New Beginning part 9

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2 years ago

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 linked below:

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==USS August, bridge==

The hours had gone by, and the ship had not heard from the Runabout or picked up any further ship signals. They had stopped twice and still picked up warp signatures. The good news was that there was no new weapons fire evidence.Greener paced the bridge.

"Anything back from Starfleet?"

The science officer shook his head again.

"Nothing, sir."

Caymen shook his head in response. Suddenly, a few panels lit up.

"What's that?"

The helmsman chimed in.

"Sir, the signals are strong here in this sector - permission to pull us out of warp?"

It was a bold suggestion, but probably appropriate. The captain looked at Trask and then Grant before looking back. "Granted. Full sensor sweep. And let's launch one of our new probes."

Jolan danced across his Tactical panels rechecking the archived energy signatures when he spoke up

"Aye, probe away. I must point out; however, the weapons fire may not be new, but the source of it is strong, I've managed to trace it back to a Romulan Valdore class warbird. If she's here she's got reactor damage, we fired back, but I cant locate her source, I can say, however, that she is also in the middle of those anomalous readings I detected before. I urge caution, we've already lost contact with our personnel on the ground."

"Captain," Ian spoke up, "I've been reviewing our sensor readings, they seem to indicate that the Romulan ship's reactor is in a state of overload. Romulan's use an artificial singularity for power. That ship is sending out pulses of short, highly localized, and extremely strong gravimetric distortions. Either something is extremely wrong, or the Romulans are experimenting with some sort of gravity weapon."

"Sir, if it's a weapon they could have attacked the sabres with it. If so then we may have a serious problem and a possible armed conflict." Jolan spoke up, and he rechecked his logs and data on the sabres

"I've run comparison scans based on ops findings and a Federation warp signature is well within the range of those readings, I can't tell if she's under attack or disabled or what - we're going to need to get closer, but if we do we would essentially be flying into a possible black hole i.e. the warbird's reactor" he paused and put on a serious expression.

Greener nodded. "Duly noted. Take us in."

Caymen knew the risks, but they needed those sabers and possibly the Romulans for answers.

"If it is a weapon I cannot guarantee we have a defense against it. On the same page, it could be a tractor beam for all we know, add to it, due to the distortions, I cant scan for any more cloaked ships, it could be a trap."

Caymen nodded again. "Ok, yellow alert, shields up."

The claxons sounded, and tensions grew around the ship. Engineering noticed as well. Lyden tapped the comm control on his engineering board.

=^= Cap'n we're picking up gravimetric distortions down here, nothing to worry about yet though. I'm guessing that we've found our needle in a haystack. I'm re-routing power to the shields and doubling our forward facing shields.=^=

"Here's where things get interesting" Lyden thought to himself.

The captain looked up towards the audio voice of their engineer. "Aye, we've found something, and we're heading towards it. Use our sensors and those of the probe we just launched to track these things down."

"I'm accessing the probe's sensors. Using it and the August's main array we should be able to...Aha! We've got some energy signatures consistent with those given off by a Romulan cloak," Ian rattled off quickly, "I'm sending the coordinates to the helm."

The August immediately changed direction upon Greener's command, and they headed towards the signals at maximum impulse. Within 20 minutes, they were there, and they slowed to a speed that matched the relative 'floating' speed of the asteroids they appeared to be accompanying.

"Ok, where are they?"

"Scanning now sir" Jolan piped up when his console beeped

"i've got a gravimetric distortion on bearing zero three zero mark four"

"On screen."

On the main viewer appeared open space with a few asteroids - no planet or star nearby. There was a flicker in front of them. "What was that?"

They soon discovered it was the failing cloak 'bubble' of the Romulans.

"Captain Trask, have our probe fire a tetryon burst at the ships."

The tactical officer did, and the bubble of cloak soon disappeared, and the three vessels appeared before them. Greener remained standing still and put his hand on Grant's shoulder. "Open hailing frequencies."

"Aye sir, hailing frequencies open," Grant replied.

"This is Captain Caymen Greener of the USS August. We demand that you relinquish the Federation Saber class vessels and explain yourselves."

The viewer opened to a sparking and fuzzy image of a Romulan bridge in complete disarray. An officer stepped up to the central command seat.

"Captain..." He was breathing heavily. "This is Sub Commander Varek'ola. We are... experiencing some major problems."

Caymen sensed something in the Romulan, by nothing more than intuition and his deep study of the Romulan culture over the years. The man was being honest. "Jolan'tru, Sub Commander. How can we help?"

The Romulan sighed as he held his ribcage. "Our Commander took over the ship controls - he's held up in engineering and has your ships under tractor as well... we can't..." he rasped and struggled for air in his damaged lungs. "We can't get them free - he's not himself, I tell you."

Greener nodded. "Your shields are lowered, so we'll beam over a team. Stand by."

The signal was cut, and Caymen turned to Jolan as he tapped his badge.

"Trask and Lyden, please take a few marines and a medic and beam directly to their command center. Speak with Commander Varek'ola and get down to engineering. We need to see what's going on."

Trask spoke up as Ensign Smith relived him "With respect and for the record, I do not like this idea at all, we cannot possibly control the situation and its really high risk, I'd of preferred we beam the commander aboard the August, they could raise shields almost as soon as the transporter beam starts to materialize, we've already lost contact with one team."

"Go, he speaks the truth - I know it."

"Keep a Transporter lock on my Marine Transponder. If I get into trouble I'll activate it, it's a high theta band homing signal well out of the spectrum of standard jamming."

He tapped his Badge

=/\="Trask to Charlie Squad, gear up and meet me in Transporter Room Two, medical support as well in 3 minutes, Trask out.=/\=

Lyden acknowledged the Captain's order and turned to Callaway.

"Alright Jeannie, engineering is all yours. I'm going to grab some transport pattern enhancers to help you get us back should things get dicey over there." He said and then laid a hand on her shoulder. "If it comes to a situation where you have to choose between the away team and the ship... Your main responsibility is the safety of this ship. Never forget that." He said softly but sternly to her.

