|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?|
The Wanderer hung in space, beaten up and shabby with pieces hanging off like they'd never been properly fitted in the first place and hull panels discoloured from too many hours in space with far too little maintenance.
"It's like coming home." Captain Graves sighed as he stood at the heart of the gloomy bridge that was bathed in dull red light from the emergency generator.
"No wonder you left." Blake sighed, glancing around at the antiquated equipment that would have been in a scrap yard or museum if it hadn't been unfortunate enough to wind up aboard a commercial vessel.
"It's not exactly Starfleet issue." Graves acknowledged with a defensive grunt. "But she always served us proudly."
"Are you joking?" Haldo grinned. "This ship is like a funeral waiting to happen."
"She's still my ship!" He grumbled more forcefully.
"I just don't think she's up to it!" Blake sighed.
"The Corinthian is too small." Captain Graves protested. "The crew can live on here, we'll be your support vessel."
"This thing couldn't support itself on a walking stick." Haldo muttered, his eyes wandering over the damaged panels as he slowly began to remember his old service aboard her. In the short few weeks he'd been on board the Corinthian his attitudes had changed radically and he didn't relish returning to the drudgery of his old ways.
"We certainly need a support ship!" Blake confirmed. "It's a great idea, we can rotate the crews and carry spares, something we just don't have the space for now."
"So why don't we patch her up a bit?" Graves continued hopefully, already knowing that he was fighting a losing battle.
"The don't make patches big enough." Haldo told him earnestly.
"I'm sure she was a great ship in her day..." Blake began diplomatically.
"Not really." Haldo interjected. "She was a light cargo tow until a space-racer hit her in the bow section and she was sold as scrap. We got her cheap and salvaged the racers nacelles and impulse deck but we could only get them to 75% efficiency because of the tiny power generator."
"She was still the fastest ship on the Terran Trade lanes in her day." Graves announced proudly.
"Except when we were over-taken by the occasional shuttle-pod!" Haldo argued.
"I think it's safe to say that her day has passed!" Blake said, as much to shut off Haldo's deliberately antagonistic rhetoric as anything else.
"So what do we do?" Graves shrugged, his head hung slightly sorrowfully like a child being forced to discard a favourite broken toy.
"We can't stay aboard the Corinthian any longer!" Haldo added. "The crew would have mutinied by now if they weren't all so terrified."
"We definitely need a support ship!" Blake agreed. "Then the Corinthian could stay cloaked out of the way until we need her."
"That's no problem." Haldo told him.
"So we ask Reader for a Starfleet ship to be assigned to us?" Graves mumbled.
"I still don't think I would trust Starfleet enough for that." Blake replied thoughtfully. "Section 31 would still like to get their hands on us, I don't feel like rolling out the red carpet to them."
"So then what?" Haldo shrugged.
"I think we need to replace the Wanderer and stick to the crew we have." Blake said firmly. "Yes!" Captain Graves grinned. "I like that plan."
"I thought you might." Blake replied. "Having a civilian vessel at our disposal will make our investigations easier."
"I agree." Haldo nodded. "Section 31 often used the same tactic."
"We'll need a good ship." Blake said thoughtfully. "With a full tactical grid, phaser banks and launchers and a warp factor higher than 5."
"We'll need at least Warp 9.5 if she's going to keep up with the Corinthian." Haldo shrugged. "Civilian ships like that are hard to find."
"We'll talk to Captain Reader!"
Space ruptured violently and a vast blue explosion tore open the heavens. The light from a galaxy of stars faded and blurred away as a vast blue tear shredded open the blackness like an animals claw slicing through unprotected flesh.
The slender metallic tube bounded out of the rift. The craft was primitive, equipped with a burgeoning races first attempt at faster than light drives. Two nacelles jutted proudly from the cylindrical hull, their reaction cores at the fore pulsing with yellow plasma while the normal space drive extended from her tail section. The cooling pumps had ruptured as she'd be thrown from the spacial tear and the broiling gas had ignited, trailing a plume of orange flames that dragged back into the mocking orifice.
"Tream. Tream carron." First Talle Mera barked above the wailing emergency klaxons as her ship tumbled out of control.
"Non-meaba car midian." Pilot Mav Mosson shouted back as he wrestled helplessly with the automated control system. "Fiviol… Ser conna."
First Mera glared back, not blaming her officer but angry. Angry that her ship had failed. She had made a career in the name of control, of authority. Now her ship was tumbling out of control and her officers could offer neither an explanation nor a suggestion for controlling the vessel.
The main viewer was lit up with the image of her experimental vessel as it careened out of the event horizon of an unknown phenomenon, heavily damaged and unable to correct herself. Sirens wailed around the bridge, fires burnt throughout her hull and she knew that her small crew had sustained injuries.
Her knuckles were white as her bones strained through her tightened flesh as she gripped ever harder at the arms of her command position chair.
She closed her eyes and tried furiously to marshal her thoughts. She'd faced worse and was alive to annoy her superior officers with tales of her heroism… She knew she'd survive this too. At the moment she was simply not quite sure how.
"Just the man!" Captain Reader grinned as his image materialised in the centre of the holographic viewer at the front of the Corinthian bridge.
"I thought I wanted something from you!" Blake frowned. "This sounds ominous."
"You want something from me?" Joseph shrugged.
"I'm more interested in what you want from me at the moment." Blake told him flatly, his hands clasping behind his back.
"I need a favour!" Reader replied with a friendly smile.
"How many Starfleet officers get handed a mission and told to consider it a favour?" Blake asked with a wry smile that masked his growing trepidation.
"How many Starfleet officers have the Corinthian at their disposal?" Captain Reader retorted with an expression of untarnished innocence.
"Cut to the chase!" Haldo interjected, discarding his toolkit on a console that had seen fit to become the science station for the immediate present. "Have you found a Section 31 lead you want us to chase down?"
"Maybe next time!" Reader replied sheepishly, taken back slightly by Haldo's blunt refusal to accept the normal chain of command, or even to show it a passing nod of respect.
"What then?" Blake continued as Haldo stepped up beside him.
"I really do need a favour." Reader began, lowering his head respectfully. "I would like you to go on a rescue mission."
"Perfect!" Haldo exclaimed, discarding the last of his tools by throwing it across the bridge in an angry gesture. "Lets cram some more people on board… Lots of room."
"We're a little cramped here." Blake explained, smiling at his colleagues annoyance. "That was what we wanted from you…"
"This is urgent!" Reader assured him. "You're the only ship in range."
"Go on…" Haldo grumbled. "Tell us all about it."
"I'm the one wearing the Captain's uniform!" Blake told him, running his fingers along the little gold discs at his collar.
"So?" Haldo shrugged. "I'm not Starfleet, I don't have to care what you people think!"
"May I continue?" Captain Reader sighed.
Blake nodded and turned his attention back to the viewer.
"We have a situation!" Reader began, breathing out as he began his briefing. "An alien vessel has emerged in an unclaimed region of space just outside the fringe of Cardassian territory."
"Are anybody's borders threatened?" Blake asked, his hand moving to his chin which he rubbed thoughtfully.
"The vessel is no threat!" Captain Reader assured him. "It's a prototype warp vessel that has experienced difficulties and has entered our region of space accidentally."
"I see." Blake nodded. "Or rather I don't!"
"What has this got to do with us?" Haldo spoke, saying the words that Blake was struggling to find a polite way of expressing.
"The ship is nothing special, our scans have shown it to be a large ship for its type. It was probably intended to serve as an explorer." Reader began. "It has twin nacelle configuration, a standard impulse type drive and anti-matter power plant supplied by Deuterium."
"Sounds like any early Federation ship!" Haldo shrugged.
"There are a few anomalies…" Reader explained. "There is a slight subspace differential recorded suggesting that the warp abilities of the species are not well developed."
"This may sound harsh." Haldo began irritably. "I really could not care less. The Corinthian engine room has projected force fields around it to keep me out and has replicated phasers that are programmed to fire on me. I have more important things to worry about."
"I tend to agree with my engineer." Blake acceded. "Why don't you just send a rescue ship?"
"There are other anomalies." Reader told him with a grin.
"I should hope so." Haldo told him.
"We haven't scanned the ship properly yet." Reader told them, glowing inwardly like an experienced poker player who had been nursing a royal flush.
"Nor have we." Haldo told him. "We still don't care, so why the hell should you?"
"Normally we'd just send a rescue ship!" Reader smiled, the expression of a man with the full command of the facts.
"But?" Blake asked, a sympathetic smile forming on his lips.
