Ensign Vicky O'Dell was sneezing her head off. She was on route to Starbase One's infirmary to have herself checked out. The doors opened, granting her access to the waiting room. Doctor Peter McNamara wasn't busy, so he came to see here right away. In fact, the infirmary was empty.
"Hello, doctor. I have a major problem."
"Well, why don't you sit down and I'll see what I can do."
She continued to the examination area and sat on the biobed.
"I see you still have only one bed."
"Actually, they're building a new ward in the room next door. They'll remove the wall next week. Then I'll have enough beds for six patients."
"So, how do you like your new job?"
"It's nice, very busy, but nice."
Until the Starfleet ships had arrived, the Infirmary of the base had been a neglected area. The Terrans needed all their medical personnel for the colony. And the Alliance just hadn't cared. So Starfleet Medical had send twenty-two people over to take care of the problem. Peter McNamara became the station's first Chief Medical Officer. He passed his tricorder over to O'Dell.
"I heard you got appointed as chief Conn officer for the Inventive."
"Yes, she's the Academy Trainer."
The Terran Space Academy was part of the Resistance's attempt to become a more organized group. There were plenty of teenagers willing to join the Resistance, but all the cases so far had been disasters. Admirals Janeway and Paris had decided that this horrible practice had to stopped. So the Terran Space Academy had come to be. The cadets got the same training as their counterparts back at Starfleet Academy. And the Inventive was the training ship. She had a crew complement of sixty cadets plus six officers with the rank of ensign. Commander Andrew Powell was her first officer and Captain Jeryill Dovz was in charge. So sixty-eight people crewed her total.
"The new power core came on-line yesterday." O'Dell said.
"I know, I finally have power for the diagnostic equipment. Which, by the way, says that you have Bolian Chicken Rash."
‘But I've never even seen a chicken."
"It's a virus. It will be over in a days or two, and it's nothing serious."
"Good, I was getting worried."
"However, it will get worse if you don't handle it. So, stay in bed and drink plenty of liquids. And that's an order."
"No buts. The Inventive will have to without you for her first mission, period."
"Fine, but you tell Captain Dovz."
O'Dell headed for her bed.
Jeryill Dovz felt like killing someone. In specify, Peter McNamara. He had just informed her that her Chief Conn officer was sick. McNamara was right to keep her in bed, but Dovz didn't want to hear it. She was tapping her fingers on her desk. Andrew Powell came into her ready room and headed straight back to the door.
"Where are you going?"
"Somewhere safe, because you're cranky. And I don't want to be around you when you're cranky. As a matter of fact, nobody wants to."
Then the doors closed behind him.
What was that supposed to mean? I'm not cranky. Am I? Okay, I'm cranky.
She let out a sigh.
"He knew I was going to think that."
It made her feel better, and her cranky mood began to vaporize. She slapped her combadge.
"Dovz to Rogue."
"Rogue here, talk to me."
"I've got a problem. I'm one crewman short, my chief Conn officer is sick…"
"…I'll send Archer over to take her place. Collins is on shore leave, Rogue out."
Dovz leaned back in her chair. Powell came back in.
"Is it safe now?"
"Yes, what is it?"
"The report you wanted on the engines."
"Well, the normal cruise stayed the same: Warp six. But the maximum speed has been boosted by the refit. She can maintain warp eight point six now."
"For how long?"
"Where did you find the power for the two extra hours?"
"The EPS-grid. We stole a few components from the Galaxy-class."
"Good work. Vicky O'Dell is sick, so Peter Archer will be taking the Conn. Fill him in on the mission when he gets here."
"That was all, dismissed."
Powell returned to the bridge.
I must be insane. Collins thought. She stepped inside the Severn's small bridge. First of all, to rent this ship again. Which hadn't been easy. The last time it had been used by Horizon crew, her owner had gotten is back full of holes. They'd used it a decoy to reach Earth and stop Admiral Jellico. But that was a different story. And second, to go to Aqua Victory Prime. But she had promised herself to get Libby of the planet. I could be on Risa, not some forgotten backwater planet. No turning back now. She brought the impulse drive up to full power. Her journey back to her home universe had been per interdimensional-transporter. Then she had taken a passenger liner to Bajor. And from Bajor, she had taken an unregistered shuttle to the Severn. Collins worked the auto-pilot controls. She punched in the coordinates for Aqua Victory Prime and set the speed at warp seven. Then she activated the system. The Severn jumped to warp. It would be a one day journey at warp seven. But when she was about one hour away, things went sour. An Excelsior-class starship entered her sensor range.
" I should have known, the Heisenberg."
She activated the cloak and dropped to impulse. Then she quickly changed course. But Eric Walker was no fool. He also remembered their last encounter. The Heisenberg began emitting Tachyon pulses. Collins prepared to bring the weapons on-line. Luckily, the owner had upgraded them since her last visit. The Severn now had four phase-cannons forward and two aft. She locked weapons as she brought the ship about. The Tachyon pulses would expose her in matter of seconds , so she'd only have one shot. Heisenberg's phasers fired. Most of the shots missed, but one hit the aft section. The ship dove for the starship's port nacelle at full impulse. Collins decloaked the Severn at the last second. Then she pulled her up a bit. Severn went over the Heisenberg. When she was at point blank range of starboard nacelle, Collins fired. Her approach had made it seem as if the other nacelle was her target, so most of the shield power was diverted to the other side. She managed to blow a huge hole in the nacelle. But then she was grabbed the tractor beam.
"Great, just great."
Collins rerouted power to the engines.
"Come on, girl, come on."
But the ship kept slipping. Then Collins came up with a desperate idea.
"I hope I never have to rent this ship again. Just the idea would make her owner go insane."
She rerouted all weapons power into the aft phase-cannons. Then she took the safety buffer off-line. Collins knew it would result in a overload that would fry the primary EPS grid. She switched the computer, warp drive and life-support to the back-up grid. Then she locked onto her target.
"Her goes nothing."
