Once upon a time, there was a little franchise called Star Trek. Created by Gene Rodenberry, it was bought by Paramount and grew up big and strong. Some time later came a little series called Star Traks. Alan Decker was its daddy, and it too has grown big and strong. Star Traks: Silverado was created by Brendan Chris. Since he's not married, that would probably make it a bastard child. Enjoy.

Author: Brendan Chris
Copyright: 2006

Week One:


Somebody was playing the drums.

It could have been timpani. Or a bass drum. Or maybe one of the kettle drums, which he’d always thought had been timpani anyway.

But somebody was playing them, and playing them very loudly.

“I think he’s coming around,” rumbled a deep voice, causing nearly as much pain as the drums did.

“About time too. He should have recovered days ago.” This voice wasn’t as deep, nor as painful. But it still wasn’t helping.

“Uggghhhhh…”

That voice was very familiar. Was it his voice? He thought so. It did seem to get louder when the pain got worse.

HSSSSSSS!

The pain started to fade. Slowly, the world around him faded into focus.

“Oh, my head,” Jall groaned.

“Good,” Dr. Wowryk said primly, “You’re awake. I was afraid we’d run out of these rather important life-saving drugs before you woke up,”

Jall looked around. He was lying on a standard Starfleet bedroll, the kind they packed in survival kits. A small fire crackled away, a standard Starfleet survival cooking container hanging from a rigged branch, two shiny packets of standard Starfleet emergency rations being heated in the bubbling water.

All of this was in a forest clearing. Perhaps if his head had been clearer, Jall might have enjoyed the beautiful, sunny blue sky. Or the towering trees, a bit bluer than normal in his opinion, but still forming an impressive canopy around their little clearing. Come to think of it, why should there be a clearing in the tree canopy here anyway?

That question was quickly answered when he noticed the wrecked lifeboat sitting a few feet away. It was a boxy object with rounded corners. Thrusters and sensors were mounted on each corner with access hatches covering each side. Odd, one would think, to have so many doors on an escape pod. But one would have to understand that the pods were designed to link up with as many other pods as possible while in space, to increase odds of survival and decrease the odds of the passengers going mad with loneliness or resorting to cannibalism. Or to increase the available menu if cannibalism did become an option.

This particular escape pod wasn’t going to be doing any linking anytime soon. It had journeyed far from its longtime home on Silverado’s upper superstructure to crash hard on Delorea II. Jall could see that the pod had hit the ground far harder than it should have; the damned things were designed for planetary descent after all.

A vague series of images were coming back to him. The pod tumbling through the atmosphere, something striking it on the way down and damaging the landing thrusters.

Well, at least he was alive.

“I suppose this means he will live,” T’Parief said finally.

“I’m so thrilled to see you too,” Jall said, rubbing the back of his head. He could feel a smooth patch where somebody, probably Wowryk, had repaired the damage to his skull. Of course, if Wowryk and T’Parief were the only company he’d be having for the next little while his head was going to need a lot more repair work done.

“You had a very nasty concussion,” Wowryk told him. She looked haggard, her hair was pulled back but not in a tiny bun. Her normally flawless, pale skin was dirty and showing faint signs of a tan.

T’Parief didn’t look any different.

“How long was I out?” Jall asked.

“Three days,” Wowryk replied.

“And the ship?”

Wowryk bit her lip. T’Parief refused to meet his eyes.

“Oh,” was all Jall could say.


Neither of them had explored far from the crash site. With Jall injured, Wowryk had convinced T’Parief that it was a better idea to lay low and avoid attracting attention. They’d tried locating other survivors with the equipment in the escape pod but had come up empty. Wowryk was of the opinion that the same temporal anomalies that had prevented a proper scan of the planet were also interfering with their communications.

T’Parief, unsatisfied with the Starfleet emergency rations, had explored a limited area in order to hunt for fresh meat. He’d located what appeared to be a path leading through the forest. Hopefully that meant there were inhabitants nearby and that they hadn’t landed on the uninhabited continent.

After much debate, they decided to explore the path half a day in each direction, keeping the crash site as a base camp. After all, why cart all that equipment around if it turns out there’s a corner grocery store ten minutes away?

Week Two:


“This stuff is heavy,” Jall complained, lugging one of the heavy backpacks of supplies they’d salvaged from the lifeboat before leaving it behind for good. The hoped-for corner grocery store had failed to materialize, prompting them to strike out in hopes of finding some sign of civilization.

“Have you figured out where we are yet?” Dr. Wowryk asked.

“I said this stuff is heavy!” Jall said again.

“We were ignoring you,” T’Parief growled, “It was a subtle hint for you to shut up!”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were capable of subtlety!”

“Perhaps he isn’t,” Wowryk stepped carefully over a tree root, “But I am,”

T’Parief snagged a foot on the same root. Rather than tripping, he gave a mighty tug, yanking the root clear of the ground.

“Case in point,” Jall grumbled, “And no. I haven’t. It’s gonna take some time for the tricorder to work out our position, y’know, with the interference and all.”

They walked in silence for several more minutes. The trek hadn’t been particularly difficult. T’Parief’s hunting skills and the rations in the survival bags kept them reasonably well fed, their Starfleet survival training had taught them how to make shelters for the night, which was irrelevant anyway since the survival tents had survived the lifeboat crash. All in all, the experience was more like shore leave than a survival crisis.

Oh, except there was no ship in orbit waiting to pick them up.

Wowryk had been hopeful. After all, Starfleet knew where they were and would know something was wrong when they failed to check in. Of course, Jall had immediately pointed out that the same temporal fields that had prevented them from scanning the planet would have the same effect on any rescue vessels, if Starfleet had even noticed they’d gone missing. Not to mention that because of the temporal fields they had no idea if they were even in their own time anymore.

“Of course,” Jall had added, “If your ‘son’ hadn’t turned out to be a murderous little bast-“

That’s as far as he got.

Faster than anyone would have thought possible, Wowryk was on him, pinning him to a tree and jamming her knee into his crotch.

“If you EVER mention him again,” she’d snarled, “You’ll be a NON-sexual, I swear by GOD!”

At that moment, in excruciating pain, Jall very quickly agreed.

T’Parief, enjoying the show, made note of how pleased he was that Jall had brought Lord Stalart up first.


They found the city two days later.

“Look,” Wowryk was saying, rather harshly, “I don’t care if you don’t like women, you are NOT bathing here!”

“C’mon!” Jall protested, shirtless and standing by the edge of the small lake they had camped beside, “I won’t look if you won’t!”

