Day Eleven: Exit Music
- I -
There was a battle taking place inside the nebula and Michael Owens couldn’t help and feel as if he was fighting his own. With the events of the last twenty-four hours he hadn’t gotten much rest and hardly any sleep at all. And of course it didn’t help that he had lost a whole night to what now seemed to have been a failed attempt by the entities known as the Light trying to contact him. The following night was cut short by the discovery of Gedar’s dead body, not a willful murder as they had initially assumed but instead an accident caused by a crewmember possessed by the Light and attempting to shut down Eagle’s
warp core which was causing them such harm.
Michael couldn’t help wonder how the young man’s life could have been saved and a lot of damage caused over the last week could have been avoided if he had only been able to establish some way to communicate with those beings.
He quickly understood the futility of that line of reasoning and gave up on it. There were much more pressing issues to worry about now than what could have been or morn the sleep he had lost over the last few days.
The entire ship and crew were on the line now and that was more than enough to shake off the growing fatigue which had led him to be a captain in absentia for most of crises gripping his ship since they had arrived in the nebula. He was determined to give the latest and greatest danger to the ship his full and undivided attention.
On the view screen the nebula which had been such a source of marvel and
inspiration to many since they arrived appeared to be on fire. Bright, strobing lights in the distance gave proof to a battle between life forms of pure energy. Their history and transgressions against each other unknown to them, all they knew was that the Light feared those they called the Dark so much that they had made the decision to try and destroy them for once and for all. The resulting fall out would mean disaster for Eagle
if she remained anywhere close to this inferno in the making.
“We’re clearing the nebula in five minutes, twelve seconds,” said Lance Stanmore from ops.
“Any sign of the yacht?” Owens said. He was not prepared to leave half his senior crew behind in Aphrodite when this place turned from a place of marvel into a death trap.
So’Dan Leva had returned to the bridge after receiving treatment for his injuries sustained after the runabout had crashed into the shuttle bay. He shook his head. “They are not on sensors and they are unable to penetrate into the nebula deep enough to make out their current position.”
Michael headed for the tactical board to join his half-Romulan officer. “How much time do we have?”
“Difficult to say. But I am reading energy spikes off the chart. Whatever these creatures are doing to the planet, I’d venture it’s very close to its climax.”
A sudden bright light blinded everyone on the bridge before the automatic dimmer could reduce the glare. Michael feared the worst.
“Sir, I’m reading a massive shockwave originating from the general coordinates of the rogue planet,” Stanmore said and turned to look at the captain. “Forty-five seconds to impact.”
Owens glanced first at his tactical officer than down at the instruments himself to get an answer to his question. “The yacht?”
Leva shook his head.
Michael forced himself to reprioritize. If the yacht and his people were truly lost, he had to ensure that Eagle
would not befall the same fate. “Mister Waldorf, can we outrun the shockwave?”
The Petty Officer manning helm consulted his instruments. “We need to channel all available power to the impulse engines. And even then it’ll be tight.”
“Bridge to engineering.”
“Hopkins here, sir.”
“Lieutenant, I need everything you have for the impulse engines. I don’t care if it blows out after, right now we need to get out of here. And leave something for aft shields. Everything else needs to be in the engines, including life support.”
“You got it. Hopkins out.”
He toggled the ship-wide next. “Attention all hands, this is the captain speaking. Brace for impact from shockwave in thirty seconds,” he said and then headed back towards his seat to follow his own advice. “Mister Leva, whatever remaining power you can scrounge up goes into inertial dampers. Mister Waldorf, keep us vertical and in front of that shockwave as long as you can. We may be able to ride it out.”
The two men followed their instructions immediately.
And then he saw the wall of energy heading for his ship, looking for all purposes like a mercilessly powerful tsunami ready to blow away anything and everything unlucky enough to be caught in its path.
Michael could feel the ship protesting as it shook and trembled, experiencing far too much resistance from the nebula at this speed.
“Fifteen second to impact,” said Stanmore, his voice strained.
“At least thirty seconds to nebula periphery.
“Engage all aft thrusters, give us as much forward momentum as we can give her,” he said. He knew it wouldn’t make any significant impact on their speed but if a few more kph would mean the difference between wounded or dead, he’d take anything he could get.
That shockwave was upon them now.
“Impact in ten,” Stanmore said.
“All hands, brace, brace, brace.” Owens held on to his chair as if his life depended on it.
And then he got a swift kick to his back. At least that’s what it felt like as Eagle
was rear-ended by the massive shockwave. He grunted in pain as his arms tried to dislocate themselves from his shoulders but he somehow and miraculously managed to stay in his seat. His vision was turning blurry as he felt forces pulling on his body far greater than what could have been considered medically safe.
The lights on the bridge dimmed and then gave out completely and various computer stations failed within seconds, leaving the bridge dark safe for the bright light shining through the ceiling dome and the view screen.
On the viewer the shockwave was now a mass of swirling and furious energy but instead of crushing the ship, as he had feared, it remained steady, pushing Eagle
along with it. They were riding it at the very top like a wind surfer taking on a far too large wave but having somehow found, by pure luck and circumstance, the perfect sweet spot to not be violently swallowed up by it.
“We’re … we’re clearing … the nebula,” Stanmore said with great difficulty, his words sounding forced and heavily distorted by the pressure pushing him into his seat.
