|10 years ago the Federation was attacked by their most fearsome enemy, the Borg - but how far are they willing to go to protect themselves now?|
With pattern enhancers in place, Blue team were beamed into position from the second insurgence shuttle to places where the troops had cleared any resistance that might be offered by the Section 31 officers.
"Here we go again!" Compz huffed as he materialised from the flickering energy beam in a dingy cavern with various metal piping disappearing into the long dark twisted tunnels.
"Isnít this your natural habitat?" Girling asked as he drew his tricorder and flipped it open.
"No, my kind wasnít designed as cave dwellers." Compz assured him.
"I meant being in mortal danger." Girling corrected him as he casually discarded his borrowed communicator badge that had allowed him to use the transporter.
"Where are we?" Katherine Rogers asked as the effects of the energy beam melted away.
"Theyíve beamed us in behind the worst of the fighting." Compz shrugged as the sounds of phaser blasts cut through the heavy artificial atmosphere. "I can smell the ionisation on the air, I guess there was some weapons fire here very recently."
"I bet you wish you were a foot shorter." Katherine smiled to the huge alien.
"I wish I was back in bed." He responded.
"We received a sub-space message from insurgence shuttle 1." The operations manager reported from his station.
"On screen." Captain Faruqui stood up from his command seat in readiness as the silent monitoring around the bridge could finally end.
The viewer dropped the long range image of the asteroid belt and gave way to an indistinct and grainy representation of security chief Goruss Clogg as he led his team deep into the base.
"Weíve met some resistance." He reported through his holographic relay. "We managed to disable most of the defence teams with the phaser mines, we were lucky enough not to have been detected until we docked."
"How long until you declare the area safe?" The Captain asked excitedly.
"We are mopping up the last few troops now and most of the base inhabitants have retreated to some kind of underground bunker complex, we had the element of surprise and everything is going very well." He reported with a happy grin at his own abilities that was masked by his numerous oral tentacles. "Weíve started erecting pattern enhancer grids along the less shielded caverns and have beamed the blue team aboard already. We should be able to bring the full insurgence team in from the Violator in a matter of only a few minutes."
"Excellent!" Captain Faruqui began ringing his hands together in eager anticipation. "Keep me posted!"
The sound of weapons fire echoed noisily through the hollow chambers, periodically punctuated by the tortured screams of fallen soldiers as energy beams connected with their bodies, robbing them instantly of their consciousness. The lighting flickered as power began to fluctuate throughout the base complex.
Blake Girling led the way down the narrow tunnel carved from solid rock with power conduits running along into the distance and self powered lights glimmering eerily against the uneven walls with a sickly yellow light. Katherine Rogers and Haldo Compz followed close behind, glancing behind them occasionally from a sensible dose of paranoia.
"Are you sure about this?" Katherine asked redundantly, hoping to distract herself from her swelling apprehension.
"About what?" Compz shrugged while his attention remained fixed on his tricorder as it scanned the area with tendrils of invisible energy. "Weíre heading the right way."
"The troops are just interested in mopping up the other troops." Girling added as he picked his way through the gloomy cavern. "The power readings show that anything interesting is down this way."
Katherine nodded and peered behind her, waving her small phaser around at the dancing shadows.
"There are no humans anywhere near us." Haldo Compz assured her.
"You canít detect Blake with that thing." She reminded him. "Section 31 probably have a number of nasty surprises waiting for us."
"This is an experimental facility of some kind." Compz agreed with a knowing nod. "There are countless horrors beyond your imagination that could exist here."
"Thatís very helpful." Girling shot him an acidic glance but human expressions were largely lost on the big alien whose facial musculature was vastly different. His race had a preferred system for expressing mood which was simply to tell people how they felt but he held that honesty was largely wasted on Humans who didnít employ it, welcome it or even expect it.
"Itís useful to be prepared." Compz told him flatly, glancing up from his tricorder.
