Zazaru is still puzzling over some aspects of it.

    The planet inside looks beautiful, even to my Andorian eyes; verdant forests, rolling oceans, towering mountain ranges. There's no sign of habitation or intelligent life. It's pristine, unspoiled....

    And valuable. While Zazaru sweats over whatever's puzzling her, her human assistant Addie van Benn is guiding the probe through the atmosphere to a landing. And the readings she's reporting -

    "Dilithium readings, sir, also possible traces of decalithium. Mass concentrations in the planetary crust indicate... pergium ore in commercial quantities. And there are organic molecules in the planetary atmosphere...." She brushes a lock of long brown hair away from her face. "They're consistent with several known families of anti-carcinogenics and anti-retrovirals. This place could be a pharmacological treasure house, as well as a mineralogical one."

    "The Vulcan Ministry of Science should be informed," says Sirip. The Vulcan security officer is looking at the screen, and his face says nothing, but I think I know what's going through his mind.

    "Mr. Sirip," I say. "You will not communicate prematurely, outside official channels."

    Sirip doesn't even have the grace to look abashed. "No, sir," he says. I look from him to his Tellarite counterpart, Lolha. She is staring at the readings with naked greed on her face. And Klerupiru, the Ferengi computer expert, is actually licking her lips. Well, I should expect nothing else from them. But this world... this world was found by my ship, an Andorian ship. And, as such, it becomes an Andorian Imperial possession.

    The question is, of course, how to make sure of that. "Commander Vihl," I say, "command conference in my ready room. Call in the chief engineer, too."

    ---

    "We can't trust any of them." Dyssa D'jheph's antennae are quivering on her head, her homely face set in a scowl. Beside her, even Anthi looks tense and sullen. I can feel my own antennae twitching, as they seek out currents in the air... currents, and undercurrents.

    "Why did High Command send us out on a multi-racial ship anyway?" Dyssa adds, rhetorically. Anthi frowns a little at that. Criticism of High Command never sits well with her.

    "We can rely on some of them," I say, thoughtfully. "The Ferengi, the Tellarites - they will follow their commercial instincts. We just have to persuade them that Imperial Guard protection is... in those interests. That shouldn't be hard."

    "What about the Vulcans, and the damn humans?" Dyssa asks. "We certainly can't rely on them."

    "We didn't anyway," I say. I pinch the bridge of my nose. Something is bothering me....

    "The ones who worry me most, though," I continue, "are the renegades. That Orion science officer, Kluthli, for instance, or our favourite Breen, Jek the Apostate. They're going to be tempted, I think, to - to buy themselves back into favour, somehow, with their own factions. And this discovery would even be enough to buy Jek back into the Breen Confederacy."

    Dyssa snorts. "I'd 'apostate' him if he tried it!"

    "We need to make sure our own people take control," Anthi says crisply.

    "Yes," I say. "But we need to be subtle about it... shuffle the personnel, just a touch. If all of the other species on the ship combined against us... I don't know if we could hold her."

    "So we play them off, one against another," Anthi says. "It's... going to be a pretty dangerous game, sir."

    "Particularly as the humans and the Vulcans will be trying it too," I add. "Others, even. I mean... we all like F'hon, right? But the Bolians are so close to Romulan space, we can't rule out him doing some sort of deal with them, in the supposed interests of his people...."

    "Or the Trill," says Dyssa. "I never know what's going on in her head."

    "She's busy with something," I say. "So that's an excuse to move someone else into the science officer's admin slot - say, Zodes Andeteph?"

    "That damn Aenar roof-knocker?"

    "She's one of us. Practically. Imperial Guard, anyway." I rub my nose again. "Wish we had our Imperial Guard uniforms instead of these damned overalls...."

    "No argument there, sir," says Anthi, with feeling.

    I stand up. "Before we do anything, though," I say, "let's assemble an away team. I want to know exactly what it is we've got, before we have to fight for it."

    ---

    The air is heady with scents, sweet and hauntingly familiar. A cool breeze plays with my antennae, while the rush of the waterfall drowns out the singing of the forest birds, and rainbows sparkle in the spray. My feet make no sound on the soft, mossy turf as I walk beside the little river and gaze up at the cliff face.

    It is beautiful, this world, without a doubt.

    "It's fantastic." Addie van Benn has come up behind me - without me noticing her. Careless of me. But the young human scientist doesn't have any hostile intent, this time. Her face is positively glowing with enthusiasm.

    "There's no current indigenous life, sir," she says, "but I'm finding all sorts of, well, traces. Archaeological relics. I haven't even begun to find a cultural context for most of them -"

    "No hurry," I say. "What about the other stuff?" I try to sound casual, but we both know the mineral deposits and the biochemical resources are the important things.

    "I'm still reading - well, a whole lot of mineral traces," says Addie. For just a minute, she frowns. "Nothing much in the immediate vicinity, though. It's odd, I thought we put the probe down in a good place for that... but I guess we'll have to look further afield."

    "No hurry," I say, tilting my face upwards, closing my eyes to enjoy just the feeling of the sun on my skin. "To be honest, I'm rather glad.... I don't think a mining camp would look good in this spot, would it?"

    "No, sir," says Addie, fervently. "This is... just beautiful."

    I open my eyes, look around for the others. The away team has been an exercise in taking precautions. With Addie down here, and Zazaru still gnawing at her puzzles aboard the ship, Zodes Andeteph should be ready to take over the science division smoothly. Meanwhile, Sirip and Lolha are down here with me, where I can keep an eye on them - and so can Nozys Hyhr, my Andorian assault commander, and the only one of those I can trust. And F'hon jumped at the chance to come planet-side, too... I wish I was sure he was just happy to get off the ship for a bit, and doesn't have some ulterior motive....

    I take a deep breath of the scented air. F'hon is squatting on the ground, apparently entranced by some flower; Lolha is sorting through a pile of pebbles by the side of the waterfall. Probably looking for something valuable. Tellarites aren't as bad as Ferengi, but they're still pretty mercenary. Nozys is watching them both from a short distance away, her face blank, her eyes wary. This is good. As for Sirip... the big Vulcan is standing at the foot of the cliff, and staring up it, apparently at nothing. I walk up to him. "Mr. Sirip."

    For a moment, he doesn't respond. Then he turns to face me. "Sir," he says.

    "So, what do you think of it?"

    Another momentary pause. "A very beautiful world." His tone gives nothing away.

    "I was expecting something more... logical," I say. Am I deliberately trying to goad him? Yes, I suppose I am.

    "There is a logic in the appreciation of beauty," Sirip says. And, with that, he turns back to look up the cliff.

    I follow his gaze. I can't see what's especially beautiful about this particular piece of rock. But, Vulcans, who can figure them?

    The probe came to rest at the foot of this cliff, and is still lying there, its black bulk already half hidden by flowering vines. I walk over to it, touch the metal skin. It is cold, intensely cold: I snatch my hand back before my fingertips burn. Some kind of malfunction? An overload on its coolant mechanism? But the flowering vines don't seem to be affected.... Another puzzle. I shake my head, and breathe in deeply again. The world is so lovely....

    ... but at the back of my mind, I can't shake the feeling that something's wrong.

    ---

    "Mild hypoxia." Samantha Beresford jabs a hypospray into my neck, blasting tri-ox compound into my circulation. "All the landing party have the same symptoms. That should fix it, but don't go taking any more chances." The human doctor's eyes and tone are cold.

    "That can't be right," I mutter. "The scans all indicated a standard class M atmosphere, oxygen content perhaps even a fraction of a percentage higher than Andoria's...."

    "Then some of those complex chemicals must inhibit oxygen uptake," says Samantha. "Once again, sir, don't take any more chances."

    "How come it didn't affect your fellow human?" I ask, suspiciously.

    "Addie van Benn is suffering from hypoxia just the same as you," Samantha snaps back. "It doesn't show as much, because of your higher Andorian metabolic rate." She rakes her fingers through her long dark hair. She looks exhausted, and disgusted. "I know all about your Andorian paranoia, too," she continues. "But I took an oath when I took up my profession, sir, and that oath says to me, 'first, do no harm'. You Andorians know all about oaths and honour, don't you? Or you're supposed to."

    "All right, doctor." I'd be within my rights to have her shot. But I need my chief medical officer. "The point is taken. We'll use breather masks for our next away mission, and you will study the metabolic effects of the chemical compounds in the atmosphere." I stand up. "That will be all."

    Outside sickbay, Dyssa is waiting for me, her face grim. "I don't like the feel of this situation," she says, without preamble.

    "Me neither," I say. "What's bothering you? Specifically."

    "The Vulcans are too damn quiet," she says. "All of them, just... quiet. Saying nothing, doing nothing. It's not natural. They're up to something, I can smell it." She scowls. "And that damn Aenar in science division is worse than useless. Spends half her time just staring into space - well, as much as she can stare, I guess. I don't know what she's thinking."

    "What about Zazaru?"

    "Still obsessing, still chasing down decimal places. We can ignore her... I think." Dyssa shakes her head. "Unless maybe she's playing some kind of deep game with us? It's getting so we can't trust anyone."

    "All right." I try to think. "If Zodes is no use, we'll need someone else to watch science division. I'll see if I can put a discreet watch on comms, make sure no one's sneaking out unauthorized information.... Nozys can watch the security side... Anthi has some science training, maybe she can help you monitor science. How are things in Engineering anyway?"

    Dyssa shrugs. "Holding up. At least we can rely on Thirethequ and Jeroequene - probably. The Jolciots are one of our client species, and I'm making damn sure they don't forget that."

    "Don't ride them too hard," I say. "The last thing we want is to stir up latent resentment...." I close my eyes, tightly, for a moment. That feeling of wrongness persists, somehow. "How did we ever get into this situation, anyway?"

    "Damn stupid idea, multi-species crews," Dyssa grumbles. "The one good thing is, that human tac officer? Kleefisch? She's gone quiet as the Vulcans, or the Aenar. Just staring at nothing, and humming, they say. So she won't be any trouble, at least."

    "That's something, I guess." I sigh. "I'm going to rest in my quarters while the tri-ox takes effect. Then we'll work out the schedule for the next away team... and anything else that needs doing."

    ---

    How did we get into this situation? Alone in my quarters, I turn the question over and over in my head, while I lie on my bed, staring up at the ceiling....

    Staring... like Sirip, the other Vulcans, Zodes Andeteph, Soledad Kleefisch. I frown. There is something... Vulcans and Aenar have high psi potentials; Soledad Kleefisch has always been a little fey and mystical - has she ever tested positive for psi? Some humans do, not many, but some.

    So, something is affecting the telepaths... maybe? And maybe Zazaru, too, her normal curiosity turning into obsessiveness. The Tellarites, and the Ferengi, obviously greedy - too obviously? Is something influencing them, turning them into... stereotypes of themselves?

    At least my own mind is clear, I think....

    And then my eyes snap wide open, as I ask myself: if it wasn't, how would I know?

    ---

    The Orion renegade, Kluthli, is almost supernaturally beautiful; long, lustrous dark hair frames a perfect green face in which two sparkling blue eyes gaze at me as if I'm the most important thing in the world. Even in modest civilian clothing, she has a decided effect on every male she comes in contact with... as an Andorian shen, I'm not entirely immune myself. And that's why I need to talk to her.

    "I need to know about mental influence," I say.

    She shakes her head, setting her dark locks swaying. "I've never - used my pheromones in that way, sir. Not aboard this ship. I made an agreement when I joined your crew -" She frowns, just for an instant, there. "And, in any case, it wouldn't be... wouldn't be honourable."

    "I'm not accusing you of anything," I say. "I'm just - well, I want to know if there are any signs you might recognize, if someone else were using some sort of... some sort of control."

    "I don't -" She frowns again. "You'd be better off asking an actual telepath, or an empath, sir."

    "I don't think I can. Or, at least, I don't think I'd get a useful answer. You must have noticed...."

    "The Vulcans have all gone weird," she says, slowly. "Yes."

    There is a long silence, while we just look at each other. Eventually, I say, "It's... hard to think of these things."

    "Yes," she answers, equally slowly. "And... just the fact that it's hard to think of these things... means...."

    "Means," I say, with a tongue that seems thick and clumsy, "that we're... not being allowed... to think them."

    Kluthli speaks in a rush, as if she's breaking through the mental block. "I think you're right, sir - there's a way men look, when a Matron is really, really cutting loose with her control effects - a kind of blank look - I can see it, more an more, on the faces of the crew -"

    "Try to think." It is so hard to think. "There has to be... some kind of range, for this, this thing. If we can get out of range -"

    Kluthli looks woebegone. "Surely it's not going to let us take the ship back through the wormhole...?"

    "No." Then I smile. "But King Estmere is a carrier...."

    ---

    I look around the bridge. Dyssa and Anthi have been making progress, it seems... Nozys and her lieutenant, a young chan named Thires Entonav, have got the tactical consoles locked down with their personal IDs, Dyssa has taken control of a lot of operations functions under F'hon's nose, and the Aenar, Zodes, is in Zazaru's normal place at the main science station.

    Dyssa was right about her, though: her filmed eyes are vacant, her white features slack. I repress a shudder of revulsion, even though I know why she looks like that... I think I know why.

    It is still very hard to think.

    "We need closer scans of the mouth of the inclusion," I announce. Zodes blinks, once, and otherwise fails to react at all. I purse my lips. "No point asking main science division to do it. I'll borrow a science officer and go out in the captain's yacht."

    "We don't have many science officers who are -" Anthi catches herself before she says Andorian "- reliable, sir."

    "I don't plan on being out long enough for that to be an issue. Commander Kluthli is available, and she can run the scans I need."

    Anthi frowns. Dyssa, on the other hand, gives me a sly grin. She's a shen like myself, of course.... Well, let them think what they like. "Carry on," I tell Anthi, firmly.

    I can see she wants to object, but Imperial Guard conditioning carries the day. "Aye, aye, sir," she answers, woodenly, as I turn to leave.

    ---

    "Why the Cotswold?" Kluthli asks, as the little ship slips out of King Estmere's hangar bay.

    "It's got everything we need," I say, "and it looks... plausible... for me to take it out. After all, it's the captain's yacht - a perk of the job, you might say."

    I lock our course in for the mouth of the wormhole, and engage the impulse drive.

    "That wasn't what I meant, actually, sir," says Kluthli. "I mean, why the name? Why King Estmere, too, come to that? I've never recognized either of them as Andorian cultural references...."

    "Oh, I see. They're not." I set reverse angle on one viewscreen, watch the King Estmere slowly dwindle and merge into the blue-green glow of the planet. "They're both named after compositions by a human musician I happen to like. Gustav Holst, lived about four hundred years ago. His Cotswold symphony is a lovely orchestral piece. King Estmere, though, is a choral work, built around a long poem." I smile. "A thoroughly implausible tale, really, full of fighting and magic and unlikely sorts of swashbuckling.... You wouldn't expect it of humans."

    "No...." Kluthli seems perturbed. "It's odd, though, sir, that a piece of human culture should - should speak to you, the way this does. Did you have a lot of exposure to human music on Andoria?"

    "I didn't grow up on Andoria. I was born on Gimel Vessaris... a colony world...." I pause. Something is bothering me, again: an insistent feeling, as of memories resurfacing. Gimel Vessaris, reading old bookfiles and listening to music... and something else.

    I touch the front of my coveralls, my fingers finding the blunt arrowhead badge on my breast.

    "Something else," says Kluthli, in a puzzled tone. "About the names, the Cotswold and the King Estmere... no, not the names themselves." That smooth jade brow is furrowed by a deep frown. "Prefixes. Shouldn't they be IGV, or IGS....?"

    "Imperial Guard Vessel, yes," I mutter.

    "But they're not. They're both USS. What does USS stand for, sir?"

    "United Star Ship. Standard Federation designation -"

    Then the shock of realization hits us both, like an icy shower jarring us out of slumber. We exchange horrified glances.

    "The Federation," Kluthli says, appalled. "We forgot - How could we forget the Federation?"

    "We had help." My expression is grim; released from its bonds, my mind is racing. "We've got to get King Estmere out of range of that - whatever it is."

    "Whatever it is," says Kluthli, "it must want the ship, for some reason. It won't let them go easily, I'm sure."

    "No." I think hard. "It's got flaws, though, this - thing. It makes mistakes. I think it's over-reached itself, trying to take us. And I think, if we can get enough, umm, momentum, working in our favour."

    "What do you mean, sir?"

    "Conditioning. Anthi's in charge on the ship, now, and she is nothing if not by the book."

    My fingers dance on the control console. "Hold on."

    The little ship shudders and lurches, and the lights flicker, as I run the emergency sequence. Kluthli's eyes are wide. I open a channel to the ship.

    "King Estmere, this is Cotswold. I am declaring an emergency. We have encountered a spatial flux and I have had to eject the warp core. Request immediate pickup, repeat immediate. Confirm."

    Anthi's voice comes over the speaker. "Confirmed, sir. Are you injured?"

    "We're fine. We need immediate extraction before any more systems fail, though. Confirm your ETA."

    "On our way, sir. Fifteen minutes at safe impulse speed."

    "Check." That should be all right - no point rousing suspicions by insisting she breaks procedure. Though there is still more that I can do. "We haven't run any exercises on this situation in a while. Anthi, while you're en route, refresh your memory - read the manual on retrieval procedures. Thoroughly, from cover to cover. That's an order, Commander."

    "Aye, aye, sir." There's a hint of a question in her voice, but only a hint. Anthi will obey orders.

    I look at Kluthli. "I think that should do it," I say.

    "And if it doesn't?" She seems quite cool, all things considered.

    I shrug. "I'll have to figure out some way to retrieve and reinstall the warp core, and then we can crack out of here, and hope we can get help before... whatever's there... finishes with the ship. It shouldn't come to that, though."

    And, indeed, it's not long before Anthi's voice comes back over the speakers. "I've read the Starfleet manual, sir," she says with crisp emphasis. "Ah... we're awaiting further orders."

    ---

    "My guess is, it's some sort of psychovore," I say, a little later, on King Estmere's bridge. Zodes and Sirip are there, looking somewhat more awake and alert. They look better; everyone else looks a great deal worse. Dyssa, especially, is avoiding meeting anyone's eyes. "It created an illusion of a wormhole, and of a desirable planet, and it... messed with our heads, to keep us occupied. Probably, it would have sucked the life out of us, starting with the telepaths and other sensitives, while we all quarrelled among ourselves."

    Anthi speaks through thin lips. She's angry. I know she is, because so am I. "It's a clear and present danger, sir."

