Part of USS Centaur: Mission 4: Road Not Taken and Bravo Fleet: The Stormbreaker Campaign

Chapter Three – The Burden of being Captain

USS Centaur / Hercules
Feb 2400
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Vakai stood there in front of his chair on the Bridge of the Centaur as he stared at the strange vessel on the view screen. His thoughts wandered back to when he was just an Ensign, who had led a Hazard Team into the territories of the Hunters of D’Ghor during the Archanis Campaign. Now, here he was, a Commander who was assigned Command of the Centaur in some ‘trial run’. The one thing he had not prepared himself for, was the idea of having to wait for the results of the mission from the Away Teams. They tried to maintain an open comm channel but the Subspace Rift was causing too much interference. The moment the shuttle got half way between the Centaur and the unknown vessel, was the moment the comm link started to go and just as the shuttle made it to the large opening to the port hangar of the vessel, the comm link was lost.

“Commander.”

Vakai’s complete focus was trained on that very object in the view screen. The object with so many unknowns on board right now, it was driving a nail right through him. A nail of worry, anxiety and anticipation. He was afraid that he was sending his friends to their deaths, as there was no way to determine if anything on board that ship was friendly or hostile. Communications, sensors, everything that they needed to get any shred of information about that ship, was being affected by the Subspace Rift.

“Commander Vakai.”

The thing that bothered him most was that he had known that some day this would happen, that once he was in Command of a Starship, he would have to sit on the sidelines during situations like this. He just had not expected nor prepared himself for it to happen so soon, regardless of all the exams and training he’s taken to get himself this far so quickly, which the record would show of how quickly he and his friends have risen. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe he should have just avoided the whole training courses period and gone through the ranks like any other officer. Then he would have been able to enjoy being in charge of an Away Team more often, get used to it, then ween into the idea of staying behind and ordering others to go in his place.

Commander Vakai.

Vakai blinked a couple of times when he realized he was being called and when he turned on his heels to see who it was, he saw that it was the ship’s counselor, Lieutenant Commander Nuri Sucil. The Betazoid.

Sucil raised a brow. “I can hear you doubting me. And no, I am not involuntarily reading your mind. It’s actually coming out quite loud and clear. Look, I will get to the point. Aside from your thoughts that were also quite loud and clear for me to hear, so have been your emotions. I understand. I deal with plenty of officers who go through this a few times when they have only been in Command for a few weeks. It is perfectly normal. But in this case, I highly recommend that you take a deep breath and focus on the positives, or on some activities. The more stress you accumulate, the higher the chance you may trigger an episode.” She said the last part more quietly for only him to hear.

Vakai closed his eyes, took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds then slowly exhaled before he opened his eyes and looked directly at her. “I appreciate your concern and your observation, Commander.” He spoke quietly before he began to scan around the Bridge, looked to see who all was left. They were essentially the only Officers that remained, him, Sucil and the three Lieutenants, Gomo, Bazial and Gatia. Rest are crewmembers, half actually, doing routine work. Doing exactly what she recommended him to do, keep busy. “Lieutenant Gatia, Bazial. Need you two to work together in clearing up this interference. I want comms with my people over there. Gomo, you and I are going to see about getting our sensors around this interference. I want detailed scans of that ship.”

Mizu followed right behind Ruby and alongside a security crew member. Beside Ruby was Sivol and the one who had the lead was James Ryker. They slowly and carefully treaded through the corridors of the ship, their destination is where they hope to be the Bridge. When James had piloted the shuttle close enough to the vessel, they not only got scans of the ship, which included a deck layout and a rough scan of what appeared to be the Bridge, but they also had noticed a name etched on the side of the ship. That name was Hercules.

As she followed those in front and beside her, she allowed herself to be observant of her surroundings. A lot of what she could see looked like something that they would have seen on one of the old United Earth vessels. But there were other things that stood out, that she believed were obsolete. It was difficult to extrapolate with just looking at it and not being able to examine it with a tricorder. No. Right now, the most important thing is reaching their destination and figuring out what the hell is going on.

“Commander. My tricorder is picking up life signs ahead. The tricorder can’t figure out what they are, the species is not in our database.” Sivol reported.

James pulled his pistol out of his holster. “Be prepared everyone.” He told them before eyeing back at Sivol. “How many?”

“Three.” She told him.

