Literary Challenge #41 : Call to Arms
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Join Date: Jul 2012
04-12-2013, 04:17 PM
Captain's Log, USS
NCC-93385, stardate 90201.5.
is en route to Starbase 114 for a well-deserved shore leave, after our - rather unusual encounter with the famed Guardian of Forever. We will also be rendezvousing with the
there, to transfer Lt. Paris back to her ship. Charming girl - don't know if I'd be as gracious toward someone who kidnapped me and shoved me two hundred years back in time. Profits, I wasn't that nice to Drake last time we spoke, and he hadn't kidnapped us - just dragooned us.
All systems are nominal, which makes a nice change. I think Vovenek's getting bored.
Grunt sat back in his command chair, fingering his brand-new commander's pip. He knew it was supposed to be SOP for an officer to receive a new command on being promoted to full commander, but he also knew how badly stretched the Fleet shipyards were - why, they'd recently been pulling old Andorian escorts out of mothballs and putting them on the front lines! Half of the admirals seemed to be flying around in commandeered Breen and Jem'Hadar ships, because Starfleet's production lines just weren't able to keep up with the losses being taken on the Borg front. No, all in all he really didn't mind staying with the old
a little longer...
"Captain," Roclak interrupted his reverie, "we are receiving a distress signal. Priority One."
"One? Where is it, what ship, and how long will we take to get there?"
"One moment... Sir, it's not from a ship at all. The signal is being interfered with, probably at the source, but it's identifying as a research station. Something about True Way, and something else about 'temporal generators'."
"Temporal? That's not a very comforting word, Rock. Especially not today."
"I agree, sir. However, we're the nearest ship - the
is next nearest, but it would take over three standard hours to arrive. We can be there in thirty minutes."
"Very well. Tell
that we're responding to the signal. Don't acknowledge to the station - we're going to want to try to keep the advantage of surprise. Gydap, anything on sensors?"
"Yes, sir," the Andorian replied. "I have one
-class cruiser, with an odd irregularity to their energy outputs. It looks like their main reactor's having some issues. Also, their transponder is offline. Definitely not Cardassian military."
"Nothing else?" Grunt asked, surprised. "We're kind of far out from the True Way's usual turf - they only sent one ship?"
"So it would seem, sir. Incidentally, the station doesn't appear on any standard navigation charts of the area. Inquiries into this region are met with the same data precautions as those around Section 31's pet slingshot at Bepi 113."
"'Curiouser and curiouser,'" Grunt mused. "Ms. Shelana, please stand by on weapons, and have a few of your young men in the transporter room prepared to board the station."
"Don't you plan on boarding the Cardassian ship?" Roclak asked.
Grunt smiled. "Rock, if Shelana leaves enough of that ship to board, we'll consider it."
Shelana chuckled. "If."
Grunt touched a control. The Red Alert klaxon began howling through the ship. "All hands, this is the captain," he announced. "All hands to battle stations. Repeat, all hands to battle stations. We have a stop to make before getting that leave."
It was an inoffensive little orange dwarf star, the kind a Klingon would have found homey. It hosted only three planets, one close-orbit gas giant and two rocky outer worlds too small to hold atmospheres. Orbiting the second of those rocks was a medium-small space station, accompanied by a beat-up Cardassian cruiser with no identifying marks on her hull.
A few light-seconds away, space twisted violently for a moment, before expelling a Starfleet cruiser, multiply-painted and proudly emblazoned
"Ms. Shelana," Grunt said, "you may - indulge yourself."
"Yes, sir," the Andorian tactical officer replied, with a feral grin. "Thank you, sir."
Lances of energy, blue and orange, speared through the endless night, enhanced with Shelana's own shield-piercing frequency modulations. Purple flares of Hargh'peng torpedoes streaked toward the Cardassian craft, already beginning its ponderous turn toward battle. Its own weapons returned fire, raking
's shields and shaking the ship's occupants.
"Shields holding at 90 percent, Commander," Gydap reported. "Minor fluctuation in the impulse drive."
Vovenek reported on the intercom.
"I thought you said everything was nominal!" Grunt complained.
thought you said we were headed straight for a starbase. We were nominal for going to a starbase. Nobody said anything about flying into combat!"
