Table of Contents
Captain's Log: Stardate 4676.3. After an uneventful but rapid journey to the Morlan sector, the situation has changed quickly. We have discovered one automated cargo ship and two ore carriers, badly damaged or destroyed. Even after extensive searches, no traces of survivors were found. The ship remains on yellow alert and the search continues. We are getting closer to the mining colonies, but curiously, have not received any communications. I hope to find some answers soon.
Kirk sat silently in the command chair. Other than the usual electronic sounds, the bridge was quiet until Uhura squealed with delight. "I've got something sir! It's the S.S. Suez. Captain Kiltz sends his compliments; he's coming out of the asteroid field and wishes to warn us about Romulans."
"No doubt", Chekov said to no one in particular.
Kirk turned to Spock and gave him an 'I told you so' look; Spock simply shrugged.
In a relatively short period of time, Captain Kiltz appeared on the Enterprise transporter pad. A bit shaken but happy to be aboard, the tall fair haired German stepped down and offered his hand to Kirk. "Boy am I glad to see you!"
Kirk took the hand and returned the firm grip. "I'm glad to see you as well. We were beginning to think no one survived." Kirk released the grip and stood back.
"Only by luck, Captain. I took my ship into one of the densest parts of the asteroid field where the Romulan didn't dare go." Kiltz took a long look at the transporter room, shaking his head.
Studying the cargo ship Captain closely, Kirk asked, "Is there a problem?"
Kiltz was embarrassed. "Sorry, I was admiring your ship."
Smiling warmly, Kirk made a friendly offer. "How about a tour?"
The other Captain got close to Kirk again. "Can't; I have to get back; we still have repairs to do. I just wanted to give you a quick briefing."
"Very well, let's have it." Kirk folded his arms across his chest and took on a more serious expression.
"We were returning from the Calamar mining colony when the Romulans appeared out of nowhere. We had no warning but somehow we were able to get into the asteroid field just in time. We received some minor damage in the attack, but it's under control. We signaled Star Fleet but I can't believe you got my S.O.S. There seems to be a real problem with communications in the area. Anyway, I was really surprised to see Romulans operating this deep in Federation space.
"It comes as a surprise to us as well." Spock offered, "However, we wish to rectify the situation."
"How many ships, Captain?" Kirk got to business.
"Only saw one... but that was enough. It was one of those big ones, a Klingon type."
Spock was nodding and in thought. "A larger ship would be consistent with the use of intimidation tactics and be better suited for dealing with Star Fleet." Then he added, "Given the importance of this sector, I would not be surprised if they employed more than one ship."
"So what do I do?" Kiltz was visibly shaken.
Kirk smiled, "We'll escort you out of the area before we begin our search for the Romulan. Will that work for you?"
"Absolutely," Kiltz brightened noticeably, and then he had an afterthought. "What about..."
Anticipating the train of thought, Kirk tried to put the man at ease. "I doubt they'll pursue one small cargo ship out of their primary operational area."
Knowing further discussion or argument was pointless, Kiltz shrugged. "Okay, give me about thirty minutes to finish up a few repairs, then we'll be ready."
"I can send help if you need it," Kirk offered.
"We've got it. I prefer my own people." Then Kiltz added quickly, "No offense."
"None taken," Kirk smiled, "I understand completely. I'll wait for your readiness signal."
Kiltz took a quick two steps up to the transporter platform and nodded for Scotty to begin. In a moment, the man was gone and Scott moved out from behind the console to join Kirk, Spock and McCoy.
McCoy had been quiet up to this point, but made up for it quickly. "Looks like we've got a real can of worms, Jim. What's your plan?"
"Conduct a thorough search of the sector, but not until I update Command about this situation and inform them of the Romulans. There's a lot at stake here; this isn't just a random raid by pirates." If we're dealing with Klingon ships and not the smaller Romulan types, it's going to be a lot more difficult." Kirk paused for a beat then turned to the engineer. "Scotty, give the engines a once-over. I want to be sure all the Kelvin modifications are off line and that we're 100%."
"Aye sir; we'll be 110% when the cargo ship is ready." Montgomery Scott hurried off with a new purpose and disappeared before Kirk could respond.
A curious Kirk continued, "Spock, can we modify our sensors to do a better job of locating cloaked ships?"
Responding quickly, Spock related his thoughts. "I have been working on that possibility since we discovered the derelict ships."
"And?" McCoy seemed a bit anxious and annoyed.
"I am just about finished and have begun some fine tuning. However, I have based my work on the cloaking device we took from the Romulans over a year ago. Its technology may be a bit... out of date, which may limit the effectiveness of my efforts."
