As she quietly stared at the medical display before her, a stray lock of hair fell from its place upon her head and dangled down before her eyes. The Doctor ignored the suspended lock for several moments before quickly shaking her head side-to-side in hopes of forcing it back into its place.
When it refused to move, she stared at the lock with an impatient glare. But the glare slowly turned to concern. She grabbed the lock of hair and examined it more closely just to be sure. “A split end,” she muttered before carelessly tossing the lock of hair back atop her head.
“A what?” Bator looked up from the computer station he was seated at and stared blankly at the Doctor.
“You’re still here?” Hartman moaned.
“You haven’t released Commander Harrison yet,” explained the Phobian. “My orders were to stay with him.”
Hartman looked at Harrison sitting quietly on a distant bio-bed. He looked fine. “Well by all means, get the hell out of here,” she shrieked. “Unless he has some sort of recurrence, I don’t think I’ll need to see him again until tomorrow—say, 0930 hours.”
Bator nodded. “Very well. Shall I bathe him, as well?” he inquired sarcastically.
“Please do,” Hartman replied humbly.
As she returned her attention to her computer station, she high-pitched whining noise of the transporter filled the air. Were there more injuries? Was the transporter even operational?
Hartman turned to see a single beam of light swirling about behind her. Around it, another smaller beam, not a person, but a container of some sort was materializing. When the transporter cycle finally completed, Hartman found herself at a loss to recognize the woman that had materialized.
“Who the hell are you?” demanded Hartman.
The woman smiled. “Nice to meet you, too,” she snapped. “Rachael Meyer. I’m here to help you.”
Hartman frowned as both Bator and Harrison came to her side. “I don’t recognize you,” snapped the Doctor. “I know I don’t get out much, but I’m fairly certain you’re not from around here.”
Meyer smiled yet again. “How observant of you, Doctor. My ship responded to your distress call. If you’d like to remain in distress, that’s fine with me.” She picked up her container and pressed a small pin on her belt. “Meyer to Dark Star, beam me—”
“Wait!” Harrison bellowed.
Meyer slowly set the container down and moved her hand away from the pin. “Yes?”
“Forgive the poor Doctor. Like she said, she doesn’t get out much,” explained Harrison. “I’m not sure how exactly we got stuck with her…”
“I see,” said Meyer.
Harrison curiously examined the new arrival, and couldn’t help but notice the Starfleet insignia on the container she arrived with. “I didn’t think there were any starships in range,” he grimaced.
Meyer looked down at the Starfleet emblem and nodded affirmatively. “We’re not exactly a Federation Starship,” she said quietly.
“You’re a part of the Orion Syndicate, aren’t you? You’re here to seize our ship and kill our crew,” suggested Hartman.
“Thank you for that ray of sunshine Doctor,” Harrison quipped before turning his attention back to Meyer. “So where exactly are you from?”
Meyer said nothing for several moments as she pondered the question. She shrugged. “I think it would be best if I didn’t answer that. Perhaps my partner could better explain our situation.”
“Partner?” Harrison inquired.
“He should be on the bridge,” said Meyer.
“Where you should be,” Hartman said loudly.
Harrison glanced at Bator for a moment. “Let’s go,” he said as the ship suddenly lurched beneath their feet.
It was a quiet, subdued rumbling, lasting only a second, but it was enough to draw Talyere from the shadows of the room to the forefront.
“What was that?”
“I don’t know,” admitted Harrison.
“A power surge,” suggested Bator.
Talyere nodded negatively. “Or not,” he said simply. “Over the past several hours, I have been pondering Xi’Yor’s reason for sparing your vessel. Until now, I have made little headway in my pondering.”
Talyere took in a deep breath. “While the majority of Elorg successfully hatch from their eggs and develop into productive citizens of the Bloc, there are in some cases… aberrations…”
“Aberrations?” Harrison repeated.
Talyere nodded. “It’s very rare of course, but once in a great while, hatchlings do not mature properly, and their DNA reverts to an earlier stage in Elorg development.”
