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back to The Patrol Part 6
Commander Klastor was almost relieved when Marot hailed the station and received clearance to come into orbit.
"So it's been dull around here?" The Colonel said with a grin.
"For the last week our most excitement was a fire in the launch tube." She said with a long face.
The Colonel laughed a long time.
"It's not that funny."
"You're the one that bid on duty out here to get away from the constant barrage of everything on Starbase 81."
"But there has to be something in between that and this. There has to be."
"I dunno, I think I'd kinda like being bored for awhile." He looked at her, "Since you've had nothing else to do, I hope you have been working out like I taught you."
She grinned her best Klingon grin. "It's all I've had to do."
"That's one good thing about it." He stood up and flexed his hands, "Let's find out how good you are now."
"Next time, put the padding on the walls." The station's doctor said.
Rontel was chuckling under her breath. "You're not as young as you used to be."
The Colonel winced as Doctor Harding moved his arm.
The doctor grinned slightly. "Not completely dislocated, but I bet its going to hurt good for a couple of days. Unless you've changed your mind and will let us treat it."
"I've flown combat with worse." The Colonel said.
"Undoubtedly. And how long ago was that?" Harding asked him.
"Your mother was in Kindergarten." Rontel said.
"Not that long ago." The Colonel protested.
The Doctor squeezed his shoulder and ran the scanner over it.
"OWW!" The Colonel said flinching. "OK, maybe it was that long ago."
"Next time, put padding on you."
"That'd spoil the fun." The Commander said.
"If you're refusing treatment, get out of my sickbay." Doctor Harding said to them.
"Well?" Rontel said to him.
"Maybe just take the throbbing out of it." The Colonel said gently.
"Yes sir." Doctor Harding reached for an instrument. "And you promise no more full combat without some precautions."
"How about her?" The Colonel said as the Doctor ran the device over his shoulder.
"You promised." Klastor said sharply.
"That was before you made me come down here."
"What's wrong Commander?" Rontel said to her.
"We'll see about that. Scan her while I finish him up."
Rontel ran a medical scanner over her. "She's got a cracked bone in her hip."
"Get up here." The Colonel said to her.
Grudgingly and with some stiffness Commander Klastor got up on the examination bed.
"Lay down." Doctor Harding said to her. "Don't forget, I can order you to."
Her glare would have killed a rabid targ in its tracks.
Doctor Harding scanned her hip. "What were you two doing? The bone is cracked in two places and there's a deep muscle bruise."
The Colonel and the Commander laughed together at some secret.
"You wouldn't believe it." Rontel said.
"I'm a doctor, not the station counselor, try me."
"I'm not saying a word." The Colonel said slipping off the table as Doctor Harding treated the Commander's injury.
Rontel laughed and answered for them. "They were making love in the zero G storage room."
He looked up surprised. "I thought they were practicing free fall combat."
"With these two, it's the same thing."
"You should try it sometime Doctor." The commander said as she flexed her repaired leg.
"Really. It's exhilarating." The Colonel smiled as he helped her up.
The doctor put his instrument down. "No thank you. I like my romances a little less energetic."
Rontel smiled at him.
"A Little less energetic." He repeated.
Kavel amused himself in slightly less violent ways.
During his tenure as a restauranture he had become quite the gourmet and he couldn't wait to try out his skills in the ancient galley on the station.
"This is a saus pan." He said to Marot.
"What else would it be?" She said to him.
Ensign Haynes laughed and walked out of the small rec room laughing. The two other crew members smiled with amusement, but stayed to watch. This was the most entertainment they had had in weeks.
"I'm going to make the 'Orange Bitarn Sauce' that they liked so much." Kavel said seriously.
Marot smiled. The others chuckled.
"You're going to make it, or replicate it?" One of them asked.
"I'm going to make it. But I'll have to replicate the ingredients of course."
Kavel rattled off a list of stuff to the replicator. It materialized his things in various bowls and bags and cups. Then he set to combining them and stirring the pan over a small heating element built into the counter. "You have to keep it just below boiling for just the right amount of time to combine the flavors correctly."
It did smell good.
Marot looked into the pan. "Is it supposed to be turning brown?"
Kavel pulled it off the heat. "You want it a little caramelized."
"A little." The crewman said.
"For the correct amount of time." The crew woman added.
He stirred it some more, then poured some more of the liquid from one container into it.
"There. See." He showed them the pan.
"OK. So what do you do with it?"
"You serve it over a Centros Game Hen."
They looked at the counter searching for the birds.
Kavel didn't miss a beat. He turned to the replicator. "Four servings of roasted Centron game hens."
Wan spent his time working on his new pet project.
Then he took it out for a shake down cruise.
