Chapter Seventeen (cont.)
“Bridge to Captain Dahlgren,
” the intercom announced. “Bridge to Captain Dahlgren.
Matt dragged himself out of a sound sleep, and tapped his comm badge reflexively. “Go ahead,” he said sluggishly, as he shook his head to clear away the cobwebs of his slumber.
” Chan’s voice continued over the communicator. “Lt. Commander Tsien has located the origination point of the transporter beam; we will arrive at the location in two minutes.
Matt glanced at the time index on the display set beside his bed. And then he frowned. “The beam originated from deep space?”
“Yes, Sir. According to Miss Tsien.
“Very well, Chan. Take us out of warp and prepare to launch probes—I want a complete survey of both normal and sub-space in the immediate area. I’ll be on the bridge momentarily.”
Matt slowly sat up, wincing as his leg cramped, and he slowly kneaded the thigh until the muscles relaxed. He picked up his cane and gingerly stood, and then began to walk towards the door out of his quarters. He stopped for a moment before a mirror, combing his hair black down, and straightening his uniform; then he continued out into the corridor of Deck Three and into the turbolift set directly across the corridor.
“Bridge,” Matt said as the doors whistled closed. The turbolift swooshed back along the spine of Republic
, and then quickly moved up before the doors opened onto the bridge. The captain limped out and moved over towards his chair, where Chan was standing up.
“I have the conn.”
“Captain has the conn,” Chan intoned in the ritual reply as the ship slowed to impulse power, and Matt sat down.
“All stop, Miss Montoya,” he ordered.
“All stop, aye, aye, Sir,” the helmsman answered. “Thrusters at station-keeping.”
“Initiate a full sensor sweep, Miss Tsien—long-, medium-, and short-range arrays, as well as the lateral-sensors. Mister Roshenko, prepare to launch a probe shell.”
“Aye, aye, Sir,” the two bridge officers answered.
Matt looked down at this own displays, repeating the data streaming into the Science station. The transporter trace did abruptly end, just two hundred kilometers dead ahead. Not dissipate; the trace simply stopped. This had to be the location from which the beam had been engaged.
But the space immediately around Republic
was empty, except for a few stray atoms of hydrogen common to the interstellar deeps of this region.
“Warp signatures, Miss Tsien?”
“None, Captain. But I am detecting an ionization trail that is very similar to our impulse drives,” the Science Officer frowned. “But this can’t be correct. The levels of radiated and ionized gas are far larger than a single ship could produce.”
“How much larger, Miss Tsien?”
“Captain,” she started, and then she shook her head. “Sir, it would take a thousand ships with the impulse power of Republic
to leave a trail this significant.”
“Probes are prepped and ready for launch, Captain,” said Pavel Roshenko.
“Spherical search pattern, Mister Roshenko. Sensor pallets on active scan, with telemetry back to Republic
. Miss Montoya, rotate the ship as necessary to the launch the probes on proper vectors.”
“Aye, aye, Sir,” Isabella answered.
“First pattern is launching,” Pavel said, and Republic
quivered as four probes streaked away from the forward launchers.
Chan stepped forward besides Matt’s chair and he leaned down. “The Council will have a cow when they discover how many probes we have deployed, Captain Dahlgren. I really must endeavor to get a copy of the hearing when they find out—some of them might even suffer a stroke from the expense.”
The corner of Matt’s mouth twisted slightly into a smile. “Here’s to Ambassador Mar having the soul of a miser and
a weak heart, Chan.”
“We can only hope, Sir.”
“Launching sequence two,” announced Pavel, as Republic
shivered a second time. The turbolift doors opened and Yeoman Sinclair walked in with a large ceramic mug on a tray, along with a small glass of water. “Since the Captain did not have time for a proper breakfast, perhaps he would like some hot cocoa?”
Matt chuckled and shook his head, but he took the steaming mug. “Thank you, Nancy.”
“And Doctor Talbot asked that I ensure you take these tablets,” the captain’s self-appointed watchdog said, holding out a small foil package.
Matt took the foil package, popped out two small white tablets and placed them in his mouth, and then took the small glass of water his yeoman held out, washing them down his throat.
