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VIP Lounge, Deck 4

Molly Cartwright's eyes popped out of her head as the visage of the captain disappeared in the transporter beam. Then quickly her decorum returned and into the ceiling she called, "Computer locate Captain McGregor."

"Captain McGregor is on the bridge."

Swirling her glass Judith joked perplexed. "Don't tell me we've pushed Ensign Cutler over the edge already!"

Cocking his head at an angle, Stanley intoned seriously. "Normally it does take much longer for that to occur."

"Something's amiss." She tapped her combadge. "Cartwright to McGregor." There was no response. She slapped the combadge again. "Cartwright to Cutler ... Cartwright to bridge." The three officers exchanged puzzled and anxious glances. Cartwright to Dr. Monroe."

Monroe looked down at her own combadge and frowned at the lack of response. "The combadges aren't working."

"Inter ship communication appears to be malfunctioning or ... is being blocked."

"My chips are on the latter." Molly marched over to the nearest intercom board. The throwback technology had the plus of actually working independently of the combadge system. Nevertheless, trying to contact the bridge she made no contact still. "Seems they're pointedly ignoring our calls. Cartwright to Dexter."

"Dexter. Commander I'm in the auxiliary bridge. I've tried raising RAH but have been unable to raise the Chief. Bridge controls have been cut off, transporters are offline and shields have been raised."

"Well the Captain has just been transported to the bridge. I think it's fair to say someone has taken control of the bridge."

"Wait. I'm getting a hail from Gardner." There was a pause then the red alert alarm wailed. Dexter's voice now rang out throughout the ship.

"This is an intruder alert. Intruders have commandeered the bridge and docking gate 2. All crew be on the look out for other-"

"Come in Dexter ... damn it." Molly pulled out her phaser from her belt. "Ok let's mount up people. Gardner has assailants at the docking gate, the Captain has been ... kidnapped to the bridge so we've some fist-to-cuffs to look forward to."

Commander Cartwright called the revellers of the VIP lounge together and swiftly set out a plan of attack. With the bridge commandeered and the docking gate under attack, Cartwright organised two main forces. One team to help Dexter retake the bridge, the other to reinforce Gardner to subjugate the intruders at the gate. Knowing full too well that other assailants may be out there she organised others into search teams or to their duty stations.

"Stanley you take a team and get down to Engineering and make sure we retain control of engineering at least. Gardner is tied up by the sounds of it so you'll be running engineering. Try and see if you can wrestle control from the bridge."

The yeoman who only a moment ago was serving drinks, worriedly asked the Commander, "Who's going with the team to the docking gate?"

Moving her team towards the doors of the VIP lounge, Molly patted the yeoman on the shoulder in a gesture of friendly camaraderie and reassurance. Molly did not care to hear the slight quiver in the yeoman's voice. "Not to worry Whent, Gardner will be there. Dexter will no doubt be headed to the bridge which leaves you guys with the C.O.B. and so I'm inclined to think you'll be ok."

"Fang?" As the commander moved off, Whent gulped at the prospect of seeing the ship's formidable Chief of the Boat in action but equally fortified at the knowledge.

Cartwright quickly divided the company and they marched out into the corridor where they met other crewmembers rushing to battle stations. The additional personnel were quickly incorporated into the teams or given orders to defend their stations. At the nearest armoury chests, the hand-held phasers were supplemented with phaser rifles and carbines.

Molly took charge of the team running towards the bridge. As she ran from the VIP lounge towards the stair well she shouted back at Monroe. "You best get to sickbay Judy, there's likely to be casualties."

Molly did not observe Monroe's response as she took the steps two at a time. The Commander was already almost at the top level near the bridge when she heard Dexter shout out, "Down Commander!"

Without reasoning why, she implicitly trusted the security officer and threw herself onto the steps. Phaser blasts scorched the bulkhead where she had just been.

Scrambling with her weapon, she fired a lance of phaser fire at her attackers, guarding the level to the bridge. Her shots were ineffective but provided the cover to allow her to move up the stairwell onto the level just below the bridge. Molly and her cohort hunkered down beside Dexter and his security team.

"What's the sit-rep?"

Before Dexter could respond the voice of the computer called out: "Self-destruct sequence initiation. Does the First Officer comply?"

From her position a deck below, Molly Cartwright understanding the captain's defiance at being boarded but not willing to go to such an extreme resort just yet, hollered at the ceiling over the incoming phaser fire, "No she bloody well does not!"

"What's the captain up to?" Dexter and his team started to return the phaser fire. "Do you really think he'd sooner self-destruct the Kestrel rather than allow boarders to take control?"

"I'm afraid he actually would, damned pride, but I won't!"

The computer's voice then called out in opposition to protocol, "Self-destruct confirmed and engaged. Self-destruct in two minutes."

Dexter and Molly exchanged a disbelieving glance. "No way!"

The klaxons blared throughout the ship as the countdown began. "Self destruct in ... one minute, fifty seconds."

Molly was flabbergasted and then decorum returning she barked at the computer, "Abort destruct sequence, code 1-2-3-continuity."

There was a pregnant pause as she awaited the cancellation of the self-destruct. "Self destruct in ... one minute, forty seconds."

"How did he?"

"Because he's had over twenty years to hoodwink the computer into doing whatever he wants it. That's how! Come on we have to get control back and stop the self-destruct."

"And if we can't?"

"I'll trust Stanley to figure something out in Engineering."

* * *

Outside VIP Lounge

As Commander Cartwright disappeared up the stairs, Whent turned to see Lt. Commander Mnu Stanley Subreliqui or Stanley running in the opposite direction leading his small coterie towards engineering. Whent and the others assigned to reinforce the gate stalled for a fraction of second. The team then ran off except for Whent who paused to look at the ship's CMO.

He saw Judith Monroe frowning at the disappearing form of Cartwright. She came to then and started to move off towards sickbay when she spied a hesitant Whent.

Judith was adverse to violence but she had grown accustomed to it being part of life on a border cutter and being a frontier girl had given her much experience of violence in her life. She therefore recognised fear when she saw it.

"Don't you need to be somewhere yeoman?"

"I'm headed to meet with the C.O.B. at the docking gate."

Monroe saw the nervousness of the yeoman but decided to make a jest of the issue. "Be careful Fang doesn't maul you by accident. Now scram!" Whent gulped but turned on his heel then thundered off towards the docking gate to catch up with the others.

Whent nervously ran towards his destination expecting anyone and anything to be around the next corner. He had not expected to see such action berthed to a Starfleet base. He certainly did not expect to hear what the computer then called out. "Self-destruct confirmed and engaged. Self-destruct in two minutes."


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