McCoy harrumphed loudly, "So, what you're saying is, it probably won't work!"
A confident Spock admonished his friend. "Not necessarily, Doctor. Even a partial reading could be quite helpful."
"Agreed," Said Kirk. "Finish your work Spock, while I contact Command. Once we escort the Suez out of here, I want to start search patterns and sensor sweeps immediately. Get with Sulu and Chekov and have a plan ready by the time I return to the bridge. I'm going to see our passengers and give them an update and apologize for the delay. Looks like it's going to be a bit longer than we originally thought."
Smiling broadly, McCoy saw a chance to needle Kirk. "Going to apologize to Kelinda personally?"
Kirk gave the Doctor a cold look and left without answering.
Spock arched an eyebrow, "It would appear that is a somewhat of a touchy subject with the Captain."
After escorting the Suez out of the area, the Enterprise began sensor sweeps. Sulu and Chekov executed a perfect search pattern and Kirk was satisfied with the progress, even though he knew it would be a slow process. He had reason to be worried; missing and damaged ships were always a major concern. Standing up from the command chair, he took the steps up to the upper level and walked about to burn off his nervous energy.
Stopping at Uhura's position, he asked, "Any signals, Lieutenant?"
Uhura turned and smiled. "No, sir, nothing at all. Considering the number of mining colonies in this area, if nothing else, we should be picking up commercial traffic."
Kirk smiled at her. "No news isn't always good, right?"
"Something like that, sir."
Kirk stood by a moment, and then speculated, "Any evidence of jamming?"
"No, sir, just nothing to listen to, not even carrier wave static or background noise. I think it's due to the binary star. It's putting out a lot of energy." Uhura sounded defeated.
"It's okay, Uhura, keep trying. We'll be moving away from the stars in short order." Kirk then moved over to Spock's station when Chekov spoke.
"Actually, that's now. We're moving to next area, sir, away from the stars, Captain." The Russian's hand tapped the controls as the Enterprise made a barely perceptible turn to port.
"Leaving section twelve for section thirteen, Captain." Sulu added, "Still at warp one."
Nodding as he walked, Kirk spoke in his command voice. "Steady as she goes then. Continue the search."
Now standing next to Spock, Kirk hovered for a moment, not wishing to disturb the Vulcan until he turned. "Nothing to report, sir; however I am reasonably sure we should..."
Spock words were interrupted by Sulu's shout. "Weapons fire, sir, coming from the general direction of the Suez; they're being attacked again!"
Pivoting on his heel, Kirk made it back to the command chair in just a few quick steps, speaking as he moved. "Red alert; Chekov, reverse course; Sulu, warp six, now!"
Both men jumped into action as Kirk tabbed the intercom button on his chair. "Mr. Scott, I need everything we've got!"
Scotty responded quickly and crisply. "Aye, sir, warp eight point two for now, more on the way!"
Kirk re-tabbed the intercom button with a slap. "E.T.A., Mr. Spock?"
"Twelve minutes, fifteen seconds, sooner if Mr. Scott keeps his promise on increasing speed."
Tension was perceptible on the bridge, but as usual, under control. The crew was professional and concentrated on their work and Kirk respected his crew as much as they respected him.
"Increasing speed to warp eight point four five," Sulu declared.
"At a boy, Scotty," Kirk said to no one in particular. "Uhura, any signals from the Suez?"
"No, sir! Nothing! Either they've lost communications or..."
"...they've lost the fight." Sulu finished the statement when Uhura couldn't.
"I have them on my sensors, Captain," Spock said. "The cargo ship is badly damaged and defenseless, incapable of movement. It seems that the Romulans simply put the ship out of action, but refrained from destroying it."
Confusion showed on Kirk's face. "Now why would they do that?"
"Coming into visual range now, Captain." Spock nodded towards the main viewer.
"Sulu, main viewer at maximum!" Kirk turned to look.
"Aye, sir," Sulu flicked the control quickly.
The main viewer shimmered then settled into a portrait of terror. The small cargo ship was burned, bent and battered with the Romulan ship hovering above the defenseless hulk, just like its name sake, a bird of prey.
Adjusting his console controls, Spock relayed his findings. "Transporters in operation, they are beginning to transfer the cargo. Evidently they do not detect us, too involved with transport operations."
"Sulu! Fire phasers and a full spread of torpedoes!" Kirk yelled.
"Aye, sir, firing phasers and torpedoes now!"
The ship lurched a bit with the release of energy. On the main viewer, Kirk could just make out the hits. The Romulan shields flared up as they dissipated the energy of the Enterprise's weapons.
Chekov became excited. "All direct hits, sir!"