Chapter Twenty (cont.)
came out of warp some six hundred thousand kilometers distant from the second of the Nephkyrie ships, her hull barely showing as a small dot in the depths of the view screen.
“Magnify,” Matt said, as he secured his restraining safety belt. The screen flashed, and the sleeper ship grew much larger.
“Miss Montoya, match velocity and vector with that ship.”
“Aye, aye, Sir.”
The Starfleet cruiser altered her heading and began to parallel the ancient vessel.
“Captain Dahlgren,” Chan said from his station, “we are being scanned. Their weapons are off-line.”
“Hail them, Mister Shrak.”
The Andorian pressed a few controls and then he shook his head. “No response.”
“Very well. Miss Montoya, take us in to a range of 400,000 kilometers—slowly and smartly.”
“Aye, aye, Sir.”
Matt rotated his command chair, to face his science officer. “Miss Tsien. Scan that vessel, stem to stern, if you please.”
“Aye, aye, Sir. I have altered the sensor beam modulations based on the data from our first encounters; we should be able to get a clearer picture with this one. Configuration identical to the first ship, weapon systems identical, hull composition identical . . . sir, I am detecting close to fifty thousand life-forms, but all of them appear to be in stasis.” Amanda frowned. “Make that thirteen thousand adult
life-forms and thirty-five thousand juveniles
. The majority of interior compartments are in vacuum, with no power and no life support.” She paused. “Correction, the ship is diverting power and life support to a cluster of compartments—and I am now detecting several dozen active life signs.”
Matt nodded and he rotated his seat back to face the main viewer. “Let’s give them a moment to wake up, shall we. Miss Montoya, what is the range to that ship?”
“484,000 kilometers, Sir.”
“Aye, sir; holding position relative to the Nephkyrie vessel.”
For two long minutes, there was absolute silence on the bridge, other than the hum of the instrumentation. And then Chan looked up.
“Captain Dahlgren, we are being hailed.”
The viewer flickered and then the image of a Nephkyrie appeared. “Greetings. I am Shipmaster Voltanis, representing the Nephkyrie Solidarity.”
Matt unbuckled his belt and he stood. “And I am Matthew Dahlgren, commander of the Federation Starship Republic
Voltanis bowed his head. “Forgive me for asking, Matthew Dahlgren, but my sensors indicate that this ship remains in deep space . . . how did you manage to locate us?”
“Yours is not the first Nephkyrie vessel which we have encountered, Shipmaster Voltanis. And that first contact was . . . a difficult one which we wish to ask your assistance in resolving.”
“Difficult, Matthew Dahlgren?”
“Your Speaker, Typhias, has not been willing to . . .”
The Nephkyrie jerked on the screen. “Typhias is not Speaker! He is a clerk to the Speaker!”
Matt waited and then he nodded. “Regardless, he claims to be Speaker of the Nephkyrie Solidarity. The government of races that I represent—the Federation—did not understand your markers, Shipmaster Voltanis, and we placed a colony upon the world which your ships are travelling to, a world we call New Columbia. My ship discovered that Typhias abducted all twelve thousand of our citizens, beaming them aboard his ship, and placing them in stasis.”
“Has he gone mad?” A second Nephkyrie voice came across through the viewer, and a regally attired being stepped forward. “How may I address, Matthew Dahlgren? I am Belagon, and I Speak for the Solidarity upon Ark Two.”
“My proper title is Captain Dahlgren, or simply Captain, mister Speaker,” Matt said with a bow of his own.
“What you say cannot be true, Typhias’s action would never be permitted by those chosen to lead Ark Prime.”
“Mister Speaker, he did beam aboard our entire colony—claiming that my species was compatible with the Nephkyrie and could serve as a means to cure your genetic damage. Unlike this vessel, there are only a few hundred adult members of your race aboard his ship—and they had sufficient stasis pods to place my people in hibernation sleep.”
Belagon’s shoulders slumped. “Compatible? He follows the teachings of the Harvesting then.”
“Long ago, Captain Dahlgren, when our race discovered that our genetic diversity had been lost and the damage to our chromosomes proved too wide spread to treat, a small cabal of the Solidarity refused to wait on the advances of science to find a cure. They called themselves the Harvesting, and they took samples from all of the species that surrounded our dying sun. They altered them and they distilled
them, and they found a way to negate—for a time—our damage.”
“But then the Solidarity learned of their methods in finding this treatment, and they were tried as criminals of the first order. We thought them long dead and gone from our society.”
“Your vessel carries at least as many crew as you claim Typhias has, Captain Dahlgren. And of multiple species, no less. Impressive. Why have you not recovered your colonists from him? Why have you sought out the Solidarity, risking that we would be like him?”
“His crew consists of only a few hundred adults, it is true. But there are many thousands of other Nephkyrie awake aboard the ship.” Matt paused. “Your stasis pods appear to stop the physical aging process; are they the same as the ones installed aboard your Ark Prime?”
“Yes. He has waked the children? They children are not mature—surely you can handle them?”
“Mister Speaker, he has, to the best of our knowledge, changed the pods so that those within still age. Your children on Ark Prime are physically mature—and he is arming and training them as soldiers.”
“You lie!” Voltanis snapped. “Not even a Harvester would dare do such a thing! It . . . it . . . it is incomprehensible!”
“I am sorry that I must be the one to convey this information, Shipmaster, mister Speaker. But we have ninety-nine of your children—mature in body, but not in mind—that Typhias trained, armed, and sent aboard my ship to capture it. You are welcome to speak with them.”
The Nephkyrie Shipmaster began to speak, but Belagon touched his shoulder and shook his head. “I will beam aboard your ship, then, Captain. I will see for myself what horrors Typhias has committed.”
Matt shook his head. “We are well aware that your race can deliver fusion warheads via the transporters; however, I will allow you to beam aboard one of our shuttles, which will then carry you back to this vessel.”
“That is a reasonable precaution, Captain Dahlgren. I shall await your shuttle then.”
The screen blanked, and Matt let out a deep breath, and sat back down, wincing as his leg sent a deep stabbing pain into his thigh. He rotated the seat and faced his executive officer.
“Mister Shrak. Launch the shuttle Ross
and prepare to receive Speaker Belagon. Have a detail standing by to render full Presidential honors, Mister Shrak.”
“Aye, aye, Captain Dahlgren.”
Matt punched a stud on his chair. “Doctor Talbot, meet me in my ready room,” he said. He stood up, and took his cane. “Miss Biddle. You have the conn.”
“Aye, aye, Sir,” she answered as Matt limped across the bridge.