Author: Alan Decker
Star Traks: The Lost Years #10
Is That A Fleet In Your Pocket…?
In my Starfleet career, I, on occasion, faced odds so daunting that the only response my mind could suggest was to scream and wet myself. This was one of those times. Fortunately, I had the decorum to veto that course of action.
Excerpt from “Secondprizes and Second Chances: The Making of a Yynsian Captain”
By Captain Jaroch. Published 2411.
As Captain Alexander Rydell looked at the viewscreen, a viewscreen filled with starships all with their weapon systems locked on the USS Secondprize, he idly wondered how they were all going to manage to shoot his ship without hitting each other. There was only so much room inside the asteroid field for all of those ships to surround the Secondprize.
“Think they’ll let us just back on out of here?” Karina Durham asked. Rydell flashed her a weak smile as she leaned back against the sidewall of the bridge.
“Um…sir,” Lieutenant Prescott broke in from tactical. “What do you want me to do?”
“Get to the biggest window you can find and start waving a white flag,” Rydell replied.
“Maybe they do not wish us to surrender,” Jaroch said.
“Well, I sure as hell am not going to start shooting at them just for locking several hundred photon torpedoes on us,” Rydell replied. He turned to Prescott. “Try hailing somebody.”
“Just pick one!”
“Oookay…wait. We’re being hailed.”
Rydell breathed a slight sigh of relief. “See. They want to talk about this after all.”
“Or they simply wish to introduce themselves before reducing us to our component molecules,” Jaroch said.
Rydell quickly glared at Jaroch, then turned back to the viewscreen just as the image shifted to show an older Asian man, probably late fifties to sixties, in a Starfleet uniform standing in some kind of control room. Rydell would have been relieved except for the fact that the uniform this man was wearing was in a style that was pushing 100 years old.
Upon seeing Rydell, the man (an admiral judging by his rank insignia) broke into a broad grin. “Captain Alexander Rydell. What an unexpected, yet entirely appropriate surprise!”
“Do I know you?” Rydell asked.
“How rude of me. Admiral Hitori Sulu. Perhaps you are familiar with cousin’s great grandfather, HIKARU Sulu.”
“I’ve heard the name,” Rydell replied. “But that still doesn’t explain why you know me, why you’re here with an entire fleet, and why they’re all pointing weapons at us!”
“Such a tone,” Sulu said, clicking his tongue disapprovingly. “Don’t you have any gratitude for the man who gave you your command?”
Rydell started to protest. “My orders were signed by…”
“Yes, I know who signed them, but I put it all in motion. Really, you had a very simple role to play, Captain, and you screwed it up! Now I don’t know how you found us or how you knew to arrive on this particular day, but you will be telling me all of this VERY soon.”
“Listen, Sulu, none of this is making any sense to me.”
“Let me clarify then. You will immediately transport yourself to the coordinates we are transmitting now. If you attempt to run, your ship will be destroyed. If you do not materialized in the next five minutes, your ship will be destroyed.
Damn. Rydell hated it when things were this clear. “How do I know you won’t blow my ship up anyway once I beam over there?”
“What reason would I possibly have to do that?” Sulu asked.
“Got me. I don’t know the reason you’re doing any of this.”
“All in due time. Sulu out.” The admiral vanished as the viewscreen shifted back to show the armada of vessels outside. Rydell wasn’t sure which image was more disconcerting.
Rydell ran his hand back through his hair anxiously. “Anybody got a bead on this one?”
“No wonder Admiral Wyndham led us here,” Lieutenant Commander Emily Sullivan said from the conn console. “They’re throwing a nutbar convention.”
“They would appear to be quite well armed nutbars,” Jaroch said.
“Did you manage to learn anything useful?” Rydell asked.
“The signal we received originated in a hollowed out asteroid located near the middle of the field. That is also where the transporter coordinates we received will send you. Also, I may have deciphered one small bit of Wyndham’s ravings.”
Jaroch pressed a control on his console, causing the view to zoom in on the name stenciled on the secondary hull of the Ambassador class starship hovering off of their port bow.
“Well that explains that,” Rydell said. “Guess Wyndham was right about the condors flocking.”
“Unfortunately. But aside from the asteroid base and the Federation-style vessels, we have one other bit of company.”
“A fleet of angry Borg cubes, perhaps,” Rydell muttered.
“Not at all; however, that does give me an idea,” Jaroch said thoughtfully. He shook the thought aside and changed the view on the screen to show a fairly large cargo freighter.
“Significance?” Rydell asked.
“I have no idea. My scans will not penetrate the hull.”
“Maybe the don’t like people looking at their stuff,” Karina said.
“That would certainly fit in with the theme of the day,” Rydell said. “Well, I’d love to stay and chat, folks, but I have to go beam into certain doom.” He headed toward the turbolift.
