Chapter Six (cont.)
Matt woke with a start as his comm badge beeped, and he sat up from the couch in his ready room. Swinging his legs over the side, he went to stand—and swore as his right leg collapsed, sending what felt like a red-hot poker tearing through his thigh. He gasped, and tried to stand again, but the leg simply wouldn’t take his weight. He tapped the comm badge.
“Captain we are approaching Earth and are about to drop out of warp
,” Chan’s voice came across loud and clear.
“Very well,” Matt said, fighting to keep the pain out of his voice. “Take the ship to impulse power and set course for Mars. Star Fleet is supposed to sending a ship out that way to conduct maneuvers against us.”
“Yes, Captain Dahlgren. We received confirmation fifteen minutes ago of our planned rendezvous with the Defiant-class USS McHale. You aren’t coming to the bridge, Sir
“No, Mister Shrak.” Matt bit his tongue, and then continued. “I’ll join you after we meet up with McHale
“Very good, Sir
,” the XO said and the transmission cut off.
Matt slammed his fist into the carpeted deck and tried to get up again, but still his leg refused to obey his commands. Finally, he tapped his own comm badge. “Dahlgren to Sickbay.”
“Let me speak with Dr. Talbot.”
After what felt like several painful minutes, a new voice came on line. “Talbot
“Dr. Talbot, could you bring your kit to my ready room please.”
“Is something wrong, Captain
“Just bring your kit, Doc. And use the turbolift off my ready room—don’t go through the bridge.”
A few very painful moments later, the doors to the Captain’s ready room slid open and Quincy Talbot, M.D., stepped inside. He sighed as he saw Matt lying on the floor and shook his head as he crossed the deck.
“I warned you,” he said put an arm around Matt and helped him up and to the couch. “I told you you were pushing yourself too hard, but no, what do I know? I mean I’m the only one in the room who attended and graduated medical school, the only one who has treated patients for thirty-seven years, so obviously I know less about medicine and rehabilitation than a stubborn starship skipper who won't follow instructions."
Matt winced with pain as the older man pressed his fingers deep into his thigh, and the doctor nodded. He took his tricorder and it hummed as he ran it over the still healing wound. “You’re running a fever and the muscles are strained—again
, Matt. You’ve been doing the exercises?”
“Every night. I’m up to sixty pounds of dead weight.”
? I told
, and every other
night. And you haven’t been taking your pain medicine either, have you?”
“They make me foggy, Quincy. I don’t have time for that.”
“Listen to me, Matt. You keep pushing this leg and not letting it heal at its natural pace, and you will
lose it—after ten months of rehab, you will lose the leg
. I swear, you are doing more damage to yourself than that Jem H’dar Stormtrooper did with that fire axe aboard Kearsage
The doctor with the big pug nose and white hair took out a hypo and injected Matt directly atop the old wound, and Matt bit his lip, doubling over with the pain.
“There, that should relax the muscles and tendons and ligaments that you have wrenched again. But if you don’t give that bone time to heal, it never will. Pain meds?”
“No,” said Matt as the Doctor shrugged and hit him with another hypo injector, causing the ship's captain to jerk again.
“Damn it, Quincy, I said NO.”
“It was the wrong
answer, Captain Dahlgren. You are this close,” the surgeon held up his thumb and one finger with the barest hint of space between the two, “to me declaring you medically unfit for command! Besides, that hypospray is something new. Is it working?”
Matt began to breathe easier and he sat back as the pain faded away. But his mind wasn’t blurred or fogged the way the other medications had made him. “Yeah. That works. You could have been giving me that all along?”
The doctor chuckled. “Hell no. It hasn’t been approved for human trials yet by Star Fleet Medical.”
Matt jerked. “Republic
is officially a part of Galaxy Exploration Command, as you are aware, Captain. That means we qualify as an institution that can administer experimental pharmaceuticals as part of the trials. Well, congratulations, sir. You’ve just begun the first trials on Ladoculkaine VII. And no, you can’t give it yourself. I will be by your quarters every morning from now on so you get a dose before you start your day and in your quarters every night for another before you go to bed.”
Matt tried to stand again, and this time he managed to get up with the help of the Doctor and his cane. “And no weight exercises for at least a week, Captain. I’m not joking. You need to get some rest.”
“After these maneuvers, Quincy.”
“I’ll hold you to that, Matt.”
“Don’t mention it. And stay off that damned leg, Sir.”
shivered and rocked as McHale
tore past her starboard side, her pulse phasers slamming into the shields of the larger vessel, following the pair of torpedoes which the escort had unleashed. Although the weapons power output was barely 1% of their full nominal load, the computers aboard the Korolev
-class ship shook the crew and vessel as if full power warshots had impacted.
