“What do we know about the Garidians?”
Admiral O’Connor’s question was simple enough, but not one that Erin Keller could easily answer. “Not much,” she admitted. “We’ve known them as allies of the Romulans for over fifty years, but first contact didn’t take place until stardate 47111.1—in the M’Kieru Sector, of all places. Their Homeworld is an M-class planet called Garid, located about twenty-five light years from here. I guess their entire society is based upon the dictates of the Five Scrolls. Not much is known about them, and at this time, it’s not really important…
“Until recently, the Garidians have been loyal allies of the Romulans—but after the attack on Aurillac VII two years ago, they realized the Romulans were not viable allies, and have been trying to distance themselves from the Empire ever since. And when the Romulan Empire collapsed earlier this year… we all know what happened.”
Bator nodded agreeably. “And it should be noted, that while the Garidians distanced themselves from the Romulan Empire, they have not distanced themselves from Romulan technology. That Warbird is comparable to a D’deridex class ship.”
O’Connor nodded her understanding—it was a very convincing maneuver—and for a brief moment Keller almost felt safe under her command. But then O’Connor huffed, mulled over her options, and then finally made her decision: “Arm photon torpedoes.”
“Photon torpedoes?” Bator repeated skeptically. “I should remind you, the Starlight is equipped with a full compliment of transphasic torpedoes.”
“Don’t get smart with me,” snapped O’Connor. “Just arm the torpedoes.”
Bator groused inwardly for a moment, but said nothing to continue his protest. Instead, he did as he was ordered—and if it got them all killed, at least Admiral O’Connor would go down with the ship. “Torpedoes armed.”
“That wasn’t so difficult, now was it?” asked O’Connor before tapping her communicator. “O’Connor to Commander Harson! What is your status?”
Harrison quickly tapped the appropriate button on his suit’s forearm and replied, “Commander Reinbold and Lieutenant Johnson have nearly completed making modifications to the vessel’s bioelectric field.”
“I don’t know how much time you’re going to have,” O’Connor said.
“We’re going to need at least another five minutes,” Reinbold estimated. “Possibly more.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” O’Connor groused, “but I can’t guarantee anything!”
And that much was obvious the moment O’Connor signed off. The bioship promptly rumbled beneath Harrison’s feet, and the already faint lighting dimmed. Though it was not likely to do him much good, Harrison immediately plucked the phaser from his belt. Perhaps the added sense of security was all he really needed…
“Direct hit,” announced Bator. “Shields down to ninety-one percent.”
O’Connor nodded. “Mr. Bator,” she said evenly, “return fire!”
Within moments, a string of fiery photon torpedoes emerged from the Starlight’s torpedo bay; they fiercely charged across the viewscreen and into the Garidian vessel’s shields, causing a considerable explosion—but nominal damage. The Garidian vessel quickly came about and hunted down the Starlight with a vengeance, firing countless streams of green-yellow energy in the vessel’s direction.
O’Connor’s heart was racing. It had been many years since she commanded a starship during battle… and she feared her skills had deteriorated, but thankfully, the Garidians weren’t very good with their targeting sensors. Of their numerous volleys, only one grazed the Starlight’s shields.
“Target their weapons array!” O’Connor ordered as she watched the Garidian vessel dramatically waltz across the view screen. As far as she could tell, they were attempting to bring themselves nearer to the bioship.
“Target locked,” called out Bator.
O’Connor waited a brief moment for the Garidian vessel to get back into her line sight—she wanted to see this battle played out to its finish, because nobody was going to take that bioship from her. But O’Connor’s need for theatrics was her greatest error. The Garidians fired first, and O’Connor watched in horror as the yellow-green burst of energy hurtled at them. “Evasive maneuvers!” she cried, but her actions were too little, too late.
The ship rocked violently as it absorbed the impact of the Garidian weapon. O’Connor clung onto her chair for dear life, but the energy created by the impact was so great, she eventually lost her grip and went careening to the floor. Within seconds, an odd black haze encroached upon her vision, and she was finding it very difficult to return to her chair.
“Shields are down to seventy percent,” announced Lieutenant Bator. He was either unaware of O’Connor’s predicament, or didn’t care much for his commanding officer, because there was almost no concern in his voice.
“The Garidians are coming around for another pass,” Drayge announced.
“If we were to arm transphasic torpedoes, it is likely our offensive would prove more effective,” Bator said moments later.
O’Connor heard most of the Phobian’s words, but her continued struggle on the floor kept her from responding coherently. Instead she grunted something along the lines of, “Do it,” and then continued to work her way back toward the command chair.
Bator’s hands quickly flew over the controls, and before the Garidians had another opportunity to fire, a full spread of transphasic torpedoes stormed out of the Starlight’s torpedo bay. O’Connor watched as the golden dots of light hurtled toward the Garidian ship, and couldn’t help but smile when the forward section of the vessel burst into flames. “Those are some pretty good torpedoes,” she promptly proclaimed.
“The Garidians’ tactical array has been destroyed,” said Bator, oblivious to O’Connor’s commentary.
“They are retreating,” added Keller.
O’Connor was struck with surprise. She had expected to be destroyed, given the general level of idiocy on the Starlight. Still, she was not about to complain. Finally able to grab hold of the command chair, she slowly heaved her bulbous body into its grasps and made herself comfortable. “Stand down from red alert,” she ordered, “and see that the bioship is secured.”
