Table of Contents
Commander Saavik sat down hard in the center chair and cursed quietly. What a waste! Almost half the crew was probably injured, many might be dead and the ship itself was a mess! After an hour of cat-and-mouse games with the Tholians, she thought she could end the encounter without violence. It was not to be. She looked around the bridge, which was tinted from the glow of the red alert and emergency lights. The main viewer was out and three bridge stations were useless. She had done a few makeshift repairs at helm, but now she had to wait.
Her first officer had been taken to sickbay, along with most of the bridge crew. All had been exposed to radiation and it would be some time before they would receive any attention. Dr. Chapel had just informed the bridge that sickbay was full and that one of the med teams was among the injured.
"Damn, damn, damn," she said to no one in particular. The only crewman present was on the floor, passed out but in stable condition. Med techs had made a brief visit and did a quick fix on Simmons. Then they assisted the rest of the bridge crew to sickbay, promising to return later with an anti-grav stretcher for Simmons.
What was the phrase Captain Kirk had used a long time ago? 'Got caught with my pants down.' Yes, that was it. She almost smiled at the thought but caught sight of Simmons again. Thinking about the recent events, she was reminded of her failure. She had been so preoccupied with the ships confronting her that she failed to prepare for the worst, more ships. They had arrived from behind, cloaked. Then suddenly, both fired a decidedly non-Tholian weapon at her from point blank range. Angry with herself, the images of her injured crew and battered ship, she jabbed the intercom button with a vengeance. "Engineering, what's taking so long down there?"
A brief pause was followed by a very tired female voice at the other end. "Just a few more minutes, sir, and you'll be off emergencies with impulse power to boot! In another hour, maybe less, you'll have warp drive."
Saavik was still anxious. "What about screens and shields?"
Again the pause, then the same tired voice. "Within the hour, but not at full strength and two of the shields are down permanently."
"Not good enough, Chief!" Saavik's frustration had risen again. "Our counter attack gave them a bloody nose, but they may come back to finish us off at any time. Concentrate on getting those shields back, understood?" Before the engineer could reply, Saavik had cut the intercom circuit with a slap that betrayed equal measures of frustration and anger.
Suddenly the main viewer flickered back to life. A moment later normal lighting returned as well.
"That's better!" someone said behind her. She turned around to see the science officer grinning broadly.
"Geoff! Are you all right? Should you be back on duty?"
"Sure thing, Captain. I couldn't leave you holding the bag, could I?"
She hated the way he was looking at her now, not sympathetic or accusing, just genuinely friendly. Right now she could almost kiss him, but as he began to approach her, she stiffened. "Geoff", she said sternly, "we are in a difficult position. I need you at your station, ASAP." She really did love him and she would probably take comfort in that after the situation was under control, but certainly not now.
He caught the look in her eyes and the no-nonsense tone in her voice. "Okay, Captain. How bad is it?"
She toned down her severity a bit and stated the situation calmly and, as usual, very briefly. "Engineering should have impulse back on line soon and warp drive in an hour. But two shields are down and that's our big problem. Got any ideas?"
Geoff still had the grin, but it had been diminished somewhat. His mind went to work on a solution to the shield problem. "All right, I accept the challenge. Anything else?"
Saavik remained solemn and looked him square in the eyes. "Yes, help me compose my letter of resignation from Starfleet. Command will probably demand one anyway." She was only being half serious, but something in her voice made it sound as if she was admitting defeat.
Geoff's smile vanished completely and now it was his turn to 'sound off.' "Listen, Saavik, what happened, happened, period! There aren't many officers in Starfleet who have dealt successfully with the Tholians, not even your mentor, James T. Kirk. He almost lost his ship in his first and only encounter, and since then every attempt has ended in a disaster. Starfleet's idea to try contacting them again was ill conceived and it's not your fault. You could not anticipate their radical change in tactics--the first in over fifty years by the way--or their sudden 'discovery' of high energy weapons. That smells suspiciously of Romulan influence. There is no way you could have known about that or the cloaking either.
"You did a good job of 'scaring them off,' but right now your primary duty is to get us out safe and report all this information back to Starfleet as quickly as possible. That would help the situation immensely."
