"Playing With The Devil"

Author: Lieutenant Commander Bentara & Lieutenant Wang
Date: August 11, 2384
Location: Bridge

The damage the Kelvan weapons were causing was nonexistent with the special armor the Ronin now sported, though the battle still raged on beyond the armor. Karissa was infinitely grateful for the hint of quiet, though she had barked several orders. And she was grateful for Ryan and Admiral Pike's swift return to the bridge. She was not feeling well. As soon as she had seen the Battle Planets a headache had hit her. It was the worst one that she'd ever had and it literally made her cringe as her eyes were closed tightly against the pain. She tried desperately not to cry out. Images and thoughts crashed into her mind. She was flooded. But these images did not come from the crew of the Ronin. These images
and thoughts were far more complex. They had been like the ones she had encountered from Benton. These were from the Kelvans, she realized. She shouldn't be able to telepathically link with them but she could. Just like she did with Benton. She took several deep breaths to try to lessen some of the pain. It had become overwhelming quickly, and yet she couldn't block it.

Ryan turned to Karissa, immediately aware that something was horribly wrong with her. "Are you okay? Do I need to call Sickbay?" he asked.

Her breathing was coming a bit fast and shallow as she held up a hand and shook her head slightly. "I have a headache . . . I'm telepathically picking up the Kelvans out there. The thoughts are so strong . . . " Her eyes closed again in pain as her hand gently massaged her temple.

Ryan's jaw dropped at this revelation. "Is there anything you can tell us? What are you picking up?" he asked, at the moment more concerned for the ship and crew as a whole than for one particular member of it.

"The thoughts are random . . . Really overwhelming, but . . ."

Suddenly a voice from behind her said gently, "You can do this, Karissa. You were able to read my thoughts . . . Just guide your mind. You obviously have a very well developed brain. Use it to pick out the words and images that you want . . ." It was Benton encouraging her.

She nodded and tried again. She took a deep breath and fought off the wave of nausea the headache brought with it. She opened her mind and allowed it through all the thoughts racing. She followed the multiple trains of thought. Though difficult at first, it became easier. She picked up images from the fighter pilots trying to assail the ship. She bypassed those and then she began getting images from higher ranking officials on the battle planets. Suddenly, she began picking up images of weak points and strong points in their defenses. Instantly her eyes opened. The headache was still there and she was still sick, but she had something that they might be able to use.

"There are weak points on each Battle Planet. If we can take out even one moon, it will be a blow to them . . . And I know what the weak planets are . . . The weak links in the chain!"

"What would it take to strike at one of these 'weak points'?" Admiral Pike, his interest piqued by Karissa's revelation, asked. "Tactical, give me a full workup on what we have available."

"I know the shield harmonics for the moon at 243 mark 10," Karissa said. "Its shields are roughly about 150 times more powerful than the Ronin's."

"A barrage of five quantum torpedoes would be sufficient to weaken the shields so we can hit the shield generators with our phasers, Admiral," an ensign at Tactical replied.

"Very well, let's see what we can do," Pike said. "I'll try anything at this point."

"Helm, lay in a course--243 mark 10. Evasive pattern Alpha Five," Ryan ordered. "Tactical, I want those torpedoes hot. Phaser teams independent fire at will. Engineering, divert all available power to shields and life support!"

Karissa could tell there was puzzlement going through the Kelvans. They knew the little ship wasn't going to go away without a fight, but they were surprised how their quarry came right toward them. Karissa smiled to herself through the headache. They wouldn't know what hit them. She only hoped she could gain enough information to do more damage to the Kelvans and stop them in their tracks. So much was at stake . . .

Phaser beams lanced out at the Kelvan fighters from the Ronin. The phaser crews cheered as one of the beams drove into a fighter and blasted it to shards. Another fighter swooped in behind the Ronin and began firing. "Shields at 85% and holding," a crewman at Operations reported. "Damage to the science lab and shuttle bay."

"Casualties?" Ryan asked immediately.

"Unknown. I can't reach either section. Communications may be down, or..."

"Damage control teams to affected areas," Ryan ordered. "Inform me as soon as possible of any casualties. Everyone, let's continue our run. Tactical, how close to firing range are we?"

"450,000 kilometers, sir."

"Very good. You may fire when ready."

"What the hell hit us?" Pike asked.

"I wish I knew," Ryan said. "They must have increased their beam intensity, or found our shield harmonics. Ryan to Lieutenant Wang--come in please," the captain ordered.

No response.

"Ryan to Wang--come in!"

No response.

*Damn!* Ryan thought. "Computer--locate Lieutenant Ming Wang."

<Unable to comply>

"Security and all damage control teams--locate Lieutenant Wang and advise regarding his condition," Ryan said. "I should have had him on the bridge..."

"This happens, Captain," Pike said. "Now let's get that moon!"

Though Karissa wanted to focus on Ming, her mind couldn't. It was as if she had been programmed to this task of reading the Kelvans. For a moment the thought that maybe she had been engineered for something like this flickered in her mind and quickly died as she kept swimming through the images. She needed all the shield harmonics. After this first volley, the Kelvans would be sure to change them and she needed to be ready to get the next set of harmonics.

"They're not going to know what hit them," she said, also picking up on Benton's rage for the Kelvans before them.

"Torpedoes away," the Tactical station replied. Ryan could feel the *thump-thump-thump-thump-thump* of the launch through the deck plates.

The forward viewscreen flickered to life, showing a barren, rocky moon. One by one, as the torpedoes hit the moon's defensive shields, the shields lit up in brilliant neon colors. "The moon's shields are down
90 percent!" the ensign at Tactical replied.

*Finally, things are starting to turn around!* Ryan said. "Activate isokinetic cannon. Target the moon's shield emitters. Bring us in close and fast!"

The Ronin dove in on the moon, closing in rapidly on the automated station generating the moon's shields. Defensive positions on the moon began firing on the Ronin, punching through its shields and armor as though they were tissue paper.

[Abort your run, sir! We can't take much more of this!] a voice in Engineering yelled in response to what was apparently a kamikaze run.

"Fire the cannon....NOW!" Ryan ordered. A powerful blue beam shot out from the Ronin toward the shield emitter. The Ronin pulled away from the moon just as the emitter began to detonate, cracking the moon along its north-south axis. "Get us out of this system--maximum warp!!!!"

The moon started to splinter under the gravitational influence of its parent planet and the surrounding moons. Finally, it detonated. A shockwave issued forth from the dying moon, slamming into the Ronin.
Dozens of warning alarms sounded at once as Ryan Evans tried to get a handle on the situation.

"Helm, what's our status?" Ryan asked.

"We're tumbling along our projected course...initiating corrections...course stabilized!"

As soon as they were far enough away it was as if Karissa was suddenly lost. The voices and images began to fade in intensity. Then without warning, everything went black as she fell into unconsciousness.

"All departments, give me a damage assessment in fifteen minutes," Ryan ordered. Then he saw Karissa, and went numb.

"Medical assistance needed on the bridge," was all he could say through a mind that could take no more...