An Interesting Encounter

Chapter 9—A Plan Backfired

Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Data rushed onto a turbolift. "Cargo Bay," Han told the lift impatiently, as if he was talking to an actual person than an emotionless computer.

Data gave the bounty hunter a determined look. "Captain Solo, I think it would be in the best interest of both of our crews if you told us what was going on."

"I said, I'll tell you when we get there!" he snapped, as they stepped out of the mouthy captain looked around the cargo bay. He glanced at Commander Data, who appeared perplexed. "What do you have for explosives or denotative devices in this cargo bay, Commander Data?"

The science officer's eyes widened. "Sir, we do have several crates of industrial Federation issued explosives. However, those are only to be used for emergencies, and—"

"You don't think this qualifies as an emergency?" Han snapped back. "My idea is to either jettison the things off into space by themselves or load one of those shuttlecraft with them and send it off. Is that doable, Commander? It would create an explosion large enough to at least badly damage the Star Destroyer."

"That plan sounds as though it could be perfectly executable, Captain Solo, though there is a 20.789 percent chance that it will fail."

"What the...?" Han started, shocked for a moment at Data's calculations. He sounds exactly like Threepio, he thought to himself. To Data, he replied, "Those are good enough odds for me."

Data nodded and turned on his commlink, relaying the information to Captain Picard. "That plan is viable, Commander Data," Picard replied. "Use the shuttlecraft as a decoy."

Data, Luke, and Han began to load the small shuttlecraft with explosives. While Han and Luke were struggling with the heavy crates, Data was doing most of the gruntwork; he was picking up large crates on his own and carrying them into the shuttlecraft as though they were as light as a simple blaster rifle. Luke couldn't help but stare at him, but not for long, as he didn't want Data to notice. He would ask the android about his superhuman strength later.

Meanwhile, on the bridge, Lieutenant Worf had noticed something alarming. "Sir, an enemy shuttlecraft has managed to get extremely close to the ship. It's headed towards Cargo Bay 2."

This was the same cargo bay that Luke, Han, and Data were working in. "Destroy it immediately," Picard commanded.

"Sir, we can't. It's too close to the ship—if we fired, we would risk damaging the Enterprise," Worf replied, to the alarm of everyone on the bridge.

"How did we miss that shuttlecraft?"

"I'm sorry, Captain, but we've been focusing all our firepower on the smaller fighters," Geordi piped up through the commlink from Engineering. "That shuttlecraft could have had a cloaking device on it; I'm not sure."

Just then Data's voice came on Captain Picard's commlink. "Sir, we have loaded the explosives onto the shuttlecraft. However, I have noticed what appears to be a small enemy ship heading straight for the cargo bay."

"We are aware of this, Commander Data. Hold your ground—we'll send in reinforcements."

As Captain Picard spoke, the Imperial shuttlecraft landed in the cargo bay just as Han, Luke, and Data finished placing the last crate in their shuttlecraft. The doors started to open, and though Data didn't know what was in store, Luke and Han knew that stormtroopers would soon start pouring out.

"Looks like we have company," Han growled, reaching for his blaster—and realizing in horror that there was no blaster in the holster. Then he remembered—Captain Picard had told him that their foreign weapons belonged in the weapons locker for the safety of the crew of the Enterprise.

Luke had realized this too as he had no lightsaber to defend himself with. However, Luke had the Force by his side—though he didn't really want to show this in front of Data. He had wanted desperately to keep his other powers as a Jedi secret from the Enterprise crew. But he realized he just may have to use them.

As the door to the shuttlecraft opened, at least two dozen stormtroopers rushed out and started firing on the three. Luke and Han had no time to tell Data that they were weaponless, and they were thrown into the heat of the battle. Data began firing his phaser almost mechanically, downing several stormtroopers in under a minute. Han and Luke, however, having no weapons, were forced to dodge their attacks the best they could. Luke stuck to the corner, trying to be unseen and dodging the blasters. Despite his efforts, he felt his arms burn as his skin was grazed by blasterfire. He gritted his teeth against the pain and tried to slowly creep towards the door as the stormtroopers threatened to mow him down.

