Sorry for the delay in posting - work has been really busy. I'm on holiday as of tomorrow, so will be able to work on this story more often, however I may well be without internet access for two weeks and so won't be able to post. In case I can't, have a good couple of weeks!
Ispaoreai Hyps’rat (Onyx Station)
Colin Groves walked through the connecting corridors with the same careful steps he had used since he left his rooms. His mind whirled at warp speed, fears darting through his brain like will-o-the-wisps, here one moment and gone the next. Every shadow another Laurentii soldier, every doorway ready to disgorge enemies.
The Laurentii soldier who had come for him had not been expecting him to be on a conference call with Myr when he attacked. The connection had been cut mere seconds before and Colin had still been trying to get it working when he entered. Colin had turned at the sound of the opening door, had begun to ask the man what was going on and had seen the weapon in his hand. He had jumped out of the chair, kicking it back behind him and catching the Laurentii in the knees. The weapon had gone skittering, giving him just enough time to grab it and…
Colin was so caught up in the memory that he almost missed the corner. It wasn’t until he was almost around it and facing the shadow waiting for him on the other side that he realised what a mistake he had made.
Weapons fire lit the shadowy corridor. Colin dropped and rolled, years of Starfleet training coming back in a series of firing synapses and clenched muscles. Coming up on one knee, he brought his gun hand around and prepared to fire. If he hadn’t caught a glimpse of long white hair in the pulsing light runnin through the wall veins, he might have killed her.
“Don’t shoot,” he yelled, holding both his arms up and hoping she would recognise him in time.
The flash of green light he was dreading failed to materialise. “Mister Groves?” Benjamani asked after a moment.
“Yes, it’s me,” he said, struggling to his feet. “It’s me.”
“What are you doing?”
“Trying to get out of here alive.”
He stepped closer. In the green and purple light that spackled the corridor, he realised that she was holding two of the Laurentii weapons in her hands. She held both of them securely, and he had already seen that she could handle them. He felt a surge of respect for her, followed by an uneasy feeling. I really don’t know anything about this woman. What the hell did she do during the Occupation that she can be so cool and calm about all this?
“You were attacked as well?”
He nodded. “One of the soldiers. In my room.”
“I would imagine the same happened to all of us.”
“What the hell is happening here? What are the Laurentii playing at?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. For some reason, they have turned against us.”
“They must know that this will lead to war.”
“Apparently that isn’t a problem for them.”
He thought about that for a moment, then had a chilling premonition. What if they’re right? Considering the state the Federation is in, we might not pose them much of a threat.
The Hegemony could feasibly sit back, wait for the Federation and the Klingons to quit slugging it out and then swoop in to mop up the pieces. Could that be why they brought us here? As a way of testing our strength before an invasion?
From the look on Benjamani’s face, her thoughts mirrored his own. She was the first to shake herself out of it, though. “We’re not going to find out standing around here.”
“What do you suggest?”
“We find the others and try and find out what in all hells the Laurentii are playing at.”
For a second time, Colin realised how formidable a woman the Ambassador actually was. I wouldn’t want to make an enemy of her. But while we’re on the same side…
He bowed low, indicating for her to move out in front of her. “After you ma’am.”
She studied him, then sighed and shook her head, before leading the way down the corridor. He waited for a few moments, then followed.
rocked suddenly and violently, inertial dampners failing for a second. In front and above the ship, Prin could see two smaller ships firing on them, purple fire belching across space. The ships looked like kovaslugs, their upper sections surrounded by spinning collars that held six tendrils with claws at the ends. Those claws burned purple with repressed energy, then unleashed it on them. Her ship shook again, but Prin held on, refusing to lose her balance.
Lwynd’s voice yelled something she could not make out, but a quick check of her viewfinder readouts told her everything she needed to know. Shields down to 70%, three phaser banks down, multiple torpedo tubes destroyed. K‚crit
, she cursed.
“Return fire,” she bellowed.
Her vision blurred as Redemption
banked, L’wynd at Tactical and Williams at the conn working in tandem to bring the working phaser banks in range of the oncoming ships. Red energy cut through the metal struts holding the weapons collar on the nearest slugship, sending three of the tendrils spinning through space.
The other one fired back, rocking the bridge beneath her once again.
“We’ve got more incoming,” Barani said, her voice only audible because she was so much closer.
Prin toggled her viewfinder with a thought, bringing up the feed from Tactical. Twelve fighters spilled from the nearest enemy Behemoth, squeezing between the capital ships and arrowing in on Redemption
She reached up, slapping her comm badge. “Prin to Turner.”
When the flight commander responded, she sounded out of breath. Prin could hear the sound of explosions and alarm sirens echoing in the background. “Turner here.”
“We have incoming fighters, Commander. Get your people in the air.”
Prin hated giving the order – the fighters would be in much more danger than Redemption
, and would be highly outnumbered. Still, she had no choice. If they left those tadpoles out there without any opposition they would tear the ship apart.
