Star Trek: Title of Liberty, Part III

Star Trek: Title of Liberty

Part III

A short story based upon the series created by Gene Roddenberry

Written by R.J. Herschell

Sector 554

Near the Cardassian Border

USS Zebulon Pike

“I’m sorry, Captain, but this is crap!”  Commander Jensen had just picked himself up off the floor of the bridge.  The ambient lighting was red, and the light strips that indicated a status of emergency were lit.  Over the tactical officer, a steam duct had burst and was now pouring its contents over the tactical station.  Lieutenant Shadday, at that station, was desperately working his station, trying to see it through the steam.

“I’m not too fond of it either, Commander,” Rachel Erickson replied to her first officer.  On the viewscreen, two Galor-class warships were headed for the Pike, “Nail them lieutenant, nail them!”

Jensen returned to his seat by Captain Erickson’s side, clutching the armrests determined not to get spilled from his chair again.  The viewscreen showed a salvo of torpedoes leap from the bottom and split off, headed for the Galors.  The Cardassian warships made a visible effort to get away from the incoming ordinance, but the torpedoes found their mark nonetheless.  Both ships stopped dead in space.  One was visibly damaged beyond all usefulness; the other had small explosions coming off of its hull.

“Captain, that ship is about to blow!”  Sure enough, as soon as Shadday had said this, the ship with the explosions on the hull disappeared in a flash of light.  A shockwave left the ship and went in all directions, carrying the debris away from the ship’s last position.  Some of the shrapnel hit the other warship, causing even more damage.  The second ship then exploded the way the first had, sending more debris flying around the area.  It had just had too much.

“Can our shields hold that?”  Erickson asked, watching some of the debris head the way of the Pike.

“They should, ma’am.  Engineering just boosted them to forty-nine percent,” Shadday informed her, trying to look at the panel through the steam, “Would somebody please shut off this duct?”  As soon as he had said this, the steam relented.  This was pure coincidence, as there was nobody who heard him who could shut it off, but it was still convenient, “Thank you.”

“Stand down from Red Alert,” Rachel, who had been standing when the warship was destroyed, returned to her seat, “Damage report.”

“Shields are operating at forty-nine percent.  We have minor hull breeches on decks seven, eight and fourteen.  There is a moderate hull breech on deck thirty-eight.  Engineering has isolated that.  Our primary power network is shot; we’re working off of the secondary.  Computer core two is offline due to fires in the area.  There are more fires on decks twenty-seven, and twenty-nine.  Fire suppression is offline in that area due to power failures.  Engineering is dispatching teams to manually suppress those.  There are more holes in the power grid most notably in the life support on deck thirty-one section eight.”  The conn officer reported all of the damages he could see on his screen as they scrolled past, as transmitted from engineering.

“Moderate damage, then.”  Captain Erickson asked him.

“For the most part, yes ma’am.  Our most major problems are that RCS is down to sixty-seven percent efficiency and the warp drive won’t be able to go past warp three, due to holes in the power grid.”  The ensign responded.

“What about impulse?”  Erickson further inquired.

“The impulse engines are fine, but I wouldn’t demand too much of them.  Their fusion generators are already putting out more than their share of power.  The warp core is behaving irregularly, so it is in a reduced capacity.”  The ensign answered.

“Okay, thank you, ensign.”  He turned back to his station, and Rachel turned to her First Officer, she was about to say something when Lieutenant Shadday spoke out.

“Captain, we’re receiving a live transmission from Admiral Henderson.”  He reported, tapping his console.

“Put it through to my ready-room,” She stood and began walking to the left side of the bridge, “Bryan, you’ve got command.”

She entered her ready-room, and proceeded behind her desk.  She tapped her desk which popped up a terminal screen bearing the Federation seal.  Tapping another button on the desk, the screen changed to a view of Admiral Henderson.

“Captain, how are you?” Henderson was visibly concerned.

“We’re fine, sir.  Our power grid is giving us crap, and so we’re at a reduced capacity.  But we’ll be okay.”  She reported.

“Okay, now how are the Cardassian ships doing?” He asked, somewhat relieved.

“Both destroyed.”  Her tone was dry, mostly because of the stress of the past fifteen minutes.

“Any clue why they attacked?” He asked, very curious, “Did they warn you, or talk to you at all?”

“No, sir.  They simply came over the border and opened fire.”  She recalled.  There was a moment of silence initiated by Admiral Henderson sighing.  He stared at a point off screen and contemplated something.

“I’ve contacted Admiral von Haag with the ninth fleet.  He is sending a couple of battle groups your way.  They should be there within three hours.” He informed her.

“I hope that’ll be soon enough, sir,” Rachel expressed to her superior, “The Pike can take on any two Cardassian warships, but if we do that often enough we won’t be able to do anything.”

“I know.  I hope three hours is soon enough as well.  But it’s the best we can do.” He attempted to reassure her.

“I understand, Admiral.  Thank you.”  She leaned back in her chair, trying to work out what had just happened.

“Keep up the good work. Henderson out.” His face disappeared from the screen.  Erickson sat back, staring at a point in the space ahead of her.  What does this mean?

Near the Cardassian Border

The Koval

Glinn Yistin entered the dark briefing room.  He couldn’t see well inside the room, all he had was the light of the stars from the huge window to go by.  He could see the table with its assortment of chairs.  A screen at one end of the room displaying the Romulan emblem cast enough light to show the stem of a rose set on a table at the window.  On the table around the vase that contained the plant were the brown remnants of its petals.  Yistin could see a shadow at the far end of the room, near a window.  This dark form was just outside of the light cast both by the screen and by the window, making it totally indiscernible.  Yistin couldn’t even tell if that was a being, or if anything was even there.

“General, the attack against the Pike has been repelled; both of the ships are destroyed.”  Yistin took a shot into the dark with his words, guessing that he was seeing a form and it was the General.

“Excellent.”  The cold, deliberate voice rang out from the form’s location.

“General?”  Yistin couldn’t see how the destruction of two warships was “excellent.”

“Glinn, you’re young.  You do not understand that life is expendable,” Yistin took the comment about being “too young” offensively, “The team is in, is it not?”

“Yes, General, the Koval and the missiles are over the border.”  Yistin dropped the issue of insult.  The General’s voice was too cold for Yistin to be bold enough to challenge it.

“Without detection?”  The General prodded further.

“Yes, General,” Yistin replied, overcome with obeisance, “There was nobody to look.”

“Then the death of your Cardassian friends was well worth it,” the General concluded, “The Federation has just defeated two Cardassian warships, and they are getting quite proud.”

“Gul Rinkad is going to attempt to retaliate for the loss of his ships.”  Yistin alerted the General.

“By the time Rinkad can assemble a force and get authorization to attack the Federation, Earth’s population would have been decimated.  Then our operatives will be free to take out the humans straggling around the galaxy,” the General resolved, “Rinkad is a fool.  He can not cause any major alteration to our plans.”

Starbase 334

Ops

“I assure you, Admiral.  I did not order my ships to attack yours.  We both know that would be a suicide run.” Ri’ta Gul Rinkad’s face was on the main viewscreen, glowering across the Starfleet Operation Center.

“Then perhaps you can tell me why two Cardassian Galor-class warships just went the rounds with the Zebulon Pike.”  Admiral Henderson was standing in the middle of the banged-up room, staring at the screen.

“Their intrusion of the Federation border was not authorized, Admiral.  Why would we attack our benefactors?” Rinkad had a very definite scheming undertone to his speech.

“I suppose you wouldn’t have a good reason,” Henderson decided he needed to end this conversation, because it was not going anywhere productive, “If you do find out why these ships came over before I do, then please alert me.”

“And if you find out before me, I will expect the same courtesy.” Rinkad replied, throwing Henderson slightly off guard, though he didn’t show it.

“I’ll be sure to do that.  Henderson out,” The screen returned to a display of the Federation seal.  Henderson turned to Captain Smith who was standing next to the security station so as to be off the screen, “So, Captain.  What do you think?”

“Well, Admiral, I would say that this was the first Rinkad heard of the assault.”  Smith moved towards Admiral Henderson in the open space before the viewscreen.

“Why would you say that, Captain?”  Henderson walked forward and leaned on the Security tier.

“Because he asked you to tell him what’s going on if you find out before he does.”  Smith responded simply, stopping near the end the tier.

“Yeah, I thought that odd as well.”  Henderson adjusted his position so as he could look Smith in the eye.

“If he truly did order that attack, then he would want to minimize his contact with you.  He also wouldn’t try to get information about his troop movements from his enemy.  He knows that you are now going to investigate this, and he doesn’t seem to have a problem with it.”  Smith rationalized.

