Disclaimer

Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry, and is owned by Paramount Pictures. It is not mine. Please do not sue me.


Captain's Log, Stardate 3144.9:

Our mission to resupply Deep Space Station K-3 has taken on additional responsibilities. The disappearance of the Hermes, NCC-585, in the area of the station has caused some concern in the Commodore's office, unsurprisingly, and we have been tasked to sweep the region for the ship upon receipt of our cargo canisters at K-3.

I have rather grave concerns about undertaking this task. The Kepler may be the most modern transport vessel in the Starfleet, but we are still, for all intents and purposes, a glorified tugboat.

Lieutenant Commander Rider David released the record button on the ship's log recorder, and sighed. He resisted the urge to query his communications officer, or his command intelligence officer, about the search for the Hermes. If they found anything, they'd tell him. Similarly, he avoided addressing his astrogator. The last thing the Kepler needed was for her Captain to be asking, 'Are we there yet?'

His exec set a cup of coffee down on the arm of the command chair. "Here, Dave. Figured you could use this."

"Thanks, Tom." The Captain reached for the coffee, but frowned. Vibrations were forming ripples in the surface of the black liquid, and the ship's inertial compensation was normally smooth enough that the bridge was vibration proof. "Helm, you note that?"

"Aye, Captain. I've got some ionized gas ahead, just some normal sub-space jetsam. I'm re-tuning to compensate."

The vibrations calmed down, and the Captain sighed. "Bloody bad weather again. This sector is full of ion storms, gas clouds, you name it."

"That's why they sent the Hermes out here in the first place." Tom Weber was the ship's primary helmsman, as well as her exec, but for this simple 'milk run', as he called it, he had assigned a junior officer to the helm. "Chart out the bad weather, try to find safe corridors, make shipping safer for regular freighters."

"Then we can go back to serving as a tender for cruisers and destroyers." David picked up the cup and sipped the black brew. "When are we gonna get some decent coffee on this boat?"

"We've got five tonnes in the cans." Weber referred to the cargo containers, two of which were being towed beneath and behind the Kepler. "Of course, it's for the crews at K-3."

"Thanks so much for trying to cheer me up, Tom." David smiled grimly.

"Sixty seconds to nav point Charlie, Captain." The astrogator checked his computer, and punched in new data. "Cross-decking out-warp information to Helms."

"Noted. Mister Guin?"

The junior helmsman checked his console, and said, "Out-warp program ready for execution."

"Make it so."

"Aye sir. Sublight speed in five...mark!"

The Kepler shuddered slightly, and telltales lit up across the Captain's repeaters. Moments later, the muted thrum of the ship's impulse engines could be heard..

"Our distance from K-3 is sixteen light-minutes, and our acceleration is fifty percent impulse power. ETA is three hours."

"Great." The Captain stood, and stretched. "Enough time to get some lunch, and then--"

"Contact, Captain." The communications officer frowned, one hand raised to his earpiece. "Faint contact, blind guard frequency...I'm working a cross-bearing now." His eyes narrowed, as he adjusted his commo board. "Narrowing...got it. Three twenty three mark fifteen."

"Distance?"

"Unknown. Can we work it a bit more?"

"Mister Guin, come to fifty-three mark three-forty-five, increase to full impulse."

"Aye, Captain."

"Mister Salazar?"

"Getting it...Okay. Distance is five hundred thousand kilometers. And I've got a make." He looked up. "Disaster beacon. It's the log buoy from the Hermes."

Weber sighed. "Guess that confirms it; she's lost."

"We assumed that when hails failed to raise her, Tom." David scowled. "Bring us within a kilometer, Mister Guin, and we'll tractor it on board."

"Aye, sir."

- - - - -

"Give me a self-emissions test."

"At once, My Lord."

Koth leaned back in his chair, and stared at the approaching Federation vessel. So far, there was no indication that they had spotted his ship. The Taj was not the newest vessel in the Imperial Fleet, but her small size and extensive stealth systems had made her nearly invisible to the Federation corvette they had ambushed. So much the better that the ship had jettisoned a buoy.

"My Lord, our probes report emissions below the four thousand kellicam detection radius."

"Range to the Federation target?"

"Sixty thousand kellicam."

Koth snarled joyfully at the screen. "Any change on the target's course?"

"Not yet. He is sailing in dumb as a targ. Closest point of approach will be six thousand kellicam."

"Perfect." He glanced over at the weapons station. "Arm four nuclear missiles."

"My Lord, surely torpedoes--"

"Torpedoes will betray our presence with neutron radiation. Disruptors will give us away with their magnetic signature when charged. The missiles are silent until launch." Koth scowled at the warrior. "Do not make me repeat my command!"

"Yes, My Lord." Kreve armed the weapons. "Detonators are loaded, and the weapons are hot."

"Open the outer bay doors."

"Doors are open, and all weapons are tracking."

Koth glanced over at the sensor operator's station. "Grel. Status of the target's defensive systems?"

"Navigational deflectors only. Wait..." Grel scowled, and adjusted his sensors. "The target has charged defensive screens around the bridge."

"Kreve, re-target the weapons on their warp drive."

"Done."

Koth raised a fist. "Wait...wait..."

"Six thousand kellicam...now!"

"Fire!"