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Excerpts from the Staggering Stories Blog:


Staggering Stories Podcast #261: Of Companions and Pilots
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sat, 22 Apr 2017 17:00

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Jean Riddler, Keith Dunn and Scott Fuller review the 2017 Doctor Who episode ‘The Pilot’ and discuss what makes a Doctor Who companion, and a variety of other stuff, specifically: 00:00 – Intro and theme tune. 02:29 — Welcome! 02:21 – News: 02:36 — Star Trek: Discovery narrowly avoids Worf. 04:41 […]


Staggering Stories Podcast #260: Masterfully Unbound
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 09 Apr 2017 09:00

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins, Fake Keith, Jean Riddler, the Real Keith Dunn and Scott Fuller review the 2016 Big Finish Doctor Who boxset ‘The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield, Vol. 3 – The Unbound Universe’ and discuss Doctor Who’s The Master in general, play a game, and a variety of other stuff, specifically: […]


Staggering Stories Podcast #259: British Robots Invasion of Earth 2150AD
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 26 Mar 2017 09:00

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins, Fake Keith, Jean Riddler, the Real Keith Dunn and Scott Fuller review the 1966 film Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. and the 2017 film The Lego Batman Movie, and a variety of other stuff, specifically: 00:00 – Intro and theme tune. 01:15 — Welcome! 02:01 – News: 02:20 […]


Staggering Stories Podcast #258: That Osgood and Kate Sound
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 12 Mar 2017 09:00

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins, Fake Keith, Jean Riddler and the Real Keith Dunn discuss possibilities for the next Doctor on Doctor Who, review the first three Big Finish UNIT New Series boxsets, and a variety of other stuff, specifically: 00:00 – Intro and theme tune. 01:20 — Welcome! 01:42 – News: 02:04 — […]


Staggering Stories Podcast #257: Holistic Double Banking
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 26 Feb 2017 09:00

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins, Fake Keith, Jean Riddler, the Real Keith Dunn and Scott Fuller discuss BBC America/Netflix’s ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’ and Douglas Adams’ time on Doctor Who, play some games, and a variety of other stuff, specifically: 00:00 – Intro and theme tune. 01:20 — Welcome! 02:14 – No news […]


Staggering Stories Podcast #256: The Double Whammy
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 12 Feb 2017 09:00

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins, Fake Keith, Jean Riddler, the Real Keith Dunn and Scott Fuller discuss Peter Capaldi’s departure from Doctor Who and the legend that was John Hurt, find some general news, and a variety of other stuff, specifically: 00:00 – Intro and theme tune. 01:25 — Welcome! 02:09 – News: 02:20 […]

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The Triangle: Eternity War Logo

The Triangle, Memoirs of a Mechanoid: Only Three Survived?

Leaking from the mind of Adam J Purcell


 

Found myself on a luxurious but cramped Federation shuttlecraft descending towards the neutral planet Venwi's Claim. By now the Prestinium was fixed by the Klingons, yes? This mission was for real money. Considerable sum, at that, eh? Klingons wanted me to accompany the Federation delegation to an emergency conference after the Empire captured an important Klingon supply and shipyard world. Though they'd never admit it, the Klingons were seriously worried, yes?

This Federation was not dissimilar to the Old Republic. Unlike the Klingon Empire, which was basically one race and a few colony worlds, the Federation was comprised of hundreds of races and worlds. Much larger size and economy. From what I gathered, despite a history of conflict between Klingons and Federation, in recent years the Klingons would always run to the Federation for help with their problems (both external and internal!)

Only a handful of people knew of this conference, both for security and Klingon pride, yes? That's why an out of the way planet was chosen rather than a normal venue. Both parties were to make their own ways to their compounds, then members from each group were to transfer to the other compound for the talks, yes?

Things are never that easy, right?

 

The Federation Presidential shuttle slowly descended towards the solitary city, imaginatively called Venwi's City after the leader of the original pioneers to settle on the barren world. As they descended into the turbulent heavy clouds they got their last glimpses of the sun that would only provide the city with another hours light before setting. Strong gusts of wind battered the little craft as the pilot wrestled to keep the ride as smooth and on course as possible in the poor flying conditions. As they broke through the dark murkiness of the clouds some of the group peered through the small windows next to their seats to catch sight of their destination. The driving rain prevented them from seeing more than a few metres out from their vantage points and provided worrying loud machine-gun drumming on the hull the further they descended.

The group comprised of nine Federation personnel, the most notable being the Federation President himself, along with three Presidential Security (one of which was flying), the Federation Interior Minister and four Junior Ministers. Accompanying them were Death Bringer and Dilon, who were charged with protecting the delegation and, more importantly, acting as a conduit for the Klingons who had hired them.

"Looks impressive, doesn't it?" Dilon said in a slightly raised voice to Death Bringer over the din of the rain. Death Bringer looked over at him and saw he was looking at a holographic representation of the city below, clearly trying to take his mind off the bumpy journey but his pale pallor and the sweaty prints he was leaving on the holographic controls suggested he wasn't succeeding.

* Not exactly a holiday resort, huh? * Death Bringer called back. * Any sign of the Klingons? *

"Er, hold on a second - I'm having trouble getting this thing to show me fine details..." Dilon said in a normal voice that was all but drowned out. He fiddled with the controls a bit more and finally got the display, which was projecting from the back of the chair in front, to zoom in on a small area of the city. The crude wireframe graphic lacked much but was slowly becoming more detailed. Dilon pointed at what might be another shuttle on the ground and called out to Death Bringer "Yeah - I think that's them, they must already be in their compound!"

