Author: Brendan Chris
Previously, on Star Traks: Halfway to Haven:
<Voice of Josh Shurgroe>
“S-s-s-so l-l-l-l-last time on S-S-S-Star-“
<Voice of Dr. Janet Annerson>
“Oh for crying out loud, Josh, give me that microphone! OK people, here’s what you need to know. A weird quantum thing swapped the lost USS Roadrunner with the USS Hummingbird, a ship identical in every way except that it actually had important people on board. Back at Haven, I was trying to actually get some work done when the Roadrunner comes barrelling in, wanting all the attention, right? Because apparently our new incoming citizens and the whole inspection over this Waystation-2 thing just isn’t as important as a single tiny ship popping up out of nowhere. Anyway, somebody hijacked the Roadrunner and planted a bomb on one of Haven’s reactors. And to top that off, Wyer found out that if the Roadrunner or the Hummingbird uses the slipstream drive, they’ll swap back…along with their crews, even if their crew is a light-year away and will therefore end up breathing vacuum. Boxer, Laarthi and Mytim are stuck with the hijackers, while Virgii and Strobnick are chasing after them in one ship, while Shurgroe and Simplot chase after them in yet another ship.”
“So we’re sort of pooched right now, and if you’ll excuse me I have a lot of work to do!”
“What do you MEAN we can’t go to Warp 9?” Lt. Commander Tyler Virgii, former Acting Captain of the USS Roadrunner demanded, “We’re barely keeping up with my ship! How are we supposed to overtake them if we can’t go any faster?”
“I just found the maintenance log for this ship,” Dr. Strobnick, propulsion expert, replied calmly, “Did you know this ship is two hundred years old but it’s never had a baryon sweep? Or an EPS tap purge? Somebody just found it in the hanger, popped in a fresh dilithium crystal, topped up the fuel tanks and declared it good to go!”
“Really?” Virgii frowned, then gestured back at the pile of shrink-wrap they’d pulled off the consoles and chairs in their hasty ‘acquisition’ of the Matrian scout they had taken from one of Haven’s docking bays, “I thought it was brand new!”
“It does have very low mileage,” Strobnick admitted, “In fact, I don’t think it’s ever been taken out of the solar system.”
“And we can’t go any faster,” Virgii said flatly.
“Well, according to the specs, the ship is rated at Warp 8. I certainly wouldn’t want to tamper with the Matrian’s design specifications. Really, I’m a scientist, not some reckless engineer!” Strobnick looked indignant. At least, Virgii assumed he looked indignant. It’s always hard to read one’s expressions when one’s face is covered in stiff, black chiten.
“I certainly agree that proper regulations and procedures must be followed,” Virgii agreed slowly.
“In that case, I recommend we slow to Warp 6,” Strobnick replied, “After all, the warp core is still on its first light-year of travel. We must follow proper break-in procedures,”
“Indeed, quite right,” Virgii nodded.
A light-week or so ahead, Captain Elizabeth Simplot and Lt. Josh Shurgroe were seated in the cockpit of the runabout Cataraqui, chasing after the stolen USS Roadrunner.
“There’s a Matrian scout ship falling into a pursuit course behind us,” Shurgroe reported from the sensors, “Looks like one of Haven’s ships,”
“You mean the shiny new ships that were parked underground with the city for a couple of centuries?” Simplot asked.
“Yeah. One of t-t-those.” Shurgroe nodded, “I g-g-guess Abela wanted to send us some help,”
“Meds, Josh,” Simplot reminded him, “And you really think Abela would send people out to help us? Cuz I sort of…don’t.”
“I think it depends on whether or not she thinks we need help,” Josh said thoughtfully. He did not, however, reach for the hypospray hanging from his belt.
“We’re chasing a quantum-slipstream equipped ship that outguns us by about five to one,” Simplot said flatly, “I think we need help. In fact, now that I think about it, why are we racing after that ship anyway?”
“B-b-because it’s ours, and somebody took it,” Shurgroe shrugged.
“Right! Let’s get those bastards!” Simplot nodded firmly, “And if the Matrians are going to help us, great. This is exactly the kind of Starfleet-type thing they should be getting experience with,”
There was a beeping from one of the panels. Shurgroe tapped a few controls.
“They’re slowing to Warp 6 and falling behind,” he said.
“What?? Give me a channel!”
There was an electronic chirp as the channel was opened.
“This is Captain Elizabeth Simplot to the Matrian ship following us,” she said, “Come on, people, we have a ship to catch! This is no time to cherry-pick!”
“This is Captain Virgii of the Matrian vessel Coyote,” came the officious, British-sounding voice that Simplot was beginning to dislike, “Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that this vessel has not yet undergone the required engine break-in procedures. Therefore, we will have to limit our pursuit speed to Warp 6 or below. We really should be working up from Warp 1, but we are in an urgent situation, after all.”
Simplot looked over the Shurgrue, back at the display screens, back to Shurgroe, then up at the ceiling.
“Haven doesn’t have any ships named Coyote,” Shurgroe said, “I don’t think Matria Prime even has coyotes…or coyote-like Matrian animals. Wolf-like, maybe.”
“And aren’t you a Lt Commander?” Simplot added.
“This ship doesn’t have a dedication plaque, therefore how can I possible know the proper name without going EVA and reading it off the hull?” Virgii sniffed, “And until I am formally relieved, I will remain as Acting Captian of the Roadrunner.”
“Which, by the w-w-w-way, we’re not going to catch for another eight hours, even at current speed,” Shurgroe piped in.
“Do you want to catch your ship or NOT?” Simplot demanded.
“Indeed I do,” Virgii said, “However, I cannot deviate from proper procedures. I’m sure you understand,”
There was a click as the channel went dead.
“I’m going to kill him. Never mind getting Abela to administer a beating, I’m just going to kill him. Slowly, and painfully!” Simplot fumed.
“You should avoid upsetting her,” Strobnick said to Virgii, “She is your commanding officer, after all, and you have to be careful how you phrase things if you ever want to get tenure.”
“Send a message with the relevant regulations and policy documents highlighted,” Virgii said, “I’m sure she understands,”
“We don’t have the Starfleet General Orders, Administrative Orders or Starship Policies in this computer,” Strobnick said, sounding worried.
“Not to worry, I have the relevant order codes memorized,” Virgii said. He tapped at his panel for a few moments, glad the Matrian ship had at least been loaded with a translation matrix, “There.”
After a moment, a text-only reply came back from the Cataraqui.
“I don’t think she understands the situation after all,” Strobnick pointed out as he glanced at the reply, “But her grasp of profanity is indeed most impressive, if not anatomically feasible.”
Virgii crossed his arms and glared angrily out the window.
Back on Haven, still safely in orbit of Matria Prime, Lt Wyer was running frantically down a staircase from the upper level of the Transit Hub down to one of the inner tram stations. The Command Tower lobby, unfortunately, was a few hundred meters from the inner edge of the Hub, and he was already breathing heavy from sprinting down the corridor that connected the two. He’d nearly run right over Lt Stoneryder as the latter stepped out of the cross-corridor connecting the lower lobby of the DoPES tower.
“In a hurry, little guy?” the muscular (but not too bright) security officer called.
“Bomb!” Wyer had called over his shoulder, unwilling to stop to chat.
“OK, see ya later!” Stoneryder waved.
Wyer rushed out of the staircase and onto the tram platform. There were no trams in sight, but he knew that the city computer had already detected his presence and was routing an available tram to him. Now, if only the thing would hurry up, he could make his way out to the first of the three reactors he had to check! If ONLY the Matrians had perfected site-to-site beaming! And with the Cataraqui off chasing the Roadrunner, he couldn’t even use the Federation-tech transporter in that ship!
“Stoneryder to Wyer,” his comm-badge chirped.
“Wyer here,” he replied, “I’m sort of busy,”
“Dude, just a quick question:” Stoneryder asked, “Did you say ‘bomb’ or ‘bong’? Cuz if you’re firing up a bong, I am SO there!”
“I said BOMB!” Wyer nearly shouted, “ One one of the reactors! I have to check them and see…wait, you’re the chief of security! You’re supposed to be helping with this sort of thing!”
