"CAPTAINíS LOG, Steele Recording:
The PHOENIX has departed Quylos V and is enroute to investigate a
wormhole that has suddenly appeared in Sector 233.85. The science team
is anxious to put their upgraded equipment to use, and Lieutenant
Chandra Tahl has been put in charge of investigating this spatial
anomaly. I canít remember the last time I saw Lieutenant Tahl so eager
to do her job.
It couldnít hurt for my crew to have a "quiet" mission
for a change. After the near disaster with the toxic fruit from Quylos
V, we could all use a break.
Our ETA with the wormhole is 3.5 hours.
Captain Talon Steele sat back in her chair, lost in thought, her
right index finger tapping absently on the arm. The view from the
viewscreen was the normal star streaks, standard on a ship in warp.
"Think this wormhole leads to someplace interesting?"
Commander Stryker inquired idly.
Steele raised her eyes imploringly heavenward, at least, what was
heavenward from her point of view inside the starship. "Letís
hope for something nice and innocuous. I think Iíve had about all the
excitement I can stand for a whileÖ"
"Captain," ENS Randy Kerns interrupted. "Iím picking
up something unusual in the scanners."
"Tagóyouíre it!" Stryker grinned at Steele, who blew
out a breath in resignation.
"Explain," Steele directed at Kerns.
He looked puzzled. "Sir, Iím not sure what the scanner is
reading. Iíve never seen anything like this before. It doesnít match
any parameters in the shipboard computer. Itís physical make-up. . .
Well sir, itís very odd!"
"Surely you can be a little more specific?" Steele demanded
as she rose from the center seat and made her way to the sensor station.
"Trying, sir, but the readings are confused. The best I can tell
is that the object might be a ship of some kind, but itís hard to
"On-screen and magnify," Steele ordered.
Kerns complied and immediately a strange, ethereal, and enormous
object filled the screen. It had no definable shape; rather it seemed to
almost change shape as they watched, but there was no movement their
eyes could detect.
Stryker rubbed his chin. "What theÖ" he muttered softly.
"Bring us within communications range," Steele said and
returned to her seat still keeping an eye on the viewscreen.
"Communications range," Tyler reported moments later.
Lieutenant Tyler," Steele said, "if it is a ship, maybe we
can communicate with it. Open hailing frequencies."
"Hailing frequencies open, sir," Tyler said immediately.
Steele got up and stood directly in front of the viewscreen, eyeing
the amorphous looking object suspiciously. "This is Captain Talon
Steele of the Federation starship PHOENIX. Please respond."
The normal bridge sounds seemed to subside as everyone paused to see
if there would be a response.
Steele looked back at Lieutenant Tyler, who only shook her head.
"Once more," Steele decided.
Tyler nodded at her and again Steele transmitted her message.
Suddenly the viewscreen flickered and solidified into the image of a
very human appearing man standing in a very alien looking background.
"Captain!" the man said, his voice thick with relief. "Am
I glad to see you!"
Steele looked back at Stryker, but said nothing as she turned back to
the viewscreen. "And who might I have the pleasure of speaking
to?" she inquired politely.
"The nameís Vance - Captain Vance," the man answered.
"My crew and I were doing some investigative work, when our engines
started giving us some trouble. I hate to be a bother, Captain Steele,
but we could use the expertise of some of your engineers. Our ship
encountered an inter-dimensional wormhole a few parsecs back and weíve
had nothing but trouble since. Maybe some of Starfleetís
"Your ship is not known to us," Steele interrupted.
"It appears quite alien."
Captain Vance smiled tightly. "It seems, Captain, that the
wormhole has adversely affected my ship. A few hours ago, the Discovery
was a normal, independent science vessel. Now sheís. . . altered
Steele said nothing still looking at the background behind Vance.
"That wormholeÖ Captain, it did something to us. We need help.
Whatever went wrong is beyond the expertise of my crew."
"Iím sure my scientists would love to get an inside look at
what happened to you," Steele mused. She made her decision. "Iíll
get a team together. You send us the coordinates, and weíll beam over
and see what we can do."
Vance looked visibly relieved, almost sagging as he said, "Iíll
have the coordinates transmitted immediately. Thank you, Captain Steele.
