Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My ST:TNG Novel Drone - Chapter Eleven



Drone: Chapter Eleven
by Paul Darcy

Julie-Anne regained consciousness slowly while nurse Okido stood over her waving a medical tricorder. The surface she was upon seemed to shake suddenly and she began to remember. She had been in the shuttle bay looking for Apur. He had been hiding behind storage containers, then he sensed people approaching and flew out of the open shuttle bay door. Out into the asteroids.

The nurse, now shining a light in her eyes, asked, “how are you feeling?” Julie-Anne hadn’t really thought about her condition until the nurse asked. She was still picturing Apur spinning off into space. Her bed shook again and she looked groggily around. She was in sickbay. It was much busier than she recalled when visiting her dad here. Something was going on. She looked for, but couldn’t find, her father amongst the many shapes moving around.

Nurse Okido asked again more insistently, “Julie-Anne, are you Okay?”

It was an effort for her but she managed to whisper an answer. “I think so.” She tried to focus on the nurse’s question, but her head hurt. And her eyes wouldn’t focus properly. The ship rocked again and this time Julie-Anne could tell it was the Enterprise, not her, that was moving.

“What is happening?” Julie-Anne asked in a louder voice, keeping her eyes closed. It was easier that way.

The nurse didn’t answer right away, avoiding a lengthy discussion for the time being. After a pause the nurse did answer, curtly. “We are trying to avoid the Romulans,” and as quickly changed the subject, “now I’m going to give you a sedative so you can rest some more. You suffered a mild concussion, nothing to worry about. You will be fine in a day or two.” The nurse efficiently readied a hypo spray.

Julie-Anne began recalling even more details of her accident in the shuttle bay. A mild concussion. Yes, the storage containers were falling toward her. She was yelling at Apur but he was to far away to hear her. Apur flying out of the Enterprise, into space. Julie-Anne opened her eyes, anxious, and grabbed weakly for the nurse’s arm. She whispered as loudly as she was able, “do you know what happened to Apur? Is he Okay?”

The nurse looked slightly puzzled, put a restraining hand on her shoulder and then gave Julie-Anne a reassuring smile. The nurse concluded that she was probably talking about a real or imaginary friend. “No, I don’t know, but I’m sure he will be all right. Don’t worry now. You really need more sleep if you want to recover.” And with that she pressed the hypo spray to Julie-Anne’s neck. It hissed gently.

Julie-Anne slumped back onto the bed but remained scared for Apur. She should do something, but she felt so sleepy and began drifting off. Tears formed in her eyes and somehow she knew that Apur was lost. She entered sleep quickly amid the rustling noises of sickbay while the Enterprise rocked beneath her once again.

* * *

Using his newfound mode of locomotion, Apur neared the halfway point in the tunnel when, at the other end, an iris shaped door opened. Apur had one second to analyze this opening and calculated that here, like the Enterprise, when a door was approached it would open automatically. His calculations could not have been more wrong.

Apur moved forward, taking more readings, when a metallic object pushed through the open iris shaped door. A great fire erupted propelling the object quickly forward, and Apur, with only one tenth of a second to analyze this new information, realized he would not be able to escape the object or its flame. Immediately after processing this data his neural nets were vaporized in a spectacular plasma explosion.

* * *

Krintac had felt few joys in his assignment to the border patrol. For over a year he had been senior commander in this sector but was extremely weary of his duties. This moment would make all the tedious days he had spent out here away from Romulus worthwhile. The Enterprise would be his and this success would most likely propel him all the way to a powerful new position on Romulus. Perhaps even as a senior member of the war council. He grinned, “Sub-Commander, Tralc. Fire plasma torpedoes.”

“Yes, High Preator.” Tralc’s finger lightly touched an orange button on his console and pressed.

The plasma torpedo locked onto the Enterprise and traveled for almost a tenth of a second before striking an object in the launch tube. Programmed to detonate upon impact, the torpedo performed flawlessly, blasting a large section free from the front of the Actos as it exploded.

Krintac’s grinned metamorphosised instantly into a scowl as the Actos shuddered beneath him. He watched the forward screen in disbelief. Instead of seeing the plasma torpedo rip into the Enterprise, a huge fireball, riddled with debris, erupted outward from the Actos.

