Two Marines escorted the shackled Antaran into the small conference room aboard White Cloud
. Sean remained seated as they brought her in and sat her down at the opposite end of the table, scrolling through page after page of information recovered from her shuttlecraft.
Finally, he looked up and glared at the furious woman. “You have been busy—Feringil Delon.”
Inderi jerked slightly, and her lips quavered. “Who? My name is Inderi . . .”
“We’ve cracked your computer encryptions, Madam Delon, and DNA doesn’t lie. You are Feringil Delon, also known as Jaspari, also known as Melan Tour, also known as Lindsey Krait, also known as Inderi. There are warrants for your arrest on four dozen separate charges on four of these identities . . . and there will soon be one issued for you role in what occurred at New Columbia.”
Sean closed the monitor screen and he met the eyes of the smuggler and criminal facing him. “There is no escape this time, Madame Delon; you will spend the rest of your natural life span on a penal colony undergoing rehabilitation. Unless . . .”
Inderi’s eyes grew wide and she looked up at that last word. “Unless?” she croaked.
“Unless you tell us everything about the people who abducted our colonists from New Columbia.”
The Antaran swallowed. “I want a full and complete pardon for my past crimes.”
“No, Inderi. What I will do is this: if your information is truthful and it helps us resolve this crisis, I will let you and your shuttle go. We are not in Federation space, after all. You can continue to live your life on the fringe of civilization, or you can you go to Hell. It makes no difference to me. But that offer is contingent on retrieving the colonists safe and sound, Inderi.”
“You need my information—and your offer is not good enough to pay for it.”
Sean sat back and he snorted. “USS Republic
has already found your allies, Inderi; the sub-light generation ship that beamed away the colonists. You value your information too highly, ignoring the fact that it has a very real and very finite duration of viability. Three more starships are on their way, and White Cloud
will be joining them. With or without you, Inderi, we will retrieve our colonists. Frankly, my dear, I hope that you reject my offer because the universe will benefit from your incarceration.”
Inderi swallowed. “You are bluffing. You haven’t encountered . . . them.”
Sean nodded and he pressed a stud, and the technical details recovered by Republic
flashed into existence onto the wall mounted view screen. Inderi blanched, and her head fell.
“I don’t bluff, Madame Delon. My offer is good for the next sixty seconds. What is your choice?”
“Did she talk, skipper?” asked Gerald as Sean exited the turbolift unto the bridge.
“She sang like a songbird, Mister Bowen. Helm, set course to rendezvous with the Republic
; make your speed Warp 9.9.”
But Sean’s face was tense and pursed. Gerald moved close and he leaned down to the older engineer. “Was it that bad, skipper?” he softly asked.
“Worse. Much worse, Mister Bowen. They don’t just want the planet; no these aliens needed the human beings of New Columbia to restore genetic diversity that their own DNA has lost over thousands of years of inbreeding. They plan on disassembling our colonists on the molecular level to develop a treatment for their genetic disorders. They aren’t hostages—they are medicinal supplies. Expendable medicinal supplies.”
“Warp drives on-line, skipper,” the helmsman said.
“They are called the Nephkyrie. I discovered them . . . yes, I found them three years ago. When all of the might of the Federation and the Romulans and the Klingons and the Cardassians and the Dominion had not; I found them. My shuttle was having engine problems, and . . . there was the matter of a Ferengi ship hounding me. I came out of warp in deep space, far from any system, far from any reason . . . and there they were.”
“You are fools if you think them primitive. They are not. No, their home ships do not have warp drive, but they have warp-capable shuttles contained within—shuttles as large as some of your Federation starships. They were never warlike, or violent, but they are old, Commander. Old beyond all meaning. They roamed the stars before the first Vulcans awakened to question the universe; they explored and they learned when humanity huddled in caves and wore dirty hides to stay warm.”
“I was scanned, and taken aboard, and for six days they didn’t even speak with me—as if I were nothing to them. Until, finally, I was told I wasn’t compatible. Yes, they examined me to see if my species could suit their purposes, for their long voyage is finally drawing to a close. Most of their people sleep in stasis; but that only slows the aging and the decay, it does not bring it to a halt. Their genetic structure has progressed to the point where it no longer reliably transfers its chromosomes to the next generation; they have outlived their own bodies.”
“Well, I have always been a trader. I offered to help them find a race that was compatible.”
A question was asked from off-screen, and Inderi shook her head.
“What did I care—my own people aren’t suitable. I have brought them samples of Denobulans, Vulcans, Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians, Ferengi, Bolians, Efrosians, and finally . . . at long last, they discovered that it was human DNA which could restore their own ability to reproduce. Of course, a single human can only provide enough . . . raw material . . . to inoculate perhaps a score of Nephkyrie. They needed more, many, many more.”
“And they needed a new home where they could—and those following after them—could settle.”
More questions, and Inderi laughed.
“They tell me that in the last years of their planet, of their civilization, the Nephkyrie began to construct a fleet such as this galaxy has never before seen. Nearly one hundred of their ponderous vessels were built and millions of their people were loaded on board. Launched one after the other in a stream of refugees through space and time . . . until they found a world that resembled their home of so long ago and so very, very far away.”
“They claimed that world a hundred generations ago, but like the rats of this galaxy have you humans scurried to every world and every system you can find, claiming it and its treasures, leaving other races without.”
“Not this time. I found the compatible race, and I was to be rewarded . . . transformed into a Nephkyrie. I hired the Orions to deliver the beacon, to cleanse New Columbia of your colonists. And you cannot stop them. You do not even know what they are capable of doing.”
Chan Shrak shut down the view screen aboard the Briefing Room of USS Republic
. “She refused to speak any further with Commander Philips, and has been returned to her brig cell. White Cloud
is en route as we speak and will rendezvous with us here within the next hour; Balao
is still at least eighteen hours away, with Arrogant
arriving in sixty-two hours, followed by Independence
thirteen hours afterwards.”
Matt nodded and he tapped his stylus on the table. “Thank you, Mister Shrak. People, we have very little time and I want options; options that will allow us to rescue those colonists alive, if at all possible. I want a full analysis of all data we have so far collected; in addition, I want Science and Medical to go over Inderi’s testimony in detail and try to reverse engineer what these . . . Nephkyrie are trying to accomplish. Mister Malik have you been able to extend the radius of your transporter inhibitor?”
“Yes, sir. I think we have managed to push it out far enough that those transporter-conveyed warheads won’t be able to damage our shields—but expanding the field has also weakened it. They might be able to punch through.”
“I want Engineering and Tactical to run simulations; take the maximum transporter power they showed us they can produce and increase it by a factor of 10. Mister Roshenko, I want you to do your best to get through the inhibitor—exhaust every possible scenario. The last thing we need is for them to beam a fusion warhead directly aboard this vessel.”
“Mister Shrak, Miss Biddle. I want you two focused on working with the rest of the Science department on finding the weak points of that ship. If we can take out her main power reactors, then she might not have enough reserve generation capacity to pose as great a threat. And figure out precisely how we are going to be able to house that many colonists on just five ships.”
Matt paused and he looked carefully over his officers. And then he firmly nodded. “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get to work.”