Chapter Twenty (cont.)
Matt finished signing off on the final piece of paperwork in the PADD that Yeoman Sinclair had given him as the turbolift doors opened and Grace Biddle walked onto the bridge. She walked across to stand in front of Matt.
“Permission to return to duty, Sir?” she asked.
Matt nodded crisply. “Permission granted, Miss Biddle. It’s good to have you back on the bridge—assume your station.”
“Aye, aye, Sir,” she answered, walking briskly over to the newly repaired Operations console and sitting down.
“Captain, we are being hailed by Arrogant
,” Chan called out. “Captain Myers is asking to speak with you in private.”
“On screen, Mister Shrak.”
The Andorian shrugged and he adjusted a few controls, and then the image of Captain William Myers appeared on the main viewing screen. The Starfleet officer frowned as he saw the bridge behind Matt on his own display.
“Captain Dahlgren, may we speak privately?” he asked.
“Captain Myers, we will be heading out in a few moments. I don’t have time to waste, not if we are to make contact another Nephkyrie vessel before the arrival of Independence
. What’s on your mind?”
Bill frowned and he sat back in his command chair. “Captain Dahlgren, I wish to log a formal protest of your orders. As difficult as the Nephkyrie ships are to detect and the sheer volume of space we must examine gives us little hope of finding another vessel. Furthermore, even if we do manage to locate one, what makes you think that they will respond any differently than the first one did? Right now, we have a face only a thousand or so awake Nephkyrie—a difficult situation but one that we can handle once Independence
arrives. We risk this second ship—if we locate it—providing reinforcements to this vessel, which will change the equation from something we are equipped to deal with to being drastically outnumbered.”
“Your protest is officially logged, Captain Myers. My orders, however, still stand. Is Arrogant
prepared to move out?”
“We are, but I have an additional . . . request, Captain Dahlgren.”
William leaned forward, his expression pained. “I would rather discuss this private, Captain Dahlgren.”
“Spit it out, Captain Myers.”
The Captain of the Arrogant
sighed and sat back. “I want you to relinquish command.”
Matt sat perfectly still, and then tapped one finger on the arm of his command chair. “For what possible reason would I do that, Captain Myers?”
“You have four months seniority over me, Matt. Four months. And almost a year of that seniority you spent in hospital wards and running a desk at Starfleet Headquarters, not sitting in the commander’s chair. You aren’t physically in any condition to deal with the stress of command, and your ship . . .” William Myers paused and he grimaced. “Matt, the only reason Republic
is even in service is that they hope you might pull off some miracle of turning that garbage scow into a Starfleet Starship! Between your crew, that relic, and your physical lack of well-being, Sir, I submit that aren’t up to making the hard choices anymore. Hell, Admiral Parker sent you on a two-month trip to the Cygnus Sector, Matt! Admiral Hall doesn’t need more ships out there; he did it to get you and that mutinous rust-heap out of the way!”
“Are you done, Captain Myers?” Matt asked in a soft voice that made even Chan Shrak shiver with the chill he conveyed.
“I did ask to say my piece in private, Captain Dahlgren. You forced my hand on this, however.”
“I will log your statement for the record, Captain Myers, but your request is denied.”
“Matt, just think about this for a . . .”
“Captain Myers!” Matt snapped. “You will address me as Captain Dahlgren, or Sir. Do you understand me?”
“I do,” William replied through clenched teeth. “Sir.”
“Whether my seniority over you is a matter of four minutes, four days, four weeks, four months, four years, or four decades, Captain Myers, it remains that I am, in fact, senior to you; and the senior officer on this station. Is that not correct, Captain Myers?”
“It is, Sir.”
“As I have been cleared by Starfleet Medical, Starfleet Command, and this ship’s surgeon for duty, my physical health and well-being is none of your concern, Captain. I will note your objections and your statement in my log, but just so we are clear on this issue, Captain Myers, do you intend to follow my orders or must I order your executive officer to relieve you of command and place you in confinement within your own brig?”