“That will be all, Nancy,” Matt said as Chan giggled—the hard-nosed, stern as nails Andorian actually giggled
like a giddy school girl.
“Chief Watannabe should have your real breakfast ready in half an hour, Sir.”
“CONTACT! Probe three, heading 032, mark 004! Range . . . 40 AU.”
“Hold off on that breakfast, Miss Sinclair. Mister Roshenko, can you identify?”
“She’s not in our warbook, Sir. And she’s big
“Bloody huge, Sir; with more internal volume than a Borg cube. Visuals are coming through telemetry now.”
The main viewer blanked and then showed an elongated cylinder, with a cluster of impulse engines at the rear coasting through space. Irregular protrusions covered the hull, along radiators, sensor arrays, and . . . weapons. Lots of weapons.”
“Overall length 7,274 meters, with a beam and a height of 2,744 meters. Hull composition is monotanium/duranium alloy, rendering our long-range sensors ineffective. She maintaining a sub-light speed of 0.75c
; sir, I’m not detecting any signatures consistent with a warp drive and there are no neutrino emissions typical of matter-antimatter reactions.”
Chan jerked, and his antennae shrank slightly. “No warp drives? Are you suggesting that is a generation ship, Lieutenant?”
Before Pavel could answer, Amanda spoke up. “Sir, Science is analyzing the sensor data now—there are over three hundred and fifty thousand separate
life forms on board that ship! Including at least ten thousand humans.”
Pavel shook his head. “She’s covered with weapon stations, Sir. But they are all lasers and early phase cannons—and she doesn’t have a shield grid. But I am detecting a structural integrity field of very high strength.”
Matt stared at the ship on screen for a few moments, and then he nodded. “Mister Malik,” he said as he hit a stud on his chair arm. “Have you managed to finish that little project I asked you about?”
“Ready to go on-line at your order, Sir,” the Trill responded.
“Then activate the inhibitor. Chan, set General Quarters throughout the ship and sound Red Alert—Miss Montoya, plot an interception course at Warp 2, drop us to impulse six hundred kilometers away and match course and speed with the alien vessel. Let’s go meet these people, and find out why they thought it a good idea to abduct our citizens.”
“Course plotted, Captain,” Isabella answered.
“Mister Shrak, record and transmit to Star Fleet Command, send a copy to Admiral Hansen, as well the starships Arrogant
, and Independence
. We have located what appears to be the origination point of the transporter beam involved in the New Columbia abduction. It is a board a sub-light ship—perhaps a generation ship—that is heavily armed, but only with late-generation lasers and early phase cannons. The vessel does not match any in Republic
s databanks and may be an example of a civilization heretofore not contacted by the Federation. I am initiating First Contact protocols and will investigate the matter further; coordinates and all technical data gathered by sensors on the vessel to this date will be appended to this transmission. Matthew Dahlgren, commanding officer, USS Republic
“Recorded and ready for transmission, Captain Dahlgren,” Chan confirmed.
“Send it, Mister Shrak. Mister Roshenko,” the captain continued as Chan transmitted the message and Matt kept staring the sensor data collected by the probe. “Am I wrong or does that vessel mount no missile or torpedo launchers?”
“None that we can detect, Sir.”
Matt frowned and he typed in a few queries into the computer database, and then he looked back up the screen and shook his head. “Take the torpedo launchers off-line and safe the weapons, Mister Roshenko.”
“Mister Shrak, presume that you are the commanding officer of that vessel; you encounter Republic
and a fight ensues. Further presume that you have no experience with photon torpedoes and their resonance when targeted by high-energy weapon systems.”
Chan nodded. “With that interlocking array of short-ranged weaponry, Captain Dahlgren, and presuming no prior knowledge of photonic shockwave detonations, I would possibly use my weapons as point-defense to intercept the torpedo before it managed to complete its run.”
“And the resulting damage from multiple photonic shockwaves at say, fifty thousand kilometers?”
“Without shields? Their structural integrity field would dampen some of the blast, but they would sustain major—perhaps critical—damage to the vessel’s hull, possibly even breaking the spine in half. Depending, of course, on the level of internal reinforcement of the major structural members.”