    "I know. We need to take measures."

    She is already at the weapons console. "I'll lock main batteries onto the planet's centre of mass."

    "No," I say. "Target the probe. We know the probe landed on something. I think there's just enough there for it to maintain a scrap of class M environment - just about. Though there wasn't enough oxygen for the away team, and the probe got cold from exposure to space. Everything else was... just an illusion." I give a shaky laugh. "I should have known. I felt the sun on my face! There isn't a sun within five light years of here."

    "That explains," says Zodes, slowly, "why Commander Zazaru couldn't finish her analyses."

    "The data was inconsistent," I agree, "because most of it wasn't real." The Aenar is able to think again. That's a good sign, at least.

    "Weapons locked," Anthi reports.

    "Hold," I order. "First things first... F'hon, try opening a communications channel."

    Everyone stares at me. "Skipper?" says F'hon, blankly.

    "If I'm right about this thing," I say, "it will read just the intent to communicate in our minds... and if we can open a dialogue, then that's what we'll do." My gaze sweeps across all of them. "That thing brought out... the worst side of us. All of us. I don't want to think about the way it made me act. Well, we're going to show it we can be our best. We're going to try to talk, before we open fire. Because we are Starfleet, and that is what we do."

    There is a short pause, and then F'hon says, "Channel open, sir."

    I stride to the centre of the bridge, look up at the illusion of the planet on the screen. "We wish to communicate," I say, loudly and clearly.

    For a moment, there is no response. Then F'hon frowns at his console. "I'm getting something," he says. "I think you're right, skipper - this is coming in on a subspace frequency, and the universal translator says it can decipher it.... Putting it through now."

    A voice sounds on the bridge. "King Estmere, you are to proceed with your current investigations as a matter of urgency."

    Anthi and I exchange looks. "That sounded like -" she begins.

    "Admiral Semok, yes." I address the air. "You're not my superior officer. Drop the charade, identify yourself. We want to talk."

    Another voice comes over the speakers. "Your mission for the Federation is to seek out new knowledge, heedless of personal danger. You are our vanguard. You will fulfill your mission."

    "President Okeg's voice," says Anthi. "One of his speeches?"

    "Just stock cliches." I shake my head. "Speak to us yourself. Don't hide behind an assumed identity. We want to talk to you."

    The next voice is one I never expected to hear again. "Tylha, I'm disappointed. You know what you're supposed to do, now just go and do it."

    Sudden fury stiffens my spine. "No!" I glare at F'hon. "Cut the channel." He complies.

    "Sir," says Anthi, cautiously, "who was that? It sounded Andorian -"

    "It was," I say. "My thaan-father's voice." I can feel my antennae droop in dejection. "It's not intelligent," I say. "It's just a predator... trying to find the right way to lure us back into range. If it was an intelligent being, it would never have tried to press that particular button." I slump, heavily, into my command chair. "Just more fakery."

    "A lure," Zodes concurs.

    "So what do we do now, sir?" Anthi asks.

    "It's not intelligent." Somehow, I feel a hundred years old. "And you're right, it's a danger to everyone who comes within range." I take a deep breath. "Burn it."

    ---

    The only real thing was a tiny asteroid, perhaps a kilometer or so in diameter. I stand on it, now, wearing my EV suit, trying to see if there is anything I recognize from the beautiful mirage I saw. But there is only jumbled bare rock.

    Of course, the sustained plasma-disruptor barrage from King Estmere must have rearranged the landscape a fair bit.

    Even now, we don't know if we've killed the creature, or just driven it back to whatever hell dimension spawned it. These psychic monsters... starships have encountered them before, in various forms, and sometimes they have survived the encounters. We still don't know nearly enough about what they are, or how they live.

    King Estmere survived this encounter. I should be grateful for that, at least.

    Another suited figure comes into view; I can make out the Vulcan's face behind his visor. "Mr. Sirip. Feeling better?"

    "Fully recovered, thank you, sir. Though I will admit to being a little mortified." He doesn't look it. He never does. "I am supposedly trained against psi influences of this nature. I should have been able to resist it better."

    "Don't worry about it. Has the survey team finished?"

    "We have discovered some remnants - we presume, of ships that were drawn in by the psychovore before us. Much did not survive the bombardment, of course, but we have sufficient material to interest the archaeologists for some time. The relics go back quite some time - centuries, certainly; possibly millennia. I think we have made the galaxy a slightly safer place, sir."

    "That's something," I say. "Let's get back to the ship."

    "Yes, sir." Sirip pauses, and for a moment I see some expression on his face. "If I may ask, sir... how did you manage to overcome the psychovore's influence? I don't believe you have any notable psi capacity or training...."

    I manage a short laugh. "You really want to know? Self-doubt. People often tell me, I worry too much... this time, I worried too much that I might be wrong. And I was wrong, because that thing was making me wrong. Usually, I manage it without any help."

    "I see," says Sirip. "Innate concerns penetrating the false certainties instilled by the psychovore. Interesting. Self-doubt. I must try to cultivate that quality."

    I laugh again. "Don't cultivate it too much," I say, "it's not healthy. Believe me."

    "I will bear that in mind, sir." For an instant, he actually smiles. "Still, how very... Andorian... of you, sir, to turn it into a weapon."

    I grin back at him. "It's what we do," I say. "Come on. Let's go home."
    8b6YIel.png?1
  • flamesightflamesight Member Posts: 0 Arc User
    edited June 2013
    2. Accidental Heroes

    "Are we at the appointed coordinates?" Commander Dylen asked flatly.

    "Just arriving now, Commander," her helmsman answered in an efficiently curt manner.

    "Excellent. Begin your scans.? Dylen refused to show her frustration and boredom, no matter the mission, but especially this one. She had no patience for science and less patience for a test mission all the way out in the Devron Sector. "Let's have a look around, shall we? Bring up the scan area on the main viewer."

    The screen sparked to life and instantly the bridge of the Val'Hannorr echoed with barely-restrained gasps. Gargantuan cubes drifted through the midnight ocean with smaller, more agile spheres darting behind, all teeming with the malevolence of a Terran shark and its pilot fish. Occasionally, one of the cubes would stop and fix a bright green beam on a piece of debris. Once satisfied that there was nothing new or living in the space junk, the beam would cut off and the cube would glide away, its retinue of spheres near behind.

    One of the cubes ambled towards the Val'Hannorr. "What is the status of our cloak, Subcommander Latres?" Commander Dylen inquired of her science officer with the same level tone, as if the approaching cube was a routine part of their mission.

    "The upgraded cloak appears to be holding, Commander," Latres answered. "The Borg do not know we are here."

    That should calm the veruuli down, Dylen thought. She watched the Borg hunting parties as the crew returned to their work. Their movements were so perfectly synchronized; it was like watching a dance. Internally, the commander began to relax a little, especially knowing that the new cloak was working. The captain she'd placed at the Federation's Daystrom Institute was definitely paying off already.

    "Results of the scans are coming in, Commander," Subcommander Latres said, interrupting the commander's thoughts. In his way, Latres was the perfect Tal'Shiar scientist. He was oddly loyal to his commander, with no interest in the games or politics of Tal'Shiar command; he possessed no morality that she had ever seen, and had an insatiable appetite for discovery. If his subjects didn't have an unfortunate habit of dying on him, he might have done well in the Federation.

    "Much as we anticipated, Commander," Latres began. "The Omega fleets are holding steady, and the Borg cannot penetrate our cloak. Also, of minor note, the Borg patrols are not random. They are using a complex fractal algorithm to determine their routes."

    Dylen nearly snorted at the mention of the joint Klingon-Federation task force. A few well-placed shots between those ships and both fleets could be drawn into a devastating brawl. It was what most Tal'Shiar commanders would consider 'opportune,' but Dylen was different. She knew that decimating those fleets would leave them all vulnerable to the Borg waiting here.

    "The approaching cube does present another result, Commander. It appears that while the Borg cannot penetrate the cloak, they can detect our scanning frequencies."

    Without waiting for an order, the helmsman began pecking at his station display, "Moving us off, Commander."

    Dylen turned on her heel, ready to flay the insolent lieutenant to the bone for breaking protocol, but Latres interrupted. "Commander, I'm detecting something else. I believe this is worth our attention."

    That caught the commander's attention. The scientist had a flair for understatement and a distant, dispassionate manner, so for him to deem something worthy was unique. She glanced over her shoulder at him, "What and where?"

    "Too distant to speculate, Commander, but it is nearby, in the Pelia Sector."

    The commander turned back, narrowing her icy gaze on the helmsman, "If the helm would like to wait for a heading this time, we'll make our way there immediately."

    Hours passed as the Val'Hannorr warped to the Pelia Sector. Along the way, the errant helmsman attempted to curry Dylen's favor by flying close to and even through Borg patrols - at speed, while cloaked. The commander didn't even notice.

    "We are approaching the coordinates, Commander," the sulking helmsman announced.

    "Drop out of warp and approach slowly," the commander ordered. She turned to Latres, "Now tell me what we're doing here, Subcommander."

    "Scanning now, Commander," Latres said absently. A few tense moments slid by in silence as the subcommander studied his instruments and panels. "You need to see this. I'm putting it on the main viewer now, Commander."

    The image shifted from the inky nothing of space to show...debris. The entire screen was littered with twisted remnants of metal, slowly drifting in the vacuum. "What am I looking at, Latres?" Dylen asked.

    "Commander," Latres began in a grave tone, "These are the remains of a Borg pyramid."

    Ice suddenly filled Dylen?s belly, "Was it the Undine?"

    Latres shook his head, "I don't think so. There are no burns. The outer hull plating sections are, however, highly ionized. It would take an intensely powerful energy source to rip apart a Borg vessel, let alone atomize or erase everything it touched." He studied his panels another moment before shooting a look at the helmsman, "Back us off, lieutenant! Now! Commander, heavy concentration of ionized particles off the starboard..."

    Suddenly, a flash of light engulfed the view screen. Strange strands of energy arced over the shattered Borg hull plates. The debris field cleared and they got their first unobstructed view. A massive disc of swirling energy yawned in the blackness. It dwarfed the Val'Hannorr; it would have dwarfed one of the giant Borg tactical cubes.

    "Subcommander," Dylen began, tapping a finger on her pursed lips, "did a wormhole just open near my ship?"

    Latres snorted, "I believe it did, Commander."

    "Should I take us in, Commander?" The helmsman asked.

    Dylen's pursed lips instantly soured, "Why would I want that, lieutenant? Assuming that the wormhole is stable, which is no guarantee, we have no idea where it goes. It could lead to fluidic space, or the middle of the Gamma Quadrant surrounded by Jem'Hadar, or even a rebuilt Unimatrix Zero-One. It needs to be studied, carefully." She paused for a moment, considering, and then turned to Latres with a gleam in her eye. "Subcommander, amplify the readings you?re getting from the wormhole and wide beam them to the Federation fleet."

    "The Federation, Commander?" The helmsman asked, more than a little shocked.

    Dylen tilted her head as she weighed the lieutenant to an ounce, "You must be new." She smiled slightly, a cold, lethal upturn of the corners of her mouth. "Not that I owe you an explanation, but ask yourself: What faction harbors the most dedicated scientific spirit in the known galaxy" The Federation, of course. They live for this kind of thing. They'll risk anything to explore a new wormhole."

    "Message sent, Commander," Latres declared. "I buried our carrier signal and transmitted in time with the spatial currents of the wormhole. The Federation will think the signal 'hitched a ride' on a subspace eddy."

    "Now we wait." Commander Dylen moved toward the door at the back of the bridge before turning back, "Oh, Subcommander, we might as well not waste this opportunity. Send a team to salvage anything usable from the Borg wreckage. There are other Tal'Shiar cells working with Borg technology."

    Without waiting for a response, she returned to the door and left the bridge.

    Dylen returned hours later at Latres' summons. "A Federation science vessel is approaching, Commander. The...U.S.S. Seaborg, a Miranda class."

    The Commander quirked an eyebrow, "They reached deep into the retired fleet for that one. On screen, and get me everything we know about them."

    She watched the Seaborg casually, almost bemused; there was no way the tiny vessel could pierce the upgraded cloak of the Val'Hannorr. The tiny Miranda slowed to a crawl at the sight of the shattered pyramid. They scanned the area thoroughly, making sure that all of the drones floating lifelessly in space were really as lifeless as they appeared. Convinced the dead drones were really dead, the Seaborg began moving through the debris field.

    "They're getting closer, Commander," Latres said with amusement. "Wait for it..." As predicted, the colossal disc erupted forth, casting off arcs of energy that nearly hit the Seaborg, which quickly backed away.

    Dylen watched with deadly patience as the industrious little Federation ship worked out the problems of the wormhole. They launched probe after probe at the tunnel, with each being invariably destroyed by the arcing energy. There was no way to pilot through it safely, so they tried shields. Probes were launched with one modulation after another, until, finally, one probe took a direct energy hit and kept going.

    "And next will be the shuttle..." Dylen stated matter-of-factly, knowing the list of progression the Federation used.

    Shortly after, a shuttle launched from the Seaborg. It inched toward the wormhole with agonizing slowness. Eventually, an energy strand raked across the roof of the shuttle, shaking the craft, but the iridescent bubble of the shields held firm.

    "Excellent." Dylen popped up out of her chair in excitement. "Tactical, what are our disruptors currently modulated for?"

    "We are currently emulating Orion weapons, Commander," the lieutenant at tactical answered crisply.

    "Hmm," the commander considered. "The Federation would never believe Orion slavers this far out. Bring the Borg cutting beams and plasma torpedo launchers online. Latres, prepare to de-cloak." She raised an admonishing finger at the woman at tactical, "And Tactical? If you destroy that ship, you will suffer."

    The tactical lieutenant gulped, "Y-yes, Commander."

    Satisfied that she had been heard and understood, Dylen gave the order, "Bring me that ship."

    In a moment of pure violence, the Val'Hannorr de-cloaked, launched a pair of plasma torpedoes at the fleeing shuttle, and fired their half dozen cutting beam array at the Seaborg. The shuttle was instantly overrun and exploded in a burst of burning plasma. Nearby, the Miranda tried to peel off, but the cutting beams completely disabled them, annihilating their life support, shields, engines and weapons.

    "Very well done, tactical," Dylen praised while glaring at the helmsman. "Very thorough. Subcommander, board her. I want the engineers, the scientists, and the captain, if he?s still alive. Kill the rest."

    An hour later, Commander Dylen strode into her private dining room. It was a dark, cold, room with no windows and no petty distractions on the walls. There was one decoration in the room, however. A large metal ?X? stood a few feet from the stark metal table, with heavy chains clinking delicately in the silence.

    Dylen sat demurely at the table, unable to completely hide her exuberance. She glanced casually up at the apparatus, taking in the sight of the Andorian captain attached to it by the chains. His face was bloody, with a massive, swollen, purple bruise taking up the left side of his face. His red command shirt had disruptor burn holes throughout, and there was a large gash across his chest.

    As the Commander sat, the door opened and an uhlan guard strolled in with a small metal case in his hand. Behind him a slightly-built man entered, hunched in on himself and carrying a plate of food and a glass of Romulan ale. The little man rushed past the guard, slid the plate and glass in front of the commander - careful to avoid physical contact - and rushed back out with the door whooshing closed behind him.

    The uhlan placed the case on the floor and opened it almost reverently. Inside were all manner of horrible things, things with needles and blades, hard edges and blunt sides.

    "You're never going to get me to talk, Romulan witch," the Andorian captain snarled.

    The uhlan chuckled to himself as the commander turned to him, the same fatal smile on her otherwise expressionless face. "Firstly, my dear captain, I am a commander of the Tal'Shiar, the rightful rulers of the Romulan people. Secondly, whoever said I wanted to know anything from you? I merely enjoy music with my dinner. Uhlan Vogor, if you please, make him sing."

    "We've taken all the valuable information from the Seaborg and her crew," Latres began. "All the necessary modifications have been made to our shields, and all of the guests in my care have all been...dismissed."

    Dylen nodded, acknowledging the report, "Good. Destroy the Seaborg with the Borg torpedoes, and take us into the wormhole, Subcommander."

    Latres leaned in, "Commander, if I may? How was your dinner?"

    "Lyrical," Dylen answered with an uncomfortable gleam in her eye. "Uhlan Vogor is quite an artist."

    As the commander finished her thought, the view screen lit up with the bright green light of plasma burning. "Federation ship destroyed, Commander," Tactical declared.

    "Setting course for the wormhole," Helm announced immediately after.

    It occurred to Dylen that she could have chided Helm some more, really broken his spirit, but the old Federation starship burning on the viewer was too enchanting.

    As the Val'Hannorr neared the wormhole, the energy arcs began strafing the battleship's hull. The ship shook and bucked with each hit, but the shields held.

    "I have to hand it to the Federation," Latres muttered as the ship took another hit. "They certainly are diligent little researchers."

    There was a moment of supreme stillness as the Val'Hannorr passed the energy arcs, but was not yet across the threshold of the wormhole. The instant the battleship crossed, however, everything changed.

    The whole ship lurched, as if a great hand had gripped the bow and was dragging them through the tunnel at incredible speed.

    "Reading warp ten-point-two, Commander," Helm said, his voice tight with fear. "Ten-point-four."

    "These speeds are supposed to be impossible," Latres pondered as he held fast to his station.

    Dylen was concerned. If she were to be honest with herself, she might even admit to being worried. But she stared the wormhole dead on and growled, "Press on!"

    The Val'Hannorr began to moan as her hull was pressed, pulled, and stretched by the whirlwind tides of impossibility. All of a sudden, the ship pitched again, this time with the sickeningly unmistakable sound of hull plating buckling and ripping free. More metal screamed as breaches began opening up all over the ship. Even the bridge started to feel...compressed.

    Then, inexplicably, the ship was no longer moving and everything went dark. The wormhole closed peacefully behind them, leaving them in unknown parts and confounded by the savagery of their travel.

    Subcommander Latres tapped a few keys on his console, "Reports coming in, Commander. The ship is crippled. We have multiple hull breaches, we're venting atmosphere, and main power is offline. Oh, and incidentally, we lost some crew members. Eighty three, to be exact."

    Dylen huffed, "Well get the remaining crew to work on fixing my ship. And bring up the main viewer, I want to see where we are."

    The view screen flickered to hazy life, filled with cracks and static, but what Dylen could make out filled her with rabid curiosity. There were no familiar star systems. There were no foreign constellations, either. In fact, there were no stars at all. The inky blackness of familiar space was replaced by a strange, muddy brown cloud. Directly ahead was the source of her interest: a large asteroid floated in the mud-cloud, the entire surface covered with buildings.