“What, Captain, do you suppose ordered the attack and why?”  Henderson straightened, and turned to look at the Federation seal now shown to the entire Operations Center.

“I suppose it was the initiation of the plan in that book.  We were hit on that side of the border as a diversion,” Smith suggested.  His mind was set to autopilot; he didn’t know what he was saying.  Henderson spun around with an alarmed look on his face.  Seeing this, Smith just knew what he said.

“Get on the Hale and go to the commercial insertion point on the border.”  Henderson spoke in a rushed tone.  Without a single word, Smith rushed out of Ops.

The Koval

Near the Commercial Insertion Point

“Why wait.  Let us deal with these humans now.  Then we can move on to Earth.”

SS Cutty Sark

Approaching the Commercial Insertion Point

Relieved that Garrett was back, Tyson Paine sat at his station between the payload specialist and the engineer.  The bright part was that Garrett was back, the part that made Paine feel guilty, though, was that it was at the cost of Ms. Griffin.  He opened up his internal sensors screen and monitored it, not really paying attention to what was going on.  He knew nothing would be out of the ordinary; the screen was just to confirm his suspicions.  He laid his head in his hands, assuring that he would be able to see the screen, and thought about Molly.

“Thinking about our last Sensors Operator?”  John Feriman asked from Paine’s left.

“How’d you guess?”  Paine raised his head from his hands.

“Ryan, we’re almost at the border.”  Garrett called over his shoulder.  Paine took unusual note.

“Well, you go strolling around the ship when you know there’s nothing to find.  You sit down with a sigh when you come back.  Now you’re staring at Garrett because of how informal he was about stating our position,” Paine didn’t realize he was staring at Dayton’s back.  Snapping out of his trance, he returned his eyes to the screen, “I told you she was hot.  You can’t get her…”

“It’s not that, John,” Tyson was frustrated by Feriman’s suggestion, “I feel she didn’t deserve what Starfleet meted out to her.”

“What are you going to do about it?”  John prodded.

“I’m probably going to have a chat with Admiral Henderson when we get back.”  Tyson resolved.

“Good luck, Tyson.”  John went back to his work, and Paine looked back down at his station.

“Ryan, we’ve got a lot of gravitational distortion ahead.  I think we should go around.”  Dayton had turned to look at Harrin.

“Helm, are you seeing that?”  Ryan stood.

“Yeah, I am.  I’m plotting a course around it.”  The man responded.

“Ryan, we’ve got another problem,” Dayton had looked at his console for the briefest of moments before turning back, “Four ships appear to have just de-cloaked.  One appears to be Romulan, the other three are Cardassian.”

“Contact Admiral Henderson at Starbase 334, tell him we have intruders on the Federation border.”  Harrin returned to his seat.  He had the briefest of alarmed looks before falling back on his experience as a Starfleet captain, “Get the shields up.  Helm, turn us back.”

Tyson continued to monitor his panel despite what was going on.  He had heard the reports of Romulan pirate activities, and figured that his panel was where the next action was going to happen, if any.  He was, unfortunately, right.  Instinctively he had ordered General Quarters for all crew, which they obeyed.  There were, however, some life-signs that had not obeyed the G.Q.  Furthermore, there were too many dots on his screen.

“Captain,” Tyson spoke warningly, “We’ve got intruders.”

“How many?”  Harrin had spun to look at Paine.

“It looks like a team of four,” Tyson was concentrated on his panel, “It looks like they’re headed for the Bridge.”

“Everybody take cover.”  Harrin returned his gaze to the forward portion of the bridge.  Tyson drew his phaser blaster and covered the door to the bridge, while getting down.  Sure enough, after about a minute, the door opened.  Tyson let go and started shooting into the door.

Two Romulans had stepped right into the fire and were taken out.  The other two ducked behind the doorway and returned fire with their disruptors.  One of them started talking loudly as he engaged Tyson.  Tyson, realizing he wasn’t getting anywhere quickly moved to the back of the bridge to get a better shot at one of the guys behind the door jam.

“Mr. Paine, if I were you, I’d drop the blaster now.”  Tyson heard the cold voice he recognized too well just as he had lined up a shot at one of the Romulans.  All of the fire stopped.  Tyson dropped his blaster and stood slowly, hands raised.  The Romulans cautiously entered the bridge, with their disruptors extended.  Tyson felt a cold hand spin him around and push him into the back wall of the bridge.  Then he got a clear view of who was behind him.

“A very valiant effort, Mr. Paine.  I am impressed with your fighting ability.”  Glinn Yistin, who was holding a Cardassian disruptor aimed at Paine’s chest.  Three other Cardassians were on the bridge hauling the crew from their hiding spots and placing them in line at the back with Tyson.

“Who are you?”  Captain Harrin demanded of the intruder.  The two Romulans, the three Cardassians, and Yistin were now guarding the crew.  Yistin nodded back to one of the Romulans who moved to the Engineer’s station.

“I am Glinn Yistin of the Obsidian Order, Captain.”  This announcement sent a chill through Harrin and Paine, who had an unpleasant experience with the Obsidian Order together.

“And what is it that the Obsidian Order wants with the Cutty Sark?”  Paine asked.

“It has nothing to do with the Cutty Sark, Mr. Paine,” Yistin replied, “You see, the Federation has consistently been tyrannous to this quadrant.  The Cardassian Union has finally taken it upon themselves to clean this abomination out.”

“Abomination, Glinn?  You call the government that won your freedom from the Dominion an abomination?”  Harrin was slightly offended.

“I believe that the Federation is truly benevolent.  But so long as the humans are there to disturb the mix, the Federation can’t help but to be corrupt.”  Yistin replied.

“So your quarrel isn’t with the Federation, it is with Earth.”  Paine clarified.

The Romulan at the engineering station had finished whatever it was he was doing and was now at Yistin’s side, awaiting acknowledgement.  Upon receiving it, he reported, “It is completed, Glinn.”

“What is complete?”  Feriman asked somewhat concerned.

“This is a new era for the Alpha Quadrant.  The humans will finally fall out of power,” Yistin announced, “And you have the great honor of initiating this new era.  This ship is now programmed to stop at Starbase 334 and make an announcement to all of the races of this quadrant.  Then, it will ram into the side of the Starbase and release Thalaron radiation.”

“Thalaron radiation?  What is that?”  Harrin asked.

“It’s a radiation that will kill all life within an area and leave it habitable.”  Paine was now glaring at Yistin with extreme hatred.

“Very good, Mr. Paine.”  The Glinn replied in mock praise.

“What if we shut down your program?”  The engineer replied.

“That won’t happen.  It’s hack-proof,” Yistin dismissed, “Besides, life support will be shut off in five minutes.  We don’t intend to leave until a few seconds before then.”

Right behind Yistin, in all of his smugness, three Federation transporters activated.  Appearing there, were three Starfleet officers: a Human male lieutenant junior grade, a Vulcan male lieutenant, and Molly Griffin appearing as a commander.  The three fired on the seven holding the Cutty Sark crew hostage, and took them out with efficiency.  Harrin started from the line.

“Thank you, Commander,” he turned from Molly to his engineer, “See if you can get that program shut down.”

“Which program?”  The human male asked, moving back to the engineer’s panel.  The rest of the Cutty Sark crew, except for Paine, moved to their stations.

“Lieutenant Sivinh, take this ship out of warp.”  Molly was speaking to the Vulcan.  The helm operator stood back to let Sivinh take control of the ship.

“It’s a program Yistin put on this ship.  It’s set up to shut down life support then ram the Cutty Sark into Starbase 334.”  The engineer explained as Harrin, and the Starfleet lieutenant grouped around the engineer’s station.

“Commander, the helm is not responding.”  Sivinh reported to Griffin.

“That’s probably a part of the program.”  Harrin concluded.

Paine had retrieved his blaster and re-holstered it.  He stood back, eyeing Griffin, confused.  She noticed, smiled and moved to where he stood.  She extended her hand.

“I don’t think I properly introduced myself.  I’m Commander Molly Griffin, Starfleet Intelligence.”  Suddenly everything clicked into place for Tyson.

“So you did swipe that document.”  He shook her hand, grinning.

“What document?”  She replied, chuckling.

“Dammit!”  The engineer exclaimed, failing to get into the program.

“Here, let me try.”  The engineer stood to let the human male sit in that station.

“This,” Molly continued, indicating the lieutenant, “Is Lieutenant Junior Grade Robert Samp.”

“Yo.”  Samp acknowledged as he started working the station, not taking his eyes off of it.