Jeanette nodded and wished him luck. "Break a leg out there. Just not literally Kurtis." She said and gave him a slightly worried smile.

Lyden winked at her reassuringly and headed out.Caymen turned as Trask left the bridge.

"Lieutenant Grant, red alert. As soon as they are beamed away, raise shields and run a full scan of our ship for intrusions."

"Aye, Red Alert sir. Beginning internal scan cycle as ordered," Grant replied, "Aaaaaand, the away team is, well, away. Raising shields."

=== IRV Thrai ===

Lyden felt the transporter beam release him from re-materialization, and he quickly flipped open his tricorder, his other hand hovered near his phaser as his eyes scanned for threats. Finding no immediate danger he slowly let out a breath and turned his attention to his tricorder readings.

Stepping over to what the tricorder indicated was a command and control console he began looking over the readings, he had a passing understanding of romulan technology and language.It was a risky move to transport aboard an alien vessel, and immediately start utilizing one of their computer consoles, but the transporter chief had transported them to what the ship's scans showed as an un-occupied compartment close to the bridge, so Lyden had decided to chance it.

"This ship is a mess!" He said to Jolan, "If I'm reading this thing right, life support to the rest of the ship seems to have been cut to minimum levels and re-routed to the tractor beam arrays. I'm also detecting the presence of multiple forcefields in the engineering section...What the hell is this guy up to?" He wondered as he looked back at Jolan.

"Good question lets try to find out. Stay sharp, remember what they said at the academy...never trust a romulan" Jolan tapped his badge

=/\= Away Team to August, we're safely aboard. The warbird's a wreck Captain, we're proceeding with the mission. I'll let you know if something comes up. Trask out. =^=

Lyden looked up from the console as Jolan finished checking in. "Cap'n Trask, I've been studying these readouts along with some schematics I was able to pull up. I'm sure I can get the forcefields down if the romulans are willing to play ball with us... In fact,"

Lyden got a gleam in his eye as he began to grin like a Cheshire cat. "I'm pretty sure I can get them down even if they don't."

"Good to hear, if the Captain of this ship is not himself, he will no doubt most likely use his command level bypasses and security lockouts, that's assuming they run this boat like Starfleet does. Regardless expect to be cracking command level access." Jolan replied.

"Might be a tough nut to crack but I think we can do it Cap'n." Kurtis said as he began to program in some algorithms into his tricorder.

Looking to the Marines with him but, speaking directly to SGT. Mendoza, he said "Sergeant I want this area a safe zone. Form up a perimeter, I'll speak with the Vessel's Commander. You let me know the second we face any resistance, weapons on heavy stun; protecting Lyden is your chief priority, don't worry about me, I can handle myself."

He turned to Lyden "Here is a marine issue com badge; it has an ultra high theta-band homing signal, tap it three times to arm it, and a fourth to engage it. Use it if we get captured or in trouble and keep it hidden. I expect you to follow my tactical orders; I say duck, you duck. Got it? However, feel free to speak up, if you've got any advice...say it."

"Don't worry about me Cap'n, this ain't my first rodeo." Lyden replied, his boyish charm and enthusiasm causing a couple of marines to smile and chuckle softly.

Jolan grinned slightly himself nodded at Lyden and the other marines, turned and headed towards the ship's bridge.

"Sub-Commander Varek'ola? I'm Marine Captain Jolan Kennith Trask, August's Chief Tactical Officer. What can we do to help? And gimme a sit-rep. I've got a Medical Team and a marine squad securing the halls just outside the bridge, and depending on the situation, we stand ready to help you re-take the Thrai if it will help us free our ships."

Varek coughed and wheezed. "Welcome, Captain." He paused, breathing. "Get down to engineering and get Commander Dulus... he's keeping the Saber class vessels, although I think it is a ruse for you all... he mentioned something about a Trill? And that it's almost done?"

"Hmm a Trill? Why the hell would there be a trill involved? "Jolan looked over the man then met his gaze face to face.

"I don't know. I assume you still have folks on Iconia? We do too... we did. They were reported dead by one who escaped." The Romulan coughed up green blood, wiping it on his sleeve.

"No idea how he escaped - Dulus killed him, starting all this madness."

"Corpsman, patch him up" Jolan directed the young medic beside him before removing a com badge from one of the pouches in his utility belt

"We need to presume intraship's communications are compromised, if you need to contact us use the com badge, a single tap will activate it then simply address myself or my team, do the same if we contact you. If you have anything else to add or say, let me know."

"No," he held his palm out. "I'll be fine - get Dulus and keep him alive - your medics will be better suited for that part."

=== Back on the August ===

The bridge had received the "ok" from the away team that they had arrived and were speaking with the sub-commander. Moments later, another alert chimed on their screens. "Now what..." Caymen said exasperatedly.

The viewscreen changed, and a high speed shuttle had warped into the sector straight out of Memory Alpha - it was Federation and was hailing them.

"On screen."

Caymen could not believe his eyes.

"Ovik?" He stood up slowly. "Where's the rest of the crew?"

Ovik said in his mild Vulcan tone. "In grave danger, Captain."

A Romulan Commander stepped into view behind Ovik. "Permission to beam aboard?"

=== Back on the IRV Thrai, engineering ===

Commander Dulus spit onto the floor. The bleeding was getting worse. He had to kill a few of their men to get down here, but one got to him with a dagger. It must have pierced his stomach. He didn't have long in this form, but needed to stay for authorization.

"Stupid humanoids…"

The away team made decent time working their way down towards the engineering deck; the romulan Captain, by utilizing his command lockouts, had shut down all of the ship's turbo lifts, thereby blocking the most direct access routes to main engineering but with the help of the bridge crew, the away team had mapped out the shortest route via the jeffries tubes and maintenance crawlspaces.

