Part of USS Challenger: You Can’t Go Home Again and Bravo Fleet: The Stormbreaker Campaign

Closure

U.S.S. Challenger NCC-71099
Stardate 77026.15
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“Data burst sent.” Nexani announced. The message in question had been to inform the captain that the Challenger was ready to begin closing the subspace rift.

From behind her, Commander Kailir’s voice gave the order. “Activate the antigraviton beam.” Within seconds an emerald green beam shot forth from the Challenger’s deflector aimed straight into the heart of the subspace rift.

A minute passed before Bennett broke the silence that had fallen on the bridge. “It’s working. The rift is beginning to close.” Nexani allowed herself a satisfied smile at the news but it was short lived. She could sense a rising feeling of panic washing over her. A glance to her right confirmed it was coming from Lieutenant da Costa, whose fingers were frantically tapping at his console.

“Commander. We’re being pulled towards the rift.” The young Lieutenant’s even tone gave away nothing of the panic and fear he was feeling. Nexani closed her mind to refocus on her own work and checked her console. It confirmed that their speed had increased to fifty kilometres per hour and was rapidly increasing.

Kailir shot out of her seat and turned to Commander Bennett. “What’s happening?”

“I don’t know.” As Bennett studied the sensor data, Nexani watched as the Challenger’s speed slowly ticked further upwards. “I think it may have something to do with the proximity of the ion storm.” She fell silent and studied her console carefully. “If Lieutenant da Costa uses the thrusters, that should  allow us to hold station while the rift closes.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Nexani could see da Costa inputting the necessary commands that would activate the bow thrusters to hold the Challenger in place. “Lieutenant da Costa, use the thrusters to hold station.”

Within seconds da Costa had engaged his pre-programmed thruster bursts. “Holding station, Commander.” She didn’t need to use her telepathic abilities to tell that da Costa’s fear and panic had subsided. Nexani didn’t know da Costa well, but she’d found him to be smart, charming, capable and his lack of ego was a breath of fresh air when compared with Mitchell.

“How long until the rift is closed?” Kailir asked as she sat back down in the captain’s chair.

Bennett consulted her sensor displays before replying, “About sixteen minutes, Commander.”

“Cutting it close.” Nexani heard the XO mutter and she was right. At that rate the ion storm would reach the planet’s atmosphere just over ten minutes after the rift closed.

The wait for the antigraviton beam to close the rift was interminable. Nexani had imagined it would take just a minute or two but apparently the rift had other ideas. She’d brought up a small window with the sensor display so she could watch their progress while still keeping an eye on her own work.

“Commander, we’re moving again.” Nexani could feel the panic radiating from him again, though he seemed to have it better controlled this time. “Thrusters are a maximum but we’re still being pulled towards the rift.”

By the time he finished speaking, Commander Kailir was already standing over da Costa’s shoulder. “Engage impulse engines, one quarter reverse.”

“One quarter reverse,” da Costa repeated, “aye.” He smoothly carried out the XO’s orders. After a few moments he reported, “Our speed has slowed but we’re still moving.”

Kailir folded her arms. “Apply whatever power is necessary to maintain our position.”

“Aye, Commander.” The young flight controller’s fingers danced lightly over his console as he increased power to the impulse engines. The seconds ticked by slowly until he announced, “Now reading full stop, Commander.”

The XO turned to Bennett. “How long until the rift is closed?”

“Five minutes.” Bennett replied quickly.

The wait for the rift to be completely closed continued and after another few minutes, da Costa announced, “I’ve had to increase the impulse engines to maximum but we’re still being pulled in.”

“How long until we reach the rift, Lieutenant?” Kailir asked.

Lieutenant da Costa consulted his console. “Two minutes.”

“Time until the rift is closed.” Kailir asked quickly, turning her head to look at the chief science officer.

The look on Commander Bennett’s face told her all she needed to know. “Two and a half minutes.”

“Can we disengage, reposition and finish the job?” Nexani envied Kailir’s calmness right now. Her own heart was thumping in her chest and her forehead beading with sweat but she could sense no fear coming from the Bajoran, just determination.

Bennett shook her head instantly. “If we disengage now, the rift will begin expanding again, feeding off the energy being generated by that ion storm. By the time we repositioned and started again, the rift would be bigger than when we started.”

“Commander Zarbrun, redirect power to the impulse engines.” Kailir ordered, immediately moving onto her next idea. “See if you can buy us the extra seconds we need.”

Nexani quickly went to work, grateful for something to focus on other than her fear. She started rerouting power from non-essential systems and directing it to the impulse engines. Within seconds the sound of the impulse engines beginning to strain could be heard throughout the ship.