“He’s the operations officer for the USS Nathan Hale, the SI vessel assigned to this sector,” Molly explained, then indicated Lieutenant Sivinh who had just stood to let the Cutty Sark’s helm operator take his rightful spot, “This is Lieutenant Sivinh, who is the Tactical Officer for the Hale.”  Sivinh gave a placid nod.

“Commander Griffin, I think we’re going to have to get the Hale in on this,” Samp had turned to Molly, “If anyone can hack this program, she can.”

“Anyone?  Lieutenant, I thought the Hale was a ship.”  Harrin commented on Samp’s use of vernacular.  Samp merely grinned.

“She is.  And I would be more than happy to tell you what she can do.  But that’s classified.”  He grinned even wider and went back to the station.  Molly tapped her combadge.

Hale this is Griffin.”  Everyone looked with interest as an electronic feminine voice responded.

“This is the Hale, commander.  What can I do for you?” It responded.

Hale, we need you to get into the Cutty Sark’s computer and shut down a program the Obsidian Order installed.”  She continued.

“Understood, commander.  You will have to grant me transmission access.” Everyone was surprised that Molly was carrying on a conversation with a Computer.

“I don’t know if that’ll be possible, Hale.”  Samp called across the bridge to reach Molly’s combadge.

“Very well, Commander.  I will do my best.  Please stand by,” Everybody waited impatiently for the Hale to do her thing, “I have accessed the SS Cutty Sark.  Please state the nature of the program.”

“Program locks-out all control.  Deactivates Life Support, and flies the vessel into another.”  Molly summed up what she knew.

“Commander, I do not know of any programs within the parameters specified.” The computer reported back after a few seconds.  Griffin contemplated for a moment.

Hale, look for any programs recently installed that have an Obsidian Order style or signature.”  She instructed.

“Understood, commander.  Please stand by,” The computer replied once more.  After a few more moments of waiting, the Hale reported back, “Commander, there are no Obsidian Order programs installed on the SS Cutty Sark.  I did, however, find one that appears to be programmed by the Tal Shiar.  However, it was installed at least a week ago.” Paine, who had been waiting patiently throughout all of this looked at the chronometer, and was struck with alarm.

“Commander Griffin,” He caught her attention, with his eyes fixed on the chronometer, “we have one minute to shut down this program.”

“Commander, we need to get the civilian crew off of the Cutty Sark,” Samp turned to Molly, giving up on his panel, “I can stay behind in an EVA suit.”

“The escape pods.”  Captain Harrin immediately spoke up.  The crew started to move off the bridge.

“Captain, it is likely that the program has locked-out use of the escape pods as well.”  Sivinh rationalized, in response to Harrin’s statement.

“Commander, what is the Nathan Hale’s evacuation limit?”  Paine was suddenly struck by an idea.

“Twenty,” replied Molly, “But beaming a civilian crew aboard an intelligence shuttle isn’t a very good idea.”

But we’ve got thirty seconds!” Paine retorted.

“Commander Griffin to Captain Smith.”  She tapped her combadge to change channel destinations.

“What is it Molly?” A new voice came through her combadge.

“Sir, you need to clear the Cutty Sark crew for evacuation to the Hale.”  She called desperately.

“Molly, you know the…” Captain Smith was cut off by Paine.

Ten seconds!

“Okay, stand by.” Griffin, Samp, and Sivinh observed as the entire bridge crew disappeared in a transporter beam a couple of seconds later.  Molly looked up at the chronometer and guessed how much time was left, counting in her head.

Five… four… three… She suddenly realized that the Hale could evacuate 20 people, but it could only do it at a rate of five every two seconds.  Plus about four seconds for the computer to, using transporters, hide all of the classified stuff.  That meant the earliest convenience for the computer would be about two or three seconds after the Cutty Sark lost life support.  Two…

USS Salt Lake City NCC 79884

Sector 553, near Sector 554

Conference Room

Rear Admiral Upper Half Terra Loewenstein sits in the conference room of the sleek Sovereign-class starship.  She looks over her orders on a PADD.  Throwing down the PADD on the highly polished table, she stands and paces around the room.  The question of Cardassian activity along the border in Sector 554 has been bothering her.  First a handful of Hideki-class scouts, now Galor-class warships are actively engaging Federation battleships.  She stops at an aft-facing window, looking at the USS Meriwether Lewis, a Galaxy-class starship assigned to her battle group.

The Salt Lake City Battle Group is one of the most powerful battle groups in the Federation Ninth Fleet.  It consists of the SLC herself, a Sovereign-class, the USS Meriwether Lewis, which is a Galaxy-class Battleship similar to the Zebulon Pike.  Additional combat support included the USS Phoebe and the USS Ganymede, both Intrepid-class cruisers, and the USS Washington, a Defiant-class destroyer.  The SLCBG also features a fighter wing carried aboard the Akira-class USS Charon, the 388th Carrier Fighter Wing, calling itself “The Black Widows.”

Terra’s specific orders from Vice Admiral David von Haag are to support the Pike Fleet’s position in Sector 554 until the slightly larger and more powerful USS Vulcan Battle Group arrives.  She was putting forth her best effort to get her group to the Cardassian border as soon as possible.  Some of the captains had expressed concerns about pushing their warp cores too far, but they all understood: the situation at hand is critical.  She sighs, thinking about how many times she has heard those words “The situation is critical.”

“Admiral, we will be in Sector 554 in five minutes.” The Captain of the Salt Lake City called over Terra’s Combadge.

“Thank you, captain.”  She replied, returning to her previously occupied seat.  Picking up the PADD she had dropped earlier, she re-examined her orders.  “Maintain the integrity of the Cardassian border until such time the Federation can take more decisive action against the Union.”  Examining the Table of Organization, she reads a name she hasn’t heard in a long time.  Rear Admiral Lower Half Thomas Henderson.  Even though Loewenstein outranks Henderson, Henderson is still in command of the sector and therefore is granted situational authority.  Still, she hadn’t seen Henderson in nearly twenty years.

Her train of thought was interrupted by the shuddering of the deck, and the sound of crashing and shimmying.  Suddenly she hears the warp engines power down, and her view aft of the ship showed the stars failing to stretch.  She stood and proceeded to the bridge just as the Red Alert klaxon sounded.

“Admiral on the bridge.”  Came a cry as Loewenstein stepped out, taking a quick glance at the viewscreen, which showed nothing of interest.

“What’s going on, Captain?”  She demanded as she approached the center of the bridge, where the captain rose from his chair.

“Engineering reported a major disturbance in our Warp fields.  We were forced to come to a full stop.”  The captain explained.

“Admiral, we are receiving a notification from the rest of the battle group,” The tactical officer was reading a transmission that had just come in.  He then looked Terra in the eye, “They appear to be experiencing similar difficulties with their geometries.”

USS Zebulon Pike

Captain’s Ready Room

“Enter,” Captain Erickson, having been in her office contemplating the current situation, called after hearing her door chime.  Lieutenant Shadday proceeded through the doors from the bridge, standing in front of the desk awaiting acknowledgement, “Have you heard anything about the reinforcements Henderson promised?”

“I’m not sure we’ll be getting them, ma’am.”  Shadday commented, to Erickson’s alarm.

“Why not?”  Her concern crossed both her face and her voice.

“I just received that information from Thirty-one about the key players.  One of them is aboard the USS Salt Lake City, which is the flagship of one of the battle groups assigned here.”  His voice carried a degree of anxiety that negated the use of words.

“Inform the commander of that battle group,” Rachel immediately replied, realizing what was about to happen, “They need to flush that operative out.”

USS Nathan Hale

Cockpit

“Captain, I thank you for your timely retrieval,” Griffin spoke as she entered the flight compartment, taking her post just behind the Flight Control station.  Samp took his place on the right hand side forward station and Sivinh assumed his post opposite of Molly, “I wasn’t expecting you to get our corpses out until three seconds after we died.”

“I thought it would’ve sucked to die on your un-birthday.”  Smith responded somewhat snidely.

“Thanks for exercising your sentiments, sir,” She pulled up her sensors screen and began examining the situation, “Has the Hale been able to hack the program?”

“Not to my knowledge.  The last I heard from the Hale, she was asking permission to take orders from you on the Cutty Sark,” Smith moved over to Griffin’s station to converse with his first officer easier, “You do know that is against SOP.  Not that we’ve been keeping in SOP recently.”

“I had to do what I had to do, sir.”  She defended herself.

“I know.  And I think the crew of the Cutty Sark would’ve thanked you for going against SI’s regulations,” Smith replied, and then pointed to her screen, “See, you would have survived three seconds without the life support.  But there was another treat released through the air vents that would have killed you.”  Molly looked at her panel.

