Chapter Three (continued)
Ensign Dexter “Dex” Hall sat at the primary piloting station. He was a tall and youthful looking man with dark chestnut hair. His fare-skinned face was largely clean-shaven other than a pencil-thin goatee around his lips.
Limis sat at a secondary piloting station on Dex’s left, closely monitoring the vessel’s course and various sensor readings. “Project a parabolic course towards the coordinates where we found the generator while slowly moving us into a lower orbit than before,” she instructed. “I don’t want to get the drone’s attention too quickly.”
“Neeley, I want to know the instant that drone is in position to fire,” Limis added.
“Beginning scans of the surface,” Logan said from the operations station on the port side of the cockpit.
LaForge made some adjustments at the starboard tactical station and quickly paced over to operations, monitoring readings on a screen to Logan’s right. “Same readings as before,” he reported. “At a closer range, hopefully, we can get something more concrete.”
A painfully long silence filled the cockpit afterwards. Limis became more and more apprehensive with each passing minute at having to hear just intermittent beeps and chirps from the consoles. “Talk to me,” she demanded while staring at the stars. “Anything yet?
“Nothing indicating any kind of communications antennae or a fusion core from a stationary base at those coordinates,” Logan flatly replied. “No residual evidence subspace emissions or energy reactors. Just scattered concentrations of tachyons and anti-protons.”
LaForge paced back and forth from the ops console gathering his thoughts. He snapped his fingers when he had an idea. “We might be going about this the wrong way,” he suggested, sauntering back to the console. “Perhaps we can’t find what we’re looking for not because of a cloaking device, but something less sophisticated.
“Like a scattering field?” Logan asked.
“Yeah,” Geordi affirmed. “When concealing large structures as opposed to people, the generator can put out a lot of power. We’ll need to recalibrate the wave-guides.”
“Better make it quick,” Neeley chimed in. “Our weapon drone is closing in on us.”
“Put the shields up, standby all weapons,” Limis replied. She turned her attention back to her station, adding, “How long will those adjustments take, LaForge?”
“Just one more adjustment,” Geordi grudgingly promised. He walked over to tactical and keyed a command sequence.
A sensor readout quickly materialized on a screen Logan was observing. “There it is,” he said. “Possibly some kind of automated computer system. The power needed to keep it running for the last three hundred years must be massive.”
“Object is firing,” Neeley warned.
A laser bolt fired at the yacht from several different angles. The cockpit rocked hard, sending most of the occupants out of their seats. Dex and Limis grasped their consoles allowing them to stay in their seats. Limis arced her head back, checking on the welfare of the other three officers.
“Return fire,” the captain barked, once Neeley got back to her seat. “We know we can’t damage it, but we can at least divert its attention.”
The yacht fired phasers and more antiquated photon torpedoes. The result was the same. The weapons were not able to hit anything. But the weapons fire did allow the yacht to move closer to the atmosphere.
Neeley shook her head in disbelief, but then took another look at the tactical display to confirm what she had just seen. “I’m picking up a second projectile.”
“What?!” Limis exclaimed. “Did you encounter multiple
weapon drones eleven years ago?” she rhetorically asked LaForge and Logan.
“No, it was just one,” Geordi confirmed.
“Port nacelle is hit,” Neeley grimly reported, “ditto for two of our impulse thrusters.”
“At the risk of stating the obvious,” Logan remarked, “this one brought a friend.”
“Make that two friends,” Neeley corrected. “…no three. All of them are coming at us from different vectors.”
Green lasers fired from both the port and starboard bows. Two fired from below, bow and stern, and inflicted major damage to both nacelles. Explosions and sparks flew all over the cockpit. A fire broke out on a rear display screen. Logan raced out of his seat and grabbed a fire extinguisher, applying it to the blaze.
“Keep moving us into a lower orbit, Mister Hall,” Limis commanded, ducking her head out of the way of falling shrapnel.
“I’ll do what I can with the circuits that haven’t yet been fried,” Dex responded, not certain he could stop the ship from burning up in the atmosphere. “We just lost another orbital thruster,” he added after another hit.
“Do whatever you can keep from going into a free-fall,” Limis insisted. “Logan, route whatever power you can to the lateral thrusters to keep our descent steady.”
