Captain TE Lawrence sipped her coffee and
glanced at the chronometer. It was a routine mission, and her shift
was nearly over. She was looking forward to a quiet evening with a
It started as a slight vibration, barely
noticeable. But Lawrence noticed. She was keenly aware of the sounds
and vibrations made by the ship under normal conditions. And this
wasn't normal. In fact, it was getting worse. Just as she was
opening her mouth to inquire about it, a loud screeching sound
filled her ears. In a nanosecond, it was as if the ship had stopped
moving but TE did not. She was barely aware of the shouts and
screams of the bridge crew as the forward bulkhead rushed up to meet
her. Then everything went black.
Lawrence sat at the head of the briefing
room table, rubbing her head. While the wounds had been repaired, it
still itched where the artificial skin had been applied. And her
headache wasn't quite gone just yet. Her mind was still swimming
over the cataclysmic disaster that had befallen the ship only two
She listened to the damage reports, taking
it all in. Subspace communications were out. Life support operating
on backup only. Null gravity pockets in seventeen different areas of
the ship. Sixty-three dead or missing, eleven in critical condition,
nearly every member of the crew had been injured. Three separate
hull breaches, and one hundred micro fractures in the outer hull.
Every major system had been affected. Propulsion, weapons,
transporters. The list went on indefinitely. It was too much.
Lawrence interrupted Alice McConnell’s
report. "Now that we know how badly we're hurt, can someone tell me
"Warp sheer, Captain," answered QaS.
TE Lawrence's jaw dropped. "That's not
"Not probable, but it is possible. I've
checked every reading and there's no doubt---"
"Excuse me," interrupted Kora Natevera,
"but for those of us who don't have engineering degrees, will
someone explain just what the heckl a warp sheer is?"
Lawrence deferred to QaS. "There was an
enormous power surge near the lead phase transition coil in the
starboard nacelle. The surge quickly spread down the line and fused
more than half of the coils before jumping into a plasma relay and
surging through the primary power grid, where it did significant
damage. When the coils fused, the warp field that they were
generating collapsed. When that happened, half of the ship dropped
out of warp, while the other half was still traveling at warp speed.
This caused the sheering effect. But the Captain's right, it's not
supposed to happen because the computer is supposed to instantly
shut down the other nacelle in the event of a catastrophic failure
"And it didn't, I take it?" asked Kora.
"It didn't. The secondary system didn't
kick in, either, like it should have. Thankfully, the tertiary
backup did, or we'd be scattered across half a light year right now.
But the few nanoseconds it took for the computer to kick in and shut
down the warp field completely were enough to cause significant
"Then I take that this warp sheer isn't
"Not common? It's never happened outside
of a computer simulation ever. It's always been nothing more than a
theoretical possibility. "
"Until now," said TE. "May I remind
everyone that the Excelsior class starship has proven itself over
and over and is considered to be the most reliable starship design
in the fleet?" She paused for a moment. "This wasn't a mere
"I don't believe it was, Captain," said
"Too many things went wrong just at the
right time and in the right order," added Wolphbayne Stryker. "It
couldn't have been mere chance."
"Whoever did this really knew what they
were doing. Since the tertiary backup system wasn't also disabled,
they obviously only wanted to cripple the ship. Otherwise, we
wouldn't be here. Which brings me to the question of where exactly
"Near as we can tell, Captain," said Lisa
Boldian, "we're about two and a half parsecs from Orion space,
nearest to the Romulan neutral zone."
"How soon can we get underway?"
"The sheering effect physically twisted
the starboard nacelle support pylon out of position. Even if I could
replace all of the damaged phase induction coils, which I can't, we
create a stable warp field without the nacelles being in proper
alignment. And we don't have the equipment to do that. We'll need to
put in to a starbase or shipyard for that kind of work. The power
surge did some heavy damage to all systems. It'll take at least two
weeks to get the impulse engines online. But we have to get the
inertial dampers fixed before we fire the impulse engines or
everyone will find themselves pushed through a bulkhead when tried
to accelerate. We also need the deflector screens working, or we'll
be Swiss cheese before we got very far. Three weeks."
"We should have them operational in a
couple of days. It won't get us far, though."
"And without subspace communications, it
will take years for a message to get to anywhere near a starbase or
relay station." TE paused to consider the situation. They would not
be able to outrun an enemy should one try to take advantage of their
current situation. And she was sure that someone would. "Weapons? Or
shouldn't I ask?'
"Same story, Captain." QaS replied. Until
we can get the power problems under control, we can't use the
phasers. We'll have to get the warp core on line at the very least.
I might be able to get the photon launchers going in a couple of
days, but I'm not sure about the targeting scanners. The whole
computer core is going to have to be reinitialized after we get main
"It's a domino effect," added Stryker. "We
have to get certain systems all working in a certain order or else
we can't use any of them."
Lawrence sighed. "Well, then, it looks
like we have our work cut out for us. I assume sensors are tied to
the same power problems as the rest. All right, until we get at
least short range sensors back, I want all NUB's and non-critical
personnel assigned to a porthole or window to visually monitor for
"Department heads are authorized to order
double shifts," added Stryker. "If anyone in your department has any
kind of engineering experience and you can spare them, I'm sure that
QaS could use their help."
The comm. beeped. "Llire to Captain."
"Go ahead," said Lawrence.
"Sir, the shuttlecraft have all been
deliberately sabotaged. Communications, propulsion, weapons, all
"That shoots my next suggestion," said
"And proves our theory," added Captain
"Sir, we also found a transporter log. It
looks like someone tried to erase it. There's not much left, just
the timestamp and entry itself. But it looks like someone definitely
beamed off the ship in the last few hours."
"Thank you, Lieutenant. Lawrence out."
"Looks like whoever it was got out while
the getting was good," said Kora.
"It would appear that way," Lawrence
agreed. "All right, we've got a lot of work to do. Let's get to it.
I don't like the idea of being a sitting duck to the Orions or the
Romulans. Let's get the hell out of here as soon as possible.
Everyone got up to leave. Lawrence
motioned to Stryker to stay behind. After the last person left the
room and the doors were closed, she said, "That transporter log is a
"It does seem rather odd, Captain," said
Stryker. "You would think that someone who could get on board this
ship, evade security, and orchestrate a catastrophe of this
magnitude without leaving any other trace, should be able to
completely remove a transporter log."
"Exactly," responded TE. "It was planted
deliberately for us to find."
"I'll start a full scale search of the
"No. We don't want to scare whoever it is
into hiding. I want to know why they did this. Why us? Why now? Why
here? No, if we push whoever it is too soon, we could find ourselves
in a fight that we'd most certainly lose. Everyone on board is
suspect. Here's what I want you to do..."