"Commander, we are receiving a set of coordinates from the Defense Perimeter," Lieutenant Commander Vendar Perkins stated from ops. "Apparently, they want us to be there in the next minute."

Commander Sarah Caft was alarmed when she heard Perkins’ report. "How far?" she asked.

"One million kilometers from here!" Perkins replied in an alarmed voice.

Sarah immediately knew what to do as she opened an inter-ship comm link. "Bridge to engineering. I need warp one in the next forty seconds!"

"What?!?" Commander Kalia Tarkent shouted back. "How the hell can I do that?"

"I just need it for under three seconds!" Sarah replied.

There was a pause from the other line, and Sarah hoped Kalia would be capable of giving them warp 1. The Defense Perimeter was in a hurry to get to the front line, which was suffering horribly from the new Vorkalai defenses. If the Dragon wasn’t where it was supposed to be, when it was supposed to be, it would be left behind to stumble along after the base. If the Dragon didn’t make it…it might be out of the war effort permanently, and would be useless until after the war.

The battle the Dragon had experienced just a day ago had caused major damage. Just getting away from the huge antimatter explosion had nearly caused a warp core breach.

"Warp power is online," Lieutenant James Trikal reported from the helm.

"Thanks, engineering!" Sarah said, closing the channel. "Helm, get us to those coordinates, and I mean now!"

She watched anxiously as James keyed in the commands, then hit the confirmation sensor on the console. The Dragon leapt to warp, but almost as soon as it had, it dropped back out.

"Did we make it?" Sarah asked as James continued to key in commands.

"Just a second…" James said in a hesitant voice. The Dragon had obviously fallen short of the coordinates, and James was no doubt maneuvering to the coordinates.

Finally, after several tense moments, James reported, "We made it."

The moment he said that, the Defense Perimeter, in all of its size, dropped out of warp seemingly on top of the Dragon. Immediately, from a bay directly heading towards the Dragon, a tractor beam locked onto the Dragon and pulled it in.

It took no more than fifty seconds for the Dragon to reach the bay. As they entered, Perkins confirmed, "We’re in their inertial damping field…and have gone back into warp."

Sarah sighed as she saw repair crews heading towards the Dragon while she had yet to even make it to the docking latches. However, Sarah knew their work was far from over.

"All right, people," she said. "We’ve got repairs to make. Let’s get to it."

 

 

Perkins strolled through Deck 15, finally having a chance to relax after a very long, and hard day. In less than twenty-four hours, her and the crew had learned of a horrible future. They had combated that future, and barely came out alive.

It was because of Captain Harriman that they survived. With out his heroism…they might never have made it…

Now, they had a long couple of days of repairs to do. The Dragon probably wouldn’t be able to join the battle until days after the Perimeter made it to the front. But they would try…

Suddenly, the deck pitched from underneath Perkins. She felt as if she was being thrown around…yet when she hit the wall to her right, it didn’t feel like she had actually been thrown!

She slouched to the ground, unsure as to what was happening. Her mind was racing with thoughts…evil thoughts. "What’s happening to me?!?!?" she screamed in her mind.

She tried to call out for help, but couldn’t move, and just sat there, slouched on the deck. She could not move, not even her eyes, as evil images filled her head. Finally, she blacked out…

 

 

"I personally think that getting them to pilot it was completely wrong," Lieutenant Commander Thomas Halkrat said to Lieutenant Ada Marquet. "I mean, the people were insane!"

Ada smiled as she replied, "Perhaps, but they got the job done like no other."

She took another fork-full from her dinner as she listened to Tom. "Maybe, but that’s the point: ‘like no other.’ Relations with the Cardassians might be much better if it hadn’t been for them."

"Oh, come on, Tom," Ada replied, swallowing her food. "Captain Sulu didn’t have any choice! The Cardassians attacked him and his ship!"

"But because they were giving sanctuary to a criminal!" Tom argued.

Ada frowned and said, "How could they know that he had really done something wrong?! The Cardassians have always been distrustful, and you know it! For crying out loud, the crew had to pilot that ship into a defensive battle well after the Excelsior encountered them!"