"But the Cardassians have dispatched a Kallom class destroyer and two Galor class ships and the Ferengi have sent two Marauders and five scouts." Reader told him.
"I see…" Blake agreed with a curt nod.
"I'm not sure how the crew are going to feel about this!" Captain Graves hung his head and glanced out at the stars as they streaked past the rear of the bridge in the briefing room. The walls had the appearance of windows but actually the ship had recently generated a series of holographic view-plates.
"This is an emergency…" Ensign Katherine Rogers sighed. "These people are in a prototype warp vessel of some kind, lost in a strange part of the galaxy, probably scared out of their minds."
"With several hostile vessels bearing down on them…" Blake added, leaning forward and resting his chin on his upturned hands, glaring towards the civilian Captain, his thoughts elsewhere.
"No need to point that out!" Captain Graves waved his arms in the air in a display of agreement. "I'm on your side but I have twelve crewmen lodged into engineering ducts around a barely space-worthy ship."
"The crew isn't happy!" Haldo added, frowning deeply towards Blake. "We're not getting much sleep and the replicators only make the things that you like or approve of."
"We desperately need a support vessel." Commander Morrow leant back casually in his seat, he spoke loudly to distract the others and relieve some of the growing tension. "The crew want to work with you but the conditions are stretching their patience."
"The Wanderer is not up to it!" Blake said firmly. "We could be facing Cardassian destroyers this time, not Federation ethics. These people won't hesitate to fire on us."
"I agree." Haldo replied hesitantly. "But we have little choice."
"The Wanderer engines are smashed, she's barely able to run at warp." Blake told him flatly.
"What if she didn't have to?" Haldo smiled as he told them about his plan.
"She would still have only minimal shields, no weapons and no redundant backup equipment." Katherine.
"But we'd have beds!" Captain Graves beamed a smile back to Haldo. "What have you got in mind?"
"I was thinking…" Haldo began, relishing his position as centre of attention once again. "We could extend the Corinthians shields around the Wanderer and tow her into a transwarp conduit."
"Wait a second!" Commander Morrow sat up suddenly in mild panic. "The Wanderer can't stand up to warp properly, the stresses would rip her to pieces."
"At least we'd be rid of it!" Blake sneered.
"If the Corinthian went in first at maximum impulse then it would create a subspace wake." Haldo told them.
"Would that be safe?" Katherine asked, more intrigued than convinced.
"I assume so." Haldo shrugged. "The maths bears out the theory."
"You assume so?" Blake couldn't help but smile.
"The way I see it…" Haldo began with a grin carving across his leathery lips. "We need to go anyway and we can tow the Wanderer in unmanned and then deploy the crew later. Nobody needs to be put in any danger and once we arrive we activate the portable cloak that was left behind by the Violator teams so the ship is safe from attacks."
"The Ferengi and the Cardassians wouldn't be able to even detect her!" Katherine nodded, swayed by Haldo's logic.
"And I wouldn't have to listen to any more moaning about my ship!" Blake shrugged. "Run a diagnostic to see if there is any risk to the Corinthian."
"I never thought of that!" Haldo sighed as he slid a Padd across the briefing table.
"And what did you find?" Blake asked, taking the Padd and reviewing his data.
"It should work." Haldo shrugged. "And if it doesn't then we'll emerge from transwarp towing a pile of wreckage."
"I think that's a foregone conclusion." Blake mumbled, satisfied with Haldo's projections. He turned his attention to Captain Graves. "How do you feel?"
"I'm happy to try!" He enthused with a sparkle in his eye that had been missing for many years.
"Well she's your ship." Blake nodded. "The choice is yours. I can either drop you and the crew off somewhere along the way or you can take your chances."
"The crew want to stay aboard…" Captain Graves began. "We believe in this mission and this ship."
"So long as you realise that this might not work and you're going to be trapped for another couple of weeks on this ship if it doesn't." Blake told him firmly.
First Talle Mera laid on the floor surrounded by carbon wires and circuits pulled from the control banks at the nerve centre of her ship.
Repairs had begun but it was slow work, the damage to her vessel was extreme and had effected everything from the computers to the warp drive.
"Corrin talak!" Her pilot cried out in surprise.
She sighed in dismay and discarded a circuit board onto the shiny metal floor as she began to untangle herself from the mass of wiring.
"Talak!" Mav Mosson warned her more urgently as he nervously hovered beside her console.
"Blom." She muttered angrily as she sat up and wiped her hands, her eyes closed while she contemplated the latest emergency that seemed to have befallen her little ship. "Crov talak?"
"Tor talak." Mosson pointed to the large two dimensional view screen at the head of the control room.
On the screen a large brown vessel loomed ahead of them, a gigantic yellow ball of light arcing at it's nose and rows of windows lit up, implying the size of the threatening vessel.
Mera groaned to herself as her heart sunk in her chest, thoughts of her ship being torn to pieces before she'd even managed to get the pieces back together from the last emergency filled her mind.
With a tiny shudder the pylons of the Corinthian swept back as she trimmed to jump to transwarp.
"We're ready." Haldo reported dryly as he reviewed the data that flashed over his console.
"The Wanderer is secure." Commander Morrow told them. "The tractor beam is stable, we can begin to tow her."
"Let's try this at impulse first." Captain Blake Girling sighed as he clenched his teeth and gripped down hard again his command chair at the heart of the bridge, reasonably convinced of impending disaster.
"It'll be fine." Captain Graves assured him. "She's a good ship, she can take it."
"She's a wreck!" Haldo called out. "She can barely withstand sitting still."
"Ahead one quarter impulse!" Blake instructed needlessly as the two officers sitting at the front consoles checked his cerebral instructions and the Corinthian glided effortlessly along.
"Impulse exhaust is venting around the Wanderer." Haldo said with a grin. "Shields are holding, negative inertia at the stress points."
"So this is working?" Katherine Rogers asked, rocking happily on her heels while her hands clenched tightly behind her back.
"You need a little faith in you chief engineer." Haldo smirked as his eyebrow raised in a Vulcan like expression of self satisfaction.
"A little faith is all we have." Blake told him. "Let's hope it's enough."
"You're young, but you will learn!" Haldo told him as his fingers pressed at the computer interface. "Everything is working fine."
"Right!" Blake began with a sigh. "We've got places to be! Let's go to transwarp."
"Lets!" Commander Morrow shuddered nervously, edging awkwardly in his seat. "I can't believe they fitted an experimental transwarp coil and no seat-belts!"
"At least they thought to fit a toilet at the edge of the bridge." Captain Graves smiled as his hand slid along the bridge grab-rail, searching for something to grip.
"Engage!" Blake told them with a hint of trepidation. "Maximum shields and lock weapons on the Wanderer in case she cracks up!"
"She won't crack up!" Captain Graves smiled to himself in total self assuredness.
"Not before you do…" Haldo agreed.
The Cardassian destroyer slowly edged towards the tiny warp prototype. The little craft hung helplessly beneath as the large vessel bore down on her, it's weapons binnacle glowing a brilliant blue as it charged weapons.
"Drok. Tankus mov." Pilot Mav Mosson shuddered as he fixedly stared at the imposing vessel on the viewer.
"Grol Tar coner." First Talle agreed wearily. Her mission was a simple one. She was charged with the task of taking her civilisations burgeoning warp technology and reaching out into space to find whatever was out there. They had not expected to find intelligent life so quickly and certainly not while her little craft was so battered and unready.
Her pilot turned to her with an obvious effort as he pulled his gaze from the alien vessel. He shrugged silently, his expression reflecting the fear she herself was feeling. She knew her weapons would be inadequate in the face of such a large vessel. What she had been equipped with was more intended to defend her ship from stellar matter than from an assault.
It concerned her greatly that the approaching vessel had made no attempt to communicate with them as it slowly crept towards their position. The light in the nose glowing fiercely to life was an intimidating sight and what computers and sensors still worked tended to imply that some kind of electro-magnetic field was being aimed at them, probably to either scan them or to target weapons. Neither prospect filled her with much optimism.
"Tam kille dar toni florr mavv." She ordered, spinning herself from the screen and pointing at the tactical station at the rear of the narrow control room beside a bank of glowing warning lights. The pilot stood to attention and began working at the controls, sweat pouring from his brow while he flashed the occasional worried glance back to the image on the viewer.
"Dar ast bot, afaon to?" The pilot asked, pointing at the ship in front of them.