"Youíre preparing me for a heart-attack." Katherine quipped to keep herself from giving in to her own fears.
"An electro-magnetic pulse on a microwave carrier beam could be modulated correctly to cause a heart-attack." Compz postulated cheerily. "Fortunately the material of your Starfleet uniform is designed to block most kinds of energy to some degree."
"Youíre not wearing a uniform!" Katherine sneered and raised her eyebrow knowingly.
"I donít have a heart." He shrugged while another of his grotesque smiles carving its way across his leathery face.
"What are you detecting?" Blake asked as he came to a fork in the tunnel that split off in two directions.
"If I had to guess," Compz began. "On the left is a complex of labs and further down on the right is a very, very, very large cavern containing some extremely odd readings.
"The labs?" Katherine suggested.
"If I had to guess." Blake nodded, glancing wryly at the large Moronian who probably had a very clear idea of what he was detecting but simply preferred to be annoying.
"Luckily the troops and engineers are not used to configuring their equipment to detect the kinds of things I expect to find here." Compz added cheerily. "We should have a good head-start over them."
"Iím counting on that." Girling nodded, glancing up from his readings to see if Katherine was dealing with her situation as well as he hoped she might.
"Iím fine!" She assured him, waving her phaser pistol behind her into the gloomy tunnel where the shadows were dancing across the jagged rock floor as if they were empowered with some conscious desire to taunt her.
"Iím detecting some kind of security field ahead." Compz told them. "Scanning is becoming very difficult."
"Just what we need." Blake grumbled.
"I guess your career is over." Compz added, to inspire some conversation.
"I had decided to rethink things anyway." She replied with a sigh. "I had grown a bit fed up with polishing Turazís sample racks. The problem with SF intelligence is that they never tell you anything."
"At least on a regular Starship youíre part of everything." Blake agreed, flashing a glance back to her, accompanied by a supportive smile that was swallowed by the gloom.
"I have been thinking going to work on a Hospital ship like my father." She suggested.
"I only served on one for a few hours." Blake began with a tiny shudder as the memories kicked up a swirling tirade of the imagined horrors that must have befallen him. "I can tell you it wasnít what I had expected. I would have happily served a long tenure on one and would have very much enjoyed the work."
"Everything about life is what you make it." Compz interjected. "I serve on a merchant vessel running various chemical poisons around the galaxy for profit but I enjoyed the time I have spent."
"I guess so." Katherine nodded.
"Starfleet is all about exploring space." Compz began. "Life is an exploration at its most basic level and every new experience can teach you something about yourself. In a wonderfully cosmopolitan galaxy replete with variety every colony, outpost and cruiser out there has something youíve never thought of."
Suddenly a figure jumped out in front of them from the shadows and halted in shock and surprise equal to their own. He had a weapon in his hand and was clearly agitated, breathless from the effort of running and the fear that had inspired him to do so.
Blake stood at the front of the group, his mind suddenly flooded with thoughts as he looked at the vaguely detailed silhouette that stood in front of a humming yellow light-plate. The seconds stretched into eternity as they stared at one another, his mind swirling with thoughts. He couldnít draw a phaser because he didnít want to shoot the man who may yet be turned to their way of thinking and he didnít want to provoke a fire-fight in any case.
In a movement that seemed almost like it was happening in slow motion the man before him began to raise his pistolÖ
Captain Faruqui stood in the centre of his bridge as his ship crept in closer to the asteroid that concealed a hidden base. He was vaguely aware of the activity around him but ignored it, lost in thoughts of his final victory over Section 31. This would be a crippling blow for the covert arm of the Federation, a decisive victory against the shadows that haunted his beloved Starfleet.
"If theyíre looking for us then weíre well within scanning range." Commander Brown told him flatly, knowing already that he knew that.
"They have other things on their minds." The Captain sneered with a rare smile cracking on his face. "Iíll beam down another thirty troops in a few minutes and over-run the base completely."