"Continue firing at will, Shelana," Grunt said. "That sort of thing can't keep happening to this poor ship right now."
Shelana didn't say anything; the phaser and disruptor banks spoke on her behalf. The shielding surrounding the Cardassian ship wavered - and its overworked portside shield generator suddenly exploded through its hull. The Cardassian's engines wavered and died, and her port weapons ceased firing.
"Her port shields are down, sir," Gydap reported.
"Rock, send a standard surrender offer," Grunt ordered.
"Aye, sir. Transmitting." The Klingon grinned slightly. "Reply received. If the translator's working right, they have no concept of Klingon anatomy - what they're inviting me to do is physically impossible, even after a few drinks."
"Very well, no one can say we didn't try. Shelana?"
's fire increased with the addition of the aft phaser turret, tearing through the hull of the enemy craft and causing a massive series of explosions. In moments, all that remained of the former
-class ship was a rapidly-expanding cloud of gases and metallic debris.
"That's what I thought,"
"They looked like they were in even worse shape than us."
"That's what they get for being racists," Grunt pronounced with satisfaction. "There are a lot of people who make better engineers than most Cardassians. You, for instance, my Pakled friend."
"You're making me blush,"
"How can you tell?" Roclak replied, straight-faced.
"Rock, hail the station. See if you can find out what's going on there," Grunt said. "Gydap, I need a sensor sweep of the station. Look especially for Cardie life signs."
"Scanning... Sir, I can't seem to get a look inside the station. There's a sensor-scattering field, which ordinarily I could compensate for, but on top of that there seems to be some sort of temporal issue going on - some of the signs I'm scanning seem to be shifted by several seconds from the neighboring data." Gydap shook his head. "I never did like temporal mechanics. I like it even less these days."
Grunt sighed. "I know the feeling. Anything yet, Rock?"
"Still scrambled, sir, but I did get a fragmentary audio of one of the True Way trying to reach their ship - I think he was looking for instructions on whether to start executing hostages."
"Well, that does increase the level of urgency a bit. Rock, Shelana, we're off to the transporter room. Rock, please have the quartermaster deliver our usual boarding supplies from the armory. Shelana, download whatever you can get on the floorplan of that station to our tricorders. Vovenek, come up to the bridge and keep a sharp eye on sensors. Let us know the microsecond anyone without a Starfleet transponder gets within range. Gydap, you have the conn. If trouble starts, try to get us out - but judging by the levels of precaution surrounding this installation, your first priority is to deny access to this station to anyone not from the Federation. By any means necessary, Mr. Gydap - and our survival is secondary to this."
"Aye, sir, I have the conn." Gydap touched the audio link in his ear. "Er, Chief Wayne's compliments, sir, but he says there's a lot of interference from whatever they're working on over there. He says he can beam you in there, but if you want beamed out, you have to shut it down."
"Then we'd better get this right. Let's go, people!"
The azure sparkle died, and Grunt and Roclak found themselves in what looked to be a storage area, along with their escort, two young human males from Shelana's security troops.
Grunt tapped his combadge. "Grunt to
. We're here. Storage B, all right. Is Shelana's team in place?"
"Aye, sir. They're ready on our signal."
"All right, let's see what we can see." Grunt tapped the channel closed. "After you, Rock."
The Klingon slid the door open, poking the muzzle of his pulsewave disruptor out ahead of him. When nothing attacked, he peered around the corner. "Looks clear," he said. "Ensign Michaels, it's your turn."
One of the Security men stepped forward and out the door. "Scanning... nothing, sir. Ready to sweep this floor."
Grunt, Roclak, and the other Security man, Lt. Singh, moved out. A distance down the corridor, after several rooms with no occupants, Michaels held his hand up. "Just a second, sir - thought I saw something..."
Looking around the crate he was behind, Grunt saw what Michaels had spotted. "That - that's
How is that possible?"
Roclak already had his tricorder out. "It's a temporal anomaly," he said. "What you're seeing is where we'll be in a few minutes. We're going to be running into this a lot, I think."
Grunt frowned. "You know something, Rock? I'm really getting tired of all this temporal crap."