She slammed the fire button.
Eric Walker turned his chair to face the Tactical station.
"A power build-up? Where?"
"The aft weapons array."
"Auxiliary power to shields!"
But it was too late. A huge ball of power drilled itself into the underside of the ship. The Heisenberg took a nose dive. People were flung through the room. Walker landed net to the Conn station. He got up and limped back to his chair.
"The tractor beam emitter is gone. We have hull breaches on deck thirty-two and thirty three. Sections….eight through fifteen, forcefields are holdings."
"Where is the alien vessel?"
"In front of us, moving away on manoeuvring thrusters."
Then the first electric jolt hit.
Collins wasn't happy. She had underestimated the firepower of the cannons. The plan had been to take out the tractor beam, not blow a huge hole in the Heisenberg. And it got worse. The Severn and Heisenberg were to close. She was counting on the power surge to wreck the ship's primary EPS-grid. Instead, most of the charge was now ‘jumping' to the starship. Collins worked the controls as fast as she could. She managed to stop the jumping after the fourth jolt. The rest of the power surge was led into the EPS-grid as planned. It burned out the transporter and the gravity in the cargo bays. Then it stopped.
"Luckily for me the cargo bays are empty."
She switched all the remaining systems to the back-up grid. Then she reactivated the auto-pilot. Nothing happened.
"Computer, why is the auto-pilot not working?"
"The warp plasma has been contaminated with Polaron particles."
Must have happened when I broke free. She thought.
"Can they be purged?"
She thought about it, then something came to her mind. A procedure her dad had told her once, for exactly this situation .
"Computer, vent all plasma from the nacelles."
The computer executed the order. A green cloud enveloped the Heisenberg.
"Now, close the nacelles again and set the intake filter to setting four."
"Pump the plasma out of the primary EPS-grid into the warp nacelle."
It took about one minute to complete the job.
"Activate the auto-pilot."
"No Polaron particles detected. Auto-pilot active."
The Severn went back to warp seven.
Peter Archer slid into the chair behind the Conn station. The bridge of the Inventive was different then the Raven, which had ended up being assimilated by the Borg. First of all, the U-shaped console was gone. In its place stood the Conn-Operation console Archer was at. It was the model from the Defiant-class. Behind it was the captain's chair of the Sovereign-class model. Left of the command chair was the first officer's station, also the Sovereign-class kind. The last thing the Inventive had taken from the Sovereign-class were the colours, everything was dressed in the same shades. Another difference was the Master System Display. The bridge ended between the side stations. It had a single exit, the only other door was left of the viewscreen and led to the ready room. The Master System Display was mounted to the right of the viewer. Another new console was the tactical station, which was located next to the ready room's entrance. Powell was already in his seat when Dovz came in.
"Is everything ready, number one."
"Good, Conn. Clear all mornings."
"Aye." Archer said.
The Inventive had been docked to Starbase One. Now she slowly pulled clear.
"We have left the station."
"Okay, let's meet up with our companions for the this mission." Dovz said.
Archer eased the ship around the station. The Defiant and Starstalker were waiting of her.
"How long will it take to get to the Ramses system at warp eight?"
"About five hours., it's halfway between here and Bassic Prime."
"Then set a course."
The ship jumped to the ordered speed.
"You know." Powell said. "Engage is so corny. You could come up with a good line. It wouldn't hurt your image."
Then he left the bridge.
The Enterprise dropped to impulse. She had been the closed to the Heisenberg when it had transmitted a distress call. The ship looked terrible. William Riker opened a com-link to main engineering.
"Riker to LaForge."
"Geordi, we're approaching the Heisenberg. Are you watching the sensor read-outs?"
"How bad is it?"
"It will take me a few seconds to put a report together."
Picard turned to Riker.
"Our primary concern is the warp core."
"If it's damaged, this could all be over very soon."
LaForge came back on.
"I've go it, sir."
"Go ahead, commander." Picard said.
"The warp core is fine. Containment is normal."
"Well, that's one lucky break." Riker said.
"The port warp nacelle is damaged. There is severe damage to decks thirty-two and thirty-three, in section eight through fifteen. All the thrusters are clogged with EPS-plasma. And forty-nine percent of saucer's EPS-grid is burned out. Conclusion, that ship isn't going anywhere anytime soon."
"Thanks, Geordi, Riker out."
Picard watched the viewscreen for a second. Then Worf spoke up.
"Sir, we are being hailed by Captain Walker."
"Good timing, Jean-Luc."
"Eric, what happened?"
"We were attacked by a ship we were trying to apprehend."
"What kind of ship?"
"The SS Severn, it's a renter ship owned by the Valkyrie Cooperation."
"Why were you chasing a civilian ship ?"
"The VC is a known cover company for Orion weapons dealers. And the Severn was heading of the Aqua Victory sector. Which is off-limits because of Prime Directive reasons."
"I see, how are you holding up?"
"We have fifty-three wounded, but no fatalities."
"We'll stay here for another eighteen minutes. Then the Starship Prometheus will arrive. She'll help you with your repairs and we'll go after the Severn."
"Understood, Walker out."
Then the screen went blank.
The Ramses system is a binary star, but only Ramses-B has planets. There are three of them. And Ramses-B-III was the destination of the Resistance ships. Orbiting that planet is the Salvation shipyard. This is were all of the Romulan warbirds were constructed and their warp ships were refitted. The station is made out of two disks that are connected by three pylons. It was build, ironically, by the Cardassians in 2295. They used the station until 2320 and then abandoned it. Dovz watched the station.
"How long until the Terix launches?" She asked the science officer.
Cadet Henry Kinsey checked his readings.
"Two hours, ma'am. They are running the final diagnostics."
The Terix was the last Romulan warbird. It was finally complete and ready for action. The three starships were to see to it that the Terix launched and made it back to the Reman system. Without any problems. They were also to evacuate all the personnel from the station, after which they would activate its self-destruct. There would nothing left for the Alliance to research. The finding of the station had been a lucky break. A Romulan ship had undergone engine trouble near the system in 2373. They had limped to the station and made repairs. Dovz studied the station in detail.