The viewscreen went dark, and was replaced by the star field again.
"Could I speak with you in your ready room, Captain?"
She nodded her head toward the doors. "Certainly.
Once inside room and the door closed behind him, Stryker faced her,
his fists parked on his hips and a frown on his face. "I donít
like this, Captain. I donít like this at all."
"How did I know you were going to say that?"
He shook his head, his eyes troubled. "Did you see how nervous
"Iíd probably be nervous, too, if my ship had been twisted out
of shape by an inter-dimensional wormhole," Steele pointed out.
"Itís not just that, Captain," Stryker said. "Itís
something else. Something feels--I donít know--It just feels
Steele studied her First Officer, a man whose gut instincts had saved
her ship on more than one occasion. "Then we send double security
teams," she offered.
"Marines, too," Stryker said firmly.
"If it makes you feel better Commander, a few Marines,
too," Steele chuckled grimly. "Iíll even have TíVal assign
me double body guards."
"Damn it, Captain," Stryker growled, "I should go over
there, not you. That way, if something happensÖ"
Steele interrupted him. "Wophbayne Stryker, if I refused to go
anywhere or do anything because it was Ďtoo riskyí, I wouldnít be
much of a captain, would I? Besides, Iíd like to see for myself whatís
Stryker signed and looked at Steele for a moment. "I donít
suppose it would do any good to quote regulations to you, would
it?" Stryker said.
"Didnít think so." His voice was flat.
"Assemble the teams, Commander. Then notify Captain Vance and
let him know we will arrive in twenty minutes. Iíll speak to TíVal
"Yes, sir," Stryker said, his tone indicating he was not at
As Steele turned to leave the ready room, she smiled. "You have
the bridge, Commander, the best of all places to be."
Onboard the "Discovery", Vance breathed a sigh of relief as
the PHOENIX signaled receipt of the transporter coordinates. It had
taken all of his resolve to keep his panic submerged during his earlier
conversation with Captain Steele. "Itís done!" he cried,
turning away from the viewscreen. "Now itís your turn to keep
your side of the bargain!"
Behind him, lurking in the shadows, a creature stirred.
"I did what you demanded!" Vance cried.
The creature scurried toward him, joined by another, slightly
smaller, but just as vicious looking. The first creature rose to its
full height as it approached Vance; itís glittering black eyes boring
Vance took an involuntary step backward from the spidery creature,
even though he towered over it by several inches.
"You have served me well," the alien said, its voice a low,
rasping hiss. "For that you will be rewarded, indeed."
Malevolence poured off it in waves, as itís almost human looking face
It was the most evil smile Vance had ever seen. He had seen the
aliens smile that smile as they systematically webbed and paralyzed his
crew. Heíd watched them dine on their cocoon wrapped bodies, consuming
only the choicest of organs, while their victims writhed in their bonds,
the paralysis toxin having worn off by the time they had been chosen for
consumption. He saw as the aliens then discarded the unwanted body
portions in heaps, later to be disintegrated by phaser fire.
The smaller creature moved towards Vance.
"No," Vance shouted, taking another step backward.
"You promised to spare me!"
A white, sticky substance spewed forth from the creatureís abdomen,
and in mere seconds, had coated his entire body with the adhesive
fibers. The aliensí multiple legs knitted the fibers, securing the
hapless man firmly. The process had taken less than a minute.
"For your services, we will see that you die painlessly,"
the female, hissed. She stabbed an owl-like appendage through the
wrappings and into Vanceís back, injecting him with a paralysis toxin,
guaranteeing his body would stay fresh until he was consumed.
Captain Steele, along with her teams, materialized at the coordinates
Vance had given them. The room was eerily quiet.
"Not much of a welcome committee," Steele muttered and she
and her team glanced warily about. "Phasers on stun," she
ordered as a precaution, "and fan out."
The group hadnít taken more than a few steps into the gloomy room,
when suddenly, strange and fearsome things came at them from above!
One of the engineers offered a shriek as she came face to face with
an enormous, sickly, yellow creature hanging from its silken thread from
Steele fired wildly into the air, the phaser burst glancing
harmlessly off a bulkhead as her arms were grabbed and secured.
