Captain's Log. The Sentinel is four weeks into the testing of her Interspatial Warp Engines, and all preliminary reports indicate they are performing better than this ship's predecessor's test, as well as providing extra stability to the fabric of subspace at high warp. More analysis is required, but this could mean a lifting of the Warp 5 limit in non emergencies. We are-
"Captain. I'm picking up a distress call."
Stunshock spun around in his chair to face Ensign Willie Wurz at Tactical, who had become the permanent stand in while Roderick recovered from his spinal injury.
The viewscreen flickered to a heavily static screen, but through the flickers could be seen a Vulcan woman on the bridge of an old NX class ship.
"This is******* Arwen of the Evens********** under heavy attack by *******rates. Shields are down and *********** boarded. Need help now************"
The screen cut out. Stunshock's heart leapt into his throat as he quickly turned back to Wurz.
"Where is she?"
"Korva cluster. Sensors are picking up heavy weapons fire, but can't get any more readings at this range."
"Jenna. Intercept, maximum warp. All hands, red alert. Prepare for combat."
As the Sentinel came about and charged to the rescue, Emony started tapping her finger on her console. There was something about the Korva cluster. Something she was supposed to remember. But what was it?
It took them ten minutes to reach the location of the Evenstar. As they dropped from warp, everyone was on edge.
There a slight pause as the ensign checked her sensors again.
"The Evenstar is badly damaged. Reading plasma fires through the entire engineering decks. Her power systems are nearly offline, but I am detecting numerous lifesigns, mainly concentrated in and around the bridge. There is no sign of the attackers."
"Maintain red alert. Take us within transporter range. Sickbay, prepare to receive the survivors."
"My teams are all ready Captain."
Luawra sounded as confident as ever over the comm. He could only imagine the flurry of activity that was taking place down there.
The ship moved up to the stricken civilian ship.
"Still no sign of the attackers Sir."
"All transporter rooms, I want everyone off that ship as soon as the shields drop."
Emony glanced over to Talaina, suddenly realising what she had missed.
"CAPTAIN! Remember when we were in Steel River a few weeks ago, and we saw the future version of Talaina?"
Stunshock nodded. He remembered. And he had hated seeing his First Officer and dear friend in such a horrific state of injury.
"Talaina told me that we must avoid the Korva Cluster. This is where she was so badly injured."
"But if I know that I'm going to be injured, I can avoid it."
"You don't understand. It wasn't just you Talaina, it was everyone that suffered. Sir, this is clearly an ambush."
Stunshock drew a deep breath. Emony and Stunshock had been the only two that had been in Steel River. They were the only ones who know how bad things would get if this was the point. But that was also his Life Mate over there. In addition to her, there was her crew, and this was a Starfleet vessel. They had responsibilities.
"Either this is a trap, or the attackers have fled. But either way, we are not about to abandon the crew of that ship."
Talaina leaned over her station.
"Sir. Suggest we deploy the Scorpions for cover before we drop our shields."
Talaina sent the commands and the 5 Scorpion class fighters all launched from the rear of the ship. They took up a defensive position around the ship.
"Still nothing on sensors."
"Lower shields and begin transport."
The instant the shields lowered, a bright flash on the viewscreen rocked the ship.
Wurz struggled to maintain hold on her console as the ship rocked from intense weapons fire, struggling to get the shields back up.
"Something just knocked out the shields! We're taking heavy damage! Shields are not coming back online."
Talaina ran over to Tactical to help Wurz.
"Jenna, evasive manoeuvres!"
The vessel was already trying to move, but the first volley had hit her impulse engines, greatly reducing her ability to flee.
Talaina slammed her fist on the console in frustration.
"Sensors are completely blind."
"Emony. Xui Li, see what you can do."
The ship rocked again, explosions ripping through the consoles at the rear of the bridge. Smoke started filling the bridge as fires broke out from the heavy weapons impact.
