Rafale shuddered as the Romulan ship off her bow managed to fire one more salvo before main power was lost. The Starfleet ship soared over the disabled enemy as more weapons collided with her shields, making them flare behind her.
“That’s three of them,” the helmsman reported, his hands flying over the controls as the young ensign kept the ship moving.
Jessica looked up from the science station long enough to verify the ensign’s report before turning her attention back to the library file in front of her. “Keep up evasive patterns!” The ship deck rocked under her feet, and she scrambled to grab onto the station before she was thrown from it a second time. She shook her head and addressed the science officer across from her. “You’re sure of this?”
Ceram nodded, holding onto the console in similar fashion. “After Commander Obruz made mention of ‘them,’ along with the readings of triolic energy, and the death of crewman Decoste in engineering, I have no doubt. We are dealing with Devidians in the Rift.”
Jessica frowned. “The triolic energy waves…They utilize triolic energy to come into phase with us to feed?”
“That is correct.” He staggered as the ship bucked again. “They also utilize it to create ‘portals’ that allow them to travel in time. It is entirely possible the aliens we are seeing here are from the past or some future date where…”
“The portals.” Jessica manipulated her own console, bringing up the sensor scans Lieutenant Sano had taken prior to the initial attack and forced them to display at the Benzite’s screen. “Is it possible Sano found them when we first got here?”
Ceram studied the scans quietly, manipulating his controls to extract as much information as he could from the data.
Another blast echoed through the hull. “That battleship is hitting weapons range, Commander!” The helmsman quickly executed a hard bank, and Jessica turned her head in time to see a torpedo pass over the ship and continue forward, missing its mark.
“Return fire and keep us moving!” She turned back towards the science officer as he continued puzzling over the data. “Ceram! We don’t have time for this! Are these the portals?”
The Benzite startled, looking up in surprise. “Oh! Yes, I believe they could be the portals. The size of them is remarkable. I wonder if the Devidians do employ some method of star travel seeing as these rifts are rather massive in…”
“How do we close them?”
Jessica nodded. “We need to close them!”
Ceram still looked perplexed. “Lieutenant Commander, our interaction with this race is severely limited. Think of all that we could learn from them. As a xenobiologist, I assumed you would be excited for the opportunity to -"
“The Devidians feed on neural energy, Ceram.” Jessica shook her head. “Trying to ‘talk’ peace with them would be like your dinner trying to talk with you before you ate it. I know that we try to have peaceful interactions with other species but the Devidians used the Warwick's crew as food, and at least one of our crewmembers.” The two scientists grabbed the console as the ship shook around them again. “We have to close their portals.”
Jessica and Ceram stared at each other for a moment before the crewman lowered his head, his hands flying over his station. “In order to make the portals visible, I will need to bombard them with ionizing radiation.”
St. Peter left the science station to take the captain’s chair again, watching on the screen. “That takes care of one problem - finding the portals. What about closing them?”
“Judging from the rate of decay, the portals are already very unstable. I would surmise this is due to the battle we are currently engaged in.” There was a pause behind her before Ceram called out again, “Ma’am, the Enterprise-D was able to modify their weapons to close a similar portal during our first contact with the Devidians. It will not be difficult to make the modifications.”
Jessica watched on the screen as another Romulan Bird-of-Prey swung into view and then quickly maneuvered, firing its disruptors at the Rafale as she fired her phasers back. “Do it; get to Engineering and work with Seurer on the modifications. Once you’re ready, begin the bombardment.”
Ceram left his post and jumped into the turbolift as Jessica tapped the controls on her chair. “Bridge to Engineering!”
“Lock down the injectors this time, I don’t want to have to replace them again today!” Elaina rushed from one side of the engine room to the other, quickly assessing her engineers as they hurried with their duties keeping the Rafale fighting. “Shields status?!”
“The Romulans are targeting our shield emitters; shields down to sixty-five percent!”
“Get repair crews to the affected areas to start combat repairs!”
“Bridge to Engineering!”
Elaina cursed; she didn’t have time for Jessica to be checking on her now or repeating the orders she had already issued to her engineers. She tapped her communicator as she moved next to a Betazoid engineer monitoring the warp core. “Go ahead!”
“Elaina, Specialist Ceram is on his way down to you. We need to bombard a few anomalies with ionizing radiation to make them visible, as well as modify our weapons to close the rifts.”