The ship took a few more hits while Logan was feverishly working his console. “It’s no use,” he grunted, smacking one of the panels. “Hull temperature at two thousand degrees and increasing.”
Limis started to think the captain’s yachts attached to the Lambda Paz
was cursed. The last one she took out was destroyed during a confrontation with the Dominion. Now this yacht was doomed. “Are transporters still functioning?” she inquired.
“Barely,” LaForge said with a slight hesitation. “I…”
“I’ll take it,” Limis interrupted. “At least we’ll be alive somewhere on the planet. Set it for emergency protocol six. Neeley, jettison the distress beacon.”
“I’ll try,” Neeley deadpanned, certain the beacon couldn’t be launched.
“That’s all I ask.”
“Ready for transport!” LaForge shouted over the explosions.
“Been here, done this before,” Neeley muttered.
“Energize!” the captain instructed.
LaForge dove over to the ops console and slammed his right forefinger on a button to activate the transporter. Immediately, the occupants of the cockpit, along with the rest of the yacht’s crew and emergency provisions beamed away.
Along an outcropping of lush foliage, Limis woke up sprawled on her back and feeling pain in her forehead, her neck and her legs. She struggled to arch herself up into a sitting position and looked around to see if any of her colleagues were around. The first person she saw was Logan lying face down. She slowly coaxed herself into a standing position, still feeling sharp pains up and down her body, but then scampered towards him.
Logan propped himself upward with Limis crouching over him. “I’m okay,” he insisted. He dusted off his uniform from the shoulders to the cuffs of his sleeves. Once standing upright, he saw a figure wearing a Starfleet uniform in the distance. “Geordi!” he called, running towards him.
LaForge was rolling in the muck trying to catch his bearings. He struggled slightly to lift himself upright with his hands while feeling waves of dizziness. “My ocular implants are causing havoc on my inner ears,” he groaned. “It’ll take a minute to get back my equilibrium. But I’m okay otherwise. What happened?”
“Looks like our sensor scrambler also scatters the transporters,” Logan surmised.
Limis tapped her combadge a few times, but only got whining static. “Limis to Lieutenant Neeley. Ensign Hall.” She continued futilely tapping her combadge, as did Logan and LaForge, but no response came from the communications devices.
“Something’s jamming them,” Logan grumbled. He removed the badge from his chest and fiddled with the internal circuitry.
The mechanical irises in LaForge’s eyes rotated slightly when they picked up some strange readings. “I’m seeing some strange EM activity,” he said. “Up ahead.”
A sleek metallic aerial weapon drone identical to ones the away teams from the Enterprise
-D encountered appeared. It fired lethal bursts at the trio, sending them scrambling. Limis swiftly dove behind some weeds and poked her head back out to fire her phaser at the drone. The drone quickly formed a forcefield around itself, deflecting the phaser fire.
Logan and LaForge popped out from behind their hiding places and fired their phasers at the drone. It quickly evaded the phaser fire and moved in closer to the Starfleet team. Two more drones suddenly materialized from the left and right, firing lethal bursts. Each officer picked a target and fired. But the phasers were unable to penetrate the drones’ shields.
“That’s enough,” a distant voice called. The drones quickly moved in for the kill, and then suddenly stopped. Two Sindareen appeared from behind the foliage. They were largely humanoid in appearance with amphibian skin and cobra-like necks that inflated and deflated as they breathed. One was pointing a rifle from the Starfleet’s team’s right, while the other was holding a pistol and an uplink device. He pushed a button on the remote control device, making the drones disappear.
Three more Sindareen slowly emerged from behind the trees. Upon seeing that the Starfleet officers were surrounded, they quickly scampered towards them and took their phasers and combadges.
“Let’s go,” the lead Sindareen instructed, indicating a direction with his rifle.
The captured Starfleet officers were standing single file as they were led into a cave. Drops of water leaked in from what was left of a long dried up river. Living and dead weeds hung from the ceiling. In the center of the spacious cave was a large mechanical generator. Electrical energy pulsated down the large metallic device. A rectangular screen was at the eye level of everyone in the room, which contained a graphic representation of the planet.
