Star Trek: Cayuga - 13 - 'Deus Ex Machina'

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by admiralelm11, Apr 13, 2020.

  1. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Star Trek: Cayuga

    13 - ‘Deus Ex Machina’

    By Jack Elmlinger



    Commander zh’Tali stared into her cup of coffee.

    It had been forty-eight hours since Captain Pozach and Lieutenant Pasko had departed the ship by shuttlecraft to parts unknown. “Shore leave,” the captain had said for the reason of her absence.

    Forty-eight days of delivering supplies to Cardassian worlds. Forty-eight days of long shifts on the Bridge, watching the stars slip by as absolutely nothing of importance happened.

    Command had never held her interest since she preferred to work alone or, if forced, as part of a small group. Having over eighty people dependent on her orders had caused her to make changes that she didn’t like. Her humiliating battle with Stavek had shown her how crippled she had come as a result.

    The pretense wore on her.

    zh’Tali dropped her mug off at the replicator and walked out into the corridor. The crew members that passed by her nodded in greeting and she acknowledged them, feeling docile. She reached the turbolift and waited. Seconds stretched out into minutes and she turned away, impatient. The Bridge was four decks above her which was an easy climb through the Jefferies tubes. She crouched to open a hatch, stopping in mid-motion when she noticed the text stamped upon it.

    “‘No matter where you go, there you’?,” she read, and a small malicious smile crept across her face. “zh’Tali to Maguire. Meet me in the Situation Room now. We need to talk.”

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

    “Only bad things can come of this,” Aimee Maguire muttered as the situation door opened before her. Commander zh’Tali was waiting for her, tal and severe. That was when the chief engineer hoped that she hadn’t heard her comment.

    “I found a peculiar phrase on a Jefferies tube hatch,” the commander told her. “Further investigation revealed several more between the Mess Hall and the Bridge.”

    “Graffiti?”

    “Doubtful,” the Andorian said as she picked up a PADD and read,” ‘No matter where you are, there you are’. ‘Three hundred thousand kilometers per second, it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law’. ‘Your mileage may vary, of course’. ‘Caution: objects in the mirror are closer than they appear’. ‘A stitch in time saves nine’. ‘In space, no one can hear you scream.’”

    “Oh,” Maguire said with understanding,” they’re little gags that the Antares Shipyards crew have put in for the last hundred years. You should see the one underneath the master systems display in Engineering. It has ‘A duck in the shuttle’ on it.”

    “How many are there?”

    Maguire shrugged. “The Chief Engineer before me, Stern, once said that there are somewhere around a hundred and forty of them. I’ve only found sixty-three of them myself. There’s a list posted in the Toy Room.”

    zh’Tali sat down at the table. “I want them removed,” she said, dismissively while reaching for another PADD.

    “But they’re such neat little --”

    “... can come of this,” Maguire muttered as she walked through the Situation Room door.

    “What the hell?!,” the Maguire closest to zh’Tali yelled.

    zh’Tali eyed the doppelganger carefully. “Security, Intruder alert. Report to the Situation Room immediately.” The two Maguires stared at each other with matching flabbergasted expressions and …

    zh’Tali stared into her mug of coffee.

    It had been forty-eight days since Captain Pozach and Lieutenant Pasko had departed the ship by shuttlecraft for parts unknown. “Shore leave,” the captain had said.

    Wait a minute.

    zh’Tali shook her head and the other officers in the Mess Hall looked at each other with confusion.

    “Maguire to zh’Tali.”

    zh’Tali tapped her combadge. “Proceed.

    “Are you about to yell at me?”

    “I don’t have any particular cause to,” - she frowned - ,” although I feel that I should.”

    “Duly noted, Commander. How about I just consider myself yelled at?”

    “Probably safe,” she said, standing up. “Bridge, go to Yellow Alert and -- “

    “Commander!,” someone yelled. zh’Tali twirled around to see a confused Sr’khymer’arni Paici glance around and then disappear.

    At least, now things were interesting.

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

    “The effect has been reported as far out as Cardassia Prime,” Thomas Riker reported to the Senior Staff,” with such effects beyond our range of perception extending much further than that. Mapping reveals that the effect had spread out in a spherical fashion from a point, sixteen lightyears from our present position.” The Senior Staff sat around the table in the Situation Room, accepting the information as the operations officer reported it.