“On the contrary,” Jaroch said. “Considering how little we know, I’d say your odds of doom are only about 87 percent.”
“Great. I feel much better,” Rydell replied unconvincingly as he entered the turbolift. Karina jogged inside just before the lift doors closed.
While Lieutenant Commander Patricia Hawkins gradually regained consciousness, she couldn’t shake the overall feeling that she was on a boat, a small, unstable one most likely. Maybe she’d open her eyes and find herself back on that little fishing skiff her father had owned while he and Hawkins’s mother did their studies of the lost Kkkkkkkkikkkkkiekkkkk tribe of Betelgeuse Three. As far as her parents’ cultural anthropology assignments went, Betelgeuse Three was one of the more pleasant ones.
But then Hawkins realized she couldn’t hear the ocean, or any water at all. Instead the air was filled with the low hum of something electronic. She hesitantly opened her eyes, trying to clear her head and her vision so she could figure out where she was and just how the hell she’d gotten there.
A sudden twinge in her side reminded her about the second part. She pulled up her uniform top just enough to see the small red puncture wound where Spaanz had injected her with whatever drug had knocked her completely unconscious.
Moving her attention away from her person to her overall surroundings, she realized why she felt a bit seasick. She was standing on a transparent aluminum floor through which she could see a rocky floor at least fifteen feet below. Transparent aluminum walls surrounded her on three sides, and the fourth wall and ceiling where forcefields. This entire enclosure, which was about eight feet square, had been suspended from the ceiling of what appeared to be some type of cavern. Hanging about ten feet away was another box containing the unconscious form of Commander Travis Dillon.
“Travis!” Hawkins called.
Dillon grunted and rolled over onto his stomach in his sleep.
“Unhh!” he muttered, then wrapped his arm around his head, covering his ears.
“What?” Dillon snapped tiredly without opening his eyes. “It’s not time to get up yet.”
“Where the hell do you think we are?” Hawkins said.
“Bed…really firm tonight.”
“Just open your damn eyes!”
Dillon did as he was told. A rocky abyss yawned below him.
“AHHHHHHHHH!” Dillon leapt to his feet and charged forward without thinking, sending himself plowing straight into the forcefield.
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZAAAAPPPPPPPPPPPOOOOO OOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW W!!!!!
“AAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!” Dillon wailed, falling back onto his rear end with a thud.
“Morning, sunshine,” Hawkins said humorlessly.
“What the hell…those damn Vulcans!” Dillon exclaimed, remembering what had happened in bar on Demon’s Sanctum. “We’ve got to get out of here.”
“I agree, but we don’t even know where here is.”
“Here is everywhere I don’t want to be,” Dillon replied. He surveyed his surroundings for a moment, taking in the layout of his prison. “Aha!” he cried excitedly, realizing his commbadge was still on his uniform. “Our captors aren’t as clever as they thought.” He tapped the badge. “Dillon to Secondprize.”
So much for that.
“Travis, just relax and let’s come at this with a plan,” Hawkins said, her irritation growing.
“I already have a plan,” Dillon replied, yanking the commbadge off of his uniform.
“Don’t do it, Travis.”
“Just relax,” Dillon said, taking off his uniform jacket and wrapping it around his hand. He clutched the commbadge in his cloth covered fingers, then jabbed it in one of the small forcefield emitters lining the exit of his hanging cell. The forcefield crackled satisfyingly, then winked out of existence.
Dillon was about to give Hawkins a smug “I told you so” look, when he was suddenly sucked off his feet by the complete and total vacuum outside of his cell. At the last second, he managed to get a grip on the doorframe as the air in the enclosure rushed by him. He gulped down as much as he could as he frantically looked around for some way out of this.
Suddenly, a figure in an environmental suit sailed up using rocket boots. He grabbed Dillon, flung him back into the now empty cell, and set to work attaching a small device to the doorframe. A few seconds later, the forcefield, which was now being generated by the new device, crackled back to life and air flooded back into the box. Dillon greedily sucked it in as he lay in a heap on the floor.
“You were allowed that much progress in your escape simply because I wanted you to understand the futility of it,” an unfamiliar voice boomed seemingly from out of nowhere. “I am not ready to kill you yet, but if you try to escape again, I assure you that my plans can be rearranged. Sulu out.”
“Sulu?” Hawkins asked confused as the voice faded away. “Isn’t he dead?”
“There’s an Admiral Sulu,” Dillon said weakly. “But he’s on our side.”
“Somebody needs to tell him that,” Hawkins replied. Dillon groaned softly.
“Are you all right?” Hawkins asked, feeling a little annoyed.
“I will be if I just lie here for a while.”
“Looks like we’ll have plenty of time for that.”
“Yippee,” Dillon said flatly.
Karina waited until the turbolift doors closed, cutting them off from the bridge, before laying into Rydell. “Have you completely lost your mind?”
