January 2009

By Stephen V. Cole


Auxiliary Control, USS Auchinlek, 1345 hrs, 17 Jan Y169

"Incoming audio," the technician said.

"Put it on speakers," Lieutenant Grayson said.

"This is Beta," came the voice. "Your ship dropped its warp engines. This was the signal for surrender. Do you confirm that you have surrendered?"

"Yes," Grayson said, "we have surrendered."

"You are paroled," the voice of Beta said. "Make your way to the nearest facility that can help you. Your ship is to take no further action against me. This includes providing any data from our encounter. You are to purge your computer files of all data relating to my design, weapons, and capabilities. Is this clear?"

"Yes," Grayson said. "We have many casualties. Can you provide any help?"

"No," said the voice of Beta. "I realize that under the Organian Treaty, I am to provide such medical support, but I have neither the personnel nor the facilities to do so. Therefore, I cannot. While I am not subject to the Organian Treaty, I honor its principles. You may summon help from your own people if you can."

"We cannot," Grayson said. "Our long range transmitters were damaged."

"Repair them," the voice of Beta said.

"We cannot," Grayson said. "Our ship is a wreck and all available effort must go into surviving."

"I have no way to repair your ship," the voice of Beta said. "I suggest you consider whatever measures are appropriate."

"Our safety is your responsibility," Grayson said. "We are your prisoners."

"Very well," the voice of Beta said. "I shall find a way to send help to you."

Bridge, FPS Babek, 1425 hrs, 17 Jan Y169

"Holy stars," the navigator reported. "Juggernaut is behind us at one million kilometers and catching up fast."

"Go to emergency speed!" the police commander ordered.

"Incoming audio," the communications officer said.

"On speakers," the police commander said.

"Federation starship," came the calm voice of Juggernaut Beta. "I signal a truce. I have communication for you."

"What?" asked the police commander.

"I have slowed to warp five," the voice of Beta said. "I will not close the range further."

"Slow to warp five," the police commander said. "What do you want, Beta?"

"The starship Auchinlek has surrendered to me," the voice of Beta said. "I have given them parole. The officer in command reports that they have severe damage, need assistance, but have no means to communicate this to any of your other ships or bases. Crewmen will perish before they reach safety. I am responsible for their safety under the Organian Treaty as they have surrendered to me. I have no means to help them and no means to contact your bases; they are too far away. You have my truce to go to the assistance of Auchinlek. So long as you remain with that ship, you will not be attacked, but you are not my prisoner nor are you on parole. I am transmitting their location to you."

"Understood. I will have to speak to higher authority," the police commander said. "If I contact other ships and send them to assist Auchinlek, will you attack them?"

"No ship which is in company of Auchinlek will be attacked," the voice of Beta said, "so long as none of them attack me, and so long as Auchinlek does not violate the terms of parole. Is this acceptable to you?"

"Yes," the police commander said, "and I appreciate your courtesy. Is there no way to resolve our situation without further conflict?"

"No," the voice of Beta said. "I must take my leave."

"The Juggernaut is warping out, warp seven, generally in the direction of Kearsarge," the Navigator reported. "Out of range."

"Comms, send a report to Starbase Eight," the police commander ordered. "Then send a warning to Kearsarge and try to get Eagle on subspace."

Bridge, USS Eagle, 1430 hrs, 17 Jan Y169

"Parole?" Captain Williams gasped. "What the hell?"

"What does that thing know about the Organian Treaty?" the XO asked.

"He said he had gotten data from Alpha," the Weapons Officer said. "Beta must have read it from Grey's computer, or the Klingon ship's computer."

"Can we trust Beta?" the XO asked. "What does he lose by lying to us?"

"Well, the police might arrest him for filing a false report," the Weapons Officer smirked at the Captain.

"Worthwhile to find out it would be," said the Navigator.

"Very well," Captain Williams said to her crew, then opened the channel. "Babek, go to the assistance of Auchinlek. Send a report to us and Starbase Eight every five minutes. Avoid risk, if you can, but if you can save lives, do it."

"On my way," the police commander reported, closing the channel.

"Any word from Starbase Eight?" Williams asked.

"None yet," the Communications Officer reported. "We did get a message from Kearsarge. The Juggernaut has settled onto a steady course at warp five. Kearsarge is keeping station on the port quarter at three hundred thousand kilometers."

"Did they send us a location and course?" Williams asked.

"Yes," the communications officer said, "and I have given this to the Navigator."

