- Text Size +

Main Bridge, USS Gibraltar
In orbit of Pierosh II

“Status?” The query was meant for both Ashok and Plazzi, and as usual the Science officer was first to respond.

“Our beam is intersecting some kind of structure, sir. Size and composition are identical to the object that appeared in Sickbay.”

Ashok chimed in reticently, “I’m reading a positive energy tap from the object, Commander. Seventeen megawatts per minute and climbing.”

She turned to the petty officer manning Tactical. “How are the shields ho—“

A gravitic shear struck Gibraltar with sufficient force to overwhelm the inertial dampeners. Those crew not fastened to their seats were sent sprawling across the bridge with a chorus of yelps.

The NCO at Tactical pulled herself slowly back to her feet as she rubbed her jaw with one hand. She grimaced in pain and noted, “Shields now at thirty-two percent, sir.”

Thankful for the command chair’s safety harness, Ramirez glanced back at Ashok. “Route the power from the energy siphon and all auxiliary power to shields and the structural integrity grid, Lieutenant.”

“Aye, sir.”

The Tactical specialist’s voice raised an octave in alarm, “Unknown energy source has just appeared four-hundred kilometers off the port quarter…” The woman struggled to keep up as data rushed across her display, “…it’s on a direct intercept course… impact in…” She gasped, “It’s penetrated our shields!”

Ramirez braced herself for a collision but after a few seconds it became obvious that none was forthcoming. She activated the public address to announce, "All hands, this is the XO. Be prepared for an intruder alert…” she paused, frowned, and added, “That is, make ready for intruders other than the one currently on Deck 5.”

She caught a glimpse of Plazzi smirking at her from the Science station but pretended not to notice. An instant later, the bridge was bathed in an ethereal orange light as a bright sphere of energy passed up through the floor from the deck below and hovered just in front of the main viewer.

The exec released her safety restraints and rose from the command chair as she called out to the Science officer, “Elisto?”

“It reads as identical to the ones our away team encountered on the planet’s surface,” Plazzi said while he shielded his eyes from the orb’s brilliant glare.

Suddenly self-conscious, Ramirez raised her voice to open with, “I’m Commander Liana Ramirez of the Federation starship Gibraltar, representing the United Federation of Planets.”

{*We are Sentinel, guardians of the prisoner’s captivity.*} The words reverberated in the heads of everyone on the bridge. Ramirez caught some of the other crew flinching reflexively from the perceived volume, despite the fact that the message had completely circumvented their auditory nerves. {*We know of you and your people through the one called Saihra Dunleavy. It is imperative that you cease your efforts to neutralize the Betrayer’s vehicle. It is his craft that maintains the portal leading to the creature’s prison realm.*}

“Disengage the siphon beam,” she ordered without hesitation. Ramirez then asked hopefully, “What would you have us do?”

{*We have harried the creature, increasing its confusion. Now we must drive it towards the rift on the surface. To do this, you must generate a static warp shell as the Betrayer instructed. The creature has been programmed to be attracted to a subspace harmonic pattern at that wavelength. You must draw the creature back down into the gravity well of the planet. There we may be able to use our combined energies to force it back through the portal.*}

Ramirez frowned at that idea. “How close to the surface?”

{*The closer its physical proximity to the portal, the weaker it will grow. It will need to come within twenty kilometers of the surface. Outside of that range, the creature will be able to resist our efforts.*}

She cast a glance back at Ashok as Ramirez solicited, “Is that feasible?”

The lieutenant stood, the scowl on his face more pronounced than usual. “I’d recommend against it, Commander. 23rd century starship designs aren’t anywhere near as forgiving of atmospheric flight as more recent models. Our structural integrity grid wasn’t intended to cope with planetary gravity and atmospheric friction.”

Ramirez’s piercing eyes bore into the engineer. “I said feasible, Lieutenant, not preferable.”

Ashok inclined his head to concede the point. “It is feasible, sir, with a high probability of catastrophic failure.”

She smirked ironically. “I’m surrounded by the Optimists’ Society.” Ramirez stepped back and resumed her seat in the command chair. She took in a deep breath and steeled herself for the task ahead. “Lieutenant Ashok, initiate the static warp shell.” She met the eager gaze of their daring helmsman and put their lives in the young man’s hands with the words, “Mister Lightner… take us down.”

