“Captain’s Log, Stardate 53753.0, USS Republic
. We have been trailing the abduction of the colonists from New Columbia for more than twelve hours now. As predicated by Miss Tsien, the transporter trace is grower weaker and weaker, forcing us to slow to Warp Three in order for our sensors to detect it. I have, of course, had Stellar Cartography plot the track forward to identify any star systems that lie within its path—and there are three that might be the origination point. I cannot, however, discount the possibility that the colonists were beamed aboard a ship of some sort, so we continue our slow progress searching for any evidence we can find.”
“So far, we have not detected any signs that a ship was involved; having no trace of warp drives being in use in this region for the past forty-eight hours. I am tempted to simply bypass following the trace to investigate the systems ahead in more detail, but at the current rate of signature decay, we will only be able to detect the trace for another seven hours. No. On the chance that the colonists were beamed aboard a ship I will continue to follow this trace until it dissipates below the threshold of sensor sensitivity.”
“The current plot draws close to the Romulan border, although it does not—quite—cross into their space. I suspect that our presence here, and the leisurely advance of Republic
with every sensor onboard lit up has provoked questions among the border outposts. Although the Star Empire was our allies against the Dominion a short time ago, they remain as vigilant as ever at defending the slightest incursion into their space. Accordingly, I have directed that the crew remain at Condition Two under modified Yellow Alert, rotating on-and-off duty in four hour shifts, while maintaining raised shields and manned weapon stations.”
“Computer, save log entry,” Matt said. He finished the last of a tall glass of iced tea and then he stood and limped over to his private head and relieved himself.
“Mister Shrak, I have the conn,” Matt announced as he entered the confines of the bridge.
The Andorian stood and he nodded as he stepped aside. “Captain has the conn.”
“None, Captain Dahlgren; the trace continues to dissipate at the projected rates. No contacts—hostile or friendly—on long- or medium-range sensors. We are collecting a great deal of information on the Romulan border defenses, however—and some of their outposts are attempting to jam our sensors.”
“Very well, Chan; get some rack time. I’ll see you in four . . .”
“CONTACT!” Barked out Pavel Roshenko from Tactical. “Romulan Warbird decloaking! Valdore
-class, Captain; she has her shields raised and her weapons are armed. Sir; they are hailing us.”
“Have they crossed the border, Mister Roshenko?”
“On screen, Mister Roshenko,” Matt said calmly, as Chan made his way to the Mission Ops console and took station behind it.
The main viewer blanked and then projected the image of a Romulan Commander, seated in front of the Imperial Eagle of the Star Empire.
“I am Commander Borahn, of the Warbird Nei’rrhael
“And I am Matthew Dahlgren, Captain of the Federation starship Republic
. What can we assist the Star Empire with today, Commander?”
The Romulan folded his hands before him on the screen and adjusted his jaw. “We could not help but notice the . . . stately pace of your advance in parallel to our border, Captain Dahlgren.” And his features hardened. “And your probing of our outposts with your sensors. Both are most unusual for a Federation vessel; particularly here so far away from core systems.”
“Ah, yes. I have decided to stroll through the Corridor, Commander Borahn, rather than sprint.”
“Have you ever felt that sometimes the press of duty calls upon us all to rush by and ignore the majestic beauty of space, Commander? I am en route to the Cygnus sector, and have chosen to take a more leisurely speed to admire the stellar formations here.”
“With your shields raised and your weapons armed? Most unusual for a vessel looking at the stars.”
Matt chuckled. “I told you, Mister Shrak, that we couldn’t fool a Romulan.”
“Yes, sir,” the executive officer answered, forcing his antennae to twitch. And the Romulan’s expression changed to one of consternation.
“Some of my officers have proposed that you are spying on the Empire, Captain . . . this is not a laughing matter.”
“Oh, we are not spying on the Star Empire, Commander. We are hoping to attract two rouge Ferengi marauders that have been preying on Federation and neutral shipping.”
The jaw of the Romulan tightened again. “We have had no reports of any such marauders.”
“The Ferengi choose weaker prey, Commander. Do you expect them to cross your border and assault your shipping?”
Commander Borahn sat back, and the corner of his mouth lifted in a smile. “Your Federation is not weak, as much as I would rather not admit it.”
“No, but we are stretched thin—as is the Star Empire. And we normally do not answer a Ferengi overreach with plasma torpedoes—as does the Star Empire.”
“You speak the truth, Captain. But I fail to see what you hope to achieve . . . your vessel is a relic of times long ago; two marauders with capable Damons will make short work of you.”
“That is quite simple, Commander Borahn—we’re bait.”
