"That remains to be seen," Sonax replied. "We know more every minute. This could be only some kind of demonstration."
        "The report from K6 has been confirmed," said Lieutenant Steflin, the Rigellian communications officer. "Three ships have exploded, the fighter squadron has been wiped out, and the base has taken heavy damage but is still fighting."
        "Where is that cruiser?" asked Captain Thellessan as he stormed onto the bridge.
        "Range 900,000 kilometers, off our starboard quarter, headed straight for  us," Cagpert reported.
        "Turn to face him?" Lieutenant Marxina asked.
        "Where is the raider?" Thellessan asked.
        "Starboard bow, range two million kilometers, headed across our bow halfway from here to K5."
        "Move to cut him off?" Lieutenant Marxina asked.
        "Negative," Thellessan said. "Turn left to new course three five oh mark one, go to maximum speed."
        "Aye, Captain," Marxina said instantly.
        "We're running?" Farnik sputtered. "We could fight the cruiser and let the raider go on his way, or we could try to block the raider. We should not run away!"
        "That raider is a C5, Mister Farnik," Sonax said. "Simulations of combat between a Federation heavy cruiser and a Klingon C5 light dreadnought show only a 14% chance of victory and only a 19% chance of survival. Before that battle ends, the cruiser will arrive and destroy us. This is not our ship to throw away for hubris. We'll have to regain our reputation on another day. There will be other days."
        "We could fight the cruiser!" Farnik exclaimed. "Let the raider go. You're letting him go anyway!"
        "That would risk being trapped by other ships we haven't seen yet," Thellessan said. "On this course, we'll reach the rally point and link up with the main elements of Third Fleet. We can track the C5 and issue reports of its route."
       "Warp 7," said Marxina. "Warp 7.5. Warp 8."
        "Cruiser has closed to 600,000 kilometers and is holding there," Cagpert said.
        "Logically," Sonax evaluated, "he doesn't want to burn out his engines catching us. We could turn and be on him before he could drop to battle speeds."
        "The C5 is now directly to the starboard side," Farnik said. "His course is parallel to ours. Range over one million kilometers. He's still at Warp 9.6 and on course three four eight."
        "Comms, update the report to Starbase 15," Thellessan ordered. "And tell both battle stations that we aren't coming."
        "Dreadnought is turning!" Farnik shouted. "New course four zero zero, across our bow. Turning again, new course zero two zero across our bow. Range dropping to 700,000."
        "So we get to fight after all," Cagpert said.
        "Arm photons, standard, negative overloads, drop to warp 2.5," Thellessan ordered. "Stand by to fire alpha strike and resume maximum speed on my command."
        "Target?" Farnik asked.
        "The C5, if he comes into range," Thellessan said. "If he stays out of range, we'll turn on the cruiser."
         "Klingon cruiser is identified as a D6," Cagpert said. "He has dropped to Warp 2.6 and is at 350,000 kilometers, bearing one five zero, closing slowly."
        "C5 is dropping to Warp 3.2," Farnik said, "bearing three five six, range 500,000, heading straight for us."
        "Put our nose on the C5," Thellessan said. "If he keeps closing, I'll take anything down to 40,000. As soon as we fire, turn to new course four zero zero and go to Warp 3.2. Stand by to accelerate to Warp 8. Do not let him get to 30,000 or he'll tractor us. Have Marines and transporters on standby. Drop a mine out of the shuttle hatch while you're at it. That may give one of them a surprise."
        "C5 is at 300,000!" Farnik said. "Coming straight for us."
        "D6 is accelerating," Cagpert announced. "Closing to 280,000 ... 260,000 ..."
        "C5 continuing to close!" Farnik screamed. "He's coming to tractor us while the D6 punches the rear shields! Range down to 220,000 ... 200,000 ... 180,000 ... 160,000..."
        "Fire! Fire everything!" Thellessan ordered. "Hard left rudder, take us to Warp 3.2. Launch a drone at the C5; get us out of here!"
         "Both ships closing," Sonax said. "D6 is at 80,000, C5 is at 70,000. Both are firing!"
        Phasers from the C5 tore into the Hornet's starboard shields. Disruptors from the D6 tore into the rear shields. Both volleys penetrated the shields and caused damage, but Hornet was already leaping to higher speeds.
        "C5 took some damage," Farnik said, "but he's turned and is gaining speed. The D6 avoided the mine, and is gaining speed. Range to nearest ship, the C5, is opening to 200,000, now 220,000. C5 has veered off to our right. Range opening, he's back to Warp 6 ... Warp 7 ... He's out of range, 360,000 ... Warp 8 ... Warp 9. He's gone."
        "Perhaps back to his original mission," Sonax suggested.
        "D6 is holding at Warp 2.6," Cagpert said. "Range has opened to 300,000."
        "Steady on course four zero zero," Marxina said. "Warp factor 3.2."
        "Go to Warp 8," Thellessan ordered. "Plot a course for the rally point. Get a flash report to Starbase 15 and other stations. I'll write the formal report in a minute."
        "We hurt the C5," Farnik said.
        "Not as badly as the Klingons hurt us," Sonax said. "We lost three of the photon torpedoes, half of the phasers, 25% of warp power, 50% of other power, and we have extensive damage to all decks and all systems. This ship cannot fight before undergoing major repairs."
        "The D6 has abandoned pursuit," Cagpert reported.
        "There's a mystery for you," Thellessan said.
        "Indeed," Sonax responded. "Why did they not destroy us before moving on. Logically, they had mission orders in which we were a secondary priority. Crippling our ship was enough to satisfy those orders. They have other, higher priority missions."
        "Head for the rally point, and maintain speed," Thellessan ordered. "I have a report to write."

Bridge, POL Stec, 400 Parsecs from the Klingon Border
        "What's next?" Captain Billings asked.
        "The mining colony on Omicron Sixteen," his wife and navigator said. "The course is laid in."
         "Execute," he told the helmsman. "How many people there?" he asked his wife.
        "Sixteen that want to leave," she said. "We have room for about 50 more, and three more stations to visit."
         "No Klingons in sight, right?" he asked.
         "No real ones," she laughed. "There are ghost reports all across the sector, but none of them check out. Every freighter captain who sees a trace on his scanners screams for help just in case it really is a raider."
        "The real raiders will get this far soon enough," Billings said. "Are all of the freighters still moving?"
        "Every one we've talked to," she replied. "I'm trying to herd them to K1, but most of them are headed straight for home, wherever home is. Others are headed for Orion space, thinking they'll be safe there, for some reason. We do have eight gathered in the convoy, but if we don't get back there, they'll scatter."
        "Which ones are there?" Billings asked.
        "The Ted Williams, Tony Orlando, Geraldo Rivera, Spiro Agnew, Tony Dorsett, Anne Boelyn, Fredrick Douglas, and of course the Aguinaldo under Lieutenant Javier."
        "The good Lieutenant Javier is going to have to keep them together," Billings said. "We have more stops to make."
        "Thirty minutes to the next station," his wife said.
        "Still those rumors that the Orions will bail out?" he asked.
        "Every time there's any kind of scare," she chuckled.