“Captain Dahlgren,” Shrak said from where he stood behind the Mission Ops console, “Spacedock has confirmed that we are cleared for departure; all sections, all compartments report they are prepared to get underway.”
Matt swiveled his chair—god, how he had missed having a chair that swiveled
!—to face his XO and he grinned. “Thank you, Mister Shrak. Signal our thanks to Spacedock and inform them that they may retract the gantry.” He pressed a stud on the command chair he turned back to face the main viewer.
“Engineering, Commander Malik
“Everything ready down there, Mister Malik? All those gizmos and gadgets set properly and in and working order?”
A chuckle came over the intercom. “Yes, sir; we’ve got a full tank, I’ve checked the oil, and sent a technician EVA to kick the tires
Matt smiled. “In that case, Commander, let’s light some fires.” He clicked the intercom off.
“Miss Montoya,” he said to the young raven-tressed Lieutenant seated at the Helm. “Set reaction control thrusters to station-keeping. Miss Biddle,” he continued to his third officer (in line after Shrak and Malik) sitting at the Ops console, “disconnect all umbilicals and retract all moorings.”
“Thrusters at station-keeping,” the helmsman replied.
“Umbilicals are disconnected and moorings are now retracted, Captain. We are now operating on internal power and gravity, inertial dampening field at 100% of rated capacity. Structural integrity field is . . . on-line.”
“Ahead dead slow, Miss Montoya, thrusters only until we clear the berth.”
“Ahead dead slow, thrusters only, aye.”
“Main viewer ahead.”
The main view screen began projecting an image of the interior of Spacedock. The vast anchorage within her sheltering hull was surprisingly empty. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the number of ship losses Star Fleet had suffered over the past few years, Matt thought with a wry grin. Still, he could make out two Nebula
s and an Intrepid
docked in the distance.
“We have cleared the berth,” Montoya announced.
“Thrusters ahead one-half, Mister Montoya, put us in the exit lane for departure.”
“Thrusters ahead one-half, aye, aye, sir. Altering course heading to 039 Mark 186 . . . we are in the lane and ready for departure.”
Matt watched as the massive shield doors slowly opened ahead of Republic
while the cruiser slid closer and closer. He leaned back in his chair, rested one elbow on an arm rest, and cradled his chin in that hand, rubbing his jaw as his ship slid through the massive opening.
“Captain,” Montoya spoke up, “we have cleared space dock and are free to navigate.”
“Very well. Set course for the Ceres Weapon Range, ahead one-quarter impulse power.”
“Course set for Ceres, accelerating to one-quarter impulse power.”
Matt grinned as Republic
leaped forward, as if she were as eager to be back in space as he was.
banked and maneuvered hard among the asteroids of the belt, the main viewer showing her just clearing one massive rock as she streaked by at .5c
“Miss Montoya, you bump one of those rocks with my ship, and I’ll have them deduct the expense of the paint from your retirement credits.”
“I'll try not to scratch her too badly, sir,” she answered, never taking her eyes from her instrumentation. Her fingers flew across the controls as she varied the thrust from the twin impulse engines, combining with the reaction thrusters to give the ship extraordinary maneuverability for a vessel of her size. She handled more like a Defiant
than an Excelsior
! The simulations weren’t even close, she thought joyfully, as she skimmed the cruiser past and around another ship-sized rock.
“We are approaching the engagement area, Captain,” Amanda Tsien called out from her science station. “The nickel-iron content in the asteroids are interfering with the mid-range sensors; we will be unable to get a targeting lock until we are within engagement range, Sir.”
“Shall I reduce speed?” the helmsman asked.
“No. Mister Roshenko, you will have two seconds to attain a target lock and engage four separate beacons with phasers. We will be maneuvering, so prepare to compensate.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” the tactical officer answered.
“Entering engagement area in five, four, three,” Grace Biddle began counting down, “two, one!”
stood on her port side and passed between two converging pieces of stellar debris—the maneuver also unmasked her dorsal and ventral arrays to fire on separate beacons.
“Well done, Miss Montoya,” Matt said warmly.
Golden beams flashed from the phaser array strips, lashing out towards the beacons at light-speed as Roshenko worked feverishly, adjusting his targeting locks on the fly. And then the ship cleared the range.
Matt waited as Shrak listened to the report coming through his earpiece from Ceres Station. The Andorian smiled.
“We fired seventeen bursts from the nine arrays—sixteen hit their targets, destroying all four beacons.”
“Very nice, Mister Roshenko,” Matt congratulated the sweating tactical officer. “Mister Shrak, inform Ceres that we will be making another pass as soon as they reset the range. Once only means we were lucky, ladies and gentlemen. And twice might
be coincidence; you do that three
times and we might be on the verge of becoming good.”
Shrak grinned. “Ceres reports the range is reset and ready, Captain Dahlgren.”
“Miss Montoya, bring us about—and increase to full impulse power.”
“Coming about, and increasing thrust to full impulse power,” the helmsman said as the first beads of sweat began to appear on her forehead.
Let’s see how well he does at .9c
, Matt thought.
Turned out, Lt. Commander Roshenko did pretty good, even at the higher velocity. On the second pass, his crews scored eleven hits out of twelve shots, and on the third they hit seventeen times out of eighteen.
Matt swiveled his chair as Pavel cleared his throat. “Sir, I have discovered why the belly strip kept missing—the targeting calibration is off by 1.2%. I should have doubled checked it, Sir, but with the rush to get out of Spacedock . . .”
“How did you discover that it was out of alignment?” Matt asked, exchanging a glace with Shrak.
“The same strip just kept missing in each engagement, Sir. I ran a quick diagnostic, but nothing showed up, so I sent a team down to the array. The phaser stabilization system was not properly synced with the ship’s gyroscope, sir. I should have checked it earlier.”
“No, Mister Roshenko, it would have been fine earlier. I asked Mister Shrak to throw you a wrench in this exercise—a wrench you easily dodged. Well done.”
“Captain, we are approaching the torpedo range,” Grace Biddle called out.
“Very well, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s blow up some rocks, shall we? Load warshots in tubes One through Five.”
“Warshots, Captain?” asked Roshenko. Even Shrak raised an eyebrow and his antennae twitched.
“Warshots, Mister Roshenko. Admiral Parker signed off on their use yesterday. We are authorized to expend thirty live torpedoes in this exercise. And Mister Roshenko?”
“We haven’t fiddled with your targeting on this one. So don’t miss.”