Commander Kara Trieal waited impatiently for Ada to arrive. Having to listen to an EMH Mark I babble on about him having to take the risks, despite him being a hologram, of examining a strange, murderous patient.

Finally, after waiting for what seemed like forever, she said, "Computer deactivate the EMH and then activate the LMH!"

Before the EMH could get past its first word of protest, it was replaced by the LMH. "Please state the nature of the medical emergency," the LMH, which looked like Deep Space 9’s doctor, stated.

"We have a murderous patient coming in," Kara said quietly. "It appears that her entire body is mutating. We’ll put you in with her under a level 10 force field."

"Very well," the LMH replied. He smiled and added, "This should be interesting."

Kara cocked her head to the side, smiled, and said, "Perhaps I’ll activate you first from now on instead of that EMH program."

"A very good choice," the LMH replied.

Kara just rolled her eyes and looked at the entrance as the doors parted. Three officers carried a…thing she guessed was Ada. She directed them towards the security medical bay and stopped Sarah as she followed.

"What the hell is going on?!" Kara asked, astonished. She looked at Ada again as the officers entered the room. Her entire body had turned green, and her hair was starting to fall out rapidly. In fact, she noticed there was a trail of black hair on the deck.

"I don’t know," Sarah replied solemnly. "She just started…changing, and lunged at my throat."

Kara frowned, looking back at the security med. bay. "The throat…" she said quietly.

"Hmm?" Sarah replied, curious.

Kara shook her head and looked at Sarah. "Each victim has had one thing in common," she pointed out. "Their throats were completely ripped out."

Sarah frowned and asked, "Why the hell would Vendar or Ada do that?"

Kara shook her head again. "I don’t know…yet."

"Bridge to Commander Caft, two more murders have been reported near engineering," Tom said in a very shaky voice.

"This had to be hard on him, seeing Ada go crazy like that, Sarah thought. "On my way."

 

 

"Let’s move, everyone!" Kalia shouted. "Two murders reported near here, so she should be here any minute!"

Everyone in engineering grabbed a pulse launcher and began working on shutting down the warp core. If Perkins still had some thought left, she might be going after the warp cores. Why she didn’t go to the Beta core, Kalia didn’t know, but her job now was to protect the ship.

She moved to the command console and began locking everything down. Only her access commands and a few other key engineers’ commands could unlock the system.

Suddenly, she heard it. A huge roar rolled into engineering from a corridor leading into engineering. She froze, making sure her pulse rifle was set on high stun. Another roar followed, a blood hungry, high pitched roar.

Everyone in engineering stopped talking. The roars began to sound closer and closer, which finally made something in Kalia’s brain click.

"Computer, seal off engineering with forcefields and the emergency bulkheads!" she said.

Thick bulkheads began closing themselves around every entrance to engineering. The bulkheads were usually only used if there was a hull breach in engineering or something was leaking, such as plasma coolant.

Suddenly, from the area where the roars had been coming from, something shot out to stop the door from closing. However, just as it reached the door, it met a forcefield, causing it to immediately back off. It all happened so fast that Kalia couldn’t identify what it was. A tentacle? she thought.

The light that could be seen through the semi-transparent bulkhead suddenly went dead. It gave the bulkhead an eerie feeling…

"The forcefields just went dead!" an engineer reported. "Commander Perkins’ access code was used!"

Kalia looked and confirmed what the man saw. "Damn," she said. She looked closer, then smiled. "At least she can’t open the bulkheads with her codes. Looks like her codes were just blocked out ship wide."

Suddenly, a deafening bang echoed through engineering. Kalia jumped a meter into the air, surprised at the intensity. She looked at the bulkhead…and already saw a dent forming.

"Not good," she said. She tapped her comm badge and said, "Engineering to security, get someone to emergency bulkhead Zeta 9!" No reply. She frowned and tapped her badge, "Tarkent to security, respond!" Again, no reply came. "Tarkent to bridge, any one, respond!"

Fear gripped her again as she realized they were cut off. They would have to fend for themselves.

"Everyone, set your pulse rifles on the highest stun level, no higher!" she ordered, doing so to her rifle.

"Are you crazy?!" Lieutenant Meylar Palzen shouted above the banging noise that had now become nearly constant.

