Origins, Chapter 22

 

 

 

Author: Apollo Racer
Title: Origins
Email: fltadmracer@hotmail.com
Characters: New Crew/Star Trek: TOS/Star Trek TOS: Animated Series.
Rating: PG-13
Summary: In a bizarre twist of fate, a young man from the 21st century is trapped
in a frozen coffin as he drifts along the tides of time to be awakened 200 years
later.

Chapter Twenty-Two

The USS Horizon was finishing up business at Starbase 22. Captain Erika Gibson was a little suspicious of the Commodore… he seemed to be in a pretty big hurry, and he kept looking at his chronometer as though he were late for an appointment. When everyone was aboard and the ship was ready to depart, she had them leave, but at a slower pace than they normally went.

Her suspicions paid off when their sensors detected another Starfleet vessel dropping out of warp just outside the system, on a heading for the starbase. When she saw the readouts for the ship, she asked her first officer, \”The Enterprise isn\’t too far away, is it?\”

He shrugged. \”I don\’t think so, sir. Maybe a couple of systems away.\”

She nodded, then turned to the man at Communications. \”Contact Jim Kirk. I think we may need his help on this.\”

~ * ~

\”Captain, we\’re receiving a message from the USS Horizon.\”

Apollo looked up from a report he was signing. \”The Horizon?\”

Thelem nodded. \”They found the Firestone. At first, they were about to engage the Horizon when the Enterprise entered the system. Seems Captain Kirk\’s reputation is too much for even Stevens… they turned and fled the system.\”

\”Heading?\”

The Andorian received information from his link with the other starship. \”157 mark 83… in other words, right for us.\”

\”I doubt they realize that.\”

\”New information, Captain,\” M\’Ress reported. \”The Enterprise and the Horizon have engaged them. Bozeman had arrived cutting off the Firestone, and the Hornet is about five minutes away.\”

Apollo shifted eagerly in his chair. \”Set course for their coordinates, maximum warp. Contact the Enterprise, tell them we\’re about to join the party.\” As he saw the familiar distortion of stars that heralded warp speed, he punched the comm button on his chair. \”Bridge to Engineering. Mr. McCormick, I hate to bother you about this, but I\’m going to need you to wring every drop of warp power out of those precious engines of yours.\”

\”I\’ve kept an ear on what\’s been happening. To catch that madman, Cap\’n, I\’ll give you warp nine, and a bit more.\”

\”The effort is appreciated, Mac. Bridge out.\” He sat back and steepled his fingers. \”Mr. Arex, time before we reach the scene.\”

\”Fifteen minutes, Captain,\” Arex replied in his clipped tone.

Apollo slowly nodded. He reached deep to utilize every Vulcan meditation technique he had ever learned to prepare himself for the upcoming confrontation.

It seemed to come sooner than he expected. \”Captain,\” Sam called out, \”long range sensors are reporting several starships ahead. Four of them engaging a fifth. Sir, it\’s got to be them.\”

\”Unless the Klingons are staging this to throw us off.\” He looked to see if anyone took him seriously. They didn\’t. \”Hail our friends. Drop out of warp. Go to Red Alert.\” The lights changed, but due to a prior order from Apollo, the klaxon remained silent.

\”I have Captain Kirk, sir,\” M\’Ress said.

\”Put me through.\” He paused. \”Greetings, everyone. Is this a private party or can anyone join in?\”

Four faces came up on the screen. Their bridges, like Apollo\’s, were suffused in red light. One of the faces belonged to Kirk. \”Captain Racer, good of you to come,\” he said.

\”Has any fire been exchanged, Jim?\”

\”No, you haven\’t missed anything yet, though I daresay it probably won\’t remain this way for long. Right now, we\’re just showing off our shields to each other.\”

Apollo was about to say something else when a voice broke over the speakers. \”Federation ships, this is the Firestone, Captain Stevens commanding. We are on a mission of urgency. I demand to know why you are interfering.\”

\”This is Admiral James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise. And you\’re no captain, Stevens. Surrender your ship.\”

Stevens laughed. \”Admiral, your wit is legendary. Do you truly think I would simply give up what is rightfully mine simply on your say? I cannot help but be amused.\”

Apollo snorted. \”I think it\’s safe to say that you\’re the only one.\”

