Star Trek - Genesis

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Crazy Eddie, Aug 29, 2009.

  1. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Talk about every kind of hell breaking loose all at once! :eek: Good thing Kirk is a natural with multi-tasking in a crisis, because his plate is unbelievably full right now.

    Poor Ayala, that was one helluva way to go out… and the Onlies (especially Miri) were cold-blooded about using her as terminal bait to draw the creature into their ambush.

    Now it appears the Romulans (plus Dr. Marcus, if I’m not mistaken) might make a clean getaway.

    You’ve done a very nice job handling lots of action occurring in a number of different plot threads. Well done!
  2. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom


    Catalog Star System HB22147
    USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
    Stardate 2259.3.6
    - 1231 hours -
    Even a shape-shifting reaver could experience bewilderment, and this Miri was counting on most of all. In the guise of Ensign Ayala it wasn't equipped to understand what was happening to it, and even less so when it abandoned that guise and resorted again to its natural instincts. Ceasing to imitate the mind of its victim was the first step of the transformation; the rest would take a bit longer, and that also was what Miri was counting on.

    Leila, Nabi, Samir and Michael were on the ground floor, positioned to stay out of each other's line of fire, instructed to aim for the creature's legs, as many legs as it was likely to sprout. Their first salvo from RPK machineguns did the trick well enough, shattering the duplicate Ayala below the knees. Peter the Rabbit and the Jasmines aimed for its head, because even a Reaver required a physical organ to think with. And in the first few seconds of this, once she was sure it was properly immobilized, Miri set her phaser rifle on maximum disruptor setting and set the firing mode to manual. She aimed the rifle along the iron sights at the middle of what was once Ensign Ayala, then fired a continuous phaser beam into the middle of her chest. Two other beams joined hers from opposite directions as Moshe and Forrest-Forrest-Gump added the hand phasers she'd given them, and between the three of them the Chickenhead started to smolder like a hotdog on a bonfire.

    It was already beginning to transform; the legs that Leila's team had shattered now parted at the knees, each becoming extended tripods flailing around trying to get a foothold on something. Its arms were growing longer and thicker, shielding itself from the relentless phaser fire as best it could, and yet even these efforts were wasted as Miri walked the beam lower towards its "stomach" and burned it from the waist down. Loosing balance, it collapsed in an enraged howl, and the rain of bullets and phaser beams tore at it until it could withstand no more, and the combined power from three phaser beams finally incinerated its expanding bulk.

    "Hurry! We don't have much time!" From this point, Miri had no idea what more was needed; in Cyprus, the combination of firepower and a dozen molotov cocktails had brought an end to the argument, but here on a starship there was something more to be done. Sensing her options, she leapt right off the foot bridge she'd been using as cover, high into the variable gravity zone of the courtyard and drifted almost gently down to the deck below, hitting the ground with such force as if she'd jumped off a kitchen table. The other children did the same, though not all landed as gracefully, and with a few skinned knees and bruised elbows they crowded around the obliterated mass of the Chickenhead and began shoveling its remains into a pile as dense as they could in the middle of the courtyard.

    The pile was already beginning to move again. It only took a small amount of living tissue for the creature to reconstitute itself, and that would be enough--in a few more minutes--to resume the hunt for more prey. "Hold it down!" Miri said, "Tighter! Tighter!"

    They all complied, pressing with elbows and fists and knees and legs, stomping it into a tighter and tighter pile until it was almost too solid to be compacted any more. The creature tried to fight back the only way it could; bits of still-living flesh projected out like barbs, stabbing at anything nearby. Miri felt one of those barb suddenly form next to her thumb, and before she could pull her hand away it pieced her through the palm and then impaled her through her chest. She actually felt her heart stop beating, and somehow this only prompted her to push down harder.

    When it seemed they could compress it no further than this, a tingling sensation interrupted them and the air around the creature began to sparkle like a fireworks display in miniature. The same surrounded the Onlies too, gripping them all in the force of what even Miri recognized as some type of transporter beam. As the beam began to dissolve her into a cloud of phased matter, she found herself overwhelmed by a sense of warm satisfaction, as if she had just accomplished the very thing for which she had always been destined in the first place. How right that sensation turned out to be, as the alien transporter beam reduced her existence--permanently--into the abstractions from which it had been created, like desktop computer terminating an un-needed program.

    Terminated, but not destroyed. As Miri felt the glimmer of consciousness dissolve from her existence, she felt a new one taking shape all around. True, the alien transporter beam hadn't properly re-materialized her, but it hadn't exactly left her floating in oblivion either. She had become something new, something more pure; Peter the Rabbit was with her, so were Jasmine and Samir and Leila and Nabi, and all the others she had ever known, all the ones she had lost, and all the ones she had never thought she would see again. Gideon was here, so was her mother, her comrades on the Calypso, her squadron mates from the Eugenics Wars. Even Big John was here, still quietly in love with her and still too proud to admit it. She realized now they had never gone anywhere, that they had simply been moved off the game board like spent pieces in a chess game... but not even a game as such, as this board had no players and no rules, no objective. "Simulation" would be the better word, or maybe "reenactment."

    In any case, she felt herself finally granted the liberty to break from a character she never knew she had been playing. Several characters, actually; internally she sensed the wonder and bewilderment of Peter the Rabbit having discovered the truth of his own existence, little more than projected aspect of someone else's mind. As to just who that "someone else" might be... Miri briefly allowed herself the conceit that perhaps the Onlies were just dissociative elements of her own psyche, but that was impossible, since obviously she too was just another component of the thing--whatever it really was--that presently watched the passage of the starship Enterprise from a safe distance, observed as Enterprise vanished into a radiation burst, hurtled into the cosmos as its main engines propelled it to warp speed. And from her new perspective, Miri watched through the alien's eyes as other vessels she had been only scarcely aware of made similarly dramatic movements; as a Klingon battle cruiser jumped to warp to get into a firing position on the fleeing Bird of Prey, and as the Cardassian survey ship chased after the Enterprise at the snail pace its primitive engines provided. Moments later, the Gorn trawler Francium vanished from the universe is its star drive peeled the space time continuum like an orange, folding reality back on itself and enclosing its entire bulk in an artificial wormhole. And far off in the distance, the two Tholian vessels that had been hiding in the moon's shadow for weeks already, totally unnoticed and uninvolved, quietly gathered their orbiting sensor probes and sped off towards their homeworld to deliver their findings.

    Last, of course, was the Fesarius. Even the Humans had not suspected its presence, despite seeing the reports they'd uncovered from Doppelgänger about its arrival. Cleverly camouflaged as the desolate asteroid Doppelgänger-B, the aliens' inane competition had been monitored, archived, and ever so gently refereed until the moment the observers decided their curiosity had gone far enough and nothing further could be accomplished with the charade.

    The Chameloids and the Enolians had so little in common, and yet they owed so much to one another, depended so much on one another, that rumors were circulating in the First Federation that the two were secretly the same race. In any case, in form of communication too sophisticated for even Miri to understand, a discussion began and then abruptly ended in the space of a heartbeat. A decision was reached, and a process began, and all at once planet that Starfleet called "Doppelgänger" stopped pretending to be a planet.
  3. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    - 1231 hours -
    "All sections have confirmed, Captain," Sergeant Rand reported on the intercom, "We have thirty three unaccounted for, including the Miri and the other children. It's not just that, Sir, but Doctor Marcus and Doctor Ayash are both missing, and the computer has their last known coordinates in the isolation lab, a few meters from where we recorded disruptor fire."

    "Then we'll have to assume the Romulans have grabbed our people," Kirk said, "Assemble a team and standby in the transporter room, we'll have to get them back. I'm authorizing Class-Four loadouts for all personnel."

    "Wartime equipment, Sir?"

    "Break out the big guns for this one. It's gonna be messy."

    "Yes Sir. We'll stand by. Security out."

    Kirk had no doubt that Janice could get the job done if he got her within range of the Romulan vessel. The real trick, actually, was getting in range in the first place. For all intents and purposes, the Romulan ship had left the "normal" universe and had entered one of its own, from outside of which it could not be seen and from inside of which it could not see beyond. But it was not quite invisible, not yet; Enterprise's gravitic sensors still possessed the means to track its progress by the gravimetric ripples it created as it moved through space.

    "I have the Romulan vessel," Spock reported, "Turning away from us at warp one, bearing zero one three mark four, twenty million kilometers. They're changing course, heading towards Planet-A, large gas giant in close solar orbit. They may be trying to use the planet's radiation belt to obscure their warp signature."

    "Alter course to follow! Let's try and close the distance!"

    Sulu advanced the engine controls, and from far below decks came the sound of energizers beginning to howl. The distorted effect through the main viewer had already transfigured into a hellish vision of swirling madness with only a distant, dark core in the center. It was like flying through a tunnel of blue-white fire, as if every star and every planet for a hundred light years had been stretched into an infinitely long fiber and then woven into a tunnel through which the Enterprise now flew.

    "Now at warp two! Coming to pursuit course," Sulu said. The hum of the engines was rising in tone as the field built up, just as fast as it was designed to on a ship of this size as power. Beyond warp one, their exact velocity was impossible to determine for sure, it could only be estimated based on known values for local gravity fields and subspace densities.

    "Romulan vessel is definitely accelerating," Spock said, "Field output is approaching warp three."

    "Passing warp three now, Sir," Sulu said, "Three point two.... three point six..."

    "Romulan vessel now passing warp three."

    Kirk smiled, "We're gaining on them."

    "But can we make them stop?" Chekov asked.

    "You tell me, Ensign. You're the local wiz kid."

    Chekov glanced back at his Captain, just long enough to make eye contact but not long enough to break his concentration on his navigational console, "We might try thumping them, Keptin."


    "Warp four..." Sulu stared at his console for a long moment and then declared triumphantly, "Warp five!"

    The sound of the engines had almost become a high pitched whine, but by now it was already on the verge of human hearing. Soon it would be just a vibration and a barely-noticeable ringing in their ears. "Romulan vessel has passed warp five," Spock reported.

    "We're at five point four... point seven... point nine..."

    "Thumping, Ensign?" Kirk asked.

    Sulu answered, "Move out in just front of him and drop something in his flight path. Maybe a gravitic mine or something. If we're close enough, his deflectors won't have time to push it away, it'll react with his warp field and knock him off course."

    "Seems a bit drastic..."

    "Yes, Sir. We've done this with stunt planes, but I've never tried it with a starship before. We'll have to be within half a million kilometers, though, or else his deflectors will kick in automatically."

    This might be a good time to start, Kirk decided. The only more conventional method would be to use a spread of photon torpedoes set for proximity blast to try and menace the Romulans into slowing down. That might accomplish the desired effect, but only if the Romulans were stupid enough to hold course so Enterprise could zero in on them. "Estimate distance."

    "Four million kilometers and closing," Chekov answered excitedly, "We are maintaining parallel course, correcting for turbulence."

    "Captain," Spock looked up slowly, "Romulan vessel is now at warp six point five."

    "Sulu?" Kirk left his chair for the first time in almost an hour and leaned over the helm console between them.

    "Six point eight..." Sulu pushed the engine leaver again, but it was already at the stops, "Warp seven!"

    "Romulan vessel is passing warp seven." Spock frowned at his sensor readings, "Their power output is increasing geometrically. We will not be able to match their acceleration curve for long."

    "Warp seven point three..." Sulu said, "Seven point four... point five... point six..."

    Almost as if to confirm his theory, Spock reported, "Romulan vessel passing warp eight."

    Kirk ran back to his chair and stabbed the engineering intercom, "Scotty, we're falling behind! We need more out of those engines!"

    "You've got all I can give ye, Captain! It's hard enough just to keep em in balance!"

    "It's not enough! Hook some shuttles up to the drives if you have to, just get me more speed!"

    "I'll try ma best, Captain!"

    Kirk turned his chair towards the science station and braced for bad news, "Target velocity."

    Spock said slowly, "Warp eight point one, still accelerating.."


    "We're at seven point eight..." he pushed the engine leaver again, as if trying to trying to drive the Enterprise faster just by his own sense of urgency. "Seven point nine..."

    "We're approaching Planet-A's outer radiation field, Captain," Spock reported, "Romulan vessel is at eight point five and accelerating."

    Sulu answered almost apologetically, "Our velocity is only now warp eight. Romulan vessel is at five point four million kilometers, now pulling ahead of us."

    Already to maximum warp now, and Enterprise was designed to maintain this speed only for a few hours at most. Yet the Romulan bird of prey was still accelerating; at this distance it would have almost been visible as a bright star in the sky except for the insane distortions from the Enterprise' warp drive. "Steady as she goes, Sulu... that's a big ship, maybe we can catch 'em in the gravity well."

    "I hope so, we're now pushing..." he looked at his console, "Warp eight point two... approaching destructive limit, Captain."

    Speak of the devil, "Engineering to bridge! Starboard engine has crossed the Yellow Line." Which, if Kirk had paid any attention to his Engine Ops courses, meant the starboard nacelle's internal temperature was within seventy percent of its maximum rated temperature. This wasn't surprising, since in most two-engined starships--out of some vague tradition that traced all the way back to fixed-wing aviation--the starboard engine almost always ran slightly hotter than the port... "Scott here, port engine just Yellow Lined!"

    Kirk clenched and opened his hands a few times, trying to shake out the tension. "Target output?"

    "Eight point eight," Spock said, "Acceleration curve is consistent, approaching warp nine."

    And without waiting for Sulu's answer, Kirk saw from the viewscreen HUD that the Enterprise had just broken the threshold for warp nine. "How much faster can they go?"

    "Twenty seconds to effective gravity zone," Spock said, "Captain, unless Romulan engine designs have changed fundamentally in the past twenty years, they'll have to decelerate just before closest approach in order to maintain engine balance."

    "Will that be enough to overtake them?"

    "Possibly, but it depends on their deceleration profile."

    Kirk didn't want to hear that at all. He wanted answers, plans, not probabilities. "Can you do it, Sulu?"

    Sulu didn't acknowledge the question. Immediately he became a two-headed organism, trading cross-talk with Chekov as the two of them programmed the computers for what even Kirk had to admit was probably more of a longshot gamble than an actual plan.

    "Programming set, Keptin," Chekov said, "Aft torpedoes loaded and ready. All we need is to get into the right position."

    "He'll have to throttle back for at least ten seconds if we're going to have a shot," Sulu added, making his own adjustments to Chekov's program with his keypad, "And we've maxed out at warp eight point five... if he doesn't drop below warp seven, we're screwed."

    "One million kilometers," Spock said, and then moments later added, "Ten seconds to periapsis."

    Something occurred to Kirk now, something that hadn't dawned on him until just this moment. The Romulans had pulled off to make a run for it, diving towards the Hot Jupiter world in close proximity to its gravity well where even Starfleet knew they would have to reduce speed to avoid overloading their engines. That Starfleet knew this should be common knowledge by now, given how common even the newest Romulan designs were on the Klingon private market. If they were worried about a pursuit, they should have changed course the moment they realized they were being followed. "Why would they continue into the gravity well and risk their pursuer closing the gap?"

    Spock picked up the question, but not quite his meaning. "Captain?"


    "Navigational array is too slow," Sulu turned from his console, "Mister Spock, give me library computer tie-in."

    "Sensors tied into helm control. Five seconds to periapsis..."

    There was only one possibility, but the implications were chilling. Could the Romulans be that clever? Would they really risk it? "Cancel that," Kirk said quickly, "New heading, one three eight mark four three! Now!"

