Stardate 75087.8; February 02, 2398
Written by Chris Adamek
Matthew Harrison grabbed his phaser and opened fire. A ragged beam of orange light streaked across the murky bridge and collided with the massive Drusari looming only a few meters away. The ghastly alien expelled a sonorous shriek as the blast of energy penetrated his craggy exoskeleton, but when the light finally faded, the Drusari appeared to have sustained only minimal damage.
“Weapons will do you no good now,” shouted Commander Bruton—though his clawed fist remained clenched upon his own bulky weapon.
Harrison nevertheless heeded Bruton’s warning, and cautiously lowered his weapon. “Then what should we do?” he inquired.
Verdant fire spewed from the Drusari’s pores as he stepped closer to the away team’s position. The ship rattled with each giant step forward, and Harrison knew that it was only a matter of time before the buffer zone between the away team and the Drusari evaporated. However, much to Harrison’s apparent consternation, Commander Bruton’s answers were not forthcoming.
“I do not know,” said the Inguari after a thoughtful moment. “I am hardly an expert on the Drusari. In fact, only a few days ago they were believed to be little more than legends… Legends that I may have dismissed a bit too quickly.”
The ship rumbled again. Harrison’s eyes snapped back to the Drusari, but he seemed to have stumbled backward a few meters—and as the ship rumbled yet again, the massive alien fell to the ground.
“The ship is breaking apart,” Bator urgently reminded.
“Indeed it is,” Harrison suddenly recalled. Amidst the excitement of the Drusari, that one small fact had momentarily slipped the Commander’s mind. “We must return to our designated beam-out coordinates on deck two!”
“And just how the hell are we going to get there?” asked Sarah Hartman, though her words were muffled by the Drusari’s continued groans.
As Harrison pondered the question, the Drusari crawled back to his feet and continued to slog across Bruton’s bridge—only now the flaming entity moved with more drive and ambition than ever before. Haunting verdant shadows swiftly fell upon Harrison and his comrades as the Drusari approached. The time for pondering was up and the time for action was at hand. “RUN!” Harrison exclaimed, just as a clawed fist swung at him. The Commander swiftly ducked, and the Drusari missed, his clawed hand digging deep into the adjacent bulkhead.
Furious, the beast suddenly crouched, and leapt across the bridge at unthinkable speeds, leaving a flaming jade maelstrom in its wake. In tandem with Bruton and one of his guards, Harrison scrambled for the exit, where Bator and Marizex were already waiting with the remainder of Bruton’s guards. Unfortunately, Doctor Hartman was nowhere to be seen…
The newly agile Drusari landed atop a sparking workstation of some sort. He perched upon the edge like a demonic gargoyle for only a moment before his weight forced the side of the workstation to crumple. He swiftly jumped to the floor with a resonant CLANK and came about to face his nemeses.
“Doctor!” called out Harrison—but there was no response. He turned to Bator. “Has she already proceeded to deck two?”
The Phobian shook his head. “I do not believe so.”
Harrison clenched his fists. “Drat! We must—”
“Your crewman is dead,” Bruton yelled as plowed through the exit. “Now let’s go!”
A manky tendril of yellow energy suddenly arced across the bridge and lanced Bruton in the side. Harrison swiftly followed the bolt back to the Drusari, and—despite Bruton’s warning—fired off a few phaser blasts in the alien’s general direction. The tendril flickered, vanished, and then abruptly returned, transferring its electric wrath to one of Bruton’s guards. Harrison fired his phaser a few more times, but to no avail. The guard emitted a few high-pitched squeals and then vanished amidst the blazing tendrils. When the strand of energy cracked out of existence one last time, the only sign of the guard was a small pile of dust…
Convinced that Doctor Hartman had not suffered a similar fate, Harrison promptly turned to Bruton—who was already marching into the access tubes. “You go ahead,” he yelled. “I must find my officer!” Without so much as a grunt of acknowledgement, Bruton and his guards made haste to depart, leaving Bator and Marizex at the threshold. Harrison promptly motioned for them to follow in Bruton’s footsteps. “I shall be along shortly with the Doctor! Now go!”
Bator clearly disagreed with Harrison’s decision to face the Drusari alone. In fact, he almost hesitated to follow the order in favor of defending Harrison, but the Commander tersely repeated his order—and Bator complied, leaving Matthew alone with the Drusari.
The alien had already leapt back over the crumpled, dilapidated workstation he had perched upon earlier, and now lumbered past the workstations along the back wall of the bridge, seemingly oblivious to Harrison’s presence. The Drusari suddenly paused, and stared at one of the consoles for a long moment; his clawed hand hovered over the controls, and a wealth of data suddenly flitted across the screen. Very slowly, the alien began to clench his fist. The surface of the workstation gradually became depressed, as if the alien’s claws were digging into it—and then, in the blink of an eye, he withdrew his hand and the entire workstation imploded…
…and something suddenly grabbed Harrison around the chest and yanked him from his feet. The air vacated his lungs as he hit the gritty floor, and then everything went dark…
The Aztec gracefully came about as a great plume of fire encompassed Commander Bruton’s smoldering starship. The tiny vessel lingered nearby for only a moment before its impulse engines flared red, and it shot off toward the outskirts of the Navarre System. Meanwhile, Bruton’s vessel hung ominously before a giant gray moon, wildly spewing flames as it rotated on some random axis. Another massive explosion suddenly rippled through the hull, blowing a considerable chunk of the command section into space. Another moment passed, and the remainder of Bruton’s ship finally met its demise amidst a sea of crimson flame.
