Year of the Spectre:
"And Death Shall Have No Dominion"
By Ravil


        Most ships in the Canadian Dominion Starfleet were duranium white, proudly bearing their nation's colours, boldly lit by running lights and identification beacons. They served as the sentinels for the world's most advanced country, their markings the anthems of victories in half a dozen conflicts in the last four years. Each ship that took to the skies was as much a symbol of the indomitable nation as it was a defender of it.

        But not all Canadian vessels were mere defenders.

        And some Canadian vessels were as dark as the Void, coated in microdiffracted carbon to absorb all radiation that fell upon them.

        The C.M.S. Plains of Abraham was one such vessel, the latest in the Trudeau II-class, space black, on silent running over the Cassiar Mountains in northern British Columbia. The ship was little more than an armored tube with a fusion reactor and the integral atmospheric maneuvering nacelles. All interior luxuries had been stripped away, leaving a thoroughly Spartan warship that boasted as much firepower as one of the larger Borealis-class heavy cruisers. A detailed sensor suite gave the obsidian vessel a detailed awareness of the world around it – eyes in the darkness, so to speak. The Plains of Abraham had originally been the culmination of the Dominion's effort to harness first-strike capabilities against the United States given a renewed conflict between the two nations; a conflict that had yet to occur.

        In the meantime, however, there were always duties to be found elsewhere…

        The Plains of Abraham headed low towards a deep-cut valley in the Cassiar Mountains, its impulse engines glowing faintly, tuned to emit in the almost invisible ultraviolet instead of the visible blue spectrum. Much less efficient, but far less noticeable. Right now it was a necessary tradeoff.

        With practiced functionality the ship eased in over the designated part of the valley, its passive sensors sweeping across the mountainous terrain. It was past midnight, and the last rays of sunlight had long fled beyond the horizon. From the ground looking up the only sign of the Plains of Abraham was the periodic winking out, and reappearance, of the stars it passed, and the low throbbing hum of the sensor suite. A quick search of the valley located the mission objective, and with appropriate caution the warship glided towards it.

        The target was what had once been a compound, built from the same solid duranium materials as the Dominion Starfleet. Now it was an empty shell, twisted metal and dying dreams. Craters where weapon blasts had gone off freckled the mountain valley, and the fires that had raged through the compound for hours since the late evening were now reduced to smoldering heaps of molten metal. There were no life signs. Not anymore.

        The ship's bridge was likewise prepared for a silent running. Stripped-down and single-level, it was cramped only because of the extra ablative armor surrounding it. The main lights had been dimmed, as was the viewscreen to prevent stray radiation from leaking. Overhead light was now only in the red spectrum, denoting both the ship's running status and the more traditional Red Alert. The commander of the Plains of Abraham, one Captain Jennifer Raulin, leaned against the chair of the tactical operations officer, her voice hushed in an unnecessary whisper.

        "What do we have out there, ops?" Raulin asked, her voice betraying a slight Atlantic drawl.

        "Research Base Teslin, ma'am, or at least what's left of it. GPS confirms our position."

        The sensory display traced a grid over the decimated facility, highlighting the blast marks and the primary base modules that had been struck the hardest.

        "Casualties?"

        "No survivors, ma'am. Fifty-seven researchers."

        She took in a terse breath. There would be time for mourning later. For now… "Run a scan of the underground storage bunkers. Coordinates should be in the computer. Tell me what you find."

        A brief pause while the complex sensor system did its work. "Nothing. They've been looted."

        Damn. Fleet Command wasn't going to be happy. Valuable research had been going on at the Teslin Base. Evidently not enough precautions had been taken to safeguard the isolated facility. The ground-based phaser banks hadn't lasted more than fifty seconds. The armored buildings had been quick to go after that. A fractured signal had been received by a Dominion relay station on Vancouver Island, but it had been quickly suppressed. The assailant hadn't hung around for long enough to be identified by orbiting satellites, and thus the Plains of Abraham had been sent in to survey the scene of the attack – fully silenced, in case the aggressor was still in the area, hidden. Fleet Command back in Castle Cattleprod had its ideas as to whom the aggressor was, and every precaution was being taken to ensure the safety of this ship's crew.

         That did little to reassure Captain Raulin.

        "Burst signal back to the Fleet," she instructed the communications officer. " 'Base sacked and destroyed. Research components not present in wreckage.' "

        "Yes ma'am."

        "They won't be pleased about that," her first officer remarked bitterly. "Probably send us out after them for retrieval."

        Raulin gave him a sharp look. "And if they do we'll salute and do our damndest to bring everything back intact." There was no room for insubordination on this ship. Not tonight, and not ever on her watch. "Scan the compound sight again. What are the readings on the residual weapon fire?"

        "Sketchy, Captain. The entire area has been flooded with sensor ghosts. We are picking up some trace patterns synonymous with Plasma Shard weaponry, however."

