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Excerpts from the Staggering Stories Blog:


Staggering Stories Commentary #198: Babylon 5 – Day of the Dead
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 20 Aug 2017 09:00

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins and Keith Dunn sit down, visited, in front of the Neil Gaiman’s Season 5 Babylon 5 episode ‘Day of the Dead’, and spout our usual nonsense! Zooty has a terrible secret, Lennier has a shadowy visitor, Lochley is trying to establish an identity for herself and Kosh has another […]


Staggering Stories Podcast #269: Jago, Litefoot and AsBill
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 13 Aug 2017 09:00

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins, Fake Crumbly, Fake Keith, Jean Riddler and the Real Keith Dunn have a retrospective on Doctor Who ‘Series 10’, discuss Big Finish’s ‘Jago and Litefoot, Series 4’ audio boxset, play a game, find some general news, and a variety of other stuff, specifically: 00:00 – Intro and theme tune. […]


Staggering Stories Commentary #197: Doctor Who – Knock Knock
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 06 Aug 2017 09:58

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins and Keith Dunn sit down, bugged, in front of the 2017 Doctor Who S10 episode, ‘Knock Knock’, and spout our usual nonsense! Bill has herself some new digs, the Doctor is suddenly a man with a van and the landlord has a wood infestation. But enough of their problems, […]


Staggering Stories Podcast #268: Whittaker and Watling
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 30 Jul 2017 09:00

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins, Fake Crumbly, Fake Keith, Jean Riddler, the Real Keith Dunn and Scott Fuller discuss the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor, remember Deborah Watling, find some general news, and a variety of other stuff, specifically: 00:00 – Intro and theme tune. 01:37 — Welcome! 02:07 – News: […]


Staggering Stories Commentary #196: Babylon 5 – Rising Star
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 23 Jul 2017 09:00

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins and Keith Dunn sit down, allied, in front of the Season 4 Babylon 5 penultimate episode Rising Star, and spout our usual nonsense! Sheridan has a new job offer, Garibaldi has an impromptu rescue to mount, Ivanova jumps ship and everyone is generally very busy. But enough of their […]


Staggering Stories Podcast #267: The Doctor has a Fall
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 16 Jul 2017 09:23

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins, Fake Keith, Jean Riddler, the Real Keith Dunn and Scott Fuller review the 2017 Doctor Who episodes ‘World Enough and Time’ and ‘The Doctor Falls’, take look back at Big Finish’s ‘Doctor Who: Spare Parts’ audio play, find some general news, and a variety of other stuff, specifically: 00:00 […]

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The Triangle: Eternity War Logo

The Triangle, Memoirs of a Mechanoid: The Five Spires

Leaking from the mind of Adam J Purcell


 

"It's collapsing!"

"Show me!"

Captain Stern and his crew watched the indistinct computer scrubbed image of Venwi's City as the near side of the volcano, known as Mount Vequess, collapsed outward. The Utility Station balanced precariously atop the rim of Vequess was ripped down from its perch to join the expanding torrent of reservoir water escaping from its containment in the vast funnel of the dead volcano.

"Beam them up! Now!" Stern ordered, knowing that all they could really do was watch as the unstoppable wall of water crashed into the city.

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

An eerie silence descended on the bridge of the USS Dauntless as they watched in total disbelief as half a billion cubic metres of water smashed its way through the city, washing away everything in its path. And there was absolutely nothing they could do to stop it. They were powerless observers and each and every one of them knew it.

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

"DB..." Dilon said in disbelief.

For a few long moments only the sound of the bridge instruments dared invade the still atmosphere, even the sound of breathing had disappeared as each crew member involuntarily held their breath.

A particularly insistent beep roused the Ops officer from his reverie. He looked down at his panel and began swiftly tapping virtual buttons. Captain Stern took his gaze from the viewscreen to study his officer.

"The jammers are down..." Lieutenant Delany said incredulously. The rest of the bridge all suddenly turned to face him and then, almost as one, darted back to begin work on their own control panels.

"Then beam them up!" Stern urged, suddenly feeling the desperation of the tenuous possibility.

"I can't get a lock, not on anything-" Delany said urgently and somewhat panicked.

"You must!" Stern roared, anger and frustration boiling over.

For several more moments all the bridge crew, despite their official roles, all tried to get some kind of sensor trace on their delegation, especially the Federation President. The torrential rains and the vast amount of water in the atmosphere were already giving their sensors severe problems but that was nothing compared to the small ocean that was ripping apart everything in its path. They boosted and amplified their sensors and did all they could to filter out the water. They began to get readings for large chunks of buildings that were settling in the slowing wake and now well underwater. Bodies began to appear, erratically, on their sensors but they could not determine life signs, if there were any to be found.

Captain Stern ordered rescue teams to assemble immediately in the shuttle bay. All the the Dauntless shuttles, from smallest two man shuttlepod right up to the largest Type-7 shuttlecraft, were hastily launched with unprepared teams to save whomever they could. The transporters were out of the question as long as the sensors were having trouble resolving real detail down there, not to mention that nowhere was safe enough to put down a team in the now expanding lake that was once the only city on Venwi's Claim.

The shuttles, continually battered by the savage rain, made slow runs low to the surface and using either onboard emergency transporters or old fashioned makeshift winches pulled the few survivors to safety.

 

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

 

"No, as we were sending our teams down Gowron hailed us, hissed something about war and we'd pay for what we've done - I'll send you a copy of the transmission - and they cloaked and went to warp."

"How could you tell that if they were cloaked, Captain?" Admiral Dobbs asked, not really paying much attention but instead finding himself wondering how in hell he was going to break the news of the President's almost certain demise to the Federation top brass.