"How many people are there on the station?"
"Sixty-four Romulans and seventy-six Borg, making a total of one-hundred and forty. The Terix crew is already aboard their ship."
"Put us in orbit of the station. Then activate the cloaking device."
"Aye." Archer said.
The Inventive went into orbit and then faded out of view.
Dorian Collins walked down a sandy road leading to the village of Chron. Chron was Gary Rogue's place of birth. It was also the place where Libby began her run. Getting to the surface hadn't been easy. She had to repair the transporter and set up a remote trigger for it. Then she had to move the ship to an orbit of the planet's second moon. The moon emitted a strong particle field that was impenetrable for even the sensors of a starbase. But the auto-pilot would keep the Severn in place. Aqua Victory Prime had one large continent, and Chron was at the most eastern point. Beyond the town was the sea. Libby's run went all the way form Chron to Ysic, which was on the western coast. That was why the steam-locomotive was the fastest of the planet. She had to cross the entire landmass in the smallest amount of time. Collins was worried that her goal might not be here, but in Ysic. In which case it was all over. A second transport would surely be noticed. If the Heisenberg didn't repair her damage and show up, some other starship would. She reached the train station and looked around. Then she saw her. It was a black locomotive with red lines and gold letters. She looked small, but Collins believed that was only the surface. Someone bumped into her.
"Oh, I'm so sorry. Are you okay?"
At least her universal translator was still working. She got up.
She looked up at young boy that had hit her. He was about twenty years old. The boy wore a greasy overall and a hat.
"Thomas, you have got to go." Someone said.
It was a man in a dark brown suit. The wore a sign that said 'Station Boss'. Collins went and bought a ticket. She had done her homework and replicated the right currency before leaving. Then she got onto the train. A man of about fifty years of age sat next to her. He had grey hair and beard. His eyes were bleu. The man reminded Collins of Rogue.
"Libby, what a pretty name for a locomotive." She said.
"You not from around here, are you?"
"No, I'm from the south."
"I see, have you ever ridden a train before."
"Not even the Southern Blossom line?"
Libby went from east to west and back. Southern Blossom was the north-south route.
"No, our family is very poor. Trains are only for the rich."
The man blushed.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to…."
"Forget it, it's not you fault. Who came up with the name Libby?"
"It's comes from Elizabeth, my wife. My son Gary came up with the name."
Now it was Collins turn to feel ashamed. The man was her captain's father!
"I miss him, he went for a walk on the Forgotten Highlands three years ago." The man sighed. " He never came back."
Her stomach turned.
"Who is driving the train?"
"My son Thomas, my name is Samuel."
They shook hands.
Then there was a jolt and a whistle. The train began moving.
"I've had it with sitting still." Powell said.
Dovz had left him in charge. A cadet had relieved Archer at the Conn.
"Cadet Samuels, set course for Ramses-B-One, full impulse."
The ship broke free and headed for the planet. Five ensigns came in. Powell had called his officers to the bridge. He read the names from his PADD.
"Eric DeSalle, chief engineer."
"Jennifer Sanchez, chief medical officer."
"Richard A'Zuro, chief science officer."
"Ingrid Warrick, chief tactical officer."
Five of the officers had been handpicked by Admirals Janeway and Paris himself. Those five were O'Dell, DeSalle, Sanchez, A'Zuro and Warrick. O'Dell was Bolian and A'Zuro was Romulan. Number six had been put on the Inventive by Admiral Peter Zhukov. He was known a as renegade. The kind who disobeyed orders and threw protocol out the window whenever it suited him. But somehow, he had made it through the Academy. And at tour of duty aboard the Starship Heisenberg. Jonathan Wallace was the nephew of Darian Wallace and had left the Academy in 2377.
"And Jonathan Wallace, our second officer."
"Ladies and gentlemen." Powell said.
"I have arranged a little test for you. And it begins….now."
A transporter beam carried Powell away. Then the lights went out and alarms began screaming. Wallace snapped into action.
"Okay, stations, people. I need reports."
"Who says you're in command?" Warrick asked.
"The regulations, I'm the second officer, Remember? Now get the palm beacon from the emergency locker. Then I want everybody at his station."
DeSalle opened the locker and handed out flashlights.
"Phasers and tricorders as well." Wallace said. "This could be anything."
Once the weapons were passed on, the cadets sat at the side-stations. Science left of the Conn and Engineering to the right. DeSalle managed to get the emergency lights on-line.
"Nice work." A'Zuro said.
Then they spotted Samuels. The cadet was slumped on her console. Sanchez put her up and checked her pulse.
The Enterprise entered orbit of Aqua Victory Prime.
"Mister Worf?" Picard asked.
"Nothing on sensors, sir. However, there is dense particle field around the second moon that sensors cannot penetrate."
"How about sending in a probe?"
"The sensor resolution would be to low. Captain, I was aware of this field before our arrival and I have run every conceivable scenario. None of them were effective."
"So, the Severn is up there but we can't see it."
"Well, I guess that leaves us with one option. Mister Branson, lay in a search pattern. Take us into the field."
"Aye, captain. Search Pattern Beta-Four would be most effective here."
"Then use it. Make it so."
The Enterprise dove in.
Collins had told Samuel she had to go to the toilet. She checked her tricorder. It was a Romulan device she had bought on Bajor. The device told her the current status of the Severn. She cursed as the she saw the Enterprise close. Then the ship's automated defences kicked in.
Wallace looked around the ship's bridge.
"Where is Cadet Kinsey?"
A'Zuro checked the internal sensors.
"He's not on the sensors."
"And he was at science station, with access at all the ship's sensors. He could have easily scrambled them. Kinsey is an Alliance spy."
"Great, now what." Warrick asked.
"Sound alert condition two. I want all key locations on the ship secured yesterday."