“Deck six.” The turbolift began to move as Rydell turned to face Karina. “I thought you respected my authority on my ship,” Rydell said.
“I didn’t say anything in front of your crew, but if you think I’m just going to stand aside and let you beam over into some death trap, you’re nuts!”
“There seems to be a lot of it going around.”
“Joke all you want, but I’m going with you.”
Rydell shook his head. “Sorry. It was a private invitation.”
“Hold lift.” The turbolift slowed to a halt as Rydell looked at Karina intently. It was the most serious that she had ever seen him. “Right now the only thing preventing us from being completely annihilated is that we’re doing what we’re told. I don’t like it anymore than you do, but until we find out exactly what the hell is going on here, I don’t see that we have any choice. That means I am going over there.”
“And what are we supposed to do in the meantime?”
“My crew will hold the ship together. But you are going to the shuttlebay to get your ship ready to go.”
“I am not leaving! Besides, they’d shoot me before I cleared the asteroid ring.”
“They don’t know you’re here,” Rydell said. “If things get bad while I’m gone…”
“Meaning we start getting blasted to sh**.”
“Exactly. If that happens, you make a run for Waystation. Starfleet has to be told what’s going on here.”
Karina nodded solemnly as Rydell ordered the lift to resume its movement. A short time later, Rydell stepped into Transporter Room One. Upon seeing him, Lieutenant Commander Monica Vaughn immediately broke into a sly grin. She was about to make one of her trademark lecherous comments when Rydell shot her a glare and gestured behind him just as Karina followed him inside. Vaughn’ grin immediately vanished as she slipped into professional mode.
“Coordinates have been laid in, sir,” she said.
Rydell hopped up onto the transporter pad and flashed a smile at Karina. “Catch you later, gorgeous. Energize.”
Karina returned as much of a smile as she could muster as Rydell dematerialized.
Rydell reappeared moments later inside the same control room he’d seen Sulu broadcasting from. Sulu was waiting for him, a broad smile covering his face. Behind him stood two people Rydell would have been quite happy never to have seen again, Spaanz and Taanz, the two Vulcans who’d beaten the crap out of him and stolen Bradley Dillon’s prototype subspace generator. Rydell had to assume that they’d been working for Sulu all along. The trick now would be to find out what Sulu was up to.
“I guess you’d like to know what I’m up to,” Sulu said as he shook Rydell’s hand firmly.
Okay. Maybe it wouldn’t be so much of a trick after all.
“If you feel like sharing,’ Rydell said, keeping his eyes on Spaanz and Taanz at all time.
“Oh yes. I’d forgotten that you and my associates here are already acquainted.”
“They certainly acquainted their fists with my face,” Rydell replied ruefully.
Sulu turned to the hulking Vulcans. “Please collect our other guests. Captain Rydell and I will be fine here.”
“Absolutely,” Rydell said, forcing a smile. There were about fifteen other people, all dressed in old-style Starfleet uniforms, milling about the control room, so Rydell wouldn’t have an opportunity to try anything even with Spaanz and Taanz gone.
The Vulcans exited, leaving Rydell and Sulu standing at the rear of the control room watching the activity in front of them. Massive viewscreens on the front wall of the room showed the various positions of the ships inside the asteroid ring. Unfortunately, all of them except the freighter Jaroch had detected were aimed right at the Secondprize.
“Welcome to the Next Federation,” Sulu said proudly.
“Um…no offense, but the current one doesn’t seem like it’s going to want to be replaced any time soon.”
“Well, there will certainly be some shoving in order, but the current Federation is a disgrace to the name. It’s a disgrace to my name!”
“How do you figure?”
“You went to the Academy, Rydell. You’ve read the history books about our glory days, the days of Pike, Kirk, and the legendary Hikaru Sulu, MY relative.”
“Yeah. You’ve mentioned that part.”
“In those days, we explored the cosmos.”
“We explore now.”
“But then we weren’t afraid to get into a fight when we needed to. Now all we do is talk and talk and talk. Starfleet spends so much time shuttling around ambassadors and such that our ships don’t have time for exploration. And when they aren’t shuttling, they’re fending off attacks from other species who think we’re weak precisely because we talk when we should be showing some muscle. It’s intolerable!”
“You were an admiral right? That gives you some pull doesn’t it?”
“I tried that route, but I cannot change the entire council. A revolution is in order.”
“You don’t have to start a civil war.”
“I didn’t want this to be violent, Rydell. That’s why I recruited you in the first place,” Sulu said.
“I don’t know who you think I am, but I’d never even heard your name until today.”
“How do you think a lazy non-conformist like you ever got to be captain of a starship?” Sulu replied. “Why do you think you ended up with the…unique…crew that you did?”
“…was one of my people,” Sulu finished. “Before the unfortunate loss of his faculties. I guess the strain of crewing the Secondprize was too much for him.”