"I think they wanted us to know, deliberately weakened their cloak. They didn't even mount a rescue mission for their own people. Only Gowron from their delegation survived, escaping in a shuttle, just one life sign, barely seconds before the incident-" Stern said, still in a state of shock, and was interrupted by the voice of his first officer coming over the intercom.

"Sorry, sir - we've got a Klingon vessel decloaking, it's - it's small..." Commander Anderson said, sounding suddenly unsure.

"Sorry, Admiral-" Stern stood up and without permission from his superior pressed the button on the base of his Ready Room desk screen to cut the connection. He rushed onto the bridge, already on yellow alert ever since Dilon and Crookall left the surface. Dilon and Crookall being the only survivors from the Federation delegation who had been fortunate enough to escape their captors and grab a shuttle before all hell broke loose down there.

The viewscreen showed a bizarre vessel, of clear Klingon origin, but quite unlike anything Stern or any other member of his crew had seen before. It appeared to be little more than a large cannon with a control room bolted, rather haphazardly, on the back. There was no discernible drive mechanism, that is until they realised why the cannon was facing away from them - it also acted as the primary propulsion system!

"Hey - that's Ki'yak!" shouted the scrawny adolescent from the back of the bridge, excited to see a potentially friendly face. Had he stopped to think about Dilon would probably not have been quite so happy to see the gnarled old Klingon, given even Dilon could see he was quite unhinged and had especially poor personal hygiene, even for a member of his race.

"We're being hailed."

"Put it through, Lieutenant." Stern ordered warily.

"Federation - I demand you show me Death Bringer." the grisly old Klingon growled through the pungent looking steam haze that slightly obscured him on the viewscreen.

"Klingon, er, representative - the person you refer to is currently missing, presumed dead." Stern replied. Dilon, considering himself Death Bringer's closest friend, was visibly shocked by Stern's remark. Stern continued, not noticing Dilon's reaction at the back of the bridge. "If you wish to deal with anyone you deal with me."

"Dead? He can't be dead, he couldn't be part of my theatre..." Ki'yak declared, his eyes darting about wildly.

"Ki'yak, it's me, Dilon!" Dilon shouted out before Stern could even begin to formulate a response to Ki'yak's bizarre statement. "DB's stuck down on the planet, we're looking for him and the others!"

"Gowron blaming Death Bringer for attack - One Eye, on his ship, leaked to me." Ki'yak said.

"One Eye?" Stern asked, not sure he wanted to know the answer.

"Canteen fight - I burnt his eye out with acid," Ki'yak said with relish, before continuing matter of factly, "he enjoyed it."

"We are not-" Sterns began before being interrupted again by Dilon.

"It wasn't us - a group of Klingons attacked our delegation!" Dilon shouted.

"Huh?" came Ki'yak's typically erudite reply.

 

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

 

Er, this is Dilon here. I've once or twice heard DB talking to himself, he said he was working on his memoirs! In his absence I've decided to do the same. So here it is. Erm, well where do I start? We managed to persuade Ki'yak that it wasn't us who had anything to do with the destroying of Venwi's City. He seemed just as sure it wasn't his people and I think I believe him, even though we were taken hostage by a group of Klingons. He thinks they might be part of a disgraced group (er, what did he call them? A house of Klingons - I think I'd call them a stink of Klingons!) Where was I? Oh, yes - Yeah, he thinks a group of rogue, a rogue house, of Klingons might have been responsible but he was told a group of humans took Gowron's delegation prisoner. Something odd is going on, for sure. Unfortunately Captain Stern's people haven't been able to contact the Klingon leaders - it seems they've broken off diplomatic, er, well they're not talking to the Federation. Luckily for us Ki'yak knows me and DB. I think he trusts us, as much as he trusts anyone. He agreed to help me look for DB, if only to see what answers he might have.

We went down to the makeshift emergency centre that Stern was setting up on some high ground next to where the city used to be. Ki'yak's ship has some form of repulselift drive to enable it to land, lucky for me - not! We searched the area looking for signs of DB. I want to to know what I'm going through to rescue you, DB - I threw up again when I went in Ki'yak's ship - I'd forgotten how awful it was in there - he pees and craps in a bucket in the corner of the one and only room! The smell is just dreadful and it all slops out when we make a tight turn... Eugh! I think I'll get a lift back in a Starfleet shuttle.

Right now we are in the emergency shelter. They've just captured a trading vessel that was coming in as the volcano burst and they're questioning the pilot. Me and Ki'yak are going in to question him any second.

 

"He's all yours, gentlemen - he claims not to have seen anything..." the Starfleet Lieutenant announced as he left the small cubicle tent that would otherwise be used to treat survivors, like the other twenty or so others under the large rain shield.

Dilon and Ki'yak stepped into the makeshift interview room tent. Dilon didn't recognise the species that confronted him but that wasn't unusual in his own universe let alone this foreign one. Dilon sat down at the table, opposite the trader. Ki'yak wasn't one for niceties, however.

"Speak or die!" the short but stocky Klingon growled down at the Dopterian.

"I saw nothing." the trader declared with a certain amount of relish, deliberately ignoring the intimidation.

Before the Dopterian trader knew what was going on Ki'yak had kicked the chair out from underneath him and was holding him by the scruff of the neck.

"Tell me!" shouted the Klingon. The commotion had caught the attention of the Lieutenant, who rushed back into the small tent and stood by the doorway unable to decide what to do.

"I... I got something on my sensors - an echo. Nothing much, I swear!" the trader blurted out to Ki'yak. It took a second or two for the information to sink in at which point Ki'yak threw the shorter alien against the back of the tent and stalked out, butting past the Lieutenant on his way. Dilon scurried after him.

