"Yo, Captain what's up?" Jack Land said pulling a chair out across the table and sitting in it backward leaning on the backrest.

Harry looked up from a pile of PADD's with a very annoyed look. "Paperwork, what does it look like?"

Land idly picked one up and looked at it.

"Hey, Hey put that down buddy boy." Martinez snapped. "I don't see any bars around those pips, so you can't look at them."

"Sorry." Land said freezing in mid-motion. "Didn't realize."

"It's ok," Harry said, reaching over and grabbing the pad. "I just have to go over these things once in a while, they tend to pile up."

"I'm surprised they still make you do these things with computers the way they are." Land said in awe.

"Well, one day when you quit doing stupid things and take on some responsibility you will have to do this," Harry said taking a sip from his coffee.

"Yeah but this is like completely tedious."

"Maybe it is, but it's my ship and I have to look over everything that comes my way." He sat his mug down with a clink. "And with the Raptor being a prototype, I have to turn in every little thing that happens when we are on that ship."

"Can't you get some help?" Land shrugged. "I mean this is a lot of stuff to go through."

"It's customary for the commander of a vessel to find someone to help sort through this stuff," Harry said, taking a stylus and amending something on one of the pads. "But it is something that takes good attention to detail."

"Well, then put a feeler out there, someone is bound to bite." Land shrugged.

"I'll….." Suddenly the Station shook and the Alarm klaxons sounded.

Harry quickly scooped up the pads and tossed them into a mini transporter so they'd be beamed back to his quarters. "Looks like it's back to work for us."

Story Title: Surprises

IDP 2009,2019, 2020

The Raptor quickly flew out of the spacedock door.

Harry sat in the captain's chair and quickly flipped on the ship to ship. "Captain Stiles, the Raptor is deployed; we haven't seen anything out here yet."

"We're not sure Harry, but several objects hit section 17 of the base's hull, they are coming in at tremendous velocity, damn things took out one of the shield generators."

"Are they some sort of new torpedoes?" Harry asked.

"Can't say." Stiles shrugged bracing himself as another barrage hit the Starbase.

The Raptor suddenly pitched sideways as something struck the shields on its port side. The power flickered and the deck trembled.

"Damage Report!" Harry barked.

"Forward shields down to 67%," Jakar replied. "Minor damage to port engine!" Another blow shook the vessel as another missile struck the ship. "Port shields are down to 20% and failing," Jakar reported.

"Mr. Rivas reroute auxiliary power to the shields." Harry spat. Another blow struck the ship and the bow dropped. Subsystems shorted out and the engines groaned in protest. "Mr. Land evasive of any kind, roll dive do whatever you have to before we're pulverized. Fire Phasers all banks, fire blindly if you have too!"

The Raptor's phasers lanced out into space in myriad directions away from it. Many struck nothing but a few hits home and explosions erupted like bright hyphens in space. The Raptor was struck a few more times but only grazed. It kept on the blind firing and more and more of the unforeseen projectiles exploded around it.

"Good thinking Commander," Stiles said over the com. "Now get that bird out of the way and we'll take over from here."

"Roger that," Harry replied. "Mr. Land get us out of the line of fire."

"You got it skip." Jack replied bringing the Raptor into a sharp climb.

The Starbase with its shields fully operable and properly reinforced brought it's many gun turrets online and the Raptor steeply climbed out the range of the weapons. Soon all the phaser cannons opened up in one tremendous display of phaser fire, within moments the remaining projectiles still in flight were blown to atoms with only a few more getting through and causing damage.

"Lt. O'mara please tell me if you've got a bead on what the hell that was all about."

"I'm working on it." O'mara said sending an image to the viewer. "I've run some sensor scans. It appears that the projectiles are mostly asteroids of various shapes and masses. They appear to be somehow accelerated to near warp speeds. I don't know how yet. Plus their trajectories indicate they are coming from only one direction."

"Have you projected a point of origin yet?" Harry said getting out of his seat and standing by her station.

"Working on it sir." O'mara said typing rapidly.

On the screen, the paths of the projectiles traced back to their point of origin.

The point at which all paths intersected was a location several million kilometers inside Urthean space.

Harry furrowed his brow and darkness shaded his features. "Transmit this back to Captain Stiles, I think we have a problem"

Later, the Raptor had returned to Starbase 186 and its crew had started to disembark.

"Harry, I don't like that look on your face." Land said as they walked towards the Raptor's gangway. "Something has got your dander up."

"You think so?" Harry said flatly as they rounded the corner. "What would give you that idea?"

"Well, I'm pretty sure that this little incident was another friendly greeting from our neighborhood welcoming committee."

"More than likely Jack, your powers of observation never cease to amaze me." Harry glared.

Jack held up his paws. "Hey, hey back off, if you don't want to talk about it. I'll just shut up."

"Excuse me." Terri Lu said stopped in front of them. "I'm sorry to interrupt sir but I've prioritized and summarized everything that happened for the debriefs." She handed him a datapad which she had held up near her breast. "It's all there if you have any questions I'll be happy to answer them."

Harry momentarily snapped out of his funk, looked down and the padd and scrolled through it. "Thank you, Ms. Lu." He said with a smile. "I appreciate it."

Terri nodded and headed out in front of them.

"Why can't you be efficient like her?" He asked Jack who was not listening and watching Terri's posterior as she left. "You could learn a thing or two from your crewmates."

He quickly boxed the fox's ear with the padd. "Pay attention."

"What?" Land said with a sheepish grin.

"Aiya, sometimes I wonder why I brought you with me?" Harry sighed

"Because you love me," Land smirked, "and I haven't crashed us into an asteroid yet."

"Yet, being the operative word," Harry grunted.

"Are you two hens done clucking!" Fara's voice shouted from down the hall. "I need to get the Auto Repair system online, and if you don't want to end up as part of the carpeting you'd better get a move on!"