“A genetic reversion,” said Meyer in awe.
“These ‘incubus’ as they are called, do not develop into productive citizens,” Talyere continued. “In fact, most of them do not even achieve sentience.”
“And what does this have to do with anything?” Hartman barked from her computer station.
Talyere sighed as he locked eyes with Harrison. “Because they are expendable and extremely dangerous, sometimes, the Bloc has been known to make use of these creatures in combat situations.”
Harrison’s eyes bugged out. “Then we might have a situation on our hands… Let’s get to the bridge.”
In the midst of the dark, gloomy bridge, Erin Keller sat quietly on the edge of the command chair waiting for the mysterious Alan Christopher to return. Despite her seemingly cool demeanor to the outside world, Keller inwardly was just as nervous as anyone else on the ship. And even though his visit was brief, Erin was greatly calmed by Christopher’s presence.
But she couldn’t help but have a very bad feeling about their sudden stroke of good fortune. Given Keller’s past experiences, she almost considered it to be divine intervention. For now, she would keep those dark thoughts buried deep in the back of her mind, and concentrate on the task at hand, getting the Starlight up and running.
Ever since Christopher and Meyer had departed, Drayge had provided little conversation. While Keller had opted to soothe her nerves, the young Bolian set out to make the bridge as accessible as possible for repairs. And to Keller’s apparent consternation, he did it in silence.
Not until the turbolift doors parted did a single word fill the air on the bridge. But when Keller looked up to see who was uttering those words, she wished the silence had remained.
“Commander Keller,” said Harrison sternly as he, Bator and Talyere marched out of the lift, “Why didn’t you inform me of our guests’ arrival?”
Keller smiled unenthusiastically. “It must have slipped my mind,” she lied.
Harrison nodded curtly. “I’m sure it did,” he sneered. His eyes quickly darted about the bridge in search of other figures, but only finding Drayge and Keller.
“He’s not here,” said Keller before he strained his eyes too much.
Harrison frowned. “Then where is he?”
“His ship, maybe?”
The Commander formed an icy glare and directed it at Keller before taking several steps in the direction of the helm. “What is the ship’s status?”
“Not good,” said Keller. “Multiple hull breaches, damage to all twenty-one decks. And we’ve lost contact with engineering.”
Harrison seemed unimpressed by her status report until the last bit. He suddenly tensed up and leaned some of his weight on Drayge’s chair. “Do you know why?”
“Unknown,” admitted Keller. “Lucas said they were having difficulties opening the doors before communication went out. I would have sent someone down there, but since Neelar and I were the only ones here…”
“I see,” said Harrison coldly. He quickly turned around to address Talyere. “Does this sound like an incubus?”
Talyere nodded to affirm the question. “They often seal themselves off in a key area of the ship before striking.”
“What’s going on?” Keller demanded.
“We think there might be an Elorg intruder on board,” Harrison explained. “A big one.”
Keller forced herself to smile. “Well, we’re on the voyage of the damned, aren’t we?”
“I wouldn’t be so sure.” Surrounded by a few cargo containers, Alan Christopher had suddenly beamed in on the aft section of the bridge. Keller didn’t even hear him materialize. That no good Harrison must have enraged her more than she thought…
Christopher quickly tossed the power cell he had in his hand to Drayge before moving over to Keller’s position. “Erin,” he acknowledged politely. “I see you’ve got some friends now…”
Keller smiled at the irony of the statement before introducing Harrison, Bator and their newly arrived Elorg companion, Talyere. Christopher greeted each of them warmly. “So, where’s the Captain?”
“Dead,” said Bator flatly.
Christopher’s eyes darted back and forth between Harrison and Keller. “Then who’s in charge?”
“I am,” claimed both Harrison and Keller simultaneously.
“Two first officers?” Christopher asked in disbelief. “That’s different.”
Keller frowned begrudgingly at Harrison before restoring her placid composition. “I’m not really the first officer. But I am the highest-ranking officer on the ship. I assumed command because Harrison is unfit for duty,” she explained.