    “So what is it?,” Ntannu asked.

    “An effect of temporal manipulation,” Brandon Hobbes said quietly, with his eyes fixed to his PADD. The Andorian zhen resisted the urge to rip it from out of his grasp and beat him with it. “It was first categorized by Doctor Paul Mannheim. The effect is distinguished by a sort of temporal ripple.”

    “People and objects are displaced back and forth in space-time by minutes or hours,” Riker said, looking at zh’Tali. “There was a report of this happening aboard my brother Will’s ship back in 2364.”

    “More than that,” Maguire said. “I got out of the shower and found Sam in my quarters. He hasn’t been aboard for months.”

    “It could have been a Dixon from the future rather than the past,” Hobbes suggested. “Was his hair cut differently? What sort of uniform was he wearing?”

    “Uh..,” the engineer’s cheeks reddened at this type of questioning.

    “So what are we supposed to do about this?,” Doctor Moru demanded to know.

    “We are the closest starship to the epicenter of this event,” zh’Tali told them. “As such, Admiral sh’Diaar has ordered us to investigate. Mister Hobbes, I want you to continue analyzing the effect.”

    Hobbes nodded at her order. “I’m working with Commander Malstrom over subspace. We think that we can determine how far into the future or the past that this phenomenon originates from examining the duration of the effects.”

    Riker cracked a smile. “I guess we’ll all be talking to the Department of Temporal Affairs after this one, huh?”

    “Mister Riker,” the First Officer of the Cayuga said slowly,” you are making me angry. You would not like me when I am angry.”

    “Hell, we don’t like you when you’re happy,” Maguire muttered under her breath.

    zh’Tali let the comment slide.

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

    “How the hell did we miss that?,” Aerru spoke up from the helm.

    zh’Tali leaned forward, squinting at the object on the viewscreen. It was shaped like a thick snowflake with hundreds of lines etched out onto its golden hull. “Operations?”

    Riker was frowning over his instruments. “Interesting sensor returns,” he commented. “I can’t get a read on a specific power source but it’s pumping out a hell of a lot of energy. Given that it’s so close to our supply route, I can’t believe that no one’s seen it before and I’m not picking up a cloaking device. The outer hull is composed of a cobalt-neutronium alloy. I can’t get any good readings on the interior, due to the interference from the hull and the power core.” He paused in his recitation of the sensor readings. “But I am picking up one lifeform.”

    Standing up from the command chair, the First Officer announced,” Lieutenant Ntannu and Maguire are to report to the Armory, each with a second. Mister Riker, you have the Bridge.”

    She stepped into the Armory just ahead of Maguire and Newberry. Ntannu and Fuller passed them Type-II phasers and went back to checking out their phaser rifles. zh’Tali laid out a hand phaser, a phaser rifle, and her kar’takin, making her own preparations.

    “What are our objectives?,” Maguire asked her as she wrapped her long braid behind her head and pinned it into place.

    “Reconnaissance,” the commander said, stripping off her uniform. “We have no proof of hostile intent but we need to determine what the lifeform is doing here.” Nweberry, Ntannu, and Fuller had turned away to protect her modesty as she pulled on her black combat suit with a smirk. “Lieutenant Maguire, you and Ensign Newberry will determine the installation’s purpose. Remember that Starfleet regulations are to be adhered to at all times. If we find temporarily displaced personnel or technology, each of you are to consider that knowledge to be held in the --- in the utmost -- “

    Her voice trailed off at the sight of her kar’takin. Its blade shattered and shards of it scattered across the floor. She lifted it in disquieted awe.

    “Commander?”

    The weapon was whole again and she pulled her eyes from it. “Utmost secrecy. We must minimize the contamination of our timeline.” Wary of the axe, she holstered her weapons and turned to face her team. “Move out to the transporter room.”

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

    They materialized into a cathedral.

    Lieutenant Maguire gazed up at a ceiling that arched over them at six hundred feet above. The walls were made of an elegant bronze, gilded with good in intricate patterns that chased each other out of sight.

    “I think it’s got its own weather control system up there,” Crewman Fuller whispered.