Dammit, what anomalies? What rifts? Elaina shook her head in frustration. “This is an awful time to do anything beyond keeping the ship together, Commander!”
“We’re almost finished up here. Work with him to get it done and begin bombardment once you’re ready. I can explain all of this later!”
The channel closed before Elaina could protest. She paused for a moment in surprise; Jessica had given her an order with confidence, rather than the desperation she had been expecting. She smirked. “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this.”
Obruz and Kunicki peered through the door cautiously, then quickly pulled back on either side. “That is a very large group of them,” Obruz commented. “This is the last portal, correct?”
Nizeri nodded. “The one in engineering, and the one in the mess hall on our way back here.” She pointed to the open doorway to the cargo bay. “This is the last one on the ship, and right now it’s the strongest source of triolic energy.”
The Warwick shuddered around them then, the noise of the weapons impact echoing oddly in their phased state. Dossu glanced around, waiting for an errant strike to blast a hole in the hull of the ship, or worse, completely destroy the Warwick with them still on it. “We need to hurry this up.”
Wirstowx stepped forward with his large phaser cannon; next to him, the Hirogen Tunarj raised his rifle, waiting to attack. The two large aliens quickly glanced at one another and nodded; Wirstowx turned back to Dossu. “Ready.”
The last of the evacuees had returned safely through the open portal. Now the rest of the Devidians, the stronger ones tasked to protect the exit at all costs, would return home.
The largest of the remaining aliens, his status among the others shown by the crown of horns that topped his head, turned suddenly. In its hand, a snake-like creature writhed and hissed. It, too, sensed what the phantom had.
The intruders were upon them.
The phantom shrieked a warning as phaser beams lashed out, hitting two of the defenders square in the chest and sending them reeling backwards. It shrieked again, causing the attackers to stop in confusion. Pathetic humans.
It raised the snake it held into the air above its head, channeling the triolic energy waves that were radiating out from the open portal behind it.
“STOP!” it screamed, surprising them even more as it reached towards them with its free hand. It made a fist, lifting it high as if it had taken hold of one of the creatures by the neck. Instantly, the attackers found themselves floating in the air, struggling as some unseen force lifted them and held them bound. The snake in the phantom’s hand opened its mouth, beginning to drain the energy of the helpless creatures that had dared to attack the Devidians.
“Bridge, engineering; we’re ready to go down here! Initiating bombardment now!”
Jessica looked up at the viewscreen as another Romulan ship passed in front of the Rafale. Just behind it, a small patch of the rift began to shimmer faintly. She pointed at the screen. “Tactical, target that rift and fire phasers!”
The tactical officer began his firing pattern, looking over his right shoulder at the blue alien. “What about the Romulans?”
Jessica frowned, thinking for a moment. “Shields status?”
M’Ral called from behind her, “Seventy-five percent!” The bridge shook, punctuating the report as the Romulan attack connected with the shields. “Continuing to rotate power around the grid as the Romulans circle us, but they’re starting to punch through.”
Jessica shrugged; for once, something seemed to click and make sense. “Focus on those rifts; the sooner we get them closed, the safer we’ll all be. When our shields drop below fifty percent, return to firing at the Romulans.”
“And the Hirogen battleship?”
Jessica shook her head. “Keep running. We can’t take them with the Romulans still pestering us.”
Rafale turned her nose quickly, acquiring her new target. A flurry of phaser fire erupted from her forward cannons, hurtling towards an area of the Bassen Rift that was shimmering as radiation continued to bombard it. As the phaser fire collided with the triolic energy, the open portal became even more visible, causing the Romulan Birds-of-Prey that were harrying the Starfleet vessel to momentarily stop their attack in confusion.
The portal - little more than a tear in the fabric of space, no larger than the ship firing at it - grew larger as a wave of triolic energy erupted from it, bathing the ships in the Bassen Rift for a moment. The Romulan ships veered away quickly, taking a few shots of their own at the mysterious rift as they sped out of range.
Rafale continued firing her phasers, closing with the portal until, with another violent eruption of triolic energy, the portal destabilized and collapsed in a brilliant explosion that rocked the ships close to it. The Starfleet vessel maneuvered, firing a few warning shots at the Romulan ships as she bombarded another open portal and began to fire at it in similar fashion.
Only one ship dared get close to the Akira-class ship. Despite the warnings she was issued from her allied ships, the Hirogen ship closed in on the Rafale, her only goal to finish the hunt and collect her trophies.