Death Bringer looked back at the President, who was sitting directly behind Dilon. President Sankey, who was looking much more relaxed than most of his colleagues, nodded at Death Bringer to acknowledge he had heard Dilon's remark.

The shuttle lurched and everyone could feel it fall some way before regaining control. Death Bringer glanced at the Interior Minister, Crookall, who appeared to be gritting his teeth and generally not enjoying the ride one bit.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we are coming in to land - we should set down in about two minutes!" shouted Agent Broderick, who was at the front of the small craft at the piloting controls. "In the meantime could you all stay seated and belted - this will be the bumpiest part of the journey! You may just be able to make out the shape of the extinct volcano that the towers over the city to starboard!"

Broderick was not joking when he said it would get more turbulent. Two of the Junior Ministers at the back of the shuttle had to make use of the travel sickness bags provided and the resultant smell did nothing to help the others, even President Sankey was looking more stoical than earlier.

"I wish I were piloting..." mumbled Dilon, imagining that being at the controls would do much to avert his nausea, or at least keep him too busy to think about it.

For a shuttlecraft fitted with the latest anti-gravity drive system the landing was extremely hard. The shuttle vertically descended towards the small walled garden that connected with their compound. At the last second a particularly powerful gust of wind smashed into the side of the craft and the pilot had to quickly throw on the lateral thrusters so they wouldn't crash down onto the wall. He managed that but was too distracted to reduce their downward speed as much as he should have. The landing gear strained under the extra weight from the inertia and sunk down over half a metre into the mud. The occupants of the shuttle looked at each other in relief that they had, somehow, survived the hellish descent.

Gaspar and Kassulke, the other two Presidential Security Agents, were the first to stand up in the low headroom cabin. They made their way to the door, pulled out their phasers and hit the release. The door swung down to be used as the steps to the ground. Wind and rain blasted into the shuttle as the two agents made their way to the compound building to make sure it was secure before letting the delegation in. The delegates got together their luggage from the overhead lockers and tried to keep away from the worst of the rain that was quickly soaking the area around the door. Death Bringer, however, ignored the minor discomfort and sat by the door, covering it with his Blaster Carbine, just in case.

Within five minutes Kassulke had returned to signal the all clear, Gaspar having remained inside. The group filed out of the shuttle, first Kassulke, the President, Death Bringer, Dilon, Minister Crookall, the Junior Ministers and finally Broderick who sealed the shuttle behind them. They fought their way through the strong winds and heavy rain. Death Bringer was, and not for the first time, grateful his flesh was no longer organic - his synthetic musculature and augmented molybdenum skin might act, and even look somewhat like his original organic form but was much more resilient. The rain was pounding down on the group with such ferocity that it was stinging the other's skin and the weight of it was making them feel like the world had a much stronger gravity than its real 1.1G.

As they came to the end of their short but extremely muddy walk towards the building Death Bringer turned around to Dilon and said loudly * Going to check the exterior and then go to the Klingon compound, yes? Call you if there are any problems. *

Dilon nodded but was too interested in getting out of the rain to make any comments and, with some effort, pulled his feet from the quagmire that was slowly capturing him whilst he stood still to listen to Death Bringer. Dilon entered the building as Death Bringer trudged off around the perimeter of the building.

As he entered the building into what appeared to be a kitchen area Dilon saw the President sitting rather unceremoniously on the tiled floor pulling off his ruined, mud enveloped, shoes.

"Shall I get you chair Mr. President?" Dilon asked, seeing some around a table at the other side of the room.

"What, and walk mud all the way over there? Didn't your mother teach you anything!" President Sankey joked.

"Err..." Dilon exclaimed uncertainly as he looked at the trails already leading into the rest of the building, presumably left by the Security Agents.

"Here, let me." President Sankey said, now with his shoes held together in one hand, as he went to help Dilon extricate himself from his own shoes.

As the others piled in behind them they all felt obliged to help each other remove their shoes, only Interior Minister Crookall refusing help and battling it out on his own.

 

***************

 

Definitely not high on my list of holiday venues, Venwi's Claim, yes? Still, perfect place if you are in the umbrella or anti-depressants business. Come to think of it, must be like a home from home for Klingons, get the feeling they like harsh environments - good for their warrior spirit, eh? Can't say it does my mood any good. For one thing, poor visibility puts me on edge, yes?

 

With his perimeter checks proving to be swift and untroubling Death Bringer left the compound by using a jetboot assisted jump to scale the concrete walls, take a quick look around from the new vantage point, and pounce down onto the rain beaten street below.

Death Bringer pulled a datapad from his belt and brought up the city map the Klingons had provided. Checking the area he located the quickest route through the dark empty streets, the rain rebounding off them and turning into shallow rivers, flowing around the short grimy grey two or three storey buildings that made the city.

In ideal conditions the walk between the two compounds would have been less than five minutes for Death Bringer but splashing his way against the flow in the narrow streets and battling his way through the wind and rain was slowing him up.

Pausing to consult his datapad map Death Bringer's instincts told him something was wrong - did he hear something? The glow of his datapad stuck out against the gloom. Although there was over half an hour before sunset the sun had already settled behind the great volcano on the edge of the city, casting a shadow that, along with the weather, forced the city into premature darkness. What few street lights existed did little to penetrate the blackness.

Turning off and returning the datapad to his belt, Death Bringer suddenly located the source of the low, virtually drowned out, sound as a hovercar, headlights extinguished, shot out of the vale of rain straight at him. With hardly any time to react Death Bringer attempted to jump up and over the rapidly approaching vehicle with some help from his jetboots. The car showed no signs of slowing up. Before he could get enough height Death Bringer felt his shins smash into the top of the car and he rolled over the roof, crashing down onto the flooded street behind.

