UT: Refugee Crisis/Dark Territory-"Stealing Fire"

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by DarKush, Jun 8, 2012.

  1. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
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    Chronological Defense Corps Headquarters
    Tholia

    The temperature chamber was held aloft by a hover sled. It coasted quietly into the room. Trapped within the chambers tight confines, the former High Magistrate Pernox shifted hir head as best s/he could, trying to absorb as much information as possible, to better effect hir release.

    Deep down s/he knew it was futile, but what else could s/he do? S/he had been bred to be a survivor, to triumph. And what should have been hir crowning achievement, the decision that propelled hir to first among the Magistrates, had led to hir downfall.

    “Sled stop,” commanded the solemn voice of Commissioner Onnorax, the head of the Defense Corps. The sled complied immediately to the voice command. Pernox groaned. It was frigid inside the chamber, hir cramped joints hurt, hir breathing was restricted and each breathe drew as much ache as it did methane. Hir jailers could’ve easily transported hir from hir dungeon to the Chronological Defense Corps Headquarters, but they chose a slow and painful form of transportation instead.

    Through the small translucent screen, Pernox saw Onnorax, colored a deep crimson standing in front of a large display screen, with an energy web splayed across it. With the commissioner was High Magistrate Zezrene, trilling with barely contained glee, and a far grimmer Arezene. Zezrene burned with a confident solar orange while Arezene’s carapace was a sorrowful gray. Pernox was certain that the hover sled had been Zezrene’s idea.

    Nearly beyond Pernox’s vision, blending with the shadows were the night colored Assessors. S/he could not tell how many there were, their dark forms indistinct and ran together, mixing with the dimness ringing the room. Hir crystalline form tingled at their appearance. It was always a fateful sign whenever the law bringers appeared.

    Making sure s/he was within Pernox’s eyesight, Onnorax pointed one long arm back at the screen. “Do you have any idea what that web represents?”

    Pernox took a few moments to answer, biting back an insolent retort. “No,” s/he finally said.

    “It is time,” Onnorax replied, “Or better, it represents time,” s/he paused, tracing a skeletal finger along one temporal strand. “Do you see this strand here? It is not perfect, there are small, very small fractures between the strand. It is like this across the web, broken lines…everywhere. Do you know why that is?”

    “No, I do not,” Pernox said, not hiding the disdain in hir voice.

    “Each fracture represents a disruption in the space-time continuum, a rupture caused by us,” Onnorax hissed the last word. S/he paused, shivering noticeably as hir coloring turned from red to a deep violet. “Something I have sworn to prevent, your arrogance forced me to abrogate. We altered time because of your hubris, committed multiple temporal incursions to hide our violations of the test ban treaty.”

    “Will it be enough?” Zezrene asked. Onnorax shrugged hir shoulders.

    “Only time will tell,” Onnorax soberly answered.

    “May I speak?” Pernox interjected.

    “Your words have already led us to the precipice of intergalactic pariah status,” Zezrene ripped, “Haven’t you spoken enough?”

    “Let her speak,” Arezene said, with force. S/he finally looked at Pernox, hir gray pallor lightening. “Say your piece Pernox.” She was stung that Arezene no longer prefaced her name with her title. Before her fall, to commit such a faux pas would have been inviting harsh punishment, maybe even death.

    “I will never regret or apologize trying to put the Tholian people first,” Pernox declared. “The ship was lost, along with its entire crew; there was no need to destabilize the timeline. Your actions have likely drawn the attention of your counterparts from the other powers.”

    “We were surgical, precise,” Onnorax declared, with utmost assurance. “Our incisions were small and only involved episodes concerning our people.”

    “Unfortunately the commissioner was not allowed to merely erase you from the time stream,” Zezrene interjected, none too pleased, “The other Magistrates remain pleased with your service on Romulus and your negotiations with the Dominion that kept us out of the war.”

    “But nearly everything else has been revised,” Onnorax reasserted hirself. “Except here,” s/he scuttled over to the screen and tapped the center of it. “The locus of the disturbance.” Pernox’s eyes followed the commissioner’s finger to the starburst within the center of the web. “There was too much temporal disruption. We could not simply erased the failed mission from time itself, the chroniton fallout was too great to get our agents close to.” A sickening green overtook Onnorax’s raging violet. If Pernox didn’t feel such discomfort s/he could sympathize with the commissioner for having to betray his oaths to preserve the timeline.

    “So there is a possibility that Starfleet’s Department of Temporal Investigations will intervene?” Pernox asked.

    “They already have,” Onnorax flushed red again.

    “I spoke with two of the humans, Lucsly and Dulmer via subspace,” Arezene said, “I tried to allay their fears about the disturbance and the minor ripples. We doctored data to make it appear like a naturally occurring phenomenon. They seem mollified…for now.”

    “Then all should be well,” Pernox said, “Release me at once so I can continue serving the Assembly.”

    Zezrene’s laugh screeched through the chamber’s audio receiver. “You are not getting off so easily.”

    “If you think this imprisonment is easy, why don’t we switch places?” Pernox retorted.

    “It’s far from over,” Onnorax was now colored obsidian, as black as a starless void; as pitch as the Assessors. “The Jov’k Tholis has uncovered a massive polaric ion energy outburst in the Caldera Expanse…of Tholian manufacture.”

    “That’s…that’s impossible,” Pernox shuddered.

    “The Eye of Tholia wasn’t destroyed,” Zezrene couldn’t stop from gloating, “It was hurdled backward into time, and across space. Now evidence of our furtive activities has returned to the Alpha Quadrant, literally at our doorstep.”

    “If we do not recover the polaric ion device, the Federation or another power will and they will discover who created it and falsified readings will not suffice the next time they seek an audience,” Arezene said sadly, still not looking up.

    “Commander Narskene is capable,” Pernox threw out, after searching her cortex for information about the military officer. “Narskene’s record is most impressive. From the Expansionist campaigns to testing the Federation’s mettle this midcentury, Narskene had proven hir worth. S/he will not fail.”

    “S/he will not,” Zezrene dipped her head, “you on the other hand…”

    “Your consciousness will be deleted,” one of the Assessors had slithered forward, so quickly that Pernox had not even seen or sensed movement. S/he blotted out Onnorax and the others. “Your memories will not be available to your successors.”

    “That is unconscionable!” Pernox bellowed. If her consciousness was not placed in the crystal memory upload to enter the Lattice that meant that not only would all of hir knowledge be denied future generations, but also the wisdom that she had received.

    “I know what you are thinking,” Zezrene’s thoughts crawled into her mind, “But the Assessors have a way to separate your tainted engrams from your predecessors. They will live on, you will not.”

    “You can’t do that!” Pernox pushed against the unforgiving confines of the chamber. The Assessor sunk back into the shadows, oblivious to hir pleas or hir pain.

    “The decision has already been made,” Arezene said, meeting her gaze one final time. “I am sorry.”

    “Let us begin then,” Zezrene remarked. “Assessors….”
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  2. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Hey guys,

    As always, thanks for reading. Hopefully the following passage will better get at what I was aiming for.

    When I started researching polaric ion energy I discovered that it had temporal properties so I wanted to do something with that. I had alluded to the Tholians at the very beginning of the story ("Fire Beings"), but at that point I was thinking they were ancient Tholians. But thinking more about the temporal angle, I decided that they would be contemporary Tholian astronauts who were were flung back into time and space, due to a polaric ion energy malfunction.

    Now the Tholians want to erase all traces of their involvement.

    I've always wanted to write a Tholian story so I got to thank Gibraltar for coming up with this concept that allows me to do that. Though originally I wasn't planning on involving the Tholians as much as I have, and was perhaps going to save it for a follow up story, I'm glad I included it in this one so that it helps-hopefully-heighten the stakes while making it a bit more personal since a familiar and adversarial nation has such a personal tie to the refugees.
     
  3. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
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    USS Erickson
    Private Quarters

    Commander Donar flinched at the momentary flicker of doubt. He had thought about contacting Juanita, but he didn’t want to bother her, and the idea of calling her merely to vent felt unseemly.

    Sighing, he pressed the door chime. The doors swished open immediately. The Angosian stepped from the cool, sterile corridor into a rainforest.

    If he didn’t know any better, he would think that Commander A’nurd’s domicile was a holodeck. He touched one of large leaves, hanging from the trees, lining the room. Despite the sophistication of photonic technology, Tai had spent enough time in real jungles to know what real plants felt like. He rubbed the leave’s dampness from his fingers, onto his pants leg. Droplets of warm, wet air splashed his face.

    “Hello, hello Mr. Donar! This is a most welcome surprise!” Through the canopy of leaves, somewhere along the ceiling, he heard the Munzalan before he saw him. He caught glimpses of a series of bars spread along the ceiling as he saw A’nurd breaking through the brush and landing neatly on all fours before him. The Munzalan’s uniform was disheveled and he worked furiously to correct that.

    “My apologies for my appearance Commander, but I wasn’t expecting company, and I like to hmmm…I prefer to tramp around my quarters au natural,” he said, giving Tai a mental image that was not asked for.

    “If I am disturbing you,” Donar began, hoping that the engineer would provide him an easy out.

    “No, no, not at all,” the Munzalan replied. “Please, follow me to my living area.”

    “Oh, I thought this was your living space?” Tai asked.

