Read Star Trek: The Empty Chair Online

Authors: Diane Duane

Tags: #science fiction, #star trek

Star Trek: The Empty Chair (10 page)

BOOK: Star Trek: The Empty Chair
13.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

In the tactical display, a light winked out. “No point in chasing
Arest
anymore,” Sulu said. “
Melikaphkaz
got her. He’s pursuing
Berouinn
now.” And another light curved in on
a last green-colored one in the display: two lights became one. “That was
Sumpter,”
Sulu said. “
Tevekh
got her—”

Comms was suddenly full of a clamor of voices from all over the system.
This is a mess,
Jim thought, with entirely unnatural calm, as if watching all this in a classroom.
We need much better C&C for these mixed-force engagements. Must sit down with Uhura and design something a little less jury-rigged for the next one. If there
is
a next one. “Bloodwing!”
Jim said.

“Truly I dislike having my problems solved for me in such a manner,”
Ael said, sounding, for one of the few times since Jim had met her, distinctly rattled.

Four of the Klingon vessels came arrowing toward Artaleirh. One of them peeled off to the side to make a run at the planet.
Well, they’re going to have to take care of themselves. We have other problems.
The other three ships continued past, plainly targeting
Bloodwing
and
Enterprise.
“Wouldn’t you say their timing’s awfully good?” Jim said. “It’s almost as if they expected to find a battle in its late stages.”

“It is a matter of common knowledge that there are Klingon agents in Grand Fleet,”
Ael said, sounding unusually grim.
“We have always killed any we found, but in these latter years, treachery roots too deep to dig it all out. I will take the foremost one.”

“We’ll take the two behind. Sulu, go!”

Sulu didn’t even nod, but tactical display and the wild veering of stars in the viewscreen showed
Enterprise
breaking hard to starboard and “under” the approaching vessels as
Bloodwing
broke to port and “over.” The Klingon vessels broke right and left to follow them as if it were all a maneuver choreographed well in advance.

“Two to one,” Kirk muttered, his smile grim. “Their kind of odds.” He watched the twisting, spiraling course that Sulu was tracing down between the two closest Klingon vessels,
heading for system nadir and spinning
Enterprise
on her longitudinal axis as she went, firing the phasers from both under and over the primary-hull conduits and spraying phaser fire in a deadly pinwheel at the Klingons, now trying to close from either side. The phaser fire hit their screens without effect. One of the two ships,
Zajikh,
fell slightly behind.

“Sulu!” Kirk said.

Again Sulu didn’t respond, but the
Enterprise
came out of the spin and curved up, and up, and back the way she had come in a huge arc that left both
Zajikh
and its brother vessel
Pefak
behind her and briefly going the wrong way. Another half spin and a lurching tightening of that arc, and now
Enterprise
was behind the two Klingon vessels. They started curving up in arcs of their own to get back the advantage.

Sulu grinned and broke hard aport, but let
Zajikh
drift into range in front of him. As he did, Chekov fired everything he had, phasers and photon torpedoes both.
Zajikh’
s shields bloomed with fire on the port side, then flickered in one spot. Once again Chekov hit that spot with phasers.

The beams stabbed through to the port nacelle.
Zajikh
blew. Sulu threw
Enterprise
just enough to one side to miss the worst of the expanding debris cloud, but now
Pefak
was hard on their tail.

Sulu swung back around, threw
Enterprise
into another of those bone-groaning turns, and headed in the nadir direction again—but this time the plane of the asteroid belt was under them. Sulu fled toward it.
Pefak
came after him, fast.

Chekov pounced on his board again; a spread of torpedoes sprayed out of the aft launchers. “We’re empty until recharge,” he said. “Cycle in five minutes.”

Jim shook his head. It wasn’t going to be enough. Sulu poured on the speed as
Pefak
took some hits on his forward screens, slowed a little.

Bloodwing
came swinging in to plant a spread of her own torpedoes all over the same shields Chekov had just hit.
Those shields flared, went down.
Bloodwing
fired disruptors.

Pefak
coasted on by with engines failed, but before she could fire again and finish it,
Bloodwing
had to veer off once more as
Kartadza
came in firing, and pursued her away from the stricken ship.
“Captain,”
Ael said,
“I would say we have a problem here.”