Easing himself up onto all fours Death Bringer looked around in the direction the car was heading. It was then he noticed it had abruptly stopped and four people were getting out - and they appeared to be heavily armed.

* Not going to give me your insurance details, right? * Death Bringer called out to them as he eased himself up.

Without warning the four attackers opened fire on Death Bringer with a blaze of bullets and energy bolts. Death Bringer dodged the hail of the gunfire and dived through a nearby window.

 

***************

 

The wall of the common room exploded inwards, sending smoke, dust and debris over the ten people within. The three Presidential Security Agents were the first to react and reached for their phasers, either in their holsters or on the table in front of them.

"Get down!" shouted Broderick to the civilians of the delegation.

A barrage of energy weapon fire spat in through the hole, as did the wind and rain. Broderick took a disrupter blast straight in the face and his smoking body was thrown back against the rear wall. The delegation all dived for the floor and any convenient cover from their unseen attackers.

Security Agent Gaspar ran towards the coffee table in the middle of the room, around which most of the delegation had been taking their first sips of hot chocolate. Before Gaspar reached his dubious cover the black masked attackers began to rush through the hole. Gaspar fired a wild shot into the group of intruders but managed only to blow away another chunk of masonry. The attackers came in firing rapidly but not indiscriminately. Gaspar was pummeled by seven or eight shots from the first three attackers to come through and his body, sent into a spin, collapsed onto the floor.

The third and final Security Agent, Kassulke, had dived behind a large, solid looking, wooden framed settee that he had previously been sitting on. Kassulke peered over the top of his cover to see six masked attackers pointing Klingon disruptors at his position. He quickly ducked back down but knew he had no chance.

"Okay, okay - I surrender!" Kassulke shouted out from behind the settee. There was no reply. He threw his phaser out to the right where they would see it and slowly stood up, hands raised. To his surprise and relief he was not fired upon. His job was to protect the President above all else and he couldn't do that dead.

"Down on the floor, Earther, hands on your head!" growled the leader in a very Klingon sounding voice. Kassulke slowly walked around to the front of the chair to the center of the room, where most of the others were, and did as he was instructed.

The six attackers, who despite their black fabric masks could still clearly be made out to be Klingons thanks to their foreheads, began to put restraints on their prisoners and arranged them in a circle around the central coffee table. Junior Minister Nellans was looking more panicked than the rest when it came to her turn to be restrained. She began to struggle against her captor.

"No! No you can't do this!" Nellans screamed, who had claustrophobia when her limbs were trapped. She was falling into a full panic attack, which was making the Klingon restrain her all the more.

"Leena - it's okay, just relax - we'll all be okay if you just calm down. Leena?" President Sankey said soothingly to his Junior Minister.

It wasn't working - her eyes were wild with fear and she was trying to kick and elbow her way out of the Klingon's grip. The Klingon had had enough. He produced an evil looking blade and, without hesitation, cut her throat.

Seeing the reaction from two of the remaining Junior Ministers President Sankey shook his head in warning to stop them doing anything stupid.

The apparent leader of the attackers grabbed a communicator from his belt and strode from the room growling something into it. Dilon turned away, as best he could given his restraints, and tried to drive the image of Nellan's murder from his mind. Dilon looked down at his pocket, wondering how he might use his comlink to contact Death Bringer when his hands where tied behind his back.

 

***************

 

Death Bringer crashed through the surprisingly thin glass and dark curtains to find himself on the floor of a cosy, if old fashioned, living room.

"Ahhh! Get out - Get out!" an old lady screeched from her armchair, flailing her arms wildly and causing the cat on her lap to scarper for cover.

* Better hide, yes? No place for an old la- * Death Bringer started as he crunched through the glass on his knees towards the now billowing curtains and window. It was then he noticed, with some surprise, the old woman pull a large antique sawn-off double-barreled shotgun from the magazine rack next to the musty old chair she was still sitting in.

Momentarily distracted by the sight of the armed OAP Death Bringer had to duck sharply as a couple of phaser bolts cut through the already soaked curtains and making them smolder slightly. Before he had time to turn back to the window the old lady had decided it was time to act and she had chosen her side for the battle. With a deafening boom in the small room she let of a shot at the window. Death Bringer ducked his head down further as buckshot flew over his head.

"Take that you hooligan punks!" she screamed at the unseen attackers. "Don't worry young man, I won't let them hurt you." she said soothingly to Death Bringer.

Shaking his head in despair Death Bringer inched towards the beige painted door - the only proper exit from the room. * Take cover, eh? Let me deal with this. *

The old lady was having none of it and, with some effort despite what adrenaline her old body could muster, she heaved herself up from the chair and shambled towards the side of the window. It was then that one of the attackers decided to use the element of surprise and jump in through the window after his prey. Unfortunately he misjudged it slightly. The figure became caught up in the soaking thick curtains. The old lady pulled the trigger on her last shot at the intruder struggling to extricate himself from his predicament. Death Bringer shielded his face with his right arm as a couple of stray pellets flew his way, embedding themselves in his arm. He stifled an expletive. The figure slumped to the ground like the sack of potatoes he currently resembled, pulling the curtains away from the wall.

Slowly and ungracefully the old lady lowered herself onto all fours and began crawling back to her chair to find some more ammunition. Death Bringer couldn't help but scowl at the minor wounds on his arm and leaned over to uncover the face of the intruder. An unremarkable human and a very dead one at that. A bump from upstairs prevented him doing a search of the body. Careful to keep as low as possible around the now exposed window Death Bringer crept back towards the door.