And then just as quickly as it had grabbed them, it let go, the pressure slacked suddenly and Michael could feel the organs in his body re-arrange themselves. On the screen the shockwave had fizzled out and the nebula came back into view but it appeared like a shadow of its former self. The bright crimson color which had given it its unique and enchanting beauty appeared nearly drained. The cloud looked somehow smaller and darker now, as if it had burned itself out after Eagle
had been spat out like the unwelcomed visitors they had been.
“Impulse engines and thrusters are offline. We are drifting,” Waldorf said. “Trying to reestablish attitude control.”
The ship was tumbling uncontrollably away from the nebula but that wasn’t Michael’s greatest concern for now. He stood carefully and turned to find all of his bridge officers, relieved that nobody seemed to have been seriously injured in their crazy ride. “Damage report?”
Leva needed only a few seconds to collect the requested data. “We have ship-wide system failures. Warp drive and impulse are down. So are shields and defensive systems. Life support is running on emergency power. Reports of injuries are coming in across the ship. No significant casualties have been reported at this time.”
Michael nodded, silently thanking their lucky stars and realizing that this could have ended far worse for his ship and crew. “Stabilizing life support is our priority.”
The Romulan nodded and went to work to communicate those orders.
“Sir, I have a contact … I think.”
Michael turned towards ops. “What do you mean, you think?”
He shook his head in frustration. “Sensors are not reliable but whatever it is, it’s in visual range.”
The man didn’t have to be told to put what he found on the screen. When Owens looked up again he saw a black swirling something at what he estimated to be just a few short kilometers from his ship. “What is that?”
“Not sure,” said Stanmore. “Could be a spatial—“
“Something’s emerging,” said Leva.
Indeed a small starship came shooting out of the phenomenon not unlike the way Eagle
had been ejected out of the nebula moments before.
Michael smiled when he recognized the familiar design.
“It’s the yacht,” Waldorf said but by then nobody had to be told anymore.
The black mass from which it had emerged vanished moments later, leaving only the small vessel which seemed to be tumbling with no control and again not unlike her mother ship.
“Hail them,” Owens said.
“Communications are down,” the tactical officer responded.
“Transporters?” he said and looked at the Romulan.
He shook his head.
Michael glanced back towards the screen where the small support vessel was still approaching. “Any ideas how we bring them on board then?”
Nobody on the bridge seemed to have one. Both shuttle bays were still unavailable and with no attitude control it was impossible for them to maneuver in order to dock with the yacht.
For a moment everybody simply watched the small, oval shaped ship tumbling towards them. “Somebody tell me, are we on a collision course?” Owens said.
Waldord nodded. “Uh, yes, sir. Impact in sixty seconds.”
The relief of finding his away team hopefully alive inside the craft was quickly replaced by his fear of crushing the smaller ship in mere moments. “And we can’t get out of the way?”
“No, sir,” said the veteran helmsman. “At our present speed and orientation the yacht will impact against the saucer section on deck four, section nine through eight.”
Owens whipped around to find his tactical officer. “Evacuate those areas,” he said and turned back towards the impending space collision. “Tractor beam?”
Stanmore shook his head. “Unavailable, sir.”
“Hopkins, I know you’re busy down there but I could really use some thrusters right about now.”
The chief engineer came on the line a moment later. “I wish I could, sir. It’ll take me hours to get them back online.”
“How about just one? And we don’t need much, just enough to arrest our momentum a little bit,” Owens said.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“Make it quick please.”
And with that Owens and the rest of the bridge crew were left to watch quietly as the yacht moved closer and closer, clearly just as unable to navigate on its own power as Eagle
and avoid what seemed to be an impending space collision.
“Ten seconds to impact,” Waldorf said.
Owens glanced towards tactical.
“All relevant sections have been cleared.”
“I have one forward thruster firing,” said Waldorf but then quickly shook his head. “It stopped. It wasn’t enough, we’ll still hit the yacht. Twenty-two seconds.”
Hopkins had come through. As little as it had been, at least it would lessen the force of the impact.
Something else occurred to Michael then. Their sudden movement had altered their altitude somewhat. “She’s heading straight for us.”
Stanmore checked his board. “Confirmed. The yacht is now on a collision course with deck one,” he said and then turned to face the captain behind him. “Straight for the bridge module.”
“Clear the room,” Owens said.
Stanmore and Waldorf jumped out of their seats and headed for the nearest turbolift while Owens stepped closer to the screen which was now completely dominated by the captain’s yacht tumbling uncontrollably towards them.
Leva stepped up next to him. “Sir, bridge is clear. We need to go.”
But Michael didn’t move. Instead he watched with a mixture of dread and fascination as the yacht hit Eagle’s
saucer somewhere just below them at around deck three, he guessed. He felt the impact through the rattling deck plates and then looked on as the small craft continued upwards along the hull, peeling off paint and blowing up sparks as it went along.
He took an instinctive step backwards when it became unmistakably clear that it was heading straight for the bridge.
He didn’t need to have bothered. The yacht came to screeching standstill mere meters from the raised module right on the very top of the saucer section.
In fact it was so close, he could see into the cockpit’s viewport where he could see the faces of Xylion, Culsten, Deen and Star.
The first officer, clearly none the worse to wear, offered a salute and a large smirk decorated her features.
The captain frowned. “Somebody’s going to pay for that paint job.”