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back to The Patrol Part 3
"You missed something a bit exciting." Klastor said as the Colonel made himself comfortable in her office.
"A Romulin science ship got lost near here and put out a general distress call."
The Colonel smiled at the Commander, "Those two words don't belong together."
"That was my first reaction, but they had the needed clearances and approvals from Star Fleet Command, they were just way off course."
The Colonel made a concerned face, "Where were they going that they got lost?"
"It's right here in the file." She pushed a data pad toward him.
Log Entry: Star Date 47885.4 Lieutenant Davis reporting on board runabout Travass.
"We are running at Warp four on intercept with Romulin Science Ship PARTA which reported being lost and in distress. I have the runabout at full alert with shields and weapons live and on standby. Commander Klastor is right behind us in the battle shuttle Kahless. But Star Fleet says the Romulins have all the permits and clearances they need to go anywhere in Federation Space. Commander Klastor is still of the opinion the only trustworthy Romulin is a dead one."
Lieutenant Davis did not state whether or not he agreed with that opinion.
The view was, oddly enough, from the weapons systems sensors aboard the runabout, the Romulin ship appeared as a small silver sliver that grew in size until it filled the screen. The ship was a very elderly Bird of Prey that had been retrofitted and rebuilt and restored and converted more times than you could count by the scans. The fact that it had ever been a warship made the Lieutenant nervous.
That fact also made the Commander livid. The Battle Shuttle hung in space in 'stand off' mode. The center mass of the antique ship dead in the sights of most of the weapons the small deadly ship possessed. All of their readings indicated that the weapons of the alien ship were disabled and unpowered, but they were still intact.
[Base Historian Note: The Kahless possessed over twice the effective firepower and at least equal shielding capacity the Romulin ship it was facing ever had, even as brand new ship of the line.]
Davis beamed from the runabout to the Romulin ship to find out what was going on.
"Davis to Klastor. Commander, you're not going to believe this." Davis said over the comm.
All Klastor would agree to was to have the runabout tow the ship back to the base with the Kahless coming behind, the Romulin still under full weapons lock.
Back at the base Klastor walked to the docking gangway wearing full body armor armed with a phaser rifle in her arms, a heavy disruptor on her belt, and an open com line to the command center with a standing order that if anything happened they were to jettison the old ship then blow it from the sky. However. She was not prepared for what greeted her as the hatchway opened.
The child was obviously Romulin. "Hello Commander. Great Grandfather is expecting you." It said.
She walked through the corridors of the old ship, expecting to run into an armed squad of Romulin crack storm troopers, a defensive robot hanging from the ceiling firing plasma bolts, booby trapped doors that exploded outward through the hull of the ship to have her facing the void beyond. Instead, she saw elderly scientists and youthful assistants, nobody between the Romulin ages of twenty and a hundred and fifty.
The child led her to a cabin where she found a very old Romulin laying in bed. The base's doctor was conferring with an elderly female Romulin who was holding a Star Fleet issue medical tricorder.
"Commander." Doctor Harding said, "This is Doctor Rousiina. She's the medical officer for the mission.
"A Romulin Female Doctor." Klastor said not lowering her weapon.
"Its not as unusual as it was when I was younger. No more unusual than a female Klingon commander of a Federation outpost."
Klastor nodded. And did not relax her guard. "What's wrong with him?"
"He's two hundred and fifty years old." Harding said.
The commander looked at the man, he looked every day of that. "Is that it?"
"That's enough." The Romulin doctor said through her translator. "He has not been taking care of himself."
"Hear that?" Harding said to the Commander nodding.
She ignored him.
"Why was the ship off course?"
"Thelapa is the only one that understood the old style navigational system. His Great Great Grandson was navigating for us, except he did not take into account the difference in Star Fleet coordinates."
It sounded plausible, but Klastor didn't buy it right off the bat. She looked back at the old man. "Is there anything you can do for him?"
