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Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 4,359
# 8
04-04-2013, 04:55 PM
Literary Challenge 41 - Call to Arms
When the Stars Go Out

On the forward viewscreen, the stars streaked towards the Valkyrie as it raced toward the planet Mu'Na. Captain Amanda Palmer glanced around the bridge, the crew all going about their duties, every console in use. Not a single aspect of the ship was damaged, something for which Palmer was eminently grateful for. Closing her eyes briefly, she recalled the warmth of her soak at the Yuki Pocari bath house, relishing the memory, allowing it to warm her once more.

"Captain," the Mumbai accent of Midshipman Ramesh Kumar interrupted her reminiscence. "I'm receiving a priority one distress call from the Icarus research observatory, they are under attack from Klingon forces and fear they will be boarded."

Palmer did not immediately open her eyes, instead, she breathed deeply and clenched her jaw. Was a simple mission too much to ask for...

"Ensign T'Natra, what is our ETA at Mu'Na?" she enquired, folding one long leg over the other at the knee.

"At current velocity, nineteen hours, Captain," the Vulcan navigator crisply reported.

"Are there any other starships in the vicinity which could assist the observatory?" Palmer enquired.

"Aye, Captain," replied Commander Brandon Mayer from ops. "The Enterprise is within range, and already moving to assist, but we are still the closest ship, and will arrive first."

"Very well," Palmer replied. "Helm, lay in a course for the Icarus observatory at maximum warp. Mister Kumar, contact the observatory. Tell them that we acknowledge their distress call, and advise them of our ETA. Additionally, please hail the Enterprise and inform Captain Shon of our engagement."

"Aye, Captain," Kumar acknowledged, operating the communications console with a confidence normally reserved for seasoned communications officers, not third year cadets.

Lieutenant Commander Meliden Bowen frowned at the black synthleather strap in her hands and placed it on her desk. It had long ago ceased to strike her as strange that her office was on deck two, and separated from main engineering by four decks, now she simply enjoyed the solitude it afforded her.

"Compu- Claire, please make a complete scan of this device and create a workable replicator template," she said, momentarily forgetting the software upgrade which now afforded the Valkyrie's computer AI status.

"Working," replied the synthesized voice of the computer library access information retrieval engram. "Template complete."

"Do you know what this is?" Meliden asked, popping a broken, lozenge-shaped piece of equipment out of the wrist-strap. It had a four-directional control interface, and a series of other buttons which appeared to mirror the functions of a tricorder, but no display monitor was visible, only a raised, rectangular feature, and a round holo emitter in the center of the device.

"It is a prototype Type 6T tactical tricorder," Claire replied. "It has been extensively modified however, as the device was originally designed to be integrated into the gauntlet of heavy duty tactical armor, and was not originally outfitted with such memory capacity."

"I've never seen one before," Meliden admitted, turning the device over in her hands, running her thumb over the massive dent in the casing.

"The Type 6T never went into production," Claire explained. "Preliminary testing found that a large number of Betazoids, Deltans and Humans found the device created vertigo-like sensations when used, and the project was suspended."

"According to my preliminary scans, none of the internal components are damaged, just the external casing," Meliden said, placing the tricoder on the replicator tray beside the desk. "If the outer casing was replaced, would the device be functional?

"It would," Claire replied. "Do you want me to make the necessary modification?"

"Go ahead, and begin induction charging of the power cell," Meliden said, before she realized that she was now talking directly to the Valkyrie's computer just as easily as she would any crewmember via comm badge.

On the replicator tray, the tricorder shimmered as if captured in a transporter beam, momentarily losing solidity, then re-appearing. The damage to the exterior case was gone.

Suddenly, music began flowing from the comm speakers. A simple, repeating, flowing melody which Meliden eventually identified as Ludwig Van Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.

"Claire, why're you playing Beethoven?" she enquired.

"I am not," replied the computer's interface. "The music is being transmitted wirelessly to local speakers by the Type 6T. Upon charging, it would appear to have continued to run the last operation selected."

Reaching out, Meliden went to press a button to see if it would deactivate the music, but something momentarily dazzled her, a flash of azure light across her peripheral vision, and she involuntarily squeezed her eyes shut. In the darkness, she saw lines and text imprinted on the inside of her eyelids. Opening her eyes, she held the tricorder in front of her, and looked directly at it. An operating system menu appeared clearly in front of her, superimposed onto her retina by the device.

"Oooh," she cooed. "Aren't you beautiful!" Scrolling through the menus, she began to synch the device to her desktop terminal as the music continued to play. Teraquads of data appeared, archived and foldered.