    “The lifeform is in the next chamber,” Ntannu said, holding out his tricorder in front of him. “The target is a Human male. I’m reading some kind of augmentation device in the cerebral cortex, function unknown.”

    zh’Tali lifted up her rifle. “Mister Ntannu, you and Fuller are with me. Engineers, follow us when the room is secure.”

    Maguire knelt next to the door, working her tricorder across the keypad. She tapped the largest button and all three hundred feet of the door dropped down into the floor, releasing a tremendous rush of air. The commander frowned at the noise and quickly stepped across the threshold.

    A male humanoid stood at a control console whose height was as tall as three body-lengths. He was altering circuits at a frenzied pace.

    “Identify yourself! State your business and purpose on this installation,” zh’Tali barked at him. The man looked up in surprise. While he was clearly a member of Starfleet, but his uniform was markedly different from their own with black trousers complimenting a yellow tunic and a hollow arrowhead mounted against a pair of trapezoids that made up his combadge. Three gold pips were lined up across his right clavicle and he made the Andorian uneasy. “Do you understand me?”

    “Captain Maguire?,” he asked, surprised. “I had no idea that I’d find you here. Quickly, I need your help.”

    “Say what?”

    Irritation rolled in zh’Tali’s eyes. “Help you with what, exactly?”

    The man looked at her as if he was seeing her for the first time. “To get the artifact into working order so that we can use it.”

    zh’Tali motioned for Maguire and Newberry to step forward. “Examine his equipment and the console.” She consciously lowered her weapon. “Who are you and what does this device do?”

    “I’m Commander Leonard Huang of the Federation Remnant ship Paradise. The year that I departed from was 2411,” -- Huang raised his chin up defiantly -- ,” and this device will ensure that my timeline will never occur.”

    “That’s a silly plan,” Maguire muttered as she pulled a massive access panel off of the console. “You can’t eliminate a timeline because whatever you do will only create another parallel universe. The first one will still exist. You just won’t be in it.”

    Huang frowned at her. “That’s not what you said when you sent me here, Captain.”

    “Why do you keep calling me ‘Captain’?,” she asked him.

    “Because…,” Huang said with a look that spoke to the truth of his statement,” … you’re the Captain.”

    “What is the nature of the future that you wish to eliminate?,” zh’Tali asked dangerously.

    “In my time, the entire Beta Quadrant and most of the Alpha Quadrant has been overrun and assimilated by the Borg.”

    “Yours is one of many possible futures.”

    “They came at us with just one Cube but Starfleet was confident because the Borg Defense Initiative had made great leaps in defensive technology. More than seven hundred starships met the Cube in the Symoy system and… it was horrible. Every innovation -- the sensor masking, the transphasic torpedoes, the deployable armor, even the Enterprise -- was useless like they’ve seen it all before.”

    He shook his head. “They ripped the heart out of the Federation and took their time, working through the Romulans and the Klingons since there was less resistance there.” Ntannu and Fuller traded uneasy looks and Huang shouted,” They would have taken this half of the Galaxy all the way to the Rim if the Pajahni hadn’t triggered this Artifact, and wiped out a good number of them!”

    Fuller snorted, relaxing. “You had been going until the Pajahni part.”

    zh’Tali watched the exchange warily. “What exactly does this installation do?”

    “It’s a fabulous piece of technology,” the time traveler told her. “We’ve never managed to figure out how but it’s capable of breaking the bonds of all ferrous materials omni-laterally within a hundred and twenty lightyear radius. Utterly lethal against the Borg, naturally. I’ve been modifying the device to increase its range so I can direct it towards the Delta Quadrant.”

    Maguire shot a worried look over her shoulder. “You know more about this thing than I do but…” She glanced down at her tricorder readings. “I don’t think that this thing was designed to be targeted. According to these readings, even with your modifications, the effect wouldn’t hit not only every planet and starship between here and the Delta Quadrant, but also everything within fifty or sixty lightyears of here.”

    “That’s the entire Cardassian Union,” Fuller breathed.

    “And a large portion of the Federation,” Ntannu said, tightening his grip on his rifle.

    “Acceptable losses,” was Huang’s comment.

    “Deactivate the device,” zh’Tali snapped at him. Maguire frantically manipulated the controls before she resorted to ripping the entire circuit board out of the console. She looked back at the zhen in desperation with her mouth working wordlessly.