They headed down the gangplank and Fara shut the door behind them and activated the repair protocols for the Raptor.

"So how long until it's all patched up?" Harry asked.

Fara shook her head and put her hands in the pockets of her lab coat. "Probably an hour or two." She then shrugged. "You know I hate using the Auto Repair, but if we need it again quickly it's the best option."

"Well I don't want anyone getting too comfortable, I have a feeling that this is not the last we're going to hear of it," Harry said waving the padd at Fara.

"You don't have to worry about my people sir," Fara said. "Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to grab some lunch before we go rushing out of here again."

"That sounds like a good idea." Land said. "See you around skipper."

"Yeah, you just go enjoy not having to do anything else," Harry shouted after him.

Land merely waved over his shoulder and disappeared around the corner.

Meanwhile, elsewhere

Xox's ship floated silently in the void next to a rather strange looking apparatus. It was cylindrical, in shape and seemed to be made up of lots of strange panels with various conduits and machinery scattered all around it.

Inside the ship's bridge uproarious venomous laughter echoed off it's rusted bulkheads.

"Ah, this is working out better than I had expected." Xox chortled to himself an evil smile crossing his muzzle. "Our first use of this warp accelerator cannon and we scored good hits even hit that accursed ship of theirs too."

"I would say it is effective, but altogether not that accurate, Commandant." D'jonn, his first, said calmly.

"It wasn't constructed to be full-proof just to work long enough to goad them into a confrontation. " Xox sneered. "I fully expect them to come out here, oh they won't send anymore but the Raptor out here to deal with this. They don't want to stir up any more trouble than necessary. Yess."

D'jonn raised his brow and then sighed. "As you wish. I just think this is going contrary to our orders, which are to continue to harass and capture confederation convoys."

"Oh, that is what I have my Gell's doing," Xox said making a gesture with his index finger in the air. "They can waste the Emperors and the Confederation's time all they want, while I go for the real prize."

D'jonn said nothing, when Xox got this way there was no dealing with him. "As you wish, commandant." He made a silent mental note to check his escape pod before they got too far along in this endeavor.

"So I never got to ask you." Terri Lu said sitting beside Fara along with Jenna Rydel. "What was it like being in the hole?"

"Oh, you mean when the Captain had me in the brig?" Fara asked. "Been a while since that happened in ancient history even."

"Yeah, but you never seemed to be too upset about it," Terri said, wagging her fork at her.

"Of course not," Fara smirked. "Pissing him off got me the best vacation I ever had," Fara said, stopping to chew her food. "I should piss Harry off more often."

"What did you do while you were in the brig?"

Fara took a drink. "Well I got caught up on sleep, I finished a few books I had been reading. When I got bored I did Teri't kasa, like I said it was the best vacation I ever had."

"Yeah but it's a bad mark on your record though," Terri added.

"Pfft what do I care, I get kicked out, they're left with a ship that would probably break down within a few months without me around," Fara smirked. "Unlike you guys, I don't have to walk as thin a line as you do. And what are you doing Terri? It's lunch!"

"Oh, this?" Terri said looking from a padd she was typing upon. "Just some extra work I do, just to keep up."

"You sit around and listen to people talk," Fara said. "How hard could that be?"

"Thank you, Fara, I'll remember to tell people that you sit around and beat on things with a wrench, next time I'm asked," Terri said looking up from her padd.

"Ouch," Fara said, feigning pain.

"Well think of that next time before you blatantly insult someone." Terri smirked. "Communications is only part of what I do. I'm still the head computer systems tech. Hell, technically I'm more her boss then you are," Terri said motioning to Jenna. "It's just engineering that seems to gobble up all the help it can get."

"Hey I'm not trying to start anything," Fara said wrapping the tabletop with the palm of her hand and then holding them up in a defensive manner.

"You aren't." Terri smiled. "I was just making a point."

Fara folded her ears back. "You have a funny way of doing it, sometimes I think you like to irritate me."

Terri signed off on something on the data padd. "Of course I do, your reactions are priceless."

"Ok, why'd you take the position on the bridge," Fara asked. "Communications isn't exactly glamorous."

"Well I wanted to do Operations but Commander Rivas had a bit more experience in the field then I did so I took the next open position," Terri said matter-of-factly. "But someday, I'll have it."

"So to me it sounds like you might have higher aspirations than that," Fara said.

Terri merely shrugged. "Maybe, someday." She said, taking a sip of her tea. "You never know."

"So I've been meaning to ask you Terri." Jenna suddenly spoke up. "How have things been between you and Jack lately?"

"Hmm?" Terri said looking up from her pad. "Well… we're still talking at least. We've been busy and don't see each other much other than the bridge. Been busy and all."

"Well have you thought about moving in together, that's what Kai and I did. We see each other at least every night."

"Taber barely tolerates him." Terri said, bringing up her large over spoiled cat. "I don't think it would work until we spend more time together."

"Well why aren't you."

"I don't know, I mean there's been some personal reasons… Look do we really have to go into this? Jack and I are fine… I think." Terri sighed.

"That doesn't sound like your fine." Jenna said teasingly.

Stiles stared up at the map on the wall screen. "I hate to admit it but I think your science officer is right." He glared, tapping his fingers on the desk. "Gods damn it, can't be anyone else."

Harry nodded. "He's been noticeably absent from convoy raids the last couple of weeks, I suppose he's been up to something

Stiles nodded. "Harry, son, I've been dealing with that son of a bitch even before your ship was brought out here. If he's being quiet it's because he is most definitely up to something."

"Is that an unofficial request to investigate?" Harry said raising his brow.

"You bet your pips it is," Stiles grunted. "As soon as the Raptor is back up and operational I need you out there again. What do you think he's using out there?"