“But why us?” Rydell asked confused. “What could we possibly accomplish to help you?”
“Destabilization!” Sulu snapped. “With the Secondprize out screwing things up, sentiment across the Federation would turn against the current regime. They’d see that the new way wasn’t working, but then you didn’t screw up enough!”
“Sorry about that.”
“I made other attempts. The Aerostar…”
“But I thought that was a changeling conspiracy.”
“Only for the captain. I put the crew together, but again they didn’t get the job done badly enough. Then there was the Banshee, but they went and got themselves blown up.”
“Um…sure they did,” Rydell replied.
“In short, I had to handle things myself. Fortunately, I’ve spent the last several years recruiting those with similar mindsets. And now my Next Federation is ready to ascend. This very day, we launch our assault on Earth.”
“No offense, Sulu, but I think somebody might notice that a giant fleet is heading in the direction of the Federation’s capital world.”
“Not if they don’t see us coming.”
“Even better,” Sulu said, stepping over to a terminal where he magnified the view of the lone freighter on the viewscreen. “And I have you to thank for it…indirectly.”
“Me? What’d I do now?”
Back on the Secondprize, Commander Jaroch sat silently in the command chair watching the fleet looming ahead of them on the viewscreen. His mind raced through various strategies and scenarios, trying to come up with some way to get the Secondprize out of the asteroid ring before they were reduced to debris by the fleet in front of them.
He wasn’t having much luck.
“Um…Commander?” Lieutenant Andrea Carr said hesitantly from ops.
“What is it, Lieutenant?” Jaroch replied distractedly.
“Well…I was thinking, and I think we may have some help we could call.”
“We’ve tried that. All of our communications are being jammed at the moment.”
“All of our normal communications,” Carr said. “But who I’m thinking of doesn’t use normal comm frequencies.”
Jaroch was silent for a moment, considering whether he should even entertain Carr’s idea. Her record would suggest listening to what she had to say. She had been invaluable on several occasions. Perhaps there was something he overlooked.
Carr briefly laid out her idea, which had the very unusual effect of making the normally stoic Yynsian smile.
As Admiral Sulu worked at the computer console, Rydell wondered just how he could have indirectly assisted an invasion plan. “Ta da!” Sulu said as several points along the image of the freighter’s hull began to flash.
“What are those?” Rydell asked.
“A short time ago, a Miss Karina Durham, who I believe is an acquaintance of yours, obtained a prototype subspace generator from Dillon Enterprises Research and Development. Of course, they didn’t really develop the original technology. My sources tell me that Bradley Dillon obtained a subspace pocket from a race called the Bast several years ago, but his company improved the technology such that it was capable of storing entire vessels. As you know, my colleagues Spaanz and Taanz obtained the device from you and Miss Durham, then we put it into mass production.” Sulu pointed at the viewscreen. “There is the result: a freighter lined with generators and capable of transporting an entire fleet without anyone suspecting a thing.”
“So you show up at Earth…”
“After a quick stop to pick up Waystation. We need a base of operations.”
Rydell’s teeth clenched angrily. “So you attack Waystation, then head to Earth and…
“SURPRISE! Instant invasion force. Most ingenious, wouldn’t you say? But then, I am a Sulu.”
“Hikaru Sulu was devoted to Starfleet and the Federation,” Rydell said.
“And so am I. As far as I’m concerned, the current regime has committed treason, and so have you for supporting them.”
Spaanz and Taanz returned, holding Dillon and Hawkins at phaser point.
“Captain!” Dillon and Hawkins exclaimed happily.
“Don’t get too excited,” Rydell replied. “I’m not exactly here by choice either.”
Dillon turned on Admiral Sulu. “With all due respect, sir, I don’t know what you’re up to, but if you wanted to see us that badly, you could have just ordered us to come. We’re all Starfleet Officers here.”
“I didn’t want you here at all,” Sulu said, looking at Dillon with disgust. “The whole point of having a secret base is that it remain SECRET!”
“Captain, what’s going on here?” Hawkins asked Rydell.
“Disgruntled Starfleet Officer plans to attack Earth and overthrow the Federation. The usual,” Rydell replied.
Sulu’s face hardened. “You’re awfully glib for a man who’s about to be executed.”
“Woah! Who said anything about executed?” Rydell demanded.
“I already told you, you’ve committed treason against the Next Federation.” Sulu pointed at Dillon and Hawkins. “And so have those two. Anyone who supports the current corrupted regime is a traitor and will be treated as such.”
“Admiral, the freighter reports all flight checks complete. We may depart at any time,” one of Sulu’s officers reported from a nearby console.
“Good,” Sulu said. “We’ll pocket the fleet momentarily. But first, one little piece of business. Open a channel to the Condors and the Secondprize.”
