“Captains Log, Stardate 53750.3, USS Republic
. Scans of both Gelast II and Shirdon IV have confirmed that both planets have been depopulated; all population centers were subjected to a sustained, methodical, and thorough photon bombardment from orbit. Both colonies were rather small, with an estimated total population of less than fifty thousand. Exhaustive sensor sweeps have indicated no Lorsham survivors on either colony, and we have detected debris from several Lorsham ships in both systems as well.”
“And yet, we have so far failed to detect even a single Kraal ship in the space claimed by the Lorsham. Our communication attempts with the Kraal have gone unanswered as well.”
“At first glance, the nature of these atrocities committed against the Lorsham colonies appears to support the claim that the Lorsham are being attacked. But why? For what reason did the Kraal see fit to obliterate the two colonies, and then simply stop their advance? Why aren’t we detecting Kraal forces massing for an attack into the Hak’ta-thor system? Why haven’t the Kraal claimed these worlds if they are launching a war of expansion?”
“There are too many unanswered questions here.
“Admiral Parker agrees that there is more here than meets the eye—and he was . . . concerned at the presence of a Klingon battlecruiser this close to the core of the Federation. His latest transmission confirms my suspicions that Krull is not a part of the Klingon Defense Force; Chancellor Martok, according to the Admiral, claimed that Krull is in the service of one of the Great Houses, that of Lord Mak’vegh—a known rival for the Chancellor’s seat in the High Council. He has promised the Admiral that answers will be forthcoming, but I fear that such answers will take time.”
“And time may well be a resource that is rapidly running thin.”
“In the meantime, Star Fleet Command has issued orders to the Andromeda
-class USS Piper
and the Nebula
-class USS Phoenix
to proceed to the Cauldron at once. Unfortunately, it will take at least a week for either of these ships to reach the Cauldron.”
“Accordingly, I have decided to take Republic
into Kraal territory in an attempt to make contact and further investigate the reasons behind their actions. And hopefully, shed some light on the motivations behind the Lorsham as well.”
“Captain, long-range sensors have detected a Kraal vessel patrolling their border,” said Amanda from her Science station.
“Hail them, Mister Shrak.”
“No response, Sir.”
“Very well. Miss Biddle, what is our current time from the border?”
“Two minutes at Warp 8, Sir.”
“Miss Montoya, plot an intercept course to the Kraal vessel, Warp 8.”
“Aye, aye, Sir. Coming to heading 092, Mk 002. Accelerating to Warp 8.”
“Mister Shrak, set Yellow Alert throughout the ship, and raise shields.”
“Yellow Alert set in all compartments, Captain Dahlgren. Shields are now active.”
Matt swiveled to face his Science Officer. “Yes, Miss Tsien?”
“I am detecting a number of small buoys paralleling the borders claimed by the Kraal. They appear to be generating a sensor net of some kind.”
“Are the buoys armed?”
“Well, let’s ring their door bell then.”
“The Kraal vessel is turning to intercept us, Sir,” Pavel Roshenko called out from tactical. “Shall I arm phasers?”
Matt considered and then he shook his head. “Not yet, Mister Roshenko; but keep your crews on standby.” The Captain paused for a second. “Load torpedoes into the ready magazines, but do not arm.”
“Initiating torpedo load sequence, Sir,” the tactical officer paused, “ready magazines are now loaded, torpedoes are not armed.”
“We are now crossing the Kraal border, Captain,” Grace sang out. “Sensor beams from the buoys are probing us—and they are transmitting an encoded sub-space signal.”
“Steady as she goes, Miss Montoya. Time to intercept?”
“Thirty seconds, sir,” replied the operations officer.
“Drop to sub-light, Miss Montoya. Mister Shrak, hail them again.”
quivered as the mighty starship bled speed and decelerated to impulse power.
“Still no response from the Kraal vessel, Captain Dahlgren,” Chan answered.
“She’s dropped out of warp, Sir,” offered Amanda Tsien. “She’s raising shields and arming weapons.”
“What is your tactical analysis of that ship, Mister Roshenko?”
“She’s roughly comparable with a first-flight Valley Forge
-class, circa 2223, Captain. Armament consists of low-powered disruptors and photon torpedoes, with first generation shields. Her impulse engines are sub-standard for her mass, and I doubt she can achieve 0.1c
even at full power. She poses little threat to us, Sir.”
“Hold our current position, Miss Montoya, let her come to us. How does she compare to the Lorsham ships, Pavel?” Matt asked.
“Aye, aye, sir, thrusters set to station-keeping, maintaining our position and orientation.”
“She’s bigger, faster, and carries twice the armament, with more efficient and powerful weapons. Her shields are weaker—the Lorsham ships are roughly equal in that area to a Constitution
-refit or early Miranda
-class. One on one, the Kraal vessel would probably win—and their Fleet outnumbers the Lorsham, according to our data.”
Amanda cleared her throat. “Speaking of which, I have detected three additional vessels of this class approaching at Warp 5.8, Captain. Their emissions indicate they are at maximum warp power. ETA is forty-two minutes.”
“And yet, despite that tactical advantage, the Kraal are here, deployed in a defensive posture instead of striking at Hak’ta-thor. Does that strike you as odd, Chan?”
“Very, Captain Dahlgren.
“She’s locking us up with disruptors and torpedoes!” Roshenko yelled.
Matt turned back to the screen and spotted the ovoid ship swoop down and release energy beams and torpedoes, and then Republic
“Forward shields holding at 97%, Sir; no damage to the primary or secondary hull,” the tactical officer crisply reported.
“Mister Roshenko, arm torpedoes and load tubes One through Four. Launch a spread to bracket her and set the photons for detonation at 1,000 kilometers distance from her hull.”
The tactical officer tapped in a series of commands, and then he looked back up. “Torpedoes loaded and armed in Tubes One through Four; target is locked.”
shivered as four torpedoes left the forward tubes in sequence, streaking out to surround the Kraal ship, and then exploding a thousand kilometers distant at the same moment.
“Mister Shrak, hail the Kraal vessel.”
“Sir, they are now hailing us.”