    "Aye Sir!" Sulu didn't bother programming the new heading, just pounded it into the helm with a sweep of his own manual input. Faster this way, but more risky, since the navigational computer now had no idea where the ship as going and would have to be re-centered in order to use the auto-navigational settings. At his command, Enterprise immediately veered up and away from the gas giant, avoiding the gravity well altogether and veering deeper into space.

    The Romulan vessel, meanwhile, plummeted into the planet's increasing gravity field like a missile diving into a canyon. It powered down for just a moment, but in the last instant before it would have reached closest approach, veered off in a completely new direction, cutting underneath the Enterprise as it again accelerated to up to high warp.

    Kirk ground his teeth, having guessed right, but too late to press his advantage. The Romulans had been counting on Enterprise trying to pull ahead of them at periapsis, using that critical moment to break in a new direction and throw their pursuers off their tail. With the head start that bird of prey would have gained, Enterprise would never be able to catch up to them. On the other hand, avoiding the trap at the last minute, they might still be able to escape. "Get a fix on the target's position! Bring is back on parallel course!"

    "He's back at warp nine," Chekov said, "Heading one three eight mark two! Thirty million kilometers, pulling away from us!"

    "We're coming to the same heading," Sulu said, "But--"

    "Engineering to bridge! Warp engines just orange-lined! I canna hold this output much longer!"

    "We're now at eight point six," Sulu said, "Captain, she's only rated for warp eight!"

    Carried on the roar of the engines, Kirk almost thought he heard the Enterprise growl in protest. "I'm aware of that, Mister Sulu! Standby to--"

    "Explosions ahead, Captain!" Spock said, almost audibly alarmed, "The Romulan vessel just dropped out of warp!"

    Kirk almost jumped out of his chair, "Quick, Sulu! Before we overshoot...!"

    "Ayr, Sir!" Sulu and Chekov had left nothing to chance; both worked like a pair of concert pianists, quickly reconfiguring the navigational computer to plot the bird of prey's final position and bring the Enterprise back to sublight speed as close as possible to optimum weapons range. At their high warp factor, Enterprise closed the gap on their target in a little under ten seconds, and without ceremony or countdown, the computer cut output of the warp engines and the ship came crashing to a halt in space.

    "Get a fix on his position," Kirk ordered, "Arm photon torpedoes, program for precision-guidance, anti-warship setting."

    The two tactical officers at the port-Ops station relayed those orders to the torpedo room while Sulu implemented his own. Only seconds later, the viewscreen flashed into a starfield as Enterprise dropped out of warp, the yellow-orange cloudscape of Planet-A filling half the sky. They were already a few light seconds away from the planet, but HB22147-A was such an enormous world that it was on the borderline of becoming a star itself.

    The HUD display on the viewscreen showed a spinning tick-marked circle marking the position of the Romulan vessel with relative heading and velocity. It was on the very edge of torpedo range, nearly three thousand kilometers and drawing slightly closer as their impulse engines closed the gap between them. Like Enterprise, it was dropped out of warp almost stationary relative to the dominant gravitating body, and like Enterprise its helmsman had instantly fired up their impulse drives to put their ship into a circular orbit around that body. Unlike Enterprise, the Romulan ship was tumbling like a frisbee, its impulse engines producing a strange but otherwise useless wobbling motion in space. Their inertial dampeners must have failed, Kirk realized. It will take them a few seconds to reset, and a little while longer to stabilize their spin. A torpedo shot would be risky with the bird of prey tumbling like this, but if he waited too long... "Spock, what do you make of that?" It was just barely visible on the view-screen, but squinting at the image, Kirk saw that bird of prey was definitely venting something out into space, like the center of a spiral galaxy in time lapse.

    "Reading ionized gas and antiprotons," Spock reported from his sensor scope, "One of their warp nacelles has been ruptured."

    Kirk smiled, "They pushed their engines too hard, and now they're stuck here."

    "Captain," Spock added the next part with a sudden note of caution, "Sensors recorded a massive gravitic disturbance just before they dropped out of warp, pattern consistent with Klingon disruptor fire. Its point of origin was back in the general direction of Doppelgänger."

    And Kirk wasn't about to ask how the Klingons could have hit a target moving at warp speed from that far away. The Kor'ah had already surprised him once, and Kirk wasn't prepared to suffer any more false assumptions for one week. "Status of Romulan vessel?"

    "Main power has failed, shields and deflectors offline. They're disabled, but I can't say for how long."

    "I have another wessel approaching at warp speed," Chekov reported, "I read it as the Klingon ship, approaching at..." his eyes widened, "... at warp ten, Keptin. They'll be on top of us in fifty seconds."

    "Then let's not leave anything to chance." Kirk stabbed the intercom switch for the transporter room and gave the order he was sure he would come to regret, "Janice, it's showtime. The Klingons are on their way, we'll try and buy you some time."

    "I'll get our people back, Jim! Count on us! Energize!"
  4. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 5, 2007
    Between the candle and the flame
    That was some very exciting stuff! I'm going to miss Miri. Your Klingons are acting more like M'imbari in terms of tech levels. Interesting approach. Looking forward to more.
  5. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    A fascinating study on the symphony of warp propulsion, gravity wells, inertia, and ballistics… and an action-packed chapter to boot! The Romulans appear to be having a rather bad day now that they’ve been discovered, identified, chased, and now crippled. I’m guessing we’ll find out rather quickly how much the Klingons will tolerate Kirk & Company interfering in their hunt/kill-or-capture mission as he attempts to rescue Dr. Marcus.

    I wonder how much Jim’s enjoying the center seat right at this moment. :lol:
  6. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom

    HB22147-a, High Orbit
    USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
    Stardate 2259.3.6
    - 1236 hours -
    Sergeant Rand stepped onto the transporter pad and dialed her phaser rifle up to its maximum disruptor setting, followed shortly by the other three members of the fire team similarly armed. The two vacant pads were filled by a pair of "Beachhead" forcefield generators, each barrel-sized devices that could cover the entire team while beaming on and off the enemy ship. The other three fire teams were standing by in the next transporter rooms, two and three in the opposite corridor, with number four already setup as a triage center with a team of medics if and when the boarding parties should call for dustoff.

    Like the other two teams, Rand's party--Crewman Reims, Corporal Barnheisel and Lance Corporal Loganoff--were equipped with the dreaded Class Four Loadout, Starfleet equipment usually authorized only in time of war. In addition to the Beachheads, all twelve of them had forcefield gear mounted front and back on flak vests and a targeting monocle slaved to their phaser rifles. One men in each fire team had a quad-pack of photon grenades clipped to his belt, while a second carried the football-sized casing of a five and a half kiloton tricobalt device. It was easy to see why this equipment was usually reserved for full scale war: apart from the fact that these twelve people possessed between them enough firepower to demolish a small city, it was also obscenely expensive. The shield vests alone cost as much as a standard shuttlecraft and Enterprise only had ten Beachhead units on the entire ship.

    Hopefully, Rand thought, they'd turn out to be worth every credit.

    Rand's communicator chirped, and instantly the voice of Captain Kirk spilled out of her targeting monocle, "Janice, it's showtime. The Klingons are on their way, we'll try and buy you some time."

    By the tone of his voice, there wasn't alot of time to buy. Rand knew as well as anyone that the Klingons' only interest in this planet was the Romulan ship sent to investigate it; they would stop at nothing to complete that mission, even if it meant shooting through a Federation vessel to get it. "I'll get our people back, Jim! Count on us!" and to the transporter chief said, "Energize!"

    There was a tingling sensation from all around her, and then the transporter room vanished. The next thing she saw as the Romulan ship materialized around her was a large open bulkhead space, undoubtedly some kind of cargo bay with a recessed floor and a set of tractor cranes built into the ceiling for moving large crates around the room. Immediately she heard the screaming of what was probably an intruder alert and a female voice shouting something frantically over a loudspeaker, and seconds after that she heard voices shouting something unintelligible from somewhere else in the compartment.

    The translators couldn't pick it up, but the voices sounded more worried than alarmed. The computer had obviously noticed their arrival, but for the moment they were not yet in danger. "Shields up!" she ordered, at the same time checking to see that all three teams had beamed into the same location. All twelve of them were there around her, their Beachhead shields strategically positioned in a circular pattern that would give the team a safe haven from any Romulan counter action. Likewise, all twelve of them now activated the body shields on their flak vests, and each was briefly surrounded by a crackling ripple as their forcefields powered up. She checked to make sure the last of them were ready, then started her own shield and ordered, "Move out!"

    The search pattern had been decided in advance, so she didn't need to say much more than this. The bird of prey was perhaps two hundred meters long, with a layout that was--if Starfleet intelligence was accurate--not totally different from Federation designs. All three groups split up in three directions from their beam-in point, one towards starboard aft, one towards port aft, and Rand's team towards the bow, each with a single team member scanning ahead for non-Romulan life forms.

    She quickly lost sight of the other teams, though her communications line to their team leaders remained open; at the same time, she caught sight of someone standing on a low catwalk in one corner of the cargo bay, saw a puzzled and confused reaction on that officer's face and then the horrified realization as he recognized them for what they were. He began to reach for a weapon, but didn't quite get his hand on it before Rand's phaser burned a fist-sized hole in his stomach and sent him tumbling over the side of the catwalk to the cargo bay floor.

    Then there came a flash of light, and a heart-stopping concussion as if someone had just hit her in the shoulder with a baseball. She staggered and almost fell, and felt the electric tingling between her shoulder blades where a Romulan plasma bolt had hit her in the spine. A chorus of phaser blasts answered the attack, and three Romulan centurions dove behind the cover of a cargo container almost on the other side of the bay as nadion pulses struck the ground and the walls around them.

    Rand didn't wait to exchange fire with them. The hatchway out of the cargo bay was just ahead, and she flung herself through it with the rest of her team not far behind. There was a heartbeat or two before she realized the corridor wasn't empty, then another heartbeat for her to recognize a group of at least six centurions who, between them, were in a mix of panic and rage. All six of them fired at once in a maddening storm of plasma pulses; Rand's team fired back with phasers. The corridor lit up with an insanity of green and red pulses from a totally uncontrolled crossfire, and Rand felt at least a half dozen more impacts on her arms and legs, her body shield struggling to hold itself together under this punishment.

    The Romulans, on the other hand, had no shields, and at this range the very brief exchange of phaser fire reduced three of them to smoldering corpses on the deck while the remaining three ducked back around the corridor and put a bulkhead between themselves and their enemies. Rand decided not to pursue them, and sprinted off in the opposite direction, leading with her phaser rifle and letting the monocle guide her path. The targeting sensors were already registering dozens of individuals in this stretch of corridor, moving in a sort of erratic and disorganized fashion one might expect from a ship-full of astronauts that had just been boarded in the middle of a space battle. "Where is it?" she asked, a question that was implicitly meant for Crewman Reims, who still had his tricorder in hand.

    "Their transporter room is thirty meters down this corridor and then right and another ten meters."

    "What about the prisoners?"

    "Nothing yet. We'll pick up the trail at the transporter room."

    "Keep scanning! I don't want any more surprises on this r--"

    Reims dropped his tricorder to hang from the strap around his neck and whirled around in the corridor. At the same time he shouted "behind us!" he fired a long phaser beam in a sweeping pattern, back and forth in the hallway like a flashlight or a laser pointer. The beam crossed something that wasn't completely visible, and apparently sliced it in half, since a shower of dark green blood suddenly erupted out of mid air and splashed to the deck along with a rain of suddenly-visible body parts. Another apparently-cloaked centurion opened fire from further down the corridor, and Reims' shield lit up as a series of plasma pulses crashed against his chest and shoulders. Reims fired again, this time in auto-fire, letting off a long series of quick, well-aimed pulses, only to be answered in kind by what seemed like a dozen different plasma weapons at once. The air whistled with the frantic beeping from his flak vest, an audible warning that his body shield was about to fail; Reims tried to move out of the line of fire, but not before the salvo of plasma bolts riddled and scorched his body like a hundred lightning bolts all striking one after another.

    "Rand to Enterprise, we're encountering heavy resistance!" without daring to slow down, she pulled one photon grenade from her belt, set for its maximum yield, and then threw it down the corridor on an angle where it wound bounce off the bulkheads and careen around the corner into the faces of the cloaked centurions. A second later it detonated, an Rand felt the concussion in the deck plates as the expanding photon detonation crushed several Romulans and two tons of bulkhead into the adjacent compartment.

    "Team One to Team Three," said Crewman Dallas on the commlink, "We've got a trace signal from their starboard transporter room! It heads off in your direction, E-Deck, a few meters aft of their torpedo room."

    "We're heading there now," Rand answered, but she didn't have any illusions about being able to reach it. Again she remembered that Romulan ships were eerily similar to Earth vessels in many respects, which meant the Romulans probably housed their prisoners close to their main security complex, the armory, and the main torpedo room. In essence, the mission now called for a frontal assault on the most heavily defended part of the enemy ship.

    No point in searching the entire vessel, then. "Dallas, Monty, have your team converge on that section immediately! Use whatever force necessary to get through the defenders!"
  7. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom

    - 1238 hours -
    The rainbow-colored splash of a warp-driven starship exploded out in space, far off to starboard to form an almost right triangle between the Enterprise and the still-tumbling bird of prey. It was obviously the Kor'ah, even though Kirk couldn't see its lines from this distance. The Gorn ship didn't appear to be equipped with warp drive, and the Cardassian vessel had a distinctive yellowish tinge to its warp field pattern...

    "Grazine approaching from port, sir!" Chekov added as that yellowish splash of light announced its presence, far off to port and almost sixty degrees above the saucer. And seconds later, even further away, a swirling apparition twisted the star field like a black hole carving its way through the heavens, then another flash of light, and suddenly the Gorn vessel was turning in space less than fifty kilometers off the Enterprise's bow.

    By some cosmic coincidence, it was at precisely this moment that the Romulan vessel righted itself and, turned its bow towards Enterprise and opened fire with all six of its forward plasma cannons. The little bolts of supercharged mass exploded against the deflectors like nuclear fireballs, which for all intents and purposes is exactly what they were. The lights dimmed for just a moment as a portion of the ship's energy was diverted to shields, and Enterprise immediately returned fire with all of her forward phaser banks.

    It might as well have been the starting gun of an interstellar triathlon: immediately, starships from a half dozen worlds all opened fire at once, each at different targets, each in the hopes of obtaining the same prize. Not just from the Romulans, but Enterprise suddenly sustained several hits from the Gorn drone weapons--still distant, but remarkably accurate even so--and a few small impacts aft as the Cardassian ship opened up with its recoilless rifles. And then there was Kor'ah, barreling through space on impulse power, totally focussed on the only target its commander really cared about.

    Kirk gave the order on instinct alone. "Full impulse power! Bring us into a defensive position near the bird of prey!"

    "Aye, Sir," Sulu poured on the power and Enterprise surged forward in space, accelerating at a speed that--without inertial dampeners--would have flattened most of the crew against the nearest rear bulkhead. "Chekov, tactical plot on viewer!"

    "Tactical, Keptin," Chekov displayed a 3D map on the main screen, "Gorn wessel has appeared in space at zero two mark eighty five, distance four thousand! Klingon wessel is closer, bearing one eight seven mark two four, range twenty two hundred! Cardassian wessel has closed to forty kilometers astern, moving to... wait..."

