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Part of USS Ahwahnee: Galaxy Spore and Bravo Fleet: Labyrinth

I Speak

Unknown
Stardate 78879.3
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The following takes place immediately after the events of The Phaser Pointing at Your Head

 

The rungs were cold against Tursks’s fingers. He glanced up at Alex Lupulo’s boot soles, then quickened his pace. The last thing he needed right now was a mid-Jeffries tube collision with the New York beanpole. Delfino was the last to descend, her expression steely as ever. Her hazel eyes, attuned to the dim emergency lighting, flicked down only momentarily to ensure her footing. Her ears did the rest of the work, keeping her distance from the two beneath by the dull thud of their boots against the metal.  

Gripping the railings, she slid the final five metres down to the deck. Tursk had popped the hatch, and now stood by Lupulo at the shuttlebay doors. 

“There’s enough emergency power to get the external doors functioning,” Lupulo called to them both, inputting commands through a wall panel, “routing now.” 

There was a whir as EPS conduits came to life. For a moment, things felt almost normal again as the gloom was replaced by a familiar warmth. The bay doors heaved themselves apart to reveal a space that was, by Cheyenne-class standards, positively cavernous.  

“Let’s take the S’Vek,” Tursk made for the closest Type-8 shuttle. The trio bounded up the still-extending gangplank, tacking their positions in the cockpit without a word.  

“Shuttlebay doors open,” Lupulo announced as per procedure, “decompression complete.” 

It was in Delfino’s hands now, “Plasma injectors active, intermix chamber is a-go, initiating takeoff sequence, clearance…” 

“Received,” Tursk gave a snort. 

Delfino’s cool exterior cracked into a smile, “Received,” she shrugged. 

The shuttle rose, the blue nacelle glow reflected from the deck plating. Its nose arced, turning almost on the spot until, pointing towards the stars, it shot from aft of the Ahwahnee’s saucer section. Gathering speed, the S’Vek hurtled straight for the Jem’Hadar. 

Lupulo looked towards the aft-view wall monitor. With no discernable celestial bodies, the Ahwahnee’s dim running lights fell quickly into the black.  

“Man, it’s dark out here.” He said to no-one in particular.  

 


 

The attack ship was small, but the shuttle was smaller. The insectoid silhouette drifted, barreling in slow motion at an awkward angle. Purplish armor plating ran down the length of the hull, accentuating the aggressive poise of its beetle-like spaceframe. Two circles of light swept along its underside, throwing into relief every conduit, phaser bank and airlock facing out into the endless dark. The shuttle swung its search lights about, performing a complete orbit of the attack ship. Then it came to a halt. It hovered there, directly above; a solitary gnat before a great stickleback in the endless, inky pond. 

“Looks pretty beat up,” Lupulo surmised upon reading the latest sensor data, “I’m not reading any Jem’Hadar life signs, or Vorta for that matter.” 

“Yeah, not much power either,” Delfino checked her own data, “their life support’s probably toast.” 

Tursk sat back in the co-pilot’s seat, thinking for a moment. With true Tellarite idiosyncrasy, he snarled quietly to himself. “Lup, how badly fried was the primary EPS relay converter when we left?” 

Lupulo looked up, puzzled. “Pretty far gone, sir. I mean, Sreyler’s replicating components to piece it back together, but-” he stopped short. “No. Oh no. I don’t like where this is heading.” 

Tursk turned his chair, facing towards the now horrified Chief of Operations. “I know they’ve got a compatible one,” he pointed a thumb back towards the Jem’Hadar ship, “lifted a few myself back in the war.” 

“What’s wrong with waiting? We got plenty of time. Sreyler’s gonna get our converter up and running. We’ll get telemetry and then figure out how to get outta here.” Lupulo began to protest. 

“And I want to get that done sooner rather than later.” Tursk fired back.  

Delfino swung around to join them. “We might be able to get some answers about how we got here, too. When they torpedoed that containment pod, they knew exactly where to aim their ship. They knew exactly what speed would let them catch that ‘wave’. We’re only here right now because the Captain somehow worked it out. I was never in the war- I don’t know the Jem’Hadar like you guys- but I’m pretty sure this is more advanced than anything they had back then.” 

“You’d be right, Lieutenant.” Lupulo’s eyebrows raised, reconsidering, casting wrinkles into the pale-skinned corners of his eyes.  

“I agree. We’ve got a responsibility to learn as much as we can.” Tursk rose with a grunt. It was decided. “Lup, break out the EV suits. Althaia set the nav to keep us well within transporter range. Beam out in ten.” 

