Star Trek: Joint Forces

Star Trek

Joint Forces

#1

The Hunted

 

 

Earth

The ball sprung from the hard wall, back into the racquet.  The racquet’s ricocheting blow sent the ball back into the wall.  Eric Talvin heard the door to the small, racquetball court chime, and stopped his recreational exercise.

“Come in,” he said, picking up a towel, lying on the floor.  A Starfleet Admiral entered, his elegant uniform almost screaming his authority.  He was a tall, well built man, starting to go bald near the back of his head.  Talvin was just as well built.  Both men sported square, strong jaws, which, at times, seemed too big for them to even speak.

“Admiral Hall,” said Talvin, drying his head with the small, white towel.

“Mr. Talvin,” Hall began, “you’re being reassigned.”

“Already, Sir?”

“Yes.  You’ll be serving aboard a new ship, an experimental ship.  The U.S.S. Delta,” the Admiral explained, seeming a bit hesitant.  After all, he had been hesitant three years earlier when this new type of ship was proposed by Starfleet.  It was an inspired idea, granted, but he thought it would hardly pan out in its final form.  There were too many irregular factors that swayed too far from normal Starfleet protocol.  But, nevertheless, he was loyal to carry out the Federation’s wishes.

“The Delta, Sir?” the young Lieutenant asked.  Hall straightened his tunic and cleared his throat.

“Yes.  It is the first Partner-Class starship…”

Partner-Class?”

“Yes, that’s correct.  It can join and works cooperatively with another designated Partner-Class:  The U.S.S. Contour. When the two join together, they create a joint assembly known as the Contender.

“Who are the Commanders?”

“Captain Robert Anderson will be commanding the Contour, while Joseph Miritz will be heading up the Delta’s crew,” answered the Admiral, ready to end this conference and get back to his regular duties.  Talvin started packing up his gear.

“Miritz?” he replied. “Didn’t he used to be in the Maquis?”

“Well…yes, but he rejoined Starfleet two months ago.  His information on the Maquis has been quite valuable.”

“I see,” said Talvin, zipping up his duffle bag. “So when do I start?”

“Report to duty this Friday,” Hall said, cheery now that this meeting was finally meeting its conclusion.  He turned to leave, but stopped.  “Oh yeah, and watch your back swing.”  Talvin nodded as Hall left.  Well, it seemed his preoccupation with racquetball would no longer be needed.

 

 

 

 

“Do you hear that?”

Captain Miritz shook his head after a moment of intent listening.  “No.”

His Ferengi friend stopped and tilted his head upward, tracking the sound.  They were both standing in a corridor, aboard the new Starfleet vessel that had been dubbed Delta.  The Ferengi looked up at a panel directly overhead, on a projection of the corridor’s ceiling.  “It’s an incessant buzzing,” Commander Nog reported.

“As soon as the engineering crew arrive onboard, I’ll have them look at it.”  At that instant a resounding chirp echoed through the hallway.

Bridge to Captain Miritz,” came a voice from the ship’s intercom system.  The Captain stopped his stride that had just begun, and activated a nearby intercom panel.

“Miritz here.”

Sir, I’m having trouble with a systems interface.  It won’t operate without your passcode.

“I’m on my way.  Miritz out.”  He turned to his Ferengi Commander.

“I’ll be taking a little tour of this ship,” Nog said before the Captain could speak. “Try to break it in.”  Joseph nodded, and both officers headed off in different directions.

 

The obnoxious console cheeped again, as another control on the far side sounded off with an accompanying beep, and continued, over and over and over again.  Lisa Terrance slammed her fist down on the console, pressing many buttons at one time.  She glanced up, to where the viewscreen should be, in front of her, and turned around to survey the rest of the bridge.

