Star Trek: Pathfinder
The Siren's Call - Part Eleven
Tau Delta system, Sector Nineteen
May 13, 2163
Beaumont collapsed to the deck, hands clasped to the sides of her head, the sound of her own scream lost in the cacophony raging in her consciousness. It was like a thousand overlapping shouts - gibbering, raging, terrified, all echoing through her skull at the same time, unheard by anyone else. Time seemed to distort, words dragging out as each moment became an eternity of agony.
"Commander!" Webb said as she rose from her seat, but Teague pinned her with a glare.
"At your post, Lieutenant!" Teague snapped. "Kassin, I want a full scan of the area. T'Vril, tend to the Commander." He slapped his palm down on the comm switch built into the armrest of his seat. "Medical emergency. Medical team to the bridge."
The gruff voice of Dr. Ranik came through the speaker. "What kind of emergency?"
"Commander Beaumont is having some kind of seizure."
"We're already on the way,"
Ranik said. "Stay out from underfoot."
Beaumont curled up into a ball as the screams tore at her mind, coming in waves, crashing against her thoughts over and over again -
In a pattern,
Struggling against her own misfiring neurons, Beaumont raised her head, biting back the cries still howling for escape. She looked up at T'Vril, who was kneeling beside her, and tried to speak. "H - help m-me," she said. "Help m-me up."
T'Vril hesitated for only a moment before looping her left arm around Beaumont's back and under her arm, then pulled the first officer to her feet. Beaumont staggered to the tactical console, gripping the edge of the screen with her left hand while she stabbed at the controls with her right.
"Commander Beaumont, what are you doing?" Teague said, pulling his attention away from the potential ambush they had stumbled into.
Beaumont ignored him, focusing on the screen in front of her and the madness in her mind. She tried to focus, to strip out the static, until all she could feel was the frequency of the screams, the pulses that kept repeating. She entered a series of numbers, separating a faint signal from the local background noise, something just barely able to register on the ship's sensors, until she had isolated a ultra-low band subspace frequency - the same one that was playing havoc with her implant. "Jam it," she said, then fell forward, her knees going limp.
T'Vril caught her with ease and lowered her to the deck as the turbolift door slid open to admit Dr. Ranik and two medics. Over at the communications station, Sarria was looking on in shock at the situation. "Ensign!" T'Vril said. "Initiate a reciprocal signal on subspace band K! Drown out that whole band."
Kassin was gripped with panic as Sarria snapped back to the moment and worked her console, setting the subspace transceivers to radiate a signal that drowned out the almost undetectable signal that had nearly incapacitated Beaumont. Almost instantly the screams in Beaumont's head were gone, leaving her groggy but able to control herself. Ranik ran a mediscanner over Beaumont and studied the results before grunting. "Elevated norepinephrine levels," he pronounced, "but no indication of neurological shock." He turned to Teague. "It looks a false seizure, a stress response. Whatever was causing it seems to have stopped." He turned back to Beaumont. "What happened to you?"
"I - I'm not sure. Some kind of subspace interference in the cortical processor, I think." Beaumont shook her head, trying to clear it. "I can barely remember what happened."
"Commander Beaumont isolated an ultra low frequency pulse on K-band subspace, broadcasting below the calibration threshold of our sensors," T'Vril said calmly. "The signal is no longer getting through."
"Thank god for that," Webb muttered, keeping her gaze fixed on the helm controls.
A shrill beep sounded from the science station. "Multiple contacts inbound! They're coming from behind one of the moons." Kassin said as he peered into the scanner hood, hoping that nobody had noticed how pale he had become.
T'Vril's hands flew over the controls. "Confirmed, sir. Six vessels on an approach vector, closing at full impulse. I'm reading energy signatures - their weapons are charged."
Teague turned to face the screen. "Battle stations."
