Velocity Star

Chapter One

"The Crew"

"…inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude…." -Kate Chopin, The Awakening

They searched for light where not but darkness roamed. Six friends like sparks from a burning fire brought together by fate and shaped by the evil from which they ran. They had each grown up in what they had felt a morally wrong and unjust world. Always the hopeful, each of them prayed every night for a better life among better people. They felt their very souls torn apart each day by the hateful ways of their society. Freedom had not territory where they came from, no peace, and no individuality.

They all had the same dreams. Seeking exploration of the universe in which they lived, they salivated for freedom and meaning to their lives. Their worlds would never allow this. Their peoples' suppressive and restrictive ways would do nothing but bind them against their will as it had their entire lives. In desperation they fought their way through the darkness and helped each other to climb out of a pool of black oil they felt forced into their whole lives. They stepped upon new land, still dripping black ink from their skin as wax from a melting candle. Each drop reluctant, it clung to them with a furious grasp. Only time would free them of its hands.

The people of earth knew the time as the year 2253. Three human friends, a male and two females, seemed destined to meet three others, alien, who would join them in their escape. The earth, forced into a communist alien society called the Novae Command Alliances, amounted to nothing more than a slave world. The NCA itself, created by a race called the vilixxi, spawned wrath upon their known space. They sought utter subjugation from all races. The human race fell before the Alliances, as so many others.

Arturan, a vilixxi himself and one of the aliens who would help them to escape, would become their key, their savoir, and their friendly hand that would help them up from the black pool in which they drown. Arturan used his own friends to help the others escape from the chains that bound them.

Literally fighting their way through a bloody battle alongside two other friends, a male and female dari, they waged a new carnage upon the Alliances. They escaped with hopes of leaving behind a scar that would imprint the Alliances so that they would never forget the six people that escaped their powerful dominion.

And so succeeding, they traveled for two years on a stolen battleship they had named the Velocity Star. Each one assigned to specific duties onboard for which they would be solely responsible. They unanimously determined Arturan their leader, for he knew more about the universe and the ship itself than they did.

Despite his introversive character, Arturan managed himself a compassionate person to his dari and human friends and a strong-willed, fierce Captain for their ship. They did not call him Captain, nor did any of them hold a rank, but he remained their leader, the vessel's first right arm. He would care for the ship in the same manner that any Captain would; it would hold value within his heart like a mother does a child. And he would take pride in its show of strength and power. It would be their carriage along the journey. It would be their home.

The stars outside seemed not to notice the despondent, watchful eyes of Isabelle Price, as she stood before a window in the main cafeteria. She was a passionate, hopeful individual, like the others save for Arturan. They got along as best friends, Isabelle and Arturan, likely better than the friendship between any other aboard. Like the others aboard however, they hardly saw each other, for the Velocity Star beheld such a grand hull, nearly two miles in length and two full sections of framework. Carved within it, thirty-two labyrinthine decks, nearly as lengthy as the ship's frame, made for quite the space with a mere six people aboard.

That night however, fate had given she and Arturan direction toward each other. The cafeteria entrance slid upward completely silent, and Arturan stepped in just as quietly along the carpeted floor. He noticed Isabelle and hesitated before deciding to grab something from the synthesizer without being noticed, for he did not wish to disturb her.

Her eyes caught him though, just as he reached the synthesizer integrated into the wall by the bar. He soon became aware of her gaze and their eyes met. "I apologize," he spoke regretfully. "I did not wish to disturb you."

"Oh," she snickered, "it's alright." Her eyes fell to the floor and she appeared bemused, her smile gone. She stepped to a table with a glass of steaming coffee in hand. Consciously, she tried not to stay awake; in fact, she had struggled unsuccessfully half an hour before to fall asleep. Nightmares haunted her relentlessly, and she'd found herself for the past week subconsciously denied of sleep. Her mind wished not to be thrown into zealous arms and slaughtered.