The command center of the grand ship was very large, and very sleek.  At the very front was the helm, where Lisa was, and directly behind her, and up a couple of steps, was the command area.  There, two chairs sat behind a large, circular console.  One for the Captain, and for his First Officer.  To the right of the command area was the primary operation post, or Ops.  To the left of the command area was the tactical post.  Behind all of this were the rest of the bridge stations (Mission Ops, the science stations, Engineering, security) and two turbolifts.  The bridge was packed too, with technicians and engineering staff.  Lisa couldn’t believe it.  The ship was supposed to be up to spec by Friday, and they were still putting it together.  Consoles were open, clutches of wires sprouting from them, onto the deck.  Florescent lights from engineering tools lit what shadows were left, and the incessant beeps and buzzes of devices, along with dozens of people talking were about to drive Lieutenant Terrance up the bulkhead.

“Anybody know how to lock-out, lock-in, re-lock-out, and de-re-lock-in helm control!?” Terrance yelled in frustration.  No one heard her pleas for help.  Completely fed up with the situation, she angrily kicked the side of her station.  Amazingly, the console lit up and seemed to spring to life.  After analyzing it, she realized the procedure that had been needed, was completed.  Terrance shrugged and smiled as she sat down at her post.

 

 

Commander Tholax peered out of the Starbase’s main viewer with a twinge of jealousy, at the rotund space-dock that held the U.S.S. Delta.  He could only hope one day he would be transferred to a starship’s command, other than this almost desolate existence as a starbase official.  Tholax turned back to face the broad command center of his boring space station just in time for one of his subordinates, a Triclarian, to report.

“Sir, the U.S.S. Champion has requested dock,” the Lieutenant reported from his station.  Tholax sighed as he straightened the black tunic of his uniform.

“Clear them.”

“Aye, Sir.”

 

The air-lock doors opened, and personnel from the Champion began to spill out into the stylish interior of the starbase.  After a few dozen had exited, a young man, in his late twenties, appeared carrying two duffel bags.  There, awaiting his arrival, was Commander Nog.  The Ferengi stepped forward and offered his olive-tinted hand to the young, dark-headed Lieutenant Commander.

“Welcome to Starbase 461,” began Nog, flashing his inherent sharp teeth in customary Ferengi fashion, “Mr. Wesley Crusher.”  Wesley smiled back.

“Thank you, Sir.  I’m glad to be here…and I look forward to serving on the Delta.”

“And we’re glad to have you as our Chief Operations officer.  Here, let me help you with those…” the Commander offered, taking one of the hefty duffel bags from Crusher.  The two turned, and started down the corridor, heading for the nearest shuttle pod bay.

 

Friday

The bridge of the Delta was scarcer of people than it had been a day ago, and all posts and consoles were now intact.  Lieutenant Terrance stepped out of Turbolift twenty-two, and walked over to Commander Nog, who was standing in the elevated command area, looking over the large circular console; he would need to get accustomed to it anyway.

“Lieutenant Lisa Terrance reporting for duty,” she announced, at full attention.  Nog looked up at his new helmsman, and nodded.  He gestured toward the helm post.

“Take your post, Lieutenant.”  She replied with a short nod, and headed for it at the bow of the bridge as Crusher and Talvin entered from Turbolift twenty-one.  They immediately reported to their posts, at port and starboard on the bridge.  Directly behind the command area, a holo-communicator sat, ready for its first usage on this Partner-Class ship.  Nog took his seat, beside the central command chair, and awaited the Captain’s arrival.

 

The emblem of the UFC was emblazoned on Joseph Miritz, as he stared out of his Ready Room’s port view.  He could see the beautiful planet below, and the starbase in the distance, alive with activity.  But before any of that, this emblem stood before him, seeming to taunt him.  He had felt so lost, so misplaced a long time ago.  He thought he had solved it by joining the rebellious Maquis faction.  He thought he would belong…but he was wrong.  After the death of his son, he had realized his error in his judgments.  After all, it had been his order—no, it had been the Maquis’ order that led the attack on the outpost that killed his only progeny.  He had to keep telling himself that…that it wasn’t his fault Marcus was gone.  Joseph breathed in deeply, and tried to focus on this task before him.  He was here to lead a group of people.  He couldn’t continue to squander in his own self-pity.  Brushing back his suave black hair, he prepared himself for his first Starfleet act of duty…his first chance at making things right again.  He stepped through the hiss of his Ready Room doors, and stopped dead in his tracks.