"Lt. O'mara deduced that it must be some sort of warp accelerated projectile weapon. It appears he just is content hurling garbage at us for now, asteroids, rocks whatever they can find that has enough mass to sustain the trip."

"Ah, I get it, just a fancier MAC weapon." Stiles mused. "Except with space junk."

"Exactly," Harry added.

"Ok if you do go out, try to keep it discreet. A lot goes on out here and the only reason there hasn't been an all-out war because of political nonsense. I want you to go out there, take out this weapon and get back without causing too much of a ruckus."

"We'll do what we can, sir," Harry said curtly

"What about defense against it until then?" Stiles asked.

"Again, Ms. O'mara is earning her pay this week." Harry grinned. "She deduced that we should be able to spot them by fine-tuning the sensors to look for the mass of the projectile traveling at high velocities, she's already submitted it to the station's personnel and the modifications to the weapons should be underway."

"Damn she's turning out to not be that bad," Stiles said. "I knew sticking her on that ship would make her get over her nervousness." He then scratched his muzzle in thought. "I remember when she came here about a few months ago she was the picture of abject terror, being assigned out here."

"She still stutters a lot," Harry said. "But, she is improving."

"Speaking of personnel," Stiles said leaning forward on his desk and interlocking his fingers. "Have you looked into getting a Yeoman to help you with your reports?"

"I'd still rather do them myself," Harry said.

Yeah but you are getting buried in them, trust me to get someone to help you before you drive yourself nuts." Stiles smirked. "Despite your rank, you are the captain of that ship, the Raptor is yours and she is your responsibility." He then shrugged. "Having someone to help you go through it isn't necessarily a bad idea?"

Harry looked at the padd in his hand and remembered Terri. Hell if she was willing to do it on her own time…

"I might have someone in mind," Harry said. "I'll have to think about it."

"Good," Stiles said. "Get out there and find that thing and put it out of commission as soon as you can."

Jack Land was sitting with Jakar and Okan in the promenade eyeing the girls from his vantage point.

"You are quite the character, Jack." Dr. Okan said looking up from his reading.

"How's that?" Jack said absentmindedly staring across the promenade and Terri and her little group.

"Well, most times you join my friend and me for lunch and then all you do is sit there and stare and contribute nothing to the conversation."

"I do?"

"You couldn't be more obvious," Jakar grunted.

"What are you guys talking about?" Land said leaning back in his chair.

"You are eyeballing Lt. Lu," Jakar said. "I watch you do it every day on the bridge."

"Well we were spending a lot of time together, until lately. I like her it's just there's some strangeness."

Doctor Okan started chuckling.

"What's so funny?" Jack asked.

"Nothing that I can discuss with you." Okan smirked.

"What do you mean by strangeness." Jakar said bluntly.

"Well wouldn't you two have a clue you know that thing you echidnas have."

Jakar looked very annoyed at the wording of Jacks statement, and then he got a smirk of amusement. "Oh i see, she's got the "touch" for you is that it?"

"Yeah."

"Lucky you when's the wedding?" Jakar chuckled.

"What, wait, wedding?" Jack said, looking a bit flustered.

"Well of course Mr. Land, that's usually what it leads too." Okan chuckled.

"Look wait, hold on a damn minute she didn't say anything about that yet." Jack stammered.

"Well of course she wouldn't, why scare you off." Okan chuckled.

"Are you two screwing with me?" Jack said.

"We could be, but we have all the cards here." Jakar smirked.

"We're taking it a bit slow, we've only known each other a few months." Jack said.

"And she's ok with this?" Okan said quizzically.

"For now yeah." Jack said.

Jakar rolled his eyes. "If you want some friendly advice, you'd better put that fire out before it gets too out of hand."

"I get that." Jack said. "Look until a few weeks ago I hadn't done the deed with anyone outside of my own species."

"I take it you are referring to the incident with the Polywater virus?" Okan said.

"Yeah that." Jack said blushing under his fur.

"Well I'm sure you can manage." Okan said, shrugging.

"You guys are just a lot of help, you know that."

"Terri's a good woman, I doubt you'd find better." Jakar said, taking a drink. "Too bad for the rest of us she's got the touch for you." He grunted.

"So i should just dive right in with it, is what you guys are saying." Jack sighed.

"I can't speak for the Doctor but I would, in your position." Glancing over at the women.

Jack seemed a little pensive and conflicted. "I don't know it just seems a bit weird is all."

"You are an idiot ,women and men are the same regardless of what they look like, or what planet they are from." He said hitting the table a little harder then he should have to cause the drinks on the table to slosh and make a mess. Also, it caused every other conversation to simultaneously stop and all attention be directed at them.

"Sorry!" Jakar grunted.. "Are you attracted to her yes or no!"

"Sure, she's great." Jack said suddenly, feeling on the spot.

"Then be a man and claim her as yours." Jakar said more quietly.

Everyone slowly went back to what they were doing. Seeing Jakar react to anything was enough to draw anyone's attention.

"A bit over the top my friend." Okan said, trying to stifle a laugh. "but you do make a valid point."

"I just don't see what his damn problem is," Jakar said looking over towards them. "Hell, I should just go over there myself and see if I can…."

"Hey, now just a damn minute!" Jack said his heckles raising.

"Well if you aren't I may as well." Jakar sneered.

"Fine!" Jack said hopping up. "You know, you are a giant ass!" Land growled stomping off towards the girl's table.

"About damn time." Okan chuckled. "If he succeeds we don't have to listen to him bitch and whine anymore."

"Amen to that." Jakar nodded.

He'd made up his mind, he was going to tell Terri he was ready to move things along in their relationship. What did he have to lose? He was just going to walk right up to her and tell

Jack Land was still a bit annoyed as he approached Terri's table, but he regained his composure on his way there but before he could say anything the PA blasted over the speakers.