Suddenly, Ada heard the familiar sound of the comm chime. She sighed angrily as a voice said, "Security to Marquet. We have an emergency on deck 15. We need you here immediately!"

Ada threw her fork down and stood, heading for a console. She opened the comm channel and replied, "Can’t it wait? I’m kind of busy right now."

"No, this can’t wait," the security officer, of which she finally recognized was her best officer, replied. "Lieutenant Charlie Pulaski has been murdered."

"Pulaski?!" Ada asked. She looked at Tom, surprise very prominent on her facial features. "Uh…I’ll be right there. What section?"

"Thirty-two Beta," the officer replied.

Ada closed the comm channel, then grabbed her communicator and a phaser. "Enjoy dinner, Tom," she said, smiling at him as she left the room.

 

 

Sarah rounded the corner of Deck 15 to find Command Kara Trieal already examining the body of Lieutenant Pulaski.

Sarah stopped far from the body, seeing from a distance the damage done. When she had been informed that the Lieutenant had been murdered, she had thought with a phaser set on high stun, or something around those grounds. This, however, was much worse.

Spilled all across the deck was the man’s blood. With that blood was knotted intestines, which had been clumsily ripped from the man’s stomach. His jaw was broken completely on both sides, his tongue lying in his lap. The only think keeping his head from falling or collapsing inward into his chest was his spinal cord…his throat completely gone, no where to be seen.

Sarah turned away in horror form the site, and noticed for the first time the pale face on the security officers, who were also turned away in horror. Sarah barely held back the urge to vomit as she heard Kara’s tricorder close.

Sarah, who somehow knew Kara was now standing next to her, asked, "What happened?"

"Its just what it looks like," Kara replied. "Someone ripped him apart…by hand."

Sarah shook her head, disbelieving. "How could any one do that?! I could imagine ripping out his throat to kill him…but his intestines and his tongue? Why!"

"That isn’t the biggest surprise of it all," Kara said.

Sarah, not caring about the body anymore, spun around to face Kara. "The surprise is who did it…isn’t it?"

Kara nodded solemnly. "I found traces of partially human DNA on Pulaski…and it matched Commander Perkins’ DNA exactly."

Sarah felt her jaw drop when she heard that information. Her eyes went wide, her mind disbelieving. It couldn’t be! How could Perkins murder a fellow crewmember, let alone do something like this!

"It can’t be!" Ada said, who Sarah just now noticed standing next to her. "How could Vendar do something like this? She couldn’t…wouldn’t kill a fly! Let alone rip its wings off!"

Sarah moved to a computer console on the wall, trying to ignore the mangled body of Pulaski. "Poor Katherine Pulaski," she thought. "Her grandson…killed like this…"

Sarah activated the console with a simple touch, then ordered, "Computer, locate Lieutenant Commander Vendar Perkins."

"Vendar Perkins is on Deck 15, section 21, in crewman Darson’s quarters," the female computer voice replied.

"Move!" Ada shouted. "Section 21, now!"

Sarah pulled her hand phaser from its holster and started chasing after Ada and her security officers, Kara left behind to deal with the body. She never could hope to catch up to the athletic security officers, but she kept up with their pace.

The officers rounded a bend, and Sarah could no longer see them. However, when she rounded the bend, she saw the officers surrounding a door, which had an odd dent in the middle of it…

Ada keyed in her emergency access code, causing the door to open. The door stopped just before completely opening, due to the dent, but it was enough to allow the limp body of crewman Darson to fall back into the hall. Her head was smashed in back, and was probably what had caused the dent in the door. Like Pulaski, he had his throat completely ripped out, which was also nowhere to be seen.

The officers rushed into the room, ignoring the body, but came out moments later. "She’s not in there…but I found this," one of the officers stated, handing Ada a bloodied communicator.

Ada dropped the communicator in disgust, wiping the blood off on her uniform. Sarah knew without having to identify it that it was Perkins’ communicator.

She activated the computer console closest to her and ordered, "Computer, locate Vendar Perkins’ bio signature."