“Thalaron radiation.”  She recognized the signatures immediately.

“Yeah,” Kevin straightened and returned to his seat just forward of her station.  He spun it around to face her, “It has fully flooded that ship.  What’s better, destroying it would not be the best way to stop it.”

“Because it would irradiate the entire area.”  She concluded.  Smith nodded his acknowledgement.

“For at least a one AU radius.”

“Wouldn’t our shields have stopped it?”  She asked.

“That was the terrifying thing about the Scimitar.  It had a weapon that could engulf an entire starship with Thalaron, and the ship’s shields are not set to stop it.”  He replied.

“Captain, if the Thalaron can’t be stopped by ship’s shields, then why is it contained on the Cutty Sark?”  She inquired further.  She began initiating scans of the Cutty Sark to try and answer her own question.

“There’s a mag field established through the hull of the ship,” Molly confirmed the Captain’s response on her screen as soon as he said it, “Probably to keep it clean enough that our passive sensors don’t go crazy.”

“Commander Griffin,” the computer called over the ship’s speakers, “I have gained access to the Cutty Sark’s computer core.  The program is currently deactivated.”

“How did you do that?”  This computer never ceased to amaze her.

“I deactivated the computer core.”

It just did.

“Captain,” Samp had spun around to face Smith, “That means the warp core is unregulated.”  Molly quickly checked her panel.

“Sir, the Cutty Sark is accelerating.”  She reported, somewhat alarmed.

Hale, you are brilliant as far as computers go, but you’re still inherently stupid.”  Smith was somewhat speaking to himself.

“I do not understand, Captain.”  The computer replied.

“Exactly,” he answered the computer.  He then pointed his chair forward and adjusted his position in it, asking nobody in particular, “What is the maximum speed for the Cutty Sark?”

“Warp seven point nine, Captain,” Lieutenant Sivinh responded.  Everybody gave him a quizzical look, “I anticipated needing that information, so I inquired of the helm officer while we were on the Cutty Sark.”

“For the next SI computer, we’re going to bottle a Vulcan,” Smith expressed his appreciation for Sivinh’s intelligence, “Molly, when will the Cutty Sark be up to maximum?”

“Half an hour, if it keeps this up.”  She answered, working her console.

Hale, what is the cool-down time for Thalaron Radiation?”  Smith subsequently asked.

“Thalaron irradiated areas have been observed to be safe within two hours.”  The Hale answered without a delay, also probably anticipating needing this information.

“That rules that out,” Smith thought aloud, “What would happen if we were to restart the computer core.”

“That would set the program in stone, sir.  We’d have no chance at dismantling it.”  Samp responded.

“Is there a way to start it in a safe mode?”  Kevin inquired.

“There is, sir.  But that’ll take time.  And we’ll have to remote access it from the Hale.”

“How much time?”  There was a deafening silence as everyone awaited Samp’s response.

“Half-hour.”  He looked Griffin in the eye, with a look of concern on his face.

“Do it.  It’s our best bet,” Kevin ordered.  Samp stood and went into the aft compartment to begin work, “Miss Goeres, keep up with the Cutty Sark.”

“Yes sir.”  She replied, and then began working her console.

Senit Nor

Sector 563

“If you didn’t, then who did?” The face of a Fi’ta Gul appeared on the screen in Ri’ta Gul Rinkad’s office.  Within the past hour, the Federation Council had contacted the Cardassians and demanded an explanation for their border incursion.  This information had filtered down to the Fi’ta Gul, or Fleet Admiral, of the Cardassian Military.  Now, his raspy voice was shouting at Rinkad.

“I am in the process of investigating that, Gul.”  The rough-faced Cardassian tries to convince the man on the screen.  There is, of course, now investigation underway.  Rinkad’s only disappointment is that his ships didn’t kill the Federation terrorists.

“Gul, you are one of the most renowned military commanders in the Union.  You, of all people, should have the professionalism to not put your interests ahead of the nation!” The Fi’ta Gul seemed to have completely ignored Rinkad.

“Gul, I assure you, I did not authorize that incurion.”  I don’t condemn it either.

“You may not have authorized it, but I know you had something to do with it.  As soon as I am able to prove that, Rinkad, you are out of your post!  I knew even something as simple as a trading station was beyond your ability to command.  I would give you a fail-safe post on a garbage scowl, but you’ll find a way to screw that up!” Rinkad merely closed his eyes and took a deep breathe at this verbal abuse.

“I will contact you as soon as my investigation is conclusive.”  He quickly shut off the screen to prevent the Fi’ta Gul’s further assassination of Rinkad’s character.  Rinkad then turned to his desk and sat behind it.  He contemplated the events that had just unfolded.  First his ships assault a Federation vessel over the border.  His keen Cardassian mind, while reserving an extreme loathing for the Federation, was suspicious.  Something is not right.  No Cardassian Gul would order his ship over the border to assault without permission.  Someone had to have given it to them, someone… someone who is attempting to overthrow Rinkad, and take his spot.  But who?

“Gul Rinkad to Glinn Yistin,” Rinkad spoke into his communicator.  There was no answer, “Gul Rinkad to Gul Ekat.”

“Gul Ekat here, sir.  How may I serve?” A voice came through the static.

“Gul, do you happen to know where Glinn Yistin is?”  Rinkad asked, the entire situation becoming more and more suspicious by the second.

“No, sir.  He disappeared somewhere between Starbase 334 and Senit Nor.” Rinkad stared directly ahead into the dark other half of his room.  Why would the Glinn disappear?  Didn’t the Glinn have the best interests of the Union at heart?  If so, then why did he desert?  “Sir?” Ekat’s voice prodded.

“Thank you, Gul.”  Rinkad closed the channel as he came to a single extremely disturbing conclusion… Glinn Yistin lied.

Starbase 334

Admiral Henderson’s Office

“What do you mean: ‘the Salt Lake City Battle Group is disabled’?”  Henderson exploded after Captain Sara James relayed a message they had just received.

“Well, sir, Admiral Loewenstein reported that the warp engines of every ship in the Battle Group have generated distorted geometries.”  She answered, somewhat timidly.  Henderson leaned back in his chair contemplating the problem.  For every ship in the fleet to obtain a weird geometry, is if subspace is acting up in the area.  There were technical or mechanical problems with the power relays that could generate trouble, but that is highly unlikely to happen to several ships at the same time.

“Do we know about any subspace anomalies in that area?”  He asked, contemplating the options.

“No, sir,” James replied, “The SLC herself has been scanning the area.  She can’t find anything.”

“Admiral, we have a message from the Zebulon Pike.” A voice called over Thomas’ combadge.

“Patch them through,” Henderson leaned forward in his seat, and adjusted his terminal screen so as to see it better.  James turned and prepared to leave the office, “Captain, if you hear anything else from the SLC, please let me know.”  She turned her head and nodded as the doors parted to let her through.  When the doors closed, hiding the rest of the Operations Center, Henderson turned to look at the screen in front of him.  Staring back at him was the slightly distressed face of Lieutenant Shadday.

“Admiral, that list of personnel came in from Thirty-one,” His voice had an undertone of anxiety that aroused the Admiral’s curiosity, “There is an entire Tal Shiar shuttle called the Koval.  It is commanded by a General Vilann.  Apparently it has a joint crew of Tal Shiar and Obsidian Order operatives.  In charge of the Obsidian Order people is Glinn Yistin.  There is a third figure that isn’t on a Romulan or Cardassian ship.” The Admiral’s eyes went wide as he put the pieces together.

“The Salt Lake City…” Thomas began.

“… is experiencing warp drive troubles,” Shadday finished for him, “I know.  I just contacted Admiral Loewenstein to let her know.  She’s doing her best to root him out.”

“Good,” Henderson wasn’t the least bit relieved, “Do you know where the Koval is?”  Shadday’s next few words were chilling.

“No.  But it is with at least three dreadnaughts.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.  If you hear anything else, keep me posted.  Henderson, out,” Henderson killed the channel and called the communications officer of the station on his combadge, “Get me the Hale.”

“Yes, sir.  But in the meantime, Ri’ta Gul Rinkad wants to talk to you.” The officer responded.  Henderson’s emotions were evenly mixed between curiosity and dread for having to carry on a conversation with an individual who was about as fun to talk to as a torpedo.

“Put him through.”  Henderson stared at the now black screen as it lit up with the Cardassian Union symbol.  Finally that symbol disappeared and Rinkad’s face appeared.

“Admiral Henderson.” He acknowledged his counterpart.

“Gul Rinkad.”  Henderson returned the courtesy.

