"What about everybody else?" shouted Midas.
"Easy! When we get aboard, Luke and Midas, you go to the bridge. Midas, get engines and weapons on line. Luke, you take the helm and prepare to get us out of here. We may have to blast our way out. Me? I'll head to Transporter Room One and start beaming up everything that's living and breathing. First coherent crewmen I get on board, I'll send to man the other transporters so we can get everybody up asap."
We zigged and zagged through deserted corridors until I could discern the wall curving sharply upwards like a skateboard ramp to the tunnel's entrance. As we got nearer, I could see the silvery, translucent path I had travelled before over our heads. It was shimmering and flickering erratically. I knew if it failed when we were on it, we would plummet to our deaths, but it didn't deter me. If we didn't board the Earhart, we were dead anyway, so we simply ran up it and leapt.
As my feet touched it, there was the same lurch as it yanked me forward. It threw me onto my knees for which I was thankful. Remembering how I had been thrown about the last time I was on it, four points of contact were much more preferable.
This time was different though. As I was hurled down the winding path that twisted and turned towards the Earhart, the ride was bumpy. The power flickered, the path jolted and threw me about in an even more unnerving fashion than last time. Even Troy, who was used to this technology and normally would have travelled it with ease, was having difficulty in keeping his balance as the power fluctuated. His arms flailed about wildly. And then, to my relief, I saw the open hanger deck. The path released me from its grip and I flew through the air, hit the deck and rolled across the floor. Something smashed into me. It was Luke.
Hastily, we picked ourselves up and fled in our respective directions. Troy went with the lads.
The transporters were on standby, so just a few quick presses were all that was required and then I began to scan. I found a group of about a dozen people. I locked onto the first six and activated the transporters. As they sang and chimed, I was relieved to see Al among the first batch.
Beside her was Rosie. He looked hung-over. In fact, bar Al, everybody looked rather that way—an after-effect of the sedative the Dancers had used.
"Al! Transporter Room 2 and get everybody and anything up here asap! Rosie, sick bay! You'll be receiving guests! Rigelus and Baker, Transporter Rooms 3 and 4! Everybody else, to your stations!"
Ignoring their muggy heads and understandable confusion, everybody leapt into action clearing the transporter room so I could get the next batch up.
Within minutes, we were frantically beaming up every living thing we could find. It didn't take particularly long with all four of us working together, but still, time was precious.
As soon as sensors showed no further life signs on the station, I fled my post and ran at top speed towards the bridge. As the turbo lift trundled along, I stood tense, clenching my fists, shaking them impatiently and grumbling angrily under my breath. The doors finally began to swoosh apart and I was through them before they were fully open.
Luke was at the helm, Midas at the engineering station and Rutter at tactical. Troy stood off to one side looking a little lost.
"Report, Luke!" I shouted.
"Burger freeze in cold sand!"
The view screen ahead showed the inside of the station. It was like watching black mould growing over its surface as whole areas were being extinguished and plunged into darkness.
The turbo lift doors opened and Al entered. She went straight to the weapons station.
"We need to get out of here, Troy! Best way?"
He stepped up to the view screen and studied it.
"Can you move to port?" he asked.
"Beanbags eat mice."
Needless to say, that was Luke confirming that he could, and the Earhart slowly began to turn.
"There!" Troy suddenly shouted, pointing. "Those are the doors. That's the weakest point."
"Al! Prepare weapons! Low level, short burst!"
"On your mark."
"Midas! Engine status!"
"Manoeuvring thrusters are on line and impulse drive is ready."
"Helm! Prepare to make your exit!"
"Duck fins!" accompanied by a thumbs-up.
"Al! Fire at will!"
The phasers sent out a controlled, short burst that hit the target. It barely made a mark and I growled in frustration under my breath.
"Fire again!" I bellowed.
"Belay that order!" shouted Rutter. "The hull integrity is too fragile. Another blast and the effects will be devastating. Wait! The hull is beginning to break apart."
He was right too. Small explosions silently began to flare around the phaser's blast point. Energy zigzagged away from its centre. The hull began to crack and large chunks began to break away. It reminded me of Al meticulously peeling the shell off her boiled egg at breakfast.
The image on the view screen began to rotate as the Earhart rolled, Luke manoeuvring towards the growing exit hole.
"Aft sensors indicate a mass of explosions behind us," notified Rutter. "A hasty exit is highly recommended."
"Shields up!" I barked.
"Aft Shields at one hundred percent."
"Tiggleberry!" shouted Luke.
"Tiggleberries!" he shouted again and pointed forward.
"Forward shields?" I asked, wondering if that's what he meant.
"Full power to forward shields!" confirmed Rutter.
A brief hand signal from Luke indicated his happiness before he returned his full concentration to the helm. I could see him biting down on his lip as he manoeuvred the Earhart, twisting and turning her, moving her slowly forward. Then suddenly, the impulse engines cut in and we glided towards the crumbling shell of the station. With full shields in place, we gracefully pushed through the debris casting it aside, and with Luke's manoeuvring skills, we slid between protruding bulkheads and beams out into normal space.
"What's wrong with the sky?" gasped Troy.
Before us, black sky had appeared filled with familiar stars. I smiled, realising that in such a small universe, he would never have seen another star.
"Those are suns, Troy—the suns of other worlds."
"But they are so small."
"They are very far away."
"My god!" he cried. "How damned big is your domain!" but we had no time to reply.
"I have two Federation ships coming into range," reported Rutter.
"Open a channel."
With a brand new solar system dropping into the universe out of nowhere, the Federation would be both curious and cautious.
"Hailing frequencies open."
"Federation ships, this is Cadet Jenny Terran of the USS Earhart."
The screen crackled and then cleared to reveal the image of an Admiral. He raised an eyebrow.
"Where is your captain, cadet?" he asked coldly.
"Sickbay probably, sir, but I can explain," and I waved Troy forward. "This is Warr—Ambassador Troy of the Helvetian world—the planet that has just materialised."
"I see," said the Admiral and studied me further. "You seem to be indicating that there is no threat?"
"No threat, sir. Just an opportunity to form new alliances and friendships."
He raised his eyebrows as his eyes flicked across the bridge crew, all of whom, I realised, were junior members.
"Do you have any senior officers about?"
"Somewhere, sir, yes, but we've just come out of an emergency situation. We will be able to hand command back to the senior officers in a few minutes, sir."
At that moment, the turbo lift doors opened and T'Roc and Jarrod stepped out. Both faltered when they saw the Admiral's face on the screen, realising they hadn't got a clue what was going on.
The Admiral grinned.
"Well, carry on then, Captain Terran," and the communication blinked out leaving us with a beautiful vision of Hell in front of us. It was an emerald green world with blue seas, further enhanced by its sun starting to set behind it.
T'Roc tugged uncomfortably at her jacket, and scowled hard as she came forward. I stepped to one side, eager not to block her path to the command chair. She glared at me, and then scanned the bridge crew with her dark Klingon eyes. Like naughty schoolchildren, the crew were now concentrating hard on their stations so as to avoid her gaze.
"Okay," she growled. "I'd like to know what's going on."
I opened my mouth to begin an explanation but T'Roc thrust her hand angrily into my face.
"Not you, Terran! I think you've had more than enough command for one day."
She turned to Luke.
"Brightman, perhaps you'd like to explain," and she tilted her head expectantly to one side.
Luke calmly, swivelled his chair around to face her and grinned before he began ...