 


 

They materialised at Tursk’s coordinates. From the flickering lights and noxious haze that filled the deck, it was clear the Jem’Hadar ship had fared little better than the Ahwahnee.  

Air’s thin. Weak gravity, too.” Delfino read from her tricorder. She snapped it shut, stowed it, then unslung a type-III phaser rifle from her shoulder.  

“There’s a maintenance bay up ahead.” Tursk studied his own tricorder, “Right on target. If they have a power converter, it’s there.” 

The sweat was thick on Lupulo’s brow, “Why’s it so damn warm?”  

His question fell on deaf ears as Delfino and Tursk moved ahead. At the head of the trio, Delfino flicked on the rifle’s flashlight. The air was thick and heavy. Their eyes were laser focused. Lupulo brought up the rear, turning back periodically, scanning for the old enemy with phaser drawn. His pulse quickened, and he mopped his brow with a uniform sleeve. 

“Where are they?” he hissed.  

“It is quiet…” Tursk grumbled. 

“Not complaining.” Delfino looked back over her shoulder. 

Tursk pointed ahead to a set of heavy doors. “That’s it; the maintenance bay.” They came to a halt, Lupulo and Delfino guarding each flank as Tursk began to fiddle with a panel, “Now, back then there used to be…” His stubby, haired fingers moved with surprising speed. “Simple encryption…” Delfino and Lupulo exchanged a glance. “To override in case of a circuit failure… There. OK stand back.” They all stepped away. Tursk brought his phaser to bear, sending a golden beam straight towards the door controls. They erupted in a shower of sparks and molten bulkhead. A dull clank followed by a whirring rang out, and a small gap appeared between the doors.  

Delfino and Lupulo immediately heaved themselves against the right-most door, shoving it open a little wider. Lupulo’s thin frame allowed him to fit between the gap, and he threw a shoulder up against the cold alloy, inching it open just enough for them all to tumble through.  

The bay was dark, but something glimmered and danced. Something tinged with green. Lupulo squinted, his eyes trying to cut through the black that seemed to go on forever. The green lights multiplied. Dancing tendrils, like trapped lightning, shot out at all angles in a circular pattern. Flickering shadows danced across the deck. There were six more, extending all the way down the bay wall; a neat row of them.  

“Oh no…” The words crawled up his throat and jumped out. His heart began to thump in his chest. “No no no no…” 

Delfino froze, the light from her rifle aimed directly at the nearest drone. Ice shot down her spine, rooting her to the spot. She couldn’t look away from what had once been a Jem’Hadar soldier. He… It now stood regenerating, mutilated, enhanced and joined with collective. She brought the rifle up, aiming straight for the monstrosity.  

“Easy, Lieutenant.” It was all Tursk could muster to keep his voice calm. “They don’t see us as a threat yet.”  

Lupulo’s breathing quickened and he stumbled back. The sweat was now pouring down his neck, “I- I can’t.” His head whipped around, fixing Tursk with wide-eyed, stricken stare, “Not… them.” He tried to control his breathing, but to no avail. 

“Lup,” Tursk was by his side, “Lup, keep it together.”  

Lupulo’s legs buckled and he dropped down on one knee. His breathing was deep and irregular. He looked towards the deck. Tursk crouched alongside him, a hairy hand finding his shoulder. “Hold on.”  

Tursk rose, turning back to Delfino, “The converter’s over there.” He angled his head towards the far side of the bay. “Once I disconnect it, we can lock on and get the hell out of here.” Delfino nodded without taking her eyes off the drone. “But first I’m gonna try accessing the Jem’Hadar computer- see if we can shed some light on what happened here.” 

“Aye, Sir.” Delfino acknowledged without as much as a blink. 

“If they start moving, blast them.” Tursk added. 

“Aye, Sir.” 

Tursk shone his own flashlight towards the centre of the room. As the light spilled into the yawning chasm ahead, he racked his brain for whatever he could remember of the Dominion glyphs. Their systems were uniquely alien. He’d ripped apart enough salvaged tech on the Nautilus to get a half-decent understanding. So much relied on the damn neural link though. He’d worn one on three separate occasions, each one giving him a splitting headache after only a few minutes.  

He quickly swept for more drones, and on finding none he approached a large wall panel. The purple and green Dominion insignia glowed bright in the upper left corner. Parts of the display had begun to see the effects of nanoprobes and corrupting programmes spreading through the Dominion network. Parts of the display flickered, bending the gylphs out of shape. Tursk reached out, activating it, and began what he thought was a simple query. He recalled the functions slowly but surely.  