    “No,” A’nurd shook his head, “This is my work area, I do my best thinking, problem solving and designing here. The living space is more Federation standard.”

    Tai nodded in understanding. “Lead the way then.” Once ensconced on a comfortable keres hide couch.” The Angosian patted the sofa pillow. “Keres hide, Chin’toka IV, how did you come by this?”

    Sitting on the edge of his chair, opposite of Tai, A’nurd smiled, “I’ve got my ways,” he grinned. “I picked it up after the war, while I was assigned to Engineering Corps crew doing clean up in the Chin’toka system.”

    The Angosian ran his fingers over the soft exterior, “Very rare indeed.” A’nurd shrugged.

    “I like rare things, reminds me of how rare and unique we all are,” the Munzalan offered. “Care for some refreshments.”

    “No,” Tai said after a pause.

    “So, how can I help you sir?” A’nurd asked, his large golden eyes gleaming as he waited expectantly.

    “I…uh…don’t know how to say this,” Donar found himself stumbling over his words, “Perhaps I shouldn’t have come here.” To that, A’nurd said nothing, maintaining the same serene expression on his face. He was content to let the commander work it out at his own time and pace, or not at all, and Tai appreciated that.

    Rubbing his legs and patting his knees, his nerves fluttering in his stomach, Tai croaked, “I needed…to…ah…I needed,” he paused, scowling at himself, “I wished to talk to someone.”

    A’nurd cocked his furred head to the side, “I’m all ears.”

    “You know what we are likely to face once we reach the location of Ensign Kittles’ last message,” Donar said, referring to the information the captain dispensed at their last briefing. The Munzalan nodded in understanding.

    “And you know as well that I will be leading a hazard team to storm the marauder vessel, if need be.” A’nurd nodded again. “Well, it’s…is this a confidential conversation?” Tai forgot to ask from the beginning.

    “Absolutely,” A’nurd replied with rock solid assurance.

    “I am concerned about the placement of Lt. Commander Norrbom on the team,” he finally admitted, feeling both a weight lift off his shoulders and his stomach muscles contracting at the same time.

    “I see,” A’nurd stroked his chin, “What is the cause of your concern?”

    “Though I didn’t put this team together, they are a tightly woven unit. They trust each other implicitly, and I had no qualms about taking over from Lieutenants Shashlik or Zaylen,” Tai began, “But with Norrbom on the team now, it just adds a combustible element.”

    “So you think she will be destabilizing?”

    The Angosian nodded his head, “It is a possibility. She is too much of a loose cannon, and though I trust the rest of the team to follow my orders without question, I can’t say the same of her yet.”

    “It certainly doesn’t help that Helen is well respected among all of the crew and that she might sow dissension even among the hazard team,” A’nurd chimed in.

    “I had that concern as well,” Tai admitted.

    “Have you talked to the captain about this?” The Munzalan asked. Tai grimaced, before shaking his head.

    “It was the captain that made the decision to place Commander Norrbom on the team,” Donar replied. “If I approached her with my concerns, it would be like I am second guessing her decision.”

    “Which you are,” A’nurd gingerly pointed out. The Angosian scowled at the smaller man before shifting uncomfortably on the sofa.

    “I know that,” he snapped, “but I don’t like the idea of voicing those concerns to the captain, of making my…discomfort known. I was trained to follow orders.”

    “Ah,” A’nurd sighed, throwing his head back, “I understand now.”

    “You understand…what?” Tai asked, with mounting suspicion.

    “You were trained to follow orders, in the Angosian military,” the Munzalan began, “and perhaps later as part of Special Missions, and more than likely in the Security Division, but you are no longer in any of those things now. You are a first officer. It is important to share all of your views about things vital to the safety of the ship and crew with the captain, even if they go against what she thinks is best.”

    “That is easier said than done,” Tai admitted.

    “But yet it must be said and done,” A’nurd pressed. “Captain Redfeather is a great commanding officer, but she is just as fallible as the rest of us. I am certain that she thinks placing Helen on the hazard team will be a bonding experience. But if you feel that it could be too much of a distraction, it is your duty to inform the captain. Lives will be at stake when hazard team boards that outlaw vessel.”

    Donar nodded, the tension in his stomach easing. “You’re right,” he said. He gave the wise lemur-like engineer a closed mouth smile. “I guess…I am still adjusting to my new role. I have been so used to following orders, of just internalizing the decisions of my superiors, and been so intent on simply carrying them out, that I forgot how important the advisor role of my position as first officer is.”

    “Sounds like you didn’t forget, so much as merely misplaced it,” A’nurd chuckled. He shrugged, “It happens, you got a lot on your mind.”

    Tai grunted in acceptance of the man’s characterization. “Thank for this A’nurd.”

    “Anytime,” the Munzalan said, “Sure you don’t want something to drink or eat? I have tulaberries, lightly chilled in the refrigeration unit.”

    “Perhaps some other time,” Donar said, meaning it. “I need to speak with the captain.”

    “Understood,” A’nurd said, standing up. Tai followed suit. The Munzalan held up his hand and Donar grasped it firmly. Before either man could disengage, the lighting in the room flashed red seconds before a klaxon blared from bulkhead speakers.

    “Red alert! All hands to battle stations!” Captain Redfeather’s voice commanded, “Red alert! All hands to battle stations!”

    “I guess the talk is going to have to wait,” Donar said, now all business.
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  4. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
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    The Burning Claw
    Laboratory

    Still cradling his injured arm, Lt. Ramlo held the spanner aloft, contemplating whether he should crack it into the base of Gedrik’s skull. The lanky Venturi was hunched over the polaric ion regulator, completely entranced by each groove in its crystalline shell and completely oblivious of the danger he was in.

    Of course the horned reptilian feared Mavaar far more than he did Ramlo. The sultry Nuvian stood propped against a wall near the entrance, arms folded over her sculpted midsection, the position only making her cleavage more noticeable.

    The Arkenite science officer was far beyond any base feelings the woman’s suggestive pose could elicit. Shashlik’s head flying through the air ran through his mind on a constant loop. He couldn’t block it out; it filled both his sleeping and waking hours, a scream that could find no release building within him.

    He briefly pondered unleashing that scream on Mavaar first, to eliminate her as a threat before turning on Gedrik. Then his wild thoughts went to the device itself, cracking open its plating, igniting its fire, and consuming all within its flames.

    “Spanner,” Gedrik rasped, holding up an insistent hand, fingers waggling. The man wasn’t even looking at him. But Mavaar was. Her violet eyes narrowed and she pushed off from the wall.

    “Something wrong Lieutenant?” She asked. Ramlo gulped, his throat bone dry.

    “Scanner,” Gedrik demanded, his eyes now raking over the science officer. He snatched the device from Ramlo’s hand. “What’s your problem?” He grumbled, arching back over. Mavaar continued to approach, and Ramlo found himself rooted in place, buffeted by fear, hate, and revulsion at his own cowardice. While his emotions surged, Gedrik ran the scanner along a seam on the regulator’s hull, and gasped with delight seconds later. “Ah success.”

    This drew both Ramlo’s and Mavaar’s attention. “Soon the secrets of the regulator, of my people’s salvation will be known to me,” Gedrik promised, seemingly more to himself than the others in the room.

    “It’s kind of like stealing fire, wouldn’t you say Lieutenant?” Mavaar asked, suddenly beside him, her voice melodious.

    The Arkenite didn’t respond, instead he stared dully at the circuitry behind the open paneling. “What is that Mavaar?” Gedrik looked up, clearly annoyed that someone had spoken and broken the spell the regulator had on him. Ramlo was surprised that the Venturi had seemingly forgotten the torture he had just recently endured, but agony was all Ramlo could think about, when he wasn’t assaulted with memories of Shash’s death or the blood drenched thoughts of vengeance.

    “I thought the Starfleeter would catch the reference,” Mavaar said, not hiding her disappointment, “Since he has spent so much time among the humans. It comes from one of their myths. Prometheus was a deity who stole fire from his fellow gods and gave it to mortals. A seminal event, the discovery of fire, explained in a religious parable.”

    “I see, a primitive tale for a barbaric species,” Gedrik sniffed. “What does that have to do with this regulator?”

    “The danger of knowledge and the destructiveness inherent even in great engines of progress,” Mavaar replied, “Especially in great engines of progress.”

    “Only if they are in the wrong hands,” Gedrik replied, “which they no longer have to be.”
    “What do you propose?” Mavaar asked.

    “There’s still a way for you to make this right, for us to save a world,” Gedrik pleaded, standing up again. Mavaar moved a hand to her bosom. The Venturi flinched and stepped backward. “Please, there has to be more to life than money. Help me save my home.”

    Mavaar laughed, “You silly, sentimental fool. There is more to life than money that is true. It’s called leverage, which a lot of money buys a lot of. And you have neither.”

    “I will no longer help you,” he declared.

    “Oh really,” her fingers inched closer to the crevice. But this time Gedrik stood his ground. Ramlo, wracked with torment, numbly aware of the exchange.

    Gedrik balled his fist around the spanner. Mavaar smirked at the gesture. “Try it,” she challenged. “Get back to work,” she said, turning her back to him. A raw cry ripped from Gedrik’s lips as he charged the Nuvian, the spanner held high.

