Never in his life did Alan Christopher think that he would be glad to find himself sitting in an uncomfortable tent high in the mountains of Ka’Tula Prime. But he was. After narrowly escaping a horrific death in the Elorg lab, Alan and his companions rematerialized at the ruins of Antha’nuel.
He sat alone, in the back of the tent, staring at the only remnants of the ancient lab—the blackened and charred remains of the polaron torpedo launcher. That had been his plan all along—to get the weapon out of the lab before Erin had a chance to object. He felt terrible for doing it, but he did what he knew had to be done.
Suffice it to say, Erin did not take the news of the weapon’s survival well. She had made a brief appearance when Alan had contacted the Starlight hours earlier, but aside from that, had refused to utter a single word to him; in fact, it seemed as if she were going out of her way to avoid him.
It didn’t really bother Christopher at the moment. His mind, being occupied with other, more important things, hardly missed the cheerful companionship he had grown accustomed to over recent months. Or did it? Every time Alan allowed his mind to wander away from business, without fail, it would return to the same place…
Before he knew it, Sarah Hartman’s shadow loomed over him. Christopher snapped his train of thought back to business and gazed up at the Doctor. “Yes?”
“I’m here to install your brain,” she said, gazing into the palm of her hand. “That’s funny, it was here a moment ago…I must have dropped it somewhere,” she said sarcastically, now surveying the floor. “Damn…”
“I’m laughing on the inside. Really,” said Christopher flatly. “And watch your language.”
Hartman hastily terminated her search and took a few steps closer to Christopher. “The Starlight is in orbit. Commander Harrison and Lieutenant Trinn are beaming down; they should arrive at any moment.”
Christopher nodded. “Good. Send them in as soon as they arrive. I need to know if we can salvage any of this.” His eyes slowly wandered back to the decrepit black box before him.
Hartman nodded affirmatively and immediately headed out the door, leaving Christopher alone with the weapon once more. For the few minutes she was gone, Christopher simply gazed at it in awe, wondering what other Elorg secrets were buried on his homeworld—or any other world for that matter. With this unexpected discovery, the possibilities were suddenly endless.
A moment later, Harrison and Trinn stepped through the doors and stopped a few meters before the device. “Is that it?” asked Harrison.
Christopher nodded. “That’s it,” he affirmed. “It was in better shape before our beloved ‘host’ decided to destroy it,” he added, referring to the now-defunct Anadrin, whose program had had the misfortune of a part of the lab’s computer system, which had been thoroughly decimated when the lab exploded.
Slowly, Jayla Trinn knelt down beside the weapon and waved her tricorder in front of it. The scanning produced a long, shrill whine before the Trill deactivated it and revealed her conclusions. “I think with a few modifications, I can hook it up to our EPS system. But given its damaged state, I can’t imagine it running for more than a few hours.”
“If all goes well, a few hours is all the time we’ll need,” said Christopher.
“And as of right now, all is quite well,” said Harrison. “Though we do not completely understand what happened, the Elorg’s assault on the defense platforms in orbit of Gildebron III turned most foul. Their entire fleet is dead in the water. The arrival of this new weapon is simply the icing on the cake.”
Christopher quickly rose from the lumpy, dusty ground and straightened out his uniform. “Well, if we want to have some dessert, I suppose we’d best be there for the main course,” he said, referring to the impending battle with the Elorg. His gaze slowly shifted to Jayla Trinn, still standing beside the weapon. “Is it safe to beam that thing up to the ship?”
She shrugged. “That thing is in terrible shape as it is; I don’t see how a trip through the transporter could make it any worse.”
Slowly, Christopher looked down at the charred box and had to agree. It had already survived a considerable flaming, and one rough ride through the transporter; certainly, one more ride wasn’t going to do any more damage.
When he looked up from the weapon, Alan saw both Sarah and Erin coming through the tent’s doors. Sarah, the unsociable entity that she was, said nothing, and simply situated herself behind Commander Harrison with her arms folded. Alan expected much more from Erin, and had he been Jayla Trinn, his expectations would have been met.
Erin pleasantly greeted the young Trill—and when she arrived a few moments later, Erin repeated the process for Drayan. To his surprise, even Matthew got a brief, if not utterly pleasant acknowledgement. But her pleasantries ended there…
He paused for a moment to see if she would suddenly saunter over and surprise him, but when it became clear that Erin would not, Alan decided to proceed as usual. He touched his comm badge. “Flora, six to beam up—and one decrepit Elorg weapon.”