"ATTENTION ALL RAPTOR CREW MEMBERS REPORT TO THE SHIP IMMEDIATELY." The computerized voice announced. "THIS IS NOT A DRILL."

"Damn it," Jack muttered quickly, spinning on his heel and bolting for the ship. "Just like an emergency to pop up at the wrong time."

Harry entered the bridge.

"All personnel are accounted for and we are ready to disembark, sir," Terri announced.

"Good," Harry said stepping up to his chair and settling in it. He then flicked on the ship-wide com. "Attention crew, we are heading out for Urthean space. It has been determined that some sort of weapon has been constructed out there and is currently being used on the Starbase. Our orders are simple, search out the weapon and destroy it. It is hoped that we can do this, without stirring up to much trouble. Let's take care of this quickly and may we all come back home. Martinez out." Harry said silencing the channel. "Mr. Rivas disengage the docking clamps. Mr. Land, take us out."

The Raptor's engines fired up and the Raptor backed out of its stall did a quick spin and headed out through the Star base's thick armored double doors, engaged its cloaking device and disappeared out into the endless night.

Xox watched in amusement as the cannon fired another volley of projectiles towards Starbase 186.

"All of the space trash has been fired," D'jonn said drolly still convinced that this had been a colossal waste of time.

"Do try to show some enthusiasm for the others," Xox growled impatiently.

"It was a successful launch, Commandant," D'jonn said with an even greater lack of enthusiasm.

"Well now that we have their attention let's move the ship to our hiding spot, and wait for them to fall into our trap," Xox said with a toothy grin.

The deck shifted as the vessel turned for it's hiding place along with the others behind one of the larger planetoids. D'jonn stepped around his console and next to Xox's command chair. "Commandant, may I speak with you in private?"

"Of course, of course," Xox said levelly.

They stepped into Xox's lounge and Xox poured some wine and offered him some and D'jonn politely declined.

"Before you say anything. I want to address your insubordination as of late."

"Is that so?" D'jonn said tensing slightly.

"Yes, I do not appreciate your undercutting me in front of the others, no," Xox said drinking with one hand and resting his other casually on his sidearm in its holster. "No indeed."

"Fine, I will be frank," D'jonn said. "We are wasting the Emperor's and our time playing this game with this, this, rodent!" D'jonn sputtered.

"It may seem that way," Xox said. "But I am the emperor's hand. I operate autonomously unless told to do otherwise." Xox said calmly. "Plus if we do capture that ship, broken and battered back to Urth we will be rewarded beyond our wildest dreams."

"Wealth is hardly a motivator for me Commandant," D'jonn said.

"Tsk tsk." Xox said his eyes glowing red for an instant. "You have always been my best officer. I would hate to waste such a talented individual because he thinks he can act outside his place in my command."

D'jonn shifted his weight and placed his hand behind his back and quickly palmed one of his knives from a secret pocket. If this was going to escalate he knew where to hit Xox so to end this quickly. "I have not forgotten my place, I just think we could be used better elsewhere, there are many other opportunities out there for us."

Xox tilted his head in thought. "Indeed." He said setting his glass down. "But I will not let some pup who hasn't nearly my experience or the lifetime beat me once and let it go unchallenged."

"So you feel in some way he has damaged your honor?" D'jonn said relaxing a little.

"That could be said." Xox glared. "And for your information, the Emperor is appraised of all my activities, as long as whatever I'm doing does not supersede any wishes of his he does not care how or what I do with my fleet."

D'jonn relaxed slightly more and went and poured himself a drink. "Then I guess my actions have been inexcusable." He swirled the dark wine in its glass. "I have been in the dark lately about what our orders are it has caused some confusion."

"You have always been a reliable comrade," Xox said in a slightly different tone than usual. "But if I have to have this conversation with you again," Xox said. "It will not be on friendly terms. Is that understood."

"Understood, perfectly," D'jonn said curtly taking a sip from his glass.

"Then a toast," Xox smirked. "To a successful hunt."

"To the hunt," D'jonn said raising his glass.

Jack Land sat at his station tapping his fingers impatiently on the control panel. Beneath his fingers, the eta meter slowly ticked down. Long trips were the bane of any starship pilot, mainly because it was flying in a straight line, at warp and occasionally changing direction to another straight line.

Everyone else was monitoring the posts. Jakar seemed to be making sure the weapons were in good working order. Fara was in and out occasionally, apparently, there was some minor problem in the engines but nothing they couldn't handle. Harry seemed intent on staring at the view screen occasionally signing off on the occasional thing. Terri seemed somewhat busy and preoccupied with helping O'mara with something.

He was still pissed at Jakar and Okan from earlier and even more annoyed that the alarm had been sounded.

He opened up a text chat window on his console and entered Terri's name in the recipient box. Maybe Okan and Jakar were right, maybe he should just dive right in. He drummed his fingers on the console again and checked his sensors. God forbid they fly into something while he's screwing around with his personal affairs. After he checked the reading, he hesitated, oh what the hell, what did he have to lose?

"Terri I'd like to thank you for that little program," Michelle said. "It's really handy in keeping everything straight."

Terri smiled and used her stylus on the pad she had in her hand as she looked over the station. "It's not a problem, it's just a small little A.I. program I've been working on since the academy. How do you think I get a lot of my work done?"

"What did you do to make it so efficient?" O'mara said. "I mean half the time it takes care of whatever I need it to do before I even think of it."

"Well, I was friends with someone who had access to the Ingram scanner back at the academy. I just selected some of my better personality traits, encoded them in computer language and well I could go on for hours, but there you have it."

"You did all that?" Michelle said her mouth agape.

"Yeah," Terri said nonchalantly.

"Why aren't you at the Sarnes institute?" Michelle said. "I thought I was good at computers but but but… this is imp.. impressive."

Terri shrugged and smiled. "I'd rather be here." Suddenly something beeped on her padd.