"Not even at a starbase, he is simply dying of old age." Harding said.
The Romulin doctor nodded agreement.
"We have made him comfortable, his wife is with him. He has his dignity, it is all we can do." The doctor said.
The commander didn't make any comments about what she thought of Romulin dignity. "I want to speak to this navigator."
"Yes ma'am?" The child said standing at attention.
That caught her by surprise. "I'll explain about Star Fleet navigational aids." She said to his eager expression.
The ship stayed docked for several days, the base's part time science officer sharing much of his information on the sector with the Romulins as they waited for Thelapa to pass.
Finally the old man breathed his last and passed in silence. The Commander and several of her officers stood by in full dress uniform as the ancient warship fired the coffin, an empty solar probe casing, towards the Malorian Glow Clouds.
Then, with the child freshly briefed on navigation, the old ship resumed its mission.
The Colonel looked at the pad strangely. "I don't like it."
The Commander nodded, "I didn't either, I still don't. But Star Fleet claims they're legitimate."
"Maybe. Maybe not. I want to find out."
"And if they're not?"
"Those old warbirds have been known to suffer from catastrophic antimatter containment failure." The Colonel looked at the closing date of the log. "They only left yesterday."
The commander grinned a grin only a Klingon can pull off.
The Colonel laid the pad on her desk, "Would you like to join me on a short trip on my ship?"
"I would love to."
The black ship left orbit and cloaked immediately.
Wan didn't like having Klastor on board, let alone on the bridge. He didn't keep it a secret.
"Go ahead and say it." The Colonel said as the ship got underway.
"Andorians don't even make good targ food." She sneered.
Wan smiled a rather crooked smile, some of his metallic teeth showed. "Good." He crackled for a second as he locked himself back in his control bracket, "She hates me. I like that."
"Set a course for that casket. The readings of its trajectory are in the information on the incident from the base."
"Tracking." Wan said. "Plotted. Impulse."
The cloaked ship swooped in on the empty probe casing that contained the body of the old man in a manner of hours. The screen on the bridge showed the unmarked casing.
"There's nobody in the thing." Aashth said from his station. "Not even a dead Romulin."
"What's in it then?"
"Everything else, scanning equipment, directional long range sensors, energy signature tracking units, and an active Romulin subspace transponder."
"Does it know we're here?"
Aashth double-checked his instruments. "Not yet."
"Make sure it doesn't find out."
"Commander. What say you we find your friends on the lost science ship?"
"Wan, start with the last known trajectory of that ship and find it. Fast."
Wan nodded and the ship went to coaxial warp toward where the Romulins were supposed to be.
The Colonel stood up and started towards his office, he stopped, "Commander." He indicated for her to come with him. "I'm going to make a call to Star Fleet."
She smiled and joined him.
They hadn't even gotten through on the Colonel's secure and untraceable dedicated frequency when Wan announced he had located the old Romulin ship, and it was nowhere near their flight plan.
"Just stay cloaked and let's see what they're up to." The Colonel told his crew. "Trans-relativistic scan authorized."
The Commander looked puzzled.
"It's a slightly dangerous scanning procedure using subatomic particles. We only do it when absolutely necessary." He was looking intently at his display.
"Why not just decloak and board the ship?"
The Colonel shook his head, "I'd rather not start another Romulin war thank you very much. But we might finish one before it starts." He turned the display toward her, "Look at what was in your coffin."
"It's a benchmark." She said after a moment.
"I'm running a subspace scan for the signature." In a minute he was already convinced what was going on. "Their precious science mission is leaving subspace beacons all over Federation space that only they can see."
"You need to report this to Star Fleet command."
"Already doing it. Everything has been sent to my contact. He's acknowledged and is bouncing it off Security right now. I've asked for permission to disable the ship and bring it in for inspection."
"What about the beacons?"
"Star Fleet will be able to see them on the Romulin frequencies now that they know what they are looking for. They can either destroy them or leave them and set a trap for any trespassers."
