“Captain log, Stardate 53752.8, USS Republic
. We have been underway now for twenty days en route to the Cygnus Sector. Ship’s morale continues to be high, although there have been several . . . confrontations between my regular crew and the engineers we temporarily have aboard ship. However, between the stern efforts of Commander Shrak, Commander Malik, and Commander Phillips (the senior officer of the Star Fleet Corps of Engineers personnel), I believe that we have managed to avert frustrations and discomfort from exploding into violence.”
“Our guests are not used to the discipline that Chan and I have managed to instill among the crew of Republic
; in fact, many have protested to Commander Philips over the lack of access to Holodeck 1, as well as the limited nature of recreational programs that I will allow for their use. Sean Philips, however, understands that this is my ship—and he has backed my decisions to the hilt, despite his own private misgivings over the lack of options the crew has available for their downtime.”
Matt chuckled. “With the access to the library computer network, and its archival databanks of books, music, drama, comedy, sports, and a nearly unimaginable broad selection of subjects, I doubt that anyone on this ship—on any Star Fleet ship—can be seriously disconcerted by not having their own custom Holodeck fantasies. Complaints against this policy have gradually slowed, however, as the SCE personnel have come to realize that I simply will not give in to their whining. Assigning them to morning calisthenics with the Marine’s only hastened their acceptance of this reality.”
“I am concerned however about the sheer enthusiasm that my crew has shown concerning the SCE personnel and their critical skills in restoring ships and upgrading equipment.” Matt paused and he took a sip of his Scotch, rubbing his leg, and he shook his head. “So far, I’ve had seventy-nine separate memos sent by junior officers suggesting alterations to the ship. These have ranged from the mildly inventive to ideas that make me wonder if perhaps the Academy training program is not giving enough emphasis on practical
engineering. Case in point, Ensign Park suggested that we replicate and install no less than sixty-six pulse phaser turrets on the primary and engineering hulls; completely ignoring the power requirements, conduit rerouting, and hull cutting that would have to go into such an endeavor. Not to mention that Republic
would have to install another sixteen fire directors, targeting and tracking arrays, and find the space for an additional thirty-three phaser techs! Or that such a large number of pulse phasers would quickly drain every joule of energy from the ship's reactors!”
“Another suggestion made was the installation of a collimated phaser strip along the edge of the forward saucer, covering a 170-degree arc of fire from port-to-starboard. Not a bad suggestion on its face, Ensign Roberts failed to consider the drain on ship-wide power reserves, the need to lay nearly two kilometers of 15cm plasma power conduits through existing internal compartments, and that his proposed heavy phaser strip—using emitters normally reserved for planetary defense batteries!—would require the removal of the forward airlock and forty-four personnel quarters.” Matt shook his head and chuckled. "Apparently he was impressed by the disruptor cannons that Val'qis
carried in her prow."
“I did not tear my Ensigns a raw strip from their hides, however. No, I bit my tongue, and simply forwarded the memos to the various department heads and Commander Shrak—who have now, I am quite certain—discussed precisely
what the chain of command for such ideas is aboard this ship.”
“However, there was one idea which is both practical and eminently sensible. Ensign Hollis Trevane suggested that since we do have an industrial replicator and SCE personnel skilled in EVA, perhaps we can manufacture some ablative armor panels to reinforce critical areas of the ship’s hull. His suggestion has merit and I intend to carry it out at our first available opportunity. The added mass is negligible against Republic
s current tonnage, and the increase in protection for the ship and crew at no cost in power consumption is an excellent proposal. Commander Philips believes that his engineers can, if assisted by our crew, complete the installation of ablative armor plating over 84% of the ship’s external surface in less than two days at sub-light.”
“The production of so much plating, however, has dramatically eaten into our onboard supplies intended for the industrial replicator. We should have enough to armor vital sections of the exterior of the ship with just enough left over to reinforce the interior bulkheads surrounding the anti-matter containment pods. If we can produce a few more tons, I also plan on reinforcing the internal bulkheads around the warp core.”
“In order to accomplish the installation of the exterior armor plating, I am planning on a 96-hour layover at the New Columbia colony tomorrow. Once the SCE engineers have completed this task, I will inform Star Fleet Command to send a transport for them—as all of our internal repairs will be complete by that time as well. I have received a handful of requests for permanent assignment aboard Republic
, some of which I am considering approving. Commander Philips has signed off on any transfers from his command to this ship; although I am not certain Admiral Parker would. Thankfully, he is far away on Earth.”
