Steven K. Dixon
Commander Scotus had reason to be proud of his ship. It was not of Orion design. It was a new Klingon D7 class battle cruiser. It was a warship, unfit for pirating duty.
Scotus had paid a handsome price for the ship. After making the deal with the Klingon diplomats on Orion, Scotus and loyal comrades met a Klingon contingent near the Klingon-Federation Neutral Zone. The ship was dismantled and brought back to Orion where it was reassembled, but not without modifications.
Since his crew would not be as large as a Klingon crew complement, he had the crew's quarters converted into cargo holds. He had all weaponry disconnected except front-firing disruptors and photon torpedoes. Scotus ordered his engineer, Metarius, to coax more speed out of the S-2 graf units by utilizing the unused weapon systems.
Metarius was a slim, but finely built Orion. A veteran of a hundred pirate raids, he had learned his duties as chief engineer the hard way: practical experience.
Putting his experience to use, Metarius devised an amplifier which, when hooked into the S-2 graf units, would take the power routed for the defunct weapon systems. The amplifier then would feed a pulsed beam into the drive units. When activated, this "fuel injector" could give them speeds up to factor nine. Fast enough to get them out of a crisis situation. The extra speed, believed Scotus, was the difference between life and death for an Orion pirate.
A few months and nine raids later, Scotus was able to pay off his monetary debt to the Klingons. Even with the huge cost of the ship, the raids produced a handsome profit. His crew of forty-five received their bonuses on time. This tenth run would be their last. They were all tired. One does not come off cheap when dealing with the Klingons. This run for the Klingons would wipe the slate clean.
They were in orbit around Arcturus III. Scotus' huge, muscular frame shifted comfortably in the commander's chair. He was watching the final loading procedures on the central view screen. They were smuggling Arcturian rum. The rum was illegal in Federation space. The non-specific effects of the rum were a headache to Federation scientists. The drink killed Humans, yet turned argumentative Tellarites into docile yes-men. Scotus himself did not like the drink; the out-of-body experience the drink produced in Orions frightened Scotus. But he was not about to let personal taste run afoul of huge profits.
Scotus turned to his right, looking at his loadmaster. "How much longer?" he asked.
Lucius was not a well-built Orion. His frail build could not hide his intelligence. He was the best at his job, and Scotus was lucky to have him.
"One hour, Commander. The last of the cargo is on its way up via shuttle."
"Tell your crew to hurry it up! I don't like being exposed this long with screens down."
"Yes, sir!" Lucius turned to his monitors and passed the orders on.
Scotus observed Lucius for a moment then turned back to the
central viewscreen. Scotus was satisfied that the cargo was in safe hands.
Captain James T. Kirk had one painful headache. The recent events on Psi 2000 had upset Kirk. The virus, which released a person's inner desires or inhibited feelings, had nearly destroyed the ship. Kirk saw in people things that were not meant to be seen by another man. The swashbuckling Sulu, a very Human Spock, the death of Tormolen...all caused Kirk grief.
Kirk was in his quarters, trying to get some sleep. He had turned his wall communicator off. Kirk didn't want to be disturbed.
He closed his eyes and began to think of ancient times,when ships used the wind to propel themselves across the water. A calmness spread across his body, releasing the tensions that had built up in him. He saw himself on the bow of a three-masted sailing vessel, catching the full force of the wind against his body. He was free and enjoying the freedom...and a smile spread slowly across Kirk's face.
From far away, a buzz.
It stirred Kirk from his reverie. The images began to fade.
Again, the buzz.
Kirk was awake now. The buzz came from his cabin entrance which opened the doors. A familiar face came in. "Well, Bones," said Kirk, "what brings you here?"
Kirk noticed the covered tray that Doctor McCoy brought with him. McCoy set it on the captain's desk. "I hope that I'm not intruding, Captain," said McCoy. He sat himself down at the desk.
"No, Bones. I was dreaming. It was very enjoyable."
McCoy noticed the smile on Kirk's face. "What was her name?" McCoy gave a devious look at Kirk.