    "That architecture seems...familiar," Dylen whispered.

    "Something else familiar, Commander," Tactical squeaked in dread.

    Dylen followed Tactical's pointed finger and saw it: on the other side of the asteroid, a Borg diamond! "Magnify on that ship. I want to know that they're as damaged as we are..." Otherwise, we're all assimilated, she finished to herself.

    The viewer centered on the Borg vessel, and to their horror, it was already mostly repaired. Dylen's heart sank. "Alright, focus. They aren't paying any attention to us yet. Get my ship functioning and they won't stand a chance. Latres, what can you tell me about the asteroid?"

    Latres gasped, "By the spirits, Commander. That architecture? It's Iconian."

    The commander glared back at her Second, "Are you telling me that the Borg are about to get their collective hand on Iconian technology?"

    "I believe that to be the case, Commander."

    She stopped for a moment, her lips pursed, "Gather the security teams. Get everyone that isn't working on my ship. Arm everyone. Melee and projectile weapons only, no disruptors. Break out the new Daystrom Institute weapons we picked up. We need to take that asteroid and kill every drone."

    Soon, assault shuttles filled beyond capacity thundered toward the Iconian base. Dylen stood on the bridge of the Val'Hannorr in perfect stillness, watching for the slightest hint of Borg aggression. For the time being, they seemed completely disinterested, but she knew that as soon as those shuttles landed that would all change.

    When the shuttles began their final approach, Dylen rounded on her Second, "Progress report, Subcommander."

    Latres sighed wearily. "We've just sealed the breaches, so we?re no longer venting atmosphere. It's a step up, anyway."

    "It's not enough," Dylen barked. "Where is my power? Where are my weapons and shields?"

    "We're working on them, Commander," Latres answered, pinching the bridge of his nose in silent frustration.

    Just then, the bridge speakers began to hiss and pop. "Val'Hannorr? This is assault team two, come in."

    "Tell me we can respond," Dylen said through gritted teeth.

    In lieu of an answer, Latres melodramatically slapped a key at his station. "Go ahead, assault team two."

    The speakers crackled to life again, "We've taken the ground level. Assault team one has gone ahead to the next level. Would you like casualty reports, Val'Hannorr?"

    The subcommander looked up at Dylen, who waved a hand dismissively and turned back to the viewer. "Good work, assault team. Save those reports for later." Latres tapped the key again, closing the channel. "The invasion seems to be going swimmingly."

    "Nonsense," Dylen harrumphed. "They've taken out a few drones." She jabbed a finger at the Borg diamond on the screen, "That ship carries almost twenty thousand drones, but they're the least of our concerns. In case you've forgotten, diamonds carry Borg queens."

    A light flickered on Latres' console. He eyed it suspiciously, but when the color changed, he announced, "One of the power transfer conduits has been repaired. For the moment, we have minimal main power."

    The commander asked dubiously, "Let me guess, not enough to give me weapons?"

    "Not even a little, Commander," Latres replied with the slightest hint of a smile.

    "So what does it give me?"

    Latres considered, "Doors, hangars, a couple of lifts... Right now we?re using it to recharge our auxiliary power and speed up repairs." Something on his monitor caught his attention, "That's interesting..."

    Once again, the communication speakers chirped, "Val'Hannorr, this is assault team one."

    "Report," the subcommander ordered absently as he pecked furiously at his console.

    "Subcommander, we've taken the next level, disabled and decoded some cortical nodes. It's worse than we thought. I think you should see this."

    Latres sighed and clenched his jaw, "I'm a bit busy at the moment, lieutenant."

    "I'll go," Dylen interrupted. "Latres, get my ship ready. I'm going down there. We don't have much time before the Borg realize we're here and start transporting over."

    "We don't have enough power for transporters."

    Dylen felt the pull of rage flash up inside of her, "How quickly we forget that I am an expert pilot."

    "Opening fighter bay hangar door, Commander," he said without another word.

    The commander turned on her heels, headed for the open access shaft near the lift and headed through the bowels of the ship for the fighter bay.

    Minutes later, a lone Scorpion fighter streaked out into the alien cloud. In morbid curiosity, Dylen circled the Val'Hannorr, surveying the damage; the scale of the destruction dropped her jaw open of its own volition. It was just everywhere. Huge sections of the ship looked like a giant hand had unzipped the hull, and she was certain that some parts of the ship were simply missing. Before she could fall to despair, Dylen turned the agile little fighter toward the asteroid and put the fate of the Val'Hannorr in her Second's hands.

    As Dylen neared the asteroid - which was smaller than she'd originally thought - she noted the simple beauty of the Iconian architecture, perverted by Borg nodes and conduits grafted all over the buildings. "And we were calling the Federation 'industrious,'" she muttered.

    "Assault team two to Scorpion one," a voice crackled over her comm. "We have a visual on you. Sending you coordinates for the landing zone. Prepare for final approach."

    The Scorpion screamed into what was most likely a park, gently touching down near the shuttles. She hopped out of the fighter and strode over to the group of waiting guards, "I'm here, what?s going on?"

    The four uhlan - each in identical full body armor - looked uncomfortably at each other when one finally spoke up, "We need to take you to team one's location."

    Dylen sniffed, "I don't like being kept in the dark, Uhlan."

    "Yes, Commander," the one that spoke replied. "If you please, Commander."

    She fell in with them and marched through the twisting, harshly angular halls, stepping over and around bodies - some Romulan, more Borg. Dotting their path were knots of her soldiers, pulling drones off to the side and ensuring that they were, in fact, deceased. Eventually, she stalked into a room where assault team two waited.

    "Now will someone tell me what?s going on here?" She asked venomously, so there would be no mistake that her patience had run out.

    "Commander," one of the men stood forward.

    "Uhlan Vogor," she almost smiled. "It's good to see you survived. Now talk."

    "The drones' cortical nodes have told us what this place is and what they're looking for. This is all late Iconian. It's a repository for much of their knowledge, including their unfinished research. Before their fall, they were working on a new gateway system."

    "A new system?" Dylen raised an eyebrow. "Explain."

    "We only have a mention of it, not the actual research, but it's a more advanced version of the gateways we keep finding all over the galaxy." Vogor began pacing off to the side, toward a pile of drones. "You know how it all works: a giant gateway with a power plant that takes up a vast amount of resources. Well, just before their fall, the Iconians found a way to incorporate the gateway into a starship, and using only a fraction of the energy to power it."

    Dylen whistled, "If the Borg get a hold of that, the entire galaxy is doomed. Right now, we can detect the Borg coming through their transwarp conduits hours ahead of their arrival. If they get this, they can emerge anywhere, at any time."

    "There's good news on that, Commander. I wanted to show you," Vogor snickered into his helmet. He yanked one drone off the top of the pile and pointed.

    The standard gray pallor of Borg skin was broken up on this drone by strange, sickly purple patches. It infested the skin like a mold, pushing everything out of its way.

    "What...is this?" The commander asked, confounded.

    "I have a theory about that," the uhlan began. "I think this is a direct result of the energy arcs that were shooting off of the wormhole."

    "They can't adapt to it?"

    Vogor shrugged, "Maybe eventually, but they haven't had time. Also, according to the Federation, the Borg have a hard time adapting to exotic biological attacks."

    Dylen looked around, "There's twenty thousand drones on that ship. Why are there so few here? They should have overrun us by now. I wonder how widespread this infection is."

    "Assault squad one to assault squad two," Lieutenant Tactical said over the strike force comm.

    "Two here," Vogor replied.

    "We've cleared this tower, but you need to escort the commander up here. That infection is showing interesting results."

    The commander burst in on the channel, "Have you found the repository yet?"

    "Not yet, Commander," Tactical answered.

    "Then your news had better be worth it," Dylen warned.

    Three floors of uneventful walking passed by, and the two assault teams met up. Commander Dylen rounded on Uhlan Vogor, "Take your team and sweep the rest of the station. I want that repository. I want that gateway technology."

    "Over here, Commander," Tactical waved.

    Dylen stalked over to Tactical, "What's so important, Lieutenant?"

    Tactical motioned toward a group of drones lined up on the floor. As she walked down the line, Dylen saw that the purple patches had gotten worse. The progression was destroying the Borg implants, forcing their technological adaptations to break down or be outright rejected.

    "If they're overcoming this," Tactical laughed. "They're sure taking their sweet time."

    The commander nodded thoughtfully, "Take this line of drones you have here, and get them back to the ship. Put them in cryo-storage. This infection could prove extremely useful."

    "Val'Hannorr to Dylen," Latres' voice came over the comm. "Are you there, Commander?"

    "Latres, report," Dylen responded curtly.

    "Good news, Commander," the subcommander reported. "We've restored everything but warp drive."

    "Weapons and shields?"

    "Yes, Commander."

    Dylen took a deep breath to settle her excitement. "Good. Then get that Borg ship out of my sky." She turned to look out the window to where the diamond was holding steady, and the rest of the assault team rushed to the windows.

    All of a sudden, the Borg vessel erupted in clouds of burning green plasma. Disruptors and cutting beams TRIBBLE apart the wreckage, but then, out of nowhere, the remnants of the diamond vaporized in a massive blast of purple energy. The asteroid shook and thundered as the shockwave washed over the station.

    Latres chimed in, "Diamond destroyed, Commander. Scans of the asteroid detect no additional drones, either. You're in the clear."

    "Commander, Vogor here, we've found the repository."

    "Excellent," Dylen clenched a fist in victory. "The Tal'Shiar will reclaim their rightful place, and we will be the spearhead."
  • jonsillsjonsills Member Posts: 8,308 Arc User
    edited June 2013
    Captain's Log, USS Bastogne NCC-93385
    Commander Grunt recording.

    The
    Bastogne has been detailed to a resupply run, ferrying quantum torpedoes to a task force investigating a rift into fluidic space in Pelia sector. Due to the risk factors, I've granted shore leave for the mission's duration to the majority of the crew - if we need more than a skeleton crew for anything, they probably wouldn't help anyway. There was a small scare as we crossed Gamma Orionis, but we managed to evade the Borg patrol. All systems are nominal at the moment, and long-range sensors are clear--

    The ship shook, throwing people out of their seats across the bridge.

    "What the hell was that?" Grunt demanded, climbing back into the command chair.

    Roclak was bent over the science console. "Some sort of spatial distortion, sir," he reported. "Unrelated to the Fluidic Rift; might have been a temporary wormhole. There doesn't appear to be any major damage."

    "Neutrino levels rising, sir," Gydap reported from the helm. "Gravimetric distortions, too. I think it might be coming ba-"

    The ship tossed like a raft in a gale, throwing personnel about like dolls. The lighting flickered; the viewscreen showed space twisting and distorting, and a sudden flare of energy expanding rapidly around the cruiser. As Grunt clung desperately to the arm of his seat, he saw chaos and light, and little else. Panels exploded here and there, showering the space with sparks. After what seemed an eternity, the wormhole that had sucked them down spat them unceremoniously back into reality. A starfield showed on the screen briefly, before the lights flicked one last time and went completely dark.

    "Is everyone all right?" Grunt called out.

    "Every time!" Gydap complained bitterly. "Every karskat time Starfleet sends us on one of these 'milk runs', disaster strikes! 'Oh, just ferry this diplomat a few lightyears to P'jem. Oh yes, we forgot to mention he's an Undine.' 'Here, take these recruits to Task Force Omega. By the way, your ship might get destroyed by a Borg.' 'Have some shore leave - but first deal with a rogue time machine!' Commander, next time they offer you a milk run, could you please volunteer for something safer? Say, a diplomatic mission to the Borg Queen?"

    The emergency lights blinked to life. Roclak was climbing back to his feet, a trickle of purple oozing down his ridged forehead. Gydap, miraculously, was still seated; Lt. Brel, the Bajoran ship's counselor, was tending to a dazed Shelana near the tactical console, which was little more than a mass of tangled wires and fried isolinear circuitry. Vovenek had already regained his feet, and was swearing in Paklit as he tried to get information from his engineering station.

    "Status reports, anyone?" Grunt asked, probing gently at what promised to be a truly remarkable bruise on his head.

    "Engines are dead, sir," Gydap replied. "Helm is completely unresponsive - we don't even seem to have thrusters. Comms are down, too."

    "Sensors offline," Roclak reported. "Also, the computer seems damaged - reports received are incomplete in many respects. We also don't have turbolifts, and without a proper computer, there'll be no transporting around."

    "Weapons are gone, sir," Shelana said shakily. "Or at least, the weapons console is. When I can contact someone else in Tactical, I can give you a better assessment."

    "Vov?"

    Vovonek slammed his fist against the console. "The pun'tak computer doesn't want to tell me anything!" he growled. "It looks like there are microfractures in the warp chamber, the energizers are offline, and I think the dilithium crystals are broiled."

    "Fried, Vov," Grunt said. "The human expression is 'they're fried'."

    "Whatever. It won't go."

    "What the hell happened, Rock?" Grunt demanded.

    "As best I can tell, sir," the Klingon replied, "we were captured by a wormhole. Fortunately, it didn't deposit us in fluidic space; we're still in our own universe, although nowhere near where we started. Precise fixes won't be possible until power's restored to the sensors."

    "So, what you're telling me is we're blind, we're deaf, the ship's lobotomized and dead in space, and we have no idea where we are. What's the bad news?"

    "Actually, sir, I do know approximately where we are," Roclak said. "Just before we lost sensors, I was able to do minor correlations with a few Cepheid variables. I was unable to pin down our precise location, but we seem to be somewhere in the Gamma Quadrant, probably within a thousand lightyears of the Bajoran wormhole."

    "Oh, that's helpful," Grunt said sarcastically. "All we have to do is get out and walk a thousand lightyears or so, and we'll be fine!"

    "I'm glad to see you're staying optimistic, sir," Roclak replied drily. "Also, we seem to be fairly near some artificial wreckage - from the preliminary scans, it looks like they might be ships of some sort, although that would take more data."

    "That's an idea," Grunt said thoughtfully. "Might be something there we can use on the TRIBBLE. Can anyone get hold of the hangar and see if we have any shuttles that can be used to check it out?"

    He was answered by a loud hum and an azure glitter. A human form materialized out of the transporter beam. "Oh, thank the Maker," he gasped, "it worked! Without internal sensors, I wasn't sure a point-to-point transport would work from the emergency transporter in the runabout. But I saw a clear space here, at least I thought it was a clear space, and I figured, 'what the heck?' I mean, it wasn't like I'd get very far in a runabout with no warp drive, right? So I just--"

    Grunt cleared his throat loudly. "And you are?" he asked pointedly.

    "Oh, oh yes, sorry, sir, very sorry. Lt. Fitzsimmons, Jerry Fitzsimmons, sir, in charge of the hangar deck. In fact, just at the moment I'm the only one on the deck, only I'm not really on it right now, am I? because everybody else filed for shore leave when they heard about this run, and I guess someone's just rubber-stamping those forms these days, but I wanted to help, sir, and it's a good thing I--"

    "Mr. Fitzsimmons. Is this running off at the mouth a human thing, or just you?"

    "Oh, I'm sorry, sir, I talk a lot when I'm nervous, and right now I'm not just nervous, I'm scared spitless. But I'll shut up now, sir."

    "Thank you, Mr. Fitzsimmons. Now, I have a question for you, and I want you to answer me with a 'yes,' a 'no', or a 'kind of.' You say you got here using the runabout's emergency beamout. Is the runabout spaceworthy?"

    "Kind of, sir." And with a visible effort, Fitzsimmons stopped.

    Grunt relented. "Very well, Mr. Fitzsimmons, you may expand. What does 'kind of' mean in this case?"

    "Well, sir, the hull's solid, and I'm pretty sure the impulse drive's working, and the sensors of course since I could find the bridge, but there aren't any dilithium crystals in the warp drive, although the warp reactor still seems to be functional, so it's got lots of power, even for the replicator, but of course one replicator won't feed the whole ship for long, not without organics put in, and a lot of the guys get a little grossed out when you tell them that solid wastes work as well as anything else for mass, so I guess that's kind of a limiting factor, and of course I didn't test the weapons, 'cause that might put a hole in the ship, and then it'd come out of my hide, at least that's what Mr. Vovonek said the last time a shuttle pilot dinged the deck, and he's a lot bigger than I am, so--"

    "For Profits' sake, man, breathe! Next question: can you access the transporter from here? I don't really feel like crawling through Jeffries tubes to the hangar again."

    "Again, sir? Oh, right, transporters. I don't think I can access the controls from here, sir, I was kind of counting on someone on the bridge knowing what was going on, and there was nothing I could do down there, and that is a long way to walk, sir, especially with the lifts not working, and--"

    Grunt sighed. "Oh, well, it was a thought. Guess it's time to-" He was interrupted by the bridge lights coming on.

    "Partial power restored, sir," Roclak observed. "Turbolifts are online. Still nothing from sensors, but if you'd still like to take a shuttle out and look over the situation, that's more doable now."

    "Excellent. Rock, Vov, Mr. Fitzsimmons, join me in the turbolift, please. Gydap, you have the conn. Shelana, please let me know as soon as you get weapons back - I'd hate to be caught hanging out here if the Jem'Hadar paid us a visit. Gentlemen?" And the Ferengi led his team into the turbolift.


    The runabout Puyallup slipped through the hangar doors of the Bastogne, circling around to survey the damage. Grunt winced. The starboard nacelle was battered and twisted; its companion was missing, just a bare strut jutting up from the engineering hull. The hull itself was rent in several places, and the arboretum was completely in vacuum. Grunt was happy the ship had been making this run with a bare minimum crew - with luck, he might not have lost anyone during the wormhole passage.

    With an effort, he turned his gaze away from his poor tormented command. Nearby space seemed fairly littered with metallic debris - he could make out parts that seemed to belong to Federation, Klingon, and Ferengi designs, as well as quite a few too broken or strange to easily identify. His reverie was interrupted by Roclak."I've gotten a better fix, sir. We would appear to be approximately 212 lightyears from the Gamma end of the Bajoran wormhole. If this ship had warp drive, we could go for help. As it is, I've also scanned the debris field, and located the remains of at least two Starfleet heavy cruisers, probably Dakota- or Stargazer-class."

    "Probably?"

    "They've been pretty badly damaged, sir. If our trip was anything to go by, the Bastogne was probably about the largest type of ship that could survive the journey at all. These would have been pretty well torn apart by gravitational shear. However, it's possible we can find enough functional parts to either repair our ship or cobble something together to get home on."