Another explosion at the helm sprayed young Ensign Jenna Jones, sending her to the deck in a shriek, badly burning her face. Stunshock jumped up and dashed forward, taking the helm. Without sensors or the viewscreen, they were flying blind, but he used the impulse engines to start a rotation of the ship.
The intruder alarm started blaring. Wurz brushed the matted hair from her eyes.
"We're being boarded! Gorn lifesigns across the ship!"
Stunshock made his way to his chair, punching a control.
"TRT. All security. Secure the ship, any means. All hands, we are being boarded. Prepare for combat!"
Another explosion knocked the Jeroan to the ground, breaking his shoulder from the awkward impact. The smoke on the bridge was getting thick, making it hard to see. The stench was burning his nostrils. Xui Li had laid Jenna away from the consoles as Talaina barked orders. Wurz tried to get the weapons systems online, but power was failing across the ship. The whine of transporters rang in his ears. Time seemed to slow as Stunshock rolled over, looking up at the already fading lights as a team of five Gorn appeared in the centre of the bridge, weapons drawn. They started firing instantly. A cry told him Xui Li was hit. One of them glared down at Stunshock, raising his foot to stomp on the Captain's head.
A knife cut through the smoke, embedding itself firmly in the Gorn's eye. He let out a growl and slammed his foot down, reaching up and yanking the blade out. Talaina leapt across the Bridge, planting a heel kick into the Gorn's jaw and forcing him back into the others. Landing on her hands, she kicked upwards, hitting the Gorn's crotch. Spinning around, she grabbed her knife and jumped off the Gorn's knee and up over his head, driving the knife down through his scales and piercing his brain. The attacker dropped to the ground, but Talaina didn't give up. She was already moving to attack another, although they had already realised what was happening and were outflanking her.
Wurz pulled her phaser and started firing at the Gorn. Flashes of weapons crossed back and forth across the Bridge. A hand grabbed Stunshock's shoulder. Emony started pulling her Captain away from the boarders. The sharp pain cleared the fog of his mind.
He waved Emony away and grabbed a piece of shrapnel, rolling over and stabbing it into the nearest Gorn's knee. The brute responded by kicking Stunshock across the Bridge. He smashed his head against the corner of a console. As blackness swarmed his vision, he felt the warm trickle of blood running into his eye from a heavy wound somewhere on his forehead. He struggled to get up, to fight back the wanting familiarity of unconsciousness, but couldn't. Why had the Gorn attacked Arwen's ship, and now his? And more importantly, he had to make sure his crew survived. Spitting blood from the exertion, he shifted enough weight to be able to stand. No sooner had he regained his footing, he felt the warmth of a Gorn blaster hit him square in the back. The sensation quickly spread throughout his body as he collapsed, knowing he would never be able to fight off this. The last thing he saw was Talaina ducking a Gorn's left hook, only for another one to grab her left arm and twist it in an unnatural way.
In Engineering, Bosip was cursing. It was only sixteen days since he had been demoted from Chief Engineer, and now the ship was falling apart. Gweevle, bless him, was trying his best, and under normal circumstances, would make an excellent Chief. But the ship had been boarded and something had knocked out the ship's primary power grid. A phaser fight had broken out in the corridor outside, the TRT doing what they did best. The older Andorian turned to the alien who now had his job.
"I'm telling you, we need to restart the entire power grid. Shutting down the core and restarting it will bring everything back!"
"We'd lose what shields we have! Life support, weapons, we'd be a sitting aquatic animal!"
The alien narrowed his eye as he read the pop up display on the eye piece he wore.
"If we channel power from the transwarp drive into the warp reaction chamber, that should give us the boost we need to get the systems back."
"NO! We don't have time to set up the relays! And one wrong input variable, we would invert the entire ship into subspace. Or some other blasted dimension. I don't want to go back to that blue universe."
"And if we do a systems restart, there's no guarantee it'll work. We don't know what the Gorn used to cripple us!"