“Admiral, it has become my duty to inform you that Cardassian insurgents are about to cause damage to your sector.” The Gul replied.  So that’s what Rinkad thinks this Obsidian Order operation is: a group of insurgents.

“Thank you, Gul.  I will have my ships on the look out for them.”  Tom replied, expecting the conversation to be over.  However, Rinkad appeared to be a little uneasy.  It looked as if he wanted to say something else.

“Admiral, that ship my vessels attacked.  How is it?” The question caught Tom off guard.  Why would the Gul be asking about an ‘enemy’ vessel’s well-being?  Henderson thought for a moment about how he should answer that question.

“It’s doing just fine, Gul, why?”  Henderson decided to lie about how well the Pike really was.  It’s generally not a good idea to tell a potential enemy that your war assets are not in the best of shape.

“Admiral, I extend my deepest apologies for any damage that may have been done.” Rinkad’s tone sent a chill down Henderson’s entire body.  He’s sincere.

USS Nathan Hale

Cockpit

“Five minutes, Captain.”  Griffin called out.  The crew had spent the past twenty-five minutes charging down the Cutty Sark.  Molly had been calling out how close that trader was to blowing itself apart every five minutes.  Smith finally stood from his seat and moved to the back, where Lieutenant Samp was working.  Standing by Samp’s station, he watched for a moment.

“How’s it coming Lieutenant?”  He finally brought himself to ask.  Samp was feverishly tapping areas of the panel he was standing at.  Sweat was now pouring off of his brow, and his breathing was visibly accelerated slightly.  He mistyped something and pounded the panel.  A grunt that sounded like it was supposed to be a swear word, and probably would’ve been if Samp wasn’t so frusterated, finally gave the Lieutenant the time to respond to his Captain’s question.

“It’s going to take a few more minutes, sir.”  He responded, going back to his program a little calmer.

“We haven’t much time, Lieutenant.”  Smith warned.

“I know, sir.”  Robert’s speed was accelerated and more feverish after Smith’s comment.  Smith turned and left the Lieutenant to finish his work.  Re-entering the cockpit, he returned to his seat.

“Captain, we are receiving a transmission from Starbase 334.  Admiral Henderson wants to talk to you.”  Lieutenant Sivinh, who had taken over the Operations station as the Tactical Station didn’t need to be manned, had turned the seat around to face the returning captain.

“Tell him to wait one damn minute,” Smith blurted out, “and quote me on that!”  Sivinh returned to the station.  Smith merely stood behind his chair, looking at the viewscreen ahead.  The SS Cutty Sark was directly ahead of them, traveling through the field of stretched stars.  Smith felt a penetrating stare come from behind him.  He turned to look Commander Griffin in the eye, who seemed a little shocked at Smith’s use of vernacular to his superior, “Time.”

“Three minutes.”  She replied without looking at the panel.

“At this course, if the Cutty Sark were to continue indefinitely, would she run into Starbase 334?”  Smith asked out of curiosity.

“No, sir,” Molly double checked her panel, “The Cutty Sark has drifted too much for that to happen.”  Those were the last words to be said.  The silence in the cockpit was deafening.  Occasionally, the sounds of panels registering commands would resound through the compartment, especially when Ensign Goeres corrected the Hale’s course to keep up with the Cutty Sark.

“One minute, Captain,” Molly violated the thick sound of silence.  Her words were assimilated into the cake of stress that held in the atmosphere.  The tension rose, after Griffin’s yeast was injected into the pastry silence.  Smith moved to the front of his chair, the air drawing the strength from his legs, he sat.  Then her panel set off a siren, “Thirty seconds to critical captain.”  The stress became much less comfortable than the stifling presence.  It was immediately sucked into the being of everyone in the cockpit as the crew started monitoring their panels more aggressively.  Samp barged into the compartment.

“I’m done, Captain.”  He rushed to the Operations station, where Sivinh surrendered the seat to the excited human.  Samp took his rightful spot.

“Twenty seconds, sir.”  Molly cried out.

“Captain, I’m going to need more time.”  Robert frantically looked around his panel, trying to initiate the download to the Cutty Sark.

“You can’t have it!”  Smith shouted back.

“Ten seconds.”

Samp started plying the console desperately.  He set up the program, and prepared it for transmission.

“Nine…” Molly had begun a countdown.

Initiating the link with the Cutty Sark.

“Eight…”

It’s still initiating the link.

“Seven…”

It’s still initiating the link.  Come on, establish it!

“Six…”

Link established.  Now, to transmit the program.  Samp started activating the Hale’s contact subroutine.

“Five…”

All eyes were now on Samp.  His brow dripping sweat over the panel,

“Four…”

Communications array is warming-up.

“Three…”

Communications array is now online.

“Two…”

Transmission initiated.  Five seconds to complete!

“One…”  Time stopped.  Without taking a breath, everybody looked at the viewscreen showing the doomed Cutty Sark.  They prepared for it to explode.  Griffin’s panel ceased its alarm, and chirped.

“Captain, the Cutty Sark is decelerating.”  She announced.  A collective breath was released from the crew’s lungs.  Samp wiped his brow, and continued his work.  He managed to get the program on the Cutty Sark’s computer before Molly’s next report, “Sir, she’s speeding up again.  Five seconds to critical velocity.”

Samp snapped back into a feverish pace.

“Four…”

Installing program.

“Three…”

Come on, Hale, work faster!

“Two…”

Activating computer core.

“One…”  Samp pounded the final code just as Molly called out her words, “She’s at critical, Captain!”  Smith jumped to his feet, a look of pure terror shot at Samp.  Samp’s face displayed the horribly magnified combination of fright and failure.  His entire body was shaking from the shock of the two powerful emotions fighting for his psyche in these final moments of his life.  For a distinguished quarter of a second, silence resumed its reign.  This ruthless ruler was cast out of his kingdom once and for all by Ensign Goeres frantically working her panel.  Once again, Griffin’s station chirped.

“Sir, the Cutty Sark is dropping out of warp.”  She reported, chuckling.  The warp engines were heard deactivating.  Following this sound, a roar of laughter was set up by Captain Smith, Commander Griffin, and Ensign Goeres.  Laughter of pulling off the impossible, again.  Sivinh, of course, kept working his station as if nothing had happened, and Samp was slumped in his chair.  What was left of his psyche after the stress, fear, and the brief self-demoralization of failure, was attempting to recover from the war that just waged inside of him.

“Lieutenant Samp, you just earned your paycheck.”  Smith called out as the few crewmembers calmed down.

“Yeah, Robert, that was great!”  Molly agreed with her Captain’s sentiments.

“Lieutenant Samp, I would like to commend you for the great efficiency in which you accomplished that duty,” Lieutenant Sivinh commented, “Surely you are a merit to your family.”

“Thanks, sir,” Samp had recovered enough sit back up in his seat, and notice that there was a message, “Sir, transmission from Admiral Henderson.”

“Patch it through,” Smith ordered, in a much more cheerful tone.  Admiral Henderson’s perturbed face appeared on the screen, “Admiral!  Please excuse my shortness, I was a little pre-occupied.”

“It better have been important, Captain.” Henderson declared, sternly.

“It was, sir,” noticing that Henderson was visually ready to hear about it, Smith added, “I’ll have to tell you later.”

“Ah,” Henderson seemed satisfied, “Captain, Section Thirty-one came through on us with those key individuals.  Yistin is confirmed to be one of them.”

“Yistin’s dead.” Griffin spoke up, turning Smith’s head, “He was on the Cutty Sark.”

“Is that a part of what you’re going to tell me later?” Henderson inquired of the Captain.

“Yes sir, it is.”

“Fine, then we’ll worry about that later,” Tom dismissed, “You’re looking for a Romulan Scout called the Koval.  It is being escorted by at least three Dreadnaught missiles.  The commanding officer of the Koval is an individual named General Vilann.”

“Okay, anything else, sir?”

“No.  Not that you need to know for the moment.  I’ll fill you in when you fill me in.” Henderson rationalized.

“Okay.  Sir, we’re going to need a ship to guard the Cutty Sark for the next couple of hours.  It has been irradiated with Thalaron.”  Smith requested.

“I’ll have a runabout dispatched.  Do you have the crew aboard?”

“Yes sir.”

“Okay.  Wait for the runabout.  I’ll tell it to get out there with great haste.  Then you absolutely have to find the Koval.”

USS Salt Lake City

Port Nacelle Engineering Access Alpha-11

Panting, Petty Officer Quarray pauses on the ladder of the tube, the strap to his diagnostic kit digging into his shoulders.  Taking a deep breath, he aims his sapphire eyes into the dark cavern inside the port nacelle of the vessel.  According to the Chief Engineer, the source of their drive problems was here.  Petty Officer Quarray was dispatched to check into it, and has spent the past five minutes making his way up the massive support pylon.  It isn’t an easy climb.  There is no ladder installed as the passage is on an incline, a very steep incline.