"Very nice." She smiled at him. "Of course you'll inform the Klingon Empire in case they have done something similar in their space."
"The Klingons have several well placed eyes and ears inside Star Fleet headquarters, they'll know all there is to know about this before the day is out."
"You know they are there and you let them live?"
"Exactly." The Colonel said standing up and telling his replicator he wanted a cup of coffee. The beverage emerged steaming hot and very black. He sipped it tentatively, "I know who they are and what they are doing. I find them useful, for times like these. If they ever cease their usefulness, they will simply vanish."
The commander nodded. "I see."
"Besides, it is much easier to deal with a mouse you know is there instead of one you do not." His comm beeped. "We are needed on the bridge."
He stepped around the desk and gestured for her to come with him again.
"Scan results." Wan said.
"We were undetected." Aashth added.
The image of the ship vanished and then reappeared, oddly distorted, but recognizable.
"First of all, we're dealing with two ships, one within the other. Here." Aashth gestured to the wing area of the old warbird. An outline of a heavily shielded area with its own power supply and crew was visible. "My guess is this is the storage and launching facility for your benchmarks. Five man crew, and they are not reading as either children or old men."
"The rest of the ship and crew is as it is supposed to be." Kavel added from the comm.
"Perfect alibi. Regular scanning would reveal the area as simply part of the engine room or something, it would pass without a second thought." The Colonel said.
"There's a second weapons system under the existing one." Aashth said, "And Commander, from these readings, their 'disabled' weapons can be up and firing within about a minute."
"Star Fleet Command is seeing this as it happens, all data is being transmitted in real time on my frequency." The Colonel whispered to her.
"Incoming Message. Star Fleet Command." The computer said.
"OK." The Colonel answered.
"Stop That Ship. Signed Admiral Rickett, Star Fleet Internal Security Branch."
"Additional Message." The computer said.
"Relay coordinates for intercept by Star Fleet vessels. Star Base 73." Another computerized voice said.
The Colonel didn't seem to hear that message though he looked at the image on the screen silently for a minute. Then he nodded and put on a pair of thin black gloves that had been lying next to his command station. "You heard the man, but let's do this nicely. To start with anyway. Remain cloaked, use misdirection beam and hail them. Play Star Fleet until they get here."
Marot grinned, "I love this part." She said to the Commander. She composed her face and turned to a view screen on her console, even though she had not changed from her rather sedate civilian clothes, the image on the relay panel showed her as a Star Fleet Lieutenant Commander. "Romulin Science Vessel PARTA. This is the USS RAVEN respond please."
There was silence for a minute. She repeated the message.
Aashth was busy at his controls, "They are receiving, they seem to be doing a lot of moving around. Ahhh, that special section is powering down. They're probably getting ready to be visited by a Star Fleet vessel."
"Oh, well." The Colonel nodded to Marot.
"PARTA. Respond Please. This is the RAVEN. PARTA come in."
"Well how about that?" Aashth said, "That old of a Science Vessel has an up-to-date Federation Ship database on board. They just pulled up the file on the RAVEN. And it's the new one, Nebula class refit and all."
"Simply amazing." The Colonel said.
"They're responding." Aashth said.
"A bit late, but OK. Let's play along." He looked at Marot.
The message came in, an elderly man was smiling at the screen.
"Thelapa." The commander said. "He's the one that died."
"He got better." Aashth snickered.
"He can't see us, only Marot." The Colonel said to Klastor.
"Yes Lieutenant Commander." The old Romulin said to Marot.
"We've had a report that you are having difficulty navigating, and you seem to be off your flight path again. Would you like some assistance?"
He played it right down to the ground. "Are we off course again? My apologies. Please, we do not wish to trouble such a great star ship with our incompetence, just give us the correct heading and we will be on our way."
"My gazores they're off course. The heading they are on is what they programmed when they were two hours out from the station." Aashth said.
