Vortex, Part Two

Shearer stared at the forward viewer. The seven Alh’nori ships grew larger as they approached the Monet. Shearer clutched the arms of his chair so if the ship was attacked, he would not be thrown from his seat. He moved his gaze from the forward viewer and settled his attention on Lieutenant Maverick. “Lieutenant, stand by for evasive manoeuvres,” he ordered. Maverick nodded. Somewhere on the bridge a console beeped and a voice spoke up. “Captain, we are receiving a transmission from the lead ship,” J’mall reported. Before anyone could respond, a booming voice filled the bridge. “Alien vessel, you have violated Alh’nori space, your ship and it’s crew are now property of the Alh’nori Imperium. Surrender or die!” Just as abrupt as the transmission started it ended. Shearer turned to face his two Section 31 guests. “What can you tell me about those ships?” he asked. Sarah Page stepped forward.

            “Because of their mass, they can’t exceed warp six, we can outrun them,” Shearer smiled and turned his gaze forward once more. “J’mall, open a channel to the lead ship,” he ordered. J’mall nodded and worked her console.

            “Channel open, sir,” she reported. Shearer rose from his chair.

            “Alh’nori vessel, I have no intention of surrendering my ship to you. Our presence here is an accident…”

            “Silence!” the booming voice interrupted, “It does not matter if you are here by your own doing or by accident, you have trespassed into Alh’nori space and you will be punished for your crime!” With that the Alh’nori ship cut the transmission. A second later the ship lurched as an Alh’nori torpedo ripped into the Monet’s shields.

            “I guess they don’t want to talk. Helm evasive manoeuvres!” Shearer shouted towards Lieutenant Maverick. Another barrage of torpedoes launched from the Alh’nori ships, but the Monet rolled port at the last moment to avoid them head on. Shaking from the near miss, the Monet quickly turned to launch it’s own spread of torpedoes. Two found their target on the lead ship, while the other three sailed harmlessly passed. “Direct hit, no damage!” Brady shouted from tactical. Shearer pounded the arm of his chair. “Helm, prepare to get us out of here, warp nine!” he shouted. Maverick nodded and worked his console. The ship rocked again from another near miss. “Ralph, quantum torpedoes, full spread! Target the lead ship!” Shearer ordered. A few touches of his console and ten bolts of blue shot out from the underside of the Monet. The lead ship tried vainly to evade them as the blue streaks impacted their shields. The shields flared violently as they failed. The other six ships formed an attack formation and swooped in on the Monet. Before they could respond, the Monet climbed and shot off into warp. Two of the Alh’nori ships turned in pursuit, while the other five re-grouped.

 

            Captains Log, Supplemental: We are en-route to an asteroid field located 1.6 light years from where the vortex deposited us. Our Section 31 guests have informed us that we can hide there for days if the need arises. The two Alh’nori ships have discontinued their pursuit, so we are on our own.

 

            “Captain, sensors are picking up weapons fire ahead!” Lieutenant Brady called across the bridge. Shearer turned his head towards his security officer. “Alh’nori?” he asked. Brady checked the sensor readouts. “Yes sir, one of the signatures is Alh’nori, but I can’t identify the other,” he reported.

            “How many ships?” Kingston asked from behind the Captain. Brady ran another scan. “One,” he said “And it’s a lot smaller than the ones we just had a run in with.” Shearer turned to his first officer.

            “Commander, what do you think?” he asked. Kingston rode from her seat and stood beside her Captain. “I think we should go and check it out, someone might need our help,” she said. Shearer considered for a moment then nodded.

            “Lieutenant Maverick, as soon as we’re in range, drop to impulse,” he ordered. Maverick acknowledged and a minute later the ship dropped out of warp. “On screen” Kingston ordered. The view shifted to show a small vessel, most likely a trading ship, under attack by an Alh’nori ship. “Sir, that ship doesn’t have a chance against the Alh’nori, it’s only got the weapons capability of a shuttlecraft!” J’mall reported. Before he could respond, Lieutenant Maverick’s voice spoke up from the helm console.

“Captain, the Alh’nori vessel is moving to intercept us and they’re powering weapons!” he warned.

Shearer made his way back to his seat and slumped into it. “Stand by all weapons!” he shouted, “Helm evasive manoeuvres!” The small craft shot out a volley of phaser fire that impacted the Monet’s shields. The ship rocked but it caused little damage.