This moment in time seemed to stand still, as he saw the entire bridge staff staring directly into his own eyes.  Like a blow from a Nausican, he gasped for breath. It’s now or never.  He firmly continued on his path, and stepped up onto the command area.  He looked around at everyone who was sitting patiently at his or her stations.  There was Lieutenant Terrance, a young, light-headed beauty that seemed to defy this militaristic atmosphere, but a skilled pilot all the same.  Then, at tactical, was Eric Talvin.  Miritz didn’t know too much about this Lt. Comm., except that he had had a rocky past with Starfleet, and had once even considered joining the Maquis.  Next was the always-optimistic Lt. Comm. Wesley Crusher, who had started his Starfleet career on the late, but great, Enterprise-D.  He was definitely apt at the goings-on of a starship, and that made him the prime candidate for Chief Ops Officer.  Then there was Miritz’s very own First Officer, Commander Nog—Starfleet’s only Ferengi, but worthy of his rank.

“This ship,” the Captain began, “is like no other ship you’ve ever served on before.  The Contour and us will stand out from the rest.  So, we will need to be prepared for anything.  Now,” he continued, planting himself in the center seat, beside Nog, “let’s see what this baby can do.”  Everyone smiled, and turned their attention to their stations.  “Helm, release all docking clamps.”

“Aye, Sir,” responded Terrance.

“Fore mooring thrusters to full.  Aft thrusters to one-quarter.”  The bridge began to hum with activity.  There was then a brief silence, as Miritz savored this moment.

“Take us out.”

Terrance nodded, half grinning, as the sleek Delta backed out of space-dock on mooring and RCS thrusters.  The formation lights shown with brilliance, and the one upon the bridge displayed what would become a great name in Starfleet history:  the black lettering of U.S.S. Delta.

Back on the bridge, the temporary comms officer reported.

“Sir, the Contour is also moving out of Space Dock.  They’re ready to go to warp.”  Captain Miritz slid up to sit at the edge of his command chair.

“Well, let’s not keep them waiting.  Lieutenant, lay in a course for the Gestor System, warp six.”

Terrance entered in the appropriate coordinates.  “Course laid in.”

“Engage.”

Both of the new ships’ warp nacelles lit up with the warp threshold moments away.  Finally both leaped at the stars, and disappeared in the distance, in an amazing flash of light.

 

 

 

Wesley Crusher stared, glossy-eyed toward the fore viewscreen, obviously deep in thought.  The journey to the Gestor System would take only a few hours, but the journey would not exactly be exciting.  The whole bridge staff knew they had to stand their posts for the first day.  After that, they may leave their posts for other duties throughout the ship; it was just an understood rule of a starship’s launch.

Captain Miritz noticed Crusher thinking about something serious, and by his expression, it was saddening.  He stepped over to his Ops officer.

“Mr. Crusher, what seems to be on your mind?”  Crusher came back to reality, and looked at Miritz.

“I was just thinking about the Enterprise-E and Captain Picard…and my mother,” Wesley admitted, averting his eyes.  He had trained himself to reserve his emotions and now was no different.  No tears came…but they wanted to.  The Captain nodded.

“Picard and the Enterprise…I wonder if they’ll ever be found.  Your mother served on the Enterprise?”

“Yes, she was the Chief Physician onboard,” he answered solemnly.  “She served on the Enterprise for almost thirteen years…before it disappeared.”

Miritz felt his pain.  He knew all to well what it was like to lose someone so dear to you.  “I’m sorry about that Comm—,”

At that moment the Communications post came alive, with one continuous cheeping noise.  Ensign Veron was operating it as it sounded.  The Captain turned to look.