“It’s amazing that we waste this space.”  He comments to himself about the massive, mostly empty pylon as he takes a deep breath, and continues up the ladder leading into the very bowls of the nacelle.

Finally achieving the dark, cold chamber, he removes the kit and lays it on the deck.  Then he hoists himself out of the hole, and onto the catwalk next to the massive warp coil.  He moves over to pick up the kit, bending down to reach it.  Suddenly, he straightens half-way, and looks back at the hole he just emerged from, illuminating it with his wrist-lamp.

“Isn’t there supposed to be a hatch there?”  He hardly has time to consider the question further.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a flash of green light.  Next he heard a high-pitched energetic whine.  Then he neither saw nor heard.  He lay lifeless on the catwalk near the hole.

Captain’s Ready Room

“Really, Captain?”  Admiral Loewenstein had just been briefed by Captain Terrance, the Commanding Officer of the SLC, “And the Pike says this Tal Shiar agent is what disturbed our fields?”

“Yes, ma’am.”  Terrance shifted his aging form in his seat.

“If the agent is on our ship, then how did he affect the entire Battle Group?”

“Tactical did report a pulse being emitted from our warp drive when it failed.  Perhaps that had something to do with it,” postulated Terrance, now stroking his chin in thought.

“Well,” Terra rose from the seat opposite Terrance, “I don’t think I need to tell you to find him.”

“No, ma’am.”
Port Nacelle

Casting his beam into the darkness, Crewman Venetti scanned the cold cavern of the nacelle.  The beam’s glow shinned on only part of the massive warp coils, and their bronze appearance.  Like the giant ribs of some massive carnivorous creature, the light failed to penetrate the blackness between each coil.  Venetti swallows his saliva, venturing a couple steps into the darkness.  Finding Petty Officer Quarray’s corpse did not help to ease Quarray’s anxiety about fighting a faceless enemy.  All that was keeping him from jumping down the hatchway, rolling down the pylon, and back into the warm, lit, ship was his sense of duty, and his Type-II phaser.

“What I need to get to is this way.”  Ensign Grella, the Tellarite engineer dispatched in Quarray’s place, pointed her lamp down the nacelle in the direction Venetti was facing.

“Okay, let’s go,” Petty Officer Tamor, the Andorian superior to Venetti acknowledged, standing up from examining Quarray’s body, “We’ll move him later.”  The Tellarite led the way down the nacelle, the sound of the trio’s footsteps resounding on the catwalk beneath their feet.  Venetti and Tamor followed her, phasers drawn, eyes keen.

“What killed him, Tam?”  Venetti whispered his question to his superior at his shoulder.

“It was definitely a Romulan Disruptor,” Tamor indicated the device tucked into his belt, “The tricorder confirms it.”

“Why would the Romulans want to attack us?”  Venetti wondered aloud.

“I don’t know.  Why would the Cardassians attack us?”  Tamor replied, referring to the SLC’s mission.  He suddenly stopped.  Venetti halted, slightly hunched down, his phaser drawn.  Grella, hearing the footsteps of her escort cease, stopped, and turned to see what was happening.  Venetti followed Tamor’s eyes, focused into the dark, and saw what he was looking at.  The shape caused Venetti’s stomach to jump.

Tamor slowly drew his tricorder.  Grella had withdrawn to the far side of the catwalk, near the coils.  Venetti focused his gaze, and his phaser, on the slightly darker area in the already dark room.  Tamor’s tricorder started making its chirping whirr, now bombarding its beams in the direction of the suspicious shape.  The tricorder never needed to confirm anything, a Romulan disruptor discharging from that location told them everything they needed to know.

The green beam hit one of the coils, barely missing Tamor by a few centimeters.  Venetti immediately fired on the body he had his gaze fixed upon.  The form shot away from its position, and Venetti’s shot hit the bulkhead of the nacelle.  Romulan obtained a new position and fired his disruptor, which landed right between Venetti’s feet, striking the catwalk.  Then they heard the sound of feet running down the catwalk, towards the aft portion of the nacelle.

“He’s headed for the hatch.”  Tamor was watching his tricorder.  Venetti took off running.  Getting near the hatch, Venetti thought he saw the running form of the Romulan.  He fired.  Venetti’s shot was answered with another from the Romulan.  He jumped out of the way, hitting the chains strung along the side of the catwalk to try to keep people from falling off.  The disruptor would have missed him anyway, if it would have found Venetti as its target, there would have been nothing Venetti could have done to get away from the beam.  Venetti still heard the sound of footsteps from the Romulan.  But now they were running towards him, and they were closing on him fast.  In a panic, Venetti jumped over the chains, and then realized this was a huge mistake.

“Whoa!”

In a panic, Venetti grabbed one of the posts that suspended the chains with the hand that did not clutch the phaser.  His feet dangled over the black abyss, un-penetrated by Venetti’s lamp.  Kicking somewhat wildly, his boot found a pipe hung underneath the catwalk.  His panic subsided, as he stepped up on the pipe, gaining a sound foothold.  Now he concentrated on the sound of the footsteps.  They had slowed, and were now more deliberate.  Venetti reached over and deactivated the lamp, to keep it from giving away his position.  He looked down at his phaser, set to maximum stun, and upped the setting to maximum kill.  He returned his eyes to stare past the black veil, where those footsteps were.  The Romulan was obviously waiting to hear the sound of Venetti’s body hitting the bottom of the nacelle.  The footsteps continued to approach until Venetti could see the Romulan’s boots right in front of his face.

Venetti readied his phaser.  For the longest of seconds, the Romulan stood still, listening to the sound of the silent nacelle.  Venetti and the Romulan shared that second in holding their respective breath.  Then the Romulan switched on a lamp, and aimed it into Venetti’s face.  For another second, Venetti looked into the white circle, imagining the horrible Romulan face on the other side staring him in the eye.  Acting on instinct, Venetti aimed his phaser into the offending light.  He sees the Romulan’s hand enter the beam, grasping a disruptor.  The green finger, made black by the light, moved ever so slightly into the trigger of the disruptor.  Acting in a fraction of a second, Venetti fired his phaser, not even sure it was aimed right.  He couldn’t actually see the creature’s face because of the lamp shined into his own.

The Romulan’s lamp sent its beam flashing in a radial pattern, and Venetti heard the sound of a body hitting the catwalk.  The disruptor landed right in front of Venetti, being caught between the catwalk and Venetti’s belly.  Letting his breath out, he set his phaser down, and stabilized the position of the disruptor, by pushing it further in on the walk.  Then fastening both hands around the post, he hauled his body up and under the chains.  Has he lay prone, he heard the sound of footsteps again, and saw two beams of light headed his direction.  By the time Tamor and Grella made it to his position, Venetti was standing straight, with both his phaser and the Romulan’s disruptor.

“Crewman, are you alright?”  Grella asked as they made broke their stride.

“Yes ma’am.”  He responded, switching his lamp back on.  Tamor aimed his lamp on the dead Romulan.  There was a charred mark up his chest, where Venetti’s phaser had hit him at point-blank.  The flesh on the other side of the uniform was burnt, and it spread it smell around the area.  Grella was forced to turn away, her oversensitive nose being overloaded with the stench.

“I guess we took care of that, didn’t we?”  Tamor commented.

Starbase 334

Operations Center

Ops is messy, but it is silent.  Most of the stations, all of the important ones, are now working through the miracle of Starfleet Engineers.  Captain James sits at her station, not one of the ones deemed important, and not one of the operating ones.  With now busywork to occupy her mind, she finds herself staring at the dark viewscreen.  The viewscreen had been deactivated, allow the engineers to work on the power main three levels below.  Admiral Herschell is in his office, probably doing the same thing Captain James is doing; wondering what is happening in the rest of the sector.  The station, and those on the station, can only know what’s going on by the daily reports sent in by the ships’ captains.  Even then, there isn’t much information in those.

Sara leans back in her seat.  Anxiety builds up in her, catalyzed by the sheer boredom of her job at the moment.  She glances around Ops, watching the reduced crew go about their duties.  She thinks about the events of the past twenty-four hours.  Somewhere out in the deep, dark expanses of space there is about a thousand sophants working to halt the senseless death of billions.  There is a very grave and a very present danger that less than a percent of the affected are aware of, and an uncountable number of people are carrying on their lives.  They do not know that if this relatively small group of soldiers botches it, they will die.  James stopped herself from thinking about what was at stake.  The thoughts merely encouraged the anxiety, and that was the last thing she needed right now.