“Forget it!” Wowryk declared, “I’ve been torn from my home, crashed onto a bizarre planet and forced to spend the past week and a half listening to you and T’Parief bicker like a pair of children! I refuse to give up the last shred of my dignity by exposing myself to the likes of you!”

“But the only other choice nearby is a swamp!” Jall cried, “And T’Parief won’t let me use it! Says I’ll muck up the water with my vile human oils!”

“He got the vile part right,” Wowryk snapped.

“Do you REALLY want me to skip bathing today?” Jall asked, “You know how bad I’ll smell!”

Wowryk blew her breath out through her teeth.

“Fine,” she said, “But you use the pond after I’m done!”


Wowryk had just returned, the trip back to their current campsite getting her almost as dirty as she’d been prior to bathing. But at least she was BO free. Jall was just getting ready to go when T’Parief came charging through the trees.

“I found a city,” he said, stuffing their survival gear into the backpacks, stomping out the remains of the fire.

“Well good for you, Muscles,” Jall said, annoyed, “But we CAN go to the city later, you know,”

“You don’t understand,” T’Parief said, still packing, “We must move, now!”

“Uh-oh,” Wowryk groaned.

A crowd of humanoids burst out of the trees, carrying torches and the local equivalent of pitchforks.

They ran.

Dodging through the trees, ducking branches and cutting up their legs badly on some local thorns, Wowryk and Jall struggled to keep up to T’Parief as he ran, tail outstretched and head down.

Jall could hear the crowd behind him, shouting oaths and obscenities. At least he assumed that’s what they were shouting. The Universal Translator hadn’t locked onto the language yet, but their tone of voice really told him a lot about what they were saying. Still, considering how most people responded to the sight of T’Parief, with his large build, scaly green skin, fangs and claws, it wasn’t too hard to figure out just why they were chasing the three castaways with pitchforks and torches.

“Split up,” T’Parief said, breathing hard.

“What?” Wowryk demanded.

“They probably didn’t notice you,” he said, “Go investigate the city. I will find you later,”

“Hey,” Jall said, “I’m not your biggest fan, but-“

“GO!” T’Parief snapped, his fangs flashing.

Jall and Wowryk gave him one last look, then broke off, circling in a direction would take them around and behind the mob.. They ran, the woods thinning as they neared the city. Finally, the sounds of the mob had faded enough that they felt comfortable slowing down.

“We didn’t need that,” Wowryk sighed.

“No shit,” Jall muttered, “Who does need a nice chase after breakfast?”

“No,” Wowryk said, “I mean, we’re already cut off and alone from everybody else. We can’t leave T’Parief alone!”

“For all we know,” Jall said darkly, “We’re the only survivors on this whole planet,”

SMACK!

“Don’t say that!” Wowryk snapped as Jall rubbed the now-sore spot on his face, “I saw all the other lifeboats leaving the ship!”

“Really?” Jall asked, “Cuz all I saw was the planet getting bigger out the window!”

“Minor memory loss isn’t uncommon with concussions,” Wowryk said, “I saw other lifeboats leave Silverado before-“ he words caught in her throat.

“Before?” Jall prompted.

“Don’t be dense!” Wowryk snapped. ‘Before she broke apart’ was what she was going to say…but the words didn’t want to come out.

“I hope you’re right,” Jall said, giving her a small smile.

“I am right,” Wowryk said, “We need to meet back up with T’Parief, try to find other survivors and wait for Starfleet to come rescue us,”

“We’re not gonna find him,” Jall said, “If he’s trying to hide from the locals, we’ll never track him down,” he frowned, “If I could get the comm-badeges working that would help us, but then we’d have to find him first to tell him how to get his working. Dammit!”

They had reached the edge of the forest and were looking across a broad plain. Much of the plain was covered with farmland; crops growing or weird six-legged animals grazing. In the center of this was the city. ‘City’ might have been a generous word, as it was more of a medieval town. The farmlands, with their scattering of small farmhouses, gave way to clusters of wooden shacks with thatch roofs. Surrounding the city was an eight meter high stone curtain wall, upon which Wowryk could see guards patrolling the ramparts. The wall hid much of what was in the city, but the rough towers of a crude castle could be seen within.

“I guess T’Parief must have been spotted by one of the farmers,” Jall said, noticing that there were abandoned farming implements in some of the fields near the path, which joined a larger road shortly after leaving the forest.

“Let’s hope they have a warmer welcome for us,” Wowryk sighed.


The welcome wasn’t warmer. In fact, it was nonexistent.

They passed through the ‘shantytown’ surrounding the walls and reached the city gates. A bored-looking guard eyed them up, most likely checking for weapons. He said nothing as they walked past.

The first thing to hit them was the stench.

It was an unholy combination of sewage, sweat and body odour.

“And I was worried about not bathing,” Jall winced, holding his nose.

“It’s a primitive culture,” Wowryk said, a look of distaste on her face, “Clearly they haven’t discovered plumbing yet!”

Aside from the foulness in the gutters lining the streets, the town/city was pleasant. That was the second thing to hit them. The homes and businesses inside the walls were impeccably neat, with shingled roofs, glass windows and carefully maintained signs. There was no writing, but Jall could see signs with graphic depictions of food, clothing, weapons and something that could have been anything from a dance studio to a porn shop. The street was made of cobblestone and he could see unlit candles mounted on poles that would no doubt serve as dim streetlights. They could see the castle more clearly now. It was a very solid affair. One good-sized tower served as the entrance and no doubt the main watch point. A circular wall enclosed the castle proper, with two smaller towers positioned so that the three towers together were evenly spaced. In the center of the ring-shaped wall was a blocky stone structure that appeared to serve as the main hall, living quarters and so forth.

“You have to admit,” Jall said quietly, hoping their universal translators would pick up the local language soon, “It’s a great opportunity. When’s the last time we got to check out a culture this primitive?”

“We’re marooned in the Dark Ages and all you can thing about is study??” Wowryk asked.

“Just trying to look on the bright side,”

“Who would have thought,” Wowryk said, “I thought the dark side was where you lived?”

Jall frowned.

“Greetings, strangers,”

They spun to see another guard behind them. This one wore different dress then the sleepy-looking fellow they had passed by the gate. This one wore boiled leather armor, (at least that’s what it looked like) had a sword sheathed on one hip and carried a shield on one arm. The shield had a symbol of a black spider crawling over a clustered green vine.