"That’s an order, Lieutenant!" Kalia replied. "We don’t want to kill her!"

"Speak for yourself!" Meylar replied.

Kalia sighed and shouted back, "Look, mister, just follow my orders and we’ll get out of this alive!"

That’s when it happened. The bulkhead suddenly flew out and across engineering banging into a wall on the far side, barely missing the warp core. Tentacles of some sort shot out of the pitch-black corridor and latched onto anything it could, pulling what was supposed to be Vendar Perkins through.

The creature was a green blob, with a barely describable body mired with tentacles. One huge, grotesque mouth with several eyes above it looked at the engineers. It gave off one roar then, at an amazing speed, started moving towards them.

"Fire!" Kalia shouted, opening up a volley of her own. The beast was stunned at first, but as Kalia found out instantly, it was only at the display of light hitting it. After a moment’s pause, it began moving towards them again, unhindered by the large volley of stun energy.

"Damn," Kalia said again. "There’s only one thing to do…" She set down her rifle and moved back to the command console.

"Set rifles on low kill setting! That should be enough to partially stun it each time!" she shouted above the roaring. The pitch of the pulse rifles changed slightly, and she could hear that the beast was partially effected.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, she looked up and saw, with satisfaction, the entire warp core slide down out of engineering. "Core ejection successful," the computer confirmed.

She picked up her rifle, set it to low kill, then shouted, "Get to the Jeffrey’s tubes! It can’t cause much more trouble from here!"

To make sure of that, Kalia aimed her rifle at the command console, which she had just fully locked out, and fired three shots. The console exploded as Kalia moved towards the nearest Jeffrey’s tubes hatch, half of her team following her.

She spun around in time to see a tentacle coming right at her. Instinct allowed her to aim and fire, hitting it and causing it to retract towards the beast again.

As the engineers opened the hatch, she gave cover fire, barely able to do so. Tentacles came at them from every direction, the beast seemingly centering on them. Kalia finally got herself into the hatch, fired a few more shots, then closed and sealed the hatch.

"Move!" she shouted, knowing the hatch would be momentarily ripped open. "Head for Beta Engineering!"

The engineers then began making their way at inhuman speeds towards the second engineering on the stardrive section…

 

 

High-Admiral Piarn sat tense in the command chair of the Defense Perimeter’s command base. It wouldn’t be long…

"The fleet’s coming out of warp," a Commander named L’Kal at ops stated. "Looks like we lost more than of the fleet!"

"Damn," Piarn said, using a word he’d picked up from Chris to express his discontent. On the main screen, ships seemingly extended out of no where, then took on the shapes of Hintaru and Britar ships.

"The Vorkalai are hot on their tails!" L’Kal added.

"As soon as our ships are behind the perimeter, raise shields again," Piarn ordered.

"Aye," L’Kal replied.

All but one ship seemed to be getting past the perimeter in good order. That one ship, however, was moving very, very slow…

"The Hintaru’s Pride is heavily damaged!" L’Kal reported.

Before Piarn could issue and order, Vorkalai ships suddenly shot out of warp. The Hintaru’s Pride fired a few torpedoes at the Vorkalai, but all were stopped by shields. Within moments, the Hintaru’s Pride ignited in a matter/antimatter explosion.

For a moment, dread overcame Piarn. That was the Hintaru flagship, and it had the best crew on it… Then, determination came over Piarn. "Raise shields, fire at will!" he ordered in his most commanding voice. "Make them pay!"

Before the Vorkalai could get off any shots, a huge barrage of weapons fire lanced out at them. Any unshielded ships were instantly destroyed, the others having to break off their initial attack run. In less then ten seconds, the battlefield was almost an overload to the senses.

Any ships that tried to break through the shields was hit with a fierce barrage, and was instantly destroyed. The others barely had a shot at hitting the Perimeter shields. To make things worse for the Vorkalai, the Hintaru and Britar ships added to the out-bound weapons fire.

They would pay, indeed…

"Sir, the USS Dragon just ejected one of it’s warp cores!" L’Kal stated in a shocked voice.

"What?!" Piarn asked. He looked at the readout on his console, and sure enough, there was the warp core. The Antimatter was contained safely, but why would the Dragon eject the core? Sure, there was a murderer on board, but would that constitute the ejection of a warp core?