It was a long descent down to the engineering deck from the bridge level, and under the weight of all his gear, Lyden was beginning to feel it, so it was with a great sigh of relief when at long last they stepped down from the last of the jeffries tube ladders onto the engineering deck.Crouching down next to a corridor access hatch Kurtis flipped open his tricorder and took a quick reading.

"The coast is clear Cap'n." He called back to Trask who had just stepped off the last rungs of the ladder.

"I'm detecting evidence of recent combat and bodies in the corridor ahead... All romulan...and all dead." he reported grimly.

Lyden then refined his scan and quickly detected the presence of multiple forcefields that stood between the team and the area where the Captain was holed up. "Well, looks as though I've got my work cut out for me, he's got every available forcefield up and running. I think though that I can reconfigure my tricorder to emit an ultra high frequency sonic pulse which should momentarily cause the forcefield emitters to reset and give us time to get past." Kurtis said and began fishing out the tools necessary to make the adjustments to his tricorder.

"Good job Kurtis. Start scanning for any non romulan lifesigns, mainly Trill, the sub-commander mentioned the vessel's Captain talking about a Trill and how some task was almost finished; He and I both think the Sabres are here as bait, I'm gonna check in with August" Jolan re-checked his own tricorder and ran some of his personal scanning routines.

"Something's not right here. My gut and my combat experience are telling me that we may be walking into an ambush, stay sharp just in case."Lyden shook his head "

The tricorder is severely limited down here Cap'n. A combination of the heavy shielding around engineering and the distortion waves we had detected before we beamed over is really limiting the tricorder's range. I'm not detecting any other lifeforms in scanning range. We're going to have to do things the old fashioned way and clear the deck one section at a time."

"I prefer it that way, sometimes your eyes and ears are better than a tricorder" Jolan replied as he pulled out a small holo-projector, clearly a special ops portable briefing device, which he threw on the floor and a schematic display of the warbird appeared

"Ok here's how I see this, we're here, Deck eight section Twenty-three, center line with the main hull. To allow us to cover more ground I'm splitting us up into Alpha and Beta teams, each team's gonna need the following: one medic, an engineer, and three marines."

Jolan paused and input a command into the device the men were kneeling around. Two dots appeared on a cutaway of the warbird "Kurtis your with me. Petty officer Chambers, your our medic. We'll be Alpha team"

He looked to the device again inputting a second set of commands "Mendoza you lead Beta team, take petty officer Vasquez as your engineer and Mullholland as your medic. Vazquez is one of the survivors from my garrison on Memory Alpha, she's one damn fine corpsman and can shoot like some of the best men I've ever had the honor of serving with"

Jolan input a third set of commands and the display showed patrol paths along with markers for the forcefields and possible ambush points or hazards. "Alpha team will push port. Mendoza, you and Beta team, go starboard we each intersect at the middle. When we get to main engineering or find anything of value contact the other team. Whoever arrives first sets up a defensible position till the other team links up, then we both assault main engineering preferably using a two-prong attack from each side, also when we arrive near there activate jamming devices or otherwise mask your presence. I want this to be a surprise, does anyone have anything to add?" Jolan finished as he looked around his men.Lyden cleared his throat and took over the next part of the briefing.

"Okay here's where things get a little tricky. The Romulan Cap'n has the whole ship locked down tighter than a drum and the Romulans have been unable to override his encryption code which means the blast doors around Main Engineering are all locked down. We don't have explosives with us powerful enough to blow through those heavily shielded doors, and it would take too long to cut through with a plasma torch. We do, however, have one thing in our favor, it seems the Romulans don't trust their crews as much as Starfleet does so they've engineered access crawl ways as backdoor entrances to Main Engineering just in case they needed to re-take engineering during a mutiny. The access panels aren't marked in the schematics and are very cleverly disguised to appear just like normal walls. Unfortunately, the sub-commander doesn't even know their location, it appears that information is commander's eyes only, so we're going to have to find them first."

Kurtis pulled out a spare engineering tricorder from his pack and tossed it to Vazquez. "I've taken the liberty of programing in the key components of the door mechanisms most commonly found on Romulan ships. Here, and here are the locations that I'm betting they're at, reason being they give the greatest tactical advantage to the assaulting force and they aren't directly across from one another to prevent crossfire problems. Better to play it safe though and continuously scan as you clear your sections. " Lyden said and pointed out the two areas of interest on the hologram."

The door actuators are probably triggered by a code pattern punched into a nearby door chime or something. Problem is we don't have the time to play around with working out the possible code sequences. My guess is though that the access hatches most likely use a more standard construction, so we should be able to cut through them quickly and quietly without giving ourselves away." Lyden looked up at Jolan as he finished

"That's all I got Cap'n."

Without another word, Jolan gave the signal and both teams moved out. With the help of the modified tricorders to disable the forcefields, the teams covered their search patterns with speed, and efficiency, and it wasn't long before Beta team signaled in that they had found the first of the access hatches, and were beginning to cut through. A few moments later Lyden gave the signal that they had discovered the second access hatch. Pulling a plasma torch from his pack Kurtis immediately began cutting into the false wall access hatch.

"This won't take long." He whispered back to Jolan. "Might want to give August the heads up that we're almost ready to re-take engineering."

Jolan tapped his badge

=^= Away Team to August, we're in position near Main Engineering, the sub-commander is stable and has informed me that they had personnel on Iconia as well, but nobody returned save one now dead survivor, allegedly killed by Commander Dulus himself. I've given sub-commander Varek a com badge in case the warbird's communications are compromised, its a short range badge normally used for squad sized tactics, he wont be able to hear communications between us and the August =^=

He paused leaning against a support brace.

=^= Have we heard anything from the other away team? Something isn't right down here. =^=

Greener acknowledged.

