Part of USS Ahwahnee: Thoughts From Underground and Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

Singularity

Sector 287, Federation - Romulan Free State Border
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An incoming communication alert chirped from the conn.

“Sir,” Delfino called, “it’s Starbase 718. They’ve finished the decryption.”

“Alright Lieutenant,” Felrak stood with his arms behind his back, monitoring the transmission waveform. Two days had passed with seemingly few developments on the Romulan side of the border. Meanwhile, reports from the Velorum sector had poured in. Ad hoc starship engagements, diplomatic wranglings, and increased Klingon involvement presented a situation that was muddy at best. Felrak put these things to the back of his mind. He would focus on what he could, “Let’s hear what we’ve been boosting.”

“Looks like coordinates,” Delfino’s eyes darted back and forth, scanning the transmission’s contents. She relayed them back to the Captain, “landing zones, and orders to neutralise the administration”.

“So they’re doing it,” Tursk said with a harrumph, “their people must’ve been there a good while.”

Delfino continued, “718 further reports several warp signatures were detected in the Taman system. They’ve dropped off long range sensors, presumed cloaked.”

“Oh yes they are,” Felrak thought out loud.

“They took their damned time,” Tursk complained.

“Patience, Mr. Tursk. Patience…”

 

***

 

It began as a quiet trickle, then a dull roar rose in the distance like a faraway army of marching feet. Norvult awoke first. Tyrothan slept on his side facing the cell’s cold stone wall. His chest lifted and fell with each peaceful breath. Then, in an instant and sensing fear, he was upright. Norvult stood in the middle of the cell, one leathery grey hand outstretched as if ready to shake Tyrothan from his slumber. There was no need. The roaring from outside grew louder, and Tyrothan’s eyes grew wide. He reached beneath his smooth rocky perch; his grasping hand closed around the device. The metal pole came loose from its bindings as he ripped it from its hiding place. Tyrothan brandished the crude tool as he stepped towards the cell door, a magnetic depolariser had been plasma welded to its tip.

“Get back,” voice calm, he waved Norvult away. Then, gripping the device with both hands, he thrust it into the door’s locking mechanism in a shower of sparks. Metallic clicks and groans sounded and the thick duranium scraped open. At once, they were ankle-deep in black water. Tyrothan’s corrugated ears pulled back and he shared a look of horror with Norvult.

“Open the cells,” Tyrothan said, “I’ll find a way out.”

The water pushed against his shins as he fought against the flow. Each step was accompanied by a plunging galoosh, echoing off the tunnel walls. From behind, he could hear each electromagnetic discharge as one by one Norvult forced open the doors. A column of Remans was formed. Tyrothan at his head, Norvult at the rear. With dim lights extinguished, their eyes adapted quickly to the cavernous pitch. Refined by millennia of darkness, solemnly they pushed on towards what for them was merely the next trial.

The central chasm yawned wide and deep. Forcing their way doggedly towards the chains that hung down in the centre, the Remans now waded through icy waist deep water that bit into Tyrothan’s skin. He looked up. Above them, a halo of light marked the spot from which only a few days ago he had descended from the Labour Inquiry Board. The caged platform hung halfway between the water’s surface and the ceiling. Three Romulans looked out from it as best they could in the gloom. Another struggled with a jammed winch mechanism.

Tyrothan held up a hand. The other Remans, reading his thoughts, held still. Barely a ripple escaped the column as their eyes all tracked the same spot. Seconds passed. The plan was formulated. Barely a breath passed their lips. Then the same thought resonated. Go.

The first half of the column, Tyrothan leading, surged forward towards the hanging chains. Eight Remans threw themselves against the rising tide, half swimming, half pushing themselves off from the uneven rocks that jutted from the ground. The second group divided in two. Four bore left, three right. They made for the steep walls that loomed up out of the rising flood. The Romulans in the cage lift fell silent as the splashing noise reached their ears, “Get it working. Now!” came an urgent hiss.