“Hey buddy, I’ve put WAY too much work into these pecs to have them blasted across the planet! Besides, I’ve already done my cardio for the week. No more running around for me, no sir!”
“If we don’t get the bomb disarmed, your entire precious body is going to be vaporized,” Wyer snapped.
“Hmm. Good point. OK, I’ll go check out Reactor 3. We only have three reactors, right?”
“Just go,” Wyer closed the channel. He also closed his eyes and let out a slow breath. Half of his past-lives had died in fiery explosions, many of those caused by they themselves. Wyer had no interest in blowing himself up in the name of any cause, and he couldn’t help being very, very nervous about the current situation.
The tram had finally arrived. Jumping in, Wyer tapped out a destination that would take him within a two minute jog of Reactor 1.
Colonel Myress Abela looked around the Haven Command Center with satisfaction. Lt. Franches was manning the External Security pulpit, a towel spread between his loin-clothed buttocks and the soft leather of the seat. Major Jakerd was covering the Dome Operations pulpit while one of his subordinates handled Maintenance Operations. Major Dekaire had sent up one of her lieutenants to handle the Department of Shipbuilding pulpit, really nothing more than a liaison position, and Lt Fissett had the Research & Knowledge pulpit under control. All Matrians, manning a Matrian installation. And best of all, Simplot wasn’t there to insist that she should be using terms like Ops, tactical, operations, engineering or sciences. Haven was completely under her control. Almost.
“Abela to Wyer,” she tapped at her Haven-shaped comm- badge, “Have you taken care of that bomb yet?”
“I’m just getting off the tram near Reactor 1,” Wyer reported, still panting, “Stoneryder is taking another tram to Reactor 3. If neither of us finds the bomb, we will meet at Reactor 2,”
Abela’s jaw dropped.
“Why didn’t you use the emergency bypass???” she demanded angrily, one hand going to the Traveller clipped to her belt.
“The what?” Wyer asked.
“The emergency turbolift bypass that would have taken you directly from Ops to the reactor?” Abela snapped, “It’s right on your Traveller under…oh…”
“Bypass? On my what? Traveller?” Wyer’s voice came back sounding confused.
Right. Of all the Starfleet crew, she’d only given Shurgroe a Traveller. And she hadn’t really explained to Simplot how she’d bypassed the turbolift ‘elevator only’ mode during Wyer’s little past-life incident a month or two back. Oops.
“I shall explain everything when the current situation is resolved,” Abela said stiffly.
Down in the city, swiping a hand against the security panel next to the reactor building entrance, Wyer was reaching his very last straw.
“You mean,” he said, “I could have come right out here IN MINUTES instead of running like a panicked chii-bird through the corridors? That after weeks of your constant abuse and poor leadership I now have to deal with the fact that you hid important information about city systems from me?” If Abela had been there, she would have seen his left eye twitching in a very disturbing fashion, “Is there anything ELSE you’d like to tell me before I risk my life to save you and your precious city???”
“No need to be insubordinate,” Abela sniffed, “But I suppose I’ll owe you a beer after this is all over with,”
Even as he shouted at Abela, Wyer burst into the main chamber for Reactor 1. The reactor was running in low standby, due to the limited power demands of the mostly-empty city. He pulled out his tricorder and began scanning.
“Fine, I’ll owe you dinner,” Abela conceded.
Shaking his head in disbelief, Wyer closed the channel.
A few more taps on his tricorder, another moment spent scanning the room with his eyes, and Wyer concluded that the bomb wasn’t attached to Reactor 1. He was about to run for the exit when the spare-parts replicator caught his eye. He tapped the panel, quickly searching for ‘Traveller’ in the inventory. Yup, there it was. He replicated the padd-sized device, then quickly examined the user interface. He quickly ran to the nearest turbolift, tapped at the Traveller, and within seconds was en route to Reactor 2.
Lt Rex Boxer sat in the pilot seat of the USS Roadrunner, his hands resting carefully on the armrests. His fur was standing right up, and his tongue lolled out of his mouth as he panted. If he’d been human, he would have been sweating. Not from being too warm, or from a good workout, but due to the fact that a woman was pointing a primitive but effective chemical projective weapon at the back of his head.
“Did you know,” she said casually, “That part of the push towards using phasers as a standard-issue sidearm had less to do with the non-lethal setting and more to do with the fact that if I shot you right now, I’d have to worry about whether or not the bullet would breach the hull after shredding your brain?”
Actually, Boxer did know that. It was part of his Starfleet Intelligence weapons training. He knew all sorts of interesting things, including about sixteen different scenarios for dealing with a hijacker. Unfortunately, most of them involved taking some sort of action BEFORE the hijacker pointed a weapon at his cranium.
“Um, that’s really interesting, Miss…?” he said instead.
“You can call me Amy,” the woman said, “And relax…it just so happens we’ve developed ammunition that’s solid enough to kill you, but not solid enough to puncture the hull. So don’t go thinking that I won’t kill you out of concern for my own safety.”
She pulled the trigger. There was a deafening bang as the weapon bucked in her hands. Boxer felt the air move as the bullet whizzed past his left ear. The light fixture between the front and starboard windows sparked and went dark, but there was no whistle of escaping atmosphere.
“See?” Amy said, “Now, I want you to alter course to 272.2 and increase speed to Warp 9,”
Boxer reached forward towards the console.
“Ah-ah-ah!” Amy snapped, “Slowly!”
Slowly, he tapped in the required commands. The stars streaking past the bridge windows shifted, then began sliding by at a quicker rate.
“Good,” she said. There was a sudden beeping from a side console. Not taking the weapon off Boxer she reached over and tapped the science panel. “Pursuit. Again, no surprise. Pity this ship doesn’t have a cloaking device. Oh well,”
The doors hissed open and a second person entered the room. Boxer’s nose twitched as a familiar scent entered the bridge. A scent he remembered from the first leg of his voyage on the Roadrunner, when he’d been tied up in the computer core closet by the saboteur!
“The ship is secured,” a familiar voice said, “I’ve locked the other two up, they shouldn’t be a problem,”
“Good. Take this one down below. We should be at the rendezvous point in six hours,” Amy said.
“Out of the chair, pup!” the new voice said, an accent similar to (but somehow far classier than) Virgii’s colouring her words.
Boxer slowly rose from the pilot seat and turned to face a slim woman with reddish hair.
“Penelope,” she said pleasantly, “At your service. Well, not literally. But the niceties must observed after all,”
She pulled out a phaser and pointed it at him.
“Now, slowly walk off the bridge and down to Deck Two,” she said firmly.
Lt. Laarthi woke to a pounding headache in her brain and an unpleasant smell in her nostrils. The last thing she’d remembered, she’d gone to sleep in her own quarters aboard the Roadrunner. Now judging from the smell, she was either in a garbage dumpster or in a human’s quarters. She cracked open one eye and found herself sprawled out on a bunk. She slowly rose and went to stand, only to have her foot hit something soft, electing a groan of protest.
“Ouch,” Lt. Mytim mumbled as she stirred on the floor.
Laarthi looked around, finding posters on the wall of strangely dressed humans, a guitar propped up in one corner and a magazine padd lying next to the bumk. Judging from the decor, this was probably Ensign Bott’s quarters.
“What are we doing here?” Mytim asked, pulling herself off the floor, “I’m certain I didn’t choose to sleep on the floor!”
The doors hissed open and Boxer was shoved unceremoniously into the room.
“Now sit! Stay!” a clipped, female voice said sharply, followed by a dark chuckle. The doors hissed shut. There was a series of bleeps, then the door controls went black.
“What’s going on?” Laarthi demanded.
Boxer tucked his tail between his legs.
“You remember that saboteur we thought we’d blown out the window?” he asked.
“What saboteur?” Mytim asked.
“Um,” Boxer and Laarthi exchanged a look. They hadn’t actually told anybody about the sabotage they’d uncovered on the Roadrunner, keeping it a confidential, Starfleet Intelligence matter.
“We meant back before we were posted to Starbase 341,” Laarthi cut in quickly, “We were on the USS…uh…”
“Ypres,” Boxer said helpfully.
“What’s your problem? Did I step on your foot?”
“No, I mean the ship. The Ypres,”
“What?” Laarthi was getting pissed.
“Y-P-R-E-S,” Boxer spelled out.