"Whalere ast cron." She replied firmly with the merest hint of a smile forming on her thin lips and ran her hand through her long black hair tied neatly into tight braids and felt her grim determination returning to her, filling her with hope and instantly lightening the mood slightly around the bridge. Certainly they would be no match for the aliens but she was not going down without a fight. She stood before the screen for a second and her eyes locked onto the approaching vessel. She didn't know where she was or who was gazing at her in silence but they'd think twice before they tried to intimidate another of her kind.
With a flash the Corinthian emerged from the transwarp conduit in more or less the right place, trailing behind it the Wanderer that trailed behind that a shower of small pieces of debris.
"We made it!" Haldo reported, trying to sound like it was no surprise.
"I'm detecting damage to the Wanderer." Commander Morrow reported, glancing down at his instruments.
"We were detecting damage before we tried this!" Blake reminded him. "What fell off?"
"Just a thruster module." Winston told him with a smile. "She's trailing deuterium residue from the broken feed lines, it looks worse than it is."
"I don't know…" Blake replied thoughtfully while an image of the Wanderer filled the holographic viewer. "The ship looks pretty bad!"
"We can fix it!" Captain Graves told him with a frown. "I'll need my engineer."
"I'm staying here!" Haldo told him flatly. "We've got work to do!"
"He's right." Blake agreed, spinning his chair round to the rear. "You take as many crewmen as you need to make the Wanderer space worthy and follow us on to the target coordinates under cloak."
"I suppose." He hung his head like an admonished child.
"I'll need my bridge crew and two other crewmen for the engineering team." Blake told him as he began turning his thoughts back to the mission.
"Take Emma Souza and Simon Jarrow." Graves suggested with a shrug. "Jarrow is a good man. He was in Starfleet before he was injured and Emma is a trained field medic."
"Will you have enough people left?" Blake asked as the crew manifest appeared on his screen at the edge of his chair.
"Me and my fist officer will follow you in a few hours." He told him without doubt. "We know what we're doing, we spent years patching up that old ship!"
"OK." Blake agreed happily. "We'll move in under cloak, you'll be able to contact us on the secure frequency."
"I know the drill." Captain Graves lowered his voice and seemed suddenly taken over with a serious sense of duty.
"I don't know what we're going to find." Blake admitted.
"Knowing my luck we'll probably find that Cardassian weapons go straight through the Corinthians shields." Haldo grumbled.
"At least you've got shields." Winston frowned to himself at the thought.
The Corinthian was shrouded by an advanced graviton field that bent light of all frequencies around them rendering them invisible to sensors and even the naked eye. The design was a Romulan one, borrowed from a special reverse engineering project where the two powers had traded technology in an effort to effectively oppose the Borg.
"I wasn't kidding." Blake began in his small office at the side of his bridge. "I really don't know what we're going to find.
"I realise that." Ensign Rogers agreed. "I've been going over Emma Souza's record, she's qualified to assist me medically."
"So we have a two person medical team." Blake replied thoughtfully. "That's better than nothing."
"I've replicated everything we need." She continued. "We have a full compliment of standard Federation medical equipment now. We're as ready as we're ever going to be."
"I'm worried about the Cardassians." He admitted. "We've detected three ships, two Galor class and a destroyer."
"What about the Ferengi?" She asked, remembering their short briefing.
"They seem to have pulled out." He replied with a notable degree of relief. "They won't tangle with the Cardassians… Only an idiot would do that!"
"Or a ship full of idiots?" She suggested with a smile.
"Haldo has been equipping the hull with additional armour and shield generators." Blake told her redundantly. "We should be there in a few more minutes now, I hope the upgrades are all ready."
"What about weapons?" She asked, breathing out heavily.
"We won't need them!" He told her flatly. "We're out to rescue the crew, not get into a fire-fight."
"These are Cardassians!" She reminded him. "They're ruthless and needlessly aggressive."
"The Corinthian breaks a lot of old rules." He reminded her. "She can beam things with her shields up, travel faster than warp and fire phasers while cloaked. I'm hoping that we can trick our way out of this."
"Captain…" A call suddenly came out over the comm system.
"Blake here." He replied without needing to press his badge.
"We're approaching the target area." Simon Jarrow told him.
"On our way…" He agreed. "Looks like we're going to find out what's going on."
"He seems a good man." Katherine told him as they stood up from Blakes desk.
"Jarrow?" He asked rhetorically.
"He lost in arm in an engineering accident while engaged in action." She continued. "He had it replaced with a synthetic unit but he resigned his Starfleet commission."
"I guess he'd been through a lot." Blake shrugged.
"Haven't we all?" She smiled supportively back at him, her arm edging towards his but falling short of making contact.
The Cardassian ship edged ever close to the diminutive alien vessel. The small ships hull glinted under the sporadic light of the neighbouring stars while the reactor caps flashed intermittently as the power systems struggled to assert themselves.
The large ship moved ever closer, menacingly flaunting her superior weapons and power as if taunting its prey by flashing its teeth.
First Talle Mera clenched her hands behind her back, her teeth gritted as she waited for an overt sign of imminent attack. She swallowed hard, forcing down her growing apprehension as the large ship drifted inexorably closer to her position.
She knew her shields were inadequate even if they were in working condition and her weapons were little more than an afterthought in the design and hardly built with the intention of fending of adversaries.
"Dah Pol!" The pilot called out as the ship suddenly vanished from the viewscreen leaving them an image of the inky blackness of space before them punctuated by countless points of slivery light.
"Cras Der mok?" She called out, stepping forward at the image of nothingness, her apprehension racing through her mind as she wondered what could be happening. Her mind was full of thoughts of computer malfunctions, sensor echoes and hallucinations as she stepped up towards the front of her bridge.
Suddenly the stars were torn away as the ship lunged violently to the side. She grabbed for a rail to cling to as the ship rocked until the artificial gravity system could compensate for the inertia.
"That was easy!" Blake smiled with notable air of relief. "We never had to fire a shot!"
"We could have taken the Cardassians!" Haldo grunted with a hint of pride.
"We rescued the ship, that's a good start!" Blake told him firmly. "Is the tractor beam stable?"
"It's fine." Haldo told him with a disinterested nod. "The extended cloaking field is holding fine too, we're both invisible!"
"I'd like to beam onto the ship as soon as possible!" Katherine Rogers told them, clutching her medical equipment.
"I'll come with you!" Blake sighed, turning from the holographic viewer.
"Won't they need you here?" She smiled thinly, stepping forward to join him at the centre of the bridge.
"I will be here." He grinned ironically. "Anyway, we've got Haldo running things nicely. I only get in his way anyhow."
"You do!" Haldo agreed with an exuberant nod. "Things would go much more smoothly without your insanity infecting my computer systems."
"So they're your computer systems now?" Blake dug his balled fists into his sides in minor irritation.
"I'm the engineer!" He argued his position.
"Whatever!" Blake turned back to Katherine with a wry smile on his lips. "Emma Souza… prepare for transport."
In a flash of blue light the two of them vanished instantly from the bridge.
"Position?" First Talle Mera called out, her eyes stuck on the image of the stars shearing to the side on her viewer.
"I can't make sense of the readings." The pilot called out. "There's just too much damage to the ship."
Suddenly three figures appeared in a shimmering haze of flickering light.
"What the hell?" The pilot called out as he reflexively reached for the service weapon fixed to the under side of his console.
"We're here to help!" Blake told him, his hands outstretched in the universal gesture of surrender to show that he didn't have a weapon.
"Don't move!" Talle Mera cried out nervously as her Pilot aimed the weapon at the large man who had appeared in her control room.
"I understand that you're frightened." Ensign Rogers called out. "We've been sent to offer assistance."
Blake stepped forward slightly towards the woman. She had the unmistakable air of authority, the pilot's attention was on her, taking his lead from her, his mood a reflection of hers.
"Please…" He began with an open gesture that showed him to be unarmed. "There's no need for the gun.
Suddenly a beam of angry yellow energy arced out from the pilot's weapon as he nervously fired at the threat before him.
The energy struck a sheet of blue light and dissipated harmlessly around Blakes chest as he stood calmly with a look of quiet resignation.
"There's no need for the gun." He sighed, turning to face the panicky officer. "Not much point either."
The pilot gazed helplessly at his commander, his eyes wide with fear.
"Who are you?" Talle Mera asked, hoping to take control of the situation.
"We're from a Starship called the Corinthian." Blake begun. "We're from the United Federation of Planets."
"The ship you saw was a Cardassian destroyer." Katherine added.
"A destroyer?" Mav Mosson stammered. "Where the hell are we?"
