Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My ST:TNG Novel Drone - Chapter Eleven



Drone: Chapter Eleven
by Paul Darcy

Julie-Anne regained consciousness slowly while nurse Okido stood over her waving a medical tricorder. The surface she was upon seemed to shake suddenly and she began to remember. She had been in the shuttle bay looking for Apur. He had been hiding behind storage containers, then he sensed people approaching and flew out of the open shuttle bay door. Out into the asteroids.

The nurse, now shining a light in her eyes, asked, “how are you feeling?” Julie-Anne hadn’t really thought about her condition until the nurse asked. She was still picturing Apur spinning off into space. Her bed shook again and she looked groggily around. She was in sickbay. It was much busier than she recalled when visiting her dad here. Something was going on. She looked for, but couldn’t find, her father amongst the many shapes moving around.

Nurse Okido asked again more insistently, “Julie-Anne, are you Okay?”

It was an effort for her but she managed to whisper an answer. “I think so.” She tried to focus on the nurse’s question, but her head hurt. And her eyes wouldn’t focus properly. The ship rocked again and this time Julie-Anne could tell it was the Enterprise, not her, that was moving.

“What is happening?” Julie-Anne asked in a louder voice, keeping her eyes closed. It was easier that way.

The nurse didn’t answer right away, avoiding a lengthy discussion for the time being. After a pause the nurse did answer, curtly. “We are trying to avoid the Romulans,” and as quickly changed the subject, “now I’m going to give you a sedative so you can rest some more. You suffered a mild concussion, nothing to worry about. You will be fine in a day or two.” The nurse efficiently readied a hypo spray.

Julie-Anne began recalling even more details of her accident in the shuttle bay. A mild concussion. Yes, the storage containers were falling toward her. She was yelling at Apur but he was to far away to hear her. Apur flying out of the Enterprise, into space. Julie-Anne opened her eyes, anxious, and grabbed weakly for the nurse’s arm. She whispered as loudly as she was able, “do you know what happened to Apur? Is he Okay?”

The nurse looked slightly puzzled, put a restraining hand on her shoulder and then gave Julie-Anne a reassuring smile. The nurse concluded that she was probably talking about a real or imaginary friend. “No, I don’t know, but I’m sure he will be all right. Don’t worry now. You really need more sleep if you want to recover.” And with that she pressed the hypo spray to Julie-Anne’s neck. It hissed gently.

Julie-Anne slumped back onto the bed but remained scared for Apur. She should do something, but she felt so sleepy and began drifting off. Tears formed in her eyes and somehow she knew that Apur was lost. She entered sleep quickly amid the rustling noises of sickbay while the Enterprise rocked beneath her once again.

* * *

Using his newfound mode of locomotion, Apur neared the halfway point in the tunnel when, at the other end, an iris shaped door opened. Apur had one second to analyze this opening and calculated that here, like the Enterprise, when a door was approached it would open automatically. His calculations could not have been more wrong.

Apur moved forward, taking more readings, when a metallic object pushed through the open iris shaped door. A great fire erupted propelling the object quickly forward, and Apur, with only one tenth of a second to analyze this new information, realized he would not be able to escape the object or its flame. Immediately after processing this data his neural nets were vaporized in a spectacular plasma explosion.

* * *

Krintac had felt few joys in his assignment to the border patrol. For over a year he had been senior commander in this sector but was extremely weary of his duties. This moment would make all the tedious days he had spent out here away from Romulus worthwhile. The Enterprise would be his and this success would most likely propel him all the way to a powerful new position on Romulus. Perhaps even as a senior member of the war council. He grinned, “Sub-Commander, Tralc. Fire plasma torpedoes.”

“Yes, High Preator.” Tralc’s finger lightly touched an orange button on his console and pressed.

The plasma torpedo locked onto the Enterprise and traveled for almost a tenth of a second before striking an object in the launch tube. Programmed to detonate upon impact, the torpedo performed flawlessly, blasting a large section free from the front of the Actos as it exploded.

Krintac’s grinned metamorphosised instantly into a scowl as the Actos shuddered beneath him. He watched the forward screen in disbelief. Instead of seeing the plasma torpedo rip into the Enterprise, a huge fireball, riddled with debris, erupted outward from the Actos.

Krintac quickly recovered, “Tralc, what happened?” He had been watching the Enterprise on the monitor. Its shields were almost gone. She was damaged beyond the ability to hurt the Actos.

Tralc answered after a quick check of his panel readouts, “High Preator, our torpedo exploded in the launch tube.” He confirmed his readings with the emergency crews on the scene. “High, Preator, the emergency crews are not sure what the cause of the premature detonation was. They say most probably the torpedo struck something in the tube.”

“But how could anything be in the torpedo tube except the torpedo?” Krintac was furious.

“Maybe some trick of the Enterprise? Our shields have been fluctuating when encountering the most extreme areas of radiation near large asteroids. They could have shot something in at one of those times.” Tralc, offered.

“Damage?” Krintac couldn’t believe his foul luck. They had the Enterprise defeated, and now this. Could it really be a Federation trick? Something the Enterprise had managed to plant in their shaft, or did they now possess a technology that could detonate their own plasma torpedoes before they left the launch tubes. It seemed highly unlikely, but.

Tralc finished running his internal check and reported. “We still have active shields, though weakened. Our front shield generators are completely destroyed, but the others are compensating giving us a total efficiency of sixty seven percent of normal. We still have cloaking ability, one full disruptor bank and one torpedo launcher available. All other systems were only minimally affected.” Tralc waited for Krintac’s orders.

If the Enterprise were to escape now, Krintac’s ship and crew would be denounced by the Romulan High Command as renegades disobeying orders. A defector’s ship. A convenient way to wash their hands of Krintac and his crew if the Enterprise escaped now. There damage was not too severe though. Krintac was still convinced that they could overpower the Enterprise given their current situation. This was only a minor setback. Glory could still be his. He knew he was on the knife’ edge and must decide quickly. He took a deep breath and spoke, “use our remaining disruptor to destroy the Enterprise!”

Tralc obeyed without question and the Actos again pursued the Enterprise with deadly intent.

* * *

The controls of the alien vessel were becoming more familiar to Data. He was able to control the ship’s systems from his position with little effort. Geordi had surmised that Data had been programmed by the aliens and was able to operate the necessary systems. He watched Data at the controls but could not fathom how Data’s erratic movements turned into action inside or outside the ship. They seemed random and he was sure that he had seen the same actions perform different functions. He quickly gave up and turned his attention to Riker and the Romulans. In a few moments they would be close to the derelict Warbird and the away team.

Data stopped his manipulation of the controls and asked, "Geordi, does your communicator still function?"

"Ya, I think so. At least the last time I tried it.” After Geordi had disconnected it from the large cube ship he had tried it and found it functional. He gave it a check and found it okay. “Are you thinking that we should try to contact Riker aboard the Romulan vessel?" Geordi didn't like where this was headed. "What if the Romulan vessel picks up our signal? You mentioned that this ship doesn’t have any offensive capabilities."

Data turned and faced Geordi. "You are correct. That would be unwise. However, what I propose is that once aboard the derelict we split up and contact the members of the away team. I believe that they will be attempting to regain power on the Warbird to use in aid of the Enterprise.”

Data waited for Geordi's response which came after a few moments hesitation. Geordi could see the Romulan Warbird and the Enterprise exchanging weapons fire. "Do we have enough time to help them?” Geordi gaged the time it would take to manually enter and assist the away team. It was impractically long. “It will take us a while to enter the ship and find them even with functional communicators.”

Data spoke. “This vessel does have an instantaneous transporter system. It is a dimensional jump unit.”

“But I thought dimensional jump gates were hazardous to living tissue.” If this alien ship had dimensional jumps as a means of transporting they would have to use it if they were to be of any help. This ship’s thrusters provided very slow transport speed.

“True. The dimensional jump is hazardous, but only if used repeatedly. We shall need to use it only a few times. The damage should not be irreparable.” Data began to manipulate the controls seemingly at random again.

Geordi nodded his head in agreement and put on his helmet as they drew closer to the derelict. “Okay, Data. I’m ready.”

Data fastened his helmet in place and touched a control. Just before they were jumped to the derelict they saw the front of the battling Warbird explode into a large fireball.

* * *

"Riker to Thompson, any report yet?" His voice sounded slightly muffled inside of his helmet. Away missions in environment suits were rare and he was forgetting what it felt like to be encapsulated in one for any length of time. That coupled with the eerie feeling of being on a dead Romulan vessel in a drifting asteroid field was grating on his nerves.

Thompson's voice came across louder than Riker had expected it to be. "I've found the engineering room. Most everything in here looks relatively untouched. Their warp drive has automatically shut down and with the circuit damage down here there is no way to restart it. But, I should be able to couple together the reserve power banks in a few minutes. You may be able to use the disruptors when I do, though you will probably only get a few short bursts and those won’t be at full power." Thompson didn't stop working for a moment while relaying the information to Riker.

"Good work, Thompson. Let me know the moment before you route me the power.”

Riker pulled another burned panel cover off and was dismayed by the extensive damage to the circuits below. Damn, how was he going to rework these in time to be of use to the Enterprise. He wondered if the doctor was having any better luck. “Beverly, how are you making out with the main computer core?”

Beverly's voice sounded tired and on edge. "The main computer section is in bad shape. The hull has been mostly stripped away here and there are bodies everywhere.” The doctor paused. Beverly hated to see people killed for whatever the reason, Romulan or not. The death and destruction around her brought back painful memories of the salvage and rescue operation at Wolf 359 after the Borg massacre. In a moment she continued, “I would guess that whatever metal was used to protect the main core area was a target. I'll keep trying but I don't think I'll be able to retrieve much here. If I were an engineer specializing in duotronics and not a doctor I may be of more help down here, but I’ll do what I can.”

