Star Trek: Defiant

"Til All Are One" - Part One

Written by John Hardin


PROLOGUE

"So much depends
on one man,
standing in shadows."
-Clifton Weathers

Vice Admiral Schell stood with trepidation in the cold room, fidgeting with the insignia on his uniform while waiting for the arrival of his associate. Waiting too long. Always it was like that, always a game with their kind.

But the game was almost over.

Finally the door opened, and the Romulan walked over to where Schell was sitting; the same table where they'd had many conver- sations over the past few months. Without asking first, he ordered two drinks, one for himself and the other for Schell. Perhaps he'd come to realize that Schell was not going to turn him down. The smirk on the Romulan's face indicated to Schell that there was more to it than that.

"Well?" Schell said after their drinks had been delievered. The Romulan looked at him, his eyes gleaming in the room's dim light.

"It's finished," the Romulan said, and casually took a sip of his drink. Savoring both the taste of it and the look on Schell's face.

"You're certain?" Schell asked nervously. But he was beginning to grin; after all this time, his hard work would soon pay off.

"The Goldswell incident provided the most impressive proof," the Romulan said. "And those were only the prototypes. My associate informed me just an hour ago that the final version was now complete. They're finished."

"Excellent," Schell said. He didn't realize he was rubbing his hands together until he looked down and noticed. He laid his hands palm flat on the table to keep from fidgeting, then leaned forward. "Shall we begin phase two?" he muttered lowly.

"Already underway," the Romulan said. He took another long sip of his drink, making Schell wait. "Our team is in-route now to pick up our package of the finished product."

"What of the others? She'll surely have made more to use for her own means," Schell said. The Romulan rose from the table, straightening the tunic he wore. It was his sign to Schell that the meeting was over.

"They'll all be destroyed, of course," the Romulan said. He nodded once more to Schell, then turned and left the room. Schell looked down at the glass in front of him, took a long drink, and began smiling again.

FIRST ITERATION

"Eat, drink, and be merry.
For tomorrow we die."
-Dave Matthews Band

T'ganna closed the door behind her and fell more than lowered herself into the chair behind her large desk. Outside, in the lab, the technicians were all shouting and cheering, reveling in the fact that they had at long last finished a project that many of them had been working on for years. They were celebrating the fact that they were finished, and tomorrow they would take a shuttle out of this fascility, hidden deep within an asteroid. They had not had any contact with the outside for several years now, and they understandably longed to get back to their families on Romulus.

Romulus... she had no desire to go there. She would, of course, because she would have to report to the elite group of government men who had given her the job of overseeing this little "project." She hated these men, distrusted them. She knew there were similar men in the Federation, as most of the equipment, indeed the entire fascility, had been built by Federation crews out of Federation supplies.

She rubbed her hands over her temples, trying to massage away a headache that was brewing. Yes, she had packaged the cylinder that was to go to her Federation "contact," as well as the one she would take back to Romulus. And she had also prepared a cylinder for herself, for her own use. She would use it when the time was right to destroy her enemies.

T'ganna's mind flashed back to her brother, sitting at the helm of her Warbird as the terminal erupted into flames in front of him. He was engulfed, burned to death. Before the viewscreen had shorted out in front of her, she recalled seeing that ship...that damned Federation ship. It had humiliated her this way...it and its crew were responsible for her brother's death. She would make them pay.

She would make the Defiant pay.

There was a chime on the computer terminal on her desk, and reluctantly she answered the call. The image of Kast came onto the screen. "Greetings, T'ganna," the young man said. He was human, in his mid-twenties, with dark hair and green eyes. Though he smiled warmly enough, T'ganna thought that those eyes made him look sly, sinister.

"You're early," she said, not really surprised.

"I'm preparing to beam down to pick up the...package," Kast said. "The shuttle to take you and your men to Romulus is set to arrive in eight hours."

She nodded, very, very tired, and punched in the authorization code that would lower the asteroid's shields and allow Kast to beam down. The terminal in front of her went black as the message ended, and then there was a faint glow next to her desk as Kast materialized. He was holding a large black case.

