The Impulsive stands between the Cybers and Filedise!On Filedise, the broadcasted voice of the interplanetary intercom system said, “Hey, everyone! Great news! The attack on our shields has stopped. We apologize for any inconvenience and panic this may have caused. If you’d like more information, please press One on your personal comms. To learn other fun facts about katts, please go to…”

In the computer room, Enigo acknowledged his captain, then signed off. “Doall?”

At the console, Ellie was frantically putting in commands, aided by Bobby, who had self-soothed enough to be useful again. “I don’t know! There’s too much. KatHack, help us. Can you shed any subroutines?”

“Can you cut off an arm?” it demanded.

“If I could grow it back, yes!” Enigo shouted. “We’re trying to save your sorry program after you all but destroyed our economy, so quit complaining!”

Loreli stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “KatHack. As a Botanical, I find regular pruning only makes me stronger and more attractive. Humans often shed weight, remove growths and do other prunings to achieve optimal health. Perhaps, there are areas of your programming you could prune?”

Enigo added, more calmly. “Our ship has six minutes. If it fails, the Cybers will continue the attack, and we will all die.”

“I’ll see. Maybe the inspiration routines that led to some of my earlier works…”

“Perhaps I can make some suggestions,” Loreli offered and moved to stand next to Ellie at the console. 

Enigo mimed choking some unknown foe. A chime from his communicator interrupted him. The sober voice of Chief Dour said, “Lieutenant, my mistress does not see you, but with coaxing, she yet may, albeit through a glass darkly. I need Doall to modify your communicators.”

At last, good news! They wouldn’t have to make a desperate run to the shuttle. “Doall’s tied up. Just talk me through it.”

There was a pause. “Can you not trade tasks with her?”

“No! And I don’t like your tone, Chief.”

A sigh. “Very well. Open the back of the communicator.”

“Hang on. Oi, doc. Grab everyone’s comm badges and come make yourself useful.”

* * *

Captain’s Log, Supplemental

Lieutenant LaFuentes and Doctor Pasteur are modifying the communications badges under the instruction of Teleporter Chief Dour. Commander Deary is assisting in modifying the teleportation console and reports they are ready.

And none too soon. While the wikadas shields continue to hold up against the Cyber’s death ray, the pressure of the energies is pushing the Impulsive toward the planet. If we don’t break off soon, we may be the ones to violate Filedise’s defensive screen and cause the self-destruct countdown.

“Engines are on full, Captain,” said the ensign at Engineering. “We’re pushing back but still losing ground.”

Jeb filed the log then ordered it sent to HuFleet in case they didn’t survive this battle. Then, he contacted the away team through the single communicator they’d held in reserve. 

“LaFuentes, time’s up,” he said, even though they still had about 30 seconds. He knew they’d need that much time for dramatic arguments and last-moment plot complications.

“Eighty-five percent downloaded,” Doall said. “We need another minute.”

“We’ve only got 2 done. Doc’s almost done with the third. I’ll send Doc and Loreli up while I get the last one done.”

“No,” Guy said in a rare show of heroism and self-sacrifice. Not that it wasn’t in his nature, but rather that he seldom got the opportunity to show it, since, really, his place was in Sickbay, mending the people who got hurt being heroic and self-sacrificing. “You go. I can finish this one and get the last done. The ship needs you more than me.”

“Loreli,” Enigo placed the modified communicator in her hand.

KatHack whimpered. “Don’t leave me.”

Loreli looked from the conspicuous load bar which one doesn’t often see anymore except in high-stake situations or the Windows Nostalgia version, then took Ellie’s hand and pressed the communicator into it. “Buy us time. I’ll stay until the load is complete.”

“But…” Ellie started.

Loreli turned from her and handed her tricorder to the chief of security. Their hands touched and lingered. “Take care of the ship. I – we – will be right behind.”

Enigo nodded. “See that you are. Zap us, Dour!”

The last thing he saw was Loreli’s practiced “Your decisiveness inspires and secretly arouses me,” but he knew she meant it.

As soon as he felt his body resolve on the teleporter pad, he grabbed Doall’s arm and took off running. “Captain, we’re going to auxiliary control.”

“Got it!”

Auxiliary control was two doors from the teleporter room but locked by hand and retinal scans. Enigo called out the override control, however, and the Impulsive opened the doors so they could dash through. The found the consoles up, running and just waiting their commands. 

During the short run, Ellie had allowed herself a moment of uncertainty. What if she couldn’t find a way to forestall the inevitable? Her best friend, the doctor and a potential new life form depended on her. Once at her console, those thoughts fled, and her mind snapped through ideas even as her eyes took in the readings. Quickly, she readjusted the angles of the wikadas shields, so that rather than the ray hitting along a plane, it impacted a much smaller point before being splashed aside. Naturally, she explained to the Bridge what she was doing, estimated that they’d bought an extra 40 seconds, and even called out the new odds of dying a spectacular death for those still wanting to participate in the ship’s pool. It felt good.

Dour announced that the communicators were ready and his mistress was extending her embrace.

Suddenly, the Bridge said, “Captain! They’re swarming.”

“Firing phasers,” Enigo said, then swore as they missed. “I can’t get a lock. Targeting systems are inoperative.”

Ellie gasped at the viewscreen, which showed smaller Cyber ships breaking from the larger whole and moving between the Impulsive and the planet. “Sir, they’re going to try to access the stream. I can’t extend the deflectors.”

“They were damaged. Try something else.”

“My mistress is being violated,” Dour intoned. “I am unable to maintain integrity.”

“Directing more power to the teleporter,” Ellie said, even as her console told her there was no available power. Even life support had been directed to the shields and engines. Desperately, she started switching off lights, gravity in unoccupied areas, even the inertial dampeners. They’d have a smooth trip as long as nothing physically impacted the ship. “That’s everything we’ve got.”

Enigo swore. “Ellie, isolate the comms from the rest of the ship, then broadcast Enigo Hometunes track 6-9. I’ll give you the frequency.”

“Dread Oog death metal? Captain?” 

“Do it.”

The ship went eerily silent. Then the viewscreen was alive with exploding ships. Ellie laughed and made a little jump of glee. “We did it, Enigo!”

But the security chief had dashed out of the room.

She started to follow when she saw a message pop up on her screen. BEHIND YOU.

She glanced over her shoulder, but there was just Janbot going about its duties. Then she checked the sensors.