"Trust me, sir," Roclak said dryly, "I've already promised myself that if we ever wind up on Earth in the late 19th century, I'm going to find the human writer Wells and kick him in the head until he forgets all about his time machine idea."
Two floors above them, Shelana paused, panting slightly. Her custom bat'leth dripped with Cardassian blood.
"Commander," one of her men said in an awed voice, "that was amazing. But don't you think maybe we should take prisoners or something?"
"If they wanted to live," she replied, "they shouldn't have attacked a Starfleet facility. Especially a
Starfleet facility. They'd probably have been killed to shut them up anyway - I'm just speeding things up a little."
"Um, sir, all due respect, but I'm pretty sure that's not what Starfleet does."
think," Shelana said, with a feral grin. "There's a man I know of named Drake who might disagree with you. Enough chatter - we still haven't found any hostages yet. Let's move."
Seven minutes, eight rooms, and four Cardassian patrols later (although in fairness, three of them were the same patrols, just in different times), Grunt stopped his group just outside a door labeled, "Operations".
"Shh. Hear that?"
Roclak cocked his head for a moment. "I don't hear anything."
"Yeah, I forgot - human and Klingon ears are mostly just for decoration. Voices on the other side of this door. Sound agitated. Probably our targets. Set weapons to stun - I'm willing to bet the hostages are in there too." Grunt tapped the control panel, and the door slid open quietly.
A group of True Way loyalists stood near a control panel, several of them pointing weapons in the vague direction of several civilian scientists. Some of the scientists bore bruises and other marks. "Daron to
," one Cardassian repeated into a communicator. "Daron to
Requesting information as to disposition of prisoners. They are unwilling to talk to us. Please respond." He looked at another of the True Way. "It's useless, sir - all I get is static. There's too much interference from the experiments here."
"Or from Starfleet," Grunt said, stepping out of a shadow. "Please surrender. It will make all of our lives easier, and save you a rather nasty headache later."
The response was immediate - poorly-aimed fire began to splatter around Grunt and his party. Phaser beams and pulsewave blasts, somewhat better aimed, fired in response. Suddenly, a blue-clad form slid gracefully into the crowd of attackers, striking at any who managed to avoid the phaser barrage. In a matter of moments, every Cardassian in the room lay on the floor.
"Mok'bara, Rock? Really? Showing off much?" Grunt grinned.
"Not showing off, sir," Roclak replied soberly. "Well, not much, anyway. But you said 'stun' - and my disruptor doesn't have a stun setting. Besides, I didn't want any stray shots to hit the hostages."
"Hmm. Good point." Grunt turned to the scientists. "I'm Commander Grunt, of the starship
," he said. "We're here in response to your distress call. First question - do you know of any other Cardassians on the station?"
"There were two or three sent out to keep an eye outside the room," one civilian, an older human male, replied. "And another group upstairs..."
"Shelana to Grunt,"
Grunt's combadge interjected.
"We found and neutralized three groups here. No sign of hostages."
Grunt tapped his badge. "That's because they're all down here, Shelana. And it sounds like you've taken out the last of the attackers. Any prisoners?"
"Any what, sir? I think you're breaking up."
"Acknowledged. Stand by for beamout once we get this place shut down. Grunt out." He tapped his badge again. "Well, it looks like you're safe now, Mister... ?"
"Doctor, actually. Dr. Hassan, lead researcher here at Anderson Station. We were working on a device that might have actually reproduced the abilities of the Guardian of Forever - have you heard of the Guardian?"
"We're familiar with it," Grunt replied with a grimace. "Why in the name of the First Shopkeeper would you want to do that?"
of the research possibilities!" Hassan said, eyes gleaming. "No more trying to understand events through a historian's 'interpretation' - we could actually
the Rihannsu leave Vulcan, or the flight of Cochrane's
, or Archer's speech that founded the Federation, or - or
"Or what you were doing in your quarters last night," Grunt continued conversationally. "Or what someone said to you late one night in grad school. Or when something else happened that you'd rather not be general knowledge. Have you ever heard of a group calling itself 'Section 31'?"
"Why, yes," Hassan replied haltingly. "There- there was a man who offered us this station, and the funding to complete our device. Mr. Drake, he said his name was - Frank Drake, I think. He said he represented a group of investors called Section 31..."
