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Two of Gibraltar’s four torpedoes had struck Sethret amidships, which caused serious hull buckling despite the craft’s sturdy shields.  Their own isolytic detonation finished the job as it crashed through their weakened deflectors and fried every multitronic component in the ship.  The once graceful Orion blockade runner now drifted, defenseless, a victim of her own intrigues.

Ahmet Kutav sat helpless as he watched Vanei writhe spasmodically in his seat.  It was not mere discomfort this time, but an exposed EPS relay in his console that caused the man’s charring corpse to thrash wildly.

He had inexplicably thrown caution to the wind, endangering and ultimately dooming his ship and crew, and for the life of him Kutav could not say why.  The ahmet fumbled for the key dangling from the chain around his neck and forced it into the locking mechanism on his chair’s armrest.  His shaking hand strained to turn the key as he opened a small compartment housing a single green button.  I have failed my family, my crew, and the Syndicate, he reflected bitterly.  At the very least I can die like an Orion.  Kutav pressed the button that activated the explosive charges set at critical junctures throughout the ship.  His last thought was of his younger cousin, who would never know the joys and privileges of his own command.  Apologies, Vanei...


If it could have, it would have screamed.  It had grossly misjudged its ability to control the corporeals in this place.  After it had provoked them into attacking the other vessel, they had launched some manner of weapon whose detonation had caused the rift back to its place of imprisonment to fluctuate.  Despite lacking any physical substance, it was not immune to pain, and this disturbance wracked the creature with an agony that made its eons of confinement pale in comparison.

Weakened and hurt, it recoiled back into the planet’s gravity well.  There it would lick its proverbial wounds until its strength returned.  It reasoned that it must find a way to break itself free from this place.  If not, it would be forever chained to this world, subject to the torture of being able to see its prey passing almost within reach, but forever prevented from feeding.


The din grew louder until it intruded upon his peaceful solitude and became so distracting that he was forced to open his eyes.  Blood red emergency lighting greeted Sandhurst’s swimming vision.  Voices had awakened him, along with the sounds of computer systems restarting.  He saw Ramirez as she moved purposefully from station to station on the intact bridge, rousing those crew still incapacitated by the shockwave.

Sandhurst cleared his throat, and then croaked, “Report… Commander.”

Ramirez leaned across the Ops board to toggle a control as she gently shook Ensign Browder awake with her other hand.  “Trying to determine our status, Captain. We’re obviously still here, so I’m taking that as a positive sign.”  She moved to the upper level of the bridge and eased past the duty engineer’s still unconscious form to check the ship’s status.  “Looks like the computer core shut down automatically to prevent a complete systems collapse, sir.  It’s rebooting now, and main systems are coming back online in sequence.”

Sandhurst rubbed his face dazedly.  He felt as though he’d just awakened from a long slumber.  “Any idea what that was, or how long we’ve been out?”

From the Science station, Plazzi answered.  He sounded as groggy as Sandhurst.  “Backup power remained on through the core shutdown, Captain, so the chronometers kept running.  It’s been less than a minute since the detonation.  As for what exactly hit us… I’ll have to review the sensor logs.  Give me a few minutes.”  The older man looked haggard, but turned to his console and set to work.

Sandhurst did a full rotation in his chair to assess the condition of the bridge and crew.  He saw Ramirez kneeling next to where Lar’ragos lay sprawled at the base of the Tactical console.  Ramirez shook the El Aurian gently, but he did not respond.  She detected a strong pulse in his carotid artery and met the captain’s expectant stare evenly.  “He’s fine sir, just out.”  She tapped her compin with her other hand to order a medical team to the bridge.

Her triage complete, Ramirez stood and manned the Tactical console.  She addressed the captain in a murmur quiet enough that only Sandhurst could hear, “I would remind you that the ship that attacked us is still out there, and we’re both blind and defenseless at the moment.”

Sandhurst directed a patient smile at his exec.  “I haven’t forgotten.  One thing at a time, Commander.”  He turned back to face the viewscreen as he ordered, “Get me a position fix on the threat vessel as soon as sensors come back online.  Tactical, status of shields and weapons?”

The XO replied from behind him, “Shields are still up, holding at sixteen percent.  Weapons systems and targeting sensors still offline.”

Sandhurst resisted the urge to call down to Engineering.  Doubtless, Ashok was working feverishly to restore primary systems, and having the captain nipping at his heels wouldn’t make his job any easier.