 

 

"Tarkent to bridge, can you hear me now?" Kalia’s voice came over the intercom.

"We can hear you, Kalia," Sarah said, sitting in the command chair. "What just happened?"

"Vendar was after the warp core, I think," Kalia replied. "So I ejected it, and then we got the hell out of there."

"Understood," Sarah replied. "How many people did you lose?"

After a moments pause, she replied, "I think we only lost one! He was caught in the Jeffrey’s tube by a stray tentacle."

Sarah frowned and froze in horror. "A WHAT?!"

"Long story," Kalia replied. "We are en-route to Beta Engineering, but we’re encountering several other mutated beasts along the way."

Mutated beasts, Sarah thought. How are we going to get Vendar and Ada back… "I copy. Do what you can to keep them out of Beta Engineering."

"I need you to change the access codes on the forcefield subroutines," she replied. "If we can keep them up, we should be able to keep the beasts out."

"Right, I’m on it. Bridge out."

She then looked to ops and ordered, "R’Sharn, open a channel to the command base."

Lieutenant Commander R’Sharn began to comply with her orders, but a negative sounding beep came from the ops panel. She shook her head and replied, "No can do, external communications have been lost."

Sarah pounded the armrest on the command chair, followed by saying under her breath, "Damn…"

"Sickbay to Bridge." Kara’s voice came over the comm system. "You better get down here."

 

 

"What’s up?" Sarah asked, the events obviously beginning to wear on her senses. Kara knew just why, too…

She moved to a black panel on the wall and brought up a view of cells. "These are human cells," she said. Suddenly, very small green shells of some sort began moving from cell to cell. Moments after touching a cell, that cell would turn a sickly green and grow double its original size.

"That is the mutant virus," she concluded. "And it is airborne."

Horror overtook Sarah’s face. No doubt she just came to the same conclusion Kara had. If it was airborne…they were all already infected. It wouldn’t be long now…

"Tell me more about it," Sarah said quietly.

"The virus is highly dependent on oxygen," Kara said. "That’s only when it is mutating. By now, Vendar should be in her final form, and no longer requires oxygen. But any way, that’s why every beast goes for the throat. Aside from the lungs, the throat and everything in it leading down to the lungs are saturated with oxygen due to repeated exposure to the oxygen. In fact, the saturation is so dense that it’s more effective to these creatures than simply breathing air."

"And it needs oxygen to mutate?" Sarah asked.

"Yes," Kara replied. "Therein lies its weakness. If we could deprive the full creature of oxygen, for a limited period of time, it should revert to the human form, which requires less oxygen. We’d then re-initiate life support."

"But the virus would remain, wouldn’t it?" Sarah asked. "Or at least part of it would."

"True, but when an infected person is in human form, we can send nanites into the human to destroy the weak version of the mutant virus," Kara replied simply.

"In fact, here’s your cure," the LMH said, pressing a hypospray to Sarah’s neck and activating it.

"The nanites will cure your body," Kara said. "They will leave your body and try to find one of the full beasts and await a chance to kill off the weak version of the virus."

"Ingenious programming," Sarah said, rubbing her neck. "So what do we do to separate the full beasts from the humans?"

"Separate the saucer section from the stardrive section," a familiar voice said.

Sarah spun to her left, a great look of surprise crossing her face. "Ada!" she shouted. She ran to her friend and embraced her in a hug. They stood there for a minute hugging, then parted.

"There’s proof that the nanites work," Kara stated.

"How will separating the saucer section help?" Sarah asked, getting to business again.

"The full beasts need energy to actually finalize the mutation, and stabilize their final form," Kara said.

"So we eject the saucer section’s warp core, leave one or both on the stardrive section, and let the beasts get to them," Ada said. "We separate, then shut down life support momentarily. Each human life sign we read, we beam to sickbay and allow the nanites to work."

"There’s a lot of risk in that option," Sarah said quietly.

After a moments pause, Ada said, "But our only one."

"True," Sarah said, thinking hard. "But we have to get external communications back online to do it, then eject the saucer section’s core, and then wait for the beasts to head into the stardrive section. The saucer section would be running off of the fusion generators, and so we’d be at minimum power."