Wan was obsessed with building a better battle shuttle. And Commander Klastor encouraged him, although from a distance.
The Andorian cyborg had some heartburn about her naming his new ship Kahless II. But he gave in on the basis that they were creating a whole new class of ship and with the precedent set, others based on their models would be named after other legendary heroes, and one of them might be Taan Wuh of Andoria.
Most of the concerned persons were gathered in the command center for the launch.
Lt. Davis led the way in a fighter. Aashth followed Wan in a runabout.
"And he's away." Ensign Gabriel said. "The runabout is right behind him."
Wan's voice came over the com. "All systems run good. Impulse engines to full."
"Telemetry good from all three ships." Gabriel said. "Point seven five light."
"Permission to go to warp." Aashth said.
"Commander?" The Colonel deferred.
"Run the checklist." She stepped behind Gabriel.
"Mixture. Coolant. Chamber pressure." The ensign called out.
In the ship Wan checked both the needed indicator and his own interface with the ship. If both agreed, he replied "Check." In one case, there was a discrepancy. "Need minute." Wan said.
"From here I'm showing normal exhaust ratios. It must be an internal sensor glitch." Aashth said scanning the Kahless II.
"Reset. Come back on line." Wan said. "Exhaust check."
"Navigational deflector. Subspace transponder."
Wan checked the last two items.
"Attention all nearby vessels, this is Space Lane Station 374-II. We are conducting a low warp test on an experimental craft. Please stand by." Commander Klastor said formally. There were only two vessels anything that could be called remotely nearby. One was a private trader on a private mission and had no intention of getting anywhere near the station, the other was a freighter full of tritium ore. The private ship made a sharp turn to put even more distance between themselves and the station. The freighter's crew made a side bet on how long before they heard a 'Mayday'.
"I'm standing to." Lt. Davis said and put his fighter into a slow arc away from the shuttle.
"Runabout Travass ready for warp." Aashth smiled into the mike.
"Kahless Two, clear for warp one." Commander Klastor said.
"Kahless Two. Warp One." Wan said.
Gabriel began the count. "Point eight light. Point nine. Point nine five. Warp field stable. Output good."
"Wan?" The Colonel said.
"I got warp."
"Showing warp one point oh three."
"How's it look Aashth?" The Colonel asked.
"Pretty as you please."
"Go for warp three." Klastor said without being asked.
"Warp three Commander?" Wan said using her title for the first time anybody could remember.
"Warp three Mister Wan." She confirmed.
"Thank you." She smiled at the Colonel.
"Reading solid telemetry across the board. Warp two. Mixture is a bit rich."
"Adjusting." Wan said. "Good now."
"Confirmed. Warp three."
"She's a beauty." Aashth said from his following position.
"Let's not push it." The Colonel said.
"Agreed. Bring it back for the weapons test." The Commander said.
"Return course." Wan said and looked at his displayed. "Using manual controls. Interface deactivated."
"Systems stable." Gabriel said. "Showing full manual. Course laid in. He's coming back."
The entire flight was seamless.
"I've got them." Lt. Davis reported from the fighter. "It's still in one piece."
"Of course." Wan said defending his ship.
"Launching targets." Davis said. Several small rockets blasted away from the fighter in different directions.
"Interface lock on." Wan said. The shuttle's considerable weapons lit up and the small targets became so much space dust.
"In a word. Wow." Gabriel said.
"Large target test. Wan, go to manual. Engage test." The Colonel said.
One of the decrepit space buses abandoned by the refugees from the ulRanon Civil War had left behind began to move with purpose toward the shuttle. An ancient probe that had been forgotten nearby for years came to life and began to move a different direction. The station fired two photon torpedoes at the shuttle as well.
"I hope those aren't live." Davis said from his fighter.
"Maybe not." The Colonel said.
Some choice Andorian curses came across the channel. "Shuttle shield up." Wan said. But in a second the shuttle fired two deadly bursts at the torpedoes. One exploded, the other kept coming. "Shields." Wan said sourly. The ship fired again with more intensity. The resulting explosion was equally intense.
Wan locked onto the approaching space bus. It too was shielded. Then it fired back. The shuttle rattled under the blast.
"The bus's shields are intact. It's firing again." Gabriel said.
"Not long." Wan grumbled.
The blast of firepower that erupted from the small ship was astonishing. The bus didn't explode at all, it simply vaporized. Then he locked onto the retreating probe. A narrow but painfully bright line of yellow light caught the probe dead center. It glowed brightly and turned into a formless glob of recycled metal.
"Test good?" Wan said.
"Test good." The Colonel replied.
"Very good. Kahless Two is operational." Commander Klastor said.