William inhaled sharply. “You wouldn’t dare . . .”
“Don’t think that for one second, Captain Myers,” Matt interrupted. “You and I are both aware that Captain Salok can recite verbatim
the exact text of the regulations you are on the verge of breaking, without once resorting to reading the information from a PADD. You know that he will endorse my relief of you—for cause
, Captain Myers!—and he will recommend you stand a general court-martial.”
’s captain sat heavily back, but he finally nodded. “I hoped to convince you, for the good of the service, Captain Dahlgren. I will, of course, follow regulations and obey your orders until the arrival of your
senior officer, Captain Salok.”
“Good. Is there anything else you need, Captain Myers?”
“Very well. Let me make one additional thing crystal clear to you, Captain. If you ever refer to this
ship and her crew
in those terms again, either in public or in private, then by god, Sir, I will see you broken out of the service, after which I will track you down on a planet where dueling is still legal, and then God as my witness, I will put either a foot of cold steel or a slug through your heart
. Is that
understood, Captain Myers?”
“Yes, Sir,” William whispered as he stared at the screen.
“Good. Then let us put this . . . conversation behind us, Captain Myers. Have you received the coordinates my helmsman transmitted?”
“We have, Captain Dahlgren. Why aren’t we splitting up to search for the Nephkyrie ship—and why are we starting so close? Those coordinates are just over a third of a light-year away?”
“Because we have already located the second Nephkyrie ship, Captain Myers; or did you forget that Republic
deployed over two dozen high-speed probes over the past few days?”
The other captain sat sharply upright. “You didn’t tell me you located them!” he barked.
Matt stared at the screen in cold contempt until William finally relaxed and uttered one more word. “Sir.”
“The probes detected the second ship less than fifteen minutes ago, Captain Myers. Right where the children we have prisoner stated it would be, if it were launched four months after the first according to the schedule as they understood it.”
“But we don’t even know their relative measure of hours or days; how did you . . .”
“We talked to them, Captain Myers. And we found out how long their hours were, approximately, and how many of their hours were in a day, and how many of their days in a week; in short we used our brains and our humanity to gently ask questions instead of interrogating them as if they were Jem’Hadar shock troops.”
“I want you to hold Arrogant
at two million kilometers, Captain Myers. From there, you will act as my reserve in the event these
Nephkyrie prove as hostile and intractable as those of the first ship. Republic
will make contact and attempt to initiate a discussion. You are to take NO hostile action, regardless of provocation, unless either I order you to do so, I am incapacitated, or Republic
has been destroyed. Is that understood, Captain Myers?”
“Yes, Sir,” William answered sourly.
“Very well. We warp out in two minutes, Captain. Get your ship ready.” Matt didn’t wait for a reply and he cut the transmission from his own panel on the arm of his command chair. And then he frowned. He rotated his command chair to look at Chan.
“Mister Shrak. It appears that this conversation was just broadcast throughout the entire ship—with the exception of the bridge loudspeakers.”
Chan’s antennae quivered. “I must have accidently activated it, Captain Dahlgren,” he answered with a sly smile. “All-ship broadcast is now terminated.”
“Thank you, Mister Shrak,” the Captain said as he rotated his command chair back forward.
“Miss Montoya, is our course plotted?”
“Yes, Sir, and the engines are ready.”
“Mister Malik, set transporter inhibitor to full-strength.”
“Full strength, aye, aye, Sir
“Mister Shrak. Sound General Quarters and set Red Alert throughout the ship.”
“Sounding General Quarters . . . all compartments report secure for action.”
Matt sat back in his seat. “We will show that son-of-a-bitch just how much difference there is between our Republic
and rusting out garbage scow of mutineers,” he whispered just loud enough that the bridge crew could pretend that hadn’t heard him utter the words—but Matt saw the wide grins on their faces.
“Engage, Miss Montoya.”