Chapter Nineteen (cont.)
The door to Matt’s ready room slid open and Chan walked in, his arm in a sling. Behind him walked a dark-haired human woman who wore the three pips of a Commander on her collar. She beamed a smile as Matt stood.
“Captain Dahlgren,” the Andorian said, “may I present Commander Samantha Carmichael, the commanding officer of USS Balao
Matt shook his head and he smiled as well. “You may, Mister Shrak. Sam, good to see you again; both of you take a seat,” he continued as he sat back down. “Sam, care for a drink?”
“No thank you, Sir. I had lunch aboard Balao
before we arrived. I see that we missed some excitement.”
“You could say that, Sam,” Matt answered with a sad chuckle. “But we learned a few things about these Nephkyrie—and we’ve got a few captives aboard as well.”
“More than few,” Chan chimed in, “we have them packed into Cargo Bay 4 like cattle, Commander Carmichael.”
“So they gave you Balao
? I knew you would get a command, Sam, but I didn’t think they would give you such a . . . little ship.”
“It’s not the size of the waves, but the motion of the ocean, Sir,” the commander of Balao
answered with a bright grin. “She’s got heart and she packs a wallop. On a good day, she can take any ship in the Fleet.”
“I have no doubt, Sam,” Matt finished as he considered his former second officer—his Operations officer—from the old Kearsage
“So how are the kids?” she asked.
“Cass starts Julliard this fall, if you can believe it. Amanda, she doesn’t like being called Amy anymore she declared in her last letter, has a crush on a young boy in her freshman class and is hoping he asks her to her first dance this fall. And Sarah is as rambunctious as ever.”
“And Melody?” Sam asked, her smile fading.
“We talk. Infrequently. I don’t blame her, Sam. It was my own fault for being away for so long; she deserved better.”
“Begging your pardon, Sir, but she didn’t have to leave you when you fighting for your life in the hospital.”
“Water under the bridge, Sam. The marriage was over long before I was beached. And she’s found someone who can be there for her, all the time; the way I wasn’t when she needed me.”
“At least they got you back into space, Sir,” Sam quickly changed the subject. “Even if they had to drag the Reprobate
here off the scrap pile.”
it, Commander. Republic
may be an old girl, but she blew the pants off of McHale
and Rick Kessler.”
“I heard. And I’ve also heard some rumors over sub-space about the Cauldron and a mysterious ion storm.”
“If I told you the story, Sam, I’d have to have Chan jettison you out of an airlock. So stop fishing.”
“Aye, aye, Sir. What are we facing here?”
“The Nephkyrie are not quite like anything I’ve ever met, Sam. They have some highly advanced technology, and yet they have only the most basic weapons and warp drive. Chan has a full briefing already laid out for you and your people, but they are full of surprises. Our number one priority is to recover the New Columbia colonists, and I hope that can figure out a means to do that without having to blow that ship to hell. We are working on possible sol . . .”
The door chime beeped and Matt frowned. “Come!” he barked. The door parted and a grim-faced Quincy stormed in, trailed by Amanda. Quincy nodded curtly at Sam, and then he turned his glare on Matt.
“What’s the matter, Doctor?”
“We’ve just discovered something about these Nephkyrie that you need to know right
Matt sat back and picked up his battered stylus and tapped it against the desk. “And that might be?”
of the prisioners, Captain—are children
? Doctor, they seemed pretty tall and developed for children.”
“Matt, they are clones. And they have been in stasis for god knows how
long. They are children
children of the Nephkyrie race, put into stasis and sent thousands of light years to found a new home. Children whose bodies
grew up slowly in the stasis tubes, but whose minds are still those of teenagers and goddamn prepubescent children
The ship’s surgeon shook his head, and ran a hand through his grey hair. “They have had all of the Nephkyrie knowledge taught to them in stasis, their minds being impressed with the data of how to operate those ships, but emotionally
? Every last one
of them is still a child.”
“And right now, those children, despite the fact that they stand as tall you as you and Chan, are scared
. They are frightened
, Captain, and they are huddled together and crying
in confinement in that bare cold cargo bay. Damn whoever thought it was a good idea to turn them into soldiers
, Captain, but they are traumatized
! We can’t go back there and kill an entire ship full of children, Matt. We can’t
!” the doctor thundered.
“And we won’t, Quincy. We will find another way,” Matt answered at last. “Computer, adjust temperature and light levels in Cargo Bay 4 to match those scanned on the interior of the Nephkyrie vessel—and play Brahms’s Lullaby
on the speakers in that compartment.”
Matt sadly smiled. "It always calmed my kids, at least."
“Dahlgren to Counselor Trincullo,” Matt said tapping his comm badge.
?” Andrea Truncullo’s voice piped up.
“How are you with children, Counselor?”
” her voice pitched up in question.
“Miss Trincullo . . .” and Matt shook his head. “Just meet me in Cargo Bay 4.”
“Aye, aye, Sir.
Matt stood, followed by Chan and Sam. “This is where you earn
those Captain’s pips, Sam. I want you and Chan to go over every bit of our tactical data—and you two find me a way out of this that doesn’t involve killing thirty-five thousand
children. Doctors,” the captain continued as he picked up his cane and limped around his desk. “You two are with me.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” a chorus of voices answered.