“Aria of Sorrows”

Stardate 75457.3; June 17, 2398

 

Episode 84

 

 

Edited by Peter Bossley

Written by Chris Adamek

 

 

 

Prologue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phaser fire arced through the glimmering stars, pummeling the Elorg warship Ven’dyr with considerable force.  Explosions rippled along its flailing shield grid, plasma streaked out of its warp nacelles, and gaping hull breaches widened to potentially catastrophic proportions.  The mighty destroyer fought back valiantly with its impressive arsenal, but the vile Federation forces had depleted the Ven’dyr so thoroughly that the assault was less than effective—and that was unacceptable.

 

Watching the calamitous events unfold on the Ven’dyr’s flickering viewscreen, Overseer Ra’thenn clenched an angry fist and forcefully pounded it into the arm of his command chair.  “Underling Na’thyre,” he hissed, “would you care to tell me why we are being decimated by three meager Federation starships?”

 

Up until a couple of moments ago, Ra’thenn had held Na’thyre in reasonably high esteem.  He had presented himself as a competent officer, capable of performing his duties and then some.  But with the Ven’dyr suddenly on the brink of destruction, Na’thyre’s favor was quickly deteriorating—and the underling knew it.  He desperately pecked away at the helm in search of answers before cobbling together a meager status report:  “Our tactical array took heavy damage during the conquest of Gildebron III!  We are still attempting to make repairs!”

 

“Gildebron III?” Ra’thenn exclaimed.  “That was nearly eight cycles ago!  I could have repaired the tactically array myself in half the time!”

 

Na’thyre shook his head with confusion as he peered back at his station.  “Then there must be another reason,” he quickly surmised.  “Perhaps the Federation fleet received a tactical upgrade?”

 

Ra’thenn shook his head—Na’thyre was only partially correct.  The fleet from the Osian Cluster was built using some of the most advanced technology known to the Federation; it was unlikely they would upgrade so soon.  “There is another reason,” said Ra’thenn icily.  “You are a pedantic fool—as am I for allowing you to set foot upon my vessel!”

 

The ship rumbled as a sleek Sovereign-class starship streaked across the viewscreen in a blaze of phaser fire.  The lights briefly flickered and a few sparks rained down from the ceiling—but that appeared to be the extent of the damage.  Once the rumbling ceased, Ra’thenn abandoned the warmth of his command chair, pulled the disruptor from his belt and approached the pedantic underling at the helm.

 

Knowing his death was imminent, Na’thyre ceased pecking at the helm controls and simply sat still in his chair, awaiting his demise.

 

Ra’thenn made certain the underling’s wait was a short one.  In the blink of an eye, a streak of purple light surged from the Overseer’s weapon and struck Na’thyre squarely in the chest.  He started to scream, but his internal organs were swiftly incinerated by the blast, cutting short the cries of agony and leaving little more than a pile of ash.  Ra’thenn haphazardly swept it to the floor.  “Administrator Dori’il,” he called across the bridge.  “Take the helm.”

 

The summoned Dori’il quickly crossed the bridge and assumed his new position at the helm.  He gracefully tapped away at the controls as if he had done so a thousand times, and then turned to Ra’thenn with his succinct status report: “Weapons will be online momentarily.”

 

That was all Ra’thenn needed to know.  He returned to his command chair and at long last, prepared himself for an illustrious triumph over the wretched Federation.  The three attackers were growing more confident with each blast they managed to fire; they truly seemed to believe the Ven’dyr would soon fall.  And Ra’thenn chuckled at their naivety.  It was they who would fall.

 

After a moment’s calm, the Sovereign-class vessel reappeared on the viewscreen, this time flanked by its smaller companions.  Without hesitation, they opened fire in what appeared to be a final assault.  Phaser beams arced across the viewscreen, torpedoes lanced the hull—and indeed, the Ven’dyr shuttered under the impact.  A wisp of flame even curled around the viewscreen…

 

But suddenly, without warning, a ragged beam of azure death surged away from the viewscreen, plowing through the pathetic Sovereign’s shields and blowing it to smithereens.