Arturan took his plate of food from the synthesizer and stopped in front of the table she'd taken a seat at. "You seem despondent," he said curiously. "Perhaps I could…" his head cocked to the side for a moment, his hot red skin reflected yellow in the dim white lights overhead, " 'lend you an ear', to borrow a phrase from your people."

Isabelle giggled though it was short-lived. She shook her head. "Oh, it's really nothing. I don't want to be a bother."

"Surely not," he said, taking a seat across from her. "A bother, you wouldn't be, my Dear Isabelle, ever. And surely it's not nothing, for it's kept you awake this long. One who stares at the emptiness of space seeks it because they feel at one with it, empty, alone, and dark. Well, I am here. I'd be happy to shed you some light."

"To borrow another phrase from my people," she pointed out.

He leaned over the table, slowly sliding a bite of his food into his mouth. "An astute observation."

Silence, and she gave him a smile. Her eyes sunk back down to the table again. "I've been having nightmares," she said, her embarrassment quite obvious. She continued reluctantly, "I've found them quite…disturbing, to say the least."

"The self-conscious imagining of environmental interaction," Arturan stated suddenly. Isabelle's confused look answered him, and he responded, "Dreaming, I hear your people do it every night."

Her eyes raised a moment. "Every night that we sleep," she said.

"Quite," he agreed. "What happens in these…'nightmares', as you refer to them."

"Well," she began slowly, "that's the disturbing part." She shrunk in her chair, more embarrassed than before. She tried to continue, but she struggled with it. "You see…when it starts I'm kind of…in the middle of having sex. We're in bed, it's dark, and we're both just consumed in the throws of passion. It's cold, we're both breathing real heavily, sweating; I mean we're really just going at it…"

"Moving on," Arturan broke suddenly and eagerly, slightly embarrassed himself.

Isabelle giggled again. Once she calmed, she said, "Right, of course, sorry. Anyway, I can't see him, so I haven't a clue who he is. And just as the climax is coming on, I feel my fingers start to dig into his back. I'm not applying any extra force or pressure; they just seem to be sinking into him like they were in quicksand or something. I can start to feel his warm, thick blood seep between my fingers and stream out along his back, and they just keep digging farther and farther. Now, all the while, he just continues sucking at my neck like he doesn't know anything's happening.

"Finally, it gets to a point where his blood has completely drained and he's covering me in a pool of blood like wet paper. Now, at this point I'm really just sort of freaking out, and I'm having to peel-literally peel, him off of me as if he were melted cheese and I was the bread. When I get him off me, I toss him to the side and lean up out of the blood, and that's when the darkness just eats me alive; I feel like I'm being chewed up and meshed into mush. Eventually, I end up forced into that sea of blood and I drown.

"When I wake up, I'm soaking with sweat, crying, and…well," she smiled shyly, "…let's just say the climax didn't stop in the dream."

Arturan's eyes widened, and he recoiled in his chair. "Indeed," he said very slowly.

Her head down, she looked up at him through the strands of jet-black hair that fell over her face like a tired puppy and smiled. "So…I guess I'm kind of a freak, huh? Go ahead, you can say it. I'm clinically insane."

Arturan smiled and relaxed. "You're not insane," he assuaged her. "While some dreams and nightmares for humans do hold specific meaning, others are simply random and mean nothing. Perhaps this is one of the meaningless ones."

"Well, that's what I thought, too…the first couple of nights."

"First…" he reiterated, "…couple?"

She smiled innocently. "I've been having it every night for the past month…well, every night except the last week, because I haven't slept for the past week." She saw the surprise in his face. "I know, I know…it's weird, huh?"

"Quite," he said in awe, "especially in that you managed such a good composure after not sleeping for so long."

Again Isabelle found herself breaking into laughter. "Yes, well, another one of my many talents," she joked. She brushed her long hair back behind her ears and rested her chin in her hand. "You really think it might mean nothing?" she asked seriously.