    Mavaar moved quickly, her boot arcing around to connect with Gedrik’s chin. His neck jerked back with a sick snap and the man crumbled to the floor. Her eyes widening in surprise, the Nuvian rushed to check the man’s pulse. After a few moments, she looked up at the barely sensate Ramlo. Her eyes had clouded over. “He’s dead,” she announced calmly. “Nadeen is not going to be pleased.”
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  5. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
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    The Burning Claw
    Laboratory

    Nadeen indeed was displeased. Ramlo stood against the wall, watching the large woman fuming; anger building inside her like a pressure cooker.

    “You killed Gedrik?” Her broad nostrils flared as her eyes took in the man’s corpse, crumpled like discarded trash at her feet. “The only person who could divine the secrets of that infernal device!” She jutted a dagger-like finger at the crystalline regulator.

    “We still have the Starfleet scientist,” Mavaar offered, from the other side of the regulator, smartly out of punching range. Nadeen’s smoldering gaze found Ramlo next. The man wanted to both shrink from it, and also put her eyes out.

    “Look at him, he’s almost catatonic,” she scoffed. “You’ve screwed us over majorly Mavaar,” Nadeen declared. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to get top dollar for a device we can’t even explain how it functions.”

    “Leave that to me,” Mavaar’s voice took on a calculated sultriness. “I’m well versed in speaking a language that any Orion slaver or merchant can understand.” She stroked the device and purred.

    Unfazed, Nadeen glared at her again, “You better.” She warned before activating the door panel. Turning around, in the threshold of the door, she pointed at Ramlo, “And do something with that,” she said, “If he is of no use to us, then jettison him like the rest of the trash.” She glanced at Gedrik, shook her head, and spat on the dead man before leaving.
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    USS Erickson
    Main Bridge

    Captain Redfeather forced herself not to sit on the edge of her seat. Her body strained against the comfortable back of her chair, but she forced herself to stay there. She had to look cool, not only to her crew but to whomever mastered the marauder vessel.

    “Increase magnification,” she ordered ops again. Lt. Commander Norrbom quickly complied. Wyoma still squinted through the thick haze of gases veiling the cruiser. “So, that’s an Antares-class freighter eh?”

    “Yes sir,” Helen replied. The ship’s tan bumpy hull was attached to a singular circular warp nacelle.

    “I’m not going to even ask what the standard weapons and shields are for it, because I know that they’ve doubtlessly made changes,” Redfeather surmised.

    “An apt decision,” the taciturn Commander Donar said from her side. Wyoma briefly regarded him. She was surprised that the man had spoken at all. His focus seemed completely on the ship before them, his dark eyes gleaming with predatory anticipation. It reminded her of a Le-matya she had once seen in captivity on Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet; a bound animal hungry to break free of its cage and devour. She shivered slightly at the comparison.

    The captain couldn’t help but look back at Norrbom. Momentary doubt struck her about the decision to put Helen on the hazard team. She had thought that if anyone besides herself could rein Tai back, if he broke his leash, it would be the operations officer. Now the captain wasn’t so sure. But there was no going back on her decision. She needed to trust both Helen and Tai that they could pull this off.

    “Our readings are inconclusive regarding the full complement of weapons aboard that ship,” Helen remarked, “but it is doubtlessly bristling with them.”

    “What about our people?” the captain asked, “Are you picking up any Arkenite or Kaylar life signs?”

    “There is a faint Arkenite life sign,” Helen replied, “but it is…flickering…diffused by polaric ion energy.”

    “So they do possess the regulator,” Tai stated, grinding his teeth.

    “It appears so…sir,” Norrbom answered.

    “And what about Shash?” Wyoma asked, her heart in her throat.

    “Nothing,” Helen said grimly, “I’m not picking up anything.” A pall fell over the bridge as the possibility that they had lost one of their own began to sprout in their minds. The idea that Shashlik was gone tore at the captain’s façade. Though they had never been chummy, she had personally picked Shashlik to be a part of the Erickson crew and had been impressed with how much the woman had grown in her position and as part of the extended family aboard the ship. The woman had saved her life more than once, and many among the crew could claim the same. After all they had been through, the thought that she would meet her end, here, at the hands of grubby criminals, it was nearly impossible to contemplate.

    “Isn’t it possible that the readings could be off, that maybe they have Shash somewhere that screw up our sensors?” Lt. French asked hopefully. Thankfully the man’s question broke the dark cloud forming over the bridge. It was a long shot, but plausible enough for the captain to clutch on to.

    “It is…possible,” Helen admitted, with obvious doubt.

    Sitting up in her seat, she tugged down on her tunic. It had been a habit since she had saw Captain Picard do it at her commencement. She thought emulating great captains sometimes might allow some of that greatness to rub off on her. “We are in communications range,” she replied, more of a statement of confirmation than a query.

    “Aye sir,” Helen replied.

    “Hail them,” Redfeather said. While Norrbom followed her orders, the captain coughed to clear her throat. She wanted to sound as in command, as in control as possible.

    “The ship is not responding to our hails,” Helen remarked seconds later, with obvious annoyance.

    “Try again,” the captain commanded, “And Mr. Holcus,” she addressed the Tygarian manning the tactical console, “power our weapons. Be prepared to fire at my mark.” The rangy, leathery reptilian briskly nodded.

    “Aye captain,” he rasped.

    “Still no response,” Norrbom said, a pinched tone in her voice. She definitely fuming now, Wyoma realized. Tugging her tunic once more, the captain spoke up.

    “Unidentified vessel, this is the Starship Erickson, Captain Wyoma Redfeather in command,” she stated with authority, “We know that you have two of our crewmen. Return them and hand over the polaric ion device, or we will be forced to take more aggressive action against you.”

    “No response,” Helen said after a few moments. Tension ratcheted up on the bridge.

    “Mr. Holcus,” the captain’s voice felt tight, even to her own ears. “Prepare to fire a glancing blow, off of their bow, at my mark.”

    “Captain, wait,” Helen interrupted, “They’ve just ejected something. Something very small.”

    “On screen,” Redfeather said, “And more power to forward shields.” Once Helen directed the ship’s sensors to pinpoint the object, at maximum magnification, loud gasps filled the bridge, as did Norrbom’s vocal curse. Tai growled deep in his throat. Unbidden, her hand covered Wyoma’s mouth in shock.

    Shashlik’s severed head, neatly sliced off at the neck, rolled endlessly through space, toward them.

    “Helen,” Redfeather said, finding her voice again after several seconds. The shields opened up just enough for a shaft of light envelop the murdered security officer’s head. Wyoma pledged to recover the rest of her body. Now she was on the edge of her seat, not caring how it looked.

    “It appears that the pirates have given us their answer,” she said coldly, now devoid of doubt…or charity, “Mr. Donar, I want you and the hazard team to reply in kind.”
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  6. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
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    The Burning Claw
    Command Deck

    Nadeen gave into the cheers that broke out across the bridge. She savored the triumph as the antimatter mines exploded like fireworks around the Starfleet vessel. The Starfleeters had been so stricken by their headless colleague and so intent in scanning for the Arkenite that they hadn’t paid more attention to the Klingon antimatter mines that Nadeen had spread around The Burning Claw.

    It had been one of her first orders upon assuming command. Deoch had always been stingy in their usage, due to their expense, and Gedrik had been ignorant to their potential. Nadeen knew enough about Starfleet to know that they never left their compatriots behind and that a starship was doubtlessly on their trail.

    Thankfully the Erickson had waded perfectly into her trap. And she had made sure to add to the potency of the mines by using all of them to increase their destructiveness. Once the intense flare dissipated, Nadeen jumped from her seat. Still glowing, the crew now looked upon her like they might a deity. Even Deoch had never taken on and defeated a Federation starship before.

    “What are your orders now captain?” Gotash asked. Nadeen looked at the viewer. The Erickson listed, it’s battered hulls half darkened by power outages and perforations.

    “Gather a boarding party,” she ordered the too fragile Venturi. “We’re going to raid that boat.”
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  7. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
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    The Burning Claw
    Laboratory

    Mavaar pushed him against the wall, her body pressing against Ramlo. In the distance he heard a terrible rumbling, but thoughts of what was going on beyond this ship, outside this room, were secondary. With one hand she stroked her inviting cleavage. With the other, she caressed the Arkenite’s bald head. “Pity that Gedrik didn’t implant neural servos in you.” She purred, her breath warm and soft on his ear. Even her smell was intoxicating. “Perhaps there are…other ways to compel you to continue working on the device.” The woman pressed her body against him, her breathing becoming husky. Her hands cradled the back of his head and she pushed him towards her open, moist lips.

    “Boarding party to the cargo bay,” Nadeen’s voice squawked through the room’s intercom. “The Erickson is ours for the taking!”

    “Erickson,” Ramlo muttered, the name of his ship, the memories of his colleagues breaking through his haze. “They are in danger.” He tried to break free of the woman, but her grip was too strong. His green eyes water as a heavy musk exuded from the woman’s pores. What little scientific mind he had left made him realize that Mavaar was using pheromones to cloud his mind, to weaken his resistance.

    “The only thing you can do to save them is finish learning about this device,” Mavaar whispered. “This can be the leverage you need to purchase the life of your friends.” She kissed him forcefully, setting his mind and body on fire. It took all he had to pull away from her. He gasped hungrily for air and Mavaar laughed.