Query: Ship’s location upon contact with Borg. 

Alpha Quadrant. Sector 683. Planetary system 28 Theta. 

Query: Ship’s orders upon contact with Borg. 

Investigate transwarp signatures emanating from Sector 683. 

Query: Ship’s course heading from Sector 683. 

There was a pause. The display flickered once, twice, then went dead. The unmistakable voice of the collective seemed to resonate inside Tursk’s very skull, “RETURN.” 

Implants whirred to life. The drones opened their eyes. Three red dots from an ocular scope dazzled Delfino. In the seconds it took her to refocus her aim, the closest drone had stepped from its alcove. She could hear the cybernetic whizz of an arm implant, servos buzzing, reaching out towards her. She blinked once, twice, then loosed two bolts of phased energy into the drone’s solar plexus. It fell to the ground in a charred mass of circuitry.  

Two beams followed from Tursk’s type-II. They slammed consecutively into the next two Borg before they could even take a step from their alcoves. The drones slumped down awkwardly, one falling to its knees before prostrating itself on the deck, twitching and spasming.  

Delfino swung round, dispatching the fourth drone with a rifle bolt to the face. The remaining drones lumbered towards her, each sluggish footstep making a metallic clank against the deck plating. Tursk now stood near her. He fired again, the beam catching the front-most Borg in the shoulder. It dissipated with a fizzle, and the drone abruptly turned, heading straight for Tursk.  

“They adapted quick!” Delfino yelled, and lunged straight for the drone before it could reach the Tellarite. Her rifle butt connected with the automaton’s jaw, knocking it off kilter. She followed up with another thrust, sending the assimilated Jem’Hadar sprawling to the deck. She leapt after it, bludgeoning the back of its neck until a sickening crunch came from the greying flesh. It fell still. She breathed out. Then a blow from behind connected with her temple with the force of a swinging hammer. She hurtled across the bay floor, her rifle skittering away as the next drone, having circled around, bore down on her. Its bony horn-like skull extrusions poked through silicone implant casings that clung to the disfigured Jem’Hadar features. She felt a trickle of blood run down her cheek.  From the corner of her eye she glimpsed Tursk, grappling with his own Borg opponent. Instinctively, she raised her forearm, blocking another swing from the drone looming over her. It connected with a sickening crunch, assimilation tubules flicking towards her. It was all she could do to keep them away from her neck. She pushed back with both arms but could feel her strength failing. Drone or not, there was no way she could counter the Jem’Hadar bulk. Her teeth gnashed together from the pain. Its metallic forearm cut through her uniform into her skin. She snarled, muscles faltering. 

Then the pressure was gone. In an instant, a gangly splay of limbs rushed at the Borg on top of her, tackling it to the deck with a loud clang. She backwards-crawled as fast as she could away from the melee. Her eyes focused with difficulty. There was Lupulo, sat on top of the drone, with the phaser rifle wielded like a sacrificial dagger. He brought the rifle butt down into the drone’s face, smashing it completely, again and again. The drone convulsed, attempting to dislodge the wiry human, but to no avail. Lupulo screamed as the drone’s face caved in. The rifle came down three more times. The cortical implant was destroyed. The drone fell still.  

A duranium composite pipe fell to the deck with a clank. One end was slick with silvery synthetic blood. Tursk looked down at it. The same mercurial fluid covered his uniform sleeves. He ran to Delfino. “Althaia, look at me.” Delfino simply stared across, unblinking, to where Lupulo sat by the expired drone. “Listen. There’s gonna be more of them. We need to get that door closed.” 

Vacantly, Althaia looked up at Tursk. “Yeah…” Her eyes, glazed and still processing, looked past Tursk and over his shoulder. She dug a surge of willpower from deep within. Her pupils tracked Tursk, as if suddenly remembering the situation at hand. Taking a deep breath, she said simply, “Yes, sir.” 

Tursk’s heart raced. He stepped over to Lupulo and grabbed the rifle, offering it out to Delfino. “Take it. We might be able to fuse the doors.” 

Delfino heaved herself to her feet and reached for the rifle. Her right arm hung limp by her side. Tursk shoved the doors closed with a grunt, stood back and took aim at their centre. Delfino joined him, holding the rifle as steady as she could in her left hand.  

“You’re gonna need more power for that.” Came a voice from behind. They turned to see Lupulo staggering towards them, phaser drawn.  

Tursk couldn’t help but smile at the ragged figure moving to join them. They stood together, shoulder to shoulder, facing the gate through which they’d entered this nightmare. “Take aim.” The three of them raised their phasers, “Fire.”  