    "Yes, thank the Great Vault for modular design. Keep looking for anything usable, Rock. We'll leave a marker here, too, so someone can come see what some of these other wrecks are." Grunt turned his attention to the communications console. "Puyallup to Bastogne," he said. "Bastogne, do you read?"

    A moment, a hiss, scratching, distortion, and then the Andorian navigator's voice came through the static-ridden channel. "--ead you, Puyallup. What is ... condition?"

    "The TRIBBLE's in pretty sorry shape, Gydap. We have located parts of other Starfleet vessels in the debris, and we're going to try to find parts to repair her."

    "Say again, Puy... other ships?"

    "We've found the remains of some other ships, yes. We're surveying the wreckage looking for parts. Over."

    "Acknowledged, sir. Bastogne stand..."

    Grunt closed the channel. "All right, Rock, let's go prospecting."


    Several hours later, in the Bastogne's ready room...

    The command crew sat around the conference table in the ship's ready room. Grunt's voice carried easily over the mutter of the others comparing notes.

    "Very well, gentlebeings, analysis, please. We'll start with the exec. Rock?"

    "Sir, the Bastogne's been severely damaged - probably too badly to be repaired. I'm virtually certain that if we were able to reach a starbase, they'd finally be forced to scrap her. For starters, without a functional computer, it's too dangerous to use warp drive - our senses alone just don't operate fast enough to save us at faster-than-light speeds."

    "Very well. Shelana, how's the arm?"

    The Andorian woman stood, then winced. "It's kind of a mess, sir, but I'll get by. The doctor assures me that if the protoplaser were working, I wouldn't even know this had happened by now. As it is, the condition of the weapon systems hurts worse. The weapons themselves are fully functional, and could be transferred to another ship easily - but all connections to fire control have been interrupted. We couldn't shoot them, even if we had full power, which we don't."

    "Ah, yes, the power situation. Mr. Vovonek?"

    The Pakled looked embarrassed. "Sir, I can't bring the main reactor back online - there's less than a fifty percent chance antimatter containment would hold. It's a miracle the antimatter storage unit's still working. Good thing I hooked it up with a backup power supply after the Guardian incident. On the positive side, I've been studying the reports from the teams checking over the wreckage, and I think I can construct one ship out of all the parts here, including some of the TRIBBLE. She won't be pretty, but she should at least get us as far as the wormhole."

    "Just to the hole? Why not call for help?"

    "Sir," Shelana interrupted, "I would strongly recommend against a distress call here. We are deep within Dominion territory, and while the Founders may have declared the war over, some of the reports I've gotten indicate that there are elements within the Jem'Hadar who are a bit harder to convince."

    "Besides," Roclak continued smoothly, "the wormhole damage was too great for the subspace communications array. And the comm arrays on the other ships came out even worse. We'll have to get within range of sublight comms before we can call anyone."

    "Hmm. Not ideal, but I suppose if that's what must be done, that's what must be done. Very well, let's get to it. Vov, you're hereby authorized to draw any resources necessary to work on our life-raft. What's our shortest supply?"

    "Honestly, sir, it's skilled labor. The engineering staff, like the others, was pretty well stripped for this trip. And not that many people on board have experience with starship construction and modification - the starbase operations people have made it too easy."

    Grunt stood and stretched. "Okay, find me an EV suit and a tool belt." He chuckled at Vovonek's expression. "I used to be an engineer, too, before they stuck me in a command chair. I think I still remember which end of a plasma torch to hold." He clapped his hands. "Come on, people, let's get to it! Time is air!"


    It took three days of steady work before Vovonek pronounced himself satisfied. (Well, not "satisfied" - his exact words were, "Well, I suppose that'll have to do. We're almost out of ration packs anyway.") What floated there in the sky wasn't precisely like any other ship that had ever flown. Her primary and engineering hulls had once belonged to the Dakota-class heavy cruiser USS Hephaestus. Like most ships of her class, she boasted four warp nacelles - but the top two were from a Cheyenne-class heavy cruiser, while the bottom pair, while Starfleet issue, came from a ship too badly damaged to identify in any meaningful fashion. There were lumps on her hull where spare meteor patches from the Bastogne had been hastily welded, and where the old cruiser's weapons arrays had been implanted in the new craft. She was battle-scarred, and seared from her own passage through the wormhole; still, there she was.

    "She's no beauty queen, is she?" Grunt mused from the refurbished command seat.

    "I told you it wouldn't be pretty, sir," Vovonek said. "But she holds air, her warp reactor works, and I'm better than ninety percent certain I can make the warp drive light up without blowing us halfway to Sto'vo'kor."

    "How comforting," Roclak grumbled.

    "Very well, then. Mr. Gydap, best possible speed to the Bajoran Wormhole, please."

    Gydap put one blue finger on the warp activation toggle, then paused and looked around. "I just wanted you all to know," he said, "that if this doesn't work, it's been an honor and a privilege to serve with you all. Except you, Vov - if this doesn't work, my spirit is going to kick your spirit square in the TRIBBLE."

    A chuckle went around the bridge, and Gydap pressed the toggle.


    Aboard Starfleet Deep Space Station Nine, a bored technician yawned as he surveyed his instruments. "Nothing. There hasn't been any unscheduled traffic through that hole in years - you'd think they'd turn this job over to a computer."

    "Careful, Johannsen," his coworker chided. "Too much talk like that, and Captain Kurland might decide you'd rather be a janitor or something."

    "Maybe I would. At least the janitor gets to see more of the sta- Hey, wait a minute. Neutrino levels rising, increased verteron radiation - anything in the schedule?"

    His coworker checked her screen. "No, nothing until the next ore shipment from Eldanifel. Looks like you're going to get that excitement you wanted after all."

    The wormhole flared to life, and the speck of a starship could be seen exiting it. Johannsen activated his comm panel. "Attention, unscheduled craft," he said into it. "This is Deep Space Nine Traffic Control. Please identify yourself immediately."

    The signal they got back was weak and staticky, but audible. "DS9 Control, this is the starship USS Hephaestus, more or less. Commander Grunt speaking. Please acknowledge."

    "Hephaestus, we acknowledge. One moment, please." Johannsen's coworker was gesturing at him; he killed the mic. "What is it, Susan?"

    "Check this out," she said, pointing at his data screen, which was now displaying the information she had just pulled up. Johannsen turned the mic back on. "Commander Grunt," he started, "we seem to have conflicting information here. The Hephaestus was listed as missing and presumed lost several years ago, while your last reported position was quite a fair distance from here."

    Laughter came over the commset. "Yes, we were on a mission in Pelia sector. It's quite a story. After debriefing, I'll be happy to share it over a few glasses at Quark's." Grunt was interrupted by a stream of curses in English, Paklit, Klingon, and Romulan, a language Johannsen had scarcely ever heard until the founding of New Romulus. "Ah, my chief engineer advises me that the impulse drive has gone out again," Grunt's voice continued. "If it wouldn't be too much trouble, could you send a tug out to bring us into port?"
    "Science teaches us to expect -- demand -- more than just eerie mysteries. What use is a puzzle that can't be solved? Patience is fine, but I'm not going to stop asking the universe to make sense!"

    - David Brin, "Those Eyes"
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  • superhombre777superhombre777 Member Posts: 147 Arc User
    edited June 2013
    December 2411

    Counselor ch'Raul entered the conference room and was shocked by what he saw. Lieutenant Commander Vanishyin was squirming like a snake on the conference room table. Commander T'Panna was leaning over him?and performing a mind meld.

    Ch'Raul rushed over and pulled T'Panna's arm off of Vanishyin. "What are you doing? This is not how you question a suspect!"

    T'Panna paused for a moment, shocked at the abrupt disconnect. Then she kicked ch'Raul in the gut and re-established contact.


    I should have deemed her unfit for duty, ch'Raul thought. He tapped his combadge...

    Ch'Raul woke up and sat up straight. Usually his dreams were a jumbled mess, but he realized that this time the dream could easily become true. T'Panna was on the edge of emotional instability, and he feared that she'd lose what little she had in a few hours when he and Kerna'tharan were scheduled to report on their progress.

    He decided to get out of bed and send the message that had been on his mind for several days. The message to his closest fellow counselor only took a few minutes to write. Ch'Raul skimmed over it again before sending it.
    Kayley,

    It seems as if things on the Reaper (formerly the Odyssey, renamed thanks to the new behemoth at Utopia Planitia) are falling apart.

    Our security chief and second officer had an 'experience' that some attribute to the Bajoran gods. His performance started to suffer because of this. I convinced Captain Carter to reshuffle the crew instead of just dumping this officer. The security chief became beta shift captain, and I assumed the role of second officer.

    A few weeks ago, there was an assassination attempt on Carter. The circumstances certainly point to Section 31, so we will probably never know the truth. The first officer, a Vulcan (quarter human) named T'Panna, is now acting captain. Remember how we talked about this a few months ago? I decided to let Carter and T'Panna sort out their relationship instead of immediately notifying Command per regulations. You and I know that a fair amount of captains and first officers wander into intimate relationships, only to regret it later. I didn't feel the need to tarnish their reputations for a short-lived fling.

    Anyway, their relationship has continued, and Command is aware of it. Unfortunately T'Panna's Vulcan upbringing is being thwarted by her human tendencies, or maybe just the stress of leading a crew when your lover is in a coma with no hope of coming out of it. She has been erratic and unpredictable. I am tempted to remove her from command, but that would be a huge conflict of interest because then I would be the acting captain.

    I don't have a good course of action. I am sure that the situation will work itself out, but it feels therapeutic to write about this to someone who understands what I am going through.

    I hope that your time on the Esquiline is going smoothly. We should talk face-to-face sometime soon. Remember the promise you made to visit Andor with me?

    ch'Raul

    He sat for a few minutes in silence after sending the message. Then he heard stirring behind him. Her hand gently rested on his shoulder.

    "It's time to stop thinking about her and come back with me," Alice said. Despite the late hour, her eyes were bright and cheerful. He wasn't sure if it was her smile or the rest of her naked body that drew him away from the terminal and back to bed.
    ---

    Organic life forms had a lot of advantages over Alice, but the need for sleep was not one of them. She enjoyed the hours spent against ch'Raul as he rested, but it was terribly hard for her to be still and restful. Her mind wandered to many places during the night. Some of them were innocent, while others were not. She struggled with a question - was it infidelity to daydream while your lover is sleeping next to you? Ultimately she decided that it was not, as long as her thoughts didn't linger on Ensign Alvarez. The human woman would be even more hurt by Alice's duplicity than ch'Raul would, so she needed to be careful.
    ---

    "Lieutenant Vanishyin was set up," ch'Raul repeated for at least the fifth time. "All of the ship-to-ship data queries we made on his record confirmed that he had a brother believed to be involved with Section 31. But Kerna'tharan and I contacted three other ships by voice and asked them to check with Starfleet. In all three cases, they confirmed that Vanishyin is an orphan who was raised by an elderly couple with no other children. It is clear that our database is corrupted, and something is interfering with our attempts to get information from outside sources."

    "We should destroy this vessel immediately," Kerna'tharan added. "The computer is compromised by the enemy we are hunting. We cannot be victorious without eliminating their advantage, which is their hold on this ship."

    Counselor ch'Raul could tell that T'Panna was on the verge of imploding. She had been so happy to have someone in custody for the attempted murder of Captain Carter. Now everyone in the room except for her was convinced that the man in custody was completely innocent.

    T'Panna clenched her fists, realized that they were in plain sight on the table, and quickly put her arms under the table. "The timing of this revelation is too convenient. The Denali is scheduled to rendezvous with us in eighteen hours to transfer Vanishyin to Starbase 24 for a court martial. How do I know that you aren't trying to cover up the truth?"

    I hope everyone can see how compromised she is, ch'Raul thought. He waited until T'Panna made eye contact with him before responding. "One of the vessels we contacted was the Denali. Captain Delaney agreed with my conclusions. As first officer I told him that Vanishyin was being released from custody and Denali wasn't needed anymore. They aren't coming."

    "You Lunikkh ta-Vik! I hereby relieve you of command. Return to your quarters." T'Panna was standing and subtly shaking.

    Silence filled the room for a few seconds, giving ch'Raul a chance to think. Stick to our common ground. "It is important to remember that all of us are upset about what happened to our Captain. We all want justice to be served. Right now it looks like we were misdirected. Would you please sit down? Then we can?"

    Commander Hillel's voice interrupted. "Yellow alert. Commander T'Panna to the bridge." T'Panna, ch'Raul, Kerna'tharan and Glotz calmly hurried out of the conference room and onto the bridge.

    The viewscreen showed a growing spatial anomaly. Hillel turned to face T'Panna and ch'Raul. "This anomaly just appeared out of nowhere. We are scanning to determine its origin."

    The senior staff turned to face Glotz, who had taken over at operations. The Denobulan frowned. "It isn't stable...not a rift into fluidic space..."

    "Could this be Commander Hillel's gods trying to get his attention?"

    "T'Panna, that was entirely uncalled for," ch'Raul replied.

    Glotz continued. "Sensors have found chroniton particles. This is most likely time travel."

    "Keep the sensors on!" T'Panna yelled. "Someone needs to bypass the automatic subroutine that stops data recording when faced with time travel. I don't give a damn about the Department of Temporal Investigations and their regulations."

    "Glotz, hail the away team on the surface and tell them they are on their own for a while. Keep the runabout grounded at all costs." Turning to T'Panna, ch'Raul whispered, "I agree with you. This has to be Section 31, so we need all the data we can get."

    A few moments later, a barrage of weapons fire emerged from the rift. Lieutenant Simeon's warning from the helm was the last thing heard before the ship was jarred by multiple impacts. Main lighting and helm control went out. Emergency power came online and then went out a few seconds later.

    Kerna'tharan was the first to find an emergency flashlight. Before ch'Raul could figure out where the first flashlight came from, Kerna'tharan had distributed one to each bridge officer and checked them all for injuries. "Prepare for a boarding party," he calmly ordered.

    No boarding party came. Surprisingly, no other weapons were fired. The rift was still open. Whoever was on the other side could obviously see the situation on this end, and all they wanted to do was immobilize the ship. This didn't make sense.

    A sinking feeling hit ch'Raul's gut. "Glotz, what parts of the ship have power?"

    "Only the bridge and the auxiliary engineering station, sir."

    "Kerna'tharan, you have the bridge. T'Panna, we need to get downstairs immediately."

    ---
    Doctor Evans stood outside of the medical ward. The look in his eyes told ch'Raul all he needed to know. T'Panna looked at the doctor, saw him shake his head, and then started crying. Both men stayed in the hall to allow T'Panna to say goodbye privately.

    "How long does he have?"

    "Carter was barely stable with the stasis field active," Evans explained. "Now that I can't keep him stable, I'd give him about an hour to live. He won't wake up though. At this point the damage caused by the neurotoxins is irreversible." He paused for a moment. "Do we know who attacked us?"

    "We were ambushed by a coward on the other side of an unstable rift. It looks like someone called in a favor from the big guns in the future. There is no way we can win against them."

    "Does that mean we will stop?"

    "Never."


    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)
    • Wife Isabella (Olga Kurylenko)
    • 4 year old daughter
  • ironphoenix113ironphoenix113 Member Posts: 0 Arc User
    edited June 2013
    "Helm, emergency stop!" Bryan shouted.

    Suddenly, the massive form of the Athena lurched to a halt, just before it entered the wormhole.

    "Damage report!" Bryan called.

    "Negligable, sir," Six of Nine called. "Though, I'd prefer not straining the hull like that."

    "Scan the wormhole, Athena" Bryan called, ignoring Six's sarcastic reply.

    "Wormhole appears to be stable, sir, but I can't tell where it lets out." the AI replied.

    "Alright. Prepare a probe, and get ready to-"

    "Shuttle coming out of the wormhole, sir!" Athena interrupted. "Configuration is similar to a standard Type 8 shuttlecraft, but there are notable differences, the primary one being additional weapons."

    "On screen" Bryan called, and the screen shifted to a view of the shuttlecraft.

    The vessel was crippled, with one warp nacelle completely destroyed, and multiple energy burns. The canopy appeared to be cracked, but there was no telltale vapor trail of oxygen leaking out, so the hull was still completely sealed.

    "Scan the ship," Bryan said, still studying the craft.

    "One lifesign, sir," Athena replied.

    "Sir, we're being hailed by the shuttle," Aara called from the comms station.

    Bryan looked back at the Orion and nodded.

    Suddenly, the screen shifted to reveal a young Trill woman with short, red hair and piercing grey eyes. She wore simple clothes, obviously more designed for extended periods of isolation. She had several slight injuries, but if she was in pain, then she did a good job of hiding it.

    "Are you Vice Admiral Bryan Valot?" She asked cautiously.

    "Yes, I am. And you are?" He replied.

    "My name is Ibalei Zera. I need to talk to you immediately aboard your vessel."
    *******

    "Syiseda?" Bryan asked, stepping into the main sickbay on the Athena, "Is she who she says she is?"

    "Yep." The Betazoid replied, "One hundred percent genetic match. The only difference between her and our Ibalei is that she's still unjoined."

    "Interesting," Ibalei said, stepping up behind Bryan. "Did you ask why?"

    "I did," Syiseda said, nodding. "But she declined to respond."

    Bryan looked a around before saying in a low voice, "There have been a few reports that have crossed my desk with regards to conditions on Trill in the mirror universe. If my suspicions as to who she is are correct, then that would explain why."

    Ibalei looked at Bryan curiously. "What do you mean, Bryan?"

    He paused. "I don't particularly want to discuss it right now. If my guess turns out to be true, I'll tell you, but I just want to be sure."

    Bryan walked up to his first officer's mirror counterpart. "So, I see you brought her along," she said, gesturing to Ibalei.

    He nodded. "Ibalei is my most trusted officer," He replied carefully. "I rarely do anything without making sure she is at my side."

    "Even with one of...them controlling her?"

    "Zizania doesn't control me," Ibalei said, anger beginning to creep into her voice.

    "How do you know that she was joined?" Bryan asked, still keeping his voice level.

    "She has a certain look about her, like she is living multiple lives at the same time."

    "So, I take it what I've heard about the Trill over on your end is true? That the hosts are little more than tools for the Symbionts?"

    She paused, wincing a little. "Tools would imply that they at least care a little for us. As soon as one host body expires, they dispose of it and switch to a new one without a second thought."

    Ibalei paled. "So, we're...slaves?" she asked, her voice shaking.

    Her mirror nodded. "That's why I came here," She said, "I wanted to ask for your help."