“Return fire!” Kingston ordered. The Monet’s upper phaser strip lit up as a pulse of energy moved along it, reached a certain point then fired out into space towards the Alh’nori ship. The beam struck the ship head on causing its shields to flare. The small ship then fired a barrage of torpedoes towards the Monet, targeting her weapons systems. The Monet ducked and dived and only two impacted her shields. Shaking slightly, the Monet moved toward the Alh’nori ship and fired six photon torpedoes from her forward launcher. The red bolts of light impacted the shields of the Alh’nori ship and they failed. Sensing defeat, the Alh’nori ship set a collision course with the trading ship it had been attacking earlier. Shearer ordered Maverick to put the Monet in between the Alh’nori ship and the trading ship. Maverick nodded and worked his console. The Monet pushed forward and placed it’s self in the Alh’nori ships path. This seemed to have little affect on the Alh’nori as the ship continued on its course, now threatening to impact the Monet.

“Impact in twenty seconds!” J’mall shouted.

            “Ralph, target quantum torpedoes, blow that thing up!” Shearer ordered. Brady nodded. Several streaks of blue shot out from the Monet and impacted the Alh’nori ship. The small ship erupted into a ball of flame, showering sparks into space. Shearer stared at the explosion on the viewscreen. He hated having to do that, but he knew it was either them, or lives of his crew. Still it wasn’t an easy decision to make. “Captain, the alien ship is hailing,” J’mall reported, breaking Shearer’s thoughts. “On screen,” he heard Commander Kingston say. The viewscreen flickered and an alien face appeared. “My ship is safe, myself and my crew are eternally grateful,” The universal translator made the voice soft and feminine, so the alien must have been female. Shearer rose from his seat to address the alien. “It was our pleasure. By what should I address you?” he asked. The alien spoke once more.

            “My name is Jhal’na. I am the Captain of this vessel,” she replied. “By what should I address you?” she asked in return.

            “My name is Paul Shearer, and this is my ship, the USS Monet,” he replied.

            “I have not seen your species in this sector before Captain, may I ask what race you are from?” Jhal’na asked him.

            “I and most of my crew are human,” he replied. Jhal’na looked puzzled.

            “Human? I have not heard of your race before. Where is your homeworld?” she asked politely. Shearer smiled. He didn’t mind answering her questions; he would be doing the same if he were in her shoes. “My homeworld is called Earth, it is located many light years away in another galaxy,” he replied. Jhal’na looked amazed. She couldn’t believe what she had just been told. “If you are from another galaxy, how did you come to be here?” she asked.

            “We were investigating a vortex, which was known to lead to this galaxy. When we attempted to seal it, it pulled us in as it collapsed and stranded us here,” he explained.

            “An intergalactic vortex? I have not come across such a phenomenon in all my years in space. I’ve heard of vortices that can deposit a ship a few hundred light years, but to another galaxy! Why attempt to seal it?” she asked.

            “Because of the Alh’nori,” Shearer replied.

            “They planned to invade your galaxy, I presume?”  Shearer nodded. Jhal’na didn’t seem surprised. “That is characteristic of the Alh’nori. They believe that they are superior to all other races and so conquer them in order to prove themselves right. They invaded my homeworld 56 cycles ago and have been our rulers ever since,” she said, spitting out the word “Alh’nori.”

            “Why were they attacking you?” Shearer heard Commander Kingston ask from beside him. Jhal’na turned her attention to Shearer’s first officer.

“They believed that our trading certificates were forged and so used us for target practice. The Alh’nori do not usually need a valid reason for attacking a ship. They do it for their own enjoyment,” she replied. Shearer glanced at his first officer. He could see that she was appalled by the thought that the Alh’nori attacked ships for no reason but their own enjoyment, and had to admit, so was he. He turned back towards the main viewer as Jhal’na spoke again. “Captain, moving on to a more serious matter, my ship sustained heavy damage during the battle, would you be willing to help us repair major systems? In return we will offer anything on our vessel that you would like,” she offered.

Shearer gave her a smile. “It would be our pleasure to assist you, we can even offer you some medical assistance if it is required. All we ask in return is as much information as you can give us on this galaxy and the races that live here. It would make an excellent addition to our database,” he said. Jhal’na smiled back.

“Thank you Captain, Some medical assistance would also be appreciated, we took several casualties. We would be happy to provide you with as much information as we can give you,” she said.

            “I will have my engineering staff transport over to your ship,” Shearer said, rising from his chair, “I will also send my Chief Medical Officer and a medical staff,” he turned to face Commander Kingston. “My First Officer will transport over as well, to collect the information,” he finished. Jhal’na nodded.

