“Ring of Fire, part I”
Stardate 74447.2; June 13, 2397
Written by Chris Adamek
Ambassador Kaid was tired.
It was not the sort of fatigue one experienced after a long day’s work; this fatigue was of a completely different origin. It lingered for days at a time, draining Kaid of his energy, and bringing morbid images of death and destruction to mind. Normally, he enjoyed such gory thoughts, but now these mental images were only a reminder of his own life.
Kaid’s past was a dark one. He had personally exterminated seventeen unique civilizations. Of course, he had no qualms about it—those species posed a grave threat to the Velora’s genetic purity and needed to be wiped from the face of the universe—and if given the opportunity to relive those events, Kaid knew he would not do anything differently. It was his job to ensure a future for the Velora Aggregate. And to his chagrin, it was the future of the Aggregate that brought Kaid to his current situation…
“… and the target is heading 1-6-1 mark 3.”
Sor Tovar had spoken. That usually indicated that something of consequence was about to happen—or that Kaid’s mind had wandered a bit too far, and his executive officer was politely bringing him back into the fold. Either way, Kaid knew it was time to bring his mind from the dregs of the universe.
The viewscreen depicted a relatively dense asteroid field. The Adaris had entered the region several hours ago after tracking their target to a particularly large, craggy asteroid near the center of the field—but as he stared at the screen, Kaid saw neither the asteroid nor the ship. “Where is the vessel?” he asked a moment later.
Tovar hastily moved to the large, triangular workstation behind Kaid’s chair and keyed a sequence of commands into the computer. Seconds later, the image on the viewscreen changed to depict another similar view of the asteroid field—but with one major difference: a hellish, squid-like vessel hung in space just beyond the nearest asteroid, its forward section aglow with a fiery orange energy.
“It is waiting for us,” Tovar noted, carefully watching the ship. “If we attack now, we may be destroyed.”
Despite his sudden tendency to nap on the bridge, Kaid was well aware of the dangers involved with the vessel. “We must attack it now,” he said sternly. “If the vessel flees, we may never catch it again.”
There was no argument from Tovar. He immediately turned his eyes upon Vakal, the tactical officer situated at the aft workstation. “Arm all conventional weapons and prepare to fire. Helm, take us into weapons range.”
“Vakal,” said Kaid suddenly, “transfer some additional power to the forward shields. I don’t want a repeat of last time.” They were still repairing the damage sustained during the last attack, and Kaid didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.
“Aye sir,” said Vakal. His deft fingers flew over the control interface, and moments later, he announced, “Shields and weapons are ready.”
Kaid’s heart rate kicked up a few notches at the prospect of battle, but given his recent bout of malaise, his body failed to produce the adrenalin rush that had driven him to victory so many times before. “How long until we enter weapons range?”
“Thirty seconds,” said the helmsman.
“We are already in range of the alien bioship’s weapons,” added Tovar, “however, its systems are still charging.”
At this point in their previous engagement with the alien vessel, it had already taken out a large portion of deck nine. “We must be wearing it down,” mused Kaid. “Perhaps this time we will finally capture it.”
“We are about to find out,” said Tovar. His voice was brimming with excitement—filled with drive and ambition. It very much reminded Kaid of the way he used to be.
The alien ship slowly came about, shunting three large sails from its aft section as it forged its way into battle. Kaid grabbed the arms of his chair and prepared for the worst. “Shields?”
“At maximum,” Vakal reiterated. “We’ll be in weapons range in ten seconds.”
Wiry tendrils of orange energy danced around the nose of the alien bioship. “They’re preparing to fire,” warned Tovar.
Kaid nodded his acknowledgment. “Brace for impact,” he said. “Have damage control standing by.”
An instant later, the Adaris was under siege. Kaid was able to glimpse a ragged tendril of blazing orange energy surge from the alien bioship, but little more. The force of the impact prompted the Adaris to lose attitude control, and left the ship to haphazardly spin on its axis. Still, as far as Kaid could tell, everything was relatively intact. “What is our weapon status?”
“Ready to fire!” exclaimed Vakal.
Kaid nodded. “Then do so!”