    "What do you need?" Bryan asked cautiously.

    "I was hoping you could send a fleet to help evacuate an enclave of hosts from my homeworld," She said, "We have managed to remain hidden for a while now, but the Terrans, who the Joined are affiliated with, have found us. I was hoping you would be able to help us."

    Now it was Bryan's turn to pause. The Prime Directive limited what he was able to do, but he knew that the mirror Ibalei would never take that into consideration. He closed his eyes, analyzing his options.

    "Ibalei," he said, reopening his eyes and looking at the Trill still sitting on the biobed, "The Prime Directive prohibits me from interfering with the development of another species."

    "I knew you wouldn't help us!" She shouted angrily, "You're worse than the Terrans! You're willing to let us be slaves, and you use your 'Prime Directive' as an excuse to not help us!"

    "If you'll let me finish," Bryan said, his voice dangerously quiet, "There are certain instances when the Prime Directive does not apply, and, given that I'm a flag officer as well as the commander of a starship, if I have sufficient evidence, can make an exception."

    "You're going to end up with a court-martial one of these days, Bryan," Ibalei sighed.

    Bryan turned to his first officer, "Are you really willing to let these people be slaves of the Symbiots Ibalei? And, Zizania, are you really willing to let the Symbionts destroy the Trill?"

    She paused. "No," she replied, nodding slightly, "I suppose not. What are you thinking about doing?"

    Now it was Bryan's turn to sigh. "Command is going to have a heart attack when they hear this."

    "What are you thinking about doing?" Ibalei's mirror counterpart asked.

    "I'm hoping to be able to convince them to divert the first assault fleet to help evacuate your enclave. Our ships will keep any Terran forces in orbit busy while shuttles, launched from our carriers, evacuate your people. Once the shuttles are fully loaded, they will return to the carriers that launched them. With the shuttles aboard, the fleet will retreat back to our universe."

    "And how do you intend to get to the mirror universe?" Ibalei asked.

    "I believe there's a wormhole off the starboard bow that would like to have a word with you," Bryan replied slyly.
    *******

    Bryan looked around the strategic command center of the Athena at display screens showing the other Admirals of Starfleet as he finished telling them of his plan. Some sat wide-eyed, others pondered his idea, and still more simply sat shaking their heads.

    "You're certainly not making our jobs any easier Valot," Admiral Yanishev said finally.

    "With all due respect, sir," Bryan replied, "My job is not to make your job easy. My job is to act in accordance with the situation at hand and to protect the Federation and her citizens."

    "You realize that what you propose is in direct violation of the Prime Directive," Admiral Quinn said.

    "Actually, sir," Bryan replied, his mind clearly working in overdrive, " I can give you several reasons as to why this would not be a violation of the Prime Directive, based on precedents set by multiple captains of Starfleet, Kirk and Picard among them. First of all, the Trill even those from what we know of as the Mirror Universe, have already made contact with the Federation, as noted in the logs of the U.S.S. Nightingale and U.S.S. King Estemere. Precedent for prior contact partially voiding the Prime Directive was set during incidents at Omicron Theta and Bre'el IV, both by Captain Picard."

    "In addition, if said society hails or attacks a Federation Vessel, then the Prime Directive is, at least partially, voided. Precedent was set by Captains Kirk and Janeway, during incidents in deep space. Thirdly, if the society has been previously interfered with by non-Federation citizens, in this case the Terran Empire, the Prime Directive does not apply. This precedent was again set by Captains Kirk and Janeway during incidents at Neural and deep space, respectively."

    The other Admirals were silent for a long time. After several long minutes of silence, it was Admiral T'nae who spoke up first.

    "The Vice Admiral is correct," She replied with difficulty, "In addition, I have seen the reports he mentioned as well, so I corroborate his assertion that the hosts are in fact slaves of the Symbionts. However, just because the situation permits us to skirt around the Prime Directive does not mean that we should."

    "I fully agree with you T'nae," Bryan said, nodding, "However, I would like to point out that the Trill enclave has a large population, and given my projected casualty rate, the population of the enclave would more than make up for the casualties. In addition, it is Starfleet policy as a humanitarian force to respond to situations similar to this if our involvement would not violate the Prime Directive, which I have already proven that it would not."

    "Bryan, the fleet will respond to your request," Admiral Leyla Blaze, Bryan's direct superior said, "I will instruct the rest of the fleet to assemble at your location. I will lead the fleet personally."

    "Thank you, sir," Bryan replied, nodding slightly.

    "Then this meeting is adjourned," Admiral Quinn sighed, "I hope you know what you're doing Valot. Because we will all regret it if you don't."
    *******

    Bryan looked around from the bridge window at the rest of the fleet, taking in what he was about to do.

    "The fleet is ready, Bryan," Ibalei said, walking up next to him. "The wormhole is stable and the recon ship on the other side indicates no Terran vessels are present in the immediate area."

    He glanced at her briefly and nodded. "Inform Admiral Blaze that we're good to go."

    "Anything else?"

    He began walking to his chair before looking back to Ibalei and saying, "Hope this doesn't start another war."

    He sat down and looked at the viewscreen, placing his elbows on the arms of the chair and pressing the tips of his fingers together.

    "All ships report ready, sir," Bryan said as Admiral Blaze appeared on the screen.

    "Good. You have tactical command of the engagement," The Admiral replied.

    "If I may ask, why? You outrank me."

    "Because you have proven to be a brilliant tactician Valot. I have every confidence that you will be able to lead the fleet through the engagement with minimal casualties."

    "Very well, sir." He turned back to his comms officer. "Aara, open a channel to the rest of the fleet."

    "Channel open, sir," The Orion replied.

    "All ships, this is the Athena. Form into a wedge formation. Carriers groups, form up in the center of the wedge. Once we arrive at Trill, the carriers will hold position and launch every shuttle and Runabout they have. Once the craft are launched, the formation will begin advancing on Trill, with all of the craft flying in the center. The goal of the ships not holding position with the carriers will be to first punch a hole in the Terran's lines and give the shuttles a clear path to the surface. When the shuttles are past the Terran lines, the fleet will break formation and try to keep the path back to the carriers clear. As soon as the last shuttle has landed, the fleet will pull back to the wormhole and return to our universe, at which point a science vessel on loan from the thirteenth fleet, which will be holding position here during the operation, will seal the wormhole behind us. Any questions?"

    "I have one, sir," came a voice over the intercom, "Why are we even doing this in the first place?"

    "Because, in addition to missions of exploration, it is Starfleet's duty to respond to a humanitarian crises so long as it is within the bounds of the Prime Directive to do so. Slavery is one such instance."

    "Then why haven't we done anything about the Orions?"

    "That's a good question," Bryan replied. "Perhaps you should read more about their culture once the operation is done. Anyone else?" Nobody spoke up. "Good. All ships, proceed through the wormhole."
    *******

    The fleet dropped out of warp to find the Terran fleet waiting for them in Trill orbit.

    "All ships, begin the operation. Carriers, begin launch operations. All combat vessels, hold position until launch operations are complete.

    Several tense minutes passed before Ibalei finally called, "Launch operations complete, sir."

    Bryan nodded. "Carrier groups, hold position. All other ships, full ahead. Maintain formation. You are authorized to fire at will as soon as you are in range."

    The fleet advanced, ships moving dead ahead to the Terran lines. Their ships were spread out around the planet in a defensive formation, clearly anticipating an invasion. What was about to hit them was completely different.

    "Sir, we're in range." Athena called, her holographic form shimmering to life nearby.

    Bryan nodded. "All ships, open fire!"

    Orange beams and pulse cannon blasts illuminated the night sky, slamming into a number of Terran vessels, whose defenses were quickly overwhelmed.

    "Several hostile ships destroyed, sir. We've punched a hole in their lines," Ibalei said from next to Bryan.

    "All ships, drive your attacks home. Let's keep that hole open as long as we can."

    The fleet continued to push into the Terran lines, slowly but surely widening the hole for the shuttles to enter. Suddenly, the entire fleet broke formation and began engaging the Terran ships independently as the shuttles entered the atmosphere of the planet. The prime universe fleet's battle pattern was chaotic, yet somehow every ship in fleet worked in harmony with every other one. Fire was concentrated when a ship began to enter the path of the shuttles, which had already begun to return to the carriers, ships supported those who were overwhelmed, and drove the Terran forces into retreat.

    The battle seemed nearly over when a distress voice came over the intercom. "Attention to any ships in sector three, this is Admiral Blaze in command of the U.S.S. Serephea, we have taken heavy damage! Structural integrity is down to five percent! We need assistance now!"

    "U.S.S. Monitor, move to assist the Serephea!" Bryan called.

    "Too late, sir!" Athena called, as the screen shifted to show an image of the Prometheus class vessel, just as a quantum torpedo impacted the Bridge. The ship seemed to vanish in a brilliant orange explosion.

    Bryan closed his eyes and bowed his head briefly. He knew the Admiral was dead, but there would be time to mourn her death later. Returning his attention to the battle, he called, "All ships, this is Vice Admiral Bryan Valot in command of the Athena, I am hereby taking command of the fleet. All ships, stand your ground and continue battle."

    The battle continued, Starfleet vessels involved in a deadly dance with the Terran fleet. Arcs of light flashed as the ship's powerful beam and cannon weapons tore into each other, torpedoes blasted away at the hulls of the ships, and, in the background, the Federation shuttles continued their ferry work After several more long minutes of combat, a carrier captain finally opened a channel to every ship in the fleet.

    "Attention all ships, this is Captain Audrir Amunoe of the U.S.S. Bremen," she called, "All shuttles are aboard their respective carriers, repeat, all shuttles are aboard. We are clear to depart."

    "Copy that Bremen," Bryan replied, "All ships, pull back now."

    Space seemed to pull apart around the Athena, as stars became small streaks of light. Suddenly, the bridge was engulfed by a slight pulsing blue color as the Asynchronous warp field activated, pulling the ship to warp twenty.

    "Sir, we are away," Ibalei said. "Carriers are reporting that every single shuttle and runabout have successfully returned to their respective ships. Total losses among the combat group tally to five vessels lost, seventeen heavily damaged, twelve with medium damage, and fourteen with light damage. Vessels reporting light and medium damage indicate that they will very easily be able to fix the damage without having to report to a drydock facility."

    "Much better than projected. Did you hear if the Admiral survived?"

    "Logs indicate she went down with her ship, sir." Ibalei replied solemnly.

    Bryan was silent for a long time. "Her death was my fault," He said finally.

    "No, it wasn't," Ibalei replied. "You weren't the one who ordered the torpedo to be launched at her vessel, no were you the one who launched it."

    "Still, her death was a result of my actions and-"

    "It wasn't your fault Bryan!" Ibalei shouted. "She knew this would be a risk going in, and she accepted that! It's time for you to as well!"

    Bryan was taken aback. "I guess you're right." He replied. "Let's hope the Admirals see it a little more clearly than I did."
    *******

    Bryan looked around the room at the silent Admirals. He had already finished giving them his report. They looked unsure of what they wanted to do.

    "Bryan," Admiral Yanishev said, finally breaking the silence, "Exactly what were the circumstances of the loss of the Serephea?"

    "The battle had been proceeding well up to that point," Bryan said, thinking back, "We had pushed through the Terran lines, and the first shuttles were already on their way back to their base ships. Based on the reports, the Serephea was engaged by a Galaxy class Dreadnought variant, two Defiant class, and a Regent class. Given the similarities between our universe and the Mirror universe, it is entirely possible that they knew the Serephea was the flagship of the fleet."

    "The other Admirals and I discussed what should be done before we convened here." Admiral Quinn said, looking around at the others. "Needless to say, when they heard about the loss of Admiral Blaze, some were understandably upset. Do you have any justification for your actions?"

    "No, sir," Bryan replied, his voice remaining level, "Other than to say that the operation, despite the loss of Admiral Blaze, was an overwhelming success. In addition, Admiral Blaze accepted the risk that this operation carried, and she willingly went to the front line. I had no part in her decision to lead from the front."

    Admiral Quinn shifted uncomfortably. "That still leaves us with the task of choosing a new Admiral to take her place," he said.

    "That is not my business," Bryan said flatly. "I am simply here to convey the results of the operation."

    Admiral Yanishev looked around the room at the other admirals, who all nodded in turn. "Vice Admiral, one of the the items we discussed was who would be a suitable candidate for the next Admiral for the first assault fleet. Despite the fact that you are somewhat of a loose cannon, you are a tactical genius. It would be foolish of us to ignore this fact, especially given that we are currently engaged in active warfare with the Klingon Empire. As a result, it was our unanimous decision that you be nominated the new Admiral of the first assault fleet. Do you accept?"
    *******

    Bryan stared at his reflection in the mirror. The four boxed pips gleamed brightly on his uniform. He shook his head slightly.

    "What's wrong, Bryan?" Ibalei said, walking up behind him.

    He turned his head briefly before replying "This doesn't feel right. Leyla was the Admiral, not me."

    "And yet, here you are, Admiral Valot."

    "Ibalei, I'm only 26. I'm far too young to even be a captain, let alone an Admiral."

    "That just shows that the Admirals were looking at your skills rather than your age. Which is the way it should be anyways."

    "Maybe," He replied, his voice just above a whisper.

    Ibalei placed her hand on Bryan's shoulder. "You need to stop beating yourself up over this, Admiral."

    That one word gave him the push he needed. He closed his eyes, still feeling Ibalei's hand on his shoulder. Opening his eyes and turning around slowly, he kissed Ibalei.

    "Thank you, Ibalei" he said, looking into her eyes and smiling. "Thank you for constantly being the cool head among us. And for being the strongest person I know."

    "That's what Zizania and I are here for," She said, smiling as well.

    With that she left the room, once more leaving Bryan alone. She's right, he thought. It's time for me to stop faking it and be a flag officer. Shaking his head once more, he walked over to the window, watching the Asynchronous warp field pulse with a gentle blue color. Once more, his life just took an unexpected turn, and once more, he would rise to meet the challenge head on.
    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
  • ambassadormolariambassadormolari Member Posts: 709 Arc User
    edited June 2013
    There is no greater enemy than one's own fears.
    -General Martok



    The Notqa drifted quitely through the depths of space, its scarred green hull dark against the scant starlight. Out here, on the outskirts of the Pelia System, the Bird of Prey was hunting.

    On the flat, metal slab that served as his command chair, Lynathru rested his chin against his gauntlet as he stared out into the void. Around him, his crew were at their stations, keeping the Notqa's electromagnetic eyes and ears open. They had been out here for two days, on a mandate to hunt, destroy, and where necessary, capture Federation shipping. Starfleet, in its ongoing war with the Empire, was trying its utmost to keep troops and ships supplied in this sector, and numerous armed convoys were crossing this sector to do just that. It was the job of Birds-of-Prey like the Notqa to harass these convoys, to deprive them of their supplies and slowly bleed them dry.

    Even though he was on a Klingon ship with a mixed race crew, this mission brought back memories. Memories of corsair voyages during his time with the Syndicate, when his life had been worth several hundred thousand quatloos instead of the dismal KDF commission it was worth now. His fortunes might have changed, but he still knew how to hunt errant freighters, how to avoid Federation patrols, and how to disable an enemy merchantman in a single, efficient attack. The fact that he was on a heavily armed vessel with a cloaking device made things that much easier.

    "Ressic, what's the status of the warp trail?" he asked.

    The ship's science officer, Ressic, gazed at his console. "Steadily growing fresher, Captain." The Lethean had a smoothe, velvety voice that put Lynathru's nerves on edge. "We should overtake them within two hours."

    Next to Lynathru, Kovar, his second in command, gave a surly grunt. "It's a trap," the white-bearded Klingon said. "It has to be. The Federation would not leave a single freighter unguarded in a warzone. They may be naive, but they are not fools."

    Lynathru made a casual sideways glance at the Klingon. "Of course its a trap," he said with a faint smile. "And it's a very old one. The freighter we're following is probably rigged to explode if we get too close. Either that, or it's leading us into an ambush site. Either way, its obviously a trap."

    Kovar glared at the Captain. The old Klingon, Lynathru knew, had always had a problem with aliens in the KDF, particularly Orions, and he had never bothered to disguise his contempt for Lynathru. "Then why," he said, "are we even following this trail?"

    "Simple." Lynathru turned back to the viewscreen. "If this freighter is some automated explosive drone or an ambush decoy, it should have a set travel program. The Federation, after all, only have a finite number of these drone ships, so it would eventually have to be refuelled at some secret base." He smiled. "A secret base that it's going to lead us to. Of course, I'm sure you've already thought of that, Rovar."

    Kovar made no reply, but turned away from Lynathru with an annoyed grumble. Lynathru was prevented, though, from enjoying the Klingon's irritation when one of the consoles behind him started beeping as though in alarm, causing him to tense up.

    "Captain," Ressic said, "I'm detecing a series of verteron fluctuations about fifty yards ahead of--"

    The Lethean didn't even get to finish before the bridge was flooded with light.

    It all happened in an instant. One minute, there was nothing on the viewscreen but the star-speckled void. The next, a ball of yellow light suddenly popped into view, briefly filling illuminating the bridge like a morning sunrise. Lynathru jumped in his seat, alarmed, and found himself forced to squint as the brilliant orb expanded outwards across the starscape.

    His first instinct was to order his crew to brace for impact, but it quickly dawned on him that this wasn't an attack. The viewscreen was filled by a spinning disk of coruscating, flame-like energy, a gaping amber wound that spun before his eyes. He blinked, his vision easing now that the viewscreen was filtering the amber light. Whorls of bronze shadows and brilliant gold sunbursts fluctuated across the spinning disk in rippling patterns. It was, without a doubt, the most beautiful thing Lynathru had seen in his life-- aside, of course, from a Marauder barge's cargo hold packed to the gills with slaves and riches.

    It was Kovar who broke him out of his reverie with an unimpressed grunt. "What happened?" the surly old Klingon asked, "and what is that?"

    Ressic ran some commands over his console. "It appears to be a wormhole, Commander," the Lethean replied matter-of-factly, as though unexpected wormholes were an everyday occurence for him. "I am reading heavy amounts of verteron and tetryon particles, and--"

    "Never mind that!" Lynathru growled. He was in no mood for an astrophysics lesson right now. "Do you have any idea what caused it, and if it's a danger to the ship?"