=^=Thank you, Captain. We have some news for you - the Commander is not the Commander. Officer Ovik has arrived with the real Commander Dulus - it's all been verified. You're dealing with someone - or something else. =^=

Jolan shook his head and collected himself before resuming the second part of his report.

=^= Also sir, Varek overheard Dulus mention something about a task being almost complete and something about a Trill and then this fiasco all started upon the murder of the romulan away team survivor by Dulus. Myself and the sub-commander also think the sabres are being held as bait. I smell a possible ambush, I'd be careful if I were you. =^=

There was a pause from the August.

=^= Stark is on the missing away team no? She's a Trill... Undine can take the form of other humanoids... =^=

Ovik was on the bridge.

=^=The only logical conclusion is Devidians, Captains.=^= he interrupted.

Caymen snapped his fingers.

=^= Got it, tune your tricorders and weapons and get the commander off controls. Use any force necessary without taking the ship with you - that's not a Romulan in there. August out. =^=

Lyden had started cutting through the hatch, but he quickly stopped to adjust the settings on his tricorder and phaser to accommodate the Captain's latest revelation. Setting the tricorder to signal if it picked up anything unusual Kurtis returned to cutting through the hatch....Inside the main engineering room, the "commander" chuckled somewhat insanely before hearing a comm beep.

"Subspace... ah, further orders."

* The Broker has reached the Doctor - you may now cease holdings and extinguish the vessels. All of them. *

The "commander" laughed quite audibly. "Hah! Perfect."

He punched a few buttons into the console and prepared to leave the room. He spat blood one more time. "The ship will blow, and I will be gone."

...Kurtis was almost finished cutting through the access hatch when the tricorder chirped an alarm. "We're picking up something Cap'n." Lyden said and adjusted the receiver on the tricorder to feed the signal through their com badges.

* The Broker has reached the Doctor - you may now cease holdings and extinguish the vessels. All of them. *

A few moments later…

*Vessel auto-destruct sequence initiated... A 5 minute silent countdown will commence in 3...2...1. There will be no further warnings. *

Kurtis looked back at Jolan "Awww Hell."

Jolan input a command on his custom phaser carbine it energized a high pitch whine signaling a much higher setting than heavy stun, and he pulled an underslung photon grenade launcher from a pouch in his utility belt "Stand back. Set weapons to kill, we're out of time." he tapped his badge.

=^=Trask to Mendoza, go loud and weapons on kill =^=

When kurtis was clear, Jolan hip-fired his rifle outright disintegrating a sizeable portion of the hatch.

"Lets go! Double-time." he said as he fast crawled through the access hatch into a service corridor.

"If your wondering what the grenade launchers for- to be blunt- last I checked we don't have breaching charges and cutting through doors usually takes too long. I've only got three grenades, so I need the quickest route"

He activated his rifle mounted scanner/pathfinder and waited for Kurtis and his team.Kurtis pulled out his phaser and took up the rear guard position, allowing the marines with their heavier weaponry to take the leading roles in the assault. They made their way down the short service corridor until they came to another hatchway, this one opened directly into Main Engineering itself.Beta team signaled in that they were moving to breach and clear the room as Jolan and Alpha team moved into position on either side of the hatchway and awaited Jolan's signal.Jolan silently tapped his badge, speaking in a hushed voice,

=^= Trask to beta Team, prep flash and stun grenades, we breach silently and catch them by surprise. We will be running into either Undine or Devidians, don't hit the plasma tanks, or we'll be incinerated and make sure you drop your targets and make sure they stay down=^=

He looked to Kurtis, "Make sure you stop the auto-destruct and free our ships, we'll cover you if more reinforcements somehow show up."

In about two minutes, Jolan got a text only transmission on his tricorder simply saying "ready" he tapped his badge twice quickly, and the doors opened, flash-bangs, and stun grenades filled the room. Jolan's combat training seemed to slow down time for him.Mendoza and Beta team surged into the room as soon as the flash-bangs went off their weapons held high as they moved in looking for targets in the carefully controlled chaos.

"Surrender now or you will be fired upon!" Mendoza commanded.

The "commander" looked up from the console he was just leaving and his eyes opened wide. "What?!" he exclaimed.

"Federation?... How did…"

The commander shook his head and acted before they had time to act.

"No matter. They have her on Iconia anyways."

He immediately phased out of existence, a few pieces of the Romulan uniform falling to the ground. The lighting in the room sparked and flashed and the blue-white Devidian creature that was impersonating Dulus appeared.He spoke in an odd language, presumably 'swear words', and charged them!Jolan's team went in hard and fast, the team broke off to the left and Lyden, coming in behind them, took a hard right and, half crouching, sprinted towards the tractor beam controls.

Kurtis tried releasing the beams holding the Sabers in place but, the fake commander's encryption lockouts were still in place. "Damn it!" Lyden cursed, then pointed his phaser at the console, "They can bill me for it." and fired at point-blank range.

The Romulan's tractor beam controls were utterly destroyed, but at least the Sabers were freed.He could hear the firefight breaking out, but he had bigger concerns; the auto-destruct controls would also be locked out, he'd have to come up with another plan and fast, or this ship, the August and the Sabers would be obliterated.

"HIT EM WITH EVERYTHING YOU GOT!" jolan shouted as he rolled out of the way letting off a burst from his carbine, which was now, on the max setting, a five round burst hit an eps conduit near the Devidian starting a small rupture

"Damn, COVER!" Jolan shouted as the conduit across the room blew out when he noticed something shimmer in the corner of his eyes


Lyden stopped mid-stride and looked to where Jolan was pointing, a subspace rift was quickly forming, and they'd have to match the exact point at which the sub-space rift was intersecting normal space to be able to destroy it, or the creature might escape through the rift back to it's own domain.Kurtis ducked under a stray bolt of energy fired by the creature and slid to a spot near the rift.