"You're in an area we call the Alpha Quadrant." She replied. "Where are you from?"
"We're from a planet called The Source." Mera began, her trepidation beginning to subside although she was far from calm. "We come from sector zero."
"We can sort out what happened later!" Blake said firmly. "Do you have any wounded that need attention?"
"Our engineer and tactical officer were seriously injured in the accident." She told him. "They were working together in the generator room as we were drawn in to the rift."
"We'd like to help!" Katherine told her, holding up her black case embossed with the entwined snakes of the medical profession. "I'm a doctor."
"Mr. Mosson." She gestured towards her pilot. "Please take out guests to the generator."
"But…" He began. "We don't know we can trust them."
"I think that if there was something here they wanted then they would have taken it by now." She assured him.
He stood up, glowering sheepishly at Katherine and Emma Souza as the pair stepped forward to follow him.
Blake stood in silence as the three left through the narrow metallic corridor and the bulkhead doors sealed automatically behind them.
"You must have a few questions?" Blake suggested with a knowing grin.
"You could say that!" She agreed. "Starting off with what the hell is going on?"
"The ship you encountered was a Cardassian destroyer." He began, relaxing his posture and leaning back on a guard rail. "We don't know why they were interested but they're not a good race to have interest in you."
"Where did they go?" She asked, her palms raised upwards.
"They're still there." He smiled again. "We surrounded you with a graviton cloaking field that renders us invisible by bending light around us which made them look as though they vanished to you."
"Amazing…" She shook her head in awe.
"We tractored you away with a magnetic towing beam." Blake added. "You're our guests, we couldn't have the Cardassians ruining the party."
"I guess I owe you our thanks." She hung her head slightly, not relishing the fact of her helplessness. "We could have been destroyed without your help."
"It was nothing." He waved his hand dismissively. "I'm sure you'd do the same for us."
"I'd like to think so." She agreed. "We've never encountered an alien species before."
"Well we got a head start." Blake explained. "We were contacted by a more advanced species when we started out, they helped us a lot."
"It seems that we were too." She shrugged. "May I ask how I can understand your language?"
"We use a device called a Universal Translator." He explained. "It's an advanced computer that measures both of us and works out what we want to say using linguistic markers, brain wave patterns, body language and a bit of guess-work."
"Impressive." She nodded in wonder at the technology involved.
"We're towing you to a small moon where we can hide you until we can help the repairs to your ship." He explained. "We've still got to figure out where your home is and help you get back there."
"I'd certainly appreciate that!" She agreed wholeheartedly.
The lights suddenly winked out again across the bridge of the Wanderer.
"Oh good." Commander Morrow sighed in the gloom until the red emergency lights kicked in and bathed the circular control room in hazy light.
"Stop moaning…" Captain Graves told him with a grin. "At least life support is working again properly."
"This ship is a disaster!" He grumbled from his control board that was lit up with warning lights. "I think Blake was right, this ship is finished."
"She'll get us through this mission at least." Graves told him flatly, cutting off any argument.
"We could have used Haldo here." Morrow added rhetorically as another warning appeared that the shuttle bay had depressurised and blown a weeks supplies of rations into space.
"He's a busy man." The Captain added conversationally. "We can cope."
"You must be drunk again." Winston mumbled as the landing gear deployed accidentally beneath them and sheared off to float away in space due to an impressive lack of maintenance.
"I need impulse drive as soon as possible!" Captain Graves told him.
"Impulse will be at full power as soon as we fit a new set of fusion reactors and a new impulse exhaust manifold and thrust plates." Commander Morrow grumbled. "Warp power will be available when we return to the Corinthian."
"That's a very defeatist attitude." Graves scolded. "We have an important mission to do and we're not going to let the rest of the team down."
"Our mission is to give the crew a place to get drunk while the rest of our team gets shot at."
"You want to get shot at?" Captain Graves grinned.
"Not especially!" He grunted.
"Then hurry up and get the impulse drive online so we can go and get drunk."
Ensign Katherine Rogers stared down at the small ships fallen engineer as her medical tricorder scanned his damaged body. She glanced over the flickering lights and shook her head sorrowfully.
"Not good news?" Emma Souza asked while she attended the injured tactical officer in the dark alcove that served as the engineering bay.
"Not for him." She attempted to smile. "There must have been some kind of electrical discharge, his neural patterns are utterly scrambled."
"Can you repair the damage?" Emma called out over the sound of electrical arcing while the damaged lights faded and returned to brightness randomly.
"I don't know." She replied honestly. "I know he's going to die soon if we leave him here."
"Where do you want to take him?" Pilot Mosson stepped forward, his small weapon in his hand to offer him some feeling of security.
"We need to take them both to our ship so we can help them." Katherine told him, standing up and closing her tricorder. "I can't do much more here, there's too much radiation from the damage to your warp drive."
"We have rules!" Mav told her angrily. "What do you plan to do?"
"I plan not to let him die on the floor." She replied forcibly, reaching for her Comm badge. "Rogers to Girling…"
"Girling here." Came the instant reply.
"I need to transport these men to the Corinthian." She told him. "As soon as possible."
"What's going on?" First Talle Mera asked, her eyes widening suddenly.
"We need to take your people back to our ship." Blake told her, trying to sound as calm and reassuring as possible.
"We're towing you to where our support vessel is. They have a medical bay where we can treat your officers while we try to get your ship repaired."
"What if I refuse?" She asked.
"Then your people could die." He told her, hopeful for her co-operation.
"Can I refuse?" She asked again. "What will happen then?"
"I certainly can't force you." He shrugged. "We have rules we have to follow but I don't like the idea of leaving you here to fend for yourself. I'd like to help and I urge you to accept our offer."
"So the choice is mine?" She persisted.
"Speaking as one Captain to another…" He began. "You need our help. One day you'll be ready to stand up to the Cardassians alone but that day hasn't come. This galaxy is full of life at various stages of evolution, we all need help sometimes."
"I just need to know where I stand…" She sighed. "There's such a lot to take in…"
"I know." He told her with a smile. "And there's time for that but it might be running out for your injured crewmen."
"Please do what you can." She acceeded.
The Corinthian headed at full impulse towards the rendezvous coordinates where they would meet with the Wanderer. She was still cloaked and towing the crippled ship as she slowed towards a large moon whose gravitational field would hide them from most ships sensors. They signalled the Wanderer no a secure channel to reveal themselves to their comrades as they approached the position. Behind the sun at the heart of the solar system a small ship watched them. It was a small cruiser, but bigger than the Corinthian. The hull was littered with damage and brash repairs and was finished in a patchwork of discoloured yellow and orange paint. The main hull was a slender pointed cone with a jumbled collection of mismatched parts added at various points of her long service life.
The vessel reached out with tendrils of unseen energy, watching the Corinthian and unseen behind the fierce glowing orb.
"There she is!" Blake told her, pointing to the Wanderer on the ships small viewer.
"I see it." Mera agreed with a raised eyebrow. "It's not quite what I'd expected."
"It's not quite space worthy to be totally honest." Blake admitted. "Normally when Starfleet mounts a rescue they use a better equipped ship to do it in."
"I'm not complaining." She smiled back to her saviour.
"My ship is unusually fast." He explained. "We were sent as we could reach you more quickly."
"Your ship sounds impressive." She said. "Where I come from mine is also the fastest ship there is."
"Mine is probably more trouble!" He replied without humour. "But she seems to be working out alright."
"I'd like to see her!" Mera offered hopefully.
"I'm sure that can be arranged." He shrugged. "In fact I'd like to take you aboard. I have a very good engineer who can help us to figure out what might have happened to your ship."
"I'd like that!" She agreed enthusiastically. "I've never dreamed that I'd end up on an advanced alien vessel while out testing our warp drive."
"Space is like that." He sighed. "One minute you're sitting in a weapons control room when a lump of metal flies through your brain killing you instantly and the next you're alive and fitted with all manner of new technology."
"I see." She said slightly awkwardly, imagining his comments were some cultural thing she had yet to understand.
"I've transported your crewmen to the Wanderer." He told her. "I'll keep you posted about their condition."
"Thank you." She smiled weakly as a faint concern took hold of her at the thought of being transported herself.
"Would you care to come to my ship?" He asked with a grin.
"My only shuttlecraft was damaged and was only capable of docking with my ship." She explained as a sinking feeling filled her stomach.
"We'll transport." He told her.
"I suppose." She agreed tentatively. "Is it safe?"
"Your atomic structure is accelerated by a beam of focused radiation to become an energy stream and then reassembled in another place." He told her. "What could be safer than that?"