 

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

 

We, er, persuaded the Starfleet officer to let us into the trader's light freighter. Inside we found a way to get at his sensor logs and discovered faint readings of what could have been a ship. It looked like it had deliberately kept low to the surface until it was the other side of the planet to Venwi's City and the Dauntless above. That's when the trader picked it up, as he was entering the system from that direction. It then left the atmosphere and probably went to hyperspace. We took a copy of the logs but didn't have the equipment to enhance them. I only knew of one computer system able to do that and, if we were lucky, determine a hyperspace route - the Prestinium.

It is my guess that whoever was in that ship has DB, or at least knows what happened to him. I was able to persuade Ki'yak to take me back to the Klingon starbase, fortunately not too far away, being near the Klingon border as we were. I don't even want to think about that journey in Ki'yak's ship - I promised myself never again after the first time. I've now been stuck in there five times! The smell follows me wherever I go... I changed my clothes since returning to the Prestinium and showered twice - I think something has nested in my nose...

Anyway, I got back here to the now repaired Prestinium and me and Ki'yak are heading for somewhere he calls Formalhaut 5. The Klingons have done quite a good job of repairing the ship and they've even given me detailed star charts of this universe, or what they know of it. None of them seemed too pleased to see me, I don't think I'd be welcome back again until we've proved the humans have nothing to do with the death of their delegates.

Well, as I said, I managed to enhance the sensors and the readings are incredibly close to what little we saw of Terak's ship (we assume it was his ship) three or four weeks ago when we escaped the Imperial Garrison world. It took a little while to calculate his probable hyperspace vector, but DB knows how to kit out a ship to follow someone, and we came up with Formalhaut, probably planet 5. So, we are now on our way there. If Terak has captured DB I'll rescue him.

 

Little did Dilon and Ki'yak know that they themselves were being followed. The small black triangular ship slipped into hyperspace after them, completely undetected. Some twelve and a half hours later the lone occupant detected the Prestinium leaving its hyperspace, different from his own, and ordered his ship to join them in real space.

With a flash of pseudo speed the Prestinium exited hyperspace above Formalhaut 5. Seconds later a small jump point opened several thousand miles behind them. Out flew their pursuer, not causing a blip on even the first class sensors of the Prestinium.

"What a desolate dump!" Dilon exclaimed. "There's a few domed cities down there - which should we go for?" Dilon asked Ki'yak who was busy chewing his ancient leather sleeves, believing he could taste the blood of everyone and everything he had ever slain with a blade upon it. It was his way of reminiscing, of passing the time - he wasn't used to company on trips anymore and hadn't been for decades.

"Biggest one. Rexmundi, they call it." Ki'yak said, still chewing on his left cuff.

The Prestinium eased down toward the capital city on the barren, scorched world. After gaining landing clearance they entered into the large slot that had opened on the side of the transparent dome and into the docking bay. Upon landing a customs officer approached the ship and waited the short time for the Prestinium's entry ramp to lower.

Ki'yak had visited Formalhaut 5 before, many years ago. Nothing appeared to have changed. It had a reputation for being free of both political entanglements and lax in enforcing what few laws the planet pretended to have. Each of the ten major domes effectively acted independently of one another, having their own administration and law enforcement. In practise they competed with one another to get the most money flowing through their complexes and, given the sort of people the place attracted, that meant they competed on how free, how lawless, they were. What big business interests existed were either striping the planet of its abundant heavy metals or tapping into the virtually molten worlds vast natural energies. Everyone else either leached off the corporations, used the place for smuggling or as an escape from justice in the more civilised areas around the edges of the Triangle.

"Anything to declare, gentlemen?" the unkempt customs officer in the poorly fitting worn out uniform asked.

"Yes - I want information!" growled Ki'yak as he and Dilon descended the ramp toward the officer.

"What are you carrying?" the customs man asked, ignoring the implied threat.

"I'm looking for a ship! Tell me where it is!" Ki'yak grabbed the customs man by the front of his jacket and shook him violently.

"We're looking for either of these two." Dilon said, trying to sound authoritative but failing, his nerve was already giving in.

The customs officer pulled himself free of the shorter Klingon, pushed his chest out and glowered at Ki'yak. "I'll have to report this, assaulting a Customs Official is a serious offence."

Ki'yak growled and was about to launch himself at the pompous stranger when Dilon stepped between them. "Give him some money." Dilon said to Ki'yak.

With a resigned grunt Ki'yak fished about in his pockets and pulled out a couple of slips of gold pressed latinum. He literally forced them upon the customs officer who would have been more than keen to take them but only after feigning outrage at the idea.

"I really shouldn't let you bribe me but as you've been so... polite..." the officer said before looking at the datapad Dilon was holding at him. On it were two pictures, one of Death Bringer and the other a New Republic archive shot of Terak. "No. Sorry, I haven't ever seen either of these two gentlemen. Not knowingly, anyway. Do you have pictures of them without those helmets on? If not - I can't help you."

Dilon shook his head. Ki'yak growled again.

"What about the ship?" Ki'yak demanded.

"What about what ship? We get a lot of ships through here."

"His ship!" Ki'yak said pointing at Terak's picture.

The customs officer rolled his eyes. Dilon quickly started tapping on the datapad and brought up the hazy picture and stats of the ship that had escaped from the scene of Venwi's City the previous day. "This one." Dilon said, thrusting the datapad in the customs officer's face.

"Hmm, no, sorry. I see almost every ship that enters here but never anything like that. Try the other domes."

"That could take days!" Dilon exclaimed.

"Sorry, kid, I don't know what else to... actually, yes I do. You could try talking with the clearance guys, they see pretty much everything that happens on this side of the planet. If I weren't so busy I could show you up to the control room..."