            “My ship awaits them with open arms Captain,” she said. Shearer smiled.

            “It has been a pleasure speaking with you Jhal’na,” he said.

            “As it has been talking to you.” With that the communication ended. The viewscreen flickered back to the view of the star field with Jhal’na’s ship hanging in space. Shearer turned to face Commander Kingston. “Commander, tell Lieutenant Gravis to assemble an engineering team and meet you in transporter room one,” he ordered. Kingston nodded and made her way to the turbolift at the back of the bridge. Shearer then turned back towards the forward viewer and tapped his comm badge. “Shearer to sickbay,” he said. After a brief pause a voice answered from the other side. “Go ahead Captain,” Doctor Hughes said over the comm.

            “We have offered medical assistance to the alien ship. Assemble a team and get down to transporter room one in five minutes,” he said.

            “Aye, sir. Sickbay out.” The comm channel closed and Shearer made his way back to his chair and sat down. “Ralph, keep an eye out for Alh’nori ships,” he said. Brady nodded and started sensor sweeps of the area.

 

            As Amy Hughes stepped into the transporter room with her staff, she found it very crowded. Although when only a few people were in there it looked quite spacious, but when more than five people herded in there, it was very cramped. She found a space over the other side of the room and waited for her turn to beam over. She settled her attention on the transporter pad. Commander Kingston and an engineering team were about to beam over. The Commander told the operator to energize and a few seconds later their bodies shimmered and disappeared. The next group of engineers hurried onto the platform. They to shimmered and disappeared. Now it was her turn. She strode up to the platform and took the pad nearest the front. She waited for her staff to get into position then gave the order. “Energize,” she said. The transporter operator ran her fingers up the console and the transporter room began to disintegrate around her. A few seconds later, the transporter room of the alien vessel formed around her. As she stepped down from the transporter platform, she heard a voice say her name.

“…and this is our Chief Medical Officer, Doctor Amy Hughes,” Commander Kingston was telling a tall alien, who Hughes guessed was the Captain. Hughes faced the alien and smiled.

“Pleased to meet you,” she said, offering her hand. The alien took it and they shook. Obviously Commander Kingston had showed her this greeting.

            “I am pleased to meet you as well Doctor. My name is Jhal’na and this is my medical officer, Kaavin,” she said, pointing to the alien standing next to her. Kaavin smiled at her politely. “Welcome to our ship Doctor. If you will follow me, I will take you to our medical centre,” he said. Hughes nodded and followed the tall alien out of the door and into the corridor. The corridor was a little bit narrower than those on board the Monet, but was much taller—by about one meter, she guessed. Kaavin led Hughes and her team further down the corridor. About a minute later, Kaavin stopped at a door to her left. He motioned for everyone to go in. Hughes smiled at him and strode through the door. The medical centre, as they had described it, was quite large. It was cluttered with beds, only about forty-five centimetres apart. There was an alien on every bed, all with, what looked like, serious injuries. Hughes sighed as Kaavin started giving out instructions.

 

            The Monet stayed with Jhal’na’s ship for five hours. After everyone had beamed back from her ship, Jhal’na put the ship into warp, heading for a star system 2.5 light years away. “They’re gone Captain,” J’mall reported. Shearer nodded.

“Lieutenant, continue our course to the asteroid belt, warp four,” he ordered. Lieutenant Maverick nodded and worked his console. Shearer turned as the turbolift doors opened and Commander Kingston stepped out onto the bridge. She made her way to the Captains chair and handed him a padd. “Welcome back, Commander,” Shearer said. Kingston smiled.

            “Thank you, Captain,” she replied. “Here is some of the information I gathered.” Shearer took the padd and began reading it. “A lot of the information that Jhal’na gave us was in the Alh’nori language. It will take a while to translate,” Shearer nodded. “Very well, go to engineering and ask Lieutenant Gravis to help you translate the data,” he ordered, handing back the padd. Kingston took it and nodded. She headed back for the turbolift and stepped in. The doors shut behind her. “Deck fourteen,” she said. The turbolift started to move downwards. A few seconds later, the turbolift slowed to halt. The doors parted and she strode out into engineering. As she did, she heard Lieutenant Gravis call to her. “Hello Commander. For what do I owe the pleasure?” he asked. Kingston grinned at him.

            “The Captain wants the information we got from Jhal’na’s ship translated as soon as possible. You have been volunteered to help me,” she said.