James sighed as he halted the team’s movement to think. “We have the advantage in numbers, but we are at a disadvantage because we don’t know what they are and if our weapons will work. So be on your guard.” He told them before he led them right into a junction.

Mizu and the crewman beside her were the last two in, but right in that moment, three pale blue skinned, white long haired aliens walked in from the other side and saw the team. Everyone was now paused, the team on one end, and the three aliens on the other. Both sides had their weapons lowered by their sides, or rifles lowered against their chest and stomach with the barrel aimed downward. No one seemed to move at all as the seconds went by. Mizu looked at each and every one of them. They were humanoid, two of them had some sort of masks on, and wore sleeveless vests. The middle one, had no mask, had the face of a human but looked like it had an extra pair of nostrils, one on each cheek. She wasn’t certain, as she doubted she would be allowed to get a closer look. Not that she would want to, as the middle one certainly looked mean. Curious. But angry nonetheless. The two with the masks had long white hair, whereas the middle one had long braided white hair and a braided goatee.

“Who or what are they?” Ruby asked.

“About to find out.” Said James. “I am Commander James Ryker of the Starship Centaur. Identify yourself.”

In that instant, all three of them raised their weapons and fired. Somehow, no one but the crewman beside Mizu got hit. Those who did not get hit, like her, raised their weapons and fired on the weird aliens. But even with their weapons set to medium stun, the enemy was not going down. The junction they were in provided practically no cover, so all they could really do was close the distance and resort to hand to hand combat. This is where Mizu ended up standing there with her rifle, raising and lowering it whenever she thought she had a shot but did not.

Mizu looked to Ruby, who had slammed the butt of his rifle into one of the masked aliens, right into their stomach which seemed to have stunned it for only a moment. When Ruby got hit in the head with the butt of it’s rifle and Ruby had bent over to try and recover from the pain, Mizu raised her weapon and fired multiple shots into the target to try and distract it from doing anything else to Ruby. This tactic worked well in keeping it off balance, because as soon as Ruby recovered, he grabbed the butt of his rifle with both hands and used it as a blunt weapon to smack right against the side of it’s head. One hit. Two hits. Three hits. Until finally the beastly thing fell to the deck after the fourth hit. Was a good thing too, because Ruby had completely broken his rifle in half after the fourth hit.

Mizu then looked at Sivol and watched as the Vulcan used one of many skills and techniques that she must have learned back home. These moves were no match for the other masked villain. From Mizu’s view point, each strike Sivol connected to the masked creature, it stumbled back and held the spot where she had hit. Mizu learned that Vulcans could double, if not triple, the power in their attacks when necessary and here, Mizu was witnessing it for the first time. There was absolutely no need for Mizu to intervene or assist when the Doctor clearly could defend herself without an issue. In moments, the second masked creature fell to the deck, unconscious.

Now, when Mizu looked at the Commander, she had realized that he had his pistol holstered. He was trying to fight the unmasked creature in hand to hand combat much like Sivol was. Unfortunately, the unmasked creature seemed to be more nimble, flexible and much faster than the two masked brutes. The creature even ended the battle much faster than anyone had expected by the spin kick it performed to drop James to the deck. At which point, Mizu raised her rifle at it but before she could fire her weapon, the creature pulled its pistol out and shot Ruby. Mizu cursed at herself for being slow and fired on the creature, which once again did practically nothing as it stumbled back for a brief moment then raised its arm with pistol in hand and aimed it at her.

But before either of them could get a shot off, Sivol came in with a technique that with her hands, she was able to knock the pistol out of its hand and then send the creature back a couple feet with a swift kick into its chest. Mizu then sighed in relief, knowing that this woman would certainly defeat the last creature with ease. That is until Mizu watched as the creature had immediately recovered and was swift on its feet that not even Sivol could have anticipated it grabbing her by the throat and pinning her against the wall. Mizu raised her rifle and fired on him and this time she noticed the stun setting had started to take effect as the creature started to droop. But Mizu also noticed the look on its face, the look of it being surprised and alarmed by this.

Without hesitation, the creature tore open a hole big enough in Sivol’s jacket and shirt to press its free hand against her skin. Mizu had zero clue as to what it was doing but Sivol crying out in pain was clear enough that something horrible was happening. Although as seconds went by, nothing in appearance could be seen on what it was that the creature was doing to Sivol, likely because she was a Vulcan. In fact, they both saw the look on the creature’s face that it was extremely excited at what it was doing, as if it was…tasting a rare treat.