“That’s bought us an extra twenty seconds,” Da Costa announced, “can you give me anything more?”

Oh there was plenty more power that Nexani could reroute. In a matter of seconds she’d boosted power to the impulse engines another fifteen percent. As the engines started using that power, the deck beneath them began to rumble.

“Rift closure in sixty seconds.” Commander Bennett announced over the din.

Commander Kailir took her seat. “Mister da Costa. Prepare to come to full stop the moment the rift is closed.”

“Aye, Commander.” The pilot’s fingers tapped out a string of commands as he readied himself to carry out the XO’s instruction.

Nexani reached out and gripped the edge of her console, bracing herself. From her position at science, Commander Bennett was continuing to provide a countdown. “Thirty seconds.”

The rumbling of the deck was getting worse as the Challenger continued to strain against the pull of the subspace rift.  “Twenty seconds.” Bennett shouted.

The sound of the hull groaning could be heard on the bridge. “Ten Seconds!”

With every passing second, the leading edge of the Challenger’s saucer section moved ever closer to what was left of the rift. The sensor display was overlaid on the screen and everyone watched as it finally closed completely. As soon as it did, the Challenger had nothing pulling it forward and the ship immediately shot backwards so fast the interial dampers struggled to keep up. Nexani was pushed against her console by the force, da Costa too, but he quickly pushed himself back and brought the Challenger to a complete stop.

“Drop anchor and raise the shields.” Commander Kailir ordered.

Their relief at surviving the closing of the rift was short lived because now they had to weather the ion storm. The plan was to generate an inverse warp field that would effectively keep them anchored as the storm passed while the shields protected the Challenger and her crew.

“Commander Zarbrun, prepare to send a databurst to the captain.”

***

“The rift is closed.” Tom announced, reading from his PADD. “Challenger’s hunkered down and dropped anchor. Commander Bennett says that the tachyons in the atmosphere are beginning to disperse. The temporal differential has already shrunk a little. She says that within an hour, it should be completely gone and time will be flowing normally again. She estimates that we should experience about twelve hours in that time.”

There were smiles all around as everyone realised that this was almost over. “Thank god for that.” Mitchell replied. “Coltar’s been nice and all but after a month I’m ready to get back to the Challenger.”

“Won’t be long now.” Tom assured him before turning to Jackson. “Where are we with the new reactor?”

Jackson studied the information on his console. “The reactor’s been generating power for twelve hours without a problem now. I’m satisfied that we’re ready to activate the shield generators.”

“Good.” The rain had gotten heavier over the past twenty four hours and the winds had picked up, gusting up to speeds of 45mph in places. In the next hour or two, things would continue to deteriorate. “Prepare to activate the shield generators.”

An Andorian ensign approached him. “Excuse me, Captain. Your mother is on the comm.”

“Thank you, Ensign.” Tom moved over to a nearby console where his mother’s comm channel had been placed on hold. “Mom,” he said after resuming the call, “now’s not a good time. We’re about to activate the shield generators.” It was only then that he noticed the distraught look on his mother’s face. “What’s wrong?”

Mrs Forrester let out an unsteady breath. “Your father’s missing.” She told him. “One of the horses bolted and he went out looking for it. That was three hours ago and we haven’t been able to contact him. George has gone out looking for him but he hasn’t found anything yet.”

“Alright, I’ll be there as soon as I can.” They quickly said their goodbyes.

Tom turned to find Mitchell watching him. “We can handle things here.” Mitchell told him. “Go, before the shields are activated.”

“Thanks, AJ.” Tom left the power facility’s control room and left the building. He needed to get to the transport hub before the ion storm hit and transporters were rendered inoperative.

Comments

  • Aww, my boy da Costa's getting to shine, yay! I like the shift of a tight POV to Nexani, who we've not seen much of, but as a telepath is a great perspective to give us insight on the whole of the bridge. And this is a good use of the typical Trek countdown - not enough time to Do the Thing, how will they buy more time? With science and ingenuity! After all of that, I think it's a really good call to make the final obstacle something deeply personal; it keeps the tension high without undermining the crew's hard work. Plus, we are 100% due this situation with Forrester and his dad. I await the next installment with eagerness!

    March 19, 2022
  • I must echo our Loremaster's sentiments, I cannot wait to see if Forrester and his father have some 'moment'. I really enjoyed once again another story showing the dangers of these rifts against our brave crews. Loved how it became a tug of war for Challenger. I'd love to see more from Kailir in the near future!

    March 19, 2022
  • Changing my prediction; dad to save the day!

    March 22, 2022