“Mister LaForge,” Logan whispered, gritting his teeth.
“Yes, Commander,” LaForge quietly answered.
“Exactly why would we want to transport to the central generator when it was perfectly clear that someone got there before we did?”
“Those coordinates were already programmed into a lot of our scanners.”
“But wouldn’t you have thought of a safer place to land?” Limis suggested.
“You’re right, I goofed,” LaForge relented. “If it makes you feel better, though, no place on this planet is entirely safe from those weapons.”
One of the Sindareen guards sidled up to the trio, having just heard some of the conversation, and knocked LaForge off his feet. “No talking!” the intimidating alien sneered.
“Hey, hey,” LaForge gasped, helping himself back up. “Easy there, big fella.”
“Of course, if the Sindareen got here first,” Logan reminded his colleagues, “then odds are the Dominion is trying to get its hands on the merchandise.”
Limis rolled her eyes, not interested in that reminder at the moment. “You just had to find a cloud in the silver lining,” she huffed.
“Down on your knees, prisoners,” the lead guard instructed, indicating the ground with his rifle.
“Love to help out,” Logan retorted, “but I’ve got kind of this ACL thing…”
“On your knees!” one of the secondary guards repeated. He clasped both of Logan’s shoulders and forced him to the ground.
“Ow!” Logan yelped, which caught the attention three more guards. They each raised their rifles certain that expression of pain was a trick to try to escape. The second guard raised his hand, and the other three stood down.
Yet another Sindareen entered the room. This was one whom Limis immediately recognized. Her eyebrows twitched at the sight of Tor Vot, who had taken her captive almost a year earlier.
“Hello, Captain,” he said with a smug grin. “You didn’t think you’d see me again, did you?”
“I hadn’t given it much thought,” Limis quipped.
“You know this gentleman?” Logan rhetorically asked.
“Last time you and I crossed paths,” Limis continued, “you had the audacity to take on the Dominion. And that was after Gul Hadar fired you when you botched his plans to use my son to exact vengeance on me.”
“I didn’t ‘botch’ anything. You escaped somehow, probably using the same trick you used to beam onto my ship.”
He walked closer to Limis and squeezed her cheeks with his right hand. “I was promised riches that would have raised my people back up from ruin,” he snarled vengefully. “And the bounty on you was part of that deal. I only let you go so the Dominion would go after you instead of me. It had worked out for both us after I had realized the Dominion doesn’t care about helping us.”
“And your benefactor from the future does?” Limis sarcastically asked after he let go of her cheeks.
Tor Vot gave a sigh of regret as he continued recalling his last encounter with Limis. “It’s unfortunate you survived that confrontation,” he scoffed.
“Right now, the feeling’s mutual,” Limis shot back.
“And now you appear to have the same ideas that I do.”
Limis smiled with feigned amusement. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she confidently lied.
Tor Vot snickered at a prisoner’s usual attempt at subterfuge. “I doubt you and your entourage are here for… archeological research,” he said with a smirk. “You should know that scientists are always pawns of the military. It starts out as scientific study in the name of making the lives of a great many people easier. But then enter Starfleet, and an instrument for improving the species becomes a weapon of war. The Baku incident was just the most recent example of that.”
That last remark caught LaForge’s attention. He and his Enterprise
-E crewmates had exposed a Starfleet conspiracy to forcibly relocate the inhabitants of a planet in the Briar Patch, which had been dubbed a fountain of youth.
“How very true,” Limis said despite not knowing what Tor Vot referring to. “But I was sent here to follow my superior’s instructions. I do not know the finer details of what they plan to do once my mission is complete.”
Tor Vot gestured to the two guards who were keeping an eye on Logan and LaForge. “Take them below,” he ordered them. Then to Limis, he said, “Seeing as you won’t be swayed by standard interrogation methods, Captain, maybe seeing your colleagues suffer should persuade you to tell me why you are here.”
The two men were led away and down a set carved stairs. Tor Vot then gestured for the three guards around Limis to move away, so that he could escort her to what she could only imagine would be a makeshift interrogation room. She could only comply with her captors’ instructions with all kinds of thoughts racing through her mind about what type of suffering the Sindareen would inflict on the other members of this failed mission.