Han, meanwhile, was doing his best to knock one of the blasters out of the stormtrooper's hands, or even pick one of the stray blasters that was lying on the floor. He figured it was his best bet—after all, once he got a hands on a blaster, he would be more than useful until reinforcements arrived. With a blaster in his hands, Han would be able to hold his ground. There was nothing more comforting for Han than a blaster in his hand, defending himself and shooting down those who had screwed with him.

As he bent down trying to pick up a blaster, however, he was hit by blaster fire from the stormtroopers—several times. "I've been hit! I've been hit!" he shouted, as he practically collapsed onto the floor. Almost immediately, two stormtroopers roughly grabbed him by the armpits. "You're coming with us," one of the stormtroopers said, though his words were barely audible over the sound of blaster fire. They began to frogmarch him to the Imperial shuttlecraft. As Han was dazed from the several shots into his back, he could barely struggle against them.

Data, across the cargo bay and trying to hold his own ground, heard Han's cry for help, but could do nothing. As an android, his focus was on the job at hand, and though he wished he could save Han, he calculated that if he tried to go over there, he would be 20.4 seconds too late to help Han Solo in his predicament. Data turned his head and refocused on blasting down stormtroopers.

Luke saw what was going on. He watched almost helplessly as two stormtroopers started to drag Han towards the shuttlecraft. "Han!" he cried. Luke decided that now was the best time to try—he mustered all he could from the Force, and managed to knock several of the stormtroopers into the wall, where they collapsed on the floor.

Luckily for Luke and Data, just as the two were about completely overwhelmed, the reinforcements that Captain Picard promised ran into the room and eliminated the rest of the stormtroopers easily. Unfortunately, the reinforcements were a little too late. As the Enterprise crewmembers fired on the last of the stormtroopers, the door to the shuttlecraft closed and it left the cargo bay with Han Solo inside, no doubt heading back to the Star Destroyer.

"Data! Status report!" Picard demanded.

"Sir, they have all been eliminated, but I believe Captain Solo has been captured and taken on the enemy shuttlecraft."

Sure enough, the Empirial shuttlecraft came into the view of the Enterprise's viewscreen. "There is the shuttlecraft that entered the cargo bay," Worf stated. "Shall I fire?"

"No! They've captured Captain Solo. Allow the ship to leave. Data, remotely send out our shuttlecraft and time it to explode in twenty minutes."

"Aknowledged, sir."

"Any injuries down there, Commander Data?"

"Luke has minor injuries, sir. I will escort him to sickbay at once."

Picard nodded. "Commander LaForge, is the warp core still online and functioning?"

"Yes, sir. We can only manage a Warp 2, though."

"Lieutenant Worf, prepare the ship to engage back into the nebula. Warp 2."

"But Captain! What about Han? We can't just leave him there!" Leia protested.

Captain Picard looked at her with regret in his eyes. "I'm sorry, Princess," he said firmly. "There is nothing more we can do at this moment." He stared at the viewscreen. "Engage," he ordered.

He glared at Leia, Chewbacca, and the droids. Chewbacca howled mournfully. "As for you three, get off my bridge and return to your quarters."

In Sickbay, Lieutenant Commander Data led Luke to Doctor Crusher. As Luke sat down on a bed in Sickbay, Doctor Crusher scanned Luke's arm with a tool. "What are his injuries?" she asked Data.

"Some minor blasterfire burns, Doctor," Luke replied before Data could start speaking. "Nothing serious, it should heal in a few days, give or take."

Doctor Crusher nodded with concern. "That's nothing a hypospray can't fix," she said. Walking over to a supply bin, she picked up a strange looking tool that must have been the hypospray and injected it into Luke. It didn't hurt—on the contrary, Luke felt a numb, cooling sensation. When he looked at his arm, the redness and swelling of the burns was gone.