After coughing up another slip of latinum Dilon and Ki'yak were escorted into the restricted administrator section and introduced to the duty officer on flight clearance.

"We're looking for this ship." Dilon handed the datapad to the controller.

"Are you indeed?" the overweight flight clearance controller said uninterestedly, scratching away at one of the numerous food and drink stains down his uniform.

"We can pay..." Dilon prompted Ki'yak who was rapidly getting fed up of bribing people, he was much more used to beating information from anyone who was less than forthcoming. He dug into his pocket again and retrieved the last slip of latinum and threw it at the controller.

"I'm rather busy..." the controller said, pocketing the slip.

"We can pay more..." Dilon prompted Ki'yak again. Ki'yak shook his head.

"No more - tell us or die!" Ki'yak gave the controller a simple choice.

"Oh, keep your lid on. I'll take a look." the controller sighed, wondering why he always got the cheap ones coming to his desk. Cheap and violent.

It didn't take him long to find a possible match. "This could be it. Here, what, twenty hours ago? It didn't actually put through this dome, it got clearance at Lucifer City - about 800 miles west of here. Its definitely got some kind of stealth technology, it hardly appears on my scopes but I'm sure that's the one. It left again, well, about half an hour later. That was a flying visit."

"Where did it go?" Dilon asked, suddenly exciting to have a lead.

"I don't know - up. Out of the atmosphere. Away from F5. I dunno, what am I, a psychic?"

"Give us your logs." Ki'yak demanded.

"Er, we might be able to track where he went if he entered hyperspace in your sensor range." Dilon added.

"Knock yourselves out, time for my lunch anyway." the controller said, indicating his panel. He shuffled out of the room, pausing at the door. "Don't mess anything up or you'll be stuck here like the rest of us."

They were extremely fortunate, wherever the ship was going the side of the planet that both Rexmundi and Lucifer occupied happened to be facing that way at the time. Dilon transferred much of the raw data across to his datapad, it had to be done manually as the interfaces didn't match, and they returned to the Prestinium to calculate the likely destination.

Using the Klingon supplied star charts it could be only one place, another backwater Triangle world, a place called Achenar.

 

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

 

"Hey, I recognise this place - this is the planet we nearly hit after accidentally coming into this universe!" Dilon exclaimed from the Prestinium's flight deck. Ki'yak, who was sitting in the co-pilot's seat next to him, was too busy scraping the bottom of his now shoeless feet with his matted straggly goatee. Dilon tried to ignore the activities of the foul and currently contorted Klingon and reminded himself how much worse it would have been to travel in Ki'yak's ship.

Without saying another word Dilon aimed the Prestinium at the city Death Bringer and he had encountered last time. He was determined to bring them down safely, if anything so he could rib Death Bringer about it - the last time Death Bringer had been piloting the Prestinium they crash landed on this very same planet.

As they approached the lifeless but perfectly preserved city Dilon noticed what could be the sensor blip they had been looking for. Getting closer the sensors then confirmed it, this was exactly the same signature of the ship that had fled Venwi's Claim immediately after the incident.

"There, that's the ship - Terak is here!" Dilon said, making the mistake of turning to look at Ki'yak as he did so. "Eugh! What are you doing you savage! Put your shoes on before I collapse at the wheel!" Dilon could hardly contain his revulsion at the Klingon's latest activity - licking the fungal infected gaps between his toes.

"Wow - look at the sensors - there used to be a big tower there in the center of the city. DB blew some of the insides out with a thermal - look, now there's five of them!" Dilon said excitedly as the Prestinium descended toward them and the two ships next to the pentagonal group of rock spires.

Ki'yak was the first down the ramp. He rushed across the rocky ground, aiming for the spherical ship a few hundred metres away in the shadow of one great spire. Dilon was more cautious, he'd visited before and didn't trust the place one bit. He cautiously scanned the horizon and took in the unreal scene before him. Where once the city centre had stood, with its small drab municipal blocks, now there was a barren rocky landscape dominated by the five great rock spires, down the sides of which were large alien glyphs that glowed as if somehow alive. Beyond the large pentangle of spires the rocky ground gave way to concrete. The roads and buildings that had surrounded the city administrative centre still lay there, as if nothing were amiss. It was if a large patch of the city had been ripped from the face of the planet and surgically replaced by a piece of hell itself. The thing that most worried Dilon was that it had grown - where there was one spire, now there were five. The other disconcerting aspect, the thing that had most alarmed Dilon on his first visit, was the quietness of the world. There were no people, no animals, no sounds of machines, nothing but the gentle wind to keep you company. It was as if everyone had suddenly vanished from the face of the planet.

Closing up the Prestinum's entry ramp behind him Dilon jogged over to Ki'yak who was attempting to break into Terak's ship, with little success.

"Die you filthy fecker!" Ki'yak shouted at the door control as he began stabbing at it violently, and with as little accuracy as possible, with his dagger. He managed to smash his way into the controls and they fizzled but otherwise there was no effect - the large door, about twice the height of Ki'yak, remained sealed.

"Hey, let me before you destroy any chance of getting in there without a lightsabre!" Dilon said tetchily. "Ow!" Dilon exclaimed as he elbowed Ki'yak out of the way and thrust his hand into the control system, receiving an electric shock from the mangled wires.

After many minutes Dilon gave up - he'd had enough electric shocks and small cuts for one day. "Oh, I give up. Let's take a look at that ship instead." Dilon said pointing across to the third ship in the area. Ki'yak immediately recognised it, after failing to notice it before, as an Orion light freighter but neglected to let Dilon in on it.