Gravis rolled his eyes and let out a sigh. “I suppose we had better get on with it then,” he said as he started moving towards the main console. Kingston followed after him and they both set to work. The two officers worked for twenty minutes before finding the translating algorithm for the Alh’nori language. “Got it!” cried Gravis.

Kingston looked up from the display she was reading. “The algorithm?” she asked.

Gravis nodded and tapped the console in front of him. The information began scrolling through the translator. “It’s translating now. It’ll take a few minutes,” he said.

Kingston nodded and began reading some of the information that had already been translated. “Amazing!” she said, “The Alh’nori have conquered the entire Pegasus galaxy in the past 120 years,” she read.

Gravis looked amazed. “That’s quite a feat,” he said.

Kingston continued reading. She then found some familiar data. “There’s information here about the vortex,” she said.

Gravis moved in closer to get a better look. “The file talks about how a alien ship from another galaxy thwarted their plans to invade “the new world”. That must be our galaxy and the Commander J’mall’s old ship it’s referring to,” she speculated. Gravis nodded in agreement.

The computer station beeped, which meant the information had now been completely translated. “Translation complete,” the computer informed the two officers.

“Wait there’s some more here,” Lieutenant Gravis said. He began reading it. His facial expression suddenly dropped.

“What is it?” Kingston asked.

Gravis moved away from the console and allowed Kingston to read for herself. After reading it, she stood up straight and tapped her comm badge. “Kingston to Shearer.”

A small pause followed then the Captain responded,            “Go ahead Commander,” he said.

            “Sir, we have a very big problem on our hands…”

 

            As all the senior officers filed into the briefing room, Shearer took his chair at the head of the table. He had little idea about what Commander Kingston and Lieutenant Gravis had found in that data they translated, but it was enough for them to call a staff meeting about it. As the last few people entered the room, including Hicks and Page, Commander Kingston rose from her chair and made her way to the screen at the front of the room. Certain she had everyone’s attention, she began, “As you all know, two years ago Section 31 discovered and managed to seal the vortex that brought us here,” she started. Everyone in the room nodded. “What you may not know is what happened after the Nolan collapsed the vortex.” Kingston could see she had sparked curiosity among the senior staff. She continued. “After the vortex collapsed, the Alh’nori began researching ways to re-create the vortex. About a year ago, Alh’nori scientists came up with a way to re-open the vortex,” she tapped a button on the computer screen. The schematic of a vessel appeared. “This is a Alh’nori vortex vessel. It was designed to hold the technology to re-open the vortex. Because the Alh’nori do not have replicating technology, their resources were limited, so they only built one,” she said, catching her breath. Lieutenant Brady caught on.

            “You mean, they re-opened the vortex, using that ship?” he asked. Kingston nodded. “Although it wasn’t completely stable, it worked, until we came along anyway,” she finished.

            “If this is true, then Alh’nori have the capability to open the vortex again,” Shearer stated. Kingston nodded.

            “Then we have to destroy the vortex vessel,” Doctor Hughes said.

            “I agree. Commander, does that file have any of the ships specifications? Weapons?  Shields?”  Shearer asked. Kingston nodded.

            “Yes sir,” she said. She tapped the screen again and the schematic started showing the major functions of the ship.

“It’s safe to assume that the Alh’nori will attempt to re-open the vortex again soon, so the vortex vessel will be in range of where the vortex is located,” Shearer guessed.

Doctor Hughes spoke up for the first time in the meeting. “How are we supposed to destroy the vessel and get back home?” she asked.

Everyone turned their attention to the Captain, to see what his answer would be. “It doesn’t look like we will be going home. The Federation’s safety comes above our own needs,” he said. It was not the answer that everyone wanted to hear, but they all knew it was the truth.

Sarah Page suddenly spoke up from the front of the room. “Maybe you can get home Captain,” she said.

Shearer and everyone else looked at her. “Carry on,” Shearer said.

Sarah Page cleared her throat. “If we wait for the vessel to open the vortex, you can take the Monet through while myself and Jonathon take an attack shuttle and destroy the vortex vessel. When you reach the other side you can close it using quantum torpedoes,” she said.

Shearer shook his head. “I’m sorry, I can’t let you do that,” he said.

Hicks rose from his chair.  “Captain, with all due respect, it is our duty to protect the Federation, whatever the cost. If it means spending the rest of our lives in this galaxy, so be it,” he said. The room went silent.