He gave thought a moment. "Were I to derive any meaning from it, I would say that your lack of sexual interaction is depressing you, and the darkness that 'eats' you in the end is the darkness you lie in, alone, each night."

She looked down a moment, giving it serious thought. "So, I'm just horny?"

Arturan recoiled again, embarrassed. "To put it, er…perversely."

She giggled. "Well…I guess you're…right. Not that I'm like a nymphomaniac or something," she laughed, "but I…" her smile faded, "…I do miss having someone, someone to hold me and make me feel safe…someone to love me."

A strand of hair had fallen over her face again, and Arturan leaned in and brushed it behind her ear. Their eyes meeting, he said, "Your time will come, Dear Isabelle. Your time will come."

Isabelle wanted to believe a "thanks" slipped from her lips, but she could not know. They had fallen into each other that night, not romantically, but as friends; the purest of friendship encompassed them, and they breathed it in as a life-sustaining atmosphere that kept them going, a salve, and they would forever continue breathing.

Deep down in the darkest dwellings of Velocity Star, a light sat restrained by the darkness and the ship itself. She hung like a lifeless corpse. Voluntarily lynched, she'd entered a form of consciousness unlike any that she'd ever imagined. She hadn't been killed; perhaps she'd been enhanced…or butchered. Looking at her, one could not tell. She seemed dead, her vessel as still as a statue, never moving, never making a sound. She could not see from her own eyes or speak from her own lips. Instead, she hung from hundreds of wires dispersed from around the room, every system onboard attached to her, linked as though a machine. Every matrix onboard, every energy source streamed into her like a raging river. She could see what the ship saw, she could feel what the ship felt, and she could say what the ship wanted; essentially she had become nothing more than the ship itself, connected in the beginning, she'd chosen to become the ship's living computer. She had complete control; she could take the ship where she wanted, when she wanted, she could scan it for intruders or set the auto-destruct sequence to blow it up. She had more power than Arturan or anyone else onboard. She hung, christened as the true leader of the hive, as the Queen.

Jonathan Richards knew her as Amelia Davidson, his friend since his sophomore year of high school, nearly eight years before. They helped steal Velocity Star with the others and seek out the freedom and discovery they'd longed for. Amelia however, had not actually longed for it as the others, for, according to her, she had neither dreams nor goals. Skeptical of this, Jonathan found such a thing preposterous, but he gave her the benefit of the doubt nonetheless.

As long as Jonathan had known her, he felt he had never discovered anything more beautiful; out of all of the sights he'd seen throughout the universe, all of the sunsets he'd seen on other planets, she still held more beauty in his eyes. She had seemed such a sweet and precious creature to him, but he had discovered there was more to this seemingly innocent being that he saw her as. When he first talked to her she had blown him away. He could think not of anything but her, for she had enchanted him and left him ignorant to the existence of anything other than herself. Looking at her, he found himself forgetting anything else existed, inadvertently ignoring his other friends and accidentally walking into walls.

Jonathan never expected in all the time that he had watched her at school that she would meet so above his hopes. …Indeed, he had watched her before he first spoke with her. He had never told her, but he had his eye on her since the beginning of his sophomore year; he only just spoke to her after the first semester. Every day he saw her at lunch, and every day he felt a piece of him torn away with his eyes as she escaped his view at the end of lunch. He might have one day decided to follow her, but he learned some time before not to follow a girl he liked. At the time, Jonathan felt he didn't deserve someone as beautiful as she appeared to him. He didn't actually talk to her until the second semester of that year. They quickly became friends and remained as such since.

When Amelia decided to permanently interface with the ship, Jonathan had to let go. Linking with the ship meant almost certain death if ever disconnected. Amelia sentenced herself to life, being hooked up to wires and floating over a circular gravitation pad. The secret justice she felt she deserved.