"What's that?" Michelle asked.

"It's a personal message," Terri said opening it intrigued and reading it.

"Whose it from?."

"None of your business," Terri said flushing a little under her fur. "Excuse me." She quickly hurried back over to her station. "I got something I need to take care of."

Harry was a little preoccupied. The ship had an unexpected power fluctuation, for some reason Deck Three had lost life support and the structural integrity field went out as well, Fara and her crew had quickly repaired it but such a fluctuation could be disastrous. He thumped the com switch. "Chief Phoenix, we are about ten minutes from dropping out of warp, have you isolated the problem yet?"

"Captain, I am trying my damndest," Fara said sliding out of an access tube. "The best I can tell it has to be a microfracture in one of the main power relays. "For some reason, the auto repair either missed it or did a half-assed job repairing it. The best I can recommend is keep it below warp five and we should be ok. I don't know what else to tell you." She said scratching her head.

"Could it cause any other problems?"

"I don't know sir," Fara said uncertainly over the speaker. "It will either hold or it won't. If I can find it, I'll get it taken care of. It's just we are having to go over every inch of conduit with every inch of scrutiny we can muster."

Harry growled, having some experience with starship engines he did not like the words fracture and conduit being anywhere near each other. "Very well Fara. Keep me posted."

"You know I will, Phoenix out," Fara said.

Great, nothing like taking a wounded ship into a possible combat situation. Suddenly an alarm sounded.

"Captain." Lt. O'mara suddenly spoke up. "I am detecting a volley of warp accelerated projectiles heading towards the Starbase."

Harry shifted in his chair. "Ms. Lu send an encrypted burst transmission back to base and give them a heads up. Ms. O'mara are those projectiles on the same vector as the last."

Michelle checked her readings real quick. "Affirmative, sir."

Harry growled. "Helm how soon until we're there."

"About ten minutes, I'm picking up something pretty large on long-range sensors." Land said seemingly preoccupied.

"Is it in visual range yet?"

"Not yet." Land replied half-heartedly.

Harry paused. "Is there something else on your mind? Because I need you paying attention to your station, or do you need to be relieved?"

"No, sir." The fox said, snapping to attention in his seat. He looked down at something on his console. "Everything's just fine." He concealed a smile and closed the message window.

"Since you have been wondering," Xox said breaking the silence of the wait. "I have something in store for our little rodent problem, D'jonn."

"What is that?" D'jonn asked.

"The Warp Accelerator Cannon is simply a throwaway piece of my plan," Xox said chuckling. "While using it the Asteroids that have disintegrated during the launch have made quite the impressive cloud of iridium around the device, hence why we have been using it from afar. If our friend comes charging in here the iridium will disrupt his shields and the ships' other systems, we'll be able to see him."

"Not to mention with his shields down it will cause serious problems with his vessel." D'jonn nodded in agreement. "Ingenious sir."

"Mmm yess I thought so;" Xox looked up at the chronometer above the screen. "our rodent should be arriving at any moment now."

The stars stopped streaking on the Raptor's viewer as the ship dropped out of warp.

"Everyone keep your eyes peeled," Harry said getting up out of his chair for a closer look at the strange construct floating in space before them.

"Is that it? Is that what we came out here for?" Land said a bit disappointed. "What a piece of…"

" At ease." Harry snapped. "Jakar get me readings on that thing."

"I am trying sir but something is blocking the sensors," Jakar reported.

Harry quickly shot a look at his science officer.

"I'm working on it, sir." O'mara said curtly.

Jakar suddenly growled. "There is some sort of material coalescing on the hull as we approach the construct."

"What kind of material?"

Jakar growled and slammed his fist down on his console. "I do not know, it's screwing with the sensors."

D'jonn looked up from his station. "Commandant, motion sensors have detected movement near the cannon."

"Ah, just as I predicted, let's move into position," Xox smirked.

"Captain I'm n n not sure it's like we're just blind." O'mara said.

"Theories quickly, we're blind and swatting at shadows," Harry grunted watching the snowy haze on the viewer that had moments before been a starfield.

Michelle chewed at the fine feathers on her fingers nervously as she used her free hand to rapidly look for an answer. "It's the asteroids, damn it, I should have seen it earlier." She suddenly spat.

"Elaborate!"

"If they had been using this thing it's possible that there could be a large cloud of iridium formed around the ca…."

"That's all I need to hear, Mr. Land reverse course full speed NOW!" Harry said scrambling into his command chair only to nearly be thrown out of it as Urthean compressor beams slammed into the ship.

The Raptor's cloaking field was quickly dispersed as more compression beams slammed into it, giving the Urthean gunners something more easily to target.

The Klaxons immediately sounded as the ship shuddered again and again.

"Shields up go to Attack mode now!" Harry barked.

The Raptor bolted in reverse as the rain of Urthean Fire rained down on it from every angle. It was surrounded by the Urthean vessels. Its shields wavered and disappeared making the ship vulnerable to weapons fire, the beams slammed into the sips armored hide sending up a cloud of ablative material. As the Raptor quickly retreated, its form shifted and changed as it went into its secondary attack mode.

Harry felt a bit relieved as the sensors came back online, even after the pounding his ship was taken. "What the hell is going on out there?" He asked.

"Several Urthean ships have surrounded us and are now in pursuit." Jakar reported

"How many?"

"Three Hunters and several Scutta class," Jakar reported.

"What's the status of the cloaking device?" Harry asked.

"It's shot." Rivas replied. "That last hit took it out."

The ship shook again under fire. "Well we came here to do a job lets just pin our ears back and get it over with," Harry said. "Mr. Land let's make a run for that device floating out there. Jakar you may start firing at your leisure."

"My pleasure, Sir," Jakar smirked.