“Mister Roshenko, if that scenario were to play out, how many of the New Columbia colonists could we beam aboard ship before fuel fires and internal secondary detonations tore her to pieces?”
“Not many, Sir.”
“No, not many, Mister Roshenko. And even if we had the time
to beam them all aboard we simply do not have sufficient volume
aboard this ship for twelve thousand refugees. Not to mention the three hundred thousand plus other sentient beings that such an event would condemn.”
“Torpedo launchers are now off-line, Captain, and the weapons have been safed.”
“Thank you Mister Roshenko. Miss Montoya, take us to Warp 2 and intercept that vessel.”
“Aye, aye, Sir.”
smoothly made the transition to faster than light speeds, and she rapidly ate up the distance between her previous position and the lumbering alien. And then she slowed once more.
“Holding at six hundred thousand kilometers, Captain.”
“Thank you, Miss Montoya. Mister Shrak, hail the vessel on all sub-space and EM frequencies.”
“Her weapon systems are coming on-line, Captain,” Pavel tersely chimed in from tactical. “And she has polarized her hull plating.”
Matt rotated his chair and cocked an eyebrow at Chan, who slowly nodded. “That matches with her observed weaponry, Captain Dahlgren—but will offer little protection against modern phasers.”
“Is she taking evasive action, Miss Biddle?”
“Negative, Sir. She is continuing on course for New Columbia.”
“At this speed, Miss Biddle, how long until she reaches New Columbia?”
“Seventeen years at her current sub-light velocity, Captain. Give or take a few months.”
Matt nodded slowly. “No response to our hails.”
“Captain Dahlgren,” said Chan, “we are being probed by sensors from the vessel. They are attempting to achieve a transporter lock on our crew.”
“Not precisely the response I had hoped for, Mister Shrak. Is Mister Malik’s inhibitor functioning?”
“Affirmative, Sir. Their transporter system cannot lock onto us at this time.”
“Hail them again.”
Chan pressed a few keys and then the shook his head. “No response. Correction, they have increased transporter power by a factor of six.”
Matt frowned. “Mister Roshenko. Put a full-power one second burst from the starboard dorsal phaser array across their bow—one kilometer separation.”
“Firing phasers, Captain,” the tactical officer called out.
“They have ceased their attempt to acquire a transporter lock, Captain. SIR! They are beaming a warhead into space just outside the inhibitor field off our starboard side!”
“Evasive action, Miss Montoya! All power to starboard and aft shields!”
“Brace for impact!” Chan broadcast as Republic
sprinted away from the warhead. And then the ship shook as the device exploded. “Conventional fusion explosive, Captain, highly radioactive, yield in the fifty megaton range,” the executive officer continued in a clipped voice. “Shields are holding at 96%.”
“More transporter traces, Sir,” Pavel called out, “I am detecting another eight warheads bracketing us!”
“Warp speed, Miss Montoya!”
jumped into warp, leaving behind the thermonuclear flares of eight new suns.
“Take her back to impulse power at three million kilometers, Miss Montoya.”
“Aye, aye, Sir.”
Matt rubbed his dry lips, and only now noticed that he knocked his mug of cocoa across the deck. “Damage reports?”
“There is minor radiation contamination to the secondary hull and nacelles—no physical damage.”
“Is the probe still in sensor range, Mister Roshenko?”
“Yes, sir—and we must be beyond that vessel’s own sensor reach. The probe is showing she is standing down her weapon systems.”
Matt nodded. “Miss Tsien, Mister Roshenko, Mister Shrak. I want a full tactical and science analysis of that vessel from what our own sensors showed during that encounter. Mister Roshenko, I want four stealth probes alongside that ship, giving us real-time telemetry via sub-space. Make it fast, people; department head briefing in two hours—and I want answers by then.”
The Captain stood and he braced his weight on his cane. “Miss Biddle, you have the conn—any detection of a transporter beam and you are authorized to evade or go to warp on your own initiative—don’t wait for my order. I’ll be in my ready room.”