Crouching down as if he were about to begin a sprinting race Death Bringer eased open the off-coloured door, Blaster Carbine held pointing towards the ceiling with his left hand. The hallway beyond was in darkness. To his left was a door that appeared to lead into a kitchen and to the right and in front ascended a threadbare set of stairs going up with the front door at the bottom of them to his far right. Swapping his gun to the other hand for the better coverage up the stairs he silently moved towards the banister to peer up. The darkness did little to diminish what his sophisticated optics could see, in this case nothing more sinister than a vase at the top of the stairs.

Death Bringer crept towards the foot of the stairs. As he lifted his right leg over the first step a loud bang caused him to back off, crouch down and survey the area. It was the living room door, blown closed by gust that had chosen that moment to barrel through the all but vacant window frame.

Turning back towards the bottom of the stairs to look upwards, Death Bringer and one of his attackers met eye to eye. The middle-aged man, whose job had prematurely aged him, was leaning slightly over the wooden guard between the landing and the stairs below. The man jumped back with a start and pulled up his sub-machine gun. Death Bringer bounded up the first eight steep steps, two at a time, to jump up to grab the attacker over the banister. A hail of bullets sprayed over the mechanoid's head as he pulled himself up the wooden slats, staying low enough to avoid the deadly projectiles. Wasting no time to allow the human to aim lower, Death Bringer pulled himself up further with his left hand and with his right knocked the gun sideways out of the other's hands. The gun let off a few shots into the wall as it hit the ground by the bathroom door. The mobster punched Death Bringer in the face, square on the vertical grill that served as his mouth. The punch would have hurt the attacker more than Death Bringer but for the tenuous position the Freelance Peace Keeping Agent found himself in. Death Bringer overbalanced. Less for stability than combat he grabbed the attacker by the shoulders as he fell backwards down the stairs. The mobster struggled in his prey's grip but didn't have time to prevent himself being pulled over the banister and tumble down the stairs with Death Bringer. The wooden supports for the banister were smashed away as the two of them rolled down the narrow stairs and landed in a heap at the bottom.

Having taken the brunt of the fall Death Bringer took a second or two longer to recover. It was long enough to let the other grab a splintered wooden post and drive it down towards Death Bringer's chest. The mechanoid dodged out of the way, as best he could being pinned down in the small area, and the post cut down into the gap between his torso and arm, narrowly missing him.

* Look undead to you, eh? * Death Bringer brought his legs up and together to give his attacker a really good push away. * Hmm, come to think of it - probably am! * he said as he kicked the attacker, with all his strength, the short distance into the opposite wall.

The back of the attackers head and the top of his shoulders smacked into the wall with a loud thud and his severely concussed body crumpled to the floor. A slight creaking sound alerted Death Bringer to the old lady peering through a small gap she had made by opening the door. Seeing the way was clear she shuffled out into the hallway and pointed her shotgun, which was weighing down her feeble frame considerably, at the fallen man.

"I've got his one, dear. See if there any others." the little old lady suggested.

* At least two more, yes? * Death Bringer replied, looking up at the ceiling as if hoping he could see straight through it to the flat roof.

With a thud the hatch up to the roof thudded open leaving the landing exposed to the elements and another volley of gunfire. The two surviving attackers were disappointed not to see Death Bringer attempting to climb out of the hatch, he had expected the ambush. The taller of the two attackers, carrying a phaser rifle rather than the other's machine gun, slowing inched forward to look down the hole. From out of nowhere a large china vase arced up towards his face from the hatch. Thrown with such force the attacker had little time to retreat and the vase smashed into his forehead, shattering into a dozen pieces and spewing forth a cloud of dark ash that was quickly washed from the air by the torrential rain. The man stumbled back as his colleague open fired on the hole with his machine gun. The first attacker screamed in pain as his mad machine gun wielding friend misjudged and sprayed his shins into mush.

"That's my husband!" shouted the old lady from down the stairs as she realised what Death Bringer had done. Death Bringer evacuated the area of the hatch, above the landing, by pouncing down the stairs and sprinting towards the kitchen at the back of the house.

* Did us proud, yes? Back door? * Death Bringer said as he rushed past her, not waiting for confirmation.

Death Bringer pulled open the back door to find a small concreted garden area which was completely blocked in by surrounding buildings. He turned to look up at the house roof and saw the top of one of the attacker's heads. He silently ran back to the house wall. It was not a hard task to not be heard in the wind and rain. He jumped up onto the window sill of the kitchen and reached up to grab the next one above. Easily pulling his own weight up, and being slightly surprised the edge of the sill didn't give way under the strain, he considered whether he should use his jetboots - he would likely be heard even in these conditions. It was not a big jump so he decided against jetboots, instead he jumped up the short distance to grab the edge of the roof and used his momentum and all the strength in his arms to pull himself up and over. As he hit the flat roof he rolled with his extra inertia and grabbed his blaster carbine from under the shield on his back.

The final standing attacker saw the movement in his peripheral vision and spun around, nearly slipping over in the process. By the time he had regained his balance Death Bringer was bringing his blaster to bare. Pulling the trigger on his machine gun the attacker decided to start firing first and bring his weapon aim around to the prone mechanoid later. With surgical precision Death Bringer blew the machine gun into molten slag before its ammunition could reach him. The mobster yelped in a most unprofessional manner as he dropped the ruined weapon and dashed towards his prey to seek revenge in a traditional hand to hand fashion. Placing his blaster carbine in the deep puddle that was the roof Death Bringer stood up to receive his guest. At the last instant before the man was to smash into Death Bringer, hoping to push him off the roof, the mechanoid lashed out with his foot and kicked in the side of the other's knee. A nasty cracking sound emanated as the poor fellows leg bent in sideways. As he collapsed Death Bringer caught his face in his left hand and released a deadly squirt of hydrogen cyanide from his palm. The attacker was dead before he hit the ground.