“Oh, you mean the Y-Press,” Laarthi said, pronouncing it like ‘why press’, as in ‘why press a shirt that’s not meant to be ironed?’
“No, I’m pretty sure the humans pronounced it like ‘yip’,” Boxer corrected her.
“Saboteur?” Mytim prompted.
“Well, more of a wanna-be saboteur,” Laarthi waved her off, then turned back to Boxer, “I’m pretty sure I understand human spelling better than you do. And I’m positive that in Earth English, it should be ‘why press’!”
“But it’s not an English city! It’s in Bulge Them!”
“It’s Belgium, you stupid mutt, and you’re just proving my point!”
“The ship’s been hijacked, hasn’t it,” Mytim sighed, finally extracting the relevant part of the oh-so irrelevant conversation, “Oh dear. Do you KNOW how long it takes your skin tone to recover from beatings? I can’t have bruises! I won’t be able to wear a bikini for months!”
“If that’s our biggest worry, I’m OK with that,” Laarthi snapped, “More likely they’ll use some sort of neural exciter that’ll make us think that every nerve in our body is being dipped in boiling oil!”
“Or they could just start cutting parts of us off, then reattaching them without anaesthetic!” Boxer added.
“That’s…really dark,” she said.
“All part of the joys of studying with Starfleet Intelligence,” Laarthi muttered.
“Nothing, never mind,” she looked around the room, “So how do we get out of here and reclaim the ship??”
“If we were in Crewman Billings’ room, we could use one of those swords he collects to pry the door open,” Boxer said brightly.
“And if we were in the armoury, we could blast our way out with a phaser rifle,” Laarthi snapped, “I think this is Ensign Bott’s room. Does he collect swords? Antique weapons? Perhaps personal teleportation devices?”
“No, but he’s got about twelve gigaquads of porn,” Mytim said, looking at the padd that had been sitting by the bed, “And…oh my!”
Mytim cleared her throat delicately and set the padd down.
“I think I know why Ensign Bott never seems interested in sitting with me at lunch,” she said.
“Too fat?” Boxer asked.
Mytim’s lip tightened as she tried very, very hard not to incinerate Boxer where he stood.
“No,” she said cooly, “But judging from the Slavic-looking men in that video, Ensign Krumenski might want to keep an eye out,”
“Well, I don’t see how that’s going to help us get out of here!” Laarthi said. She started tapping at the door controls, but there wasn’t so much as a single bleep.
As Laarthi tapped at the door and Boxer started to cautiously go through Bott’s closet, Mytim considered her options. Her powers were still unfocused and largely unpredictable. Her best effort at trying to gain control over the strange abilities she’d learned had ended with the near-incineration of an entire planet. She could try casting a spell to open, smash, melt or otherwise remove the door locking them in. But then she’d have to explain to both Laarthi and Boxer how she’d done it. She didn’t dare trying using another Memory Charm, not after what had happened to Strobnick. No, the closest she’d ever come to success with her ‘magic’ had been when she had attempted small spells. The larger a spell was, the greater potential there seemed to be for mishap. So what could she do that would be really minor, but still enough to open a blasted door?
She started reaching out with invisible fingers, following circuits and power lines, trying to meld her new abilities with the scientific part of her mind that understood intellectually how the various parts of the ship worked together. There were security systems, command protocols, voice and tactile interfaces and a primitive AI chip that at least understood when somebody wanted to pass through the door as opposed to walking past it. In the early days of the computer age, engineers would have referred to the various layers of the system, from the high-level vocal interface that allowed a crewmember to indicate a desired command, down to the interpretive software in the computer core that would decode what the user wanted and generate the appropriate commands down through the control circuits, finally down to the physical hardware that would make the door move. Of course, the system was shielded and inaccessible without the proper tools, all the better to prevent somebody from opening a locked door. And sometimes the simple solutions were the best. In this case, the command to lock the door from the outside had slid a series of pins into place that prevented the door from moving, even if the open command was somehow given to the door actuators.
All of which was fascinating to Mytim on an intellectual level. The fact that she could ‘see’ the circuits hidden beneath the bulkheads without a tricorder, or sense the power flow through the conduits was outstanding. She began considering what mechanism might be responsible…were there circuits in her brain now that were sensitive to energy fields? Maybe something had been attached to her brain, something that extended into the hyperdimensional realms of subspace?
Of course, none of this was helping her open the damned door! In fact, the more she tried to intellectualize her abilities, the weaker they seemed to get. Already she felt her tenuous understanding of the door circuits melting away. She fought to clear her mind, to re-establish what progress she’d made.
Nearby, Laarthi yawned suddenly, then seemed to shake herself back to full awareness.
“I think I have something,” Boxer said, picking up the porn-padd, “Oh, geez. How do I get rid of…there we go. Really didn’t need to see that,”
“I see where you’re going,” Laarthi nodded, prying the cover off the door controls and pulling out a few cables. They quickly rigged a connection between he padd and the door controls.
“Now, if we can get into the security protocols…” Boxer muttered.
Mytim had no idea how skilled their captors were, but she also wasn’t sure how skilled Boxer and Laarthi were when it came to breaking security systems. The fact that they might be a pair of skilled Starfleet Intelligence Agents didn’t even cross her mind. (And honestly, the fact that Boxer and Laarthi might be skilled SI Agents didn’t cross the mind of most of their SI colleagues, either.)
“I sure wish we had one of those bypass kits that Int-OW!” Boxer winced as Laarthi kicked him in the shin, giving a meaningful look towards Mytim, who was still lost in thought.
“Oh, right. I might, one of those big sledgehammers Virgii was using on Wuyan,” he corrected himself, “Cuz…you know…that would really take down the door,”
“OK, I’m ready to give this a try,” Laarthi rolled her eyes, ready to bring her finger down on the last button.
As she did, Mytim reached out and gently prodded the door AI, trying to signal that the security lockout had been cancelled and the door should be opened.
There was a burst of sparks from the door panel and an electronic-sounding squeal, then the door popped open like the panels were equipped with jetpacks.
Boxer, Laarthi and Mytim all looked at each other.
“Wasn’t expecting that to happen,” Laarthi shrugged, dropping the padd, “But let’s go!”
Up on the bridge, Penelope was securing the door while Amy sat in the pilot seat.
“You certainly were late for our rendezvous at Starbase 341,” Amy said pointedly, now that things had quieted down somewhat.
“It’s a miracle I made it there at all,” Penelope sighed, “Honestly, you have no idea how incompetent this crew is,”
“The group on Haven is no better” Amy shook her head, “But at least I had plenty of places to hide out while I waited.”
“Yes, I spent most of the last few months hiding in a cargo crate,” Penelope wrinkled her nose, “Most unpleasant. And I still don’t understand why I’m working so hard to get a relatively unimportant ship into Orion hands,”
“Because the theft of a quantum-slipstream prototype will finally push Starfleet into taking firmer actions against the Orions,” Amy said robotically, as though reading off a mission brief, “And you know Section 31 prefers to let others do their dirty work whenever possible,”
“Yes, Orions, horrah,” Penelope rolled eyes, “Really, Orion pirates? That is Section 31’s big concern?”
“Take care of the minor matters when you can, Penny dear,”
“I told you never to call me that!”
There was a sudden beeping form Penelope’s belt. She reached down and pulled out a device that resembled a souped-up tricorder. She froze.
“The Roadrunner’s crew consisted of ordinary personnel, correct?” she asked.
“Meaning none of them held a psi rating of above 4.5?”
“Correct. Can we focus, please? We need to get this ship into Orion hands and report back to Section 31,”
“I think we have a bigger problem on our hands,” Penelope said, handing her super-tricorder over to Amy.
Amy’s eyebrows rose.
“A Level 8 psi event?” she demanded.
“Still think the Orions are a pressing concern?” Penelope asked.
There was a shudder as the ship dropped out of warp, then they were plunged into darkness as the bridge lost power. A moment later, the dim emergency lights kicked in.
“No, I think our most pressing concern is currently escaping from crew quarters,” Amy sighed.