"What about the Ibex?" She shrugged. "It could still be in the area."
"I know." He agreed, his smile vanishing completely. "Weíll do this the same way as before only faster, weíll beam every computer component aboard that we can and then weíll do as much damage as we can and leave."
"This is going to hurt them." Commander Brown agreed, glancing up to the viewscreen, following his vacant gaze that was locked on the image of the asteroid.
"I intend to hurt them." He assured her, dragging his attention from the image and boring directly into her eyes with a measure of the hatred that was boiling away inside him. "I want them to know that I can hurt them, I want them to be on the run for once."
"Yes sir." She quickly turned away, choosing not to hold his angry stare.
The phaser pointed directly at them. Compz had seen everything quite clearly with his impressively adjusted visual abilities and had already pressed himself against the wall to make himself harder to hit but Katherine was lost in her fear and unsure how to react.
As the beam lashed out against them with unreservedly furious energy Blake jumped in front of her, forcing her back against the harsh rocks and offering his own body to absorb the blast. The fiery orange charge tore towards him until it finally made contact. A blue sheet of coherent energy appeared from his back and glowed hotly as it deflected the beam from his body with a crackle of arcing electrical power.
Blake reflexively spun towards the man, raising his left palm in an utterly instinctive gesture, his adrenaline flushing pure thought from his mind leaving him only the ability to react. A jolt of blue energy blasted from his palm and contacted the man directly in the chest sending him sprawling backwards forcibly into the rock face.
There was silence.
Blake found himself crouching in front of Katherine who had fallen to the ground as he had thrown himself onto her. His hand was outstretched and empty and the threatening man was laying in a heap and heavily stunned at least.
Compz stepped forwards from the rock and stood silently in the grim chamber, waiting for someone else to take the burden from him and be the first to speak.
"What happened?" Katherine asked, rolling over to prop herself up on her elbows, her phaser pistol laying unfired beside her.
"Good question." Compz agreed. "Iím glad you asked it."
"I wish I knew." Blake gasped, lowering his hand to his side and standing back up, his brow wrinkled thoughtfully while he racked his mind for an explanation. He raised his hand and examined his palm but it remained as featureless as it ever had. "He must have missed me."
"He hit you." Compz assures him. "The beam hit you."
"It didnítÖ" Blake replied absently, turning to face him while still breathing heavily from the shock.
"You had a shield." Compz told him flatly. "The beam hit a shield."
"How can I have a shield?" Blake shrugged. "Thatís impossible."
"You shot him with a beam of energy that came from your hand." Compz reminded him, stepping back slightly, deeply unsettled by what had happened. "Perhaps it is time to embrace the impossible."
"What the hell did they do to you in that tube?" Katherine asked, hefting herself up on her shaking legs and voicing the question on all of their minds.
"I donít know." He replied, turning forwards with newly found resolve. "Lets go and find out."
Goruss Clogg had positioned his men at various key positions around the base where they could stun anyone found moving with beams that were guaranteed to overwhelm any defensive armour, like the kind that his own troops wore.
"Pattern-enhancers are all in place and report operational." A young officer reported proudly.
"Send to the Violator, we are ready to receive the full insurgence team and the engineers." He ordered succinctly. "Begin scanning for the main computer."
"Sir!" An Ensign from Blue team stepped forwards with an open tricorder. "Iím detecting a large area immediately below us. There is a network of power signatures and interconnecting tunnels."
"Is that the computers?" Clogg asked, offering only a small amount of his attention as he continued about his business.
"No sir!" The Ensign replied, following after him. "From my scans I would guess that itís a network of labs and stores. It has security fields in place and may still contain people."
"Not interested." Clogg replied haughtily. "Find the computer and then weíre out of here."
"Sir, if there are people down there that we canít detect then they may have been injured by the phaser mines." The officer began.
"Enough." Goruss Clogg growled, spinning on the officer and glaring menacingly into his eyes. "We donít have time for this. We get the computer and we leave."