“I guess the translator’s working now,” Jall said softly. Able to take a closer look at the alien, they were relieved to find that he was a very basic humanoid. No extra ridges, bumps, lumps or appendages. His skin did have a slightly grey tinge to it, but the difference wouldn’t make too much of an impact on their ability to blend in as locals.

“Hello, sir,” Wowryk said, bowing her head, “We’re just visiting-“

“I’m sure you are,” the guard cut her off, “And visitors are always welcome in the realm of the Evil Lord Dyer. But before you can partake in the pleasures of our city, you must meet and be judged by the Evil Lord Dyer,”

“Uh, judged for what?” Jall asked nervously.

“Why,” the guard looked surprised, “To see if you are worthy to visit our city!”

“But you just said visitors are always welcome!” Wowryk said.

“They are,” the guard agreed, “Visitors are always welcome to come and be judged by the Evil Lord Dyer,”

“Uh, why is he evil?” Jall asked, “I mean, the way you say that, is it part of his title, or is he really evil?”

“Lord Dyer,” now the guard was looking annoyed, “is evil. And he therefore prefers to be known as the Evil Lord Dyer! Now come, before I have you arrested!”

“Uh, OK,” Wowryk gulped.


“Your evilness,” the steward bowed low before his master, “how may I serve you?”

The Evil Lord Dyer sat on his throne in the main castle hall. His face was grim, his eyes calculating.

He was also bored out of his skull.

Being evil had its advantages, and he worked hard to cultivate his evil reputation. Torture, unprovoked attacks on neighboring villages and the frequently hiring of musicians to play twangy country music were just some of the ways he tried to keep that reputation intact. That, and adding ‘Evil’ as a prefix.

And he’d been successful. The peasants of his own city-state feared and respected him, the peasants and knights of the nearby city-states didn’t come anywhere near his kingdom of Wendseria for fear of being put to work in the silver mines or worse, as a servant for Lord Dyer’s harem. (Keepers of the harem had to have certain…modifications made, to be sure they weren’t tempted to sport with their Lord’s property)

“Perhaps a visit from one of your concubines?” the steward suggested, hoping to get the Evil Lord Dyer in a somewhat less evil mood.

“I am not in the mood,” Dyer grunted.

“We could have a prisoner brought in and tortured,”

A sigh.

“Husal, we just had the rugs cleaned from the last tortured prisoner,” Dyer said, waving a hand, “Remember? The one that messed himself when we started with the burning,”

“My Lord had him quite evilly punished for that,” the steward shuddered, remembering the even larger mess the punishment had made.

“Yes well,” Dyer crosses his arms, “Punishment is what I do best,”

“Perhaps then,” the steward looked hopeful, “My Lord might care to review the proposed plans for the new torture chambers and decided upon which one he might prefer,”

“ARRGGHHH!!” Dyer screamed, slamming an arm against the small refreshment table by his throne, sending salted meats and goblets of fine wine splattering to the floor, “I DO NOT ENJOY INTERIOR DECORATING!” he screamed.

If only Lord Dyer had had knowledge of a faraway planet called Earth, he might have learned that Interior Decorators can be among the most evil and feared beings of them all.


Jall and Wowryk were led calmly through the castle gates. Jall noted that this particular castle really didn’t resemble Castle Wowryk, the virtual-reality palace that Queen Wowryk had fashioned for herself. This one was smaller and far more functional. Which made sense, since the inhabitants had built this one by hand rather than conjuring it into reality. Who wants to build a few kilometers of corridors and passageways, after all? It was dirtier as well, though considering medieval cleaning technology it was in pretty good shape.

They passed though a small square, with a temple of some kind on one side and what appeared to be barracks on the other. Directly ahead of them lay the entrance to the main keep. Two guards stood on either side of the doors, jumping to pull them open as the small party approached. Finally, they entered the main hall. Wowryk’s eyebrows rose in spite of herself as she took in the high glass windows, the thick animal fur rugs and the carefully maintained tapestries decorating the chamber. At the far end, seated in an elaborately carved throne, was the man they presumed to be Lord Dyer.

“Presenting,” a small, rat-faced man, possibly a steward, announce, “The Evil Lord Dyer! My Lord, I present-“

“You can’t be evil!” Jall cried out, a look of amazement on his face, “You’re blond!”

“Oh dear,” the steward sighed softly.

Lord Dyer rose to his feet, bringing himself to his full height of around 175 centimeters. His frame was slender, but wiry. Jall expected that the young man would be stronger than he looked. Aside from his crop of strawberry-blond hair, Lord Dyer had what could best be described as a baby-face. His skin was perfect, barely a mark visible, and his soft cheeks and gentle brow line gave him a look of open innocence.

“I am EVIL!” he said, his expression darkening.

“You certainly don’t look evil,” Wowryk said.

“He’s kinda cute, actually,” Jall shrugged.

Dyer descended the steps leading to his throne.

“I could have you jailed and tortured for questioning my evilness!” he declared, coming face-to-chin with Jall, “I could have you drawn and quartered! And you!” he turned to Wowyk, paused, and gave a sly grin, “Well, perhaps you’d be interested in joining my harem? I do have a space open for a new concubine,”

Wowryk’s eyes bulged.

“YOU EVIL, ATHIEST BASTARD!” she cried.

Dyer looked genuinely flattered.

“Thank you, my lady,” he smiled, gently grasping her hand and pulling it to his lips.

“That’s never happened before,” Jall confided to the steward.

The doors burst open and an out-of-breath guard appeared. Jall noted that the Delori, the name he’d chosen for this race, turned an interesting shade of blue when they were out of breath.

“M’Lord!” the guard gasped.

“Evil Lord,” Dyer corrected, his eyes focused on Wowryk as she glared coldly at him.

“My Evil Lord,” the guard said, “We’ve sent two platoons after the dragon, but he’s escaped into the deep forest!”

“You idiots,” Dyer snapped, “Who are the platoon commanders? I want them punished! No!” he held up a hand when the guard tried to speak, “Forget it. I’ll simply have both platoons fed to the dragon once he’s caught!”

“Dragon?” Jall gulped.

“A dark beast, with scales as green as emeralds and eyes as red as fiery rubies!” the guard said, “Roaring with a voice that could bring terror to young and old, with claws to rend its prey in twain!”

Wowryk and Jall exchanged glances and sighed.

“T’Parief,” they said.

“Tah-Perry-Who?” Dyer demanded.

“Uh,” Jall thought fast, “That’s our name for, er dragons. Yeah. Sort of a nickname,”

Wowryk frowned. Jall prayed she’d follow along.