Equal failure presented itself when the two of them attempted to break into the Orion freighter, only this time they didn't try quite so hard. Giving up, they made their way across to the nearest giant beige rock spire with its eerie glowing symbols. Standing at the foot of the structure they ware struck by the sheer size of it, each symbol alone must have been at least twice their heights, probably more like three of four times. Over a thousand metres tall in all, they couldn't really make out the top this close to it.

There were no guards, no indications of life, only a single large door. It was clearly hewn from the same rock as the rest of the spire. It was the only evident join in the rock, the rest of the spire appearing to be cut from one, very very large, piece of stone. It was a massive door, on a grand scale in keeping with the rest of the spire. There was no obvious opening mechanism, it was just a plain slab of rock slightly recessed from the face of the spire. They took one last look around before venturing forth to the door.

There was the sound of rock against rock as the door slowing drew up of its own accord. Beyond was a brightly-lit corridor made of the same material that curved off to the left in the far distance. There was no discernible source for the light inside - no windows, glowing patches, just an even omnipresent natural light. Ki'yak and Dilon cautiously entered the corridor into the massive building. There was no resistance, no alarms, nothing. Ki'yak, in particular, was beginning to suspect a trap.

Several minutes passed as the two of them followed the corridor around, deeper and deeper into the structure. Occasionally they would pass a door, flush to the wall and made of the same rock material. Again, they had no features and appeared to have been created by simply cutting a door shape into the stone. None opened as they approached. Ki'yak tried to apply pressure to the first few but no matter what he tried they wouldn't open. The floor had a very slight gradient, almost unnoticeable, but there was in no doubt that they were moving down into the earth. They also had the distinct feeling they were being followed but whenever they looked over their shoulders, back down the long corridor, there was no sign of anyone or anything.

 

We walked for ages, by now we must have been a mile down and looped back around to under where we started. There was no sign of the Borg that DB had told me about after the first time. There was no sign of anybody - it was scarily quiet, well, until we ran into trouble, that is.

 

"Noise!" Ki'yak whispered, his head jerking around as he tried to locate the source of the sound. Dilon paused to listen but heard nothing.

"Can't here anything." Dilon whispered back.

"Noise quiet!" Ki'yak whispered again, now fixed on the corridor winding away in front of them. Dilon wasn't sure if Ki'yak's remarks had been aimed at him or the noise itself, if there was one.

They both stood, on alert, watching the corridor ahead. At first there was no sign of anything. Dilon was beginning to think Ki'yak was imagining things. Just before he gave up to continue their seemingly never ending walk Dilon noticed some movement come around the wide continuous bend ahead. It looked like three or four figures coming their way. The figures froze, they must have seen them. As one they ran at Dilon and Ki'yak.

Turning to run the other way Dilon stopped in his tracks as it dawned on him that Ki'yak was going the other way - charging at the figures. Dilon turned to watch, suddenly unsure what to do. He couldn't leave Ki'yak to fight them alone, whatever they were. On the other hand he wasn't too keen to get himself killed, he didn't even have a weapon on him. He found himself, against his better judgement, jogging after the sprinting Klingon - he'd let Ki'yak take them on first and then rescue him just in the nick of time, or so he told himself.

With a sweep of his bat'telh Ki'yak almost ran head long into the first of the figures. The Andorian deftly side stepped the predictable first attack. The next of the now confirmed group of three ran at Ki'yak. Like the Andorian this Human was apparently weaponless. She tried to barge into Ki'yak to knock him off balance but it was Ki'yak's turn to sidestep the obvious attack.

Another sweep of his bat'telh, this time calculated to keep them at a safe distance rather than inflict damage, gave Ki'yak another short moment to get his breath back. If it didn't offend his warrior pride he would probably have thought he was getting too old for this kind of thing.

"Wait!" called out the wheezing third member of the other group as he struggled to jog the last hundred metres to meet his two colleagues and Ki'yak.

Backing off rapidly the Andorian and Human were extremely grateful to have a reason to cease hostilities against the rabid looking Klingon with the large blade. Unfortunately their opponent wasn't quite so willing to take a suggestion from the newcomer. Ki'yak lunged at the Andorian.

"Stop!" Dilon shouted as he came within grabbing distance of Ki'yak. Dilon grabbed his arms in a feeble attempt to restrain the Klingon. In itself it wasn't enough to actually prevent Ki'yak from hacking the Andorian's face in two but, despite his age, Ki'yak's reflexes were still excellent. The bat'telh stopped just short of making contact with the Andorian's head. He glowered at the Andorian as the other backed off, looking more than a little frightened.

"It's okay - we're archaeologists!" the third member of the other group said, all but hyperventilating from the run. He leaned forward against the rocky wall, propping himself against it with his right arm, to get his breath back.

"Archaeologists?" Dilon asked, himself getting his breath back but not being nearly so short of breath as any of the other group appeared to be.

"Yeah, who are you?" the Human woman asked suspiciously, looking over her shoulder to the way they came as she did so.

"We're, er - Well, I'm Dilon and this is Ki'yak. We're looking for a friend of ours."

"You'll only find death here." the Andorian stated flatly.

"Have you been down there? Did you see any of these Borg?" Dilon asked.

"Why do you think we're trying to get out of here, boy?" the woman said.

"Sorry, please excuse my colleagues - I'm Tym, that's Claudia, and Threvel.", the third member and apparent leader said, now standing upright and joining the group as his light headed feeling was diminishing, though he was still panting softly. "There were three more of us - we ran into the Borg further down..."

"How do I not think you're working for them?" Ki'yak said, still very wary of them and keeping his bat'telh at the his side, just in case.

"How do we know you're not?" Threvel, the Andorian, said, his voice still full of suspicion.