Back on Haven, Lt Wyer was in the process of turning the Number 2 Reactor room inside out. Not literally, of course, but between tapping at his tricorder and looking frantically around the room, he was giving it a pretty thorough search. He’d already checked the three cores in the reactor stack, had checked the fuel conduits and the electro-plasma conduits and had even opened the access panel to the high-energy distribution conduits that linked this reactor with high-energy systems like the engines or the energy transceiver array. Nothing.
He was getting more than a bit worried. He hadn’t done that last bit with the Number 1 reactor…he didn’t really think it was necessary. The high-energy conduits were used so rarely that planting a bomb in them wasn’t likely to cause any damage in the short-term. Now he was just about ready to jump back in the turbolift and race back before something really bad happened.
He stepped around a control panel and moved quickly along the railing on the third level of the reactor room. Running one last scan, he started looking around for a turbolift.
“Wyer to Stoneryder,” he tapped his comm-badge, “Where are you? I’ve searched the first two reactors, I’m going back to check number one again,”
“Stop shouting,” Stoneryder whispered back over the comm.
“What?” Wyer stopped in his tracks, lowering his voice.
“Um…I’m a security guy, not an engineer,” Stoneryder whispered again, “And I don’t get this funky Matrian stuff. But is there supposed to be a blinking round thing sticking to one of those reactor tube thingies?”
Wyer glanced over at the reactor stack; three rounded, cylindrical reactor cores stacked one over the other, surrounded by six vertical fuel conduits, three matter and three anti-matter. None of them had blinking round objects attached to them.
“No, definitely not!” Wyer hissed.
“Then I think you need to come here…and I need to get very far away!”
“Stay there! I’ll be right over!” Wyer snapped, pulling out his Traveller and jumping into a turbolift.
“What? Why?” Wyer whispered.
“Well, there’s a BOMB in here!” Stoneryder hissed back.
Wyer closed his eyes and brought one hand up to rub his forehead as the lift jerked into motion.
“Any luck yet?” Simplot asked.
“No,” Shurgroe groaned, “I’ve been through about fifty regulations. I can’t find ANYTHING that contradicts him. Yet!”
“I’m just going to order him to do it, dammit!” Simplot said, reaching for the comm.
“He’ll just tell you it’s not a legal order,” Shurgroe predicted.
“C’mon, you can’t know that. You’ve barely met the guy!”
“We’ve spent the last hour combing through regulations after he sent us a two-page list of regulation codes that he had memorized. W-What do you think?” Shurgroe pointed out.
“You’re probably right,” Simplot’s shoulders fell. His console beeped. “Hey, I’ve got another ship coming up behind us. Matrian, looks like one of their light-attack ships.”
“Another one from Haven?”
“No, I think this is one of the ones the government took down to the planet.”
“Open a channel,” Simplot quickly checker her hair and squared her shoulders, “This is Captain Simplot, please state your intentions,”
“This is Ensign Kesser on the Matrian ship Hollow Boots,” Kesser appeared on the screen, “Hi, ma’am!”
“Uh, hi,” Simplot frowned, “Kesser, what are you doing all the way out here in a Matrian ship?”
“I’ve got the Roadrunner’s crew with me, ma’am,” he explained.
“Stop calling me that, it makes me feel old,” Simplot complained, “And what does the Roadrunner’s crew have to do with anything?”
“Well,” Kesser swallowed, “It’s like this…”
Aboard the Coyote, Dr. Strobnick was watching the engine readouts while Lt Cmdr Virgii was trying to coax something resembling English Breakfast tea out of the Matrian replicator.
“Another light-year and we’ll be able to bump it up to Warp 7,” Strobnick said, sounding pleased.
“Very good, very good,” Virgii replied, sipping his latest attempt and wincing, “You’re sure there’s nothing on our current heading?”
“Not a thing,” Strobnick confirmed, “Unless they plan to use the slipstream drive, which would likely kill them, I can’t imagine our hijackers reaching their destination before we complete engine break-in procedures.
“Won’t Simplot feel silly, chasing after them at full speed!” Virgii chuckled.
The comm chirped.
“Speaking of,” Virgii commented, looking at the screen and setting his ‘tea’ down on the console, “I wonder what she wants this time?” He tapped the console, opening a channel. “Coyote here,” he said.
“Virgii,” Simplot said coolly, “You’ve got a problem,”
“I wouldn’t call a brand-new engine a problem,” Virgii said, “More of an opportunity! A chance to examine Matrian engineering during the break-in period gives us-“
“If we don’t catch the Roadrunner before it jumps into a quantum slipstream, you and your crew are all going to die!” Simplot cut him off.
“Is that a threat?” Dr. Strobnick asked, “Most unprofessional of you,”
Simplot stared out of the screen for a second.
“You’re an idiot,” she declared flatly, “No, the problem is that whatever malfunction brought you guys here is going to reverse itself if either you or the Hummingbird use the QS drive! And if you’re not on the Roadrunner when that happens…”
“We return to our previous location,” Strobnick suddenly understood, “Only with our current position relative to the Roadrunner’s quantum core,”
“Bingo,” Simplot nodded.
“You mean…outside the ship?” Virgii gulped.
“Yup,” Simplot said, a small smile tugging at her lips.
“You’re bluffing,” he said scornfully. Next to him, Strobnick was pointing a tricorder at himself.
“No, I’m not bluffing!” Simplot snapped, any hint of smile gone, “And if you don’t want me to announce to your crew that you’re willing to risk a very messy death for all of them just because you think that stupid ship needs a proper ‘break-in period’, you’ll get off your lazy ass and help me catch your ship! Your other ship, I mean!”
“I think she’s right,” Strobnick said, looking at his tricorder, “I’m reading some-“
“I don’t care,” Virgii cut him off, then turned to Simplot, “Fine! But I want it on record that I was opposed to this!”
“Fine!” Simplot said.
“And tell the Matrians that if I end up voiding their warranty, or violating the terms of their insurance policy that I will NOT be held responsible for the consequences!” he snapped.
“Ohhh!” Simplot fumed, “I hope you DO get sucked back into the middle of nowhere! At least then I won’t have to listen to your obnoxious bull-shit!”
With that, the channel was closed.
“I think she likes me,” Virgii said smugly to Strobnick as the later increased power to the Coyote’s engines.
“Report,” Colonel Abela demanded, standing calmly next to the holo-table, hands clasped neatly behind her back.
“The Coyote is increasing speed, falling into a closer pursuit course behind the Roadrunner,” Lt. Fissett reported, her eyes skimming over the long-range sensor readouts, “The Cataraqui is keeping pace. The Hollow Boots is trying to catch up, but they had a late start.”
“Will the Coyote catch the Roadrunner?” Abela asked.
“Don’t know,” Fissett shrugged, “I guess it depends on whether or not they use that special fast drive,”
“Hmmm. Abela to Wyer, report?”
“I’ve just met Lt. Stoneryder outside of Reactor 3,” Wyer’s voice came back, “He believes he’s located the bomb, we will attempt to disarm it.”
“Keep your voice down!” Stoneryder’s voice came over the channel.
“For the…Colonel, could you tell him it doesn’t MATTER if you whisper or not around a bomb? You’re not going to set it off!”
“Unless the trigger is tied to a noise-level monitor,” Abela said, “Some of the Matrian rebels used similar devices during the Gender Wars,”
“Really?” Fissett asked, curious.
“Really,” Abela nodded gravely.
“But we’re not dealing with a Matrian bomb!” Wyer said, “Are we?”
“I have no clue who hijacked your precious ship,” Abela shrugged.
“See?” Stoneryder said, “I TOLD you!”
“Understood,” Wyer whispered nervously, “Wyer out,”
“Should we maybe evacuate?” Fissett gulped.
“Evacuate whom?” Abela asked, gesturing out the window towards the empty city.
“Please,” Abela chuckled, “We have work to do!”
“I told you we have to speak softly around the bomb!” Stoneryder said as he and Wyer approached the Number 3 reactor stack.
“And I think you’re being silly,” Wyer replied, “My past lives have more experience in bomb-making that either your OR Abela, and none of them ever used a noise trigger!”
“Too easy to get a premature detonation,”
“I never have that problem,” Stoneryder said proudly, “That’s what made me such a good adult performer! I can practically orgasm on command!”
“I said ‘detonation’! Not…the other thing.”
“Yeah, but ‘detonation’ describes me better.” Stoneryder bragged, “That’s why I was a star!”
