Chapter Seven

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPTAIN’S LOG, STARDATE 76144.9:  Two days have passed since our last encounter with the Ii’zyyr’aa, and while long-range sensors indicate the insectoid aliens are still in the vicinity, they have—for reasons currently unknown—given the Starlight a wide berth.  I can only assume they have decided we don’t pose a threat, but since communication with the aliens is still impossible, we have no way to be certain.

Several crewmembers are still missing, including Commander Keller.  We have been diligently tracking the movements of their captor’s ship, but without a warp core, we have no way to rescue them.  We can only hope they are being treated well.

Meanwhile, the Starlight continues to seek refuge in the Phendrana Drifts.  The Adelphi is still thirty-six hours away, and until that time, our position is vulnerable.  The Ii’zyyr’aa intruders that boarded the ship two days ago are still holed up on deck five; security has made several attempts to approach the aliens’ position, but each encounter has ended in bloodshed.  I fear if these myriad situations are allowed to simmer for much longer, we are in for a true disaster…

 

 

 

First they attacked.

 

Then they retreated.

 

And now… now the Ii’zyyr’aa were swarming.

 

“There are sixteen ships lingering on the outskirts of the nebula,” said Megan Reinbold, her pale blue eyes focused intently upon the panoramic viewscreen wrapped around the astrometrics lab.  She didn’t know what the manta-like vessels intended to do from that position, but given their affiliation with the Velora, she was reasonably certain that it would be deadly.

 

Matthew Harrison stood nearby, peering at the small swarm.  “Is there any indication that they have begun to… spawn?”

 

The Ii’zyyr’aa were truly one of the more unique species Reinbold had encountered, given their ability to procreate without the need for males.  It was undoubtedly a sight to behold—but for reasons unknown, Reinbold was not eager to see it.  “So far, all of the ships congregated near the nebula have approached from outside of sensor range—probably from Velora space.  If any of them spawned, they did so prior to arriving.”

 

Harrison nodded.  “Let me know the moment something… curious crops up on sensors,” he calmly stated.  “If Doctor Hartman’s data is to be believed, those sixteen ships could very easily become thirty-two in a matter of days…”

 

“Yes sir,” Reinbold crisply replied.  She had already devoted a great deal of power to the sensors for the sole purpose of tracking the Ii’zyyr’aa—and in light of Harrison’s new directive, she decided to add a little more.  After all, it was impossible to be too careful.

 

 

 

An entire squadron of security officers following in his footsteps, Lieutenant Bator slinked through the darkened corridors of deck five.  It was his third attempt to attack the aliens in as many hours—and while those efforts had done well to contain the insectoids, the aliens were still aboard the ship.  Bator would not rest until that situation was rectified.

 

It wasn’t immediately obvious why the aliens had invaded.  Sensors indicated they had accessed the computer several times… to a limited degree of success.  The language barrier was undoubtedly a hindrance.  But they hadn’t strayed from decks five or six.  It was certain that Bator’s security measures had something to do with their containment, but the Phobian was perplexed by the aliens’ relative inaction.

 

The glowing alert klaxon bathed the corridors in haunting crimson light.  Booted feet crunched upon the soot and debris scattered across the deck, and in the distant corridors, faint clicks and screeches echoed in the stale air.  As he drew nearer the insectoid calls, Bator drew his phaser…

 

“I’m reading three Ii’zyyr’aa bio-signatures up ahead,” called Lieutenant Marizex from behind, his voice barely a whisper.

 

Bator paused, and pressed his muscular body to the wall.  The others quickly followed suit, readying their weapons for the inevitable confrontation.  Normally, Bator would have allowed himself a wan smile—after all, up until this point their trek through deck five was a perfect example of Starfleet Security protocols.  Unfortunately, Bator suspected that perfection was about to vanish…

 

Even without weapons, the Ii’zyyr’aa were formidable foes.  They were all of them alerted at the first sign of danger, and after being struck down with weapons, their response was almost always swift and deadly.  But their presence on the Starlight would not be tolerated—and as long as Bator had troops to command, they would stand and fight.

 

Sidling the cool metallic wall, Bator approached a junction in the dark corridor.  Even without looking at his tricorder, he could sense the aliens were right around the corner.  He could hear their eerie clicks.  He could feel their ominous presence.  He readied his phaser—this time increasing it to level nine.  That was enough to render most life forms unconscious—or even kill them—but given his previous encounter with the Ii’zyyr’aa, Bator suspected that not even a level nine blast would be sufficient to incapacitate the insectoids.

 

He was about to find out.

 

Moving at a seemingly glacial pace, he crept toward the end of the corridor.  Already he could see the colossal insects’ shadows playing on the wall; they appeared to be working on an EPS conduit, but it was hard to tell amidst the shadow play.  One thing, however, was quite evident: the aliens were distracted.