Before she could answer the entire room began to dissolve. Her body tingled all over and the surroundings almost began to melt away to be replaced with a shimmering blue light that seemed to come from inside her. As quickly as it had begun she could see the light subsiding and she was now in a much larger control room aboard a different vessel. Her heart began to race as fear took hold of her too late.
"My god…" She mumbled to herself, staring around the bridge. It was dimly lit and banks of organised equipment flashed information around the room with perfect order and clarity. It was a far cry indeed from the primitive banks of silver boxes that were jumbled around her control room.
"Welcome to the Corinthian." Blake smiled to her.
"Your ship?" She stammered redundantly. "This is your ship?"
"Well she's not really finished yet." Blake smiled with a glowing pride. It was too easy to take the federation technology for granted. Each of the many worlds had so much to offer one another in terms of diversity and advancement that sometimes he forgot his own position and to see his ship momentarily through the eyes of someone from a less advanced society reminded him of how far his race had come.
"You can say that again!" Haldo stood up and reached out his hand to the visitor. "I'm Haldo Compz, apparently I'm not from the same species as this lot but try not to hold that against me."
Talle Mera's gaze locked on to the tall, alien looking man as he hoisted his ungainly frame from his work station. She reached out her hand to shake his and winced as his cold, clammy skin touched hers. Haldo smiled slightly at her reaction.
"We need to figure out two things." Blake told them both, returning the conversation to the matters at hand. "We need to find out what happened to you and where you're from."
"How can I help?" She offered, her attention turning back to Captain Girling.
"Do you have star charts of your home?" He asked. "They'd be a good place to start."
"They're all in my computer." She replied, happy to be able to offer any assistance no matter how small.
"I'd like to make a detailed scan of your vessel." Haldo told her. "It's a non-invasive procedure that won't damage your vessel or the people on board."
"That would be fine." She agreed.
"I can directly access your computer system from my terminal." Haldo told her. "I can download your charts from here if you've no objection."
"No." She replied with nod. "Please go ahead."
The Wanderer's medical facilities were something of a joke. The surroundings were worse than Katherine had even feared. Fortunately she'd taken aboard everything she had suspected she'd need because their usual medical practice had been to treat every malady with an exuberant dose of alcohol, even hangovers and alcohol poisoning were treated with another drink.
"This really isn't good." She glowered at her Tricorder as if somehow she blamed it for the information it was relaying to her.
"Doctor?" Emma Souza asked, heading over with a loaded hypo-spray.
"This man is not going to survive…" She explained, biting her lip thoughtfully.
"The tactical officer is not much better." Emma agreed. "His synaptic pathways are breaking down rapidly. He's going to lose autonomic functions soon."
"This man already has." Katherine sighed. "I'm keeping him alive with a neural stimulator but I think he's already brain dead."
"Do you think you can reconstruct his pathways?" Emma asked, a note of helplessness in her voice.
"I doubt it." The Ensign admitted. "Maybe we should concentrate on the Tactical officer for now."
"His brain waves are decaying." Emma explained, gesturing towards her console that showed a scan of the mans head. "The stimulator is slowing the degradation but I can't stop it."
"The EM radiation discharge has left a residual effect on their tissue." Katherine shrugged, her mind racing for a solution. "It's like their own bodies are radiating a negative field that's cancelling out their own minds."
"What can we do?" Emmas eyes seemed to be crying out for a suggestion from the more experienced officer.
"The field is dissipating naturally." Katherine said, thinking out loud. "We need to strengthen their brain wave patterns so that they'll outlast the field."
"But we don't know their physiology well enough." Emma offered.
"How can we replace their synaptic patterns faster than the field can degrade them?" Katherine Rogers began pacing the small medical bay thoughtfully, stepping carefully through crates of bottled beer and other forms of more questionable narcotics. "It's like a bottle of beer that's half empty…we'd replicate more beer."
"Except we don't know how to replicate it." Emma agreed, following her thinking.
"So we fill it up from another bottle of the same beer…" Katherines eyes widened as inspiration grasped her.
"How do we do that?" Emma asked, mimicking her optimism with a grin.
"We copy the neural patterns from one of their species and transmit them to the patient." Katherine suggested, flipping open her tricorder.
"Can we do that?" Emma shrugged. "I mean, is that possible?"
"It should be." Katherine nodded. "We create the same situation in the donor's mind and copy the corrective patterns until the field dissipates."
"The Pilot?" Emma suggested.
"Find him!" Katherine told her bluntly.
Crewman Simon Jarrow scanned the engineering section of the small ship. The lights were failing and pannelling was hanging from the bulkheads from the force of a blast that had damaged the warp drive.
"Does this ship have a name?" He asked conversationally.
"Not really." Talle Mera told him, standing behind the engineer as he carried out his work.
"Small crew, only four people." He swept his Tricorder around as he spoke.
"We were testing our new Warp drive." She told him. "It was meant to be ten times faster than anything we've tried before."
"And then this happens?" He shrugged. "Well don't let it put you off. Exploring the galaxy is the most rewarding thing you can ever imagine."
"I agree." She smiled. "Can you repair her?"
"I can." He nodded back. "You use stored anti-matter mixed with hydrogen?"
"That's right." She agreed.
"It's a simple enough engine." He told her. "We use anti-matter ourselves but our ships generate it as we go. You'll learn to do that yourselves in time."
"So our technology is compatible with yours?" She asked, a little surprised.
"It's basically very simple, ours is just more sophisticated." He told her. "I can certainly get your ship moving again, and probably quite quickly."
"That's great." She enthused.
"I'll arrange for some people from the Wanderer to come over and help." He suggested. "We can replicate what we need from my scans."
Something is definitely not right here." Haldo told him as Blake took a cup of steaming hot coffee from the replicator.
"Go on?" Blake asked, sitting down at his desk.
"These star charts don't correspond with anything in Starfleet records." Haldo began. "We also have Romulan and Section 31 records and I still can't find any mention of the region these people came from."
"That ship is too primitive to have got very far." Blake replied thoughtfully. "I estimate it's only capable of about warp 2 at best."
"If that!" Haldo agreed. "There's something else that's bothering me."
"I thought there might be." Blake groaned, leaning back in his chair and steeling himself mentally against more bad news.
"There's a very strange residual radiation over their hull." Haldo told him. "They use a kind of shield grid to protect themselves, it's an odd design but quite clever. It hasn't fully protected the ship from the effects of the rift and what I'm detecting on the hull is a kind of filtered subspace field."
"So the shield blocked some of the effects totally?" Blake rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
"I'd like to go to the place they emerged from the rift." Haldo suggested. "The energy would have dissipated but it would help to complete my readings."
"Fine." Blake agreed. "We can be there in a few minutes and we can cloak to stop any dealings with the Cardassians."
"Good." Haldo smiled and nodded. "I'll calibrate the sensors to look for low intensity fields."
"The course is laid in." Blake told him. "Let's go."
"I don't like this." Pilot Mav Mosson grumbled as the neural transceiver was stuck to the base of his skull.
"It'll be fine." Emma told him dismissively, doing her best to ignore his complaints.
"If my brain waves are being sent to him then what will happen to me?" He asked, glancing around for Katherine who at least appeared to care what he thought.
"You'll be fine." Katherine assured him. "This device simply reads your brain pattern and sends it to a computer for analysis. The computer sends a simulated version to your officers, there's no direct interaction as such."
"I'm not comfortable with any of this." He argued, fingering the small silver device as a red light began pulsing away.
"You don't need to be." Katherine told him flatly to quell his winging.
"How comfortable would you feel trying to get home without a tactical officer and an engineer?" Emma asked, winking towards her superior.
"I see your point." He sighed somewhat deflated.
"The signal is good." Katherine beamed a relieved smile.
"The brain pattern is stabilising." Emma told her excitedly.
"What about the Engineer?" She asked.
"Crom!" Mav Mosson snapped. "His name is Tagon Crom."
"I'm sorry." Katherine said earnestly, her eyes glancing up temporarily from her station.
"No change." Emma told her dejectedly.
"Well…" Blake began thoughtfully from the front of his bridge, the holographic view of space surrounding him as he folded his arms and glanced around. "We've arrived."
"How can I help?" Doctor Jones asked pensively, hovering unnoticed from the rear of the bridge.
"You can stay out of my way!" Haldo scowled into his terminal, deliberately avoiding making eye contact.
"He's part of the crew too!" Blake reminded his chief engineer. "We need to tweak the sensors as far as they can go."