Stevens stopped posturing, the smile wiped off his face. \”Who said that? The voice is familiar, but the man it belongs to is dead.\”

Apollo stood. \”Put me on visual with him,\” he said to M\’Ress. Stevens\’ image came up on screen. As they were all patched in to each other, his face showed on their screens as well. \”This is Captain Racer of the Valiant. Once again, I\’m afraid reports of my death have been… greatly exaggerated. You seem to have a big problem with that, Captain.\”

Stevens became horrified. His eyes bugged out at the aspect of confronting a ghost. \”How! No one ever…\” Suddenly, Stevens\’ face became composed. His eyes seemed lazily narrowed, belying the danger in them. \”No matter how often I kill you, Racer, you always seem to be a thorn in my side. May this death I dish out to you be the final one.\” His image disappeared.

\”So much for your element of surprise,\” Sam said sarcastically.

\”Oops,\” Apollo said. \”Ladies and gentlemen, I highly suggest we get ready for battle. Valiant out.\” The screen once again showed the placid scene which would soon become highly energetic with activity.

Sam looked worried. \”Firestone is powering up her weapons. And one other thing… while you were talking, I took the liberty of scanning the ship for the damage it received at Starbase 47, as well as any they might have received from their run-in with the Romulans. There\’s no trace, which means they\’ve repaired it.\”

Thelem\’s antennae twitched. \”They certainly made good use of the materials they took from Cordova. I guess we\’ll get to find out how those Romulan ships felt.\” He made his way to the port side of the Bridge and took his place at the weapons console.

Apollo nodded. \”Hopefully we\’ll fare better.\” He watched as Horizon\’s shields flared brightly under Firestone\’s first volley. \”Here we go, people. Engage the enemy. Arex, evasives as you see fit. Thelem, fire at will.\”

Valiant swooped around a phaser blast meant for them. The Hornet was caught by a torpedo volley. She staggered but held her ground, firing back. Enterprise and Horizon flanked the battle cruiser, throwing everything they had into their attack. The Firestone\’s shields flared brightly but showed no signs of failing. They fired all forward torpedoes at the Bozeman. The warp-powered weapons proved too much for their shields. They flared briefly, collapsed, and the energy backlash acted like an uppercut to the jaw. The Bozeman\’s power went out and it spun helplessly through space.

On the Valiant\’s bridge, a flash appeared on the right side of the screen. \”What was that? Arex…\”

\”On it, sir.\” The view switched to show the Horizon. A torpedo had gotten through her shields, and an ugly glowing scar across the upper surface of the primary hull marked its path. \”Grazing hit scored, Captain. Surface damage only.\”

Apollo rose and made his way over to Thelem\’s station. \”Show me a tactical.\” The Andorian complied, and the screen above him displayed a diagram of the ships\’ locations. \”The Hornet looked to be damaged the most. Move to protect…\”

Suddenly, the bridge was slammed sideways as the Firestone hit them with a barrage. Apollo was barely able to grab a railing to keep from falling. Thelem got up off the floor and supported himself by the console as he read a damage report. \”Shields held, but they\’re down to 65 percent.\”

\”Let\’s try not to get hit again, shall we people?\” Apollo said, heading back to his chair.

The two sides exchanged blow for blow for what seemed like hours. Due to the Firestone\’s advanced weaponry, the factions were equal. The Valiant\’s crew were working feverishly, trying to find that balance of rushing in to strike their target without getting hit themselves. Another barrage from the battle cruiser struck them and this time, their seats fell out from underneath them. They were getting used to being bounced around, though, and recovered more quickly. As they did, Sam gasped at the screen. They looked to see the Hornet blazing across their path, dangerously close. One of her nacelles were missing, and burning plasma trailed behind them where it had been severed. There were gaping holes in her hull, and Apollo couldn\’t imagine that there was anyone on board left alive. Then Arex initiated an evasive move to avoid a collision. The move also saved them from coming nose-to-nose with a photon torpedo. Apollo punched his comm button. \”Enterprise, watch where you\’re shooting.\”

\”Sorry, Valiant,\” came Kirk\’s reply. \”They moved out of the way.\”

With the Hornet still in his mind, Apollo got an idea. \”Sam, locate the Hornet\’s nacelle.\”

She went silent for a moment. \”Got it,\” she finally said. \”What do you have in mind?\”

\”Arex, move toward the nacelle. Prepare to grab it with a tractor beam.\”

~ * ~

Aboard the Enterprise, Kirk watched as the Valiant swept gracefully toward the Hornet\’s nacelle and locked their tractor beam onto it. \”Vat is he doing?\” Chekov asked from the weapons station.

