september 2008

By Stephen V. Cole

Bridge, USS Eagle, 1427 hrs, 3 Jan Y169
"Target spotted is, range kilometers 1,640,000, bearing Mark Four 390," the Navigator said. "Not at this range target locking. Engine flare thirty-eight degrees we are at on port quarter target." His Arcturian voice was almost musical in its tone.

"Very well," Captain Shanna Williams responded.

"Attack Plan will be Juliet seven. Snap count will begin at one million kilometers.

"Helm, take us right to course 85, full speed ahead, execute immediately. Pull her nose up to Mark one, but I want to stay ten thousand kilometers under that beast.

"Navigator, let me know when we come across the target's stern, and I don't want to have to twist any struts coming up behind him. A simple tight turn will be fine.

"Guns, power up the photons. Plan for an overload shot at 40,000 kilometers, follow up with phasers. Drone launch at 80,000 if you have a lock.

"Any questions?" There were none.
Seconds ticked by as the ship roared across the target's stern, hopefully out of its detection range, trying to reach a position dead astern of it.

"Comments, Lieutenant?" Captain Williams asked.

"Even at your speed," the Klingon attaché answered, "this won't work. The Juggernaut can out-turn you."

"That is not what the intelligence files say," Williams answered, keeping her eyes on the screen.

"Grey's ship was badly damaged," Lieutenant Kezlok responded. "His records were not complete. I read them."

"A ship that big cannot turn any better than my ship can," Williams sneered. "Nothing in the records or the reports says it can."

"You read the processed report, not the interview transcripts," the Klingon answered, keeping a smile on his face.

"Grey's crew said that it could out turn the Excalibur, something Star Fleet Intelligence omitted from the report. What they do not believe, they do not repeat."

"I have never heard this," Williams said, hesitantly.

"I was there, remember?" Kezlok answered with a smile, gesturing vaguely at the Federation Star Fleet Bronze Star on his uniform sash next to his Fleet Star. "My phaser battery scored some of the first hits on the first Juggernaut's armor."

"Even so ..." Williams began, clearly not believing him.

"Coming on the target's stern we are," the Navigator almost sang. "Laid in is new course."

"Execute," Captain Williams snapped.

"Coming to new course, 352, mark one," the Helmsman reported. "On course ... now!"

"Range kilometers 1,590,000," the Navigator reported.

"On course, on speed, snap count is set for one million kilometers," the Executive Officer spoke precisely. Andorians were always so damned precise.
The Eagle bored in at full speed, headed for the tail of the target. Captain Williams watched the screen and could almost see the twin tailpipes of the target growing.

"Range one million, fifty thousand," the Navigator called.

"Go for snap count," Williams barked.

"Snap count in three ... two ... one ..." the Executive Officer intoned. "Now!"

"Dropping to combat speed," the helmsman reported. If the ship got within weapons range going above warp 3.2, it would be too vulnerable to damage. "Warp three. On course."

"Drones have a lock, launching in five..." the weapons officer said, counting down as the ship approached the target at Warp 3. "Drone away. Phasers and photons locked. Firing in four ... three ... two ... one ... FIRING!" he called out.
With a shower of sparks, all of the panels and lights on the starboard side of the bridge went dark at once, leaving that half of the bridge in the other-worldly glow of the lights from the port half.

"Not again!" Williams screamed, punching for the intercom button. "Engineering! You said you had that fixed!" Out of the corner of her eye, Captain Shanna Williams saw the Klingon attaché smile and turn away, pretending to study one of the still-working port-side panels.

"Power is out on the entire starboard side of the saucer section," the voice of the engineer responded from the speaker. "We still have power in the rear hull, and both engines are running at full power, as is the impulse array. I have crews assessing the problem but cannot estimate a time element in identifying the failure."

"What about fixing the problem?" Williams asked with a snarl in her voice. "Any time element on that?"

"I will give you an estimate once I locate the problem," the engineer replied. "In the meantime, I recommend you transfer the con to auxiliary control. They remain fully functional."
"Very well," Williams sighed, signaling to the bridge engineer to make the transfer. Officers began to relax as their control functions were sent to other stations. Williams looked for the Klingon lieutenant and found him using a first aid pack to bandage what seemed to be a serious burn on a technician's arm. He smiled at her and said, "I was the only one who wasn't busy." Williams vaguely waved at him to continue.

"Signal from the Kearsarge, Captain," the communications officer reported.

"Put it on speakers," Williams directed.

"Good shot, Captain," the voice said. "We didn't see you coming until you were passing three hundred thousand. Didn't have time to do much about it other than raise shields. Do you still think that stunt will work if a real Juggernaut shows up?"

"Affirmative," Williams responded. "End exercise forty-seven. Form up on my port quarter. We will reduce speed to sub-light. You and your bridge crew can beam over for dinner at 1800 and we'll talk."

"Wouldn't miss it," Commander Strakhorn answered. "And what's up with the lights on your saucer?"

Wardroom, USS Eagle, 1814 hr, 3 Jan Y169
"Your new ship is most impressive," Lieutenant Kezlok said while passing a bowl of mashed potatoes. "Of course, we have similar high-speed designs, but I have never seen one personally. It is a signal honor to be invited on your shakedown cruise. Could it be arranged for me to watch the next series of exercises from the Kearsarge? Your new light cruiser design is quite impressive and I would appreciate a closer look, perhaps even a turn at a gunnery console. I understand that those on Kearsarge are of a new design."