Riker didn’t say anything more to the doctor, but instead immediately started going over what was left of the interface circuits from the computer. If Beverley was working on systems in as bad or worse shape than these he could understand her frustration well. Although it didn't appear to be completely useless, he would not be certain if his guessed repairs would be effective until Thompson got him some power. Sifting through the blackened wiring was tedious but after a few minutes he located the sensor control relays and patched them into to the main screen. He had to do this directly since the coupling was blown out. He also located the thruster and disruptor controls and tried his best to configure them using lesser ruined wires. Would they even work? He certainly hoped so. Impulse engines would be nice, but Riker suspected that he would be lucky if Thompson managed to get them the emergency thrusters. And If so, it would be questionable as to how they would perform, the hull of the ship being all but destroyed.

Riker’s helmet communicator activated. “Commander?” Thompson was hailing him again.

This time Riker thought to turn it down before he spoke. "Go ahead."

Thompson came back immediately, sounding triumphant and excited. "Sir, on your order, I'll give you all the reserve power available. It won't be much, but it should give us a chance. And I coupled in the thruster controls directly, so when you have power they should be available from the bridge. At least the ones that still work."

Riker looked over his wiring job. "I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be up here. Any time, Thompson."

In response a shudder ran through the broken ship as the reserve power was piped into the ship’s damaged systems. The Warbird groaned in protest. The few working indicator lights on the control panels blinked. With a deep breath, Riker tried the sensors first. A fuzzy picture appeared on the screen. He could make out two ships facing off, but not a lot of detail other than the shimmering blue of the Enterprise and the radiating green of the Romulan ship. All’s well so far, he thought. Next, he activated the thruster controls, but a shower of sparks erupted from the panel making him jump back and away. At least the view screen was still operational. He groaned like the ship around him. If he could have placed his hand on his forehead he would have done so. Now he would have to reroute and reconfigure the panel again and wasn’t too confident he could do it. Most of the wiring that looked usable he had already used. Checking the blurry images on the screen he could see the two ships were exchanging fire. Damn it, he needed control of this Warbird now. He activated his suit communicator. “Thompson, I need your help up here right away.”

Before Thompson could answer, another voice spoke into his communicator, and Riker caught movement reflected off his helmet visor a few feet behind him. “May I be of some assistance, Commander?”

Riker spun around half expecting to see a Romulan pointing a disruptor at him and was shocked, elated and stunned to see Data standing there in his environmental suit. It was indeed Data’s voice. “Data? But, how can you be here?” Riker asked perplexed by the sudden appearance.

“I will explain later, sir. The Warbird attacking the Enterprise has just been damage in its forward quarter. How badly I do not know, however, the Enterprise is in bad condition and needs our assistance immediately.” Data spoke as though this were a routine day. Riker smiled.

“I can’t wait to hear it,” Riker said, “but right now if you could help me reconfigure this panel so we have disruptor and thruster control that would be great,” Riker smiled at his good fortune pointing with open glove toward his handiwork. If anybody could reconfigure the controls quickly, he could have wished for none other than Data.

“My pleasure, commander.” Data strode toward the panel circuits and with android hands a blur with motion, began to reconfigure them.

Thompson’s replay came now, “Commander, I heard you talking with Data. La Forge just arrived in Engineering. He gave me the briefest of accounts of how they got here. This is great news. Anyway, we thought we would go and help Dr. Crusher with the computer core. If we can get the Actos’s command codes we could neutralize their shields and give us a much better chance at stopping them. We are almost there now.”

Riker mentally kicked himself for not thinking of getting the Actos codes earlier. “Of course. Data is reconfiguring the panel for the disruptors now. Keep us informed of your progress. Once we have panel control of the disruptors we will hold off firing as long as possible, but we may have to engage the Warbird before you can access the code.” Riker broke off the communication and Thompson and Geordi did not respond. They were probably racing for the computer core section.

Riker watched Data who seemed about finished and smiled to himself. It looked as though the odds were increasing in their favor.

After several minutes more, Data stood up, a satisfied expression showing on his features through his suit faceplate. “Commander, I believe we now have disruptor control, as well as limited maneuverability. I have also cleared up the sensor signal.”

Riker glanced at the battle on the screen. The images were much clearer. It appeared as thought the Enterprise was in desperate trouble. He could tell by the way it flew, and the shields appeared almost gone. When the Romulan’s disruptor blasts hammered into her he could see the outer hull taking damage. “Thompson, Geordi, Do you have the codes yet? We are just about out of time. We have to act now.”

After a slight pause Geordi answered, “I think so. I’m sending what we believe are the codes to your panel now.”

Riker looked at Data who nodded his head in acknowledgment that the codes had been transmitted to his panel. “Data, lock onto the Romulan Warbird and see if what Thompson and Geordi just gave us will drop their shields.”

Data touched his newly repaired panel controls, and with practiced ease displayed an amused and satisfied grim. “It worked, sir. Their shields have dropped.”

Riker had a glint in his eye that he seldom got. So this was what it felt like to be in control as captain. ‘Nothing like it,’ Picard had told him. He stifled a grin of his own, then commanded Data, “Pursue and Fire!”

* * *

Krintac watched with pleasure as their remaining disruptor continued to hammer into and sometimes through the Enterprise’s weakened shields. It would not be long before they were neutralized. Her destruction or capture would be his greatest achievement. This would rival any accomplishment in recent Romulan history. The hull of Enterprise, or what would be left, would hang in the center square of Romulus Square, and he would be hailed as the hero that put it there. Maybe a his statue would stand alongside it for all future generations of Rumulans to see and admire.

“The Enterprise is returning fire,” a Romulan at tactical barely spoke the words when the Actos was shaken by grazed by phaser fire. They were taking little or no damage from the Enterprise. Why did they bother at all. The battle was nearing its conclusion.

“High Preator,” Tralc suddenly bellowed, “the Krestfir has appeared from behind an asteroid and it has power.” Tralc frantically punched at his panel, alarm showing on his face. “Our shields just went down.”

“What!” Krintac rose from his command chair, “Raise them again.”

“I’m trying. The Krestfir is firing on us!” Seconds later the Actos shuddered under a direct, though weakened, series of short disruptor blasts from the Krestfir. With no shields the Actos took damage with each hit.

Two panels on the Actos’s command console erupted in sparks and blue flames sending the Romulans manning those stations to the floor of the bridge awash in green blood. “High, Preator. Our warp engines have been damaged. If we continue this battle we will push them into a critical failure.” Tralc looked over at Krintac, waiting for orders to retreat.

Krintac quickly read their situation. Picard’s talk earlier had been stalling tactic for time. He had sent a repair crew over to the Krestfir after all. Very crafty. Very crafty indeed. He should have checked the Krestfir first and left the Enterprise, but the Krestfir was dead in space. How could it have been made ready for anything considering the shape it had been in. But he crew of the Enterprise had managed somehow. Krintac knew what he must do. He had been defeated. Tralc interrupted his thoughts. “High, Preator. I have recalibrated the shields and they are now back on line but we must retreat.”

Krintac wheeled about in his chair and stood, giving his order quickly now that he had decided what they must do. “We can not let the Federation have one of our Warbirds. They may have learned too much already.” Krintac strode angrily about his chair. All his plans were undone. “Target the Krestfir and fire plasma torpedoes.”

“But, High Preator,” Tralc pleaded. “The Federation trick. If we lose the other launcher, the damage may destroy...”

“You have your order, sub-commander.” Krintac gripped the back of his chair as though he were going to tear it from the floor. This had turned into a disaster. He had performed no better than the imbecile before him had and that made him even more furious.

With hesitant motions, Tralc enabled and then fired the plasma torpedo. As he depressed the orange button he half expected another premature detonation and fireball, but the plasma torpedo fired from the launcher without mishap and dove towards the crippled Krestfir.

Krintac watched the Krestfir as the twinkling green light from the torpedo closed the distance, then in a blinding flash took conciliation in its utter destruction. The federation would not have access to Romulan technology. As for Picard, he would even the score eventually, but not today.

He walked more calmly back around his chair, then sat back down resignedly. “Cloak and get us out of here.” Krintac sounded defeated, and Tralc, without verbally confirming Krintac’s orders, engaged the cloaking device and headed the Actos with best possible speed out of the neutral zone and towards Romulan space.

***

Riker watched his disruptor fire punch into the Actos. The Actos spewed more debris into space and broke off its attack on the Enterprise. He had a feeling he knew what was coming next and activated his communicator. “We got the Actos’s attention, now it’s definitely time to leave. Everyone, emergency shuttle transport, now.” Riker’s voice rose in pitch as he saw the Actos swing around and face directly at them. With little hull and no shields, the Actos would make short work of this hulk.

He activated the emergency transporter control and expected to be instantly beamed over to the shuttle. Nothing happened. Before Riker could say a word or try the transporter again, Data bolted from the bridge and was gone. Riker tried the transport again. Again nothing happened. He looked at the front viewer and could see their problem. They had been pulled close to a large asteroid and the interference must be too strong for the transporter to work even though the shuttle was such a short distance away.

He got several reports over his communicator at the same time. All to the effect that the shuttle transporter was not working. He ordered, “everyone, make for the shuttle on foot as fast as you can.” Riker was just about to break into a run when he saw the Actos launch a plasma torpedo. It headed straight for them. They would never make it.

Two seconds before impact the Federation crew members on the Krestfir were transported to safety. But it wasn't the transporter effect of the shuttle, or the Enterprise. It was more of a jump, Their surroundings just changing about them with no discernible break. It felt like stepping through a door without moving.

The first thing Riker saw was Data seated in some sort of a chair amid an obviously alien environment. "Where the..."

"No time to explain, sir," Data cut him off abruptly before he could finish. Beverley, Geordi and Thompson were present in this small alien vessel also. Beverley was seated in a chair beside Data while Thompson and Geordi were on the floor desperately looking for something solid to hang on to. Riker quickly did the same.

Data manipulated controls very quickly and the cube vessel was surrounded by a blue nimbus; its shields. They were already a fair distance away from the Krestfir when it exploded, but the blast reached them far more quickly than the alien ship’s thrusters could propel it. The had no choice but to weather the plasma explosion that annihilated the crippled Romulan Warbird. When the shockwaves struck everybody was thrown about violently.