        She tried to keep panic from her voice. "You're certain?"

        "Reasonably so, ma'am. We wouldn't know it if we weren't specifically looking for it, but we are, and it's there. 93% computer match with the records from the Phoenix."

        Raulin let out a slow, contemplative breath. This was what she had been dreading. It had been sheer speculation on the part of Command as to who had attacked Research Base Teslin. Now it was certain, and that dire certainty burnt the Captain more sharply than speculation ever could have.

        "Send another burst transmission back to base. 'Plasma Shards detected, presence of renegade vessel confirmed. Awaiting instructions.' "

        The communications officer suddenly half-turned in his seat, holding the earpiece to his head. "Captain, all frequencies are being jammed!"

        Before Raulin could say a word, the officer stationed at the tactical ops console turned as well. "Ma'am, there's something going on out there."

        "What?"

        "Main sensors have just flared," he replied, hands scurrying across the controls. "I can't get a clear reading. Something's bleeding sensor ghosts into this area like mad."

        "Maximum readiness on main weapons, standby on shields," she instructed. "Reeves, work on a way to punch through the communications channels. Con, back us away from Teslin Base slowly. Thirty k.p.h., no faster."

        The Plains of Abraham lurched slightly as it began to reverse, its invisible form slowly backing away from the ruins. The inertial dampers had been taken off-line to prevent radiation seepage.

        "Captain! Transmission coming through on all frequencies!"

        "Put it on. Passive listener mode."

        At first there was nothing. Then, a low, distant rumble, like the groan of a hundred suppressed voices, became audible over the bridge speakers. The moan built until it was almost overpowering, an eerie concerto of moans and decayed, unintelligible babble.

        "What are they saying?" Raulin whispered.

        "It's…Latin, ma'am…" the communications officer replied slowly, as though straining to follow. As he did, the color faded from his features. "They're…telling us that we're about to join them in Hell."

        Raulin stood, facing the front of the bridge – her bridge. "My God…"

        A voice, harsh and powerfully feminine, cut in over the distant moans.

        "I can see you out there, you know."

        
Every panicked eye was on the Captain.

        "Can you see me?"

        
"She's still here," the first officer said, quite unnecessarily. "We're dead already…"

        "Kill the primary sensors," Raulin ordered, voice unwavering. "Take them down to the lowest power and start scanning the area around us. Helm, change course to mark five three, increase speed to fifty k.p.h. Reeves, get that goddamn noise off of my speakers, and try to get through to…"

        "CAPTAIN! LOOK!"

        Her eyes slowly moved up to the main viewscreen, not entirely wanting to look, but knowing that she had a duty to.

        The picture from outside gleaned with light, not the inky blackness of the sub-Arctic midnight. A shimmering radiance had formed around one of the mountains, coating it in dancing, fiery illumination. There was no apparent source.

        "Unnatural…" Reeves murmured.

        What was more unnatural was what occurred next.

        The lights coalesced into a roughly circular formation, illuminating one entire side of the mountain facing both the remains of the Research Base and the C.M.S. Plains of Abraham herself. And then, within the exact centre of the ring, something began to move.

        Directly out of the mountain.

        Raulin gasped and nearly fell over, convinced that her eyes were, at last, betraying her. Something was stirring, pulling, dragging itself literally out of the mountain like an infant from its mother. Tendrils of the mountain – given an almost liquid appearance for their fluidity – streamed off of the object as it pulled away from its hiding place. There was no magical portal, no extra-dimensional door or pocket that it stepped through. It simply melted out of the side of the mountain, a shape that had gone down in history in the annals of the Dominion Starfleet, only to return to haunt the nation that it had served so well.

        Out of the mountain pulled the heinous, deformed vessel formerly known as the C.M.S. Canuck.

        "It's Fronette!" Raulin hollered hoarsely, ever horror story of the Battle of Mojave flashing before her eyes in that instant. "All weapon banks online! Get those shields…"

        A flash of intense light erupted on the viewscreen, and before a warning could be shouted by any of the crew the Plains of Abraham jolted violently, the explosive, magical Plasma Shards fired from the Canuck searing through its nigh-invisible hull. The Canadian warship bucked in place, knocked off of its axis and briefly engulfed in flames. No quarter was given, not this time around. The old starship, resurrected from its grave at the end of the Great Holy War and re-built with Dark Star Alliance technology and undead bio-matter, angled its odious chassis in, spraying the obsidian vessel with more destruction.

        Fate laughed cruelly.

        "All systems, full power!" the captain bellowed out over the impending shriek of the warning klaxons. "We need those shields up now, goddammit! Any extra power bleed to the weapons systems!"

        "Captain, we can't fight her alone!" the first officer protested.

        "This ship was built to fight, Alex, and I'll be damned if I'm going to turn tail to an upstart in an antiquated vessel! Phasers, fire at will!"