Claudia looked at Tym, a look he clearly understood as he nodded back to her. He stared at Dilon. Their eyes met and Dilon could not help but turn away, it felt as if Tym's eyes were burrowing straight into his mind. It was an odd feeling, he could almost sense someone actually rummaging around in his mind. Then, abruptly the sensation was gone. He looked back to Tym and saw that him nod to his two colleagues before turning his gaze on Ki'yak.

Ki'yak was now stepping past the Andorian to look down the corridor, the way the others had come. In the corner of his eye he saw Tym staring at him. He turned and growled at him.

"Argh!" Tym cried out as he involuntarily backed away from Ki'yak and brought his hands to his temples. "Argh - you are seriously ill!" Tym shouted out, his mental defences temporarily shattered by the disturbing mindscape.

"What? Are you some kind of Jedi?" Dilon asked, suddenly understanding the sense he had just experienced - someone else really was invading his mind.

Ki'yak suddenly realised too, Tym may look Human but this black hair and equally black eyes suggested he could be something more - "Betazoid! Keep out of my head or I'll use yours for my theatre!" Ki'yak threatened. Unlike Dilon he hadn't sensed the violation but Tym's reaction said it all.

"Never... I will never... I promise I will never... scan you again..." Tym said, trying desperately to regain his composure. Even feeling the internal screams of his three friends as they were turned into Borg was nothing compared to the mental imagery masquerading as Ki'yak's mind. He was more than visibly shaken by the experience. Claudia rushed to grab Tym before he collapsed onto the floor. Threvel glared at Ki'yak again, suddenly very unsure if he were an enemy again or not.

"What is it? What did you see?" Claudia asked Tym, concerned.

"No, noth- He's not with them. Neither of them are. We can trust them. Dilon here is looking for his friend." Tym said, still sounding a little jittery.

"Well, I'm getting out of here, as we agreed." Threvel stated to Tym.

Tym looked at Claudia who was now helping him to lean up against the wall.

"No, sorry, Tym. I'm not risking my life to help these two any more than I'm going to do it to find your fabled countrymen." Claudia responded to the questioning look from Tym.

"You're looking for people in here too?" Dilon asked, sounding excited again at the prospect of having some decent company and someone who may just be this universes equivalent to a Jedi.

"I can sense them. I could from the other side of the city. I can't explain it - I wouldn't normally be able to sense anyone from anything like that distance. I'm sure some of my people are here. I can hear them suffering - they're down here somewhere, I'm sure of it." Tym explained.

"Look where it's got us - Rand, Joe and Frust are dead - worse. All because you think you can sense other Betazoids trapped here. We're tomb raiders, not a special ops rescue team!" Threvel said bitterly. "I'm getting out while I still can and you should both join me - let these two be turned into Borg, if that's what they want."

"Fine, you two go. I'm going back down there. Hopefully we can rescue my people along with this DB of Dilons." Tym responded to Threvel in a similar tone. "Just have the Relic Catcher warmed up and ready to go. We won't be far behind you."

"Tym..." Claudia said in a warning tone. Threvel was already marching off back the way Dilon and Ki'yak had come, to the surface.

"Go, Claudia. I'll be okay." Tym said but saw she wasn't convinced that she should leave him after all. "Go - I'll be fine, I promise." Claudia looked into his eyes and saw the determination in them. She gave an abbreviated nod and rushed after Threvel, not looking back.

"Okay, Dilon and- Ki'yak is it? Let's get moving."

"I dunno, I've suddenly got a bad feeling about this..." Dilon said, now even less certain he wanted to be doing this.

"Enough talk, let's rip some Borg entrails out!" Ki'yak said in excited anticipation.

"You know, DB had some kind of jammer when he was last down here. It confused the Borg. Wish I had one of those right now." Dilon said, ignoring Ki'yak's last comment. The three of them began their walk, not saying another word. Tym occasionally looked over his shoulder with the strangest feeling they were being followed. He could almost sense someone there but whenever he looked there was nothing. He started to dismiss it, he was probably just getting that feeling from Dilon, who was positively emanating the sense they were being stalked.

 

For five minutes the three of them walked. By this time the other two tomb raiders had long since disappeared around the curve of the corridor. It was around this point that Tym and his people were first attacked. Tym was by now seriously on edge, expecting an attack at any moment. He wasn't to be disappointed.

Tym spun around, this time he was sure he sensed minds behind him. Minds that were simultaneously trapped and yet free. Trapped in a constraining overmind and also free beyond the confines of their brains. The only thing stopping them screaming out and going mad was the immense control exerted by the other constituent parts and they in turn back out upon the system. Tym shuddered at the cold enveloping experience.

"Borg!" Tym shouted as he spun around on the spot. Sure enough he was confronted by the image of four Borg, marching impassively toward them. He pulled a small Type 1 phaser from his pocket. "Don't let them touch you..." Tym called a warning to his two new cohorts.

"Where did they come from?" Dilon yelped with a start after turning to see their attackers. He wished he had brought a blaster or anything that might be used to defend himself.

"Run!" Tym shouted, a thought that had already passed through Dilon's mind. Ki'yak, however, looked more interested in an almost certainly futile gesture.

Tym turns back to run further down below the spires above to be confronted with three more Borg, each with a hand outstretched. He ducked past them, narrowly avoiding their grasps that would inevitable lead to becoming one of them. Tym sprints off, not looking back.

One of the Borg moves to grab Ki'yak but collapses onto its back when Ki'yak's bat'telh severs both of its arms in one powerful slice. Dilon moves closer to Ki'yak as the Borg now surrounding them close their distance.

A flash of movement behind the Borg catches Dilon's attention whilst Ki'yak is busy waving his bat'telh about in an attempt to keep the attackers at bay. A dark figure with what looked like a cane glided up behind the Borg. As the stranger approached the Borg became disorientated. They began to flail about wildly.