“Sir, the Contour is hailing us,” he reported.  Miritz nodded, and sat back in his command seat.  He swiveled 180 degrees to face the rear of the bridge, where the Holo-Comm unit was located.  “Put it on Holo-Comm,” he ordered, preparing himself for communication with Captain Anderson.  A moment later, the image of Anderson resolved within the boundaries of the HC, and he was sitting comfortably in his own command chair.

“Joseph,” he began, “we’ve detected a distress signal coming from the Andoris mining colony.”  Miritz swiveled back around to look at Crusher.

“Why didn’t we detect that, Commander?”  Crusher consulted his console then replied.

“I don’t know, Sir.”  Miritz turned back to Anderson.

“We’re going to check it out,” said Robert, through the holo-comm. “ You go to Gestor Prime.”  Joseph thought about it, and hesitantly nodded.

“Alright.  As soon as we pick up Lieutenant Meran, we’ll rendezvous with you.”

“Acknowledged.  Contour out.”  Captain Anderson dissolved away.

 

 

The air lock doors leading into the Cardassian space station, Deep Space Nine, opened.  That, of course, was no the original name of the Station.  Federation forces seized it after the Cardassian left the outpost, just after the occupation of Bajor.  Now, no Cardassians were in sight as the circular, rolling doors opened to reveal Commander Nog.  Standing with him were the officers they had picked up from Gestor Prime only an hour ago:  Lieutenant Alfred Carmen, their Chief Engineer, and Doctor Faldor, an El Aurian Physician that would head the Delta’s medical staff.  Standing on the interior side of the station, waiting to board her new assignment, was Ensign Terric Meran, and she was Bajoran.  Heaving two heavy bags of belongings, she stepped into the air lock, immediately hugging her dear friend, Faldor.  He warmly returned the gesture.  Their friendship dated back to her early years in the academy, and she was glad to have him onboard for her first real Starfleet assignment.

“Terric,” he said as they hugged briefly.

“It’s good to see you,” the Bajoran smiled.

“Come on,” Nog interrupted. “The Captain said to make this as quick as possible.”  Terric looked on at her friend, with an inquisitive expression.  He merely shrugged, and the four headed back into the Federation ship.

 

“Alright, Lieutenant, lay in a course for the Andoris System…maximum warp,” Captain Miritz ordered once the ship had left dock with DS9.  He was calmly seated in the center seat.  From the Turbolift, Nog entered and took his position, as well as the new Bajoran Ensign.

“Course laid in,” Terrance responded.

“Engage.  What is the ETA, Mister Crusher?”

At Ops, Wesley reviewed his console with precision, and looked back up at his Captain.  “Approximately fourteen minutes.”  Miritz pressed a button on his right chair arm.

“Bridge to Engineering.”

Carmen here, Sir,” came the response from his new Chief Engineer.

“I’m glad to finally have you aboard, Mister Carmen,” he greeted.  “Now that the formalities have been taken care of, do we have weapons?”

Umm, most of them.  The phaser charge transitioner hasn’t been fully recalibrated yet.

“In English, Commander,” Miritz pleaded, staring forward into the ominous field of stars on the viewscreen.  On the other end, Carmen cleared his throat.

Well, that means no phasers.  At least, not for another hour or so.”

“Well, keep on it, good Sir.”  With that, the Captain terminated the intercom link.  He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.  “Why do I have a bad feeling about this?”

 

The streaks of light on the fore viewer seemed to mesmerize Lisa.  But, in reality she was thinking of something relatively insignificant:  her cat.  Had she fed her before she left?  She sure hoped her neighbor would take care of her until she got back.  Maybe she would—suddenly, a male voice interrupted her superfluous thoughts…but it wasn’t the Captain’s.

“Plotting the distance in kilometers between Alpha Nu Mera and Antiquitta Six?” said the voice from behind her.  She swiveled around to see Wesley Crusher’s grinning façade staring back at her.