"They can go pretty far." Jones grinned. "Even without the Borg stuff we put together the best detection gear in the galaxy."
"Well start using it!" Blake gripped his folded arms and stared back out into space. "The rift will have decayed massively by now. We'll be lucky to get any reading at all."
"I've got readings!" Haldo announced proudly before the Doctor had even reached the science station. "Weak but I think I have them."
"He has them." Jones confirmed. "This is very strange though."
"You're not kidding." Haldo agreed. "Blake, this is the weirdest thing I've seen all day and that's saying a lot on this ship!"
"Go on…" Blake told him, intrigued.
"This is no natural phenomenon." He began. "I'm detecting a lot of things I hadn't expected to find."
"Tachyons!" Doctor Jones frowned.
"Huge amounts of them." Haldo nodded, forgetting his loathing for an instant. "I think I know what's happened… We need to talk to that Captain again."
Simon Jarrow laid on the floor with a flashing implement gripped between his teeth while he probed the computer relays to inspect his work. The repairs were going smoothly, the ship was fairly basic and the parts were both easy to fit and simple to replicate.
"This is going well." He called out from under the terminal.
"Thanks." Mera called out with a smile as she initiated the computer system. "Everything seems to be checking out. We're nearly ready to move under our own power."
"This is a good ship." He grunted as he hoisted himself up, unravelling himself from the cables as he did so. "You get a feel for a vessel. Each one is unique, even when they're one of a class. The parts are never identical and they get a little bit of character all of their own."
"I get a feeling from my ship!" Talle Mera agreed. "I can feel what she's doing from the vibrations through the deck plates or the dimming of the bridge lights when the engines fire."
"The Wanderer is like that." He grinned back at her. "She's an old ship but she does her best."
"We're lucky to survive." She nodded dolefully, mindful of her two sick officers. "I'm sure she did her best for us."
"You should name her!" Jarrow told her. "We name all our ships, from the flagship Enterprise to the smallest prototype Corinthian."
"We just have designations for them." She told him with a thoughtful look as her mind raced.
"You should give her a name." He grinned, staring into her eyes a little longer than he should have. "For luck!"
"Any suggestions?" She grinned back, their eyes momentarily locked together, communicating beyond their words.
"How about the Queen Victoria?" He suggested. "She was the Queen of England centuries ago on Earth. She was a powerful leader who was widely respected."
"Queen Victoria?" She repeated, rolling the words over in her mind. "I like that."
"Then it's settled." He looked away, suddenly finding his tools fascinating.
"How long until the sub-light engines are ready for testing?" She smiled coyly to herself.
"They're ready…" He stammered slightly.
"You're very good at what you do." She told him.
"I'm very good at everything I do." He assured her dryly with a wry grin.
"Blake!" Haldo called out. "There's something you need to see!"
"More good news?" He sighed, his mind had been arranging a long range communication with the Wanderer but stopped instantly as his conscious attention was drawn away.
"This is worse than bad!" Haldo blinked, shaking his head.
"Great!" Blake smiled sarcastically. "More Cardassians by any chance?"
"We're being followed…" Haldo scratched his neck and winced. "I'm sure of it."
"We're cloaked!" Doctor Jones frowned in confusion. "We're totally invisible."
"Someone sees us!" Haldo told him flatly. "I'm following our plasma wake with the advanced sensor software I used to find the Violator."
"I see them." Blake nodded, suddenly realising how disconcerting it was to be aware of a ship as though it were his own body. He closed his eyes and shook his head to rid himself of the odd feelings. "It seems to be quite small, not too far behind."
"What the hell do we do?" Doctor Jones asked, his voice rising in volume and pitch as he nervously fidgeted with his jacket.
"We certainly don't lead them back to the Wanderer!" Blake began rhetorically.
"If they can see through our cloaking technology they can definitely see through the Wanderer's." Haldo told him. "Theirs is just a portable universal generator, not a state of the art integrated system like ours."
"We don't even know who they are?" Jones added.
"Who the hell could be tracking us?" Blake turned his attention to the scientist.
"Nobody." He said nervously. "The technology was better than anything the Romulans had. No species I know of has any way of penetrating our cloak with sensors."
"Someone has…" Blake grumbled.
"Someone always does!" Haldo told them both. "No system is perfect."
"We'll go to transwarp!" Blake announced suddenly. "That should throw them off!"
"It could work!" Haldo agreed. "But we'd have to drop out of warp and retract the nacelles. They'd know what we were up to something…"
"I don't care what they know!" Blake said firmly. "So long as they can't track us back to the Wanderer they can know the meaning of life and have god's phone number."
"Maybe they think we've got it?" Haldo suggested with an inappropriate attempt at humour. "Perhaps we could ask them."
"I think not!" Blake folded his arms over his chest as the ship dropped from warp and his mind laid in the specifications for a transwarp jump while the nacelles folded into the hull to sleeken the ship against the stresses.
"I'm detecting a power build up." Haldo warned. "Something is dropping its cloaks and charging weapons."
"Shields!" Blake commanded although the ship deployed them automatically. "Fire!"
"Fire what?" Haldo shrugged. "They're behind us! We don't have any rear mounted weapons!"
"Yes we do!" Blake sneered as the targeting scanners locked onto the vessel as it began to swim into view. The ship's exposed sections reconfigured a shield emitter to fire a phaser. Instantly a beam of yellow energy blasted out into the emerging ship that still had not raised her shields. The beam caught her off guard and sent a plume of flame cascading from the bow.
"Lets go…" Blake instructed as the Corinthian suddenly vanished in a blur of transwarp energy firing a photon torpedo as it left that arced around and targeted the damaged ship.
"Let's hope they weren't just looking for gods telephone number!" Haldo shrugged.
"Let's hope they got the hint!" Blake replied. "Time to Wanderer?"
"Only a few seconds now." Jones told him. "The conduit is already breaking down."
"I think we have a few interesting questions for out guests!" Blake said rhetorically.
"He's dead…" Katherine sighed helplessly as she gazed down to the alien engineer. He looked so Human, only a few minor ridges on the sides of his temples and his long braided hair pointed to any difference from her own species.
"I'm sorry…" Emma shook her head sorrowfully.
"We did all we could." She shrugged.
"I wish we could have done more." Emma flipped her tricorder closed and turned from the body of the man. "Shall I switch off the life support?"
"How do you want to proceed?" Katherine turned to the Pilot. "How does your culture deal with death?"
"We believe that the body is a vessel for our essence." He said sadly, moved by the loss of his colleague. "When it passes we believe that the shell is irrelevant and can be discarded."
"We can dispose of him for you, if you'd like." She suggested.
"Thank you." He agreed with a nod as he fingered the little device that linked his mind to the tactical officer. "I don't think the ship can function without him."
"You need him to get home?" Emma asked, her eyes widening as she realised the implications beyond the immediate task at hand that had held her focus until now.
"I believe so." He sighed. "I think we're in trouble."
"I'm sorry." Katherine repeated.
"It's not your fault." He smiled thinly. "How is Grinnly?"
"Grinnly?" Emma turned to the other officer. "He's doing well."
"He's going to be fine!" Katherine assured him. "You'll both need to wear the device for a few more days I'm afraid but he should be regaining consciousness some time soon."
"We don't want to rush him." Emma added. "We could revive him now but it's best to let him recover naturally."
"Thanks." He smiled again but this time it was slightly less forced.
The small engineering room suddenly lit up as Blake and Haldo beamed in to join the First Talle Mera and Crewman Simon Jarrow.
"I'll never get used to that." She muttered, running her hand over her tightly braided dark hair.
"We need to talk." Blake told her with a sense of urgency.
"Is there a problem…?" She scowled, somewhat surprised by his tone.
"I need to ask you a question!" Haldo stepped forwards.
"Please…" She gestured for him to continue.
"Explain in simple terms your warp drive." Haldo asked.
"Well it's not perfect like yours just yet…" She began. "What do you want to know?"
"Just tell us how it works?" Blake told her with a growing impatience.
"It uses an electro-magnetic field to bend space and time to allow us travel faster than light." She shrugged.
"Space and time?" Haldo shook his head.
"Well yes." She smiled awkwardly. "You can't bend one without the other."
"Oh god!" Haldo sighed. "I was right."
"You caused the rift." Blake explained while Haldo continued rubbing his forehead in exasperation.
"What?" She shook her head, wondering what the hell was going on.
"Space and time are linked in a realm called Subspace." Haldo began. "The interconnection is the area you need to warp to travel faster than light."