Spock raised an eyebrow. \”Interesting. Admiral, are you thinking what he is thinking?\”

Kirk was rubbing his chin. \”Yes. I believe it just might work. Let\’s not give Stevens the chance to find out what he\’s doing.\”

~ * ~

Stevens was marveled at the resilience of their enemies. He had no doubts that the Firestone would eventually emerge the victor here, but he had to admire the other captains\’ tenacity at not giving up. Two of the ships, Enterprise and Horizon, despite moderate damage to both ships, redoubled their attempts at disabling his ship. He had seen the Hornet limp away, too damaged to be of much more help to them. And the Bozeman was taken out early in the game. Valiant, with that damnable Racer in command, was swooping around, apparently out of control. He doubted their last strike damaged them badly enough to disable them, but he couldn\’t figure out what they were doing. Then the other ships and he momentarily lost sight of Racer. \”Get him back!\” he yelled. \”Find that demon!\”

Said demon popped back into view, swooping toward him. He had just enough time to realize what the Valiant just did before an explosion threw him off his feet.

When he regained his footing, he saw the damage caused and he went berserk. \”You bastards!! How dare you defy me!! I\’ll show you the folly of getting in my way!!\” he raved. \”Fire all weapons!\”

Ramsey simply stood there. \”They have the advantage! We should give in now while we\’re still alive!\” His argument was made moot as Stevens shot him with a phaser. He screeched as his body\’s molecules discorporated.

\”Take that, you mutineer! I\’ll show them myself!\” Stevens launched himself toward the tactical station and threw everything they had at the task force.

~ * ~

\”Disengage tractor beam… now. And evade.\”

They watched as the nacelle shot past the ship like a javelin and slammed into the underside of the Firestone\’s saucer section. At the same time, they and the Enterprise fired on the nacelle. The resulting explosion sent debris into Firestone\’s port nacelle. While it wasn\’t sheared off, the damage was more than enough to render it useless. The ship lumbered off in the opposite direction. \”Well?\” he asked.

Sam smiled. \”As you suspected, that top nacelle can\’t balance out a warp field without the other two. Their warp drive is out.\”

\”But they are still dangerous,\” Thelem commented. As if on cue, they were struck by a full phaser barrage. The lights flickered, dimmed, and went out. For a full minute, the only illumination came from the viewscreen. Even the viewscreen flickered, but it soon came back on. From their vantage point, they could clearly watch helplessly as torpedoes shot from Firestone\’s ventral aft launchers to slam into Enterprise and Horizon, punching through both their weakened shields. Enterprise\’s navigational array went out, and Horizon received a hole through the dorsal support that connected its two hulls.

Apollo\’s comm beeped. \”Valiant, this is Enterprise. Horizon\’s in trouble, and all but one of our transporters are out.\”

He glanced over at Sam, and she took stock of their situation. \”Half of our transporters are out as well,\” she reported.

\”Enterprise, it\’ll be slow, but I think we can get them out. Can you keep an eye on Firestone for us?\”

\”Will do. Kirk out.\”

Apollo looked at the Firestone. The behemoth drifted silently before them. Without action, the captain could clearly tell that their little stunt caused more damage than was visible on Stevens\’ ship. \”Captain,\” Sam said, \”a few of the battle cruiser\’s weapons systems fried in our last attack. We\’re currently in one of the Firestone\’s blind spots. I think their sensors covering this side of their ship may be gone, too. But I wouldn\’t guarantee how long that will last.\”

He got up and tugged his jacket down. \”Thelem, you have the bridge.\”

\”Captain, are you sure its wise to go over there?\” Thelem questioned, concern clearly in his voice. \”We\’re not really sure what that ship is still capable of doing.\”

\”Then I trust you\’ll inform me the minute something happens.\” He headed for the lift.

\”Captain,\” Sam called out before he was gone, \”be careful.\” He winked at her, and it was the last thing she saw before the doors closed on him.