The Romulan squinted. “Bait? Bait implies a fisherman; yet you are alone.”
“Perhaps not as alone as you might think, Commander.”
“Captain, our sensors do not lie—your ship is the only Federation vessel in this quadrant.”
“Did I say that our fishermen were Federation, Commander?”
“No, but I doubt that Martok would send a ship so far.”
“Gowron would not have . . . but Gowron is now dead, Commander Borahn. And Chancellor Martok realizes the debt that the Klingon Empire owes to the Federation.”
“Still, a bird of prey or two will not avail you against . . . any attacker.”
“Again you make assumptions, Commander. A Bat’lah
-class battle cruiser is neither weak nor decrepit.”
The Romulan leaned forward, one eyebrow raised. “A Bat’lah
? The Klingons, not even that foolish Martok would send such a powerful ship so far for Ferengi.”
He sat back. “I have half a mind to cross the border, and see for myself, Captain, just what your intentions truly are.”
“That would be most unwise, Commander Borahn. Mister Shrak, signal the Val
and ask Captain Krull to launch his attack the moment Nei’rrhael
crosses into Federation space. Mister Roshenko, arm photon torpedoes.”
Borahn sat back and folded his hands together again. “I think you are bluffing, Captain.”
“Yes, because the Federation has never
confronted the Star Empire with cloaked Klingon battle cruisers in support.”
For several moments neither captain said a word, and then Borahn nodded. “Continue your stroll, Captain Dahlgren—but do not stray such much as one micron across our border.”
The screen blanked, replaced by the stars streaking by as the Romulan Warbird cut off their transmission.
“They are altering course on a heading back into the interior of Romulan space, Captain,” Pavel reported.
“Secure torpedoes, Mister Roshenko. Mister Shrak,” Matt said with a smile. “Hail the Val
again and inform Captain Krull he may stand down.”
“With pleasure, Captain Dahlgren,” the Andorian answered, his antennae aquiver.
“Hold still!” the holographic doctor said as ran the dermal knitter across the long and ragged tear in Chief Mayhew’s shin. “How did anyone as clumsy as you ever pass the Star Feet physical in the first place? Stepping into empty space because you expected an Orion smuggler to have a personnel lift like Star Fleet engineering does? Hah! This crew made do with ladders. But at least you are not depleting my supply of anti-biotics and anti-virals.”
“I suppose you are going to want pain medication as well?” He finished with his hands on his hips, glaring at the engineering tech.
The doors to the small, well-furnished sick bay slid open and Sean walked in. “How is he?”
“He will be fine; it is just a shallow gash in his right leg and a bump on his head—not to mention the dislocated shoulder where Ensign Park grabbed hold and keep him from falling onto the warp reactor.”
“Sorry, siRAAAAH!” the tech yelped as the Doctor placed his hands on the shoulder joint and popped it back into place.
“There. Now would you like an analgesic to go with that?”
“Did you finish those power conversions, I asked you for?” Sean continued, trying to distract the crewman from the pain.
“No, sir. I don’t see how they managed to get a civilian power profile out of the engines! That thing is so over-powered, New Columbia should have spotted them a light-year out . . . and I don’t know how we are going to just sneak in past the Ferengi at Havalis II.”
“Why don’t you use the cloaking device?” the Doctor asked as he placed the tech’s arm into a sling.
Sean’s eyes bulged from his head. “What
“The cloaking device that the Orions used to get into orbit around New Columbia; one of the Orions mentioned it was an older Klingon model they got second hand,” the Doctor continued as he adjusted the sling. “There. Take two aspirin and don’t call me unless it is an emergency.”
Sean slowly counted to ten. “Doctor. Where is the cloaking device?”
The hologram frowned. “How should I know, I’m a doctor not an engineer. Could you shut me down on your way out? And turn off the lights; waste not, want not, and all of that, you know.”
The Doctor looked from Sean to the tech and back again, puzzled at the expressions on their faces.
“What? Was it something I said?”
“It was concealed behind a workstation in engineering, Sir,” Gerald Bowen said, shaking his head in disbelief. “They tore out the tertiary bank of containment field generators for the warp core in order to hide it.”
Sean Philip’s jaw dropped. “Are they insane?”
“That I don’t know, Sir. They rigged the control panels for the tertiary safeties to duplicate the readouts for the secondaries—which is why we didn’t notice the backups weren’t working. The compartment was lined with monotanium shielding as well; it would have been almost impossible to find on a cursory inspection.”
“And the control circuits?”
“Hidden in the Engineering 2 station. I’d would not recommending using it unless absolutely necessary, however.”