Though in a serious state of shock the adrenaline rush was keeping the other attacker conscious. His legs were all but amputated from the knees down but he could still put a phaser rifle to good use. He watched in disbelief as Death Bringer dispatched his friend as easily as he did a civilian, easier perhaps. Death Bringer, empty handed, turned to glare directly into his eyes. The attacker threw his weapon aside, more than a little afraid for his life.

* Anymore of you? * demanded Death Bringer as he dropped his prisoner onto the floor next to the other in the hallway. After nearly passing out due to falling on his mangled legs the pale mobster shook his head weakly.

"Talk boy!" shouted the old lady.

"I work for Colloff's mob - somebody hired us to kill you and capture a compound full of Klingons..." he said lightly and rested his head against the wall, eyes closed.

* Klingons, eh? Who hired you? *

"Vequess..." the mobster mumbled as he fell into unconsciousness.

* Vequess? * Death Bringer asked the woman.

"The utilities station, dear, that's the only thing on Mount Vequess."

* The volcano? *

"That's what I said, wasn't it? Now, what shall I do with these two?"

* Contact the authorities, yes? *

The old lady moved towards them both and pushed their heads together. "If you don't want them, there's only one thing for these mob kids..." she stepped back and shot them both in the head.

* Cold. Could grow to like you, yes? Ever need a job let me know, eh? *

Leaving by the more conventional front door, Death Bringer pulled a comlink from one of his belt pouches. He keyed it to call Dilon and then to the Klingon frequency he had been given. Both were jammed. He stood there, buffetted by the wind and rain, looking in the direction towards the Federation compound, then the Klingon compound and finally settled on where Vequess would been seen in better weather.

* Time to go to the source of the problem, yes? *

 

***************

 

"Shut up you idiot." Gennarelli hissed at her boss, Interior Minister Crookall, who sneered back at her.

"You heard me - you may as well take that mask off - I can smell you're a Klingon from here!" Crookall directed at the apparent leader, who was pointing a disruptor at him.

"Quiet, or I'll make you quiet." the Klingon threatened.

"You're not fooling anyone!" the bound Interior Minister continued regardless.

"Rich, this isn't helping anyone, just relax..." President Sankey said in a deliberate fashion.

For a few awkward minutes there was an imposed silence, more because of the President than the Klingons, who were looking increasingly trigger happy. Dilon looked around the rough circle that they had been forced to kneel in around the center of the room. Only the President and Security Agent Kassulke would meet his gaze, the others appeared afraid that even eye contact may single them out for a nasty death by the Klingons. The exception was Crookall who appeared to be holding back a simmering rage, the reason for which Dilon couldn't immediately understand. Since taking them prisoner the Klingons hadn't mistreated them, unless you counted the uncomfortable position they were forced to sit in. They hadn't made any demands or had any further contact with the outside world since they secured the compound.

Much as he tried Dilon couldn't figure out a way to activate the comlink in his pocket. They all had their hands tied behind their backs with some form of restraining device. One of the others may be able to get at his communication device if he could get up behind them. There was no way to move off their spots without being killed by their captors, though, and at all times at least four of the Klingons were circling them.

"I assume you're not the brains of the operation - who is? What do they want?" Crookall demanded of the leader, clearly feeling enough time had elapsed to ignore the President.

"Quiet or I shall kill you right this instant!" the Klingon growled.

"Do you know who you have here?" Crookall said ignoring the threat.

"I know enough - be silent!" the Klingon shouted.

"Rich..." President Sankey warned.

"That's the Federation President!" Crookall exclaimed, nodding at Sankey. "I'm the Interior Minister, next in line after the Deputy-President! If anything happens to us our black ops teams will hunt you down and torture you until you wished you were never-" Crookall was interupted when the lead Klingon rushed towards him and kicked him hard in the stomach. The Minister doubled over and fell forwards onto the floor. He was clearly struggling to breathe.

"Last warning - I will kill you!" the Klingon leader promised.

"You don't have the guts..." Crookall gasped out with the side of his face pressed against the damp dirty carpet.

The Klingon was taking no more and grabbed Crookall by his arms and pulled him onto his unsteady feet. The next thing Crookall realised was the his restraints had been undone and the Klingon threw them aside. He was shoved to the side of the room by the minibar where there was plenty of space. The lead Klingon ripped his black mask off, not wishing to fight when hiding behind a disguise. The other Klingons in the room took that as a cue to do the same. Dilon glanced around at them. He didn't recognise any but it looked to him as if they were all from the same extended family.

One of the others walked towards the leader and drew a dagger. The leader accepted it and, with his other hand, drew his own. "Choose your weapon." he demanded of Crookall and held them both out towards him. The other Klingon retreated to the edge of the imaginary arena, leaving only Crookall and the leader in that half of the room.

Crookall grabbed both knives and backed off quickly to get a proper grip of each. The Klingon laughed in enjoyment.

