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Then a little less excited, Sulu studied his weapons console viewer. "No effect."
"Not entirely true, Lieutenant," Spock continued his readings. "Romulan ship is breaking off."
Still studying the main viewer, Kirk watched the Romulan ship re-cloak and disappear. "Spock, can you track them?"
"Yes, sir, but just barely and probably at limited distances." Spock turned to face the Captain, puzzled. "Do you wish to pursue?"
The temptation was there, but Kirk had other obligations, namely the cargo ship. "No, Spock, let's see if we can help Captain Kiltz. Form a boarding party. Ship will remain at red alert for now. Sulu, stay alert. Mr. Chekov, take the science station and continue the scans. Let me know the moment that Romulan comes back."
"Aye, Captain." Chekov jumped up from his post as Lieutenant Farrell took his place.
Kirk turned to Spock, "Careful, Spock, and keep in touch."
Moments later, the boarding party arrived on the small ship's bridge, just as Kyle had promised. Damage was everywhere as were bodies, presumably both injured or maybe dead. McCoy jumped into action with the assistance of Nurse Chapel and medical technicians. With phasers drawn, security people fanned out and began checking for other injured crew and Romulans. Spock pulled his communicator, set the controls and spoke. "Transport complete; as we suspected, the ship has received major damage. Spock out."
A second group arrived with more security and the engineering team. Spock approached Scotty, "I need a quick assessment, Engineer. We shall remain aboard only as long as rescue teams and the Doctor deems necessary."
Scott simply nodded in understanding and took his people in tow with security following close behind.
Another group now arrived, all medical personnel. Evidently McCoy had requested assistance and they went immediately to the surgeon's side.
Just a cursory inspection of the bridge told Spock everything he needed to know. The ship looked far beyond repair. Either it would have to be towed to a repair facility or abandoned until it could be recovered later. The second option seemed most logical but it would be the Captain's choice.
Deep in thought and working his tricorder, Spock failed to notice McCoy until the human sounded off with a loud 'ahem'. "Doctor, what is your prognosis?"
"All bad, Spock, and we need to be mindful of radiation. A few of my patients have picked up a dose from somewhere." McCoy was grim as he continued. "Based on what I've seen so far, I'd say half the crew is injured. Security is bringing over more people to conduct a complete search at my request. I'm returning to Enterprise with Chapel. My staff will carry on here, but I can be of more use in the operating room."
"Understood, Doctor; please keep the captain updated."
"Count on it, Spock." McCoy moved off and pulled his communicator. In a few moments, he was gone, along with four severely injured Suez crewpersons and nurse Chapel.
At that moment, Spock's communicator chirped. Already open, he adjusted the control and spoke, "Spock here."
"Mr. Spock, engineering is a mess." Scotty's voice was filled with regret. "No chance of repairs. In fact, I doubt the old girl will see service again."
"Understood, Engineer; return to the Enterprise as soon as possible. Dr. McCoy has indicated a danger of radiation. Be sure your people are cautious; Spock out."
Again, Spock's communicator sounded, "Spock here."
This time, it was Captain Kirk. "Report, Spock."
"Engineer Scott has confirmed my evaluation. The ship cannot be repaired. In addition, Dr. McCoy has informed me that some cargo ship crew members have been exposed to radiation. I suggest we recover our teams, all of the injured, and then abandon ship."
"Agreed," Kirk said. "See to it and make it quick. I feel exposed."
"Understood; Spock out." Adjusting his communicator still again, he spoke, "Attention all boarding parties. Be sure all injured crew have been recovered then prepare to abandon ship. Report your status in ten minutes."
Back on the Enterprise, the wounded received the best of care. Kirk gave Command another update and requested assistance. They were, in fact, already on the way. Unfortunately, it would take time.
Somewhat frustrated, Kirk had Uhura close the communication, then he turned to his bridge crew. "Well, it looks like we are still the only hope for this sector. There are more defenseless ships in this area that need help now and Star Fleet is a long way off; any ideas?"
The moment of silence was interrupted by an unfamiliar voice. "May I help?"
Kirk turned in his command chair to see Rojan standing behind him.
The plan was simple, providing the Romulans took the bait. The derelict cargo ship was left with a standard Star Fleet marker beacon. At least, that's how it would appear to the Romulans. If they wanted the dilithium aboard the cargo ship, it would be an irresistible target. The Enterprise would resume its search pattern just long enough to convince anyone keeping an eye on them. Spock's scans would confirm their presence and absence. Then the Enterprise would move quickly around the twin stars and wait. If the Romulans attempted to recover the ore, then Kirk and his crew had a chance to resolve the situation once and for all. Whether there were other Romulan ships to deal with was anybody's guess, but Kirk could only deal with the problem at hand.
Almost two hours passed before Spock's scans sounded the alarm. Then the familiar outline of a Klingon cruiser de-cloaked to reveal the distinctive paint scheme of a bird of prey. They had taken the bait. Once the Romulans scanned the battered hulk of the S.S. Suez and had a security team check for booby traps and alarms, transporting the dilithium would commence. This time though, they would be surprised.
Kirk nodded to Sulu, "Okay, Lieutenant, let's go. They should start transporting soon; ahead sub-light point seven five. Helm, stay close as possible to the star's coronal field; we need to stay off their sensors until the last moment. I want to be in transporter range, just in case our plan doesn't work."
Sulu and Chekov both answered with a crisp, "Aye".
The Enterprise slowly appeared from behind the twin suns coronas and heavy magnetic fields. This was necessary; while the twin suns had provided protection, they would also restrict transporter use. Enterprise now had a direct line of sight on the Romulan ship and a clear transporter field. Moving slowly, the starship remained partially obscured by the radiation. Any scanner, Romulan or Klingon, would be hard pressed to pick up even something as big as a starship.
It was now that Kirk received the signal he was waiting for. Perfect timing, Enterprise was emerging from the protection of the twin suns. Mentally, Kirk crossed his fingers, just in case.
"We're coming into sensor and weapons range, sir." Chekov's voice was almost calm as if commenting on the weather.
On board the Romulan ship, the bridge crew was 'drunk' with success. Another Federation ship stripped of its dilithium. One more load for the Empire and one less for Star Fleet.
Commander Ralnek was smiling slyly when an alarm sounded. "What is it?"
"It's the Federation cruiser, sir!" A younger Romulan officer was in shock. "It must have been hiding behind the twin suns!"
"Discontinue transporter operations; shields and screens up and power up all weapons!" Ralnek barked orders rapidly. "Get a weapon's lock on that ship, now!"