Thanks everyone for reading and commenting again. I'm glad you are still enjoying the story. TLR, I definitely can relate. It's hard for me to keep up with all of the stories. CeJay, I'm glad you are enjoying the Eagle references. Thanks for making up some cool stuff to reference. And Gibraltar, I like Kittles too. But of course you know how much I like a character doesn't spare them. We'll see with Kittles.
The tricorder squeak stopped Shashlik from tapping her combadge. She looked down and unlatched the rectangular device from her belt. “The translation is complete?” Lt. Ramlo asked, a curious gleam in his deep, iris-free eyes. Unconsciously he reached out, his curiosity wanting to take the tricorder and the data it had uncovered from himself.
Shashlik wagged a finger as she held up the tricorder and quickly skimmed the readings coursing down its small screen. Her teeth clenched, a growl emitting from her throat. Ramlo’s curiosity quickly turned to concern. “What is it?” He asked.
The Kaylar didn’t answer. Instead she activated the volume. The halting, modulated electronic voice was a good approximation of a standard Starfleet audio interface program. “Whoever it was has audacity, to pretend to be the Enterprise,” Ramlo remarked, shaking his head.
Both officers knew that Erickson was the only Starfleet ship in this sector. “They did this because of how well known the Enterprise was,” Shash remarked, teeth still clenched. “They figured whoever fell into their trap would know and be comforted by the fact that they were about to be rescued…by the Enterprise itself no less.”
Ram dipped his head, his curiosity returning. “Shash, you know who did this?” She shook her head, the tremble running from her neck throughout her body.
“Brigands!” she spat, “I’ve seen this kind of deception before,” she added, “They even had false transponder signal backing up their lie. The practiced eye would know better, but civilians or visitors from another quadrant, they stood no chance. We’re dealing with a cunning and brutal foe.” She finished, a feral grin slashing her features. Her ferocity made Ramlo take a step back. “I am looking very forward to meeting them.”
The Burning Claw
Gedrik winced as the captain’s claws scrapped loudly against the metal finish of his armrest. He looked up to see Deoch glowering down at him, black tongue licking the air as if seeking out his fear.
“I’m waiting,” the captain hissed, his leathery, pink face pinched with annoyance. The first mate sighed inwardly. He had barely sat down at this station, before the captain was on him. “I still have time to turn the Claw around and make our rendezvous if this vital information you have to tell me is rubbish,” he said, fondling the disruptor latched to his thigh, “Of course if that is the case, you won’t me making the return trip.” This statement drew some hisses, clicks, and chuckles from the disparate crew.
Though The Burning Claw was manned mostly by fellow Venturi, like Gedrik and the captain, Deoch never refused capable hands, tentacles, or claws as it were. A K’normian sat at the helm and a grim, fearsome Capellan woman hunched over the weapons console. A comely, twelve-fingered Nuvian was curled in the seat beside the captain’s, the latest ‘captain’s prerogative’. The bridge was dank, dim, and cloistered. Normally Gedrik preferred it that way, but now it only made him feel trapped.
Gedrik swallowed down his fear before replying, “The energy readings I detected while onboard the ship, I knew I had seen them before,” he paused, remembering where he had seen them. It had taken him so long to realize it because he had tried to bury those memories. “My wife…” he paused, and Deoch respectfully gave him a moment. His eyes flickered as the bridge melted away…to heated meetings among the Venturi Science Council.
As their sun, Alpha Venturi Major continued to cool, and wreaked greater havoc across their planet, the Venturi had turned inward, against a Federation that they had helped to build but had proven ineffectual in their greatest time of need. Gedrik and Berae were among the latest generation of Venturi scientists whose life missions it had become to save their homeworld.
And as solution after solution gave way to the inevitable, looming disaster, the ideas had become more desperate. Precept Qeux had enlivened debate, suggesting the use of polaric ion isotopes to reignite the dying star. Both Gedrik and his wife had argued against it, citing that the Venturi remained members of the Federation, if nominally, and had to abide by the Polaric Test Ban Treaty. Instead he had backed Berae’s idea of using protomatter to restore the star. It had been the worst decision of his life.
