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‘Into the Maelstrom'



Approaching Main Engineering


Eddie Gardner cursed as his twisted ankle caused wicked pain to shoot up his leg. He decided to hell with decorum and hopped the last few steps into Engineering as the computer began its final countdown. He hopped into Main Engineering to see an almost serene yet poignant, in a distracted way, Mnu Stanley Subrelqui look up at a horrified Duffy as the computer intoned:

" Four ... Three ..."

"Frak, too late!"

"Two ... One ... Self-destruct."

A crescendo of noise and whines filled Engineering and every part of the Kestrel and then a maelstrom of surging power erupted throughout the ship ...

The power coursed through the power relays. Normally a power harnessed, siphoned, and controlled now ran rampant and unrestrained. Where normally it replicated cool drinks, it overloaded and spat fiery destruction. Where normally it fabricated parts and vital materials, it erupted in destructive energy. Loosened the energy surged through the ship systems outpouring in volcanic fashion throughout rooms, hangars, labs, bays and corridors. Flames, sparks, and surging electrical bolts crackled out from every console, intercom, light, and panel.

Throughout the ship people cowered as energy consumed the ship vented by the super heated power coils into every system causing a huge overload and the entire ship to then descend into darkness as all power, all light, all life abruptly stopped.

The Kestrel had not self-destructed but it was now a ruined and fire ravaged ship. As the lights died out the flames burned but then the fire suppressant systems engulfed fires and choked the survivors. The suppressant gases pooled to the floor as they extinguished the major conflagrations and quickly dissipating so as not to asphyxiate those trapped in their vicinity.

The firestorm was brief but violent. McGregor had gambled with the lives of his crew and had pulled an ace, but at what cost?

 

* * *

 

As errant embers and sporadic sparks coasted to the deck in the black groans and wails bespoke of everyone's relief at having not succumbed to a fiery death. Flittingly emergency lights ebbed into life and, where it had failed entirely for the ten to twenty seconds, gravity returned at first with a careful whisper of a pull and then a firm steady hold.

Stanley looked over to Eddie quizzically at the ship remaining and having not smashed into a million pieces. Duffy voiced it aloud, "Wha .. what happened?"

Stanley answered Duffy in as best a fashion he could. "It appears Captain McGregor had other plans for the Kestrel."

"Don't tell me you actually believed he was going to blow the ship up Stan? But the damned infernal man has probably fried every isolinear chip and part of the warp coil manifold to do whatever he wanted to do. This is going to take forever to fix. Wait till I get my hands on him wherever he is?"

 

* * *


Main Bridge

Dusting herself off, Molly Cartwright took in the ruined bridge and cursed aloud and to herself. "McGregor must have known all along! Damn that man! He's a damned lunatic."

"Now, now Commander, you know that is not the case. The Captain is no more insane than any other captain is. His only problem lays in he shows it."

"Shows it too often and too much, in my vaunted opinion. Bloody genius too." She rolled her eyes before Noah suddenly intruded.

"The self-destruct didn't work but the virus!"

Molly then recalled what Cutler had asserted as the countdown had diminished. T'Hos' plan to kill everyone on the ship and she wondered was this why McGregor had really fled because he knew his self-destruct wouldn't work? She doubted the captain was that cowardly. When she waved the smoke from her face, it struck what McGregor had done. "By overloading ... everything he nullifies its being spread. Life support is at a minimum and as you can see, the smoke is not clearing so the ventilation systems aren't working. I presume it was part of his plan.

"Nevertheless, I'm taking a team down to environmental systems, Caleb." Molly barked orders to Dexter as she ran from the bridge and down the curving stairs. "And Caleb, find out where the captain went!"

Dexter put out a restraining hand to the ensign as he made to follow. "You stay here kid. We need to try to track down the Captain. Find out where he went and why? And we need to try and work these ruined systems to do it too."

"He might have gone after T'Hos. He took Yeoman Harris before he transported off the bridge."

Dexter raised his eyebrow in response to that.

 

* * *


Travel Pod

McGregor zoomed through the fleeing traffic homing in on the signal from the Kestrel. Harris' combadge allowed him to track her progress through the chaos of escaping vessels as bedlam descended on the spaceport. McGregor cursed his plan, one of his numerous fail-safes if ever he found himself in a tight corner.

He liked to think himself clever for outwitting T'Hos but the circumstances that caused him to fall back on this plan meant the ad hoc evacuation of the facility that had descended into chaos. A chaos he now had to frantically navigate with twisting turns and extreme proximity to the ships fleeing in the belief they had to escape the fireball from a self-destructing Kestrel.

The travel pod was slow but nimble and ideally suited for travelling through a milling spaceport albeit not in this heightened activity of escaping ships. McGregor zeroed in on his prey powering up its warp engines ready to blast its way out of the system. He had no ship based weapons with which to stop them. But he did have a ship!

* * *


"T'Hos!"

He growled in response as he dragged a kicking Harris onto the bridge. "What is it?"

"A travel pod!"

His anger spiked as Harris not yet fully lucid but working on her survival instinct bit his arm. He backhanded her as he shouted angrily in response. "What? Why is everyone so frakking incompetent around here?"

"A travel pod is aiming directly for us." For further confirmation, the helm person pointed T'Hos to the viewscreen. The image increasingly filled with a travel pod on a kamikaze run.