 

Bator thusly wasted no time exploiting this sole advantage.  With a flick of his head, he indicated their forward motion—and then burst into the corridor amidst a flurry of ragged orange phaser beams.

 

One of the aliens—the one nearest the junction—fell almost immediately, her thick black carapace oozing greenish blood onto the deck.

 

Surprised by the effectiveness of his assault, Bator gave the order to forge ahead, mercilessly firing upon the two remaining insectoids as they frantically tinkered with the computer—only these two didn’t fall so easily.  Their thick exoskeletons suddenly acted like chain mail… whether they adapted to the phasers or simply had an immunity that their sister did not, Bator wasn’t certain—but one thing was obvious… these two beasts weren’t going down.

 

Bator fired again, this time aiming for the larger alien’s head.  The streak of orange light clipped one of her gangly mandibles, but she the alien did not fall.  Instead, she shoved aside her agitated sister.

 

Bator paused, and took a few steps backward.

 

The alien followed.

 

A few phaser bursts streaked overhead, clipping the extremely agitated Ii’zyyr’aa, but by this point, it was quite obvious that this particular individual could not be felled with phasers alone.

 

She took a deck-trembling step forward, beady eyes drilling into Bator’s skull.  The Phobian continued to retreat, but the alien would not let him go.  She suddenly spewed a guttural, ear-piercing shriek into the air, stood completely erect so that her antennas grazed the ceiling—and then unfurled a set of massive wings…

 

She roared again.

 

Bator stepped backward.  “Retreat!” he called, but the order came too late.

 

The alien’s vertically cleft mouth parted.  It loomed overhead for a terribly long moment, simply glaring at the Phobian with its twitching compound eyes…

 

And then, something suddenly darted from the alien’s mouth.  For split-second, Bator thought it was a tongue, but as the burning entity slammed into his face, he very quickly realized it was some sort of venom.

 

Instinctively, Bator moved to shield himself from the onslaught—a million tiny daggers poking at his face— but the moment his hand reached his burning face, the fiery venom wrapped around his fingers and glued them in place.  Pain surged through his nostrils; his eyes dripped tears of agony…

 

And then everything went dark.

 

 

 

Erin Keller wasn’t entirely certain how much time had passed since her abduction—but if the stubble on Kendall Johnson’s chin was any indication, it had been a few days.  The two of them had been incarcerated—along with Jayla Trinn and Justin Reinbold—in a dank metallic room that was presumably aboard one of the Ii’zyyr’aa ships.

 

There were no doors.  No windows.  No chairs or tables.  There was nothing, except for the grating in the floor, which, as far as Keller could tell, did not lead to anyplace pleasant.  There was a waste-extraction facility along one of the walls, opposite the “food slot” that frequently dispensed an almost-appetizing canister of juicy black mush.  Keller had not yet tried the food (she assumed it was some sort of insectoid delicacy), but if the incarceration continued, she would have to sample it sooner or later…

 

“What do they want from us?” Justin Reinbold impatiently demanded.  It was probably the tenth time he had asked the question—of course, since the aliens had yet to make an appearance, nobody had an answer.  He sighed, and gently banged his head into the metallic wall.

 

Erin tried to keep her spirits up.  She made conversation with her friends and tried to be the leader that they needed her to be… but locked away with nothing to do, thoughts of her brother frequently crept into her mind—and that soured her mood in an instant.

 

The Ii’zyyr’aa were allies of the Velora, after all—and Brian had died while fighting the Velora some three years ago…  The situation certainly conjured up memories of Brian’s final days—but those unhappy memories were not ones that Erin was eager to recount…

 

She wanted to see in her mind’s eye, just once, Brian’s smiling face.  She wanted to hear in her mind his voice, and relive the kindred spirits they once shared when they were younger…  But with those fond memories fading so fast, the task of saving them was akin to catching lightning in a bottle.

 

Weary of her mind’s plight, Erin gently rested her head upon Kendall’s shoulder.

 

He immediately tensed.  The metallic wall was almost more inviting than Kendall’s shoulder.

 

“What’s wrong, little buddy?”

 

He glanced at Erin from the corner of his eye.  “Don’t… ah, don’t you think that might be… um, ah… a little inappropriate?”

 

“No.”  Erin shook her head.  “I just need someone to lean on right about now.  A shoulder to cry on if necessary…” She didn’t feel like explaining everything, nor did she have to.  Kendall was probably so nervous that he didn’t hear half of anything she said…

 

Justin, however, was a different story.  “Hey Erin,” he playfully called, “you can lean on my shoulder any time!”

 

But before Erin could react to Justin’s boasting, Jayla Trinn’s hand planted itself upon the boy’s shoulder, keeping him firmly in place on the floor.  “You’ve been hanging around Lucas too much.”  She looked him in the eye.  “The man is a bad influence.”

