“Tell me again what we’re doing?”
Seymour rolled his eyes, shutting off the hyperspanner in his hand. “Sir, this is already difficult enough without you interrupting me. Please,” he motioned for the first officer to take a step back, before returning to the piece of equipment in his hands.
Obruz blinked a few times in surprise, then shrugged. “Understood. So what are we doing?”
“The Devidians are out of phase with us and ‘normal’ space.” Sonia shut off the hyperspanner again and offered the electronic he was working on to the Bajoran. “The Warwick was loaded with sensitive scanning equipment for her survey mission here. We’re using the components to create a contained subspace field -"
“That will bring us into phase with them.” Dossu finished, nodding. “If they’re still here.”
“Assuming we’re right about this, they’re definitely still here, Commander.” Sano appeared next to the first officer, looking past him at Sonia as he finished his work. “How is the phase discriminator coming?”
Sonia dropped the hyperspanner and snapped a panel shut on the device, then handed it to the Trill. “Done. Just need you to input the phase variance.” He motioned with his head to the warp core, where a small circle of transporter enhancers had been set up already. “The enhancers will help create the field; once we’re phased, we’ll be able to move outside of the field. We’ll have to be back inside the ring - and with the discriminator - to phase back.” He lowered his voice and shook his head. “Assuming this even works.”
Dossu glanced behind him, past the enhancers where Wirstowx and Kunicki were still standing over the Hirogen. He frowned. “How many of us can phase?”
“We’ve got it plugged in directly to the core, sir.” Seymour shrugged. “We could take the entire crew of the Rafale with us if we wanted to…and if we could all, you know…fit in the engine room.”
Obruz nodded. “Put the finishing touches on it.” He walked to where his two guards were and came up between them, looking down at their prisoner.
The Hirogen Tunarj looked up and sneered. “What do you want, Bajora?”
Dossu frowned at the Hirogen. “We have a plan to drive your ‘phantoms’ off this ship.” He tapped Wirstowx on his elbow and motioned for the Hirogen’s rifle, which the equally massive Ozem was holding. The warrior surrendered the rifle to him; Dossu strained a little under the weight of the weapon, but managed to keep his composure. “I’m offering you a choice, Hirogen. Come with us and help us clean up.”
Wirstowx and Kunicki looked incredulously at one another, then back to Obruz, neither saying a word. Tunarj looked equally confused, shifting his gaze from the Bajoran’s face to the emitter of his rifle, which the Starfleet officer held a few precarious inches from his chest. “What is my alternative?”
“We leave you behind.” Obruz shrugged. “We’ll take a short hike to the brig and toss you in. I can’t have you running amok on the ship, especially with our escape route unguarded. Of course,” he finished, a slight smirk forming on his lips. “Locked away in the brig, with no way to defend yourself? If these Devidians are still on board, you’d be a pretty easy snack for them.”
“I see your point.” Tunarj sighed and nodded. “Very well. I will assist you. It is the least I can do for my comrades…and my Alpha.”
Obruz turned the rifle around, ignoring the protests of Kunicki as the human tried to put a hand on the weapon and stop it. He offered the butt of the rifle to the Hirogen, who hesitantly took it and stood.
Dossu turned his back to Tunarj. “Sano, are we ready to try this?”
“We’ve got everything we need, sir.”
“Alright team. Form up around Sano.” The away team moved to stand in the ring of pattern enhancers, weapons out and charged. The small Trill woman held the phase discriminator tightly in her hands in the center of the small ring. Dossu nodded to her. “Start it up.”
Nizeri tapped a button on the device, and it began to whine as it powered on. Sano opened her tricorder and began manipulating the controls. “Beginning shift. Point-zero-zero-one. Zero-zero-two.”
There was a bright blue flash as the team began to phase shift. They all brought their weapons up, looking around in alarm. “Is this supposed to be happening?” Kunicki asked.
Tunarj’s voice rumbled next to the assault officer. “This looks like what happened when the creatures attacked my hunting party. We thought it was a problem with this ship’s lighting.”
“I think the ship’s crew thought the same thing,” replied Sonia as he glanced around nervously.
“Point-zero-zero-four,” Nizeri announced, closing her tricorder. The flashing light had stopped, and now the away team found themselves in a cerulean world. Sano blinked her eyes a few times, the flood of blue light disorienting her.
Obruz was also blinking his eyes as he fought off a wave of nausea. “Everyone feel ok?” There were a few affirmative replies around him as he stepped forward, searching the room. Nothing had changed, except for the wash of blue everywhere. He turned around to face his team again and stopped, surprised. Everyone looked as if they were disappearing in blue, except for their heads; bright, almost-white light shone around the away team member’s heads, illuminating them like ghostly halos.
He pointed to his head when he saw S’Tel lift her head to look at him. “What’s this?”
S’Tel raised an eyebrow, doing a quick glance around at the rest of the team. “Fascinating. I believe we are seeing physical manifestations of our neural energies.” She pulled out her tricorder and began recording. “This is most intriguing.”
Something was very wrong. Very, very wrong.
The beings had been there - their presence had been so easily felt, seven beacons of life in an otherwise dead space - and now, they were…
Still here. Changed, but still here.