"What's that?" T'ganna asked, her eyebrows furrowing.

"Romulan ale for you and your men," Kast said, smiling warmly. "Admiral Schell sends it as thanks and congradulations on a job well done." Kast looked out through her office door, at the men out there, one of whom was dancing with his chair. "In case your current supply is insufficient," he said. He sat the box on a table near a computer terminal on the right wall. "Where is the cylinder?"

T'ganna walked over to the terminal, pressed one button, and the entire section of wall rotated 180 degrees around, revealing a wall-rack containing two large metal cylinders. There was a third, T'ganna knew, HER cylinder, on the underside of the table next to them. She had no intentions of letting Kast or his Federation superior know about that one. She took one of the cylinders from the wall and handed it to Kast. He took it, smiled, and nodded to her.

"The shuttle will be here in eight hours," Kast said, tapping his communicator. "Until we meet again." He grinned at her in that sly way until he vanished in the transporter light. T'ganna closed the secret compartment, once again displaying the computer terminal to the room. She looked at the men outside, celebrating the end of their confinement, and thought of how she would avenge her brother's death once she was back on Romulus and given another command. Until then, she would drink to her brother. She reach over to the box Kast had left and popped it open.

As the flames engulfed her, she had only a second to realize that she had met her brother's fate, and now there would be no one to avenge their deaths.

* * *

The asteroid exploded before Kast even activated the remote-control, and he cursed under his breath. The woman had opened the box, he realized. He had thought that she would wait, at least give him time to get the shuttle safely away from the asteroid. The shuttle rocked as the blast wave from the explosion reached it, and he could see the shuttle being bombarded by flames and bits of debris from the station. He boosted power to the sheilds as a large piece of the station's interior crashed into the starboard side. Kast transferred power to allow more maneuverability, and then punched the warp engines. The shuttle entered warp as the last of the station exploded, leaving no evidence it had ever existed.

SECOND ITERATION

"At the time you don't think much of it,
you know, we just don't recognize the most
significant moments of our lives. Back
then I thought, "There'll be other days..."
I didn't realize that was the only day."
-Kevin Costner

As the door closed behind him, Jeffrey Bridges's first thought was that the room was small. Everything was tan colored, too, but he couldn't tell if it was because the room's wall were that color, or because the late afternoon sun was beaming through the windows on both sides.

He was in a hospital, an ancient earth one. A nurse in a long white skirt moved past him, and he saw that all the patients lying in the beds around him were pale. Most were coughing lowly, weakly. This was a damned depressing place for a holodeck program, and he wondered what the hell John would be doing here. He looked down at the far end of the room and saw Hardin standing there, leaning against a post, watching two men. One was lying in the bed, the other sitting in a chair next to him. It looked as if they were playing cards, but the one in the bed was too sick or too tired to hold them.

As he walked closer, he heard the man sitting down say, "I call." He looked at his cards, then took the man in the bed's cards and looked at them. "You win," he said.

"What's this?" Bridges said, and Hardin jumped a little. "Sorry, didn't mean to scare you," he said, grinning.

"It's an old earth movie. TOMBSTONE," Hardin said. In front of them, the two men went right on talking, as if they weren't there. "It's one of my favorites."

"You're just watching it?" Bridges said, surprised.

"Yes," Hardin said.

"Why aren't you in it? Isn't that the whole point of the Holosuite? To put you IN the story?"

"I don't know," Hardin said. He shrugged. "I just prefer watching."

Bridges's com badge suddenly beeped. It was Lebin. "Captain," Adam said. "We're picking up a distress call from a transport vessel."

"Set a course to intercept," Bridges said. "I'm on my way, Bridges out." Hardin called for the arch, and ended the program. As they were leaving, Bridges said, "You should try being in the story sometime. Trust me, it's far more enjoyable than just standing by watching."

Minutes later they arrived on the bridge. "We're approaching the vessel now, sir," Lebin said.

"Hail them," Bridges ordered.

"They aren't responding," Wolfrom said from behind him. "I think their communications system has failed."

"Lifesigns?" Hardin asked.