The Raptor charged at Xox's ship which was blocking its way and hammered away with its weapons. The larger vessel's shields held and it returned fire with the weapon batteries mounted on top of its drive pods. The Raptor quickly did a climb and then dove between Xox ship and the once beside it and made a beeline for the Warp Accelerator Cannon. The smaller Scutta vessels had an easier time tracking with it and quickly fell into pursuit as the larger ships made their slow turns to track the raptor.

"Damn it all we had them that was a direct hit!" Xox snarled as their ship came around. "All cannons fire on that accursed ship!"

On the viewer streams of light from the compressor, beams hit the Raptor's shields as it made a beeline for the Warp Accelerator Cannon.

"Sir I have a report from the Sword of Flame, they say that the damage inflicted on them was minor. Not the usual pattern of attack."

"Of course, they are trying to do this as discreetly as possible," Xox growled. "A few bloody noses can be talked out of, but blatant hostility in our space. I may have underestimated this rodent again." Xox snarled digging his metal cutting claws into the arm of his command chair.

The ship shook under the barrage it was taking from the smaller Scutta's still chasing it.

"How close are we to the target?"

"About nine thousand meters," Jakar replied.

"Ok then Arm the torpedoes maximum yield and spread and target that thing," Harry said bracing as the ship bucked again. Even with the ship enhanced systems and protection they were still getting bounced around pretty good from the fire. He glanced down at the monitor to his side and saw they still had fourteen minutes left before they had to shut down the secondary mode. "Mr. Land as soon as those torpedoes are away flip the ship on it's back and let's introduce our friends to our rear to our phaser cannons."

"Aye, sir." Land said plugging in the proper commands. "Ready when you are."

Four more hits slammed into the shields and something above them shorted out and rained sparks down from one of the vents in the ceiling.

Down in engineering, Fara had her hands full, she always did when the ship was like this. The alien components had to be closely monitored because if they weren't they would start to take over the whole vessel. On top of that she was closely watching the drive system, the problem they had earlier still had not been discovered and it was gnawing at the back of her mind.

Every time the ship took a hit on its shields it produced feedback most of the energy was dispersed along with a hull but some of it fed back into the power system that was feeding it. In high-stress situations such as this could cause any weakness in that system to suddenly become very apparent.

She braced herself against the console and scowled as she felt her ship hammered by more energy weapons. Suddenly she heard something on the edge of her hearing. It was very faint, she looked around and everyone else began to hear it as well. She suddenly felt the deck shudder as the torpedo launcher at the bow of the ship fired. Her mind raced to find the conclusion as to what that noise was and before she could cry out she saw the blur of motion that often meant the Raptor had made a high-speed maneuver. Her eye caught a warning that appeared on the computer console as the whine got higher pitched and she slammed her hand down on the Emergency Containment function. Nauseous from the high-speed spin she screamed at the top of her lungs even over the roar of the Phaser Cannons.

"PLASMA LEAK EVERYONE DOWN!"

The Warp Accelerator cannon exploded into a halo of torn and twisted wreckage and explosively charged plasma as it disintegrated under the Raptor's assault. And as it rushed towards the three larger hunter vessels the Scutta's drifted away from it burning with plasma fire their running lights flickering and completely adrift.

On the inside of the Raptor, Emergency bulkheads quickly slammed down, force-fields flared to life in the instant after the emergency containment breach alert had been issued.

Deep inside the ship on the main conduit feeding the ship's engines, a small pin light emerged on the heavily shielded conduit. The pin light soon became a flare in the next instant, a blinding, deafening explosion!

Deadly plasma fire tore through the Raptor's corridors in an instant engulfing and incinerating anyone unlucky enough to be in its path. Deck work melted and heaved from the heat and the force of the explosion worked its way upward, rending a hole in the hull sending those who were not caught into the fire out into vacuum through the breach.

Xox threw up his arm and dimmed his optics as a sudden blinding light erupted from the Raptor. A fireball came from inside its shields and enveloped the ship for a brief instant. When he looked again the ship was careening out of control seemingly adrift.

"What happened? Did one of our ships do that."

"Negative sir," D'jonn reported. "A massive failure in their power systems. Readings indicate a plasma explosion."

"Excellent, Tell the other ships to back up and prepare the boarding shuttles!" Xox cackled. "The day will be ours yet."

The bridge was filled with smoke and debris it was hard to breathe and even harder to see. Harry could feel his eyes stinging as he groped his way towards the lights of the flight control station.

"What the hell happened?" He coughed to Jack.

"I don't know, I got a quick alarm then blammo!" Jack coughed back squinting as blood from a cut above his eye rand down his face.

"Tactical!?"

"All systems are on standby, we only have a few minutes left before the auto repairs stop and we resume standard mode," Jakar replied from the darkness.

Harry tapped his com badge. "Fara, come in, what do we have left?"

Only static answered.

"I'm on it, sir." Michelle O'mara said from the blackness. "Starboard engine is offline, it looks like a good chunk of the outer hull on the aft section is gone. Engineering got the Emergency bulkheads to drop in time."

"Reroute power to the port engine if we still have it, and get us out of here!"

"I'm trying!" Michelle said.

"Mr. Rivas if you aren't dead or injured can you give Ms. O'mara a hand."

He heard a familiar grunt of agreement and saw a wolf shaped form move through the darkness behind him.

"Jack just get us moving in any direction."

"I'd like to, Harry," Jack said darkly. "But they have us in a tractor beam and sensors show boarding shuttles heading this way."

"Jakar do we have any weapons."

"I've got the forward Phaser strip charged and the starboard rim one back up and running, one of the Photonic Missile Launchers is online for another minute."

"Then take that beam out by all means!" Harry ordered. "O'mara, Rivas do you have something to tell me."

"We've got the port engine back online, best we can squeeze out of it is warp five," Rivas replied. "And that is factoring in the structural damage."

"We can't outrun them then, what about our shields?"