“Hmm, yes. Well,” Dyer waved a hand at Jall, “This one no longer amuses me. Have him thrown in the dungeon. I’ll torture him later,”

Jall squeaked as two guards grabbed him by the arms and started hauling him unceremoniously towards the exit.

“You, guard,” Dyer nodded in the guard’s direction, “I want that dragon slain and his heart on my plate for dinner!”

“Er, wait, um, My Evil Lord,” Wowryk broke in, “Do you really have to kill him?”

“Of course I do,” Dyer frowned, “I’m evil!”

“Yes,” Wowryk bit her lip. Then it came to her! “But wouldn’t a dragon be the perfect pet for an evil master like yourself?”

Dyer stared at her in unmasked adoration.

“Clearly,” he said, “You are far too superior a woman for the harem. Guard! I want that dragon brought in…alive! Also, go fetch a minister. I wish to be wed to this woman and to pass my seed to her as soon as possible,”

“WHAT?” Wowryk shouted.

“You’re simply too perfect to pass up,” Dyer said, “An evil mind and body to bring in evil thoughts?” he gave a demented grin, “We’re going to make beautifully evil music together!”

“You can’t do that to me!” Wowryk cried, the ramifications of how badly her plan to protect T’Parief had backfired, “I’m Catholic!”

“I’m sorry, you’re what?”

“I’m,” Wowryk rolled her eyes. How would she explain Catholicism to an alien?

“I’m a child of God,” Wowryk finally said, nose uplifted, “the Creator of all things,”

“All so much the better,” Dyer shrugged, “I hear the Creators gets really angry when I violate one of their people,”

“Ooooh!” Wowryk seethed.


“Have fun, knave!”

Jall sprawled onto the filth-covered floor, aided by a hard shove from one of the burly guards.

“Ouch,” he said.

He looked around.

The room he was in was small and dirty. A tiny window, well out of reach, let in a few feeble rays of sunshine. The pile of dirt and hay in one corner was probably meant to be a bed, but Jall would rather sleep on the stone floor than that bug-infested mess. With the exception of the barred door, the room was made of stone.

Jall spent close to an hour testing all the stones, trying to find one loose enough in its mortar for him to pry it loose. Failing that, he contemplated the utter disaster his nails had become since crash landing on this stupid planet.

“What I wouldn’t give for a working starship and a manicurist right now,” he sighed.


“Come closer, my dear,” Dyer said, an evil smile on his face, “I wish to…get to know you better,”

“I don’t think so,” Wowryk said, seated in the chair furthest from Dyer’s throne as was possible.

Dyer signaled one of his guards. The man approached Wowryk, hands outstretched, presumable to force her closer to the vile midget-king.

So she kicked him in the crotch.

The guard’s armor (greaves, for the lower body, by the way) afforded some protection. But whatever the Delori men had down there, it was just as fragile as the human equivalent. The guard dropped like a pile of stones.

“Oh!” Lord Dyer clapped his hands in delight, “That was so deliciously evil!” He jumped from his throne and ran to Wowryk, careful to avoid her foot as it shot for his family jewels. He caught her in his grip and kissed her deeply.

“Ewww!” Wowryk cried, forcing her mouth away from Dyer and his medieval breath, “Gross!” She swung out with one hand to deliver her famed ‘ManKiller’ slap, but another guard came from behind and held her back.

Struggling to think of a way to distract the horny dictator, Wowryk’s mind turned to Jall.

“What are you doing to my, ugh, friend?” she asked.

“Oh, him?” Dyer shrugged, returning to his throne and pulling Wowryk alongside ind him, “I tossed him the dungeons, of course. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to torture him, or just let the guards use him for their own amusement. Probably the latter; it’s far more evil. And since I haven’t had my torture chamber rebuilt after that young man exploded in it, I’ve had to do my tormenting in the main hall,” he pointed to a spot on the thick rug in front of the throne, “I STILL CAN’T GET THESE STAINS OUT!”

“Ex-exploded?” Wowryk asked, instantly wishing she hadn’t.

“Yes. One of my alchemists is experimenting with an interesting substance that ignites when it gets wet. I wanted to see what would happen if somebody ate it. Well,” Dyer looking thoughtful, “If somebody was forced to eat it. I wonder if that changed the outcome?”

Wowryk turned green.

“Look,” she said, trying very hard to stay calm, “Please, just release us both. We’ll be on our way, and we won’t bother you ever again!”

“But I don’t want you to leave,” Dyer said, “The Evil Lord Dyer will have nothing of the sort,”

“Excuse me?”

“I don’t know. It just sounded good,” Dyer gave a small cough, “I want you to stay and become my bride. I want your friend’s screams to serenade us as I have my way with you,” he shrugged, “End of story,”

“But my friend is, um,” Wowryk wasn’t even sure what an Operations Officer did on the ship, nevermind what he might be good for on a primitive planet, “He’s very smart. Knows lots of interesting information,”

“All of which will no doubt spill out during his torture,” Dyer shrugged, “Along with his intestines,”

“I thought you were going to give him to your guards?”

“Well, I’ll probably torture him myself eventually. I think I have an opening day after tomorrow,”

“The stars!” Wowryk jumped up, remember Jall’s work analyzing the night sky to determine where on the planet they had crashed, “He’s an, er, astronomer,”

“Really?” Dyer showed a small amount of interest, “Why would I need an astronomer? Most of them were wrong about the comets anyway,”

“Comets?”

“Surely you saw them,” Dyer frowned, “Ten, perhaps twelve nights time ago?”

Wowryk shook her head.

Dyer sighed.

“Behold and to the east, over the Great Sea,” he recited, sounded bored, “A ball of flame appears. An omen of evil and of ill-tidings, those who look upon it, tremble in fear’,” he sighed again, “Why these soothsayers need to turn everything into a fancy poem I do not know. But there was a great ball of fire that fell from the sky over the Great Sea. Some of my peasants informed me smaller pieces may have broken off, but I really didn’t care. And see? The astronomers say this comet is a bad omen, yet after it falls I am presented with a beautiful woman to wed and a hapless prison to torture,”

Wowryk stopped listening as her head spun. A fireball, crashing from the sky?

Silverado!

She gulped. Could the reports that smaller pieces appeared to have broken off mean that the ship had broken apart in the atmosphere, or could it refer to other lifeboats? Other survivors!

“Lord Dyer,” Wowryk began.

“Evil Lord Dyer,”

“Evil Lord,” Wowryk swallowed again, “Could I speak to some of these peasants?”

“No,”

“Please?” Wowryk was feeling almost desperate, “For me?”