"So what happened?" She asked, looking over to Jarrow who was listening intently.
"We think you did what you set out to do, you bent time and space in on themselves." Blake shrugged. "We detected a temporal variance where you arrived and we found the residual charge on your hull once we knew what we were looking for."
"You travelled through space and time." Haldo sighed heavily. "We think you might have travelled a very, very long way."
"We think the reason that we don't recognise your star charts is that you've come from the other side of our galaxy." Blake told her.
"The problem is that you've travelled an equal distance through time as you have through space." Haldo began. "We would guess from our calculations that you've gone around 70 000 light years and probably as many years out too."
"Are you telling me that we've come 70 000 years in to the future?" She gasped, shooting a glance at Jarrow who seemed as stunned as she was.
"Or the past…" Blake shrugged. "We've no way to tell."
"So what the hell do we do?" She groaned. "How do we get home?"
"Your warp drive created the rift in subspace." Haldo told her. "The frequency of your shields is what brought you to this point in time and space. We hope that by changing the polarity of your shields and doing the same thing at the point you arrived you should go back to where you started."
"Really?" She began with new found optimism.
"There are no guarantees." Blake added. "And it will be a rough ride the same as before."
"We would have given you some assistance with beefing up your shields." Haldo explained. "We can't risk changing anything about your shields or engines."
"I understand." She hung her head. "We can take it, we've done it once, the Queen Victoria is a tough little ship."
"There is another problem." Blake said with the expression of a man with lots of bad news brewing inside him.
"That's an understatement." Haldo agreed.
"Firstly I have some rather bad news." Blake began.
"Just what I need." Talle Mera sighed.
"Your Engineer died." He said bluntly. "The other officer is doing well but Ensign Rogers couldn't do anything to save him."
"Thank you." She closed her eyes against her grief. "I know you did your best."
"We were also tracked by a ship that tried to attack us." Haldo added for good measure.
"More of these Cardassians?" She sighed, her brief optimism vanishing entirely.
"I don't think so." Blake shrugged. "Although two of their ships are closing on us. The Wanderer lost its landing gear during tests and the Cardassians seem to have detected it."
"So what do we do?" She asked.
"Jarrow?" Blake turned to the Wanderer crewman. "How much longer until this ship can make a warp jump home?"
"She's more or less ready." He shrugged. "It's not going to be easy, I've had to bypass some systems. This ship really needs an engineer."
"She doesn't have one!" Blake chewed his lip thoughtfully.
"I could stay!" He suggested.
"You?" Blake frowned at him.
"Simon." Haldo began. "We have some issues here with the Prime Directive. When there's an element of time travel we're meant to stay out of it. If you were to return then the impact on their civilisation could be catastrophic."
"Sir…" Jarrow pleaded to Blake. "These people are from the other side of the galaxy, the impact on both parties would be insignificant. Perhaps this is even meant to happen!"
"I don't think we could make it without his help." She agreed.
"If they are from the future or past then not returning them could be very dangerous to the time line." Haldo added rhetorically.
"Ok." Blake breathed out heavily. "Do as much as you can here, and we'll see what happens. I'm going to the Wanderer to see how ready she is to move. We're going to have to do this by the seat of our pants."
"As usual!" Haldo grinned.
"I have impulse power." Captain Graves told Captain Girling. "I can run about three quarters if I have to. Shields are at half power, RCS thrusters are working again and I have phasers although the couplings are damaged so they're only good for a few shots."
"And the toilets?" Haldo asked with a raised hairless eyebrow.
"Still blocked." Graves explained. "But I have my best man working on them."
"That means the matter recycling unit is off line." Haldo explained. "That means that whatever's working now won't be working for long!"
"The Cardassians are heading this way." Blake shrugged. "We need to get the Queen Victoria launched and get the hell out of here as quickly as possible."
"We're in no shape for a fight." Commander Morrow interjected.
"This ship never was." Haldo told him.
"We're ready to help out." Captain Graves stood up. "We'll be ready to assist the Corinthian."
"Good." Blake smiled at his enthusiasm even though he knew that his faith in the ship and crew was largely misplaced.
"So what's the plan?" Morrow asked, hoping that it wouldn't involve him too much.
"I'll tow the warp ship to the coordinates of the rift." Blake began, making it up as he went along. "We were tracked by a ship so I wouldn't be surprised if we're followed again. We'll be travelling at impulse so you can follow us, the trip should only take about twenty minutes."
"We'll be safer running at about half impulse." Morrow told him.
"Well we'll have things to do when we get there." Blake nodded his agreement. "As soon as you arrive the ship should have gone and we'll tow the Wanderer into Transwarp."
"Let's hope it goes smoothly." Haldo almost laughed at his own comments.
The Corinthian fixed the little warp ship in a tractor beam and slowly accelerated away from the large moon they were hiding behind. The cloak was extended around both vehicles to mask them from sensors and their own detection equipment was probing space for the vessel that had tried to attack them.
"I imagine the Ferengi detected the unusual warp signature and hoped to turn a profit." Haldo said as he worked the sensors.
"Probably what the Cardassians were up to as well." Blake agreed. "As they emerged from the rift they would have been lit up with Tachyons and subspace energy."
"Are you going to let Jarrow go with them?" Haldo asked.
"I don't want to." Blake shrugged, sighing to himself. "I don't see much choice. He wants to go and we need to protect the time line by sending the ship back home."
"But then what happens when he gets there?" Haldo said.
"Exactly." Blake turned to face him. "Do you think he'll keep his mouth shut when he arrives?"
"I think so." Haldo nodded. "He's a good engineer with a basic knowledge of most ship operations but I don't think he knows enough about anything to be dangerous to a civilisation who already has warp capability."
"Which just leaves the question of who tried to attack us." Blake furrowed his brow.
"There are any number of reasons why somebody would be interested in the Corinthian." Haldo shrugged. "I'd have been surprised if somebody hadn't tried to capture or destroy us."
"Isn't it nice to be popular!" Blake grinned.
"I'm used to it." Haldo grinned back.
"I've given the crew injections to help with the energy radiation that killed their engineer." Katherine told them redundantly. "It's certainly going to be a rough trip for them."
"No worse than last time." Blake assured her. "They'll be fine."
"I hope so." She replied. "They're good people, I like them a lot."
"Blake…" Haldo began suddenly. "I'm detecting something heading this way."
"Great." He huffed in annoyance. "Drop the Queen Victoria, she'll have to make her own way to the rift."
The blackness of space rippled as the ships cloaks dropped to reveal it. It was a sleek vessel with two engines protruding forwards from her nose and a long tail with sharp spines and shield panels jutting out. The hull was painted in shades of yellow with deep scars and carbon scoring from weapons strikes. The ship banked hard towards the Corinthian as her weapons emitters began glowing a deep fiery red.
"Shields are up, weapons are ready." Doctor Jones told them. "The nose cannon is charged."
"Let's see if they want to talk." Blake said hopefully. "Hail them."
The ship rocked as a beam of crackling energy tore into them. The light systems dimmed slightly and sparks showered out from the tactical console at the impact.
"I take it they don't!" Katherine commented dryly.
"What the hell did they hit us with?" Blake called out in surprise.
"I don't know." Haldo admitted. "Some kind of beam weapon, not a phaser or a disrupter… in fact nothing I recognise."
"Return fire." Blake scowled at the ship in the viewer. "Now it's our turn."
A powerful phaser beam pulsed out of the large cannon set into the Corinthian's nose, glowing a brilliant yellow. The ship banked to port as the beam lashed across her hull sending blue arcs of energy from her defensive shielding.
They launched a pair of torpedoes that blasted with a flash of red energy on the attackers hull.
"We hurt them." Haldo announced. "Their power readings are fluctuating."
"They're not retreating." Blake said regretfully. "Hail them."
"They've launched three torpedoes towards us…" Haldo warned them. "If they're as powerful as their beams we could be in big trouble."
The nose cannon fired again, targeting the incoming weapons. Two were struck and exploded violently in a flash but the third kept on coming as the Corinthian accelerated away.
"Brace for impact…" Blake warned as the last missile streaked into their shields.
Suddenly the ship rocked violently, power conduits tore across the ship. The bridge erupted in flame as panels blew out and cables ruptured.
"Shields are almost gone." Haldo shouted above the noise. "We can't take another hit."
"I can't regenerate the shields." Blake called back. "There's too much damage to the main systems. It's repairing itself but it's going to take a few minutes."
"I don't have weapons." Doctor Jones called out as the main systems began to fail.