    There was too much going on for Chekov to give a play-by-play, but Kirk could see enough of it on the viewscreen to make his own decisions. The Francium was already amidst a growing constellation of its autonomous attack vehicles, though just which target it was after wasn't clear yet. The Kor'ah, meanwhile, had banked hard over on impulse power to evade a salvo of plasma bolts from the Romulans, accelerating slightly faster but from farther away than the Enterprise. Grazine had closed to almost point blank range, still blasting away with their powder-and-lead recoilless rifles as if they could win this battle just with their collective enthusiasm.

    Simple logical assessment: whatever imbecility had possessed them, the Cardassians were still the least serious threat; they could fire their cannons until the sun burned out and never penetrate the Enterprise's hull, so for the moment they could be safely ignored. And Gorn's attack drones, persistent as they were, would take a few minutes to get into a good firing position. That just left the Klingons as the most immediate problem, and ironically, the only one in the group whose intentions were clearly known. "Kirk to Rand," he punched the intercom on his chair for the away teams' frequency, "We'll buy you as much time as we can, hurry up and get our people!"

    Rand's voice came through with the sound of shouting and phaser fire in the background, "We're on it, Captain! Just buy us another five minutes! That's all I need!"

    "No promises! Kirk out!" he closed the intercom, and then to his helmsman said, "Set main phaser banks to intercept mode. We're going to lay down a defensive barrage of the Romulan vessel to hold back those Klingon missiles."

    "What do we do if the Romulans start shooting at us?" Sulu said.

    "If they're smart, they'll focus more on that Klingon dreadnought..." It almost wasn't worth the effort, but Kirk couldn't bring himself to take this extra step unless he tried it first, "Uhura, open a channel to the Kor'ah, tell Ha'lok we need time to extract our people, and after that he can have the Romulans all to themselves."

    "Sending, Sir..."

    "Kor'ah is firing on the bird of prey," Spock reported, "Impact in eight seconds."


    Chekov answered, "Eight hundred kilometers and closing!"

    And Enterprise' phasers were rated to a maximum range of just over five hundred kilometers. Hopefully even the engineers had underestimated this new ship... "Fire all phasers! Standby photon torpedoes, set for proximity blast!"

    The lighting on the bridge dimmed, barely perceptibly, as power was channeled to the ship's main phaser banks. A storm of pulsing energy bolts raged out from the hull and crossed the shrinking gulf between the two vessels, each individual discharge aimed as precisely as the computer could manage at the Kor'ah's opening salvo. Yet even Kirk had under-estimated the Romulan's resilience; their own plasma cannons had already opened fire in an even thicker barrage, smashing the Klingon projectiles one after another still hundreds of meters away from impact. The addition of the phaser pulses merely added to the bird of prey's already total impunity, leaving the Romulan ship to maneuver away, putting more distance ahead of the Klingon ship.

    "Signal from the Kor'ah, Sir. They're saying they have no intention of postponing their mission for our benefit. Ha'lok says we should pull our people back before he t--" Uhura's voice died in a squeek of panic as some mind-blasting noise erupted in her earpiece. The source of it manifested on the tactical screen as something similar but vastly more powerful than a phaser beam crashed against the Kor'ah's armor, knocking the entire ship almost into a spin. The computer traced the source of it back to the Gorn vessel, which in the mean time had--somehow--closed to less than a thousand kilometers over the past few seconds. The Francium was obviously a bit faster than Kirk had given it credit for.

    "Francium is engaging the Klingon ship," Spock reported, "And the Gorn's autonomous weapons are moving into an attack position around the Romulan vessel."

    "Around the Romulans?" Kirk felt a chill run down his spine. It was a theory he'd briefly considered, but didn't think relevant until now: Enterprise may have been the first to notice the Romulans, but they didn't mean they hadn't paid anyone else a visit. "Are torpedoes set for proximity blast?" Kirk asked.

    Sulu reported, "Aye, Sir, sixty meter range."

    "Give me guidance lock on the Gorn weapons and fire a full spread. After they detonate, give me a twenty five second defensive barrage from the main phaser banks."

    As Kirk watched, twice more the Gorn vessel fired its gigantic energy cannon and twice more the Klingon warbird reeled under the blast. After the third blast, the Klingon ship yawed gracefully to starboard, down and away from the bird of prey, making an impulse turn towards Francium as its cannons opened up a deadly salvo.

    The Gorn responded as Kirk expected: nearly half of their drone weapons pulled back into a defensive formation, drawing a forcefield curtain between them that would be a match even for the Klingon weapons. Now was the perfect time. "Fire torpedoes!"

    Sulu launched the weapons, and just seconds later a spread of photon torpedoes converged on the bird of prey and detonated as close as they could to the Gorn weapons. Without a direct hit, their concussive energies did almost no damage, and yet the shock of being batted around by a sudden explosive force knocked the drone weapons far out of position, giving the Romulan gunners the opening they needed to concentrate fire and clear their skies.

    Coincidentally, it also gave them the Romulans a chance to concentrate fire on their other opponent. Chekov's console lit up with the tracks of three Romulan plasma torpedoes, all three headed straight for the Enterprise. They were much too close to issue a warning, and just seconds later the entire ship lurched to starboard as all three torpedoes slammed into the number two shield.

    Little else to do, Sulu locked the ship's main phasers on the drone weapons and fired back as Enterprise made yet another pass; for a half a second the bird of prey was actually visible on the viewscreen, then fell away to stern as the ship's secondary phasers swept through space in long narrow beams, scratching at its dwindling shields and even chewing parts of its hull armor.

    "Number two shield just went down," Sulu announced as the report came on his screen. Followed seconds later by even more bad news, this time a status report from the phaser room as appeared on the port HUD display just below the shield status graphics, "Main phasers are at thirty percent, secondary weapons at sixty five percent!"

    "Grazine is reentering firing range," Spock reported, "They're opening their missile launch hatches... missiles launched. Count twelve, intercept course, impact in forty seconds."

    They were persistent, those Cardassians. Kirk thought they had probably decided to try and eliminate the most powerful competitor first, give the lesser opponents time soften each other up and finish them off later. Given their lack of deep space experience it wasn't as stupid a move as he might have thought, although their estimate of Enterprise' formidability was obviously based on size alone; they'd never have guessed that the twenty four thousand ton Kor'ah was more than a match even for the Enterprise.

    No matter. It was just one more obstacle to deal with. "Handle their missiles with deflectors, Mister Chekov. We'll need those phasers if Ha'lok comes back our way."

    "Deflectors up full, Keptin! Shields standing by!"

    On the tactical display, the Cardassian missiles were a string of blinking crosses moving in space past the insane melee of Romulan weapons and Gorn drones. Already, the missile spread parted into two separate groups, six towards the Romulan ship and six towards the Enterprise. They'd fired at the perfect time, just when Sulu was bringing the Enterprise to a low relative velocity, which would force the ship to either accelerate again and turn evasive or suffer the full force of six thermonuclear devices. "Comparative isoton yield," Kirk asked.

    Spock answered immediately, "Cardassian missiles are low-mass, small-diameter projectiles. At most, five isotons each."

    As they'd expected, nothing Enterprise couldn't repel with minimal shields. Powerful as their warheads were, even with a direct hit they would do little more than shower their target in hard x-rays and a diffuse breath of ionized gas, like a radioactive sneeze against the deflector screens. Still, this situation was plenty chaotic enough without the Cardassians nipping at his heels. There was, now, a real need to effectively silence them and focus his attention on something better. "Mister Sulu, lock phasers on the Cardassian ship. Target sensors and weapon systems."

    "Missiles approaching," Spock said, "Impact in twenty seconds."

    "Grazine is entering phaser range," Chekov reported.

    The missiles were probably visible to the naked eye by now, but Kirk trusted the tactical plot more than a limited window-view of the cosmos. From that plot, he knew that right now all six of the Cardassian missiles were detonating in a cluster just five hundred meters away from the bird of prey, scattering the Gorn weapon pods and irradiating the Romulan ship to such a degree that its sensors and targeting systems would be momentarily blinded. Even Enterprise's sensors were briefly thrown into chaos by the radioactive glare, but they retained just enough sight to identify a small Cardassian space craft separating from the Grazine's hull and moving rapidly towards the Romulan ship.

    "Impact in ten seconds," Spock reported, "Nine... eight... seven..."

    "Lock phasers, open fire just before impact."

    Sulu glanced at his console, then added, "Phaser two, three and five report guidance lock!"

    "Four... three... two..."


    "Main phasers, fire!"

    Phaser bolts leapt out of the Enterprise's forward and starboard phaser banks barely a second before the first missile struck the deflector barrier. Contrary to Kirk's expectation, it didn't actually detonate; the chemically-fueled projectile had no other means of penetrating modern defense systems and simply tumbled off into space, away from the Enterprise, as if pushed off course by a sudden wind. The second and third missiles did the same, and only the fourth detonated as its course began to change, emitting for an instant a brilliant flash and then the fading haze of a rainbow-colored fireball as vaporized missile casing and fuel elements scattered into space. By now, Enterprise's phasers raked across the Grazine's hull, blasting man-sized holes in its armored hull and sending jets and flame and molten metal geysering out into space. One of the recoiless cannons exploded on its mount, and two of its maneuvering thrusters began to fire uncontrollably as their fuel lines fused in place.

    Maybe as a last desperate move, Grazine's solitary phase cannon let off a long sustained blast, straight across the Enterprise's bow, finally making contact on the port side of the saucer and drawing a line straight across to the starboard side. Enterprise's shields flared from the contact, but held without even loosing power.

    "Reading massive power fluctuations on the Grazine, Sir," Spock reported, "Damage to their weapons and targeting array."

    "And the Romulan ship?"

    "Roughly same condition. Their systems do not seem to be heavily damaged, but their thrusters and impulse engines are inactive... there are two small space craft attached to the hull, one near their bridge, the other near their forward torpedo bay. Looks like Gorn and Cardassian boarding parties."

    That would complicate Rand's job, assuming she hadn't already found what she was looking for. On the other hand, it made Enterprise's job a hell of a lot easier, since for now it simplified the relationships between the contenders. At least, to the extent that the contest could be in any way simplified, and it probably couldn't. "Mister Sulu, move us to within two kilometers of the bird of prey. Prepare to provide covering fire."

    "Phaser power is down to eighteen percent, Captain..."

    "That'll have to do, we don't have time to recharge."

    "Aye, Sir..."

    "Mister Chekov, transfer full warp power to deflector screens, maximum radius."

    Spock looked up puzzled, "Captain?"

    "Those Klingon shells will go through our shields like they're not even there. If we extend deflectors, maybe we can hold them back long enough for our phaser crews to clean them off."

    "At full extension, Captain, the extra load on our engines..."

    "I know, I know." Kirk wiped a sleeve-load of sweat off his forehead and stared at the growing image of the bird of prey in the view-screen, becoming visible even under the translucent image of the tactical display.

    Sergeant Rand's five minutes were almost up.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2009
  8. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    The engagement grows even more tense as all the competitors show up to the party. You’ve managed to keep the narrative from growing confused or jumbled, and the clear delineation between the various factions here is well handled.

    Now it appears it’s up to Rand and her team.
  9. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 5, 2007
    Between the candle and the flame
    I agree with Gibraltar. One thing, you say Enterprise has 10 suits but the landing party has 12 members-who all activate their suits. Great action on the space combat and good descriptions on the infantry action.
  10. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    Just to clear this up, Mistral: the "Beachhead" generators are barrel-shaped forcefield generators, basically portable versions of Enterprise' shield generators. A pair of them can create a forcefield around the beam-in site large enough to protect the entire away team while beaming on and off the ship. Enterprise only has ten of these aboard, and three teams brought two each for a total of six. As for personal forcefields, Enterprise has a total of fifty in its inventory, intended for special operations missions and requiring extraordinary circumstances to justify their use.

    Anyhow... glad you're all enjoying my little epic. We're down to the final three chapters, so stay tuned for future updates. I plan to have this one completed by Christmas Break.
  11. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Looking forward to it. :) I like the way you’ve intuited other logical technologies (especially the tactical ones) from what was shown in the latest Star Trek movie.
  12. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom


    HB22147-a, High Orbit
    IRS N'acirema (VFA-212)
    Stardate 2259.3.6
    - 1245 hours -
    It took Rand a few moments to get her bearings back, and once she did she became aware that the lighting and even the atmosphere on the Romulan ship had completely changed. Main power had failed, and the air was no longer circulating. Something had hit the ship with a considerable amount of force; it wasn't powerful enough to be a photon torpedo, but nasty enough that half the lights were out and none of the alarms or intercom voices that had been dogging them so far were still sounding.

    As for the boarding party: the ten of them who were still alive (including the badly injured Corporal Barnheisel) had been trapped in this little stretch of corridor for the past two minutes, trading phaser fire with two equally implacable groups of heavily armed Romulan centurions. Both groups had setup some kind of forcefield at the end of the corridor that was blocking their phaser fire but nonetheless allowed their plasma cannons to fire back; Loganoff had cleared one of them with a photon grenade, and was about to take on the other one when whatever-it-was shook the bird of prey like a giant rattle.

    She couldn't tell if their shield was still active, and at this point she no longer cared. She picked up Loganoff's tricorder off the deck--no sign of that creepy Russian anywhere in this darkened room that appeared to be an equipment bay--and redoubled the trace scan for human lifesigns. As before, there was only that one signal, a very diffuse trail leading down the direction they'd been heading until now, terminating another fifteen meters ahead and one deck down from where they were. The tricorder also showed her there were between ten and thirty Romulans between her and there...

    No, not Romulans. The tricorder wasn't sure what they were, but their ultrasound profile depicted as something relatively small, with crouched simeon postures and low-slung heads on long flexible necks. Probably Gorn. So that's what had happened here. "Shields up!" Rand shouted by way of marshaling her people. Those who hadn't gathered their wits by now quickly snapped back to reality, and those who had, now had something other than their own ringing ears to focus on. And now Rand gave them one better: she found Loganoff finally, relieved him of his phaser rifle, and aimed both his and her rifles directly at the floor. At maximum disruptor setting she fired straight down, and the two phasers quickly melted the deck plating and burned through to the electronics bay just beow it. Then below to the ceiling of the next deck, leaving a jagged smoldering gap almost a meter on a side straight down to the level below.

    Rand returned Loganoff's weapon, and then dropped her last photon grenade into the hole, waited for it to detonate, and then dropped in after it. This, ironically, put her in the middle of the Romulan torpedo room, most of which was either on fire or soaked with the blood of dead Romulan officers. That explained alot: the radiation pulse from whatever had hit the ship must have detonated one of the plasma torpedoes in the tube. Loganoff dropped in behind her, and a moment later so did Crewman Reims and the rest of the second fire team. Rand held up one hand to stop anyone else coming down, and then turned to Loganoff with an almost vicious expression, "Where's that life sign?"

    "Fifteen meters, dead ahead!" Loganoff quickly showed her the tricorder image, showing the sensor map of the corridors and other life form readings it was able to pick out. "There's a Gorn team between us and them," he added, "and another group coming up the opposite. I think they're Cardassians."

    "What's that there?" Rand asked, pointing to the group closest to their objective.

    "A group of Romulans defending that section. The Gorn are gonna overrun them in a minute."

    "Okay... fine..." Rand looked through the burning smoke-filled room at the far bulkhead, "Make a hole for us."

    "What do you mean make a hole?"

    Rand pointed at the ceiling, the makeshift hatch they had just passed through. Then she turned and pointed at the bulkhead again, "Make a hole."