*****

“Fools!” the Baron rasped. “You’ve doomed us all. Once your ship has drained my reserves, the portal will collapse, freeing the beast.”

Kutav looked askance at the older man as he attempted to assist Sandhurst, “Aren’t you dead yet?” He then glared at Mutwen, “Finish him.”

Mutwen obeyed wordlessly. He stooped over the Baron and deftly ended the man’s life with swift, sure strokes of his blade. To his credit, the Baron met his end with more dignity than Kutav would have liked. The old man locked eyes with the Chameloid as the shape-shifter cut his throat.

His attention now back on Sandhurst, the ahmet inquired, “What is it you’re trying to do?”

“Contact my… ship… for starters.” The captain experienced a rasping coughing fit that soon passed. “Then put this… craft back aboard Gibraltar.”

Kutav weighed his options and found the captain’s proposed course most sensible. Certainly neither he nor Mutwen possessed the know how to pilot the timeship anywhere. Acting as the ailing Sandhurst’s hands, the Orion set to work.

*****

Deck 5, USS Gibraltar

Their phasers pulsed and whined in a symphony of energetic violence as they laid down a dizzying field of fire that the tactical android Parlan shouldered through with steely determination. The intruder had already fought his way free from the cargo bay. His shields had apparently been significantly reinforced since his foray into Gibraltar’s Sickbay.

Lar’ragos had exercised a fighting retreat down the long curving corridor which had left the hallway behind them pitted and smoldering from near-misses and blasts refracted from Parlan’s personal forcefield. The portable shield generators and duranium blast barriers now lay broken and scattered in the wake of the colossus’ advance.

The giant had weathered their assault and had replied in turn. He had launched blast after blast of energy from his outstretched hands that had collapsed one defensive containment field after another. Fortunately, no one among the ad-hoc security team had as yet been injured, but unless they could find a way to destroy or contain the massive humanoid, casualties were a certainty.

Ensign Diamato thumbed the initiator button on a photon grenade and lobbed it down the corridor where it detonated noisily at Parlan’s feet. This sent the android reeling as the deck plating beneath him exploded impressively. The junior officer ducked as debris and shrapnel skittered down the hallway towards them. He glanced at Lar’ragos and asked, "What do you think his game plan is, Lieutenant?”

Lar’ragos shouldered his rifle to send a volley of phaser energy at Parlan as the neigh unstoppable giant clambered back to his feet. “He’s heading for turboshaft two. If he gets in there it’ll be nearly impossible to stop him.”

Diamato ducked again as Parlan’s answering bolt struck a nearby doorway. The blast blew the sliders off their tracks and sent them spinning into the cabin beyond. Lar’ragos gestured vigorously for the security team to fall back even further, past the turbolift alcove. He hoped to regroup the scattered members and focus their combined fire on the android.

As his enemy retreated, Parlan opened his mouth wide. It would have been a humorous looking gesture, if not for the shrill ultra-sonic scream he emitted. It was so overpowering that it brought the security team’s hands reflexively to their ears. Phaser pistols and rifles clattered uselessly to the deck.

Lar’ragos staggered and fell against the corridor wall as he pressed his hands to his ears, screaming soundlessly against the mega-decibel assault.

The massive automaton disappeared into the alcove and the turbolift doors closed behind him to blessedly cut off the piercing scream that had incapacitated the ship’s defenders. Lar'ragos fumbled for his compin as his slid down the wall to the floor. His words were inaudible to his own traumatized ears, “Bridge, we’ve lost containment! He’s in turboshaft two, destination unknown!”

*****

With Kutav’s help, Sandhurst moved around the control table to pull levers, push buttons, and toggle switches on the ridiculously antiquated looking apparatus. Mutwen, who had apparently been impersonating the Baron’s companion long enough to have learned a few things about the vessel’s functions, moved with them and pointed out various controls and their purposes.

Without warning, an orange glow erupted from the other side of the dais, accompanied by a sound reminiscent of a strong wind blowing through foliage. The ahmet’s eyes narrowed in frustration. “Profit and loss, what now?” He motioned brusquely for Mutwen to investigate.

The Chameloid shuffled around the dais. He frowned with the smaller Parlan’s face as he remarked, “The Baron’s body is on fire.”