"She's coming about…" Ensign Rogers said coldly as the ship turned on them and prepared to fire again.
"The Corinthian is in trouble." Commander Morrow warned. "They're damaged, they're venting drive plasma from the port nacelle."
"What the hell could do that to her?" Captain Graves gripped his chair tightly as he leant forwards from his command seat.
"That battered old ship apparently." Winston pointed to the attacker.
"Drop our cloak and prepare to fire the weapons." Graves ordered.
"We're no match for them and the Cardassians are on our tail." Morrow reminded him. "We have one phaser bank that hardly works."
"We're not going to leave our friends to the wolves." Graves said with a grim determination. "I'll ram them first."
"Ram them?" Morrow asked with alarm.
"If I have to." Graves agreed with a worrying smile.
"Cloaks are down…" Morrow reported. "Phasers are set and we'll be in range in a few more seconds."
"Excellent." The Captain grinned. "Now we've given them something else to shoot at!".
"They're charging weapons." Haldo said, wincing at the image on the view screen.
"We're helpless." Blake admitted. "The systems need more time to regenerate."
"I'm detecting something…" Jones stood up in excitement. "Another vessel is emerging from a transwarp conduit."
"Great." Blake sighed. "Don't they know we can only die once."
"They're firing…" Haldo cried out.
A spherical glowing blue ball tore effortlessly through space leaving a brilliant trail in its wake. At it's heart a white light pulsed and gave off a strange iridescence that permeated through its translucent outer skin.
It crackled with energy as flashing arcs of power built up inside it as it headed for the two ships. It shot past the stricken Corinthian and lashed out with energy at the attacking vessel.
"What the hell is that?" Blake shrugged.
"I can't get a solid scan." Haldo replied as he tried to investigate the object with sensors. "It could be a weapon or a ship or even a being of some kind."
"Or it could be a coffee machine or the waste from a chemical toilet." Blake added sarcastically.
"It seems to be on our side." Katherine pointed as the object continued to attack the yellow ship. The alien vessel listed to the side as flames began to erupt on the hull as the energy bolts crackled over it. Suddenly it erupted in flames as it was totally torn apart by the object.
"Let's hope it doesn't do that to us." Jones suggested in awe as fragments of debris lit up the viewer.
"The Cardassians will…" Haldo told them as the tactical scanner showed two Galor class cruisers heading for them.
"I won't have shields or weapons back up for about three minutes." Blake sighed.
"They'll be here before then." Haldo warned.
"I'm open to suggestions."
The Corinthian manoeuvred gingerly on her thrusters to face the approaching ships as the on board systems struggled to repair themselves in time.
Suddenly from behind the Wanderer sped past the stationary ship with her impulse engines blazing.
"Oh no." Blake hung his head.
"I'm detecting four life signs on board." Haldo pre-empted his orders. "I've got transporter locks on them all but no transporters."
"I'll prioritise the repairs to those systems." Blake grumbled. "We better head after them before the do anything stupid."
"They will do something stupid." Haldo agreed. "It's the one constant in the universe."
"We can't go up against two Cardassian warships with no shields or weapons." Jones said with evident nervousness.
"We don't have much choice." Blake told him.
"This is suicide." Morrow whined as the two ships loomed larger in the viewer.
"The warp ship is nearly away." Graves reminded him. "We just need to buy them a few more seconds."
"By attacking two warships with a dilapidated old freighter." Morrow asked in exasperation.
"They may not be looking for a fight." Graves suggested. "A bluff might work!"
"It better!" Morrow told him. "Because one good hit to out shields will collapse them."
"We'll be fine." Graves said with unrealistic optimism.
"They've locked weapons on us." Morrow warned. "They're charging their forward batteries…"
"Engines are at full power." First Talle Mera announced with some relief over the intercom to the engineering bay.
"Power is holding." Crewman Jarrow reported. "Now is the time if we're ever going to do this."
"Pilot." She turned to her officer. "Engage the warp engine and prepare to go."
"The engine is responding." He reported efficiently. "The field is established and building to the threshold."
"We're ready to go!" She smiled, turning her attention to the viewer. "Time to go home."
"The rift is forming, the same as before." The pilot warned nervously. "We're being drawn in."
"Keep everything the same." She told him. "Jarrow's shield modifications should have set a reverse course."
"Should have…" The pilot repeated.
"Engage the warp drive and prepare to brace for impact…"
"They're firing…" Morrow told him, closing his eyes in dread of the fierce Cardassian firepower that was about to strike the ship.
"Fire phasers!" Captain Graves ordered with an inappropriate smile forming tentatively on his lips.
An insignificant beam of energy stuttered out of the single phaser pad on the top of the ship and struck the leading Cardassian vessel while the other moved to flank the little freighter.
Suddenly Morrows station erupted in a shower of sparks. He covered his eyes with his arms and yelled out reflexively in surprise.
"Shields are down." Morrow called out. "They hit us."
"Prepare for ramming speed!" The Captain ordered.
"What?" Winston yelled in horror.
"Target the closest ship and go to maximum speed." He repeated the order.
A second beam lashed out at the Wanderer and totally sheared off a nacelle with a blast of escaping energy.
"We have lost engines." Winston called out. "We're dead."
"Ram them!" He ordered again.
Suddenly the two of them dissolved in a flickering blue light as the transporter beam caught them.
"I got them." Haldo breathed a sigh of relief.
"And I've got shields." Blake added as the defences suddenly raised to protect them.
They watched the bridge as the Wanderer began to break up. She vanished behind a cloud of debris before the engines went up and exploded in a lacklustre blast of plasma.
"Not with a bang but a whimper." Haldo commented.
"That ship bought us the time we needed." Blake reminded him as the Corinthian banked away from the Cardassians.
"The rift is closing." Doctor Jones reported. "They're gone."
"Then so are we!" Blake breathed a sigh of relief. "Retract the nacelles. Let's get out of here."
Blake sat quietly in his office as Haldo and Katherine sat before him.
He read over the notes on the Starfleet issue Padd that listed the damage to his ship.
"Most of it has self repaired already." Haldo told him. "The rest I've got the Wanderer crewman patching up, we'll be fully up and running in a few more days."
"That's good." Blake agreed. "Thanks."
"She's ok you know." Haldo lowered his voice. "The ship is going to be fine. She just took a bloody nose. She's not perfect after all."
"I know." He smiled weakly back to the engineer who was fast becoming a friend. "I just wish I knew who did this."
"Any number of people could be interested in the Corinthian for all sorts of reasons." Katherine added. "We've got the scans we took, we'll make a thorough analysis when the computer is done with the repairs."
"Yeah, I know." He agreed. "I'm interested in the analysis of their weapons."
"Well, the good news is that their shields were no better than ours." Haldo sat back in his chair. "We gave them a good fight."
"I just wish I knew what was going on." Blake sighed.
"I wonder if they made it back home." Katherine said wistfully, changing the subject..
"I think they would have." Haldo nodded. "My analysis and computer model showed that they would and they had Jarrow with them."
"Do you think they came from the past or the future?" Katherine asked.
"The past." Blake said firmly. "To have never encountered aliens before they must have come from a long time ago. The galaxy is getting busier by the day."
"I tend to agree." Haldo nodded. "But we don't know what will happen. It's all just guesswork."
"If they did come from a time thousands of years ago what do you think they're like now?" Katherine smiled, allowing her imagination to run amok.
"By now they could have either died out completely or be the dominant species in their region." Haldo suggested.
"Maybe one day we'll meet them again." Blake said.
"I think we got them off to a good start." Katherine smiled to herself.
Across the galaxy the little ship had safely arrived home and had been central in the evolution of their species. Millennia ago they had taken their first tentative steps into space driven by an innate curiosity and a motivation to improve themselves through contact with other peoples. Now they had grown and evolved, changed forever by every species they had met. Their first contact with aliens had shaped their development, they'd learnt much from humans, still more from the one who had returned with them in the Queen Victoria. After his death Simon Jarrow had been quite thoroughly studied from his brain to his prosthetic arm and they had studied the medical device that had saved their officers life and had evolved both into a technology that had shaped their destiny.
Now their space was vast, encompassing countless inhabited worlds and was growing still. They still sought perfection from contact with others although it had grown into a quest that they all shared.
They had learnt much from humans in their distant past but now they were evolved beyond them and were the dominant species in their part of the galaxy. They had even taken a name for themselves from the human custom of shortening their proper title. Now they were known simply as the Borg.
|Last modified: 09 Nov 2020