    "Are you kidding? It's fifteen meters of reinforced steelplast!"

    "Well then..." Rand was loosing patience. She stormed over to the hole in the ceiling and shouted, "Montoya! Dallas! Stompie! Get your asses down here!"

    All four officers dropped through the hole in that order, one after another. Rand pointed at a spot on the bulkhead and thundered, "Set the switch to hold for three seconds, then converge your beams. Loganoff, are you sure it's fifteen meters?"

    "I'll judge the distance," Loganoff said, "On the count of three! One! Two!"

    "Three!" Rand fired half a second early, not that it made a difference; the two combined force of six phaser beams immediately burned through a three-meter circle of the bulkhead, melting it down like a wall of lukewarm butter. After three second contact the beams began to converge, like a beam of light being focussed on a tighter and tighter spot; they chewed through to the next bulkhead behind the torpedo room, and still the next compartment where the beams caught a group of hapless Romulan gunners by surprise and reduced them and their consoles to a floating cloud of ash.

    At fifteen meters in, Loganoff shouted "Clear!" and all six phaser beams disappeared. Rand rushed into the still-smoldering gap, phaser rifle at the ready, and after the briefest hesitation, Montoya and Loganoff followed. Rushing from a burning room through a tunnel of seared and flash-cooked madness gave her the all-around impression of rushing straight into the heart of hell... an impression that was suddenly justified as she rushed into the last compartment at almost the exact same moment that a Gorn officer burst through the hatch. They saw each other at the same time, and both had identical reactions: the Gorn raised its weapon and fired, a thunderous drumbeat of what sounded remarkably similar to one of the Onlies' kalashnikovs, and Rand fired back from her phaser rifle at the same instant. The phaser pulses incinerated the Gorn's lower torso and what was left of it collapsed to the ground in a heap. Another creature behind it dove out of sight before it could suffer the same fate, and Rand tossed her second and last photon grenade through the still-open hatch to discourage it even further.

    And there was Doctor Marcus, restrained and secured on an examination table, half-immersed in the wall slot of what looked like an old-fashioned medical scanner. Marcus was conscious, but not moving, not reacting. She was either in shock or slowly coming out of it.

    "Cover the door!" Rand shouted to Reims and Loganoff and ran to Marcus herself. "Doctor!" she pulled at the restraints, snapping them clean off with a strength she didn't know she had, "Doctor Marcus! Wake up!"

    "Janice... Janice Rand... you're here from..."

    "Doctor, where are the others?" Rand grabbed Marcus under the chin and turned her look her directly in the eye, "Doctor Marcus! Where are the other captives?!"

    Marcus looked startled by the question, even a little astonished, "Other captives?"

    "The missing crewmen! Ayash, Grossman, Ayala... where are the children?"

    "I don't know, I thought it was just me all this time--" Marcus looked past her, seeing Montoya discharge his phaser at something that briefly appeared in the hatchway. Rand turned and saw the mangled shape of a Romulan centurion being ripped to pieces under a torrent of phaser pulses; she noticed something else standing behind it, something crouched low behind its dead Romulan decoy, but before she could shout a warning, the clatter of gunfire filled the room and Loganoff's body shield lit up like a thunderhead around his head and shoulders, then crackled and vanished as his power cells failed.

    The Gorn ducked out of the doorway just as Rand fired at it, and out of the corner of her eye she saw Loganoff suddenly collapse into spasms on the floor, eyes rolled back back into his head. His face and chest were riddled with long thin needles with little fins on the end, like crossbow arrow the size of carpenter nails. Similar to the flechette weapons from the Eugenics Wars, Rand remembered, probably laced with some kind of incredibly fast-acting neurotoxin.

    "Carol, go!" Rand yanked her to her feet and shoved her towards the opening her phasers had made a moment ago. Montoya grabbed her below the shoulder to keep her steady and both ran back to the still-smoldering torpedo room where the rest of the team was waiting for them. Rand grabbed Loganoff by the collar and dragged him along with one arm, firing back towards the interrogation room's solitary doorway with he other. Fortunately, the Gorn seemed to have run out of Romulan bodies to soak up her covering fire and they stayed out of the hatch until she was halfway to the forward torpedo room.

    Most unfortunately, and unbeknownst to Rand, the Gorn flechette launchers actually bore very little resemblance to their old Earth counterparts. Her brief respite from attack was exactly the amount of time it took for the Gorn team leader to program a specific search and attack pattern into his weapon, after which he simply held the gun in the opening and squeezed the trigger. A long burst of un-aimed darts fired into the empty room and then followed the trail from their microscopic sensors, following convoluted and winding trajectories straight towards Rand's chest and stomach. Without warning she felt herself being hit from all sides by what seemed like a swarm of supersonic bees, all stinging at once trying to punch through her body shield with all their might. She heard phaser fire from behind her, and then a shout from Crewmen Dallas and Montoya saying something she couldn't make out; their words were drowned out by the high pitched beeping from her flak vest, a warning that her shields were about to collapse.

    - 1250 hours -
    "Transporter room reports all boarding parties recovered," Uhura announced, "Casualties listed. Four dead, six injured. One hostage recovered, Doctor Carol Marcus. Away team reports no other captives aboard the Romulan vessel."

    Kirk ordered immediately, "Can you confirm that, Spock?"

    "With difficulty, Captain. Our sensors are still partially affected by the Cardassian missile attack. At the moment, however, I am not detecting any human presence aboard their ship."

    Which meant that the other missing crewmembers had either been misplaced during the boarding action or otherwise fallen victim to the reaver-creature that had suddenly appeared and then disappeared in the starboard compartments. If they were on board the Romulan vessel, Rand's people would be in the best position to know. "What are the Gorn and the Klingons doing?"

    "Klingon wessel has just gone to warp," Chekov said, "Moving out of contact range, heading one four two mark seventeen."

    Kirk half-turned his chair towards the science console, "Are they retreating?"

    "Doubtful," Spock said, "Scans show the Kor'ah has launched a wide spread of sensor drones, similar to the type they deployed into Doppelgänger orbit when they arrived yesterday. The drones are moving to a wide-distribution throughout the area, encompassing a radius of some eight thousand kilometers."

    When the Kor'ah had launched those devices yesterday, Kirk had thought they were reconnaissance drones intended to search for the cloaked Romulan ship. Here and now, though, there was no need to search for anything. They must have been for a totally different purpose, and from somewhere in his darkest imaginings he started to form a hunch just what that purpose was.

    "Francium is changing course," Spock said, his attention still glued to his science console, "accelerating towards us at thirty eight gees. They're deploying another wave of attack drones from..." something flashed on one of the overhead screens, and the more detailed information flowed through Spock's monitor, "Scanning an energy surge on the Kor'ah. Warp field distortion in the terawatt range... energy signature is consistent with the disruptor blast that struck the bird of prey earlier." And for the moment, everyone on the bridge was able to see that Klingon weapon in action for the first time. The sensors registered a sudden power surge from the Kor'ah, followed by a massive gravitational distortion in space in front of it. Some glimmering flash of light passed between the Kor'ah and the Francium, and two heartbeats later, Francium was gone.
  13. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    It wasn't even an explosion in the conventional sense. Where that blinding column of light touched the Gorn vessel, its entire hull and internal compartments, atmosphere, weapons, engines, even the bodies of its crew were neatly pushed aside, as if the entire ship had been impaled through the bow on a giant invisible cone. For a half a second the ship lingered in space, blown wide open like a half-peeled banana until some of its more volatile components--fuel systems and star drives--boiled out of control and exploded, scattering what was left of the shattered vessel into the wastes of space.

    That would be a definitive answer for Starfleet Intelligence. Whatever the D7 was armed with, it was powerful enough to smash entire vessels with a single shot.

    "Gorn wessel is totally destroyed," Chekov said by way of confirming the obvious. And then for the not-so-obvious, he added, "Now detecting scanner beams from Kor'ah's sensor drones. Increasing intensity, decreasing frequency."

    Kirk felt his heart leap halfway into his throat. "Move us away from the Romulan vessel, full impulse power. Uhura, open a channel to the Kor'ah."

    "Hailing on all frequencies, Captain..."

    "Answering full impulse, Captain," Sulu read from his console, "Klingon ship is maintaining its position, one hundred thousand kilometers dis--" A beam of bright orange light snapped out of the distance, like a bolt of lightning erupting out of the stars themselves. It struck down through the thickest part of the bird of prey, pushing aside its hull like a finger into a ball of clay, and then the Romulan vessel disintegrated in space like a ball of sand.

    "Energy spike," Spock reported, "The Cardassian vessel has just gone to warp."

    Hightailing it, Kirk realized. Not a bad idea under the circumstances. "Mister Chekov, lay in a course back to Doppelgänger, warp one. Plot a course that takes us nice and wide of the Klingons." That, hopefully, would be the end of it. He didn't honestly believe the Kor'ah would chase him down just for getting in their way once. Ha'lok was ruthless and cold-blooded, but he was a soldier after all...

    "Coming to new course," Sulu announced, "Main drives coming up. Twelve seconds to space warp."

    "Kor'ah is adjusting course," Chekov said, "Moving to parallel trajectory, following us!"

    "Scanning beams from sensor drones," Spock added, "Now targeting the Enterprise."

    What the hell was Ha'lok's deal? The whole point of his trying to intercept that Romulan ship was to prevent them from drawing Starfleet into their conflict. Attacking a Federation vessel in neutral space would be totally inconsistent with this objective. Then again, Ha'lok's orders might not reflect his understanding of the situation; Klingons conducted battles as casually as humans conducted soccer games. "Weapon status!"

    "Main phasers at twenty percent," Sulu said, "Fore and aft torpedo bays report forty five weapons each."

    "No response from the Klingon ship," Uhura said, "I'm getting heavy jamming on all subspace frequencies!"

    Sulu's console beeped an indicator warning, "All sections prepare for warp speed in five... four... three... two..." the viewscreen pulsated briefly, then exploded into the white tunnel-of-flame as the Enterprise shook itself loose from the bounds of mass and inertia. Instantly the ship catapulted itself to just over the speed of light, leaving the Romulan and the Klingon ship far behind in a battle space that--in the cosmic scheme of things--was just a tiny little corner of space in orbit of a very large planet.

    But Kirk couldn't help but remember what had happened to the Romulan ship when it tried to escape at warp, nor could he forget the fate of the Gorn ship only moments earlier. Precaution was called for, even if he doubted Ha'lok's persistence. "Deflectors up full," Kirk ordered, "Maintain this heading at warp factor one."

    Chekov raised output on the deflector system, adding from the ship's already massive warp field output to form still another forcefield barrier just outside of the warp field. It required nearly twice the usual power to maintain full deflectors even while at warp, and at this power level Enterprise's top speed was almost halved. "Deflectors up full, Keptin," Chekov added after a moment, "Maintaining standard defensive envelope at wa--" some mind-boggling crashed into the Enterprise, and Chekov's next sensation was a cry of alarm as he found himself being catapulted over the helm console, tumbling to the floor as if the entire ship had just collided head-on with a small planet. The lights dimmed to almost nothing, and an electronic snap broke out from the starboard side where one of the environmental system monitors broke free from the bulkhead and forty pounds of smoldering electronics came tumbling down on top of Ensign DeCasta's head.

    Kirk came to on the deck next to the helm console, bleeding from his temple after a blunt impact with the back of Sulu's chair. He heard overload alarms from the engineering console, and instinctively leapt to the now-vacant navigator's station to get himself a status report. Enterprise had dropped completely out of warp, tumbling and out of control, less than ten light seconds from the Kor'ah and farther still from Doppelgänger. He wasn't sure, presently, what the Klingons had fired at them, but whatever it was it had intercepted the Enterprise at better than warp sixteen and overloaded their deflectors and engines in the same blast. The warp drive had cut out automatically when the ship lost attitude control, but the deflectors were already building up again to full power.

    Chekov was struggling back to his console now, and Sulu not far behind him. Kirk limped back to his seat as the rest of his bridge crew collected their thoughts and ordered to the first person who could still find their hands, "Damage report!"

    Spock, somehow, managed to climb back to his science console and tie in the library computer to the engineering system, "Minor damage to outer hull sections 310 through 314, engineering section, frames two and four."

    "What the hell was that?!"

    "Some type of high-yield disruptor weapon. I read it as an annular force beam, one hundred and forty six isotons standard yield. Same thing that hit the Francium and the N'acirema."

    Which meant that if that beam had hit them with their deflectors down, there wouldn't be enough left of the Enterprise to fit in a suitcase. And if the Klingons fired a second volley now...

    "Klingon wessel dropping out of warp," Chekov reported, "Dead astern, eight hundred kilometers. Welocity twenty five, accelerating towards us!"

    "They're on an attack heading, Captain," Spock added from the science console, "At this power level our deflectors will provide only minimal protection."

    So it came down to this. The fight was on now, and live or die, the outcome of the battle depended on his actions in the next forty five seconds. Kirk took a quick stock of his fighting capabilities and found them remarkably lacking, even under ideal circumstances. The number two shield had been knocked out by those Romulan torpedoes, and this time it refused all efforts to bring it back online. The other three shield generators were functional, but hideously overworked having to cover more of the ship than usual. Even if the deflectors could be brought up to full, the shields would only offer token resistance to the Klingon weapons, and with only fifteen percent left in the phaser banks the Enterprise had perhaps another thirty seconds of firing time before the capacitors were completely drained.

    But the Klingons didn't seem to be in a hurry this time. Kirk saw the range dwindling quickly and realized the Kor'ah wasn't going to stand off and hammer them as it had before. Ha'lok was capitalizing on his ship's superior maneuverability, pressing an aggressive high speed attack before the larger and slower Enterprise could turn to react. They would probably wait until about a hundred kilometers to open fire; defensive fighting would not be an option here. "Sulu, on my command, yaw forty degrees starboard, thirty five negative. It's gonna be a hard impulse turn."

    "Six hundred kilometers!"

    "Course set... Captain, that heading will take us directly into the path of the Klingon ship."

    "I'm aware of that, Mister Sulu. Ready torpedoes and main phaser banks, I want to be able to hit him right across the nose when he makes that run on us. Let's show him what he's up against."

    "Aye, Sir," Sulu locked in the phaser banks almost with an air of pride. He didn't know what to expect from the outcome, but the idea of giving the Klingons the fight of their life was appealing on so many levels.

    "Five hundred kilometers!"

    Kirk ordered, "Arm photon torpedoes! Set for full spread, minimal dispersion."

    "Torpedoes armed... guidance lock on Klingon vessel."

    "Four hundred kilometers!"

    "Fire torpedoes!"

    Sulu launched the weapons, and once again the lights dimmed just for a moment as ship's power was transferred to the launchers. Eight torpedoes shot into space as tiny fireballs racing to meet the Klingon ship, covering the distance between them in just a matter of seconds. The viewscreen briefly displayed a 3D sensor image of the approaching warbird and Enterprise's deployed weapons, giving the bridge a God's-eye view of their enemy's position. But where there should finally have been titanic impacts against the Klingon shields, Kirk saw a constellation of small objects eject into space from silos along the warbird's slender neck, rocket off into space in random directions. An instant later, the sky was suddenly full of warbirds, two dozen of them at once heading in different directions, zipping over and under and overlapping one another as if an entire fleet had just been conjured into existence by a spaceborne wizard.