Three beams converged in a blast of light. They could feel the heat on their faces as molten metal bonded together. It hissed and glowed white-hot, and they directed the streams of supercharged energy in unison down the length of the doors. Behind them, the Borg corpses dissolved in shimmers of green.  

 


 

Felrak surveyed the repair work from the command chair. Small pieces of debris still littered the bridge, along with components soon to be replaced by the damage control team. He scrolled through a progress report on a PADD handed to him by a Bolian engineering crewman. All hull breaches were sealed. Good. Warp core intermix operated at 63% efficiency. Less good. He shifted in his seat. The helpless feeling as the Ahwahnee all but drifted in space had started to wear on him. Dr. Lomal had continued badgering him to get some rest, to which Felrak had responded with a vagueness that promised nothing. Inside, he was determined. There would be no rest until he heard from his people in the shuttle. 

“Sensors? Comms?” He called out, irritability evident in his gruff tone. 

“Soon!” Sreyler Theb chirped back, her head poking out from under the conn. Her sleeves were rolled to the elbows and a spool of ODN line coiled around her arm. “Just one last connection to propagate…” She rapped an interphasic coil spanner against the controls impatiently. The bio-neural gelpack above her pulsated twice then began to glow steadily. Satisfied, she stood and hammered a few commands into the conn. “Medium-range sensors functioning, Captain. And we have visual.”  

Felrak looked up, “Very good. Get the attack ship on screen.” 

Sreyler duly complied. The Jem’Hadar vessel hovered on the screen like an angry beetle. The glow of its underside cast a pinkish purple light against the shuttlecraft S’Vek, it too motionless and maintaining a constant distance from its neighbour.  

“Life signs?” Felrak could barely contain his urgency. 

“None on the shuttle,” Sreyler reported, “I’m reading three in the attack ship’s maintenance bay, though. One Tellarite, two human.”  

“No Jem’Hadar?” 

“Negative, Sir. No other life signs.” Sreyler ran another scan just to be sure. 

“Where are we on comms?” Felrak barked. 

“Still working on it.” Sreyler eyed the damage control team to the rear of the bridge, “Gotta get the last phase transistor in.”  

Felrak drummed his fingers on the edge of his seat, muttering to himself. “What are you doing, Tursk?” He straightened up. “Helm, bring us to within transporter range. Prepare to beam them out of there.” 

Impulse engines flared, and the Ahwahnee inched forward towards the stricken Jem’Hadar ship. An alert rang out from the conn.  

“Captain,” Sreyler announced, “I’m picking up something strange. It’s some kind of high variance alternating subspace signal.” By now she had fully embraced her new role, seating herself at the Operations controls. “It’s… Not a Dominion frequency or encryption.” 

“Hold position.” Felrak ordered. 

Sreyler continued, “It’s not like any subspace signal I’ve seen, Sir. It’s a massive amplitude- they must be getting a hell of a lot of energy from somewhere. I think I’ve narrowed it down to a source outside the attack ship’s hull.” 

Felrak was just as intrigued. “Let’s get a visual on that source.” 

The viewer flicked to a starboard profile of the attack ship. The image was so tightly focused that Felrak could make out the individual rivets of the command centre’s armour plating. But that wasn’t all he saw. Something odd jutted from the hull. It was a cluster of spikes. Arranged in a circle, they looked like a phalanx of ancient hypodermic needles pointing out into space. One by one they pulsed, shaping the giant subspace waveform and propelling it across thousands of light years.  

For a second, the bridge froze. The crew looked on in horror.  

“An interplexing beacon.” The words cut through the silent air like a knife. “Sreyler lock onto the away team and beam them back now.”  

“I’m trying, Sir, but I’m reading some kind of heavy tachyon distortion. I can’t get a lock.” She slammed a palm against the LCARS panel in frustration. 

“Keep trying.” Felrak willed her. 

Sreyler’s voice cracked. “It’s no use. I can’t get to them. The signal interference- If I just had more time to put the sensors back together I-” Her voice trailed off as she took in what the sensors told her. “Something’s forming over the attack ship.” 

“I need specifics, Commander!” 

“It’s some kind of portal-” 

“RED ALERT.” The bridge lights dimmed. “Back us off, helm. If that’s a transwarp aperture we need all the speed we can get.” Felrak brought up the sensor readings on his own panel. 

“Captain,” Sreyler’s voice could barely keep up with her thoughts, “If it was Borg, we’d be seeing massive levels of graviton particles. I’m not reading any.” 

“Acknowledged. Helm, hold course.”  