They glared at each other, both waiting for the other to make the first move. It was Crookall. He lunged at the Klingon with both blades. The unarmed Klingon easily dodged to the side and they began their war of nerves again. The Klingon kicked out at Crookall's left hand and succeeded in sending one of the daggers flying. Worried that the Klingon might rush towards the dagger now lying on the floor Crookall carefully sidestepped towards it, never taking his eyes off his challenger - at least not until he had to quickly glance towards the weapon to confirm its exact position. That was all the Klingon needed to use his left leg to kick the other knife from Crookall's right hand. Suddenly panicking, Crookall dived towards the first blade but was jumped on by the Klingon. The two of them struggled to stop the other getting at the knife, a tantalizingly short reach away. Crookall was losing, despite the Klingon not using his full strength. The Minister tried to push the Klingon off but to no avail. In return the Klingon gave him a savage head butt that dazed Crookall for a few seconds. Before he knew what had happened the Klingon was leaning over him with the knife and slashed the side of his face. Crookall cried out at the burning stinging sensation and the Klingon laughed in typical Klingon fashion. Crookall tried to grab the knife from the other's hand, no longer worrying about being cut, desperate not to be fatally stabbed. His hand wrapped around the thick blade and he felt it cut in but wasn't able to wrestle it from the Klingon. Pulling the knife from within the clenched fist of Crookall the Klingon decided to have take his real revenge. The dagger plunged into the Minister's side, who gasped and passed out. One of the other Klingons barked something unintelligible to his leader who glared back at him for several seconds before finally nodding in agreement.

 

***************

 

Not the most comfortable ride up the side of Mount Vequess, huh? Still, good of the mob to leave their keys in the ignition, yes? Weather was no better but at least the repluselift mechanism on their speeder had been upgraded, otherwise would have had no chance of scaling the volcano, eh? Had expected a welcoming party but things turned out more painful than would have liked...

 

The hovercar struggled up the last few hundred metres of the 1.5km high volcano, using what little of the steep slope it could to anchor its anti-gravity field to. The wind and rain was constantly trying to pull it away or smash it into the side of the hard rock and despite Death Bringer's best efforts the chassis was seriously buckled by the bumps and scrapes when he finally managed to put the vehicle down on the landing platform.

The Utility Station was precariously balanced on the crest of the volcano, below it on one side was a virtual sheer drop to the city below and the other a great reservoir burrowed out from the core of the extinct volcano. Massive pipes jutted out of the station on each side, drawing water into the station from one and pumping water and electricity down the other.

Up on the top of Mount Vequess the wind wasn't dampened by surrounding buildings and Death Bringer had to be especially careful not to be blown of the platform that sat atop the creaking and lightly swaying Utility Station. He fought his way through the elements to reach the small cylindrical building on the edge of the platform that led to the lift. Thumping the button to call the lift Death Bringer gripped one side of the door frame and retrieved his blaster carbine with the other. When the door slid open Death Bringer was presented with a lift and a tripoidal sentry gun aimed directly at him. The gun control systems appeared momentarily unsure if Death Bringer were a target or merely a piece of machinery, he certainly didn't give off much in the way of organic life-signs. Death Bringer sidestepped the open doorway just as the sentry gun decided it best to open fire. A volley of red blaster fire flew out, leaving steam trails behind as it cut through the thick hard rain. Death Bringer nudged his gun around into the opening and blasted away at the sentry gun. Before it could react to the movement it was on its side fizzling. Death Bringer peeked around to confirm the way was clear and thanked whoever invented the things for not making them mobile.

As was common in Federation designed bases (and this was basically an off-the-shelf Federation design bought and adapted by the inhabitants of Venwi's Claim) the lift had an emergency escape hatch at the top. Death Bringer keyed the lift to hold the door open longer and then to descend to the lowest level. While the doors were waiting to close Death Bringer pushed open the hatch and jumped up and pulled himself through. Keeping the hatch open Death Bringer crouched on top as the lift door closed and he felt the pod begin to rapidly descend.

It quickly became clear that the lift was not descending at a natural rate, in fact it was in free fall. Obviously he was expected to get this far. It didn't use cables to ascend and descend, instead relying on anti-gravity technology not unlike that of the mob's hovercar. This gave Death Bringer nothing to grab hold of - the walls were smooth and shiny and where the emergency ladder should be there was nothing.

* Hmm, done on the cheap, yes? Back-handers from the construction firm, eh? * Death Bringer complained to himself. Judging from what he saw of the level control panel he couldn't be that far from the control deck. He prepared himself to pounce at the first sign of a door. He didn't have to wait long. At the first sight of the top of the closed door he jumped, giving a little bit of thrust from his jetboots to help counteract his momentum. He timed it perfectly and his fingers grabbed the bottom lip of the doorway. His body clanged against the smooth metal wall below with an echo. He looked up wondering how to make the door slid open, especially from his precarious position. Letting go with one hand he reached over his shoulder to grab his blaster from his back again. He stared up at what appeared to get an emergency open control panel and let go with his other hand. He pushed off from the side and before gravity got a good downward hold of him he fired his jetboots. As he came up to door level he blasted the control panel. By coincidence rather than design, but nonetheless advantageous, the lift crashed into the bottom of the shaft at almost the exact same instant that his blaster bolt ripped apart the panel. The door slid open and he landed on the other side of the doorway, gun held in both hands pointing ahead. This time there was no sign of a welcoming gift.

Death Bringer found himself on a metal gantry high above some noisy and rather large machinery. Ahead he could see an office suspended from the ceiling. It was the control room and someone was inside.

* Should have known, yes? Been expecting me, huh? * Death Bringer called out to the familiar figure. The figure moved into the open doorway of the control room and, in his bounty hunter armour, gave a single slow nod.

* Take it you don't want to be friends, right? * Death Bringer asked as he stowed away his blaster, pulled his signature locking missile from his back and plugged it into the socket left by removing his right hand. Terak threw himself to the ground whilst firing the antipersonnel net gun on his left forearm. Death Bringer's missile flew over the bounty hunters head as the net ensnared Death Bringer.