“You would say right,” Jim said, not taking his eyes off tactical. “Sulu—”

“Coming about, Captain.”

But not for more than a second, as
Kartadza
swung around, abandoning
Bloodwing
and coming after
Enterprise
instead. Once more Sulu headed nadirward, for the belt, but only a few seconds later
Melikaphkaz
was arrowing straight at
Enterprise,
cutting her off. Sulu had to veer away, twisting, to avoid collision, and
Enterprise’
s hull groaned from stem to stern as he did it. As the Klingon fired at them from behind, and the ship shuddered with the impacts, Sulu dove back down again, but once again
Melikaphkaz
got between them and the belt, and once again Sulu had to veer away.

Jim let out a bitter breath. The burning clouds in the asteroid belt and the peculiar spectral readings coming from them had told the Klingons perfectly well what had happened in the belt. They were not going to allow any ship to take refuge there.
They’re going to make us fight in the open, cut us to pieces.

In the tactical display,
Bloodwing
was describing another long arc that would bring her back toward
Enterprise.
She started firing at
Kartadza,
but without effect—the range was too great. Jim watched her come, wondering how much longer they had.
Kartadza
was swelling in the screen’s view aft. “Shields,” he said to Spock.

“Down to thirty percent, Captain.”

Spock did not have to say,
We cannot take any more of this.
Jim heard it quite clearly in his tone, and swallowed.

It only remains to see how many of them we can take with us.
“Mr. Sulu,” Jim said.

“Enterprise,” Courhig’s voice came suddenly. “Bloodwing—
we have incoming.”

More Klingons,
Jim thought.
All right, this is it.

It was always strange, how being about to die made you feel more alive. None of that nonsense about your life passing before your eyes. The last breathing seconds of life
now
were too intense and dear to waste on retrospectives. Jim sat up straight in the center seat, took in what was happening on the tactical display. “Let’s sell ourselves dearly, Mr. Sulu,” he said. “
Kartadza
first.”

Sulu spared him just a glance. “Aye aye, sir,” he said, and turned back to his console, then said, suddenly, “Warp ingress, Captain!”

Chekov added, “
Massive
vessel, Captain.” He actually sounded a little shaken. “Decelerating hard.”

“Onscreen!”

The view changed. Jim looked out into the darkness—and stared.

He had never seen anything quite like it. Big ships, yes, and tremendous habitats and facilities like
Mascrar
and the starbase at Hamal. But this was something else entirely. It was a triple-hulled design, all three of the huge backswept, cylindrical hulls mounted in parallel, at hundred-and-twenty degree angles, in a mighty central framework. Each main hull had to be at least three kilometers long. If
Mascrar
had been a city, this was more like a county, or even a very small country. And a well-armed one, as a swarm of smaller vessels came bursting away from it, bright small sparks shooting toward the ships that had been arcing in toward
Enterprise
and
Bloodwing—
and were now already beginning, entirely understandably, to veer away.

“Uhura, hail that vessel!” Jim said. “Find out what it’s called.”

“The cavalry?” Sulu said under his breath.

Jim was half inclined to agree. Uhura was speaking softly to her console. “Captain,” she said after a moment, “they ID themselves as the Free Rihannsu vessel
Tyrava.”

“Greet them,” Jim said, “and tell them we’d be glad to talk to them when things quiet down.”

“They acknowledge,” Uhura said.

Jim nodded and watched the ship flash past. Away behind them, as Sulu spun
Enterprise
in yaw on her central axis to bring her best weapons to bear, the five Klingon vessels still able to move took one look at
Tyrava,
flipped themselves, and fled.

Not fast enough, though.
Tyrava
fired. Jim’s eyes narrowed against the blinding blue burn of phased disruptors at least as violent and powerful as the ones that had arrowed up from Artaleirh, if not more so. The first three of the Klingon ships simply vanished, leaving blooms of plasma where they’d been.
Kartadza,
running fastest, was enough out of range so that those beams didn’t simply annihilate it, but left some debris, all molten.
Pefak,
trying to limp away, suffered the same fate seconds later. A fraction of a second later, one last bolt lanced out toward
Melikaphkaz—
but it was gone, gone into warp, escaped.