Bosip punched the console, very nearly turning his anger on Gweevle. He paused, his antenna curling in frustration as he tried to remember the calming techniques Shalonda had tried to teach him.
"It will take less time to restart the ship than what you're proposing."
Gweevle wiggled his fingers quickly as he thought about it.
"Aaaaaaaah. Fine. Do it."
Bosip didn't even acknowledge it; he just went straight to work.
Roderick limped along the deck, carrying a Gorn blaster. He'd been trying exercises to recover from his spinal injury when the ship was attacked. And he would be damned if he was going to let the ship fall. The Bar was one of the 'safe zones' a place designated to head for if the ship was ever boarded by superior numbers, due to its ability to be properly defended. Up ahead, he saw Claudius, a fairly new addition to the Security Teams, kneeling behind debris from a blown wall panel. He was shooting at a group of Gorn.
"Commander Roderick. Nice tah see yer still around."
"Huh. No thanks to these lizards. Seen anyone else?"
"Nee one living. But I am picking up life signs in The Bar. Just need to get past tha one guy down there."
Claudius fired again down the hall and ducked. A hail of minigun fire chewed up the wall behind him.
"I may not be able to run, but I can still shoot."
Roderick and Claudius waited for the Minigun to finish before they both popped up and opened fire with a hail of phaser fire. The Gorn was heard scrambling away, breaking into a Jeffrey's Tube and moving away in the walls.
"Didn't realise Gorn's were part chicken."
"Nah. Musta scared 'im good."
Roderick put an arm around Claudius and made their way quickly to The Bar. When they entered, they saw twenty crew members, bound and gagged. There were no Gorn in the room. At least, none Roderick could see, and tricorders showed only crew members.
"I don't get it. Why take so many prisoners, and leave them here?"
Roderick moved to the first group of hostages. He removed one of the gags and began untying the ensign.
Claudius was guarding the door.
"You hear that?"
"That whine. It's getting louder."
"I don't hear anything."
"It almost sounds like..... Oh HELL!"
Claudius dove out of the room as the phaser that had been left among one of the groups overloaded. Roderick only had time to register the initial flash before the fire washed over him and everyone in the room.
Grimworm tossed a grenade down the corridor, ducking for cover as it ignited. The Gorn had also taken cover, and none were caught in the blast. Grimworm quickly came up firing his Minigun, Karry and Ttorkkinn flanking him either side. For some reason, although the Gorn had beamed onto the entire ship, they seemed to be focused on getting to Main Engineering. It was only due to that area being reinforced to prevent the Insterpatial Warp Drive from affecting the rest of the ship was it they were not able to beam directly in there. Or so one of the technicians caught in this fight theorised. It made sense to Grimworm, so he just ran with it. And if the Gorn wanted to get into Engineering, then Grimworm was going to stop them. Physically one of the few who could go hand to hand with a Gorn and stand a chance of winning, the Hulkanian was determined to safeguard his shipmates.
Talaina was in agony. Her left arm had been broken either side of the elbow, but there were still three Gorn on the Bridge. Wurz and some security officers had forced two in the briefing room, but the third was proving more difficult. Having taken cover behind one of the auxiliary consoles, he maintained fire. The smoke had reduced visibility to nothing; her laboured breathing was not helping. She had already ordered Emony and anyone else still able to remove the injured from the Bridge using one of the forward turbolifts. Talaina was stalking this one Gorn, and though he had the upper hand in strength, she knew the layout of the land. Which gave her the advantage.