Immediately he began setting up the transport pattern enhancers he'd packed along. He'd use the pattern enhancer's stabilization field to intersect with the rift. A quick reading from his tri-corder gave him the correct settings for the sub-space field. A few moments later…

"JOLAN! SHOOT!" Kurtis yelled and ducked for cover.

"FIRE IN THE HOLE!" Jolan shouted as he let one of his newly re programmed photon grenades fire from his underslung barrel the explosion of the shaped charge air bursting near both the Devidian and the portal which soon destabilized under the combined firepower.

Jolan ducked covering his eyes "CLEAR! CEASE FIRE!" and with that command the chorus of rifles and hand phasers, stopped as they surveyed the area

"Lyden can you stop the auto destruct?!"

Lyden rolled to his feet and ran across the room to the ship's enormous warp core reactor, along the way he grabbed an engineering tool kit from a work bench.

"The controls are locked out! I can't stop it, but there might be another way." he replied.

Working as quickly as possible Lyden removed an access panel on the warp reactor and examined the ship's auto-destruct mechanism, there was less than 2 minutes left until they'd all be having an extremely bad day.

"Okay! I've got an idea. Instead of stopping it, I'm gonna let the computer 'think' it blew up the ship." Lyden said and pulled out a piece of diagnostic equipment from the toolkit.

Working at a decidedly deliberate pace Kurtis began unplugging the wiring to the device, and snapping them into slots on the diagnostic tool; It was exceedingly exacting work, but if he removed more than one wire at a time the fail safes would engage detonating the charge immediately.

By removing the wiring and hooking them to the diagnostic tool, the main computer would be able to complete it's countdown and send the execute command, the diagnostic tool would then signal a 'success' code back to the main computer preventing it from engaging the fail safe mechanism. At least, that's how it worked on Starfleet vessels.Mendoza stood over Lyden's left shoulder,

"30 seconds Lieutenant!"

"I've almost got it, just a couple more wires." Kurtis replied as beads of sweat started to break out on his brow.

"20 seconds!" Mendoza called out, the veteran marine's face paling a bit.

"Done!" Lyden announced half amazed that he hadn't already blown the ship up trying this crazy stunt. Now he just prayed to God that it worked. The room went dead silent as each man did the silent countdown in his own head.

5... 4... 3... 2... 1... Nothing.

Kurtis let out his breath, not even realizing he'd been holding it for the last 15 or so seconds and got to his feet as cheers began to break out around the room.

"I'm guessing being a EOD Tech is outta the question then?" Jolan teased as he slung his rifle across his chest only seeing a glare from Kurtis, as well as a few of the away team.

"Are you outta your damn mind Cap'n?" Lyden replied, wiping the sweat from his brow.

"Right then, I'll just contact the ship" Jolan said in an attempt to make up for the childish remark as he tapped his badge,

=^= Away Team to August, you can all breathe again, the Thrai is secure; it was a nasty firefight but we're all fine, more or less. We'll just finish up here if needed then we can beam back.=^=

There was an audible sigh from the August commlink.

=^= Affirmative, and well done, team.=^= came Caymen's voice.

=^=Also Captain... I'd like you to know that Lieutenant Lyden should get a proper commendation added to his jacket. Pardon my french sir, but he really saved our asses over here. I'll personally file whatever paperwork is necessary on his behalf for said commendation when I file my mission report. I figure I should inform you, however; we detected a subspace portal in use by the Devidian in the warbird's engineering section, I'd strongly recommend we run similar scans on the August and the sabers just as a precaution=^=" J

olan finished his report and awaited the reply from the August, grabbing a sip from a canteen he had on his hip opposite his phaser holster; this one, however, was water this time, with an electrolyte injection into the drink... old Earth would refer to it as "Gatorade" and in this case his was flavored like watermelon.

Greener responded after a short pause.

=^= Duly noted on both accounts, Captain. Clean up and get back here in 15 minutes. Inform SubCommander Varek that his true Commander Dulus will be beaming over momentarily. =^=

The away team cleared the Thrai, and the August cleared the Saber vessels, whose skeleton crews were unharmed and ready to get back to spacedock.But the crew were not done - half of them lay in wait back on Iconia to who knows what fate. Hopefully they could get back in time to help. Fortunately, they had two new crew members and the real Ovik to help them out this time.

And they had a day's worth of probe data to add to their databanks.

"Helm, set a return course for Iconia, maximum warp," said Caymen as he sat.

Most of them had not rested in well over 2 days.

"Course set, sir."

The commanding officer did not hesitate at all, eager to fetch his crew.


=== USS August, Iconia System ===

The USS August sped from several sectors away arriving in the Iconia system a few hours later. The probes caught them up and relayed any information - no more cloaked or vessel signatures, and nothing on the system.The ship was able to maintain communications with the Runabout, but there was no answer yet.

The ship jumped out of warp and immediately took a high orbit pattern.

"Alright people," said Caymen standing. "Let's think this through. Try to run a thorough surface scan, using what knowledge we have of Devidians. Maybe we can find something."

Jolan spoke up sweeping his scans "Sensors on the probes confirm... it's just us and whatever else may be on the planet no other ships and I've got the runabout back at it's original landing site, powered down like normal."

The turbo-lift doors opened, and Lyden stepped out onto the bridge and walked over to the engineering console, "Computer transfer engineering control to the bridge." he said before turning to address Captain Greener.

"Cap'n, aside from some reserve power to the shields, I've re-routed full power to the forward and lateral sensor arrays as well as re-configured them to scan for triolic energy readings along with the normal scanning parameters." he reported.

"Thank you, Lieutenant," said the captain."I don't want to lose too many people, so Mr. Trask, prepare to take yourself and a few marines and get down there. Please beam down - no more abandoned ships. But take extra precautions, so we can track you."