"Unauthorized subroutines are infiltrating my operating system," Claire reported.

"Block them!" Meliden snapped, dropping the tricorder to the desk, and focusing her attention on the desk terminal.

"Unable to do so, the programming is sophisticated enough to over-ride my system," Claire replied. "Diagnostics reveal no harmful malware, but the Type 6T is now a fully integrated device, with full access to my libraries, as well as a remote access to the communications and transporter systems."

Meliden scrolled through the streaming code on her terminal, occasionally recognizing a functional command, or a clever exploitation of holes in the computer's operating system. The programming really was a work of genius. Many codes were tagged RLR and RLK, and things began to fall into place. Only a Starfleet science officer would have the ability to create a program which integrated so perfectly with a starship's computer core.

"I don't know who you were, but I like your style," Meliden muttered in admiration of the tricorder's former owner.

She clicked on a file labeled A and M, and immediately, a holo image appeared on the viewscreen, of a young dark haired boy, almost inverted, with a hoverboard strapped to his feet. The next image, was of a young girl, staring intently at the camera. Although she was a pretty child, with delicate features, her slate grey eyes glared from the viewscreen with an intensity which sent a chill down Meliden's spine. A folder labeled P had images of a handsome dark-haired man, with a confident wry grin, and Meliden recognized renowned engineer Paul Kane. The tricorder held a complete family album, as well as playlists of music and memo notes.

Replacing the tricorder in the wrist-strap, Meliden placed it on the desk, and reached up to tap her comm badge.

"Bowen to Kane: Siri, you're not going to believe what I've just found on that tricorder you gave me..."

"We will be reaching the Icarus observatory in five minutes, Captain," reported T'Natra.

Palmer turned to Lieutenant Elyse Fisher at the mission ops console to her left.

"What do we know about the Icarus observatory?" she enquired.

"It's a Starfleet weapons testing facility, housed in a J Class stellar observatory in orbit of Gienah," replied the strategic operations officer. "Extremely classified and sensitive work, I've been able to get no information from Command about the nature of their current projects, only that they are insistent that it not fall into the hands of the Klingons."

"Any identification on the attacking force?"

Years serving with Palmer allowed Elyse to understand the message in her captain's verbal shorthand.

"If the reports from Icarus are accurate, it would appear to be a ch'tang class bird of prey," she replied, a note of tense foreboding in her voice. "We might have quite a fight on our hands, before the Enterprise arrives..."

"It's just a matter of timing, and knowing where to stick the knife, Miss Fisher," Palmer replied, drumming her fingers on the arm of her command chair. "Mister Chanos, please prepare a tricobalt device for transport, and then ready an assault team to secure the observatory."

"Aye, Captain," replied the Bolian chief of security, turning control of the tactical console over to his deputy, Lieutenant Arlandria Chambers, before crossing the rear of the bridge to the turbolift.

"Long-range sensors are detecting the Klingon ship," reported Mayer. "They would appear to be holding position within transporter range of the observatory. I'm picking up damage to the observatory and residual signs of weapons fire, as well as a strong voltarium signature."

Palmer frowned.


"An artificial unstable radioactive element," Mayer clarified.

"Thank you, Commander, I know what it is, I was merely surprised at its presence," Palmer replied, resting her elbows on the arm rests of her command chair and steepling her fingers. "Commander, can you pinpoint the location of the voltarium?"

"Aye, Captain," Mayer crisply responded. "Sensors are picking up massive quantities aboard the observatory."

"Are you detecting any aboard the bird of prey?"

"No ma'am, it's all aboard the station," Mayer confirmed.

"That means the Klingons haven't got their hands on it yet," she mused. "How long till we reach the observatory, Miss T'Natra?"

"Two minutes, Captain," she replied, not needing to check her console for the answer.

"Maintain present speed until we are nine seconds from the station, then perform an emergency down-warp behind the Klingon vessel."

"Aye, Captain," T'Natra responded, entering commands into the helm.

"Palmer to Chanos: How are we doing, Commander?"

"Tricobalt device made safe for transport," Chanos' voice reported over the intercom. "Only a point five percent reduction in yield."

"Excellent... Bridge to transporter room two: Lock onto the modified tricobalt device with Commander Chanos, and prepare to beam it to the engine room of the Klingon vessel we are approaching on my mark."

"Aye, Captain," responded the voice of th'Shaan. "Coordinates locked in, standing by for your command."

"Captain," said T'Natra. "We are less than twenty seconds from the station. Preparing for emergency down-warp..."

Not taking her attention from the tactical view of the system on her arm rest, Palmer's eyes were locked on the chronometer.