"Two people aboard," Myah answered, her fingers running over the computer terminal in front of her.

"What did the distress signal say was wrong?" Bridges asked.

"There was no voice message, sir," Lebin said. "A standard SOS beacon signal was sent. We were the only ship in the area. This is the transport freighter 'OutRider,' sir," Lebin reads from the report that has just come up in front of him. "I left starbase 2 just a few hours ago."

"Just left the starbase and already technical problems?" Hardin asked.

"Not likely, Commander," Bridges said. He stared at the ship on the screen. "Were they attacked?"

"There are no signs of any attack on the vessel," Myah said.

"Why don't I go over there, take a look before we beam anybody over? Find out what the problem is," Hardin said.

Bridges nodded. "Make it so. Take Bishop with you, just in case," he said. Hardin moved off the bridge, followed by the Defiant's Borg security operative.

* * *

The transport completed, and Hardin and Bishop found themselves on the 'OutRider.' It was a small freighter-like ship, and they were standing in the dining area. To their right was a round table with a checked pattern on its top, perhaps used for some sort of holo-game, Hardin thought.

Bishop suddenly twitched hard to his right, then his left. He settled back to his standing position, and Hardin looked at him. "Are you allright? What the hell was that about?"

"Unknown," Bishop said, his voice echoing strangely in the ship. "Something is...not right here."

Hardin was about to step toward the Borg when a line of green light suddenly blared into the wall behind them, causing an explosion there. Hardin drew his phaser and turned to look up the corridor, towards the cockpit, and saw two Romulans dressed in civilian clothes were crouched at the doorway, firing disruptors at them.

"What the hell's going on here?" Hardin said to no one in particular. In answer, the beam above him exploded from a disruptor blast, and he had to roll out the way of the falling structure.

"TIL ALL ARE ONE!!!!!" he heard the Romulans scream at them simultaneously. It was like some hellish stereo. He looked around, saw Bishop was twitching madly against the wall, and realized that he hadn't been prepared for this. He tapped his communicator and shouted "Get us out of here NOW!" In the light of the transporter beam, he saw the Romulans come running forward.

And then he was on the Defiant. Ry was at the controls in front of him, and she came forward as he descended the stairs with the staggering Bishop. "What happened?" she asked.

"I wish I knew," Hardin said. "Take him to sickbay, and have Bedard meet you there in case there are any..." he looked at the Borg. "...Technical difficulties." She nodded, and Hardin left the transporter room for the bridge.

* * *

"And that's all they said?" Bridges asked in his ready room as Hardin relayed his story. Hardin nodded.

"I'm afraid I've got more strange news," Myah said. "I attempted to contact starbase 3 about that ship, and got no response. I've tried to contact starbases 1 and 2, and got nothing from them, either. Starfleet command in San Francisco isn't even answering."

"Are we having communication problems?" Hardin asked.

"Not as near as I can tell," Myah said. "All the ship's systems seem to be working perfectly well according to every level diagnostic I've performed."

"What's Bishop's condition?" Bridges asked, turning to Laine Rael.

She frowned. "I don't know, and he can't tell me. Everytime I ask him, all he'll say is 'Unknown.' But I do know that he's scanning everything. I mean EVERYTHING. His internal scanning systems are on overdrive. It's like he's trying to take in everything he can."

"Should Bishop be confined?" Jennifer Matute asked. The last thing she wanted was a rogue Borg running loose if he was behaving irrationally.

"No, not yet," Bridges said. "I want you to-"

Suddenly Chad Mackowick's voice came over the com. "Sir? I think you'd better come out here...the 'OutRider' is leaving."

"What?" Bridges said. He and his crew left the conference table and returned to the bridge. "Report," he ordered. Lebin ran his fingers over his terminal.

"Sir, the freighter is heading back towards starbase 3," he said.

"Then it's doing it on it's own, because no one's piloting it," Myah said, and Bridges turned to look at her. "There are no longer any life signs aboard that ship."

On the viewscreen they watched the OutRider move away from them, slowly at first, but picking up speed.

"Follow them," Bridges ordered, and Mackowick began moving the Defiant. "But carefully. Keep your distance."