"Sir, in my experience with the Devidians, I'm recommending the party I pick be given neural stimulants, or something to protect from psionic attacks if possible, I've also taken precautions to replicate both synchronic proton distortion rifles and some more archaic projectile based, such as Zoteke's, I'll take just four men: a combat medic, two marines, and a combat engineer, we will also have beacons we can drop to track us as well as the emergency transponders all marines have, and full gear in-case we need to spend time on the track"Jolan looked to Lyden

"I'm going to need a set of pattern enhancers tuned to a subspace field, so we can de-form them... let's say a safe zone of oh...five yards around the shuttle for evac, with that Jolan tapped his badge,

=^= "Trask to Mendoza Vasquez and Mulholland and Andrews, full combat gear transporter room in two five mikes. Combat Search and Rescue bring anti-devidian weapons and the projectile modified rifles I've had made.=^=

with snap turn on his heel he walked to the turbo-lift pausing a moment for any last words from the Captain.

"No problem Cap'n." Kurtis replied.

Lyden turned from Jolan to the Captain, "Sir, without your or Cap'n Trask's objection of course, I volunteer to go as the combat engineer." Kurtis offered immediately.

Jolan met Kurtis's gaze, his expression as stern and hardened as one would expect from someone with as much combat time as he had to display,

"You sure lieutenant... This will most likely be a raw combat op. If the devidians are in any way involved with Iconia, as they were with the Thrai, I can't guarantee any of us will make it, you saw what the psionic attacks can do, never the less, if you feel up to it, I can have you fitted with a rifle, combat gear and armor. Captain's permission of course."

He looked to Caymen, "He does have experience and he's competent with a rifle... he's got my ok."

Captain's permission in hand, Lyden secured the engineering console and called down to engineering to have Ensign Callaway prepare the transport pattern enhancers before joining Captain Trask.

"Out of the frying pan and into the fire again Cap'n. " He kidded Jolan as they stepped into the turbo-lift.Caymen looked over at Ovik. "Old friend, please call the two new crew to my ready room and let's get introduced. I want you and the new science officer working on this ASAP."Ovik merely nodded and turned back around at the science console.

=== Iconia Surface, Mysterious White Cube ===

A voice boomed from unseen speakers, talking with a high pitched, cold masculine voice."Why this is unexpected... You really didn't have to make such a mess."

"We have no need for any of you, you were merely the payment for the devidians, after all their excellent work."

"The female humanoid you refer to as a trill is particularly interesting; you see her brain contains a neurotransmitter we require to interface with the new bodies we created for ourselves. We're afraid we cannot allow you to interfere with our work, we have waited tens of thousands of years for this.I can promise you that we will return her corpse to you when we are finished however."

Josh walked into the massive lab with the rest of the team.

"Payment for the Devidans?" He asked, amusingly, "How'd that work out for them?"

He then turned to Zoteke & the rest of the team.

"Tune 'em high," he said, "but don't fire until I say. Zoteke, take point."

Zoteke had been running through the scanning modes on his, working again, tricorder with the record function active when the mentioning of his name snapped him from the screen.

"Roger that sir. I suggest we double time it. Not only does it sound as if... the voice"

he said pointing up at the ceiling,

"is planning on something soon, but my tricorder is starting to pick up increased movement around us" he finished.

He then started to head up the group of starfleet officers deeper into the lab.

"If our colleague is hurt in any way," Josh said.

Then suddenly, he was hit with a blast of energy that sent him across the lab fast that left him unconscious.

Zoteke reacted on instinct jumping up and forward to put himself between whatever fired the bolts and the away team.

"Lt. Nagumo see what you can do for Capt. Broughm!" Zoteke yelled jumping up onto a machine of some sorts and opening fire in the opposite direction of the energy blast that had sent the Captain flying.

At the sound of Zoteke's weapon fire and prompting, Senna quickly ran over to Josh. By Grabbing a hold of Josh's arms and jacket, and tugging with all her strength, it was a struggle, but after what seemed like an eternity, Senna managed to get Josh behind some crates and under cover.

Senna dug into Josh's pack and pulled out his medical tricorder. Flipping it on she began running it and immediately wished she paid more attention in her biology and medical courses than her engineering ones at the Academy. Fortunately, the tricorder identified the injury and the steps to treat it. Following instructions, Senna could do. She dug around Josh's pack some more, searching for and pulling out the identified sprays, hypos, and bandages. She applied each in order with the precision of an engineer.

Londance was ducking behind a crate, waiting for an opportunity to head over to Josh and Senna. Upon finding an opening, he sprinted - only to be stopped in his tracks; a blue bolt found it's way into his side. He stood there for a moment, looking down and feeling his side.

"Oh.." He uttered, and then laughed - a manic look in his eyes.

"So this is... 'pain'", he said - with that, he fell forward to the ground, shaking as though in shock.

Zoteke's rifle was almost overheating so he released the firing stud, dropped back on his backside and ducked his head behind a console. As he did he noticed the spasmic wounded form of Londance on the ground. Quickly, before their attackers would realize no one was firing at them anymore, Zoteke dove for him and snagged his elbow under Londance's left arm. He then put both his feet firmly on the floor and pumped his legs with all his might, shoving both him and Londance behind an unidentified stack of crates.

Josh started to come to shortly after Senna she administered the stimulant. He looked up at her, still in a slight fog & said, "Anyone get the number of that freight train that ran me over?" Senna looked back at the Doctor.

"We didn't have time, Zoteke immediately decided to return the favor..."

Senna pulled out Josh's medical tricorder with his medical scans and handed it to him.

"I just followed the instructions there, but you may want to look at it again. I think I accidentally hit you twice with the hypo injector. There might be some side effects…"

Josh looked over the readings. Still fogged up, he nodded & said,

"You did it right, Senna."

As Senna helped Josh up, he said, "This is getting to be an annoying habit. Getting flung all over the place, I'm starting to feel like a punching bag."

"We should have brought more marines... hopefully the Captain is sending some more to help rescue us," remarked Senna.

Josh said as he shook the cobwebs loose from his head, "I wouldn't doubt it." He then looked at Senna & said, "I owe you one."