The gantry shook violently as the missile exploded, taking out the back of the control room. Twisted pieces of metal fell to the floor below. Death Bringer, caught up in Terak's net, fell forwards onto the gantry, struggling to extricate himself. Terak eased himself up onto his elbows and pressed another button on his left forearm. Electricity surged down the line attaching Terak's arm to the net, towards Death Bringer.

* Ghaa! * Death Bringer cried out in pain as his body was racked by the electrical pulse. He managed to reach around and grab his vibro-axe from his back and plug it into his interchangeable right forearm.

Seeing that Death Bringer was about to cut his way free Terak detached himself from the net before it could be used against him, stood up and pulled a DEMP gun from his left holster.

Slicing through the net as if it were no more than a cobweb to him Death Bringer cut his way free and assumed a kneeling position. On the narrow gantry with no room for maneuver, other than back into the lift shaft, Death Bringer could do little to dodge the blasts from Terak's DEMP gun. The electro-magnetic pulse from each blast caused his body to convulse in agony. In between blasts Death Bringer swiped his arm towards the distant Terak and released his vibro-axe towards his foe. The now unpowered axe arced through the air and embedded itself in Terak's shoulder, causing the bounty hunter to stagger back into the smoke filled control room.

Death Bringer leaned forward, regaining his strength in what little time he had bought himself. It was then he noticed that the gantry had been rigged with something.

Looking up towards the control room Death Bringer saw Terak, still with the axe embedded in his shoulder and now leaning against a control panel, pull a device from a belt pouch and press a button on it.

A massive amount of electricity coursed down the gantry, arcing and sparking, before one side of the gantry collapsed dropping the stunned freelance peace keeping agent towards the machinery below.

* EEEEAAAAA! * Death Bringer cried as he fell sideways into the machinery, which grabbed his right arm and lower right leg in its internal workings, literally shredding them.

 

***************

 

"You've got to let one of us help him!" pleaded Gennarelli to the Klingons as she watched them drag the unconscious form of Crookall onto the settee.

"Allow me, I'm medically trained." Security Agent Kassulke said, the lead Klingon now appearing to consider it. The leader turned to consult with the other Klingons and they appeared to agree with his thoughts.

"You, boy! You can help him." the Klingon said pointing at Dilon.

"Me? I don't like the sight of blood too much..." Dilon admitted.

The Klingon clearly was not in the mood to argue, grabbed him by the back of the neck and pulled him up. Dilon felt the Klingon undo his restraints and he was then shoved towards the settee.

"We could do with some medical supplies." President Sankey stated to the Klingons.

"I'll see what I can do." the Klingon leader said rather sarcastically.

Something bleeped and the Klingon leader pulled out his communicator and stomped off to the far side of the room. The conversation was short and whatever it was about the Klingon appeared to agree, though reluctantly.

Dilon really did have little idea about first aid but with what few supplies he was given he was able to bandage the wounds. Within ten minutes Crookall had regained consciousness and, though weak, didn't appear to be in immediate danger. Though Dilon didn't know, either by good fortune or design the Klingon had managed to choose an area of the abdomen where relatively little damage would be done by his stabbing.

One thing that Dilon couldn't help but notice was that the number of Klingons in the room was slowly decreasing since he was untied. Now there was but three of them.

Within another couple of minutes another of the three Klingons had left, like his colleagues going further into the building. Crookall had noticed this too and was clearly trying to muster his strength for something.

Saying something about finding wine the Klingon leader and his colleague wandered off into the kitchen leaving the Federation delegation alone.

"Go - quick get to the shuttle! Get help!" Kassulke whispered loudly to Dilon.

"Come on kid!" Crookall said in a pain filled voice as he heaved himself unsteadily to his feet.

"Mr. President..." Dilon said uncertainly.

The President simply nodded reassuringly. Dilon took purpose from this and grabbed Crookall to give him extra support as they rushed out of the bedsheet covered hole in the walls.

Dilon couldn't believe their luck as the boarded the little craft without being spotted. He helped Crookall into a seat, pressed the door close button and rushed to the pilots seat. Doubt hit him then.

"But the President-" Dilon started.

"Will probably be killed if we try a suicidal two-man rescue! The Dauntless is in the asteroid belt - it could be here in twenty minutes. Now, get me the hell out of here!" Crookall demanded.

Powering up the anti-gravity generators Dilon lifted the shuttle off the ground pushed straight into full throttle.

 

***************

 

Hmm, not a pleasant experience at all. Definitely one of those missions best turned down, yes? Assuming I can get out of this one alive, huh? Really must stop this and wake up, yes..?

 

* Wake up, yes? * Death Bringer said grogilly to himself, not being entirely successful.

"Maybe this will help?" Terak's voice drifted into Death Bringer's consciousness as if strangely distant. A savage blow to the head from the butt of Terak's blaster pistol did indeed wake Death Bringer up. Death Bringer noticed with disappointment that his axe hadn't cut as far past Terak's armour than he thought. It was still a very nasty wound, nonetheless, but clearly wasn't slowing the bounty hunter up.

* Going to tell me your master plan, huh? * Death Bringer remarked as he tried to pull his mangled limbs from the machine that was still straining to pull the rest of him in.

Terak shook his head and looked down at a device that was clearly counting down towards something.

* Hired the local mob to capture or kill the delegates, yes? Hope to destroy the allegiance talks, right? *

"Something like that. I don't have time to talk..." Terak said, the smile on his face obscured by his mask but evident in his voice.

It was then that it struck Death Bringer. Terak had planned to take out the entire city, delegates, mob and all, with the aid of a volcano full of water.

"I see you've got it. You won't be alive to see the spectacle." Terak said plainly and pressed his blaster against Death Bringer's mouth grill.