    Decoys, Kirk realized. Some incredibly sophisticated holograms, programmed to mimic all possible radiation output from a real Klingon ship, right down to the visual spectrum; they even looked like real warbirds, so close to genuine that Kirk couldn't immediately tell the difference. And to his sullen disappointment, neither could the photon torpedoes: all eight of them suddenly veered away from the Kor'ah to chase the phantom warbirds, each striking a different target and detonating near their center of mass. Eight separate decoys all rippled and vanished as the devices that generated them were shattered by photonic warheads, and the Kor'ah remained, totally unscathed, charging on the Enterprise with impunity.

    "All torpedoes missed," Chekov said, stating what Kirk could already determine, "Klingon wessel is now at two hundred kilometers, closing fast!"

    Kirk ordered, "Lock phasers on target!"

    Sulu checked his guide beam and answered, "Phasers locked!"

    And only moments later, Spock looked up from his science console, "Incoming fire!"

    Kirk answered, "Sulu, hard over! Let him have it!"

    And Enterprise, in turn, answered the Kor'ah's weapons with a massive salvo of phaser pulses aimed directly at the approaching warbird. Kor'ah had fired most of its cannons at a position where Enterprise was expected to be, and the sudden course change partially threw off the aim of the gunners. Even so, the massed phaser barrage crossed the Klingon shells in space until attacks from each vessel slammed into the defenses of the other. The Klingon shells sliced through the deflector barrier and then drove themselves into the Enterprise's hull, ignoring the forcefields entirely and piercing deep into the ship. Enterprise's phasers drew similar blood, quickly overwhelming Kor'ah's shields and cutting into parts of the armored hull beneath.

    Kirk felt the entire ship pull out from under him and both heard and felt the sound of crushing bulkheads below decks, the far-off cry of an inner hull breach. He could almost see the source of it through the main viewer: two Klingon shells had ripped a hull in the forward saucer just to port of the number one phaser bank; they'd blown most of the "17" off the ship's registry number.

    "They've passed us," Spock reported, "Number three shield is down, number four is at twenty percent. Pressure hull breach, Section 216, decks seven through nine. Damage control teams are responding."

    "Did we even hit him?" Kirk asked breathlessly.

    Sulu answered, "Phasers scored multiple direct hits. Their forward shields have buckled, we've done some damage but I don't think we've drawn blood."

    "Klingon wessel is coming around again," Chekov said anxiously, "Reversing impulse thrust, maneuvering into attack position."

    "Evasive action, full impulse! Give us as much distance as you can."

    "Keptin, their acceleration is nearly twice as great as ours! We cannot stay ahead for long!"

    "Do what you can, Ensign..." against all instincts, Kirk left his command chair and bounded over to the science station where Spock was still fidgeting, trying to regain his balance after the Kor'ah's first devastating attack. That disruptor blast had half-stunned the science officer as thoroughly as it had their main engines, and Kirk found himself a little fixated on it himself. "I need you to quickly compute an equation."

    Spock raised a brow, intrigued at the challenge, since he of all people knew what "quickly" meant in a situation like this.

    "Their primary weapon can destroy any vessel in space, and it's accurate enough and fast enough to hit targets even at warp."


    "And now they sink to conventional weapons ranges to finish us off."


    "What's the reason for that?"

    "There are missing variables we need to know," Spock said, speaking quickly and concisely, "Namely the behavior of the Kor'ah when it uses the weapon."

    "Take the destruction of the Francium as a datapoint."

    Spock replayed the sensor data from some corner of his memory and then nodded, "Large-scale power transfer. Like our deflector systems, but more localized."

    "Meaning that disruptor takes all their energy to fire it."

    "Probably not from auxiliary power sources, but definitely the full output of their main drive system."

    Kirk nodded, digesting this notion for just a moment and then setting it aside, "So logical conclusion. Taking all these factors considered, why would they switch to a secondary weapon to finish us off?"

    "Excluding Klingon vanity?"

    Kirk remembered how Grandma Robin had described Ha'lok in her letter. A ruthlessly efficient killer... "Absolutely."

    "He's coming around," Chekov shouted, "Eight hundred kilometers, closing fast!"

    Spock went on, counting the possibilities on his fingers, "Limited fuel supply, strain on the weapon or support structure, or..." he paused on the third finger, thought about it more deeply. This last possibility clearly intrigued him, "We have only observed them using the disruptor weapon at standoff ranges. Except when shooting at warp-driven targets, this is always preceded by high intensity scans by their sensor drones, probably feeding targeting data back to the mother ship via subspace radio. There may be inherent risks to using the weapon at conventional engagement ranges."

    "What kind of risks?"

    "Seven hundred kilometers!"

    "Drawing all the energy from their main reactors might reduce the power available to defensive systems."

    And they become vulnerable for a moment, Kirk thought. It might even drain some of the power from their shields...

    "Six hundred kilometers!"

    "Sulu!" Kirk rushed back to his command chair and gripped the arm rests as if the entire ship was about to be fired out of a giant cannon, "Warp one, any heading! Now!"

    "Powering up. Engaging warp in ten seconds!"

    "Five hundred kilometers," Chekov added, "Klingon wessel is accelerating rapidly! Closing faster than before!"

    "Aft torpedoes, half spread, narrow dispersion!"

    Sulu fired off the aft launcher now, four torpedoes one after another before announcing, "Standby for warp in five..."

    "Three hundred kilometers!"

    "Four... three... two..."

    Spock didn't bother to mention that the Kor'ah had fired again, because half a second later Enterprise was at warp. If he understood Kirk's interpretation of the Klingon strategy, the cruiser was right now coming to a new heading in space, transferring all of its available power to its main disruptor cannon to try and knock the Enterprise out of warp and back into a turning fight.

    There wasn't much time to do this right. Kirk counted to six, then ordered, "All stop!" Almost instantly the Enterprise dropped back out of warp, emerging from a tunnel of white flame into the desolate blackness of space. "Range to the Kor'ah?"

    Spock answered immediately, "One point six million kilometers, bearing zero two mark twenty three."

    Kirk clenched his fists. Ha'lok was probably ordering a sensor fix on the Enterprise right now, and if Klingon sensors were as advanced as he thought they were, he'd have a fix on their final position in a matter of seconds. If ever there was a time for an extremely left-field gamble... "Sulu, new course, zero two mark twenty five! Try to compute the exact point of deceleration to drop out of warp within weapons range!"

    "Aye, Sir..."

    He stabbed the intercom now and shouted before waiting for a response, "Scotty, set for a controlled overload from the warp engines! One single burst at high warp!"

    There was a short delay, undoubtedly one of complete puzzlement as Lieutenant Scott tried to parse the order into something that didn't sound completely insane, "I... uh... I can give you warp three point five for about three seconds! But Captain, if we force an overload on the mai--"

    "Set your engines and transfer control to helm! Quickly!"

    "Picking up several targeting drones from the Kor'ah," Spock said, "Forty thousand kilometers, closing fast."

    Kirk hit the intercom again, "Scotty!"

    "We're just setting up, Captain! Standby!"

    "Sensor scans," Spock added, "Some type of search radar. Increasing in frequency and concentration..."

    "Painting a target on us," Kirk said, "How long until they've locked on?"

    "Less than a minute at this range, Captain. Recommend we reengage warp."

    "If we do, they'll be able to get a solution with subspace radar. I've got a better idea."

    Spock's sensor monitors lit up with a new display, he added tensely, "Targeting drones have locked onto our position... now reading an energy surge on passive SADAR, consistent with disruptor weapon activation. Estimate twelve seconds to firing."

    Kirk clenched his fists even tighter. "They'll only be vulnerable for a moment after they fire. We'll wait until the last possible moment..."

    "Engine room reports ready," Sulu said, "Overload setting on manual control."

    "Energy buildup increasing," Spock reported, "Their output should level off just before they... now!"

    Kirk's heart froze in his chest. "Go, Sulu!"

    And Sulu did, slamming his finger down on the "execute" icon on his helm console.
  14. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Another nail-biting engagement, both aboard the stricken Romulan vessel as well as the continuing space battle between the various combatants.

    And do my eyes deceive me, or is this James T. Kirk executing a Picard-maneuver a century early? :wtf:

    Terrific, edge-of-your-seat stuff! :bolian:
  15. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 5, 2007
    Between the candle and the flame
    I thought that was the Riker maneuver. All great but special question for you(no, not nit-picking, just noticed).

    How many "last" grenades does Rand have? One at the Roms, one down the hole and one at the Gorns. You said she had 2 left. Or did I read that wrong also?;) Loved the sp[ace battle-really cool!
  16. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom

    HB22147-a, High Orbit
    USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
    Stardate 2259.3.6
    - 1255 hours -
    It is both implied in engineering texts and explicitly stated by various instructors that a Controlled Overload is about the worst possible thing you can do to a warp engine. A starship engine is a well-oiled machine, designed to operate within specific tolerances of temperature and pressure, within an empirically derived "safe" range of time, power and range. But whatever the design of the engine, it is not truly a single device; a warp engine is composed of tens of millions of moving parts and solid state electronics and field elements, plasma dynamos, graviton waveguides, coolant loops, pressure vanes, magnetic constrictors, compulsators, and high-voltage electrical conduits, each individually machined to tolerances far greater than the engine as a whole.

    A controlled overload could be achieved--theoretically--by a calculated power surge, driving the engine to an output level just above the failure point of its least critical component. It is "controlled" only to the extent that the engine is shut down before the strained components can actually fail. But despite being pulled back from the actual breaking point, every instance of a controlled overload cuts the engine's overall lifespan in half, and for the more delicate components, in quarters. And in the cavernous machinery space that was the ship's engine room, Scotty could almost feel his hair turning grey the moment the ungodly howl from the warp engines ripped through the bulkheads and vibrated his eyeballs.

    Kirk saw the flash of the Klingon disruptor cannon slice through space just above the saucer, almost an after-image as the ship surged to warp. The "controlled" overload slammed the Enterprise through space at such a rate of speed that the field governors couldn't completely keep up; parts of the ship were accelerated slightly faster than others, tidal forces tearing and compressing the ship almost to within its own structural tolerances.

    It seemed to take an eternity, but Kirk knew Scotty's prediction would be an exact science: Enterprise dropped out of warp after exactly three point one zero one three seconds, emerging into realspace with an expanding plume of emergency coolant belching from its nacelle pylons. Kor'ah was there, hanging in space only twenty kilometers away, its slender frame already visible in the viewscreen against the background of stars. Fire control scanners framed it immediately, and Sulu left fly with every piece of firepower in the Enterprise's arsenal.

    All twelve main phaser banks opened up for a handful of seconds, then died abruptly as the last of their energy drained off. They were joined, instantly, by a spread of photon torpedoes, all eight weapons guiding on the Klingon warbird and crashing against its command module and engineering section one after another. There was just enough time to ready the aft torpedo launcher before Enterprise raced past in space, adding still a third salvo into the Kor'ah's engineering section as the smaller vessel dwindled astern.

    A tactical display came up almost immediately, showing the moving position of the Kor'ah with the Enterprise in the center of a five hundred kilometer sphere. The Klingon ship seemed to be taking evasive action, but at severely reduced speed, turning to reengage on impulse power.

    How could they still be maneuvering after that barrage? Fifteen torpedoes and a salvo of phaser fire... an unshielded starship would have collapsed under half of that. "Spock?"

    "Moderate damage to the Kor'ah," Spock said, "their shields are down, weapons and sensors severely impaired... their starboard impulse engine is out of action, as is their main disruptor cannon."

    Kirk leaned half out of his chair, contemplating his next move, and finding there wasn't one. He had gambled on an unknown quantity in the Klingon design, and now it seemed the gamble had lost. "They managed to get their shields up in time."

    "If I understand your thinking," Spock added gently, "that the energy requirements of the Klingon ship would leave them vulnerable after a full discharge, hence the need to use it from a safe distance..."

    But Kirk already knew where the odds had failed him. It was obvious even to him. "I'm guessing the power drain only lasts while they're building up to fire. I should have figured that."

    "I think it was enough, Captain," Sulu said, turning back over his shoulder as the tactical display changed, "Kor'ah's coming about, but no longer accelerating. They're just holding position out there."

    Gathering damage reports, perhaps? Or maybe taking a moment to size up what firepower remained in their nearly-defeated foe? Either way, "Uhura, let's see if they're willing to talk."

    The Lieutenant mentally crossed her fingers as she locked the transceiver array onto the closest Klingon frequency. "Channel open... wait..." a response signal crackled in her earpiece and she added, "I have Captain Ha'lok on visual..."

    It wasn't quite Ha'lok as Kirk had seen him before, nor the ineffable Klingon marauder glowering down at them to demand surrender. Ha'lok was smiling--beaming, almost--through an auxiliary monitor on a bridge that was partially on fire. The bulkhead behind him looked partially collapsed, and Kirk saw what he thought looked like a jagged hole in the wall, something that might have been a hull breach sealed by an emergency forcefield.

    Not just beaming, but almost overwhelmed by paroxisms of laughter. It was almost five seconds before Ha'lok could bring himself to actually speak, "Sooh ah so'ook! I don't know what you just did, but it was one hell of a stunt!"

    Kirk wasn't sure how to take that, but what little he--or anyone else--understood about Klingon psychology, he decided to take it as a complement. "Ha'lok your ship has been damaged, your defensive systems are off line. You're in no condition to continue this fight."

    "I still have seven hundred Klingon warriors at my command, ready to board your vessel at any moment. And your phaser power has been depleted, you have only a handful of torpedoes left aboard, and your deflector screens are all but gone. You are defenseless!"

    Kirk smiled. Something in Ha'lok's eye was altogether familiar to him, something not exactly good natured, but not the naked hostility he'd expected either. "I still have about twenty photon torpedoes locked onto your ship."

    "And I have six working cannons locked on yours."

    "Got any ammo in those cannons?"


    Kirk smiled wider, "We're both at our limit, Ha'lok. If we keep this up, we'll end up stranded in this system with just the First Federation for company."

    "Of course! The match is yours!" Ha'lok laughed again, though this time not so jovially, "You're a credit to your family, James T. Kirk. We should do this again sometime!" Ha'lok's image vanished, and the tactical display returned, showing the Kor'ah already maneuvering off on impulse power. In a matter of seconds it vanished from sensors under warp power, and seconds after that it disappeared even from the long range tracking system.

    Kirk sank into the command chair, feeling about a hundred pounds heavier. Then he remembered that he was both alive and in the command chair; he stood up, stretched his neck, then casually tapped his intercom switch and asked, "Scotty, engine status."

    "Ya dun wanna know, Captain."

    "How soon can we get back underway?"

    "I can give ye warp two in the short term, but I need at least half a day to make major repairs."

    "That'll do. Standby for warp." He closed the intercom and then ordered, "Helm, lay in a course back to Doppelgänger, warp one."

    "Aye, Sir," Sulu put in a set of coordinates to his console, "Engines coming up, all sections standby for space warp."

    "Spock," Kirk gestured for his science officer to follow, then walked casually around the bridge to the communications console where Lieutenant Uhura was just finishing archiving Ha'lok's last transmission for intelligence debriefing later. "Nyota, what exactly are our orders from Starfleet in relation to this system?"

    "Specifically or the political intent?"

    "Just the specifics."

    Enterprise jumped into warp speed at this time, the distant harmonic groan of the engines filling all deck spaces. From their present position, it was another ten light minutes back to Doppelgänger. Time enough to tie up a loose ends.

    Uhura thought for a moment, "Our orders are to investigate all possible leads as to the origin and nature of the technology that was used to duplicate the planet and attempt to make contact with its creators."