"Vendar Perkins is not on board," the computer replied.

Sarah looked at Ada in horror. "When did she leave??"

"Vendar Perkins never left the ship," the computer replied.

With that reply, Sarah frowned deeply. "Then how the hell can she not be on board?"

"Vendar Perkins’ bio signature disappeared twenty minutes ago, on deck 15."

Sarah deactivated the panel and moved to the center of the hall. "It looks like we have a sick mystery on our hands," she commented.

"Commander!" someone shouted from Darson’s room.

Sarah ran in, her heart racing, and Ada following. She entered Darson’s bedroom…to find a security officer pointing his pulse rifle down an open Jeffrey’s tube hatch.

"Damn," Sarah said. "It just got a whole lot more complicated…"

Ada tapped her comm badge and ordered, "Marquet to bridge, put Commander Caft on a ship-wide channel."

Sarah then tapped her own comm badge, and didn’t even wait to be acknowledged. "Everyone, we are going to red alert," she said. "Arm yourselves, and fortify yourselves in your rooms or stations. Seal all Jeffrey's tubes hatches. If you see any one who looks remotely like Lieutenant Commander Vendar Perkins, use heavy stun on her and alert the bridge or security. We have an emergency on our hands, so don’t hesitate to fire!"

Sarah left the room as Ada sealed the hatch with her command codes. Hopefully, Perkins would be too crazy to use her own command codes to open the hatch.

"What happened to you, Vendar," she thought.

 

 

Captain Chris Harriman quickly turned off the screen that was displaying tactical readouts of the pirate group and looked back to his personnel readout. He listened to the steps approaching closely, as he had, in only a week or two, developed a sense of being able to identify a person by their foot steps.

Immediately he recognized them as belonging to Falarr, the pirate group’s leader. He turned around and gave her a warm smile. Falarr returned the warm smile and walked past Chris to the console. Chris’s head followed her as she turned around and leaned against the console.

Funny how I never noticed before how her form-fitting uniform was attractive… Chris thought. He looked her up and down real quick, and added, VERY attractive.

He inwardly laughed as he thought, been here a week and never noticed until now. I must really be a married man.

At that thought, a great pain entered his heart. Sure, it had only been two to three weeks since he had left for this mission, sure he had barely had time to consider anything but the mission…but he sure as hell missed Sarah.

Of all of the women Chris had ever met in his life, he had never felt so close and so in love with anyone like he was with Sarah. Sure, emotional barriers had been put up after an incident their first days at the academy, right when they first met…but they quickly grew fond of one another.

Falarr cleared her throat, forcing Chris from his memories. "You OK, Jahkarr?" she asked.

Chris smiled and touched his rank insignia with his right hand. After he had turned Chek in as being a conspirator, he had been given the rank of Falarr’s First. The small badge on his left breast showed the Hintaru’s pride animal, the Alzon, which was a powerful herbivorous animal on the Hintaru home world. The only thing higher than the Alzon in fame to the Hintaru was the Tritorn, a three-eyed beast that never procreated.

Chris thought of that animal for a moment. If the animal never procreated, how could it have survived? Chris searched his memory and remembered that there had once been an overpopulation of the Tritorn back before the Hintaru had evolved, and as the beasts were almost immortal, they simply evolved to no longer procreate. With only two left in the entire universe, Chris was surprised they didn’t evolve again to procreate.

Evolution doesn’t work like that, though, Chris thought. Funny how evolution was supposed to protect a species with natural selection…only to kill off a species.

He tapped the insignia a few times and said, "I’m still surprised at being at such a high rank already."

Falarr smiled and said, "I’m sure you’re finding it to be hard work, though, yes?"

Chris pointed to the display on the console Falarr was leaning on. "The hardest part is filling all necessary positions," Chris replied. "A good number of our force was part of that rebel group." Which makes the group a prime target for the Hintaru security force, Chris mentally added.

Falarr moved from the console and started slowly, sensually edging her body towards Chris’s. Chris almost broke out a sweat of nervousness at this action as she said quietly, "I trust you will do the job well."