“All ships, this is Admiral Sulu. We are moments away from the dawn of the Next Federation. But for this dawn to break, the shadows of the previous regime must be banished to the darkness from whence they came. Before you now is one such shadow. The crew of the USS Secondprize is guilty of treason against our beloved Next Federation. Their sentence is death, and you, my loyal friends, are my executioners. You may fire at will.”
“NO!!!” Rydell screamed, diving at Sulu. Before he got even a foot, Spaanz’s meaty hand grabbed him in mid-air and slammed him down to the deck.
“…You may fire at will.”
As Sulu’s words faded from the air, Jaroch jumped up out of the command chair. “All power to forward and upper shield generators. Emergency dive! That backup had best arrive soon, Lieutenant.”
Carr didn’t reply. She was too busy gripping her console for dear life as Lieutenant Commander Emily Sullivan sent the Secondprize into a steep dive.
“They’re opening fire!” Lieutenant Prescott shouted from tactical. Almost immediately, the ship rocked and bucked from the impacts of phasers against the shields. “Transwarp conduit opening at coordinates 478 mark 6. A cube ship is emerging.”
“I never thought I’d say this, but go Borg,” Jaroch said.
The Borg communal voice boomed over the comm systems of every ship and the asteroid base. “USS SECONDPRIZE, WE HAVE ARRIVED TO UPHOLD OUR END OF THE AGREEMENT. YOUR ENEMIES WILL BE DESTROYED.”
Rydell saw Sulu blanch ever so slightly, then he turned his attention to Hawkins and Dillon, neither of whom would meet his gaze. “Um…would you mind explaining to me exactly what deal we have with the Borg?”
Dillon shuffled his feet a bit. “Uh…you tell him, Patricia.”
“Me? You’re his first officer, you tell him!”
“You remember that time you were made king of the Borg?” Dillon began, smiling weakly.
“Yes,” Rydell replied, gesturing for Dillon to continue.
“Well…um…you kind of got fired. And in exchange for us taking you back, the Borg agreed to attack anyone who attacked us.”
Rydell was silent as he watched events unfold on the viewscreen. The Next Federation ships had broken off their attack on the Secondprize and were now regrouping to face the new threat.
“Sir?” Hawkins said. “Are you okay?”
“Don’t bother me. I’m trying to decide whether I’m really mad or really relieved.”
Sulu’s voice broke in as he barked new orders to his ships. “Condors 56-60, activate polaron destabilizers.”
“But sir…” a voice protested over the comm system.
“Aye,”the voice replied hesitantly.
Five ships rushed to the head of the fleet on a course for the Borg cube. Suddenly, a blinding beam of pure white light lanced out from the underside of each saucer, all slamming into the cube at the same point…then drilling straight through.
As the beams shut down one by one, a massive gaping hole through the center of the cube came into view as Rydell, Dillon, and Hawkins looked on in stunned shock.
“USS SECONDPRIZE,” the Borg voice said again. “YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN.”
And just as abruptly as it had arrived, the Borg ship vanished into another transwarp conduit.
“Status report,” Sulu snapped.
“As expected, the polaron assemblies on Condors 56 through 60 have melted. That was all five of our prototypes, Admiral,” the nearby officer, who seemed to be Sulu’s personal assistant, reported.
“Very well, Mr. Radley,” Sulu said. “Sulu to fleet. Resume your attack on the Secondprize.”
Rydell, Dillon, and Hawkins could only watch as the ships of the Next Federation fleet turned menacingly toward their ship.
“How soon until we reach the edge of the asteroid ring?” Jaroch asked. While the Next Federation fleet had been occupied with the Borg, the Secondprize had been trying to make a break for it.
“Fifteen seconds,” Sullivan replied.
The entire crew was suddenly and violently jolted out of their seats as another barrage of weaponry slammed into them from above. All around, consoles sparked as the lights flickered.
“Now maybe a bit longer.”
Down in the Secondprize’s main shuttlebay, Karina Durham picked herself up off of the deck of her ship, the Acapella II, after being knocked to the ground by the last volley of weapons fire. You didn’t have to be a tactical genius to guess how this particular battle was going to turn out.
“Acapella II to Secondprize,” she said, climbing into her pilot’s chair. “Open the shuttlebay doors.”
“Negative,” Jaroch’s voice replied. “Leaving at this juncture is beyond inadvisable.”
“I’m operating on orders from Alex.”
“I have only your word for that,” Jaroch said as the ship shook again. “I cannot allow you to depart.”
“Somehow I think you’re too busy to stop me. Acapella II out.” Karina gently lifted her ship up off the deck and smashed her thumb down on her weapons control. Disruptor blasts seared forward, obliterating the Secondprize’s shuttlebay doors and clearing her path. She slammed the ship into full impulse and rocketed out of the Secondprize.
Once again, Jaroch found himself sprawled awkwardly on the bridge carpet after yet another in a seemingly endless series of blasts shook the Secondprize.
“She just shot her way out!” Prescott said.