Before he knew it, he could feel the tingle of the transporter engulfing his body. Simultaneously, he could feel another tingling sensation rushing over him, something totally unrelated—and he knew exactly what it was.
Before he completely faded away, Christopher slowly cast Erin a glance. To his surprise, she gazed back—only it wasn’t the pleasant, bubbly gaze he was used to seeing. Instead, the looked she conveyed was a disappointed, terribly evil glare—one that Christopher wouldn’t soon forget…
The helm showed only the faintest signs of life as Nafar furiously pounded away at the controls. Behind him, an extremely volatile Xi’Yor brooded in his command chair over the mission’s unexpected turn of events. “Six warships have regained control,” Nafar finally reported. “They have resumed fire on Federation defensive platforms.”
“How were they able to restore power?” Xi’Yor demanded.
“I don’t know,” admitted Nafar. “And we can’t ask them—the comm system is still out.”
“Then see that it is repaired!”
Nafar hastily went to work—or so it appeared. While he performed the task Xi’Yor instructed him to, Nafar took extra precautions to make sure it took much longer than usual, for Nafar wanted Xi'Yor to look as vile as possible. Even so, the Underling knew he was tempting fate, for—even without looking—he could tell Xi'Yor was ready to explode.
But he didn’t get the chance.
The viewscreen suddenly erupted with the vibrant green flash of opening transwarp conduits, followed closely by several Federation starships. As they soared through the vortices, the onslaught of phaser beams and quantum torpedoes pummeled the Elorg fleet.
And Xi’Yor’s rage grew—but not because of Nafar’s alleged incompetence. The Overseer watched, silently fuming, as countless many of his beloved warships went up in flames. “Status report?!”
“At least twelve Federation starships have emerged from transwarp,” said Sa’sheer. “There may be more, but our sensor range is extremely limited.”
“They have already destroyed two warships,” Nafar added. “Several others are heavily damaged.”
The Cerebrate would not be pleased… And as the sentiment echoed through Xi'Yor’s mind, so, too, did the Cerebrate’s decree, stating Xi'Yor would be swiftly terminated should he falter.
And falter, he had.
But as the battle progressed, Xi'Yor suddenly realized that there was a fair chance that the Federation would get to him before Z’danorax. Either way, some gut feeling told Xi'Yor that the outcome would be the same unfortunate event that was his death…
As two Norway-class vessels charged through the cloudy remains of a dying starship, a nearby Elorg fighter suddenly came to life and gave chase, it’s blue phaser beams cutting into their shields. Aside from a brief flicker in the shield-bubble, the vessels were unscathed, and quickly came about to face their newfound opposition. After enduring a few phaser blasts, an intense volley of quantum torpedoes blew the Elorg vessel to smithereens.
Nearby, amidst a heated battle between the Alexander and a heavily damaged Elorg destroyer, one tiny craft emerged from the Alexander’s shuttle bay and headed straight into the Elorg fleet…
Talbot, sitting at the helm of the shuttle, gazed out at the raging battle in awe. “Which one of those is the Inkhezi?” he inquired.
Bator, who was seated beside Talbot, quickly went to work on the sensors. “This one,” he said, pointing to a small blip on the sensors. “Heading one-one-eight, mark seven.”
Talbot placed his hands on the controls. “Adjusting course.”
“The ship is pretty well banged up,” noted Tompkins. “They’ve got hull breeches on six decks, no power to their primary systems, and a warp core micro-fracture.”
The diagnosis was certainly not one that enthused Jeremy Talbot, especially the trouble with the warp core. If the vessel were even grazed by a torpedo, the warp core could destabilize further, and destroy the entire ship. “We’ll have to make our stay a brief one,” he decided.
Bator cast a cautious glance in Talbot’s direction. “I was not planning a very long stay in the first place. Were you?”
Talbot shook his head. “Not really. Let’s just say… I intend to move like lightning once were on that ship. Am I clear?”
The computer suddenly bleeped. “We’re entering transporter range,” reported Tompkins a moment later. “But the Elorg have managed to erect a low-level shield grid around their ship. We can’t beam aboard.”
Talbot slowly drummed his fingers on the edge of the helm. “Just how low level are you talking?”