~ * ~

He and Sorel materialized on Horizon\’s bridge. Kirk had the same idea. He had McCoy beamed over, and Kirk himself was just sparkling into existence as Apollo took stock of the situation. The two doctors conferred with each other, then they worked in concert to help Horizon\’s medical crew stabilize their wounded as quickly as possible. Kirk was heard to say, \”See if you can\’t split these people between the two ships.\” He turned and saw Apollo surveying the bridge. \”We still have to find out what the Hornet\’s condition is.\”

The Valiant\’s captain shook his head gravely. \”We took scans, sir. The Hornet\’s crew are dead. They simply took too much damage. Bozeman\’s not so hot either, but we received a message stating that they were out of danger. I think they were limping toward the nearest starbase. They\’re in no condition to be of any help to us.\”

Kirk sized Apollo up. \”That was a good javelin throw you guys pulled off. Very effective. A bit unorthodox, but effective.\”

Apollo nodded his thanks. \”Let\’s get these people off this ship before she blows.\”

Kirk headed for the lift, but stopped when he saw Apollo just stand there, looking at the Firestone. He then must have realized he was being watched, for he turned and entered the lift with Kirk. They headed down to deck eight, where Apollo suggested they split up. Kirk thought nothing of the suggestion and took off. Then Apollo took a different corridor.

He found the Horizon\’s captain just as she was entering the auxiliary bridge. \”Captain, we have to leave. Your ship is unstable.\”

\”The hell I will, Racer!\” Gibson spat. \”I intend to pay back that ugly, cross-eyed butt for damaging my ship. Besides, I thought the captain was supposed to stay behind.\”

Apollo followed her into the bridge. \”Those were the old days. Enough life has been lost already. What do you intend to do, anyway?\”

She snorted. \”No, enough lives haven\’t been lost. That son of a bitch killed some of my good people, and I\’m not going to let him get away with it.\” She sat down at the helm and started punching in commands. \”I\’m going to give him what he wants… I\’m going to shove this ship right down his throat.\”

Apollo was shocked. \”You can\’t be serious! First of all, I\’ve seen the damage to this ship. You\’d have to pilot her manually all the way in, never mind the fact that he could probably still swat you aside. Your efforts would only be futile.\”

\”It\’s a chance I\’ll take. You just make sure you get those other buckets out of here when this baby blows.\”

\”Besides, I had orders from Starfleet that we were to bring the Firestone back. It\’s still a prototype.\”

She shot up out of her chair. \”To Hell with Starfleet\’s orders! They\’ll just have to build a new prototype!\” She shook her head in disbelief. \”I\’m surprised that you\’re willing to allow that maniac to live! I\’ve seen the reports, heard the stories… I know what that bastard put you through. If it were me, I\’d have killed the son of a bitch.\”

He walked up to her and put a hand on her shoulder. \”You\’re right. He does need to be taken down. To sacrifice yourself to do it, though, is unnecessary, and killing him won\’t allow him to pay for his crimes.\”

\”No sense trying to talk me out of it, Apollo. Someone\’s gotta bring him down. My ship\’s not good for much more than a battering ram now, so that\’s how I intend to use it. Go to your ship, Captain.\”

He smiled disarmingly. \”I appreciate your willingness to rally to my cause…\” He then added pressure to the nerve juncture at the base of her neck, and she slumped in her seat, unconscious. \”…but I\’m afraid that\’s not your position to take. Don\’t worry, Captain… justice will be served.\” He pulled out his communicator. \”Racer to Valiant. I found the captain and she needs medical attention. Lock onto my coordinates and beam her up. Also coordinate with Admiral Kirk to transfer some injured to his ship.\”

\”Just her, sir? There\’s not too many more to take care of. You\’ll be among the last group.\”

\”There\’s a few more things that I need to take care of. Just beam the injured party over.\”

The voice sighed in resignation. \”Aye aye, sir. See you back on board.\” At that point, the Horizon\’s captain disappeared in a transporter beam.

He sat down in the recently vacated seat. \”Computer.\”

For a moment, he was afraid the computer was too damaged to acknowledge him. He breathed a sigh of relief when it answered. \”Working.\”

\”This is Captain Apollo A. Racer of the USS Valiant. In accordance with Starfleet Order 104, Section B, I am assuming command of this vessel.\” He waited for the response.