"Course to up with Kearsarge form is ready," the Navigator said. "Shall helm be to given? An hour will it to arrive take."

"Yes," Williams said. "Helm, maneuver to get us formed up with Kearsarge."

Crew Cabin, Juggernaut Beta, 1447 hrs, 17 Jan Y169

"We can resume our game now," the voice of Beta said.

"The combat situation was interesting," Crawford said, touching the screen to set a stone on the grid.

"Indeed," the voice of Beta said, its own stone appearing in a different part of the grid. "My analysis shows that the ships which attacked had less firepower than those that destroyed Alpha. Why did they attack?"

"I don't know," Crawford said. "Maybe they thought they had enough firepower, maybe they needed to resolve the matter quickly, maybe there were other ships you did not detect which did not join the battle?"

Stones continued to appear on the grid as both Crawford and Beta placed them. "I have detected another installation," the voice of Beta said. "Destroying it should not disrupt our game."

Stones continued to appear.

Bridge, USS Eagle, 1451 hrs, 17 Jan Y169

"Juggernaut course changed has," the Navigator reported. "Headed is he now for station 2715MEF mining."

"Time until he's in weapons range of the station?" Williams asked.

"Hour it is," the Navigator said, "estimated."

"Comms, tell Kearsarge to stay with the Juggernaut," Williams ordered. "Then get a report to Starbase Eight and the mining station. Helm, take us around the Juggernaut and head for the station, maximum emergency speed."

"Mining station 2715MEF on speakers," the Communications Officer reported.

"Eagle, this is mining station 2715MEF," came an agitated voice. "We've been monitoring the open reports file. Is that thing coming here?"

"Affirmative," Williams said. "Prepare for evacuation. I will be in range in 30 minutes. We won't have long."

"Unacceptable," came the voice of the station manager. "Do you know what this is? We're a major mining facility worth billions of credits. We have over six hundred people here. You need to destroy that thing now."

"Not practical," Williams said. "We tried it with four ships and failed. I am not wasting more ships and more lives fighting it with only two damaged ships. More ships are on the way but won't be here for a day at least. Prepare for evacuation."

"Thanks for nothing, Star Fleet," came the reply. "My corporation will be taking this to the Council. You'll be flying a desk ... if you manage to stay in uniform at all."

"Just prepare for evacuation," Williams said. "Let me worry about my own career. Eagle out." "Over six hundred people?" the XO asked. "And do what with them?"

"Just shoehorn them in somehow," Williams said. "Communications, download the current database of freighters in the area. Find me one or two within a few light years that can take the passengers off our hands."

Bridge, USS Eagle, 1602 hrs, 17 Jan Y169

"Confirmed," the XO said. "Mining station 2715MEF has been destroyed. Two hours to reach rendezvous with a freighter that can take half of them, six more hours to get rid of the rest." "Juggernaut at warp five is leaving," the Navigator said. "Alert! Juggernaut new course is Arcturus for headed! Warp seven!"

"Arcturus!" came the cry from Williams, the XO, and the Weapons Officer at the same time. "Arcturus is over a hundred parsecs away," said the XO. "At warp seven, it will take him six days to get there."

"How many billion people are on Arcturus?" Williams asked. "Five billion? Six?" "Six, roughly is," the Navigator responded.

"Incoming audio," the Communications Officer said.

"On speakers," Williams said.

"You will fight me," the voice of Beta said calmly over the speakers. "At the planet, or sooner, but you will fight me. The communications traffic from that world is more than I have ever heard. More than Alpha ever heard." The speakers fell silent.

"Crap!" Williams snarled. "Get a report to Starbase Eight and tell them to start every starship with a phaser in this direction right now. Even the ones that can't get there in six days, because if we don't stop him now, someone will have to stop him later."

"Captain," came a human voice over the intercom.

"What?" she answered.

"This is Marine Captain Thompson," came the voice. "Be advised that Lieutenant Kezlok is in the shuttle bay, assisting with my troops in handling casualties. He's behaving himself, but technically, he is out of bounds."

"How did he get off the scan?" the Weapons Officer asked. "The computer is supposed to warn me if he leaves the allowed areas."

"Unknown," the Marine responded, "but we lost internal scans in several areas in that first battle."

"Put somebody with him," the Weapons Officer said, "a courtesy escort, but somebody who won't let him out of his sight. If he's helping with first aid, let him continue."

"Will do," responded the Marine, "out."