They had a party that night to celebrate the commissioning of the Kahless II. The first battle shuttle actually designed as such in Star Fleet.
"But how do I explain the hull?" Commander Klastor said to the Colonel.
"You don't. Just change the subject." He smiled. "Always works for me. This blood wine is awful, how long has it been sitting in the closet?"
"Since I've been here. It's impossible to get fresh." She looked at the flask, then realized what he had done. "I see. I will remember that." She poured him some more of the wine.
Kavel was cooking some more. Now he was braising some small unidentifiable pieces of meat over high heat. Doing equal parts talking and cooking he had a captive audience.
"Sshhh." Rontel said as she slipped past the crowd to the environmental panel for the room.
In a second a containment field surrounded the pot and a mist of neutralizing chemical descended over the area.
"WHAT?!?" He shouted and looked around. "Who did that?"
Six hands went in the air. Wan, the Colonel, Aashth, Commander Klastor, Davis, and Marot spoke first. Then Rontel, and several others took responsibility for it.
Kavel sighed. "OK. I got the picture. No more cooking. Eat replicator food if you want to."
They thought about it and agreed that given those options, the replicators weren't so bad after all.
Rontel and Chief Matthews vanished from the gathering first. Somebody heard her ask him if the new data link to Star Fleet Security was holding up so far from the nearest relay. Then they went to check it out.
Later the Commander started showing defensive moves to Aashth. He matched her move for move, although he didn't have the sheer raw power the Colonel possessed. She learned right away that a true master of the arts didn't need a lot of strength. The demonstrations began to get showier and faster until the Colonel intervened and whispered to her she should save some of her energy for him.
Not long after that they joined the list of the missing.
Wan was left in the room by himself after awhile. He toasted the picture of the Kahless Two on the wall and walked out of the silent room.
"How long do you usually have between missions?" The Commander asked the Colonel in the office as they went over the latest figures from a K-2 flight.
"We've been off for months. Although that is unusual. Usually it's a couple of weeks. This is getting a bit long. But I'm not going to call in yet and solicit work."
"You like doing nothing?"
The Colonel laughed. "I don't consider this nothing. I don't consider you nothing."
The Commander smiled her Klingon's day out smile. "But how much of me can you take?"
"I've taken the best you've had to give." He gripped her hand tightly, then tightened his fingers until his knuckles were white and her face got tight. "And wanted more."
She growled at him. But as they kissed the intercom went off. She growled again.
"Commander. I hate to interrupt. But the patrol is reporting drifting cargo containers in sector 238. No sign of a ship. They're requesting backup to investigate." Lieutenant Parsons said slowly.
"Who's on the patrol?" The Colonel asked.
"Sir? Oh, yes. Ahhh, Miss Rontel and ensign Petty."
"I'll go out in the K-2, start it's pre-launch. Order up two more fighters to join me."
The Colonel adjusted his shirt. "You're not getting away from me that easy." He grinned.
In a few minutes the trio of ships flew off in formation to meet the patrol.
When they rendezvoused Davis and Matthews took off chasing the trail out away from the patrol area. But as yet, there was no ship in sight.
"There's more of them going off that way. Whole containers, parts of them, junk, all sorts of stuff. Looks like a container ship broke up or something." Petty said as they gathered around a container.
"What's in it? I'm reading mixed organic stuff." The Colonel asked.
"Seems to have been bulk food that didn't like being depressurized." Rontel said.
"Wan should have put better sensors in this thing." The commander said.
"We can do that later." The Colonel nodded. "Base. Wan, Marot, bring the ship out here, we need some serious sensors."
"We're already moving." Aashth responded. "You guys go ahead and prepare your docking sequence."
"You got it." The Commander answered.
"You want us on board or what?" Petty asked.
"You guys go ahead and finish your patrol and head back to base. We'll catch up with Davis and the chief."
"Aye commander." Petty answered, the patrol sped off. Rontel firing off a display salute to her shipmates.
On the bridge of the black ship they scanned every container in the area and ended up with more questions than answers.
"That's six." Kavel said from his station. "This one is from the NT HARQUAY. Signed out of something called Bourtan in a Ferringi system six months ago. Never heard from again."
"Six different ships, from all over the quadrant."
"And we haven't found a ship yet, just junk." Aashth said.
"Matthews to Commander Klastor."
"Go ahead." She said after glancing at the Colonel.
"The trail just ended. No sign of anything else. It's about a hundred and forty five thousand kilometers long. Then nothing on either end."
They looked at Aashth and Kavel. In a second they nodded.
"No weapons." Wan said.
"No wormhole residual, no warp, its just a junkyard."
"But we did a patrol through this area yesterday."
"And the day before. I can see Davis's engine signature passing right through here. He's got a hot coil in his starboard engine. This stuff just wasn't here."