\”Acknowledged. Transferring command of the USS Horizon to Captain Apollo Racer,\” said the computer.

\”Computer, scan the ship for life signs.\”

There was a pause. \”There is only one life form on board.\”

\”Direct all power, including life support, to shields and propulsion, whatever of each is functioning.\”

The computer struggled to comply. \”Shields are now at 34 percent. Warp drive is out. Impulse drive is at 25 percent. Best possible speed is one-quarter impulse.\” The computer\’s report was grim, but it was more than Apollo had hoped for.

\”Okay, pay attention. This is what I want to do.\”

~ * ~

Thelem shot up from the command chair. \”What the hell is the Horizon up to?\” His first concern was their captain. He hit the comm button. \”Transporter room, did you pick up the captain yet?\”

\”No, sir. He said he had a few things to take care of first,\” came the reply.

Sam\’s face went pale. Thelem had one more call to make. \”M\’Ress, patch me through to Enterprise.\” He waited until she nodded. \”Enterprise, this is Commander Thelem of the Valiant. Do you have our captain?\”

There was a moment of silence, then Spock\’s voice came over the speakers. \”Negative. Is he not with you?\”

Kirk cut in on their conversation. \”This is Kirk. I\’m in Valiant\’s transporter room. I was just about to beam over to my ship when the Horizon\’s captain beamed aboard here. She\’s just coming around. She said Apollo was talking to her when he gave her a Vulcan nerve pinch.\”

Thelem spit an Andorian curse that wouldn\’t translate. \”Thank you, sir.\” He cut the connection. \”Get me the Horizon.\”

M\’Ress only shrugged. \”Sorry, Commander. Their communications were taken out in the battle. Even if they functioned, we couldn\’t reach him; his comm system is receiving no power.\”

Thelem looked to Sam. \”Neither of us can move,\” she said. \”Enterprise\’s drive systems are off-line, and we only have maneuvering thrusters. Besides, we\’re trying to coordinate medical efforts.\” She turned back to her viewer. \”Horizon moving at one-quarter impulse. Her shields are up, but they\’re not very strong.\”

\”Transporter room, beam our captain back over here, now,\” the first officer said.

\”Sorry, sir. The Horizon\’s gotten her shields back. We can\’t get through them,\” came the reply.

\”Damn.\” Thelem brought his fist down on the console. They watched helplessly as the Horizon slowly turned toward the Firestone on an inexorable course.

~ * ~

The Enterprise\’s lift doors opened, depositing Kirk onto the bridge. \”Spock, is there any way we can stop him?\” he pleaded, pounding on his chair for emphasis.

Spock solemnly shook his head as he relinquished the command chair to his commanding officer. \”Negative, Admiral. We simply don\’t have the power.\”

Kirk cursed, pounding his chair again. \”Damn it! What the devil is he up to?\” His eyes widened as the Horizon closed the gap.

~ * ~

Her eyes widened as the Horizon settled on its course. \”Oh my God,\” Sam exclaimed, \”He\’s going to ram it! Thelem, stop him!\”

\”How!? Our weapons are out.\” He hit the comm button. \”Enterprise, is there anything we can do?\”

Kirk heard the transmission. He turned toward his science officer, who took the gesture as a cue to begin scanning. Spock went through the procedures, but turned back toward Kirk with less than favorable news. \”I suggest the only thing we do at this time is to get out of range, quickly.\”

Kirk\’s fury became evident. \”I will not allow him to commit suicide!\”

Spock remained calm in the face of this storm he faced. \”Admiral, if you recall, the Horizon was unstable. Apollo understands this, and is using it to our advantage. I merely point out the only logical solution. Remaining here will only result in our destruction as well.\”

\”But Starfleet…\”

Spock cut off Kirk\’s protest. \”Apparently, Apollo believes that an incident such as this would repeat itself if the Firestone were kept intact; he no doubt feels the battle cruiser is too powerful a ship to have been explored as an option. I tend to agree.\”

Kirk stared at the floor, not comprehending, forcing himself not to believe. Spock silently came down to stand at Kirk\’s side. \”Jim,\” he said quietly, finally. \”He has made his decision. Let him go, so we can get to safety.\”

Kirk gazed deeply into his friend\’s eyes. Seeing the truth in them, he made one of the hardest choices he could ever make. \”Get us out of here.\”

\”But, Admiral…\” Sulu started to protest.