    “I can’t.”

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

    Thomas Riker did his best to hide his amusement but a moronic grin kept threatening to slide across his face. He wrapped his fingers around the ends of the command chair’s arms. Command. An entire starship full of officers and personnel under his command. Even his brother wouldn’t believe it since he was still a First Officer himself. Maybe the old stick-in-the-mud would buy him a drink for his ingenuity.

    From Ops, Ensign Thornton interrupted his thoughts. “Commander? There’s another ship coming out of warp in the system. Their course will bring them to the installation within seven minutes.” She frowned at her board. “They’re generating some kind of interference. Sensors, communications, and transporters are all being affected.”

    “It’s probably the Patseyev or one of the other ships,” he said, sitting back in the command chair. “Well, put them on the screen and let’s see who these sloppy people are.”

    The viewscreen shifted views from the slowly-rotating installation to a field of stars with a dark shape at its center that slowly blotted out more and more stars as it grew closer.

    “Great Maker,” Aerru whispered underneath his breath.

    For a moment, Riker ridiculed himself for the thought that command was neither easy or fun.

    “Battle Stations!”

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

    Commander zh’Tali forced a theoretically calming breath in and out of her lungs. “Commander Huang, while I respect that you are attempting to defend the Federation, your methods are deplorable. You will deactivate the device and accompany us back to the Cayuga. Starfleet Command will decide what to do with this installation.”

    Contempt twisted his face. “Small woman,” Huang spat back at her. “Yes, billions will die here but death is better than assimilation. Think about how many more lives will be saved!”

    zh’Tali motioned for the security officers to restrain him. “Lieutenant Maguire, keep trying to shut down this technology. Failing in that task, please find a way to overload the weapon in order to destroy this installation prior to its weapon firing.”

    “I don’t even know how long I have,” Maguire told her. “Minutes, maybe an hour at the moment. And I’ve never seen anything like this before!”

    zh’Tali tapped her combadge. “zh’Tali to Cayuga. Beam the away team back to the ship and begin torpedo bombardment of the installation.”

    Her combadge was silent and then a familiar and insidious voice spoke from it.

    “No,” Huang hissed angrily.

    “We are the Borg. We will investigate the Demedra outpost. If you attempt to intervene, you will be destroyed. Resistance is futile.”

    The first drones materialized into existence around them.

    “How?!,” Huang screamed. “How did they find me?!”

    “Could it have been that massive splash that you made in the fabric of space-time getting ?!,” Maguire shouted at him as she drew her phaser from its holster.

    Crimson fire lashed out when zh’Tali dropped a drone with her phaser. “Backs to the wall! Set your weapons to rotating modulation frequencies!”

    A dozen Borg drones were already in the room with more drones appearing every few seconds. They scanned the room with dispassion, taking in the architecture, the massive console, and the Starfleet officers. Cold metal and implants covered their skin and cold eyes fell onto their objective. Snarling like a fierce animal from the arctic climes of Andoria, zh’Tali fired her phaser again, her shots landing in the center of a drone’s chest. It fell with sparks flying from its wound, but another immediately took its place. The inexorable creatures forced the Starfleet officers back along the chamber while Lieutenant Ntannu passed Huang his hand phaser.

    “You don’t even have compression phasers?,” he cried at the Ktarian security chief.

    A phaser beam glared against the first shield and Maguire began screaming obscenities that would make anyone’s mother blush crimson. “Focus fire and use a higher setting!,” Ntannu yelled at her.

    Nine dead drones lay on the floor when zh’Tali smashed the butt of her rifle into a drone’s face and drew her kar’takin from its sheath, bellowing.

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

    “We’ve got to get out of here,” Riker whispered, his throat feeling like paper. “Run. Run away. It’s not us that they want. They won’t follow us.”

    “But…” Aerru turned in his chair. “The away team. They’re still on the installation.”

    Riker glanced sharply at the Kelpien helmsman. “Fine, fine!” He launched himself forward from the command chair and leaned heavily over the helm. On the main screen, the Borg Cube dominated the view, its hull glowing with an eerie green “Hail the Cube.”

    Thornton looked so sharply from her console that her earpiece fell out. “Hailing frequencies open,” she said in a hushed voice.