"It’s that or death," Kara said quietly…solemnly…

Sarah nodded in agreement. "Yes…indeed it is." She looked up at Kara, smiled lightly, and finished, "Let’s get to work."

 

 

You’re taking a risk, Chris thought to himself. He was referring to his refusal to be seduced by Falarr. Not accepting her offer might arouse suspicion of his true intentions. No pirate would ever refuse an offer, especially from someone like Falarr.

But then, how could he accept the offer? He was married, and he loved Sarah with all of his heart. Betraying her like that would betray his very fiber of being…which he knew he must not betray. If he were to betray that fact, he would also be betraying himself. If he couldn’t trust himself, who could he trust?

It was a complicated matter, of not being able to trust one’s self. He’d once gone through that…and he was not anxious to let it return.

…File Transfer Complete…

The message on the console’s screen made Chris’s heart leap into his throat…followed by his stomach. Finally, he thought.

He grabbed the data disk from the console, then proceeded to erase all evidence of the files he’d accessed. Almost ready to bail out…

 

 

Sarah entered the bridge, anxious to get the plan underway. She sat in the command chair and opened a ship-wide channel. Hopefully, the creatures will be too stupid to realize what I’m saying at this point, she thought.

"This is the First Officer speaking," she began. She waited a moment, knowing people might be in the middle of a crucial operation.

Finally, she started again. "Today, we’ve been presented with a very difficult enemy. An enemy of which seems impossible to defeat. I know how hard it has been the past couple of hours. We’ve lost a lot…and seen a lot.

"That is not, however, cause for us to give up. We need to fight this with every resource we have. For now, all we can do is cooperate in this matter. We’ve devised a plan that will allow us to defeat this nightmare.

"What I need all of you to do is evacuate to the saucer section. Bring only what you need, as we aren’t going to destroy the stardrive section, just separate from it. Delta engineering, power down the warp core completely. There can be no energy emissions from it what so ever. Leave the Beta warp core running at maximum capacity to attract some people’s attention.

"As you enter the saucer section, there will be medics with hyposprays. Do as they say, and do so in an orderly fashion. The only rush we have is a rush against death, and panicking will not allow us to go any fast…and will actually slow us down.

"I can not say too much right now about our plan, as some of these creatures may still retain some basic human knowledge. But I’m asking you to trust myself and the command staff. If you do as ordered…we will all get out of this alive."

Sarah then closed the channel, satisfied that she was able to make a speech somewhat inspiring… I hope.

"You should teach the Captain how to do speeches," Tom commented from the chair usually reserved for the first officer.

Sarah smiled, not wanting to think about how much she missed Chris at the moment. She had to concentrate on the here and the now, and take care of the situation. She would uphold her promise when the time to uphold it came…

Then a thought occurred to her… "Bridge to Command Trieal," she said, opening a two-way channel.

"Go ahead," Kara’s voice came back.

"A thought just occurred to me…the nanites leave the body once it is cured, right? So what prevents an airborne virus from re-infecting a person."

"I uh…kinda forgot to tell you that I released a chemical into the air that kills the virus in its airborne state only," came Kara’s sheepish reply.

Sarah smiled, relieved. "All I care is that I don’t have to get an injection of nanites again," she said, smiling. "Bridge out."

"How long until the evacuation is complete," Tom asked.

"Early estimates are projecting twenty minutes," R’Sharn replied. "That, of course, is due to the injections."

"Understood," she said. She turned around to see Ada standing at tactical…not a trace of the mutation on her. "Monitor the creatures and inform me when they’ve all moved to the stardrive section."

"Aye," Ada replied, beginning to work her console.

Sarah turned back around and started at the blank viewscreen. She fidgeted in her chair, trying to get comfortable, but just couldn’t…

"Something wrong?" Tom asked quietly, leaning towards her.

Sarah looked at him, surprised. She then let out a light laugh and replied, "I just hate waiting during these intense moments before the storm."

Tom smiled and shook his head. Then he stood and headed for tactical…for Ada.

 

 

Tom stopped close to Ada’s side, not bothering to look at what she was doing, and only staring at her. She looked at him a moment, then went back to work.

"How are you doing?" he asked quietly.

"Excellent, considering what had happened," she commented, never taking her eyes from the tactical station.



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