Krintac quickly recovered, “Tralc, what happened?” He had been watching the Enterprise on the monitor. Its shields were almost gone. She was damaged beyond the ability to hurt the Actos.

Tralc answered after a quick check of his panel readouts, “High Preator, our torpedo exploded in the launch tube.” He confirmed his readings with the emergency crews on the scene. “High, Preator, the emergency crews are not sure what the cause of the premature detonation was. They say most probably the torpedo struck something in the tube.”

“But how could anything be in the torpedo tube except the torpedo?” Krintac was furious.

“Maybe some trick of the Enterprise? Our shields have been fluctuating when encountering the most extreme areas of radiation near large asteroids. They could have shot something in at one of those times.” Tralc, offered.

“Damage?” Krintac couldn’t believe his foul luck. They had the Enterprise defeated, and now this. Could it really be a Federation trick? Something the Enterprise had managed to plant in their shaft, or did they now possess a technology that could detonate their own plasma torpedoes before they left the launch tubes. It seemed highly unlikely, but.

Tralc finished running his internal check and reported. “We still have active shields, though weakened. Our front shield generators are completely destroyed, but the others are compensating giving us a total efficiency of sixty seven percent of normal. We still have cloaking ability, one full disruptor bank and one torpedo launcher available. All other systems were only minimally affected.” Tralc waited for Krintac’s orders.

If the Enterprise were to escape now, Krintac’s ship and crew would be denounced by the Romulan High Command as renegades disobeying orders. A defector’s ship. A convenient way to wash their hands of Krintac and his crew if the Enterprise escaped now. There damage was not too severe though. Krintac was still convinced that they could overpower the Enterprise given their current situation. This was only a minor setback. Glory could still be his. He knew he was on the knife’ edge and must decide quickly. He took a deep breath and spoke, “use our remaining disruptor to destroy the Enterprise!”

Tralc obeyed without question and the Actos again pursued the Enterprise with deadly intent.

* * *

The controls of the alien vessel were becoming more familiar to Data. He was able to control the ship’s systems from his position with little effort. Geordi had surmised that Data had been programmed by the aliens and was able to operate the necessary systems. He watched Data at the controls but could not fathom how Data’s erratic movements turned into action inside or outside the ship. They seemed random and he was sure that he had seen the same actions perform different functions. He quickly gave up and turned his attention to Riker and the Romulans. In a few moments they would be close to the derelict Warbird and the away team.

Data stopped his manipulation of the controls and asked, "Geordi, does your communicator still function?"

"Ya, I think so. At least the last time I tried it.” After Geordi had disconnected it from the large cube ship he had tried it and found it functional. He gave it a check and found it okay. “Are you thinking that we should try to contact Riker aboard the Romulan vessel?" Geordi didn't like where this was headed. "What if the Romulan vessel picks up our signal? You mentioned that this ship doesn’t have any offensive capabilities."

Data turned and faced Geordi. "You are correct. That would be unwise. However, what I propose is that once aboard the derelict we split up and contact the members of the away team. I believe that they will be attempting to regain power on the Warbird to use in aid of the Enterprise.”

Data waited for Geordi's response which came after a few moments hesitation. Geordi could see the Romulan Warbird and the Enterprise exchanging weapons fire. "Do we have enough time to help them?” Geordi gaged the time it would take to manually enter and assist the away team. It was impractically long. “It will take us a while to enter the ship and find them even with functional communicators.”

Data spoke. “This vessel does have an instantaneous transporter system. It is a dimensional jump unit.”

“But I thought dimensional jump gates were hazardous to living tissue.” If this alien ship had dimensional jumps as a means of transporting they would have to use it if they were to be of any help. This ship’s thrusters provided very slow transport speed.

“True. The dimensional jump is hazardous, but only if used repeatedly. We shall need to use it only a few times. The damage should not be irreparable.” Data began to manipulate the controls seemingly at random again.

Geordi nodded his head in agreement and put on his helmet as they drew closer to the derelict. “Okay, Data. I’m ready.”

Data fastened his helmet in place and touched a control. Just before they were jumped to the derelict they saw the front of the battling Warbird explode into a large fireball.