CAPTAIN’S LOG, STARDATE 74453.6: We have successfully secured the alien bioship, and are currently en route to the Klingon Science Station at Chion’doxa, where it will be transferred to the USS Blair for further analysis.
It had been an incredibly long day, and Kendall Johnson was ready for it to come to a close. His performance on the bioship had been acceptable, and for the most part, his comments were intelligent. But there were moments—especially in the beginning—when he failed utterly in his quest for perfection… and for some strange reason, those few moments of doubt were the ones that kept replaying in Kendall’s mind.
All I need is a good night’s rest to clear my mind, he decided as he made his way through the myriad corridors of deck four. Sleep often cleared Kendall’s mind—and when it didn’t, sleep just as easily became an excellent way to avoid the problems plaguing his mind in the first place. But since these problems were relatively minor, Kendall suspected his night would be pleasantly restful.
He walked a little further before coming upon an intersection in the corridor. Kendall was just about to make a sharp right-hand turn, but his course was summarily diverted when he glimpsed Commander Reinbold up ahead.
“Lieutenant,” she called out warmly—she even quickened her pace to join up with Kendall.
He paused, and waited for Megan to approach, and then acted as nonchalant as possible. “Yes?”
“Good work back on the bioship,” she commended. “I don’t know if I could have gotten all that done without you.”
Kendall could feel his face blushing. “It was nothing, really. You had everything under control…”
“Still,” said Megan pleasantly, “you made my job a whole lot easier. We make a good team, you and I…”
Kendall smiled. Well, he thought he smiled; that was what he intended to do, anyway. He wasn’t sure exactly what was on his face, but since Megan didn’t recoil in disgust, Kendall decided that it wasn’t anything too terrible. He wanted to say something more, since Megan had provided such a wonderful segue to do so, but Kendall found his brain was as dysfunctional as his facial muscles. Nothing new there…
“Well,” Megan finally said, clasping her hands together, “I’d better get going. When we reach Chion’doxa, I’m going to be transferring to the Blair… so I should probably go and gather my belongings.”
Kendall nodded agreeably. “Good idea.”
Megan lingered for a moment longer, apparently waiting for Kendall to say something more. She smiled pleasantly, smacked her lips, sighed, and finally began to retreat. “See you around,” she said softly.
Kendall nodded blankly. “Bye…”
And then he kicked himself for being so stupid…
For as long as he could remember, Sor Tovar had considered Ambassador Kaid an honorable and revered member of the Velora Aggregate. A man who knew what was best for their people, and had did whatever was necessary to achieve that state of perfection. But in light of recent events, Tovar was beginning to have some doubts. “Tell me, Vakal, what is more important than the expansion of the Aggregate?” he suddenly prompted from his station behind Kaid’s vacant chair.
The question had caught Vakal by surprise. “Admittedly, very few things come to mind,” he said quietly.
Tovar nodded. “Much as I suspected.” He tapped a few commands into his workstation, and then approached Vakal. “The Ambassador is beginning to think otherwise,” he whispered, though his words were conveniently loud enough for most of the bridge officers to hear. “He believes the Velora are losing their way…”
Vakal immediately furrowed his brow. “Are you certain?”
Tovar nodded. “He said it himself. I believe he is even having doubts about our mission… but we need that bioship…”
“After the Garidians attacked our base last month, I believe that much is obvious. We need new weapons to counter these new threats…”
The sentiment surprised Tovar, and he immediately came about to see Ambassador Kaid standing near his command chair. Though he had no idea how much of the conversation Kaid had heard, Tovar suspected the Ambassador had heard far too much. Nevertheless, he decided to downplay the conversation as little more than banter. “And we will be getting that new weapon promptly,” he said. “We should be entering the M’Kieru Sector in less than a minute.”
Kaid nodded approvingly. “Where is the bioship?”
Tovar hastily returned to his post and checked the sensors. What he found was marginally disturbing. “The vessel is no longer in the M’Kieru Sector.”
“Where is it?” asked Kaid. “To the Garidians have it?”
That had been Tovar’s initial thought, but when he conferred with the sensors, he was provided only more questions. “No… the bioship appears to have been intercepted by a Federation starship. They are currently heading for a Klingon base in the Chion’doxa System.”
Kaid sighed wearily. “That is in the heart of the Klingon Empire,” he soon realized.
“Shall I set an intercept course?” asked Tovar, his fingers poised to make the necessary course corrections—but to his chagrin, Kaid’s answer was swift in coming. In fact, the Ambassador seemed to ponder their course of action for a long while…. It was almost as if he were considering something other than retrieving the bioship.
“Both the Velora and the Garidians have been attempting to capture that bioship for several months now, and neither one of us has managed to succeed,” Kaid said slowly. “But the Federation comes along out of nowhere, and captures it in a matter of hours. They must know something we don’t. If we are to succeed, we need that knowledge…”
Tovar could sense what Kaid was getting at. Perhaps the Ambassador wasn’t as soft as he appeared…. “Captain Pentara’s ship was disabled by the Federation,” he gleaned from sensors. “They’re currently holding position 2.4 light years away.”
“Hail them,” said Kaid immediately.
Tovar complied, and seconds later, Captain Pentara appeared on the viewscreen. Her face was smudged with ash, her hair was soiled with dirt and other debris, and she was clearly not happy to see Kaid. “If you are here to gloat, Ambassador, I would not be so quick to do so.”
Kaid shook his head. “No, Captain, I am not here to gloat. In fact… I have a proposition for you…”