“And this is the man who thinks we need to whisper around explosives,” Wyer groaned quietly.
“Well, if Abela and I are so wrong, why are you still whispering?”
Shooting a dark look in Stoneryder’s direction, Wyer carefully eased around the fuel column. Sure enough, a spherical device had been tucked into the corner between the conduit itself and the feed line running from the conduit to the lower reactor core.
“Mining charge,” Wyer said softly, “Fairly standard, could have come from anywhere. Wired to a subspace radio detonator and a…a…”
His eyes suddenly bugged out and he slowly, slowly brought one hand over his mouth. He eased over to Stoneryder and brought his lips to the other officer’s ear.
“Sound level detector,” he whispered very, very softly.
“HAH!” Stoneyder exclaimed, “I F**KING TOLD YA SO!”
Wyer had turned almost grey with terror and was frantically shaking his head ‘NO!’ in Stoneryder’s direction.
The bomb suddenly started beeping.
“Oh. Oops,” Stoneryder gulped.
Amy’s hip began beeping as she and Penelope made their way down the gangway to Deck Two. She pulled a small device off her belt.
“Oh, they found the bomb on the starbase,” she commented. She tapped a button, then tucked the device back onto her belt.
“You didn’t blow up the city, did you?” Penelope asked sharply, “You KNOW Section 31 ordered us to avoid killing anybody, and especially to avoid destroying valuable assets,”
“Of course not,” Amy laughed, “I want to go shopping there once they get the malls up and running.”
“How do you know they’ll have anything good?”
“You know those USS Banshee people? I have it on good authority that they brought all kinds of interesting stuff back from Matrian space,” Amy said, “They’ve got this silk that apparently makes the best lingerie in the quadrant!”
“Do you really trust anybody from the Banshee? You know their record,” Penelope pointed out.
“I wouldn’t trust them to conduct a planetary survey without screwing it up,” Amy agreed, “But when it comes to shopping, they know their stuff.”
“So, anyway…about the starbase?”
“Oh yeah,” Amy nodded, “No, I didn’t blow them up. But that should keep them busy and out of our hair,”
“Unlike these three,” Penelope sighed. They’d stepped into the cramped engine room, only to find the main console dead and sparking, covered by what looked like claw marks. Totally useless.
“Yes, I think these three we can definitely kill,” Amy said, crossing her arms.
“What’s it doing?” Stoneyder whispered over Wyer’s ear as the latter carefully examined the bomb.
Wyer slowly let out the breath he’d been holding.
“Well it’s not blowing up, yet,” he said, relieved, “The sound trigger was only attached to the radio received. It was probably meant to let the bomber know when somebody found the device,”
“Oh thank God!” Stoneryder said, his voice back to normal level.
“But that has apparently caused the bomber to start a countdown clock,” Wyer said, as calmly as possible, “In fact, I’d say we have about ten minutes before this entire city disappears in a glowing cloud of plasma,”
“So…time to hit the lifeboats?” Stoneryder started moving towards the exit.
“Only if you feel like facing Abela afterward,” Wyer commented, “You think a whipping was bad? Matrian law actually allows for some pretty interesting punishments,
“Like what?” Stoneryder stopped, looking back at Wyer.
“Well, if she could get a judge to declare you a fugitive, she could legally hire an assassin to have you executed,”
“Sounds like Andor,” Stoneryder shivered.
“Not quite. A Matrian assassin is bound by law to give you a painless death. Andorian assassins…hell, they could rip your gonads out through your throat and the Andorian Government wouldn’t bat an eye,”
“Can we just focus on the dangerous bomb instead of talking about gonad-ripping?” Stoneryder asked, walking back to the reactor column.
“Certainly, if you’d simply shut up and let me work,” Wyer said, reaching for his engineering kit.
He’d barely begun his careful probing of the bomb when Stoneryder spoke up again.
“Transporter!” he said, “Let’s just beam the thing into space! I’m positive I learned that in some Academy class!”
“Great idea, but Matrian transporters aren’t capable of reliable site-to-site beaming,” Wyer said, checking for an inertial trigger. Nope, good. They could move the bomb.
“Oh. Runabout? No, don’t tell me,” Stoneryder shook his head, “Simplot took the runabout to chase after the Runningbird,”
“And why on Earth should I give a flying f**k?”
Wyer sort of looked at him, realizing that he really had no idea how to answer that question.
“Yeah, that’s right!” Stoneryder nodded, “I totally told you!”
“You are an easily hated human being,” Wyer said flatly.
But Stoneryder had broken into a fit of giggles. Ignoring him, Wyer returned his attention to the bomb.
“So, you’re sure we’re going to be able to start the ship again after we take care of the bad guys, right?” Boxer asked.
“I’m positive,” Laarthi said, “I am the Chief Engineer, after all!”
“Yeah, but you’re supposed to be a…um…stellar cartographer,” Boxer remembered at the last minute to use their cover-story.
“Bite me, mutt,” Laarthi muttered.
“I said ‘Might be’,” she lied.
They reached the tiny weapons closet and drew hand phasers.
“OK, time to go kill some bud guys!” Boxer said happily. A phaser beam suddenly shot right past his left ear.
“Dammit Penny, how could miss at this range?” Amy demanded. Her 9mm was gripped in her right hand. She smoothly brought the pistol up, wrapped her right hand around her left and fired three shots, all of them missing Mytim.
“I TOLD you,” Penelope snapped, firing another phaser blast at the Roadrunner officers as they ducked around a corner, “DON’T call me ‘Penny’!”
“At least finding them was easy!” Mytim remarked as they sprinted down the corridor.
“Yeah, too bad killing them apparently isn’t!” Laarthi said. She fired her phaser, narrowly missing Penelope.
“We need to get to our quarters,” Boxer panted, “We’ve got…um…things there that can help!”
“What on Earth would you have under your bed that would help in a phaser fight?” Mytim asked.
“Um…nothing,” Boxer said.
“Just a couple of gadgets I’ve been playing with,” Laarthi added, racing up the gangway to Deck Three.
Boxer started giggling, despite another near miss from Amy’s pistol.
Laarthi mentally reviewed what she’d just said, then inwardly groaned.
“Not that kind of gadgets! Just…hologram things. And maybe a personal shield, or something.”
“Hey, what you do in your room at night is your own business,” Boxer laughed
Mytim’s mind flashed back to her spellbook, carefully hidden under her own bunk. Pity the Roadrunner was such a tiny ship…there really wasn’t any way to hide from the two hijackers.
She’d pulled a trick once, right after her encounter with the blob-like aliens where her powers had…she didn’t know. Been activated? Given to her? Made to manifest? Whatever. But she’d managed to keep their small shuttle off the sensors of a pursuing ship. Maybe she could do something similar here?
They darted into Laarthi’s small quarters. Were they still on Deck Three, or had they jumped back down to Deck Two? Mytim wasn’t sure. Regardless, as Laarthi began rummaging under her bed, Mytim tried to project an illusion over the doorway. She tried to remember what her spellbook had said on the topic, but the main thing that she’d learned from the single piece of literature she had on her abilities was that words, potions and various bits and bobs held very little magical energy of their own. Their main purpose was to help her focus her power. Sure, certain crystals made it easier, and some items, such as animal parts, helped focus her energies into specific directions or patterns. But the basic element was always her own will.
Now, she willed that anybody who looked into the room would see nothing but an average, empty set of quarters. She felt something, only to have it slip away. She concentrated harder, imagining a physical wall just inside the room, a wall on which she could imprint exactly the image she wanted others to see. Again, the feeling slid away.
“Found it,” Laarthi said, pulling out her Starfleet Intelligence kit. She strapped on her holographic overlay, life-sign generator, and a small personal shield she’d been working on.
As she did, the door hissed open, revealing Penelope. Boxer brought his phaser up.
“No!” Mytim hissed, pushing his arm down and making one last stab at her spell.
His training kicked in. Unable to fire, he rolled behind the dresser and out of Penelope’s line of fire. To his surprise though, Penelope looked quickly around the room, then moved on.
Laarthi and Boxer exchanged a look.
“What, is she blind?” Laarthi demanded.