    “You have admirable restraint,” she conceded. “But no one, save the most asexual being, can resist me for long.”

    “Pheromones,” he said, “You’re using pheromones against me.”

    She cocked her head to the side, a quizzical look giving way to one of appreciation. “You continue to impress me Arkenite,” Mavaar replied. “During my time among the Orions I learned a lot about their irresistible ‘slave’ women. Their beauty was obvious, but that isn’t what bent so many of their purported masters into lapdogs. Orion women secrete a pheromone that affects the metabolisms of males of many species, turning them into obedient stooges. One of the Orion women ‘donated’ a gland that I had surgically implanted.” The Nuvian smiled with satisfaction.

    “So even your charms are fake,” Ramlo surmised. The woman frowned and the air grew heavy with her scent.

    “We’ll just see how well you can resist this time,” she said, her mouth opening again, her ripe lips beckoning. Ramlo’s knees began to buckle. His lips puckered, wanting to join with Mavaar’s. Unbidden, his arms embraced her, and she gasped in delight at his roughness. Mavaar closed her eyes, preparing to sink him with her kiss. Ramlo, not wanting to see the oncoming doom, closed his eyes as well.

    In the darkness of his mind, a towering figure formed: Shashlik. The Kaylar was dressed in gleaming ancestral blue armor and flowing golden robes, her arm-length tattoo resplendent. Her eyes shone like stars as he gazed upon her. She looked down at him, through him. Her lips parted and he waited eagerly to hear what she would tell him from beyond. “Just head butt the whore already!” The fearsome Kaylar bellowed.

    When Ramlo’s eyes blinked open, Mavaar’s lips were just brushing against his. He reared back and before the woman noticed, lunged his head at her. The heavy cranium that supported his three-lobed brain cracked into the woman’s head. Even her own ridged forehead provided little protection.

    She woman screamed as she fell backward. One hand automatically reached for the bloody indention on her forehead. Her face painted dark red from the seeping blood, Mavaar glared at him, her succulent lips now becoming a violent slash. “I’m going to take that reconstructive surgery cost out of your hide.”

    As if hearing a voice in his ear, Ramlo bent low, trying his best to remember the combat moves Shash taught him. To the raging Nuvian, he simply replied, “Bring it tramp.”
    *****************************************************************
     
  8. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    *****************************************************************
    USS Erickson
    Holodeck One

    Lt. Brocc was roused by the screaming. The Dimoran had sought to get in just a spot more of training before he was called into action. Accessing his favorite training program, safeties off, the Dimoran had immersed himself in a Tzenkethi War scenario. Perhaps it had something to do with racial memory, but he loved besting felinoid opponents; one of his few regrets being that he was too young during the Tzenkethi conflict to see if the reality would be as satisfying as his fantasies.

    Brocc had just been about to separate the Tzenkethi Autarch’s furry head from his equally hirsute body, with the felinoid brute’s own scimitar, when his universe had turned upside down. When he awoke, his whole body was in pain. He blinked rapidly, spots flashing before his eyes. He lifted up, grimacing in pain. His arm hung loose and useless at his side. The lighted grid running crisscrossing the room was dim, which told him the Erickson was running on auxiliary power.

    With his good hand, he tapped his combadge. There was no accompanying chirp. “The communications system is down too,” he mumbled. His eyes now adjusted to the wan lighting, Brocc recovered his phaser. Grunting with every movement, Brocc stuck the phaser in the belt of his uniform and stood up on shaky legs, one bruised knee especially protesting. He lurched to the door access panel. First he tried the intercom, hoping that the problem with his compin was localized. Not even getting static, he knew it was much bigger. “Door open,” he tried. Nothing happened. “Damn,” he grumbled, tapping in the code for a manual override.

    The door screeched open, and the Dimoran jumped back instinctively as a shaft of sizzling crimson light passed by the door. He heard a sickening sizzle and then a thumb. He didn’t know who had been hit, but the security officer knew right off that the gunman was an enemy. Starfleet weapons didn’t emit red beams.

    Yanking his phaser out of his belt, Brocc took a quick peek down the hall before he let off several shots. He had spotted two buccaneers and was pleased to hear two shrieks and thuds. Exhaling, his weapon at the ready, Brocc chanced taking another look out into the darkened hall. Two dark lumps lie before him.

    His weapon steady, the Dimoran slowly approached them. They could be trying to deceive them. One was a Draylaxian and the other a stout Attrexian. But as he got closer, he saw that their weapons, one a Klingon-style disruptor, the other a Valerian compression rifle, were just out of reach of both men. To be certain though, Brocc shot them both again, on a harder stun setting. Turning from them, he eyed their victim.

    His anger was stoked as he saw that the victim was an unarmed Antaran female, her blue uniform connoting that she was from the sciences division. Brocc said a quick prayer for her. He hadn’t known the fair-skinned humanoid, but she had been one of the nurses that had administered the hazard team’s final checkups in preparation for this mission.

    A mission that had come to their doorstep, the Dimoran realized. “These bastards don’t know what they just stepped into,” he promised the dead woman.
    *****************************************************************

    USS Erickson
    Main Engineering

    Chief Engineer A’nurd didn’t hesitate. With a war cry, he jumped on the console, turning quickly and used it to leap at the Gorn marauder. With claws and teeth bared his fingers dug into the startled reptilian’s large eye sockets like he was searching for plumb fruit. The massive lizard shrieked in agony, which only encouraged A’nurd to dig deeper. Ripping the wet orbs from both holes, A’nurd had only a second to celebrate his triumph before he was thrown from the wildly, thrashing, deeply wounded pirate.

    He was still clutching the man’s eyes when he slammed into a bulkhead with such force that he could feel his skull cracking. Holding the gristly gift close to his chest, the Munzalan sank into oblivion.
    *****************************************************************
     
  9. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    *******************************************************************
    USS Erickson
    Main Bridge

    Lt. Commander Norrbom groaned in pain as the beam was lifted off her. Commander Donar bent down, his eyes roving her body, checking for injuries. “Commander Norrbom, can you move?” Besides a fine scarlet scar running across his face, the man appeared none the worse for wear. Now, she on the other hand…

    Helen tested her limbs, grimacing with each movement. “Yeah,” she said after few seconds. “Brace yourself,” the Angosian said, grabbing the woman with surprising tenderness. He stood her up, and when her legs started to buckle, held her firm.

    “I’m okay,” she said after too long a period. Helen pushed off from him. He steadied her after her body became wracked with coughs due to the thick smoke on the bridge. “The captain?” She asked, searching the dim bridge. The emergency lighting was veiled by smoke. Even the main viewer was opaque. The fires spread across the bridge provided the most light.

    The operations officer halfway didn’t want the few bridge crew on their feet to put them out. Though she saw a harried Lt. French ably doing his best with a fire extinguisher. “The captain?” She asked again, scouring the bridge, before looking squarely at Tai.

    The man’s broad chest constricted. He looked away. “Oh no,” Helen gasped. “No.” She saw a pile of wreckage entombing the captain’s chair.

    “Commander,” Donar touched the woman’s shoulder. “The captain…is not dead.” He said.

    “Oh thank God, where is she?”

    “She is propped by her chair,” Donar said. “From what I can tell she’s suffering severe internal bleeding. I don’t know how much time she has.”

    “Beam her to sickbay,” she snapped, just remembering to leave off, “You idiot.”

    “Shipboard communications are down, almost everything else is down as well,” Donar said, “And the ship and the rest of the crew must be my prime concern.”

    “Like hell,” Helen said, limping past the man. She would take the captain to Sickbay herself, even if she had to limp all the way. His hand shot out, grabbing her shoulder, and this time not so gently.

    “Your first duty is to this ship as well,” Tai’s voice was like steel. “I’m assuming command and you are now the first officer.”

    The woman swallowed her anger. “What are your orders,” she gritted her teeth, forcing out the words, “Captain?”

    “Getting this ship’s systems back online, and finding out where that pirate vessel is, and being prepared for what they are going to do next,” he said. “Then we’ll see about Captain Redfeather, I promise.”

    Norrbom wanted to argue, but she knew that the man’s logic was sound, and she suspected that Wyoma would be disappointed in her if she bucked the man’s orders.

    “Can you walk unaided?” The Angosian asked.

    “I think so,” she said, favoring her right leg. “I can hop just fine.”

    “Good,” he nodded, “Find an operational console and do what you can to get shipboard communications back. We need to get in touch with Engineering to check the status of warp containment and main power.”

    “Got it,” She said, using the consoles to steady herself as she hopped in search of a working console. “Found one,” she said, a bit too relief, because she took in more smoke-filled air. Bending over hacking, her eyes watering, Helen was completely defenseless as several red beams of light whined into existence on the bridge.

    “What in the nine hells?” Donar gasped. Norrbom jerked up, surprised to hear fear in the Angosian’s voice. A tall, muscular dark skinned woman faced him, holding a disruptor dead at his chest.

    “Funny meeting you here husband,” the woman smirked.
    **************************************************************
    The Burning Claw
    Laboratory

    Lt. Ramlo refused to cry. Mavaar bit down hard into the stump where his hand used to be, drawing blood. Fueled by pain as much as anger he pushed forward, ramming the woman into the wall. She let go, along with a gush of air and a spray of blood, his blood flying from her mouth.