Jonathan stepped into the chambers that held Amelia, among the wires that bound her, where it remained eternally dark and cold. His black, rubber boots echoed through the blue metal walls with their silver inscriptions as he stepped along the similarly designed floor. Amelia hovered over a gravitation pad surrounded by a maze of consoles. Above her another circular pad of similar design generated a forcefield to protect Amelia in case of emergency. The slight bit of light emanated from the surface of the pad above her, projecting a bright white light. In the way that she hung, her back hunched over and her head hanging down, lifelessly, her face remained still and masked by darkness. Her short, dark brown hair drenched over it like curtains over a window. Her arms hung outward slightly, a multitude of wires connected along them. Some connected to small, metal devices strewn about her body, necessary to regulate the systems connected to her.

She appeared a deity of sorts, hovering majestically and with supreme power. And a great power she had, power Jonathan felt she deserved. He felt her a goddess and worshipped her every molecule. And as his eyes met her he felt as though he might be obliterated by her essence. He wanted to cry, for he wished for her arms to hold him but knew they could not. He got as close as he could without running into the consoles. Quietly, he spoke, "…Amelia."

"Yes, Jonathan?" Her voice came from over the speakers as soft and quiet as the first time Jonathan spoke to her.

Hesitantly, he held up a small display pad he carried in with him. "I've run the weekly inventory," he said as though unsure of himself. "I'm going to download it to the computer banks so you can read it yourself. I just thought I'd come up and see you." A still, quiet silence answered him. "I, uh…I noticed we only have a few tons of ore left," he stuttered in a desperate struggle to remain in her presence. "We'll probably need to make a stop somewhere soon and restock."

"Jonathan, what's wrong?" she finally asked sincerely. Since they met, Amelia always had a way of hearing more from the words that Jonathan spoke than even himself. She could do it with almost anyone, discover the thoughts and feelings hidden so well within a person that even they knew not of its existence.

Jonathan sighed, and his arms fell hopelessly to his sides. He wound his way through the consoles and found the steps that led up the platform the gravitation pad protruded from. He stopped only a foot from her body. He tried to see as much of her face as possible, but he could only make out the most prominent of features. A look of sadness and impatience materialized on his face. "It's just…" he paused, trying to find a way to say it, "…I can't…." His eyes watered up. "I miss you, Amelia," he spoke softly. He tried to fight the urge, but his hand found her face and caressed her skin.

The silence filled his lungs like a poisonous atmosphere, and he brushed a piece of her hair behind her ear. "I know, Jonathan," she said finally in an almost apologetic tone. "I know."

His eyes stared into her dark face, his mind elsewhere. He could see his heart sinking into his stomach and drowning in blood, and he wiped away the silent tears that followed. He sniffled and did his best to regain his composure. He couldn't find words to speak. What was the vessel he touched? Had she really felt his hands? Did she feel anything?

As his mind pondered such questions, the footsteps of another entered the room, the chamber doors shutting behind them. "Jonathan," Arturan spoke, surprised. "Did we not talk about this?" he scolded.

Jonathan quickly became nervous as he turned to face Arturan. "Yes, of course," he said as best he could. "I'm sorry. I just…I thought I might…"

"Jonathan," Arturan said sharply, "just wait outside for me please."

For a moment, Jonathan only stood there, his mind drawing a blank. Once reality sunk into him, he gave Amelia's body another look and stepped down off of the platform and toward the exit. "Yes, alright," he said, nodding.

Once the doors shut behind him, a curious Amelia spoke up. "What are you two on about?"

"Oh, it's nothing. He and I simply have a few things we apparently need to continue discussing. But moving on to more current matters, I came to speak with you about the inventory."

"Yes, Jonathan was just telling me about it," she said.

"Was he?" Arturan spoke surprised. "As I was saying, I've run some long-range scans, and I believe I've found a planet within reasonable proximity that we can mine to replace our depletions of ore. I thought it might be relevant for you to run some scans of your own."

"Yes, of course, that's alright," she answered. "Thank you, Arturan."