"What's the menu on their replicators?" The Colonel asked him.
"Kaquat stew, cold latta beans, ale." Aashth read off another screen.
"I hate Kaquat stew." Wan said.
"We will come alongside and see if we can be of assistance."
"No need for that, Lieutenant Commander. We can make the correction."
The Colonel looked at a screen off to one side, "Mr. Kavel, we need to look like a Nebula Class starship, the USS RAVEN."
"Three minutes." Kavel said. "You want the inside too?"
"Not yet, but have the standard package on standby."
"Aye sir." The engineer's face vanished.
"We have you on our screen, we'll be there in less than five minutes." Marot said.
The Romulin seemed confused for a second, but his 'I'm a good guy' smile returned. "Your assistance is most welcome."
Aashth nodded, "The extra section has gone completely dark, even the life signs are being muted by a dampening field not standard issue on that model warbird."
"Mr. Wan, out and back. When we are out of their sensor range, bring up our illusion and decloak. Miss Marot, get dressed for the part, do you want an escort?"
She shook her head and left the bridge.
"Out and back." Wan said. The Romulin ship faded from the screen.
"Nebula class telemetry up and running, three hundred life signs or so, warp mask in place." Aashth read off his panels.
Kavel was back on his screen, "You want Federation standard weapons signatures or no?"
"Nice touch." Commander Klastor said.
"Do it for the lady." The Colonel said, "Sometimes I'll give them Cardassian weapons to wonder about or something." He grinned.
"Turning to approach vector. Decloaking. Dropping to warp." Wan said.
"Now they can see us." The Colonel said.
"Dropping to impulse." Wan said in a couple of seconds. "Returning."
"And 'Thar she blows!'" Aashth said as the old ship came into view. "As harmless looking as a garbage scow."
The Colonel looked over at Rontel, now at the com station. "Dress me up like a Captain. Hail them."
"RAVEN to PARTA, Commander Marot is ready to beam aboard to assist your navigator in interpreting Federation signals."
"Yes, Captain. We will welcome her aboard."
"RAVEN out." The Colonel looked over at Aashth.
"I've got a lock on everybody on board the thing."
"And he can hear most of their conversations and knows who just ran the head through a cleaning cycle." Rontel said with a slight smile.
"This old of Romulin heads don't use sonic cleansing, they use a chemical they recycled through a bio filter." Aashth said.
Klastor nodded, she had always wanted to hear the history of Romulin toilets.
Aashth grinned, "Excelsior class Star Fleet vessel approaching at warp seven. It's the MALINCHE, Captained by Upat Grinolm. Four hundred ninety-three aboard, standard Enterprise-B upgrades to weapons and other primary systems. They'll be here in less than an hour."
Klastor was amazed at the man and his equipment.
"Don't hail them yet. Let them get within normal sensor range."
"Marot's aboard." Aashth said. "She's heading for the bridge. No activity in the shielded area, they still are not detecting my scans."
"Incoming message." The computer said.
"This is the USS MALINCHE, attention Star Fleet vessel. Please identify yourself." An authoritative voice said over the speakers, the face on the view screen was not smiling.
The Colonel looked over at Aashth, then he spoke to Kavel's monitor, "Is our telemetry running?"
"Yes sir. Let me reset it just to make sure its going out clear. Reset, coming back up. They should be getting a clear signal." Kavel answered.
Aashth was all over his console. "It could be interference from the dampening field on the warbird. Wan, back us off a bit."
"Let him see me, no special wardrobe, blot out the bridge." The Colonel said, he stood up and faced the screen.
"MALINCHE, this is the RAVEN, welcome to our neighborhood. Stand by one second." The Colonel said, then he touched his panel, "Computer, check with contact at fleet, make sure they told the MALINCHE what's going on."
"Reopen secure channel to the MALINCHE."