"Bones, is that how you think of your captain? I thought you'd have more respect." Kirk's tone was disarming, and both of them smiled.
Kirk saw that the tray had not been uncovered. He pointed to it and asked, "What's in the tray?"
"I thought you'd never ask!" Bones lifted the cover and revealed a bottle of Rigelian cognac, dated 2120.
Kirk was surprised. "Bones, you are amazing! Where did you get this?"
They laughed and McCoy poured a drink for the both of them. McCoy gave a glass to Kirk and raised his. "A toast," said McCoy, "to good friends and," gesturing to the bottle, "unknown sources!"
"Thanks, Bones. If this doesn't cure a headache, I don't know what will."
"You're quite welcome, Jim. By the way, I've finished the physicals on the crew as you requested. Considering the events that have recently occurred, the crew is holding up fine."
Kirk nodded his approval. He was about to answer when the bosun's whistle at his view screen activated. Kirk lifted himself from his bed and walked to his desk. McCoy got up to let Kirk sit.
"Spock here, Captain. You requested to be alerted when it was oh-eight-hundred, ship standard time. It is now oh-eight-hundred and ten seconds. My apologies for being late, Captain."
Kirk and McCoy smiled. "I'll overlook this error, Spock. Ship's status?" asked Kirk.
"Ship's status is excellent, Captain. All department heads report one hundred percent capability."
"Good, I'll be on the bridge in ten minutes." Kirk switched off his view screen. He looked up at McCoy who was standing behind him. "Duty calls," he said.
McCoy nodded in the affirmative. They both understood that starship personnel were never off duty aboard ship. In space, too much could happen; no one could afford to be off guard.
Commander Tanaka cursed at himself.
He had ordered the attempt to engage warp drive without allowing the intermix chamber to attain its proper temperature. He wanted to practice the maneuver; one never knew what might be needed to save a ship in the heat of a battle. His ship, the U.S.S. Okinawa, a light cruiser of the Leonidas class, was a victim of what might be called poor command judgment.
Tanaka and his engineer, a rotund German by the name of Apfel, were examining the warp drive intermix readouts in engineering. Testing had showed that all parameters for warp drive were nominal. So why the failure? When they engaged warp drive, the alarm sounded: wormhole! Rapid deceleration with impulse power and braking with station-keeping thrusters saved the ship from utter destruction.
Tanaka was peering over Apfel's shoulder and asked, "How does it look? How could this happen? The readings were good..."
Apfel knew that Tanaka was worried. "I'll answer your second question first. It's so simple even the sensors missed it. A hairline fracture..."
"What?!" Tanaka was stunned.
Apfel pointed to the monitor, showing Tanaka where the fracture was located. "The fracture was internal. Exterior scanning revealed no defects. Hence, the interior scanning was never activated. When we engaged warp, stress and increasing temperatures rising at a much faster rate due to a cold start--"
"How serious is it?" Tanaka shook his head in amazement.
"We're down for a long time, Commander. We may not regain warp capability. I think we need immediate assistance." Apfel had never given up before when it came to his engines. The situation was indeed serious.
"Thanks, Apfel. Do the best you can."
The captain left his engineer alone and proceeded to the bridge.
Tanaka took the conn. He was fifty-eight years old. He had been up thirty hours, and his body was telling him to rest. He could not. His crew of 200 depended on him. He could not shirk his responsibilities. Looking around the bridge, he could see fear and apprehension in the eyes of his bridge personnel.
"Science officer, damage report."
His science officer was an Andorian. The light blue body was muscular and the wrinkles around his eyes told of a hard life on Andor. "Not good, sir. As you know, the warp drive is inoperative. Deflector screens are down. Our forward phaser bank is our only means of defense. Life support is having trouble recycling the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Our port pylon supporting the port warp drive unit has suffered structural damage..."
"Enough, Sellav. It seems we are in worse shape than I hoped we were," said Tanaka.
"The situation does not look promising," replied the Andorian.