The alarms began to scream.
"A'Zuro, you're with me. We've got to secure main engineering."
A'Zuro and Wallace raced out. They met eight security crewmen halfway the corridor.
"Delta-team, you're with us. Alpha-team, secure the bridge."
They reached main engineering. The room had three entrances. A set of doors and two Jefferies tubes.
"A'Zuro, we'll take the front door. Delta-team, split up and take the tubes."
The security team got going.
"You know this is the standard approach. If he's in there, he'll be ready."
"I know. Wallace to transporter room."
"Cadet Reilly here, sir. I read you."
"Is the barn locked?"
Reilly caught on at once.
"Unlock it and bring me the DN-4, please."
"Right, when do you want it?"
"In one minute."
"We'll do, Reilly out."
Wallace nodded to A'Zuro. A'Zuro opened the doors and they went in. Kinsey was waiting for them. He fired his phaser at them. A'Zuro put down cover fire as Wallace crawled closer. Then there was the sound of a transporter. It made Kinsey turn for a split second. A standard issue test cylinder formed. The split second was all Delta-team needed. Four beams from phasers set to Heavy Stun hit him. Kinsey flew back two meters and hit the wall. Wallace got up.
"A'Zuro, check what he did to our systems."
A'Zuro began checking the system. Engineering was a round chamber with the warp core in the middle. It had two levels with a transparent floor between them. The doors were on the lower level and the exits of the Jefferies tubes on the upper. Seven crewmen had been shot down by Kinsey before they had arrived. Wallace opened a channel to the bridge.
"Sanchez, we've got wounded in main engineering. Get a medical team down here."
Then he changed to ship-wide channel.
"All hands, this is main engineering. An Alliance spy has just been apprehended. Check all systems for sabotage, out."
He closed the channel and turned to A'Zuro.
"He was messing about with the anti-matter containment. Two minutes later and the ship would have been gone."
Sanchez and her medical team came in, followed by Dovz and Powell.
"Computer." Dovz said. "End of drill."
The computer responded by deactivating the drill program.
"All hands, end of drill. End of drill, stand down."
The 'shot' crewman got up and went back to work. Sanchez revived cadet Kinsey.
"Well done." Dovz said. "But the next one will be harder, dismissed."
Then she left main engineering.
Commander Gyo Aris sat in his command chair. The bridge of the Terix was an oval chamber. Her chair was in the centre. In front of the chair were the Conn and Operations station and then the viewscreen. Behind it were the Engineering and Science stations. Both stations were crewed by two people. Engineering was to the left, and Science to the right. Between the two stations was the Master Systems Display. The turbolift exits were next to the viewscreen. Tactical was between the turbolift and the Engineering Station. Opposite of Tactical was the entrance of Aris's ready room. Aris turned to her first officer, Sub-commander Pyroc.
"Are we ready to launch?"
"Yes, commander. All systems are go."
"Excellent, Centurion Zov."
The Chief Conn officer of the Terix turned her chair.
"Get us underway."
The ship undocked from the station and went to one-quarter impulse.
"We are clearing the station."
"Take us to full impulse. Pyroc, what's the status on our escort?"
"All three ships are decloaked and alongside."
"And the station?"
"It has been evacuated and should explode in two minutes. We'll be clear to enter warp in two minutes and twenty seconds."
The minutes ticked away. Then the station blew itself to pieces.
"Cloak the ship."
The Terix wrinkled out of sight. Then things went wrong.
Worf had to grab his panel firmly. The Severn was firing bolts of power at the Enterprise.
"Damage report, mister Worf." Picard asked.
"None, the Severn is firing low-level plasma bullets into the particle field. They appear to be triggering electric jolts."
"Can we beam an away team over to the ship to stop it?"
"Negative. While the shields are up, the jolts are harmless. But if were to lower them for transport, the jolts would cause severe damage to the EPS-grid."
"What about a shuttle?"
"It could not withstand the stresses within the field. Even with shields up at full, I estimate the shuttle would lose anti-matter containment in less the a minute."
"Can we hold position?"
"Affirmative, the jolts do not damage shields."
"Mister Branson, put the moon between us and the Severn."
The Enterprise moved away from the ship.
"The Severn has ceased fire."
"Data, what can you tell me about this moon of Aqua Victory Prime?"
‘'It is class-H and was an unstable core. That is the cause of the particle field. It is uninhabited."
"Worf, do we know if there's anybody aboard that ship?"
"Negative, the field is to dense to get a good reading."
"Mister Branson, set course for the planet's first moon."
The ship came about and raced to the other moon.
All of the ships had cloaked, except the Inventive. Powell was in command.
"Sir." Warrick said. " I'm picking up a Vor'cha-class ship."
"They must has picked up the explosion of the station. Cloak the ship!"
The Alliance ship opened fire.
"On second thought , open fire!"
The weapons of the Inventive had been upgraded. She was now armed with eight phasers, one quantum torpedo launcher and eight micro-torpedo launchers. Her photon torpedo launcher had been upgraded. The eight micro-torpedo launchers fired micro quantum-torpedoes. And were mounted to aft in two clusters of four. The launchers were of the model invented for use aboard the Horizon. Four quantum torpedoes struck the Alliance ships. The Defiant decloaked and joined the attack. Starstalker and the Terix were on their were way to the Reman system. Suddenly, seven alien ships decloaked and opened fire. The bridge crew gasped at the view. Powell jumped out of his chair.
"Are those Dominion warships?"
Archer was at the Conn.
"Yes, sir." He said.
The Alliance ship was destroyed in a matter of seconds. Then six of the Dominion ships cloaked. Number seven jumped to warp.
"After him! Maximum warp!" Powell snapped.
The Inventive and Defiant raced after the Dominion vessel.
Collins sat back down next to Samuel.
"You wanted to tell me something?"
"Yes, it is a shame you won't be able to ride this train with Libby anymore."
"What do you mean?"