* * *

"Riker to Thompson, any report yet?" His voice sounded slightly muffled inside of his helmet. Away missions in environment suits were rare and he was forgetting what it felt like to be encapsulated in one for any length of time. That coupled with the eerie feeling of being on a dead Romulan vessel in a drifting asteroid field was grating on his nerves.

Thompson's voice came across louder than Riker had expected it to be. "I've found the engineering room. Most everything in here looks relatively untouched. Their warp drive has automatically shut down and with the circuit damage down here there is no way to restart it. But, I should be able to couple together the reserve power banks in a few minutes. You may be able to use the disruptors when I do, though you will probably only get a few short bursts and those won’t be at full power." Thompson didn't stop working for a moment while relaying the information to Riker.

"Good work, Thompson. Let me know the moment before you route me the power.”

Riker pulled another burned panel cover off and was dismayed by the extensive damage to the circuits below. Damn, how was he going to rework these in time to be of use to the Enterprise. He wondered if the doctor was having any better luck. “Beverly, how are you making out with the main computer core?”

Beverly's voice sounded tired and on edge. "The main computer section is in bad shape. The hull has been mostly stripped away here and there are bodies everywhere.” The doctor paused. Beverly hated to see people killed for whatever the reason, Romulan or not. The death and destruction around her brought back painful memories of the salvage and rescue operation at Wolf 359 after the Borg massacre. In a moment she continued, “I would guess that whatever metal was used to protect the main core area was a target. I'll keep trying but I don't think I'll be able to retrieve much here. If I were an engineer specializing in duotronics and not a doctor I may be of more help down here, but I’ll do what I can.”

Riker didn’t say anything more to the doctor, but instead immediately started going over what was left of the interface circuits from the computer. If Beverley was working on systems in as bad or worse shape than these he could understand her frustration well. Although it didn't appear to be completely useless, he would not be certain if his guessed repairs would be effective until Thompson got him some power. Sifting through the blackened wiring was tedious but after a few minutes he located the sensor control relays and patched them into to the main screen. He had to do this directly since the coupling was blown out. He also located the thruster and disruptor controls and tried his best to configure them using lesser ruined wires. Would they even work? He certainly hoped so. Impulse engines would be nice, but Riker suspected that he would be lucky if Thompson managed to get them the emergency thrusters. And If so, it would be questionable as to how they would perform, the hull of the ship being all but destroyed.

Riker’s helmet communicator activated. “Commander?” Thompson was hailing him again.

This time Riker thought to turn it down before he spoke. "Go ahead."

Thompson came back immediately, sounding triumphant and excited. "Sir, on your order, I'll give you all the reserve power available. It won't be much, but it should give us a chance. And I coupled in the thruster controls directly, so when you have power they should be available from the bridge. At least the ones that still work."

Riker looked over his wiring job. "I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be up here. Any time, Thompson."

In response a shudder ran through the broken ship as the reserve power was piped into the ship’s damaged systems. The Warbird groaned in protest. The few working indicator lights on the control panels blinked. With a deep breath, Riker tried the sensors first. A fuzzy picture appeared on the screen. He could make out two ships facing off, but not a lot of detail other than the shimmering blue of the Enterprise and the radiating green of the Romulan ship. All’s well so far, he thought. Next, he activated the thruster controls, but a shower of sparks erupted from the panel making him jump back and away. At least the view screen was still operational. He groaned like the ship around him. If he could have placed his hand on his forehead he would have done so. Now he would have to reroute and reconfigure the panel again and wasn’t too confident he could do it. Most of the wiring that looked usable he had already used. Checking the blurry images on the screen he could see the two ships were exchanging fire. Damn it, he needed control of this Warbird now. He activated his suit communicator. “Thompson, I need your help up here right away.”

Before Thompson could answer, another voice spoke into his communicator, and Riker caught movement reflected off his helmet visor a few feet behind him. “May I be of some assistance, Commander?”

Riker spun around half expecting to see a Romulan pointing a disruptor at him and was shocked, elated and stunned to see Data standing there in his environmental suit. It was indeed Data’s voice. “Data? But, how can you be here?” Riker asked perplexed by the sudden appearance.