"Yes, it really does work that quickly," Doctor Crusher laughed, noticing Luke's look of shock. She gave the same treatment to his other arm, and then declared he was good to go.

Luke and Data solemnly walked out of Sickbay. There was a long pause as the two walked, Luke's pace heavy and sorrowful. They had lost Han... The mission was a failure, and they would never reach Hoth now... At this point, Luke doubted Picard's willingness to go back and rescue Han. Even though the Millennium Falcon was fixed and ready to go, Luke wasn't sure if he could pilot the thing. And if Luke did successfully pilot it, there was no way they could successfully rescue Han without the help of the Enterprise crew.

"I am sorry, Luke."

Luke looked up, his thoughts broken by the even voice of the android. "Um, what?"

"I am sorry I could not save your friend." Even though Data had no emotions, he could see that Luke was very upset over what had happened. As was the human way, he thought that it would be sufficient to apologize. Though technically, it wasn't his fault, as there was no way he could have saved Han. But he had seen some of the crewmembers apologize for things that had not been their fault either, such as malfunctionings of the ship.

"Hey, it's not your fault," Luke said, looking up at the android. "But thanks. That was some really rough stuff back there." He thought about his and Han's lack of weapons. "Wait a minute... It's actually Captain Picard's fault for what happened!" he exclaimed. "We lost Han because we both had no weapons. We didn't have any weapons because Captain Picard ordered that we keep our weapons in the locker." His brows furrowed in anger. "I'm going to have a word or two with him!"

"Luke, I suggest you do not speak ill of Captain Picard. He is the chief commanding officer, and his word is the highest command. He ordered your crew to keep your weapons away because of their danger."

"Yeah, but you have a weapon! A laser gun, I saw it!" Luke was furious.

"Starfleet officers are required to carry a phaser at all times. That is protocol." Data could say nothing more on the matter. Though he knew that Picard had not been very wise in not issuing Luke and Han weapons, he could not speak against his captain.

"Well, I will have several words with him," he fumed, but said nothing further. He didn't want to argue with his friend—Captain Picard was the real cause of this. Changing the subject, he asked, "I was wondering; how did you carry those crates so easily? They were extremely heavy."

"When I was created, I was given superhuman strength," Data explained. "I am also quite bullet proof, as well as laser proof," he stated, pointing to his scorched uniform. There were no burn marks underneath it, and Luke had wondered why Doctor Crusher hadn't used her hypospray on him too. After all, Threepio wasn't blaster-proof.

"Now I have a question for you, Luke," Data stated. "How did you move those stormtroopers against the wall with your hand? It is not plausible that you used wind, as there was no wind inside the cargo bay."

Luke had wondered if the android was going to ask him that. "It's really hard to explain. It's called the Force."

"Could you please tell me further? I am most curious as to what—"

Just then Captain Picard's irritated voice crackled on Data's commlink. "Commander Data, has Luke Skywalker returned to his quarters?"

"No, I am escorting him there as we speak, Captain."

Picard did not acknowledge this. "Commander Data, there will be a senior officer's debriefing at 2000 hours. I would like to speak to Mr. Skywalker and possibly the other crewmembers of the Falcon immediately afterwards, at about 2100 hours."

"Acknowledged, Captain." Data shut off his commlink, and the two walked in silence for several moments until they reached Luke's quarters.

"I guess I'll see you later," Luke said, anger and sadness mingled on his face. The door slid shut behind him.

Data walked to his own quarters, quite dumbfounded by the battle and the results of it. Had he possessed feelings, he surely would have shown frustration by the outcome of it all. However, he simply tried to configure the outcome of the Captain's meeting with Luke. Given the situation, he calculated that there would be an 89.94 percent chance that there would be some intense yelling during the session.

As he walked in the door, his cat Spot greeted him, rubbing against his legs. Data bent down and petted it, still wondering what the outcome of all this would be.

To Be Continued...