Moving up the right side of the Bridge, she kept low, biting her lip to keep the pain at bay. The sound of phaser fire from the Briefing Room was slowing down. She hoped that meant Wurz had won. But she couldn't worry about that now, she saw a large shape moving in the smoke. Moving swiftly, she ran forward, sliding feet first between the shape's legs and driving her knife between its legs, pushing the blade into the tender scales as hard as possible. The Gorn roared in pain and swung a backhand, catching Talaina. The hit to her face exploded colourful spots across her vision, mixing into the grey smoke in a beautifully chaotic mosaic. But she forced herself on, kicking her legs up to spin her around and upper cutting the Gorn. Not the smartest of moves, but one that gave her a few precious moments to regain her senses. Unfortunately, she was not quite quick enough and saw a clawed hand coming to shred her face. She ducked down as fast as possible, one of the claws piercing her right antenna. The pain was unbearable now as the tip of the antenna flicked away into the smoke. Blood gushed out, staining her white hair a crimson blue. Dropping to her knees, she gasped for breath, her lungs burning from the smoke. The Gorn hissed at her. Talaina slowly raised her eyes, seeing her attacker, one of his claws on his left hand coated in her blood.
"You fight well Andorian."
"You die well, Gorn."
The Gorn raised his hand, only to suddenly explode. Emony stumbled through the smoke, carrying a large weapon that had been under development for fighting Borg. Essentially firing a high yield physical explosive, Talaina realised the Trill must have grabbed it from the science labs when she took the Captain and survivors below decks.
"Come on. Let's get out of here."
Emony offered a hand, helping Talaina to her feet. She turned to the turbolift, but Talaina had something to do first.
"Computer. Initiate Boarding protocols, authorisation Kazzur, Alpha Alpha Six One Four Two Omega."
"Confirmed. All computer systems have been locked down."
A squeal from Emony snapped Talaina round. A sharp stabbing hit her left side as she felt herself lifted up off the deck. The two Gorn had broken out of the Briefing Room and one of them had stabbed his claws through her. He held her close, growling.
"You die well, Andorian."
Bosip couldn't believe what he was seeing. The restart had worked, and power was back. The ship's shields were holding, preventing any more Gorn from beaminig aboard. But what he saw on sensors didn't fill him with hope. Surrounding the Sentinel and Evenstar were ten Gorn battle cruisers.
"How are we supposed to get out of this?"
"I'm thinking, I'm thinking!"
Gweevle started muttering in his native language, an indication just how stressed he was getting.
Suddenly, he snapped his fingers.
"AH! I have it! But we need helm control!"
"We can't get to the Bridge!"
"No no no. We can't. Computer, is anyone on the Bridge?"
"Commander Kazzur and Commander Bearlo are on the Bridge. There are two Gorn lifesigns on the Bridge."
"Ooohhh, that's not good. Computer, re-route helm control to Engineering."
"Boarding protocols are in effect. Authorisation required."
"This is Chief Engineer Gweevle. Authorisation Papa Seven One Four Echo X-ray. Authorise unlock."
"Command code accepted. Voice recognition accepted. DNA match confirmed. Helm controls are now routed to Main Engineering."
Bosip watched as Gweevle moved to another console.
"What are you doing?"
"We can't go anywhere. If we do, we leave the Evenstar to the mercy of the Gorn. And we wouldn't survive a sudden jump anyway, not with the condition the hull is in."
"So we send the Gorn away. Power up the Transwarp engines."
There was a flicker of recognition across Bosip's features.
"Oh you evil, evil man. I love it!"
The Sentinel began moving, drawing the Gorn ships after them. However, one of the ships broke off pursuit and jumped to warp. The nacelles of the Sentinel began glowing brightly. The ship fired its thrusters, flipping over backwards. The power from the Transwarp Engines flowed through the ship, channelling into the main deflector dish. It began glowing with the same intensity, before a pulse blasted through space at the Gorn fleet. Explosions ripped through the secondary hull as power relays overloaded, the deflector itself fracturing into pieces. The pulse detonated with a bright flash in the centre, ripping open space and creating a Transwarp Vortex. The Gorn ships had no chance to escape. Each one was drawn into the vortex and flung to a random point. The vortex closed as quickly as it opened, leaving the Sentinel and Evenstar the only two ships left.