"The High Council has decided to replace Southern Blossom and Libby by new locomotives."
Collins' heart sank.
"This is her last journey."
"When will were arrive at Ysic?'"
"In seven hours."
"And how fast are we going?"
Collins had done some research, and one Aquan velocity was equal to two kilometres. So the train was moving at ninety-six kilometres per hours. It had been an hour since they had left Chron. So Libby's run was about three-hundred-eighty-four velocities or seven-hundred and sixty-eight kilometres.
"What will happen to her?'
"She will be disassembled and sold your scrap."
"The Yasic Scrap Company buys most old locomotives."
The train suddenly stopped. Thomas came from Libby.
"The bridge over the Noble river has collapsed."
"I knew it." Dorian said. " My mother told me about that bridge. It was only a matter of time."
People began leaving the train. Samuel stepped out and looked around. He shrugged.
"Of all the places, we get stranded on the Forgotten Highlands."
Collins and Thomas joined him. They were standing on a sandy-plain with low grass.
"How did you know the bridge had collapsed?" Collins asked.
"Libby has a telegraph. I used it signal for help."
Collins noticed the row of poles. A small wire connected them. There was a special arm that reach from the roof of the locomotives to the wire.
"We'd better get down to the river." Samuel said.
They got going.
The bridge was silent as Worf scanned the planet.
"I have something." He said. "Eleven transporter inhibitor fields. All of them are moving."
"Personal jammers?" Riker asked.
"Plot their positions and put them onscreen."
A map of the planet appeared.
"Seven of the units are in a village and four are on some kind of Highland."
Branson turned his chair.
"Sir, that's not just any highland. That is the Forgotten Highlands, where the shuttle Rogue crashed in 2375."
"Worf, is there a train near any of those signatures?"
"Yes, there is a train near to the signatures on the highlands."
"Libby, that's what this is all about."
"Sir?" Branson said.
"And now someone has come to get her." He said.
"But who?" Branson said.
"That ship is gone and her crew dead."
"I don't know. Worf, prepare two away teams. One for the village and one for the highlands."
Ten minutes later, the transporter engaged.
The nearest town has been one velocity away, so it hadn't taken long for help to arrive. Collins had used the time to learn more about the planet. But also there was the Yasic Scarp Company. They were there with the plenty of manpower. Their leader was a man in dark suit. His hair was blond and he had brown eyes.
"I, Yasic of the Yasic Scrap Company, request owning of this locomotive to reduce it to old iron."
The words were cold, and Collins imaged she could see Libby shiver. They were directed to Thomas.
"Does the owner object?"
Thomas took a deep breath. The poor boy was terribly shaken.
"No, you may have her."
"Does anybody else want possession?"
"I do." Collins said.
Samuel's yaw dropped.
"I thought your family was poor."
"We are, but selling the iron from this locomotive could make us rich. Iron is very rare in the south."
Yasic walked up to Collins.
"If you have no money, then your claim on this locomotive is useless. It is mine, once we have agreed to the price."
"I apply Law 230, subsection D."
"What?" Yasic said.
"That law says that it allowed to race for ownership of an object. Do you accept the challenge?"
"She's right." Samuel said. ‘The law does say that. I know, I'm a lawyer."
Yasic took of his hat as he thought about it.
"What do you have in mind?" He said.
"You have heard of the Eastern Coast-line?"
"Yes, I've heard of it. But it isn't finished."
The Eastern Coast Line was one of eight new railways that was being constructed by order of the Aquan High Council.
"It's finished enough, and it has two sets of rails. Thomas told that the replacement for Libby is done. I will drive Libby and your will drive her replacement."
"And if I win, I get the savage rights."
"Your have a race, young lady."
Yasic walked away.
"Are you insane?" Samuel asked.
"No, I'm from the south and we need that iron."
Samuel left it at that.
Picard felt itchy in the natives clothes. He felt lucky that the Aquans looked so much like humans. Their internal organs were very different, but that was another story. At least he didn't have to wear make-up or undergo surgery. They had mingled in with the passengers from the train. He scanned the crowd with his eyes, but there was nobody who looked out of place. Branson and Troi walked next to him. LaForge was leading an away team to the village. Picard managed to look at his tricorder without being seen.
They stepped into a large truck. Seems they've introduced the car. Picard thought. But then, our last intelligence on this planet was what Rogue told us three years ago. And of course, the shuttle logs. The truck began moving.
Collins had nearby had a heart attack when she had spotted Picard. She knew that there was a Sovereign-class ship looking for her, but not that it was the Enterprise. Not counting Sovereign and Starstalker, there were six such vessels in the fleet now. She had stayed behind with Thomas and Samuel to return the train to Chron. Samuel was standing on the balcony of the last (or first) cart with a pair of binoculars for safety. Collins and Thomas were driving. Libby was now in full reverse.
"We'll be back home in about two hours." Thomas said.
"What are all those holes for?"
Collins pointed at a series of small holes at the aft of the boiler. They were located at ten degree intervals and were round about three quarters. There was another series halfway and third and the beginning.
"The emergency releases. Gary got the job of driver after his predecessor blew up the boiler. The guy survived, but got fired. Gary rebuild the entire locomotive with new safety features."
"Like the releases."
"Bingo, open those and the fire will died instantly. All the steam will be gone in less then four seconds. Or you can just press the red button, if the releases are jammed. That will ejected the entire boiler."
Collins looked at Thomas in disbelieve.
"Eject all of it?"
"Yes, can you see those pipes welded to the side?"
Collins stuck her head out of the window. A bell began to ring. She pulled her head back in.
"What is that noise?"
"Another safety, to warn people that your head is outside. There is a light beam that cannot be seen running from one side of the window to the other. Breaking the beam triggers the alarm. That was my idea."
Laser. Collins thought. He invented a laser!
"Did you see the pipes?"
"They hold gunpowder, enough to send the boiler one velocity up. Then the rest of the powder explodes, or that's the theory. The boiler is designed to scattered into thousands to little bits, making it safe."
