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Chapter 13

“They are targeting another anomaly, Alpha!”

Gan sat forward in his chair, eyeing the Starfleet vessel on the viewer as it fired at a seemingly empty area of the Great Bloom. He narrowed his eyes, eventually seeing the slight shimmer of the anomaly as the ship continued to throw ionizing radiation towards it. “What are they doing?”

The Hirogen to his left, newly appointed to the position of Beta on the ship, worked his controls furiously. He lacked the skill Gan had acquired from years of tutelage under the previous Alpha.

He glanced around for a moment, taking in the view of the command center. It wasn’t unusual for Hirogen Betas to promote themselves to the position of Alpha on a ship, especially when the first Alpha was missing or had been killed in a hunt. The problem was that Tajaln’s status was still unknown. Gan respected his Alpha and followed him without a thought of taking leadership from the man by force. Somehow taking his title now seemed wrong, hasty even.

Once we destroy this Starfleet nuisance and collect our prize, Tajaln can have his ship and his hunters back. “What is that ship doing, Beta?”

“They are firing all of their weapons at that anomaly; they are completely ignoring the Romulans and us.” There was a pause, and the new Beta furrowed his brow. “I am reading a strange energy source from the anomaly, one that is not commonly seen. I am accessing the Romulan library to identify it.”

“Quickly.” Gan turned his chair to the right to address the weapons controller at his station. “How long until we are within range?”

The young Hirogen looked up from his console. “We are entering range now, Alpha.”

“Alpha, the energy is being identified as ‘triolic’ energy.” The new Beta looked up, his face masked with confusion. “I am unfamiliar with this energy type. It is very dangerous to organic matter.”

Gan shook his head. “I do not care about it. Continue our approach.” He pointed to the weaponeer below him. “Wait until that anomaly collapses, and then fire on the Starfleet vessel. We will destroy them now!”

“Yes, Alpha!”

===


“Another triolic eruption!”

“Strengthening forward shields!”

Jessica gritted her teeth as the ship rocked around her. “Keep on it…”

“Captain!” M’Ral roared behind her as the ship was violently tossed by the anomaly’s demise. “Hirogen battleship is within weapons range. They’re firing!”

Jessica’s eyes widened as she gripped the armrests of her chair before she was tossed forward as the ship rocked again. Consoles exploded around the bridge, showering the officers with shrapnel and flooding the small bridge with black smoke. She coughed, struggling to keep her eyes open in the stinging haze. “Focus shield strength to our aft and increase our speed to get out of their weapons envelope!”

“Shields are at thirty-five percent!” The tactical officer coughed as he spoke. “They disabled half our rear shield grid with that attack!”

“Emergency power!”

M’Ral growled behind her in reply. “Reroute it where? The grid is heavily damaged, Commander! Repair teams are having trouble getting to the generators; getting reports of hull breaches and fires all throughout the rear of the ship.”

Jessica cursed loudly; the order to reroute emergency power always seemed to work for Mal’kon. “I’m open to suggestions!”

The helmsman’s hands were a blur across his panel as Rafale increased speed and shot forward, evading more attacks from the large ship pursuing them. “I liked your first idea to run, ma’am!”

St. Peter giggled softly despite herself. She waved at the screen, settling uncomfortably into the chair. “Then run, dammit!” She lowered her voice, speaking aloud to herself. “I hope the away team is having better luck than we are.”

===


What is…going on?

It was a difficult question to answer. Wirstowx was finding it harder to concentrate, but it also didn’t seem possible. He struggled, flailing his arms and kicking wildly to try and break free, but it was getting more and more difficult to continue fighting. He turned his head to see Nizeri next to him suspended in the air as well. Her mouth and eyes were wide open, and her arms hung limp at her sides, her body jerking every so often as she managed to regain control of her senses, only to have them ripped from her again. A quick jerk of his neck let him see Commander Obruz near him, the Bajoran’s body convulsing in similar fashion.

A string of white light seemed to float out from each of the away team members towards the largest Devidian, connecting them all to him. Wirstowx struggled more, though he knew his own strength and willpower was faltering considerably with each passing moment.

Any longer…and we won’t…be able…to fight…

A blast of energy screamed past Wirstowx’s head, the light blinding him for a dizzying moment. In the few seconds of blindness he heard one of the aliens scream. As if a cord that was holding him aloft had been cut, he felt gravity suddenly take hold of him again and pull him forcefully back to the ground. He groaned as his vision slowly came back, struggling to find the weapon he had dropped when he hit the deck plating.

A large, gloved hand gripped his upper arm and pulled the Ozem warrior to his feet as he felt the butt of his weapon thrust into his stomach. “Get up!”

Wirstowx blinked, the dark blob in front of him slowly becoming clearer. He shook his head, clearing out the last of his disorientation, before gripping the handle of his weapon and nodding his thanks to the Hirogen. Together, the hulking aliens turned and fired their weapons at the largest of the Devidians, peppering its slender body with phaser and tetryon blasts.

A third weapon began firing from behind them, and Wirstowx was pleased to see that Obruz was back on his feet quicker than the team’s remaining assault squad member. Perhaps the new exec would be worth his weight on the ship after all.

The large Devidian screamed in rage again as it hurried backward from the away team’s continued barrage. A lucky shot hit the alien in the hand, and it dropped the snake it had been holding onto the ground.

Wirstowx brought his emitter down and aimed it at the ground for a second before bringing the weapon back up again, his finger never releasing the trigger. Phaser bolts blasted the snake into oblivion before coming back to bear on the Devidian.

With a final indignant shriek, the slender alien turned and dove through the open portal behind it.

“Stop!”

The Hirogen howled and ran forward, ignoring the order from Obruz. Still firing his weapon at it, the Hirogen ran full speed into the open rift, which flashed brightly as he passed through.

“The hell is that idiot doing!?”

Wirstowx shook his head. “Collecting his trophies.”

Behind him, he could hear S’Tel cough before replying, her voice straining to remain impassive. “He will be dead in a matter of minutes. There is nothing we can do for him.”

“Then he’s another casualty.” Kunicki stepped up next to Wirstowx, staring at the gaping rift. “We can’t go in after him; there’s no guarantee we’ll get back out, sir.”

“Agreed,” Obruz declared, aiming his weapon. “Close the rift; we’re done here.”

The Starfleet team raised their weapons and fired in unison. A minute later, the final rift on the Warwick closed.

===


Gamma Tunarj turned his head quickly from side to side, looking around him. He was in a spacious cavern now, and all around were the same thin, faceless aliens as had been on the Starfleet ship. They were gathered around him, their heads all pointed towards him as they sensed the intruder in their realm.

Ancients, the hunter thought in despair as the horde of Devidians lunged at him.

===


The humanoid was hardly filling for the gathered Devidians. The leader of the group lifted the dead Hirogen by his neck, squeezing the last fleeting moments of life from the corpse before viciously hurling the alien at the cavern’s far wall.

They had been discovered. They had been stopped. More anger and fury built up inside the phantom. The area of space - the Great Bloom, the Romulan-aliens called it - had been a wonderful trap for them. Killings under the guise of extreme radiation poisoning. Accidental deaths from equipment failure. All were common aboard the Romulan ships in that area of space.

They had gotten greedy with their good fortune in this hunting ground. Soon, its coven had tripled in size, all of them desperately hungry. The Human ship had been a boon, and had drawn more ships into the area to hunt.

The lead Devidian closed its hand into a fist. The meddling Human ship that had arrived after was destroying their only ways into the Bloom. Soon, the last of the rifts would be closed. It shrieked, calling the rest of the Devidians to listen. Something else needed to be done to protect them.

===


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