"And he'd make sure nobody stole your device, right?" Grunt snarled. "Except him, of course. He'd profit by having a private time machine!"
"Is that - if that's what he expected, then I'm afraid he was going to be disappointed," Hassan said. "We only developed a viewing portal. Actual interaction with the past was too difficult - we still don't even have a theory how that could be possible. No clue how the Guardian does that."
"Hmmpf. He'd still have the perfect spying device. I'd really rather he not have that. Besides, we fought some Cardies in the corridor that were time-shifted, so you were onto something." Grunt pondered for a moment. "Can your device be moved? We've got a cruiser here - we could take you straight to Starfleet Command for protection."
"Not moved as such, no," Hassan replied, "but if necessary, we can reproduce the research elsewhere - we have all of our notes, we'd just need funding. Why? Is this Mr. Drake a criminal or something?"
"Or something, yes. Very well, Doctor, please have your people gather their belongings and notes, shut down your device here, and prepare for departure. We'll take you to Earth Spacedock."
"Really?" Dr. Hassan brightened. "I've never been to Earth. That will be different, at least." He turned to his people, most of whom still seemed stunned by this sudden reversal of their fortunes - again. "You heard him, guys!" he called out. "We've got, what, maybe half an hour or so? An hour?"
"One hour, tops," Grunt replied. "And please make turning your machine off a priority - it interferes with comms and transporters."
"Certainly, Captain! Nothing simpler!" Hassan touched a control on the panel nearest him. "There you are - system deactivated. So much easier than getting it spun up in the first place."
"Thank you, doctor." Grunt tapped his combadge. "Grunt to
," he said. "Do you read?"
"What is your situation?"
"Perfectly normal, Gydap," Grunt said.
replied Vovenek's baritone.
"Gydap, we're processing the hostages now. When they're ready, in an hour or maybe less, we'll be beaming them aboard for transport to Earth. We also have some True Way for the brig. Once everyone is aboard, I want this station blown up."
Gydap and Vovenek replied together, disbelief apparent in their voices.
"Drake started the project here. He wanted them to build him a time machine. I don't want him to have one. I'm here, and have a starship. He isn't, and doesn't. Therefore, I get what I want, and he doesn't get what he wants."
"Agreed, sir. We'll be standing by to beam everyone aboard. Passenger quarters are being prepared. How many guests?"
"About a dozen. Somebody'll have to double up. That part's not my worry - I'm a starship captain, not a hotel manager."
An hour and ten minutes later, Grunt sat in his ready room, Admiral Quinn on the viewscreen. "And so we evacuated the station, sir. We're bringing the researchers - and their research - straight to you."
"You say Drake commissioned this?"
"Yes, sir. That's what Dr. Hassan tells me."
Quin drummed his fingers for a moment.
"Commander Grunt. You now have direct authorization from this office to scuttle that station. Don't give Drake a chance to get his filthy paws on
they did there."
"Aye, sir. Ah, I, well, sort of took the initiative, sir. The station's already gone, and irradiated just to make sure. Mr. Roclak assures me that no coherent data can be extracted from it at this point, and Dr. Hassan concurs."
"I see. I don't generally encourage my officers to destroy assets, Commander, but in this case you followed the prudent course. Please bring everything you found to my office soonest. I've already cleared your ship through traffic control."
"Thank you, sir. We'll be initiating transwarp shortly.
out." As Quinn faded from the screen, Grunt strode through the door to the bridge.
"Courts-martial all around, then, sir?" Roclak asked.
"No, Rock, the admiral actually ordered me to do what we did anyway. Gydap, please prepare to initiate transwarp to Sol system on my mark. The admiral's already given us clearance."
"Standing by, sir. Have been since you went in there."
"Good man. Initiate transwarp - now."
Space puckered and stretched, and the
vanished as if it had never been. All that remained behind was the wreckage of a
-class cruiser, and an expanding cloud of radioactive gas and metallic dust.
"Science teaches us to expect -- demand -- more than just eerie mysteries. What use is a puzzle that can't be solved? Patience is fine, but I'm not going to stop asking the universe to make sense!" - David Brin,
Last edited by jonsills; 04-12-2013 at