When the vibrations and tossing stopped they saw that Data was having difficulty regaining control. Geordi, Thompson and Riker were hurt but not badly. At least they were alive. The shields of this ship had held. Data and Beverley had faired better having been seated during the impact and Beverley unbuckled herself to tend to the three on the floor.

Data finished what he was doing, then turned and spoke. “Most of the ship is inoperable, however, sensors and thrusters still function. The Actos has cloaked and is presumably leaving the area. Our combined attacks have succeeded in driving them away.” There were no comments and as the doctor administered aid the small alien cube angled toward the Enterprise, and home.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

toggling a faulty switch


No, I’m not talking about flipping to decaf or a new career, but the switch to this new and improved (cough) version of Blogger.

I did.

And, what’s the deal. I was used to the old Blogger and this new one is supposed to be "so much" better.

It isn’t in my estimation.

For one reason. This new version thinks it is smarter than me.

If it is so much smarter, then how come you can't use the new "easy" template alteration feature unless you first lose all of your current modifications?

I am reminded of Microsoft Word. Bad, bad, abominable (insert sting of profanity infinitely long) program and the main reason I use Wordperfect for all my writing.

You see, If I want a bullet, or and indent, or bold type, or any other goddamn alteration to my writing –

- I’ll do it myself thank you!

I don't need some pre-programmed piece of crap to override my stuff.

You can call it a Pet Peeve if you like.

I call it A.I. - Artificial Idiocy.

I mean if The Terminator had had this software loaded he would have coughed out “I’l l b e - b.. ... . ... . " dropped into fetal position while its genius A.I. software inserted and removed spaces from its lines of code until its processor burned out.

Sarah Conner would have kept slinging burgers and getting her ass pinched.

End script.

So why does this new version of Blogger cheese me off like Word? Well, it scews with my pasted posts because it is smarter than me.

I can't abide "things-that-are-not-alive" being smarter than me. This includes software, roadkill, electronic devices and almost anything you can find in your local landfill site.

But back to my rant.

When I insert a post, and it doesn’t matter if it’s from Word, Notepad, Wordpad, Wordperfect, (choose anything that converts keystrokes to letters electronically) it randomly adds or takes away what it wants.

The old version didn't. So, it got smarter see. It knows what I want even when I don't want it.

Like screwing around with my spaces. I mean how hard is it for a simple program to convert spaces or not on a simple paste in from a word processor?

Again, If I wanted extra spaces inserted between my paragraphs or those spaces I use taken away – I would do it myself!

Which is what I end up doing anyhow after I paste in my post to fix up the mess.

Sheesh already.

Um, end rant.

I mean what can I really do except change to Typepad or something.

I’m far too lazy for that now. So, in the end - or is that front - Google has me by the goolies.

But I still use Yahoo for mail . . .

*sticks out tongue*

Monday, November 27, 2006

all quiet on the south eastern front

Well, my three week joy ride has come to an end and it’s back to life as I knew it once again.

The little one’s cast comes off this Thursday, so she will be back in full swing (but not on the monkey bars) by the end of this week.

On the writing game - er, not much going on at all actually. Just editing my novel chapters so the whole darn thing will be hanging out to dry by the end of this year on this site.

Then I’ll be on to my next huge project. Planning in December, then writing first draft in January, then editing and displaying the results in February.

I’m thinking like a ten or twelve part mini-series type thingy, but since I haven’t done the planning thing in December yet I can’t say for sure just what will come of it.

And because time is so pressing, until three weeks from now when I hit the Holiday mode full on, I’m keeping this short.

Until next Monday when I will type in monosyllabic grunts, and drool.

Friday, November 24, 2006

will I die?


If you have, or ever had, young kids of your own you are bound to hear this question at least once. I thought I was prepared for it.

Piece of cake.

Yeah.

I was queried by my daughter shortly after she broke her arm last month.

We sat in the Hospital's Emergency waiting room. I was trying to make light of the situation, but I could tell my little girl was not feeling too well and every time I looked over at her holding her arm still, so as not to move it and cause more pain, I got a lump in my throat.

I really hate it when my daughter gets injured.

Then, with those innocent doe eyes, she looks at me and asks “that” question.

Um, (my mind hesitates) um, well, um . . .

I was experiencing brain stutter. I want to be honest with my daughter. I didn’t want to fill her full of misleading daddy-knows-all nonsense.

Um, er, um.

This would require me to put the verbal answer on hold for a few moments and really give it a whirl.

Short answer. Yes, of course you will die. But you can’t just come out and tell an injured child something like that with a clear conscience.

And did I really know anyhow?

I mean forty or fifty years from now science may have cracked that genetic thing wide open, found all the responsible culprits for cell death and “voila” . . .

. . . “please enter the gene-resequencing, stem-cell replication rejuvenation booth. And please, switch off all cellular and electronic devices, including your passive brain implants. This should only take a few moments. Try to relax, for today is the first day of your eternal life.”

But, how could I explain this to a seven year old? And still, even if she got genetically cooked up to live forever, what about accidents? She may, even after all that, still die.

Then it hit me.

The real answer.

The answer that comes from complete honesty.

The answer is, “I don’t know.”

But that leads to worse brain stutter.

-Picture it-

“Dad, will I die?”

“I don’t know,” I answer honestly.

Oh, good one Dad. She is going to sit here now, until the doctor comes to get us, wondering if this is the end. No more Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy or Friday night Captain Kirk adventures from ages old VHS tapes. She is starting to hyperventilate and her eyes are misting up. Oh crap!

-End Picture-

So, in clever daddy fashion, I answer a question close to, but not exactly, what she is asking.

“Um, I don’t think you are going to die from having a broken arm.”

There, it’s done.

What a cop out though.

Just like a politician answering any question by giving the answer to another one.

Sometimes I wonder if I give her questions too much thought. She most likely just thinks I’m slow on the uptake, but she loves me just the same and I her.

Now to start mentally preparing for questions regarding boys and their anatomy . . .

Er, go ask your mother . . .

Thursday, November 23, 2006

from their mind to my mind


Here is a list of five entities that never existed but had a great power on shaping my twisted mind.

Blame Joe and Kim for getting me to make this list at all.

So, just what creations of other’s minds wormed their way into mine?

1) Rogue: X-Man, Southern Belle and all around best kick-your-ass female creation (Sorry Buffy and X-452) to ever grace the pages of a comic or a 5:00 AM Television Network slot. I just can’t help get excited when I see Rogue pound a Sentinel into scrap metal, or wise crack some villain. Which means I was most taken by the 90's Cartoon on TV. I used to watch it every morning between 5:00 AM and 5:30 AM before going off to my hell job which started at 6:30 AM. Her pounding of baddies was cathartic (emotinally, not like strong coffee) and just plain fun to watch.

2) Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: Stubborn, crotchety, and missing a couple digits but packing white gold. Perhaps the character which most influenced my mind. I even wear a white gold ring on my right hand, but no I stopped short of chopping off two fingers. I'm Twisted, but not That Twisted. Anyhow, his attitude threatened and entire world, and his leprosy screwed his mind over so much that when he was in the world and his leprosy went away he “knew’ it was all not real. He was such and asshole, but the perfectly created anti-hero, and one I’ve never seen better done in any other work of fiction. Now the office where I work, that’s another story . . .

3) Nyarlathotep: The Crawling Chaos. Is an Outer God, but can be mistaken for a human being. What a wonderfully creepy creation. I just love reading about him and you can tell I’m influenced by him because, well, my internet name is Nyarl. And I've been mistaken for human once or twice myself . . . Nuff said, nightmares to follow now just for talking about him without the proper sacrifice.

4) Pierson's Puppeteer: Two heads, wimps and great herbivore intellectuals. What a fantastic creation. I recall being absolutely blown away when I found out they actually moved, yes moved, their home world. I mean, how damn cool is that? An integral, if sometimes annoying part, of Known Space. These guys are just too cool. I mean, two heads AND highly intelligent. Just think about that for a moment, and you will see how alien this is to us . . .

5) Willow Rosenberg: Well this one is kind of convoluted and strange. Yup, a great character that just kept getting better as the years went on in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But, on a personal mind altering way, I befriended the actor’s dad and we have become good friends. So, not only has the fictional character of Willow brought me great joy on the screen, the actress herself has brought me a great friend off the screen . . .

And if my list of these five entities makes any kind of warped connected sense to you, then you have just taken one step closer to deciphering The Twisted Mind which beats in my skull like a mashed metaphorical garlic potato with a side of cabbage leaf on the back of my neck . . .

I know - probably lost you again . . .

But, you get +100 geek points if you know where the “cabbage leaf on the back of the neck” reference comes from.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My ST:TNG Novel Drone - Chapter Ten



Drone: Chapter Ten
by Paul Darcy

Humans, waking from a prolonged sleep, tend to react rather slowly. In Data's case the process of waking up is not relevant. It is completely instantaneous, like the flicking of a switch. The last thing Data remembered was automatically shutting down to safeguard his positronic circuits and now he could see that he was inside of a small domed structure.

Data raised his head. Through a single window in the top of the dome he could see a star field. The walls of his enclosure were a uniform grey. The room held two beds, one of which he was on while Geordi was on the other just now coming to.

Data stopped his inspection of the surroundings. "Geordi, are you all right?" he asked, concerned about Geordi’s well being.

Geordi appeared uninjured but Data couldn’t be sure not being able to see beneath the space suits they both wore. Their suits, Data noticed, were now clean and undamaged. He also noted that their suit helmets, polished, had been placed beside their respective beds. Intriguing.

Geordi sat up rubbing his neck and replied, "Ya, Data, I think I'm Okay. How about you?"

Data caulked his head slightly. "Curious.” He realized something else. “My diagnostic programs detect no errors. I am functioning within normal operating parameters." Data suddenly raised his right arm and studied it. "I appear to have been completely restored. Did you have anything to do with my repairs, Geordi?"

"I'm afraid not, Data. Whoever, or whatever built the alien vessel must be responsible.” He studied Data with his visor. "You are right Data. You look just to me.” Geordi looked around at the inside of the small dome. “Any idea where we are? This sure doesn’t look like the inside of the ship anymore."