There was some hurried discussion. "They may be functional, at least for a few minutes." O'mara said worriedly.

"Alright." Then Harry said hearing the incoming chime com in from the communications station. It was probably Xox wanting to gloat, a small worry entered his mind as to why it hadn't been answered.

He quickly climbed into his seat. "Plot a course, Mr. Land, Engage the engines on my Mark. Jakar, let me know when those shuttles are about on top of us."

A few uncomfortable beats passed.

"Now, sir," Jakar finally said.

"Mark!" Harry shouted.

Two crimson beams leaped out from the Raptor's phaser banks and a volley photonic missiles ripped through space and slammed into Xox's ship's shields. The shields wavered under the assault briefly and then the crimson beams tore through the shielding and into the tractor emitter annihilating it.

The Raptor then slowly began to move away and then went to warp.

"Commandant…" D'jonn said patiently. "Should we pursue, we are still able to track them."

Xox stood motionless glaring at the monitor his fists clenched so tightly that his claws had drawn blood from his palms and a small pool of blood was forming on the floor.

"No…" Xox said quietly. "Let them escape this time."

"But Sir, They are crippled," D'jonn spoke up. "The battle is ours."

"That may be, but…" Xox said turning and pacing back and forth in front of the viewer. "But let's build up his confidence, make him feel he got lucky. I will devise a better plan next time, to ensnare him and the confidence that I give him today will be that rodent's undoing tomorrow….. oh yess indeed."

"As you wish, Commandant." D'jonn nodded.

"Recall the Scuttas, lets head home and let that vermin have his day, on us this time." With that Xox began to cackle and his eyes glowed brilliantly red.

"Anyone tailing us?" Harry asked as the smoke cleared as fresh air was pumped in and the smoke pumped out through the vents.

"No sir," Jakar replied.

Harry looked around the bridge and saw that the Medics had finally arrived. Terri had been injured pretty badly in the neck and they were patching her up. Everyone else seemed to have various smaller wounds and abrasions.

He walked over to her, Terri was a mess her tunic was darkened by a huge stain of blood.

"Is she going to be ok?" Harry asked.

Nurse Twila didn't answer at the moment as she looked over her instruments as her assistant attached a blood cell generator to Terri. Terri was staring at nothing in particular and didn't seem to be too with it at the moment.

"She's lost a lot of blood, I've got her stabilized, but she can't return to duty."

Terri saw Harry and tried to say something but it came out with a strange croak.

"Stay quiet." The nurse said putting an arm on her shoulder and injecting her with a hypospray. On her neck was a dermal repair unit humming away repairing the damaged tissue beneath. "If you talk it won't get the injury healed properly, ok?"

Terri gave a thumbs up, in agreement.

"Does she need to go to sickbay?" Harry asked.

"No, she just needs to lie down and let the machines do their work." The medic replied. "She can be moved though."

"Mr. Rivas take the con, Jack can you escort Terri to her quarters," Harry said.

"Yeah no problem," Jack said signing off and heading back towards their part of the bridge. He bent down and helped her to her feet.

"Now be careful she's not very lucid." The medic warned Jack, as Terri draped an arm around Jack's neck and shoulders.

"Are you sure she shouldn't go to sickbay?" Jack asked concerned.

"Echidnas are pretty tough Mr. Land, she's stabilised, the injury is treated and I've already treated the shock system and the blood cell regenerator will take care of the rest." Nurse Twila said quickly.

"I'll get her there in one piece." Land said. He looked Terri up and down. "You've looked better." He said with a cockney smile.

Terri returned the smile and weakly pointed towards the door.

Harry watched them go and then turned to Jakar. "Any word yet from the engine room?"

"Yes, Fara contacted the bridge a few moments ago I have her waiting." Harry walked over to his chair and hit the com station. "Yes, Chief? Are you ok."

"I'll be fine, but you need to come down to deck three and have a look at this, I'm in section 10. "We lost some good people down here sir," Fara said darkly.

"Understood I'll be on my way."

Harry slid down the access ladder down to the Third deck and headed down the corridor and around the corner. He walked a few more paces before he stopped seeing Fara standing next to open space, her arms folded around her.

"Holy shit…" Harry said.

You are telling me." Fara sighed.

The ship had been gutted down three decks, it looked as if something had torn a chunk right out of it.

If it wasn't for the flickering of force field energy it would look like they were staring out at space. Overhead the starlight streaked by as they traveled through warp space.

"We should be dead," Fara said. "The ships structural integrity field is only at 47% barely enough for safe warp flight." The ship groaned as if to agree with her.

"I don't have an answer for that.." Harry replied. "They should have pursued us but they didn't."

Fara bit her lip and folded her ears back. "This is my fault…."

"You did what you…"

"Don't bullshit me, Harry…" Fara snapped. "I wanted to say something, keep the ship for a full repair like always but one of the repair algorithms, that I designed simply PATCHED over the problem as opposed to fixing it." She whipped a pad that she had been concealing in her lab coat and held it out in front of him. "One tiny mistake and fifteen people are now dead. FIFTEEN That is a quarter of the damn crew!" She caught herself; he could tell she was desperately trying to maintain a hold over what control she had left. "I know I challenged you before on a decision not that long ago and it got me in trouble. So this time I kept my mouth shut and was the good little engineer. I should have listened to my gut, something told me there was something wrong and I didn't listen to it, so I didn't say anything, now….." she started to choke up and turn away from him. "Now…" She growled through a sob. "I have this on my conscience."

Harry let her stand there with her back towards him seeing she was crying and he collected his thoughts.

"Just what the fuck am I supposed to do?" Fara said turning back to him with bloodshot eyes.

"Fara…. I know you were rushed through the officer's program when you started this project. So you were never really tested beyond the bare minimum so you could oversee the Raptor's construction through completion." Harry paused. "I know… that doesn't help does it."