The Gorn held Talaina close, feeling her life ebb away. He flexed his claws, puncturing her internal organs.
"Your Captain is ours. We will take this ship back as a trophy. Its engines will allow the Gorn to attack faster than anyone thought possible. But you won?t be allowed to see it."
Talaina tried to spit defiantly at the Gorn, but a thin trickle of blood from her lips was all she could muster. The Gorn's communicator beeped.
"What is it?"
"I don't know how, but the Starfleeters have vaporised our ships."
"What do you mean vaporise?"
"I don't know how. But they fired a pulse that made all of our ships in the system disappear. Vanish."
"Can you take the engine room?"
"No. It's too well defended."
"Then proceed to the escape pods. We're outnumbered, but at least the Captain and the others will tell us how to build another of these engines."
The Gorn looked at Talaina.
"Time to end this."
He reached up to grab her head and twist it off like a bottle top when an explosion made him turn. His other officer had exploded, and Emony stood there, weapon in hand. The smoke swirled around her as she reloaded and aimed at the Gorn.
"You wouldn't shoot me. I hold your shipmate."
"I've had a really bad month. And I am really, really starting to hate lizards."
Ship's Log. Acting Captain Bearlo recording.
The Gorn ambush severely crippled the Sentinel. They knew we would respond to the distress call from the Evenstar. From what we have been able to piece together, they were after the Interspatial Warp Drive we have been testing. Though we were able to keep this technology from them, it cost us. The Sentinel is operating on minimal power. Gweevle has been forced to run the core on emergency power levels to prevent it from overloading our unstable systems. There have been numerous casualties from the boarding parties. Lt Frank Roderick perished in an ambush set up using members of the crew as bait. Lt Ernie Hauser lost his life ensuring the rest of the staff in his science lab escaped. It's..... it's too much to go into now. A formal report of the casualties will be made once we have made it back to a spacedock.
However, we did not just loose crew members to death. It appears the Gorn raided one of the 'Safe Zones' and captured Captain Stunshock and nearly a fifth of the crew. I can only assume they were onboard the Gorn ship that left the battle early. They could be anywhere now. We are in no state to go after them. We don't even have an operational warp drive.
Emony stood in sickbay. It was one of the few places on the ship that had received little damage. It was filled with the moans of the injured. Luawra's team moved as expertly as they could, but the toll was catastrophic. How Luawra was able to block out the pain from all of these people was a mystery. But she figured the Betazoid was used to such things, or she would never have become a doctor.
Arwen entered the sickbay. She approached Emony and looked at the prone form of Talaina on the bio bed.
"How is she?"
"Heavy internal organ failure. Broken arm in two places. Antenna ripped off. Massive blood loss. The Doctors had to put her into a stasis coma to preserve her until we can get to a spacedock."
"And the rest of your crew?"
Emony grimaced, and brushed some hair away from her face, revealing a nasty cut to her temple.
"We lost a lot of people. And the Gorn took many too. I... I don't know where. I'm sorry Arwen, but Stunshock was among those taken."
Arwen's eyebrows moved together in concern ever so slightly. She was trying to mask her pain, and seemed to be doing a good job of it.
"I see. If there is any assistance the Evenstar can provide, we will naturally be at your disposal."
"Thank you. But you need to get yourself repaired. Structural integrity won't hold up to warp speed, and we destroyed the Transwarp coils in that little stunt. I think the best thing would be for the Evenstar to get warp capable and head to the nearest starbase. Get them to send a ship out here to help us."
"Very well. We will proceed at best speed."
Arwen nodded and left the sickbay. Emony took in a deep breath, slowly letting it out. Turning, she made her way to her quarters. They were badly damaged, with shards of the glass table scattered across the floor. They crunched under her boots as she sat down on the couch. Roderick was gone. The brave man who had been with them since they had transferred to the Sentinel. But worse, Ernie was gone. They had been close friends for years. He had been invaluable to helping her recently during her confusion. She still didn't know exactly what to do. She had relied on Ernie to comfort her, to give her an ear to talk to. And now.... one of her best friends was gone. A lot of people's best friends were gone. Their brothers, sisters, sons, daughters. Blinked out. For petty greed. Emony rested her head in her hands. A tear slipped out as the grief overpowered her. It was better to grieve now, and appear strong to the crew. After all, she was the Captain now.