“On it,” Turner replied sharply, and the comm line cut off with little or no acknowledgment. Prin grimaced – she had never been able to get used to helmetheads and their lack of discipline.
Shaking off the problem, she turned to L’wynd. “Lieutenant, coordinate Starbust Squadron’s targets through your station and keep me apprised.”
“Aye, sir,” the Crystat officer said, her eyes never leaving the screens before her. A spread of torpedoes erupted from Redemption
’s underside, blowing holes in the hide of the second tendril ship. Purple fluids spewed into space and were ignited by some internal combustion that engulfed the ship, leaving nothing but scraps of carbonised flesh behind.
, Prin thought. Then one of the Behemoths launched a vicious assault on them which left her reeling and the ship’s alarms keening shrilly. This is far from over. Dammit, we need to find some way to get our people off that station so we can get out of here.
Stumbling over to Ops with careful steps, Prin dropped to her haunches beside Barani. The lieutenant’s hands were a blur, holographic consoles spinning across the cylindrical space of her workspace.
“How are we doing with raising the station?”
Barani shook her head. “Still nothing, sir. Whatever that interference field is, it’s solid. Without bringing down the station’s defences, I don’t see how we’re going to get any kind of message through, never mind beaming the diplomatic team off.”
“Any ideas as to how to get those defences down?”
“I’m working on it, sir, but we don’t know enough about their technology to—“
Prin stood again, wracking her brain for some kind of solution. I wish Ba’el were here.
In the Resistance, the three of them – Ba’el, Kane and herself – had been able to solve any problem when they put their minds to it. Without Ba’el, though, she… Still had Kane.
She reached up and tapped her comm badge again. “Prin to Engineering.”
“Kane here. I’m kind of busy down here, commander.”
She could hear a cacophony of different alarms through the comm line, the computer giving voice to all of the things that were going wrong with Redemption
’s systems. She pushed the worry aside, concentrating on the problem at hand.
“I’m sure you are, Kane. But I need your help. We can’t find a way through the station’s interference field to beam off the away team. I thought that maybe some of your Borg ingenuity—“
“Might be able to drag you out of trouble once again?”
She smiled tightly. “Something like that.”
“Give me ten minutes. Kane out.”
The comm. line cut off. Prin sighed. Kane had always come through for her and Ba’el before. She just hoped that he would be able to this time. If he didn’t, and the ship continued to take such a battering, she would be forced to order them to retreat.
Turner ran into the fighter deck, cursing roundly. Prin’s order rang in her head – as if she hadn’t already been on her way to her men as soon as the red alert began. Damned fleeters, think they know my job better than I do.
As she had known they would be, her pilots were already prepped and waiting for her, stood in a rough semi circle near the fighters. Normally her late arrival would have drawn sarcastic comments and jokes, but all her people were aware how bad the situation was. Beyond a couple of wry grins, all she saw were serious faces and professional stances.
Waving them into a huddle around her, she took a moment to look each of them in the eyes.
“You all know what is going on out there,” she said finally. “The Laurentii have turned against us for some reason and the ship is under attack.”
“What made the stripheads turn?” one of her pilots, a human named Breeves, asked. Turner hesitated a moment at the name, then shook her head.
“We don’t know, and we don’t care. We’re Starbust Squadron, people. Our job is to keep the bad guys off Redemption
’s back. End of story.”
“Yes, sir,” they all responded in chorus.
“Good. Those fleeters couldn’t do it without us. Let’s get to work.”
As the pilots split up and headed for their own fighters, Turner held Claf, her Bolian XO, back.
He shrugged. “A name that’s been doing the rounds in Beta Quadrant.”
“Let me guess. Ash.”
The Bolian shook his head. “You didn’t hear it from me.”
“Sure I didn’t. Alright, we’ll handle it later.”
“If there is a later.”
“That’s the spirit.”
“Good flying, sir.”
They bumped fists, then headed for their ships. Cable had his hands in the underside of Turner’s, gripping a sonicdriver in his teeth. She leant down, checking what he was doing – finishing up some wiring repairs she had asked for - then nodded.
“I live for your approval.”
“Sure you do.”
“I’m still waiting for that drink you promised me.”
“Keep on waiting, Ears.”
“You really know how to talk to a Ferengi, commander.”
“What can I say? I’m a natural charmer.”
As she clambered up the stepladder into the cockpit of her Hornet fighter, Turner’s thoughts turned to Ba’el. She had been surprised to hear Prin’s voice ordering her to her fighters and not his. He’d better be alright.
She shook herself. Not the time, Gemma. Get through the mission.
She ran through the preflight checklist, making sure everything was running at optimal efficiency. Once she had confirmed all her systems were green, she pulled her helmet on and activated the intership comm.
“Alright people, get ready to launch on my mark. And remember, there are friendlies out there amongst the Laurentii. Redemption
will give us our targets. So no wild shooting.”
A chorus of aye sirs met her orders. She heard a click, then Claf’s voice came over a private channel.
“Hope the fleeters do their job.”
“So do I,” she said. So do I.