Tanaka turned his chair to face the communications officer. "Ensign, send the distress signal." He paused and asked the navigator, "Position?"
"One-eleven mark thirty-three. Twenty parsecs from Arcturus Three," he replied.
"Lieutenant, did you copy that?"
"Send the signal."
"Aye, aye, sir."
In space, the damaged hulk of the United Star Ship Okinawa moved on impulse power toward the nearest Starbase. It was a wounded animal crying for help. And as in all animal kingdoms, there were predators to hear the cry.
The Orion raider was still orbiting Arcturus III when the distress signal from the Okinawa was dispatched via subspace radio. The communications officer noticed the signal amid the lights and viewers that informed him that background radiation, quantum noise, and synchrotron radiation were being filtered out. He checked to insure that allotted Orion frequencies (when Orions chose to use them) were quiet and his own ship maintained radio silence. The communications officer left his post and approached Scotus, who was seated in the commander's chair.
"Sir, I've picked up a distress signal from a Federation light cruiser," said the communications officer.
"Well done, Crokus." Scotus' elation in his voice could not hide his look of concern. "Where is it, navigator?" Scotus' voice was sharp. It was an order.
"It is on a course of one-eleven mark thirty-three." The navigator pushed a few switches, trying to tune in for a clearer reading.
Damn! thought Scotus. It's on a course for the Sigma Carinae system. And if we are to meet the Klingons on time, we must follow this course. We can't back out. The homing device they put on our ship will give our location. They'll know we won't meet!
The intercom interrupted Scotus' thoughts. It was the engineer, Metarius.
"Scotus here. What is it, Engineer?"
"S-2 graf units ready, Commander. We can leave this hole whenever you're ready to do so!"
"Good." Scotus switched to ship-wide. "This is Commander Scotus. All hands prepare for FTL drive engagement."
There was a flurry of activity on the ship. Cargo personnel secured the illegal rum. Engineering kept a close watch on the monitors, ready to warn Scotus of any malfunction.
On the bridge, all stations reported that all was secure. Behind Scotus, the communications officer acknowledged secure comlinks. To Scotus' right, Lucius confirmed the tie-down of the cargo. At the head of the bridge, the helmsman and navigator were ready for FTL implementation. There was one detail left to perform.
"Destination, sir?" the navigator asked. He was the youngest of the crew. This was his first smuggling run.
"Lay in a course for Sigma Carinae Four. Speed factor three," ordered Scotus.
Both helmsman and navigator nodded, indicating they understood the orders. With quick and knowledgeable movements of the hands over course plot-input controls, the navigator had the coordinates locked into the computer. "Course locked in, sir," he said.
"Engage FTL drive!" commanded Scotus.
The ship winked out of existence. It was not destroyed but had entered another time-space continuum.
"Light speed," said the helmsman.
Time was distorted, space bent. A protective envelope around the ship kept it safe from the damaging properties of a reality not meant for three-dimensional creatures.
"Factor two," the helmsman called out.
Scotus was nervous. Even though he knew that the ship was operating to specifications, he worried about unseen problems that could crop up.
Why agitate myself? he thought. I have a good crew--trust them.
"Hold present course and speed. Forward screens only. Have scanners set to maximum sweep," ordered Scotus.
The orders were carried out.
Scotus continued. "Lucius, you have command. I'm going to my cabin to get some rest. Wake me when we find that Federation cruiser."
Scotus left the bridge. Lucius moved into the command chair, leaning back as he relaxed and hoped nothing would go wrong.
Captain Kirk's attention was directed towards the main viewscreen. In his mind, he began to formulate the consequences that awaited Commander Tanaka. The distress signal contained all pertinent information concerning the Okinawa's present situation. He did not know Commander Tanaka personally. Computer inquiry had produced only outstanding reports for the man. Why would Tanaka attempt such a maneuver?
He lifted himself out of his chair and walked to Spock's science station. "Spock, what is our estimated time of arrival?" While Kirk had come to expect the reserved, professional response from Spock, it never ceased to please him. Perhaps there was some merit in the Vulcan commitment to logic.