\”Now, Mr. Sulu. Move it.\” His tone indicated he wouldn\’t have any further argument. \”Inform Valiant of our decision. Tell them they should do the same. If they protest, tell them to get out of here on my order.\” He collapsed in his chair, burying his face in his hands.

In silence, the two ships crept away from the inevitable.

~ * ~

Stevens was moving from station to station, checking their status. He didn\’t like what he saw. Several systems were off-line. They couldn\’t go anywhere… he still had some weapons systems up, but without shields, he couldn\’t withstand retaliation.

He caught a blip on an intermittent sensor reading. Just before he lost it due to instrument damage, he trained the main viewscreen on it. The staticky image changed to reveal the crippled Horizon, lumbering towards him, its intentions obvious. Well, he couldn\’t have that now. Moving toward the rear of the bridge, he trained what weapons he had left to bear on the juggernaut.

~ * ~

Sam stifled a gasp as phasers lanced out from the Firestone and sheared the Horizon\’s port nacelle clean off. The blast shook the ship, stopping her forward motion and sending her slowly spinning in a circle. A few moments later, she righted herself and continued her charge. \”He\’s going to tear Apollo apart, piece by piece.\” Her look pleaded with Thelem, but he was helpless as to what was going on.

They had complied with Admiral Kirk\’s order, and were struggling to leave the area, but they kept the viewscreen trained behind them to record the Horizon\’s final moments.

~ * ~

Phaser fire erupted from Firestone again. It carved through the portside section of the primary hull, and at the same time, another lance tore through the bridge and destroyed it and the impulse drive reactors behind it. Again, the ship stopped. For a long time, the Horizon drifted lazily in death.

On the Enterprise, McCoy slowly shook his head. \”That\’s got to be it. The bridge is gone and his impulse drive is out. He can\’t possibly survive any more.\”

\”Perhaps, doctor,\” Spock said dispassionately.

As if the derelict had heard him, it slowly stopped drifting. It\’s port side faced the Firestone as its maneuvering thrusters were brought to bear. It was drifting again, but this time it was controlled, and once again, it was heading for the battle cruiser.

McCoy was virtually hanging on Kirk\’s chair. \”Good Lord… he just doesn\’t stop, does he?\”

Kirk just watched the screen. He knew of the grudge Apollo had against Stevens. \”No, Bones… he doesn\’t,\” he said with a touch of sadness.

~ * ~

Another blast shook the ship, but Apollo managed to keep the Horizon moving in the right direction. \”Computer, engage self-destruct subroutine, and initiate immediate detonation on my command, authorization Racer Alpha 215 Omega.\”

The console whirred and chirped, signaling that it was processing the orders just given to it. The length of time it took told Apollo that part of the computer core had been damaged. Finally, it spit out in a distorted voice, \”Self-destruct countdown disengaged. Awaiting order for instantaneous destruct.\”

Apollo watched as what was left of the port lateral sensors kept a static-filled image of his target in view. The Firestone kept hammering away at the ship, but at this point, Apollo wouldn\’t be surprised if his own will weren\’t somehow holding it together. As that thought formed in his mind, his spine tingled. Apollo focused on what his instincts were trying to tell him. Once he understood what he needed to do, he smiled grimly. Perhaps he wasn\’t as doomed as he thought he was.

~ * ~

Spock had started ticking off time and distance to impact. It was getting on Kirk\’s nerves. \”We are at 100,000 kilometers, 20 seconds to impact,\” the Vulcan said.

\”Please, Spock,\” Kirk pleaded.

\”If it is any consolation, Admiral, Captain Racer is no longer in an effective position to be fired upon.\”

McCoy snorted. \”Gee, thanks, I feel so much better.\”

The seconds ticked away in silence. Then, the bridge crew looked on in horror as the two ships collided.

~ * ~

The Valiant\’s crew kept no tally on speed and distance, but they were equally relieved and remorseful. The Firestone could no longer fire on Apollo, but that merely told them just how close he was to his target. Sam turned away and silently cried as the two ships collided.