“I…uh…set my tricorder to mask our life-signs,” Mytim said, quickly grabbing a tricorder off her belt, “And it is pretty dim in here,”
“I guess,” Laarthi said, not entirely convinced. Before she could say anything else, the lights came on and the stars outside the window abruptly shifted into starlines.
“The other one must have gotten the warp core back online!” Mytim said, glad for the interruption.
“Let’s kill these bitches and get this done with!” Boxer said, standing up and moving towards the door.
“Dogs,” Laarthi muttered, following after him.
Close call, Mytem thought to herself.
“Well, the good news is that there’s no failsafe to detonate the bomb if we touch it, scan it, move it or cover it with melted cheese,” Wyer said, still hunched over the bomb, “The bad news is that there is a failsafe that will detonate it if we remove it from the conduit!”
“So remove the fuel conduit,” Stoneryder shrugged.
“That’s…” Wyer’s voice trailed off, “A really good idea, actually,”
“See? Hard to believe I only wrote the Academy entrance exam four times,” Stoneryder said…as he held up three fingers.
“Wyer to Abela, I need an emergency shut-down of Reactor 3,” Wyer said, tapping at his comm-badge.
“It’s already shut down,” Abela’s voice came back, “You do realize we’re running the whole city off of Reactor 2, what with the place being 99% deserted and all,”
“You mean, I’ve been terrified of being horrible killed along with the whole city in a devastating explosion…but the reactor’s been shut down this entire time?” Wyer demanded.
“Well, if that bomb goes off in the city, you’ll still be horribly killed,” Abela replied, “Either by the bomb, or by me charging you with criminal negligence and hiring an assassin to take care of you,”
“Wow, I thought you were making that part up!’ Stoneryder commented.
“Well in that case, get me a cutting phaser down here, now! I have fuel conduits to slice apart!” Wyer said firmly.
“You break it, you bought it!” Abela’s voice came back.
“I don’t understand,” Laarthi said as the trio made their way back to the engine compartment, “With the controls smashed, there’s no way they should have been able to re-initialize the engines! The bridge had no power!”
“I think I found what they used,” Mytim said, pointing to a small device attached to an ODN access point, “Probably some kind of control interface.” She frowned, “This looks like a Federation design. Sort of like what we use to connect to computers on derelict ships, but I’ve never seen one this compact before. Or this advanced.”
Boxer and Laarthi exchanged a glance. They knew of rumours that the Federation had a super-secret agency that handled certain issues that didn’t exactly fall under Federation law. OK, the rumour was actually that this supposed agency took care of things using techniques that were blatantly illegal. Of course, they had no idea that this agency was called Section 31, or that Penelope or Amy were Section 31 agents. But finding advanced Federation technology that even Starfleet Intelligence didn’t have access to sure brought those rumours to the front of their respective minds.
“Removing it won’t do us much good, now that they have bridge control,” Mytim was still chattering, “And of course we smashed all the consoles down here. So unless anybody cares to get drunk, I’m out of ideas,”
“Why don’t you stay here,” Laarthi said, “Boxer and I will try to take the bridge. You…guard engineering,”
“Yeah, what she said,” Boxer said, tongue lolling.
“Very well,” Mytim nodded. In truth, she was glad to get rid of her two companions. It would make it easier for her to…experiment.
“Attention all citizens, attention,” Major Jakerd’s voice filled the empty city, “Please clear all corridors and public spaces in Sectors Delta 210 to 240, and Delta through India 240. This is for your safety. We apologize for the inconvenience,”
“Who does he think he’s talking to?” Stoneryder wondered as he helped Wyer carry the detached piece of conduit, complete with bomb, out of the reactor building and towards the nearest tram station. (Unfortunately, the two of them and the conduit were too large for a turbolift.)
“I imagine Abela is making him practice,” Wyer said, shivering as the two of them stepped through a high-security door and out into the cold, wintery air of the city, “Just as she made me practice with the weather control systems,”
“Speaking of, when will it be summer again? I wanna hit the beach!”
“When Abela and Simplot say so,” Wyer said, grunting slightly as he fought to keep his balance on the slick sidewalk. Clearly the snow-clearing and de-icing bots in this sector weren’t doing their jobs today.
“C’mon man, having six-pack abs in the winter is like having a snowboard in the summer,” Stoneryder complained, “Nobody knows you’ve got it, you can’t show it off, and so, like, what’s the frickin’ point?”
“You do realize we’re going to die if we don’t have this bomb out the nearest airlock in four minutes, right?” Wyer pointed out.
“Can’t we just toss it in the lake?”
“Considering the damage a simple suicide vest did to the lakebed, a mining charge this size would risk punching a hole large enough to drain the lake into the lower levels,”
“Definately not,” Wyer said firmly.
They boarded a tram and were soon racing towards the Outer Rim, Spaceside, and a hazardous materials disposal airlock.
“Two minutes!” Wyer groaned, “We’re never going to make it!’
Stoneryder tapped his badge.
“Stoneryder to Ops,” he said, “Look, I know you’re going to be pissed if this bomb smashes up part of your city, but there’s, like, no possible way we can get it to the airlock in time without getting blown to piece. So, if you don’t mind, we’re just going to get off the train now so we don’t die horribly. Thanks,”
With that, he hit the emergency stop button on the tram. They eased to a stop, bare feet from the tunnel into the Outer Rim.
“This is Abela,” the comm chirped, “Honestly, if you had the bomb off the reactor, why didn’t you just call for an emergency transport?”
Stoneryder gave Wyer a ‘told-ya-so’ look.
“Because somebody here says Matrian transporters can’t do site-to-site,” he answered.
“They can’t,” Abela agreed, “At least, not without a fifty- fifty chance of turning the subject into molecular soup, or materializing them in the middle of a wall. Do either of you really care if that happens to the bomb?”
Wyer and Stoneryder exchanged a glance.
“Not really, no,”
“Then hold on,”
There was the sound of consoles beeping, then the bomb (and conduit) disappeared in the pink and purple sparkles of a Matrian transporter.
“I can’t believe I didn’t think of that,” Wyer sighed, scratching his head, yet at the same time feeling incredibly relieved.
“Don’t worry,” Abela said darkly, “You’ll have plenty of time to think while you supervise the reconstruction of the Uqam tram station.
Wyer just sighed.
Up in the command center, Abela watched the bomb materialize in empty space on the holo-table display. She braced herself for the brilliant explosion, and was somewhat disappointed when nothing happened.
“Give me a close view,” she ordered the table. The image zoomed in, until the bomb seemed to lift out of the table as the sensors switched from flat display to holo-view.
The bomb hadn’t detonated, however a small hatch had opened in one side. From it, a tiny flagpole had emerged and a small flag had unfurled. The word ‘BOOM!’ was printed on it in large, blocky Terran letters.
“I hate terrorists,” Abela muttered.
“I hate to leave her alone back there,” Boxer said, running for about the fiftieth time down the Roadrunner’s short corridors. “You think she’ll be OK?”
“As long as we kill these two rats before they have a chance to do anything, she’ll be just fine,” Laarthi said, “Besides, we can’t use any of our gadgets with her around or we’ll blow our cover,”
“Right. Why couldn’t we go back to my quarters for my personal shield?” Boxer asked.
“No time,” Laarthi said, activating her own. The shield wouldn’t hold long against a phaser, but it would render Amy’s pistol useless. Against her, anyway.
“Well, then you’re going in first,” Boxer said as the pair approached the gangway leading up to the bridge.
“We go in, phasers blasting,” Laarthi agreed. They each took a side of the narrow door leading to the bridge. Boxer hit the door control, and the panel slid open…
“Where’d they go?” Laarthi demanded, stepping into the bridge.
A phaser beam appeared out of nowhere, slamming into her personal shield and dissipating.
Both she and Boxer immediately returned fire, but Penelope was too quick for them. With lightening reflexes honed by Section 31 training, Penelope disengaged her personal cloaking device and switched her personal shield back on. Far stronger than anything Starfleet Intelligence could come up with, it easily deflected both blasts.
“So you are SI after all,” Penlope sneered, gesturing at the small shield generator on Laarthi’s belt.
Boxer and Laarthi fired again, but again Penelope’s shield held. She returned fire, but both Laarthi and Boxer ducked behind the door frame.