The last thing Matthew Harrison remembered was falling to the deck on the bridge of Bruton’s starship. Something—he did not know what—had pulled him to the ground with such force that the air vacated his lungs. Given the Drusari’s angry demeanor, Harrison was quite certain that he had perished; perhaps some unseen tendril yanked him to the deck and vaporized him? Whatever the case, Harrison knew he was no longer aboard Bruton’s ship, for the air that passed through his lungs was devoid of any smoke, and the ground beneath him was reasonably soft. But as he opened his eyes, Harrison knew he was not in any sort of heaven, for Sarah Hartman loomed just overhead with a medical tricorder in hand. “Have I died and gone to hell?” asked Harrison, surprised by his groggy voice.
Hartman promptly snapped shut the tricorder. “You’re not dead,” she assured him, “but you are indeed in hell.”
Given the cramped surroundings, Harrison swiftly decided that they were in the aft compartment of the Aztec. Not quite hell, but so near the barren planet Navarre that the Doctor’s statement was partially valid. “Where is the Starlight?” he asked.
“Heading for the nebula,” Hartman replied. “The temporal probe didn’t detonate on time, and the Starlight had to go defend the fleet in glorious battle… or something like that.”
Harrison carefully propped himself up against the wall. His chest was still a bit sore, so he did not dare move any further. “And what happened to me?” he inquired. “Was I assaulted?”
Hartman shook her head. “You were about to be,” she stated. “But I grabbed you before the Drusari could do any harm.”
Harrison’s eyes widened. “That was you?”
Hartman flashed a devious smile, clearly pleased with her actions. “And you thought that I was in need of rescue…”
A weak cough briefly parted Harrison’s lips; he swiftly suppressed the lingering impulse to cough again, and then turned his attention back to the Doctor. “Was it truly necessary to grab me with such force?” Though there was a hint of amusement in Harrison’s voice, the question was indeed genuine.
“It was impulse,” Hartman flatly replied. “If you would like, I could move slower in the future and allow the Drusari to lop your head off.”
Harrison raised a dismissive hand. “That will not be necessary,” he assured the Doctor—but his voice trailed as his attention was summarily drawn to the rather large figure draped over the bed on the opposite side of the compartment. “How is Bruton?”
Hartman briefly regarded the Inguari before providing Harrison with an indolent shrug. “Unconscious,” she simply stated. “I don’t have the proper tools to treat him here… However, the wounds don’t appear to be life-threatening.”
Harrison arched a curious eyebrow. “He was in a lot of pain, then?”
“No,” said Hartman. “He was quite a nuisance in the cockpit—I mean, you thought Alan had a superiority complex—this idiot comes barging in and immediately demands we set course for some star cluster forty light years away.”
“He wishes to rejoin General Kron,” Harrison quickly surmised.
Hartman shook her head and glanced back over to Bruton. “Well,” she said evenly, “he’s not going anywhere now…”
As she sat at the Aztec’s flight control station, Megan Reinbold couldn’t help but feel a bit claustrophobic—the ship was designed to comfortably hold no more than five or six people. However, there were ten people aboard the Aztec, and four of them were large enough to constitute two people, making Megan somewhat nervous. Thankfully, the trip back to the Starlight would be short, and as long as she focused her mind on piloting the ship—and Bruton stayed in the aft compartment— everything would be fine.
“The Starlight has taken heavy damage,” Bator reported after studying his side of the workstation. He sat at the station beside Megan, and seemed completely unfazed by the crowd.
“Must have been a hell of a fight,” Justin mused, reviewing the data for himself at the kiosk behind flight control. “Too bad we missed it.”
“You could have stayed behind,” Megan crisply replied. Though her fleeting claustrophobia was still foremost in her mind, she was nonetheless eager to discuss her son’s reasons for tagging along on the Aztec.
Much to her chagrin, Justin was not eager to talk. He simply shrugged, and delved back into the tactical data. “I needed a change of scenery,” he said after a moment.
Megan smiled faintly. “Sure,” she said evenly. In time, she was confident that all the answers would be revealed, but for now she just let the conversation slide. Keeping the Aztec’s flight smooth was her priority, after all.
The doors to the aft compartment suddenly slid apart. Megan carefully tapped a few course adjustments into the computer and then turned to see Commander Harrison and Doctor Hartman strolling into the cockpit. The Commander promptly regarded each of his subordinates, and then turned his full attention to Bator. “How bad is it?” he inquired.
The Phobian’s face immediately turned grim. “See for yourself,” he said, alluding to the cockpit window.
In tandem with Harrison, Megan turned her eyes to the stars. At first she saw nothing—but after a moment, a holographic cursor highlighted a series of specks in the distance. The contents of the circular cursor quickly zoomed in to fill the entire window—and it was a spectacle to behold.
The Starlight suddenly loomed just ahead—but it was not the majestic sight Megan was used to. Instead, the hull was riddled with scorch marks and hull breaches—the largest of which cut a wide swath all the way through the hull—and presumably into the non-existent port warp nacelle…
“It’s a miracle the entire ship wasn’t destroyed,” Hartman bluntly stated.
“But I believe my quarters were,” Lieutenant Marizex quietly stated.
Bator quickly placed a yellow grid over the Starlight’s hull and pinpointed an area in the devastated swath. “Sorry,” he said. “If it is of any consolation, Doctor Hartman’s quarters were also obliterated.”
Hartman’s eyes darted back to the Starlight—and Bator promptly pinpointed another area on the grid. “Hell, it’s not like I ever used my quarters,” she grumbled. “Everything I need is in sickbay.”
Marizex somberly shrugged. “Lucky you…”