"That's what I said. We've never tested it though."
They kept chatting as the train rolled back.
Dovz watched the viewscreen. The Dominion vessel was moving at warp nine point nine. It had enough of a lead to stay ahead of the Inventive and Defiant. They had left the Ramses system about a hour ago. Suddenly, the Dominion ship dropped to impulse.
"Conn, reduce speed to impulse."
The ship dropped back to full impulse.
"Where are we?"
"In the Epsilon VII system. But there isn't anything here, just a star ."
"Show me the Dominion ship."
The view changed.
"A'Zuro, what kind of ship is it?"
"A standard Jem'Hadar Attack Ship. The only differences are the cloaking device and the increase maximum speed. Known attack ships can't go faster the warp nine point six."
The Defiant was trailing behind the Jem'Hadar ship.
"I've got something on sensors ahead on the Jem'Hadar ship. A junkyard of some sort." Archer said.
Then the Dominion ship cloaked.
"It's gone." A'Zuro said.
"You should come take a look at this." Archer said. "That yard is a treasury of Terran spaceships."
Powell looked at the readings.
"He's right, but they all seem to be early Terran vessels. Y-Class and J-Class ships seem to be most present."
"Hail the Defiant." Dovz said.
Dax appeared on the screen.
"Are you seeing this?"
"Yes." Dax said "We've always hoped to get access to a place like this."
"How was this place created?"
"In the early days of the empire, bringing a ship back to a shipyard to be decommissioned was lots of work. So they created these 'dump zones' to sole the problems. We knew there was one the Alliance hadn't destroyed yet, but the coordinates were lost. And we simply couldn't find it."
"Look like however flew that ship did, Dovz out."
The screen went dark.
Branson switched the jammer off.
"Only one left." Picard said. "Let's find it."
The away teams had managed to get hold of ten of the jammers. They were pinned on the clothes of Aquans. Picard had ordered that the teams meet up at the village. It had taken some time for them to get there. But now they were in the main street.
"Sir." LaForge said. "I think you'd better see this."
He handed Picard a newspaper.
"Where did you get this?"
"I bought it from a man selling them down the street. The paper is called the Chron Daily."
Now Troi spoke up.
"Then this must be captain Rogue's town of birth."
"Exactly." LaForge said.
He pointed to a house further down the road.
"See the blue house, that's where he was born. And that lady in front of the house is his mother."
"Counsellor, what is the mood you sense here?" Picard asked.
"Happiness, excitement, something important is about to happen."
"Let's have a talk with the Captain's mother."
Picard and Troi walked over to the house.
"Good day, madam." Picard said.
Elizabeth looked up.
"That remains to be seen."
"Only if the right person wins the race."
"We're from the north." Troi said. "And we just arrived. Could you explain about the race?"
Elizabeth explained the situation.
"I see." Picard said. " And who do you favour to win?"
"My son Thomas and the lady from the south. Yasic has enough old iron to supply the south twice over. But he only sells minimal amount to it. And that is what keep this profits high. The blood worm."
Picard could see where Rogue had gotten his more aggressive instincts. Then a whistle blew in the distance.
"I must go or I'll be late."
Elizabeth got going. LaForge came up to Picard and Troi.
"Sir, I've go the last jammer. Whoever is wearing it is at that race."
"Then we'd better get going."
Collins had never seen so many people. The course of the race was one hundred velocities long and she'd bet that there were people watching everywhere. She also knew that the Enterprise away team was somewhere within that crowd. Her time was running short. It would be a race in more ways then one. Her nemesis, the Nr 1, was standing next to Libby. She looked fast and Collins guessed she was. Thomas had gotten the fire ready. An official got in position. He readied a pistol.
The man fired into the air. Collins worked the levers and Libby began moving. She was glad she had changed into a overall before the race. It belonged to Thomas and was a bit too big for her. But she didn't mind. Nr 1 took the lead as they went down the first stretch. The race had begun.
Nr 1 was in still ahead. But Collins and Thomas had gotten the boiler-pressure up.
"Twenty-four velocities." Thomas said.
"How fast are we accelerating?"
"Four v's per minute."
Collins turned a wheel.
"How about now?'
"The damm thing is faster."
"The damm thing is going to get its ass kicked."
They were slowly gaining on Yasic. Dorian added coal to the fire.
"They're at thirty-five. Time for our secret weapon."
"We have a secret weapon? Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because then it wouldn't be secret anymore."
Collins opened a small box and took out a chunk of earth.
"What is that?"
"Turf, it's very common in the south. My father bought me some before I left."
"I heard about it, that it burns like nothing you‘ve ever seen."
"Let's find out."
She threw it in. Libby jolted forward.
"Thomas, what is the fastest you have even taken her?"
"Without cars , I once got he up to seventy velocities. But Gary, he could get her up to ninety. Crap."
"He's closing again."
Dorian threw in more coal.
LaForge couldn't believe his implants. The away team was standing at the start of the railway.
"The jammer is on one of locomotives. It's racing away from us."
"The lady from the south?" Troi asked.
"Picard to Riker."
"Riker here, sir."
"Do you still have a lock on that jammer?"
"Yes, captain. It is moving away from your location at 80 kph."
"Have you located the finish of the race?"
"Yes, at town called Tap. It is about three hundred kilometres north of Chron."
"On my signal, beam me, Counsellor Troi and Geordi there. Everybody else is to return to the ship."
They waited until everybody had left.
The transporter did its job.
The gage read forty-five and still the other was closing.
I can't lose this. Collins thought. There is to much at stake.
She threw in the rest of the turf.
"Keep an eye on the pressure, Dorian. I have no intention of losing the boiler."
"I am being careful."
She kept a close watch on the pressure metre. It was still four stripes away from the danger zone, meaning the boiler pressure could be increased by another forty percent. Still, she pulled the string and released some steam.
"They most have been insane." She muttered. "The High Council, to dump such a beauty like this."