"E.T.A. four hours, twenty-seven minutes at present speed, Captain," answered Spock. He was facing Kirk.
Kirk looked worried. He had tried to analyze Tanaka's decision and had worked himself into a tense state, perhaps without justification. "You listened to the tapes, Spock? What's your analysis?"
"Perhaps it was as Commander Tanaka stated--that he tried a maneuver, an unorthodox maneuver, to increase the efficiency of his crew and their response time. Without questioning the commander fur--"
He did not finish. Uhura cut him off. "Sir," she said, "I have picked up a transmission on V.L.F. The particular frequency used is not authorized by Starfleet."
"Spock, locate source!" ordered Kirk.
Spock started work on his computers, trying to pinpoint the location of the signal.
Kirk went to his chair. "Sulu, increase speed to Warp Six. Uhura, any more information?"
"I was able to run it through filters, sir. I picked up a phrase. I also ran the phrase through linguistics. It is an Orion one, meaning, 'Wish-Kill, Scotus'," said Uhura.
"Pin-pointed location, Captain," began Spock. "Point of origin is the last reported position of the U.S.S. Okinawa. Also, the phrase, structured as it is, refers to the Orion ship, Wish-Kill, commanded by a being named Scotus."
Kirk immediately realized the complications. Whoever this Scotus person was, he was an able commander. To travel deep into Federation space without detection required daring, skill and confidence. But most important of all, there had to be a reason. Information on Federation weaknesses was sought after by Klingons and Romulans. Each had a diplomatic attaché on Orion. As for the Okinawa, Kirk could only hope to get there first. If the ship was to be saved, the Enterprise had to save it.
Kirk turned to his chief engineer who was manning the bridge station. "How are the warp units, Scotty. How hard can I push?"
"Push as hard as ye want to, Captain. Just make sure ye keep the beasties from sufferin' any hard knocks," replied the Scotsman.
"No promises, Mister Scott." McCoy entered the bridge and Kirk acknowledged his presence with a quick nod of approval. He then swung the chair to face Sulu. "Battle speed, Mister Sulu. Go to Warp Six."
McCoy settled himself to Kirk's left. He whispered to Kirk, "I hope you won't need my services, Jim."
"Bones, I hope you're right."
The communications officer aboard the Orion raider had fallen asleep. His head nodded up and down, as if he was a puppet and an invisible hand was pulling the string attached to his head. Suddenly, the string snapped! His head crashed down on his console, activating the automatic ident code signal. The beeper confirming the signal caused the officer to wake up and scared everyone else on the bridge.
Lucius was furious. "You fool," he fumed. "Do you know what you've done?"
The officer could not answer. He knew what he had done; he had given any Federation ship their location. This was dangerous. He also knew that he had signed his own death warrant.
Scotus appeared on the bridge. Lucius had signaled him as soon as he heard the confirm signal on the bridge. Lucius filled Scotus in on what had happened.
Scotus stepped near Crokus, the comm officer. With the speed of a Capellan Power Cat, he had Crokus on the floor with a knife to his throat.
"You poor fool," he seethed. "You may have jeopardized this ship with your carelessness. What you've done is inexcusable. I don't have to tell you what the penalty is for falling asleep..."
"No, sir," said Crokus. "I am at your mercy."
"Not for long," whispered Scotus. With a quick stroke, the knife cut the Orion's throat. Scotus cleaned his knife on his trousers and secured it to his belt. "Let this be a warning!" screamed Scotus to everyone on the bridge.
He went to his post on the bridge. "Helmsman, slow speed to factor one. Weapons-- activate disruptors and torpedoes. Science--expand sensor sweep. I want that cruiser found!"
The Okinawa picked up the signal from the Orion ship, and Tanaka was worried. Without deflector screens, they could not last long in a fight. The fact that they only had forward firing phasers did not help matters. The Orion ship sent the signal, and it was on a course towards the cruiser.