        The Canuck fired again on its first pass, catching the Plains of Abraham just above its port maneuvering thruster, nearly taking the nacelle off. Streams of molten duranium danced through the air. But Raulin had been right – her vessel had been designed with nothing but combat in mind. Emergency systems already engaging, it swung around painfully on its axis like a cripple shifting weight to his good leg. Long phaser blasts lanced forward, cutting across the Canuck only to be dissipated or absorbed by a deflector screen that had suddenly come into existence.

        "No damage, captain!"

        "Let's show her what're really packing, then. Arm quantum torpedoes for full-yield and bring us around!"

        The tactical operations officer's eyes nearly bulged out of his skull. "Captain? Full-yield?" A poorly-aimed quantum torpedo could result in an environmental catastrophe. The warheads carried the effective power of several nuclear devices in a concentrated form. Nobody had ever dared to set them for full-yield inside the Earth's atmosphere. Not until today.

        "I have full authorization from Emperor Fron herself!" she snapped. "Do it!"

        The D.S.A. Canuck sped past, preparing to come around for another go on its newfound nemesis. Wheeling about as quickly as its damaged thrusters would allow it to, though, the Plains of Abraham found its target first, a tempting shot at the backside of the unholy bio-vessel.

        "Fire at will!"

        The tactical officer had an itchier trigger finger than Raulin would have guessed. The Plains of Abraham shuddered – why the hell weren't the inertial dampers back online yet? – as one, two, then three flashes of brilliant blue light hurtled towards the renegade ship.

        In the blink of an eye the quantum torpedoes detonated, filling the viewscreen with a massive explosion. Both space and time, in the vicinity of the detonation, abruptly decided to fold in on one another, causing a violent kickback wave and secondary explosion that rammed the Canadian warship as well. For a handful of seconds the night sky over northern British Columbia was as bright – if not brighter – than the midday sun.

        But when the haze of the brilliant explosion faded, Raulin's worst suspicions were proved correct: the Canuck, now enhanced by untold bio-technologies and magic, was far stronger than it looked.

        "…"

        "N-No appreciable damage…" the first officer whispered, checking and re-checking his readout frantically.

        The blasphemous ship was now angled directly towards them again, its Plasma Shard launchers glowing with delicious anticipation of the kill. For that moment, though, it hesitated.

        "Incoming transmission, captain. From the Canuck."

        Raulin frantically glanced around her at the bridge crew. Helplessness strangled her words, despair her thoughts and actions. She was going to die. "What's…the status of our shields?"

        "They've short-circuited, ma'am. Engineering reports that the first blast brought down the primary generator, and that subsequent…"

        "Get them back, now. Reeves, open a channel. We'll stall for time."

        "There will be no stalling, Captain Raulin. Jennifer."

        
She looked over at the communications console, but Reeves simply stared back in dismay. The channel wasn't open yet. The voice was coming from inside the ship's bridge.

        "Face death nobly, Jennifer. It's the only real adventure."

        "Fronette's opening fire again!" the warning came too little, and too late.

        The Plains of Abraham bucked wildly from the force of the Plasma Shards punching through its armored hull, slabs of molten duranium peeling wildly and falling to the valley below. More blasts shook the vessel to its core, and the mighty warship began to buckle. On the bridge, chaos bled through every console in the form of plasma fires and hydraulic fluids. Screams came from every throat, blood from every mouth. The creaking hull of the vessel spelled out the details of its final death knell.

        Captain Raulin lay on the floor, bleeding quietly to death. The bridge had been hit. Smoke was filling the cabin quickly. She would be dead soon, and none of it would ever matter.

        "Do me one last favour, Jennifer. Woman to woman."

        
The bliss of unconsciousness refused to find her.

        "Some day, when you see your mighty Emperor Fron down there in Hell…"

        
The viewscreen, smashed in places but still functional, displayed a final, horrific sight to those of the Canadian bridge crew who were still alive to see it. A swirling apparition had materialized outside, a gaping maw burning through the fabric of reality like blue flame through a piece of paper. It was opened wide to embrace the dying Plains of Abraham, and as Raulin stared into its maw she could see through to the other side, where the flames of perdition roared their welcome to her.

        "…Do let him know that I knew all along who was the stronger one."

        
Raulin shut her eyes.

        Heard herself scream.

        Felt the gate to Hell close around her proud vessel.

        Saw the...

**********

        The Dominion relief force under the command of the C.M.S. Ipperwash arrived over the Cassiar Mountains the next morning. The damage was rapidly assessed and relayed, and the single, brief report from the C.M.S. Plains of Abraham was confirmed. Research Base Teslin was a total loss. Its personnel had been wiped out, and the research that they had been carrying out – research on the generation of magical negation fields – had been stolen or destroyed.

        All that was found of the Plains of Abraham were a few melted pieces of its hull plating. The ship was reported as lost with all hands.