Hello, my fellow fans. Here I will be uploading my most daunting fanfic project yet: Fallen Heroes. I have spent way too much time writing and editing this story, even enlisted a modest squadron of beta readers. It takes place a year after Star Trek Nemesis and features original characters (with a few familiair faces thrown in). The story's about a young man who became a member of the Q Continuum, only to get stripped of his powers and immortality when he decided to help the Federation in their hour of need. Now, with Starfleet on the brink of war, he has to find a way to make a difference as an ordinary human being. Feedback is much appreciated! Enjoy! ======================================================================== PROLOGUE Screeching metal and a distant thud wake Ensign Marc Lucas from his sleep. He opens his eyes, but sees only the same darkness as when they were closed. The air is cold yet thick and scarcity of oxygen causes the now awake ensign to breathe rapidly. As he lies on his back, ominous groaning of structurally porous alloy surrounds him, like long-forgotten creatures of the sea calling to him. He has no idea of where he is, but one thing is certain: this is not his bunk aboard the USS Kennedy. With the Kennedy now on his mind, he starts to remember bits and pieces of how he ended up here. The Kennedy, the Wolf, the Sundance, and the Satellite were sent to Station A-12 for a diplomatic meeting with the Altonoids—a meeting that had gone horribly wrong, almost from the get-go. In a swift, strategic move, the Altonoids had attacked the small fleet and taken the diplomatic delegation hostage, including both the captain and the first officer of the Kennedy. Why is it so dark in here? He can hear phaser fire and screaming people in the distance, adding to the atmosphere of claustrophobia. He tries to move, which instantly causes sharp pains to shoot up his spinal cord. Gasping for the little air left in this dark chamber, he immediately reaches for the source of pain, his hands inadvertently striking the wall of rubble that has engulfed his lower body. Several of his fingers on both hands break, accompanied by a nauseating sound of cracking bones. Unable to hold back a primal scream, he quickly retracts his hands and summons all his inner courage to prevent himself from panicking. Difficult as it may be, he forces himself to concentrate on remembering the events that brought him here. Marc Lucas, a tall, twenty-one-year-old Latino, was part of one of the many security teams sent to Station A-12 from the battling starships in an effort to release the captured officers. Their goal was simple: find the shield generator preventing hostages from being beamed to safety and destroy it by any means necessary. Unfortunately, they had not succeeded. Chief of Security Lieutenant Appels and the kind Doctor Van Oers were all that remained of his ill-fated squad when he had sustained a severe phaser injury to his leg, rendering him immobile. Lt. Appels and Dr. Van Oers, having no choice but to leave him behind, had concealed him in an abandoned maintenance tube. This is where he must be now. The pain in his spine has gone, though that’s not the least bit comforting now that his hands hurt like hell. He doesn’t even want to think about how it is possible for his legs to be devoid of pain, buried as they are. Once again, he tries to move, but his spine sends up another sharp bolt of intense agony. Despite the cold, a pool of perspiration has formed beneath him. The screaming and phaser fire are getting closer, even beginning to drown out the roars of buckling metal that have been echoing throughout the station ever since he woke up. All right, Marc. Stay calm. There was a way in, so there has to be a way out. A loud clunk, distant, yet not nearly as distant as all previous sounds, startles him and advances his rapid breathing to outright hyperventilation. Somewhere in this labyrinth of maintenance tubes, a hatch has been opened, and he hears unpleasant voices growling orders, echoing off the tube walls. While impossible to tell where they’re coming from exactly, there’s no doubt that they’re steadily zeroing in on him. He searches for his weapon—or anything he can use to defend himself. As his broken digits scratch at the empty floor, he is once again reminded of his painful injuries. Voices are closing in, and Lucas’ search becomes more frantic. Just as he’s about to give up, he finds a cold object not belonging to the floor or the rubble that surrounds him. Please, let it be a weapon, Lucas implores whatever deity may be listening. With his broken fingers, it is difficult to identify the device he has found. He is too busy to notice right away, but the pitch darkness around him has softened, meaning that the approaching men are carrying flashlights. This erratic light provides him with enough illumination to inspect his find. As he lifts the device up with an unsteady hand, he can finally see what it is: a medical tricorder—and it’s dead. He should scream. He should cry. But all he can do is chuckle helplessly. Dr. Van Oers had given him the tricorder to mask his life signs, to shield them from the Altonoids. It worked, but something unexpected had happened. Only now does Lucas remember the