Chris stumbled for words as hormones began an attempt to take control of his body. "Uhhh….ummm…yeah, should be, uh…no problem."

As she came closer, somehow managing never to quite touch her body to Chris’s, she let her breath moisten his skin. Her lips were at his, almost touching, as she stared into his eyes. "Good," she whispered.

Suddenly, her body, which she had done such a good job of keeping off of Chris’s, touched. It seemed as if her entire body, lips included, connected with his at the exact same moment. Adrenaline pumped through Chris, his mind racing, trying to find reason.

He found the reason he had been looking for. He pushed her away, not even taking the time to drink from her lips. "No," was all he said.

She frowned at his reply to her action, no doubt expecting him to have gone to bed with her that night. Now she had to contemplate what kind of pirate Chris really was. If he didn’t take advantage of her offer, what about taking advantage of others?

He knew he was taking a risk, but no matter what, he could not violate his oath of marriage to Sarah. No matter how much of his life was at stake. She stared at him a moment longer, shook her head, and left the room.

Chris stood there for a moment, stunned at both her actions and his own. Her actions had been unprovoked, a universal sign of a pirate. Chris’s had been the prime example of a moral, ethical human being. But his actions now meant he had to watch his step, because she would be doing the same.

After a long minute of staring after her, he finally turned back to the console and brought up the tactical readout. I’ve got to get the hell out of here, he thought.

He then smiled and added, damn…I really am married.

 

 

The first thing Ada noticed as she and Sarah stepped on to the bridge was the repair crew on the viewscreen. As Ada headed for tactical, Sarah ordered, "Get those repair crews away from here. Seal off the ship entirely. No one gets on or off."

R’Sharn, who had seemingly nothing to do prior to this, was now flying across her console, carrying out her orders.

"Ada, seal off the saucer section," Sarah ordered, swiveling the command chair around to face her. "That way our search area is almost halved."

"Aye," Ada replied, working her console. First, she let the computer seal off the junctions leading from the saucer section to the stardrive section. Then she manually checked each and everyone, a process that took half of an eternity.

Finally, several minutes later, she confirmed that the saucer section was completely sealed off.

As she took her train of concentration from her now finished tedious task, she heard R’Sharn finish, "…Out of warp. The ships are reversing course and are bringing the Vorkalai ships to the defense perimeter."

Ada filled in what she had missed by guessing that the Defense Perimeter had dropped out of warp to let the ships come to it. A feeling of dread overcame her as she deduced that the retreat meant the Vorkalai had turned the tide of the stalemate…and they were winning.

She suppressed her feeling of dread and checked the current reports of the ship’s security officers. Already a forth of the ship searched, and no trace of Vendar. "I refuse to believe it," Ada thought. "This can’t be Vendar doing this! She has to have been captured and framed!"

"Lieutenant!" she suddenly heard Sarah say in a loud voice. Ada snapped out of her thoughts and gave a blank look at Sarah. "I asked for a status report!"

Ada was slow at first, but finally Sarah’s order registered. "Uh, right!" she quickly amended. She looked at her console again and replied, "Umm…just over a forth of the saucer section has been searched. No disturbances reported, and the Jeffrey's tubes have thus far been empty."

Sarah stared at her for a moment as Ada buried her face in her console, trying to avoid Sarah’s piercing stare. "If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were a CO. Only a CO can give that kind of stare…"

She began a systematic scan for unusual life forms, blocking out Sarah’s stare. Obviously, if Vendar was somehow…transformed, she would register as a very unusual life form.

As the scan swept over the saucer section, nothing unusual showed up. She sighed in frustration. "Hey," a voice said from right next to her. She jumped and spun her head to see Sarah standing next to her.

"Uh, I didn’t see you there," Ada amended. She looked back at her console, trying to block that piercing stare. "Umm…If Commander Perkins was somehow altered, her new form blocks all bio scans."

"Ada," Sarah said, forcing her to look at Sarah. "I know what you are feeling right now. You feel as if you can’t do anything…and you have trouble accepting the fact that Vendar did this."