"That would exceed my authority," Captain Williams said. "But I can send a subspace request to Star Fleet Headquarters and ask them if your orders can be extended. You do have another two weeks with us." And I wouldn't mind getting you off of my bridge, but Star Fleet is never going to let you near the new cruiser, she thought while smiling at the Klingon.

"That would be splendid," Kezlok replied. "And again, thank you for adding an extra drill to your shakedown to deal with the Juggernaut. I still have ... what do you call them, unhappy night visions? ... of that ship."

"Nightmares," the weapons officer spoke, "we call them nightmares. I have nightmares of the Juggernaut and I have never seen one."

"And there is no indication that a second such ship will ever appear," said the executive officer, his antennae twisting toward the Klingon. "No harm in an extra drill, but spending too much time worrying about things so unlikely to happen is not a productive use of our time out here. Time that is much reduced because the engineers cannot keep the ship running."

"If you expect me to take offense at that remark, you will have to learn to live with disappointment," the Vulcan chief engineer responded. "As I discussed with the captain, the problem is not one of my creation - the shipyard must take responsibility for that - but I confess that I am puzzled as to why my technicians cannot isolate the fault."

"Just what happen did?" the Navigator asked, his voice unusually tense.

"Power overloaded one of the energy relay junctions and melted it," the Vulcan explained.

"Again?" the Navigator asked. "Fixed that I thought you had?"

"There are twenty-four such relay junctions on this ship," the engineer explained. So far, five of them have burned out during a total of forty-seven combat exercises, counting one that has burned out twice. We have yet to identify exactly what is causing the problem. As you know, using our on-board stores of diagnostic equipment, we placed recording devices on the six junctions I determined to be the most likely to fail. This failure today was not in one of those, and was in fact in a junction which has never failed before. I have insufficient data to identify the problem. We had, as you know, disengaged the automatic re-routing after the last exercise, when the previously-repaired junction failed and power being rerouted burned out another junction."

"Why not put watch dogs on all of the junctions?" the Weapons Officer asked.

"We lack the equipment to do so," the Vulcan said.

"Perhaps you could borrow some of ours," Strakhorn said, looking at his own chief engineer. "We haven't had any of these issues and could spare the equipment and technicians."

"This would be most welcome," the Vulcan said.

"How is the new battle drill working out," Strakhorn said.

"Excellent," Williams answered. "It cuts combat response times and gives us a decisive edge.

"Strakhorn noticed several pairs of eyes rolling around the table, but knew better than to ask any of the Eagle's officers to comment on her Captain's pet project. He sought out another target. "Lieutenant Kezlok, does the Deep Space Fleet use such drills as the 'snap count' concept that Captain Williams is pioneering?"
"Not as such," Kezlok replied with a diplomatic smile."

We have 'combat modes' including those where all commands are given by the captain and other modes in which individual gunnery officers are authorized to engage their own targets. A perfect combination of the Klingon philosophy of rigid central control and the warrior philosophy of individual initiative." He laughed briefly at his own joke about his own race. A few others laughed with him.

"However, your new doctrine is intriguing and I will be writing a report on it when I get home," Kezlok said. "You base it on range rather than time, which is most interesting. Clearly, it only works when you know in advance what your attack plan will be, and have time to program all of the ..."

"Which is why, Lieutenant," Captain Williams interrupted, "it is the perfect doctrine for this ship. We're so fast that we can set up our attack runs at a distance and be on the enemy before they know we hit them."

"If they do not cloak first," the Weapons Officer said. The group burst out laughing.

"I remain curious about one thing," Kezlok asked. "On your ship, the navigator is the one doing the ... tactical intelligence job. Why is this?"

"Because the scanners have I," the Navigator responded, the tips of his ears glowing almost green, "and in tactical combat once we are, nothing else to do I have. Maintain our location and to plot courses to destination next assigned is my task. Once engaged with target we are, captain bypassing me is ordering the helmsman directly."

"Most efficient," Kezlok answered. "On our ships, we do much the same thing, but there is always a navigator in a separate compartment, below the bridge, maintaining our position relative to all astronomical bodies. You do not have such extra navigators, and require the ... tactical intelligence navigator ... to maintain these positions while tracking the enemy as well."

"Hard it not is," the Navigator said. "Time most of, nothing there is there. Warning computer gives of 100,000 kilometers object we are from to around go."

"I see," said Kezlok. "Well, there is more than one way to do anything correctly. I'm sure your system works for you."

Captain's Quarters, USS Eagle, 2236 hrs, 11 Jan Y169
"I don't like the Klingon having the run of my ship," the Weapons Officer said.

"It's not your ship, it's mine," Captain Williams responded. "And the computer tracks his movements. He's restricted to certain areas and hasn't violated those limits."

"And you invite him to dinner every night."

"He's a guest, the deputy assistant military attaché for Rigel, invited on our shakedown cruise by Star Fleet Headquarters, which ordered me to show him 'every courtesy'. He's a foreign officer, just like that Gorn who rode along with us on the Constellation for six weeks."

"Do you trust this Klingon?" the weapons officer said.

"Only to be true to his own nature, and his own government," Captain Williams answered. "You remember the story of the frog and the scorpion, of course?"

"It is my nature, I cannot help myself," he answered with a grin, reaching for the buttons on her uniform.

"A nature I know only too well," Shanna chuckled. "Stop, let me do that."