“That doesn’t tell us who you are,” Laathi called.
“Oh, I don’t think you need to know that,” Penelope chuckled, firing another shot to keep them back, “Suffice to say, I am who you wish you could be,”
“Trying to kill Starfleet officers and steal Starfleet property?” Boxer spoke up, “Nope, that’s not who I want to be. I’m a good boy!”
“You have no idea what’s happening, or why I’m doing this,” Penelope shot back.
“Do you?” Laarthi asked.
“Well…not really. But I know my superiors have their reasons!”
“How noble,” Laarthi sneered, firing another shot. Penelope’s shield was starting to flicker.
At that moment, the Roadrunner dropped out of warp.
“This is Sleeper One to Rest Stop,” she slapped her comm- badge, “Emergency evac!”
She vanished in a shower of transporter sparks.
“Raise the shields!” Laarthi snapped, “Before they can beam anybody else on or off!”
Boxer looked at the tactical panel.
“Shields were already up! They beamed her out THROUGH the shields!”
Staring out the window, Laarthi saw two things. The first was a telltale wavering of a grouping of stars directly ahead of the Roadrunner, telling her that somebody very big had just engaged a cloaking device directly ahead of them. The second was a dish-shaped assembly nearly the size of an Excelsior-class saucer.
A Quantum Stabilization Device! And it was pointed right at the heart of Federation space! Clearly, whoever Penelope had been working for was planning on sending the Roadrunner somewhere in one hell of a hurry!
“I’m re-modulating the shield frequencies,” Laarthi said, “Maybe it will block their transporters for a few minutes! See if you can get the auto-pilot disengaged so we can get back into warp!”
“The Roadrunner has stopped,” Shurgroe reported, an open channel sending his words to Virgii on the Coyote and Kesser on the Hollow Boots, “We should reach them in fifteen minutes!”
“I’m picking up another object,” Kesser reported, “Not sure what it is, but it’s giving off some weird energy readings,”
“Doesn’t matter,” Virgii said, “The most important thing is to get me…um…all of us back on the Roadrunner as quickly as possible!”
“We’ll be ready to beam the crew over the second we’re in range,” Kesser promised.
“Why do I have the feeling it’s not going to be that easy?” Simplot wondered.
Mytim sat between the main engineering console and the warp core, her legs crossed beneath her. Her eyes were closed, her energies focused on creating a shield between herself and the one entrance into engineering. As much as she wanted to believe that Laarthi and Boxer would take care of the two agents, she wasn’t willing to just sit there and do nothing.
Lucky thing, too. No sooner had a hazy wall appeared between her and the door than Amy came barrelling in, weapon drawn. She saw Mytim sitting on the floor and immediately pulled the trigger, firing three shots at the seemingly defenceless officer.
The shield warbled and rippled as the bullets were deflected, but each impact hit Mytim like a fist to the gut.
“So it’s you,” Amy said grimly, “You’re the Type-9,”
“Oh yes,” Amy said, stepping up to the shield, “We didn’t expect to find one of you here, but let’s just say that you’re…hard to miss,” She patted a sensor device on her belt and Mytim realized that the device was flashing frantically.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mytim said, on hand wrapped around her bruised-feeling stomach.
“Of course you don’t,” Amy rolled her eyes, “You just conjured a shield out of thin air for the fun of it. Normal people do it all the time.” She pressed forward. The shield held, but Mytim could feel it weakening, stretching like cooked pasta.
Mytim couldn’t understand why she was having so much trouble. On the fungus-alien planet, she’d nearly set the entire biosphere ablaze just by accident. Now she could barely do anything. Even the limited experiments she’d done on the Roadrunner before had been more successful.
Amy had pulled out her sensor device.
“Hmmm,” she said, evidently realizing that keeping her defences up was literally all Mytim could do at the moment, “Yes, Type-9 psionic, for sure. But…oh, now this is interesting!” Amy’s eyes narrowed, “You’re just a host!”
There was the sound of running footsteps.
“Oh, really, did they escape Penny?” Amy groaned, “Now I have to kill those two myself!”
She pivoted, dropped the scanner and pulled out her pistol again. She fired at Laarthi, point blank, as the feline alien rushed into engineering. The bullet must have missed though, for although Mytim saw a spark, heard a ricochet, then felt another punch as the bullet zinged off her shield, Laarthi was fine. Now Boxer rushed around the corner, taking advantage of Amy’s half-second of confusion to step behind her and point his phaser at the side of her head.
Just in time for her to disappear in transporter sparks. Mytim let her shield drop, hopefully before either of the other two Roadrunner officers could notice.
“That’s both of them!” Boxer barked triumphantly.
“Great, now let’s get to the bridge before-“
The ship shook as something hit the shields.
“Before whoever’s in that cloaked ship starts to attack us!” Laarthi finished.
They ran to the bridge.
“Dropping out of warp,” Shurgroe reported, “The other ships should be AHHHHHH!!!!”
Simplot winced as Shurgroe screamed.
“Geez, Josh!” she cried, “What’s your…HOLY HECK!!”
She yanked the runabout into evasive manoeuvres as the Roadrunner shot right at them, barely missing them as it doubled back. Behind it, phaser fire was streaking through space…though Simplot couldn’t see the ship that was firing.
“This is Lt. Laarthi aboard the Roadrunner,” the comm chirped, “Out of the way! We’re being attacked by a cloaked ship!”
“Ships can’t fire wh-wh-when they’re cloaked!” Shurgroe gulped.
The runabout rocked as one of the beams hit them. Simplot barely got the shields up in time.
“I think we found one that can!” Simplot said.
Shurgroe started jabbering.
“Roadrunner, do not, say again, DO NOT engage your slipstream drive until your crew is aboard! They’ll end up dead otherwise!” Simplot said.
“Why would we?” Laarthi demanded, “We’d be just as likely to be killed if we used it, whether they were here or not!”
“Just being thorough.”
“This is Captain Virgii of the Matrian Vessel Coyote to the hijackers of the Roadrunner,” Virgii’s voice came over the comm as the Matrian ship dropped out of warp, “Surrender my vessel at once! And why is everybody flying around like scared birds? Really, people, there are proper procedures for this sort of thing!”
“Virgii, get your shields up!” Simplot ordered.
“Now why would I do that? Sensors are quite clear!”
“Forget it,” Laarthi came over the comm.
“Roadrunner is dropping shields and beaming Virgii and Strobnick aboard,” Shurgroe said calmly. Simplot looked over and saw him clipping his medication hypo back to his belt. Finally!
No sooner had Shurgroe finished speaking than a beam of energy speared through the Coyote, ripping the scout in half. The forward section drifted away for a moment, before being consumed in the explosion from the rear section and engines.
“If Abela gets pissed about losing that ship, you’re taking the rap, Virgii!” Simplot snapped into the comm.
At this point, the Hollow Boots dropped out of warp right in the middle of the fight.
“What’s going on?” Ensign Kesser demanded.
“SHIELDS!” Laarthi and Simplot shouted.
“Oh hell,” Kesser muttered. But his shields came up in time to deflect a phaser blast.
“We’ve got to keep them busy so we can transfer the Roadrunner’s crew over,” Simplot said.
“They’re ignoring us and going after the Roadrunner,” Shurgroe said.
“There must be something out here,” Simplot cried, “A moon, a planet, and asteroid, SOMETHING!”
“A Quantum Stabilization Device,” Shurgroe added.
“Whatever, something!” Simplot said.
“No, I mean, there’s one there,” he pointed out the window at the dish-shaped object, “If I can fire it at the cloaked vessel, it might disrupt the cloaking field, or at least give those bastards something else to worry about while we beam the Roadrunner’s crew over.
“Can you interface with it?”
“Just a minute,” Shurgroe said, “You wanna update Kesser and Virgii?”
Aboard the bridge of the USS Banshee, Captain Jad Vorezze sat in his command chair and stared at the viewscreen. The flagship of Section 31, the Banshee had been sent to monitor the attempt to divert the Roadrunner into Orion hands. Her cloaking device had kept her safely off everyone’s sensors as she towed the QSD through Matrian space.