"Yes sir." The officer hung his head shamefully. "I just feel that a computer core would be controlling environment and life support controls, if we remove it then we could kill them all."
"That is not an issue!"
"How do you feel?" Katherine put her hand on Blakes shoulder as the three continued down the shaft.
"Iím fine." He assured her with an awkward nod while he tried to avoid eye contact.
"Youíre breathing heavily." She told him. "I wouldnít be fine if this was happening to me."
"Well itís not." He stopped and turned suddenly to face her.
"Weíre your friends." Compz told him forcibly, swallowing his apprehension. "Weíre all in this together now."
"Iím scared." Blake admitted, closing his eyes and leaning heavily back against the wall. "I donít know whatís happening to me. Iím a reanimated corpse with built in weapons. I had been rotting in space for 10 years and now Iím at the heart of a conspiracy deep within the ranks of the very organisation I died trying to protect."
"You were in a frozen vacuum." She told him, her voice as soft and supportive as she could manage. "You would have been maintained in good condition which is probably why they used you, and as for the rest weíll soon find out."
"We will find out." Compz assured him. "It is frustrating that we have many more questions than we do answers."
"Iím ok." Blake pushed himself from the rock wall and turned to continue. "Iím sorry I snapped at you."
"Itís alright." Katherine smiled, waving her hand dismissively. "I understand."
"What is a Scarab?" Compz asked as he buried his attention back in his tricorder. "I have heard them mentioned a number of times."
"A Scarab?" Katherine replied with a shrug. "I donít know much, I guess not many people do."
"Is it a ship?" Blake asked, happy and relieved that Compz had offered a welcome change of subject.
"Itís the latest ship from Section 31." Katherine agreed. "Itís an incredibly advanced design, years ahead of anything that Starfleet has."
"Please continue." Compz asked, his interest piqued.
"Theyíre around two hundred metres long we think." She continued. "Flat design, they look like a Scarab beetle which is where they must have got their name. The front is rounded with a hollow under-belly and the nacelles fold out from the tail when they go to warp."
"I thought that Federation design had more or less discounted moving the nacelles as a waste of time." Compz asked conversationally. "The requirements of the machinery and the complications of the plasma injector conduits far outweigh any slight benefits that you might gain."
"True." She admitted. "We really know very little about this ship. What little we do know comes from an encounter that an SF intelligence vessel had with one last year."
"I take it the Scarab came out on top." Blake guessed.
"According to the emergency message beacon the other ship released it did." She replied with a grim nod. "That was all that was ever found. Since then itís been a top priority to find out anything we can about these ships."
"That explains a lot." Blake said thoughtfully. "But where do I fit into this, what were they doing to me in the tube?"
"Perhaps a disposable crew?" Compz suggested. "Section 31 is a relatively small group."
"Too much effort." Katherine shook her head, discounting his suggestion. "In my opinion they were doing something to offer the ship an advantage."
"There are clear advantages of a crew with built in shields and weapons who are not detectable." Compz nodded.
"Iím detecting the source of the security field ahead." Blake interjected, plunging the conversation into the annuls of antiquity.
"Perhaps it has what weíre looking for behind it."
Captain John Graves waited for a few short seconds as another cup of coffee appeared in a shimmering haze of silvery light in the replicator panel.
"Are you sure I canít get you anything?" He asked, turning to Commander Morrow.
"Iím fine, thanks." Winston assured him from his seat as he gazed out of the small window at the asteroid belt. "Weíre getting closer, you know?"
"I know." The Captain agreed as he slumped into his chair. "Weíre moving in, probably for transport."
"What do you think theyíre going to do with us?" Winston asked rhetorically as he turned to his old friend hoping for a hint of optimism.
"I donít think theyíll settle for having us sign a secrecy declaration." Graves laughed weakly. "This is still Starfleet, theyíre not going to do anything nasty."