He had ordered the ship on red alert. His subordinates were doing their jobs on the bridge. Sellav was waiting for the first sensor contact. Fallows was ready for any communication from the alien ship. Helm and navigation were ready for any battle maneuver.
"Sir! Sensor contact! Extreme range." It was Sellav. "It is a ship of Klingon configuration, but no Klingon life forms register. It will appear on our aft...about now."
The bridge personnel turned to the central viewing screen. The ship came into view. All could see the photon torpedo activating. "Helm, hard to port!" ordered Tanaka. Years of experience told him that the ship would not complete its maneuver.
"Torpedo away!" yelled someone.
"C'mon, baby...turn," whispered Tanaka.
"Contact in five seconds," said Sellav.
The torpedo edged closer to the ship.
"Four, three, two, one..." said Sellav.
The torpedo slammed into the port pylon supporting the port warp drive unit. The pylon exploded, propelling the warp drive unit into space. Shrapnel punctured holes in the primary hull, causing many fires and loss of atmospheric pressure. The fires spread, turning the lower decks of the primary hull into Dante's Inferno. Damage control parties fought valiantly to contain the flames. The impulse power plants were severely damaged. Tanaka had to shut down all unnecessary equipment to conserve energy. Tanaka realized his ship was lost.
The bridge personnel suffered no injuries. Tanaka glanced at the central viewing screen. He noticed the Orion ship pulling away at high speed. Why doesn't he finish us off? wondered Tanaka. "Sellav, what is the course of that ship? Who's manning that ship?"
"It's on a course for the Sigma Carinae system, sir," replied Sellav. "And they're Orions."
Orions, thought Tanaka. What are they up to in this area?
"Sir?" It was Fallows, the communications officer.
"What is it, Mister?" snapped Tanaka
"It's the Enterprise. They're asking if we need assistance."
"Tell Kirk he's one hell of a cavalry officer. And we could use the help."
Tanaka sat himself down in the captain's seat and closed his eyes for the first time in what seemed like eternity.
Scotus viewed what he had done without pity. Priorities had made it necessary to disable the Federation light cruiser. But Crokus' error worked liked a magnet. Now Scotus had to contend with a Federation starship. All elements of surprise were lost. It now became a race against time. Scotus knew they had been seen by the starship, yet it did not follow. If the starship captain was competent, he would deduce the Orion's heading through sensor tracking. Despite all this, the deal had to be completed.
Lucius, the loadmaster, asked, "What now, Scotus?"
Scotus waited a moment before answering. "Have the department heads meet me in my quarters in fifteen minutes. It is now time I fill you in on the rest of the mission."
With that, he left the bridge, leaving a surprised Lucius behind him.
"Well, gentlemen, here is the situation as it now stands. We have one Orion raider, heading towards what appears to be the Sigma Carinae system. It could be there now. We will soon be there. Questions remain unanswered...and I don't like it."
Kirk looked at the familiar faces about him. Spock, McCoy, Sulu, Scotty and Uhura and others were present. McCoy looked haggard. His duties to the injured personnel of the Okinawa were taking its toll on his medical staff.
"What is in the Sigma Carinae system that the Orions want or need?" asked Kirk to no one in particular.
"Captain, I cannot say with certainty just what the Orions want or need in the Sigma Carinae system. However, because of the close proximity of the system to the Klingon-Federation Neutral Zone, we must not rule out Klingon involvement," said Spock.
McCoy chuckled. "A Klingon-Orion pact? You've got to be kidding, Spock. Those two empires have never been able to work together."
"Vulcans never 'kid,' Doctor," began Spock. "Let me remind you that the Orions were using a Klingon-manufactured cruiser, and that the Klingons maintain a diplomatic attaché on Orion."
Kirk thought about what Spock said. Klingons stuck in his mind and a possible answer formed there.
"Beggin' the captain's pardon, but perhaps the Orions want nothin' from the Sigma Carinae system. Maybe it's a rendezvous point," suggested Scotty.
"Scotty, you've read my mind," said Kirk.
"I've had lots of practice," replied Scotty.