"Quick! This way!" Dilon shouted at Ki'yak, nodding his head after Tym, down the corridor to almost certainly greater danger.

Ki'yak seized the opportunity given by the uncoordinated Borg to chop down two that were directly blocking their flight. They each took one last second to catch their breath before their run. Something knocked into Dilon from behind, he didn't turn to look what it was, instead he used it as impetuous to run. He didn't feel the crystal slip into his pocket. The two of them sprinted down after Tym. Neither turned back to see what was becoming of the Borg or see who the strange cowled figure was.

 

It didn't take them long to catch up with Tym, his state of health wasn't as good as theirs and he had stopped not too far away to rest. The three of them looked down the corridor to see the one thing they really didn't want to see at that moment - row upon row of Borg lining the sides. The rocky walls were about to give way to Borg alcoves for as far as the eye could see. They each looked at one another and then back the way they had come. Not saying a word they came to unanimous decision. They began to run again. For all their strength they ran past the occupied Borg alcoves, not knowing what kind of danger might face them if they managed to survive this particular gauntlet.

Though it wasn't overly obvious as they rushed past, the previously stationary Borg began to writhe and shudder in their alcoves as the group shot past. None of the three took their eyes off the corridor ahead, not even daring to glance at the Borg they were coming up to and passing. Before they knew it they reached, finally, the end of the corridor. They ran through without concern for what lay ahead, only worried about what was behind. The three of them stopped, dead, in their tracks when they saw where they were.

 

Erie glows pulsated in the massive cavern that they found themselves in. They all looked about in disbelief at the truly incredible vats around them - each the size of a small tower block. They were not unlike transparent silos. Within each was a viscous looking translucent liquid - the apparent source of the unsettling glows. Within the liquid they could just about make out large black objects, one per vat.

"Look at that one, it looks larger. That one over there looks like it might be a bit smaller... They're growing, they're-" Dilon whispered in awe and fear.

"They're alive... Whatever they are..." Tym finished Dilon's sentence, without needing to scan him to know exactly what he was thinking, what they were all thinking.

"They are spacecraft." came a sharp voice, full of authority and at a normal, confident level, unlike Dilon and Tym's whisperings.

The three of them turned, with starts to pinpoint the source of the new voice. He was Human, somewhere in his late sixties. He wore an all-covering cloak and robes of black and midnight blue. His silvery white hair was slicked straight back on his head. His thin haughty face stared up at the vats with imperial disdain.

"Who are you?" Dilon asked, recognising the man as the one he caught a glimpse of a few minutes previously. Did he help save them from the Borg is or he working for them?

"Belgarath. As none of you are from my universe you won't recognise the term Technomage but that is what I am, hmm?" the newcomer announced. "Now let's not dawdle, you're here to save some people and I'm going to help."

"Why?" Ki'yak asked, suspicious, as ever.

"Why not, my dear boy?" Belgarath said, ignoring the hatred in Ki'yak's eyes at being called a boy. "You've led me here and I've found out what I needed to know. Least I can do is help you in return, hmm?"

"Your mind is closed, concentrated - shielded. I don't trust you." Tym stated flatly to Belgarath.

"Never mind that, he saved us from those Borg, I think. Let's just get to your Bayter- er, your people, find DB and Terak and get out of here!" Dilon exclaimed, feeling incredibly uneasy, both with the odd atmosphere to the cavern and worried that a mass of Borg could show up at any second.

Tym looked around him, eyes closed, sensing which direction the now close Betazoid minds were to be found. "This way."

The group kept to the edge of the cavern, none of them felt inclined to wander among the giant vats, and came to a small open, rock hewn, doorway that led to a smaller antechamber. Belgarath strode through without any hesitation, the others, even Ki'yak, entered with a little more trepidation.

Before them was what looked like a primitive laboratory, or, perhaps, a series of butchers slabs. Large blocks of the now all too familiar rock were scattered about the room. Each of them was stained with blood, some fresh but most long since dried. Around the edge of the small room were more vats but these ones were person rather than tower block sized. Dilon immediately thought of Bacta Tanks and he wasn't far wrong. In the vats were people in various states of mutilation and, in some cases, disease. Crude and vicious looking medical devices, or perhaps torture instruments, were scattered around the slabs, with one slab being given over to small jars of liquids. Dilon vomited at the sight of the prisoners and Tym was looking just as green. Belgarath looked appalled whilst Ki'yak just looked hungry.

"That's them - those are my people. What have these monsters done to you all?" Tym said.

"We must get them out of those tanks." Belgarath declared.

Ki'yak readied his bat'telh and took a run up at the closest vat. With a muted thudding sound he brought his full weight onto the side of the vat with his bat'telh. A large crack appeared immediately and spread as they watched. Ki'yak backed off just as the tank exploded outward, pouring its contents over the floor. Tym rushed to the Betazoid woman who flopped to the floor from the tank. She was unconscious.

"You'd better tell me what is going on." Tym said coldly to Belgarath.

"As you wish." Belgarath said primly, before pausing to collect his thoughts to continue. "In my universe there are races of incredible age, vast and timeless. Once, long ago, they walked among the stars like giants. They taught the younger races, explored beyond the Rim, created great empires. The First Ones. But to all things there is an end. Slowly, over a million years, they went away. Some passed beyond the stars never to return. Some simply disappeared. A few stayed behind, hidden or asleep, watching for the day they may be needed - when the Shadows come again..."

"Shadows?" Tym asked, trying to ignore the shiver going up his spine.

