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Part of USS Jaxartes: Mesakh wuh kim-shah krup

Part 7 Krus stehkuh

Caverns - Planet Eza / Harper Rift
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After edging along the rock face in total darkness; the two Starfleet Officers eventually saw a faint glimmer of light in the distance.  Salan squeezed Bolka’s hand reassuringly; they hadn’t let go of each other since the   Bajoran had nearly fallen to her death in the underground river, flowing below them.  Though he probably wouldn’t have admitted it openly; the Vulcan grew strength from having her close.  If it hadn’t been for Bolka and her determination, neither of them would have made it this far.  With his own mind partly scrambled by the goings on in the white room, and his inability to remember important information or key events, he felt like a child in a grown man’s body.  But the Commander would not allow the anger and frustration consume his thoughts.

They moved along the ledge, carefully and as silently as possible.  The area of light slowly growing bigger and a little brighter with each measured step they took.  An archway of rock opened out into a much larger area.  The walls rose a good 70 metres above their heads; but rather than the ceiling of another giant cavern the swirling reds, oranges and purples of the open sky greeted them.  It was hard for either of them to recall when they’d last seen day light; before boarding the Sea Quest mini sub, yes, but how long ago had that been; a couple of weeks, a month, longer?  Did any of their colleagues survive and have any clue as to what had happened?

The two of them ducked back into the shadows, as a pair of Pelcaza walked past, exiting via another tunnel.  Once it was established the coast was all clear, they both darted for the cover provided by a dozen or so crates and boxes stacked just to the right of their position.   From here Salan and Bolka could both get a better look at what occupied the centre section of the cavern.  Before them, sat on near vertical launch rails; that reach up to just below the lips of the cavern sat three one person space craft.

Each ship was sleek and pointed like an arrow, at the back or bottom, because of their current angle, three fins each ending in a torpedo sized pod, which the Vulcan assumed to be the main form of propulsion.  Additional engines of liquid propellant nature, sat between each ship and the launch rail it was connected to.  These rockets; no doubt providing the initial thrust for launch of the craft.

“Think we can fly those things?” The Lieutenant whispered.

“I would need a closer look, but I believe so.” Replied the Commander equally as quiet.  “Those ships like a lot of the more technical equipment we’ve come across were not built by these people.  But their origins escape me.”

They both approached the nearest of the three craft; ever wary and vigilant.  The cockpit had a clear bubble canopy that hinged to one side; much like a number of old still jet fighters of Earths mid-twentieth centre.  The controls much like those old fighters were simple and rudimentary at best.  The skill of flying one of these things would not be in learning how they operated, but dealing with their limitations.  If Salan’s thinking was right, these ships had been designed swiftly meet and engage an enemy, should any threaten the planet.  Did that mean there were others out there; not under the influence on Helgeshran, which this place needed defending from?  Could there be possible allies? 

They studied the control carefully.  Stick to control direction of flight, three levers enabling the adjustment in power to all three main engines simultaneously or individually.  Navigation and orientation screens, both currently blank, as no power was being fed into them.  It was as basic as you could get in a ship capable in making space flight; even the Phoenix would look more advanced compared to these things.  

Salan helped Bolka get into the cockpit and strapped her in, before handing her the helmet which he’d found tucked under the seat; it had a mask and tubes attached in case pressure was lost within the cockpit.  Satisfied the Bajoran was secured; he sprinted over to the second craft and jumped in. 

The Commander didn’t see were the guards suddenly sprung from; one moment the cavern was deserted the next a half dozen Pelcaza most armed with those three barrelled shotguns they carried.  The Lieutenant had one such weapon raised to her head, the canopy of her craft having been yanked back open.  Their eyes meet; his overwhelming instinct was to leap out and save her.  Stupid, pointless, totally un Vulcan; yes to all three, but still the thought was there.  One word mouthed in silence from her lips, ‘Go’. 

In all his years of wearing a Starfleet uniform, he’d never once abandoned a fellow officer or crewmember, and the fact it was this particular individual he’d be leaving behind, really hit home.  One simple press of a button activated the ignition sequence of the booster engines.  The Vulcan was forced back into the padded seat from the huge G-force, as the small craft leapt skyward.  It raced towards the heavens at tremendous speed, leaving its launch area and the network of caves and tunnels far below it. 

Half way between the planet’s surface and space, the engines spluttered and shut down, a red light illuminated one of the buttons located on the console in front of Salan; he pressed it and moments later heard the distinctive clangs of a clamp unlocking.  There was a slight judder as the now superfluous engines and their empty propellant tanks dropped away.   Inertia carried the craft the rest of the way into orbit, as the rest of the ships systems slowly came to life. 

The Vulcan Commander looked around the eerie sight that confronted him.  The gaseous cloud tinged with purple and crimson that fill the void between stars and their accompanying planets made it difficult to see any great distance.  Salan had no real clue as to the direction the Kinshasa had travelled from to reach the planet he’d just departed.  How could he be so stupid as to think escape was possible; was his mind so clouded that his judgement and reasoning had completely failed him? 

He was about to slam both fists into the controls with angry frustration, when an orange flashing triangle on the main screen caught his attention.  It was the signal from a navigation beacon.  The Vulcan turned the small craft and increased speed as he headed for the beacon; as it came into view, a second triangle appeared at the extreme top left of the screen.  The Commander had his route out.

            **********

The ship had past six of these beacons; without them, navigation seemed near impossible such was the density of the cloud the stretched unendingly in all directions.  Unending that is until Salan reached a point in this Universe that made it stand out dramatically from our own.  This Universe had a physical edge; a point where everything ended and beyond which there was just an empty black nothing.  In the barrier between existence and hypothetically nonexistence there was a tear in space; like a giant knife had sliced through the barrier allowing some of the gaseous cloud to escape.  This was the other side of Harpers Rift. 

As the Vulcan brought the vessel to the edge of the tear; two white dots appeared at the very bottom of the screen.  He was being followed!  Keeping on his current course and heading, Salan increased power to the engines.  Entering the rift the craft shook violently, and the further in he took the ship, the more it seemed to shake and tremble.  Alarms sounding and warming lights flashed, but Salan didn’t know what they all meant.  He only knew that he was in grave danger if he didn’t find his way out of the rift soon. 

He estimated six hours had passed since entering the rift; there had been pockets of calm were the flying had been easy, then there had been moments were he’d been tossed around like a leaf in a hurricane.  The Commander though had started to find patterns in the movement of the cloud and indication of what lay ahead; so as the journey progressed, he’d learned to avoid the worst this phenomenon could throw at him.  The two pursuing ships had been skirting round the dangerous areas, and despite taking a much longer route, they were gaining round fast.  Ten minutes later, one of them opened fire, but missed by some distance. 

When a third dot appeared on the screen, this time red; indicating another possibly large ship stood directly in his path, Salan felt this was it.  So near, so very near!  Further shot streaked passed as this time both ships behind opened fire.  Finally though he’d reached the edge of the cloud.   

The last thing that the Vulcan would have expected to find right in front of him was the very thing that met his eyes, moments later;  a small yet very familiar Raven Class corvette, the USS Jaxartes. He soon figured out the Federation vessel had been trying to communicate, but his unfamiliarity with the equipment delayed any chance of both receiving the message and replying to it. 

Suddenly his ship lurched violently and more alarms sounded.  He’d been hit; one of the three engines had ceased to function and he could smell the distinct odour of something burning, behind him.  The Jaxartes opened fire on the two enemy craft, which eventually turned and fled back into the cloud.  Only then did the Vulcan have the chance to examine the communication device and contact his old ship.