“Ensign! Get it off me!” Sivol ordered.

Mizu cranked the setting to maximum stun and then fired on the creature but now, it hardly phased it at all. Somehow, whatever it is that the creature was doing, was making it stronger. She fired several more shots and still nothing happened. “I can’t!”

“Get it off me!!” Sivol screamed in pain.

Mizu stared in horror and the cries of help, she panicked and acted without considering the consequences. She switched her rifle from stun to kill and adjusted it to a high setting before she took aim. With the squeeze of the trigger, a beam lanced out and Mizu lowered the rifle where it sliced through both the creature’s forearms, just next to its elbows. With those arms free from the creature, Sivol fell to the floor and the creature screamed in agony. Mizu had chosen to end its suffering by cranking the setting to max and vaporizing it with one single shot to the chest.

Ensign!” James shouted at her as he started to slowly push himself to his feet, grunting in the process.

Mizu could not stop staring at where the creature had stood, what it was doing to Sivol, the cries it made when she severed its arms and how it just vanished when she ended its life. Her heart was still pounding in her chest when James had reached her and grabbed the rifle out of her hands. That motion alone woke her from her trance, her eyes moved to look at the Commander and then at everyone else. “I-I-I was…it had Sivol…I couldn’t stop it…the stun wasn’t working…and it was doing something to her…I” She felt a hand on her shoulder and jumped to look at who that hand belonged to and saw it was Ruby. In an instant she threw her arms around him and squeezed tightly as she closed her eyes, trying so hard to clear her mind of what she had done.

“We’ll discuss it later.” James told her before he looked at Ruby with a simple nod to him before he made his way to Sivol. “Are you all right?” He asked her. He watched as Sivol peeled the hand off of her throat and tossed the forearm away before grabbing the other hand that was stuck to her chest and peeled it off of her before tossing it as well. He could see the indentations of each digit and claw mark in her skin on her chest but the worst part was the wound where he could see her bleeding from. James went to grab her medkit when Sivol took it from him and handed him her medical tricorder. “I need to treat your wound.”

“I know but I need you to figure out what the hell that thing did to me.” Sivol told him.

James nodded his head, but before he could begin to scan they were suddenly surrounded by a group of soldiers with weapons pointed at them. One of them shouted, “Nobody move!” Then the man saw what James was holding. “Put it down! Put it down now!”

James frowned at them. “This is a medical tricorder! I am trying to help my friend here!”

“Not until you explain what the hell you are doing on this ship and who the hell are you!” said the man.

Sivol placed a hand on his and patted, her way of telling him that she will be fine for a moment longer. James placed the tricorder down beside her and stood up with his hands in the air. “Not until you explain to me who you are and that you put those weapons down!”

“I am Captain Jeffrey Marks and we will lower our weapons after you tell us who you are and that you disarm yourselves.” Marks pointed at the holstered weapon on James’ hip.

“Captain?” James asked only to look at Ruby and Mizu.

Ruby saw the bars that the stranger had and looked at James, only to shake his head. “Military, sir. Not Starfleet or Naval.”

“So…?”

Mizu pulled away from Ruby with a deep breath and slowly exhaled before she explained. “His rank is equivalent to a Lieutenant, sir. If I am correct, their rank structure is Second Lieutenant, then First Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel. The first rank I mentioned is similar to Ensign and then so on and so forth.”

“Ah.” James then looked at the man. “My name is Commander James Ryker, I’m the First Officer on board the ship out there, called the USS Centaur.”

Marks blinked for a moment then lowered his weapon, his security forces doing the same. “Ryker?”

James frowned and tilted his head a little. “Yeah?”

Marks then looked down at Sivol and saw the marks on her chest. “We need to take her to the infirmary. It’s not too far from where and it’s one of our emergency shelters. The medical staff there will be able to treat her wound.”

“Do you know what happened to her? And what the hell are they? ” James asked.

“They’re the Wraith. And she’s been fed on.” Marks explained before he gestured two of his men to help Sivol to her feat and to carry her. “Come. I’ll explain on the way.” Just as he said that, the crewman who had been the first one stunned, finally got up onto his feet. “Did I miss anything?” They asked.