The deck plates shuddered as the alien ship fired again, and Kaid could feel his ship beginning to waver. If Vakal faltered, there was a distinct possibility that the battle would be forever lost. Then again, considering Vakal’s track record, Kaid knew that defeat was not a likely outcome.
Suddenly, the alien ship streaked across the viewscreen, its forward section again awash in orange light. Knowing it would not be long before they were again under the gun, Kaid braced for impact while the rest of his crew worked to see the squid-like vessel brought down once and for all.
“Target locked!” exclaimed Vakal. “Firing axionic energy charges!”
The ship jolted, and sparks rained down from the ceiling. Kaid could see bright pulses of crimson light flash across the viewscreen, but they did not appear to strike anything more than rock—several asteroids promptly exploded into clouds of dust—and the alien vessel remained at large.
Kaid turned back to Vakal. “I thought you had a target lock!?”
“I did,” he replied, still working frantically the controls. “The ship altered its bio-signature. Attempting to reacquire the target!”
“That should not be hard,” Tovar suddenly announced, staring at the viewscreen with a mortified look upon his face.
Kaid quickly came about to see the alien ship lurking dead ahead, its forward section brimming with energy. “We won’t be able to sustain another hit to the forward section,” he soon realized.
“No need to worry!” replied Vakar.
Another barrage of axionic energy pulses promptly darted across the viewscreen, headed straight for the alien bioship. It made a valiant effort to evade the pulses, but could not get out of the way fast enough. Its organic brown hull absorbed the majority of the blasts, but the last few exploded more to Kaid’s liking, leaving the alien vessel’s hull blackened and charred.
“The alien weapon systems are offline,” Tovar said. “Prepare for the final assault! Remember, we want the vessel disabled, not destroyed!”
Vakar glared. “I know our orders!”
Just when Kaid began to lower his guard, the deck began to vibrate once more. His eyes immediately darted back to the alien ship, but the viewscreen clearly indicated the alien ship was dormant. “What’s happening?”
“Another ship has just dropped out of warp… they’re right on top of us!” exclaimed Tovar.
And he was not kidding. A massive vessel almost twice the size of the Adaris suddenly eclipsed the alien ship on the viewscreen—and Kaid immediately grumbled. “What are they doing here?”
The answer was more concise than Kaid could have ever hoped, for the moment the question fell from his lips, a volley of verdant plasma torpedoes streaked from the new arrival’s torpedo bay and blasted into the Adaris’ shields. They flickered, shimmered, and ultimately failed—along with the lights, and the majority of the workstations.
“We still have weapons!” cried Vakar.
“Helm control is nominal,” Tovar promptly added. “And the helmsman is dead.”
They would have to grieve later. For now, all that mattered was survival. “Fire whatever weapons we have at our new friends,” Kaid ordered, unable to keep the sarcasm from slipping into his voice.
“I’ve got a lock on their engines,” said Vakar. “If we—”
“Sir!” Tovar interrupted. “The alien bioship is powering weapons again!”
Kaid’s heart skipped a beat. Now he was beginning to get that adrenaline rush. “Target?”
“Us!” said Tovar. “And one more hit will finish us!”
“Then don’t let them get that chance,” Kaid said. “Quickly! Maneuver us behind our new friends and let them take the blow for us.”
Tovar made haste to move the Adaris out of harm’s way, his fingers dancing wildly over the control interface. For a brief moment, Kaid thought they just might get away with it… But then the bioship fired, and all hell broke loose.
The bulkheads screamed as they began to shift beneath Kaid’s feet. Fire rained down from the ceiling, and the majority of the remaining workstations went dead. As a thick smoke filtered into his lungs, Kaid knew the damage to the Adaris was extreme. The viewscreen was barely functional, its display garbled with fuzz—but Kaid could see enough to know that his plan had indeed worked.
The battle was as good as over—but far from a decisive victory. The Adaris was on the brink of destruction, the massive starship looming ahead of the Adaris was severely damaged, and the alien bioship was gone.
“Our target just jumped to warp,” gleaned Tovar from his barely functional workstation.
Crestfallen, Kaid slumped down into his ash-laden command chair. “We’ll get that ship,” he assured his crew. “It is only a matter of time…”