"Aren’t you?!" Ada snapped.

Sarah gave her a sympathetic stare. "I am," she admitted. "However, instead of shutting the possibility out of my mind, I’m trying to figure out how it is possible. Maybe then, we can save her."

Ada stared at Sarah, not knowing what to do. She was completely helpless…there was nothing they could do… Or was there?

She turned her head back to her console as she remembered a new feature added to the Dragon’s internal sensors by the Hintaru designers.

"Hold on, I’m going to try a thermal radiation scan," she told Sarah. "I’m guessing that, if indeed Vendar has been altered, her temperature should be different from a normal human’s." As she keyed in the command, she added, "She shouldn’t be very different from our own. It’ll be enough to distinguish it as not human, but close enough so that we know it’s not a normal alien’s temperature."

She transfixed her eyes on the tactical display of the Dragon’s interior. Hope permeated her emotions at first…but as the scan reached the point, despair filled her. She gave up hope as the scan approached the very aft of the ship…when suddenly a warm blip appeared.

"There!" Sarah said. "What’s that?"

Ada did a very concentrated scan of the area, which took a minute to complete. "I think its her," Ada declared. "Barely a trace of a human bio signature. Even that is very suppressed. Looks like she’s trying to get to the stardrive section."

"Get security there," Sarah ordered.

Before Ada had the chance to do that, the almost finished thermal radiation scan suddenly picked up a second blip. Ada frowned and did a concentrated scan on the new area, close to the Alpha warp core…the one that powered the nacelles.

"Damn," she said under her breath. "I don’t know how," she spoke up. "But another one’s near engineering!"

"There’s more than one?!?" Sarah asked, fear riding the edge of her voice.

"A report just came in from deck 39!" R’Sharn suddenly interrupted. "Three people have been found mutilated, with their throats torn out!"

"That’s that second person," Ada confirmed. "It’s on deck 39."

Suddenly, the deck pitched from underneath Ada. She flew to the ground, landing hard on her chest. Her vision began to blur as…as evil thoughts poured into her mind.

"Ada!" someone shouted. Who was that? "Sarah." As Sarah’s image entered her mind, the throat suddenly became necessary to her survival. "Such a pretty throat…and in good health…"

 

 

Sarah suddenly noticed something on Ada’s skin. She took a closer look…and saw some sickly green spot growing on her neck!

Suddenly, Ada’s eyes took on a furious look, and she lunged at Sarah. Sarah reeled in surprise and had no time to react. Fortunately, someone else did. Just as Ada’s hands rapped around her throat, a phaser blast caught her mid-section.

Ada flew from the impact of the blast, no doubt set on high stun, and crashed heavily into the computer access terminal directly behind tactical. The panel overloaded and exploded, sending Ada flying over the tactical station and rolling off of the command chair.

Sarah, not giving herself time to think, ran around the elevated area to the center of the bridge and kneeled next to Ada’s limp, but still morphing, body. She tapped her comm badge and said, "Caft to transporter room 1, emergency beaming for two directly to sick bay!"

After a moment, a reply came back saying, "Can’t, ma’am. Lieutenant Marquet’s signature is alternating too rapidly! I can’t get a solid lock!"

"Then let’s carry her to sickbay!" Sarah ordered the bridge crew, who were mostly just standing around, gawking. After a moment’s hesitance, she shouted, "NOW!"

With that, three officers moved forward and lifted Ada’s body up. As they all moved towards the transporter room, Sarah ordered, "Have sickbay prepare for our arrival, and get security down there!"

The turbolift doors immediately opened and permitted them on as the bridge crew carried out her orders. The officers set Ada’s body on the ground for a moment. Sarah leaned over her body, taking out her tricorder.

She scanned over Ada’s body, unable to make any sense of the readings. She would have to wait for an answer to this strange metamorphosis…

"Hold on, Ada," she said quietly, storing her tricorder. "Hold on…"



Star Trek Dragon graphics and written material copyright Jon Wasik. Star Trek is a registered trademark
of Paramount Pictures, a Viacom company. No copyright infringement intended