    He punched her repeatedly with the stump, howling in rage and pain each time it connected with her face. Feeling the woman slacken beneath him, he slid the stump under her throat, pressing hard against it while he continued to whale on her with his good hand. Guided by Shashlik’s demanding voice, the Arkenite continued driving his fist into the woman’s face, ignoring the cracking of his knuckles or the blood running between his fingers.

    Feral, her survival instinct activating, Mavaar began kicking at his knees and shins, while her fingers raked into his face, drawing blood, ripping skin. But still Ramlo held on, drawing on adrenaline and his formidable strength.

    Despite the Nuvian’s prowess, Arkenites were gifted with a natural strength, and coupled with the fighting techniques Shash had taught him, the woman stood no chance. A small part of him hated what he was doing to the woman, demolishing her face as his forearm found her carotid artery.

    Desperate, Mavaar released a cascade of pheromones, creating a fog so heady that it made Ramlo’s head spin. He released his hold on her, stumbling backward, trying to clear the air with both hands.

    Grinning savagely, moving with feline grace, the woman pounced. She went for his eyes, her fingers digging into one. Ramlo yowled, smacking her hand away, the wild gesture smacking her face. Mavaar fell away from him. The Arkenite’s tears were mixed with blood. Glaring at her with one eye, he approached her.

    Mavaar circled him, her beautiful throat bruised from his forearm, her hair askew; the beautiful façade she had constructed had fallen away. “I’m going to kill you,” she said, through ragged gasps of breath, her whole body heaving, “I don’t care whether you figure out the device or not. And if Nadeen has a problem with that, that’s her issue.” On the edge of his vision, Ramlo caught the tip of the device behind him, pointed like a dagger at his back. The Nuvian had carefully maneuvered him into a bad position.

    “If you thought I was going to help you, you’re not a complete accessory,” he said, hoping he found the right insult. The woman snarled and lunged at him. Ramlo nodded with brief satisfaction that he had found a sore spot.

    Unlike what she wanted, he didn’t jump backward and spear himself on the device. He moved to the side and allowed her momentum to thrust her past him. With a sharp elbow to her back, he assisted in driving the woman into and through the tip of the crystalline device.

    Mavaar sighed, gurgling blood as her body twitched spasmodically, pinioned to the device. The Arkenite flinched at the awful wet sound of sliced through flesh.

    Ramlo spent little time admiring, or regretting his handiwork. Hopped on adrenaline, he rushed to a computer console and accessed the ship’s main computer. The Arkenite shook his head, not completely surprised by the pirates’ lack of security protocols guarding their central computer. What corsair would expect an attack coming from inside their ship, through their circuitry? “Well, they are about to find out,” he muttered.
    ***************************************************************
     
  10. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    *****************************************************************

    USS Erickson
    Armory

    Vorvi slapped the Osaarian plasma charge on the door, thumbed its activation button, and ran around the corridor. Joining Nolun and the others, he covered his ears and closed his eyes as an intense flash and terrible rattling filled the corridor. Nostrils twitching from the acrid smell of scalded metal and burned plastic, Vorvi led his party back into the corridor, toward the room. For him this was the true treasure aboard the ship. He didn’t care about hostages or slaves, but access to Starfleet weaponry would make Burning Claw one of the most fearsome pirates around.

    The boarding party gasped with childish delight as they ran their fingers across the assortment of phaser pistols, compression rifles, and Starfleet issue plasma charges, stuffing as many as the could into the large sacks hanging from their sides.

    “Hurry, hurry,” Nolun said, “We must return these to Burning Claw so that we can return to procure more bounty.”

    “Such as?” Bargan, a pallid Ornaran, asked, as he continued stuffing power cells into his already bulging bag. Vorvi would be surprised if they just didn’t have to beam the man directly from the armory instead of the agreed exit point. “This here alone, should net me, I mean, us plenty felicium.”

    “Well, I’m not leaving until I get me a replicator,” huffed Grisso, the Tellarite being as thickset as Bargan was gaunt. “I’m tired of our malfunctioning one.”

    “Do you have any idea how long it would take to uproot one of those things?” Chided Rothal, a surly bearded, red Orion. “Do you really think that this crew isn’t going to rally or restore this ship’s power soon?”

    “Sindull has taken over Engineering by now, we control this vessel,” Bargan shot back. “Hells, we should just take this ship and leave the Starfleet crew on Burning Claw.”

    “They can’t all fit on Burning Claw,” Grisso loudly snorted.

    Bargan chuckled, “I know,” he replied. “It would be fun spacing excess crew members. Would insure compliance.”

    The Tellarite grunted, “I got to admit, that does make sense, and sounds like great entertainment.”

    “Shut up you two!” Vorvi snapped, “Let’s go.”

    “Well, look at this?” The hulking Ktarian Najok came from the back of the room, his sack empty, but the man held two stylized duty uniforms in his hands.

    “What is that?” Nolun asked.

    “Some kind of armor, very high-tech,” Najok said, his eyes gleaming with avarice even in the wan lighting.

    “How many more are there?” Bargan asked, his hands twitching.

    “A whole locker full,” Najok said. “These are probably worth more than all of the bounty we’ve seized thus far.”

    “Let’s get them then,” Vorvi ordered the others.

    “Stop where you are,” a voice bellowed from out in the hall. The pirates turned slowly to see a lithe Farian standing in the doorway, his compression rifle aimed and ready. “Drop everything and put your hands up.”

    Nolun’s laughter sounded like nails on a chalkboard. “You can’t take us all.”

    “Perhaps not,” the dark haired man said, cocking his head to the side. “But my friend Lott here, that’s another story.”

    A strapping Bolian stepped into view, a large, multi-barreled weapon hanging from his shoulder.

    “Frinx!” Bargan said, dumping his bag as his hands went up. Most of the others followed suit. Except for Vorvi and Nolun. Both Venturi dropped their bags, but grabbed their weapons. They aimed them at the Starfleet officers.

    “What are you doing?” Grisso cried at his compatriots.

    “Shut up coward,” Nolun barked, “If we were back aboard Burning Claw I would space the lot of you for giving up.”

    “That’s right,” Vovri said, his finger curling around the trigger of his Vendikan sonic disruptor. He glared at the Starfleeters, seeking to find their fear, but he found only resolve. Despite that, he still boasted, “It looks like it’s a standoff.”

    “No, it’s not,” the Bolian declared before he angled his monstrous weapon and unleashed its fury.
    ***************************************************************
    The Burning Claw
    Laboratory

    Once Lt. Ramlo gained access to the main computer, he sealed the doors to the lab, and placed a forcefield around them. Feeling secure, he pounded in more commands, his speed slowed because he could only type on the archaic console with one hand.

    “Here goes the shields,” he said, deactivating the cruiser’s main defense. “Now, the weapons,” he said, almost gleeful to switch off the ship’s offensive systems. Now the ship was prostrate before the Erickson.

    He next took over the ship’s propulsion systems, locking out access from the scow’s engineer. “Now, time to talk to the bridge,” he muttered.
    *****************************************************************
     
  11. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ****************************************************************

    USS Erickson
    Corridor

    Lt. Brocc bit down so hard that he drew blood from his bottom lip. “The joint is back in the socket,” Ensign T’Fal told him seconds later. The Dimoran, ignoring the pain, rotated his shoulder, testing out the Tiburon’s assertion. It throbbed, but he would survive. And he was grateful to have more mobility.

    The two Hazard Team members pressed themselves against a wall, keeping out of the throng of crewmen coursing through the halls like a chaotic river of flesh. The mass had pushed them together, and they had spent a moment trying to corral the flood, to get the crewmen into the relative safety of their quarters. Some had listened, some had not. Brocc could no longer concern himself with either.

    “Did you see any of the rest of the team on your way here?” He asked the elephantine-eared Tiburon; nearly yelling to make sure the man heard him.

    T’Fal winced slightly, and Brocc apologized. “It’s okay sir,” the Tiburon flicked one of his floppy ears. “These things pick up sound pretty well, even in a cacophonic environment like this.”

    “So, you saw no one?” Brocc repeated.

    “No sir,” he said, “I was headed to the armory when I ran into you sir. Maybe the rest of the team is there?”

    “Perhaps,” Brocc said, “But we’ll save the reunion. I need you to go down to Engineering. I’m going to bridge. If there are two areas these brigands are going to want to gain control of, it would be those.”

    “Aye sir,” the younger man said without reservation. Brocc nodded with satisfaction.

    “Be careful Ensign,” he barked, through with sentiment, “That’s an order.”
    *****************************************************************

    USS Erickson
    Main Bridge


    “Andraste,” Commander Donar shook his head, blinking several times. The thin peel of smoke hanging in the air wasn’t the cause because his eyes had already adapted to the smoky environs. The reaction was more him wanting to wake from this dream, or nightmare he had stepped into. But it was his wife, his Andraste, here in the flesh. Rich chocolate complexion, long, carefully plaited hair, her beautiful face hardened by time. She was dressed in a tight fitting, brown leather tunic and pants, with a furred sash purple bisecting the tunic. The sleeveless getup showed off her toned arms, always one of her best physical features. The retro style clashed with the modern utility belt she wore.