Few rays of light from the distant cave ceiling diffused into the depths. Most were absorbed by inky nothing. Norvult, reaching the rock wall, looked up again to the cage. The light caught his eye with a glint. As if in reply, a searing green disruptor bolt exploded through the dark. Blinded, the Remans by the walls shielded their eyes as debris and dust rained down. Norvult’s hand scrabbled against the ledge behind him. His spindly, clawed fingers closed around a jagged fragment just bigger than his palm. With the full force of his torso and the full leverage of a long, burly arm, he catapulted the rock towards the cage. A scream of pain reverberated through the mine. A disruptor rifle fell from above, and the Romulan who’d fired it clutched at his face that now ran green with blood. More projectiles followed. Loud clangs sounded as they connected with the cage bars. The whomp and flash of disruptor fire came thick and fast. A Reman disappeared in a particulate cloud.

Tyrothan seized his chance. He dived towards the dropped rifle, disruptor bolts whizzing above his head. Now directly beneath the platform, the Remans who had moved with him waited for the signal. The water had reached their armpits, only heavy boots preventing air pockets in their work gear from floating them away. Tyrothan resurfaced with a gasp, rifle raised above him. The Remans’ eyes turned to the chains that dangled not two metres from the water’s surface. Summoning all his strength, Tyrothan pushed off from the submerged workfloor. His free arm stretched out ahead of him, carving a path through the void and for a moment, he flew. The chain was slippery. Long fingers slid over each link as the weight of his sodden clothes dragged him down again. Only three remained between him and the end before he found his grip. He swung out, twisting as he steadied himself. His black eyes turned down to meet the other Remans. For a split second, triumph flashed across them. They jumped.

Disruptors fell silent. The Romulans peered into the dark through battered visages, but there was nothing to see. The fourth of them jimmied the seized-up lever a final time, and there followed a loud clunk. The platform shuddered to life. They looked above, at the light that edged closer, “Where did they go?” one snarled through gritted teeth and broken nose.

“Drowned, I bet,” another nursed a deep gash that cut perpendicular across his lips, “I hope the kresht eels shred their corpses, the kllhe.”

“Should’ve sealed ‘em in sooner.”

A high-pitched whirr became audible over the clanking winch that hauled them up. Confusion swept the first Romulan’s face, “Who’s got their disruptor on-”

The platform erupted beneath them. Wooden planks were vaporised in an instant, causing two of the Romulans to tumble away into the darkness. The remaining two clung to the bars, faces contorted in horror. Tyrothan looked up through the splintered remains, disruptor in hand. He compressed the trigger again to no effect. One Romulan lunged forward but was stopped in his tracks as the white hot barrel of Tyrothan’s disruptor rifle slammed into his face. Another Reman leapt up onto the platform remains, only to be vaporised instantly by a quick draw from the second Romulan. Tyrothan heaved, arms locked in a dogged grapple. He felt the heat of a disruptor bolt shooting past his ear. His opponent, teeth gnashing, inched slowly back towards a gap in the cage rails. One last shove, a strangled cry, and the Romulan disappeared over the edge. More green bolts discharged into the murk at wild angles. Tyrothan whirled round to see another Reman, determined to avenge his fallen comrade, struggling to loose the disruptor pistol from the final guard’s death grip. Tyrothan gripped the metal bars as he sidestepped across the platform’s edge. He crouched down, picking up a rock that had hurled from below. He hefted it once, twice. Through the centre of it ran a yellow vein of arathamite ore. He shot forward. The rough stone slammed into the Romulan’s temple with a sickening crack. Then again. Then again. The Romulan’s body fell limp.

The platform reached the surface. For the first time, unshackled, Tyrothan emerged from the mines of Foshir. The Remans followed, dragging their way up the chain and into the above ground corridors of the mining facility. A tinny alarm sounded at regular intervals, only the Remans were there to hear it. Plasma explosions cascade with methodical booms, shaking their bones and the very ground on which they stood. Tyrothan tossed the disruptor pistol to Norvult, “We need more.”