Data turned his attention to the window again. "We are apparently being held in a chamber located in a sector of space I do not recognize,” Data said, “however, I find the fields somewhat familiar." Data looked puzzled, a practiced expression, and tried to correlate the star field through the window with those he had in his memory banks, but was interrupted.

A monotone voice emanated from the walls. Geordi and Data could not locate its source. "Do not be alarmed,” it droned. “We did not realize that sentients were present in the asteroid field at that time. We are taking steps to make sure it will not happen again. Your interception was an error.” The voice broke off mechanically. Possibly recorded.

"Can you tell us who you are?" Geordi posed the question, eager for answers, unable from the tone of the voice to be sure he would be answered at all. He didn’t like what the phrase ‘taking steps.’ It sounded final.

But the voice spoke again in response to his question. Geordi wasn’t sure whether he was relieved or more concerned. "We are the Galifceis. Our race is very old. I regret that I can tell you no more. You will be removed. It is almost time." The voice stopped abruptly.

“Wait. Can you tell us why you were in the asteroid field?” Geordi tired to keep a conversation going. He was almost sure of the answer anyway, but wanted confirmation.

But it was no use. The voice did not speak again. Data and Geordi found themselves alone in the small dome, unable to do anything but wait.

They got off their beds and stood up. Data retrieved his helmet and moved over to the closest section of dome wall, examining it. Geordi stood, turned slowly and tried to detect a door with his visor. None was immediately apparent.

“I wonder how long we will have to wait?” Geordi asked. “That voice sounded menacing, but genuine. I can’t believe they’re hostile.” Geordi talked, more to make conversation than for any other reason.

Data responded, “I do not think the wait will be long. And I also believe that they are not hostile.” Data held out his arm toward Geordi and twisted it about. “They have repaired me completely and our suits as well. They also admitted to making a mistake in taking us back with their ship, and, we can assume they mean by ‘removed’ that we will be returned to the asteroid field and the Enterprise.”

“I hope you’re right Data,” Geordi said. “I wouldn’t mind getting back to the Enterprise. There’s one thing we have found out with certainty though.”

“Exactly,” Data finished for Geordi. “It is not the Borg.”

“Right,” Geordi agreed. “I think the Borg must have captured one of their automated ships and assimilated the technology. And since this race’s technology is so advanced when the Borg assimilated it they probably assimilated nearly all of it and that’s why the Borg vessels match the mining drone in so many ways.” Geordi remembered the many degrees of freedom plasma canon and incredible shield strength of the mining drone. No wonder the Federation fleet hadn’t stood a chance at Wolf 359. It would be a long time before the Federation’s technology advanced far enough to adequately defend themselves from the Borg.

Something bumped into the small dome and Data and Geordi stopped their searching to listen. They could see only the stars outside of the single window. This time a different voice addressed them. It was automated. “It is time. Proceed into the ship.”

Data and Geordi couldn’t figure out what the automated recording was trying to tell them. Proceed where? Was the dome they were in a ship? There were no seats unless the beds counted.

After a moment of confusion a section of the dome’s curved wall dematerialized revealing a tunnel. The ship must be through the tunnel. Data and Geordi approached the opening and looked down its length. At the other end they could see what appeared to be the cockpit of a ship, alien in structure, but recognizable for what it was.

Suddenly Data’s head snapped to the side and a strange expression formed on his face. “What is it, Data? What just happened?” Geordi asked. He cast about for the source of Data’s strange reaction but could find no cause. Geordi became concerned that maybe some damage had occurred to Data that his diagnostics hadn’t caught.

Then Data became animated and direct. “We must proceed quickly, Geordi. We do not have much time to enter the vortex.” Data walked briskly into the tunnel.

“Wait, Data” Geordi said, “what are you talking about? What vortex? How do you know this?”

Geordi didn’t like this sudden change in Data, but followed him into the tunnel none the less.

Data paused long enough to look back at Geordi and answer. He had a somewhat puzzled look on his face. “I just, know. I will explain when there is time.” And Data continued to the cockpit and quickly sat into one of the four seats there. Geordi took what Data had said suspiciously following him into the cockpit. He sat down in one of the seats as well.

Data was busy touching some of the alien controls and Geordi nervously looked around. The vessel appeared to be a much smaller version of cube like ship with technology obviously the same as the larger alien vessel they had been brought here in.

Data twisted a rod then looked behind him and Geordi turned to see what he was looking at and saw that the tunnel rematerialized into a solid wall. Data turned back to the controls and the ship accelerated much like an Enterprise shuttle on full impulse.

Now that the ship was moving Geordi looked out of the front screen at the star field around them. Data banked the ship and Geordi’s mouth dropped open at the sight. “Data, is that the vortex?” Geordi stared with his visor at the wonder before him. What appeared to be four large moons orbited very swiftly about a collapsing star.

“That is the vortex,” Data confirmed manipulating the controls before him. “It is, fascinating,” he added also as though he had some forewarning of what to expect but was awed by the reality.

Geordi numbly agreed and studied the moons more closely. After some examination he could tell that they were not natural moons at all, but artificial constructs, gargantuan in size. More startling was the fact that the star in the center of the four moons was on the verge of collapsing and was rapidly shrinking. A moment later the star disappeared from view, then it exploded. A supernova!

The four artificial moons glowed when the first bursts of radiation from the supernova reached them and the space in between the moons changed. The stars in the center of the formation began to stretch and bend as the fabric of space distorted. “Data!” Geordi exclaimed as he now saw the shockwave from the supernova heading for the moons and them. Would they make it to the moons before the shockwave? It looked awfully close to Geordi. Involuntarily, he clung to his seat.

Data and Geordi in the shuttle and the shockwave raced from opposite ends toward the moons. They reached the moons a fraction of a second before the shockwave and Geordi was sure he could see the moons start to tear apart as they entered the center of the distortion. As quickly as they had entered the distorted space they exited again and were back in an asteroid field. Could it be the Altronin?

“Data? Are we where I think we are?” Geordi couldn’t believe they were back where they had started. How could they be? The area of space they just left was nowhere near any asteroids at all. How far had they jumped?

Data moved some more of the alien ship controls. “We are indeed back in the Altronin asteroid field. Precisely where we left from, except we are back ten minutes after the time we left.”

“Are you saying we were gone only ten minutes, Data. That can’t be. We were in the dome and conscious for at least half an hour, weren’t we?” Geordi though that maybe Data hadn’t read the alien ship’s sensors correctly.

“We were in the dome exactly twenty seven point eight three minutes, Data said. “And we are now eleven minutes past the time we left the asteroid field. We have obviously been traveling through time as well as space.” This statement from Data shed a whole new light on where they had gone. Time travel?

“Geordi, I am picking up the Enterprise on this ship’s sensors. I am also detecting a Romulan Warbird.” Geordi felt a little helpless watching Data manipulate the controls while he sat and watched. How had he learned how to read sensors and fly this thing so quickly?

“This ship’s sensors are powerful enough to penetrate the radiation disturbances?” Geordi said.

“You do mean the destroyed Warbird, don’t you?” Geordi was impressed. He had done everything he could to cut through the distortions before. This ship’s sensors were very much advanced over the Enterprises if Data said he could detect the Enterprise this far into the field. And the Borg had this technology? Geordi wondered when the Borg would enter Federation space again, and a cold feeling settled in to the pit of his stomach.

“I am afraid the Romulan Warbird I am detecting is not the derelict,” Data said. “It is intact and appears to have hostile intentions. Its shields are raised and its disruptors are powered up. I am also now picking up the destroyed Warbird, and,” Data manipulated another set of controls, “the rescue shuttle.”

“Where is it, Data?” Geordi realized that Riker and the away team couldn’t reach the Enterprise with a Warbird hovering close by. Had they been detected or were they hiding?

“They are alongside the derelict. I believe would should rendevous with Riker.” Data managed to fly the ship with ease through the field.

“Any weapons capabilities on this ship?” Geordi wondered if perhaps they could cause a distraction while Riker flew the shuttle onto the Enterprise. If this ship was as maneuverable as it felt they could probably outrun the Warbird and hide from it. They had superior sensors also.

Data caulked his head slightly and replied. “I am afraid this is only a shuttle. It has no weapons at all. However, it does have powerful shields.”

“Powerful enough to withstand a full disruptor discharge?” Geordi thought a lot about this alien technology, but he had a deep respect for Romulan disruptors.

“I do not know for sure,” Data said. “The only way to tell would be experiment.” Data flew the mobile craft like a bee in a field of flowers, skimming past one asteroid and then another.

“Let’s hope we don’t need to conduct that experiment,” Geordi said.

“Agreed. We should reach the derelict in three minutes. I am flying a path which will come in from the greatest distance from the Warbird engaged with the Enterprise. Al though we can assume their sensors would perform no better than the Enterprise’s we should not take chances.” Data made some flight corrections and they headed toward Riker and the destroyed Warbird.

* * *

Apur flew quickly through the force field holding the atmosphere inside of the shuttle bay and found himself in an environment new to him. He tried repeatedly to maneuver but found he could do nothing but watch the asteroids spin about him. He was completely out of control. He replayed his last sensor readings and found that he had not been detected by any of the people in the shuttle bay. That was good, but he was unable to perform his primary order in this state.

He analyzed the optical readings of his environment and detected relatively close objects floating along with him. Some pieces of microfoam duranium filaments, ionized gases and heavily radiated and extremely hot irregular shapes he couldn’t scan accurately. Farther away from him he registered large irregular shaped objects, tumbling about in a random manner. There were two other objects that were unique. Much more ordered in shape than the drifting objects. One he moved away from, the other he approached.

The orderly object in his path grew larger and in a short time he drew close to it. An electrical shock spiked through his circuits as he passed through some sort of energy field but Apur sustained no damage.