    "I'm afraid I cannot determine an actual cause of origin until I have conducted some tests, Captain," Ressic replied calmly. "It may take me a few hours to determine the cause, and stability of this wormhole after I send some probes in. As to your second question--"

    Before Ressic could even finish, there were more beeps from more consoles. "Sensors are picking up some disortions within the wormhole," said Sadra, the ship's navigator. "I'm reading dense physical mass shifting within the hole..." The Orion female spun in her chair to face him, her eyes bright with alarm. "Something's coming through!"

    The news caused Lynathru to straighten up in his chair. "Engage cloak!" he ordered. He had no wish to be caught flat-footed by...whatever it was that lived on the other side of that wormhole.

    He soon had cause to be grateful from the cloak. As he watched, a shape emerged from the shimmering, amber depths of the wormhole. At first its shape was blurry and indistinct, but as Lynathru watched, it soon resolved itself as a long, trident-like shape, looking for all the world like a jagged claw reaching out of the wormhole. A shudden ran down Lynathru's spine as he saw blinking yellow lights set against a dull, earthy brown hull.

    The Orion's stomach twisted when he realized that there was none of the familiar glint of metal to that brown substance. It was organic flesh.

    "qa'meH quv," Kovar growled, disgust and horror evident in his voice. Lynathru knew, passingly, that the phrase meant "replacers of honour with dishonour," and knew that it referred to the shape-changers from beyond normal space. The parasites. The infiltrators. The world-destroyers. Undine.

    As Lynathru watched, the Undine bio-ship glided out of the open wormhole. Now that he could see it clearly, it looked like some twisted macrophage from a medical holovid, with smoothe, organic curves and bends and several elongated, claw-like fins jutting forward. From a distance, Lynathru could see the sickly, mottled pattern of its hull-flesh and the yellow, bioluminescent glow of...were they viewports? Energy banks? Some sort of natural skin-patterning? The more Lynathru looked at the looming bio-ship, the less he realized he wanted to know.

    "Have they spotted us?" he asked.

    Farra, the ship's main tactical officer, ran a quick diagnostic. "Negative, sir," the Klingon woman replied. "Our cloak is still holding. The Undine have not scanned in our direction as of yet."

    A rasping hiss came from Rresh, the hulking Gorn diagnostic engineer at the other end of the bridge. "Captain...its wounded," he said.

    The comment made Lynathru turn back to the drifting shape of the bio-ship. He had missed it at first against the bright backdrop of the wormhole, but at a second glance, Lynathru saw that Rresh was right. A long trail of yellow, plasma-like fluid...blood?...was drifting from the bio-ship's starboard flank. The trail came from a gaping, burnt rent in its hull flesh that was revealed as the Undine vessel did a slow turn.

    "Fascinating," Ressic mused. Lynathru didn't quite share the Lethean's opinion, feeling increasingly uneasy as he stared at the charred wound on the bio-ship. He had heard that Undine vessels were capable of regenerating damage, and yet this wound was still raw. What had been powerful enough to hurt the bio-ship in the first place?

    He didn't have to wait long for his answer. The navigational console beeped again. "I have more contacts, sir," Sadra said, "all emerging from the wormhole, bearing two-two-three, mark one-five-zero--"

    She was interrupted as a long, bloody streak of brilliant crimson stabbed out of the wormhole and washed, forcefully, against the bubble of the Undine ship's shields.

    A second later, a trio of angry red dots appeared against the swirling surface of the wormhole. In an instant, those dots enlarged into a trio of angular shapes that came racing out of he wormhole like a pack of hungry jackals, swooping down on the bioship in an intercept course. Two of the shapes were smaller, and darted ahead of the larger shape like hunting animals set loose. All three, though, were similar in design, with angular, fin-like hulls and jutting, spike-like protrusions. All of them had the rusted red hulls the colour of dried blood, and all three were propelled forwards by blazing gouts of red flame that twisted and curled behind their engines as though alive.

    Even as the newcomers set upon the Undine ship with stabbing pulses of red light, the bridge crew of the Notqa recognized them for the curse that they were.

    "Fek'Ihri," Kovar breathed. And this time, damn him, the old warrior actually did sound fearful.


    ******

    Rashan didn't need to look out a viewport to know that the time had come.

    The alarm klaxons rang throughout the ship in a grating buzz, letting the entire mixed-race crew know that they had to get to their battle stations. Rashan had wasted no time gettng to his-- the transfer conduit in Engineering responsible for powering most of the Notqa's's systems. Even without the ringing klaxons, though, Rashan felt the pressure buzzing in the back of his skull, and the familiar feel of fire tingling and gnawing at his bones.

    They were here. The Masters were here.

    Many weeks he had experienced the dreams, and heard the Masters' whispered commands. He had known, for a long time, what they expected of him, and recieved these commands gladly. It was the proper way of things, after all: everyone was the property of someone else, and it was the duty of the property to be loyal to the owner. Rashan had always known this, and it privately disgusted him that so many Orions in the KDF had cast off this tradition, especially Captain Lynathru.

    It thrilled him that he had been chosen as the property of such powerful, ephemeral beings as the masters, though at the same time it pained him deeply that he could not share this information with his brothers and sisters. They were already lost to him-- although they, too, believed strongly in the ownership traditions that were the pillar of Orion society, they served different owners. Twisted, hateful owners, the so-called "Good Masters" that were preached incessantly about back on Terjas Mor by the Massana Syndicate and their deluded ilk. Rashan knew that they were a lie. His own Masters had told him as much.

    He kept his head down as he headed to the console, even as the Bekks barked for everyone to man their posts. Most of his Orion comades, the ones who worshipped the 'Good Masters,' had been planning a takeover of the ship for months. It was all meant to coincide with a grand revolt on Terjas Mor that would depose the faithless pretender Di'an. Rashan knew that the Captain was not a believer, and that he would take action against these mutineers if he could. But Rashan knew the importance of subtetly, and knew that this own Masters' plans could not be endangered by informing Lynathru.

    As he took up his station, he glanced across the Engineering room. Jarron, the ringleader of the mutiny and the ship's most ardent believer in the Good Masters, was doubling over and clutching his stomach. It had been a regrettable, but simple matter, Rashan knew, to poison the mess-hall meals of his brothers and sisters in the supper hours. In the grand, afterlife halls of the True Masters, he knew, they would see the truth, and would understand and forgive him.

    He reached for his workman's belt, and noted with satisfaction that the hidden disruptor was still there. Soon...



    ******


    As Lynathru watched, the Fek'Ihri vessels raced out of the wormhole and set upon the Undine ship with fury, stabbing red beams and pulses hammering down against its shields. The bio-ship answered back with sickly beams of yellow, and one of the lighter Fek'Ihri ships seemed to tilt sideways as though slapped as one such beam impacted its shields. This did not break the Fek'Ihri pursuit in the slightest though, and all three ships began to circle their wounded prey, firing into it relentlessly.

    It was the most unlikely battle Lynathru had ever come across in his short KDF career. Both the Fek'Ihri and the Undine came from dimensions beyond this one, and their rare intrusions across the dimensional plane were usually times of great concern and danger for the Empire. Never once, however, had there been any indication that the two species had ever come into contact, let alone traded fire. Could the Fek'Ihri have been invading the Undine's home dimension, or the other way around? If so, then why was that conflict spilling over into this dimension?

    Lynathru's knuckles tightened as he gripped the armrest of his command chair. The furious battle dominated the screen as the Undine ship traded fire with its aggressors. Both the Undine and the Fek'Ihri were reviled enemies of the Klingon Empire-- it was the Undine's machinations that had triggered the Klingon-Gorn War and, arguably, the ongoing war with the Federation. The Fek'Ihri, meanwhile, a nightmarish alien race with a seeming desire to eradicate all Klingon life. Already, they had raided and ravaged the surface of Qo'noS itself, coming within a hair's breadth of having Chancellor Jm'pok for supper. Lynathru didn't believe in Sto'vo'kor, Gre'thor, or any of the other myths and legends that his Klingon overlords held so dear, but to the Klingons, the Fek'Ihri were more than simply alien invaders. They were monsters, demons from straight out of their legends and lore, an ancient enemy that had returned from whatever hell they had once been banished to.

    Not that Lynathru cared one way or the other: he knew that to intervene in this battle, with his small, outmatched Bird of Prey, would be suicide. But he felt the eyes of his crew on him, especially the Klingons. The hatred they felt towards the ships on the screen was an almost palpable thing.

    He knew he had two options at this point. He could let the Fek'Ihri and Undine battle it out, and then swoop in to finish off the weakened victor. Or, he could could maintain cloak and shadow this battle until the Notqa had an opportune moment to inform KDF command. Personally, Lynathru would have liked to simply turn this ship around and leave this scene, but to do so would mean losing face in front of his crew. Given how little respect he had to begin with, that would not be a wise or a safe idea.

    "Ressic, what is the status of the enemy vessels?" Lynathru asked. "Can you make any calculations on who will win this fight?" Even as Lynathru spoke, though, one Fek'Ihri beam cut past the bio-ship's shields and sliced deep into its hull-flesh, sending more globules of fluid floating out into space. He had a sick feeling of what Ressic's answer would be.

    "The Undine vessel appears to have taken severe epidermal damage," Ressic replied. "The Fek'Ihri ships, on the other hand, have sustained comparatively minimal damage. At this rate, the Undine ship will be destroyed in anywhere from two to five minutes."

    Kovar leaned forward in his own chair, glaring at the screen. It was clear that he wanted to engage and destroy both the Undine and Fek'Ihri vessels, but he hadn't lived to a ripe old age by being a reckless fool. That, in and of itself, was probably one of the few things Lynathru respected about the old warrior. "Helm," he ordered, "how far away are we from the rest of the battlegroup?"

    "Five light years, Commander," Sadra replied. "The closest Empire presence in the region is Kratek III, one light year away."

    A low growl came forth from Kovar's throat. "Kratek III," he said. "That's not even a military outpost. That's a colony...with five thousand Klingon souls." He turned to Lynathru. "Captain, whoever triumphs in this battle will be a direct threat to Kratek III. The Fek'Ihri, especially, would not waste an opportunity to murder citizens of the Empire."

    Lynathru's throat tightened. There was no way out of this now. He couldn't back away from this fight or even stay unengaged-- as Rovar said, if the Fek'Ihri won this battle, then they would go on to eradicate some five thousand Klingons. And if Lynathru allowed that to happen, then he could face mutiny, censure...or simply have Rovar tear his throat out then and there.

    He exhaled deeply. For what felt like the millionth time, he cursed fate for putting him in such impossible predicaments.

    "Then we'll deal with them here and now," he said firmly, trying to mask his unease with heroic bravado. "Sadra, go to full impulse and take us in for an attack run on the smaller Fek'Ihri vessels. Farra, power up cannons and arm torpedos. On my mark, disengage our cloak and unleash an overcharged cannon burst. Save the torpedos for when we disable shields."

    "Aye sir," Farra said with a grin, before eagerly tapping the tactical console. The rest of Lynathru's bridge officers set about to their own stations, immersing themselves in their own work. Lynathru had to hand it to them, at least, they were all good at masking their fear.


    *****

    The space battle raged at the edge of the wormhole, streaks of yellow and red crisscrossing as the Undine and Fek'Ihri traded fire. The bioship was leaking plasma-fluid quite heavily now, even as it lashed out left and right with its energy beams. The two smaller Fek'Ihri frigates engaged in evasive manouvers to avoid the withering beams, but their parent battle carrier, easily twice the size of the bioship, ignored the hits that pattered against its shields as it continued to spear away at its prey with raw antiproton beams.

    So intent were the Fek'Ihri on destroying the Undine ship, however, that they hadn't even bothered scanning the peripheral space. As such, the Notqa's sudden attack came as that much more of a surprise to them.

    Dropping out of cloak, the Notqa swooped in on the nearest enemy frigate, plasma disruptors blazing. The Fek'Ihri vessel realized it was under attack just as its aft shields gave out, and several emerald bolts ripped across its crimson hull, tearing open breaches and leaving burning red fires where they struck. The frigate tried to evade, but it was too late-- the Klingon Bird of Prey loosed a plasma torpedo just as it pulled up to avoid a collision. The Fek'Ihri frigate detonated in a bilious green ball of plasma fire, the winged shape of the Notqa riding the explosion as it flew past.

    "Enemy down!" Farra crowed from the tactical console, her grin tugging slightly at the patch that covered her right eye. The Klingon, Lynathru realized, was taking a special joy in the destruction of the Fek'Ihri. And he had to admit, watching that enemy ship shatter and detonate at his command made him feel the familiar rush of space combat.

    "Switch targets!" Lynathru ordered. "Focus fire on the next enemy frigate!"

    Veering sharply to the left, the Notqa narrowed in on the next Fek'Ihri frigate. By this point, the Fek'Ihri had realized they were under attack, and the other frigate was already turning to face them. Stabbing pulses of red antiproton lashed out, and the Bird of Prey shook violently as several of those bolts slammed against its shields. The Notqa was quick to answer with a cannonade of its own, its disruptors blazing in rapid fire as it stitched a line of hits across the frigate's shields, dropping them with several sustained hits. The enemy frigate, wary of sharing the fate of its twin, twisted sideways, just as the parent carrier began to split its fire, hammering an antiproton beam into the Notqa's unexpectingflank.

    Sparks erupted from consoles as the ship shook. "Starboard shields are down to seventy percent!" Rresh growled from his station.

    Lynathru bit back a curse. He had been hoping that the larger Fek'Ihri carrier would remain focused on the Undine. This battle would be a lot more difficult with the Kar'Fi's impressive firepower targetting them. "Sadra, evasive manouvers!" he ordered.

    With a sudden surge of speed, the Notqa spun left, avoiding another harrowing red beam from the enemy carrier. The nimble Bird of Prey darted and danced like a leaf in the breeze, evading the fire of both the carrier and the last frigate as the Fek'Ihri tried to eradicate the little Klingon ship.

    They had diverted their attention to the Notqa for only a few seconds. This was just long enough, however, for the Undine ship to turn around and bring its forward weapons to bear on the Fek'Ihri. Several amber beams speared into the Fek'Ihri carrier, bypassing its shields and tearing several long, burning gashes across its hull. Wounded, the Kar'Fi carrier turned, trying to about face now that the Undine ship had shown its teeth again, leaving the frigate to deal with the smaller annoyance that was the Bird of Prey.

    By this point, though, the Notqa had already swooped around to arrow in on the frigate's flank. Green flashes lit the starscape as its cannons hammered again into the Fek'Ihri vessel. The enemy ship's shields held for a short while before crumpling under the Notqa's onslaught. Even as the frigate tried to turn and bring its own cannon batteries to bear, the disruptors raked its hull, gutting its engine bays and opening its bridge section to the void.

    The Fek'Ihri vessel was already half-dead when the intense disruptor fire finally disintegrated it, turning it into a free-floating ball of hellish red flame. As the Notqa flew past the rapidly-exploding wreckage, Lynathru felt a chill run up his spine. He could have sworn he'd heard something wail as the ship exploded...

    "Got them! Farra crowed. "Enemy ship destroyed!"

    At that point, Lynathru realized he was smiling. For supposed monsters out of Klingon legend...these Fek'Ihri weren't so tough. "Sadra, turn us around for another attack run, this time on that carrier!" he ordered. "Farra, overcharge the cannons for another volley, and fire on my mark!"

    The Notqa swung around again, zooming upwards at the looming, monstrous shape of th Kar'Fi carrier. From what few tactical reports Lynathru had read on the Fek'Ihri, their carriers were heavily armed with power antiproton weapons, but they were also slow and ponderous, and lacked the heavy ablative armour of most equivalent KDF vessels. A few plasma torpedo hits to its aft engines, Lynathru knew, should be able to destroy if not cripple the spined leviathan.

    As the Notqa came flying up for its attack run, the carrier, noticing the incoming threat, did a slow turn to bring its weapons to bear, keeping some of its other arrays still diverted against the Undine. Red beams and pulsing cannon bursts lashed out as the heavy warship split its fire between the Bird of Prey and the bioship, illuminating the blackness of space with crimson luminescence. Satra was ready, however, and the Notqa darted and spun, evading the Fek'Ihri ship's attacks as it closed the distance.

    "We're in weapons range, Captain!" Farra announced, obviously eager to begin shooting again.

    "Fire," Lynathru commanded, anticipating the sight of the his ship's weapons unleashing a torrent of green energy at the looming carrier.

    The guns remained silent. There was no rapid-fire burst from the disruptor cannons, none of the viridian globes of plasma torpedos. Nothing.

    Lynathru was about to yell the order to fire again when he noticed the lights of the bridge suddenly flicker uneasily. There was a deep, dying hum as several consoles suddenly went out. His eyes widened when he realized that his ship was, somehow, malfuctioning.

    "What the hell is going on?" he demanded.

    "Sir, weapons are offline!" Rresh shouted. "As is our main deflector and battle cloak!"

    Lynathru whirled around to face the Gorn, though it was Kovar who answered for him. "What do you mean they're offline?" he spat. "We haven't taken any damage--"

    As though to correct him, the ship suddenly shook violently. Lynathru was nearly pitched off his feet as several consoles exploded, flinging badly-burned operators across the deck.

    "We just took a hit!" Farra reported. "Shields are down to fifty percent!"

    The ship shook again, and smoke and flame were suddenly billowing from the corner of the bridge. Snarling, Lynathru straightened up. "Somebody put that out!" he snapped, before tapping his wrist communicator. "Bridge to engineering, you had better have a good explanation!"

    He had been expecting Korvag, the ship's main warp core analyst, to answer. Instead, however, he heard the rough, growling voice of Janga, the head of the ship's Bekk.

    "Korvag is dead, captain," the Nausicaan said. "Many Orion Engineers are dead. One of them is still alive, and threatening to destroy the warp core. He wants to speak to you."

    The colour drained from Lynathru's face. A part of him wanted to make Janga repeat all of that. But another part of him knew that immediate action was needed, regardless of how absurd the situation sounded.

    Abruptly, he stood up from his command chair. "Kovar, you have the bridge!" he ordered. "Do whatever it takes to keep the ship alive!"

    The old Klingon nodded curtly. Lynathru could tell that Kovar had been itching for a chance to command the bridge for quite some time now. "What about you, Captain?"

    Lynathru was already heading to the turbolift. "I'm going to deal with our mutineer," he spat as he entered the cylinder.

    Kovar nodded again. "Try not to delay for too long," he grumbled, just before the turbolift doors hissed closed.