“Um, no.  I was actually thinking about my cat, Patora,” she laughed.  He laughed at it as well.

“That’s not exactly calculating infinity,” he remarked, leaning over his console to talk to her during this short trip.

“Well,” she replied, “I’m strangely close to her. Actually,” her grin started to fade, “she’s really the only family I have.  I just try not to think about it.”

Crusher nodded in agreement.  “I know.  My family’s gone too.   It gets lonely.  And out here,” he looked up at the viewer. “it seems even lonelier.”

“Well, my family’s not completely gone.  My father is stationed on the Ree-Tomer outpost.  I haven’t seen him in years…so it’s almost like I have no family, anyway.  I guess Patora helps me maintain my sanity…”

Suddenly, the door to the Captain’s Ready Room slid open, and Miritz stepped out, walking briskly back up to his chair.  Crusher and Terrance both realized the fourteen minutes had expired and quickly resituated themselves at their stations.

“Report,” Miritz called out, still standing.  Her hands caressing her console, Terrance reviewed the navigational sensors.

“We are entering the Andoris System,” she replied, clearly.

“Drop of us out of warp.”

“Aye, Sir—”  At that instant, an annoyingly loud cheep resounded through the bridge from Crusher’s post, making sure everyone heard.  The young officer turned to face his commanders.

“Sir,” he reported, his mouth hanging slightly open, “the U.S.S. Richardson is firing on the mining colony!”

“Onscreen.”

The main viewer changed angles, and the entire bridge crew was presented front-row seats of a fellow Federation ship releasing volley after volley of firepower to the surface of a planet.

“Where’s the Contour?” Nog questioned.

“There’s no sign of it…wait,” Crusher smiled, “it’s coming in on port.  It’s badly damaged though.”  Nog took charge.

“Mister Talvin, target the Richardson’s weapons array.  Photon Torpedoes.”

“Target locked-on,” the tactical officer responded quickly, his hands darting over his broad interface.

“Fire.”

Four orange torpedoes thoop-ed from the Delta’s Torpedo bays, and made their way, wailing through space toward the Richardson.  Surprisingly, the torpedoes encountered no shields, and seared through the primary hull of the ship, eliciting a cataclysmic explosion that rippled through the whole body of the starship, in a massive chain reaction.  The last, mighty explosion that erupted blinded those onboard the Delta, and sent a small shock wave that caused the deck beneath their feet to shudder slightly.  Once that blast dissolved, only debris floated in space where the Richardson once was.

Everyone on the Bridge was stunned.  That was not supposed to happen.  As if things couldn’t get any more confusing, another reading sounded off from Crusher’s post.

The young man blinked a few times, and gathered his senses to read his console’s readout.

“Sir, the U.S.S. Roberts has entered the system…”

Not worried about the Roberts, Miritz looked over at Talvin at tactical.

“What happened?”

Talvin just shook his head, no knowing the answer.  The Captain looked back at the viewer.  “Those torpedoes were not enough to destroy that ship—”

“Captain…” Terrance interrupted, getting him to notice the same thing on the viewscreen as she did: a huge explosion on the planet’s surface, at the mining colony.  It had to be gone now.

“Report,” Miritz commanded solemnly, silently.

“The colony…” said Crusher, “it’s been destroyed.”  Nog stood up and walked forward, around the command console.

“But how did that happen?”  Crusher reviewed his post.

“Sensors indicate that the weapons the Richardson was using left behind a trail of poloron residue.  When the ship exploded, the poloron energy might have acted like a conductor, carrying the explosion down to the surface…” he looked up, “like a trail of gas.”

“Sir,” Terric intervened, “The Roberts is hailing us.”  Miritz shook his head in confusion at these events.  What was a Federation ship doing firing on a colony that was supported by the Federation?  Why did it explode so easily?  Why were their weapons leaving behind a poloron trail?  It seemed almost like a setup…

“Put it through on HC,” he commanded, turning to face the apparatus.  Captain Frederick Struen soon materialized within the florescent perimeters of the device.  He was standing stalwart, and didn’t look happy.