    "In your opinion, Lieutenant," Kirk glanced at her communications monitor, "have we made a reasonable effort to comply with those orders?"

    She glanced at her communications monitor now, which at the moment was streaming with text prints of damage reports and injury lists from a dozen compartments and a dozen duty stations. "I think our efforts have been more than reasonable, Captain."

    "Do you agree Mister Spock?"

    Spock raised a brow. And perhaps in a moment of mental and physical exhaustion he offered an almost human response, "Do you really have to ask?"

    Kirk nodded in agreement. For the moment it was really better left unsaid that the three of them, much like the overall crew of the Enterprise, had had just about enough of this assignment. "Prepare our final report for burst transmission to Starfleet in twelve hours... and use a different cypher this time, the Romulans have obviously broken Maroon."

    "Aye, Sir. We'll use Indigo this time."

    "Right..." Kirk started for the port side turbolift, and paused just short of the door, "Secure from battle stations, all decks begin repairs. I'll be in sickbay."

    - 1304 hours -
    The infirmary section was filled to capacity, thirty beds and thirty dividers pulled into position with thirty different kinds of injuries in various levels of severity. Kirk knew--he could sense somehow--that this was just the tip of the iceberg, that there were dozens of more minor cases being treated at aid stations all over the ship by a cadre of damage control officers moonlighting as paramedics. Obviously, it could have been alot worse; in a four-way battle with four different ships, it was remarkable that Enterprise had taken as little damage as it had, especially with one of those combatants turning out to be a top-of-the-line Klingon warbird, not to mention a boarding action on a Romulan vessel, not to mention the Enterprise having been itself boarded by those same Romulans and one mysterious alien presence that had torn through a dozen compartments before it simply vanished without a trace.

    There were still loose ends to settle, most troubling of which was the fact that most of the missing crewmen were not found aboard the Romulan ship, and neither for that matter was the reaver specimen. And on top of that, all twenty five of the Doppelgänger survivors were unaccounted for, and Kirk knew of only one person on the entire ship who might know what had happened to any of them.

    Doctor McCoy was nowhere to be found, as expected. He managed to intercept Nurse Chapel, though, bouncing back and forth between a pair of loudly-groaning patients who were both wearing Class Four tactical gear and were obviously part of Sergeant Rand's away team. "Christine, where's Doctor Marcus?"

    Chapel answered without making eye contact, "She's with Sergeant Rand in the ICU."

    "What happened to her?"

    "She's fine. Rand's not."

    "How bad is it?"

    "Terminal. If you're gonna debrief her, you better do it now."

    Kirk navigated the sea of doctors and patience and medics and equipment until he got to the hermetic doorway into the intensive care unit. Doctor Marcus and a pair of civilians were standing in a corner, whispering to each other with a sense of suppressed urgency, while the center of the room was dominated by Doctor McCoy and a surgical tractor beam that was in the process of extracting something that looked like a nail from the side of Janice Rand's neck. It was one of about a dozen identical spikes that had been driven into her body, piercingh her neck and shoulders, and judging by the puncture wounds McCoy had already pulled a number of them out of the side of her face.

    Kirk looked at Rand, then at McCoy, reading his expression, and then back at Rand. "What's the prognosis, Bones?"

    "These needles contain some kind of fast-acting neurotoxin," McCoy said, "Pretty nasty stuff. It seems like a slightly less potent version of tetrodotoxin... that's the poisonous substance in pufferfish."

    "Meaning it's treatable?"

    "Yes and no. It's similar to pufferfish venom. It's not quite as potent, but it acts on a wider range of ion channels, including brainstem activators. Three of the away team members were dead on arrival and two others are in comas. Corporal Loganoff wound up with irreversible brain death, and Rand's dosage is four times higher than his."

    Kirk felt his stomach twist in a knot. "Do we have a counteragent for that?"

    "I've tried the usual antitoxins, but they're not having much effect. We're about to start on a nanocyte antihistamine, but her brainstem is already starting to shut down." he shrugged, "If she doesn't go into a vegetative state in the next three days, she'll have cleared the hump. Even then, one chance in three she'll get through this without severe brain damage.."

    "Do what you can, Bones. We're getting ready to pack up..."

    "It's about damn time!"

    "... but we're still missing some people. If you have a spare moment, ask around, see if anyone knows what happened to Doctor Ayash."

    McCoy sighed tiredly. "Jim, I'm a doctor, not a detective."

    "It's possible he might be injured or--"

    "He's dead, Jim," Doctor Marcus said, emerging from her civilian group in the corner of the room, "Lieutenant Onise ate him."

    Who, Kirk remembered, was in the process of transforming into a reaver the day before yesterday. And if reports were accurate, who had been picked up by security after attempt to eat one of the communications officers in the Clownface Cafe. "Somehow, that makes total sense... so what happened to Onise?"

    "He transformed into... well... some kind of creature. Like nothing we've ever seen before. It absorbed anything it touched, it took the shape of everything it absorbed... I don't think it was an actual creature, though. I think it was a utility cloud."

    Kirk raised a brow, "Doctor Ayash was eaten by a cloud?"

    "Industry term, Jim. I mean a swarm of nanorobots acting as a singular entity. They did it right in front of me. They were breaking down materials and rearranging them on the molecular level."

    "Rearranging them into what?"

    "Anything they wanted. That's how these machines operate, Jim. They just take a mass of something and change it around. Just like humans would take, say, a pile of rocks and turn it into a castle, or a pile of mud and make pots and jars."

    "So they take a pile of molecules and turn it into..." Kirk frowned, "Flesh eating monsters?"

    "Maybe just an outer facade, I don't know. But Connor got a good look at with his tricorder. Based on his information, what we saw from the thing was only a small part of it. Most of it was airborne."

    "Like a virus?"

    One of the civilians said, "More like a swarm of bees, Captain, except each insect would be the size of a bacterium or something. As far as I could tell, they were using Lieutenant Onise like a mobile hive. They literally rearranged his molecular structure into a vessel for them, any form they thought they could use. When I first saw him, he was an exact duplicate of Doctor Ayash..."

    "Where was this? When did you see him?"

    "I was in the communications center, dropping off a letter to my wife. Doctor Ayash walked in, he shouted something to Ensign Ayala. Then Miri spun around and shot him in the head. Damndest thing I ever saw. Phaser on full force, blew the top of his skull clean off. It didn't even stun him, it just pissed him off."

    Kirk looked at Marcus in puzzlement, "And where the hell were you?"

    "Getting a physical in sickbay. That's when Onise transformed."

    "And where was Miri?"

    Connor answered, "Last I saw, she was shooting at that... that... whatever it was with a hand phaser. I know it followed her into Blue Town, but by the time I got there the show was over. Lots of bullet holes and phaser burns, but no sign of the creature."

    Kirk suddenly had a chilling thought, "You said a minute ago that most of the creature was airborne... how did you detect it?"

    "It showed up on the tricorder as a cloud of sub-micron particles. Most of them even had an energy signature, a few microjoules each. And to predict your next question," Connor handed him a tricorder, "There's no sign of it anywhere on the ship. That's what we were just talking about when you came in. There were trace readings of it at low levels ever since the Onlies beamed aboard, but after Miri disappeared, even the background signal is gone."

    "Can we back up a minute? You said something about bullet holes in Blue Town..."

    "Like I said, I followed the creature down there. There's signs of a firefight, but there's none of the fixings. No shell casings, no guns, just a couple of drained hand phasers and a phaser rifle. No blood, no bodies, nothing."

    Kirk sighed. He'd have to have someone pull the security camera footage from Blue Town for the times Connor mentioned, and for clarity he would have to do the same for sickbay to figure out exactly how the Romulans managed to abscond with Doctor Marcus without being eaten alive by whatever had disguised itself as Lieutenant Onise. The only thing he was now convinced of was that there was no recovering the remainder of the missing; wherever they were, they were far beyond his reach.

    "I'm sorry, Captain," Doctor Marcus said. She was trying to sound noble and collected, but there was a note of such crippling sadness in her voice Kirk thought she might burst into tears on the spot. "It's all my fault. She was hurt trying to save me."

    "You didn't invite a squad of Romulan infiltrators aboard the Enterprise. Don't blame yourself for this." Kirk put his hand on her shoulder and felt her trembling through her jacket. By touch, he could tell she was much skinnier, much more frail that she let anyone believe, "If anything, it's my fault. Traditionally, Romulans don't take prisoners, not even for intelligence purposes. I should have covered that possibility and I didn't, and that mistake put you at risk. And for that, I apologize."

    "Jim you risked your entire ship, your own life and the life of your crew, just to save me..."
  17. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom

    "That's my job, Carol. I'm responsible for all the lives aboard this ship. Even yours."

    Marcus nodded, "Then I thank you, and I forgive you."

    "Don't thank me yet. We'll be holding over Doppelgänger for another twelve hours while Scotty makes engine repairs. While that's going on, I'm going to check the security records to try and figure out exactly what the hell happened to the Onlies and my missing crewmen."

    Marcus took a small step back, but Kirk's hand--still on her shoulder--had become a tractor beam holding her in place. "What are y--"

    "Those Romulans never got anywhere near sickbay. They hit the isolation lab and the aft science labs. If you were in one of those places, it means you weren't in your quarters where you were supposed to be, which means you once again ignored my orders not to interfere with the operation of this ship."


    "And if I check those tapes," Kirk squeezed her shoulder, "If I find out you had anything to do with those disappearances--anything at all--you'll wish I'd left you to the Romulans."

    "Yellow alert! Bridge to Captain Kirk! Yellow Alert!" Uhura sounded on the verge of a nervous breakdown even on the intercom.

    Kirk turned away from the suddenly-pale Doctor Marcus and snapped open his communicator, "Kirk here!"

    "We've dropped out of warp, Captain, but... I can't really describe it. You need to come up here."

    "Can you give me the gist of it?"

    Spock's voice cut in, "Sensor readings are garbled, Captain, but it looks as if the planet Doppelgänger has been vaporized."

    And suddenly Kirk turned just as pale as Doctor Marcus. "I'm on my way."

    "I'll come with you," Marcus followed him to the turbolift before he could tell her no. And even if he did, something told him that whatever was happening outside involved the Doctor just as well as himself.

    - 1309 hours -
    The viewscreen image told Kirk all he needed to know when he arrived on the bridge. Sulu had dropped out of warp at a position in high enough orbit that any additional alien visitors wouldn't feel too threatened by the arrival. At this high position, Doppelgänger should have been a tiny disk in the viewscreen maybe three times as large as the moon viewed from Earth; Kirk had hoped to be able to hold this position for a day or two so Scotty could make repairs to the engines and patch up their other battle damage to the hull. Doppelgänger, after all, wasn't going anywhere.

    Or so he thought. Presently the viewscreen was filled with some kind of amorphous nebular formation, sparkling greys and whites and blues swirling about one another in no particular pattern, like a planetary nebula in miniature. Judging by the scale it was at least a million kilometers in diameter, and going by position it was centered around the exact spot where Doppelgänger should have been when Enterprise dropped out of warp. The fact that the ship was orbiting around its center of mass told him that whatever this formation was, there was alot of it, at least as much of it as there was of the planet below. "What do you make of it?" Kirk asked as he took his command chair. Doctor Marcus hovered over his shoulder, watching the scene with tired eyes and a lingering headache from Romulan stun weapons.

    Spock answered, "Sensors detect no solid mass anywhere within that formation. For that matter, the mass of the whole is nearly identical to the mass of Doppelgänger."

    "So the planet was vaporized... by what?"

    "Unknown. However, constituent materials are not consistent with planetary debris."

    Kirk turned his chair slightly, "What are they consistent with?"

    "Pattern suggests it is similar to the metallic compounds we sampled from the Stonehenge Obelisk."

    Marcus added quietly, "My analysis shows those compounds are chemically similar to the alien nanorobots."

    "You mean that cloud out there..." Kirk goggled at the viewscreen image.

    "It's a utility fog," Marcus said, "The same kind of thing what transformed Lieutenant Onise into a monster. It's probably what transformed the original planet into Doppelgänger in the first place. I guess they've eaten the entire planet just to reproduce themselves."

    "Reproducing just like a wirus," Chekov said pessimistically, "Perhaps they will move on to the next planet and eat it as well?"

    Marcus shook her head, "They're just machines, Ensign. They can only do what they're programmed to do..."

    "Correction, Doctor," Spock stood up from his science console, "Sensors are detecting high-order energy patterns, entropic reversal, astralographic energy. Distribution is consistent throughout the cloud."

    Kirk said, breathless, "You mean that thing is alive?!"

    "I mean that Doctor Marcus' nanorobots are not alien devices. They are, in fact, the aliens themselves. Probably a type of sophisticated microorganisms using a technological base at their own scale. Entropic field pattern suggests a probable high degree of intelligence."

    Marcus snorted, "That's ridiculous! Who ever heard of an sentient microbe?!"

    "Who ever herd of a race that could make planets?" Kirk thought this over, and in a way it sort of made sense. "Early humans used tools to gain an advantage over their competitors, and that lead us to develop our type intelligence. Another life form might do the same with microscopic tools, given the right circumstances. And they're advanced enough to manipulate things many thousands of times larger than they are."

    "More than that, Captain. Energy patterns suggests high-level interaction between collections of individual cells. As per our previous theory that the so-called nanorobots use swarm intelligence..."

    Kirk nodded, "It's a hive organism. Its intelligence is distributed evenly among its members."


    "Captain, we're receiving a general hail from somewhere," Uhura reported with a note of urgency in her voice, "And now a request for visual communication."

    "Is it coming from the cloud or somewhere else?"

    She looked at her communications console and quickly triangulated the transmission beam, "I trace it back to a transmission source bearing one oh four mark seven two."

    "There's a vessel out there," Sulu added, "Small craft, approximately two thousand tons. Range, four hundred thousand kilometers. It is making overt movements towards us."

    The alien vessel from before; Kirk had completely forgotten about it in all the commotion. Surely the complete disappearance of an entire group of Doppelgänger survivors wasn't that mysterious...

    "Fascinating," Spock added from the science station, "Sensors indicate the alien vessel is emitting life form readings as a singular entity."

    "Meaning the ship is also alive," Kirk said, not totally surprised at this.

    "Not simply alive, Captain. Specific organic compounds include kerogen, chlorophyll, several types of cellulose, and other compounds that read as fatty tissue, intermittently combined with the same metallic structures as in the cloud-entity beyond."

    "You mean it's made of wood."

    Spock nodded, "If it is an organism, it is a hybridization of flora and fauna in a configuration I have never seen before. An exquisite example of technical bioengineering."

    "Well then... Uhura, give me visual communication," Kirk ordered, "Let's hear what they have to say."

    Uhura linked both transmitters and put the image on the main viewer. The image didn't resolve into anything legible. It was really just a blur of overlapping colors and patterns, like a rainbow-pattern of competing inkblots fighting for control of the viewscreen. And yet the randomness of it all took on a kind of pattern, forming into an outline of sorts, like an optical illusion congeal out of abstract art. It was an almost hypnotic effect, but just as clearly intentional, for in a few seconds the swirling randomness of color and geography shaped itself into the outline of a human form, with a vague representation of a human face, speaking in a not-so-vague representation of a not-so-unfamiliar voice. "Captain Kirk. I see you are again approaching Doppelgänger in search of you know not what."