"Hold your course and speed..." she decided.

"Aye, Captain," T'Natra replied, surprise registering in her voice. "ETA now at eight seconds..."

"Steady..." Palmer began to count in her head

Seven... Six... Five...

"Emergency down-warp NOW!" Palmer commanded. "Chief th'Shaan, Energize!"

Around the edges of the viewscreen, the streaking stars fluctuated, and there was a coruscating whiteness as the Valkyrie dropped out of warp, replaced with the ungainly sight of the ch'tang class bird of prey directly ahead.

The collision alert warning flashed on the viewscreen, before the Klingon ship transformed into a cloud of orange and yellow destruction.

The Valkyrie punched through the cloud, and out the other side, like a phoenix rising from the fire, the ablative armor handling the heat and debris, like an umbrella deflecting the rain.

"Excellent work, people," Palmer congratulated her officers. "Helm, bring us about, and take up a position by the observatory. Palmer to Chanos: Commander, you may now transport your assault team to the observatory. Prepare for heavy resistance, any Klingons aboard the observatory have nothing to lose. Allow them an honorable death, if that is their choice."

"Aye, Captain," replied Chanos' gravelly voice. "Energising now."

No sooner had the transporter beam released him, Bellic Chanos saw a mek'leth swinging towards his head. However, sparring with the grandson of a dahar master had more than prepared the tactical officer for whatever the foot-soldiers of the Empire had to throw at him. Dropping his phaser rifle, the muscular Bolian moved in toward his attacker, crouching, then rising, in a flawless mok'bara form, the heel of his palm driving upwards to slam the Klingon's jaw together with enough force to break his teeth, and he flew backwards off his feet to lay in a crumpled heap.

Thanks, Ryan... Chanos thought somberly as he picked up his rifle and the fallen mek'leth.

"Commander, I'm picking up a dozen lifesigns, accompanied by Federation comm badge signals four hundred meters ahead, and one deck down," reported Lieutenant Anton Jarre. "It looks like the Klingons have secured the researchers in one of the cargo bays."

"Acknowledged," replied Chanos, casting an eye over the half-dozen officers of his assault team. "Stay sharp, we have no idea how many more Klingon troops we will encounter. Let's move out."

Gustav heard the sound of phaser fire from beyond the cargo bay and heard the distinctive hiss of a Federation phaser. Moments later, the bay doors opened, and a Bolian in tactical armor entered the enclosed space.

"I'm Commander Bellic Chanos from the Federation Starship Valkyrie. Who's in charge here?"

Gustav raised his hand.

"I'm Professor Gustav Rotwang, the head researcher," he said, getting to his feet. "Are they gone? The Klingons?"

"All dealt with," Chanos replied. "What happened, Professor? Why did the Klingons attack you?"

"We've been working on a weapon system," Gustav began. "A torpedo capable of making a star go supernova."

"As with a trilithium warhead," Chanos stated, but Gustav shook his head.

"Not quite, Commander. By comparison, a trilithium warhead is like a fire-cracker in a kasawa melon. Trilithium inhibits the nuclear reactions within a star, creating an implosion which creates a subspace shockwave. We have been experimenting with voltarium to create a device which instead destabilizes a star's gravity.

"A sun's gravity exerts a tremendous amount of pressure inward, while the ongoing fusion reaction exerts a constant outward pressure. Therefore, a star is in a constant state of balance. Our aim was to unbalance this equilibrium by negating the star's inherent gravity, causing a runaway fusion reaction of stellar proportions. With no gravity, the hydrogen gas which was undergoing fusion disperses in all directions, exploding and destroying everything in its path."

Chanos was silently awed by the concept.

"The Klingon ship has been destroyed, and their boarding party has been neutralized, but is there any way that this information could have been transmitted to the Empire? Is there any chance that they could have broken your encryption codes?"

"They did not need to," Gustav replied quietly. "When I refused to co-operate, those Klingon dogs threatened my daughter! They put my Maria in an airlock and began the cycle! I had no choice, Commander, surely you understand the position I was in?"

Silently, Chanos sympathized, knowing to what lengths he would go to to protect his own family, if someone was to threaten his wife or nephew. He looked about the cargo bay, and the traumatized scientists, but could see no children.

"Where is your daughter now, Professor?" he asked, suspecting he already knew the answer.

"After I told them, they opened the outer door anyway! They thought it was a joke, and laughed at my weakness. What kind of animals would do that to an innocent child?"

