"The Hunt"

Author: Lieutenant Benton
Date: December 15, 2384
Location: Holodeck / Bridge

Benton hit the ground rolling and came up hard against a large rock. Instantly, he spun upright and crouched at the ready behind the cover. He looked at the phaser in his clenched fist -- only half a charge left. He needed time to come up with a new plan.

Time was the one thing he didn't have though. Just then his time ran out. A massive bile-yellow tentacle came crashing down on top of his boulder, smashing it into a thousand bits. Again he was forced to roll to avoid being pulverized himself. He fired off a couple of snapshots at full intensity and was gratified to hear a horrible keening from somewhere beyond the trees -- at least one of his shots had found its mark.

He staggered to his feet from where his last lunge had landed him and started off at a run through the thick forest. Behind him he could hear the Kelvan crashing through the thick growth as well, snapping tree trunks like twigs as it bulldozed its huge body over the foliage. Suddenly, to his left and right as he ran, entire uprooted trees started dropping from the sky. He imagined the monstrous alien's tentacles ripping trees out of the ground as easily as one would pick a handful of flowers and hurling them towards Benton like so many leafy cannonballs. Any second, one of them would be on target; Benton never imagined his death would be quite so bucolic.

He changed course radically in an effort to avoid being smashed flat and checked the charge in his phaser one more time -- less than half.

It didn't matter though. Moving quicker than something that massive should have been able to, one of the Kelvan's grotesque limbs whipped out from between the trees to his right and slammed into him full across the chest. He went flying through the air backwards and hit the hard dirt ground, getting the air knocked out of him.

He lay there wheezing, struggling to get back to his feet, but the blow had dazed him. Darkness was threatening to overcome his senses, and he knew that if that happened it was all over for him. From seemingly a great distance away, he heard a voice -- a familiar voice -- say, "Computer, end program."

The arboreal surroundings dissolved, being replaced by a standard Federation hologrid. Benton managed to lever himself up onto an elbow and craned his neck to see who had dared interrupt his privacy. It was the ship's counselor, Karissa Bentara.

She didn't offer to help him up; she just stood there, arms folded across her chest, staring down at him disapprovingly. "Running the holodeck with the safeties off is against regulations, and in this case, *extremely* dangerous," she reprimanded.

By this time, Benton had regained his breath, and he stood up and faced the counselor. He dusted off the seat of his pants with obvious annoyance and replied, "Just had some issues to work out with my distant relative, Doc...."

"Interesting," said Bentara. "Anything you'd like to talk about?"

Benton looked at her like she'd lost her mind for even suggesting such a thing. "No thank you, Doctor. This is a matter of *Kelvan* psychology."

"I see," said Bentara, trying not to let Benton's arrogant attitude annoy her. "So, just what were you trying to work out here anyway?"

Benton sighed. It was obvious this pestiferous human wasn't going to go away, so he relented and said, "The Admiral's plan to travel into the past is flawed." Karissa's eyebrows went up at that bald statement, but Benton just ignored it and went on. "I have been doing calculations regarding the graviton wave-front that is traversing our Galaxy even as we speak, and on a way to counteract it."


Still ignoring her, Benton plowed on with his explanation. "I was simply taking a break from my work here."

"I see," said Bentara. "Interesting choice of holo-programs...."

Benton's response to that was a dark scowl. He finished brushing the dirt off his pants legs, and without further comment, exited the holodeck. Karissa stood looking after him for a long while, wondering what really made the humaniform Kelvan from another universe tick inside, decided she didn't really know, but also deciding the captain had better be informed of his science officer's activities.

*Ronin Bridge....*

"Docking beams secured, sir," reported the helm.

"Thank you," replied Captain Evans. "Take us out, one-quarter impulse."

"One-quarter impulse, aye sir."

Slowly, the sleek form of the *USS Ronin* backed away from the central core in Starbase 901's spacedock. Once outside the space doors, she rotated on her yaw-axis until she pointed away from the starbase, then stretched away into the distance and disappeared in a brilliant flash of warp particles.