Arturan answered her with a slight bow and stepped out, meeting Jonathan as he did. Arturan gave him a scouring look and continued to walk down the corridor. Jonathan followed by simply reflex. "I'm so sorry, Arturan, I just…I had to see her," Jonathan spoke breathlessly, trying to keep up to Arturan's long strides.

"Jonathan, I've talked to you about this," he said without sympathy, his eyes seemingly glued to his path before him. He noticed Jonathan's despondent frown as he glanced to his right and frowned himself. "Jonathan, you can see her as much as you want. I'm just saying that if you keep meeting with her and forcing yourself upon her every day, she's going to get tired of you, assuming she hasn't already. You're going to make her hate you. You want her unhooked to the ship? Just keep doing what you're doing, she'll probably risk death just to disconnect herself and hide from you."

Jonathan snickered a moment. "I know, I know. It's just that…well; you know how I am. I fall so hard for people when I fall. I'm not like everyone else. Everyone else has a life that they like and cherish. I hate my life. When I fall for someone, I just cling on to them, because they're like my only happiness in life. I get addicted to them, literally addicted." He sighed. "Of course, I know she's just going to get tired of me, and I tell myself this. But the urge to be with her when the possibility presents itself is just so strong I can't deny it. Everyone else likes to hold on to their life; the person they fall for isn't the center of their universe, they like to balance their time with them and their usual time. Me, I have no other life. I like to spend as much time with the person I fall for as possible." His eyes fell sadly to the floor. "I guess it's really kind of…pathetic."

"Yes, it is," Arturan admitted without haste.

Jonathan's eyes shot at him, surprised.

"Well, what?" Arturan asked, noticing. "Were you expecting me to lie to you? It is pathetic, Jonathan. You can be happy with what you have, but you choose to be so pitiful and helpless. You have another life, and you disfigure it so that you may use it to make the girl you like fall for you. You lie to them, tell them your life is so 'horrible' and hope they pity you and give you their heart. I'd have thought you'd learned by now that it doesn't work. And a person can't center their entire life on one thing. As you admitted just a moment ago, one couldn't, for everyone else has something else to look to. I'm just trying to help you, Johnny." Arturan continued his walk up the corridor, not expecting Jonathan to follow, and he didn't.

His mind felt as empty as the space outside his port window. He could see the endless void sitting strangely quiet within his body as it sat before his eyes through the window. He stood alone in his quarters on the lowest deck of the ship, alone for the past two weeks. He went up periodically for his usual duties in the engine room, running diagnostics and keeping the engines running smoothly, but returned to his chambers in the lower deck immediately after.

For the past month, the dari found himself falling into a severe state of depression. He couldn't find anything of interest anymore. He felt himself useless. Sure he kept the engines running for the ship, but anyone onboard could do that. What did they really need him for?

They don't, he thought.

He often focused on the worst of his life, but sometimes he could look at the glass as half full. He had Oria, the female dari aboard. She often made him quite happy, even in his worst of times. At the moment, she attempted to communicate with him via a transceiver from her room. "Th'Tolimnes," she called his name, "Th'Tolimnes, I know you're there, because you're not down in the engine room and that's the only other place you'd be. Why won't you answer me?"

He did not move. His expression empty, his eyes still and bemused, he seemed at one with the darkness.

"I'm worried about you, Th'Tolimnes," she continued. "I haven't seen you for the past two weeks. I miss you. I'd swear if it weren't for your duties being done each day that you weren't even aboard." She sighed. "Give me a call when you feel like talking. I'm not giving up on you." She paused, waiting hopefully for a reply. She got none. "Call me, Th'Tolimnes." She shut off the communications channel and left him in silence.

He should have felt guilty for ignoring her. He couldn't feel anything at that moment, though. He could see all emotion falling from his body and lying in a bloody heap on the floor before him, a pile of meshed flesh spewing forth emotion in an intricate design of water fountains. It stared back at him, smiling, mocking him, a sheer glorification of how much it tore his life apart.

