(Chapter Seven, continued)
Resistance Vessel 1473 – Control Chamber
Lieutenant Commander Ryzal had faced many unpleasant situations in twenty years as a Starfleet officer. This, the Saurian security chief thought, was among the worst. He had absolutely no idea what the first officer, chief engineer, and the drone had been talking about during the last several minutes. Clearly there was something huge at stake, but he had never heard of an Omega Molecule or particle 010 before. For that reason alone, he had hesitated before developing a plan, but then Lieutenant O’Connor had pulled out her phaser and taken the XO hostage. That had been an unexpected development.
She had refused to lower her weapon when ordered to do so. Ryzal wondered if she was insane, or just bluffing. When it comes to Omega, the rules are suspended.
That was what she had said. He was aware of no such regulation, but she seemed deadly serious and Commander Icheb, the only other officer who seemed to know exactly what she was talking about, hadn’t questioned the statement at all. Then again, he had her phaser pointed at his head.
Ryzal could see that the chief engineer was visibly shaking and looked seconds from losing consciousness, but he simultaneously realized she had given him exactly the distraction he needed. The two resistance Borg were currently focusing all of their attention on her. He would have to act quickly to carry out his plan before she passed out, or worse, fired her weapon.
Thankful he had taken a position behind a console before the force fields had been activated, he used the cover it provided to carefully and silently draw his tricorder from his pocket. He flicked his eyes briefly back to the center of the room to see if he had been noticed. Both Malik and Jeytl were still staring at Maren, who was still holding Icheb at the point of her phaser and threatening deadly action if the Borg did not comply with her demands.
Ryzal wasn’t about to wait to find out if the engineer’s questionable ploy would work. He simply used the massive distraction she was providing to the fullest, scanning the containment fields and finding the exact frequency he needed. With that accomplished, he slowly, surreptitiously drew his phaser and reprogrammed it, once again using the cover the console provided to hide his actions. His reptilian nerves allowed him to stay stone-still while manipulating the tiny interfaces. He cast a quick glance over at his team, and saw that the two nearest him had been looking to him for instruction and were now following his lead. Admirable, but unacceptable in this case
, he thought to himself. He caught the nearest officer’s eye and shook his head ‘no,’ almost imperceptibly. The officer looked perplexed, but didn’t dare question the silent order, and subtly communicated it to the next man.
Ryzal regretted that he had to do this alone, but the fact was, he was the only one who had a chance. His tougher Saurian physiology – particularly his protectively scaled skin – would be the only thing that made the action he was about to take possible. Any of the more thin-skinned, fragile officers with whom he served would be too badly injured in the attempt, likely becoming more of a liability than an asset – or even becoming casualties. He couldn’t let them take that risk. He would have to find a way to free his team after he freed himself.
He steeled himself for the coming pain as he remembered the last and only time he had successfully used a similar tactic, some twelve years before. Some said the Dominion’s force fields were always lethal – he had proved them wrong. He had spent the better part of a Standard week in sickbay recovering from the burns and neural trauma afterward, but he had gotten himself through that force field and released his captured team – just as he hoped he was about to do now. As he finished modifying the settings on his hand phaser, he eyed the resistance drone, Malik, along with his companion, Jeytl. He knew the odds of disabling them both were not good.
The situation in the center of the chamber remained essentially unchanged, but Malik looked like he was out of patience and Ryzal could tell from the look on Commander Icheb’s face that Maren O’Connor’s condition was deteriorating rapidly. There was no time for further delay. So he brought up his weapon and fired a continuous beam at the force field, while simultaneously throwing himself at it with everything he had.
The pain was intense. The energy field, while significantly weakened by his modified phaser blast, still packed a heavy neural punch, and Ryzal’s nerves screamed at him as he forced his way through it. He could feel his skin burning beneath his scales, but he knew this was his only chance to get through – no doubt the Borg would adjust the frequency in seconds when they saw what he was doing. He fought to keep his focus on the mission at hand and not the pain he was experiencing.
After an excruciating moment that felt like an eternity, he made it through. Despite his relief at being through the worst of it, his body still screamed at him to stop moving. He ignored it. With two practiced flicks of his clawed thumb, he reset the phaser to its default setting and increased the intensity as high as he could get away with in an enclosed chamber like this one. It was a level lethal to most humanoid life, but he had a feeling it would only slow these Borg down – maybe knock them out if he was very fortunate. Without hesitation, he raised the weapon and fired at Malik.
Icheb’s attention was evenly divided between the situation unfolding in front of him and the frightened woman pressing the phaser to his temple. He could feel Maren’s hand shaking behind the weapon, and his superior visual acuity allowed him to see things that others would miss – like the subtle changes in her physiology indicating increased intracranial pressure that stood a good chance of causing either a seizure or a brain hemorrhage if allowed it to continue. In a fraction of a second, he considered whether he might be able to solve two problems at once with a Vulcan nerve pinch – rendering Maren unconscious might both stabilize her physical condition and free him up to take some sort of action.
She saved him the trouble of deciding. As Ryzal fired his weapon and Malik crashed to the floor, Maren pulled her hand away from Icheb’s head so fast it was as if she had been burned. Still badly shaking, she quickly shoved the phaser at him and pulled out her tricorder, her trembling hands seeming to fight her the entire time.
“I’m so sorry,” she murmured, red-faced, without looking up from the tricorder’s display. “Are you okay?”
“No, not really,” he replied truthfully. He looked at her pointedly. “Are you
“Not even a little bit,” she whispered, still fumbling with the controls on the tricorder. “We’ve got to adjust your neural transceiver.”
