CHAPTER 12

"They've got us surrounded again, the poor bastards."

- Unknown American Soldier, Battle of the Bulge, Earth (Human)

IMPERIAL KLINGON BATTLECRUISER RAGE, MANEUVERING

JANUARY 2275

Wilkes was beyond terrified. Their team was pinned down in a corridor near where they thought the ambassador's quarters might be. He was trying to use a tricorder to locate the device but was not finding it. The sound of Klingon disruptor fire over his head was making it difficult to concentrate, as was the plasma rifle fire from his own side.

Sooth shouted at him, "Wilkes! We can't stay here! You have to tell us where to go!" She ducked moments before a disruptor bolt lanced through the space where her head had been, impacting on the wall and splattering him with molten metal.

"I can't find the fucking thing! Maybe it's not even here!" A round object came flying towards them and one of Sooth's Marines caught it and hurled it back the way it came. Wilkes saw it explode in a blinding flash before it got to the Klingon troops. Working the dials on his tricorder, he had an inspiration. Switching the device from scanning for biological organisms, he had it look for large power-sinks. If the thing had a semi-stasis field on it, it would suck power like nobody's … ahhh! "I got it! I got it! Two decks down, 30 meters east of here!"

She shouted orders to her two crew leaders, "Aletan, breach through the damn deck and we'll drop down, then set security there. Kurn, cover fire here, drop down last, then you blow that deck and swap jobs. Anyone see the Hydrans or the other team?" Wilkes saw her pop up and shoot a Klingon he realized was just about to shoot him. Putting her hand on his shoulder she said calmly, "Wilkes, remember to duck, OK?"

And then she was back on her belly, firing rounds at the Klingons. Seconds later there was a hissing flash and a meter square section of deck dropped straight down, closely followed by the first Marines. Wilkes dropped down with them, trying his best to take aimed shots but suspecting his accuracy was poor since even he could see the muzzle shaking.

They repeated the process and quickly dropped down to the deck where the device was located. Almost immediately Wilkes heard a shattering explosion overhead. Looking up into the swirling dust and raining chunks of deck he asked, "What the hell?"

A young Marine answered him, "We left a little surprise for if our friends wanted to follow us down." and he laughed. Let's go Wilkes! You're holding us up!" He got to his feet and raced off with his crew. Wilkes followed as quickly as he could, trying to refine the readings on his tricorder as he ran, the bulky, heavy armor, helmet, and plasma rifle making it seem like an impossible task.

30 meters is not a long distance to run. But it can seem like an eternity when you are wondering if you are going to be shot with every step. Wilkes screamed "This one! This one! Here!" and the Marines stopped and fell back, setting up a perimeter as he tried to get the door to open. While he was fiddling with the unfamiliar controls, a disruptor bolt hit just next to his hand and he dropped straight down to the floor, nearly wetting himself in reaction.

Sooth laughed, "That's better, Wilkes, but duck FIRST next time!" she sent another couple of rounds down range. "Aletan, blow the door! Ah, shit, cover me!"

Wilkes heart stopped as she jumped to her feet despite the weapons fire, ran the short distance to Aletan's crumpled form and dragged him back into what cover there was. As she rummaged through the wounded Marine's ruck for the rope-charges he saw two new gouges in her armor and then his eyes were drawn to the bright pink heart adorning the right side of her helmet. There was a surge in the ship's gravity and the lights went out, red battle-lanterns automatically switching on and adding an eerie glow to the battle.

"Sooth!" Crew Leader Kurn yelled, "We can't hold them much longer, this is not a good position."

As she opened her mouth to reply there was the high-pitched scream of rail-guns mixed with the deeper sounds of Klingon curses and shouts of rage and pain. Seconds later, Colonel Jons and a squad of Hydran Marines came running into their position shouting "Friendlies coming in!", being tracked by the Dosadi Marines every step of the way.

"What kept you?" Sooth laughed.

"We couldn't find the damn thing. Ended up scanning for Dosadi. Are you all that's left?"

"We never found our other team. You?" she began attaching the charges to the door.

"My son is leading the other squad. Our beam-downs were scattered."

"Your son? I didn't know...Later." she attached the detonator and said, "Get clear!"

Chief Petty Officer Kalea and her squad of Federation Security from the Hood had finally managed to convince the Klingons that they were there to help, not invade. The Yorktown security team had been dispatched to the fighting near the ship's bridge where one Dosadi team was pinned down. As they trotted to the fighting going on in crew quarters, she thought again how much she hated assault transports. She always felt that beaming through raised shields, no matter how much power there was behind the transporter, left something of her behind.