She stood silent, with a blank stare on her face. He was right, of course. Self-incrimination would not help the situation a bit. Moreover, she deserved the chewing out. She responded by firing back a barb to ease the situation a bit. "So, you don't have any ideas, do you?"
The turbolift doors opened and the beta shift Comm Officer exited at a clip. Behind him were two more officers, a replacement helmsman and a med tech for the current one.
Saavik looked at the junior officer and spoke quietly. "Mister Sulu, please take the helm. Set a course for Starbase Thirty-Four and standby to initiate full impulse power as soon as it becomes available, understood?"
Demora acknowledged with a crisp, "Aye, sir."
The med tech helped Sulu gently move the injured crewman from his position at the base of the helm station to a position out of the way. While the med tech attended to various injuries, Sulu surveyed the damage to her station.
"Lieutenant, I've already rerouted your controls through auxiliaries. You'll find a preset on tap to stabilize our position." Saavik studied the young lady and knew the ship was in the best of hands.
"Aye, sir. Using thrusters?"
"Exactly. Nakamura has promised us impulse power shortly."
"Understood, sir. Thanks for the repair work!"
Saavik watched Demora move over to the NAV station, just for a moment, as she entered the appropriate heading. A replacement navigator would be arriving shortly but at least the previous navigator had made it to sickbay under her own power.
The captain then put her mind back to work on the shield problem, but was distracted by the whistle of the intercom.
"Bridge, engineering; impulse power is back on line at ninety-five percent. I'll have warp drive in about thirty minutes or so. Any signs of our friends returning yet?"
Saavik did little to suppress a slight sigh of relief. "Good work, Engineer. All clear so far, but that could change soon!"
There was a hint of pride in the voice at the other end of call. "We'll be ready for them; engineering out!"
"Captain?" Geoff was hovering over the science station's viewer and rubbing his forehead as if to ease a headache. "I think I've got a solution to the shield problem."
Saavik responded by reaching the science station in a heartbeat.
Geoff did not look up but continued with his findings. "If Nakamura is correct about warp drive, then we can use the impulse engines to reestablish the shields." He pointed to a schematic on one of the overhead monitors. "We disconnect the main power generators for the shields; they're useless anyway and take too long to repair. Then we use the output of the impulse engines at this point to shore up the shields and deflectors. It will require a considerable amount of work but it will take a lot less time than conventional repairs."
The captain was impressed but there was another problem. "Aren't you forgetting the output levels of the impulse engines? They're not balanced or filtered for direct input to equipment. We can't build anything that will do the work in less than a day."
He smiled. She had swallowed the bait. "True, but since our main objective is to get away and not to explore or make immediate contact--"
She smiled back in realization and finished the obvious "--we can route the power through the scanner and communication power outputs. They will handle the imbalances and any power fluctuations. Nice work, Geoff. Thanks for the kick in the pants, too."
The helmsman, comm officer and med-tech all looked up following the last comment, but nothing was said.
With a solution in hand, Saavik hurried over to the comm board. "Kelly, did you hear that?" Before the communication specialist could respond, Saavik continued. "You take care of rerouting power through the comm circuits for the aft shield. Take as many people as you can find and make it quick!"
Kelly jumped up and headed for the turbolift. "Aye, sir; on my way."
The science officer was still checking the various power equations when Saavik returned. "Geoff, you get to work on the scanner circuits for the port shield and use anybody that Kelly hasn't already taken."
Geoff smiled again. "I'm ahead of you, sir, and on my way. You'll have full shields in a jiffy!" The tall Australian stood jumped up and quickly made his way to the turbolift with tricorder and data tapes in hand.
As soon as Geoff left, Saavik stepped back down to the lower level of the bridge where the med tech was still busy tending to Simmons. The helmsman looked up and smiled weakly. Saavik smiled back and tried to reassure him. "Don't worry, Lieutenant, we're not beat yet, not by a long shot. If you get your 'space legs' back again, I could use you."
The young officer smiled even more and responded in a traditional and admirable manner, "Just give the word, Captain!"
"Mister, the word is given, whenever you feel up to it." Saavik looked past the resting crewman to the med tech with a hopeful look. The med tech met her eyes, smiled and nodded. He would be fine.