A moment later Apur bumped into the metal hull of the Romulan Warbird Actos. He stuck to the hull then began to slip along its length. Apur engaged his anti-gravity field and immediately shut it off . It had made him move away from the hull. He did not want that to happen. His new algorithms hummed and in a flash of insight and logic he reversed his gravity outputs and, with a clang, stuck fast to the hull. Further logic loops led him to believe that by lessening the field he would be able to pull himself along the hull using his manipulator arms. He began to function in that way and found that he could perform his primary task again.

Apur crawled along the hull for a short distance and found an opening. It was about one meter in diameter and the edges were blackened by high heat. The edge was relatively cool now and Apur decided to crawl inside. The hull had been orderly and he had found nothing to clean there. Maybe inside he could find something to tidy.

* * *

Worf listened to the reports coming in form all decks as he returned fire on the Romulan Warbird. The hull breach was now sealed but they had sustained more damage than he would have liked. Their phasers were down to fifty percent of their capacity. His efforts at retaliation were almost ineffective. They would never be able to damage the Warbird with only half strength weapons. The Romulans had known exactly where to fire upon them with their shields down.

“Report, Mr. Worf,” Picard said watching the Warbird turning for another pass at the Enterprise.

“Not good, sir,” Worf growled. “Shields still down, our phaser strength is down to fifty percent. We will not be able to effectively damage the Romulan Warbird.”

Picard tensed the muscles in his face, his visage grew angular. “Photon Torpedoes?”

Worf shook his head. “At this range , with no shields, we would sustain more damage than the Warbird.”

“Damn it.” Picard strode toward the helm. “Ensign, Mahoney. Get us out . . .”

“Sir,” Worf cut off Picard’s order with his stentorian voice. “The Romulans are now hailing us!”

“Cease fire. Mr. Worf, put them on screen.” Picard took a quick breath. The image of a Romulan commander replaced that of the Warbird on the viewer. His look was one of amusement.

Picard spoke first and angrily. “What is the meaning of this! You are in direct violation of treaty. You have committed an unprecedented act of . . .”

Picard was chopped off once again. “Oh, come now captain! Picard isn’t it, of the Enterprise? Don’t play games with me. We are responding to a distress call from one of our . . . research vessels, and find you here and our ship destroyed. Explain that, Picard!” The Romulan looked genuinely angry though Picard suspected it was a ruse. He knew exactly what was going on here and he defiantly had the upper hand for the moment.

Picard needed to stall for time. Time they desperately needed to repair their shields and weapons. “I can explain, commander . . .”

“High Preator, Krintac.” replied the Romulan.

“Preator, Krintac. I can explain,” Picard said. “We too received a distress call from one of our geological research ships, the USS Tecton. We are here on a rescue mission. Our ship was attacked by another vessel and we have been sent to find out what has occurred. It is unfortunate that one of you ships was also attacked and destroyed but we are not the enemy here, Krintac. We could work together to find out what has happened.” Picard, unflinchingly stared Krintac down.

“What a wonderful story, captain. I almost believe you, but I am afraid your deception did not work, Picard.” Krintac spoke the captain’s name as though it left a caustic burn in his mouth.

“I have no intention of deceiving you, Krintac. What I have told you is the truth. I am willing to send you our ship records of our time here as verification.”

“Truth! You waste my time, captain.” Krintac smiled like the cat that has cornered the mouse.

Picard knew where this was leading. This, Krintac, was suffering delusions of godhood. What greater glory for him than to take the Enterprise to Romulus. “Krintac, you must listen to me.” Picard tried stalling again.

“I am through with listening, Picard. You have destroyed one of our vessels and now you will meet with the same fate. Nice to have met you, captain.” The screen went back to the image of the Warbird.

* * *

Worf piped up again. “Captain, they are about to launch plasma torpedoes. We have regained partial shielding, but it will not be enough.”

Picard responded immediately, “Helm, Ti-Epsilon maneuver. Try to get us out of range. Worf, fire phasers at will.” Worf snarled in response.

Perhaps today would be a good day to die.

Monday, November 20, 2006

deep fried iguana eyes

Have nothing to do with today’s post - but it was a title I thought of a while ago and found kind of catchy - like bubonic but not as lethal, I hope.

Well my ole writing muscles have not been getting a great workout lately, but my audio-video receptors have been making up for that fact.

You see, I’ve been reading Essential X-men Vol 2. (that's a comic book collection in black and white) which contains the “real” Dark Phoenix story. It’s the best version I think, but only by a hair.

But the close second is not the movie version - which really stank. I refer to the 90s cartoon version of the Dark Phoenix which totally rocked!

And my favourite X-men character ever, because you are just dying to know?

Rogue - hands down!

But not hands on, because you know that just leads to masses of trouble. And again, not the movie Rogue, but the 90s TV cartoon Rogue. She was just the best ever!

And a curious thing, in the actual comic book version of the Dark Phoenix story - Rogue is nowhere to be found. She didn’t join the X-men until many issues later. Sort of pisses me off a bit. Got fooled by TV cartoons again.

Scooby snacks are real, aren't they?

And can you actually have genuine fond feelings for a cartoon character, or is that considered some kind of freaky person-should-be-locked-away creepiness? I’ll consult my crazy eight ball later for clarification.

And on the DVD front (there is a front right?) I finished watching “Taken” the UFO/Alien series. I liked it. Maybe not as much as I liked X-Files, but I liked it.

And my Christmas order of Kolchak The Night Stalker came in early. Ooooooh, squeals like a little girl . . .

Okay, maybe I didn’t squeal, but I was, and am, pretty excited about it. It’s been like thirty years since I’ve seen it and upon a quick scan, it looks just as cheesy and corny and wonderful as I recall. Can’t wait to view and review the series and the two preceding movies.

And one more squeal worthy note. I finally, after all these years, ordered the complete set of Calvin and Hobbes. Because (guilty secret alert) my daughter's Scholastic school order had them for like 55% off. The best I can do is about 30% off. And, let's face it, there was no better Sunday comic strip ever in the history of this world.

Yeah, that includes Farside. Sorry, you are second. So, what am I going to do with this massive amount of audio-video-bookeo-oreo goodness? I mean, who has the time right?

Which takes me into this coming Christmas holidays. I’ve wrangling three whole weeks off this year. Been a struggle hanging onto vacation during the summer, but I did it.

So starting Dec 15th right through Jan 8th I’m workplace free. Be nice if somebody just invented a patch . . .

Well, must get back to editing chapter 10 of my novel which will appear this Wednesday like clockwork, or the skip in a badly scratched album . . .

Until next Monday, when you will get more of the same but different, unless I’m too damn lazy to post anything, then you will get squat . . .

Friday, November 17, 2006

pluggin the CBC

As a Canadian it is my duty to plug the new CBC blog "Words at Large"

Okay, why am I doing this? Well, when I saw the artistic rendition of my good friend Joe (maybe not after this post . . .) I couldnt' resist a plug.

Check it!



Yeah, his hair really is that gray - and he is younger than me . . .

Okay, enough already. Go there and check it.

Kimberly does books, and Joe does radio. Pretty good match up.

Link = Words at Large

I'll just leave it at that.

Plug over.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My ST:TNG Novel Drone - Chapter Nine



Drone: Chapter Nine
by Paul Darcy

The class one probe alighted onto the nearest asteroid. It took only a few moments for the phaser drill to protrude from its shielded compartment and begin boring a hole. The skin of the asteroid was made up of heavy elements emitting radiation left over from the nova of this sun's system. The phaser drill continued to penetrate deeper and deeper through the layers of the asteroid while the probe's computer collected the atomized material data by use of interferometry and x-ray instruments. This stream on data was then encrypted and the results signaled back to the Enterprise where it was filtered, analyzed, and relayed to Worf's con station by the main Enterprise computer.

Two thirds of the way to the core of the asteroid the drill encountered a rare substance, one which diffracted the phaser and hampered the beam's targeting system. Seconds later this thin layer of volatile material was penetrated and the phaser drill continued again unhindered. At four fifths of the distance to the asteroids core, the phaser drill encountered a much higher concentration of the same volatile substance. This time the focusing system was pushed well beyond its design limits and the phaser drill’s programing was unable to compensate. In its futile attempt to do so, the reflected phaser beam lanced backward from the volatile material, up through the drill hole where it then cut through the probe's casing to burn into the underlying circuits. The excessively high levels of radiation emanating from the inside of the asteroid finished the job of destroying now exposed circuits and the probe ceased to function.

Worf's concentration was mainly on the scans of local space, watching for any sign of the Romulans. With the Enterprise's shields inoperable, they were extremely vulnerable and he was making sure he would notice any possible threat immediately. It was not until a few minutes after the fact that he checked the probe's progress and was surprised by its abrupt and unscheduled end of transmissions. He tried to reestablish a link. When that failed he reported at once, chastising himself for not catching this problem sooner. "Captain, the probe has malfunctioned."

Worf tried an override of the probe's controls again, but still the link failed to happen. "The probe will not respond. It is completely dead."

Picard raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "Did we gather any useful information from the probe before it malfunctioned?" It was unusual for a class one probe to malfunction except under the most extreme conditions. His mind immediately searched for answers. The radiation? The asteroid itself?

Worf took a moment to review the probe's findings. "The readings are clear up until the time it stopped transmitting,” he reported. “It encountered heavy radioactive elements, consistent with our ships sensors readings, and," Worf hesitated a moment checking one particular readout more closely before continuing. "Sir, the probe's computer apparently tried to focus the phaser drill's fire but was unable to maintain control when it encountered a solid layer of crystalline dilithium. It would appear that the crystals reflected the phaser fire causing the malfunction. Most likely the probe was hit by its own phaser beam. Shall I send another probe?" Worf waited, switching his attention back to the Enterprise's scans again.

Picard mused aloud. "That is very odd. Dilithium is not a rare natural element. To produce it takes starlike pressures and a very precise crystallization process. Could it be possible that the nova explosion of this system's star and the subsequent destruction of the surrounding planets proved to be the perfect breeding ground for dilithium crystals?" Picard's question had been more rhetoric than directed at any member of the bridge crew. His brow furrowed in thought.