Ispaoreai Hyps’rat (Onyx Station)
Green energy splattered on the walls behind Qwert and Garabaldi. They had been pinned down on the curve of a corridor by a group of Laurentii soldiers for a good fifteen minutes, unable to find an opening that would allow them to escape. If they were stuck much longer, the Laurentii would find some way of doubling back behind them and then they would be caught in a crossfire. Not good
, Qwert thought. Not good at all.
He pressed his back against the wall, feeling the strong ripples against his skin. The disturbances had gotten worse the closer they drew to the core of the station, some kind of reaction to what was happening. Every so often, the floor would buck beneath him, a wave of flesh almost throwing him off his feet. He waited for a few seconds as one of those ripples threw him off balance and then feinted around the curve, firing at the Laurentii soldiers. One of his shots caught an unbalanced enemy in the chest and he saw him or her go down before he took refuge behind the wall again.
“There are too many of them,” Garabaldi shouted, taking her own shot.
Qwert nodded. His mind wandered for a brief moment, back to a mission he had run on a Dominion stronghold in the Amara Nebula. After assassinating the Vorta commander, he had tried to escape through the air ventilation system. He had ended up pinned down. If it hadn’t been for his secret weapon - two holographic colleagues he carried around in tiny mobile emmiters – he would have died.
He wished Smith and Jones were still with him, but they had been destroyed years before on a mission to Earth. A shame. The two had made for a great double act.
The sounds of weapons fire filled the air, bringing him back to the present. Strangely no blasts hit the walls behind them. Qwert heard screams and shouts, then silence.
He shared a glance with Garabaldi. Indicating his eyes with two fingers, he pointed down the corridor, and then held up five fingers. He put one finger down after another and when they were all down, they both risked a peek down the corridor.
The five Laurentii soldiers who had been attacking them were down on the ground. Seven Laurentii stood behind them, weapons in hand. Out in front of them was a Laurentii Qwert recognized – havac Lkim, the man who had helped Sarine calm tensions a few days before.
“Admiral Qwert. It is safe for you to come out,” Lkim called out.
“I wouldn’t bet a shard of latinum on that,” Qwert threw back.
“I know that you have no reason to trust us, but I assure you we do not want to harm you. We came to save your lives.”
“From your own people? What the hell is going on here, havac?”
“War, admiral. A coup. Kruin Asuph is dead.”
“Lkinym,” the Laurentii said. Qwert searched his mind for a moment, then remembered where he had heard the name before – Lkinym was one of the more openly aggressive of the havacs, violently opposed to the alliance. “He led a group of us to confront Asuph about his plans. We went along with him, foolish old men following the zeal of youth. I’m sure you know what that is like.”
Qwert thought about Sarine and was forced to concede the point. “What happened?”
“He betrayed us. He shot the kruin and killed him. Even now, he is preparing to take his place.”
Qwert glanced at the ripples on the wall. “Looks like he hasn’t managed it yet.”
“So why aren’t you with him?”
“I may not agree with kruin Asuph’s ideas, but this is not how we do things. Your people have become caught up in a family fued that should not have involved you. You are innocent bystanders.”
“Why does Lkinym want to kill us?”
“Captain Sarine? What does he have to do with any of this?”
“That is a story too long to explain here in a corridor with weapons in hand. These were only a fraction of the forces Lkinym now controls.”
“Then get us off this station.”
“I can’t. Until a new kruin is chosen, Isaporaei Hypsrat will do whatever it needs to defend itself. The internal defences will keep anyone from getting on or off the station. We are trapped here, all of us.”
“Then what do you suggest we do?”
“We trust each other. And you come with us.”
“To a place of relative safety. Or at least a place that will be more easily defended.”
Qwert glanced at Garabaldi, who had her weapons trained on the Laurentii. He considered the offer, wondering how far he could trust Lkim. From what he had seen of him during the negotiations, the havac had seemed to be an honorable man, open to the possibilities offered by the alliance with the Federation. On the other hand, he had not seemed overly enthusiastic either. And he just admitted that he accompanied Lkinym in this crazy coup.
At the end of the day, though, Qwert knew that he had no choice. Dropping his weapon, he indicated for Garabaldi to do the same.
“Very well. Lead on.”
“Thank you, admiral. For your trust.”
“Call it an advance on further payment. I’m waiting to see the quality of your goods before I pay in full.”
The havac’s eyestrip turned a cloudy grey, a colour Qwert had come to recognize as indicating confusion. He barked a harsh laugh.
“A metaphor, havac. I’ll give you my trust when you earn it.”
“Indeed. Well, perhaps a good start would be for us to save the lives of your companions? I have been informed that some of Lkinym’s men have them pinned down a few corridors away.”
Qwert felt a surge of relief. Maybe we can still salvage something from this situation after all. “That would be a start.”
“Then come. Let us save your friends and see whether we can find a way to get you all off this station.”
“Do that, and I may just have to trust you after all.”
The havac did not respond, simply turning and leading his men down the corridor. Qwert shared one final glance with Garabaldi, then shrugged and followed the Laurentii.