 

***

 

The Adjutant pored feverishly over the controls. Before him lay the chamber; last resort of the Foshir colonial administration. Officially built to test the singularity containment efficacy of mined arathamite, all knew its true purpose. After a few jabs at the panel, the angular Romulan script invited him to enter his codes. Slowly, he acquiesced. A final confirmation. A brief pause, and the huge spherical apparatus groaned into life. Concentric tritanium rings began to rotate gyroscopically around a central core. The Adjutant stepped back, the cold blue light radiating from the opposing quantum suspension fields clashed with the terror in his eyes, “S-singularity, activated. Sir,” he announced through the intercom.

The only response was the sound of disruptor fire, followed by a muffled yell. The Adjutant turned slowly to the door behind. The singularity core hummed a low note at first. Another alarm sounded an angry garble. The humming increased, growing into a piercing wail. The rings were blurs, and streaks of white light now lashed out from the centre of the containment field.

The door’s outline shone for a second, before exploding open in a fountain of molten metal. Norvult stormed through, flanked by Remans with disruptors raised. The Adjutant raised his hands.

“Deactivate it!” Norvult roared.

The Adjutant flinched.

“NOW!” The Reman’s face was now inches from the Adjutant’s, who winced as flecks of spittle splashed against his skin.

“I-if you’ll let me live,” came a meek stammer.

Norvult grabbed the Romulan by the scruff of his quilted uniform, dragging him over to the controls. The two Remans followed, tracking the Adjutant with raised rifles every step of the way.

The Adjutant worked quickly. The high whir fell to a low buzz, which gave way in turn to the steady whomp whomp of the gyro rings. He turned, “There. It’s done.”

Satisfied, Norvolt looked on. His gravel voice, low and hoarse, rumbled, “Bring him to Tyrothan.”

 

***

 

Another alert, faster and more urgent this time. It was Lieutenant Steldon’s turn to brief the Captain, “We’re getting massive spatial distortions emanating from the Foshir system, Sir,” the young Science Officer called out, “it’s matching the kind of readings we’d be seeing if there were a quantum singularity in the region. There’s nothing like that for lightyears-”

“A warbird?” Tursk interrupted, “That’s their power source.”

“Negative, Sir, from what I can see it’s coming from the planet’s surface.”

“How…” Tursk mused, “It’d swallow the whole planet.”

“Which might be exactly the Star Empire’s aim,” Felrak finished, “I think the Free State’s invasion may have been a success.”

“They’ve miscalculated,” Tursk followed, “if the Star Empire burns, Free State’s gonna burn with them. No one’s getting that arathamite.”

Delfino turned from the conn, “And 63 million Foshirrans get to burn too,” her hazel eyes bore into Felrak’s, framed by the jet black of her pulled back hair.

Felrak looked down to the deck, “Mr. Tursk, the wait is over,” he looked up again to meet Delfino’s gaze, “I believe the Fourth Fleet’s current activity in the Velorum Sector satisfies General Order 13’s requirement for Starfleet orders before violating territorial sovereignty. Lieutenant Delfino, please inform Starbase 718 as such. Should they disagree with my assessment, note that they are welcome to send anyone they can to intercept us.”

Tursk laughed. Steldon, liking what he overheard, grinned too.

“With pleasure, Sir,” Delfino composed the message.

“Excellent,” Felrak leaned forward, “Now set course for the Foshir system. Maximum warp.”

Comments

  • I'm deeply impressed by the way you've written this chapter as tightly-focused snapshots. As disparate as they seem at first glance, when I take a step back, I can still see the arc of the story through this chapter and into the ones that came before. There's a real economy here, avoiding throwaway passports scenes. You're jumping the reader in right where it's important. Within that, none of the scenes feel rushed. Each scene really soaks in the visceral experience of the characters, like the physicality of the Reman fight for freedom, or the psychology of the character, like the desperation of the Adjutant. And now, wowowow, you've really set the Ahwahnee a tall order to save a word from the singularity!

    June 30, 2022
  • Straight into the action in each scene, straight into the stakes and the followup! The tight focus and punchy story grabbed my attention and kept it until the end. I'm really enjoying the progression of the overall Ahwahnee and how you keep bringing life to new elements, weaving them into the story and making it all work so wonderfully. Now we've got tension, a potentially implosive ('cause singularity!) situation and Starfleet rushing to rescue folks that might not even want it. I can't wait to read more!

    July 1, 2022