The wait for sensor capacity to be restored was agonizing.  The captain sat quietly and tried not to fidget.  He imagined that any second their opponent could deliver the killing strike.  Now I understand the reasoning behind all the simulator time at Command School, he thought.  Staying calm during an exercise is one thing, but no matter how ‘real’ your instructors make the scenarios, you’re always aware that you aren’t in any actual danger.  They wanted me to be ready for this moment, where I have to sit here, otherwise useless, and still be the steady pillar of leadership for my crew.  Sandhurst actually shook his head and smirked at the thought, which drew a curious look from Ramirez who had resumed her station in the well.

Finally, the chief petty officer at Engineering breathed a sigh of relief.  “We have partial sensors, Captain.”

As he craned his head around to look behind him, Sandhurst inquired, “Tactical?”

Ensign Qawasimi had taken Lar’ragos’ place at the Tactical station, while the lieutenant lay off to one side being examined by a medical technician.  Qawasimi checked his board.  “Sir, I’m reading a debris field, approximately eight hundred-thousand kilometers from our position.  Mass and constituents would appear consistent with the Orion vessel.”

The tightness in Sandhurst’s gut seemed to ease just a fraction at that news.  “Status of the runabout?”

“Unchanged, sir.  It appears to have been outside the range of the shockwave.”

Sandhurst swiveled in his chair to face the Science officer.  In response to the captain’s gaze, Plazzi announced, “I believe I have some answers for you, sir.”  Plazzi was beginning to look a bit better and the color had returned to his features.  “I’m seeing residual byproducts of a localized subspace disturbance, Captain.”  He drew his bearded face away from his display, his expression troubled.  “I think they fired a subspace charge at us.”

“Then how are we still here?” Sandhurst tried to calculate the potential destructive force unleashed by such a hellish weapon.

“It appears to have been a relatively low yield weapon, sir.  The rift it created lasted only a fraction of a second before it collapsed.”  Plazzi called up some data on another display while he nodded distractedly to himself.  “That might also explain why we blacked out, sir.  Subspace disturbances have been known to interfere with the neural pathways of carbon-based lifeforms.”

“What would have been the result if the weapon had struck us directly?”

Plazzi replied dourly, “We’d have been completely annihilated, sir.”

The captain nodded somberly and intoned, “Very well.”  Sandhurst turned to Ramirez.  “Exec, take a rescue team by shuttle to Brahmaputra and recover the runabout’s crew.  We’ll hold position, effect repairs, and screen you from any additional insurgent attacks.”

“Aye.”  Ramirez stood from her station and gave Sandhurst a curious look.  “So, you’re sure this is another insurgent operation, Captain?”

“No, but that’s the assumption I’m working under for the time being.  It certainly looks like the mysterious energy emissions and the attack on the runabout were meant to lure us into an ambush.”  He gestured to Browder at Ops.  “Hail DS9 and update them on our status, then contact Trafalgar and warn them the convoy could be facing an imminent attack as well.”

“Aye, sir.”

As she moved for the turbolift, Ramirez tapped her compin, “Lieutenant Taiee, meet me in the shuttle bay for a rescue detail.”  She stepped into the car.  “Ensigns Qawasimi and Lightner, you’re with me.”

Lightner abandoned his station with a broad grin and joined the exec, excited at the chance to pilot the shuttle.

The captain fixed a serious look on Ramirez as the doors closed.  “Bring them back to us, Commander.”


Pierosh II

The dark figure stood alone, silhouetted against the lavender sunset of the local star as he cursed the fates.  He drew his heavy cloak around him for warmth against the frigid wind that blustered across the barren, rocky landscape as he plotted his next move.  On some level he could appreciate the irony of his situation.  Decades of planning and effort had gone into this, and on the cusp of his greatest victory, he had been thwarted.  Not by any man or army or nation, though.  That he could have made allowances for.  After all, he had been defeated by others in his long past, lessons that he considered as painful as they had been valuable.  But this time… this time it seemed as if the very fabric of the universe had conspired against him.

From within the folds of his cloak he withdrew an amber colored, tear drop shaped crystal that filled the palm of his hand.  He passed his other hand over it and watched the flickering lights and patterns play across its facets before they coalesced into a steady stream of information that only he could decipher.  There were others nearby.  Loath though he was to admit it, he would need the assistance of outsiders to complete this burdensome task.

He traced a design across the face of the crystal with one finger which caused a door to appear before him as though out of thin air.  He stepped through this portal without hesitation, his mind filled with dark thoughts.  He mused to himself as he crossed the threshold, the best laid plans of mice and men…


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