    “Borg vessel,” Riker said, swallowing hard with fear,” this is Lieutenant Commander Thomas Rik -- “

    “Designations are irrelevant,” a chorus of voices from the Borg Cube answered him.

    Their dismissal stung and Riker shivered at it. “Several of our officers are still aboard that installation.”

    “Do not impede our progress.” On the viewscreen, the Cube rotated as if it wanted to offer them a better identical side. “If you attempt to intervene, we will destroy you.”

    The channel cut out between the two ships and Riker felt a drop of sweat rolling down off of his forehead while he analyzed his options. Turning tail and escaping without the away team, no matter how tempting it was, wasn’t one of them. Loyalty and honor had been too deeply ingratiated into the crew for them to obey that order. “Are the transporters still offline?,” he asked Thornton.

    “The Borg Cube’s electromagnetic field is still in full effect,” Thornton said. “Transport is impossible beyond twenty meters.”

    Riker paced back to the command chair and turned back to face Aerru. “How are you at tight maneuvering?”

    “Sir?,” the pilot asked him, eyeing the Cube fearfully.

    The Lieutenant Commander sat down in the command chair. “We’re going to do a full-impulse close pass of the installation. As close to the hull as you can get, Mister Aerru.” He tapped his combadge. “Bridge to Transporter Room.”

    “Mbanu here, sir.”

    Riker licked his lips with anticipation. “Petty Officer Mbanu, I know that the targeting scanners are messy but they’re going to get better and when they do, I need you to pull the away team out as fast as you can.”

    “Aye, sir.” There was a pause and the transporter technician asked him,” Sir, what’s causing this interference? I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

    “You don’t need to know.” He cut the channel. “Aerru, take us in.”

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

    Ntannu took a crushing blow to his leg and Maguire screamed at zh’Tali for help.

    She wasn’t listening.

    The seventh drone fell under her axe and the Andorian lashed out at an eighth drone. Giddy rage flooded over her body and she tore the optical implant from the drone’s face. Behind her, the others were nearly overwhelmed by the Borg -- drone to the right, cleave its neck -- but she didn’t care. They were here and she could kill them.

    Maguire pulled the Ktarian security chief back as far as she could and fired off her hand phaser. The console where they had first seen Huang was emitting an ominous tone. She spared a second to glance worriedly at the Borg drones clustered around it before she fired again. The charge on her phaser was almost depleted since Level Sixteen used up a lot of energy but even that seemed to be doing very little to slow down the Borg’s advance.

    Huang stumbled back, almost trying to climb the wall with his eyes shifting frantically from one drone to the next. His hand lashed out, grasping Newberry’s shoulders. “Don’t let them take you alive,” he hissed at him and tapped his temple twice. His skin glowed, a white light shining from his eyes and mouth before he disintegrated entirely.

    zh’Tali roared and pivoted atop her pile of mutilated drones. A Borg drone reached out for her, tubules sprouting from its gauntlet. They searched for her like blind worms and she swung twice at it, once through the elbow and once through the side of the drone’s head. She sensed movement behind her and slammed her kar’takin into another drone’s eye. With a roar, she smashed the blade into its chest and her eyes widened as it shattered into pieces.

    She stepped back in shock and glanced around the circle of drones surrounding her, each of them standing just out of her reach. zh’Tali panted and raised the hefted remains of her ruined kar’takin over her head.

    “Fine,” she snarled at them. The circle surrounding her and her dead collapsed as she struck in three directions and blood flew wild. She buried the jagged edge of her weapon into one drone and felt the others lay hands on her.

    Then the world turned blue and silver.


    The End…
     
    Gibraltar and CeJay like this.
  2. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Well, that ended suddenly. Not necessarily a bad thing and I've gotten used to not always get all my answers straight away with these stories. After all, real life is rarely packaged up so neatly that we get a straight-forward answer to all our questions.

    Regardless, a nice throwback to a few Trek time travel concepts. Particularly liked the confusion of the Mannheim effect.
     
  3. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Wow, that was a brutal fight aboard the artifact! Fascinating to see zh’Tali doing what she was trained so proficiently to do, kill Borg. Nice to see Maguire may have some commend potential in her future.

    Very curious to see how this mission is resolved, or even survived.