“I will explain later, sir. The Warbird attacking the Enterprise has just been damage in its forward quarter. How badly I do not know, however, the Enterprise is in bad condition and needs our assistance immediately.” Data spoke as though this were a routine day. Riker smiled.

“I can’t wait to hear it,” Riker said, “but right now if you could help me reconfigure this panel so we have disruptor and thruster control that would be great,” Riker smiled at his good fortune pointing with open glove toward his handiwork. If anybody could reconfigure the controls quickly, he could have wished for none other than Data.

“My pleasure, commander.” Data strode toward the panel circuits and with android hands a blur with motion, began to reconfigure them.

Thompson’s replay came now, “Commander, I heard you talking with Data. La Forge just arrived in Engineering. He gave me the briefest of accounts of how they got here. This is great news. Anyway, we thought we would go and help Dr. Crusher with the computer core. If we can get the Actos’s command codes we could neutralize their shields and give us a much better chance at stopping them. We are almost there now.”

Riker mentally kicked himself for not thinking of getting the Actos codes earlier. “Of course. Data is reconfiguring the panel for the disruptors now. Keep us informed of your progress. Once we have panel control of the disruptors we will hold off firing as long as possible, but we may have to engage the Warbird before you can access the code.” Riker broke off the communication and Thompson and Geordi did not respond. They were probably racing for the computer core section.

Riker watched Data who seemed about finished and smiled to himself. It looked as though the odds were increasing in their favor.

After several minutes more, Data stood up, a satisfied expression showing on his features through his suit faceplate. “Commander, I believe we now have disruptor control, as well as limited maneuverability. I have also cleared up the sensor signal.”

Riker glanced at the battle on the screen. The images were much clearer. It appeared as thought the Enterprise was in desperate trouble. He could tell by the way it flew, and the shields appeared almost gone. When the Romulan’s disruptor blasts hammered into her he could see the outer hull taking damage. “Thompson, Geordi, Do you have the codes yet? We are just about out of time. We have to act now.”

After a slight pause Geordi answered, “I think so. I’m sending what we believe are the codes to your panel now.”

Riker looked at Data who nodded his head in acknowledgment that the codes had been transmitted to his panel. “Data, lock onto the Romulan Warbird and see if what Thompson and Geordi just gave us will drop their shields.”

Data touched his newly repaired panel controls, and with practiced ease displayed an amused and satisfied grim. “It worked, sir. Their shields have dropped.”

Riker had a glint in his eye that he seldom got. So this was what it felt like to be in control as captain. ‘Nothing like it,’ Picard had told him. He stifled a grin of his own, then commanded Data, “Pursue and Fire!”

* * *

Krintac watched with pleasure as their remaining disruptor continued to hammer into and sometimes through the Enterprise’s weakened shields. It would not be long before they were neutralized. Her destruction or capture would be his greatest achievement. This would rival any accomplishment in recent Romulan history. The hull of Enterprise, or what would be left, would hang in the center square of Romulus Square, and he would be hailed as the hero that put it there. Maybe a his statue would stand alongside it for all future generations of Rumulans to see and admire.

“The Enterprise is returning fire,” a Romulan at tactical barely spoke the words when the Actos was shaken by grazed by phaser fire. They were taking little or no damage from the Enterprise. Why did they bother at all. The battle was nearing its conclusion.

“High Preator,” Tralc suddenly bellowed, “the Krestfir has appeared from behind an asteroid and it has power.” Tralc frantically punched at his panel, alarm showing on his face. “Our shields just went down.”

“What!” Krintac rose from his command chair, “Raise them again.”

“I’m trying. The Krestfir is firing on us!” Seconds later the Actos shuddered under a direct, though weakened, series of short disruptor blasts from the Krestfir. With no shields the Actos took damage with each hit.

Two panels on the Actos’s command console erupted in sparks and blue flames sending the Romulans manning those stations to the floor of the bridge awash in green blood. “High, Preator. Our warp engines have been damaged. If we continue this battle we will push them into a critical failure.” Tralc looked over at Krintac, waiting for orders to retreat.