“Perhaps I didn’t recognize the polaric radiation readings at the time, because I just didn’t want to see it,” he forced the words out, fighting against the clutch of memory. “Those aliens…that ship…it was powered by polaric ion energy, stable polaric ion isotopes,” he paused, waiting for the import of his words to sink in.
Deoch looked down at him, perplexed. The rest of the crew was similarly confused or nonplussed.
“None of you learned much about Federation diplomatic history I see,” Gedrik replied, “Well, let me make it simpler to grasp. Polaric ion particles can generate power on a massive scale, enough to light up an entire planet, but they are highly unstable and can wipe out all life on a planet in seconds, not to mention causing subspace fractures.”
“A superweapon,” Deoch’s eyes gleamed, and he stroked his leathery chin. He turned to the dark skinned Capellan. “And you knew nothing of this Runt?” She glared back at him and shrugged her massive shoulders. Even though the Capellan was taller than just about everyone aboard Burning Claw, she would’ve been considered small for her size and Deoch enjoyed needling her about it. He had taken to calling her Runt, but no one else dared follow his lead.
“It’s more than that, or it can be,” Gedrik chanced touching the captain’s bare forearm. Deoch often preferred sleeveless tunics to show off his muscled arms. The captain pulled back, his hand ready to strike. The first mate didn’t shrink from the gesture. He was too excited now.
“Old Qeux might have been right all along!” he gushed, “Whatever generated that stabilization field could be used, maybe, to save Alpha Venturi Major!”
Deoch snorted, his laughter harsh. “That old foolish dream of yours rears its head again?” The captain shook his head, “I thought you had given up such things after I picked you up off the floor of that bar on Vega Colony? I gave you a new life, new purpose, but yet, you persist in thinking you can change the universe!” He threw up his hands, and stomped back to his seat, drawing more laughter from some of the crew.
Gedrik sat up in his seat, clearing his throat before he spoke, “This isn’t an idle dream. This could be the answer. We could be heroes, the saviors of our race!”
Deoch sat back in his chair and stroked the cheek of the eager Nuvian concubine now pressing against him. “Or we could be rich,” he retorted.
Gedrik sighed inwardly again. He wished that the captain acted was compelled by more altruistic motivation, but he had to use whatever worked. “That as well, but those riches will remain beyond your grasp until I can retrieve whatever produced that radiation.”
“I told you we should’ve destroyed that probe,” the Capellan grumbled. “What if those aliens hid whatever the First Mate here is so ecstatic about inside of one of it?”
Deoch turned halfway around in his seat. “It was a communication buoy, a feeble cry for help that would never be heard in time due to the nature of the expanse. It was a waste of power to destroy it.” Now it was his turn to shrug. “But going back to the derelict is a good place to start trying to piece together the direction of that probe, if the generator isn’t still there, and was just overlooked by your boarding party.”
The Capellan hissed, almost as a good as a Venturi. “Never question my thoroughness,” she warned. The captain was more amused than threatened.
“Give me a reason not to then,” he said, “and I won’t. But if you did overlook something on that ship, the generator or not…” He let the threat hang in the air. Even though it had been directed at the Capellan, Gedrik felt it rest heavy on his shoulders.
“We’ll see,” the Capellan retorted, her competence now in question. It was the one weak spot in her makeup from what Gedrik could see. Now that it had been questioned, she would be as determined as Gedrik to get back to that ship and discover the location of the polaric ion device.
Which was a good and bad thing, great if she was proven right, but if his quest was as foolish as the captain suggested, there would be no place in the galaxy to hide from the Capellan. Of course if he failed Berae again he would cheat the Capellan of her vengeance by ending it himself.
Deoch chortled, “Good show,” he remarked, reaching out to stroke another section of the Nuvian’s anatomy. “Krendt!” he barked at the helm, “best speed back to that husk.”