Senna looked sharply over toward Londance as she felt something wrong. She saw him on the ground and immediately pointed him out to Josh.

Josh saw that Londance was hit, so he got low & grabbed his kit. Once he got to him, Josh scanned Londance with his tricorder.

"Not feeling too pleasant?" He said to Davroski.Londance shuddered as he looked towards Josh, a mixture of pain and confusion on his face, "Obviously..." he stated, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

Senna withdrew her phaser pistol and crouched nearby to provide cover and protection while Josh worked on Londance.Josh administered a mix of pain killers to Londance. "You'll feel dizzy for a second." He said.

Londance's eyes fluttered, as the hypospray coursed through his body. His breathing became normal, his shuddering slowed to a halt, and his face went back to it's emotionless expression. Although, a hint of confusion still remained. "My apologies for the retort, Doctor."

"Don't worry about it." Josh said.

Josh then straightened his uniform & went behind Zoteke.

"Alright," he said, "stand down. Unless you want to blast a hole in that wall."

Somehow the Captain's words "stand down" were like oxygen to flames to his rage. He didn't want to stand down.

"To be honest sir, blasting is about the only thing we've done today that worked out for us. I'd be inclined to go with it." the Marine with a look of rage in his eyes answered.

"You've been hit twice, Londance once, another officer is taken by the enemy who told us she'd be a corpse when we get her back. And for a kicker that enemy somehow managed to replace one of the officers that was part of the away team we started with." the marine calmly counted of raising a total of 4 fingers to count off his points.

Then he took a deep breath as if to force himself to calm down and collect his wits. He looked at the Captain with pleading eyes then before saying; "I'm not telling you how to do your job sir, but I am hoping you're doing the same math I am. I will await your orders sir."

Emphasizing that last part.Zoteke then turned from the doctor checking his rifle's status, and faced the direction the shots had come from. Noticing the rifle was ready to fire again he got to his knees. He peeked out around the crates they were behind his rifle's aim following his eyes. He was ready to take the fight to them, but would do so only on Josh's order, or death.

Josh looked around the huge lab. He saw a surgery table with a body, covered with a sheet. He approached the table & saw the face of the person on the table. It was Alyssa.

"GET ME MY MEDKIT!!" he yelled, "I FOUND ALYSSA!!!" He felt for a pulse.

It was very faint.Londance realized that the medkit was right next to him. Picking it up, he slowly made his way towards the doctor, unsure of his body at the moment. Keeping his weapon at half mast, he kept watch while made his way over, and handed Josh the kit.

Senna took up a position nearby to help provide security for Josh while he tried to save Alyssa.When he got his medkit, Josh pulled his high-speed tricorder & started using it. He pressed a button on the device & it projected a holographic image of Alyssa. The captor had injected her with a lethal, slow working poison. He only had minutes to work up an antidote. Suddenly, a blue-white bolt came hurtling towards him & Alyssa.

Acting upon instinct, he ducked under the bed. It whizzed over his head.

"This guy is starting to piss me off!!" he exclaimed. "MARINE, COVER ME!"

"Oh thank you sir!" the marine answered, the smile on his face expressing a happiness that would've been jealousy inspiring if one didn't know it's cause.

Zoteke jumped up from his crouch behind the crates as the eruption of death flashed out of his rifle and he landed on top of the crates he had hidden behind. From that vantage point he could see three of the blue ghostly apparitions cautiously making their way towards the away team and on instinct, without conscious thought, but with a terrifying roar erupting from his throat, the rifle swung from pointing at the one on the right, past the middle one and stopping the swing pointed at the right one.

When the deafening silence that followed the deafening roar of rapid fire chemical bullets covered them the three living sources of blue radiant light had winked out leaving darkness as if to emphasize the silence. Hopping back to the floor behind the crate he'd stood upon Zoteke almost succeeded in suppressing the sigh of satisfaction his lungs ached to let out...


He'd failed miserably enough as it is by allowing two members of the team get shot, another one abducted and another one possessed or replaced altogether by an alien lifeform. He'd never before felt such utter failure in his life before. "I should join the enemy, it might be safer for the team." he muttered to himself as he scanned his field of view for anything that moved.

Josh opened up his medkit & started to mix certain chemicals & neutralizers according to the readouts coming from the holographic projection of his tricorder. "This is going to get tricky." he said aloud, "Damn, I wish I had a little more knowledge on trill physiology."

After he had the Antidote ready, Josh loaded it into his hypo.

"Heavenly Father," he said, "give me your strength." He then peeked his head out from underneath the table. A blue bolt whizzed just millimeters past his eyebrows.

"Be brave." he said to himself, then he quickly jumped up from underneath the table & injected the antidote to Alyssa. All he had to do is wait.

Senna saw the blue bolt narrowly miss Josh. She looked for the shooter, but could not see one from her position. She was about to move toward Josh and help him move Alyssa to a safer position when she turned toward Zoteke.

She felt his rage rising within him.

"DAMMIT!" shouted Zoteke as another blue shot was fired at the away team. Something just snapped.

Disgusted at the ineffectiveness of his rifle, not realizing this blue enemy wasn't the same one as the others he'd shot just moments earlier, he grabbed it by the barrel and ran right up to the blue creature. He swung the rifle at his foe twice and, to his own surprise, put out his enemy's lights quite literally.

The alien shreaked in obvious pain before a reddish flash from someplace Zoteke couldn't see hit it in the back of the head and ended it's existence.

In the silent darkness that followed Zoteke blinked in confusion, not seeing an unconscious or dead enemy at his feet. Or looking up at a triumphant one from the ground. After a second he pulled himself together and after picking up his rifle ran back to a position of cover. Ducked down he was shocked at himself and the dumb stupid thing he'd just done. He'd completely lost control over himself for a moment and, never having had the experience before, was at a loss at what to do next.