"You know what occurs to me?" Morrow began, lowering his voice for added impact. "Nobody knows weíre out here. Nobody knows where the Wanderer is and the crew will all report that is was destroyed by a small attacking ship. The Violator is operating covertly and nobody knows weíre aboard."
"Whatís your point?" Captain Graves asked, knowing already that he didnít want to know.
"They have a lot of loose ends to tie up and weíre one of them." Winston explained with a shudder.
"This is still Starfleet." Graves repeated hopefully although his faith was severely dented.
"And what about Compz?" Morrow persisted. "Section 31 donít want him running around and Captain Faruqui hasnít much time for him either. Even if they return us to the Wanderer theyíre signing our death-warrants."
The rocky tunnel ended abruptly. At the other side of the flickering security force field was a brilliantly lit white tunnel made from sterile artificial plating with a metallic grill floor.
"This would be the entrance to the labs." Compz guessed, dropping his tricorder. "My scans are being absorbed by the field, I canít see much of anything beyond it."
"Well someone was running back up the tunnel so there could well be more people inside." Katherine said, grabbing his phaser from her belt.
"The field controls are on the other side." Compz craned his neck to see a black access panel set into the wall beyond the security field. "I donít see how weíre going to get inside."
"Maybe I can get inside." Blake suggested, folding his tricorder into his pocket and stepping up to the shield. Itís got to be worth a try."
"You could be hurt." Katherine argued.
"There canít be more energy in this thing than there is in a direct phaser blast." Blake shrugged. "We donít have a lot of time before someone figures out what weíre up to, if they havenít already."
"It would be a simple matter to deactivate the shield from the other side." Compz agreed.
"Maybe you should try stepping through it then." Katherine replied haughtily to Compz.
"Iíll be fine." Blake took a deep breath and turned to face the almost invisible screen. Each little glimmer and shudder of light seemed to threaten him with silent menace as he shuffled his feet closer to the edge. Stepping into it deliberately could easily throw him back through the tunnel with enough force to break a lot of the bones he relied on to be able to live and he didnít relish trying.
With another deep breath he closed his eyes and stepped forwards.
The field shuddered around him, breaking open to allow him to pass effortlessly through and sending jolts of electricity up his spine, tingling at his nerves as he trod safely to the other side.
"He made it." Katherine grinned widely, turning to Compz with an obvious expression of relief.
"Iím not entirely surprised." Compz admitted. "Although I have never seen anything like that before."
Goruss Clogg watched as reserve troops were beamed in alongside the engineering team whose job it was to remove the main computer core.
"Sensors show the location of the computer." An engineer informed him from behind a bank of equipment. "Iíve set coordinates and can beam a team directly there using the Runabout transporter."
"Do it." He replied coldly, caring little for explanation about the technology that allowed him to get his job done. "Send a security team with the engineers."
"Sir!" Ensign Darryl Moss said as he stepped forward, pressing on his silent communicator behind his ear.
"Report!" Clogg told him.
"Three of our consultants are unaccounted for." Moss replied. "They were last seen heading into a tunnel complex and have now disappeared from our scanners."
"Compz?" He asked with a weary sigh.
"And Ensign Katherine Brown." He replied with a nod. "Iím afraid there is more bad news."
"Of course." Clogg replied with a nod. "There always seems to be when anything involves Compz."
"Lieutenant Commander Blake Girling is also missing." Moss told him, pressing against his communicator.
"Heís probably with the others." Clogg shrugged.
"No sir, heís missing from the Violator." Moss reported. "He stunned a guard and has vanished."
"I saw him on the Blue team manifest." Clogg sighed. "He must have faked his orders."
"And now heís missing with Compz and a hostage?" Moss suggested. "Shall I ready a team to pursue him?"
"Pursue him where?" Clogg sneered at his inferior officer. "Weíve lost them remember."
"Yes sir." Moss said sheepishly.