"But who wants what?" asked Kirk.
"I believe I can answer that, Captain," replied Spock. "I've made computer inquiries concerning Klingon activities. Several weeks ago, Federation scientists succeeded in producing synthetic viral weapons derived from Arcturian rum. The plans and equations were later reported stolen. Starfleet intelligence believes the Klingon government masterminded the theft. Backtracking the course of the Orion raider, I've determined its point of origin to be Arcturus Three. The planet's chief export is Arcturian rum. If my conclusions are correct, and I believe that they are, we must stop this vessel. The Klingons must not be allowed to receive the rum," answered Spock.
"A daring plan," began Kirk, "and they've picked an Orion who could pull it off. But if I have anything to say about the situation, they're not going to succeed. We must get that Orion ship!"
The communicator in front of the captain buzzed. "Kirk here."
"DeSalle, sir. We've picked up the Orion raider. It's in orbit around Sigma Carinae Four. Orders, sir?"
"Hold position! I'm on my way." Kirk turned the communicator off and looked at the others. "To your posts, gentlemen! We're about to find out if we're right."
The Orion ship had entered into a low profile orbit around Sigma Carinae IV. Commander Scotus peered at his comrades in his cabin. Lucius, his cargo master and executive officer, was seated at his right. Metarius, the engineer, took a seat in front of Scotus. They were waiting for Bak, the bookkeeper and paymaster. He performed one other function known only to Scotus, that of spy and informer.
Bak entered, his huge muscular frame occupying the seat to the left of Scotus. Bak had been on twelve previous missions with Scotus. Bak had come to respect his commander through those harrowing missions.
Metarius spoke first. His three day old beard made his face look gaunt. His voice was strong and angry. "Is it true what Lucius has said--'The rest of the mission.' You told us before we left Orion that we'd meet Andorians around Sigma Carinae Four and give them the rum. We'd collect and head for home. This is so unlike you, Commander!"
"We drop off the rum as scheduled," began Scotus, "but we won't be waiting for Andorians."
Lucius was puzzled. "Who, then?" he asked.
Scotus' answer was deliberately slow in coming. "The Klingons," he finally admitted.
Bak looked at Scotus in amazement. "You risk much, Scotus. To deal with Klingons in Federation space is not what I call a secure financial deal. How do we collect payment? Klingons are not ethical businessmen."
"No need to worry, Bak." Scotus lifted himself out of his chair and began pacing. "I demanded payment before I accepted this run. All we need to do is deliver the rum."
"Why must we deliver the rum, Commander?" asked Lucius. "Surely we could sell it to someone and make double the money by selling the same product twice."
The others readily agreed and directed their objections to Scotus.
"Silence!" ordered Scotus. "The Klingons are paying top price for the rum. They came to me knowing I was the best runner Orion has. I deliver what is expected of me. I told them I would deliver and I will. If I don't, my honor will have been stained. No fellow pirate worth his weight in k'firs would do business with us again. We would be outcasts in our own worlds. That, I cannot tolerate!"
There was silence in the room. No one protested what Scotus had said. They were true words.
Metarius, more out of curiosity than concern, asked, "What do the Klingons want with the Arcturian rum?"
"Weapons production," answered Scotus. "Synthesized viral weapons. The rum is the catalyst they need."
Scotus stopped, interrupted by a call from the bridge. "What is it?"'
"Federation starship approaching, maximum speed. E.T.A. five minutes!"
"Any sign of the two Klingon cargo ships?"
"Pass the word; battlestations!"
"Yes, sir! Bridge out."
Lucius became worried. To take on a starship was crazy, especially in a loaded to condition. He rose and faced Scotus. "You can't be serious?"
"Are you questioning my orders?" Scotus' tone was menacing.
"No, sir. I merely find them somewhat odd."
"Do not worry, Lucius." Scotus placed his hand upon Lucius' shoulder. The small gesture was a form of begging in the Orion culture.
Lucius, humbled by the gesture, said, "As you wish."