 

Justin easily shoved aside the Trill’s arm.  “Would you rather I hang out with Commander Heroic over there?” he quietly scoffed, his placid gaze gradually wandering over to Kendall.  “Maybe he can give me some dating tips…”

 

Jayla sighed.

 

Erin frowned.  She knew that Kendall and Justin didn’t exactly get along—and the longer the Ii’zyyr’aa held them captive, the worse things would get.  But then again, with Kendall so utterly traumatized by his capture, he was likely to ignore Justin completely…

 

“We… we have to get out of here,” Kendall stammered—completely oblivious to the rest of the conversation.  He was pale and sweaty—and probably just a hair’s breadth away from a complete and total breakdown.

 

Erin wrapped a comforting arm around his shoulders.  “We’ll get out of here,” she quietly assured him.  “I don’t know when or how, but—”

 

A door suddenly irised open near the foot slot, and two gangly Ii’zyyr’aa summarily shuffled into the room.  They pointed at Kendall and Jayla, shouting strident, incomprehensible orders (along the lines of “gerbils in the dictionary”) and then disembarked.

 

Jayla bolted to her feet, ready to follow the two aliens into hell—in fact, she probably would have given them ten kinds of hell on the way there.

 

Kendall vomited.

 

And then the both of them beamed away in a haze of green light.

 

Erin turned her gaze upon Justin.  “Well… now we just might find out what they want from us.”  That was definitely looking on the bright side, because whatever they wanted, Erin knew that it was not likely something pleasant…

 

 

 

“We are receiving reports from the Lylat System,” said Sor Dalem as she strode into the anteroom very near the Drinar’s bridge, padd in hand.  “The Federation’s resistance factor was even lower than anticipated.”

 

“Good.”  Prime Minister Vallis glanced up from his desk, his pale green eyes immediately falling upon the proffered padd.  “Leave it.  I shall review the data later—for the time being, the Ii’zyyr’aa are our primary concern.  Have we and reports about them?”

 

Dalem immediately shook her head.  “Not yet,” she calmly stated.  “As far as we can tell, they are still gathering near the Phendrana Drifts, but sensors continue to have difficulty scanning through the nebula.”

 

Vallis did not like being kept in the dark—especially when it came to something as dangerous as the Ii’zyyr’aa.  But until they drew nearer the Phendrana Drifts, he would have to live with it… and just hope that the Ii’zyyr’aa swarm hadn’t grown too terribly much.

 

That, of course, was wishful thinking on his behalf.  It was likely that, when the Drinar arrived in the region, the ship would be greeted by a massive swarm of enemy fighters.  Vallis was nonetheless confident in the ship’s defenses; the Ii’zyyr’aa insurrection would be quelled and the Velora Aggregate could return to normalcy.

 

He glanced toward Dalem.  “Is there anything else?”

 

Her stern gaze immediately flitted back to the padd sitting on the tabletop.  “I was hoping to discuss the tactical situation in the Lylat System,” she stated.  “When the Federation arrives, we will need to defend the installation.”

 

Death loomed air.  It was an entity, a presence that constantly lurked over the shoulders of the frail little humans.  It could not be denied—for in a few short days, Death would claim them…

 

It always did.

 

It claimed the Brenarians.

 

It claimed the Fenrivi.

 

And soon, it would claim the humans.

 

“No!” cried Vallis shaking the vile thoughts from his mind.  “Consult with Ambassador Corrin.  He as been involved with the Lylat Invasion for many months; it is his wisdom you seek, Dalem, not mine.”

 

“Very well.”  There was a hint of concern buried deep within the sentiment, but Dalem made no effort to expound upon those concerns.  It was not her place to question the Prime Minister’s judgment, especially when his reasoning was sound.

 

Corrin had been involved in the Lylat Invasion since its inception.  He was familiar with every nook and cranny of the star system, and knew best how to defend it.  Vallis, of course, would have to approve any plans, but… Corrin could develop those plans just fine.

 

Thus, Dalem excused herself, turned on her heel, and retreated to the bridge in search of Ambassador Corrin.  When the doors hiss shut behind her, Vallis immediately returned his attention to the Ii’zyyr’aa situation. 

 

If the swarm had grown more than anticipated, reinforcements might be required.  Vallis considered having a few additional warships standing by, just in case things went poorly…  After all, a swarm of Ii’zyyr’aa ships could inflict heavy damage on a global scale when attacking a planet.  One starship was probably not much of an impediment.

 

But when he reached for his computer terminal to make the call, Vallis couldn’t help but notice the padd sitting there, near the edge of his desk…

 

And, knowing what unspeakable horrors were contained therein, he cringed.

 

 

 

 

Proceed to Chapter Eight

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