 

“Weapons have been restored,” Dori’il reported a moment later.  The satisfaction in his voice was evident—and rightfully so.  The tide had finally turned, and victory was at hand.

 

The second starship fell a moment later.  It was a smaller Athena-class destroyer, and the flames that erupted from its crumpling hull were both wondrous and terrifying.  Ra’thenn knew that if the battle had lasted but a few moments longer, his ship would have met a similar fate.

 

The last remaining Federation starship hung haplessly on the viewscreen amidst a field of smoldering debris.  There was nowhere for them to run; the Ven’dyr could easily outrun them.  There was nowhere to hide; the Ven’dyr’s sensors were superior in every way imaginable.  The only thing left for the crew of that small ship was death.  Ra’thenn smiled.  “Hail them,” he said, slowly rising from his command chair.

 

Moments later, an ugly human male appeared on the viewscreen.  He started to introduce himself as the starship’s commander, but Ra’thenn could not have cared less about the man’s status.  He would be dead soon, anyway.  His status was of little consequence.

 

“Are you frightened?” asked the Overseer, easily dismissing the human’s platitudes.

 

The man ceased his mindless introduction just long enough to consider the question.  “Yes,” he admitted after a moment’s thought.

 

  If one needed to think about fear, he obviously was not feeling it.  And being the skeptical man that he was, Ra’thenn arched his brow.  “Not nearly enough,” he whispered to the human.

 

That seemed to get the human’s attention.  He bristled in his command chair for few seconds before nervously rising to his feet.  “What are your terms?”

 

“Terms?” asked Ra’thenn.

 

The human nodded.  “For surrender?”

 

Ra’thenn’s pallid lips slowly curved into a demonic smile.  The moment he was waiting for was nearly at hand.  “There are no terms, you pathetic wretch.”

 

The human’s face suddenly turned pale—fear was known to him now, that much was certain.  But still, he denied the terror surging through his veins.  He folded his muscular arms upon his chest and made a valiant effort to appear nonchalant about the situation.  “No terms,” he quietly repeated, as if it were a minor impediment.  “Very well, what then do you propose we do?”

 

“Die, perhaps?”  Ra’thenn did not bother to occlude the perverse pleasure in his voice.

 

Now fearing for his life—and rightfully so—the human began to tremble and perspire.  “I… I thought you wanted to negotiate terms?  For surrender?”

 

“No,” said Ra’thenn.  He casually ran his fingers along the backside of Dori’il’s chair before making his way back to the opulent command chair in the center of the bridge.  Once seated, he spent a moment or two thinking about second meal—falanora stew sounded palatable—before finally turning his attention back to the human.  “As has already been established in this truly enlightening dialogue, surrender is not an option, human.  Perhaps you should have paid closer attention to my words?”

 

Though the human was visibly shaken by the ordeal, he did not take well to Ra’thenn’s suggestion.  Humans were perhaps the most vile and arrogant people in the known universe.  If ever their was a species worthy of extinction, it was them.  “What, then, do you want?” asked the human, his voice fierce.  “A fight?  I’ll give you a fight if that’s what you’re looking for.”

 

The sentiment brought a smile to Ra’thenn’s face.  “Human stupidity never ceases to amaze me,” he mused between chuckles.  “Your vessel poses no threat to me.  I simply wished to see the look upon your pathetic little face when you died.”  And before the human fool had a chance to respond, Ra’thenn gave the fateful order:  “Destroy them!”

 

The human’s skin was pale as a ghost—perhaps even pale as an Elorg—and his furrowed brow beaded with perspiration.  Angst welled in his azure eyes, and his teeth began to chatter.  At long last, the brewing fear had consumed his very soul, and all that remained was a hollow, trembling shell that was helpless to save himself.  He stumbled back a few weary steps and…

 

“Overseer!”  The melodious voice seemed to come out of nowhere.  Ra’thenn’s head swiveled about to see who had addressed him, but all of his subordinates quietly tended to their duties—oblivious to the voice.  Clearly, none of them had called him.