In that instant, Collins understood. Sea Fever didn't just apply to captains and the ocean. It was a grander thing. It was also the love-hate relationship every pilot had with his craft. If it was a Starship, plane or locomotive, it didn't matter. The feeling was the same. She missed the Horizon. Missed the hum of her engines. The feel of her controls. Even the occasional malfunctions. Then her senses snapped back into place. Now she had Libby. And she was going to get her of this planet. The gage now said fifty. She pushed the boiler pressure up again.
Yasic was sure he was going to win. He screamed at his aide.
"More coal, more coal."
But Yasic had never driven a locomotive before, so he made a mistake. Nr 1 accelerated to sixty velocities.
Picard watched the arrival area. It had been cleared of people in case something went wrong. He, Troi and LaForge were the only ones there.
"What are you doing here!?"
The town's sheriff had caught them.
"Get behind the fences like everybody else."
They had no other choice to join the crowd. It was behind a fence that was about twenty metres away from the rails. The sheriff and four deputies were guarding the area.
"I can't blame them." LaForge said.
"But it does complicate matters."
"For now all we can do is wait." Picard said.
They were thirty velocities away from the finish. Tap was another thirty velocities beyond that. And Nr 1 was in the lead again. She was steaming ahead to an amazing ninety velocities an hour.
"If we don't overtake them now, it's all over." Collins said.
"Doesn't matter that much to me. Libby is going be scrapped either way."
"Thomas, you know what kind of man Yasic is. He's a greedy, self-centred and hypocrite. This is your time to give evil a punch in the nose."
"You sounded just like my mother. Let's do it."
The same noble core. She thought.
He's the captain's brother alright.
"Nr 1 is at full power, but Libby has one more notch left."
"How can you know that?"
"I spied on him."
He showed her a one-eye binocular. She peeked into the cabin of the opposition.
They put more coal on the fire. Then they pushed the boiler to the limit. Libby went to ninety-two velocities. Nr 1 matched speed.
"That's it." Thomas said. "More pressure is to dangerous."
Collins looked around.
"Then we have to lose weight."
"Like what? We're not hauling anything."
Then she spotted the box the turf had been in. She threw it overboard.
Then she spotted the coal wagon. She looked at Nr 1. It had a bigger coal wagon that wasn't empty yet. But Libby's was.
"We used us all the coal."
"Yes, but there is enough left in boiler to keep us going for fifty velocities."
"Then why are we still dragging this coal wagon?"
"Dump it, it's officially not a part of Libby anyway. Only the engine and the booth is."
Collins carefully released the wagon. They went to ninety-eight velocities. Nr 1 went to a hundred. And that was a big mistake. After a few minutes, the first bolts jumped out. Dorian and Thomas knew what was happening. They both shouted it.
"She's gonna blow!"
Nr 1 was losing speed and components. Libby raced across the finish first. Thomas ran to the chains that controlled the whistles. There was been one when Rogue had gotten the locomotive, but he had added three. It was another safety feature.
"Sit down and hold on." Thomas said.
Collins got in position and Thomas yanked all four chains. Libby began to slow. It was a process that would take about two velocities. Nr 1 bolted past, without her coal wagon. Yasic and his aide had use it as and escape pod. Which meant that there was no way to stop Nr 1 now.
Riker was at the Conn. He turned to face Worf.
"Yes, one of the locomotives no longer has a crew."
"How long until it reaches Tap?"
"Get our people out of there."
"That won't be necessary, number one." Picard said.
Picard, Troi and LaForge were standing in the turbolift.
"Crewman Patton kept a constant transport lock on us. The second he detected the danger, he informed us."
"And you beamed out. What about the natives, Worf?"
"They appear to have been warned as well. The amount of life reading in the area is decreasing rapidly."
"But who told them?"
"I've got a hunch." LaForge said.
Thomas climbed down. Warning the village hadn't been easy, but it had been done. He had adjusted the arm to grab the wire, so they could telegraph the village. The problem has been that the arm was on the left side and the wire to the right. Libby was still moving at five velocities.
"Look." Collins said.
They spotted the coal wagon from Nr 1. Yasic and his aide were waving at them.
"Fools, that blast will level the entire town."
"I know, but we did all we could."
They took Yasic and his helper aboard. Collins jumped of and ran for a switch several hundred meters ahead. He pulled the level and Libby changed tracks. They were now on a branch that led away from Tap. She climbed back aboard. Thomas was busy getting the speed back up.
"How long?" Collins asked.
"About one minute."
Collins looked towards the town.
Nr 1 came in at insane speed. But she came into a ghost town. Parts of her went through the air. Ten meters before the end of the rails, it happened. She blew herself apart. The shockwave was unlike any the planet had every seen. It levelled everything within five-hundred meters. Trees snapped like matchsticks. After ten minutes of pure fury, it was over. All that was left was a ten metre deep crater with a diameter of fifty-two meters. Tap had vanished.
Branson had relieved Riker at the Conn.
"Status report, Mister Data." Picard demanded.
Data brought the map of the planet on the main screen. Then he enlarged a section.
"The locomotive has exploded. There were no casualties. However, the effects of the blast appear to have destroyed the village of Tap. The jamming device is moving east at forty kph. There is a Aquan within five metres of it."
Picard was about to utter a curse, when Worf spoke up.
"Sir, the Severn is moving. It has left the second moon and is entering the planet's atmosphere."
"Lock on a tractor beam."
Worf executed the order.
"The atmosphere is disrupting the beam. I've lost it, sir."
"Put us in orbit of the planet. We'll grab her the second she comes out."
The Enterprise got in position.
Thomas looked up at the sky.
"So." He said." What is your planet like?"
"Excuse me, I'm from the south."
"No, you're not. When I bumped into you, you cut your finger. And your blood is red. Aquan blood is orange."
Collins looked at her finger. Her left thumb had a small crust. She hadn't even noticed the cut.
"It's nice, we call it Earth."