K’Roll had his rifle up at the ready as he followed right beside Elidia and behind Gomez. Koyda was beside her and Maya was leading the way as she intended when she took the role of Hazard Team Commanding Officer for the Centaur. Even though it wasn’t completely official yet. Nevertheless, it was the Command Staff’s intention of placing a permanent Hazard Force on the ship and placing her in charge. And K’Roll intends to sign up. They were on their way to where they think to be the Engineering section of the ship, at least what Gomez speculated from the shuttle’s scans.

“I mean, Bridge is somewhere here, in the front-mid section of the ship, right? No reason for the Engineering section to not be near the rear of the ship.” Gomez had explained earlier when they were in the shuttle, when the discussion of their course of action took place.

Nevertheless, the team moved in unison. Those with rifles had them up at the ready, as those with pistols were less than ready but were not completely necessary. They could easily fire from the hip if needed and it really took no effort to raise one’s arm to shoot either. Sure there is a chance of the pistol being knocked out of their hand before they could raise their arm to fire but the point is, three of them had rifles and the other two had pistols. K’Roll was in full confidence that they were perfectly fine.

“Um. Lieutenants.” Elidia’s voice interrupted his thoughts. Everyone stopped when Maya stopped, all having turned on their feet to look at Elidia who blushed a bit as she had not expected their full attention. “Sorry but I think we’re nearing the spot where we think it is the Engineering section.”

“Okay?” Gomez said in question, more as to why they stopped with this.

“Well, my tricorder is detecting life signs in there. Three of them. Species that Starfleet has never encountered before.” She explained.

Maya smiled lightly, “Nothing to be sorry about, Ensign. Thank you for the information. So now we know that when we go into that room, we have to be prepared for the unexpected. These life signs could be the crew of the ship. Or they could be the hostiles that has left this ship incapacitated. Nevertheless, I want you all to be on your guard. Understood?” They all nodded and acknowledged in unison. Maya smiled, “Good. Elidia, Gomez. I want you both to stay behind.”

“But!-”

“Our odds are better if we stick together.” Gomez interrupted the Ensign.

Maya shook her head. “Elidia is our combat medic. If it goes south and we need medical assistance, we need her unharmed. And you are our Chief Engineer. Again if the situation goes south, I rather you don’t get harmed either. Plus I suspect that the three of us can handle whatever it is that’s in there. And if by some chance we are having trouble, you two would be back up. A surprise that they surely would not expect. Understood?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Said Elidia.

“Your team.” Said Gomez.

“All right. Koyda. K’roll. On me.” She ordered and then took the lead with Koyda behind her on her left, and K’Roll behind her on her right.

K’Roll followed them right into the room where they saw the three strange looking aliens who were trying to do something at the terminals. But when those creatures saw the three come in, weapons raised and aimed, they immediately reacted. They lifted up their weapons and opened fire on them. Luckily the three of them knew when to duck and anticipate when they saw the three creatures had lifted up their weapons. Unlucky though, is that Koyda was the one to get a full blast in the face, falling onto his back on the deck, completely unconscious. K’Roll and Maya covered behind one of the consoles, only to rise up and open fire on two of the creatures to see that their weapons had no effect. They quickly returned to cover to avoid being hit, and K’Roll looked at Maya with concern. “Stuns not working, ma’am!”

“I know!” She told him as she maxed out the stun setting. “Just keep trying!” She said as she stood up and fired several shots before she dropped back down.

K’Roll maxed out his stun setting and then did the same, only that when he came back down, he saw Elidia and Gomez were trying to pull Koyda out of the room. When K’Roll took a look, he saw that two of the creatures were aiming their weapons at them. “Damnit!” He growled. He dropped his rifle to the floor, rose up, opened up his hands to extend his claws and hissed at them. This got their attention immediately, where K’Roll was able to get a good look at them. Two of them were masked, and one was not. But all three looked hideous to him now that they had become his enemy. K’Roll noticed that two of them had raised their weapons at him but just before they could fire, the masked one was struck in the face with a beam before the unmasked one got a rifle butt in the face. K’Roll saw that Maya was taking on the unmasked creature, leaving him with the two masked ones to deal with.

First the one to the right charged at him and wrapped its arms around K’Rolls abdomen while the one to his left came swinging. K’Roll took a full punch to the face but he did it on purpose so that once the arm was in front of him and vulnerable, he would open his maw and bite into the arm, sinking his teeth, puncturing the odd and distasteful skin. While he clamped his jaw down on the arm, hearing the creature roaring in pain, he tried his best to claw through the back of the other one’s vest only to realize that he needed to get to the flesh that’s already exposed. He decided to focus all his attention on the one that he has sunk his teeth into, grab the arm with his hands and dug his claws into it just to pull it closer so he can grab its throw and sink his claws into it. Meanwhile he was trying to knee the masked creature that still had its arms around his abdomen, trying so hard to throw K’Roll down onto the deck but he managed to hold his ground.