Matt winced as four golden phaser beams lanced out—three of which missed McHale
completely. The fourth caught the small ship squarely on her shields, but wasn’t powerful enough to burn through.
“Mister Roshenko,” Matt began.
“She’s too agile, Captain, I can't get a targeting lock!”
“Mister Roshenko, McHale
is not a target beacon, and Captain Kessler is playing to win; something that you should anticipate any opponent will do.”
“She’s coming around again!” added Chan.
“Keep our nose to her, Miss Montoya, don’t let her get behind or underneath us!” Matt called out even as the bridge lurched yet again, but the nimble little ship dodged two torpedoes and three more phaser bursts and dove beneath them. More shield impacts rocked Republic
, and Matt saw the ventral shields begin to flash yellow, showing their weakening state. The belly strip did manage to catch the escort with two bursts, but on a heretofore untouched shield.
"Much better, Mister Roshenko," Matt said, and he turned to look at his XO. "She’s going for the anti-matter pods, Chan."
Chan nodded in agreement. "And her captain knows right where to hit us.”
Matt said back for a moment and then his eyes grew wide and he grinned. He swiveled his chair. “On the next pass, Mister Shrak, drop our stern shields on my command and cut power to all stern weapon systems. Mister Malik,” he continued into the comm unit, “upon that command you will power down the starboard nacelle and starboard impulse engine. Miss Montoya, using thrusters and port engines only, send us into a spin—make it look like we are out of control.”
Chan Shrak smiled. “You are baiting her.’
“Yes. Miss Biddle, have the stern tractor beam crews on standby—she can’t evade if she can’t move.”
“HERE SHE COMES,” called out Isabella from the helm.
Matt half stood and raised one hand, and he flashed it down as McHale
Once more, the old lady shuddered and rocked from side to side, and Matt could see the ventral shields flashing red—but the rear shields were down, and all the weapons covering the rear. He dropped back down into his seat as the ship began to spin wildly through three dimensions, and his display repeater showed the engines off-line as well.
“Manual targeting, Mister Roshenko—maximum fire rate on all stern batteries, phaser and
torpedoes, on my command. Mister Shrak, on that command, raise the stern shields.”
“Aye, aye, sir," both the tactical officer and the XO answered in unison.
held her distance as Republic
finally pulled out of the spin—her defenseless stern pointed directly towards the smaller warship. And then she turned her nose back towards the heavy cruiser and dove directly for the gap in the shields.
"Tractor crews standing by, Sir," Grace Biddle called out.
“Steady, steady,” Matt whispered, as McHale
closed the range with every second. “NOW!”
The stern shields snapped back up and in place just before the escort lined up for what should have the final shots of the engagement. Two powerful tractor beams grabbed the escort and momentarily pinned her in place, even as the stern weapons came back on line. The rear tube spat first one, and then a second, torpedo, each of which hit the struggling ship; and even before the torpedoes ran true, the stern phaser strip poured a constant beam of energy into the warship’s shields—shields that finally collapsed an instant before the small warships powerful engines broke her free of the tractor beams.
“Cease fire,” Matt said. “Well done, ladies and gentlemen, well done indeed."
Chan nodded. “You do realize that Captain Kessler is going to be rather peeved at what we just did, Captain Dahlgren? And that we have four more days of exercises against him and McHale
? He has won the E for Excellence pennant in tactical exercises three years running, after all.”
Matt smiled. “Then we had best get better quick, Mister Shrak.”
Captain Richard Kessler was remarkably gracious to the men and women of the Republic
, congratulating them on achieving their victory. Commander Shrak was equally magnanimous, commenting that holding McHale
stationary for even such a short period of time had nearly burnt out both of the stern tractors—and that had McHale
the beams and began firing phasers and torpedoes into Republic
at max rate, rather than attempt to break the tractor lock, it would have been rather questionable as to which
ship would have survived.
The courtesy shown by Captain Kessler did not stop him from going out and winning the next three exercises handily, however. But the fifth exercise, the one on the final day of the tactical maneuvers saw the umpires declare a tactical draw, as both ships were judged too severely damaged to continue.
Although some among the crew were crestfallen that their ship had been soundly defeated three times out of five, the judges were impressed that Republic
, a ship thirty years older than the McHale
had performed so well. That report to Star Fleet, although technically confidential, was soon widely circulated among the lower decks of the cruiser, bolstering the crew's growing confidence and morale.