"Sorry about the formal salute RAVEN, your telemetry was garbled. Why the secure channel?" The Captain said.
"Captain Grinolm. You should have received a great deal of information about our traveling companion here, have you?"
"Yes indeed, sir. Along with the suggestion that all record of our rendezvous with you is to be purged from memories, both computer and otherwise."
"Something like that. The shielded area of the Romulin ship is in the wing section, you see that now highlighted on your screen. Also, the cloak and weapons of that ship are not permanently disabled. As soon as my crew member over there on a social call returns, I will hand the ship over to you. They do not know that their secret has been found out."
"Very good sir."
"Thank you captain. A pleasure doing business with you."
"An honor to meet the Commander of the Patrol. Even if I have never met you."
"Thank you sir. Understood. We're out of here."
"Get Marot back here before the Romulins detect the other ship."
Aashth nodded. In a minute the woman was back on the black ship.
"Mister Wan, lay in a course away from here and act like we're leaving."
"Course working." The Cyborg said.
"Once we're out of their range, cloak, and drop the illusion."
"How did you make out?" The Colonel said to Marot.
The dark woman smiled, "They will forget they ever saw me." She handed the Colonel a special tricorder.
The MALINCHE arrived and took up position behind and above the PARTA, the pseudo-RAVEN pulled off slightly and retreated.
"Scanning the warbird." Aashth said. "The MALINCHE has hailed them and informed them they are to be escorted to star base 73."
"Watch them." He said to Aashth. "Mr. Kavel, I got a bad feeling about the Romulins."
"Everything that will shoot is on line and ready. Waiting for the word."
"Hang on." He worked his controls. "They are under way, but I'm reading a secondary power build up in the warbird. The MALINCHE wouldn't be able to see it."
"Feed the information to them."
"Treachery from the Romulins. Yet again." Klastor muttered watching Aashth work his amazingly complicated console.
"Working on it. Interferance from the warbird. Their secondary weapons are active, she just cloaked, Wan, get back there!"
"This is the MALINCHE, we are under attack! Require Assistance!"
The black ship spun in space and was at the battle scene before the distress call was finished.
An odd-looking energy beam leapt from the nose of the small ship at an empty section of space. It struck something, in a second the warbird was back. It fired once again at the starship, then turned its attention to the black ship.
The bridge shuddered.
"That's uncalled for." The Colonel said. "Take out their engines. And that shielded power supply."
Aashth nodded gravely, the black ship fired a narrow blue beam at the nacelles of the old ship, the beam cut through their shields and the engines of the warbird, turning them to scrap. Then the beam switched to the wing area. It punched two holes in the ship, a large explosion erupted from the area. The ship went dark.
"No active power on the warbird. Casualties. Moderate damage to the MALINCHE, they are reporting their casualties are minor and being tended to."
"Captain Grinolm. Do you require further assistance." The Colonel said to the screen.
The captain's face appeared, the bridge showed some effects of the battle, but things were under control. "I think we've got it now. I don't remember seeing where ionizing pulse disrupters were standard on those old ships."
"Neither do I. But we're showing nothing working on that ship now."
Aashth broke their protocol by speaking to both captains. "Sirs, self-destruct on the warbird has been activated."
The Colonel glanced at the screen, he made the decision, "Shut it down."
"Working on it." Aashth did everything at once. "The system is disabled. But now I'm reading weapons fire inside the ship. They are killing themselves."
The captain bowed his head.
"What more proof do you need that that wasn't a standard science vessel?" The Colonel asked him.
"We'll tow it in. I'm sure Security will be most interested in it."
"Thank you once again sir." The captain nodded to him.
The Colonel saluted and the screen went dark. He chuckled, then turned to Wan, "Mister Wan, set course for the Commander's station, it's past her bedtime."
Commander Klastor threw the Colonel an evil look, but the look he gave her as he took off his gloves was far from evil, in fact, it made her snarl.
Continued in: The Patrol Part 5
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