“Can we get a tractor beam on her?”
“Not a chance. She’s really moving…she’s out of the asteroid ring.” The ship lurched to starboard, plunging the bridge into darkness.
“Shields down!” Prescott said as the emergency backups kicked on.
“Engineering to bridge,” Commander Scott Baird’s voice called over the comm system. “I had to shut down the core before we f***ing exploded!”
“That may be happening anyway,” Jaroch replied grimly.
“Real f***ing funny, Jaroch.”
“How are our other systems?” Jaroch asked, ignoring Baird’s reply.
“What other systems? Impulse is down, shields are down, weapons are down; life support’s about we’ve got left.”
“Sir!” Sullivan shouted from the conn.
Jaroch looked up at the viewscreen as an asteroid loomed into view.
“We’re drifting right into it,” Sullivan said. “I can’t do anything!”
“All hands, brace for collision!” Jaroch shouted. He ignored the panicked demands to know what sort of collision it would be and whether or not the Secondprize had insurance coverage for this sort of thing coming from the other end of the comm line.
The voices quickly switched to terrorized screaming as the Secondprize smashed into the asteroid like a crippled jet liner attempting an emergency landing. The secondary hull hit first, scraping roughly across the mountainous surface of the giant mass. It came to an abrupt halt as the deflector dish crashed into a rocky ridge, which rose up half of the height of the neck connecting the secondary hull to the saucer. The inertia was enough to rip the warp nacelles right off of their pylons, sending each rocketing forward across the upper plateau of the ridge.
Fortunately, the saucer didn’t suffer the same fate. Instead, it jolted to a stop, slamming every person on board into the bulkhead in front of them, then smashed down onto the ridge plateau. In the space of a few short seconds, the Excelsior-class starship had been reduced to a twisted hulk marooned on the surface of an out-of-the-way asteroid.
“So much for them,” Sulu said with satisfaction. “All Condors, reflock and prepare for pocketing.”
“Admiral, Condor 34 reports detecting a small vessel leave the Secondprize. It has fled the asteroid ring at a very high rate of speed,” Radley said.
“Order Condor 100 to pursue and destroy that ship,” Sulu said. “Once the other Condors are in position, engage the subspace generators and get the freighter underway.”
On the main viewscreen, Rydell and the others watched as one-by-one the ships of the Next Federation fleet moved into position and vanished into subspace.
On the Acapella II, Karina Durham had almost come to believe that she’d escaped undetected when her sensors decided to burst her bubble. A ship was closing in from behind and closing fast.
“We’ll just see about that,” she muttered as she pushed her warp drive into the red. On a direct course at this speed, Waystation wouldn’t be more than an hour away. Karina just hoped Rydell could stay alive long enough for her to return with reinforcements.
That’s about the time she noticed that her pursuer was still closing. “What the hell?” She called up a more detailed sensor display and immediately wished she hadn’t. Karina had seen the USS Defiant in action during a stopover at Deep Space Nine a few years earlier and had told herself then that she never wanted to end up on the bad side of one of those class of ships. Now one was quickly overtaking her, and she was pretty sure they weren’t just dropping by for a chat.
She checked the readouts on the local region. Nothing but open space, and there was no way she was going to be able to outmaneuver or outgun her new little friend. Even if she could use her comm system (which she was pretty sure was being jammed by now), Waystation couldn’t get anyone to her in time.
Time for Plan B.
Karina set the ship on autopilot and opened a hatch in the floor of the flight deck, allowing her to drop down into the bowels of her ship. She crawled through a short, cramped tunnel to a small chamber holding one modified photon torpedo. She’d read a long time ago about torpedoes being refitted to act as tiny high-speed escape pods. Considering the small size of the Acapella II and the dangers inherent in her work, Karina had decided to get one as a last resort way of fleeing her ship. She’d hoped she’d never have to use it. So much for that.
On the wall of the chamber was a small keypad that tied into her main flight console. She quickly programmed the Acapella II to start firing phasers and rear torpedoes indiscriminately, then she targeted her torpedo escape pod at Waystation and climbed inside.
As the firing counter ticked down to zero, she closed and sealed the torpedo hatch, closed her eyes, and hoped for the best.
Condor 100 veered through the barrage of phaser blasts heading in its general direction and let loose with a spread of quantum torpedoes. As the Acapella II continued firing almost randomly (the desperate pilot even launched a torpedo from the ship’s forward tube), Condor 100’s torpedoes obliterated the Acapella II’s shields and ripped through the hull, reducing the entire craft to a cloud of pebble-sized debris in an instant.
Mission accomplished, Condor 100 awaited the arrival of the Next Federation freighter.
“Condor 100 reports target destroyed,” Radley said. “They will join the fleet momentarily and continue on to Waystation.”