Death Bringer's left forefinger flipped open and a large metal spike slid out which he drove into Terak's chest.

"Argh!" Terak screamed as he pulled himself off Death Bringer's data probe but that wasn't the last of it. No sooner than Terak had unimpaled himself Death Bringer squirted a jet of liquid hydrogen cyanide over the area and Terak howled in pain.

Terak let off a couple of indiscriminate blasts at Death Bringer. Death Bringer's chest exploded in pain and the last thing he saw before falling back into unconsciouness was Terak staggering back, look at his timer and run off.

 

***************

 

"They should be here any second." Dilon said nervously as the sped out of the atmosphere towards their rendezvous point with the USS Dauntless.

"Any they can't contact the surface either?" Crookall asked, already knowing the answer.

"That's what they said five minutes ago..." Dilon said, beginning to wish he'd left Crookall behind. At least the Federation crew were more likely to believe the story with Crookall to confirm it.

"Oh my god!" Crookall exclaimed as he saw a Klingon cruiser decloaking out of the window. "Power up weapons!" he ordered Dilon.

"What? They're on our side - they're the ones who sent me on this mission!" Dilon exclaimed as he recognized the ship.

"They're Klingons - you remember, the ones that did this to me? They have Sankey!"

"No, I-" Dilon started, it was at that moment that the Dauntless appeared from warp directly in front of them.

The communications screen lit up and the face of Captain Stern appeared.

"Shuttlecraft, dock with us now." Stern ordered with considerable urgency. Dilon did as he said.

The shuttlecraft crashed into the back of the shuttle bay, despite the dampeners. Dilon always had trouble with take offs and landings. Fortunately their speed was minimal, thanks to the dampeners, and neither of them were injured.

 

***************

 

Get the feeling Terak gets too much enjoyment from his job, yes? Lost his objectivity. Personal grudge, perhaps? Not good for business, huh? Like being trapped in a building about to explode and be washed away, yes? Ah, time to wake up again I think. Time to wake up, yes? Wake up, yes? Wake up, yes?

 

* Wake up, yes... Wake up, yes? * Death Bringer chanted semi-consciously.

Slowly he regained consciousness again. This time there was no Terak to be seen. He looked down at the gaping wounds in his chest, they probably look worse than they are, he hoped.

Unsure of how long he had left before the entire place went up, he weighed his options. Terak would have given himself plenty of time to reach his ship and get out before it was too late. Had he been conscious Death Bringer would have had plenty of time to escape too. The problem was he had no idea how long he had been there. That, and the fact he was trapped in a machine by the shredded remains of his right arm and lower right leg.

Having thrown his axe at Terak, and having no idea of its fate, Death Bringer was left with using a spear to slowly, painfully, hack away at his mangled limbs in the desperate hope of escaping to the hovercar before the Utility station was destroyed.

It took him several long minutes to amputate the remains of his trapped limbs and he had to be especially careful not to let the machine get a hunger for what remained of him. Death Bringer pushed himself off the machine and onto the floor about a metre below.

Unable to walk and not possessing the strength to even attempt to hop or crawl Death Bringer dragged himself across the floor to the the fortunately close by lift. What he would do when he reached the useless lift shaft he had no idea - it was the only way up to the landing platform.

* Terak probably been rigging side of volcano for days - must find a way to disable all those detonation packs, yes? * Death Bringer strained to say to himself.

The entire building shook. At first Death Bringer thought Terak had miscalculated, perhaps the volcano was stronger than he thought? It was then that a low rumble began to shake the place apart and suddenly the building dropped from underneath him. The building around him began to buckle and disintegrate.

* Hmm, just my luck, yes? *

 

***************

 

Dilon stepped out of the turbolift on the Dauntless bridge.

"Minister Crookall is in your infirmary." Dilon said unnecessarily to Captain Stern, who already knew.

"We can't get a lock on the President, or anyone for that matter." Stern informed Dilon.

"What you mean you can't transport them up?"

"That's exactly what I mean. I've contacted your Klingon friends over there and they aren't having any more luck - they are in the exact same situation, or so they say. I'm going to shuttle down a team to take the place."

"What?! They could kill the President!" Dilon exclaimed.

"No, my people can gas the place, there will be no casualties and we can have it solved in minutes. Not to mention find out who those Klingons are who took you prisoner."

"Sir, the Klingon shuttle has lifted off. Wait! Something's happening to Mount Vequess!" one of the other officers called out in a slightly panicked tone.

"What? I thought you said it's been dormant for centuries!"

"It's collapsing!"

"Show me!"

The viewscreen that was previously fixed on a planet-wide view of Venwi's Claim snapped in to look at the city. Sure enough one side of the volcano, the side facing the city was crumbling. As they watched the entire side errupted in a blast of water. The Utility Station and the rock suspending it collapsed into the torrent.

"Beam them up! Now!" Stern ordered, knowing that all they could really do was watch.

"We still can't get a lock, sir!"

The entire bridge descended into silence as they watched half a billion cubic metres of water smash its way through the city, washing away everything in its path.

"The President..." one of the officers said.

"DB..." Dilon said in a state of shock.

Both the Dauntless and the Klingon vessel immediately mounted rescue missions. As the city was utterly destroyed so were the jamming devices that prevented radio communication and transporters, too late to save anyone.

The bodies of the Federation and Klingon delegations were quickly picked out from the natives by the rescue teams. They had all perished. Aboard the Klingon shuttle was a lone man, Gowron, the Klingon Chancellor.

Of the half a million inhabitants less than three thousand survived. In the carnage it proved impossible to locate the remains of Death Bringer.

THE END.