The one that been bitten and had been clawed managed to break free from K’Roll’s grip and jaws…only to stumble backwards as it heaved loudly. With it distracted, K’Roll refocused his attention on the one still hugging him and began to smash his elbow into the back of its head until it finally let go and stumbled back. K’Roll drove a kick into its stomach before slugging it hard in the head, only to watch it crash into the deck unconscious. What he did not prepare himself for, was the other masked creature to grab K’Roll by the throat and pin him down against the terminal. K’Roll then felt pieces of his jacket and shirt being torn off and away from his upper torso just before the creature’s free hand slammed down onto his bare chest. K’Roll gasped and coughed at having the air knocked out of his lungs but that was immediately pushed aside when he suddenly felt intense pain from his chest. He had no idea what the thing was doing but he saw with his very eyes of the holes of where his claws had dug in in its throat began to seal up as if it never happened.

“K’Roll!” He heard Elidia’s voice. He didn’t understand what was going on but he felt himself getting weaker by the second. He needed to think fast. He let go of the arm that belonged to the hand on his chest, grabbed the creature’s mask and shoved his thumbs right where he believed to be its eye sockets behind the mask. His claws tore through the material and from there, the creature let go of K’Roll entirely and stumbled backward as it roared in agony. But being that it recently fed, the pain it felt soon left and K’Roll saw those eyes were normal, as if digging his claws into them had no effect. K’Roll was prepared for the worst to happen, until he heard a very loud ‘pop pop pop’ sound and watched as the creature’s blood spurt out from three newly formed holes in its skull before it tumbled onto the deck.

“What the hell?!” K’Roll heard Maya’s voice but did not check to see that she had defeated her opponent with less trouble than he had.

K’Roll slid down off the terminal and landed on his ass onto the deck, where he sat as he panted heavily. At first there were just the two bodies of the creatures on the deck before him and then when he closed his eyes for just a second, he opened them just to see Elidia knelt before him with her medical tricorder.

“Well I can easily tell that you’re not my enemy.” A voice that K’Roll did not recognize.

“Depends. If you don’t lower your weapons, we might just become your enemy.” Said Maya.

“Lieutenant Maya, not the best choice of words.” Said Gomez.

“No. What she said is fair.” Said the man. Had to be from how the voice sounded to him.

“Care to explain why you just killed that thing?” Maya asked.

“I will, after you all tell me who you are and why you’re on my ship.”

“She’s Lieutenant Maya.” Said Gomez, “And I am Lieutenant Ashley Gomez.” She then pointed at Koyda who was slowly rising to his feet. “That’s Lieutenant Koyda, those two there are Ensign Elidia and Ensign K’Roll. K’Roll’s the cat looking one.”

“Caitian.” K’Roll wheezed.

“Shhh, K’Roll. Save your strength.” Said Elidia. “What happened to him? Do you know?” She looked at the man when she asked.

“The Wraith, those you were fighting, they tried to feed off him.” He told them.

“What?” Elidia’s eyes widened.

“You didn’t answer my question!” Said Maya.

“Technically I did. They feed off of people’s life energy. I killed it because that bastard fed off of some of my crew. They all did.” He told them.

Colonel Ryker.” A voice was heard coming from speakers on devices that were on the soldier’s vests.

Everyone on the away team started to look at each other when they recognized the name. Ryker sighed and grabbed his radio. “Go ahead, Marks.”

I found one of the groups, sir. One of their own has been injured by the Wraith. We’re taking her to the infirmary.” said Marks.

“Copy that. We found the other group. One of their own was injured by the Wraith as well. We’ll meet you there. Also, we got three Wraith bodies here in Engineering.” Said Ryker.

Good. These guys took out three Wraith too. Well we found two bodies but one of them explained the third was disintegrated. Pretty much what the Zats do after three shots.” Marks explained. “Also, you coming to the infirmary saves me the trouble of asking you to. We got someone with the same last name as you. Spelled the same too.

Ryker frowned and looked at the away team. “Who the hell are you people?”

Gomez stepped forward, “I think it is best we all got together. Then we will explain.”