The two ships faced each other above Sigma Carinae. The Enterprise eased into orbit behind the Orion raider. The Orion ship, with station-keeping thrusters, executed a one hundred-eighty degree turn. The maneuver brought the bow of the Orion ship face-to-face with Enterprise. The ships were two gladiators in the arena of space, sizing each other up before the first blow.
Kirk had sensors sweeping at maximum range. If the Klingons were going to meet the Orion raider, he wanted to be ready. Will the Klingons meet them? he wondered. There was one way to find out.
"Uhura, open hailing frequencies."
"Yes, sir," said Uhura. A moment later, "Hailing frequencies open, sir."
"This is Captain James T. Kirk of Federation starship Enterprise. Your ship is wanted for violating several Federation regulations. Prepare for tractor beam." Kirk motioned to Scotty to prepare the beam. "Scotty, don't engage until I say so," said Kirk.
"Orion raider not responding, sir," said Uhura.
Spock walked to Kirk who was seated. "They intend to make us wait, Captain."
"I'd do the same thing, Spock. They're buying time. Maybe your analysis was correct," replied Kirk.
Interference came through the communicator, then cleared. A hard, rough voice was heard. "This is Commander Scotus, captain of the Orion raider, Wish-Kill. Any attempt by you to engage tractor beam or other offensive weapons can only be interpreted as an attack. We will respond with like force."
Kirk turned off the communicator temporarily. "Spock, get me a view on the screen!"
"On screen," intoned Spock.
On the mainviewer, Scotus smiled. "So now you see my lovely green face. It does not alter my position!"
Kirk afforded himself a small laugh. But the humor in the Orion's remark did not diminish the dangerous situation. Kirk decided to take a risk.
"Scotus, we are aware that you are to meet the Klingons. If the Klingons invade Federation space, it will be an act of war. You will be considered an ally."
No reply came from the Orions.
"Captain, I've completed a scanning of the Orion raider." It was Spock. "The ship is armed with front-firing disruptors and photon torpedoes. The cargo is Arcturian rum. Their S-2 graf unit has been modified. Possible top speed of Warp Ten."
Sulu cut Spock off. "Sensor contact, Captain. Two ships, bearing one-eighteen mark forty-three!"
"Confirmed, Captain," said Spock. "Two Klingon cargo ships, unarmed. They are without escorts."
"They want to come in quietly, Spock. But they weren't quiet enough," said Kirk.i.
On board the Wish-Kill, Lucius told Scotus of the Klingon contacts. They were discussing their alternatives when his navigator yelled in excitement.
"Enterprise leaving orbit! It's heading for the Klingon ships!" he screamed.
"Contain your excitement, dumb one." Scotus then turned to Lucius. "Well, Lucius, it looks like this is going to be a profitable run. Now we make our escape. And our honor will be intact. We can say the Federation destroyed our clients and we escaped. We go to another system. We sell the rum. We will end up with double, perhaps triple the norm in profits. You were correct in the briefing room, Lucius, but I had to let someone else ruin our plans for us," said Scotus with a satisfied smile.
Lucius thought for a moment. "You know, if I didn't know you any better, I'd say you were counting on this."
"That's why I'm the commander," replied Scotus. He seated himself in the command seat, the visions of profits dancing in his head.
The Enterprise caught the Klingons by surprise. The Klingons were coming in electronically silent, but the 'noise' of the S-2 graf units could not be completely masked. The Enterprise maneuvered itself about the Klingon ships undetected-as their electronic 'mask' worked both ways. It was difficult to detect their ships, but it was also difficult for them to detect other vessels. The Federation starship applied power and lowered itself into firing range. With three phaser banks targeted on the lead Klingon cargo ship, the Enterprise fired.
The ship buckled under the first barrage. The concentrated firepower destroyed the shields and penetrated the hull. Multiple explosions occurred and the ship began to drift out of control.
The other Klingon ship executed a one hundred eighty-degree turn. It dropped its mask and applied full power. It was on its way home. In the confusion of the melee, the Klingon ship broke radio silence, and the Enterprise intercepted the message.