Mere moments later, the entire group from the PHOENIX was secured and
sedated. The last thing Steele remembered hearing was a hissing, rasping
voice laughing in her ear and saying, "You humans are the most
delectable of all." Then she knew no more.
Commander Stryker swiveled in the command chair, his gaze falling by
turn on each of the bridge crew, all busy at their stations. The landing
parties had been gone for nearly 30 minutes. There had been no
communication from them as yet.
While Stryker wasnít particularly nervous, he was feeling wary. His
nose itched. He couldnít shake the feeling that nothing was right
about this mission.
"Tyler," he said, surrendering to his misgivings.
"Hail that ship and get Captain Steele. I want to speak to
"Aye sirÖ Sir?" Her head came up. "A Bird of Prey
has just uncloaked on our starboard side!"
" Bloody hell!" Stryker groaned. "It never rains but
Below decks, in SMIDGEN, Commander Spahn watched as his computer
typed out the communication from the Romulan ship. "Damn!"
Spahn cursed as Lieutenant Stewart eyed him from another terminal.
"Problems, sir?" he inquired.
"No," Spahn said immediately.
Stewart shot a glance to Lieutenant Spenser. Spenser offered a slight
shrug, and then both sat back and waited.
"Inform Commander Stryker that Iím personally greeting our
visitor and will being him to the captainís ready room.
"Yes, sir," Stewart acknowledged.
Spahn nodded, and then exited SMIDGEN.
SíLar of the Romulan Tal Shiar stepped from his scout craft and
onto the PHOENIX hangar deck. He found only his brother Spahn, and a
security officer waiting. A flicker of disappointment crossed his
Spahn saw and understood. "She is well," was all he said.
SíLar nodded. "It is enough." He fell into step beside
his brother. They remained silent until they reached the captainís
Commander Stryker didnít stand as the two Romulans and the security
"Where is Captain Steele?" SíLar demanded. "I asked
to speak only with her."
"Iím afraid youíll have to deal with me," Stryker said
dryly. "Speak your piece, SíLar. Iíve got ship matters to
attend to." Damn, I do NOT need to be dealing with a cocky
Romulan operative right now! Stryker thought irritably.
"I do not wish to play semantic games with you, Commander,"
SíLar said. "It looks as though you have found what Iíve been
looking for. A ship of the Star Empire was taken from her command patrol
area only five days past. Our listening outposts reported the sudden
appearance and disappearance of a strange object that fits the
description of the thing you are currently facing. Our ship answered no
hails and all communications were lost. Until yesterday when my ship
came across it Ė abandoned - all hands gone. I do not wish to see the
PHOENIX suffer a similar fate."
SíLar studied him across the room, assessing the first officer.
"Captain Steele is on that thing out there is she not?"
"Thatís none of your concern," Stryker said quietly.
"How long has she been gone?" SíLar asked quickly.
Stryker turned to Spahn. "We cannot raise the captain. Sheís
not answering any hails. Nor is Vance."
"The captain is not responding?" Spahn questioned.
"If you have lost communications with your captain then it wonít
be long until whatever it is out there makes its next move and the
PHOENIX becomes a ghost ship as well. We wish only to offer our services
and try to recover our missing officers and crew." SíLar said.
"We donít have time to negotiate anything," Stryker said
to SíLar as he pushed past him toward the door. "If you want to
help, we welcome the extra manpower." With those words, Stryker was
out the door and on the bridge.
"Hail that vessel!" He snapped at the communications
"Trying, sir," Tyler answered. "No response."
"Commander Stryker! The alien object is moving away from
us!" Kerns informed him.
"Keep trying, Tyler," Stryker said. "Helm, I want us
on that ship like stink on . . ." Stryker took a deep breath and
calmed down. "I want to stay within weapons range of that ship no
matter how they maneuver. Arm phasers and photon torpedoesóWeapons
Savagely, Stryker punched a button on the arm of the Command Chair.
"I want a full Security Team in the Transporter Room. Now. And
theyíd better be armed to the teeth."
Stryker stared at the viewscreen, his face an emotionless mask.
"Nobody gets away with taking our peopleónobody!"