Star Trek: Defiant

Pilot Episode Two

Written by John Hardin

In the blackness, he heard a voice. It sounded distant at first, but it came closer, and finally he could tell what it was saying.

"Are you allright?" it asked, and the boy opened his eyes. The bright noon-day sun overhead felt like needles stabbing his retinas, and John Hardin squinted to suppress the pain. At first he was disoriented, and he felt slightly sick to his stomach. He couldn't remember where he was, but then he saw the ten-year old face of his best friend, Ben Richeson, looking down at him.

"Ah, man," Hardin said, his hand moving to his forehead, which throbbed dully with pain. He felt a welt there. "What happened?" he asked.

"You tripped, moron," Ben said with a smile. "You fell down the stairs, and knocked yourself out."

Hardin looked around, and it all began to come back to him. He was lying in the dirt at the base of a set of rickety old wooden stairs. Ben was sit- ting on the bottom stair, which led to the small portch of the old wooden building. He was on his father's farm, and he and Ben were, as they had been so often this summer, at the old barn on the outskirts of the fields. His father kept grapevines in these fields, but the barn had been standing for God-knows how long. It had been there when Hardin's father's father had owned the land, standing solemnly like some relic of the past. The old barn hadn't had any real use in many years, and, as of late, Hardin and Richeson had taken it as their "laboratory."

"You'll never work for the weapons division if you can't walk down a simple set of stairs," Ben said.

"Shut up," Hardin said jokingly. He got to his feet, and dusted himself off.

He walked back to the top of the stairs, heading to go back into the barn. "It's almost time to eat," Richeson said. "Shouldn't we just go back?"

"I'm not hungry," Hardin said. He opened the door to the barn, which squeaked terribly, moaning against the motion that it was dead-set against taking. "Besides, we're really close. Let's finish it first."

Richeson nodded, and the two of them stepped inside, closing the door, and latching it, behind them.

The interior of the barn smelled old and musty. Sunlight slashed through the gloomy darkness from the slits in the roof and walls where the wood paneling had long-since fell away. The floor was dirt, and dustclouds swirled up into the streaks of sunlight like miniature tornadoes. The barn was empty except for a ladder on the far side, which led up to the loft, and the series of three tables that the two ten-year old boys had carried out here and set up. No one ever came to the barn besides them, and Hardin liked that just fine. He liked to work in peace, and, to be honest, he didn't much care for the thought of his father knowing about the little project he and Ben were working on.

There was a computer terminal on the table, an old one, and Hardin pushed the "activation" key as he walked up to the table. He would have liked to have had one of StarFleet's voice-recognition terminals, but he had to make due with the piece of junk his father had given him last Christmas. It was little more than a gaming machine, but Hardin had modified it to accept input and present output, which meant he could program it, to a certain degree.

There were wires and cables stretched across the table, along with a few tools that the boys had pilfered from their respective fathers' workrooms. Both dreamed of working for StarFleet in the weapons division someday, and they had been experimenting around with all kinds of things over the past few months. But now they felt sure of themselves, as they had never once had an accident, and just yesterday, they had bought an old phaser from one of the junk dealers in town.

The phaser was a Type I. It lay on the table now, with several wires attached to both it and the terminal. They had no real purpose for this experiment...they were just boys with toys. But they had figured that the more they could learn and see about StarFleet weaponry now, the less they would have to be taught later. They had made a few modifications to the phaser, and Hardin had hopes that today they may actually get to fire it.

"Ok, it's up," Richeson said as the computer finished its loading pro- cess.

"Start the monitoring program," Hardin said, and Richeson punched in the commands to run the program. The program was simple; it monitored energy within the phaser, and allowed them to redistribute that energy. In that way, Hardin hoped to connect the actual circuits that would fire the phaser, so that the "trigger" button, which was broken on the old weapon, did not have to be physcially pressed.

A power-cell was connected between the phaser and the terminal, and after he made sure the wiring was secure, Hardin said, "Okay, start to re-route the power." Richeson's fingers moved over the keypad again, and they heard a beep that began to rise higher and higher in pitch come from the phaser.

"It's working," Richeson said. "It looks like it's charging."

Hardin smiled. He took from his pocket the motion sensor that he had disconnected earlier that morning from his father's field fence. As he began to make connections between the phaser and the motion sensor, Ben reported that the phaser appeared to be fully charged. He smiled when he said it.

"Cool," Hardin said. He finished up with the motion sensor. "This looks pretty well done." He looked at his friend, beaming with pride. "It's gonna work."

"Yeah," Ben said. "Let's do it."

Hardin nodded. "It'll take it a few minutes to initialize. We'll aim it right for the door," Hardin said. He moved the motion detector to face the door to the barn. "After it's been initialized, it should fire the phaser whenever something moves in front of the door."

"Let's record it," Ben said quickly.

"Good idea!" Hardin said. "By the time we get back, it should be initialized." Hardin moved the phaser so that it aimed at the top of the ladder that led to the loft of the barn. "When it fires, it'll knock the ladder off!"

"Cool," Ben said. "Let's go."

The two boys ran from the barn toward Hardin's father's house to get the recording cam. Neither of them noticed that the computer terminal still displayed the "continually charging" message, and neither of them noticed the thindrils of smoke coming from the phaser's energybank.