Sulu looked at Rydell and smiled. “It pays to keep loose ends to a minimum.” Before Spaanz and Taanz could stop him, Rydell threw a vicious right cross that sent Sulu reeling to the deck. He paid for it a moment later as Spaanz grabbed him from behind and slammed his powerful knee into Rydell’s kidney.
Rydell fell to the deck himself, but quickly put a hand up to prevent Dillon or Hawkins from taking any action.
“Very wise,” Sulu said. “I’d really prefer that you three died with the dignity your careers have been lacking. Shall we adjourn to somewhere more…final?” Sulu nodded at Spaanz and Taanz, who grabbed onto Rydell, Dillon, and Hawkins and dragged them out of the control room, Sulu following behind.
In the meantime, while Rydell anxiously waited for the pain to subside, he considered the situation from all angles, trying to find a way out. Nothing was springing to mind except to hope that somehow Karina had survived the destruction of her ship.
But if she was dead, Sulu was going to be the next to go…even if Rydell had to die along with him.
Jaroch was fairly sure he had his eyes open, but only absolute blackness stretched out before him. The weight on his body soon revealed the problem. He shoved the figure laying on top of him aside and pulled himself to his feet.
The bridge of the Secondprize was dimly lit by the two emergency lights still functioning, but there really wasn’t much to see anyway other than rubble and unconscious bodies. Lieutenant Carr, whom Jaroch had just shoved aside, groaned weakly but didn’t move.
“Jaroch to engineering,” he said, slapping his commbadge.
“Baird,” the shaky voice of the Secondprize’s chief engineer replied. He sounded parsecs away. “Main comm system is shot. We’re functioning on commbadges only.”
“Very well. What is our status?”
“Life support is on backup. I’d say we’ve got about eight hours. Forcefields are in place over all the hull breeches. And we still have transporters…like they’ll do us any good.”
“What about shuttles?”
“I’ll have to check on that and get back to you. But at least we know we have a big f***ing hole in the shuttlebay we can fly them out of.”
“I will have to remember to thank Miss Durham for that,” Jaroch remarked. “Bridge out.”
The turbolift doors slid open with a crisp whoosh allowing Captain Lisa Beck to step out into Waystation’s ops where Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter and Lieutenant Sean Russell stood manning their posts.
“Afternoon, guys,” Beck said brightly. “Anything going on?”
“Not a bit,” Porter replied. “I’m running through some probe data I hadn’t had a chance to look at.”
“Thrilling,” Beck said. “I guess I’ll be in my office.” She took two steps then stopped. “You know, Craig, my office has to be one of the great perks about working here as opposed to being on a starship. I don’t have to spend all my time sitting in a command chair.”
“That’s why captains have ready rooms,” Porter said.
“True, but how many ships have Andorian restaurants on board?”
“How many want them?” Porter said with a smirk.
“No offense, Captain, but I wouldn’t,” Russell said.
Beck smiled. “You’re both cretins. Get some culture.”
Porter was about to reply when his attention was pulled away by a blip that had just entered sensor range. “That’s odd.”
“You getting culture?” Beck said. “Definitely.”
“No. There’s a very small object on sensors heading our way. It’s cylindrical. Approximately 2 meters long…a meter wide. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was a photon torpedo.”
“Sure looks like one to me,” Russell said, checking his readouts.
“Red alert! Shields up,” Beck snapped. “Who the hell is out there?”
“I’m not detecting anti-matter, Captain,” Porter said.
“It’s a blank?” Russell asked.
“Did I miss a memo about combat training exercises in this area?” Beck asked.
Porter shook his head. “I don’t think so. It’s slowing down and pulled up beside us. Wait. I’m getting one life sign onboard. Human. Female.”
Beck turned toward Russell. “Get whoever that is on board and have her brought up here.”
“Got it,” Russell said. Beck peered over Porter’s shoulder at the sensor readouts as, in the background, Russell ordered Lieutenant Stanton to the transporter room.
One moment, Karina Durham was encased inside a photon torpedo, wrapped in almost pitch-blackness except for the soft glow of the simple controls that had been jury-rigged inside. The next, she was standing inside a Starfleet transporter room.
“You’re on Waystation,” the male security officer standing in front of the platform said as Karina looked around confused. “I’m Lieutenant Aaron Stanton. Captain Beck has asked that you be brought to ops.”
“Perfect!” Karina exclaimed, bounding off of the transporter pad and headed toward the door so fast that Stanton had to rush to catch up. “She’s just who I needed to talk to.”
“Is there a problem, ma’am?” Stanton asked.
“You’re damn right. We’re looking at an invasion.”
“Invasion!” Stanton said surprised. “From who?”
“That’s just it,” Karina explained as Stanton led her into a turbolift. “It’s Starfleet people…sort of. They’re being led by this Admiral Sulu, and they’ve got a whole fleet of ships.”
“That sounds crazy,” Stanton said as he typed in the lift destination.