"Sir, there's another vessel coming towards us," Myah reported. "It's a shuttle, sir...a Romulan shuttle."

"What?" Bridges said.

"This is getting too weird," Hardin said.

"The OutRider is moving to intercept the shuttle, sir," Lebin reported. "It is firing at the shuttle."

On the viewscreen, they saw the OutRider begin a dizzying spiraling flight pattern, somehow managing to keep its phasers locked onto the small Romulan shuttle.

"How the hell is it flying like that?" Mackowick asked as the shuttle took hit after hit. The OutRider wasn't missing.

"U.S.S. Defiant!" came a frantic voice over the com.

"We are being hailed by the shuttle," Myah said. She put it on speakers without being told to.

"U.S.S. Defiant! Please! Beam me aboard! You must get me away from this shuttle, NOW!"

"Bridge to transporter room, do you have a lock?" Bridges asked.

"Aye, captain," Emeras said.

"Get him out of there," Bridges ordered.

"Sir, more ships are entering the area...Federation vessels," Myah said.

"About time. Now maybe we can get some answers," Hardin said.

"Oh my God," Myah said. Hardin and Bridges turned to look at her. "There are no life signs aboard any of the three Federation ships entering this sector."

On the viewscreen, the OutRider back off from the shuttle, which was somehow still functioning. Bridges wondered what kind of shields that thing had to have to have survived this long. Then three massive Federation starships moved in, one galaxy-class and the other two intrepid-class. To Bridges's surprise, all three fired phasers on the Romulan shuttle, which immediatly erupted into a ball of fire.

"I have him sir," Emeras's voice came back over the com. "He insists that he must speak with you at once."

Bridges turned to Matute. "Have security escort him to the bridge," he said. She nodded and began giving the order.

The viewscreen in front of them suddenly looked very peaceful. The three Federation ships were slowly fanning out to face the Defiant, and the OutRider hung just below the galaxy-class vessel.

"Identify those ships," Bridges ordered.

"I can't, sir," Lebin said. "No transponder signals are active, for some reason, and as you can see, the hull appears to be... altered."

Lebin punched up a magnify button, and hull of the galaxy-class vessel zoomed into view. Where it's name and identification number should have been, the hull was an etched chrome color. Bridges looked closely, saw that there were no windows visible. And something else.. something not quite right...

"Maginify," he said. "Again. Again."

And suddenly the saw what was wrong: the hull of the vessel was moving. Shimmering, as if the very metal the ship were made out of were rustling in some nonexistant wind.

"Get us out of here," Bridges mumbled, and Mackowick went to work. The Defiant turned away from the ships, then suddenly a voice came over the com.

"Til All Are One. Til All Are One. Til All Are One."

It kept repeating over and over. "The message is coming from the other Federation vessels, sir!" Myah shouted.

"Chad! Warp Speed! NOW!" Bridges yelled.

He fulled the slight lurch of the ship as the stars on the viewscreen became starlines, and soon the Defiant had safely entered Warp.

"The other ships are not pursuing," Lebin said.

The doors to the bridge opened, and two security men escorted in a Romulan male. He looked tired; the tunic he wore was ragged. "You have to stay away from them," he said to the captain, glad to see that the ship had entered warp. "Don't get too close," he said lowly. "They can jump."

"Who can jump? Who are you?" Bridges said.

"The nanites can jump," the Romulan said. "Quite well actually." He laughed lowly. "Believe me, no one was more surprised than I."

"Why were those Federtion vessels firing on you?" Hardin asked.

"Federation?" the Romulan said. "There IS no Federation. At least there won't be very, very soon. They've already taken in everything from starbase-3 to earth. Sector 001 is theirs already. They control every vessel, every officer, in that entire sector now, and you'd better get as far away from here as possible, or they'll get all of you too."

It occured to Bridges that the Romulan was a madman, and that he ought to just let the security team lock him in the brig. But something about he man, something about his demeaner, told Bridges that he'd better listen to what this man had to say, that to do otherwise could be disastrous.

He couldn't have been more right.


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