"No!" Fara spat.

"Look I'm the Captain of this ship, I'm responsible for you, everyone here and the well being of this ship. The least I am expected to do is get the ship home in one piece." He paused. "Being the Chief Engineer, your priority is to make sure this vessel operates at peak performance, and you will have to butt heads with me, frequently." He let that sink in as she nodded in agreement. "If you feel that this vessel or any part of it does not meet your expectations you need to make your voice heard; even if, I won't listen."

Fara was deep in thought but still listening to him and trying to wipe the tears out of her eyes.

"Last time you violated a direct order…," Harry said. "This time you didn't listen to your instincts for fear of repercussions. You found out it was something that had simply been overlooked a long time ago when you first built the ship."

"So… you still haven't answered my question." Fara sniffed.

"The Answer is I want you to do your job, Fara." Harry sighed. "If you can't, I'm going to have to find someone who will. Quite frankly I'd rather have you. I trust you, don't let what happened before cause me to lose that trust. I need you, Fara, we all need you here and expect you to do what you think is the best course of action."

"The ship is due for its first major maintenance in a week. I would like to take the time to make sure all these little bugs are worked out." Fara said. "I don't care how pissed the fleet gets at having to divert ships to cover our position at the Starbase but it needs to be done. Before this," She said waving to the gaping maw of the ship's injury. "ever happens again."

"I'll see to it," Harry said. "Do you think we'll make it home?"

"Probably… provided we don't explode for some reason or the other first." Fara said darkly. The ship groaned again eerily. She started back down the corridor. "I got to get back to my engines.. I'm sure the coils are going to get fried by running on just one, I should probably make sure it doesn't burn out before we get home."

Harry nodded and she left without any further words.

It was her way. He didn't expect anything more. He looked out onto the damage one more time, sighed heavily, and then headed back towards the bridge.

Commander log Supplemental:

A few days have passed

The ship is being repaired and slowly being brought back to her old self. Fara is dealing with what happened in the best way she can, by making her replacement personnel miserable in as short as time possible. I have made it very clear to Fleet command that the Raptor will not be returned to operational status until everything has been looked over and triple checked. They grudgingly allowed it and dispatched starships to replace us until the overhaul is complete. They at first refused the order to take the ship off duty for an extended time, but once presented with the data and the gravity of the loss of my crewmen, they quickly changed their minds.

It's a small victory, it doesn't make up for the loss of my people though.

The reasons as to how we were able to escape, I'm still at a loss. I'm sure the Urthean Commandant Xox, is up to something. I'm just not sure what his game is. I'll just count my blessings that the majority of us made it home.

On another note, I've decided to find somebody that can help me keep all my affairs in order so I'm not spending almost every waking moment doing reports. I just hope she'll feel up to it…..

"Commander…" Terri rasped as the door opened. "Come in…" her voice cut off.

"I won't be long I just have something to ask you."

Terri nodded and motioned for him to have a seat. As he did she noticed her pet Taber cat knocked over a chair as it ran for it's hiding place

"Are you planning on going somewhere?" He said seeing her outfit which seemed to be a cotton blouse with the logo from a well-known movie on it in their language and slacks. Her hair was even done up a little bit and she had a few decorative beads in her spines. "Got a date?"

She nodded twice

"Even with your?", he said trying to be gentle about mentioning the scar on her neck.

She shrugged and smiled. "Looks… cool… dsn't" She rasped.

"Wow you are a trooper Terri," Harry said a bit amused. "well if you go out don't overdo it."

"W'nt" She hissed crossing her heart. Then she shrugged as to say, "Why are you here?"

"Yes of course," Harry said. "I appreciate you making the little summaries you do for me post missions lately. It's been asked of me to find a yeoman to help me out with other matters too, I keep getting swamped in reports it seems."

Terri smiled and nodded.

"Would you like to have the job? It can lead to some career opportunities, maybe the big chair one day?"

Terri thought about it for a moment. "…Es.." She finally said.

Harry felt a bit of relief. "Thank you. Thank you very much."

Terri nodded and smiled and pointed at the clock.

"Ah, your date. I'll let you go then, don't worry I'll file the request."

Terri nodded affirmatively. "So, is it anyone I know?" Terri made a slight expression and rolled her eyes then shrugged.

Harry chuckled. "Well, like I said take it easy, you can start tomorrow if you want."

Terri nodded. "Ood night Harr.." she rasped.

Epilogue:

It was a typical rainy summer afternoon in downtown Corneria city at one of the cities old Cineplex's. It wasn't the real building the old one was long gone, but the holo-deck did a hell of a job recreating it.

He wondered why he left the weather patterns in the simulation, but what the hell.

Jack Land drew his raincoat around him and checked his watch as the summer storm continued to pour down. It was about five minutes past and she was late.

Well, she was recovering, after all, he didn't expect her to show up, being injured and recuperating. She said she would be there, well at least handed him a note that said that.

He sighed and leaned against the wall. It's not her fault if she blew him off, it was a shot in the dark anyway.

Why was he getting upset?

He felt a touch on his shoulder and turned to see Terri standing there under an umbrella. "Hi.." She rasped.

"Hey, you made it!" Land said catching himself. "Are you sure you are up to this?"

Terri nodded yes. "w'ldn't miss it…" she rasped and smiled at him. He looked at her blouse. "I only know a little echidna script, what's S.M.A. mean?"

Terri tried to giggle but it came out like a cough. "tell later.. it movie… ike this."

Her skin tone was not pale under her fur like it had been, she did look better.

"What.. movie?" She asked pointing up at the marquee.

"Oh well it's most assuredly classic The Dead Evil it's about sixty years old and low budget but if you like this stuff it'll quickly be a favorite."

"Sounds great." Terri croaked taking his arm and encircling it with hers. "Lead… way."

They headed inside the theater and got their tickets.

The End