    The nasty looking Breen pulse gun aimed at his chest finished off her ensemble. Seven more pirates had accompanied his wife, coming in two waves via transporter beam. They had quickly fanned out across the bridge, three on the upper deck and four in the command well. With practiced efficiency they had pinned the crew against the walls.

    He took a step toward her and she waved the gun, her finger tightening on the trigger. “I wouldn’t if I were you,” she warned, and he knew the woman was lethally serious.

    “Your tattoo,” was all Tai could muster.

    She traced the unmarked strip of skin running from her left eye. “I got it surgically removed,” she answered, with a shrug. “I see you still kept yours, hanging on to the past.” Andraste shook her head, in mock pity.

    “But-but why?” Donar hated himself for asking such unimportant questions, but his brain was still reeling, trying to process why his reunion with Andraste, something he had once dreamed about, would occur in the middle of such carnage, carnage he no doubt knew that she had caused.

    The woman grinned before coughing lightly. Her gun hand never wavered. “If people knew I was an Angosian, if they knew I was a super-soldier, they wouldn’t underestimate me. Which can be fatal in the mercenary game. However, there has to be some accounting for my size, so I tell most people I am a Capellan, a small one. A ‘runt’ if you were. No one really questions that.”

    “All this time,” Tai shook his head. “You left Angosia…you left me…for this?” He gestured at the wreckage around him.

    “I left you because you just didn’t understand,” Andraste said. “You denied what you were, what they made us. I couldn’t think of anything else but killing after the war. The thought of what I had once wanted to be…an artist,” her laughter was harsh and heartbreaking. “After the war, they said my paintings were too disturbing. No one would buy them, you remember that.”

    “I do,” he closed his eyes, remembering holding the shaking, sobbing woman after she had lit a match to her artwork in a bon fire. She had left him a month later. Little had he known at the time that she was setting fire to her entire life, to who she had once been.

    “I couldn’t be Andraste Beyoro anymore,” she said, “The war had taken that young, naïve woman away.” Her eyes hardened, “And I couldn’t be Andraste Donar either, or at least the wife you deserved.”

    “I never hated what they did to us more than I do at this moment,” Tai admitted, his heart thudding painfully in his chest.

    “It’s too late for that now Tai,” Andraste said, her eyes narrowing on the three pips on his collar. “You’re not the master of this vessel,” she surmised. “Where is your captain?”

    “What are you planning?” He asked.

    “To take your command crew as hostages while we pillage this ship for weapons and other valuables,” Andraste bluntly answered, “even now I have teams taking over your Engineering and Armory rooms. We’re going to make quite a bit of profit off of this ship.”

    “No, you won’t,” he declared. “It doesn’t have to be this way.” He took another step forward, oblivious of the threat. He reached out to her again, “There is still a way to turn this around,” he offered.

    Andraste stepped back. She laughed, “You are not seriously going to ask me to surrender are you?”

    “If you want to live,” Tai said.

    “Oh really?” Andraste challenged, “You think you can take me?” She said, shoving the gun into his chest. With lightning, Tai grabbed the barrel and yanked it upwards while throwing an elbow at Andraste’s face. The woman’s cheek shattered inward as the elbow hit home. The pulse gun went off, the recoil burning his hand. But the deadly discharge demolishing a piece of the ceiling above.

    A yowl came from above and the grating over an overhead bulkhead popped open. A small furry blur leapt out, taking everyone by surprise. Hitting the deck in a controlled roll, Lt. Brocc began firing before he got to one knee. He picked off at least two pirates in just that many seconds.

    Taking advantage of the man’s timely intervention, Tai yanked the gun completely from his ex-wife’s grasp. She snarled, spitting bloodied teeth at him before she unleashed a flurry of blows on him. Tai backed up, alternately trying to protect his head and his body as the woman unloaded her fury on him. From his periphery, he could see that Brocc’s action had inspired the other bridge crew.

    Even defenseless, some charged the would be captors. He heard a spray of fire suppressant foam and a squeal from one of the pirates. Tai’s heart leavened as he withstood Andraste’s barrage.

    They had often sparred when married and despite the much higher stakes, Tai was able to keep the woman from landing a knockout or lethal blow. And if he could keep her dancing along until he could get to the bridge’s weapons locker, he could waylay her and then completely retake command of the bridge.

    Cursing him, she pulled a circular, three-bladed weapon from her utility belt. “Kligat,” Tai said through gritted teeth. A nasty smile spread over Andraste’s face.

    “Hate to cut this short lover,” she said, “But you and your merry band are really starting to piss me off.” She tried to outflank him, slicing the air in front of him as she maneuvered him away from the weapon’s locker. He took a look back at it, and Andraste’s smile turned knowing. “I know a thing or two about Starfleet bridge design. You didn’t think I was going to make it that easy for you, did you?”

    The Angosian widened his stance, his arms at his sides, trying to keep away from the deadly melee weapon. Though she only faked being a native from that world, his ex-wife wielded the Capellan weapon with expert skill.

    He tried to reduce everything to the opponent standing in front of him, but it was hard blocking out the cries of his colleagues as the pirates began to reassert themselves. He flinched at each sound of disruptor fire and each cry of agony or worse. One of the shrieks sounded like it came from Lt. Brocc. And he didn’t even want to dwell on how badly the captain might be faring.

    Sensing his distraction, Andraste lunged at him, her blade nicking his upper arm. He pulled back just in time before it could do any other damage. “When are you going to stop retreating?” She taunted. “When did you become so soft?”

    “Drop the kligat and I’ll show you how soft I am,” he promised. Andraste laughed. She had completely moved him away from the locker, almost to the other side of the upper bridge.

    “Not lacking for confidence are you,” she licked her lips, eyes roving his body. “I hope you haven’t weakened in other areas.”

    “Put down that weapon and I can show you that too,” he offered.

    “I like it when you talk dirty,” she said, advancing on him.

    “Eww, gross,” Helen said over Andraste’s shoulder. The Angosian woman’s shoulders bunched and Tai could see her wrestling with whether she should turn around or not. He decided to help her.

    “Time to give up Andraste, she’s got a phaser on you,” Tai said, looking around the woman to see Norrbom propped against the wall by the now open locker. She held her weapon square at Andraste’s back. “Good work Commander.”

    “Yeah thanks, could’ve done without all the pillow talk though,” the woman said. “But at least it kept her distracted.”

    “I suppose so,” Donar said. He held out his hand. “Hand over the kligat.” Andraste cursed, her body tensing. For what, Tai didn’t know, but he was certain it wasn’t going to be good. He tried once more, “This raid is over. I promise I will do all I can to mitigate your incarceration sentencing, if you give up right now.”

    “You think I’m going to a place like Lunar V again?” She thundered, and Tai winced, realizing his mistake.

    “Andraste,” he was able to call before the woman released her weapon. It sliced through his shoulder on its way to implanting into a wall. The pain had barely registered, before the woman had turned on Helen. Norrbom fired, hitting her dead in the chest. But Andraste continued charging.

    Grabbing his torn shoulder, blood geysering through his fingers, Tai shouted, “Commander, highest stun setting!”

    “Damn,” Helen said, backing away from the rampaging Angosian. She was still fumbling with adjusting the stun setting when Andraste crashed into her, flattening her against the wall. Norrbom’s head bounced against the wall with a stomach churning smack. Helen gave a short, stunted cry before she fell to the deck. Tai rushed to her, checking her condition, unfortunately slathering her with his blood. The human tried to speak, but her eyes rolled back in her head and she passed out. The Angosian quickly wiped his blood stained hand on his tunic, and then picked up the woman’s phaser. He checked its stun setting.
    Andraste hadn’t stopped. She had run toward the turbolift, hoping to escape the bridge. But courtesy of the plunderers’ attack, the lift wasn’t working. The woman was prying the doors open when he caught up to her.

    “Andraste,” he called, not wanting to shoot his ex-wife in the back. He wanted to give her honorable due.

    “Blast,” she called, yanking an old style hand-held communicator from her belt. “This is Nadeen! Emergency beam out now, damn you!” There was a crackle of static, and then Tai’s spirits lifted.

    “This is Burning Claw, and we surrender,” Lt. Ramlo’s voice issued through the tiny transceiver.

    Andraste bellowed in rage, whipping around to strike. Tai didn’t waste a second. He shot his ex-wife in the chest, at maximum stun. The woman hit the parted doors, still on her feet. Tai aimed again, “Surrender now,” he warned. Andraste glanced backward, through the sliver of the turbolift doors. “Don’t do it,” he snapped. Andraste yanked the doors apart and threw herself backwards. Tai got off another shot, clipping her shoulder.

    “Andraste, no!” He rushed to the turbolift. He looked down into the depths and saw nothing. He knew it was a long way down. For the first time today he was grateful that full power had yet to be restored.
    ****************************************************************
     
  12. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Yikes! :eek: That was an unexpected and seriously brutal family reunion for Tai.

    I'll give Andraste/Nadeen credit, boarding a Federation starship is bold, hell, it's tantamount to suicide.

    I'm a bit shocked to see most of the Starfleet crew aside from the Hazard Team fleeing the attack instead of running to retrieve weaponry to repel the pirate boarding teams. I guess for many of the younger officers and crew, the Dominion War is ancient history.