“If possible, I intend to allow the crew to get a few hours of liberty at New Columbia. Our time at Earth was too brief to allow them to visit their families, or go carousing in the case of our young Ensigns. I have already spoken with Commander Shrak, asking him to have a word with those on their first tour of duty. But that is for after the last of the repairs have been finished.”
Matt yawned. “Computer, save log.”
“Play recording Cassandra Dahlgren 023, Live from Notre Dame.”
“File loaded, playback commencing.”
Matt leaned back in his chair, taking another sip of the smooth whiskey as he listened to the recording of his daughter and her choral group performing at the ancient cathedral.
“We are approaching New Columbia, Sir,” Isabella called out from the helm.
Matt finished his update of the ship’s log and he shifted in his chair. “Very well, Miss Montoya. Drop to sub-light and assume standard orbit.”
“Aye, aye, Sir,” she replied and the stars streaking by on the view screen suddenly slowed.
“There is a starship in orbit of the colony, Captain,” the tactical officer called out suddenly. “Orion Clipper
-class, transponder says she is the White Cloud
.” Pavel looked up from his station with a grin. “I think we’ve surprised them, Sir—her warp drive is off-line and her shields are down.”
“Well, well, well,” mused Matt. “Miss Montoya, put us into orbit directly aft of that ship; Miss Biddle, stand by forward tractor in case they decide to run. Mister Chan, hail them and inform the master to stand by for a customs inspection.”
“With pleasure, Captain Dahlgren,” the Andorian replied.
“On viewer, Miss Biddle; magnify.”
The main view screen zoomed in on the Orion vessel coasting along in standard orbit. The Clipper
-class ships were officially designated by the Orion Syndicate as fast cargo/courier vessels—but Starfleet
considered them blockade runners, smugglers, and (on occasion) pirates. Standing orders for the Fleet was to conduct inspections of any Clipper
in Federation space for illegal goods; more than one such inspection had revealed the transport of slaves. The problem with enforcing that decree was a rather simple one: like all Orion designed vessels, the Clipper
s were fast ships. Faster, in fact, than all but the most modern Star Fleet vessels, much less an older ship like Republic
. Oh, they paid for that speed in having very lightly built unreinforced hulls, low-powered shields, and a limited array of older and weaker weaponry, but all too often they were simply able to outrun Star Fleet ships rather than submit to being boarded.
But every now and then, on rare occasion, a Federation vessel managed to catch them unawares—much like now. It was a task that the Blue Fleet in particular, with the Andorian’s hatred of pirates and slavers, excelled at. And if that ship was smuggling illegal items, well, then; under Federation law the ship could be impounded by Star Fleet to be either scrapped or sold at auction. Taking a Clipper
-class as a prize—intact—was a definite feather in the cap of any starship.
Matt pressed a comm stud on his chair. “Security, bridge.”
“Go ahead, Bridge
,” came the voice of Lieutenant Beck.
“Prepare a customs inspection party—we’ve got an Orion vessel in orbit, Mister Beck. Commander Shrak will assign the inspection officers, but I want your Marines to provide security for the detail.”
“Aye, aye, sir
,” the Lieutenant answered.
“Captain, we are in tractor range,” Miss Biddle called out.
“Chan, any response?”
Matt frowned. “Are their sensors active, Miss Tsien?”
“Yes, sir. Their proximity alarms should be going off, even if they don’t have a sensor watch manned.”
“Put them in a tractor lock, Miss Biddle; perhaps that will wake them up.”
“Aye, aye, Si . . .” she began, but was then interrupted by a shout from Amanda’s science station. “Captain! My sensors are showing no life forms aboard that vessel.”
Matt rotated his chair and stared at the young science officer. “Verify.”
Chan ran his hands over his own board, and he shook his head. “Confirmed. No signs of life aboard that vessel, Captain Dahlgren.”
“Does she have internal power and life support?”
“Affirmative. Her warp core is shut down; her impulse engines are in standby mode; thrusters are at station-keeping. And her guns are cold; deflectors and shields off-line.”
“Hail the colony, Mister Shrak,” Matt said, as a chill ran down his spine.
“No response, Captain.”
“Curiouser and curiouser,” Matt whispered. “Yellow alert, Mister Shrak.”
“Setting Yellow Alert throughout the ship—our shields are now raised, Captain Dahlgren.”
“Amanda, scan the colony.”
“Aye, aye, Sir,” she replied as she bent over her console. And then she jerked upright. “Captain,” she gasped, “this can’t be right!”
“I am detecting none
of the colonists on the surface. Not one
. There are supposed to be twelve thousand
people down there, and I’m not detecting a single one of them!”
The bridge grew quiet. Matt turned back around to face Chan. “Mister Shrak, any signs of combat—either in the colony or aboard that ship?”
