We have just entered orbit around the planet the Romulans called "HanI’Rhy,",
or "Place of Mystery," I had to ask our Chief Intelligence Officer, Spahn,
for a translation. Our only intelligence on this world indicates that the
Romulan Empire abandoned its claim to the world over 20 years ago, and
pulled back the boundaries of their Empire so as to exclude the HanI’Rhy
system. There are no known indigenous life forms.
Federation freighters and traders have recently been reporting unusual
"weather" in the area, and the PHOENIX was sent to investigate. Since our
primary mission is to explore unknown territory, we are taking this
opportunity to investigate a world that has been reluctant to release its
We have been having trouble with the dilythium crystal matrix in the
past few days, and transporters have not been working properly. Because of
this I am sending down two shuttles of Science and Security personnel.
Commander Stryker will head the exploration team.
Captain Steele turned in her chair and looked at her First Officer.
He grinned. "Always, Captain." Suddenly, the grin was replaced with a
more sober look. "I would, however, like to request a Marines escort for
"No, sir. Just prepared. This was once Romulan territory. I just like
to have my bases covered."
Steele nodded. "As you wish, Commander," the Captain agreed. "Notify
Horn and tell him what you need. He’ll see that it happens."
Stryker was looking forward to setting foot on HanI’Rhy.Although he
loved the PHOENIX, sometimes it felt good to get off the ship and onto an
unexplored planet. He thumbed his comm button. "All landing party
personnel report to the Shuttle Bay in 20 minutes. Stryker out."He stood,
unsuccessfully trying to hide his relish for this particular mission.
Exploring the unknown was what it was all about.
"Be careful down there, Commander," Steele cautioned.
He flashed another grin at her. "Always, Captain."
As Stryker left the Bridge, Steele turned to the sensor station. "How’s
the weather out there, Ensign?"
"Clear and sunny, Captain," was the immediate reply.
Steele leaned back in her chair. So far, so good.
Well within the 20-minute timeframe that Commander Stryker had
specified, the Pegasus and the Minotaur were well on their
way, accompanied by three of Horn’s Marine fighters.
"ETA to surface?" Stryker inquired of the Minotaur’s pilot.
"ETA in 12 minutes, Sir," the pilot answered.
"Minotaur, this is Pegasus, over," the Pegasus
pilot’s voice came over
"This is Minotaur. Go ahead."
"Minotaur, I¹m picking up some strange readings on my long-range
sensors, nine-zero by one three zero. Do you see the same thing?"
The Minotaur pilot rapidly scanned his readouts. He raised an
"Affirmative, Pegasus. Looks like bad weather."
The pilot looked at Commander Stryker. "Should we return to the
PHOENIX, Sir?" he asked.
"Time to intercept with the weather?" Stryker asked.
The pilot looked at his instruments again. "10 minutes, Sir."
"Time to surface?"
"Ten minutes, Sir."
Stryker sat back. "So, the race is on." He became more serious. "It’ll
be close, but I think we can make it."
The pilot nodded. "Pegasus, this is Minotaur. Landing is
still a go."
"Acknowledged," came the immediate reply.
Stryker took a breath. Things were beginning to get interesting.
"Minotaur, this is PHOENIX," Captain Steele¹s voice broke in.
"Commander, we’re reading an ion storm heading directly for you, ETA
five minutes. Abort mission and return to ship."
"Five minutes?" Stryker said. A quick visual showed the storm looming
directly ahead. "I thought you said –"
"She¹s right, Sir," the pilot said. "I now reading five- no, sir, ETA
is sixty seconds!"
‘What the hell?" Stryker said. He looked out the windows in time to see
the swirling fury of the ion storm engulf the small shuttle . . . .
"Captain," the sensor station officer said, "The storm has engulfed the
"Can we tractor them out?" Talon snapped.
"No, Sir. We can’t get a lock on them."
"Storm intensity?" Steele asked.
"Force 10 and―and rising, Sir!" The last word of the officer’s sentence
went up in a near squeak. Force 10 was supposed to be the highest
intensity of ion storms.
"Rising?They’ll be torn to shreds!" She punched the comm button.
"Stryker, can you read me?"
Her only answer was the snarling static of interference caused by the
"Captain!" The Sensor Station officer’s voice on the verge of panic.
"The storm is now heading directly for us!"
"ETA?" Steele said sharply.