“I swear to God,” he said, “We’re probably the only ship in Section 31 that can spend fifeteen minutes shooting at four tiny ships and only manage to blow up one of them,”
“The little buggers are coming too fast!” Tactical Officer Vince DiSanto complained in his slightly effeminate voice as the Roadrunner zigged when he expected it to zag.
“That’s what Vince said,” helmsman Ben Rachow called, holding one hand up in the air, “Every single night!”
“I hate you so much,” Vince grumbled.
Oh yeah. The Banshee was one of THOSE ships.
“I’d like to remind you all,” Agent Penelope said primly from the observer’s section of the bridge, in front of the turbolift, “That our goal was to have the Roadrunner delivered into Orion hands, not to kill dozens of Starfleet officers,”
“Funny, I thought you were trying to kill some of them when we rescued you,” First Officer Charlotte Burns said cattily, one of her fake nails coming loose and fluttering to the deck as she spoke.
“Well, those three needed killing,” Penelope grumbled, “Besides, one of them turned out to be a Type-9!”
“Really?” Dr. Elizabeth Lang looked over from the science station, “Section 31 would love to get another one of those to study!”
“Don’t bother, she’s just a host,” Agent Amy Threece added as she stepped out of the lift, “She’ll either blow herself up or suck the life out of everybody around her before we get the chance to capture her,”
“Pity,” Lang sighed.
“I’m getting weird readings from the QSD,” Security Officer Dan Smith called, “Somebody started a firing sequence!”
“I thought I told you to stop messing with the equipment,” Vorezze said to Burns.
“Hey, I didn’t touch any of your toys,” Burns said indignantly. “This time,” she added quietly.
“Um,” Smith pointed at the screen. The dish-shaped device had turned in their general direction.
“What’s that going to do to us?” Vorezze asked, very quietly.
“No clue,” Lang gulped.
There was a flash of light as the QSD fired.
“Drop shields, beam everybody over from the Hollow Boots!” Virgii ordered aboard the Roadrunner.
“Except me!” Kesser cried out over the comm.
“Yes, except him,” Virgii added. Then, softer, “We don’t want panicky whiners like that aboard this ship anyway,”
“Uh, Captain?” Boxer pointed out the window.
Outside, the wash of energy from the QSD, designed to allow ships like the Roadrunner to make a single, safe trip through the slipstreams, had discharged towards the source of the phaser beams. Space was twisting as the cloaked ship was caught in the fringes of the energy blast, the vast majority of it dissipating into the quantum realms as designed, but just enough leaking into normal space to wreck havoc on the apparently big ship’s cloak.
“That looks like a Federation ship,” Virgii said, his mouth suddenly going dry.
“Josh, are you seeing this?” Simplot said, her mouth hanging open, “I think that’s a Sovereign-class ship!”
“Somebody stole a Sovereign?” Shurgroe blinked, “A Sovereign that can cloak? A Sovereign that can FIRE while CLOAKED?? Then why would they want a little ship like the Roadrunner?”
“I have no idea,” Simplot said.
“This is the Roadrunner, transport complete,” Virgii’s voice came over the comm.
“Then you might want to get out of here,” Simplot said dryly.
“Why?” Virgii wondered.
“Because I think that just made them mad,” Simplot said.
“They’re trying to get a tractor beam on us!” Boxer reported from tactical.
“Well, then stop them,” Virgii said, settling happily back into his chair, “Use…what was it…emergency procedure 24-A!”
“Jettison the waste reclamation tanks?” he asked.
“No, the one about shifting shield frequencies,” Virgii corrected.
“Ahh,” Strobnick nodded, “You mean 24-C,”
“Whatever, just do it,”
Boxer worked the shield controls while Crewman Billings took the helm and pulled the ship into evasive manoeuvres.
“According to my readings, the quantum link between ourselves and the USS Hummingbird will dissipate in eight point four minutes,” Strobnick said.
“And you bring that up now WHY?” Virgii demanded.
“Because,” Strobnick pointed out, “If we activate the QS drive before that time, we will return to our original location, while the Hummingbird will return here,”
“You really want to be stuck years from home again?” Virgii demanded.
“Do you really want to be here, being changed by a starship fifty times your size?” Mytime exclaimed.
“Never mind that if the high-ranking Admirals and dignitaries on the Hummingbird survive the trip back, our performance reports will probably be extremely negative,” Strobnick gulped, “And…they’ll probably backdate them right up to today!”
The ship shook again, as if to prove her point.
“Shields at ten percent!” Boxer reported.
“Oh very well,” Virgii grumbled, “Hopefully the Admirals on the Hummingbird have better luck. Engage the drive!”
Aboard the Banshee, Amy and Penelope were leaning on the bridge railing.
“I don’t care about the rest, but we want the dog, the cat, and the Type-9!” Penelope said firmly as another phaser beam struck the small ship on the screen.
“Yeah, whatever,” Vorezze said, sounding bored, “Just as long as you finish off with them in time to pilot the ship into Orion hands.
“I’m getting weird readings from the Roadrunner,” Lang called out, “I think they’re engaging the quantum slipstream drive!”
“What? Isn’t that sort of suicidal?” Jad asked.
“Like staying here with us isn’t?” Charlotte pointed out.
“The way we’re shooting today, that’s debatable,” Vorezze sighed.
On the screen, the Roadrunner’s ring nacelle glowed to life. The ship almost seemed to jump, jolting forward while simultaneously returning to its former position. Space twisted, then abruptly solidified
The ship stayed where it was. Another phaser beam crashed into it, this time slicing the port nacelle clean off.
“Yes! Fabulous!” Vince cried out.
“Funny, I don’t remember their shields going down,” Smith said.
“And this is the technology the Orions want to ‘steal’?” Ranchow asked.
“This is Admiral Thomas Wagner aboard the USS Hummingbird, hailing the unidentified Sovereign-class ship,” a very, very angry voice came over the comm, “You better have a damned good reason for firing on us, you bastards! And what the hell happened anyway? Where’s Starbase 341? How did we get back? What’s going on???”
“Uh oh,” Burns muttered, “That’s not a good sound,”
“No…no it isn’t,” Vorezze said. Now that there was an Admiral involved, and now that their target ship had somehow…again…disappeared to wherever they’d been for the past few months, the mission had suddenly changed.
“OK people,” he said cheerfully, standing up and straightening his tunic, “Time for some quality covering of our collective butts! Tell Dr. Isaac to get ready for some brain wiping, and tell Commander Riley to get ready reattach that nacelle we just…accidentally…severed. I think handing that ship over to the Orions is no longer an option.”
Amy and Penelope did not look pleased.
“Tractor locks established on the Hummingbird and runabout,” Smith reported, “And we’ve beamed the pilot off the alien ship,”
“Beam the crews to Sickbay, and let’s start erasing some memories, Section 31 style,” Vorezze said, rubbing his hands together.
“You are disturbingly excited about this whole situation,” Penelope said, sneering.
“Don’t worry ladies,” Vorezze smiled, “We’ll just make it as though this little incident never happened. And sooner or later, the Roadrunner will be back,”
Several hours later…
Colonel Abela was just getting ready to leave the command center at the end of her shift when Lt. Fissett’s panel started beeping.
“The Cataraqui, Hollow Boots and USS Hummingbird have just dropped out of warp,” she reported, “Captain Simplot is hailing us,”
“Vacation is over,” she muttered, “On screen,”
“Hey, Colonel,” Simplot waved, “We’ve got some tired people here ready for some R&R,”
“What happened?” Abela demanded, “Didn’t you leave chasing after the Roadrunner?”
“Yeah, we barely caught them before that quantum invert-thingy happened again, and the Hummingbird popped out of subspace like fish jumping out of water,” Simplot shrugged, “So we’re right back at square one. Hope you’re ready to show the Admiral a good time!”
“Wait..what?” Abela demanded.
“The Waystation-2 thing,” Simplot cocked her head, “Weren’t you getting ready for that? Don’t tell me you spent the last day sitting around here doing nothing!”
“We had a…bomb threat,” she said tightly.
“Well, maybe we can convince the Admiral to give us another half-day to prepare,” Simplot sighed, “Either way, I’m glad to be home,”
She cut the channel.
Around her, the command center crew started exchanging nervous glances.
“I knew running this place alone seemed too easy,” Abela muttered to herself quietly, “I am SO screwed,”