"Computer," Picard began, "hypothesis; Could dilithium crystals have be produced by the explosion of this system's class six white giant star upon collision with its adjacent planets?" As he talked he walked slowly across the bridge in front of his command chair, absently noticing his missing command staff.

A few moments later, the computer's pleasant female voice replied. "There is a point zero, zero, zero, zero seven percent probability that such an event could occur given the know parameters of this system."

That was an inconceivably low percentage to explain the crystals as having been formed by a natural phenomenon. Picard was eager for more information. "Computer, what concentration of dilithium would account for the radiation anomalies in the asteroid field?" Picard was most interested in the answer to this one.

"To produce radiation levels concurrent with those observed from the asteroids and surrounding space,” continued the computer voice, “a concentration of fourteen percent dilithium by mass would need to be present."

Picard suddenly saw some of the pieces falling into place. A concentration of this magnitude would be one of the richest finds in history and a treasure for any race that happened upon it. Why the Romulans were interested in this asteroid field was no longer a mystery, but how the asteroids came to possess fourteen percent dilithium certainly was.

Pacing back and forth in front of his command chair, Picard mulled over this new information. The realization that the asteroids were laden with dilithium was extraordinary. Statistically, the chances of dilithium growing in the asteroids was minute. Yet, here it was.

Picard had a decision to make now. Get back to an area to inform Starfleet of their find, of wait for Riker and the rescue shuttle to return. He addressed his helmsman to confirm his rough calculations. "Ensign, Mahoney. How long would it to take us to reach a section of clear space, transmit our findings to Starfleet, and return here?"

Ensign Mahoney took a moment to input the inquiry for the computer and get a response. "It would take us twenty seven minutes, sir."

Picard's next question was obvious. "How long before the away team is due to rendezvous with us?"

Mahoney had already requested that information and gave his immediate reply. "Just under five minutes, sir." That confirmed Picard's decision.

"Ensign, maintain this position until the away team returns,” Picard commanded. “Then, once they are safely on board head immediately to an area of open space."

"Aye, captain."

A moment later Worf snapped rigidly alert and bellowed out a warning. "Captain, Warbird decloaking! One thousand meters to starboard."

Picard's reaction was immediate. "Red alert. Raise shields. Open hailing frequencies, Mr. Worf."

Picard strode to the space between the forward ops consoles, grumbling under his breath.

"Shields still inoperable, captain,” Worf said, “and the Romulans are not responding.” Worf consulted his sensor readings. “Sir, they are scanning our ship and the surrounding space. They may detect the destroyed Warbird. If they do....”

“Understood Mr. Worf,” Picard said. “Continue your hails and let me know if they do anything else. Ensign Mahoney, any sign of the shuttle yet?”

Mahoney checked all the frequencies for a transmission and all sensor sweeps to see if the shuttle signature was apparent. Nothing. “Captain, they have not called in yet , and they do not appear to be within our sensor range. They should be within range by now.”

“I think I know what may have happened.” Picard said. “If Will has seen the Romulans before they saw him he may be hiding in the asteroids. “

Worf spoke, “Shall I try to contact them?”

“No,” Picard answered immediately. “We can’t let the Romulans know we have a shuttle outside the ship. It would give them too much of an advantage. What we will do, since our shields are not operational yet, is open shuttle bay two door. Maybe Will will see and, using us as a shield, come in from behind the Enterprise and enter that way.”

“Aye, sir.” Worf made the necessary arrangements with a security team.
Once done, Worf punched a few more keys. " Sir,” he yelled. “They are powering up Disruptors” Worf paused a moment, the bridge crew held their breath.

Worf yelled again, "they have just fired."

The disruptor blast rocked the Enterprise and those on the bridge had a hard time keeping there positions.

Picard, recovering his balance, swatted irritably at his com badge, fighting hard to keep from yelling in anger. "Mr. Barclay! now would be a good time to restore our shields!"

* * *

Sub-commander Tralc confirmed his readings before speaking. “High preator, the federation vessel is the Enterprise. I have also picked up the traces on long range scans of the destroyed Warbird Rugan. It is behind the Enterprise but we are too far away for me to get any accurate readings. All I can tell for certain is that it is destroyed. Your orders?” Tralc sat with his hand close to the disruptor controls.

“I had suspected as much,” Krintac said leaning forward.

“High preator, the Enterprise is hailing us. And they have not raised their shields.” Krintac sat quietly, intentionally ignoring the hails from the federation ship. The trusting Federation, playing right into his hands. “Tralc, target their weapons systems and fire. Once we have neutralized their weapons, open a frequency.”

Krintac smiled as Tralc carried out his orders. He smiled as the green glow from the firing disruptors washed over him from the monitor.

* * *

“Apur!” Julie-Anne called again and again. But Apur continued to move away from her and farther down the Jefferies tube. She gave up trying to call him. The panel alarms were too loud and it was evident that Apur couldn’t hear her. She would have to chase him down and get close enough to him to be heard before he did any more harm. She looked back to see Reg working furiously on the panel and wondered how much trouble she had caused. She checked the tricorder again and noticed Apur was getting even farther away. Julie-Anne dashed down the corridor in pursuit.

During her chase, Julie-Anne received some surprised looks from crew personnel but had raced by them so fast they didn’t have time to stop or question her. Apur had continued on a steady descent towards the back of the saucer section and Julie-Anne had to use the turbo lifts several times to keep pace. Eventually she came to the doorway leading into shuttle bay two. She checked her readings again. If Julie-Anne was reading the device correctly then Apur was inside the shuttlebay. She steeled herself and walked up to the doors. They parted for her and she went through.

Inside she noted several crew members at work doing various tasks. None had noticed her enter and so she checked her tricorder again to see if she could pinpoint Apur’s location. From what she could tell Apur was at the back of the shuttle bay where a lot of storage containers were located. She looked but couldn’t see him. He would be in amongst the containers hiding from the crew members. She had to get over to him.

She slung the tricorder across her shoulder and proceeded to walk as inconspicuously across the shuttle bay as she could. The sudden red alert alarms startled her and she almost stumbled. All the crew members stopped what they were doing and one spotted her. The crew member came abruptly up to her.

“You shouldn’t be here,” he said. “Please return to your quarters. This is not a red alert drill, you could be in danger here.”

Julie-Anne hesitated not knowing what she should do. She was so close to Apur. She couldn’t leave him now that she had finally found him.

The crewman took her hesitation as confusion and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Come on. You have to go now.” He gently pushed her toward the shuttle bay exit and she went that way looking over her shoulder. Julie-Anne knew she couldn’t argue and headed reluctantly and toward the door. She looked back once more and the crew member had gone off to his post. She made a decision in that instant and bolted for the storage area and Apur.

Half way across the bay another alarm sounded in conjunction with the red alert klaxons and she noticed the main shuttle bay door opening. What was going on? Maybe they were going to launch shuttles? Just then she caught a glimpse of Apur moving behind a storage container. He was heading in the direction of the opening shuttle bay doors. She could see why as two crew members walked into the storage area. Apur was moving to avoid them. She hurried her pace but could see another crew member now heading into the storage area form another direction. Apur was being pinched off. She would not be able to reach him before one of the crew found him.

She was about to yell out to Apur, when in apparent confusion, he decided his only escape from detection was to pass quickly out the open shuttle bay doors. Julie-Anne watched shocked as Apur flew through the shuttle bay doors and drifted off into the asteroid field. She stopped and stared out the bay doors. Apur was now lost from sight. Tears started forming in her eyes when the Enterprise shook violently and she lost her footing and fell. The last thing she remembered was some storage containers heading her way. Then all was dark.

* * *

Riker could feel the shock of the encounter reverberating off of the entire away team. The doctor clutched at her blue smock repeatedly and Thompson just stared. What they had just witnessed was something that couldn't be readily explained. Q may be able to give an account of what just occurred to the alien vessel, but certainly none of them could. Theories of dimensional jumps were always discussed, but there had as of yet been no real gains in the area, yet here was what Riker could explain only as a dimensional jump. The terrorists of Praxis Three used dimensional jumps, but that was at a great cost to the humans using the dangerous technology. Many of them died from it. It also took incredible amounts of energy to jump even the mass of one human. To jump the mass of the alien ship would be phenomenal. The power required would have to be that of a supernova.

A few moments of needed silence between the away team passed before Riker spoke. "I’m not sure what we just witnessed, but let’s search the area for any traces of anything.” Riker spun the shuttle to avoid an asteroid and began a delta search pattern.

Thompson had regained control of his emotions and checked his sensor readings. "Commander, I am registering a ripple effect in the local space-time continuum. It's as though the ship just passed into a different time line. I can't explain it better than that." The doctor sat mutely and Riker scratched as his beard as he flew the shuttle directly into the space the alien ship had occupied.

"Any indication that the ship will return? " Riker was not hopeful.

"It's impossible to tell, sir.” Thompson said. “I don't know enough about the phenomenon we just experienced. This area of space registers as though it just appeared. A temporal patch in the space-time." Thompson was at a loss. This puzzle reminded him of Starfleet exams. Some of the questions had no solution, but were expected to be tried just the same. Character builders they were called. Thompson felt like his character was turning into quite a structure.

Riker made a few more passes through and around the area of temporal disturbance then checked their mission time. "We can't stay here much longer,” Riker said. “The Enterprise is expecting us and we are already ten minutes overdue. We can't risk them sending another rescue team." He got no argument form either the doctor or Thompson. There was nothing else they could do for the moment except return and report what had happened.

Riker directed the shuttle back toward the Enterprise at a slower pace than he flew it there. Somehow returning was not quite as pleasant a prospect as they had first envisioned.

Riker flew over a large asteroid, they should be within visual range of the Enterprise now. He was about to call in to the Enterprise to be cleared for docking when he stopped himself and veered the shuttle back behind the asteroid they had flew around. "So, we have company after all." Riker said, almost groaning the words with displeasure. They had all seen the Enterprise nose to nose with a Romulan Warbird.

The wreck of the Warbird came to Riker’s mind and he had an idea. "Since the Enterprise is shielded, we can't get to her.” Riker said. “Why don't we go see if we can do anything with the wreck of the other Warbird. Any advantage we can have against the Romulans I'll take."