Teague's command was clipped off by the alert klaxon echoing through every meter of the ship. Red lights blinked on as the main lights dimmed, plunging hte bridge into blood-red dimness broken only by the glow of control consoles. Deep within the ship the main warp reactor increased its output, shunting its energy to the many particle and phase cannons mounted within the ship, just waiting for the command to be unleashed against a target. Plasma was diverted to the torpedo bay, charging a quartet of warheads that were soon locked into their launchers.
"Can you identify them?" Teague said.
Kassin turned to the captain. "Sir, all contacts read as Starfleet ships. Six short-range warp fighters, one Sigma
-class fighter carrier - and a Daedalus
-class cruiser. The Roosevelt
Teague felt a lump form in the pit of his belly. Pirates and wreckers he could probably handle alone - but this was a small armada, the two largest of which could easily stand toe-to-toe with the Pathfinder
's firepower. And if they had control of the Roosevelt
"Marakis, plot an escape course."
The navigator shook his head. "They're coming in on every vector we could use. They'd be in weapons range before we could go into warp."
So running was not an option, nor was fighting. "Hail them," Teague said, but Sarria was already saying "Incoming hail, Captain," before he could finish the first word.
"Put it on screen." Teague watched as the visual of the approaching ships was replaced by the image of an aging starship bridge, worn by age and combat. Seated in the captain's chair was a dark-skinned man, a long black ponytail draped over his left shoulder. "This is Captain Lorcan Teague of the Federation starship Pathfinder
," he said. "Power down your weapons and let's talk."
"Or you'll do what, exactly, Captain?"
the man on the screen said. "By my math, you're outnumbered and outgunned.
Pathfinder may be the most advanced ship in Starfleet, but even the Hero of Hell's Gate can't beat these odds."
Beaumont slowly stood, her mind clear, ignoring the protests of Dr. Ranik as he continued to scan her. She knew that voice, had listened to it for years aboard the Fearless during the war. On shaky legs she stepped onto the lower deck. "Hello, Isaac. It's been... a long time."
On the screen, Isaac Proudfoot - former captain in Starfleet, former commanding officer of the UES Fearless - sat back, his expression guarded. "It certainly has, Isobel,"
he said. "I only wish this meeting could have been under... more pleasant circumstances."
"More pleasant," Beaumont said. "Sir, what have you been doing out here? What are you trying to do, start a war?"
Proudfoot shook his head. "Just the opposite - I'm trying to end one."
He looked at Teague. "Captain, you have my word that neither you nor your crew will be harmed - on the condition that you send over Commander Beaumont to hear our terms for the Federation."
"Terms? This isn't a negotiation," Teague said. He knew Proudfoot's reputation, that Proudfoot had once been among the best of Starfleet's commanders. "The Federation won't negotiate with terrorists."
"I'm aware of that, and I'm no terrorist,"
Proudfoot said. "I assure you, Captain, you'll see things differently after I've had the chance to explain my side. Let us beam Commander Beaumont aboard. I'll give you two minutes to think it over."
He raised a hand in a cutting motion and the screen went dim as the audio was cut.
Teague looked at Beaumont, his face creased with worry. "Commander, are you all right?"
"Seem to be, sir. Whatever it was is gone now."
"I need to check her over down in Sickbay," Ranik said. "There may be damage a hand scanner can't detect."
"I only wish we had the time," Teague replied. "But Proudfoot has us on a tight schedule, and I don't like the odds. Commander, we need more information about this signal - what it is, how it works. Proudfoot thinks he can get you on his side. We need him to trust you - and we can't let him figure out how we kept his signal from incapacitating us."
Beaumont hesitated only for a moment. "Aye, sir."
Teague turned back to the screen and nodded to Sarria. A moment later, Proudfoot spoke. "What's the call, Captain?"
"No transporters," Teague said. "We'll send Beaumont over in a shuttlepod. She'll be ready to go in ten minutes."
Proudfoot smiled grimly. "We'll be waiting for her."
The Adventures of the USS Pathfinder will continue in...