Finally the Captain nodded. “Alright, report to the shuttle bay and get the shuttle ready,” he said. He turned to the rest of his staff. “Everyone report back to your posts. Dismissed,” he said.

Everyone started to file out of the room and Shearer followed out onto the bridge. “Lieutenant Maverick, set a course for the vortex, maximum warp,” Shearer ordered.

            “Aye sir,” he said as he took his station.

Kingston turned towards Lieutenant Brady. “Lieutenant Brady, activate the cloaking device,” she said. Brady nodded and tapped his console. The Monet shimmered and disappeared as it went to warp.

 

            The Monet dropped out of warp and came to a halt. “Captain, I’m picking up a large fleet directly ahead,” J’mall reported.

Shearer rose from his chair.  “On screen,” he ordered. The view shifted to show the large fleet J’mall reported. Shearer’s jaw dropped. “How many ships?” he asked.

Brady checked his console. “More than two thousand, sir,” he reported.

            “My god,” he heard Commander Kingston say. Shearer turned to face J’mall.

            “Commander, can you locate the vortex vessel?” he asked.

J’mall nodded and tapped her console. “It’s on screen Captain,” she said. Shearer turned back to face the forward viewer as it shifted to show the vessel. J’mall checked her console again. “Captain, I’m reading a massive energy build up in the vortex vessel,” she reported. Shearer continued to stare at the viewscreen as a massive white and blue energy pulse soared from the vortex vessel. A few seconds later, the beginnings of a vortex could be seen forming.

Shearer tapped his comm badge. “Bridge to fighter craft Waterloo,” he said.

A few seconds later Hicks’ voice came over the comm, “Go ahead bridge,” he said.

            “The vortex vessel is forming the vortex, you have to launch as soon as possible,” he told them.

            “We’re ready down here so we can launch now,” he said.

            “Good luck,” Shearer said.

            “Same to you Captain, Waterloo out.” With that they cut the transmission. The view shifted to show the back end of the saucer, where the shuttlebay was located. A small craft suddenly emerged and flew off into space towards the fleet. Shearer made his way back to his chair. “What is the progress of the vortex?” he asked. J’mall checked her console.

            “It’s almost formed sir,” she reported.

            “Maverick, set a course for the vortex, one half impulse power,” Kingston ordered. An alert from J’mall’s console broke the silence of the bridge. “Sir, the vortex has finished forming,” J’mall reported. Shearer nodded.

            “Good. Lieutenant take us in at full impulse,” he ordered.

Maverick nodded and tapped his console. As the Monet moved towards the vortex, her cloaking device suddenly flickered and died. “Captain! Our cloaking device is off-line, the vortex is interfering with it!” Brady shouted from across the bridge.

Shearer rose from his chair. “Shields up, stand by weapons!” he ordered.

            “Have they detected us yet?” Kingston asked.

J’mall checked her console.  “Yes sir, three ships are on an intercept course, but they won’t reach us until we are inside the vortex,” she reported.

            “How long till we enter?” Shearer asked.

Maverick checked his console.  “Thirty Seconds,” he reported.

            “Status of the vortex vessel?” Kingston asked.

Brady checked his console.  “The vortex is interfering with our sensors, I can confirm an explosion at it’s last known position,” he reported. The Monet moved closer to the aperture and entered with a flash of white. The three Alh’nori ships followed hot on the Monet’s tail. As the Monet sailed through the inside of the vortex, the Alh’nori ships fired their phasers, trying desperately trying to stop the Monet. About halfway through, the Monet opened up her torpedo doors and six quantum torpedoes were deployed inside the vortex. A few seconds later, the Monet exited the vortex and it exploded in a brilliant display of white and blue, sending the ship spinning. The Monet managed to stop itself and began plotting a course for Starbase 216.

 

            As Ralph Brady entered the mess hall he noticed someone standing over by the large windows. It was 2am, what was someone doing up at this hour? He asked himself. He moved closer and found it was J’mall. “Hi,” he said.

J’mall didn’t turn round. “Hello Ralph,” she said, continuing to stare out the window.

Brady placed his hand on her shoulder. “Something wrong?” he asked.

J’mall turned to face him, her brown eyes staring into his. “I was just thinking about Jonathon and Sarah,” she said.

            “Oh,” was all Brady could think to say.

            “I could really use some cheering up, how about that game of velocity I promised you?” she said. Brady smiled.

            “Lead the way!” he said. J’mall smiled back and the two friends trotted down the corridor together.