    And I have a nagging suspicion that Andraste won't be so easily dealt with. The Angosian military engineered her to be a far cry sturdier than a plunge down a turboshaft.

    Damn fine work, keep it coming!
     
  13. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    This has gone sideways really quickly.

    Really impressed with what you've done with Nadeen/Andraste. Didn't see that revelation coming at all and the way it blindsided Doner was just beautiful.

    It looks like things were going badly for Erickson and her crew but the tide seems to be turning, in no small part thanks to Ramlo's efforts on the Claw.

    Really terrific work here.
     
  14. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Hey guys, I hope you and all the readers are in the midst of a joyous holiday season.

    So glad you both liked the family reunion. I was trying to figure out the best way to do the big reveal so I'm glad it met your approval.


    *****************************************************************

    USS Erickson
    Main Bridge

    Commander Donar stood on the precipice, one boot already over the edge. Gripping the lift’s entrances with both hands, his eyes tried to puncture the darkness below him, searching for any signs of his wife. His ears were perked, primed to hear her prayers, screams, curses, or the sickening thud of skin and bone impacting the shaft’s duranium bottom.

    His fingers dug into the threshold’s metal as he imagined the terror and fear that must be coursing through Andraste’s mind as she fell down the turboshaft. It was interspersed with a rush of memories of their life together.

    He heard faint noises on the periphery of his conscious mind, but his attention was still focused on his wife, his heart ached for her. Donar wanted to throw himself into the abyss, in an insane attempt to catch up with her, to save her…finally. Something he had failed to do all those years ago. He gathered himself, his fingers rending the metal within his grasp as he sought to gain purchase, to be better able to leap.

    “Captain Donar!” The shout pierced the haze, stopping his preparation. He whipped around, annoyed that someone was interfering with his efforts to save his wife, but also stricken with the fear that such an appellation could only be uttered if Captain Redfeather had expired.

    “What is it?” He barked. Behind him, a battered Lt. French knelt beside an insensate Commander Norrbom. The younger man blanched at Tai’s ferocity. The helmsman swallowed loudly, before replying.

    “Sir,” French said, “Captain, we need you on the bridge.” Tai’s eyes flicked to the demolished command chair. “Her pulse is very weak, but Captain Redfeather is still with us,” the man answered his unspoken question with relief. Tai wished to breath in a relieved sigh as well, but his large chest was constricted. “Until Captain Redfeather has made a full recovery, you are the acting captain now sir.”

    “Norrbom?” Donar asked, ignoring what the flight control officer had just said.

    “She’ll survive, I guess,” French said, with noticeable doubt, “The commander certainly is in better shape than Captain Redfeather.”

    “I see,” Tai said, glancing once more into the darkness behind him, before he forged ahead. “Let’s get main power back online so we can transport our wounded down to sickbay. But first, I want communications, weapons, and shields back.”

    “Aye sir,” French said, snapping to his feet. “Right away sir,” he rushed to corral whomever among the bridge crew that could still stand or was conscious to help.

    Tai marched to the communications console. He rerouted enough emergency power to send a staccato communications burst through the main deflector. He hoped that Mr. Ramlo was up on his Morse code.
    *****************************************************************

    The Burning Claw
    Laboratory

    From his perch, the new command deck of the Burning Claw, Lt. Ramlo smiled as he watched the sequence of long and short paused bursts across the Erickson’s main deflector. “I understand,” he said into the communications receiver. Though both Erickson’s inter-and-intraship communications systems were inactive, the ship’s audio receivers could still pick up hails.

    “And I will assist once I’ve taken care of the immediate threat,” the Arkenite said, using Burning Claw’s sensors to locate the living members of the raiding parties. He was surprised that he didn’t see a Capellan bio-sign among the living. He certainly wouldn’t miss the ruthless Nadeen, Ramlo surmised, though he wished that he had been able to witness her end.

    He activated the freighter’s transporter, sweeping up the pirates, and leaving them trapped in the pattern buffer. The scientist’s finger hovered over the re-materialization button. He could transmit them to the holding cells or just as easily drop them into the depths of space, or one of those nice subspace fractures littering the void around them.

    Would anyone really blame him if he did? After all that these marauders had done to him, after they had killed his colleagues? Besides, the ship’s transporter was antiquated and transporter accidents unfortunately continued to happen even with state-of-the-art equipment.

    The idea was tempting, but Ramlo held back. Despite whatever brutality had been visited upon him, it didn’t give him a license to respond in like manner. He was a Starfleet officer above all and he believed in the rule of law. These brigands would face justice, he decided. Not sure if Shash would agree with him, but Ramlo was doubtlessly certain she would appreciate his sticking to his beliefs.

    Ramlo sent the pirates to the holding cells. Once the cells had been used to hold frightened slaves, now the rooms would be used appropriately to jail the slavers. Besides he could’ve killed the crew aboard the ship by shutting off life support, but instead he had pumped neurozine through the ship to incapacitate the shipboard crew. Why start murdering now, he surmised, somewhat sardonically.

    Once the beams and a new round of gassing had been completed, Ramlo set about trying to find a way to help Erickson restore power quickly. Muting all sounds, so he could concentrate, the Arkenite engrossed himself in the myriad problems Erickson had as a result of flying into the pirates’ ambush. Unfortunately, the silenced sound prevented him from hearing the proximity alarm that blared throughout the rest of the ship.
    ****************************************************************
     
  15. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Good to see Donar getting his head back in the game (with some prompting). Ramlo has his hands full aboard Burning Claw, and one can't help but admire his adherence to his principles.

    What the hell has stumbled across them now, though?
     
  16. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    It's too early to celebrate victory but at least it looks as if the pirates are under control. And Doner is in command? Time for him to show us if he's got the right stuff to be in charge.
     
  17. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Thanks again for reading and commenting. This story is almost done. But there might be a shock or two left.

    ******************************************************************

    USS Erickson
    Main Turboshaft

    Andraste held her arms and legs at bent angles, as if she was skydiving, and in a way she was. Her eyes were rapidly adjusting to each new layer of darkness, searching for something, anything that could save her life. She didn’t know how long the shaft was or how much of it she had traversed. It had taken her an interminable amount of time to overcome her fear and panic. Hopefully she still had enough space left to pull off the impossible, which usually was very possible for Angosian super-soldiers.

    With her enhanced eyesight, she caught glimpses of the ladder rings running the length of the shaft. Both of her arms shot out to grab hold. She bit down a scream as both of her shoulders were nearly wrenched from their sockets at the violent arrest of her fall. Her body slammed into the other rings, producing a fresh round of pain throughout her body. Andraste grunted and held on for dear life.
    *****************************************************************

    Jov’k Tholis
    Calcite-class battlecruiser

    The large, pyramidal ship cut through the gaseous fog. Commander Narskene, at the bridge’s command center, sent a mental command. Hir Sensor and Weapons Officers scanned the two ships before them.

    While waiting for their replies, Narskene regarded the scene on the triangular main viewer. The Federation starship was darkened, its silvery hull blackened where it hadn’t been punctured. “The work of mines,” s/he muttered, ordering the helm to bring the cruiser to full stop.

    S/he didn’t want Jov’k Tholis to suffer the same fate as the Starfleet vessel. Narskene then shifted her head to the other ship. It was a smaller, Antares-style freighter. Though it hung in space before the starship, it looked none the worse for wear. So, this vessel must have tricked the starship into the minefield, Narskene surmised. And that made the denizens on the smaller vessel the deadlier foe due to their cunning.

    “Commander,” the Sensor Officer chirped first. “Readings indicate that the Intrepid-class starship is operating on emergency power, while a massive polaric ion energy signature is emanating from the Antares freighter.”

    “Weapons?” S/He asked hir weapons master. The heavy-limbed Weapons Officer replied.

    “All weapons systems are offline for the Intrepid-class vessel. And weapons are depowered for the Antares-class freighter.”

    “Excellent,” Narskene said. “Target all of our weapons on the freighter, along the area where the polaric ion readings are strongest. Once the shielding has been overwhelmed, I want the locus of the polaric ion emanations beamed to Cargo Hold One and held within an annular confinement beam.”

    The susurrus of mental replies was sufficient for the commander. “Now, on my mark, fire!”
    ****************************************************************
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012
  18. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    *****************************************************************
    USS Erickson
    Main Bridge

    Commander Donar removed himself from the guts of the tactical console as he heard its innards start to hum with new life. He stood up, dusting off his knees. He squinted at the increased lighting on the bridge. He strode aft, ignoring the wreckage, of men and materiel, all around him. “Lt. Jilicia, report.”

    The Boslic was hunched over a makeshift ops console, converted from one of the auxiliary stations. A deep purple bruise matching her hair color ran down the length of one side of her face. Looking up into the shadow looming over her, she replied, “Captain, the power grid is at minimum capacity.”

    Tai grunted approval. “How long until we reach full power?” Before the woman could reply, a proximity warning blared through the bridge. “What was that?” The Angosian asked the perplexed science officer.

    “Let’s see if the viewer is working?” Lt. French offered.

    “Put whatever caused that alert onscreen,” Donar ordered. A collective gasp ran through the bridge personnel as a large, pyramid shaped vessel, the color of molten lava, flew over them. Though he had never faced one in combat, the Angosian knew that only one interstellar power had ships fashioned in a triangular configuration: Tholians. And something in his gut told him that their sudden arrival wasn’t happenstance.

