Authors: Keith R. A. DeCandido
Tags: #Science Fiction
“According to re’Trenat, my task is simple: get the Klingons to leave.”
“But that won’t happen, will it?”
“Not easily, no. Though there is another possibility: relocating the al’Hmatti.”
Me’Grmat could not help but laugh heartily at that. So much so, in fact, that he fell into rather a nasty coughing fit. By the time it ran its course, he looked up to see Worf standing over him, a look of concern on his face. “I’m fine,” me’Grmat managed to get out. “Really. It’s my own fault for laughing so hard. Or perhaps yours for saying something so funny.”
“You do not believe relocation to be a legitimate option?”
“No, I most certainly do not. Ambassador, this is
home. The Klingons invaded. It seems to me that they should leave before we should.” Once again, me’Grmat sighed.
I seem to spend all my time sighing these days.
“Not that either side will. I’m sorry, Ambassador, but you’ve wasted your time coming here. I am just an old man who is waiting for the afterlife to get its act together and take me away. While I appreciate the kind words re’Trenat had for me, they are of no consequence.” Another sigh. “I believe this audience is at an end.”
Worf nodded. “So it would seem. Thank you for your time, Your Eminence.”
Blinking, me’Grmat said, “What?”
“Is something wrong?”
“You called me, ‘Your Eminence.’”
the proper form of address for the emperor, is it not?”
“Oh, it is, it is, but . . . Ambassador, in all the years I’ve been emperor, you’re the first Klingon ever to use that address. Thank you.”
Worf inclined his head, and then departed without another word. The Klingon female followed him.
An interesting individual,
A pity I
won’t get to know him.
Vall stood at his station in engineering, listening to Commander Kurak tell the captain they had everything they were going to get.
Except, of course, they didn’t.
But can I tell her that
without getting killed?
Then he looked at the shield displays—twenty percent, and falling. Four ships were moving into position around the
and continuing to fire—though their phaser blasts were weaker and coming less frequently now.
was outnumbered four to one, and the shields would be gone in another minute. Individually, the
would make short work of any of these
foes, but the sheer numbers meant they would be overwhelmed once the shields fell.
Unless . . .
He turned to Kurak, who was moving from station to station. She gripped her right wrist with her left arm so tightly, Vall was sure the circulation to her right hand was being cut off. She wore only a very flimsy tunic, and it wasn’t until this moment that Vall realized how attractive his commanding officer was. The rest of the engineering staff had been just as bad, trying desperately not to look at her state of undress. If it wasn’t for Kurak’s perpetual scowl, she probably wouldn’t have gotten a bit of work out of any of them.
“Commander!” Vall called out.
“What?” Kurak snapped.
a way to increase shield power. We can use the power from the holodeck.”
Kurak rolled her eyes. “You imbecile, the systems are incompatible! We can’t—”
Commander—or, at least,
can. I have conquered the system incompatibility by constructing a converter that can dump power from the holodeck into an engineering system. It is in my quarters. I did not inform you of the device because you told me—”
“Enough!” Kurak cried, closing her eyes. Then she opened them and stared at Vall.
Vall held his breath.
“Do it. I’ll kill you later.”
Having no idea if she was serious or not, and not really able to care at the moment, Vall ran to his quarters.
Today is a really bad day to die,
Klag thought sourly while sitting in his command chair.
The shields were almost gone. The disruptors still had plenty of power, and Klag had rationed the use of the quantum torpedoes so they still had half their stock left, but things were starting to get ugly. The
had signaled back, saying they were en route, but they were still half an hour away.
“Kreel vessel number six destroyed,” Rodek said, “and reading no power output from number one.”
That’s three down,
Klag thought. And the remaining three were at diminished capacity. But so was the
Once the shields fell . . .
I am Klag, son of M’Raq,
After all I’ve
accomplished, after finally achieving my own command, I
refuse to fall to the
“Number four is increasing speed,” Leskit said. “It looks like the Kreel are trying to surround us.”
Klag spit. “Typical. That might have worked if they still had all six ships. Rodek, concentrate fire on number four. Leskit, increase speed to three-quarters impulse and change course to one-zero-three mark four.”
“Aye, sir.” Leskit steered the
through one of the holes in the Kreel’s attempt to surround them.
The course took them in the general direction of taD’s moon. “Toq, is there sufficient power to activate the cloaking device?” Klag asked.
Toq checked his panel. “No, sir.” Another impact. “Shields have fallen! We—” Then something beeped on Toq’s console. “Sir, available power increasing! I don’t understand it, but—”
“Engineering to bridge. You now have full power.”
Cheers rang out all across the bridge.
“Full shields,” Klag said, getting up from his chair. “Leskit, you had better be treating that woman right.”
Several officers turned in surprise at that. Klag couldn’t help but smile. Most surely guessed that Leskit’s injury—and reason for being on the bridge out of uniform—was due to a liaison with one of the women on board, but Klag doubted any of them had guessed that the woman was Kurak. If Klag hadn’t seen it himself . . .
Enough of that.
“Set a course to orbit taD’s moon, full impulse,” he said, walking over toward Leskit. “The second the Kreel ships fall out of sensor range, full stop and activate cloaking device.”