Uhura gave Kirk the message. He read it and gave it to Spock. "You were right, Spock. Since they didn't get the rum, no production of viral weapons."
"Our answer has been proved correct. But the Orion ship is still loose..." answered Spock.
"Can we intercept it?" asked Kirk.
"They have a substantial lead, Captain. No doubt they are heading for the Orion system. Once there, we cannot touch them. We would have to go through diplomatic channels."
Kirk didn't like the answer. Even though he, at times, was a diplomat, he didn't like them. He turned and walked to Scotty. "I'm going to need all you can give me."
"We've pushed the warp engines hard enough," answered Scotty. "I'll do my best givin' that extra bit of speed."
"That's all I can ask," replied Kirk. He sat down. "Mister Sulu, I want to catch that ship. Warp Eight!"
"Aye, aye, sir!" replied Sulu.
At his station, Scotty shook is head in mock disapproval. He kept a close watch on his monitors and said a prayer for his engines.
The Orion ship, Wish-Kill, was three hours away from Orion space when the Enterprise came up on its rear. The amplifier for the S-2 graf units had failed to engage upon leaving orbit from Sigma Carinae IV. Metarius tried his best but could not correct the breakdown. Scotus warped out of orbit at Factor Six. But, as Scotus saw, it wasn't fast enough.
Scotus could not bring his disruptors to bear on the Enterprise. The starship locked on with its phaser banks and hit the rear of the Orion raider. The deflector screens were weakened. Scotus applied thrusters to slow his ship. This would cause the Federation vessel to overshoot and perhaps let Scotus get a shot off.
But Spock detected the maneuver. Kirk allowed the ship to overshoot but executed a one hundred eighty-degree yaw turn to port to maintain his phaser banks on the Orion raider. Both ships fired simultaneously. The Enterprise took a hit on its forward shields but suffered no damage. The Orion ship fared worse. Their forward shields failed. The residual power that the shield could not absorb hit the bridge. The explosions knocked out the engineering controls and the ship began to drift. Metarius and his engineers could not control the spreading fires. At their present rate, the fires would reach the cargo within the hour. Metarius relayed the message to Scotus who upon hearing it sank into his chair.
He turned to Lucius. "Drop the shields. We are surrendering."
"Why? We can self-destruct and take the Enterprise with us!" yelled Lucius.
Scotus' voice was soft, barely audible over the noise of cracking metal and shorted electrical wiring. "What good would that do? We'd never enjoy the profits we have at home. All the Federation will do is turn us over to the authorities. After a week, we'll be back home with our loved ones and our money. Now drop the shields."
Reluctantly, Lucius obeyed.
Kirk was in his chair, McCoy on his left, and Spock on his right.
"Captain," Spock began, "Federation intelligence failed. Their failure to detect Klingon plans for invasion will have to be investigated."
"I agree, Spock." Kirk shifted to face the Vulcan. "But let's give credit where credit is due. Commander Scotus gave us a run for our money. He was an able commander."
"I'll agree to that," interjected McCoy. "He kept my department busy."
Spock, displaying no emotion, said, "I fail to see why you pay respect to a man who has wrecked a Federation cruiser and aided the Klingons in an unsuccessful invasion."
"Give us a break, Spock," said McCoy. "We're only Human."
"Unfortunately," replied Spock. "It does not make my job easier."
Spock turned and went back to work at his science station. Kirk and McCoy looked at each other and smiled.
"Ahead she goes, Sulu. Warp Factor Three," ordered Kirk.
He walked with McCoy to the turbolift. "God, I need some sleep, Bones."
"I got something that might help you," replied McCoy.
"I'll take a rain check, Bones."
Kirk leaned back against the wall and dozed off standing up. The turbolift stopped. McCoy and Kirk walked to the captain's cabin.
"McCoy," began Kirk. "I'll be up in two hours for that drink."
"I'll be ready. But for the record, it's sleeping pills you're coming for," answered McCoy.
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