Riker began upon a flight path that would stay clear of the Romulan Warbird engaged with the Enterprise and made for the crippled one. "Once we get aboard, Thompson I want you to go into engineering and see if you can get us any power at all. Beverley, I know you are not a computer specialist but see what kind of information you can download. I'll go to what’s left of the bridge and see if any of the ship’s systems are still functional.”

After several minutes of careful maneuvering, he shuttle pulled up along side the wreck such that they were shielded from view of the other Romulan vessel.

"All right lets get to work,” Riker said. “Everybody into an environmental suit. Our transporter won’t work so we are going to have to jump over." Once they were suited up and the shuttle was decompressed, Riker touched the controls to the shuttle door and it opened onto space and the crippled Warbird. They filed over easily and were soon heading towards their respective goals.

A shockwave brushed the crippled ship shaking it. That was either a plasma or photon blast Riker though. “I think we better hurry people,” Riker ordered.

If they didn’t do something quick it may be too late.

Monday, November 13, 2006

hell week endeth


Well, a very exciting first week as Mr. Mom came to a close yesterday, and I hope I'm prepared for week two.

Yup, first day on the job and my daughter break’s her arm. Half way through the work day the principal of the school calls and tells me my daughter is in the office with a hurt arm.

I’m asked, “is you daughter one to cry easily?”

And I respond, “no, not at all.”

And I get to worrying.

So, I cut out of work early and go pick her up. I find her sitting in a chair in the office holding her arm, which looks like she can’t bend it at the elbow.

Oh joy.

Three hours later she has on a temporary cast and Mr. Mom’s first day winds down.

A trip to the fracture clinic last Thursday has her in a permanent cast for three weeks.

Kids.

They heal quickly though. Still, it’s not fun for any of us when her arm is not working like it used to.

But I will prevail.

One down, two to go.

………………………………......................

As for writing updates.

Well, as I mentioned, they are going to be pretty dull until the end of the year. Next chapter of my Star Trek novel will be up Wednesday.

Not much more to be said about that.

And I'm working through another concept for next year. At a high level it will be (initial planning out loud here) a series of short stories set in a universe of my concieving. Sort of like Niven's tales of known space, or Lucas's Star Wars universe, or the B 5 universe or the Firefly verse . . .

. . . but not like. If you follow me.

More to come in the weeks ahead and my first projected first "tale" should come out Feb 1 2007. I'm thinking this project will run about 12 tales to give the whole story and realy flesh out my universe. I will try to have one fresh tale every two months.

We shall see.

………………………………......................

I did finish watching “Taken” this weekend though. I was pretty impressed with it. I love the whole Alien Mythology Canon Stuff . . .

Are we really alone at this “time” in the universe?

It is hard to imagine that ours is the only planet that evolved creatures capable of contemplating life and even asking the question, “are we alone” at all.

Yeah, deep.

Like a plastic kid’s pool.

Sheesh.

Does it really matter anyhow? I mean really, other than to satisfy our curiosity as a species?

If you knew there were other life forms out there would it stop you from doing what you are doing? Well, maybe somewhat. It would open up new ways in which humanity could exploit one other.

I kind of like the idea that this is all an elaborate computer simulation to ready us for “reality”

When we are ready to emerge, we will be set free.

Well, back to my editing.

Until next Monday then when I may explore other deep issues like, pizza for breakfast, or whether you really need to separate the whites from the darks . . .

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My ST:TNG Novel Drone - Chapter Eight



Drone: Chapter Eight
by Paul Darcy

Geordi decided he had explored as much of the ship as was possible for him to do, now that the ship had started to move again. He sincerely hoped Riker would return in the rescue shuttle before the alien ship drifted too far from where it was now, or worse, if its storage bay was filled. Conserving energy and waiting for Riker was his only option now. He would return to Data and see if there was anything else he could do for his friend. He and Data would also need to be ready to leave immediately.

It took Geordi almost two hours to arrive at his starting point and he had anxiously thought himself lost a couple of times. Only after he had located the crystal conduit he had tampered with to amplify his communicator was he relieved, and from there found his way back to Data.

Unaffected by the ship's slight movements, Data lay still as a mannequin. Scanning Data for any more signs of deterioration, Geordi discerned that Data showed no worse a condition on the tricorder than before. And when Geordi still detected Data's unmistakable aura he was further reassured.

Sitting down, Geordi spent his waiting time reviewing his tricorder readings and drawing conclusions. He was almost positive that this was a mining ship. The evidence seemed obvious: The high power plasma laser for cutting through asteroids, and unlucky ship's hulls, the powerful shield system to repel possible asteroid collisions, the huge storage area for extracted metals.

But a few questions still bothered Geordi. Could this actually be a Borg vessel? The basic ship design appeared to be Borg, but it seemingly had no Borg on board, or at least none Geordi had detected with his tricorder. And he encountered no Borg or any life forms at all during his excursion into the ship’s interior and storage area.

Another nagging mystery was that upon first approaching the vessel their shuttle sensors had detected only limited ion drive capability. The Borg had a complete warp technology. Its signature could not be undetectable even through all of the radiation interference, which lead Geordi to the obvious and disturbing question; how could this ship have travelled so far undetected with only a limited ion drive? Maybe this was a remote Borg vessel dropped off by a mother ship and sent out to collect heavy elements for whatever purpose served them? The similarities in technology were certainly too close to be coincidence, but the discrepancies tugged at his reason.

After a period of thought an idea suddenly hit Geordi on the head. What if this wasn't a Borg ship at all. The Borg was the galaxy’s assimilator of technology. It was very possible that this ship belonged to an entirely different race altogether, one the Borg had preyed upon and possibly destroyed. That could explain quite a bit, but not all.

Geordi was nudged out of his thoughts by an awareness of the vessel beginning to move more determinedly now. It had no inertial dampers and he found himself pressed against the beam he had been sitting next to. Movement could mean Riker had returned with a shuttle, or the ship was leaving.

He tried his communicator and got static as a response. Damn, he thought to himself and waited for the inevitable watching the asteroids spin by through the gap in the outer hull of the alien ship he and Data had first entered through.

* * *

Barclay rubbed at his tired eyes and studied the results of his diagnostic tests on the shuttle’s circuits. They appeared to be intact and would function as well as a manufactured shuttle, as far as he could deduce. It had taken all available engineering staff to figure out how to link the holodeck emitters to the cargo bay transporters so that an almost fully operational, and mostly polymer, shuttle could be brought into existence in a flash. It was quite remarkable he thought.

He started drifting off when Argile's voice woke him up. "Mr. Barclay? Does everything check out?" Argile was standing on the ramp leading into the shuttle while Barclay swivelled in the main control chair in the front.

"Yes, sir. I've just checked the last circuits and everything is operational and should withstand vacuum flight." Barclay rose from the chair and walked over to Argile and handed him the tricorder which he had used to scan the circuits. Argile received it and started checking the figures himself. Barclay could here Argile call the captain as he left the shuttle bay and yawned upon reaching the corridor.

Barclay found the nearest turbo lift and entered it, calling for the crew quarter's deck. The turbo lift began to move and Barclay's eyes watched the lights blinking by as the levels were passed. They had a hypnotic effect on his tired brain. If only he could lie down for an hour or so.

The turbo lift doors swished open and he made himself walk out onto the living quarter's deck. He quickly checked the time and found that the shuttle had taken a little under four hours construct. That had to be some kind of record. The rescue operations would be under way immediately again, and Barclay hoped that Data and Geordi would meet with no further disasters and make it back Okay. Right now he had another concern. Where was he. Oh ya, the tricorder reconfigured to detect Theta radiation below the bands normally emitted by agrav units.

He found himself standing in front of Data's quarters though he hadn't remembered walking there. He really did need some sleep soon. The couple of hours he managed to get last night were not taking him very far today. He wondered at these times how Geordi had managed it. He could recall Geordi in Engineering for what seemed like days without a rest during a crisis situation. He didn't think he could take that kind of pressure and still function. With a sigh, he pressed the access code to Data's quarters and the doors swished open. The interior was dimly lit and he stepping inside.

He saw Julie-Anne and Spot curled up together on Data's sofa. They looked so peaceful. Barclay wished he could join them, but with a determination to end his work so he could get some rest, he went to Data’s workstation and sat down. The tricorder was undisturbed from when he had left it. He wasn't sure if Julie-Anne would try to configure it in his absence, but it was obvious that she hadn't.

He asked for more illumination so he could see to work and noticed Spot lift her head and flash an inquiring look his way. The cat's movements and the increased light brought Julie-Anne out of here sleep also. Spot jumped to the floor and arched her back then settled down to lick her paws. Julie-Anne, seeing Barclay through sleepy eyes, yawned then grinned.

"Hi, Mr. Barclay. Did I sleep long?" Julie-Anne certainly hoped not. She had to find Apur before he was damaged or caused any more harm.

"Well, its been about four hours since I left,” Barclay said stifling a yawn, “so you couldn't have slept more than that. Anyway, I am going to make the final adjustments and them we can begin looking for Apur." Barclay started fiddling with the insides of the tricorder, concentrating as best he could through his foggy brain. He made a few errors and had to reroute circuitry, but after ten minutes he had the job finished.

"Well, I think that should do it," Barclay announced.

Julie-Anne, who had come and watched Barclay do the finishing adjustments smiled broadly. It would not be long now and Apur would be safe back with her. Julie-Anne was worried about Apur and then realised the time. Her parents would probably be worried about her if she didn't come home for supper. She had better call.

"That's great,” said Julie Anne, “so this will now detect Apur? I have to call my parents first though then we should look for him immediately."

Barclay nodded agreement and Julie-Anne went to Data's personal terminal on a table and called up her quarters. Her father answered. "Oh hi, Julie-Anne. Are you going to be home for supper, it’s almost ready."

"Ah, well I can't Dad.” said Julie Anne. “I'm with Mr. Barclay and he is showing me how to adjust tricorders. It’s really fascinating and we are in the middle of it. I can just eat here and then be home later, Okay?" Julie-Anne smiled as sweetly and innocently as she could.

