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The guests gathered around the monitor after a prolonged break and refreshments, then the station historian started the highlights of the log again.
"These are all after Commander Klastor took over." Lt. Davis smiled. "Things haven't been the same since."
"I could imagine." The leader of the visitors said.
Log Entry: Star Date 47823.4 Lieutenant Commander Klastor Reporting.
"Lieutenant Second Class Mikal Dro-Drostone is dead. He died with honor in the line of duty."
The Commander's face was somber. She paused for a second then continued the entry. "The reason he died is simple enough, outdated fighter ships. He was piloting one of our older patrol fighters and ran into a ship that didn't appreciate being hailed by Star Fleet. It fired without warning. Destroying Dro-Drostone's ship instantly. His wingman Ensign Parker immediately retreated at full speed. While our patrol had their shields up, they were grossly overmatched against the hostile ship's fire."
The log changed to the recording of Parker's scanners.
"We have been unable to determine exactly who is responsible for this act. However, the ship is known to be from Ramoforth. Star Fleet is investigating and with the information we have supplied, they hope to eventually press charges." She frowned into the camera.
"But this is unsatisfactory. From the readouts from Parker's ship, even the runabout would have been severely damaged, if not destroyed by the first shot."
"I have approached some of my people looking for ideas. I have also ordered a squadron of newer ships with high output shields to avoid this type of incident in the future. But in the meantime, we are pursuing something that while it won't prevent future surprise attacks, it will give us an option besides screaming loudly for reinforcements or risking a ship not made for combat."
The view switched to one the main hanger bay. Several of the crew were hard at work.
"It's going to be the ugliest thing in space." Lieutenant Davis said.
Klastor agreed, "To whoever fires on one of our patrols again it will be."
"I got it to power up." Somebody called from inside the tiny engine compartment. "But with the station shield generator running, there's not enough power to run the rest of the ship."
"Then we'll add another power source." Klastor said.
Station historian notes:
A week later a supply ship arrived with two newer fighters instead of the seven requested, but it did have a heavy disruptor she had ordered to install on the shuttle.
Eventually, it all worked. After a fashion.
Log Entry: Star Date 47876.1 Lieutenant Commander Margie Klastor reporting.
"Our long range combat ready patrol encountered a ship of unknown origin which refused to answer our hails. Our battle capable high speed shuttle craft was dispatched to intercept the intruder. I myself piloted the shuttle."
The screen showed a picture of the rather odd looking shuttle. Overpowered for its size, sporting what could only be called a gun turret from its roof, the small ship had been turned into nothing more than a heavily shielded flying power cell. According to Star Fleet records, it was registered as a test platform for a new type of shield generator. But, as things went, the shield test led to a plasma disrupter test, and when that didn't work, they installed a modified directional phaser array obtained on the informal parts market. The engines had been souped up to where the old shuttle became little more than a steerable projectile, but it could make warp 7, an experience that had some of its passengers kissing the decking when they got back to the base. The extra power was needed to feed its shields and guns. As for creature comforts, it still had seats, life support, a minimal replicator, and a Jerry-rigged privy, installed by an engineer named Jerry.
The screen showed the revamped shuttle leaving the station and screaming off towards its prey.
The ship that had ignored the patrols didn't look overly friendly. The dark hull glistened in almost a liquid way, a slight glimmer from what seemed to be engines was the only clue that it indeed was a ship. As the shuttle approached it did not veer off course or even seem concerned about the new challenger backed up by five fighters standing by on station to cut off escape.
"This is Battle Shuttle Kahless One. You are intruding in space patrolled by Star Fleet. You are ordered to identify yourselves."
It slowed to a stop but did nothing else.
"Klastor to all ships, is anyone able to scan the ship?"
"Hawk here commander, I've scanned it several times, I'm not getting anything back. No shields, no weapons, no energy signature, nothing."
"Neither am I." Ensign Jeap added from his ship.
The dark vessel sat in space. Now still, not even a slight glow from its engines broke the oily surface.
Commander Klastor, never much on patience, ordered the ship to reply under threat of force, then she brought her weapons, already on standby, to full readiness. "Identify yourself or you will be fired upon."
Her co-pilot said the weapons were locked on the intruder.
The silent dark ship remained as it was.
"Firing." The commander said.
The beams struck the ship, it glowed for a split second. Then the beams went through the ship to disappear into space beyond.
The beams stopped, the ship was unmarked.
"That was unreal." Ensign Jeap remarked.
Klastor fired again, using a wide spread. The wide beams struck the ship. This time, the dark ship shimmered and glowed brightly. But when she ceased fire, the glow faded and the ship was undamaged.
"Firing photon-magna charges." The commander said.
The front of the shuttle erupted in a volcano of large balls of glowing energy. The projectiles struck the dark ship and seemed to bounce off.
"That's impossible." Hawk said. "They can't do that."
The commander fired again after tinkering with the weapon's settings. This time the charges detonated on impact. But when the wild energy from the explosions dissipated, the ship was still there.
As the Star Fleet people debated what to do next, the dark ship turned slightly and moved to continue on its course.
Commander Klastor jerked the shuttle to block it. The fighters moved as well. The alien didn't slow or alter its course. The shuttle's collision alarm went off. Klastor and Ensign Voight braced themselves for impact.
There was no impact, the shields never activated, the other ship simply flowed around the shuttle and went on its way.
"It's a Changeling." Hawk shouted. His fighter's weapons came to life blasting away at the retreating ship.
"Commander Klastor to all Star Fleet vessels! We are in pursuit of a Changeling ship." She repeated herself, then gave the course and speed.
"It's going to warp." Voight said.
"Stay on it." Klastor said.
"Warp two, three." Voight counted up as the stars moved.
She looked at her instruments, "That's not a warp field, what is it doing?"
In a second the dark ship was enveloped in a rainbow of color, then it elongated into a line that vanished in the distance, then it was gone.
They cruised on at warp for a minute, then slowed to normal space. There was no sign the dark ship had ever been there.
"No residual energy, no subspace disruptions." She shook her head. "Was it ever here?"
Voight didn't answer.
Back on the station they analyzed every second of the encounter. Every reading was gone over a dozen times. The instruments recorded that indeed, something had been there. But that was it. Other than the fact that it gave off some low level light when in motion, and it looked oily, it had given up no other secrets.
They transmitted their data to headquarters, in a week or so, a science ship arrived to continue the investigation.
"It wasn't a Changeling species we are familiar with. We can scan the Founders, and get readings back that make sense. This thing didn't read at all. It came into direct contact with the shuttle, and left nothing behind, a Changeling such as a Founder will leave readable traces." Lieutenant Shile said. He was one of Star Fleets leading experts on Changelings. "According to our consultant on Deep Space Nine, while they can exist in the void for a short time without harm, they cannot travel, they cannot change shapes, and they cannot resist weapons fire. They will use up their bodily energy just to keep from freezing, then they will become a block of ice, essentially dead unless they are taken to the Great Link to thaw and be revived. This ship exhibited behavior that indicates it was not a Founder."
Commander Klastor's face turned into a mask of Klingon contempt. "Wonderful news, then what WAS it?"
"We have no idea. If it comes back, call us."
The commander leaned back in her chair and looked at the expert. "Before or after I blow it from space?"
Shile didn't answer.
Continued in: The Patrol Part 2
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