“Unfit for duty?” Harrison repeated in disbelief.
“You were dillusional at the time,” she told Harrison. “Maybe you still are…”
Harrison quietly ground his teeth together. “I’ve had enough of your coy remarks, Commander.”
“And I’ve had enough of you,” retorted Keller. She took an aggressive step toward the Commander and clenched her fists before Christopher stepped in her path.
“Children, let’s behave.” Christopher made sure both of them stood down before moving aside. “It’s become quite clear to me that neither one of you are ready to command this ship. I’ll take charge until a replacement can be found.”
Harrison stared at Christopher disapprovingly. “You’re commandeering the ship?”
“No, I’m taking command,” Christopher corrected. “I was in Starfleet once. I know the ropes.”
That sense of familiarity swept over Keller again, only this time, her mind was finally able to put the name and the face to a memory. And while she couldn’t be sure, Keller was fairly certain that they had run into yet another bump in the road…
But before she could voice her concerns, Harrison had already accepted Christopher as their leader, and was more than ready to assume his role as executive officer once more. Yes, he wanted command of the Starlight, but not at this particular moment…
Suddenly, a few emergency lights flickered into existence, and the constant drone of ship systems came back to life. Near the operations station, Drayge smiled sheepishly as he continued to tweak the power cell he had installed. “Much better,” he quipped.
As the emergency lights slowly came to life in the corridor outside main engineering, Lucas Tompkins wasted no time putting the newfound energy to work. Already, the beast inside engineering was emitting a series of strident groans, and Tompkins knew it would only be a matter of minutes before it tried to escape.
The chief engineer quickly accessed the nearest computer terminal and used his command codes to bring up tactical control.
“What are you doing?” inquired one of the Ensigns standing nearby.
“Attempting to erect a level-ten forcefield around engineering,” he said. “Hopefully, we can contain this thing.”
Moments later, the calming hum of an active forcefield droned throughout the corridor. It had worked. Tompkins expelled a quiet sigh of relief before wiping away the beads of sweat that had accumulated on his brow.
But his respite was a short one. Less than a minute later, the forcefield began to flicker as the beast began to pound on the doors from inside engineering. Tompkins quickly turned his attention back to the computer to counter the beast’s efforts.
He remodulated the forcefield, diverted additional power from the anodyne relays, and made every last attempt to keep the forcefield up. But ultimately, his efforts failed. “There isn’t enough power,” he muttered as the field went dead.
The door suddenly bulged outward as the beast pounded upon it with all its might. Tompkins took in a deep breath and quickly started down the corridor. “Evacuate this deck! Fall back to deck fifteen!” he ordered.
Moving with ever increasing speed, Tompkins couldn’t help but feel doomed. He never considered himself to be a pessimist, but the past few days have most certainly pointed him in that direction. And now, this…
As he headed for the access hatch that would give him access to the Jefferies Tubes, Tompkins spotted movement several meters down the corridor. It lacked the rage and disharmony of the beast, and given the forming silhouette, it looked like a member of the crew. But who?
“What’s going on?”
Tompkins immediately recognized the voice as Kendall Johnson’s. The Lieutenant quickly emerged from the darkness and stopped Tompkins at the hatch wearing a concerned look on his face.
Tompkins matched his look. “We’ve got company in engineering,” he said as he pulled the hatch open, allowing several of his subordinates to crawl though while he continued to chat with Johnson. “What are you doing down here?”
“I needed a transonic imaging scanner,” he said. “Ours was destroyed in the attack.”
Tompkins grabbed Johnson and shoved him through the hatch. “Tough,” he said before climbing in himself. “I’ve got a good feeling ours is dysfunctional as of right now, anyway.”
Tompkins hastily pulled the hatch shut and engaged the locking mechanism. Then, he pulled open the nearby computer terminal and tapped in the codes to erect a forcefield at every junction on deck sixteen. “That should slow down our friend,” he grimaced.