Stardate 74001.4; January 01, 2397
Written by Chris Adamek
Ka’Tula Prime was dead.
The blackened and charred remains of the once great world stretched from the horizon, across the distant plains, to the ground beneath Alan Christopher’s boots… and then back to the horizon in the opposite direction. A thick cloud of dust hugged the terrain like a blanket, blotting out the delicate sunlight and tainting the air with fetid acidic overtones.
Christopher suppressed the urge to cough as he pulled in a lungful of the rancid air and slowly knelt down beside a small cairn of ash-laden rocks. He carefully brushed away the thin layer of dust covering the rocks near the head of the cairn, and then reached into his pocket. Moments later, his hand emerged clutching a shiny metallic brooch—a communicator. He inspected it for a moment, and upon seeing the initials “R.M.” engraved on the back, he lowered his head in honor of his fallen comrade.
Rachael Meyer had been one of Christopher’s closest friends, second only to Erin Keller. She had served with him on his first command, and relentlessly stood by his side through his darkest moments. And now she was gone, her life mercilessly taken by the hand of the nefarious Overseer Xi’Yor.
The mere thought of the hated Overseer made Christopher’s blood boil. It was Xi’Yor who orchestrated the attack that had leveled Christopher’s homeworld. It was Xi’Yor who had smiled deviously as he had taken Rachael Meyer’s life, and it was Xi’Yor who would continue to unleash chaos upon the Federation until his thirst for conquest was quenched…
Christopher’s jaw clenched and his eyes narrowed, slowly focusing on the cairn of rocks before him—but as thoughts of Rachael started to flow through his mind, the malevolence faded. “It was fun while it lasted, wasn’t it?” he asked, gently placing her communicator atop the rocky grave. “I know that we have drifted apart over the last few years… things change, I suppose—and I probably should have told this to you earlier, but, now is as good a time as ever—I have always thought of you as one of my closest friends… if not more than that. And I always will. Perhaps one day, in a place free of enmity and malevolence, we shall meet again…”
It was certainly a warm sentiment, one that Christopher very much wanted to see fulfilled, but deep down in his heart, he knew that he would never again see Rachael Meyer alive. He shook his head somberly; it took all his strength to fight back the tears welling in his eyes, but ultimately he succeeded, and managed to pull together a few more coherent thoughts.
“I promise you, Rachael,” he said softly, “you didn’t die in vain. I will find Xi’Yor on your behalf…” He paused, licked his lips, then added, “Then I’ll make him pay for what he’s done…”
In his mind, Christopher knew that his objective was clear. Unfortunately, it was far easier to plot such vengeances in the mind than it was to actually exact them. Xi’Yor could be light years from the Ka’Tula System by now… or he could be a scant kilometer away. But until he got away from the carnage surrounding him, Christopher had no way of knowing.
He sighed, and then tapped his communicator. “Christopher to Starlight, one to beam up.”
Christopher frowned at his seemingly defunct communicator and touched it again. “Christopher to Starlight!”
A wave of panic rushed over Christopher’s body as the worst-case scenario played out in his mind: amidst the battle to take Ka’Tula Prime from the Federation, Elorg forces obliterated the Starlight, killing every—
Nonsense, he interjected. The battle might have been brutal, but as his better judgment took over, Christopher realized that the Elorg had been firing numerous particle weapons into the atmosphere. The more likely scenario summarily came to mind: all of the radiation caused by the assault was simply jamming the communication frequencies.
Still, Christopher couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in the great firmament above…
* * *
“Starboard phaser banks are offline!”
“Switch to auxiliary, Lieutenant!”
“I can’t, the EPS grid in that section has failed!”
“All power to forward shields!”
“Damn! We just lost power in that section!”
As he listened to the cacophony of words shooting through the air around him, it was clear to Ryan Landsberg that the crew of the Starlight worked well as a team. He also noticed that they weren’t afraid to make decisions on their own, a problem he had infrequently encountered during his tenure on the Merrimac. Thus far, Landsberg had been content to observe the harmony of the crew at work, but with the situation suddenly taking a turn for the worse, he felt compelled to finally say something.
“Brace for impact!” Landsberg quickly grabbed the arms of the command chair and held on tight as a vibrant purple plasma torpedo hurtled at the Starlight, death on its unseen mind.
Seconds later, a sonorous explosion rocked the ship. Landsberg was thrown back into his chair with incredible force, his head crashing into the back with a powerful THUD before being thrust back in the opposite direction. Still, Landsberg managed to keep his tight grip on the command chair, and was spared the wrath of the floor.
“We have wide-scale hull breeches on decks four through nine!” shouted Lieutenant Bator over the rumbling.
Angered, Landsberg shook his head and turned to the Phobian, peering at him through ominous cloud of smoke and billowing white plasma. “Forcefields?”
“They are in place… for now.”
“If this battle continues much longer,” said Harrison from his seat next to Landsberg, “we shall most likely find ourselves thoroughly quashed.”
“Quashed?” asked Landsberg curiously.
“Blown to hell,” clarified Lucas Tompkins, who was hovering over a rapidly failing engineering station.
Shaking his head, Landsberg quickly ran his fingers through his sweaty blonde hair. “Load all torpedo bays and fire at will!”
Seconds later, a string of blazing blue quantum torpedoes streaked across the viewscreen, furiously hunting down the myriad Elorg Destroyers before them. To Landsberg’s chagrin, the Elorg were clearly ready for such a barrage, and several of the torpedoes completely missed their targets as the Destroyers moved out of the way.
Landsberg cursed under his breath and watched as the scant remaining torpedoes crashed into the shields of a passing Destroyer, absorbed with little consequence to the assaulted ship. “Again, Lieutenant!”
“I’m trying,” the Phobian shouted, “but that last volley overloaded the tactical system!”
Suddenly, a streak of purple light blasted across the viewscreen, impacting a lone Prometheus-class starship and blowing it to smithereens. As the attacking Elorg vessel eclipsed the dying starship, the entire battle blinked away, and the unpleasant image of the portly Alexis O’Connor filled the viewscreen, her lips already moving despite the fact the commlink had yet to establish audio.
“...xis O’Connor to the Federation fleet: Due to unforeseen circumstances, Command has given me orders to completely withdraw from the Kilka Sector at once! All Federation starships are to fall back to Starbase 241 at once! I repeat, the Federation is withdrawing from the Kilka Sector! Again, I repeat…”
As O’Connor’s continued repetition began to numb Landsberg’s mind, a grim feeling washed over his body… This was the first nail in the Federation’s coffin, and as he gave the order to withdraw, Ryan Landsberg knew that there were more to come…