“Agreed,” he whispered back. She didn’t need to explain why. They both knew exactly what they needed to do. If they could find the frequency of the force field and adjust his implants to compensate, he should be able to pass through it without resistance and assist Ryzal. He stepped closer to Maren to allow her access, keeping an eye on Ryzal and Malik as he did.
Malik had gone down after the first shot, but he wasn’t entirely disabled, and Ryzal had pounced on him immediately, his Saurian ferocity on full display as he slashed at the Borg with his claws and bared his frighteningly sharp teeth. Ryzal was obviously injured, though, and Malik was putting up a good fight. Jeytl had started to move from his position on the other side of the chamber. Icheb knew they had to hurry.
Unfortunately, Maren’s physical condition was making that impossible. She blinked hard for the second time and seemed to wobble before catching herself. Icheb quickly slipped an arm around her for support. “If you don’t calm down you’re going to damage yourself further,” he warned her.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized, clearly frustrated with herself. “I know I’m a liability right now. I’m so sorry.”
“I hate that you’re here at all,” Icheb admitted. Maren looked up at him, surprised at the sentiment for an instant, then seemed to realize what he meant by it. Icheb briefly tightened his grip around her.
Three-point-eight seconds later, Maren found the correct frequency for the containment field and reached into the engineering bag Icheb was still carrying to find the tool she needed to adjust his transceiver. That was when Icheb suddenly realized Jeytl wasn’t moving to assist Malik … he was heading directly for them.
It was too late. They had been too slow. As Jeytl reached their position, Icheb instinctively let go of Maren and moved to put himself in front of her. Maren looked up in surprise, noticing for the first time that they had been found out.
An instant later, the force field came down and Jeytl stepped forward. Icheb searched for a means to overpower or escape him, but he could find none. Resistance is futile,
he realized, with a growing sense of dread. If he hadn’t thought their lives were in danger, he might have smiled at the irony.
The little girl wasn’t moving. Her eyes were closed, dark lashes fanned out against round but dangerously pale cheeks. There was an awful lot of blood.
“I was trying to get the kids to the cargo bay when the ceiling went,” a badly injured Claire Keller was explaining weakly. “Lucy was so frightened, she wouldn’t move. Bennett was already at the door, but then everything collapsed – I told him to run and scream for help.” She looked up pleadingly at John. “Please tell me he’s all right.”
John barely registered her request. He answered it on autopilot. “He’s going to be fine, ma’am.” He didn’t have any idea if that was true or not, but right now, he was much more worried about how he was going to get Claire and Lucy out of there.
He tapped his combadge. “Quigley to Par.”
The Bajoran ops officer’s voice came back sounding weary. “Par here, sir.”
“Cut artificial gravity to deck two.”
“Just do it, Renn. I’ve got two civilians trapped under a ton of debris, but they’re alive. It’ll be easier to dig them out without gravity fighting us.”
John waited as Renn manipulated the ship’s failing systems. His stomach did a flip as his feet left the ground less than a minute later. He quickly activated the magnets in his boots, and his team did the same. They all hit the deck again with a heavy thump. He motioned everyone into position, and they began to disassemble the tangled prison holding Claire and Lucy Keller as quickly and carefully as they could.
When the debris had been tossed aside, John hit his combadge again as the remaining medic knelt down to assess their injuries. “Quigley to Par. Give us gravity and send someone down here with two antigrav stretchers,” he said.
“Already done, sir. They’re holding position behind the bulkhead you blew out. Standby for re-initialization of gravity plating. In three … two … one.”
John’s stomach did another flip as gravity took hold, and he had to stagger slightly to keep his balance as his brain adjusted to the situation, an action made more difficult by the fact that his magnetic boots were still trying to hold him to the floor. The debris they had tossed to the other side of the room came crashing down loudly, and John flinched slightly. Moments later, two crewmen entered through the doorway pushing the antigrav stretchers. John quickly deactivated the magnets in his boots and tapped his combadge. “Thanks, Renn,” he said.
He looked down at the medic, who was scanning Claire and Lucy with a tricorder that protested with all sorts of flashing lights and beeps that John was sure couldn’t be good omens.
“Meke, report,” he said to the burly Orion holding the device. The medic looked up at him with a wearied expression.
“They both have massive internal injuries. I could list them all, but we’d be wasting time. They both need surgery, now.”
John nodded tersely. “Let’s go.” He leaned forward and picked Lucy up, gingerly cradling the small child against him, taking care to support her neck and spine. She couldn’t have weighed more than fifteen kilos. His chest tightened as he carried her over and laid her down on the antigrav stretcher. Who the hell attacked us and what did they want?
he wondered. Unbidden, Maren O’Connor entered his mind again. He involuntarily pictured her in Claire’s place, under a ton of debris, bleeding internally and barely clinging to consciousness. It made him nauseous. He couldn’t imagine how much worse it would be for Adrian Keller when he found out what had happened to his family.
With the last two people accounted for, suddenly the reality of the entire situation was beginning to set in. Just because everyone had been found didn’t mean they were going to survive this. The ship seemed beyond repair, people needed medical treatment they didn’t have the ability to give, and there was no way to contact the Tesseract
to let them know what was going on.
I will get us out of this,
he vowed silently as he turned back to supervise the transport of Claire Keller from floor to stretcher. Somehow, we’re going to survive this.
He frowned as his mind started to work on a million problems at once. His hand went up involuntarily to tousle his hair, as was his habit when stressed or thinking hard, only to meet the hard, unyielding curve of his EV suit helmet. He sighed and let his hand drop to his side. I just wish I had the first clue how.