The Ahwahnee, pitched down, had begun to accelerate away from the growing vortex of amber clouds. As if limping away from a storm, impulse engines conjured as much kinetic energy as their damaged power couplings would allow. It was at that crucial moment of escape velocity that they stuttered and failed. 

“What’s going on?” Felrak demanded. 

“It’s the tachyon disruption, Sir.” Sreyler’s eyes tore through the systems diagnostic, “It’s warping spacetime and generating its own gravitational pull. The attack ship,” She looked up towards the viewer, “It’s falling through.” 

By the time Felrak could comprehend what was happening, the Jem’Hadar ship had all but disappeared into the swirling maelstrom. The intangible gaseous particulate flows allowed only a vanishing glimpse of the vessel’s nose before it was swallowed by the portal. All he could think about was his crew. Tursk, Delfino, Lup. And the Borg.  

There was no other option. No use fighting. “Cut impulse power.” He called. “Let’s get us lined up with the portal. Maneuvering thrusters, Mr. Feynn.”  

A storm of orange waves and smoke filled the viewer. Shadows flickered across the bridge. Miniature fires burned in their fear-dilated pupils, and they all held on. The Ahwahnee pierced the edge of the raging current of relativity. Inertial dampeners, already in ruins, compensated as best they could as the tattered hull was buffeted this way and that.  

Felrak barely noticed the electric jolt of pain that pierced his skull. He fixated on the viewer, on the subspace tunnel unfolding in front of him. It wasn’t until the agony grew, from a white-hot needle to a javelin gouging his eye, that he cried out.  

Faint sounds around him were all he sensed.  

“Dr. Lomal to the bridge!”  

More shouts. Littered shards of bulkhead cladding dug into his back. He felt a smooth piece of composite polymer against his fingertips. It was broken. Like his bridge. His ship.  

He looked up through the ceiling viewport. Then, 

VOR… DENN… A.  

The voice was thunderous, resonating throughout his mind. He knew it, but from where he could not quite remember. 

“VOR… DENNA…  

I SPEAK…”  

 

Comments

  • There is lots of mystery here and lots of deepening mystery! We get some reveals - it is indeed the Borg, and they are just as terrifying as they always have been. I liked how they went from 0 to 60 when the threat presented itself. The Borg should be a scary thing to experience, even in 2401, and you gave us that sense of fear and realization for both our away team and our ship crew. Now everyone's into the aperture, and whatever that voice was at the end - something terrible has happened and left us on a cliffhanger. Very interested to see what happens next!

    June 21, 2024
  • Wow, what a captivating story! The tension and vivid detail really brought the story to life. I felt like I was right there with Tursk, Delfino, and Lupulo, navigating the eerie stillness of the Jem’Hadar ship and the sudden, terrifying encounter with the Borg. The way each character handled their fear and determination was incredibly gripping, and the way you use subtle changes in the pacing to emphasize the suspense and action got me hooked to the end. Amazing work!

    June 21, 2024
  • I really have to respect the boldness of Tursk heading over to the damaged Jem'Hadar ship to steal some spare parts. That's a rockstar move. As always, your writing opens a door for me to viscerally feel the change from locale to locale. The frantic claustrophobia of moving through the Jeffries tubes came across in how you put your opening sentences together, and contrasted so beautifully with the oppressive humidity aboard the Jem'Hadar ship, and the freakin' space opera of the conclusion. I don't understand how the crew is taking a warp speed tour through The Lost Fleet, We Are The Borg AND Labyrinth, but I barely understood 2001 A Space Odyssey. Understanding isn't always the point, when the storytelling is so rich and nuanced. And as others have pointed out, that closer is as compelling a cut to opening credits as I've ever read. You just know the cries of VORDENNA would be in every commercial. I'm thrilled to be reading Ahwahnee once again!

    June 22, 2024
  • So we've got a damaged ship, bad, The Jem’Hadar, very bad, Jem'Hadar that are actually Borg drones, extremely bad! Plus to top it off a subspace anomaly, which hasn't finished creating havoc. Can an adventure have any more twists than this and still be worth reading. You've pulled out all the stops on this one and I like it. Carry on!

    June 23, 2024
  • Another great opener. This story had such a plot of mystery and I loved it! Of course it had to be the Borg! The way you did this was such a good one. The way you wrote this made me feel the closure of the Jeffries tubes and the feeling of being in such an enclosed space, but in such a bad way. The addition of the Jem'Hadar ship and the brave move to go to it for parts was a bold move for the character, but added such a great dynamic to the story. This was such an amazing post and I am here for more!!!

    June 25, 2024