“Captain,” Sara was slightly startled as the engineer came up behind her, “We’ve finished work on the power main, and we’re ready to reactivate the viewscreen.”

“Thank you, chief,” she responded, recovering her bearing, “Go ahead and leave it off for now.”  The engineer nodded his acknowledgement, and proceeded off the bridge.

“Captain,” the Remote Intelligence Officer called from the other end of Captain James’ tier, “I’m picking up four tachyon signatures on long-range sensors.”

“I didn’t know we had long-range sensors.”  Sara was caught somewhat off guard.  After the damage the attack inflicted upon the Starbase, how could the long range array still be online?

“We never lost them, ma’am,” replied the RIO.

“Thank you,” She then tapped her combadge, somewhat in awe about how lucky the station really was, “Admiral Henderson, we have four tachyon signatures on long range sensors.”

“We have long range sensors?” Tom’s voice sounded just as confused.

“Yes, sir.  It surprised me too.”  She replied, moving down the tier to examine the RIO’s screen.

“I’ll be right there,” Sara’s combadge clicked a little bit as the line closed.  The internal communications network was still on the fritz.  She made a mental note to alert Lieutenant Dean.  As she gazed at the four crosses on the RIO’s screen, Admiral Henderson emerged from his office on the other side of the Ops Center.  He looked straight at Sara, who was still examining the screen, then moved along the back of Ops, and stopped right at Sara’s shoulder.  She extended her hand and pointed at the crosses.  She didn’t need to do this, as the Admiral was a competent enough of an officer to read a sensors screen, but she felt she had to do something, “Get me the Hale.”

Sara immediately left the Admiral’s side, and went to the other side of Ops, to the communications officer there.  Henderson continued to stare at the crosses, slowly moving towards the center of the screen – Starbase 334.  From the readouts, they were traveling at warp six.  Their estimated time en-route to 334: 15 minutes.  Henderson takes a step back, leaning against the bulkhead behind the tier, thinking.

“Admiral, the Hale won’t be able to be here for the next half-hour or so.”  Captain James announced from the communications station.

“Where is the Wyatt Earp?”  Henderson asked, beginning to draw a conclusion.

“I think he was transferring a criminal from Sepia,” Commander Smith volunteered, “He wouldn’t have left yet.”

“Have Captain Matthews launch, and hang around,” Henderson walked to the Commander’s Information Providence Station.  Captain James and Commander Smith moved to group around that station with Henderson, “Which runabout did we send to the Cutty Sark?”

“The Clearfield.”  Sara immediately responded.

“Okay,” Henderson had brought up a fleet status screen on the CIP, “Send out the Calypso and the Trenton to patrol the Station’s perimeter with the Earp.”  He typed his orders in the CIP, sending them to the crews of those vessels, “Two runabouts and a cutter.”  He looked over at the RIO station, “Versus whatever that is.”

“Admiral,” the RIO spoke up, his station sounding a klaxon, “I’ve lost one of the tachyon signatures.”  Now everybody was looking at the RIO, “Two of them are now on a different course, and the fourth is just sitting there.”  The officer started working the station aggressively, “Sir, I’ve re-acquired that lost signature.  It’s a Romulan Scout headed this way at warp eight point six.  It’ll be here in four and a half minutes,” He now looked Admiral Henderson in the eye, “It’s the same scout that attacked us before.”

All eyes were now on the Admiral.  He looked straight ahead at the dead viewscreen.  He briefly scanned the fleet status screen.  The Wyatt Earp and the Calypso had launched.  The Trenton was in the process of launching.  Tom looked back up, first into Sara’s green eyes, then to Ryan’s blue.  Despite their variant color, they still said the same thing.  These optical organs said what could not be expressed by their vocal cords, but is best approximated as: anxiety.  Smith and James took their seats.

“Is the viewscreen quite ready yet?”  Henderson looked around the bridge to see if there were any engineers present to answer his question.  There was one Petty Officer near the wall who spoke up.

“Yes, sir.  We finished work on the main five minutes ago.”  He responded immediately after making eye contact with the Admiral.

“Three minutes, sir.”  The RIO cried.  Henderson re-checked the fleet status.  The Earp, Calypso, and the Trenton all reported at their posts.  Henderson placed the viewscreen on standby.  Immediately it flashed to life, displaying the Federation seal.  Above the star-studded, olive branch surrounded emblem was displayed the bold white words “STARBASE 334” and below the blue emblem read, “THE UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS.”  Henderson proceeded in front of the CIP, taking a seat in the command chair.

“Commander Smith,” Henderson caught the Executive Officer’s attention, who made eye contact, “Red Alert.”  Smith nodded his acknowledgement, and tapped the appropriate buttons.  The LCARS Panels switched to their red schemes, the red light strips around the room activated, and flashed to the sound of the now present alert klaxon.  Other than the sound of the klaxon, there was no sound on the bridge.  Everybody was now concentrated on their tasks.  Occasionally an engineer would move across the bridge, frantically attempting to get as many repairs in as possible.

“The ship will be here in one minute, Admiral.”  The RIO reported.  Gripping the armrests, Admiral Henderson prepared himself to meet the adversary that had started this entire affair.  Despite the incredible speed with which the Romulan Scout was headed for Starbase 334, they took forever.  Those sixty seconds seemed to be stretching themselves as long and as thing as they possibly could.  It had to have been a minute already.  Henderson took a deep breath, and put on his warrior demeanor.  They had to be arriving any second now.  Come on, Remote Intelligence, announce their arrival.  Any second now, any…

“Admiral, the scout is dropping out of warp.”  The RIO finally called out.

“We’re being hailed, Admiral,” the Military Communications officer announced.

“On screen.”  Henderson stood.  The screen changed from the view of the Federation seal, to the dark outline of a Romulan.

“Admiral Henderson,” the cold, deep, and deliberate voice spoke, presumably from the dark form of the Romulan.  This voice sent a chill down Henderson’s spine that nearly killed his will to resist.  Tom could see his opponent, but the Romulan was still hidden from view.  The darkness about this figure made him even more ominous.  Surely any sane man or woman would run from this specter, “I, Admiral,” the slow, evil voice continued, the dark patch over the creature beginning to wane, “am General Vilann of the Tal Shiar.”

Vilann emerged from the darkness.  What was left of Tom’s will to fight was now being held in by all the force he could muster.  Vilann’s face was only semi-normal.  The entire right side of his face was disfigured in a sickening manner.  The landscape of his cheek was characterized by severe crests and pits that made the geography look like a small mountain range.  His nose, or rather what was left of his nose, was twisted at an odd angle upwards.  His right ear was simply non-existent.  His only facial features identifying him as a Romulan, was the nearly perfect left side of his face.  His eyes pierced through Henderson; or rather his eye pierced Henderson.  His right eye was so buried under malformed flesh, that it was anybody’s guess as to what it was doing.

The Romulan, seeing the affect his appearance had on Henderson, smiled.  His lips began forming odd shapes as they cut their way through the mountainous face, “Attractive, isn’t it?” Vilann’s subsequent laugh put Henderson into shock, “I am here to announce the Federation’s failure, Admiral.”

A combination of duty and curiosity brought Henderson back to full consciousness.  He found his reserve of courage, and returned to his warrior stance, “Failure, General?”

Vilann seemed taken aback for a moment.  He apparently wasn’t used to people recovering from his presence.  But whatever emotion was there, was gone as he continued, “Yes, Admiral.  Failure.  Failure to make peace with the Romulan Empire.  After my mission is done, the Federation will be forced to go to war with the Empire.”

“You can’t believe that the Federation is so stupid as to unravel the progress we’ve made with the Empire,” Henderson approached the screen, mostly to spite this devil, “Especially after several Federation lives were lost in making it.”

“Ah, but many, many more Federation lives will be lost.  Within the next few days, Earth will be struck by a Dreadnaught missile.  This missile will spread thalaron radiation throughout the entire planet, contained by those same greenhouse properties that make life possible on that planet.  And the capital of the mighty Federation will become a barren desert world.” Vilann explained, with much pleasure in his voice.

“Until a Federation fleet finds that missile and destroys it.”  Henderson shot down Vilann’s threat.

“Ah, but Starfleet won’t know this is coming,” Vilann continued, with even more joy coming out of his twisted face, “Don’t think you’ll get the opportunity to warn them, either, Admiral.  We’re jamming your communications.”

“Then all we have to do is destroy you, General.”  Replied Henderson, now standing in the hole vertex of the first tier, one hand on each half, staring into the General’s eye at a full grin.