"I guess that's Okay,” her father said, “but don't be home any later than nine. See you then, love you." Her father looked a bit concerned. His daughter was growing up faster than he would have liked, but he knew you couldn't hold on forever.

"Thanks, Dad. See you and Mom then. Love you too." Julie-Anne broke the connection and turned back toward Barclay. He was standing, tricorder in hand scanning in various directions. He noticed she had finished.

"We can scan an area of almost two decks,” Barclay said. “Just what we thought, It’s not great, but it should be good enough."

"Should we start at the access hatch to the Jefferies tube, where Apur fouled up your work?" asked Julie Anne.

Barclay could think of no better starting point. "Sounds good. Let's go."

He led the way out of Data's quarters followed by Julie-Anne and Spot. Julie-Anne stopped and picked Spot up. "You have to stay here,” said Julie Anne. “Data will miss you if you aren't here when he gets back.” She gently placed Spot back on the floor and shooed her into Data's room. The door swished shut and Barclay and Julie-Anne headed for the Turbo lift.

Barclay knew the shortest route to the access hatch and they arrived there quickly. Julie-Anne held her breathe as Barclay flipped open the tricorder and began to scan. She watched his face for any signs that he had located Apur and was disappointed when his expression showed more signs of a frown than a smile. He shook his head and said, "there is a signal here but it is so faint and dissipated that it is almost unreadable. We need to take a guess as to where Apur would have gone." He looked at Julie-Anne hoping, because she had made and programmed Apur, that she would supply the best guess.

"Where do these Jefferies tubes lead?" Julie Anne asked. She needed a bit more information but probably it would do her little good. Apur could go anywhere he thought he wanted to for reasons of cleaning up as she had directed.

"Well, they provide access all the main systems of the ship,” said Barclay. “They go virtually everywhere." Barclay realised what he had said was true. Access to all the main systems of the ship. That could really be disaster if this Apur decided to reorganise the main feed ratios for the warp engines. But there were so many safeguards. He had regularly checked all the safeguard systems himself. They wouldn't fail, but Apur could still cause a rash of minor difficulties.

"Well we could start by following down this corridor along the Jefferies tube and see if the radiation increases." Barclay was trying to give Julie-Anne some hope though he wasn't too sure himself. The tunnels lead everywhere. He was wondering if he would need to go into the tunnels himself and search. He didn't know if he could stay awake long enough for that.

Barclay walked down the corridor with Julie-Anne beside him when Ensign Delong came from opposite direction. He looked quizzically at the pair and Barclay quickly said, "So you see Julie-Anne, that by reading this display here you can tell the constituent composition of the corridor walls and this readout will give you a thickness in millimetres." He stopped talking as Delong passed out of range. He hadn't really given any thought to what he would say if Riker or Picard happened to meet them in the corridors. They would be sure to ask what it was they were doing and he didn't know if he could face them down with a lie. They had to find Apur soon.

After about ten minutes Barclay noticed a spike in his readouts. "Look at this,” he said. “I think we have found where Apur has gone. This is an access tube that slopes downward to the Engineering decks and main Deflector and shield array couplings. This must be where he was headed. If my guess is correct we can come out on deck sixteen and pick up the signal again there."

They raced for the turbo lift and were soon on deck sixteen. Barclay had been correct and it wasn't long before they could easily trace Apur's path. The closer they got the more worried Barclay became. They were approaching the main shield array and that was where the radiation appeared to be the strongest. "This way, hurry,” Barclay said. “I think I have pinpointed him."

Julie-Anne and Barclay rounded a curve in the corridor to be greeted by a shower of sparks and the beginnings of a load alarm klaxon. It looked like the entire shield array was erupting in pyrotechnics. This was definitely not good. Apur, Barclay detected, was just inside the Jefferies tube opposite.

The array had stopped sparking, it was automatically shutting down as part of the safety measures. Barclay immediately assessed the damage. All of the isolinear chips had been rearranged. He could barely hear Julie-Anne calling Apur's name down the hatch. The sound of the alarms was drowning out her voice. He worked feverishly at the array waiting for the inevitable bark of Riker. He was too tired for all of this, but he had no choice.

* * *

Picard's communicator came to life. "Argile here, sir. We have done the impossible. The shuttle has been recreated in the holodeck in every detail adhering to every specification of our non metallic design. We then downloaded the entire simulation into the main engineering computer. We had to partially alter our largest cargo transporter to enable it to replicate a complex and large object, but it worked. Another Starfleet first, sir." Argile was expressly proud of himself and his engineering staff and held nothing back in showing it.

Picard was pleased as well. "Excellent work Mr. Argile. Riker will be down to you immediately." Picard turned his communicator off and signalled wordlessly to Will who responded immediately.

"Doctor Crusher, shuttle bay two on the double." Riker dashed from the bridge single mindedly.

Moments later Riker reached the shuttle bay. He marked the fact that Crusher was there ahead of him and smiled to himself. Argile was there with a technical crew doing a few last minute checks, running the shuttle through some flight simulations to confirm some specifics. He turned as Riker strode across the bay. "Commander, the shuttle is as ready as can be,” Argile said. “We haven't done all the tests we could, time as critical as it is, but as long as you don't get in a dogfight with a Romulan ship I'm sure it should hold together all right."

"It will have to do,” Riker said. “Good work, Chief. The time saved could me the chance to save two lives. Lets get moving. " He gestured for Crusher and Tomlin to enter, then followed himself. He gave a thumbs up to Argile as the hatch closed. The inside was virtually a duplicate of any of the other shuttles. He admitted to himself that the construction of the shuttle didn't rest to easily with him. Completely built by a replicator, not manufactured and tested to Starfleet specs. The concern didn't show on his face.

He waited till Argile and his crew were clear of the docking area then requested clearance. The wail of the shuttle bay door open siren sounded and Riker steered the shuttle toward the opening. In a matter of seconds they were in space, flying to the aid of their friends.

Riker took it much easier than the first flight to the silent relief of the doctor and Tomlin. He wasn't about to overload a prototype shuttle and jeopardize the entire mission. "Riker to bridge, we are clear of the Enterprise and entering the asteroid field. Estimated rendezvous with alien vessel in fourteen minutes. Riker out." Their signal quickly faded. They would be out of range in a few moments.

"Understood, Will,” Picard said. “Return as quickly as you can. And, be careful." Picard felt better now that something was being done again.

Worf broke through Picard's thoughts, "sir, the probe has alighted on the nearest asteroid and is proceeding to drill for samples. We should have some results in twenty minutes or so." Worf monitored the probe for any signs of problems and found none.

"Very good, Worf let me know the minute we have any results. I'll be in my ready room if needed. Mr. Worf, you have the bridge." Picard began to make his way across the bridge when the automatic red alert klaxon began. He stopped, rubbed his eyes, and returned to his chair.

"Mr Worf?" He said annoyed as if his few minutes of peace were not allowed him. "Have we been struck by an asteroid? Enemy fire?"

"Neither, sir. Internal malfunction of the main deflector arrays. All shields not responding." Worf checked other related systems to see if they were okay. They were. "Isolated to shields only, sir."

Picard touched his com badge, "Engineering, what is going on with the shields?"

Argile responded immediately, "We aren't sure, captain. We will know if a few moments. It looks like the main deflector array has been reconfigured and shorted out."

Another voice cut in. The sounds of static and sparks could be heard as well as his voice. "It's, Barclay, captain. It will take some time to explain. I need to reinstall the isolinear chips and recycle the array."

"What the hell. Barclay is this another one of your experiments? Report to the bridge, now." Picard had about enough of Barclay's incompetence for one mission.

"I can't leave now, captain. I'll be up as soon as I stabilize the array."

"And not a moment later. Picard out." Picard sat stonily back in his command chair. "Ensign Mahoney, can you maintain our position and avoid any asteroids?"

Mahoney checked his latest scans. "I believe I can, captain."

"Then, ensign Mahoney. Make it so."

* * *

Riker and Crusher and Tomlin near the site where the alien vessel was last recorded. "Where is it?" Will said to nobody in particular, checking the coordinates again to make sure he was at the correct location.

Tomlin checked his readings also. "This is the exact spot we were last time, sir. The vessel must have moved. I've tried communications but haven't got a response yet."

"That would mean the ship is out of range or else they are shielded behind one of the asteroids in the area,” Riker said. “Let's try flying behind a few and see if anything shows up."

Riker kicked in the shuttles drives and shot forward to the nearest asteroid and began to come about to the other side. All were tense. They knew that time was not something Geordi and Data had in abundance.

* * *

Geordi became aware of a further increase in movement. A ship this large should not have been able to manoeuvre as quickly as it did. The ion drives must be more powerful than he thought. The vessel was banking and coming about. It had been in motion for about ten minutes and appeared to be slowing.

The vessel was stopping rapidly now, and a short time later came to a complete stop. A low rumbling sensation was felt through the floor, and Geordi could see a faint increase in ionization toward the area of storage chamber. If he didn't know better, he would say the plasma laser was charging up and about to fire.

"Geordi to Riker, come in please. If you can hear me, stay clear. The ship is about to fire its plasma weapon. I repeat stay clear." Geordi didn't know if what he had said would do any good, but he hoped it had.

* * *

Riker came around the far side of yet another asteroid. Crusher was the first to see the vessel, a few seconds before Tomlin registered it on the sensors. "Will, over there," Beverley said pointing and Riker could see the bulk of the vessel looming toward them.

Fresh debris form a blasted asteroid could be seen floating about the ship, some pieces still glowing from plasma fire. The ship was just rotating when Geordi's voice came in weakly over the communications channel. "Geordi to Riker, come in."

Riker was glad to hear that voice. "We are here, Geordi. Get yourself and Data out now. We will come in a close as possible and ....."

Riker's words froze in his mouth and the rescuers stared in stunned disbelief. The alien vessel had appeared to shrink down to the size of a singularity, then winked completely out of existence.

Riker and the rescue party were alone with the drifting rocks.

Data and Geordi and the alien vessel were completely gone.