“I doubt that is because of the Treaty of Algeron, Mister Bowen; so what else is wrong with this cloak?”
“It’s a first generation Klingon device, Sir. Like those they installed on the original flight of the Bird of Prey scouts. But the Orions didn’t have the room to properly shield the cloak or the plasma shunt providing it with power; if we take a hit while cloaked, it could cause a resonance in the EPS plasma conduits that could blow out half the engineering hull.”
“They just left out the safeties? Even the Klingons aren’t that
“To be fair, the Klingons use cloaking devices in combat—this one isn’t set up for that purpose. It seems to be intended to bypass perimeter sensor arrays and allow the ship to get within transporter range of its destination. In fact, the power drain of this cloak is so high that it would take fifteen seconds to reconfigure the power conduits in order to activate our shields or disruptors—after
Sean winced. “That shouldn’t be a problem; I’m not planning
on taking this ship into combat!”
The Orion wrist-comm on Sean’s arm beeped. “Go,” he said as he pressed a stud.
“We’ve got the shuttle on long-range sensors—it’s moving towards us, ETA three minutes.
“Set General Quarters, I’m on my way to the bridge.”
Sean and Gerald moved through the sliding doors onto the bridge proper. “Take us to impulse, Mister Sykes. Zapata, have you finished those modifications?”
“I believe so, Sir.”
“Computer, activate EMH.”
The hologram sprang to life, taking on the appearance of the former owner of the White Cloud.
“Please state the nature of your medi . . . oh. My,” the Doctor stuttered, examining his hands, and then he slowly lifted them and began to feel his face, and the enormous belly that protruded from his abdomen. “What have you done
“Doctor, we need you to establish contact with Inderi.”
“You altered my basic program! Changed my body matrix—how can I even hold a hypospray with these pudgy digits!” He shrieked, waving ten fat fingers, causing that massive belly to ripple. “I’ll be laughed out of service; how can I lecture the crew on physical health when I’m carrying 187 kilograms of excess body fat!”
Sean frowned. “It is temporary, Doctor. Just make contact with Inderi.”
“And ask her if she wants an examination? I’m a doctor, not . . .”
“You are member of a Star Fleet crew, Doctor!” Sean snapped. “And there are twelve thousand lives at stake here!”
The hologram blinked once, and then twice. “Well. Never let it be said that a hologram didn’t do his duty to the Federation. What should I say?”
Zapata cleared his throat. “It’s all written out on this PAD, Doctor; ah, I mean Baron.”
“Your Grace,” the Doctor said absently as he took the PAD and began reviewing his lines.
“Baron Jowar prefers to be addressed as ‘Your Grace’. Although from what I gather, the title was bestowed on him not for any noble qualities but for his success in criminal endeavors.”
“The shuttle is dropping out of warp, Skipper,” Sykes called out from the helm.
“Hail her, and put it on screen. You’re on, Your Grace.”
On the main viewer an image of Inderi suddenly snapped into focus, and her grey face was pinched. “You are late!”
“And you will address me by my title, Inderi,” the Doctor said pompously.
“What was the delay?”
“I am waiting.”
“Your Grace, what was the delay?”
“Our engines suffered a . . . problem. We had to drop out of warp to conduct repairs.”
“Was the delivery made on schedule?”
“And you retrieved the device?”
She relaxed. “Good. There is a Federation starship too close for comfort in this sector; and I had feared that you might have been caught.”
“Never fear, Jowar is here,” the Doctor said with a rumbling laugh. “I have never been caught, Inderi—a fact that you should know well.”
The Antaran nodded slowly, and then the hologram cocked his head. “Those lesions appear fresh; have you been taking the medications my physician prescribed?”
“Stick to the script!” Sean whispered in a rough voice.
“I’ll live,” the smuggler answered. “You know, Jowar, I half expected that you would be irate that you were used to remove an entire Federation colony.”
“A deal’s a deal, Inderi. I expect to be well compensated for the risks I took.”
Sykes turned around. “We’ve got a lock, Skipper,” he whispered.
“Energize,” said Sean. And a transporter beam reached out from White Cloud
and enveloped Inderi, dematerializing her. “Corporal, have we got her?”
“Aye, aye, Sir. She’s in the brig and pretty vocal about being double-crossed.
“I’ll be down there directly. Gerald, take a couple of the crew across and vacuum out her computers. Search that shuttle stem-to-stern, as well. Zapata, you’re with them.”
“What about me?” the Doctor asked. “I want my body back.”
“Later, Doctor,” Sean said as he moved to the turbolift.
I can’t do my job like this
. You have to res . . .”
“Computer, end EMH program,” Sean said as he stepped into the turbolift.