“With what?” the cold, deliberate voice asked, somewhat laughing at the Admiral’s refusal to give in to the General, “Two runabouts?” The General pointed his finger.

“Admiral,” the RIO called out from his screen, “The Calypso and the Trenton are disabled.  The Trenton looks bad.”

General Vilann doesn’t know about the Wyatt Earp, thought Henderson immediately.
USS Wyatt Earp

Cockpit

Matthews had ordered stealth mode for the Earp.  His communications officer had noted that the Koval and Starbase 334 were having a conversation.  They had been monitoring that particular frequency, listening in on everything Admiral Henderson and General Vilann were saying to each other.  That cold voice of Vilann’s made Matthews content to not be able to see the General.  Whilst General Vilann and Admiral Henderson tried to psyche each other out, Captain Matthews had the Earp brought behind the Koval.

They flew just under the Koval’s ventral shield sphere, pitching up at the aft end of the vessel.  Now the Earp sat off of the Koval’s dorsal-aft end, scanning the shields as passively as they could, to not draw attention to themselves.

“Until a Federation fleet finds that missile and destroys it.” Henderson’s voice was sounding over the speakers.

“Captain, I have their shield frequency.”  The petty officer at the sensors station announced.

“Ah, but Starfleet won’t know this is coming…”

“Excellent.  Hand it off to tactical.”  Matthews looked back at the viewscreen directly ahead of him.  It was a rather splendid view of the aft section of the Koval, directly opposing the two Danube-class runabouts and Starbase 334.  Matthews amused himself by examining the extreme damage on the Starbase, while listening to the Admiral and the General’s face-off.

“Then all we have to do is destroy you, General.”

“Working on that, Admiral,” Matthews commented.

“It’s in, Captain.”  The Tactical Officer reported her success in programming the Earp’s shields to match the Koval’s.

“Excellent,” Matthews shifted himself, “Shields up, ahead one-quarter impulse.”

“With what?”

“Sir, we’re about cross the Koval’s shield sphere.”  Sensors announced.

“Two runabouts?” A moment after Vilann’s chilling voice had mocked Admiral Henderson, disruptor fire leapt from the Koval, hitting the two runabouts.  Concerned, Matthews spun around to look at the sensors operator.

“They’re both disabled, sir,” the petty officer confirmed Matthews’ fear, “It looks like the crew of the Trenton has been killed.”  Matthews returned his gaze forward, now personally determined to accomplish his plan.

“Tactical?”  He merely had to say the word, the officer knew what the Captain wanted.

“We’re in position,” she responded, “We have their shields and main disruptor banks targeted.”

“Fire.”

Sitting ten meters above the Koval, the Wyatt Earp fired its golden phaser beam on the slightly larger scout.  The beam first struck a point aft of the ship, then fore.  Then it licked one more point on the forward part of the scout, and was dragging to another point when the Scout made retaliation of its own.

The Koval’s green disruptor lashed out at the Earp.  By chance, the beam found a hole in the Earp’s shields, and hit it.  The hole, due to the fluid nature of shields, closed. The closure sent an energy feedback through the disruptor.  An explosion was seen at the disruptor’s aperture.

Starbase 334

Operations Center

“Admiral, the Koval’s weapons and shields are down,” the RIO cried out, after seeing the picture of General Vilann shake violently.

“The Wyatt Earp?”  Henderson immediately drew his conclusion.

“Yes, sir,” confirmed the RIO, “they’re disabled, the Koval managed to pop off a shot.  But their disruptors overloaded in the process.”

“We may not be able to kill you with our own hands, Admiral, but you will still meet your doom.” The General pointed at off the screen again, and then the picture cut-out altogether.  The Federation seal resumed its place on the screen.

“General, remember that tachyon signature that was holding still?”  The RIO spoke again.  Henderson looked over at the officer, waiting for him to continue, “It’s headed this way at warp nine,” the panel beeped again, “And the Koval is powering its engines.”

Henderson jumped darted behind the CIP, and brought up the image of the Koval on the viewscreen.  The Koval was turning.  Its aft section was now facing Starbase 334.  The warp engines activated, a glow coming from the nacelles on either side of the vessel.  The Koval began to move forward, just half a second away from a warp jump.  A golden phaser beam flashed from the top of the screen, catching the Koval square in the middle of the ship.  The vessel was delayed for a brief moment.  Three quantum torpedoes and several photon torpedoes came in from the top and sides of the viewscreen.  The torpedoes were followed by a Galaxy-class, and two Intrepid-class starships.  Each of the dozen torpedoes found their mark on the Koval, and the scout disappeared in a flash of light, sending debris everywhere.

“Sir, the Salt Lake City Battle Group has arrived,” the RIO called out enthusiastically.  Everybody looked at the RIO, excited, as he announced, “The USS Meriwether Lewis, the USS Phoebe, the USS Ganymede, the USS Washington, the USS Einstein, and the USS Charon.  The Charon is now deploying the 388th fighters.”  Ops was ecstatic with the arrival of the cavalry.  But there was one name missing.

“Where’s the Salt Lake City?”  Henderson immediately asked.

.01 light-years from Starbase 334

The dreadnaught missile is headed for its target as fast as its engines will allow it to move.  It’s deadly figure passing through the stars as they stretch by.  With lethal precision, it tracks the Starbase.  It has lost contact with its command vehicle, locking it its orders under the failsafe.  The countdown to the release of the Thalaron radiation is now under three minutes.

The doomsday vehicle makes its way through the cold vacuum of space.  Each of the silver stars shining brightly in the blackness of space.  The weird physics of warp flight make the vehicle appear to pass several stars as it flies.  Directly ahead of the dreadnaught, it appears to be approaching many of these silver stars.  The beautiful three blue stars shoot straight for the vehicle.  The optical sensors ignore this threat, because stars are too far spaced for the vehicle to actually run into them.  The blue stars get closer, until the quantum torpedo wolves cast off their star sheep’s clothing, as they ram into the dreadnaught’s hull.  The explosive force is too much for the missile, and it explodes.
Directly overhead of where the missile used to be, the huge, beautiful, and sleek image of a Sovereign-class starship flashes as it speeds by at 656 times the speed of light.  The great white ship now runs from the expanding cloud of green Thalaron radiation that is centered on the debris of the missile.  There is no need to worry for the ship; it is moving too fast to be affected.

Starbase 334

Situation Room

“Ladies and gentlemen, I have good news,” Admiral Henderson walks into the room from the Operations Center.  Around the situation table, Admiral Loewenstein, Captains James, Matthews, Erickson, Smith, Terrance, and a few others from the SLC Battle Group were in a group chatting about the events of the past seventy-two hours.  Smith was just retelling how the Nathan Hale had stopped the Cutty Sark.  Everybody quieted down after Henderson made his announcement.  He stood in front of the group and reported:

“The Vulcan Battle Group intercepted those two other dreadnaught missiles.  They have been destroyed.  The crisis is over,” there was a sense of relief that washed over everybody in the room.  They all looked at each other, expressing their mild joy as everyone in the room smiled, “I thank you for every thing you people did.  You went above and beyond the call of duty to defend the Federation.  I’m sure the Federation would thank you as well, if the Federation knew what we just did.”  There was a small wave of laughter.

“The fact that they didn’t know what we just did is a good thing.”  Admiral Loewenstein commented.

“Indeed, Admiral,” Henderson agreed, “Thank you for your timely arrival.”  He addressed her specifically.

“And thank you for warning me about that Tal Shiar agent, making it possible for me to get here.”  She responded.  Henderson nodded.

“Captain Erickson, thank you for your faithful monitoring of the borders.  And be sure to thank Lieutenant Shadday for the information he provided us,” Erickson nodded, “Then transfer him out of here.”  She laughed.

“Thank you, Admiral.”  She replied, with a somewhat sly grin.

“Captain Smith, thank you for shutting down the Cutty Sark.  And be sure to thank Commander Griffin for what she did in obtaining that book.  I’ll see to it she gets the medal she deserves,” Smith nodded his acknowledgement, “And finally, Captain Matthews.  Thank you for doing what your ship was designed to do: all of that crap work that would cause our missions to fall apart if it wasn’t done.”  Matthews grinned as he nodded.

“Well, Admiral,” Loewenstein took a step towards Tom, “I suppose things around here are going to be a little more quiet.  Still, Admiral von Haag has assigned me to patrol this sector with your Battle Group.  Just in case something else happens.”

“It will be a pleasure to work with you again, Terra,” Tom replied, sincerely, “Now, ladies and gentlemen.  You are dismissed to go about your work; we have quite a bit to do.”

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