    Kirk answered the question--if it was that--with the utmost caution, not sure really who or what was addressing him now. It could only have been Miri's voice, but not the Miri he had known on the Enterprise. She sounded older, more mature; undoubtedly, it was the voice of the adult astronaut who had gone by the name Miranda Anderson in the middle of the twenty first century. "We're returning here to complete our mission. Which as you obviously know is to collect data and return it to the Federation."

    "And to contact its creators on behalf of the Federation," added the voice and shadow of Miri, "Is that still your intention?"

    Kirk thought about this for a long moment. Then he answered, "At this point, I think that's up to you."

    "Good answer!"

    Which, in the end, confirmed his most pessimistic guess. Miri really was beyond their reach now, in more ways than one. "Are you authorized to tell us how we should proceed?"

    "It doesn't work that way, Jim."

    "How does it work, then?"

    "It doesn't work at all."

    "Then wha--"

    "I am contacting you because I can. Because I care. And because the others can't really stop me... well..." she seemed to grapple with some subtle implication of this, "Well truth be told, there are no others. There's just me, and they are also me, and I am also them, and even if I disagree with them they are still me."

    "Who are they?"

    "They... we... I am... sort of complicated."

    "So I gathered."

    "I don't always know why I do what we do, it's enough that I am called upon to do it, and I have no choice but to obey. There's only one of me, and yet there are so many of me... of us... that we can't be counted... I guess you could say, the "me" that you're talking to now is just one small aspect of me, separated from the whole to make things easier."

    Spock said from his science console, "You are an emergent life form."

    "Yes, Mister Spock, exactly," some quality in her voice--just for a moment--reminded Kirk of the kid called Peter the Rabbit, "In my complete form, we couldn't even recognize each other's existence, let alone communicate. That's part of the reason why Doppelgänger was created, so that I could learn how to come down to your level."

    Kirk stood up slowly, watching the strange dust cloud swirling just outside the viewscreen, now with an intricate pattern of electrical discharges blazing near its outer surface. It was still a strain on his imagination to process the fact that formation--a structure large enough to swallow every planet in Earth's solar system--was itself an entire life form, sentient, intelligent, and somehow aware of the Enterprise. That something so vast and powerful could even lower itself to communicate with him was amazing in its own right; obviously, it had gone through tremendous effort just to achieve that much. "Why go through so much trouble just to communicate with us?"

    "It's what I do," Miri said.

    "You go around copying civilizations just to learn more about them?"

    "Simple curiosity, Jim. The same curiosity that brought you to Doppelgänger in the first place. Your people have certain tools, like transporters and radios and universal translators that let you cross barriers and communicate with other life forms... well, this is my tool. It's what I do."

    Spock asked, with extremely careful word choice, "But as an emergent life form, the person we're speaking to now couldn't possibly be the entirety of your intelligence. You are... what? A fragmentary personality?"

    "Yes, and no. The person you know as Miri is just a construct... a subroutine, you could say, that's part of my mind. Sort of like a living version of your universal translator. Except it doesn't just translate the words, it also translates the cultural and psychological context of words and actions and even of thoughts. It makes it possible for us to really understand each other."

    "It's still incredible that you went to all of this trouble just to make contact with us."

    "Not with you," Miri corrected, "With the other sapients from your planet."

    "What other sapients?"

    "The species you call Humpback Whales. I don't know all the details, but there was some kind of emergency in First Federation territory, and an urgent need arose for the memory and language patterns of Humpback and Minke Whales. Once that mission was completed, I went ahead and collected patterns from other Earth species. Just out of curiosity."

    "Then Doppelgänger's was little more than a cultural linguistic laboratory," Spock said.

    "The existence of Doppelgänger... well... you could say that, yes." The quality of her voice suddenly changed. She sounded even older, much older, almost that of her semi-retired incarnation, close to the age she had been when Kirk saw her in sickbay after beaming back from stonehenge. He suddenly realized that Miri was living on borrowed time, that her personality had been re-instantiated specifically to deliver this message and that any moment now it would fade back into the oblivion from which it was constructed. "It's more accurate to say that I am Doppelgänger. But I've attracted a great deal of unwanted attention here, and I think it's time for me to move on."

    Doctor Marcus spoke up from her perch next to the command chair, "There are still some things we want to know, though. We can't leave just yet."

    Miri sounded dubious, "You want to learn how to make planets, is that it?"

    Marcus nodded, "The technology you used to transform that alien world--"

    "Is not for you. You do not have the means, the experience or the intelligence to use it properly, and even if you did, you are biologically incompatible with its most basic functions."

    "We can learn, though. You can guide us, help us to understand!"

    "All you need to understand is that your people have a high regard for intelligent life. I don't. Sixty five years ago I made a conscious decision to annihilate an entire civilization just to satisfy my curiosity. Your people struggle with the killing of even your mortal enemies. You're like a bunch of mice trying to drive a bulldozer; even if you could find a way to operate it, the machine embodies more power than your people could responsibly wield."

    "I don't think you give humanity enough credit."

    "Oh, but I do. If there's one thing I understand about humans, it's that you all hate the idea of being completely inferior to someone else. In fact, the only thing you hate more than a superior is being restrained by your superiors. I sympathize, I really do, but that's just the way of the universe: this thing is too big for any of you. Anyway, this whole discussion is, basically, academic. We are bound by certain obligations to the First Federation just as you are bound to the edicts of your government."

    Marcus started to say something, but Kirk simply nodded, "We understand, Miri. Is there any message you want us to carry back to Starfleet Command?"

    "No, since we're not prepared to open what you would call "diplomatic relations" at this time. Just a simple word of advice: do not attempt to pursue me when I depart, and do not attempt to track my trajectory on the way back to First Federation space. My escort vessel has orders to attack any vessel that attempts to monitor our withdrawal."

    "We won't follow. We just need to hold for a few days to make repairs."

    "Then I'll leave you the third moon as an anchorage. Take care, and good luck." The mirage-like image was gone from the viewscreen. Moments later, Chekov's sensors showed the alien vessel power-diving into the midst of the cloud, then seconds later disintegrated as something within the formation instantly pulled it apart.

    The rest of it happened blindingly quickly. The swirling cloud formation began to collapse in on itself, like a protostar forming from a primordial dustball. As quickly as Spock's sensors could make it out an energy surge errupted from somewhere deep within as huge quantities of ionized gas were funneled into the center of the cloud at speed and pressures that could have instantly forged a thousand diamonds. A soft red glow began to shine from the very center of it all like a newborn sun being born; in seconds it intensitified in color and brightness, first to orange, then to yellow, then to white and going into blue. The intensity of the glow was accompanied by a low rumble in the deck plates and a beeping alarm from Chekov's console as gravitomagnetic tidal forces began to distort the ship's orbit.

    There was a final snap in the deck plates and a flash of light, and suddenly the cloud was gone. This time there was no trace even of Doppelgänger, nor of the myriad alien vessels that had come here in search of its innermost secrets. Only the Enterprise remained and a hundred light seconds of empty space, plus a solitary silent moon that, as if three seconds ago, was now the third planet of the HB22147 system.

    "The alien entity has gone to warp," Spock reported, as if making an announcement to anyone who might have doubted it, "Heading out of the system, already at warp ten."

    "Sulu," Kirk said wearily, "Move us into orbit of Doppelgänger-C, standard orbit. As soon as we're in position, have mister Scott commence repairs to all sections."
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2009
  18. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    The duel with Ha’lok’s ship ends with his grudging concession, and the crew of the Enterprise finally gets some form of closure with the Miri-Cloud’s explanation of it’s origin and purpose.

    Any mission you can walk away from probably counts as a ‘win.’ Here Kirk & Company were able to learn the why’s, even if the how’s continue to elude them. The ship survived a multi-species, multi-vessel engagement as well as boarding actions by both the Romulans as well as a nano-robotic swarm.

    Now all that remains is picking up the pieces, effecting repairs, filing reports, and patching up the wounded.

    Continued excellence! :)
  19. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom

    Catalog Star System HB22147
    USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
    Stardate 2259.3.7 - Captain's Log
    It is twenty eight hours since the disappearance of the Doppelgänger planet. Note commendations for Chief Engineer Scott and Engineer's Mate P'droy Keenser for their timely repairs of the warp drive engines and critical repairs to our outer hull battle damage nearly twelve hours ahead of schedule. Minor repairs continue on damaged pressure hull sections, but vessel status is otherwise fully operational.

    We have submitted our final report on the Doppelgänger phenomenon [see attachment] as well as our battle report as far as the Klingon D-7 warbird Kor'ah and the additional alien craft in the system. It is my opinion that the Romulan vessel was unable to transmit any of its gathered information back to its homeworld, owing for the need for radio silence while under cloak. Starfleet security may not be considered compromised. My final conclusion is that our brief contact with the First Federation has been as a front-level nature and cannot be interpreted as official communication. Same conclusion regarding the Gorn. Contact with the Cardassian government may be considered official communications, but I an disinclined to interpret the actions of their exploration vessel as sanctioned by the Detapa Republic, and peaceful relations should still be possible. My official recommendation regarding the First Federation as follows: procedural limitations obviously exist on their end, similar in nature to Starfleet General Order One, therefore no future contact should be attempted except for contact initiated by the First Federation.

    Our civilian science team has unanimously requested to disembark, much to my complete lack of surprise. My final investigation faults Doctor Marcus for failing to observe onboard security protocols, but after everything that's happened I've decided not to pursue any further action on this regard. The total loss of the Genesis Data is punishment enough. To that end: our planned expedition of the Eagle Nebula requires long-range transit of the Vega Corridor, so it's a request we can easily accommodate. Enterprise is scheduled to get underway within the next eight hours once we tie up our last loose ends.

    - 1941 hours -
    Airlock Two was preferred for these occasions, being much larger than the other four complexes and much more comfortable even than the otherwise-identical Airlock One. It was another quirky aviation tradition dating back to the first Earth starships, at a time when most ships only had two airlocks suitable to this purpose. Some two hundred officers and crewmen were gathered on the bottom level and the overhanging catwalk, distributed in the open bay amongst parked travel pods and EVA equipment that was permanently pushed further aside than would normally be practical. The center of it all, planted on a launch rail in front of the ten-foot circular airlock hatch was--of course--the pre-programmed recorder marker bearing the names and last messages of the twenty five Enterprise crewmen who could no longer be counted among the living crew of the Enterprise.

    The two hundred gathered here were either close friends or family of the deceased. Decades had passed since a burial in space was an affair that necessarily involved the entire ship; seven years of brutal war with the Romulan Empire had brought that particular tradition to an end, and the frugal nature of the so-called "Boomer Brats" that later inherited Starfleet had been remiss to bring it back. But it made the Captain's job that much worse: the people gathered here weren't just shipmates of the deceased, they were necessarily close friends aboard the Enterprise. The loss was felt, not just lamented on principal.

    "By command authority granted by Starfleet Command," Kirk announced solemnly, his voice carried by the audio pickup in the all behind him, "and with the remembrance of respect of the officers and crew of the Federation Starship Enterprise, we dedicate this memorial to final voyage of our fallen comrades and friends: Crewman Maximillian Schnieder, Crewmen Shin Shui-Tin, Crewman Timothy Buchannon Junior, Crewman Stephen Vargas, Crewman Beth Petrosky, Crewman Orlando Pryor, Crewman Madeline M'bais, Crewman David Barhneisel. Of Corporal Dimitri Loganoff, Corporal Frank Hayes, Corporal Susan Collins. Of Petty Officer Ikemba Taskun, Petty Officer Jessica "Jelly" Lane, Petty Officer Ik'toah, Petty Officer Sani Ebadi, Petty Officer John Thirsk. Of Chief Petty Officer Steven Tanner, Chief Petty Officer Will Jordan, Chief Petty Officer Olivia Asakura. Of Ensign Haro Kusenagi, Ensign H. Ayala, Lieutenant Kembi Onise, Lieutenant Mioh Hr'arku, Lieutenant Sam McCahill, and Doctor Ramsi Ayash."

    By the time he was finished reading the list, the room felt like it had been filled to the top with wet cement. Everyone here knew at least two of the faces that belonged to those names, and especially in the case of the last few, everyone knew the circumstances of their deaths. At the reading of Lieutenant Onise's name there were even a few murmurs of disapproval, but even more of sorrow. Less than a day after the incident, there was some controversy still as to whether the Lieutenant was a victim or an enabler of the disaster that singly contributed six of those names to the list.

    "To them and to their memory do we now devote our mission, and to the future of mankind and the safety of the Federation. Let this memorial carry their spirit to the final frontier, and beyond."

    The launch rail fed the recorder marker into the outer airlock complex and the hatch closed behind it. An alarm sounded on the deck as the airlock began to cycle, then the hiss of air escaping as the outer doors opened, venting the last of the residual air into space. The memorial buoy was pushed into space by a shove from the launch rails, then fired its maneuvering thrusters and pushed away from the ship, heaving itself into a solar orbit and in essence becoming a new planet of this newly-explored solar system.

    There was no established procedure for how to carry on from here. It typically depended on the religious background of the deceased, but in cases of multiple deaths like this, the normal flow of events called for the friends and family to step forward to the podium and say a few words about their departed comrades. There were only a handful of speakers now, limiting themselves to about a minute each, expressing feelings of pride, of loss, of fond farewell. And only when Kirk thought the last of the words had been said did a gain the not altogether unpleasant surprise of an eerily familiar Orion officer in an engineering officer's uniform. It took Kirk a few moments to place the face to a name, and a few moments longer to drag up the relationship from Ayala's personnel file, just in time for him to recognize exactly who was speaking. "Ayala and I came to Earth looking for a new life," said Ensign Gaila in a half-subdued whisper, "And though our adoptive homeworld is a thousand times better than Orion, for the longest time we were still singled out by others who didn't know and us and didn't want to know us. People who couldn't look past the color of our skin. We spent most of our lives being treated like... like toys, like little dolls you could rent out when you were bored. When Ayala said she wanted to join Starfleet, I thought she was crazy. I told her we would end up... like... serving coffee in a thong in the officer's lounge or something. And then she finally talked me into it, and year after year, I started to see she was right. I saw that in Starfleet, we were all equals to anyone else. Not just cardboard cutouts, but real people with real rights. Valued members of a team." Gaila turned and fixed her gaze directly on Captain Kirk. A petty officer next to her sensed what was coming, but didn't quite get to her before she could blurt out, "But now I see I was right all along. We really are just disposable parts to you, aren't we Kirk?! You used my sister just like you used m--" three sets of hands hauled her away from the podium as she started to degenerate into hysterics. Somehow, out of respect for the solemnity of the occasion and a conscious effort not to dignify her outburst with too much attention, the next speaker in line began his remarks as if nothing unusual had even happened.

    And Kirk received them in kind, even with a pair of tightly clenched fists. By the time the ceremony had finally drawn to a close, both of his palms were dripping blood.

    - 2250 hours -
    The main deflector drew power from the main reactors again, building up energy wave after wave like a miniature warp engine itself. A dozen times before, the same powerup procedure had been used to blast the Enterprise' radio voice halfway across the sector to be heard by the sensitive transceivers in the Starfleet communications relay, and Kirk now knew that something similar had allowed the Kor'ah to smash entire vessels with a single blow. Now, Enterprise was using its deflector in an entirely new purpose: once the system reached full power, a titanic blast of gravitic energy tore at the surface of the dwarf planet HB22147-XVII, a dusty ball of water ice and noxious hydrocarbons just a few hundred kilometers in diameter. Once the deflector beam struck the surface of this little world, the surface layers began to break free from the surface, dragged into space as if by a cosmic vacuum cleaner and funneled directly into the induction units just behind and around the deflector hardware. For several minutes, a stream of pulverized dust and vapors funneled into the Enterprise like an inverted tornado, sucking material right off the face of the planet.