~ * ~

The Horizon filled the viewscreen. Stevens stared at it slack-jawed… none of his weapons could touch it. As that realization hit, somehow he knew that Racer was aboard that ship, guiding it to his destruction. The damned thorn in his side was pushing straight into his heart. The computer warned that a collision was imminent… to Stevens, it might as well have been saying, \”Loooooser… you\’re such a loooooser…\” Apollo had once again ruined things for him. He faced the screen, trembling with rage and bellowed, \”Damn you, RacERRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!\”

The floor practically leapt out from under his feet. Stevens groaned as he lay face down on the deck. As he slowly picked himself up, he wondered why he wasn\’t dead. The Bridge was still there, everything was more or less functioning as it was before the collision. As he realized he was still alive, a rumble occurred from deep within his throat. His eye twitched as it became a chuckle… the chuckle turned into laughter, which grew into a full-out insane cackling that echoed through the corpse-laden Bridge.

Then the blast hit.

~ * ~

The Horizon slammed into the Firestone. Relatively, it wasn\’t moving very fast, but due to the damage to both ships, it was enough to embed the smaller vessel into the battlecruiser. All motion stopped, and for a few eerie moments, everything was strangely silent.

Apollo struggled to rise from the floor where the sudden stop had deposited him. Blood ran freely down the side of his face from a cut on his forehead. He looked at the viewscreen which, remarkably still working, showed him wedged up between the Firestone\’s saucer and engineering sections.

\”Computer…\” Apollo started. On the one hand, if his last minute plan worked, the galaxy would be rid of Stevens and he\’d still be around to enjoy it. If it didn\’t work… well, the galaxy would still be rid of Stevens. \”Detonate.\”

\”Acknowledged. Self-destruct initiated.\”

Apollo winced, crossed his fingers, and concentrated. There was a flash as the ship detonated.

~ * ~

The crews of both ships saw the ships collided. They winced in anticipation of an explosion that didn\’t come. Then they blinked at the view of the two ships meshed together. On the Valiant, Sam had cringed, waiting for the end. When it didn\’t seem like it\’d come, she opened her eyes and stared at her controls, a glimmer of hope rising within her. Aboard the Enterprise, Kirk looked up from his hands. \”Did something go wrong?\” he asked. \”Wasn\’t there supposed to be…\”

Then the screen flared as the Horizon detonated.

Everyone started at the explosion. Kirk\’s face jerked his hands up, McCoy\’s eyes widened to saucers, and the rest of the Enterprise\’s bridge crew had their own faces of shock.

Sam spun her tear-streaked face toward the screen in time to watch the doomed ship\’s eruption trigger a warp core breach in the Firestone. Both ships disappeared in a tremendous ball of flame that could have easily been mistaken as a star going nova. The nearby, drifting Hornet was caught up in the blast, and joined the conflagration. Then the shock wave reached the two ships, and they rocked and struggled to ride it out.

As was over as quickly as it started. The screen had blanked out when the flare-up grew too bright. When the image returned, they gazed at a nebulous cloud of debris and plasma residue where the nova was at its brightest. Sam immediately broke down and cried, not wanting to believe what was real, that the man who spent years trying to find her just went up in a spectacular explosion.

Kirk stared absently at his recently recovered screen. \”My God, Bones… what has he done?\”

McCoy wanted to say something, but no words came from his mouth.

The comm at Kirk\’s chair twittered. \”Engineering to Bridge.\” From the tone in Scotty\’s voice, he had witnessed the whole thing as well. \”If it means anythin\’ to ye right now, Admiral, ye\’ve got warp speed again.\”

Kirk stared at his chair arm for a moment, then acknowledged his engineer. \”Well done, Scotty. We\’ll stay around long enough to get the Valiant back up and running, then we\’ll leave.\”

\”Aye, sir,\” came the reply, then the connection was cut.