Coming upon the crushed remnants of a group of Klingons who had obviously been taken by surprise, they moved cautiously into position, her team mixed with Klingon warriors and she shook her head at the oddity. She had spent most of her career learning how to fight against these people, not alongside them. Shrugging her shoulders, she ordered her team to begin laying down cover fire.

Taking the lead position, she tried to study the enemy positions without being too exposed. They were not in the best of spots, she thought. They were in an angle where the Klingons could fire from two directions into their formation and there wasn't much cover. A moment later, her mouth hung open as she caught a brief sight of a bright pink heart on one of the Dosadi's helmets.

Sooth! What the hell was she doing here? Sooth wasn't a terrorist. This wasn't right. Making a fast decision on a gut instinct, she ordered her squad to cease fire.

Crewman Okoro shouted back, "What the hell? We got clear shots!"

"It's SOOTH! Something's seriously screwed up here."

"You sure? From when we took over the Yorktown?"

"Yeah. Pull back."

As her team pulled back, the Klingon leading their team yanked her to her feet, "FIGHT you coward! You said you came here to help and now you turn tail and run at first sight of the enemy?"

"They're not the enemy. I don't know what's going on but until I do, we're not engaging anyone."

"What's going on is that they've invaded my ship, killed my brothers, and are trying to kill more! What more do you need to know?! Are all humans as cowardly as you are?"

"We're not cowards. But there is more here going on than I understand. Only a fool fights without knowing why."

The Klingon backhanded her, knocking her to her knees even through her armor and weapons were raised on both sides.

Clearing her head, the little Hawaiian ordered "NO! Stand down – all of you! Pull back out of the line. We need to get Captain Karmes or Kamov or someone." Her team stepped to the side as the disgusted Klingons took their places and began engaging the diminishing Hydran and Dosadi unit.

The breeching charge blew a hole into the quarters on the other side and Jons charged through, followed by Sooth and then Wilkes while the Marines who were still mobile tried to contract their perimeter even more.

The first thing Wilkes saw was a brown satchel surrounded by the blue, ionized glow of an isolation field. The second was a tall Klingon in a uniform he assumed was that of an ambassador, holding what could only be a trigger in his left hand and smiling. Both Jons and Sooth had their weapons trained on him and he had a disruptor pointed directly at Sooth's face.

"Come join the party, Marine." You will all drop your weapons now please, or I will trigger the device. Obviously you know what it is.

Jons thought it through, coolly calculating the odds. They needed a wild card. Something to break the standoff. "Okay. We shall." and he dropped his rail-gun. Surprised, but following his lead, Sooth did the same, her plasma rifle clattering loudly on the floor.

The Klingon indicated Wilkes and said, "Well, Marine? Where's your weapon?"

"I dropped it outside." he said and took his helmet off so he could see better. The damn thing was really uncomfortable. "I'm not a Marine."

Surprised at the human face under the Dosadi battle armor, the Klingon's eyes and his disruptor wavered towards Wilkes. Seizing the chance, Sooth's arm was a blur as she reached over her shoulder, drew Kaileen's little boot knife and threw in one smooth motion.

The Klingon's eyes snapped back to her and the disruptor swung onto target as he was ever so slightly distracted by the bright pink splotch on the right side of her helmet. The disruptor bolt, instead of going directly through her faceplate, impacted mostly on the side of her helmet, blowing it to pieces and scattering chunks of gore across the back wall as Sooth dropped like a marionette with its strings cut.

The knife flew straight into the Klingon's skull, sinking past the hilt as though the entire structure of his head had somehow gone soft. Jons, ever watchful, saw the Klingon mash the trigger-device he held and simultaneously erupt in a horrible keening scream the likes of which he had never heard. The thing's features rapidly shifted through portions of a dozen different races accompanied by a hissing boiling sound while blisters erupted and popped in a disgusting display as it collapsed into an amorphous heap.

Wilkes was on his knees cradling Sooth's mangled head and screaming curses. Jons grabbed him, punched him across the face and yelled "WILKES! Defuse the bloody bomb! He triggered it! I'll take care of Sooth! Get the bomb or none of this matters!" and he shoved himself in between Wilkes and his mate, ripping open the med kit on her battered armor.

Shaking his head, Wilkles staggered to his feet, stepping back from the horror show on the floor, thankful that Jons was blocking most of his view. He actually felt rather calm now, he decided. He didn't particularly care what happened from here on out. He walked over to the case, sitting on the desk with the trigger device hanging by it's wires. The isolation field made it appear blurry. He could see the power cables leading into the field, so that meant that it had an external power-supply.