“What just happened?” he barked.

“We’re not sure…” Miritz began.  “We arrived to see the Richardson firing on the Andoris mining colony.  When we noticed the attacks, we simply tried to disarm the ship’s weapons systems, but—”

“That’s not what we saw,” Struen cut in.  “Our sensors indicate you destroyed the Richardson and the colony as well.”  Miritz protested.

“No, that’s not what happened…”

“Tell it to Starfleet.”  With that, Struen pressed a nearby invisible console and his transmitted image disintegrated.  Miritz turned and stepped back up onto the command area.  Lieutenant Terrance’s post cheeped distinctively.

“Sir, the Roberts is leaving the system…they’re heading for Starbase 209…”

“What’s he up to?” the blonde-headed captain asked himself  Nog turned to his superior.

“Starbase 209 is the closest starbase.  The Contour will have to dock there for repairs,” the first officer suggested.  Miritz sat, nodding.

“You’re right.  Terric, patch me through to Captain Anderson.”

“Aye, Sir.”

The Captain of the Contour appeared where Struen had stood only moments before.  His holographic image was now standing and he was holding a data padd in his hand  “Robert, we have a problem.”

“You’re telling me.  Our power matrix is fluctuating and a third of our warp plasma coils have melted…” Captain Anderson responded.  Miritz shook his head.

“No, Captain Struen of the U.S.S. Roberts seems to have malfunctioning sensors, ‘cause he thinks we were the ones who destroyed the Richardson and the colony.”  Captain Anderson seemed uninterested as he inspected the data padd with much scrutiny.

“He can believe what he wants to…but I’ve got to get to 209 for repairs, right now.”

Joseph sighed.  “Right.  Delta out.”  Anderson dissolved.

 

Starbase 209

The diagram of fleet movements was displayed in front of Admiral Stark.  While analyzing the fluorescent board, the communication matrix beeped.  She leaned back in her chair.

Admiral,” said a disembodied man, “Captain Frederick Struenis requesting to speak to you.”

The high-ranking brunette woman sighed at this annoying interruption.  She hadn’t had enough time to evaluate the fleet movement tactics Starfleet Command had sent her.  A large scale attack on the Romulans was boiling.  “I’ll see him,” she finally replied.

 

Captain Miritz tapped nervously on his computer terminal, in his new Ready Room.  He sat behind his polished, wooden desk, which sat catty-cornered in his oval-shaped office.  On the other side of the broad desk, sat two comfortable-looking chairs.  Once again, his mind was racing.  There were too many questions, and not enough answers.  What was Struen going to do?  Request a full investigation?  And why was the Eichardson firing on the colony in the first place?  Why had it exploded with such ease?

Suddenly, Lieutenant Terric’s soft voice filtered through the comm. System, interrupting his thoughts.

Captain, Admiral Stark wishes to speak to you.  She’s transmitting from the starbase.

“Put her through in here,” Joseph replied.

Yes, Sir.”  On his small terminal’s screen, the Rear Admiral appeared.  She looked disturbed.

“Captain Miritz,” she began, “Captain Struen has just spoken to me…and I regret to inform you that you are to be court-marshaled, on charges of murder and treason.”

Miritz shook his head, almost trying to reassure himself he hadn’t done the act for which he was wrongly accused.  “But Admiral—”

“Spare your excuses, Captain.  Struen has shared his ship’s sensor logs with me.  They clearly confirm his accusations.  Yours, as well as Captain Anderson’s, trial will begin tomorrow.”

With those final words, the link was ended, reestablishing the UFP logo on the small screen.

 

 

The transporter room was filled with the whine of the transporter beams, as five Starfleet officers materialized wielding phaser rifles.  They quickly filed out of the transporter room, into the corridor and headed for the bridge of this ship called Delta.