“I would,” Dyer shrugged, “But I had them killed. After all, any who looked upon the comet trembled in fear. I had to give them a good reason to tremble, as you understand, making a ready bad omen out of it,”

Wowryk was crestfallen.

Dyer noticed this.

“But, my dear,” he said, “I could let you talk to your astronomer friend before he is sent to the barracks. After all, I must attend to this matter of the dragon hunt, and I wish my woman to have some amount of happiness,”

“What’s the catch?”

Dyer leered at her.


Jall sat on the floor with his back to the wall, watching a six-legged rat-like creature scamper past his cell.

“Yup, you scurry along, little rat-thing,” he sighed, “You’re out there, free to walk and roam, while I’m locked up in here waiting to have my guts pulled up through my throat. Or whatever they do to torture people in this hellhole. He had noticed that most of the other cells were empty, which he did not take as a good sign. Clearly, prisoners of Lord Dyer didn’t survive in the dungeons very long.

The rat-thing went sailing across Jall’s field of few, a sickening crunch filling the air as it hit the far wall. The heavy armored boot that had kicked it came into view shortly afterward, along with the guard it was attached to and the person he was escorting: Dr. Wowryk.

“Hey Doc,” Jall pulled himself to his feet and moved closer to the door, giving Wowryk a little wave, “Here to break me out?”

“No,” Wowryk said, looking very unhappy.

“Well I’d appreciate some work on that!” Jall said, “Who knows what’s going to-URK!”

Wowryk had reached through the bars, grabbed Jall by the front of his dirty field jacked and pulled him forward, slamming his head into the bars.

“DO YOU KNOW WHAT I WENT THROUGH TO SEE YOU??” she growled, “I HAVE BEEN GROPED!”

“Bet kissing Jeffery doesn’t seem so bad now,” Jall squeaked. Wowryk slammed his head into the bars again.

“OK! OK!” he cried, “Uncle!”

She released him.

“So what’s so important that you had to get your chest kneaded to tell me about it?” he asked, staying out of reach of her arms as he rubbed his head.

Wowryk told him about the ‘comet’.

“The ship really crashed?” he said, perking up.

“Apparently,” Wowryk said.

“This is great!” Jall exclaimed.

Wowryk nearly exploded again.

“We are trapped on this world, our friends and colleagues may be dead, I may be forced to marry this horribly man who wants T’Parief as a pet, plans to give you to his guards for ‘their use’ and you think the fact that our only means of escape has been destroyed is GREAT???”

“Well, no,” Jall said, “But…wait. Give me to the guards?”

“I don’t know what that means,” Wowyk said, waving a hand. Then she saw the odd, almost lustful look on Jall’s face and it clicked.

“EEEWWWWWWWW!!!!” she screamed.

Jall shrugged.

“Better than having my limbs hacked off,” he said, “But back to business. Look. Doc, if the ship crashed there might be something on it we can salvage! A shuttle, one of the runabouts. Maybe enough parts to built a subspace beacon so we can be rescued! We’ve got to get to the crash site!”

“Eww, ewww, ewww!” Wowryk was still wringing her hands.

“DOC!” Jall snapped, “You’ve gotta get me out of here! We’ve got to hook up with Lizard-Boy and get out of this hell-hole!”

“Sickening, perverse-“

“If anybody else survived,” Jall said, “They’ll be heading to the wreckage too!”

This sunk in.

“You’re right,” Wowryk said, a look of distaste still on her face, “Unless the Delori find it first…”

“Ohhh,” Jall rubbed his forehead, “Hello, Prime Directive violations!”


T’Parief sat calmly in the cave.

It was a pretty nice cave, as caves went. Once you got past the small entranceway, the ceiling was high enough for him to stand comfortably and there was a rock of the perfect size to act as a chair. There was even a cushioning layer of bio-luminescent moss to cushion his backside.

Still carrying the survival packs, he’d pulled out a lamp and a small toolkit and was trying to adjust his communicator to cut through the subspace and temporal interference. Jall’s tricorder had finished calculating their position, which showed them as being on a mid-sized continent just north of the equator, not far from the shallow central sea, on which most of the continents bordered. He was using another tricorder to track the life-signs of the guards, noticing that while they came very close to his cave, they never spotted the entrance, hidden as it was under a cascade of flowering vines.

Yanick would have thought them beautiful.

T’Parief clenched his hands as a wave of despair crashed over him. Where was Yanick? Had she survived the ship’s destruction? He’d seen her getting into a life pod, but what if her pod had been damaged even worse than his? She could be scattered across some medieval field somewhere and-

No. That was no way for a Klingon warrior to think. Or an Andorian. Or a Gorn. T’Parief wasn’t sure what kind of culture his new people, the Parians, were adapting, but based on their roots he doubted it would look kindly on sitting in a cave weeping over splattered humanoid. Or smashed starship.

Silverado had been his responsibility, as much as it had been Jeffery’s or Stafford’s. Stafford may have commanded the ship and been responsible for her crew and Jeffery may have been responsible for the ships ‘health’, but it was he as Chief of Security that was responsible for protecting her from threats like Lord Stalart. A responsibility he’d failed at rather miserably. Sylvia kidnapped, the ship sabotaged and Lord Stalart off doing who-knows-what.

He continued tweaking the communicator. There was nothing wrong with the device, it just seemed to be unable to penetrate the layer of temporal energy that wreathed the planet. If only Jeffery or Fifebee had been around.

T’Parief swallowed hard at the thought of the holographic Science Officer, undoubtedly killed when the ship was destroyed. Another crewmember he’d failed to protect. He had dim memories of Jeffery trying to download her program out of the main computer before abandoning the ship, but the computer malfunctions caused by Sylvia’s abrupt disconnection had prevented him from doing much of anything.

Digging through the survival pack, he located a data chip labeled ‘Emergency Procedures’. He quickly located an index of communicator modifications. Starting with the mod titled ‘Compensating for Advanced Temporal Dilation’ he began working.


Wowryk had been brought into the castle’s dining area. A smaller chamber than the Great Hall, it was still impressively large. Lord Dyer sat at one end of a long table, looking over his goblet of wine at Wowryk as she squirmed in her seat at the other end of the table. Servants began bringing in the meal; platters of roasted meat, unidentifiable alien vegetables, flagons of blue wine, grey milk and something green that smelled vaguely like asparagus.

“Eat, my beloved,” Dyer said, helping himself to the leg of some slaughtered animal.

“Er, I’m a vegetarian,” Wowryk lied.