The turbolift doors hissed open again and two more med techs arrived with an anti-grav stretcher. Behind the med techs were replacements for all of the remaining posts.
Now they had a complete bridge crew again and Saavik relaxed just a bit. While the officers settled into their respective posts, Saavik focused her attention back on the main viewer. Without even looking, she activated the intercom again. "Engineering, this is the bridge. I'm sending you some help. Mackenzie thinks he has a solution for your ailing shields. Can I still hold you to those estimates on warp drive?"
From the other end the voice came back filled with pride. "Aye, sir, and maybe just a bit sooner!"
"Outstanding! I'll get you a promotion." Saavik was just about to terminate the call when a very sarcastic voice replied.
"Is that a threat or a promise, sir?"
"Understood, Engineer. Bridge out!" Saavik then redirected the call circuits to another area of deep concern. "Bridge to sickbay. Doctor Chapel, are conditions any better down there?"
Another very tired human voice responded after a moment's pause. "Captain, I think we've got a handle on it. The radiation burst was heavy, but the short exposure time helped considerably. It's not as bad as we originally thought. The last shot of radiation affected only very limited areas, namely the bridge and the outermost areas of the upper hull."
The doctor paused a moment to catch her breath and to collect her thoughts. "You can have your first officer back in a minute or so. He's just loafing around here and getting in the way. Don't worry about the rest of the bridge crew. All of the radiation exposure was minimal at best. Sickbay out!"
Chapel's termination of the conversation was her way of saying, 'Don't call me, I'll call you.' Saavik relaxed considerably. The doctor had eased a number of concerns.
Now, if the Tholians would just give them enough time, repairs would be completed and the U.S.S. Kearsarge would be headed safely for Starbase Thirty-Four.
The captain now redirected her thoughts back to the Tholians. Lately they had become part of an updated saying. Instead of a 'thorn in your side,' it was now a 'Tholian in your side.' That's just what Starfleet Command thought of them. All attempts to establish friendly contact had met with failure, just as Geoff had reminded her.
She looked back at the main viewer and thought about the most recent encounter with the Tholians. "Helm, tactical, maximum view."
Sulu reached out and reset the main board. "Tactical, aye, sir."
The large viewer shifted to the familiar grid work with the overlaid graphics. Centered on the screen was the marker representing the Kearsarge. Surrounding the ship were three small star systems and a modest asteroid field. The rest of the screen was empty. "Now where did I go wrong," she said to herself.
The sound of the turbolift doors opening diverted her thoughts momentarily and she turned to see her first officer.
His eyes never left the tactical display as he walked quickly towards Saavik's position. "Trying to get a feel for the playing field, Captain?"
She was confused by the question. "What did you say?"
"The playing field; the area of operations. Do you see anything you missed?"
Saavik sounded a bit disappointed in herself with a simple answer, "No."
Lieutenant Commander Jan Van Gilder lowered his voice a bit and spoke frankly to his captain. "That's right, 'No.' You did all you could do. No hidden answers, no quick fixes and no unresolved mysteries. You did your best and no one on board is complaining! I have but one request, Saavik. Let's get the hell out of here and put this all behind us, before those,"--he lost the exact word mid-sentence--"'things' come back."
She looked at him with a bit of suspicion. "Have you been talking to Geoff?"
The expression on his face did not require a verbal confirmation.
The captain then continued, "Very well, Mister. How about giving Geoff a hand down in engineering. It may get a bit crowded down there, but hopefully they can find a use for you."
"Aye, sir." Van Gilder turned and headed for engineering. He said no more, but Saavik was sure he could hear him smiling.
Easing back into the command chair, Saavik suddenly realized just how tense she had been. She tabbed the intercom once more. "Ship's company, stand down to yellow alert and get me a weapon status as soon as possible. I'd want a photon torpedo reload as soon as possible; let's be ready for anything. Captain out!" Then she turned to Sulu, "Viewer normal."
Sulu altered the mode button with a flick of the wrist. "Viewer normal, sir; on course for Starbase Thirty-Four at point nine five sub light."
"Very well, helmsman, stay on top of it. Be prepared to go to warp speed as soon as it's available." Saavik watched the main viewer return to the normal mode. Now it was a waiting game.