It reached out with its senses and could “taste” the energy in the air. It was so much closer, so much easier to find. It was as if the barrier that separated them from each other had been destroyed.
No longer separated. If it knew how to laugh, it would have cackled in glee.
Nothing was wrong. Everything was perfect.
Its brethren felt the change, too. They converged on the central part of the ship, where the energy was greatest. Like wolves on the hunt, they followed the sensation of the energy - the food, sustenance, their way of life - and found that their prey had made things that much easier for them.
The Devidians would not need to expend more energy to feast. This time, dinner had come to them.
The away team cautiously stepped outside the ring of pattern enhancers, weapons held at the ready.
“Lieutenant Sano, you’re sure the weapons will work while we’re…phased?” Crewman Kunicki checked the power reading on his rifle, then looked up anxiously at the science officer.
Nizeri nodded slowly, doing her best to look confident. “Absolutely.”
“She has no idea,” chimed Wirstowx, checking the power on his cannon.
Kunicki went wide-eyed for a moment, then glared at Nizeri. She, in turn, glared at Wirstowx. “Wirst! They’ll work just fine.” She shrugged and looked back at the assault officer with a sheepish expression. “I just don’t know what effect they’ll have on the Devidians.”
“Now she tells us.”
Dossu raised his rifle so he could look down the sights. “Don’t worry, Kunicki. You’re about to get a test run.”
There was a tear in the air like a massive, purple wound. Floating around it were six ghostly figures. They were tall, taller even than the massive Hirogen standing with the away team. Their skin was wrinkled, and their heads were devoid of any features save for a large, gaping orifice on their foreheads.
Nizeri swallowed hard. “Devidians.”
As Nizeri said this, one of them turned its head towards the team. The hair on the back of Obruz’s neck prickled, and he steadied his weapon. “I think they see us.” The one that had turned its head followed with the rest of its body, moving quickly towards the small team, arms outstretched. Its partners followed close behind. “Open fire!”
Phasers lashed out blood red beams of energy, hitting three of the beings square in the chest. They tumbled backwards, dazed, before lifting up off the floor and moving forward again. Nizeri let out a startled cry and fired again, as did the rest of the away team.
“I thought our weapons would be effective!” Tunarj shouted over at Sano.
“They are effective, or they wouldn’t be affected!” Sano fired her phaser again. “We need to find a power setting that’ll actually do more than just annoy them!”
Seymour yelled then, and Obruz turned to see a Devidian pounce on top of the human, its hands wrapped around his neck. “Help!” He shouted, trying to kick the alien off of him. Dossu could see the glow around Sonia’s head brighten for a moment before it started to reach out, like a tentacle, away from his head, moving slowly toward the Devidian’s mouth. Sonia’s struggles started to falter.
“It’s killing him! Quick!” Tunarj turned and lunged at the alien, kicking it square in the side and smacking it in the head with the butt of his rifle. The alien was thrown off Sonia and rolled away on the ground before lifting off again and lunging at the Hirogen. Its outstretched hands wrapped around his arms and it put its head close to his; instantly his movement to fight off the alien became sluggish.
A blood red streak flew out of the corner of his eye from behind him, and Obruz watched as the Devidian was thrown backward off the hunter. Another blast flew past him, striking the alien again. This time, it fell to the ground and didn’t get back up.
“Modulate your weapons to kill setting, five-one-mark-zero-two.” S’Tel called above the noise, firing her hand phaser again at another Devidian before it attacked her.
After a brief pause to set their weapons, the away team began shooting again, this time with lethal results. After another twenty seconds, engineering was silent again.
“Are you alright?” Dossu bent down and grabbed the Hirogen’s arm, lifting him up. He gasped for breath and nodded. “Sonia, are you doing ok?” He turned to see the Operations officer sitting up, and he gave him a weak nod in reply. “Ok, S’Tel, watch them. Wirstowx, Kunicki, with me.” Dossu turned and raised his rifle, aiming at the rift near the entrance to engineering. “Fire!”
The three of them squeezed the triggers of their weapons, sending a concentrated barrage of phaser fire at the open rift. A sound of tearing fabric filled the room, and then the rift disappeared.
“We’re…going to have to do the same thing…around the ship.” Seymour coughed, struggling to stand with help from Sano. “Either that or we destroy the whole damn ship.”
“I don’t think Starfleet would appreciate that.” Obruz tilted his head to the side, stretching his neck until it popped. “Nizeri, where’s the next portal?”
Pain. Agony. Hunger.
They were fighting back. Their weapons worked.
Another searing pain like fire. The portal had been closed.
There were only two more on the small ship. They would be found. They would be closed off.
They couldn’t let the remaining portals close. If the ones in the rift were destabilized, there would be no way back.
And so the Devidians passed through the remaining portals, as fast as they could, before they were trapped on the wrong side. A handful were left to guard each portal, but they needed to bring most of them back. They couldn’t stay, not any longer. It was too dangerous.
The largest of the phantoms lifted his scepter above his head - a writhing, snake-like creature that snapped and spat in his hand. The loss of their kin would not go unpunished.