Mirrat and Gar stood in the burnt husk that used to be The Bar. The Jem'Hadar gazed around the room with quiet contemplation.
"Roderick died with honour."
Gar replied, prompting Mirat to turn and glare at the Breen.
"I antagonised him, abused him, fought him, but I always respected him. Frank Roderick had the spirit of a warrior. Even after his injury, he fought to stay alive. You will show him some respect."
Gar said something, then turned and left. Mirat narrowed his eyes. Perhaps he had misjudged Gar. Disrespecting a fallen warrior, either a friend or enemy, who died in an ambush trying to save his shipmates, was not the action of someone Mirat wanted to be friends with. Perhaps he would have to re-evaluate certain things.
"Sleep well Roderick."
In Engineering, Gweevle was busy directing people to fix the ship. The occasional shower of sparks erupted from the dormant Warp Core, causing panic among the technicians every time. Xui Li stood beside the alien, holding a PADD and making an inventory of what supplies remained. Gweevle moved over to Xui Li.
"I hear you got hit by a Gorn weapon."
"Yes. It was during the early stages of the attack. I, ah, was helping Ensign Jones and was shot in the back. I was, ah, lucky the weapons were only set to stun."
Gweevle gently patted her shoulder.
"I'm glad to see you're ok."
"And I, you. But there are many that are not."
"I'm sure Luawra will help heal everyone. She and her staff work miracles."
"Not this time. She has reported over fifty officers have died. And that, ah, does not include those taken."
Gweevle grimaced. He wasn't sure how to process this loss. Since the Sentinel picked him up in that pod, he had never really encountered loss of this magnitude. He didn't know how his shipmates would respond.
"I think Shalonda is going to be busy the next few weeks."
"Shalonda was, ah, among those taken."
Gweevle just blinked, not sure what to do next. He cleared his throat and looked at the damage report. It would take them months to get the ship back in shape, assuming they could get to a drydock. Which was not going to happen unless they could fix the warp drive and the structural integrity field. He fidgeted a bit before moving to a console and started working.
Ensign Willie Wurz sat at one of the auxilliary science consoles on the bridge. The stench of smoke still lingered in the air, even though the room had been cleared hours ago. Her left arm was in a sling from where a Gorn had torn open her arm. Luawra had set the bones and muscles back, but didn't want to use the limited resources to heal her completely once her life was out of danger. An understandable concern and one Wurz would have demanded on anyway. There were those in much worse shape. Like Jenna. Wurz cast a lingering glance over to the empty helm station. With a sigh, she turned back to the sensor logs.
Ttorkkinn came over.
"The data banks took heavy damage. I'm picking through them, but there were ten Gorn ships out there, it's hard to keep track of which one was which."
"We only need to know one."
"Yes, but I'm also trying to identify what they hit us with in the initial volley. It looked like it was some kind of subspace fluctuation pulse. It overloaded the sensors and shields at the same time."
"Let me know when you have something."
The leader of the TRT made his way across the Bridge to pester someone else.
Wurz turned back to her console. She held back a sniff as she saw the last of their Scorpion fighters explode, yet another friend lost senselessly. They all signed onto Starfleet knowing the risks. But you would hope that if your time came, it would mean something. Saving a planet, the ship, even just saving your friend. Something. But the lives lost this day meant nothing. And worse, there could be more. She suddenly paused the recording and leaned forward. Checking the spectro-analysis, she smiled.
"Commander Ttorkkinn? I think I've found something."
Perhaps some lives could still be salvaged from this day.....