 

“Overseer!”  Again, the voice called—and again, the bridge crew appeared oblivious.  For a moment, Ra’thenn considered the possibility that he were losing his mind…

 

“Overseer!”

 

 

 

Ra’thenn blinked, and an instant later, everything was gone.  The wretched, terrified human… the smoldering smoke-filled bridge… the heated battle… It was all gone, and all that remained was the dead of night, and the echo of his numerous summons.

 

“Overseer Ra’thenn!” called the voice a fourth time.  Clearly the speaker—whose voice now sounded more like Dori’il’s—was not one to give in so easily.  Ra’thenn suspected the underling would continue to call until his summons was answered.

 

And knowing this, Ra’thenn knew his slumber had reached its end.  He wearily cast aside his bedding and then realized that the raging battle was little more than an illusion of his mind—a whisper from the past.  Indeed, the vast theater of war in Ra’thenn’s dream was perhaps the last true stronghold of the once great Elorg Bloc.  The overseer shook his head.  “A pity,” he proclaimed.

 

 

 

Moments later, on the Ven’dyr’s cavernous bridge, Overseer Ra’thenn stood beside the incredibly persistent Administrator Dori’il at the tactical station behind the command chair.  Ra’thenn briefly skimmed the data flitting across the screen before turning to his subordinate for an explanation—and if Dori’il valued his life, the explanation would be a brilliant one.  Before heading for the bridge, Ra’thenn was able to spare a moment to glance at his chronometer—and the night was barely halfway through…

 

“Long-range sensors detected this small Federation shuttle about two hours ago,” Dori’il stated, referring to the craft on the computer terminal.  “According to sensors, it is called the Newton, a class-twelve shuttlecraft.”

 

Ra’thenn arched a curious brow.  “And this is worthy of my attention… because?”  As far as he knew, there was nothing overly special about class-twelve shuttlecrafts.

 

“They are on a direct intercept course,” Dori’il continued.  “The Newton will be in weapons range in less than one interval.”

 

It was hardly the brilliant explanation Ra’thenn had expected.  In fact, it was barely worthy of mention.  “This is a small shuttle we are discussing?” asked the Overseer, just to make certain he had not mistaken Dori’il’s words.

 

“Yes.”  Dori’il nodded.  “It would seem the Federation has been made aware of our location.”

 

“One shuttle poses no threat,” said Ra’thenn icily.  He was already plotting Dori’il’s demise.  “Destroy them.”  Ra’thenn immediately turned his attention back to the sensors in anticipation of the cataclysmic blast that would reduce the shuttle to ash—but to his apparent consternation, the shuttle remained.

 

“I do not believe that is a prudent course of action, Overseer.”

 

Though the speaker’s voice was a familiar one, Ra’thenn could not place it.  It was definitely not Dori’il; the Administrator’s lips had not parted for even a moment.  This new voice came from behind, and was filled with both angst and treachery.  A rival, perhaps?  An ill-tempered underling?  Ra’thenn knew not.  The only certainty was that no insurrection would be tolerated.

 

As such, Ra’thenn moved to draw his weapon—but before he could move so much as a millimeter, he felt the gentle touch of his rival’s disruptor upon his spine.

 

The rival expelled a devious chortle.  “You are getting slow in your old age, Ra’thenn.”

 

And suddenly, memories of the perfidious voice trickled into place.  Knowing he stood no chance against his rival, Ra’thenn submitted himself for termination.  “Make it an honorable death,” he pleaded.

 

Circling like a hawk, the legendary Overseer Xi’Yor slowly stepped into sight.  His vibrant orange eyes burned with a treacherous fire that Ra’thenn had not seen for ages.  “Your death may be on the horizon, Overseer Ra’thenn—but it will not be at my hand…”

 

“Oh?”

 

“Indeed.”  An evil glint crossed Xi’Yor’s face.  “You must rally our people and lead them to their destiny—you must restore the Elorg Bloc!”

 

 

 

Proceed to Chapter One

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