“Oh yeah. He’s gone. Total freak.”
The turbolift slowed to a halt. As soon as the doors opened, Karina charged out to find Captain Beck. She quickly realized she was in some type of control room.
“I think we got off on the wrong floor,” Karina said, turning to face Stanton. He had a phaser trained on her.
“Admiral Sulu is a great man. Under his leadership, the Federation will be glorious once again.”
“Oh,” Karina replied, taking a step backwards. “Sorry I said…”
“Captain, we’ve got another vessel approaching,” Lieutenant Commander Porter reported. “It’s a cargo freighter requesting permission to dock.”
“On screen,” Beck ordered. Porter changed the image of stars on the massive ops viewscreen to show the approaching freighter. “Were we expecting them?”
“No. They say they’re having problems with their impulse drive and diverted here to check it out before heading toward their final destination.”
“Find them a repair bay,” Beck said to the ensign handling the docking control console. “And where the hell is that woman from the torpedo?” she asked Russell.
“I don’t know. Stanton was meeting her in the transporter room and…”
He trailed off, his eyes widening in shock as he stared at the viewscreen.
Porter and Beck looked at him confused.
“What is it?” Beck said as she and Porter followed Russell’s gaze to the viewscreen. “HOLY SH**!”
It was literally almost impossible to see the stars through all of the Federation-style ships that now hovered on the viewscreen.
“Oh look. It’s that fleet we ordered,” Porter commented.
“How the hell did they sneak up on us like that?” Beck demanded, turning on Russell.
“I I I don’t know,” Russell stammered, frantically switching between readouts on his console. “They weren’t there, then suddenly they were!”
“Sean’s right,” Porter confirmed. “They whole fleet just somehow popped out of subspace…and now they’re arming weapons.”
“Are our shields still up?” Beck snapped.
“Yes,” Russell said firmly. He took another look at his console and did a double take. “Um…now they’re dropping.”
“Get them back up.”
“I can’t!” Russell cried, pounding on his console.
“I’m detecting comm traffic between us and the fleet’s lead ship,” Porter said. He punched a couple of buttons, routing the transmission to the speakers.
“…under control. I’ve locked out the primary systems and am ready for Phase Two.”
“That’s Stanton’s voice!” Russell shouted angrily.
Porter checked his console again. “He’s in auxiliary control…with the woman from the torpedo. I think she’s unconscious. And, as advertised, he’s taken control of our primary systems.”
“Patch me through to the lead ship,” Beck said.
“You’re on,” Russell said.
“This is Captain Lisa Beck of the Federation Outpost Waystation. Whoever you are, I demand that you power down your weapons and explain your intentions.”
“You will have all individuals on Waystation report to the cargo bays on Decks 56 and 57,” the audio only reply stated. “Anyone who does not obey this order will be killed. That is all.”
“What do we do?” Russell asked.
“Whatever they tell us to,” Beck replied. “For the moment. In the meantime, signal our surrender and get everyone to those cargo bays.”
Beck took a final look at the massive fleet hovering outside her station, then followed her command crew into the turbolift to join the rest of Waystation in captivity.
The “someplace more final” Sulu had mentioned turned out to be nothing more than a large empty chamber. Spaanz and Taanz slammed Rydell, Dillon, and Hawkins into the far wall of the room, then joined Sulu near the room’s only door. Sulu, meanwhile, had opened a small panel in the wall and pulled out two phaser rifles, which he handed to the two bulky Vulcans.
“What the hell is this?” Hawkins muttered.
“Firing squad,” Dillon replied, his voice quivering.
Rydell stared straight ahead grimly, his eyes locked on the Admiral.
“Radley to Sulu,” the comm system barked.
“Go ahead,” Sulu said.
“The fleet reports Waystation is secure.”
Rydell’s jaw clenched even more tightly.
“That would seem to take care of every loose end but one,” Sulu announced. “Namely the three of you. You have been convicted of treason against the Next Federation.”
“Convicted?” Dillon retorted. “Where was the trial? I want to appeal! Where’s my lawyer?”
“I can honestly say that I will be very happy to have you gone,” Sulu said. “You’ve caused me nothing but misery for the last seven years.”
“So that’s it?” Hawkins said. “You’re not even going to let us fight for our lives?”
“But then you might win,” Sulu said. “Why would I want to give you that kind of opportunity.” He turned to the Vulcans. “Your ship has been loaded with your payment for services rendered. After you perform this execution, our business will be concluded, and you may depart. It has been a pleasure, gentlemen. Now if you will excuse me, I have a government to overthrow.” Sulu bowed briefly to Rydell, Dillon, and Hawkins and strode out of the room commandingly.
As soon as he was gone, Spaanz and Taanz raised their rifles at the condemned Secondprize officers.
“Captain…” Dillon squeaked, backing up against the wall.
Spaanz’s voice filled the air.
TO BE CONTINUED…