“None. And I confirm the sensor readings, Captain Dahlgren. I am detecting the native animal and plant life, but none of the colonists.”
Matt leaned back and he tapped his fingers on the arm of his command chair. “Mister Shrak, prepare a landing party—outfit them with EVA suits. I want full hazardous environment precautions, just in case there is some contamination of that ship or the colony. And make certain they are armed, Mister Shrak. Miss Tsien, you are relieved; I want a full science and medical team standing by to beam down once Mister Shrak and the Marines have secured the beam-down site.”
“Aye, aye, Sir. Permission to leave the bridge?” Chan asked, as Amanda stood.
“Granted. Find me some answers, Chan.”
“Mister Roshenko,” Matt continued, turning in his chair to face the tactical officer. “I want you to deploy twenty-four probes in an expanding shell towards the Oort Cloud. Full active sensor pallets with real-time telemetry back to the ship. Tie the probes into the science labs for analysis. In addition, I want a complete sensor sweep of the planet—maximum resolution. Let’s see if there is anyone on the surface, or anything in system.”
“Aye, aye, Sir. That will cut our supply of probes by half, Captain.”
“I am aware of that, Mister Roshenko. The added sensor reach is well worth the expenditure.”
“Aye, aye, Sir. It’ll take twenty minutes to prep that number and launch.”
“Understood. Miss Biddle?” he said as he rotated his chair back forward.
Grace turned and looked at the Captain. “Sir?”
“Miss Biddle, assemble a second away team—make certain that you include a few Marines from Lieutenant Beck’s security detachment. Same precautions as Mister Shrak; I want you in full EVA suits. Board White Cloud
and go over every square millimeter of that ship. Try to find out what happened to her crew, make certain
her systems and orbit are stable, search the vessel for contraband, and secure her. If she has been abandoned, and her systems are operational, I want a full decontamination of her interior before you go helmets off.” Matt paused, and then he smiled. “I’m assigning Crewman Zapata to your team—have him go through their computer and see what’s she been up to. I’ll leave the rest of your party up to you.”
“Aye, aye, Sir,” the operations officer said as she unhooked the restraining straps and stood. “Permission to leave the bridge, Sir?”
“Granted, Miss Biddle. And Miss Biddle?”
member of your team beams over there armed—is that understood?”
“Yes, sir," Grace replied with a grimace. She was perhaps the only of Matt's senior officers (other than Counselor Trinculo) who did not care for carrying a weapon. "I will wear one, Sir."
Matt leaned forward and frowned at the lovely blue world on the viewer, and the sharply racked nacelles of the Orion Clipper
hovering between the planet and Republic
. He pressed a stud on the arm of his chair. “Bridge to Commander Philips.”
“Philips here, Captain. I take it our EVA to install the armor will be delayed?
“Yes, Mister Philips. Have we enough raw materials to fabricate two dozen probes?”
“Then have Mister Vasa start the manufacturing process. I may need some of your engineers on the White Cloud
or the surface, depending on what exactly my away teams discover, Commander. Do you have a problem with that?”
“Good. Is Mister Malik there with you?”
“Mister Malik, what is the minimum crew required of a Clipper
-class vessel to safely bring her into port?”
“They are highly automated, sir. At absolute minimum, an engineer and pilot can get her into warp, but I’d recommended at least one officer and around a dozen crew. Maybe a few more if she is going a long distance
“And her total accommodations?”
“It varies, Sir. She’s small, about the size of the Nova-class, but a slaver has more life support capacity and accommodations than a blockade runner, or a yacht. The Orions custom build those ships—no two are exactly the same. But it can’t be more than sixty or seventy at full load, perhaps as many as a hundred if she is a slaver
“We might end up seizing her, Nat, and if so I will need a crew to man that ship until we reach a Starbase. Start going through the crew roster—and Philip’s engineers—and assemble a list of personnel to man her if we claim her as a prize.”
“Aye, aye, Sir
“Miss Montoya, I will be in my ready room. It is precisely twenty-five steps from my desk there to my chair here. You will have the conn in my absence.”
?” she squealed, her voice rising two octaves, as Matt and Pavel Roshenko smiled.
“You, Miss Montoya. Lieutenant Commander Roshenko is your senior, but you will be the officer of the deck. You will have the conn. Inform me immediately if there is a status change,” Matt stood. “Pavel, let me know when you are ready to launch the probes. Miss Montoya, the conn is yours,” Matt continued with a sly smile as he stepped away from the chair.
“Aye, aye, Sir,” the helmsman answered, as she moved over towards and then sat down in his vacant chair. “I have the conn.”