"ETA, uh… now, Sir!"
The PHOENIX bucked like a angry stallion as the fury of the storm
engulfed them. Inertial dampeners fluctuated at the sudden attack, and
people were flung from their stations.
Talon found herself dumped unceremoniously in the middle of the Bridge,
her right knee throbbing painfully from the impact. She brushed her hair
out of her face. Something wet and warm dripped on her cheek. She looked
down to see that she had cut the palm of her hand.
"Shields!" Steele ordered, then, "Damage report!" She pulled herself
back into her chair.
"Captain," Qa’S’ deep voice sounded over the intercom. "We have major
problems in Engineering. Six warp relays have blown, and the crystals are
disintegrating." He coughed. "I lost three people, Captain, and several
more are hurt."
"Acknowledged," Steele said curtly. "Recommendations?"
"Shut down the warp core temporarily," Qa’S said. "If we don’t, there’s
a distinct danger of a warp breach."
"Do it!" Steele ordered. "Bridge to Sickbay. You’ve got dead and
"Already on it, Captain," Commander Gordon’s voice replied.
A good crew, Talon allowed herself to think.
"Shields down 22 percent,’ Steele heard over the babble of voices on
the bridge. "Ion storm intensity increasing by a factor of five!"
"Helm, get us out of here!" Steele’s voice was louder than she wanted.
‘Trying, Captain," Lieutenant McConnell responded. "She’s sluggish,
The PHOENIX shook under the force of the storm, lights fluctuated
wildly. Steele was seriously worried. The ship was strong, but she wasn’t
built to wallow in an ion storm that exceeded Force 10. If they couldn’t
get out of this soon, her ship would be in pieces.
Then, just as suddenly as it started, the storm stopped. The sudden
hush was unnerving, though the subdued babble of busy voices on the Bridge
"Can you locate the shuttles?" Steele barked.
The Sensor Station officer shook his head. "Negative, Sir. There’s no
trace of either shuttle."
"What about planetside?"
He shook his head again. "Sorry, Sir. It’s as though they disappeared.
I’m not even reading signs of wreckage anywhere."
"Damn!" Steele muttered under her breath. What had started out as
routine had suddenly become a matter of life and death. "And the Marines?"
A shrug was all the answer she got.
"Captain," Qa’S’ tense voice sounded over the speakers. "We’ve got more
problems down here."
Stryker tried to open his eyes, but for some reason they didn¹t want to
"Sir?" the voice sounded urgent.
With almost superhuman effort, the Commander forced his eyelids up,
wondering why his head hurt so badly. There seemed to be two people
standing over him, but then the image coalesced into one. It was Dr.
Jonathan Drake, looking pretty banged up.
"Sir, we’ve got to get out of here," he said urgently. "The pilot is
dead, and we’ve got wounded. We’ve got to get them to dry land."
"Dry land?" Stryker whispered. He was so confused.
"You¹ve got a concussion, sir," the doctor explained. "The pilot
managed to put us down in a lake, but we’re taking on water, Sir. We’re
"How far are we from the shore?" Stryker managed.
"Not far," Drake told him, "but we’ve got to get going."
Drake shook his head. "I don’t know, Sir. We lost contact with them and
the Marine pilots. All systems are down. . . as we will be if we don¹t get
off this shuttle! "
"Understood," Stryker said, pushing the throbbing ache in his head away
from his immediate thoughts. "All right people, gather supplies and strap
them on. I hope you’re all caught up in your swimming skills."
The able bodied helped the wounded. As quickly and as efficiently as
they were able, the battered shuttle team made their way to the shoreline,
just in time to see the Minotaur sink beneath the surface in a
flurry of bubbles and escaping air.
Drake set about seeing to the injured, ignoring his own hurts, drafting
the unhurt into playing triage nurses for him.
"Hell of a way to start a mission," Stryker muttered. He pulled out his
sodden communicator. "Stryker to PHOENIX, come in."
He changed frequencies and tried again. "Stryker to PHOENIX, come in!"
This time he was greeted by the snarl of angry static, but little else.
He tried a third time, and a third time there was nothing. He snapped the
useless piece of equipment shut and shoved it into his utility belt.
Great! Just great! He turned around and watched the men and women who
had been with him on the shuttle. They all looked expectantly at him.
"We’re on our own, people. I hope everyone brought their wits with
them, because we’re going to need all the help we can get."