Depression engulfed Th'Tolimnes, as did paranoia.

A slow, unremitting sigh let out of Arturan like the harsh whaling of a raging storm. He felt his eyelids weigh heavily as they closed, and his neck stretched out again as his head fell against the desk upon which he typed his log entry.

A chime at his door disturbed him. He'd gone weeks, nearly a month even, without seeing anyone else aboard, and now he contemplated shoving each of them out an airlock. His people cherished solidarity. He enjoyed going for weeks without having to talk to anyone. In the past fifteen hours however, he'd conversed with three different people, and the fourth stood outside his office door, completely unaware Arturan considered destroying them.

For a moment he sat wondering if he should ignore it, soon realizing they'd likely try calling him afterward and he'd have to talk over a communicator. He loathed talking over communicators and knew he would be so agitated he would jam the communicator down the throat of whoever called him.

He frowned, stood up, and reluctantly strolled to his door and opened a channel to the other side. "I'm sorry, Arturan is not in right now. If you'd like to leave your name and communicator frequency in hopes that he might contact you later, then kindly put a gun to your head now and pull the trigger."

"Having a bad day, Arturan?" Oria responded through the channel.

Arturan opened the door, and their eyes met. "How ever did you know?" he asked sarcastically, feigning a sincere smile.

"It seems the popular thing to do around here lately," she said, stepping in behind Arturan. He sat down at his desk, and she took a seat in front of him. "I don't know what's wrong with Th'Tolimnes, but I can't seem to find him."

"I'll have to ask him what his secret is," Arturan replied with a smile.

Oria answered seriously, "I'm really quite worried about him. No one onboard has seen him for the past two weeks, and I can't even get him to answer my calls."

"Well, give me a couple of hours, I'm sure he'll find his way to me."

"How do you mean?" she asked, curious.

"I've gone weeks on this ship before without so much as a call from any one of you. In less than a day now, I've had the pleasure of conversing with Isabelle, Jonathan, and Amelia, and now here you are. Th'Tolimnes is the only one left!"

"And this angers you?" she asked, surprised.

Arturan frowned in thought. "Well, no and yes. You know how much my people cherish our solidarity. I've just had so much of it lately that I've gotten used to it. Now I feel like it's being taken away from me."

Oria smiled sympathetically. "Yes, I do, Arturan, and I also know how many races your people forced into their communist society." Her brows furrowed in a sudden realization. "That's actually kind of ironic. Your people like being alone, yet you force more people into your society. A little contradictory, don't you think?"

Arturan stared at her without expression, what little dignity he'd held for his people suddenly obliterated. A full ten seconds passed, and the only movement came from Arturan's eyes blinking. "Oria," he said finally, "if you're done, could you please leave."

She broke out in a laugh. "I'm sorry, Arturan. I can understand how you must feel. We've all had our hopes dangled in front of us and then taken away, but that's life, you little conqueror you. Get over it."

"You know," he said, "usually, I'm the one giving the advice."

"Well, as humans say, there's a first time for everything," she said, smiling proudly. They shared a laugh, and Oria's mind moved on to previous thoughts. "So, what did you speak to Amelia for?"

Falling back in his chair and relaxing, Arturan succumbed to the imminent conversation. "Oh, Jonathan did his weekly inventory this morning and discovered we're running low on ore; we're going to have to make a stop soon so I went to Amelia and asked her to run some scans for closer planets."

"How'd you see Jonathan?"

"He was down talking to Amelia."

Oria's brows furrowed. "I thought he was supposed to stay away from her for a while?"

"As did I," Arturan admitted with a frown. "Kid can't seem to keep himself away from the poor girl. I had a talk with him afterward; he says he's got nothing better to do with his life than focus it entirely on the 'girl that he loves'. I had a conversation with Amelia about it afterward, and I explained to her what he said to me. We both agree he hasn't a good excuse, so I've agreed to try and find a 'project' for the boy to take his mind off her."