He was about to ask Uhura to open a line to the other ship when something on Spock\’s board attracted his attention. He studied the sensor readouts. \”Admiral. I\’m picking up a strange energy reading from the immediate area of the explosion.\”

Kirk leapt up and moved to look at Spock\’s finding. \”Awfully small. Doesn\’t even look stable.\”

Sulu offered a suggestion. \”Shall I move closer for a better look?\”

Kirk waved off the comment. \”That area would still be flooded with radiation.\”

McCoy had wandered over for a look. He was surprised with what he saw. \”Jim, I recognize those energy readings. From the barrier.\”

Spock understood. \”Indeed. And the incident on Arcadia.\”

Shock and enlightenment shone in Kirk\’s widening eyes. \”Get us back there! Best possible speed!\” he snapped at Sulu. He slammed his fist down on the comm button. \”Scotty, I need at least one transporter up and running in five minutes.\”

\”Captain, I kinna even guarantee that warp power will hold out.\”

\”Now, mister! It\’s a life or death situation!\”

He heard a sigh from the other end. \”Aye, sir. Ah\’ll see what I kin do.\” Scotty signed off.

They felt the ship as it whirled around to return to the scene of the battle; the fact that they could feel it was testimony to how much of a pounding the ship had taken. Now it was being asked to whip around and go back into an irradiated area. But Kirk knew that the lady would hold out for him.

~ * ~

Thelem was trying to comfort Sam when he noticed what was going on. \”What is the Enterprise doing?\”

\”She\’s heading back to the scene,\” Arex reported.

\”M\’Ress, open a channel.\” Thelem waited until the Caitian complied, then spoke out. \”Enterprise, this is Valiant. Sir, what is going on?\”

\”On a rescue mission. We\’ll talk later. Kirk out,\” was his only reply.

Starfleet training taking over, Sam used her station. \”Commander, it appears as though the Enterprise is checking out an unknown energy reading in the vicinity of the debris cloud.\”

\”Can we follow them?\”

\”Negative. We still won\’t have impulse power for at least another day. They\’ll be there in five minutes at their present speed.\”

Thelem shrugged in a defeated attitude and sat heavily in the command chair. \”I guess we\’ll just have to wait until they get back.\”

~ * ~

The Enterprise reached the outer perimeter of the cloud. \”Can we use the transporter?\” Kirk asked.

Spock knew better by now than to give him a negative answer. \”It may be possible, if not probable. I would highly suggest that Mr. Scott handle the controls.\”

\”Agreed. Mr. Scott,\” Kirk stated, riding on hope.

\”I\’ve got one running, but we can\’t get too many jolts.\” As if to emphasize his point, the Enterprise trembled as they rode through an aftershock.

\”Understood. As soon as you get anything resembling a lock, energize.\” Kirk spun and gestured to McCoy. Together they made their way to the turbolift. \”Apprise me of any changes, Spock.\”

In no time at all, the two of them appeared in the transporter room. Scotty looked up from his manipulations. \”Admiral, I canna guarantee anything. A solid lock is nae possible. It keeps fluctuating on me.\”

\”I trust your judgment, Scotty. Energize when you feel right about it.\”

They waited for what seemed an eternity. Then without warning, Scotty activated the controls. A column of light apeared on the platform. A figure tried to materialize, but it faded in and out. Scotty twiddled a control here and nudged a control there, and he finally managed to get enough of a boost on the signal for the form suspended in mid-air above the platform to fully solidify. Once that was done, he collapsed onto the floor, his uniform in tatters. McCoy was on the platform and next to the figure before Kirk could so much as glance in his direction.

The doctor ran his medical scanner over the body. \”It\’s Apollo, all right. He\’s alive, but I can\’t give you any good reason why.\”

\”Will he make it?\” Kirk asked.

\”Yeah, he\’ll make it. His body\’s just exhausted, that\’s all. He has some radiation poisoning, but a quick trip to Sickbay will clear that up.\”

Kirk smiled for the first time since this whole ordeal began. He walked over to the console. \”Let\’s get ourselves out of here before we wind up needing the same thing. Kirk to Bridge,\” he said, activating the comm on the console, \”Head back to the Valiant. I\’m sure they\’d like to hear the news.\” He looked up at his chief engineer. \”Well done, Scotty. A miracle truly worthy of your name.\”

\”Ah, thank ye, sir. But I think I had a wee bit o\’ help.\” He nodded toward the still form being loaded on a stretcher that just arrived. \”He kept himself stable just long enough for me to get a lock on him. But thank ye just the same.\”

Kirk clapped Scotty on the shoulder and followed McCoy to Sickbay.

 

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