 

On the computer terminal, records of Miritz’s logs were displayed.  He was listening to them in hopes of finding anything that could help him in the trial.  Suddenly, the doors to his Ready Room whisked open, and five Starfleet security officers waltzed in.  The one leading the party spoke.

“You have to come with us, Captain.”

Miritz nodded sternly, and stood.  He knew it would come to this.  He knew Starfleet’s suspicion was on him, and that the slightest thing would set it off…and it had.  With a regretful sigh, he led the security detail out of the Ready Room.

 

Fifteen minutes later, Miritz and the security detail entered Admiral Stark’s confined office space aboard the starbase.  A few moments after their arrival, Captain Anderson arrived, accompanied by his own security escort.  Stark stood, and walked around her desk to face the two captains.

“I don’t know what your motives were,” she sighed, and eyed Anderson, “and I thought we could trust you, Captain.”  Anderson just peered into her eyes, not yielding to her penetrative glare.  As if she had lost the battle, she turned away to look at the star-filled view port.  “Your ships have been reassigned.”

“…And if we’re proven innocent?” questioned Anderson.

“Then they will be returned to you.  Until then, you will reside in the brig.  Your trial will begin tomorrow at 0900 hours.”  She then nodded to the head security officer, and the Captains were led out, and taken to the brig.

 

 

0856 hours

Starbase 209

Observation Lounge

The starbase’s observation lounge had been converted into a makeshift courtroom under the circumstances.  Two tables faced a third table, on which sat an ornate gold bell.  Beside the third table was a chair for witnesses to testify.  When Anderson and Miritz entered, in their dress uniforms, they immediately noticed Admiral Stark sitting at the third table patiently.  Captain Struen followed them in, not too far behind.  Anderson and Miritz took their seats at one table, while Struen found his place across from them, at the prosecution table.  Stark began, tapping the golden bell with a small gavel.  The resounding low tone indicated the opening of the trial.

“I understand that both parties will be representing yourselves?” the Admiral began.

Miritz nodded.  “That’s correct, your honor.”

Struen nodded, as well.

“Well,” Stark continued, “let’s begin.  Captain Miritz, Captain Anderson, do you wish to give an opening statement?”  Joseph looked to Robert.  Anderson nodded.  Miritz stood.

“I would just like to say that we were…puppets, in some sort of elaborate setup planned to frame us.  If not us, it could just as well have been staged as a setup for anyone. Whatever Captain Struen’s sensor logs reveal, keep in mind that, everyone on both of our ships are witnesses to what really went on, and that any technological support could be false, or augmented, as a synergist to this…”

“…Elaborate setup.  Yes, we understand Captain,” Stark finished for him.  “But, the fact of the matter remains that—”

At that instant, a massive jolt shook the entire starbase, including the observation lounge, and everything, as well as everyone, was sent into the far bulkhead.  Red alert klaxons immediately activated as the station continued to shudder.  The fallen Admiral pulled herself up.

“Stark to Bridge!  What’s going on?”

A massive explosion just occurred in main engineering!  The structural integrity of the entire starbase is collapsing!” replied a voice.  Before Stark could respond, Struen, Miritz, and Anderson all dematerialized in a blue transporter beam…

 

Captain Miritz rematerialized on the bridge of the Delta.  Completely disoriented, he barely realized that red alert was active.  As soon as his senses came back to him, he noticed something on the main viewer.  The orbiting Starbase exploded in a majestic array of debris and fire.  As a result, the Delta shook under the accompanying shock wave.

“Report!” said Miritz, not sure of what else to do.  Crusher was already reviewing his panels.

“An explosion occurred in the starbase’s engine room.  It caused a chain reaction, which compromised the starbase’s structural integrity.  Its own stationary thrusters destroyed it…”

The captain stepped down, beside the helm, looking on at the smoldering debris on the viewscreen with regret.

“Stand down from red alert.”  Silence swept over the ship again. “How many people were on that starbase?”

A few moments later, Crusher responded.