full story. He was lying there on his back, with a buzzing medical tricorder next to his injured leg. There was light and warmth. More than enough breathable air complemented an acceptable level of humidity. Practically invisible to the Altonoids, all he’d had to do was wait out the battle taking place both on and off the station, the battle involving the Kennedy. His only real worry was his increasing need to visit the bathroom—not an insoluble problem. His mind must have wandered, inducing a trance-like state lasting an indeterminate amount of time. Then all hell had broken loose. In retrospect, Lucas has no idea whether he had been hiding in the maintenance tube for a few minutes or a few hours, but the sudden impact was unlike anything he had ever experienced before. All of a sudden, the maintenance tube had shaken as if caught in an earthquake, the lights had flickered and gone out, and a deafening, seemingly endless growl of twisting and compressing duranium/tritanium alloy resounded with such intensity that it had felt as if someone was pouring boiling water into his ears. As the overwhelming mixture of noises had drawn nearer, the shaking had increased exponentially. Lucas had tried in vain to protect his injured leg, but the forces he was fighting against had rattled him around in the maintenance tube as if he were a mere ragdoll—a brittle toy given to a careless child. Just as Lucas had thought it couldn’t get any worse, an even more powerful impact had struck, flinging him backward as the maintenance tube bent and cracked around him. Silence and darkness. How pleasant it was to be unconscious. He hadn’t expected to wake up again. And now here he is, wounded, hunted by men with flashlights, and unable to escape. So be it, Lucas muses. Like so many young soldiers who have died before me, my name will be added to the ongoing casualty list of war. He tries to be heroic about it, but a sudden wave of sadness catches him off-guard. The notion that he is not supposed to be here, that he should be home on Earth, listening to his favorite music, having fun with friends, overshadows all residual feelings of honor and duty. Several beams of light blind him and he automatically shuts his eyes. “He’s here, like I said he would be,” a snarling voice says. “Can you shoot him from here?” “I need to get closer. It’s not like he’s going anywhere.” At least four men laugh. They are Altonoids, no doubt about it. Slowly but surely, they are crawling over to the helpless ensign, their flashlights locked onto him. This is it. I’m done for. The pain will soon be over. He would have closed his eyes, if they weren’t already. Be brave. Be brave. Be brave. Despite his forcedly courageous inner dialogue, a hot tear mingles with the beads of sweat rolling down his face. Please, be brave. He hears one of the Altonoids—not more than a few meters away—raise his phaser rifle and say, “Time to put him out of his mi—” The floor gives way. Not just the floor under the Altonoids’ feet, but the entire floor sags diagonally and drops out from underneath Lucas. Sharp pain terrorizes his whole body—except for his numb legs—as he makes a free fall of at least fifteen feet and lands on the same broken floor. The pile of rubble covering his legs has dispersed, and for the first time he can see his maimed legs. It’s no wonder he cannot feel them anymore; they’re recognizable as legs, but that’s about it. These legs would befit a corpse. Instinctively, he averts his eyes. He hears the Altonoids cursing from above, still not far away enough to make him feel safe. In fact, they have started a slow descent to finish the job. The fact that Lucas is able to see anything at all is evidence enough of their proximity. In spite of the pain and the sheer terror of seeing his mangled legs, Lucas forces himself to look down. Beneath the collapsed maintenance tube lies a corridor section that seems out of place. It begins and leads nowhere—it is too damaged to be of any use—yet Lucas can’t help but notice that the color scheme of the surviving pieces of floor covering and wall panels does not correspond to that of Station A-12. It takes only a moment for him to recognize its origins. With a level of astonishment that trumps his current state of panic, he realizes that he’s staring at the remains of the USS Wolf. It must have smashed headfirst into the station. He can only guess at what happened to the Kennedy. Four beams of light pierce through the settling dust. They have found him once again. Lucas briefly looks up to gauge how much time he has left. Desperate for a solution, he looks down again at the Wolf’s shambles of a corridor. There, illuminated by the Altonoids’ flashlights, he now sees his phaser rifle lying on the Wolf’s corridor floor! For a brief moment, he experiences a hint of elation, as if there’s a possible escape from his terrible predicament. Then he realizes that the rifle is too far away. There is no way he’s going to reach it in time. He is going to die here. He half-expects his life to flash before his eyes, but all he can think of are disjointed fragments of memories, dreams, and most of all, his desire for this real-life nightmare to stop. A white-hot pain in the back of Lucas’ head puts an end to all his thoughts.