They ran fast and hard, the row after row of grapevine rushing past them. In a few minutes, they arrived back at Hardin's house, and bolted through the door, heading for Hardin's room. But as soon as the door opened, Hardin's father rose from his seat at the table, where dinner was already laid out.

"I thought I told you not to miss dinner," he said sternly.

"Sorry," Hardin said. "We were playing around and I lost track of time."

Hardin's father stared at him sternly, then his eyebrows furrowed. "Where's Dennetta?" he asked.

Dennetta was Hardin's younger sister. She was eight years old. Hardin shrugged. "I haven't seen her all day." He moved past his father toward his room, where the recording cam was stashed in a box under his bed.

"Well I sent her out to get you," Hardin heard his father call, "I guess she'll be back when she sees you're not at the barn."

Halfway up the stairs by this point, Hardin froze. His heart stopped, and he whirled around. Ben was staring at him, his eyes wide. "She went out to the barn?" Hardin asked.

"Yeah, I told her to run out there and pull you away from...whatever it is you two do out there," his father said, going back to his dinner.

Hardin ran down the stairs as fast as he could, pushing past his friend and ignoring his father's call of "Hey! Where are you going?" He crashed out the front door, almost tripping down his own flight of portch stairs, but keeping his balance and running as fast as he could toward the barn. Dennetta was little, he kept saying to himself. She couldn't as fast as he could...he could make it to the barn before she got there. But his heart was beating harder than it ever had before, and he knew that he was not convincing himself.

His feet pounded hard through the fields, and he became aware of only his own heartbeat and the barn's roof in the distance. It was getting closer, but not fast enough. Hardin kept repeating to himself that he could make it, that he HAD to make it.

Hardin emerged from the fields in the clearing just in time to see his little sister walk up the front steps of the barn. Time seemed to move in slow motion for him then, and he started to shout "NO" at the top of his lungs, but the sound was drowned out as the barn exploded violently.

As the fireball swelled into the air, Hardin was knocked back off his feet. He hadn't wanted Dennetta to be around the weapon in case she stumbled into the path of its fire, but he had been totally unprepared for this. As pieces of the barn flew through the air around him, he remembered that they had never stopped the phaser from charging...and that it must have overloaded.

Hardin was on his knees when Ben emerged from the fields. Hardin stared at the flaming barn, now an inferno with no semblence to a building at all, and his mind was flooded with unseen images...

He saw his sister ascend the last step; he saw the motion detector flash once as it registered her movement; he saw the pulse of energy crossing the very circuit of the phaser's activation button, and he saw the fireball as the phaser had overloaded, taking the energy cell with it. He saw his sister's surprised face for only a second before she was engulfed in flame.

And it was all his fault.

"No," Hardin said over and over again. He could think of nothing else save the fact that his little sister was dead, and it was all his fault. She was gone...he'd never see her again, and HE was the one to blame.

He vaguely heard his father's voice blaming him, heard the cries of the family members at the funeral, became aware of the fact that his father would never truly forgive him for this. And all the while, the image of his sister's small, round face screaming as flames washed over it repeated over and over in his mind.

He had killed his own sister... fault....

There was a bright flash of light, and Commander John Hardin bolted upright. He was lying on a flat bed in an all-white room. The images remained fresh in his mind, and he felt as if, just a moment ago, he had been there, in that field, watching his sister die, while in reality that had been over 20 years ago.

Hardin was breathing hard, and still felt disoriented. He heard a voice say, "Join the other," and then there was a loud, deep hissing sound, and a section of wall to his left slid upward like a door. Hardin didn't know what had just happened, and he didn't really care. He just needed to get off of this table. He slid down, and staggered through the door into another plain room, though this one was somewhat larger.

There were about twenty stools spread out around the room, and on one of them sat Jeffrey Bridges, his Captain.

"John...JOHN!" the captain said. "You're alive! How...I saw you get crushed when the ceiling caved in..."

"Sir?" Hardin said. "What are you talking about? The ceiling didn't cave in...I knew I was in bad shape, but YOU might be worse off..."

"John," Bridges said. "If the ceiling didn't cave in on the bridge when we were attacked, what happened? Do you remember? Tell me, in as much detail as you can, where you just were. Were you somewhere else, and sud- denly here? It was like that for me...What the hell is going on? What could have happened? Was all that fake? It couldn't have been, could it? What..."

"Sir," Hardin said, closing his eyes and cutting off the captain, "Slow down, please. I'm not feeling very well, and I'm having trouble keeping up. Can we try one question at a time?"

The captain stopped, and gathered his thoughts, silently this time. "Tell me what happened, John...what you remember before you arrived here."

Hardin nodded, and told the captain what had just happened, how he had felt like he was back on earth and ten years he had been forced to re-live his sister's death, all of it.

"What's going on here, sir?" Hardin ask when he'd finished.

"You are being made to face your worst fears," a voice came. The voice was smooth and spoke perfect English, but there was no one in the room. And then Hardin and Bridges noticed that the voice was only in their minds, that it was coming to them telepathically.

"Your crew are being tested," it said. "You will all face your worst fears."

Bridges stood from the stool he was sitting on, and Hardin saw by the look on the captain's face that he was about to protest, to demand answers, to exhibit authority as only a StarFleet captain could, when the door at the end of the room wooshed open again, and someone else staggered in...

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