“237.”

There was a period of silence before Miritz spoke again.  His expression was one of confusion.  “Wait,” he realized, “Struen beamed out with us.”  Joseph turned to look at Wesley.  “Where did he beam to?”

Crusher once again tapped a few controls on his console, and read the readout.

“His signal—and yours as well—came from the Roberts.”

Miritz stepped back up to his seat, speechless, motionless.  What now?  Suddenly, Terric turned back to look at him.

“Sir…the Roberts is hailing us.”  Miritz took in a couple deep breaths.  What could all of this mean?

“On HC, Lieutenant.”

“Sir, Struen is demanding only visual,” replied the Bajoran.  Joseph pursed his lips.

“Alright.  Onscreen.”  On the main viewer, the desolate view of the carnage left behind by an act of obvious sabotage, transformed to a view of the bridge of the Roberts…and Captain Struen grinning devilishly.

“Do you like my handy work?” were his first words.

“You blew up the starbase,” Miritz said, angrily and wide-eyed.  Struen shrugged.

“As far as Starfleet will know, you did.”

Miritz quickly turned to address Terric.  “Record this transmission!”  Struen simply shook his head at the futile effort.

“You can’t,” he explained.  “I’m transmitting on a rotating frequency modulation.  It cannot be recorded.”

Terric’s console cheeped aggressively.  “He’s right, Sir,” she called back. “It won’t record.”  Miritz slowly began to realize what was happening…and who had set them up.  The only piece of information he lacked was why? He stepped down, all the way in front of the helm, to look Struen right in his beady eyes.

“Why are you doing this?”

Struen’s expression dulled, and he suddenly became very serious.  “You don’t recognize me, do you?”

At that moment, it struck Miritz.  This man, whoever he was, held some sort of twisted vendetta against him.  Now, the pieces of the puzzle were coming together.  Miritz shook his head at Struen’s question.

“Well you should!” was his outburst, his pure anger seething to the surface.  “How could you forget Zerost Seven?” he asked, almost under his breath.  Zerost Seven? Though Miritz.  That was a Cardassian outpost in the DMZ supported by Starfleet.  His Maquis unit had destroyed a large military base and a colony on Zerost.

“What does that have to do with any of this?” Miritz asked aloud.  Anger was especially evident on Struen’s features now.

“I was stationed there,” he seethed.  “You and your Maquis killed my wife and daughter!  You ruined my life—”

“Is your revenge more important to you than that colony the Richardson destroyed?  The two hundred people aboard that starbase?  The entire crew of the Richardson?” Miritz interrupted.

“The crew of the Richardson is not dead,” he reassured.  “They are safe, far away from here.”  The Captain of the Roberts breathed in and re-gathered himself.  “Well, I suggest you leave.  Starfleet forces will be arriving any minute.”  After that, he quickly signed off.

“Captain, Struen is right,” Crusher reported. “The U.S.S. Napoleon and the U.S.S. Constance will arrive in approximately three minutes.”

Miritz thought for a long while, almost too long before making his final decision…and he had a reason for making that decision.  He addressed his senior staff with assurance and confidence.

“If the crew of the Richardson is truly out there somewhere, then they are all the proof we need to insure our innocence.  If anyone objects to leaving, and finding that missing crew to set us free…then I will gladly send you on your way toward the approaching Federation ships in a shuttle pod…”

He was silent momentarily, waiting for an objection from one of his crew.  Each officer looked around at each other, not showing any signs of objection.  “I’ll take that as a no,” he commented, sitting down in his command chair.  “Helm, get us out of Federation space…maximum warp.”

Terrance turned back to her console and complied with his order whole-heartedly.  “Aye, Sir.”

“Sir,” Terric cut in, “Contour has acknowledged and has laid in identical course.  On your mark, Sir.”

Miritz took in a deep breathe and prayed this star trek for freedom would come to an end soon.

“Engage,” he commanded, “and may God have mercy on our souls.”

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