He turned to look at the Captain, his face expressing his confusion and fear.Josh looked over at Zoteke & saw the expression on his face. He just nodded & said, "I suspect he'll be back. I'm gonna play my gut & say August is in orbit. They probably have a search detail on the surface. We need to get a beacon out so they can find us."

Then, he turned to Alyssa & the holographic tricorder display, "Her levels are evening out, but she's not out of trouble yet." He then turned to Londance.

"We need to get out of here & fast."

Londance nodded in agreement, and looked to the alien tricorder, "If I'm reading this correctly, we have two options; first, there is a weak spot in the northern corridor that we may be able to use to get outside - the downside of that plan, is the outer hull of this construct appears to be made of a material similar to neutronium... The other option seems somewhat simpler; there is a transporter room somewhere in the east corridor - another issue, though; if I'm correct, then there will be some sort of console requiring a passcode of sorts, which we do not have."

He paused for a few moments, as he attempted to figure a solution, "Although... We may be able to get a signal through the weak spot in the northern corridor... Unfortunately, I'm not an engineer..." he trailed off.

Senna walked up and stood by Josh. She had been sensing a familiar person, but the strength of the presence just got stronger. She didn't understand how a non-telepath could have such a strong empathetic connection with her, but somehow this person did. If he was here, others would be with him. His determination that she felt was comforting.

"They are already here, Captain. I can sense one of the rescue party," informed Senna.Josh was standing at the side of the table where Alyssa lay. He was thinking on how to get a signal to the ship.

"Zoteke," he said, "trust me when I say this, but I've never been in such a unique situation before."

"It's just another situation I've never been in before. I've been in situations I've never been in before hundreds of times during my career in the Marines... This is no different... is it?" he said with a confidence and bravery he had completely lost.

Never in his career did he feel so insecure and incompetent but he knew he couldn't let that feeling infect the others. The instinct to protect his teammates still worked.

"That's one way to put it." Josh said, feeling slightly embarrassed. Then an idea came to his head like a flash. "You wouldn't happen to have a location transponder on you?" he asked.

Londance's face went from emotionless to sarcastic, "Isn't that what our combadges are for, Doctor?" He chortled a little, "But, yes - as a Diplomat, it's almost a requirement, in case of some form of disaster."

He lifted his rifle, and popped a compartment; a cylindrical object fell out, which he handed to Josh. "Although, I'm curious - what could you possibly be coming up with?"

A sly smile came across Josh's face. "We're going to fashion a Pulse beacon."

Londance raised his eyebrow, as he attempted to suppress the mimicry of Josh's smile, "Touche, Doctor."

"Enough!" The disembodied voice spoke once more.

"Relinquish the test subject. There is no escape, relinquish the subject and you will be permitted to leave with your bodies intact."

"I don't think so." Josh said aloud. "We don't leave anyone behind." Then, he started to think.

"Do you actually think you'll get outta here alive? I wouldn't bet on those odds."

He then turned to Zoteke, Londance & Senna, whispering, "If you see him, shoot to kill."

Zoteke's eyes went wider just a little bit in embarrassed surprise. He'd maxed the power on the energy weapon three attacks back, and the projectile weapon had no other settings.. he decided not to draw attention to it and talk about it with the counselor when he was there about the loss of control moments ago.

Senna felt uneasy about it, but understood the gravity of the situation. She simply nodded as she looked at his phaser pistol's setting and changed it to max. She hoped she didn't have to use it.Thoughts & ideas started to run through his head. A crazy idea popped outta nowhere. He needed to lure it away from the lab.

"Tell me," Josh said to the room, "how weak of a species can you be when you have to take the form of another species? I mean it's pathetic. Your kind is a parasitic growth in this galaxy."

"How dare you! We cannot be killed, we are all you see around you, every machine, every fiber and data crystal! We roamed the stars when your species was still in its infancy, the only parasites in this galaxy is your kind. But we will see that it is cleansed once more when we return to our bodies!"

Now, Josh had a look of confusion & slight anger. "Well," he said, "that's embarrassing." He turned to Senna. "How close are they?" he asked.

"Not close enough... at least on planet. If rescue protocols are followed, they will start at the shuttle landing site," informed Senna. "Although it isn't standard operating procedure, I left the shuttle's active sensors on and in record mode. The rescue party hopefully will find those logs and be able to piece together what happened to us."

"Alright," Josh said, " new plan. We now have to hang tight to this table. As soon as the rescue team gets here, we all beam out & have this place blown to high hell!!"

This upped Zoteke's mood somewhat. Here was something he could not screw up. "Sir, you might want this when you're wanting to be sure this place goes off into atoms. We don't even know if this place can be hit by the August's weapons. It could be 10 kilometers underground. This baby will atomize anything within a 500 meter radius, up to and including Neutronium." he said, pulling out a rather innocuous looking 20 cm diameter metal ball. It's detonator can be timed or sent through subspace." He added.

"A tricorder would have told its user the inside contained tricobalt."Josh took the metal ball & looked at it. "How much of a fuse does it have?" he asked.

"The timed delay is 10 minutes max. But we can send a detonation signal through subspace from a max. range of 1 lightweek away. Unless there is shielding around this place... which I wouldn't be surprised at..." Zoteke replied.

"Obviously," Josh said, "we're dealing with an artificial intelligence that has reach self awareness & it seems that it's hell bent on becoming a walking, talking danger." he put his fingers on his lips, as if running a thought through his mind.

"If we could just hold on for a few more minutes."

=== Iconia, Shuttle landing site ===

To be continued in part 10

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2 years ago


Did you write this? I am just curious... it looks good. Just reading a few lines here and there and I like it!

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2 years ago

Very long story. I hate reading a very long story. You could have cut it into parts. Anyway, thanks.

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2 years ago

I'm sorry. I'm still trying to find the optimal length of a post here on read cash. Apparently, I've found the upper limit now. I'll try to make posts shorter from now on. Thanks for the feedback!

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2 years ago