"A good idea," she said, smiling. "I'll see if I can't find something for him, too. What about Isabelle, how is she doing? I haven't seen her for about a week now."

Arturan gave pause in thought of his talk with Isabelle the night before. "Oh, she's, uh…she's alright, been working herself a little hard lately, but she's got things together.

"Amelia's her old usual self," he continued, letting out a chuckle, "girl's got a mind of her own up in that head of hers."

Oria nodded. "Well," she began, "aren't we just the most interesting starship within a thousand light-years."

They suddenly lost their composure as they felt a strong jerk of the ship. The violent shake that followed caused them great curiosity.

"Alien vessel attacking from astern," Amelia announced over the ship-wide intercom. "Everyone, I suggest getting to the bridge immediately."

Arturan gave Oria an assuring smile. "Gets better every minute."

They left to the bridge, the other three aboard doing the same. They all threw their current activities aside to work together as a team, as one being. As they had all agreed when they first stole Velocity Star, they'd work together to keep each other safe and happy. Now they would pull together and keep that promise for each other.

"They've got us in some kind of holding beam," announced Isabelle from the sensor console behind the command chair at the center of the bridge. Arturan was sitting at the front, piloting the ship manually. Immediately behind Arturan Oria stood at tactical, Jonathan at Arturan's right, hovering over the communications console, and Th'Tolimnes just stepping onto the bridge made his way to the engineering station.

After Isabelle's announcement, Arturan looked up out the view screen directly before him where he saw an alien ship moving ahead of them, a golden beam of light stretching from an emitter on the ship's dorsal to Velocity Star. He didn't recognize the hull configuration and presumed the race controlling it of some unknown origin.

"Are they still not answering our hails?" Arturan asked toward communications.

"Negative," Jonathan answered, tapping diligently away at his console. "I've got nothing but static over here and some very eerie background radiation."

"Arturan, I don't know what that beam is, but it's disrupting all of our defensive and offensive systems. Weapons, shields, everything is down," Oria said from behind him.

"Including engines," Th'Tolimnes added. "This console is useless. There must be a direct cut-off from the matrix."

Arturan's brow furrowed, wondering how such a thing could be done. "Amelia!" he called, "What are they doing to you?"

"I wish I could say, Arturan," she answered over a channel at his station. "I can still feel the systems and the ship, but when I attempt to take control something seems to countermand my power."

"I'll do what I can, Amelia, I promise," he said.

"Arturan," Isabelle called, "I'm reading a massive build-up of energy from their ship."

"An overload?"

"Negative," she answered. "It's definitely something they meant to do. Whatever it is, it's wreaking havoc on the space-time continuum out there, possibly something interdimensional, I can't tell at this point, but if we don't get out of here we could be in serious trouble."

Arturan's eyes flew over his console, searching desperately in his mind for a way out. Finally, he managed the only thing he could. "Th'Tolimnes," he said, "try venting the plasma along the hull where that beam is; it could disrupt its hold on us."

A moment passed as Arturan awaited Th'Tolimnes'es results. Th'Tolimnes only shook his head hopelessly. "Nothing, it had no effect."

Before Arturan had another moment's thought, Isabelle broke in. "There's an energy wave coming at us from the alien ship! Five seconds to impact!"

Arturan took a big gulp and gave the only order he could think. "Everyone brace yourselves, now!"

At that moment, Arturan keyed in the activation of Amelia's emergency forcefield and took as good a hold of his console as he could, as had everyone else. The first wave passed through the ship, temporarily distorting reality as it did; it moved through them like an intangible wall of clear water. The second wall came at them as a swarming mass of light and energy. Explosions rang out around the bridge, the ship shook violently, jerking them hard in their seats, and the smoke of fried circuitry and melting metal burned at their noses just seconds before they fell unconscious.

Both ships had disappeared from space in a wave of colorful light as though it washed over them and pulled them out to some transdimensional sea. When they would appear again, Velocity Star and its crew would be a long, long way from home.