“Very,” said Tompkins. “A few phaser blasts should be more than enough to knock them down.”
“I don’t want to knock them down,” said Talbot. “Then the Elorg would know we were up to something. We have to find another way inside…”
Talbot slowly turned his gaze to Kendall Johnson, who had quietly made himself a part of the mission to rescue Talyere—and quiet he remained. The Lieutenant had yet to utter a single word, even though this sort of problem should have been his forte. Talbot only shrugged, and turned to Lieutenant Bator.
The Phobian stroked his chin for a moment as he considered all of the possibilities. “What if we matched shield harmonics?” he suggested a moment later. “Because their shields are nominal to begin with, I suspect we could match harmonics easily.”
“If we do that, we could pass right through their shields,” finished Tompkins. “It’s worth a shot…”
“Do it,” ordered Talbot.
After conferring with Bator for a brief moment, Lucas Tompkins turned back to his own workstation and quickly made the necessary adjustments to their shields—a task that proved fairly simple, as Tompkins was done only moments later. “Child’s play,” he quipped as the ominous Elorg vessel loomed on the viewscreen.
The group watched in silence as they approached the Inkhezi’s shield perimeter. They drew closer and closer…closer. Until finally, the cockpit lit up with a sudden zap of energy, and they were inside the shield bubble.
“Let’s move,” snapped Talbot.
Kendall Johnson could redeem himself. In the eyes of Talyere…in the eyes of his peers…in his own eyes… This mission would prove just that—show the others that he was not the miserable failure they believed him to be. He just needed to find the miniscule amount of courage that existed inside of his body, and use it to bring him through this difficult away mission.
But the moment the transporter beam released him from its comforting grasp, Kendall knew that the task ahead of him would not be an easy one.
The Inkhezi was in shambles. The corridor he now stood in was dark, illuminated only by the numerous small fires burning amidst the fallen bulkheads and singed computer terminals. From above, dangling EPS conduits spewed forth clouds of coolant that hung ominously in the air like a thick fog.
But by some miracle, the first computer station Kendall came across was still operational. It was a small wall-mounted device; half of the display had gone offline, but enough remained functional for Kendall to access it.
He slowly lifted his tricorder up to the computer and scanned it. After a few moments of translating and analyzing, the tricorder provided Kendall with a new working interface for the workstation. He pecked away at the controls, and a moment later, came back with all of the data relevant to their mission. “Talyere is located four decks down, in section thirty-one.”
With his tricorder in one hand and his phaser in the other, Jeremy Talbot turned on his heel and started through the wasteland that was the Inkhezi. As fortune would have it, the group encountered only one small contingent of Elorg Protectors in their journey, who were caught completely off-guard by the Starfleet officers’ presence. With little effort, Talbot and Bator stunned them with their phasers, and they continued on.
Section thirty-one wasn’t any nicer than the rest of the ship. If anything, it was worse. A huge bulkhead had made its way up from the deck below, making a large hole in the floor. Only three of the lights worked in the entire smoke-filled corridor, and the temperature had dropped several degrees.
“We must be near one of those hull breeches,” said Bator.
“They probably don’t have the power to erect a forcefield,” said Lucas. “But we’d better hurry. If that breech expands to include this deck, we’re in big trouble.”
“I intend to be long gone by that point,” said Talbot as he stopped in front of a set of large, metallic doors. After scanning it with his tricorder, Talbot accessed the panel beside the door and forced them apart, revealing the pitch-black interrogation chamber inside.
Literally, there was no light in the room. Even with his hand less than a centimeter from his face, Lucas Tompkins could not sense even the most rambunctious movements. As he flipped his flashlight on, three other beams of light subsequently started to graze the room. Though he had no idea what the layout was like, Tompkins assumed the dreaded interrogation chair would be in the center—which it was.
But to his chagrin, the chair was empty, save for the copious amounts of black Elorg blood plastered to its otherwise harsh metallic surface. Just as he started to pull away, Tompkins noticed the some of the blood glisten under the scrutiny of his light—which meant it was fresh.
Quickly, he followed the trail of fresh blood down to the floor, where the bloody, broken body of Talyere Rosat lay sprawled out on the ground in a terribly uncomfortable position.
Kendall Johnson expelled a long, nervous sigh. “It looks like we’ve come all this way for nothing…”