It was a risky maneuver. The Kreel ships were close enough together that they would likely all have the same blind spot “behind” the moon, but it was possible that one of them might still be able to pick the
up when they cloaked. It was fairly easy to follow a cloaked ship if one saw it cloak—
or at least,
tion or the Dominion could. The Kreel probably don’t
have sufficiently acute sensors.
flew in its elliptical orbit around the moon, Toq said, “Kreel still in sensor range.”
“Number four breaking off,” Rodek said. “Their structural integrity is failing. Two and three closing in, though presently out of weapons range.”
“Kreel now off sensors,” Toq said a moment later.
Klag nodded. “Full stop. Engage cloak.”
The already-dim lights dimmed further as the cloak was engaged.
Kurak’s voice sounded over the speakers.
we can only maintain the cloak for ten more minutes. This
additional power is limited.”
“Understood, Commander.” Klag turned to the pilot, whom he was still standing behind. “Leskit, put us on an intercept course for ship number four.”
“Rodek, train a spread of torpedoes on that ship and get ready to fire on my order.”
The gunner nodded, while Toq said, “Sir, vessels two and three are engaged in a search pattern.”
Klag smiled. “Good. Let me know if they find anything.”
Smiling back, Toq said, “Yes, sir!”
“And also,” Klag added, “inform me if Commander Kurak’s ten minutes are in any danger of expiring.”
Leskit said, “We’re in weapons range of the fourth Kreel ship, sir.”
“Torpedoes locked,” Rodek said with his usual lack of enthusiasm.
“Captain,” Toq said. “I have discovered something.”
Klag strode over to the operations console. “What is it?” He assumed that it was something important enough to mention in the midst of a battle.
If it isn’t—well, I’ll
make sure Toq doesn’t make the same mistake twice.
“The asteroids in this system have a similar geologic structure to that of taD—including a high concentration of Element 604.”
Klag grinned. “A natural cloaking device.”
“That’s what I was thinking, sir.”
Moving back to the front of the bridge, Klag said, “Leskit, set a course for the belt, and prepare to execute as soon as we decloak.”
“Can’t wait, sir,” Leskit muttered.
Klag shook his head. Navigating an asteroid field would be hazardous, and Leskit obviously wasn’t looking forward to it. Aloud, he said, “And use both hands, Lieutenant. These new deckplates could do with a little bloodstaining.”
Laughter rippled through the bridge at that. With a
mild scowl on his face, Leskit removed his hand from the wound on his leg, which wasn’t bleeding as much, in any case.
Klag went back to his command chair. He didn’t realize until after he was sitting in it that, for the first time in over a month, he sat in it normally, without taking the time to savor it.
“Decloak and fire,” he said.
“Torpedoes firing,” Rodek said at the same time that Leskit said, “Changing course.”
With the diminishing number of foes, Toq had reduced the tactical display to a corner of the viewscreen, leaving the bulk of the display showing a real image of the fourth vessel. As a result, it was completely unnecessary for Toq to actually say, “Fourth vessel destroyed!” because Klag saw it explode in a satisfyingly fiery conflagration. But the second officer said it anyway.
Yet another cheer rose up from the assembled crew. Toq yelled over the tumult, “Vessels two and three changing course to intercept.”
Klag turned to the pilot. “Leskit?”
“They won’t catch up until we’re well inside the asteroid field, sir.”
“Good. Rodek, fire disruptors at will as soon as they’re in range.”
moved at full impulse toward the asteroid belt. Toq changed the viewscreen image to that of the two remaining Kreel ships as they pursued.
“Entering asteroid field now, sir,” Leskit said.
“Slow to one-eighth impulse, and change to an evasive course.”
No sense making it any easier on the Kreel,
though they shouldn’t be able to detect us in any
“Sir, the Kreel are entering the asteroid field and firing at random,” Toq said. “The fools aren’t coming anywhere near us!”
“As expected,” Klag said with a nod.
“Kreel now disengaging,” Toq added. “They’re taking up positions outside the belt.”
Toq changed the viewscreen image to give an overview of the asteroid belt. The
was a green light in the midst of several yellow lights of varying size indicating the asteroids. The two red lights indicating the Kreel ships were at different points outside the belt. Klag sighed; he had hoped the Kreel would be foolish enough to stick together. If they had, the
could just “appear” out of the belt and probably take both ships out. Based on the tactical display Toq provided, both ships’ shields were diminished, their power output low.
Now, though, the
would only be able to pull that trick with one Kreel ship, leaving the other one free to pursue. The
could probably still take the second ship, but it would be more difficult. He could simply wait out the Kreel until the
But no—Klag had had enough of these Kreel
flies buzzing about him. It was time he swatted them and had done with it.
Then he noticed something on the tactical display— one of the Kreel ships was within twenty thousand
of a small asteroid.
If we fire a torpedo into the
asteroid and detonate it when we engage the other ship, it
should do sufficient damage to the Kreel ship. And Ele
ment 604 should provide camouflage for the torpedo
“Bridge to engineering,” Klag said.
“Commander, I need a quantum torpedo to be set with a delayed detonation.”
“They’re not designed for that.”
“That was not a request, Commander, nor was it an invitation to discuss engineering minutiae. I repeat: I need a quantum torpedo to be set with a delayed detonation.”
Klag heard a nasal voice, but couldn’t make out any words, then Kurak said,
“One moment, Captain. I need to
consult with my staff.”
A bark of laughter came from the helm. “Something amuses you, Leskit?” Klag asked.