"It is now." The Colonel said. "I don't like mysteries unless I'm causing them. Were any of the ships missing coming this way?"
Aashth said he was working on that, but he didn't think so.
"I've got seven ships now." Kavel said. "This one is from the Gamma quadrant. There is a manifest from a world known as Paddat. I can't decipher the ship's designation."
"The graveyard of ships." Aashth said trying to sound mysterious.
"But there's no ships. Just cargo."
"I haven't even seen a body yet. No engine parts or computers. This is all cargo and personal effects."
"No energy. No energy." Wan said again. "In containers."
"He's right. Several of these containers had built in bio-functions. They're all dead. And this one shouldn't be, the fuel cells are reading full, they just don't work."
"I've got a couple of pieces in stasis for analysis, but they don't look promising."
"Patrol back." Wan said.
The two fighters took up station near the black ship.
"Well?" Kavel looked at the Colonel and the Commander.
"I don't have a plan for this one."
"Can we leave a couple of probes to monitor it and see if something happens?"
"Yeah, but what makes you think something is going to happen?" Aashth asked her.
"It's never been here before. I don't think it's going to stay here. And I don't want to stay here with it in case it goes back to wherever it came from."
The Colonel nodded. "Launch three Maximus probes, one to each end, one in the middle, set for constant readout. Then get us out of here."
"Fighters return to base." The commander ordered her ships.
"Yes sir." Several people responded at once.
The fighters peeled off and streaked away. The black ship launched three giant sized probes then it too turned and headed away.
On the base they set up a station to monitor the readouts from the probes.
The mystery of the string of slowly drifting junk appeared no clearer however.
The next day, and the day after, the routine patrol found the trail more or less as it had been.
"Commander. You better come up here!" Gabriel screamed from the com.
Commander Klastor knew she had just gotten to sleep. She had. It had only been a few minutes. She threw on a robe of her family's colors and walked out to the lift trying to focus her eyes.
The Colonel was already there.
"Its going." He said to her as she tried to smile at him.
"We've lost the first probe, nothing from it now." Aashth said from the speakers overhead.
"He's on the ship scanning the field from a very safe distance."
"How safe?" The commander asked.
"He's right there." The Colonel pointed out the window. The shadow of the black ship could be seen against the side of the station.
The Commander nodded.
The view from the second probe showed the field of debris, then something was different. A container and some assorted junk that had been near it was gone.
"I'm not showing any wormholes. No spatial rifts. No gravity waves."
"What ARE you reading?" Gabriel asked him.
"Nothing. That's just it. I had the targeting scanners locked onto that last container, and it simply wasn't there one second to the next."
"OK." The Commander said. "So what's happening?"
"It's slipping out of our universe just like it slipped in, from wherever it was, and back again."
"The other probe is going." Aashth said.
"Move the other one away from there."
"Got it. Backing away from the field."
"There is nothing coming in from the second probe, but from these readings it looks like the power supply died. The probe seemed to be intact as it vanished." Gabriel said looking at the monitors.
"That would be consistent with the containers we found, they were whole, just without power." The Commander nodded.
"This is a good one for your paranormal branch to look into." The Colonel said. "This is beyond standard astro-phenomenon."
"It's just plain weird." Aashth added. "The last of the field is going."
"The whole thing in just over twenty minutes. That's quick." Gabriel said.
"OK. Bring our other probe back. Scan it for anything it might have been exposed to. Translate all data to standard Star Fleet code, and then send it via the Commander's computers to... well, whoever you want to give a headache to." The Colonel said to Ensign Gabriel.
They heard back from the Science Division in three days.
"It's not the first time this has been reported. But your readings are the most extensive yet. Thanks for the great job. If it happens again, get what readings you can and send them in." The Commander read the note.
"Pardon me while I dance in the halls." Gabriel said.
The Colonel chuckled. "You expected more?"
"They didn't say they have no idea what happened. They just admitted it has been seen before." Davis shook his head.
"There's no sign of anything from the debris field in the area. Only those few samples we beamed over, and they're just random junk. From all over this half of the galaxy." Aashth pursed his lips thinking.
"Wanna take them back there and see what happens?" Gabriel asked.
"Did it. They floated around and looked like space junk. One of them is still there. I've got a probe watching it."
Gabriel nodded. "It was a thought."
"More thinking than the Science Division is doing." Klastor said.
"Face it folks. Some things out here will just never be explained or understood." The Colonel said. "It's what keeps me out here."
"I found a cask of Klingon Blood Wine on my ship this morning. And fresh at that. Anybody interested?" The Colonel smiled.
Everybody took him up on the offer.
Continued in: The Patrol Part 8
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