Libby was steaming into a desert area. Here, Collins could load her onto Severn without anyone watching. Yasic and his aide had been dumped about one velocity back. They were walking to the nearest town.
"Did you build the shuttle Gary found?"
"Yes, that was one of ours."
"When he found it, Gary told us. We decided that he should leave together. Me, him and our parents. Our world isn't ready yet."
"For the idea of aliens?"
"Now I come with you. I talked about it with my parents and they agreed I should go."
"Because I wanted to go and they wanted me to be happy."
"That's it, no more rail."
Collins checked her tricorder. Then Severn came dropping out of the sky.
"Are you sure about this?" Collins said.
"Won't people ask questions?"
"No, we're on the Forgotten Highlands again."
Collins recognised the landscape.
"Lots of people have vanished here."
She worked the tricorder controls. A set of doors opened in the bottom of Severn. Then a small tractor beam kicked in. It pulled Libby up and into the ship's cargo bay.
"Be careful." Collins said. "The gravity is off-line."
The doors closed and they got underway.
Picard turned his chair.
"Red alert, all hands to battlestations."
"Geordi, modify the deflector." Riker said.
"Begin emitting Tachyon pulses."
The alarms began screaming.
"Pulses active." LaForge said.
"The Severn is moving away from our position."
"She's trying to use the planet as a shield." Riker added.
"Her shields are up. The ship has left the atmosphere."
"Branson, put us on an intercept course."
"Aye , sir."
The Enterprise closed on Severn fast.
"What is her course, mister Worf?" Picard asked.
"Towards the system's asteroid belt at full impulse."
"Disable her engines."
Collins and Thomas were on the bridge. The ship was shuddering under the impacts. An alarm came on.
"What is it with this ship and overloads?" Collins said.
"The impulse engines have been damaged. That's what the read-out says. The port one is shut down and the starboard one is overloading."
"Activate the thrusters and turn the ship around."
"Don't worry, I have a plan."
Collins turned the ship to face the Enterprise. Meanwhile, Thomas worked the tactical controls.
"Forward weapons-fully charged." The computer said.
The Enterprise closed.
"Time to get rid of that faulty engine." Thomas said.
He slammed the right buttons and the engine ejected. Then he used the ship's tractor beam to hurl it towards the Enterprise. Five seconds later the impulse engine exploded.
Picard was thrown across the bridge. He was still on the floor as he turned to Worf.
"The impulse reactor exploded six million kilometres to port."
Picard go up and leaned on the Ops station.
" Geordi, give me a damage report. "
"Port shields are down to forty percent and the starboard Bussard Collector is off-line. If Branson hadn't throw the rudder when he did, we'd have lost the entire nacelle. We've lost the forward torpedo launcher and the torpedo bay. Luckily that section was closed for refitting."
"Worf, what happened?"
"When that engines blew, it disrupted our shields for a two-point one seconds. He hit the launcher with his phase-cannons in that window. There was a torpedo inside, the blast detonated it."
"That's not all, I'm still getting damage reports. Looks like he repeat the trick with the captain's yacht. It exploded, doing severe damage to the bottom of the saucer section."
"Where is the Severn now?" Riker asked.
Worf checked his console.
"It has ridden the shockwave of the explosion into the asteroid belt."
Picard sighed and said.
"Set a course, full impulse."
The shockwave had done an number on all the ship's systems. But the four most critical were still on-line. Life-support for the cockpit, the warp drive, the thrusters and sensors. Everything else was fried. Thomas was flying the ship, while Collins was working on a probe. The Severn had two of them. Number one was functioning, but this one had taken an beating during the ride.
"How much longer?"
"I'm almost done."
"Good, because that big ship is closing fast."
"How deep are we in the belt?"
"Almost to the centre."
The probe began to hum.
"Done, launch number one."
"I'd love to, but the launcher is busted."
"Open the door and let gravity do the rest."
The first probe floated away. Then he engine kicked in and set left on her pre-programmed course. About two minutes later, number two floated out. Collins sat in the pilot's seat.
"Okay, Warp seven in three…two…one…go!"
The ship leaped into the unknown.
Riker couldn't believe his eyes.
"I'm picking up three identical warp trails. All three in different directions."
"Decoy probes." He said. "Mister Branson, take your pick."
"Captain." LaForge said. "With our current damage, the hull can't stand speeds above Warp six. We've lost her."
Picard hid his frustration.
"Belay that, set course for starbase five. Warp six."
Then he left the bridge.
The Inventive docked with Starbase One. Lots of transmissions had been exchanged between the station and the ship. Plans for the salvaging and upgrading ships from the Epsilon VII system were already being made. O'Dell was waiting at the airlock. It opened and Peter Archer stepped out.
"She's all yours." He said.
"How did she fly?"
"The port thrusters are a bit sluggish."
"I'll let engineering to take a look at it."
"Okay, good luck."
Then they went their separate ways. Two airlocks further, the Sarek was coming in.
Libby was safely it her cargo hold, with Collins and Thomas in the passenger cabin. The two of them were chatting as the door slid open.
"We were lucky we got out of there before the owner saw the damage report." Thomas said.
"I know, I think we wouldn't be here otherwise."
Thomas's jaw dropped.
"Wauw, I thought this place look great from the outside. But where are we going to put Libby?"
"It's a big station, room enough."
"Good point. Who knows, maybe we can even put a railway in here."
They reached the turbolift at the end of the corridor. The door slid open and Rogue stepped out.
Rogue froze in his tracks.
He hugged his brother.
"Is it really you?"
"Yeah, it's me."
"How? Where are mom and dad?"
"Back home. This is our world, not theirs."
"You're right. It's so good to see you."
"Well, I'll be staying. Prime Directive stuff, Dorian explained on the way here."
The brothers looked at Collins.
"You didn't?" Gary asked.
"Yes, I did. It's a long story, I'll tell you later. Right now, there is something you have go to see."
They led him to the Sarek.
|Last modified: 29 Aug 2018