"If it is of any comfort, they no longer live either," Chanos said, reaching up to tap his comm badge. "Chanos to Valkyrie: Captain, the observatory has been secured, but the project data has been compromised. I have a dozen civilian scientists here who may be in need of medical attention."

"Understood, Commander," Palmer's voice responded. "You may have to wait a while though, we rather have our hands full here. You might want to prepare for more boarders."

Palmer clung to the ops console, trying not to be thrown to the deck by the pounding the Valkyrie was taking from the Negh'Var class battle cruiser. At almost six times the size of the Nova class vessel, Palmer knew they were ludicrously out-gunned, but she had no intention of withdrawing. Not while she had crew on the observatory, or civilian lives to protect. Such was her sworn duty as a starship captain.

"Miss T'Natra, take evasive action!" she snapped, as she watched the battle cruiser drawing ever closer on the viewscreen.

"Aye, Captain," replied T'Natra, "Initiating evasive maneuvers..."

On the screen, the collision alert began to flash again.

"Ensign, I said evasive action!" Palmer shouted.

"Aye, Captain," T'Natra repeated, suddenly veering off to starboard, and bringing the Valkyrie perilously close to the forward hull of the Klingon cruiser, flying within the radius of the disruptor banks.

"Firing phasers," Mayer reported from tactical.

As the Valkyrie passed along the hull of the Negh'Var, the ventral phaser banks lashed out, joining the two ships with a golden beam of energy. As the Valkyrie approached the port nacelle, T'Natra threw the ship into a steep climb, before banking round and swooping back down to make another run along the hull from stern to bow. Palmer felt her stomach lurching as her eyes fed conflicting motion information to what her body told her was solid ground.

"A little advanced notice would be appreciated in the future, Miss T'Natra," she said. "This is a starship, not a fighter..."

"Understood, Captain," replied T'Natra with that maddening Vulcan calm. "Could you possibly disable the proximity alerts? I am not going to hit anything..."

Tapping an override command into the ops console, Palmer glanced across at the Vulcan woman beside her, and saw an excited sparkle in her charcoal grey eyes.

"Are you enjoying yourself?" she enquired.

T'Natra's gaze did not shift from the viewscreen, and her slender fingers continued to dance across the helm console like a concert pianist, but she did raise an eyebrow.

"There is no need to be insulting, Captain," she replied dryly. "Although it is rather stimulating to have a challenge. It is a shame my shift will finish in five minutes..."

Palmer smiled at the sublime humor, then glanced at the viewscreen and had a thought.

"Brandon, target a spread of quantum torpedoes on -- these coordinates..."

From the Valkyrie's rear torpedo launcher, blueish white globes sped away, before slamming into the raised section of the Negh'Var's upper hull.

"That should take care of their communications array..." Palmer muttered. "Helm, prepare to come about for another pass..."

"Captain," called Mayer. "Sensors are picking up another starship approaching, it's the Enterprise!"

Dropping out of warp, the Odyssey class cruiser charged into the fray, unleashing wave after wave of quantum torpedoes and scouring the Negh'Var with phaser fire. Finally overloaded by an onslaught greater than the Valkyrie could dish out, the Negh'Var began to break apart, explosions breaking through from deep within the superstructure.

"Captain, incoming hail from the Enterprise," Kumar reported, clinging to his console as if his life depended upon it.

"On screen," Palmer ordered, as the Valkyrie banked away from the exploding Klingon ship.

"Sorry we're late, Amanda," said Captain Va'Kel Shon. "I trust you are not too severely damaged."

Palmer glanced about the bridge and shook her head. A few consoles had overloaded, and an ODN bundle had come loose from the ceiling.

"Nothing we can't handle ourselves, Captain, but we appreciate your intervention," she replied. "I still have an assault team on the observatory. May I suggest you evacuate the research staff? You have more extensive facilities aboard the Enterprise to deal with them than we can offer."

The Andorian captain nodded.

"Not a problem," he replied. "Have you any idea what all this mess was over?"

"As yet, no," Palmer admitted. "My chief of security is on the observatory, and he has reported that whatever the researchers were working on, the data has been compromised, although we have no way of knowing if that has been transmitted to the Empire."

"We can only hope not," Shon replied. "I'll contact you when we have the researchers aboard. Enterprise out."

Taking a deep breath, Palmer slowly rose to her feet from behind the ops console.

"Bring us back to the observatory, Miss T'Natra," she said. "Brandon, contact Commander Chanos and have him prepare the researchers for evacuation to the Enterprise. You have the bridge, Commander. If you need me, I'll be in my quarters..."

Last edited by marcusdkane; 06-20-2013 at 08:26 AM. Reason: Final polish...