Ensign Jake Levvy was a twenty-one year old pilot whose biggest regret was graduating after the Dominion War. His second bone of contention was ending up in this backwater sector of Federation space, running escorts for a docile race while guarding a diminutive space station.
He brought his fighter into a gentle assent, weaving between the massive spires to align the nose with the center point of the yawning tunnel just ahead of him. At least, it looked like a yawning tunnel at close range. Each of the two engine vents had a diameter wide enough to house an Ambassador
class starship. He tried not think about what the energy exhaust would do to him at this range should it suddenly fire up.
He armed his compliment of ten photon warheads, locked both phaser banks on target and waited. His heart was galloping, pumping just enough adrenaline to make him giddy.
Maybe Levvy couldn’t stop this mammoth, but he was happy to give it a swift kick in the ass as it went by.
He sneered defiantly. At least they can’t ignore us anymore!
The craggy, seasoned voice of Lt. Hadad sparked through his helmet. “Jake, prepare to fire on my mark. Remember, once you’ve unloaded, you take your skinny butt out of there. My little friend…do not embarrass me by getting killed Do you copy
Levvy smirked while toggling the COMM button that was built into his cockpit chair. “My skinny butt copies, sir. I have a firing solution. You got my escape vector?”
“Affirmative. Don’t change your exit route unless you have to. We need to break off in opposite directions. Hopefully, that’ll make us harder targets
Starbase Virgo One
have engaged.” Polef announced tersely.
A silent gap followed the Bolian’s initial statement. Ferris held her breath, and she fancied that the occupants of the control room were holding their collective breath with her. Personnel who didn’t monitor sensors looked expectantly to those who were. A timorous current circulated through the room, binding everyone to a moment in history that could become a turning point in the Federation’s future.
Eventually Polef began his characteristic muttering, eventually cycling up to a normal speaking voice. “Hmm…Ahh…scanning…hmm…ahem…alright then…okay…I have explosions within both engine canopies.” He finally harrumphed. “Unable to determine extent of damage.”
A flight control operator chimed in on the heels of Polef’s report. “Commander, our fighters are pulling away. They’re reporting no change in intruder’s course or speed.” Frustration weighted her voice. “No response whatsoever.”
Ferris and Polef exchanged a fleeting glance of relief. It was for them, a rare moment of camaraderie. At least they could take comfort in knowing that their provocative action hadn’t escalated the situation.
Ensign Levvy’s voice suddenly yelped over the speakers. “Virgo, Virgo, hostile has just launched a small object from their tail! Might be a torpedo…or uhh
Ferris struck the COMM access with a clenched a fist. “Evasive, Jake! And keep a sensor lock on that thing----“
“It just detonated! I repeat, object just
----“ There was a sizzling blast of static.
“Damn it! What IS that
Almost simultaneously, klaxons blared around the room, like the abrupt start of a chaotic symphony.
In her two and a half years as station commander, Ferris had never heard these particular alerts, and for good reason. They were tones reserved for only the gravest of threats.
On the large wall monitor, a pulsing red dot appeared, surrounded by layers of contracting rings.
“Reading gravimetric stress factors, one to the seventieth power and increasing!”
Someone spoke from behind her, uttering a single word with frightened reverence.
When Levvy realized the rim of the expanding gravity well had enveloped him, he was concerned at first, but not afraid. He knew that increasing thrust by thirty-four percent would overcome the attraction. It was enough to counter the singularity’s pull and still keep him moving forward.
But then, the gravimetric energy tripled. The Musketeer
shuddered and slowed to a dead stop, as the opposing force overcame the engine’s output.
Uttering foul illocutions, he jammed the impulse engines into maximum burn.
The fighter yawed wildly, pushing desperately against the crushing tidal forces. For a time, there was a stalemate as the fighter remained in place, neither gaining ground nor losing it.
Eventually, Levvy’s computer decided to weigh in on the contest. “Warning: impulse reaction pressure has now surpassed safe operating limits. A lower actuation level is recommended
“Duly noted, now shut up.” He retorted under his breath.
Hadad broke in through Levvy’s helmet, sounding strident for the first time since the young pilot knew him. His voice sputtered in and out through the anomaly’s interference. “Jake, You cannot achieve escape velocity! Throttle back and come to heading----can use the gravity----slingsho
---” The rest of his direction was strangled by a shrill buzzing.
Levvy thought about the singularity behind him and the ghastly death it represented. No way in hell was he going to “throttle back”.
A picture show flipped through his head; his graduation from the accelerated combat flight program at Starfleet Academy that had culminated in a roaring celebration. There was his mother’s surprise birthday party at his old home in Montreal. There was also his upcoming proposal to the shy but gorgeous Carrie Liptop.
Just ahead of him----and maddeningly out of reach----lay open space.
The fighter was thrashing against its invisible restraints like a caged animal. An urgent warning appeared on his canopy window, leaving red smears across his vision as it jiggled up and down with the ship:
“Let me go!” Levvy hissed, feeling tendrils of panic coil through his gut.
“Warning: outer hull stress is now exceeding design threshold
He watched in horror as the power indicators fell to dangerous levels. Given the G forces now in play, he would die instantly if either the structural integrity field or inertial dampers sank beyond the eighty percent mark.
A rumbling groan mixed into the cockpit alarms, followed by a very loud crack.
The power levels sank further. Levvy abandoned all composure, beating at his console with a gloved fist. A cry of terror rose in his throat…
And then, a miracle occurred.
The gravity released him, dialing down in strength before racing backward like a receding ocean tide. Still at full throttle, the fighter shot from the anomaly’s grip like an old fashioned bullet.
A toothy grin stretched over Levvy’s face, fueled by a euphoric sense of relief.
He called up the damage report, went through the checklist and only fully relaxed after noting all key systems were undamaged. His hands were shaking badly, but thankfully not enough hinder his flight control.
He set a course for the rendezvous point, taking steady breaths to scrub away his bout of panic. Panic. Yeah…well, he’d have to deal with that shame someday, but for now, his loss of control would remain between him, his ship and the vacuum outside.
The brash pilot considered his consolation prize. Well, at least I have a thrilling story to tell when I get home
, he ruminated.
But unknown to Ensign Levvy, the protomatter that had created the singularity was continuing to destabilize, causing the gravity waves to oscillate in fierce, unpredictable surges. The next swell stretched further than any of its predecessors, while gravimetric intensity ratchet up to a dozen times its former level.
Irresistible force snapped the fighter backward even as its engines pushed it forward at maximum thrust. The shearing force that resulted went far and above anything its builders had designed it to withstand.
Levvy both heard and felt the wretched shriek of splitting metal.
“NO!” He bellowed. “Lemme go, LEMME GO, YOU SON OF A BITCH!”
Those words turned out to be his last. Moments later, he was screaming as the ship came apart around him.