“A what?”

Wowryk rolled her eyes. Obviously there was no equivalent term in Dyer’s native language. Logical, as most medieval cultures were too depending on animals as a source of food to even consider vegetarianism.

She noticed that Dyer was eating fairly quickly, then it dawned on her. After dinner, he planned on ‘conquering her city-state!’ Clearly, she had to drag dinner on as long as possible!

Smiling weakly, she served herself a generous pile of red ‘lettuce’, green ‘carrots’ and as much other food as she could, vowing to eat as slowly and daintily as possible.


Sighing, T’Parief moved on to the next modification in the list: ‘Compensating for Mis-Matched Temporal Vectors’. He didn’t have a clue what that meant, but since ‘Mis-Matched Temporal Vectors’ was listed between ‘Melded Temporal Laminer Flow’ and ‘Mytropic Chonometric Particle Flux’ on his list, two terms he understood even less, he figured he may as well do it anyway.

Cursing at the stupid human who designed the tools in the toolkit for tiny human hands for the hundredth time, he tapped delicately at the inner workings of the communicator.

There was a burst of static from the communicator. The shock of it sent T’Parief sprawling off his rock onto the hard floor of the cave. Scrambling to his feet he saw a flurry of data scrolled up the screen of the nearby tricorder. He was getting a signal!

His brow rose as he took a closer look at the signal. Wowryk and Jall HAD to see this!

Now he just had to figure out how to find them.

He packed up the survival bags. He debated leaving the larger one in the cave, but decided the risk of a primitive Delori stumbling on it was too great.

He dropped to all fours, easing himself out of the cave. His tricorder showed a group of guards not far from his current location, so he moved as carefully and quietly as he could. The dimming light worked in his favour; by shedding his survival jacket and stuffing it into one pack he was able to use his natural colourings to better blend into the forest. Tapping his tricorder, he kept scanning.

There!

With the modifications he’d made to his equipment he was able to pick up Wowryk’s and Jall’s comm-badge’s. They were both in a large structure, roughly two kilometers away. Easing his way forward, he approached the edge of the forest. His head low, tail outstretched and claws forward to better balance, he’d taken on a predatory stance. Stafford had commented once that when T’Parief was running or chasing somebody he looked a little like a velociraptor from an old Earth movie: Jurassic Park. He’d shown the movie at ‘Cartoon Night’ the following week, even though it wasn’t a cartoon. As usual, Fifebee had been most distressed by the scientific contradictions.

T’Parief, while impressed with the brutal attacks the dinosaurs were capable of, felt secretly that he was far more attractive than a velociraptor. Something that had been confirmed when Yanick made a comment along the same lines.

His mind wandering, T’Parief completely missed the thick tree root ahead of him. His foot caught it, pulling it halfway out of the ground before he crashed in a very undignified sprawl.

“Very well,” he grunted, picking himself up off the ground, “No more thoughts of Yanick, Fifebee, Stafford or the ship!”

“Who’s there?” a voice cried.

T’Parief’s gaze shot to his tricorder. There was a single life-sign not ten meters from him. He climbed to his feet as quietly as he could, keeping low. He spotted a Delori guard, dressed in the same boiled leather armor as the rest. His sword was drawn and he was slowly turning towards T’Parief.

Slitting his eyes and pulling his lips over his fangs (his most visible features, as they could reflect the dim light) he stood perfectly still. His legs were coiled, his claws extended, ready to strike. The guard’s gaze passed over him and continued on. As soon as his back was visible, T’Parief sprang.

He hit the guard solidly, knocking the sword out of his hands and drawing a clawed hand over his mouth to prevent him from shouting out.

Trying to scream in surprise, the guard flailed around, but was unable to free himself from under T’Parief’s solid, heavy body.

“If you are silent and cooperate,” T’Parief hissed in the guard’s ear, “You will not be killed. Do you understand?”

The guard grew still.

“Good,” T’Parief said. He eased his hand free, ready to silence the man if he so much as squeaked.

“Now tell me,” T’Parief said, “About the city…”


“IIIIII…ain’t got noboooooody…” Jall sang aimlessly to himself. One of the worst parts about being held captive by Lord Dyer was that is was so damned boring! No vidscreen, no books, no holographic video games…nothing! He’d been sufficiently bored that at one point he’d actually tried twiddling his thumbs. It didn’t work out so well…his thumbs somehow kept missing each other. Annoyed, he’d started going through the pockets of his survival jacket, hoping to find something mildly entertaining. The closest he’d gotten to ‘entertaining’ was the user manual for the Swiss Army knife. He’d been somewhat interested (and this shows how bored he really was) to learn that Starfleet had almost switched over to the Andorian Armada knife, but decided that a tool that had eyeball gougers and lung extractors as optional accessories didn’t really fit with the desired Starfleet image.

So he’d moved on to singing. After going through half of Phantom of the Opera he’d decided to switch to something more modern and wound up spending half an hour singing the lyrics to the musical episode of Days of Honor: ‘Once More, You Die Slowly’.

“Stop that infernal racket!”

The cell door slammed against the stone wall, sending a ten-legged spider scurrying for safety.

“It is time,” the guard gave an evil leer.

“Um really,” Jall said, “I have a watch and everything, see? It’s really NOT time…”

The guard grabbed the wrist on which Jall’s watch was mounted and slammed it into the wall, breaking the watch (and nearly Jall’s wrist) to pieces.

“Witchcraft!” snarled the guard.

“My grandfather gave me that!” Jall objected, “He wasn’t a witch! The real witch is upstairs playing footsie with your evil master…”

The guard grabbed him roughly by the scruff of the neck and pushed him out the door. Another guard was waiting and together they hauled him out of the dungeon.

Jall watched carefully for a chance to escape. He almost bolted at the first cross-corridor, but the guards tightened their grip, anticipating his move.

After several twists and turns and a brief trip from the main keep, he found himself in the guard barracks. Two rows of bunks lined the edges of the room while narrow tables filled the space between the rows. A dozen guards were seated at the tables, facing a metal frame complete with cuffs for arms and legs. Jall whimpered as he was strapped in.

“Look, guys,” he said, “I know I’m cute and all, but-“

The guard cuffed him across the face.

“Shut up,” the guard said, “Learning this stuff is tough enough without your whining!”

Learning?

The guards turned to face him, paying close attention as an older man walked into the room. He approached a table that had been set in one corner, on which a variety of straps and blades were resting.

“Welcome,” he said grimly, “To ‘Torture and Maiming 101’,”

Jall gulped.


