Chapter 10 <cont'd>
“Uh… what the hell?” exclaimed Shanthi as the display screens at the Science station began to waver and flicker intermittently. “I’ve lost automation and computer access.”
“I’m losing tactical systems!” Tiedermeyer added. “Shields are failing, and I can’t access our weapons.”
At the Helm station, Lightner slammed his hands angrily against the non-responsive surface of his console. “Shit! I’ve got no control over anything. We’re drifting.” He immediately slid out of his seat, dropped to the deck on his back, and jimmied open the maintenance access panel on the bottom of the console.
Juneau moved to retrieve an engineering tool kit and joined Lightner under his workstation, the pair working side by side and talking in low tones as they tried to diagnose the problem.
Lar’ragos stood, eyes searching the bridge as consoles began to wink out. He turned to address Shanthi. “Emergency shutdown of all computer automation, Lieutenant. Reboot the computer core from the protected archives.”
Shanthi’s hands darted across his panel, every tap eliciting a null-function buzz from the console. “I can’t do it from here, sir. I’ll have to access the core directly.”
There was an ear-piercing squeal from the overhead comms, then a frantic voice yelling, “—der on Deck 6! He’s using some kind of advanced weaponry! Containment fields have been compromised, he’s walking through them like they’re no—“
there was a startled yelp, followed by silence before the channel closed.
Lar’ragos turned to Tiedermeyer as Shanthi bolted for the turbolift. “Marine, escort Mister Shanthi to the core, and avoid Deck 6. Use the emergency access shafts and stay away from the ‘lifts. You are personally responsible for making sure he gets there and completes his work.”
Tiedermeyer acknowledged the order with a curt nod, and turned to direct Shanthi to the bridge’s emergency egress ladder behind a hatch cover.
Lar’ragos tapped his combadge. “Security teams, we have an intruder on Deck 6. He appears to be able to breach our containment forcefields. Use extreme caution when approaching him. Use of heavy weapons is authorized.”
Liu, who’d remained a silent observer until this point, raised a skeptical eyebrow at that. He stood from his chair, muttering, “You’re going to let them light off photon grenades and tetryon cannons aboard the ship?”
The captain spared him a grim look. “If the intruder is who I suspect, it still won’t be enough.”
“Captain,” the Ops chief called out. “Communications has just come back online, but in a limited capacity. Local point-to-point laser transmission, only.”
Lar’ragos looked to Chief Petty Officer Dunleavy who’d taken Tiedermeyer’s place at Tactical. “Can we launch an emergency buoy?”
Dunleavy referenced her board, then shook her head. “Negative, sir. That function has been locked out.”
“Incoming transmission from Masada
, Captain,” Ops advised.
Lar’ragos’ clenched his jaw, struggling to maintain control in the face of his utter impotence. “On screen,” he ordered brusquely, turning towards the viewer.
The viewscreen crackled and a jumpy image began to coalesce, finally steadying and revealing the compact bridge of the Defiant
-class vessel. Lar’ragos experienced a brief out-of-body moment as he stared mutely at Liana Ramirez seated in the captain’s chair of the battered escort. She was dressed in her duty uniform, not a hair out of place despite the obvious scorch marks across the bulkheads and the wrecked consoles visible behind her.
“Hello, Pava,” she said brightly. “If it’s not too much trouble, I need to speak with Donald.”
It seemed a thousand different thoughts fought to occupy Lar’ragos’ reasoning centers simultaneously, and it took him a long moment to realize someone was calling to him repeatedly.
“Captain?” Liu asked again, placing a hand on Lar’ragos’ shoulder.
Lar’ragos looked at the counselor, blinking away his dazed paralysis. “I — I’m good.” He turned back to the viewscreen. “You are in unauthorized possession of a Federation starship. I demand that you explain yourself.”
“I’m here for the captain,” Ramirez replied, her expression darkening. “You aren’t part of this, and you don’t have to be. Just don’t get in my way.”
the captain,” Lar’ragos answered.
Ramirez shook her head with amused exasperation. “I just knew you wouldn't give him up.”
Lar’ragos raised his hands in a gesture of helplessness. “You’re apparently in control of our systems. If you don’t believe me, check our logs and database. Sandhurst went AWOL over a month ago, and his whereabouts are unknown.”
Ramirez gestured to someone off screen, doubtlessly ordering confirmation of Pava’s assertion.
you?” Lar’ragos asked.
“You know very well who I am,” Ramirez replied somberly.
Lar’ragos shook his head fractionally. “I know who you appear to be, but Captain Ramirez was killed in action. Vaporized, with no recoverable remains.”
Her eyes widened just a fraction, but it was a dead giveaway to a Listener. “Captain Ramirez?”
Lar’ragos silently counted down in the back of his head the time necessary for Tiedermeyer and Shanthi to reach the computer core as he sought to keep Ramirez talking. “She was posthumously promoted after the events at Velkohn.”
“I see. No medal for you, then, after leaving me to die?” Ramirez asked, her tone deceptively benign.
“Her sacrifice saved the away team,” Lar’ragos continued evenly. “She saved my life and the lives of the Velk hostages and the Changeling. It’s likely our returning that monster to the Dominion prevented another war, sparing countless lives.”
Ramirez snarled, leaning forward in her chair, her composure suddenly gone. “I
saved you, Pava!”
Lar’ragos’ expression was infuriatingly neutral. “Liana Ramirez was a hero and a patriot,” he noted in a matter-of-fact tone, as if giving an academy dissertation. “She would never knowingly participate in the murder of fellow Starfleet personnel, the theft of Starfleet equipment, or the crippling of her former crew’s vessel. Whoever or whatever you are, at best you’re only a pale imitation of the woman.”
Ramirez came unhinged, stumbling out of the command chair to scream into the viewer. “You arrogant bastard! I’ve always hated your smug, self-centered superiority! I should come over there and tear your throat out myself!”
He turned his back on the screen, calling over his shoulder, “If you want to talk, you know where to find me.” Lar’ragos resumed his seat in the captain’s chair, and glanced back up at the viewer an instant before severing the comm-link.
In response to Liu’s dumbfounded stare, Lar’ragos said helpfully, “I think that might just provoke a response.”
“You’re insane!” Liu assessed.
“If she’s anything like the old Liana Ramirez, I want her angry. When she’s calm, that’s when she’s most dangerous,” Lar’ragos explained, reaching into a hidden compartment in the arm of the captain’s chair to extract a hand phaser.
He attempted to adjust the beam intensity only to discover the phaser was completely inert. “And… it appears she hasn’t forgotten that particular little trick.” He tossed the phaser over his shoulder where it clattered off the face of the inoperative Tactical arch. “Peachy.”
The hum of multiple transporter beams in concert filled the bridge. Lar’ragos had just enough time to realize that the objects regaining solidity were not humanoid sized, but were small and spherical. “Get down!” he shouted as he threw himself to the deck.
Overlapping detonations tore the bridge asunder as the primitive chemical explosives and resulting shrapnel scorched, shattered, and flayed metal and flesh alike.
Deafened by the blasts, his body riddled with shrapnel, Lar’ragos struggled to rise. Blood trickled or spurt from a dozen wounds in his torso and extremities, and he pressed one hand to his right eye to try and staunch the bleeding from the ruined socket. Through his remaining good eye he observed armed figures materializing throughout the bridge.
Ramirez was standing in front of him before he could fully process her abrupt arrival. She delivered a staggering kick to his sternum, sending him crashing back to the smoldering deck. Just above the high-pitched whine of his wrecked hearing, he could just make out her shouted words. “Do I have your goddamned attention now?”