Krintac quickly read their situation. Picard’s talk earlier had been stalling tactic for time. He had sent a repair crew over to the Krestfir after all. Very crafty. Very crafty indeed. He should have checked the Krestfir first and left the Enterprise, but the Krestfir was dead in space. How could it have been made ready for anything considering the shape it had been in. But he crew of the Enterprise had managed somehow. Krintac knew what he must do. He had been defeated. Tralc interrupted his thoughts. “High, Preator. I have recalibrated the shields and they are now back on line but we must retreat.”

Krintac wheeled about in his chair and stood, giving his order quickly now that he had decided what they must do. “We can not let the Federation have one of our Warbirds. They may have learned too much already.” Krintac strode angrily about his chair. All his plans were undone. “Target the Krestfir and fire plasma torpedoes.”

“But, High Preator,” Tralc pleaded. “The Federation trick. If we lose the other launcher, the damage may destroy...”

“You have your order, sub-commander.” Krintac gripped the back of his chair as though he were going to tear it from the floor. This had turned into a disaster. He had performed no better than the imbecile before him had and that made him even more furious.

With hesitant motions, Tralc enabled and then fired the plasma torpedo. As he depressed the orange button he half expected another premature detonation and fireball, but the plasma torpedo fired from the launcher without mishap and dove towards the crippled Krestfir.

Krintac watched the Krestfir as the twinkling green light from the torpedo closed the distance, then in a blinding flash took conciliation in its utter destruction. The federation would not have access to Romulan technology. As for Picard, he would even the score eventually, but not today.

He walked more calmly back around his chair, then sat back down resignedly. “Cloak and get us out of here.” Krintac sounded defeated, and Tralc, without verbally confirming Krintac’s orders, engaged the cloaking device and headed the Actos with best possible speed out of the neutral zone and towards Romulan space.

***

Riker watched his disruptor fire punch into the Actos. The Actos spewed more debris into space and broke off its attack on the Enterprise. He had a feeling he knew what was coming next and activated his communicator. “We got the Actos’s attention, now it’s definitely time to leave. Everyone, emergency shuttle transport, now.” Riker’s voice rose in pitch as he saw the Actos swing around and face directly at them. With little hull and no shields, the Actos would make short work of this hulk.

He activated the emergency transporter control and expected to be instantly beamed over to the shuttle. Nothing happened. Before Riker could say a word or try the transporter again, Data bolted from the bridge and was gone. Riker tried the transport again. Again nothing happened. He looked at the front viewer and could see their problem. They had been pulled close to a large asteroid and the interference must be too strong for the transporter to work even though the shuttle was such a short distance away.

He got several reports over his communicator at the same time. All to the effect that the shuttle transporter was not working. He ordered, “everyone, make for the shuttle on foot as fast as you can.” Riker was just about to break into a run when he saw the Actos launch a plasma torpedo. It headed straight for them. They would never make it.

Two seconds before impact the Federation crew members on the Krestfir were transported to safety. But it wasn't the transporter effect of the shuttle, or the Enterprise. It was more of a jump, Their surroundings just changing about them with no discernible break. It felt like stepping through a door without moving.

The first thing Riker saw was Data seated in some sort of a chair amid an obviously alien environment. "Where the..."

"No time to explain, sir," Data cut him off abruptly before he could finish. Beverley, Geordi and Thompson were present in this small alien vessel also. Beverley was seated in a chair beside Data while Thompson and Geordi were on the floor desperately looking for something solid to hang on to. Riker quickly did the same.

Data manipulated controls very quickly and the cube vessel was surrounded by a blue nimbus; its shields. They were already a fair distance away from the Krestfir when it exploded, but the blast reached them far more quickly than the alien ship’s thrusters could propel it. The had no choice but to weather the plasma explosion that annihilated the crippled Romulan Warbird. When the shockwaves struck everybody was thrown about violently.

When the vibrations and tossing stopped they saw that Data was having difficulty regaining control. Geordi, Thompson and Riker were hurt but not badly. At least they were alive. The shields of this ship had held. Data and Beverley had faired better having been seated during the impact and Beverley unbuckled herself to tend to the three on the floor.

Data finished what he was doing, then turned and spoke. “Most of the ship is inoperable, however, sensors and thrusters still function. The Actos has cloaked and is presumably leaving the area. Our combined attacks have succeeded in driving them away.” There were no comments and as the doctor administered aid the small alien cube angled toward the Enterprise, and home.

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