Kutav grumbled with annoyance and he apologized as he set Sandhurst against the base of one of the spiraling support beams that ringed the dais. “One moment, Captain.” He rounded the control station, a perplexed expression on his features as he observed gouts of radiant energy roaring from the Baron’s collar, sleeves, and pant legs.

Mutwen cast an inquisitive stare at the Orion prince. “Perhaps his species self-immolates at death?”

“Perhaps.” The ahmet’s finely honed sense of self preservation began to send warning signals, and he felt the hair on the back of his neck start to rise. “I prefer to take no chances, however. When whatever this is finishes, dispose of what remains of the body.”

Mutwen nodded mutely and drew his knife from within the late android’s 19th century Terran business suit. As he waited for the strange phenomenon to conclude, he reflected on how surprisingly simple it had proved to follow the smaller Parlan back to his recharging station. Mutwen’s good fortune had continued when the shape-shifter discovered that the android’s formidable defenses went offline with the rest of him when coupled to the Baron’s craft for replenishment.

As suddenly as it had begun, the fiery emanation ceased. Mutwen stepped forward and raised the knife, but hesitated fractionally as he realized he was looking at a completely different person. He had expected a charred husk of a body, he found instead a young man in the Baron’s place. His indecision stemmed from the strong Chameloid taboo against harming others of his kind, a cultural trait they apparently shared with their morphogenic cousins in the Gamma Quadrant.

The rejuvenated Baron, however, suffered no such uncertainty. He raised the crystal he still clutched in his hand and sent a pulse of reddish energy surging into Mutwen that uncoiled his attacker's molecular structure with torturous sluggishness. The Chameloid screeched in agony and lurched backwards as his body was literally turned inside out and disassembled at the atomic level.

Having watched his loyal friend and servant annihilated, Kutav rushed forward and bellowed furiously as he kicked the crystal out of the Baron’s hand. The device clattered across the floor into the dark recesses of the control chamber.

The Baron reacted with surprising speed. He grasped Kutav's extended food and wrenched it to pull the larger man off balance. The ahmet collapsed on top of the Baron, and the two men struggled feverishly as Sandhurst looked on, unable to do anything but watch.

*****

Ramirez gripped the armrests of the command chair as the starship groaned and juddered around her. They plunged into the habitable envelope around Pierosh II, the starship’s shields glowing brightly as they absorbed the incredible heat generated by atmospheric entry.

The alien sphere had vanished as they’d begun their descent, presumably returning to the fight against the Baron’s creature. She desperately hoped the strange alien representatives knew what they were doing. Gibraltar had no means of detecting the entity, no way to confirm that it was following them down into the barren world’s gravity well. Hell of a thing to take on faith, she thought forebodingly.

Flashing red warning alerts began to appear on Ashok’s board with greater frequency as the stresses on Gibraltar’s spaceframe increased. The Bolian called out, his voice distorted from the vibrations that jostled him in his chair. “Structural integrity field running at one-hundred and twelve percent of nominal output. Shearing stress reaching design tolerances.”

“And the warp shell?” she asked.

“Holding,” Ashok replied tersely.

“Transitioning into the mesosphere, Commander… eighty kilometers from the surface,” Plazzi updated.

“Ensign, how’s she handling?”

Lightner’s hands were steady on his console as he made minute course adjustments to their descent. “She’s answering a bit sluggishly, sir, but that’s to be expected.”

Ramirez forced herself to relax her hands, “Nothing you can’t handle?”

The ensign smiled, the gesture going unseen by the XO. “I’m on it, sir.”

She turned her attention behind her to the Security/Tactical station. "Status of the intruder?" Ramirez inquired of the duty NCO.

“We’ve stopped the turbolift car the intruder entered and redirected it to the security team’s location, but it was empty. He apparently blasted his way through the car’s ceiling. We’re still unable to pinpoint his location, sir.”

As she gritted her teeth in frustration, Ramirez asked, “And our attempts to get a transporter lock?”

The petty officer shook her head as she braced herself against her trembling console. “All attempts to lock onto the intruder have failed. His personal defense field prevents an accurate lock, and our tries at area-effect transports were ineffective. The beam just couldn’t get a hold of him.”

Ramirez nodded curtly, the movement lost in the ship’s buffeting. She directed her gaze back to the viewer and struggled with her own impatience as they plunged into the stratosphere.