"We donít have time anyway." Clogg breathed out heavily. "We have a possible Scarab in the area and have to get out as soon as possible."
"We canít just leave an officer behind." Moss argued, surprised at even hearing the suggestion.
"Why donít you get on to shuttle two and find out who authorised Girling to come on this mission?"
The white tunnel was relatively short and soon broke into a corridor with several branches leading off to the various labs.
"Iím only detecting two life signs in the building." Compz noted with a sigh of relief.
"Together?" Girling asked hopefully.
"They appear to be making an effort to simplify our lives." He replied with a nod. "Third office on the left."
Blake took out his phaser and made sure it was set to stun. "I guess it makes sense for me to go alone and make sure theyíre friendly."
"We donít know if you can shield yourself again!" Katherine told him grumpily. "You canít just walk in there alone."
"I wonít take any chances." He assured her. "But I have an advantage, and thereís only two people in there who donít know Iím coming."
Girling stalked quietly along the edge of the corridor towards the office. He kept looking for other signs of movement as he knew that tricorders were easily fooled and it was indeed wise to embrace the existence of the impossible in a place that served as a production line for it.
He quickly reached the office and stood at the edge of the open doorway, waiting for an instant to listen for voices and to gather his nerves for the attack.
He could quite plainly hear the sounds of panic from at least one of the pair and that offered a level of reassurance that was very welcome.
Steeling himself he swung around the door behind his phaser pistol.
"Nobody move." He yelled, levelling the weapon at the two men. One was older, dressed in a white lab coat and his hands reached skywards instantly without another thought. The other man was dressed in a black jump-suit with ceramic armour panels at the upper arms and chest. He reached for his weapon with the same thoughtlessness with which the other had surrendered.
His actions were met with a prolonged impact from Blakes phaser that caught him square in the chest and sent him reeling back across the room to lay in a crumpled, groaning heap on the floor.
"Who are you?" Blake hissed, turning his weapon on the technician as he stepped into the room.
"Iím Doctor Harold Jones." He replied softly. "Iím not armed, please donít hurt me."
"Iím not looking to harm anyone." Blake assured him, relaxing slightly. "Iím looking for answers and I expect them to be forthcoming."
"Youíre the one with the gun!" Dr. Jones smiled thinly.
"Can we come in?" Compz called out from beyond the open door.
"Yeah, come in." Blake replied, lowering his weapon to his hip although it still pointed at the Doctor.
"Iím Haldo Compz." He grinned, raising his hand in a gesture of greeting at their captive.
"Compz." Katherine took his arm and pulled him back.
Suddenly all the lights went out, plunging the room into darkness for a moment before the red emergency lights took over and bathed the room in itís gloomy incandescence.
"Whatís going on?" Girling cried out, raising the weapon and locking his arm straight towards the Doctor.
"I donít know." He replied enthusiastically. "Something has failed. It could be anything from the power grid to the main computer."
"The computer!" Compz replied as his mind filled with possibilities. He pulled out his tricorder and began scanning. "The security fields have failed completely."
"The power grid has failed?" Katherine asked, spinning around behind her weapon, checking that the shadows contained nothing that could threaten them.
"The computer!" Compz replied. "Itís gone, thereís no main processor here anymore."
"Theyíve beamed it aboard the Violator!" She groaned. "It would have been a priority."
"Without it then every system on this base will fail." Blake said, hoping he was wrong.
"Including the cloaking devices." Compz agreed. "We are deep within the neutral zone in an illegal base where the Romulans and the Federation can now see us."
"Not to mention the Ibex." Girling reminded him.
"Who are you?" Dr. Harold Jones asked, gesturing with a nod towards Girling. "I mean one of you is in a Starfleet uniform but you two are dressed in civilian clothes."
"Looks like weíre sitting ducks." Blake groaned. "That means you are too."
Proceed to Chapter 9 of 10
|Last modified: 02 Jan 2014