"McGregor!" He threw Harris aside. "Fire at him!"

It was too late. The looming spectre of destruction scythed through space and barrelled into the pirate ship. The deck under T'Hos lurched and was rent apart by destructive energy as the small travel pod crumpled the shields and careened into the hull of the rogue raider in a fireball.

"T'Hos! T'Hos! Quick we have to get to the escape pods."

Wincing at the pain to his head, unaware of the heavily bleeding gash running across it, T'Hos gingerly picked himself up off the deck with Terrol offering assistance. He looked to the gaping hole that had been the viewscreen. "Curse you McGregor. Ha! Ha! It hurts to laugh but at least you're dead."

"We've got an intruder alert."

Terrol snapped. "The ship is wrecked and going nowhere. Every system is smashed and on the blink. I doubt it's an actual intruder alert!" T'Hos grasped Terrol's arm in a moment of terror his eyes wide as the awesome reality struck him.

"No! It's McGregor! That sadistic bastard is coming for me."

"Let's go then!"

"Nooo! I will have him."

Terrol rounded on T'Hos. "The Feddies will be descending upon our position to investigate. It won't take them a minute to peg us for who we are. If we are going to go, we go now. Leave McGregor! At least until another day, when you have the advantage." Terrol's eyes bore into T'Hos as if their look could compel this man bent on revenge.

"Fine. But first ..." he went over to the recovering form of Harris and kicked her savagely. "He'll be coming for his precious play thing. Fine but I intend to give him the same welcome he gave me aboard his ship. Self-destruct and on a silent alarm. Let him waltz in here thinking himself a god."

A brief moment later, Terrol gleefully reported. "Done." Both men started towards the nearest escape pod when they faltered in their steps and then with the next step floated off the deck.

* * *


McGregor blasted the brute with his own side arm and then whirled round as two more skidded into the corridor. He fired off two more quick blasts that smashed into their faces. He ran forwards then slowed down by the EVA suit, but as he tapped into the controls of the auxiliary engineering station, he opted to level the playing field or actually to turn them in his favour. With several commands, the gravitational systems started to power down. Soon his EVA suit would allow him to travel more easily than the pirates.

But he had to dash quickly first as more sentries piled into the area. His cumbersome run was a hobbling trot but then the commands took effect his magnetised boots allowed him to move with more purpose than his pursuers who flailed and careened into one another in mass of legs and arms.

Having directed the travel pod at the raider and set it on automatic, McGregor strapped himself into the EVA opened the back hatch, depressurised and ejected into space, he watched as the travel pod consumed the raider sheathing it in a fiery blanket.

First, he had attached himself by a secure line to the pod so that after the immediate propulsion from pod the line snagged and pulled him in the direction of the raider. He floated, to his perspective, downwards onto the raider and then traversed the hull for an entry near this auxiliary engineering station. An old style raider, McGregor after years of service on the border was well versed with its hideouts and operations.

So, with purpose and a clear route he made his way towards the bridge, knowing T'Hos would have brought Harris there. He only hoped she was still there but McGregor did not often entertain doubts or second guesses. He picked a course and went with it come hail or shine or high waters.

Meeting surprisingly little resistance McGregor queried why but upon entering the bridge, he took in the reality. "Touché T'Hos! They say imitation is the highest form of flattery but I think you're too stupid to think up your own ideas. Harris?"

The yeoman looked down startled to see her Captain stood under her attired in an EVA as she floated in mid air. "Captain?" With alarm, she looked around and flailed her arms and legs. "The self-destruct!"

"I know and there's no way to stop it. Let's go. We've little time." He helped Harris down to her feet. Holding on to McGregor, they fled the bridge and made their way through the adjoining corridors.

"All the escape pods are gone!"

"I know. We just need a door, ah here we are, and a hope." He shuffled forwards to an airlock.

"A hope?"

"Yes that Fang does his bloody job and gets me outta here. I'm afraid my dear this is going to hurt you more than me. But you just got to trust me." He pulled down the release lever. "Take a deep breath and hold it."

Harris looked at him blankly. "Trust you? I don't even know what you plan to do."

"Probably best that way. Take a deep breath and hope." He crossed his padded EVA gloved fingers, then pulled a last lever, opening the sealed hatch. He pulled out the stolen firearm and directed it at the door.

Harris gawked and tried to protest but McGregor clamped a hand over her mouth and scolded her as if a child. "Deep breath! Passengers are required to take note of the emergency exits." With a huge grin through the perplex glass of the helmet he pulled the trigger. The hatch exploded in a huge fiery rent and then a whoosh of air and an almighty kick sent them both tumbling out into the depths of space.

An instant later, the cold of space was replaced by the cold sensation of the transporter effect. As he coalesced on the transporter pad of the shuttle piloted by Jex and the Kzinti ‘Fang', McGregor roared, "Shields!" just before the caustic energy obliterated the raider.

Pretending to dust himself down, McGregor commented glibly, "Never been so glad to see you furball."

The giant furball purred accusingly. "Harris needs medical attention but she should be fine. Did you decide Captain, that since you did not blow up your own ship, you would blow up someone else's?"

"Something likes that Rah. Don't suppose you managed to stop T'Hos?"

"No Captain."

"Gees, I have to do everything myself."

 

* * *

 



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