“Dessert, my dear?” Lord Dyer asked.

“Uh, not yet thanks,” Wowryk said through a mouthful of something that was either purple hummas or some kind of weird species of tuna fish, “I’m still eating!”

She reached for another bowl, pulling it closer and dumping some black, spongy leaves onto her plate. Forcing herself to swallow, she daintily sampled one leave.

Banking on what she knew about nutrition, she’d paced herself. She’s left the more filling items like the meats, breads and pastas alone and had focused on ‘greens’ (purples, in this case) and anything that looked liquidy and easy to digest.

“You’ve been eating for quite some time now,” Dyer said, a cross expression growing on his innocent-looking face, “A lesser man would be concerned that perhaps you do not wish to experience my manliness,”

“Er,” Wowryk bit her lower lip.

“Of course,” Dyer went on, “Any woman in my kingdom knows that to refuse me means a very unpleasant death,”

“AHHHHH!!!!!”

Wowryk’s gaze shot to the windows as the sound of a scream, possibly Jall’s, came through.

“Ah, I see the guards have begun with your friend,” Dyer smiled, putting his hands behind his head.

“That’s perverse!” Wowryk seethed, “I don’t know what’s worse, the group sex or the-“

“What?” Dyer shot straight up, “Sex?”

“You know! You were sending him to your guards for ‘their amusement’…”

“Oh, that’s disgusting,” Dyer sneered, “And yet so perfectly evil…” he trailed off and his gaze blanked. He shook his head abruptly, “No, even I’m not that evil,” he said, “And I don’t think my guards swing that way. Thought to be fair, I’ve never cared enough to ask. In any event, they merely have a training class this evening,”

“Training class?” Wowryk raised an eyebrow. Hmm. Maybe Dyer wasn’t quite as bad as she thought.

“Well, of course,” Dyer shrugged, “They need to learn how to torture innocent prisoners somewhere, don’t they?”

Wowryk blew out an exasperated breath.


“Observe!” the ‘trainer’, Tadeuse, said sharply, “This area of the body-“

Jall shrieked again.

“-can generate great pain with little damage to the victim,” he finished.

“Um,” Jall gasped, “Can you NOT do that again?”

One of the guards raised a hand.

“Yes?” Tadeuse asked

“Lord Dyer said that the point of torture is to create as gruesome a mess as possible,” the guard said, looking a little shy.

“Torture for some is a sport,” Tadeuse said, “For others, it is an art! Gruesome messes usually mean quick deaths, and that rather defeats the point of a good torturing,” He pulled an oddly shaped probe from the table and slid it under Jall’s skin, probing at a sensitive nerve junction. Jall screamed again.

“Now,” Tadeuse said, flipping the instrument around and holding it towards the guards, handle first, “Your turn,”

Jall gulped.


Three guards later Jall had some small but nasty cuts and very hoarse throat. He was just getting ready to beg for death, to hell with how melodramatic it was, when the door to the barracks exploded inward.

“RRAAARRRGGGHHH!!!” T’Parief roared, crouching in the doorway, his damp skin giving his chest and arms a shine to match his fangs. His claws were fully extended, his head down and forward.

“DRAGON!” shouted the guards. They milled in confusion for a moment; their weapons were on the wall by the door! Quickly, Tadeuse grabbed one of the probes off the table and hurtled it at T’Parief.

The instrument, while dangerous to a soft-skinned being, bounced off T’Parief’s scaled hide.

He leapt at the nearest guard, claws flashing in the dim torchlight. The guard gave a shriek that cut off in a gurgle as his lungs were ripped open. No sooner had he pulled his fingers out of the corpse then he was slashing the throat out of the next one.

“Magnificent,” Tadeuse managed to say as his heart was ripped from his chest.

It was over quickly.

“T’Parief!” Jall wheezed, hanging limply from the cuffs, “I’m actually really, really happy to see you! And not a moment too soon!”

“Actually, I was outside watching for several minutes,”

“And why didn’t you save me sooner??” Jall cried.

“It looked as though you were having fun,” T’Parief shrugged.

“Fun???”

“This is not something you enjoy?” T’Parief said, mouth twisted.

“Er, not with real torture equipment,” Jall said sheepishly as T’Parief unlocked the cuffs.

“We should hurry,” the Security Chief said, “The others will be on alert by now,”

“What about Wowryk?” Jall asked.

“Our next stop,”

“Shouldn’t you’ve rescued her first?”

“No,” T’Parief held up a finger, “First, it appears she is with the ruler of this city. To free her would be to instantly alert him to our presence,”

“Right, Lord Dyer,” Jall confirmed, “Uh, and the second reason?”

“She is far more capable of defending herself then you are,”

“Oh,” Jall blinked, “HEY!”

Giving Jall a good shove towards the rear of the barracks building and down the very short alley to the rear entrance of the Great Hall, T’Parief took a quick moment to slip the data chip from his tricorder into a pocket. Tricorder footage of Jall being tortured. Now THERE was something for his scrapbook! Too bad the tricorder didn’t have a full holo-imager included. But he would make do.

Finished with the minor pleasantries, he focused his attention on the Great Hall. He may despise Jall, but Wowryk was, er, respectable. He had two crewmates left, and he wasn’t going to let some venzik-ikvar (sh**-head) despot take them!

“What does this Dyer person want with Wowryk?” he asked Jall.

“What does any sane male want with Wowryk?” Jall shot back.

“Her recipe for steak tar-tar?” T’Parief asked.

“No,”

“Membership to her Bible study-group?”

“What any male wants from her but can’t get!” Jall clarified.

“Oh,” T’Parief nodded, “Sex,”

“‘Bout time!”

T’Parief cocked his head.

“Have you considered,” T’Parief said slowly, “that perhaps it is Lord Dyer we should be rescuing?”


“Er, could you pass that weird purple stuff again?” Wowryk asked politely. No sooner did the words leave her mouth than they were chased by a loud belch.

“Oh my, pardon me,” she said.

“Enough of this!” Dyer said. He jumped to his feet and shrugged off the thick cloak he’d been wearing. His outer tunic quickly followed until he had on only a linen shirt along with his leather breeches, “It’s time to have my evil way with you!”

Wowryk quickly stepped back.

“Um,” she struggled to find a way to be polite. She didn’t want Dyer to call his guards in to hold her down, but at the same time she had to make him stop, “It’s not you, it’s me?”

Dyer advanced around the table.

“I have a headache!” she tried.

“Tell the truth,” Dyer leered, “You want me! Bad!”