He could cut the power, but the field would remain for days and he doubted they had much time left. He wished that it had one of those handy digital countdown displays that all the bombs in the space operas always had. So dramatic. This was pretty boring. Just a brown case in a blue field and nothing he could do to defuse it. He couldn't get at any of it. It would just...He wondered what it would do. Probably not blow up. That wouldn't spread the organism around much and people would suspect something. Must just release a gas or something. Like a lethal fart. He laughed.

Jons looked up at Wilkes' back, seeing that he was just staring at the bomb and laughing. That was not a good sign. Shaking his head, he returned to trying to save Sooth's life. He could tell they were running out of time by the rapidly slackening fire from the Marines outside. He wondered if there were more than one or two left alive.

Wilkes held his hands to his head, trying to crush out the memory of that last horrible instant when the disruptor fired. If he could just put enough pressure on his skull, he could...Oh. He turned and said, "Jons, throw me her phaser."

"Wilkes, now is not the time to play Marine. Defuse the bloody bomb!"

"I am. Throw me her phaser."

Deciding not to argue, he pulled her hand-phaser from it's holster and threw it to Wilkes. The lad caught it neatly enough and turned to his work, as Jons focused on his, trying to stop the massive bleeding and keep her damaged airway open. A good sized chunk of her cheek and skull had been blown off and disruptors had a disturbing tendency to cause damage to adjacent tissues... and then he heard the screeching siren of a phaser on overload.

"Wilkes! What the hell are you doing! That'll kill everyone!"

Wilkes sat down and smiled. "No, it won't, Jons. I can't do anything to the bomb. It's in an isolation field. If I cut the power, the field's still there for a long time. So I'm giving it more power."

"Blowing up a phaser power pack by it won't affect it in the slightest you young fool!"

"I'm not blowing it up. It'll stay at this rate until it's empty in a couple seconds. But all that power is flooding in to the isolation field, making it stronger and stronger and stronger."

Two Klingons charged through the hole in the door, one after the other, "Hands up! Don't move!"

Jons said, "We give up! But she needs a medic, badly!"

Hesitating at the scene in the ambassador's quarters, the Klingons were confused for a moment. "You! Deactivate the phaser! Immediately!"

Wilkes said, "Please...just help her. Please." And the loud screaming sound faded away to nothing as the power pack exhausted itself, the bluish isolation field now a forbidding black.

"Please." Wilkes said again.

The Klingon covering Jons called for a medic while the other one came closer to Wilkes and said, "What is that...mess?"

Jons spoke again, "Whatever that was, it was in the shape of your ambassador. It was NOT Klingon."

Poking at the pile of goo and clothing with his boot, the Klingon noted a badly melted and pitted piece of what must once have been a knife. "What did you do to...it?"

Jons continued,"The wounded Marine there threw a knife into it's skull and it sort of dissolved. We have the combat tapes in our helmets, of course."

"And what is THAT?" he indicated the black oblong block of the isolation field.

"That is a biological weapon inside an isolation field. The thing triggered it. We don't know how long until it's set to release the field and detonate. That is what we came here to prevent, but we were too late."

"A biological..." the field suddenly dissipated and there was a loud and rapid rush of air expanding and then contracting back, knocking everyone in the room around. "It detonated!"

Jons sagged, "It was all for nothing. It released the plague."

Wilkes, still sitting on the floor staring at Sooth's body said in a voice completely drained of joy and hope, "No it didn't. That was just from all the pressure inside the isolation field."

Threatening him with his disruptor the Klingon said "Explain! Now!"

"Sure." Wilkes continued like he was lecturing a class. I couldn't turn off the isolation field. It wouldn't dissipate until the timer inside killed it and released whatever was in the box. But I could give it more power. And that kind of field is fixed-dimension on the outside, right? But if I add power to it, the field has to expand somewhere. Since they're fixed to isolate a region bounded by the set external dimensions, the only place for it to expand is internally. So, when I added power to the system, it had to expand internally. The field kept expanding against whatever was inside as the entire energy contents of a fully charged hand-phaser poured into it. That crushed little pea on the desk used to be about half a meter on each side. I'm guessing there must have been nearly a million pounds per square inch inside that field. Anything that was anything inside it was crushed. Dead. Harmless."

Jons laughed, "Wilkes! That's brilliant!"

"Big. Fucking. Deal." he said and put his head on his knees and cried, much to the disgust of the Klingon standing over him.