    ****


    The alarm klaxon continued to ring throughout the ship as halls as Lynathru made his way to Engineering. Along the way, he ran into more signs of damage-- collapsed bulkheads, ruined power grids, lingering fires and smoke. In some cases he ran into burned or injured crewmen...but what surprised him were the odd Orion crew members he found here and there, lying stone dead without any visible injury. He had run into Lenkra, the ship's surgeon, kneeling over one of the dead Orions on the way. It wasn't battle damage or injury that had killed these Orions, she had told him, but a severe neurotoxin. They had been poisoned.

    Normally, he would have wondered at this diagnosis, but he didn't have the luxury of time-- a fact that the shakes and rumbles of the ship kept reminding him of. As he reached Engineering, he found Janga and a squad of his Bekks gathered on the lower floor, waiting for him with disruptor rifles at ready. Engineering itself was a scene of bedlam: smoke and electricity crackled from consoles that had been shot, shattered and overloaded, and the main power distribution console flickered uselessly from what Lynathru guessed was some sort of sabatoge bug. Four seperate Orion crewmen lay slumped dead in various positions, as did Korvag, who was lying against the warp core with a disruptor hole burned into his chest.

    And there, standing on the walkway above the main floor, was an Orion crewman, wearing stained engineer's coveralls, smiling as he pointed a disruptor pistol at the immense, glowing red tube of the warp core.

    "Captain!" the Orion exclaimed, sounding genuinely cheerful. "I'm glad you're here!"

    Lynathru realized he recognized the man. Rashan was one of the more recent ex-Syndicate drafts to his crew, a low-value flunkie who had been released to the KDF by his matron as an alternative to lobotomization. Rashan had been a non-entity to Lynathru, a menial scrub who was simply there to do menial tasks in the Engineering section. Never once had Lynathru even suspected that Rashan had the competency or backbone to do something like this. And yet, here Rashan was, threatening his entire ship with destruction.

    Slowly, while the Bekks stood their guard, Lynathru ascended the stairway leading up to the gantry, glowering at the rebellious Orion all the while. "Rashan, are you out of your damned slave mind?" he growled. "Or have you missed the fact that we're currently in a battle? You have ten seconds to drop that pistol and explain yourself before I shove it up your unpleasantries!"

    Rashan, damn his eyes, kept smiling. It was a smile utterly devoid of malice, and that disturbed Lynathru all the more. "I apologize for the mess, Captain," he said, glancing at the bodies littering the Engineering room, "but those Orions whom I killed were going to betray you. You'll learn the depth of their disloyalty soon enough." He glanced back to his captain-- at this range, Lynathru could see that the disruptor pistol Rashan was holding had been set to its highest setting. High enough that it would overload and kill Rashan the moment he fired, but also powerful enough to pierce the shielding of the warp core. "But I just wanted to talk to you. There is much that my Masters want you to know."

    "Your Masters?" The statement made Lynathru pause. Could Rashan have been in the service of one of the matrons back in the Syndicate? Lynathru had made many powerful enemies before he had joined the KDF, and he wouldn't put it past one of them to plant an agent on his ship to kill him. He took another step up the stairway. By this point, his eyes were level with the other Orion. "Rashan, you are a crewman of this ship," he growled. "You live or die at my choosing. The only master you have is me, and right now, you are displeasing me immensely."

    Rashan kept smiling as he shook his head. "I'm sorry, Captain, but I've been claimed by much greater owners," he said. "They spoke to me in my dreams, and claimed me as their own. They are wise, powerful and magnificent, captain, and if you would but listen to their message, you would know that the only wise choice is to submit to their will. To submit, and be a slave. for they are wondrous, magnificent and generous."

    Lynathru felt a sinking feeling in his gut. At this point, he realized that Rashan was worse than merely disloyal. He was mad.

    He cautiously stepped up fully onto the gantry. "Put the disruptor down, Rashan," he said slowly. "That's an order." As he spoke, he did his best not to think of the few seconds of searing, burning death he would feel if Rashan shot the warp core.

    Rashan made no reply. He simply stood there, smiling his looney smile.

    And a second later, the screaming started.

    It came from out of nowhere, and nearly made Lynathru lose his balance and tumble off the gantry. A terrible, ghastly wail erupted from the furthest corner of the room, reverberating throughout Engineering and sending several chills down Lynathru's spine. He spun around in the direction of the noise, and soon wished that he hadn't.

    Several...shapes...were drifting through the walls and flooding into engineering. Shapes was the best word that could be used to describe them: long, whisper-thin arms the length of an Orion body, ending in multiple barbed, pointed digits, reached through the walls and tore into a bunch of surprise engineers. In the blink of an eye, they were dead, their blood splashing the walls. Even as the Bekks and remaining engineers spun around in alarm, more limbs reached through the hull, along with indistinct, shadowy bodies that hovered and billowed like smoke.

    Lynathru stared down, unable to believe or comprehend what he was seeing. The Bekks reacted, fuelled by a mixture of discipline and disbelieving panic, and fired their disruptors into the wraith-things as they flooded into the ship. It was like a scene out of the worst ghost stories brought to horrible reality, and for a brief moment, Lynathru felt rooted to the spot, unable to look away from the carnage below.

    That was, until Rashan gripped him tightly by the shoulder and pulled him around. Spinning to face the Orion, Lynathru flinched. Rashan was still smiling, but his eyes...his eyes were now glowing red embers that hissed out smoke and heat.

    "Lynathru Long-Forgotten," Rashan said in a deep, sibilant intonation that sounded like many voices speaking at once. "Son of a dead line...Lynathru the Betrayed..Lynathru the Disgraced...listen well, for your fate is known in the void."

    In spite of the horror and shock he was feeling right now, Lynathru somehow found his voice again. "What are you?" he was able to whisper. A small, irrational part of his mind already knew. Rashan was gone, and his mortal shell was now being worn like a cloak by one of the same ghost-things that was battle Janga and his Bekks down below.

    "Three great enemies you will face," the smiling thing wearing Rashan's face went on. ""Three foes who each carry a piece of you...defeating and destroying each of them shall make you more, and less. You shall rise to power while falling into endlessness. You shall be the greatest and the lowliest of your kind." The burning, pupil-less eyes seemed to bore into his soul. "Mark my words, Lynathru the Vengeful, Lynathru the Ascendant, for this is your destiny."

    For a moment, Lynathru was speechless. His mouth refused to move, and his voice shrank back into the recesses of his throat. All he could do was stare at those pitiless embers, which stared back, unblinking, from above a white, beatific smile.

    Then, all of a sudden, a part of Lynathru's brain screamed no, and his body moved of its own accord. His hands pulled his twin disruptor pistols free from their holsters and fired them both, at point-blank range, into the face of the Rashan-thing.

    There was a terrible, keening cry like that of a newborn babe, as well as the horrible stink of burnt flesh, as the Rashan-thing staggered back, dropping its disruptor pistol as it clutched its face. Smoke rose from between its fingers, and Lynathru knew that he had hurt it badly.

    "I have only one destiny," Lynathru growled at the shrieking thing, "and it will be written by me. Not by you, the Klingons, or anyone else. Take your prophecy and die."

    He fired again. This time, the emerald bolts of his disruptors bypassed flesh and bone alike, and obliterated Rashan's head like a ripe watermelon. The Orion's scorched, headless body went tumbling over the railing and plummeted to the engineering floor with a grisly crunch that could be heard even over the din of battle.

    Slowly, Lynathru looked over the railing at Rashan's headless corpse. A few seconds passed, and the mutilated body did not move. He let out a deep breath. Of course it wouldn't move, he realized. He had killed it. He had nothing to be afraid of.

    A deep, triumphant bellow caused Lynathru to whirl around. Janga was standing, despite several bloody slashes across his chest, and holding his disruptor rifle over his head while giving a victory yell. His Bekks were mirroring his action, despite the fact that half their number, and a good portion of the engineering staff, were now gory chunks of meat littering the engineering floor.

    Of the ghostly invaders, there was no sign.


    *****

    When Lynathru got back to the bridge, he saw that it was still a mess, with collapsed sections of ceiling, burnt out consoles and a few lingering fires here and there. Despite it all, his crew worked diligently at their stations, ignoring the ruin all around them. KDF discipline, Lynathru mused, seemed to be worth something after all.

    Kovar, sitting in the captain's chair, turned to give Lynathru an inquisitive glance. "What happened to the mutineer?" he asked.

    "I executed him," was all Lynathru managed to say as he strode onto the bridge. Wordlessly, Kovar moved back to his own chair as Lynathru sat down. After a few seconds, Lynathru took a deep breath, and regained his composure. "Status report?"

    "We were forced to fall back when they unleashed a flood of tortured souls against us," Kovar said gruffly. "A few got onto the ship, but we would have been overrun by the rest if the Undine hadn't destroyed the entire swarm with some sort of bio-plamsa torpedo."

    Lynathru, despite himself, stared at Kovar. "Tortured what?"

    "Tortured souls," Kovar replied with a frown, as though it were the most obvious answer in the world. "The honourless damned of Gre'thor."

    Ressic chose this moment to speak up. "The Fek'Ihri vessel unleashed a...very interesting flood of antiproton projectiles at us, Captain," the Lethean said smoothly. "They appeared to be self-propelled, were able to bypass our shields, and each had a distinctly humanoid appearance. More than a few got onto the ship-- I believe that three or four even found their way to engineering." He looked directly at Lynathru as he said this last part, and he could have sworn he had seen a sinister glint in the Lethean's red eyes.

    Kovar glared at Ressic, as though angry for the scientific explanation. "They were the honourless souls of Gre'thor, Lethean," he growled. "It is folly to treat them as any mere weapon."

    "Enough of that!" Lynathru interrupted, not wanting an argument now of all times. "What's the ship's status?"

    "Weapons are back online!" Farra reported. "We've escaped their weapons range for now, Captain, and are ready to make another attack run at your order."

    Well that was comforting, at least. Looking at the viewscreen, Lynathru saw the Fek'Ihri and Undine ships continuing their duel, beams crisscrossing back and forth. So far, the Undine had not fired on them, and, if what Kovar said was true, had even given them some assistance. Even so, Lynathru wasn't so naive as to assume the shape-changers were allies.

    "Alright then...take us in, Attack Pattern Alpha," he ordered.

    With a hum of its impulse engines, the Notqa zoomed back towards the Fek'Ihri ship, wings outspread in a swooping motion.

    Noticing the Klingon Bird of Prey, the Kar'Fi carrier once again unleashed harrowing antiproton beams against the Notqa, even as it split its fire between the Klingon and Undine vessels. Once again, however, Sadra's deft piloting skills were showcased as the Bird of Prey spun and darted, evading the Fek'Ihri's fire as it closed the distance.

    "We're in optimal range, Captain!" Farra reported.

    Lynathru had a sense of deja vu. "Fire," he ordered, hoping, against all hopes, that the weapons would work now that Rashan's sabotage had been dealt with.

    His hopes were rewarded as flashes of viridian energy filled the screen. The Notqa's disruptor cannons and turret blazed to life, unleashing a storm of rapid-firing bolts against the massive Fek'Ihri ship. The first few shots were easily absorbed by the Fek'Ihri's shields, but after a few seconds of sustained fire, the shields gave way, and the disruptor volley raked the carrier's hull, leaving small, fiery ruptures where they hit.

    Banking to the left, the Notqa swooped, avoiding a retaliatory burst of antiproton fire as it dove in along the carrier's flank, the hulls of the two ships almost touching. The Notqa raced along the Kar'Fi's side, blasting chunks out of the grotesque ship as it flew along the bigger ship's hull. As the Notqa flew past the Kar'Fi's stern, a trail of burning hull breaches was left along the enemy's flank, its hull ripped open and exposed to the void.

    The Kar'Fi had been wounded by the Notqa's attack run, but it still had teeth. More screeching antiproton fire lashed out at the Bird-of-Prey as it sought to punish the little ship that had hurt it. Sadra pulled the ship into a barrel roll, evading the red death of the Fek'Ihri weapons and wheeling the ship around for another pass. The Notqa's disruptors blazed to life again as the Bird of Prey dropped low, weaving between the massive spines of the Kar'Fi and shooting up into the enemy's underhull. Just before the Notqa flew clear, Farra fired a plasma torpedo up into the enemy's vulnerable underside. Rusted red hull plates were blasted asunder as the plasma torpedo detonated, gouging a massive blazing hull breach between the Fek'Ihri ship's spines as the Notqa flew clear.

    Even with Sadra's skillful evasion, however, the Notqa could not avoid the Fek'Ihri's return fire for long. One stabbing read beam struck the stern of the Bird-of-Prey, and the entire ship shook as the ship's frail shields went out completely. But even as the Fek'Ihri landed this hit, the Undine ship had turned, bringing its powerful fore weapons to bear against the ruined starboard flank of the Fe'Ihri ship.

    A sickly yellow beam shot from between the Undine ships's trident-like prongs, drilling deep into the Kar'Fi's unshielded flank and tearing deeply into the wound that had been created by the Notqa's first attack. The Fek'Ihri ship seemed to shudder, and, watching on the viewscreen, Lynathru imagined that the ship must be suffering massive internal damage and crew casualties by this point. Red fire and ozone leaked from the rents in the Kar'Fi's hull, and though it was still operational, it was clear that hulking Fek'Ihri ship had been crippled.

    The Kar'Fi only had a chance to fire one last, vindictive antiproton beam at the Undine ship before its foe loosed a radiant yellow orb in return. The bio-plasma torpedo buried itself deep in the Kar'Fi's ruptured hull, and in an instant, secondary explosions began to rip through the ship, sending gouts of flame bursting forcefully from within as though trying to escape the Kar'Fi's demise. A second later, the Fek'Ihri ship erupted in a tremendous ball of orange flame, sending charred bits of hull scything out in all directions.

    The shockwave hit the Notqa dead on, and Lynathru was almost thrown from his chair as the Bird of Prey was buffetted like a toy boat against the wind.

    "Damage report!" he called.

    "Minimal hull damage from the shockwave," Rresh reported, "though are hull is still under fifty percent from the battle. I will however, have our shields fully restored in twenty seconds or so, Captain."

    Lynathru said nothing further as he looked at the flaming cluster of debris that used to be the Fek'Ihri carrier. He couldn't explain why, but he felt a deep, vindictive satisfaction at the carrier's destruction. His mood was soured as he saw the shape of the Undine vessel past the blazing debris, and vividly remembered the impressive display of Undine firepower that had ended the Fek'Ihri in the first place.

    "Farra," he asked, "how many torpedoes do we have left?"

    "Twelve, sir," the Tactical Officer replied.

    Twelve. That would still be enough, Lynathru hoped, to deal with the Undine. He took a sideways glance at Kovar, and could instantly tell that the old Klingon felt as he did. The Undine might have aided them against the Fek'Ihri, but they were still Undine. To trust them was to ask for a knife in the back.

    "Sadra, take us around for another attack run," Lynathru ordered, "this time on the Undine ship. Let's see if we can finish what the Fek'Ihri TRIBBLE started."

    Sadra made no reply at first as she tapped at her console. Her eyes widened, though, as new information beeped into existence. "Captain," she said, "the Undine ship has changed its course. It's heading back to the wormhole!"

    The viewscreen shifted. As Lynathru watched, the Undine bio-ship, still leaking fluid from its many wounds, began to glide back towards the yawning chasm of the wormhole.

    "Shall we pursue, sir?" Sadra asked, voicing the question the entire bridge crew was no doubt wondering. It was plain to see that the Undine ship was close to death, but at this distance, it would probably get to the wormhole before the Notqa could get into weapons range. And Lynathru was not so bloodthirsty as to dive into a strange wormhole just to finish off a wounded enemy-- for all he knew, the hole could close permanently behind them, and he and his ship would be trapped in whatever strange dimension this battle had started in in the first place.

    "No," he breathed. "Let them go, Sadra."

    Kovar gave a displeased grunt next to him. Lynathru ignored the old Klingon as he watched the Undine ship drift back into the wormhole. Then, just as suddenly as it had arrived, the wormhole closed, vanishing entirely from sight and leaving only empty space in its wake.

    "I am not detecting any further verteron activity, Captain," Ressic said. "It appears that the wormhole has closed permanently."

    Lynathru took a deep breath. He felt tired. Tired, and disturbed-- as much as he didn't want to admit it, he still felt a little rattled by the things he had witnessed in Engineering. And as much as he wanted to forget them, the words of the demon-thing that had possessed Rashan still reverberated in his mind.

    "Farra, send a message to the battlegroup," he ordered. "Inform them of what has happened, and advise them of possible further Undine or Fek'Ihri incursions in this area. Rresh, I want Engineering thoroughly examined for any lingering signs of sabotage. In the meantime...Sadra, resume our previous course. We still have Federation ships to hunt."

    He stood up, and headed to the turbolift. "And if anyone needs me at all," he finished, "I will be in my quarters." He would need a lot of blood wine, he knew, before this day was over.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
  • wraithshadow13wraithshadow13 Member Posts: 1,534 Arc User
    edited June 2013
    Captain's Log: Stardate 88455.3


    Surprises.

    One of the less favorable perks of the job I suppose. This weeks surprise had popped up off starboard in the form of a wormhole and a rather large Tholian ship emerging from it. A Recluse carrier ready and prepared to attack. The Geist was just barely able to get shields up as fighters came screaming through the anomaly, tetryon beams blasting away. The shields were taking a beating but the antiproton turrets were able to warm up and pick off as many of them as possible as we took evasive maneuvers. Most of the weapons relays are sent to the forward arc so if we were going to have any chance against the Recluse we would need to get the guns aimed right at it, which was going to prove difficult as it began launching the next wave of fighters.

    As we came about the carrier moved fully out of the wormhole and we were able to see a small flank of fighters were using some kind of energy beams to hold the wormhole open. This attack had been deliberate and planned, normal Tholian attacks phase into other realities, the use of wormholes wasn't something they usually needed.

    "Hail them."

    "Captain?"

    "Do it."


    It didn't take long for the firing to stop before the next surprise came.

    "Well Hullo you Handsome Devil."

    Captain James Charles Donovan, grizzled and scarred with one eye missing. It would seem that even after all this time even the Tholians couldn't seem to solve his dilemma. I had to laugh a little at how stubborn I can really be at times.

    "How've you been Jimmy?"

    Even his voice seemed to be just as grizzled as his face now.

    "I've been better."

    "As have I Jimmy, as have I." He sighed before continuing. "Although I must admit, I have been making a little bit better for myself lately. I guess you can't really keep a good Donovan down... Or a bad on in this case. As you can see, I've even managed to get myself a brand new ship since the Spiders lost my last one."

    "What do you want Captain?" I asked coldly. I would have requested that he didn't call me Jimmy, but frankly he would have kept doing it anyway. It's a power thing for him, he likes to think of himself as the 'superior' Donovan, something I might be able to use against him later.