“I’m saving myself until I get married,” Wowryk said defiantly.

Dyer stared at her for a moment, his expression softening. Wowryk began to hope that maybe, just maybe that had done it.

“MWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!” Dyer laughed explosively, clutching his middle as he doubled over. His maniacal laugh gave way to a fit of giggles.

“You want…” he tried, “You want to…ha-ha…save yourself?” Dyer tried to get himself under control, “My dear, nobody can save you now!”

This would be a perfect cue for Jall or T’Parief to come bursting through that door, Wowryk thought to herself.

Nothing happened.

Unreliable heathens, Wowryk mused. Dyer had recovered from his laughter and was advancing on her again.

“It won’t be so bad,” he said, “Just because I’m evil doesn’t mean I’m bad in bed,”

“I’m warning you,” Wowryk said, her back bumping up against the wall.

“You’re warning me?” Dyer looked like he might double over laughing again.

“You put your hands on me,” Wowryk said darkly, “And I can’t be responsible for the consequences!”

Dyer grabbed her by the shoulders, forcing his mouth to hers.

As least the meal had made a marginal improvement on his breath, Wowryk realized. She started struggling, twisting her head away from Dyer.

“Yeah, that’s it!” Dyer breathed, “I like it when they put up a fight!”

He pressed his groin against her, and the world vanished in a red haze.


Jall and T’Parief snuck through the stone passageway leading from the Great Hall to the dining room. T’Parief cocked his head.

“Do you hear that?”

Jall listened. Faintly, he could hear cursing and grunting, along with cries of pain and fear. Something hit the floor with a clatter…one of those metal dishes?

“Sounds like somebody’s in a fight,” Jall observed.

“Brilliant,” T’Parief moved faster, “Come, let’s save the good doctor,”

“Or her virginity, anyway,” Jall sighed, following.


They pushed the doors to the dining room open, after T’Parief relieved the two guards watching the room of their weapons, along with most of their blood.

Wowryk was leaning over a vat in one corner, a finger down her throat, emptying her bloated stomach.

“That’s not very healthy,” Jall chided.

“Neither is eating as much as I had to,” she shot back, “What took you two so long?”

“I was in more danger that you,” Jall said, “He had to save me first!”

“How absurd,” Wowryk sniffed, “Surely saving me from being ravaged by this animal was more important!”

“Hey, the dragon’s not supposed to rescue the damsel in distress!”

“Dragon?” T’Parief queried.

“Don’t ask,”

A grunting in the corner drew their attention to Lord Dyer. He was lying on the huge table, his arms and legs bound with leather straps taken from his cloths. His head lolled, a badly dented wine flagon nearby explaining the large bump on the back of his head.

“What happened here?” Jall asked.

“He started doing,” Wowryk searched for a delicate way to put it, “Man stuff,” she said finally.

“Drinking?” T’Parief asked, confused.

“Watching sports?” Jall chimed in.

“Killing and eating fearsome animals?”

“Oh forget it!” Wowryk seethed, “Let’s just get out of here before more guards show up!”

“Agreed,” T’Parief nodded.

Before Wowryk could move, Jall seized her in a hug.

“I’m SOOO glad to see you again!” he said.

They left.


Their escape from the city wasn’t difficult. The attacks on the barracks and Lord Dyer, along with the reports that the dragon was in the city had sent the place into chaos. Wowryk and Jall had pulled a tapestry off the wall, which T’Parief wrapped around himself like a cloak. Sticking to smaller, darker alleys they made their way to the city gate. The guards were gone, probably to the castle. Stealing a pair of six-legged horse-like animals from the nearby stable they rushed at top speed for the cover and safety of the forest.

Once they were a safe distance from the city, T’Parief let the tapestry drop to his shoulders. They slowed their mounts to a walk.

“Well,” Wowryk said, “I’m glad that’s over with,”

“Yeah,” Jall said, “Just why is it that I’m always the one who gets tortured?”

“Justice,” T’Parief said simply.

“You know,” Jall said, “You can be as evil as you want-“

“Please don’t use that word,” Wowryk muttered, “Ever again,”

“But I know you’re happy to see us too,” Jall went on.

“And why is that?” T’Parief asked.

“Because all we have right now is each other!” Jall said.

The relaxed atmosphere generated by their banter vanished, replaced by an uneasy silence as the reality of their situation sank back in. The ‘visit’ to Dyer’s kingdom had been a needed distraction from the fact that they were stranded on an alien planet, unreachable by Starfleet, their ship destroyed and their friends and crewmates probably dead.

“You are right,” T’Parief acknowledged softly, “Patricia would want me to be…” he choked up.

“Nice?” Jall asked. Wowryk started sniffling, tears welling in her eyes.

“Tolerant,” T’Parief finished.

“Chris would be proud of you,” Wowryk said, “All he’s wanted since that thing with Yvonnokoff is for everybody to bond,”

Bond? T’Parief and Jall exchanged worried glances.

“Let’s not go too far here,” Jall said, “We’re…tolerating each other. No bonding!”

“It’s a start,” Wowryk said sadly.

“We might see them again,” Jall said, “We don’t know they’re all dead,”

“I almost forgot,” T’Parief started digging for his tricorder, “I had gone searching for you for a reason,”

“Besides rescuing us?” Wowryk asked.

“I was unaware you had needed rescuing until I reached the city,” T’Parief said, “I succeeded in modifying my comm-badge to send and receive planetary signals,”

“Only planetary?” Jall frowned, “So we can’t reach a ship in orbit,”

“Not yet,” T’Parief said, “It seems the interference in the upper atmosphere is too great. But I did receive this:” he held the tricorder screen so they could see it, its readouts bright in the dim light of the planet’s two moons.

“HOLY SHIT!” Jall exclaimed, jolting so hard he almost fell off his ‘horse’.

“What is it?” Wowryk asked, “Is it another survivor?”

“No!” Jall said, “It’s an automated distress beacon! Silverado’s automated distress beacon!”

“So that means the ship wasn’t destroyed?” Wowryk asked.

“No,” Jall shook his head, “No starship could survive an uncontrolled plunge into the atmosphere like that. But it means that somewhere in the wreckage, the emergency subspace beacon is in one piece!”

“And we can very likely use it to break through the interference and call for help,” T’Parief added.

“What are we waiting for?” Wowryk asked, “Where is it? How far away? How do we get there?”

“Thataway,” T’Parief gestured with a claw, “Approximately three hundred kilometers.”

“Long way,” Jall mused.

“Then let’s get going,” Wowryk said, urging her mount forward.