Stardate 75936.5; December 08, 2398
Edited by Peter Bossley
Written by Chris Adamek
Lieutenant Simon Hataru
Admiral Kathryn Janeway
“Did you have to attack that blacksmith?”
Though Alan Christopher’s voice was filled with conviction, Lieutenant Bator knew the Captain well enough to spot a joke. And though Christopher was undoubtedly upset about the aforementioned blacksmith, Bator was reasonably confident it was little more than an exaggerated jest. Thus, the Phobian shrugged the question aside. “It was in my way,” he simply replied.
Christopher shook his head to the contrary. “I think not. That baby was well off the beaten path! What the heck were your men doing over there, anyway?”
“Apparently,” Harrison calmly interjected from the comfort of his seat, “they were razing that blacksmith to the ground.”
“While my town was under siege?!” Christopher threw his arms in the air in an exaggerated fashion. “I needed those reinforcements!”
“They would not have made any difference,” said Bator. He tapped a few commands into his workstation to maintain the illusion of work, then added, “Your establishment was already a lost cause…”
Harrison nodded. “There were at least five squadrons of ogres at the gate,” he stated. “It is unlikely Bator’s men could have repelled them.”
There were seven squadrons of ogres, actually—and if the reconnaissance reports were to be believed, another seven were on the way. Bator knew his men were valiant on the battlefield, but they could not perform miracles. “So instead of condemning my men to a bloody end in a hopeless battle, I delivered a victory of my own.”
“A minor victory,” sighed Christopher. He wearily slumped down in his command chair and shook his head disapprovingly. “It won’t take the enemy very long to construct a new blacksmith—and they’ll be back up to full strength in no time. Our forces, unfortunately, have been obliterated… We could have eked out some sort of victory had you bothered to come to my rescue, but no… As the ogres overran our defenses, you two cowards had to go cowering to that little island in the south!”
“We were regrouping,” said Harrison calmly. “Preparing for a counterstrike… You must believe me when I say everything is under control.”
“Oh.” Christopher bit his lip. “So… this horrid loss was all a part of your incredible plan?” He tapped a few commands into the computer terminal at his side, calling forth a schematic of the Bridgelands—the location of this alleged slaughter. “Maybe my vision is going, Matthew… But I’m just unable to see how this fits into your plan.”
Harrison flashed an enigmatic smile. He had a vague idea of where their epic holo-novel was going, but truth be told, the exact details were a mystery. The smile, undoubtedly, was meant to humor the Captain.
Or get him to be quiet.
Either way, it didn’t work.
“You know, the destruction of that blacksmith probably didn’t even hinder the enemy!” He sighed wearily, and alluded to several nondescript areas of the map in question. “They’re regrouping even as we speak!”
“No,” said Harrison, his smile widening. “They are not—we deactivated the program when we left the holodeck. The enemy is presently in a state of suspended animation… They are not doing anything.”
There were a few muffled giggles suddenly emanating from the operations console—where Erin Keller stood, valiantly attempting to look busy. Her attempt failed, of course, and her laughter only grew into something a bit more substantial. “Alan takes his games very seriously,” she chirped. “You should see him when he loses in Metrix.”
Christopher’s eyes widened, and he immediately bolted from his chair. “If you hadn’t resulted to subterfuge,” he said, waving a playful finger at Keller, “I wouldn’t have lost!”
Keller nodded knowingly. “When I cheat, it’s insidious subterfuge, designed to undermine the greatness of our fearless leader.” The sarcasm in her voice was evident, but Christopher chose to overlook that small facet for the time being. “But when Alan cheats? That, boys, is what you call ‘skill.’ Or so he claims.”
Christopher returned to his seat. He immediately cleared the Bridgelands from his workstation and brought up a new screen, this one mostly text. Harrison attempted to see what the Captain was up to, but the moment his eyes crept toward the screen, Christopher turned it away from his prying eyes.
“What are you doing?” asked Harrison a scant moment later.
Christopher shrugged indolently. “Arranging for a few demotions,” he cryptically replied.
The demotions, however, did not go very far. Whether or not Christopher intended to authorize them (which Harrison highly doubted), his actions were summarily halted by a series of manic chirps emanating from the tactical station.
Engrossed in the banter, the alert caught Bator off guard. Though he wasn’t exactly startled, it took him a few seconds to sort through the data flitting across his screen; in an emergency situation, those few seconds might have been fatal—but this didn’t appear to be an emergency, thankfully. “The USS Potempkin has dropped out of warp nearby; they are on a direct intercept course…”
“That’s Admiral Janeway’s ship…” In that instant, Christopher’s damaged ego exited. He cleared his workstation and turned his full attention to the Potempkin’s sudden appearance. “Open a channel.”
Christopher’s bright turquoise eyes immediately turned to the viewscreen, fully expecting to see the Admiral’s face—but instead, he was greeted with little more than the vast, scintillating starfield.
The Phobian shook his head. “No response.”
Christopher furrowed his brow. “That’s odd.”
“Indeed.” Harrison nodded his agreement. “It is not like the Admiral to drop in unannounced… and her silence is even more peculiar.”
“There must be something wrong,” Christopher promptly realized. The possibilities were endless, but Christopher’s mind was immediately filled with worst-case scenarios: enemy forces had taken the ship; some sort of alien virus killed the crew… But conversely, it could be something as simple as a malfunctioning communication system. Either way, caution was required. “Yellow alert…”
Within moments, the pleasant ‘daylight’ illumination dropped down a few notches, and the yellow lights of caution filled the air. The tension on the bridge suddenly seemed to thicken, and Christopher knew, more than a few pulses had quickened.
“Status of the Potempkin?” asked Harrison a moment later. He seemed oblivious to the situation, but underneath, Christopher knew that Matthew was just as apprehensive as everyone else; he just hid it better.
“They are still on an intercept course,” reported Neelar Drayge after conferring with his console.
“Their shields are down and weapons are offline,” said Bator.
On the surface, that seemed like good news, but it wasn’t much of an indicator. If there wasn’t anything wrong, this approach was standard protocol—but if it was a trap, then this ‘good news’ could easily lull one into a false sense of security. Christopher, however, was not easily swayed. “Hail them again.”
Bator’s hand immediately moved to comply, but even before he could think about contacting the Potempkin, a pillar of shimmering azure light glittered before the helm. Instead, he grabbed the phaser from his belt and, in tandem with Commander Keller, approached the figure beaming onto the bridge.
But hostility, it seemed, would not be needed. Once the transporter beam completed it’s cycle, Admiral Janeway stood before the helm—but given the stern look upon her face, she wasn’t here for a simple social visit.
“Captain,” she said, the warmth in her voice betraying her stern façade, “sorry to drop in unannounced, but I didn’t want to discuss this over an open channel.”
Christopher’s eyes widened. “Discuss what?”
Janeway clenched her jaw. “It would seem we’ve got a little rebellion on our hands.” She motioned toward the Captain’s ready room. “I’d be more comfortable giving you the full briefing in private.”
“Of course,” said Christopher, nodding his approval. He rose from the command chair and led the way into his office, quickly seating himself behind the sleek obsidian desk near the window.
Janeway followed in his steps, and the moment the doors slid shut behind her, she expelled a deep, deep sigh. “Before I utter a single word about this rebellion, Captain, I would like to stress the… delicacy of the situation.”
“Is this a classified mission?” asked Christopher, prodding the Admiral for any information he could get.
But she shook her head. “As far as you and I are concerned,” she said, slowly approaching the desk, “this isn’t even a mission…”
“Then what is it?”
Janeway turned grim: “Hell…”