"The Shadows were old when even the ancients, the First Ones, were young. They battled each other over and over across a million years. The last great war against the Shadows was ten thousand years ago. It was the last time the ancients walked openly among us. But the Shadows were only defeated, not destroyed. They returned to their places of power, rebuilt them and, a thousand years ago, began again to stretch forth their hand. Before they could strike, they were defeated by an alliance of worlds, the younger races and the few remaining First Ones who had not yet passed beyond the veil. When they had finished the remaining First Ones went away, all except the Vorlons and, perhaps, one or two others. Now the Shadows have returned. They are panicked but this new state of affairs. They are subversive by nature, working behind the scenes, implanting their agents in positions of power within the younger races. But they do not know any of your races, don't have time to know them. I do not believe they will be so subtle this time..."

"Borg." Ki'yak said.

"They are growing their organic space vessels here. They need people to act as a central core for their ships. Their minds are merged with the machine. Physical implants are added to the host's brain. These Borg would appear ideal for their purposes." Belgarath paused, as if having lost his train of thought, and then regaining it. "We must move along, hmm?"

Three of the seven Betazoid's were out of their tanks. They were, at best, semi-conscious. They hadn't experienced any resistance from the Borg. Belgarath proclaimed, cryptically, that they should be invisible to detection - if only for a short while.

Dilon, still feeling rather sick at the sight of the butchered Betazoids took a look out into the main chamber. He ran back in, looking rather alarmed. Tym was the first to notice and turned to look at him. Dilon said worriedly "The ships - the vats, they're draining. Some of them, anyway. There are Borg out there, ready to merge maybe!"

"What do you say?" Belgarath said, suddenly sounding no less alarmed. He rushed to take a look for himself. Ki'yak continued to smash open another tank. Belgarath ran back to the others. "He's right. We must leave."

"We can't what about these others-" Tym began before clutching his head and collapsing. An inhuman screeching filled the underground complex. The sound reached right into their brains and caused their very souls to quake. It was the sound of something terrible being born. It was repeated over an over. Their primal instincts where to run, to hide, to jump into a hole and pull the earth closed over their heads. It was their worst nightmares personified. All four of them were petrified in place, their brains unwilling to give any commands to move a muscle. Their instincts were overriding their conscious thoughts. The ground under their feet, around and above them, shook violently. Another series of nightmare sounds echoed around the complex, a different sound from before. Low rumbles and earth tremors took hold. Dust rushed through into the lab. The four of them, prompted by Belgarath, ran to their only exit and looked upon the cavern beyond. Massive chunks of rock, that had once been the ceiling, were collapsing down into the cavern. The ships, a nightmare visage, like impossibly large black spiders, were cutting their way through the ceiling. Their own vats were smashed but others, still occupied, remained. One of the other vats was broken, its contents spread on the floor - another black ship but this type more bulbous and having only vestigial stumps instead of the massive leg like spines of the other. With another collapse the ceiling was holed - the sky above could be seen. The dozen or so active Shadow vessels arced gracefully out of the hole and up out of the atmosphere.

Belgarath held his cane to the ceiling for a second before turning back to the other three. "We must hurry, just these four." he said indicating the four Betazoids they had already rescued from their tanks.

"No, I'm getting the others too." Tym announced.

An odd whooshing noise was followed by a fresh disturbance in the swirling, choking, dust trapped in the air. "Oh, if you must." Belgarath said petulantly. "This way you two." he added, looking at Dilon and Tym. He strode off out into the main chamber, the dust swirled around and enveloped him.

It took a second for them both to realise they were supposed to take a stricken Betazoid with them. Dilon grabbed her legs and Tym her arms. They carried her after Belgarath. Dilon stopped abruptly when he saw the large black shape before them. Tym, with his back to the way they were walking, turned to look up at the looming object. It was big, spacecraft big. At first they both thought it was a Shadow vessel - it was the same jet black. Closer examination gave indications of hard, artificial lines not the smooth organic curves of the Shadow ships. Nor was there the slight pulsing of the ships skin. It was then that they noticed Belgarath standing on a ramp up into the ship, encouraging them on. They ascended.

Inside it was black. Dark. There was light - they could see one another but that was all. They could not see the floor, the ceiling or any walls. It was as if they were standing in the vacuum of space. There definitely was a floor, they could feel it beneath their feet but that was the only point of reference, save for the light streaming in the doorway. They both felt quite disorientated by it. They gently lowered the still wet, and presumably cold, Betazoid to the floor and rushed back down the ramp to get the next.

By the time they had got the first four up into Belgarath's spacecraft Ki'yak had successfully freed the other three. Belgarath himself had not been seen since he encouraged them up the ramp with the first Betazoid.

As they were taking the final two Bezazoids, Tym and Dilon with one and Ki'yak carrying the last over his shoulder, they entered the main chamber as the bulk of the dust finally settled to the floor. Everywhere they looked were Borg. Hundreds of them, all streaming into the main cavern.

"Argh!" Dilon shouted in sudden fright. "Quick, let's get out of here!" he said trying to rush Tym on to the ramp. The Borg had seen them and their ship. Whatever invisibility they had it was doubtful it extended to the visual spectrum, probably little more than a sensor jammer or absorption system. The Borg, en mass, were heading to intercept them, like a hundred killer zombies. They all ran as best they could to their rescue ship. The ramp began to ascend before they were even off it. Ki'yak, at the back of the group, could see the ground falling away below them as the last crack of outside light was cut off by the ramp sealing, with the five of them, plus the other five Betazoids, safely aboard.

The Borg all stopped in their spots and watched the Technomage's ship ascend over their heads and shoot out of the hole in the ceiling. Somewhere, just out of sight, an ancient intelligence knew it was time to bring forward their plans. It was time to attend to their greatest threat.

 

THE END.