    The fuel lab was never busier than at times like this. Ensign Allenby presided over the control room from a science station in the middle of what was for all intents and purposes a secondary bridge, lacking only a helm station and a viewscreen to complete the image. The bussard collector could draw material from a planet or comet at almost a ton per second, but much of that material was useless waste product, and of the stuff that was useful, only a portion of it could be used by the engines. For the massive organism that was a starship, the fuel lab was the "stomach" of the beast, sorting nutrients from fat and fat from poison and pollutants. "This is a dirty son of a bitch," Allenby muttered at the latest set of spectrograph samples. Lots of exotic ammonia compounds, some aromatic hydrocarbons, and something that looked suspiciously like a base-chain amino acid. The water-ice on the surface was abundant, though, and after a few rounds in the turbofilters it could easily be cracked into oxygen for the crew and hydrogen for the engines. And now that he looked at it, those weird amino acids that kept cropping up in the spectrographs looked like they could be reworked into base proteins for the fabricators, not to mention all the C-H and C-O combinations in the hydrocarbons...

    "Computer," he tapped the voice command for his science station, "Began permutational analysis, statistical distribution on chemical output verses available reaction catalysts."


    "Bridge to fuel lab. What's it taste like down there?"

    Ensign Allenby grinned, "Not too bad, Captain. There's a few weird-looking carboxyls we could rework for the food synthesizers, maybe a dozen tons extra board. Fuel status should work out as well."

    On the bridge, Captain Kirk looked at the palmcomp Lieutenant Uhura had handed him and read carefully off the note the engineering department had forwarded them, "Mister Soctt was wondering about any minerological input from the collectors. Any heavy metals, uranium, polonium..."

    "Nothing that heavy, bridge. This rock is more Pluto than Paris."

    "Understood. I'll pass it on." Kirk shrugged. Uhura shrugged back. "Shouldn't be a problem either way."

    "Scotty likes to keep a full cabinet when he can help it," Uhura decided, and strode back to her communications console. It wasn't as if the Enterprise was short on raw materials anyway; the machine shops had enough duranium ferrite left over to resurface the entire saucer module, and they'd even finished the inner hull damage in record time. There was still some secondary ship-fitting to be completed in the damaged sections, but Enterprise had more than enough spares for all of that. And even if they didn't, a requisition list had already been forwarded to Starbase 6 at Vega Colony; they could refill their entire inventory without even having to hard dock.

    "Any response from Starfleet on our final report?" Kirk asked, rising slowly from his seat.

    Uhura looked back at him tiredly, "Twelve hours overdue, Captain. I suppose that's probably a bad sign."

    "Starfleet doesn't like unsolved mysteries. Probably debating whether or not to call us into Starbase to give a report in person..." Kirk sighed and made his way to the starboard turbolift. "Uhura, have Mister Scott advance our departure table, I want to be underway for Vega Colony no later than oh seven hundred tomorrow morning."

    Uhura looked at him in alarm, "Captain, at that timetable the fuel lab will have to w--"

    "Lieutenant," Kirk held up his hand, silencing her objection with an almost chilling glance, "Just do it."

    "Aye, Sir."

    Kirk punched the turbolift control for Compartment 205 and then rubbed his eyes tiredly. "Just disposable parts..."
  20. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom

    Interstellar Space
    USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
    Stardate 2259.4.1
    - 0330 hours -
    The Yellow Alert tone had roused the Captain from a semi-comatose state and catapulted him still half-sleeping into a turbolift to the bridge. He was not quite fully awake until the moment he dropped into his command chair and wrapped himself in the practiced facade of command confidence and ability the crew so completely depended on at times like this. "Report, Spock."

    The science officer answered from his display console, "We have intermittent SADAR contact ahead of us, something directly in our path. Evasive action is unsuccessful."

    The usual pattern of a gravitic mine, Kirk realized. Judging by the viewscreen display, the Enterprise was still on course for the Vega Colony at warp six; that alone told Kirk all he needed to know about the situation at hand. If it was an immediate emergency, Spock would have dropped to impulse and screened with deflectors long before bothering to call the Captain to the bridge. "Can you estimate inertial mass?"

    "Not at this distance, but field intensity is immense. Profile is consistent with a Starfleet spatial torpedo..." Spock's sensor beams suddenly flickered a warning on the overhead displays, "Distance, two point six miliparsecs..."

    "Take us out of warp," Kirk ordered, "Deflectors up full."

    Enterprise slammed back to sublight velocity in the middle of interstellar space, instantly falling into orbit of the galactic core like a miniature solar system itself. The deflector fields powered on now, then extended their reach to create an impassible barrier in space almost a hundred kilometers ahead of the ship. Whatever was heading towards them, it would have much to cope with if it was after a collision.

    Now reduced to impulse power, Spock's sensors had a better view of the universe. Subspace radar as well as passive sensor data came streaming through his monitors now, "Definitely something out there, headed this way."

    Ensign Tyler reported from the navigator console, "Contact in thirty seconds! Closing at... warp seven, Sir!"

    Kirk punched the intercom button, "All decks, upgrade to condition red! Main phasers, standby to fire!"

    The lightning on the bridge changed to deep red, consoles dimmed and displays adjusted their output to preserve the crew's night vision. Alarm claxons and then a series of audible readiness reports announced the transition of Enterprise from an exploration vessel to a deep space battleship capable of engaging any threat in the galaxy.

    "Object slowing to warp two, Sir," Tyler reported, "Now warp one..." in the distance there was a slight rippling effect as something collided with the Enterprise's deflector barrier and somehow managed to push through. It was like watching a heat shimmer from a forest fire move closer and closer until, at least, the object came to a dead stop a few kilometers off the Enterprise' bow.

    Lieutenant Garrison magnified the image on screen, and recognizing it reported immediately, "It's a courier, Sir. An old-style recorder marker."

    Kirk nodded slowly, understanding dawning on him. "From the old Romulan Wars. They were designed to home in on any passing vessel and use their last bit of fuel to make the intercept."

    Garrison looked incredulous, "That seems a bit self-defeating, isn't it?"

    Kirk smiled, "The old plasma cannons weren't accurate enough to hit targets at that range. Anyway, it was a good way to attract attention."

    "Indeed they did," Spock said from the science console, "Whoever 'they' are."

    Kirk nodded, "Hannity?"

    The communications officer was already hard at work interrogating the recorder marker for its identification code. It took a few seconds for her to call up the relevant communications protocols from the ship's memory, and once she did, "I read it as a private charter vessel, leased to the New Horizon Corporation from UESPA public services devision. NAR-02, USS Columbia. Recorder marker reports catastrophic engine failure, atmospheric interface, emergency landing procedures."

    "The Columbia?" It was little more than a historical curiosity now, something most people chalked up to the law of averages catching up to a group of plucky civilians with more enthusiasm than brains. The former second vessel of the NX-Class was nearly a hundred years old when it embarked on its final voyage, never to be heard from again. There was no specific suspect to what had doomed the ancient vessel, it was simply old, and had probably failed in a critical way at a critical time in the survey team's mission.

    Spock pulled the files from the library computer just moments later, "I have it, Jim. Last known position as of Stardate 2240.8, Sector Thirteen by Four by Seven, M44 quadrant, approaching a formation called the Talos Star Group, one point two light years from our present position."

    Kirk did a bit of mental arithmetic and nodded sagely, "That old recorder marker would have taken at least that long to fly towards a major spacelane at impulse speeds... probably launched from inside the system."

    Without needing to be asked, Spock called up the ship's records on that system and displayed the subspace telescope data on the overhead screen, "Talos System is a trinary G-S-C formation, multiple superjovian bodies and an unusual abundance of dwarf planets and cometary remnants. Primary system similar to Sol, eleven major planets and forty five dwarf planets. Visited twice by Starfleet in 2161 and 2174 by starships Enterprise and Challenger respectively, detailed charts by USS Archimedes on Stardate 2209.6. USS Columbia was intended to perform a close-range survey of the fourth planet in the system, thought to be Class-M."

    Kirk sighed, "It's a shame they never made it."

    Garrison glanced over his shoulder, "They could still be alive. Even after eighteen years."

    "If they survived the crash. If that recorder marker took this long to get into deep space, they probably launched it as a last will and testament."

    Spock looked up from his science console in puzzlement, "We're not going to go? To confirm one way or the other?"

    The image of Sergeant Janice Rand, discolored and bloated on the edge of death, flashed through his mind. Kirk shook his head, "Not without any indication of survivors, no. We'll proceed to Vega Colony, offload the science team and our wounded personnel at Starbase Three." Kirk punched the intercom on his chair and announced, "All sections, stand down from Red Alert, set condition green throughout the ship." And closing the intercom, he lurhced to his feet and started back for the turbolift, "You have the Conn., Spock. Bring that courier aboard and start downloading the Columbia's last transmissions."

    "Aye, Sir..." Spock watched him go with increasing puzzlement, as if watching a shuttlecraft engine going into a stall. Even a Vulcan with little experience with emotion could tell by now, Captain Kirk's personality was growing more sour by the minute.

    The turbolift deposited him back in Compartment 205, down the corridor and two decks down from his cabin. He made his way there by way of a ladder and a stretch of corridor that still wasn't completely repaired from battle damage (the overhead lights hadn't worked in a week), slipped into his cabin and hurled himself onto his bed like an old piece of clothing. Text letter from Admiral Pike was still flickering on the computer terminal; Kirk ignored it, rolled over on his side and prayed for sleep.

    And perhaps thirty seconds later, his prayer was answered a resounding "no" as the door to his cabin hissed open and a brooding southerner strolled into the room with a large bottle of amber liquid, two glasses, and a small plastic container filled with something that looked like modeling clay. "Beware Romulans bearing gifts," said Doctor McCoy as he set both items on the table next to the bed. "Happy birthday, Jim."

    Kirk rolled over and glowed, "Crazy old man..." then he sat up a little, "Birthday? What birthday?"

    "You were born, weren't you? You didn't just congeal out of antisocial quirks and bad moods?"

    "Get outa here, Bones..."

    McCoy snapped open the plastic container and offered it to him like a precious gift. "Sweet potato pie. My mother's recipe. Goes good with a bit a Tennessee whisky. And if you don't quit feeling sorry for yourself and enjoy one of these things, I'ma stick both of them straight up your ass."

    In spite of himself, Kirk actually laughed. "I didn't think they still made suppositories."

    McCoy poured a glass for Kirk, then another for himself. "My size twelve boot can cure all kinds of ailments when administered in the proper orifice."

    "I'll drink to that." Kirk half-heartedly toasted, then sipped the whisky. And when it didn't kick in fast enough, he gulped the entire glass in one sitting, coughed through the afterburn, and rolled back over on his bed feeling perfectly miserable.

    "Aw, what the hell..." McCoy sighed, "Truth is, Spock and Nyota told me to come check on you."

    Kirk rolled slightly back towards him.

    "We may be your junior officers, but we're also your friends. We're gettin worried about you."

    "About me?" Kirk rolled all the way over and scowled at the thought of it, "I'm the Captain of this ship. You don't get to worry about me."

    "Oh? Is that Starfleet regulations or what?"

    Kirk rolled his eyes. "Get to the point, Bones."

    "You already know the point, don't be a child." McCoy grabbed his shoulder and rolled him back to face him, "You've been all in a funk ever since we left Doppelgänger, you've been sitting here sulking like a bitter old man..."

    "Sulking?" Kirk looked at McCoy and almost laughed, "What should I be doing? Tapdancing on the recreation deck?"

    "It's a start."

    "Aw hell... you know what it is? Here I am, rookie Captain Greenhorn on his first command on his first assignment in deep space with only his ego to guide him. A simple research mission is all it was, and what happens? Watch the Greenhorn make a judgement call and twenty five people wind up in the morgue."

    "It could have been worse, you know that."

    "Yeah. The other sixty eight crewmen in sickbay could have died sooner rather than later."

    McCoy sighed, "Perfectionist asshole! Jim, you set standards for yourself no one could meet. You think anyone else in this fleet could have handled that situation as well as you could?"

    "A halfway decent Captain wouldn't let his ship get boarded by the damn Romulans! And I tell you something else: that's the last time I send someone else into the line of fire to cover up my mistakes."


    "That should be me lying there half dead in the ICU," Kirk sputtered sourly, "Not Janice. Not Loganoff. Damn... I appointed her to head of security two days before I beamed her into a suicide mission!"

    McCoy poured him another glass, then opened the plastic container and helped himself to a pinch of the sweet potato pie. "As Spock would say, this is all just illogical emotional nonsense. What do you plan to do about it?"

    Kirk rubbed his knees as if his legs had started hurting from walking through a maze of his own remorse. "I dunno... I should probably resign before I get court-marshaled."

    "And do what? Crawl into a bottle in some hayseed bar in Iowa? You and I both know this is the only job you've ever been good at."

    "Not good enough. But there are other options."


    Kirk shrugged, "I don't know... knock up some blonde, start a family...."

    McCoy laughed, "Yeah, right. You being personally responsible for a completely helpless human life that depends on you for its emotional, educational and nutritional needs... yeah, that's much easier than commanding a starship."

    "The point is I've got options! As it is, I'm responsible for the lives of a thousand men and women on a a hundred and forty thousand ton flying city with four and quarter billion moving parts. People live or die depending on whether or not I make the right decision at a moment's notice... well Bones, what if I'm wrong?"

    "Then people die. We burry the dead, we learn from our mistakes, and we move on."

    Kirk stared at his feet, "How many Janice Rands are worth Jim Kirk's experience?"

    "That all depends on what you do with that experience, doesn't it?" McCoy sipped his whisky and frowned, "You've got alot of nerve sitting here feeling sorry for yourself when there's a whole shipload of people depending on you for leadership. Maybe it was a mistake, who knows? But like it or not, you're in command now, and this ship needs its Captain."

    "Bones, I ha--"

    "Bridge to Captain Kirk," Spock's voice echoed through the loudspeaker, paging all sections of the ship.

    Kirk fumbled for the intercom switch on the computer terminal and answered tiredly, "Kirk here."

    "Recorder maker contains remote-access log entry. There are survivors on Talos Four."

    Or at least, there were. Eighteen years is a long time to be marooned on an alien planet, M-Class or not. Even so... "From our present position, what's our ETA on the Talos Star Group?"

    "Two hours, fourteen minutes at warp seven."

    Ballpack figure, maybe ten hours out of their way even if there were any survivors. "Alter course for Talos Prime, Warp Seven. I'll be there shortly." Kirk stood up like a rusty mechanism, paused briefly over the sweet potato pie, and with three switch movements of a fork, shoveled the entire concoction into his mouth. "Bones, I haven't felt this lost since I joined Starfleet. I can't shake this feeling like I'm into something way too big for me."

    "Fortunately, your crew doesn't care about your feelings, and after how you handled the Doppelgänger incident, most of them look up to you like God Almighty. If nothing else, that means you're in, it means you've earned their respect and their loyalty. Don't you dare throw that away because you're too busy feeling sorry for yourself!"

    Kirk shot him a jaunty wave and then strode out of his quarters, wearing the best facade of whisky-fueled confidence he could muster on short notice.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2009