    “Shields,” Tai ordered as he watched the ship pass Erickson on a course for the pirate vessel…and Lt. Ramlo.

    “The best we can do right now is %15 percent,” the petty officer at the engineering terminal replied.

    “Then do it, but make sure to concentrate shielding over the Engineering section,” Donar said, determined not to remain stranded out in this gods forsaken patch of space any longer than necessary. And warp core breaches would be less than optimal as well. “What about weapons?”

    “That’s a little better,” replied the ensign who had taken over the restored tactical station. “Phaser banks are at %20.”

    “Hail the Tholian vessel,” Tai ordered.

    “No reply sir,” Jilicia answered. He repeated the request and got the same reply.

    “Tholian vessel is powering weapons,” the auxiliary tactical officer yipped.

    “Hail the pirate vessel,” Donar barked, his emotions getting the best of him. The marauder didn’t seem to have taken notice of the Tholian warship. It hadn’t taken any evasive maneuvers, increased shields, or charged weapons. What’s going on over there? Tai wondered, his concern for Ramlo growing.

    “Fire a warning blow off the Tholian ship’s bow,” the Angosian commanded. Before the order could be carried out, the Tholians unleashed a devastating salvo at the hapless pirate vessel. Tai paused, watching the beautiful destruction as the disruptors stitched across the pirate ship’s hull, shattering its weak shielding as it punched through its hide.

    After the first assault, the Tholian vessel curiously stopped. “Belay my previous order, and check the status of the pirate vessel.”

    Jilicia rapidly said, “The freighter has suffered extensive damage. Both weapons and propulsion are inoperative, and the shields are gone too. The structural integrity field is in danger of collapsing.” The corsair was in bad shape, but the Tholians hadn’t destroyed it…yet.

    Donar grunted, reassessing the situation. “Try hailing the Tholians again,” Donar said, reasoning that maybe the pirate ship had done some injustice in Tholian space. If that was so, he was certain that a mutually beneficial arrangement could be worked out without engaging in actions that could lead to interstellar war.

    “Hail received, and is being answered,” Jilicia didn’t attempt to hide her happiness at the news.

    The view screen flickered several seconds before the fiery countenance of a Tholian appeared. “Captain, Starfleet vessel, in the interest of continued peace between our nations, I will ask you only once not to intervene.” The Tholian commander ended the message as curtly as s/he had spoken.

    “The Tholians have just activated a transporter beam,” the Boslic science officer replied. “They have taken the polaric ion generator from the pirate vessel.”

    So that’s what they came after, Tai realized, shifting his jaw, his face taking on an even more determined cast. “Move to intercept them with whatever juice this ship can muster. We can’t let the Tholians take that device.”
    ***************************************************************
     
  19. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ****************************************************************

    The Burning Claw
    Laboratory

    Lt. Ramlo had felt the deep rumbling of thunder before the lighting struck. Pitched from his chair and slammed against a bulk head, the Arkenite’s head split open like a grape. There was a brief moment of blackness before the science officer awakened to a thudding, heavy pain in his cranium and blinding blood seeping into his eyes.

    He blinked maddeningly, unable to will his hands to wipe the warm crimson fluid from his eyes. Strangely, even though Ramlo knew he should be in agony, the only pain he felt was in his head. The rest of his body was numb.

    Taking stock of his situation, his neck creaked as he looked around. His body was a twisted, jangled mess, his legs crushed beneath a bulkhead. He was certain there was severe internal damage, but he could feel none of it. The lab had also been wrecked. His console and the control it had afforded him were both now slag.

    What happened? He wondered. Had Erickson fired on them? But why? Had Nadeen somehow reasserted control? Impossible, he surmised. It must be someone else, his thoughts darkened, a third party?

    “Who could it be?” He muttered, his speech slickened by the blood that bubbled up in his mouth and dripped from his lips. “Why?” He asked, his eyes shifting to the likely reason. “No,” he mumbled again.

    A blinding orange light enveloped the polaric ion device, which miraculously had not been harmed during the barrage. In less than a second the device was gone, absconded, and in the hands of whomever had attacked the Burning Claw.

    “Erickson,” he remembered. The ship, his friends, they could all be in danger. He tried to move his arms, to force them to remove the metal that had pulverized his legs, but they wouldn’t respond. “Computer,” he said, waiting in vain for the modulated, emotionless reply. He grimaced, realizing he wasn’t on the Erickson, and now would likely never be again.

    Ramlo was still grappling with that dark thought when the final darkness rode in on a blaze of plasma.
    ***************************************************************

    Jov’k Tholis
    Calcite-class battlecruiser

    “The Federation starship is moving to intercept, they are charging weapons,” the Sensor Officer informed Narskene. The Tholian commander looked at the battered Starfleet ship, slowly moving to block their advance. But it was too late.

    The ship they ostensibly were moving to protect was now debris. Narskene knew that the High Magistrates would want hir to be thorough in removing all traces of Tholian origin of the polaric ion device, and s/he could take no chances that data to that effect was residing within that decrepit freighter’s computer banks.

    “Should we target the Federation starship?” The Weapons Officer asked, not hiding hir eagerness. The Weapons Officer carried the memories of hir forebear who had participated in the expansionist programs in the mid-23rd century. S/he longed to take on the Federation directly, to test hir mettle as earlier generations once had.

    “Scan the Starfleet vessel for any polaric ion energy signs,” Narskene replied instead. Though s/he knew hir orders, the commander was reluctant to take a step that could be considered an act of war. And s/he wasn’t as confident in hir ship’s ability to destroy the Federation vessel completely enough to escape free and clear. Narskene was content to avoid a conflict and let the politicians of both nations argue over the reasons for Jov’k Tholis’s mysterious appearance in the Caldera Expanse.

    “There are no traces of polaric ion energy aboard the Starfleet ship,” the Sensor Officer replied. S/he paused a beat, “The Federation vessel is hailing us again.”

    “Ignore them,” Narskene said, “And set a course out of this expanse and back toward Assembly space, highest speed.”
    ***************************************************************
     
  20. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    ****************************************************************

    USS Erickson
    Corridor

    It wasn’t the first time that Andraste had thanked the monsters who had turned her into a nearly indestructible killing machine. With a strong yank, she pried open the lift’s doors, nearly stumbling out into the corridor. Her accelerated healing had already started repairing many of her more serious injuries, but was still very sore all over. Clutching her sides, her ribs squealing in protest, she took a quick look around. The darkened hall was deserted. No doubt the officious Starfleet personnel were all more focus on restoring the ship than milling about, or either the cowards were locked in their rooms, waiting for Tai to reestablish order.

    Despite it all, she was pleased to see him again. Though he had thrown in his lot with self-righteous do-gooders he still cut quite the dashing figure. Andraste squinted as she recalled the layout of the ship in her head. One thing about Deoch, or more so about Mavaar, one of them believed in being prepared and had schematics of a wide variety of ships they might have to combat or elude at some point. Thankfully one had been of the Intrepid class.

    The Angosian looked around once more, getting her bearings. “Now, where is the nearest shuttle bay?”
    ****************************************************************

    USS Erickson
    Main Bridge

    “Tholian vessel is backing away, engaging warp engines,” Jilicia grimly replied. Commander Donar frowned as he watched the scene unfold on the viewer. The Burning Claw was embers, along with Lt. Ramlo. Tai had lost another crewmember in his charge: Fryer, Kittles, Shashlik, Ramlo, so many others, maybe including the captain…

    “Sort of obvious,” Lt. French said, no doubt trying to leaven the morose mood gripping the bridge over the death of yet another colleague. However, the bitter tang to his words belied even the light-hearted human’s attempts. Ramlo’s death had been the final straw…for all of them.

    Donar closed his eyes and willed the rage churning within him to abate. Tai needed, the crew needed him at his best logical right now, not his berserker fury. The Angosian knew it was folly, but he made a silent promise that no other Starfleet deaths would occur in the Caldera Expanse today, not at the hands of the Tholians.

    Tai had failed to prevent the Tholians from taking the polaric ion generator, but he would do all he could to stop them from leaving the expanse with it. “Move to intercept, full impulse,” he barked.

    “Ah sir, we are not at full impulse right now,” the petty officer at the Engineering station reluctantly ventured.

    “Then give us whatever you have!” The Angosian snapped. “And target all of our firepower at that ship. It’s not leaving this expanse.”

    “Sir,” gulped the ensign at the tactical station. “Our weapons banks are now at 35%, I don’t think we can do much to impede them, while they could do significant damage to us, since our shielding and structural integrity are still on the mend.”

    Tai glared at the young human brunette, biting back a blistering retort. He was not going to allow his emotions to get the best of him or make her the recipient of misdirected anger. He paused, his mind spinning through a host of scenarios.

    “Tholian vessel engines are almost fully powered up,” Jilicia said while Donar was still thinking.

    “Ensign,” he said after arriving at his best option. “Divert all power to the torpedo bay, including warp, propulsion, and even life support.”

    “Excuse me sir?” The young woman blinked.

    “Do it,” He barked. “Life support will only be interrupted temporarily,” he said. “But I want us to be able to fire as many quantum torpedoes as possible at that Tholian ship.”
    ****************************************************************
     

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