Chapter One (cont.)
“Let me see if I understand this, Captain; you were jumped by three K’Vort
-class birds-of-prey in the Camulus system, which proceeded to fire into your vessel without warning, after
transmitting your prefix codes to drop Republic
s shields—and you survived?” Admiral Josiah Parker slowly enunciated.
Matt grinned slyly. “They were aiming for my warp core, Admiral—I believe that Captain Salok and Terrance informed you that I was adding ablative armor plating to the exterior of Republic
“We put four full layers on the dorsal and flanks surrounding the core, Admiral, and then reinforced the internal bulkheads, decks, and overheads of the main core shaft with an additional layer. If we had not reinforced the core, their disruptors would have cut the core in two—and we wouldn’t be speaking, Sir.”
Josiah shook his head and he chuckled. “That leaves the rest
of your ship quite thin, Captain.”
“True. But we still managed to add enough plating to absorb some damage—more than the bare hull could at least. In that respect, we have better protection than an unmodified Korolev
, and anyone taking an easy shot at our achilles’ heel is going to discover—like these Klingons—we don’t have that particular weakness anymore.”
Josiah nodded, but Matt turned serious. “What I want to know, Admiral, is how exactly these Klingons managed to get my prefix codes in the first place. And how they knew exactly
where to aim for what otherwise would have been catastrophic damage.”
“Agreed. I will put Intelligence on it immediately, Matt. How many days will you need for repairs?”
“Forty-eight hours. The armor dissipated the disruptor bolts, but it fractured just like it was designed to do. I need to replace the those plates,” Matt smiled. “Good thing I kept Lt. Vasa and his replicator.”
Josiah frowned. “I told you I wanted those back, Captain.”
“Sir, you said you wanted the SCE engineers back—you never mentioned the industrial replicator.”
“You knew what I meant, Matt.”
“Yes, sir, I suppose that I did. Still, since I still have them, I might as well make use of them. Commander Malik did note that the core suffered some stress during the assault—despite the armor; so I want him to survey the core while it is off-line for the repairs. Other than that, Admiral, we got very lucky.”
“You did, Matt,” Josiah said quietly. “And I will be asking Chancellor Martok just why Klingon vessels were attacking you.”
Matt shook his head. “I don’t think it was Martok. We got a good look at one of the K’Vort
s, the IKS Treleak
. She’s listed as part of the Fleet of House Mak’vegh.”
Josiah nodded his understanding. “And Lord Mak’vegh, exiled though he is, isn’t one to suffer someone he sees as having compromised his honor. In that case, Captain, I will put Intelligence on finding those lea-. . .”
“Admiral. There is one more thing. I gave Sam Carmichael a message to hand deliver to you when she arrives back on Earth. This isn’t information we can discuss even over encrypted channels, Admiral. You remember our old Academy code?”
Josiah looked pained. “Matt . . . we picked up a distress call from Balao
seven hours ago. Commander Carmichael reported she was under attack when the transmission ceased—USS Eagle
found only debris when she arrived on scene.”
Matt winced. “It wasn’t even her fight, Josiah,” he whispered. “She volunteered to carry the dispatch back to you since Balao
had been recalled for reassignment to the Andoria Perimeter Fleet.”
“Two attacks, on two Star Fleet vessels, on the same day, with one of those vessels carrying hand-delivered messages from the other? Matt, I don’t like where this is leading my imagination.”
“Josiah, do you remember the book I gave you at graduation?”
“That was a long time ago, Matt,” the Chief of Star Fleet Operations said as he slowly nodded his head.
Matt stood and he turned to his book shelf and took down a volume. He quickly turned from page to page, jotting down a series of number combinations. Finally, he finished and he closed the volume. “I am sending it now. You will have to decrypt it yourself, Josiah—trust no one.”
“I will delete it off the system immediately, Matt. In the meantime, you need to do what Chief Arbuthnot always yelled at you to do. Right now, Matt. Star Fleet Command, out.”
The screen blanked and Matt nodded. Chief Arbuthnot had been the third-base coach for the Academy baseball team; and he always told the cadets to run home
. Even when it was safer for them to remain on second or third base.
Matt thumbed the intercom stud. “Mister Shrak, join me in my ready room.”
“Aye, aye, sir
,” came the XOs voice.
Matt pulled up the star maps of the surrounding sectors of space and he was examining them in detail as the door to his ready room chimed.
The doors slid open and Chan Shrak walked in. “You wanted to see me, Sir.”
“Change of plans, Mister Shrak. Once the repairs have been completed, we are going to reverse course for Earth—maximum warp,” Matt’s face fell and he shook his head. “Sam and Balao
were attacked, Chan; there were no survivors.”
The Andorian shook his head, and his antennae drooped slightly. “Mar,” he hissed.
“Probably. Likely, in fact, Mister Shrak,” Matt answered as he tapped his stylus against the top of the desk. “We are twenty-six days out of Earth orbit, by the book Mister Shrak. But, we could be back there in just fifteen if we took a short-cut,” and a dotted line appeared on the 3-d stellar map on Matt’s monitor.
“You cannot be serious, Captain Dahlgren!” the Andorian barked.
“Very serious, Mister Shrak. Hail Commander Borahn aboard the Warbird Nei’rrhael
. I’m certain he isn’t too far away, given how close we remain to the border—and his interest in Republic