Jim sagged back in the center seat and stared at the screen, while listening to a sound he hadn’t had leisure to notice all this while: his heart pounding.
Where the hell are that thing’s nacelles?
Jim thought.
What have these people been doing to warp technology?
His mouth, dry before from nerves, was now getting drier still as he realized this was a matter over which Fleet would have his skin if he didn’t get some answers.
And I thought I knew what the sealed orders were about before,
Jim thought.
I didn’t know the half of it.

“Captain,” Uhura said.
“Tyrava.”

Jim stood up, holding on to one arm of the center seat for
just a moment to see if his legs were shaking. They were. He braced himself still. “Put them on,” he said.

The screen cleared out of tactical to show what Jim assumed was
Tyrava’
s battle bridge, though the space looked to be the size of one of
Enterprise’
s rec rooms. Nearest the pickup stood a small, dark man in a plain, dark gray one-piece uniform much like Courhig’s. The man was lean, with black hair, a long, lined, somber face, and eyes in that face that were nearly black. Jim was strangely reminded of Ambassador Sarek, though this man’s expression was both far fiercer, and in a strange way, more settled.
“Captain Kirk,”
the man said in a light, soft tenor.

Jim inclined his upper body in a slight bow.

“I am Veilt tr’Tyrava,”
the man said.
“I am chieftain-designate of Tyrava Ship-Clan, as it has been reconstituted for this new time and circumstance in which we find ourselves. As clan chief, I command this vessel; though in the Starfleet structure you would conceive of me rather as an admiral than a commander.”

“Sir,” Jim said, “whatever the details of your rank, let me say that right now, you are most welcome.”

Just a slight smile warmed that long face.
“So are you,”
tr’Tyrava said.
“Here begins a new age for us, for good or ill, and your presence has made that beginning possible. May we meet, after you’ve recovered from the exigencies of battle? We have a great deal to discuss.”

“I agree,” Jim said. “It would be my pleasure. Perhaps in a couple of hours?”

“Of course.
Bloodwing
will give us the length of the hours you use. We look forward to offering you our hospitality.”

“It will give us great pleasure to accept it,” Jim said, and once again bowed just slightly.

The screen went dark, and Jim straightened.

Here begins a new age
…Jim thought about his sealed
orders again, and put aside for the moment the question of how in the world he was supposed to implement them now.

“Captain,” Uhura said, “
Bloodwing
is hailing us.”

“Put her on.”

Ael was standing there in front of her center seat, over which lay that still, glinting shape.

“Commander,” Jim said, “well fought. And thank you for your defense when we needed it.”

Her look was wry.
“I had hoped to thank you first, Captain, for whatever I might have done was as nothing to what you did. Your presence in this engagement was instrumental in buying us the time we needed for
Tyrava
to arrive. And had she come only to avenge us, the message that this battle will carry to the Imperium would have been a much different one. We are now much stronger than we were, because of you.”

“Strength by itself’s not going to be enough, Ael,” Jim said. “You need leverage, too, to turn strength to appropriate use.
Tyrava
is certainly more than welcome. But tactically speaking we’re still far short of what we need to go into Eisn’s space and make changes there. When we’re over on
Tyrava,
I think we need to sit down with Courhig and whatever other of your confederates are on hand, so I can start choosing among the options now before me.”

She nodded.
“I understand you,”
she said.
“I will see you on
Tyrava
in two hours. They will contact you with the appropriate coordinates.”

“Thank you,” Jim said. “
Enterprise
out.”

He turned away from the screen and looked over at Spock. Spock had finally straightened up from his viewer and was looking at the image of
Tyrava,
which now filled the main viewscreen.

“Fascinating,” Spock said.

“I have this feeling it’s going to get a lot more so,” Jim said. He sat back down again, as much from sheer weariness
as from any wobble in his legs. Formally, he said, “Lieutenant Commander Sulu, Lieutenant Chekov, you two are up for commendations for today’s work.” Then he grinned. “Don’t try to talk me out of it.”

BOOK: Star Trek: The Empty Chair
13.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Ever Knight by Fox, Georgia
A Baby's Cry by Cathy Glass
All Flesh Is Grass by Clifford D. Simak
Healer by Carol Cassella
As Death Draws Near by Anna Lee Huber
Complicated Girl by Mimi Strong
Some Kind of Angel by Larson, Shirley
Eye of Abernathy by Workman, RaShelle