*****

Lar’ragos, Shanthi, and Dunleavy checked their weapons as they ascended in the turbolift car. The security team had been forced to disperse throughout the ship in order to cover the vessel’s most vulnerable areas. As Lar’ragos and the others headed for the bridge, he lamented this turn of events. If the entire force in concert had been overcome by Parlan, what chance did a three or four person team have against the behemoth?

All three of them were still effectively deaf as their ears continued to ring in the aftermath of Parlan’s auditory attack. What little communication went on between them was conveyed in simple tactical gestures. As Lar’ragos attempted to communicate his plan for them to secure the bridge, the lift car jolted violently and threw its occupants to the floor in a tangle of limbs.

When Lar’ragos’ head stopped spinning, he looked to his companions. The young Science officer and the Security specialist were both alive but unconscious, their pulses strong. He glanced up to see the entire roof of the car crumpled inward, the surviving illumination in the lift car flickered dimly as guttering sparks rained down from the shattered lighting matrix overhead.

He tapped his compin to make a brief report to the bridge which he was unable to tell had been received or not. Lar’ragos groped in the twilight for his phaser rifle and finally found it wedged beneath Shanthi’s insensate form. He pulled it free and set the weapon to maximum, then vaporized a hole through the collapsed ceiling. Lar'ragos slung the rifle over his back and wriggled awkwardly through the opening.

As he stood atop the shattered lift car and gazed upward, Lar’ragos discovered the source of their accident. Approximately fifteen meters above him in the turboshaft, Parlan climbed the emergency egress ladder. The turbolift car had collided with the giant and his personal shield. His features contorted in a feral grin, Lar’ragos retrieved his rifle and took aim.

*****

Ahmet Kutav and the Baron thrashed wildly about the control center, both men locked in a life or death struggle that Sandhurst observed with a detached calm the he couldn’t explain. The captain felt the artificial energy and numbness from Kutav’s injections begin to wane, and realized that if he were going to be able to do anything helpful, it must happen soon.

He flopped onto his side and began to pull himself across the floor towards the base of the control dais. His breath roared in his ears and his vision grew dim with the effort, but after a few moments he reached his goal. The access panel at the base of the device came loose with surprising ease, and Sandhurst thanked every deity he could think of that he’d not been forced to fight with the thing.

Beneath it were the internal components of the command console. Sandhurst stifled a groan as he realized that the mechanisms and circuitry he was looking at were unlike anything in his experience. He had always harbored a fascination with alien engineering, the more exotic the better. Over the years he had become something of an expert in bio-mechanical devices, as he’d had the opportunity to study a few examples of such highly foreign technology in his career. But all this was something new.

Without a tricorder or a schematic to guide him, Sandhurst reached into the mass of wires, tubules, circuitry and lights and set to work.

*****

“Nineteen kilometers from the surface and holding, sir.” Lightner’s announcement prompted Ramirez to glance back at Ashok. It seemed as if the engineer’s console was nothing but flashing crimson.

“Structural integrity has degraded to seventy-three percent, Commander. I’m reading stress related microfractures in both nacelle support pylons, and shield generators four and seven are exceeding thermal tolerances.” The lieutenant noted this stoically, as if he’d already made peace with the fact that this incursion was doomed to end badly.

Ramirez sat as far forward as the command chair’s restraint harness would allow, “Hold position here, Ensign.” Without looking behind her again, she addressed Ashok. “How long can we stay here, Lieutenant?”

He replied in a listless tone, “Five minutes, sir. Perhaps less.”

Plazzi pulled his eyes away from his Science display to fix a concerned look on the XO. “Now what, Commander?”

She would have shrugged, but her safety restraints wouldn’t allow it. “I really have no—“

A massive cone of golden energy projected from the surface flashed upward to engulf the starship. At the same instant, the doors leading to turboshaft two exploded inward and sent smoking shards of debris scything through the bridge. Ramirez gasped in pain as something hot sliced into her shoulder, and she looked to see a piece of superheated tritanium embedded in her flesh. Her eyes moved up to the smoldering doorway leading to the empty turboshaft, just in time to see a large hand gain purchase on the deck.

“Intruder alert,” she cried. “Security response to main bridge!”

*****



You must login (register) to review.