    "My dear friend... Last time you refused what was supposed to be my final request. In doing so you've managed to give me a new purpose in life... Making yours a living hell."

    "And how do you-"

    "I know you so well Captain, yet so very little. I know you as well as you know yourself, yet I know nothing about your life outside of our last chat, and to be honest I've realized that I just don't care anymore. As far as I'm concerned your life is just as empty as mine, which is why I've just decided to end it all. I've come to terms with the idea of killing myself, and luckily for me, I don't have to be that self to do it. Just so you know Jimmy, I plan to do it Myself, up close and in person.... Let's begin shall we?"

    With that he gestured to continue the attack. The smug TRIBBLE didn't even bother to close the channel, he just smiled away as the fighters began tearing down the shields. Another gesture and the Recluse itself began firing as well. The ship rocked as I ordered the channel closed and fire all weapons. For the time being, we had to divert power from weapons to shields so the forward cannons wouldn't be nearly as effective. He planned this well, using the Recluse and its fighters to keep the shields under pressure.

    Initially, we were able to hold off the fighters but Eventually the shields began to fail, transferring additional power did nothing, reversing shield polarity failed moments later. I ordered separation hoping that three ships would have better luck than just the one. Alpha and Beta segments kept pushing the assault on the carrier itself while Gamma section kept the fighters busy. The Recluse began firing at will allowing them to target them to attack all three segments, but each shot wasn't hitting it as hard. Another lucky break for us.

    We were the battle progressed slowly, but we were making a slow pull to victory. The other Donovan must have been picking up on this as well because soon he began launching fighters unmanned and computer controlled. They were all set on a collision course, undoubtedly filled with some explosive elements. All three ships were taking hits harder than they could take so I gave the order to concentrate all fire on the fighters as the carrier still hammered away.

    The shields were failing as the ships weaved in and out of the beams, each blasting away at the fighters when Alpha section was shaken by a dud, the fighter had just bounced off what was left of the shields. I though nothing of it, but then we were rocked by a second explosion. Our shields dropped completely as an armed team beamed aboard the bridge catching us completely off guard. There standing in front of me, was me, again with that broken but smug look on his face.

    A face I took great pleasure in punching as hard as I could.

    Well worth the the stock to my stomach.

    "I've waited a long time to see you again Jimmy, it's a shame that you didn't have this kind of fight last time. Although to be honest after spending that long being tortured at the hands of the Tholians, you might just end up looking like I do. No doubt you've noticed my voice? Permanently damaged. Not from the Tholians per say, but the screaming from the torture. Hours at a time, days on end. I do believe I died a few times, but those pesky spiders have their ways.... It makes what I did to you look like a slap on the wrist. Call back your ships Jimmy, or I'll kill everybody one by one."

    That angry smirk again, I had no choice but to agree, but Keating...OUR Keating looked furious, but he didn't understand this man. While the Federation prepares you for the possibility of dealing with the possible horrors a captain might face, it can't actually prepare a person for those terrible things face to face. The things the other Donovan is capable of are horrific and to that I've only seen a fraction. In this day and age, the things he was willing to do would change a person... It took a few weeks of dermal regeneration to remove the scars, months of counseling with E'Saul after that before I could even sleep a full night.

    Even I didn't know what he was fully capable of, only that he was indeed capable. It was at that point he paused. It took me a moment to realize why, but he had noticed Commander T'Pal and his smug expression changed suddenly to one of anger as he walked over and hit her with his phaser handle. As I began to move toward them I was gut checked by one of the away team, dropping me to my knees. Keating lunged at the guy letting into him as hard as he could. As Donovan turned he blasted Keating straight in the shoulder. He summoned two of his team to take T'Pal to my ready room before crossing the bridge, pistol whipping me to the floor as he passed. He kicked Keating square in the burnt shoulder causing him to fall back in pain.

    I struggled to get up as Donovan held down my tac officer with his boot on the wounded arm, without saying a word he began burning a hole through it. It must have been at the lowest setting because David wasn't being stunned or disintegrated, but he just lay there yelling as the phaser burned straight through, I could hear it searing into the floor. The young ensign at the con screamed, but the mirror Donovan stayed focused as one of his team, stunned the young man as he threw up from the smell of Keating's burning flesh. I began to blackout, all I could see was the inhuman expression on Donovan's face. As everything went dark around me, all I could think was that I couldn't protect my crew, I was helpless...

    When I came too, the ships were already reconnected and all of my senior staff were in the brig minus my first officer. E'Saul had been treating my wounds and took the time to fill in a few gaps for me. The secondary explosion had been the same tactic T'Pal used when I had been taken in our first encounter with our Mirror counterparts. Once the shields were down, they began beaming in and took the Alpha section in no time. Once the other two segments rejoined they took the whole ship. Engineering was the last section taken, Devon herself was in the next cell over with a few of the security staff. Before I could ask, E'Saul put her finger into the cut on my head, silencing me before tilting her head towards the guards.

    It seemed that we still had an ace in our sleeve, a certain undetectable crewman roaming the Jefferies. Nurse Fizi was still being held in sickbay treating crew that had been injured by Donovan's, as well as keeping an eye on David. She was also doing her best as a Betazoid to keep in touch with E'Saul as well as pass orders to Wraith as best she can. Even though the boy was technically Vulcan, E'Saul says most of his brain responsible for any telepathic abilities were rewired to make most of his physical augments work. Even though he wasn't able to use telepathy, she says all the parts were still there for Fizi to send him messages.

    If we were going to retake the ship, the first thing we needed was a distraction, and we had a little used ship system that would be perfect. E'Saul formed the mind meld and played telephone to get a plan and the authorization codes to Wraith. Within a few minutes the red alert was blaring and the guards rushed from the room, another minute and the Tholians were charging threw the halls. I guess from all the panic, no one realized they weren't wearing EV suits. Weapons materialized and the crew began taking back the ship, myself and the senior staff heading straight to the bridge where T'Pal was still being held. I ordered Edison to relieve Wraith at the computer core and monitor the ships photonic systems. As for the boy, I would need his help on the bridge.

    As we cleared our way to my ready room there was very little holding us back. It would seem most of the mirror crew were still traumatized, most of which ceased up at the sight of the Tholians attacking, but some of the more seasoned vets were a little tougher to take out. Mr. Sabin rewired the door as Wraith and I were ready to breach the room. As expected he was half crazed, the Tholians had shaken him up something fierce, but he was holding on to T'Pal who was in bad shape. There was something in his hand, some crude form of medical instrument like a syringe, that he was holding to her temple.

    I didn't know what to do, to be honest I was semi-frozen in fear, especially after what he had done to me. I was standing there, unable to move, unable to act or to save T'Pal, when that single, crazed, wild eye shifted passed me and all color left his face. Wraith had come in behind me, and in the instant of his distraction and my failure to act, in that single instant he ceased being 'The Boy' and became 'The Weapon'. Using that unnatural quickness of his, the other Donovan didn't have time to react, I didn't even realize what had happened before I heard the rasp yelling. Wraith had broken every bone in his hand well before the needle had been in freefall.

    A single twist and his arm was rendered broken and useless. What followed was a complete surgical breakdown of the human nervous system. Each strike swift and precise and he alternated breaking bone and impacting nerves, what little of his life was left, Wraith made sure it would be spent in agony. Again, there in his red on black eyes, I saw no trace of the shy crewman, nor any emotion other than cold calculating rage at what had been done to a member of his surrogate family. As Donovan dropped to the floor so did any sign of the monster inside Wraith as he was beside T'Pal with the same quickness. As he held her close, she began to break.

    That emotionless veil crumbled as she broke down and began crying, it was only logical for anyone who had been through this. Even I broke down on several occasions in my quarters after what that monster of a man did to me, T'Pal is stronger than I am and even then, my heart sank for her and I could do nothing more than hold them both and cry as well. None of us had noticed that the other Donovan, as broken and flooded with pain as we was, had managed to inject himself with whatever was in that needle. His struggling stopped, even the seizures he was having stopped. It must have triggered something on the Recluse as he dematerialized, transported most likely by the Mirror Keating.

    I told Wraith to get the Commander to sickbay as fast as he could while Sabin and I regained bridge control. Hitting red alert, I ordered battle stations and expected to be rocked by another series of explosions. Explosions that never came. The Geist was completely vulnerable, yet no attack was made. I began ordering status reports, but most of the primary systems were down due to the explosion of the shield generators. We were wide open and all that happened was the ship reversed course, not even bothering to turn, the Recluse began to back it's way through the wormhole that the fighters had managed to keep open this whole time. Back down the rabbit hole as it were.

    I was at a loss, even the stoic Mr. Sabin seemed to be perplexed by the entire events of the day. For the time being though we could only count this as a small victory. Emergency transwarp drive was activated and before long the ship managed to warp back to Earth SpaceDock. There were twenty wounded and ten crew killed in the ordeal, E'Saul and Mr. Sabin saw fit that Commander T'Pal be returned to Vulcan for treatments and rehabilitation as well as a long rest before I even begin to ask her if she's ready to return, not after everything that had happened to her.
  • zidanetribalzidanetribal Member Posts: 218 Arc User
    edited March 2016
    Literary Challenge #44: Down the Rabbit Hole

    LC44: Out of the Dragon's Den
    Captain's Log, Stardate 87174.98. Captain Jay Yim of the USS Khitomer has challenged me to tour the galaxy in an effort to foster a spirit of friendly competition between Starfleet officers with a hefty payoff for each sector visited. What he doesn't know is that Admiral Starfyre of the USS Fermion has given me a map for the quickest way around explored space, heh heh! The Lord English is about to reach Pelia Sector before transwarping back to Earth Spacedock.

    ===

    "After eons of slumber, we have reestablished our supremacy in this wide galaxy. This domain is your birthright, forged from our knowledge of the Underspace and the technologies we have aggregated for our own use. From the womb you have been crafted to become a withering Blight on our foes. Our soldiers have never failed to return victory since your creation! Now we face a threat to our existence on par with the ancient enemy which forced our species to rebuild from the ashes. Never forget the fires of the past, in which your forebears were snuffed out in a night of blazing heat! Remember the sacrifices made for you to live, and fight for the future of our species! The Vaadwaur lives which you shoulder as your burden will remember you even as you fade away into stardust."

    Stardust...

    Vaadwaur Junior Scout Lesa ruminated on the speech given by Director Gaul, the leader of the Vaadwaur, before this battle, even as another of her wingmen exploded into fine particles. She began to feel fear, in defiance of her strict mental conditioning. Could this enemy be one the Vaadwaur could not overcome? Lesa shook the idea from her head; defeatism was an enemy like any other, and the Vaadwaur has never lost to an enemy in the thirty-three years since they returned to power. This foe would fall like all aliens who crossed the Vaadwaur. Lesa began to settle her nerves by recounting a childhood story, The Victories of the Vaadwaur, even as she angled her assault fighter into another run on the enemy formation. As her flight leader said, "Victories are the best way to improve spirits."

    "Victory over extinction, the Overseers awake from stasis and claim a new homeworld," she sang to herself. "Victory of the people, the Overseers rescue survivors from the hands of the Turei to restart Vaadwaur civilization."

    The subspace cannons of the assault fighter violently ripped apart the enemy frigates, but Lesa couldn't rest easy, as other ships were menacing the ships of the servant species which protected the Vaadwaur attack group, and too many losses could incite panic and leave the Vaadwaur open to direct attack.

    "Victory of industry, Vaadwaur manufacturing output returns to pre-bombardment levels."

    Out of the corner of her eye, Lesa spots a small fighter angling towards her rear. A quick jink puts the fighter in her sights before a microtorpedo barrage obliterates it.

    "Victory of the new generation, the first post-bombardment Vaadwaur generation is born."

    A series of explosions off to her right catches her attention. The last of her wingmen were obliterated in a flash, and now this mysterious enemy was now angling towards the main Vaadwaur force. Lesa realized there was no room to escape, for unlike the Vaadwaur's other enemies, these foes existed in the Underspace, using it against them. The gruff voice of her flight leader Senior Officer Kurin broke in on the comm channel.

    "The attack has failed. Fall back to normal space and regroup. We cannot let the enemy take the Underspace to the homeworld."

    Chilling words, Lesa thought. No Vaadwaur has ever lost to an enemy since the Turei alliance destroyed the old homeworld. However, the low Vaadwaur population meant that any Vaadwaur death exposed the entire civilization to extermination again. Lesa prepared to make the reversion to normal space when she felt her ship pulled directly in front of an enemy battleship. A metallic X with glowing green growths had snared the young Junior Scout using a fold in the Underspace. With engines inoperative, Lesa could only watch as green crescents began impacting her ship.

    In a flash, another assault fighter launched a flurry of isolytic bursts on the enemy battleship, drawing its attention from Lesa's fighter. Senior Tech Officer Kurin began dropping all his ordinance in between the enemy and Lesa.

    "Junior Scout, your flight leader orders you to find any means to escape. Whatever my fate will be is insignificant. The future of the Vaadwaur depends on the youth. Now hurry! I won't be able to hold them off much longer."

    The Vaadwaur do not disobey orders, Lesa thought, even if they found reason to disobey. With her engines disabled, Lesa had only one option to escape. Activating a transwarp drive, she pointed her vessel towards open Underspace and let the Borg engine take her far from the battle. She continued recounting Vaadwaur victories until she blacked out.

    "Victory of conquest, the Vaadwaur reclaim the first planets held by foreign encroachers. Victory of hegemony, the first interstellar power is conquered by the Vaadwaur..."

    ---

    "We've crossed the border into Pelia, Admiral."

    Vice Admiral Remus Lee looked up from the sketchbook he was drawing in.

    "Has ESD noted our transition into Pelia?" he asked.
    "Jay Yim has received our coordinates and congratulates us for completing the course," his first officer Kay Taylor responded. "We're ready to return when you say so."
    "Let's away then," he replied. "We might still have enough time to run another circuit."

    Just then an alert sounded. Chief Sensors Officer Ten of Twenty-Five hailed the bridge from her station.

    "Admiral, a singularity is forming near our position!" she reported. "Something is coming out of it at high speeds!"

    A twin-hulled, three-engined vessel barreled out of a wormhole off of Lord English's starboard bow on collision course towards the vessel. Recognizing the danger through countless hours of training, the English's crew springs into action; a quick decompression of the main shuttlebay later and the English puts itself out of harm's way.

    "Did anyone get that?" Lee asked.
    "We've got a tractor beam lock on the object. It looks like a small, badly damaged warship," Chief of Operations Kovat Vystan replied. "Sensors indicate one lifesign. It appears to be dormant."
    "Strange wormhole ships never have good things for us," Lee mused. "Starfleet regulations do say we have to lend aid to those who need it though. Have the pilot taken to the sickbay on the Aquarius pod. If things go south, we can always chuck it."

    ---

    Lesa awoke to a quiet room. Her last memory was traveling at transwarp deep into the Underspace, leaving Senior Officer Kurin in the hand of the Underspace enemy.

    "Where am I?" she wondered. "Was I captured by the enemy?"

    She looked around and found a cabinet left slightly ajar; although it was small, she was genetically engineered to be pliant, and no enemy would expect an attack from such an unexpected vector. She quickly compacted herself to be ready to leap from the cabinet.

    "Grandfather, are you there? How is our new patient?" came a voice from the corridor. Commander Ten of Twenty-Five came in to the Jake English's sickbay looking for her grandfather, Chief Medical Officer Four of Thirteen. After looking around, she saw hide nor hair of anybody. Sensing something wrong, she began contacting her grandfather on her combadge.

    "Commander Four of Thirteen, please respond. The new patient seems to have gone missing."

    She scanned the room more thoroughly, looking for clues as to where their new patient went. As she checked under the biobed, her back turned to the cabinet Lesa was hiding in.

    "Now's my chance. I can take this crew member hostage and fight my way off this ship!" she thought to herself as she leapt out of the cabinet at Ten.

    In a matter of seconds, the confrontation was over with a female body splayed on the biobed. Commander Ten of Twenty-Five was saved by her Borg reflexes, an idea she didn't relish much, although she was thankful for it.

    "Cancel that alert, Grandfather, I found her," she replied. Turning to Lesa, she began an informal interrogation.
    "Why did you attack me?" she asked, as security personnel poured into the room.

    Lesa was surprised to hear the Borg drone speaking Vaadwaur, but replied nonetheless.

    "Enemies of the Vaadwaur deserve no mercy, and you have committed the affront of capturing one," she replied.
    "I did not know that we had captured you; only that your ship nearly crashed into ours," Ten stated.
    "If your ship was in the way, you should have done more to catch it. Now unhand me at once, else the Blight of the Vaadwaur come to take you apart for your Borg parts, drone," she snapped.

    Ten curdled at the patient's remark.

    "Listen, miss Vaadwaur, I don't know what how your species teaches children, but I don't think any Vaadwaur disease is going to help you out. From what I've learned, the Vaadwaur were last seen by USS Voyager 25,470 light years away," she retorted.

    Lesa was taken aback. Where did that transwarp jump in Underspace take her?

    "I refuse to believe you. This could be a plot by your masters to cause me to divulge the location of the homeworld. Are you part of the Voyagers who tried to stop the Vaadwaur from returning by killing the Overseers?"

    Ten bristled at this remark.

    "Now I know that your instructors haven't taught you manners. If you want proof you're not in Vaadwaur anymore, look out the window!" she sneered as she retracted the blast cover on the sickbay's skylight. Lesa stared at the ceiling, at awe by the sight.

    The gleaming edifice of Earth Spacedock shone in Sol's rays, as countless ships of all kinds warped in to dock. Below, Earth glittered as countless lights twinkled on and off, more lights than Lesa had ever seen allowed on a planet. Truly, this was far from the war-ravaged lands of the Vaadwaur.

    ---

    Back on the bridge, Vice Admiral Lee began sketching in his sketchbook again. A stray thought crossed his mind.

    "Now that I think about it, was it a good idea to return to Earth with a potentially hostile being?"

    He drove the thought from his mind. He got the prize from Captain Yim for completing the Galaxy Tour, so whatever.

    TO BE CONTINUED...
    Post edited by zidanetribal on
  • pwebranflakespwebranflakes Member Posts: 7,741
    edited June 2013
    Awesome entries this round, Captains! I think you all took the little bit of backstory I provided and really ran with it. Nice work :)

    I am going to unstick this as I prepare to post #45, but please feel free to still contribute if you have not done so yet!

    Cheers,

    Brandon =/\=
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