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Star Trek Elita - By What Judgment We Stand by Rony Tal

Prologue

Rear Admiral (upper half) Chegwidden, the Judge Advocate General of StarFleet, stepped out of the turbo-lift and walked straight pass the door leading to the chambers of StarFleet High Command.

All staff members did little as possible as not to delay him from entering the office of StarFleet Commander in Chief. He was called there with extreme urgency.

When he entered the office, four people were already there.

"Rear-Admiral Chegwidden, reporting as ordered, sir", the human said, stretching to full attention as was costumed, even among the very high ranking of fleet officers.

"Come in, Cheg", Fleet-Admiral William Ross, StarFleet Commander in Chief, told him and directed Chegwidden to take a seat by his desk.

Although the office was of massive size, and had both a corner with sitting arrangement of comfortable sofas, and another corner with a large table and rather big chairs, Ross had his officers seated around his desk for this matter. It was, Chegwidden realized, a working session.

"Sit down", Fleet-Admiral Ross commanded rhetorically, "You know everyone, let's start".

The other three were Admiral Foosar, a Bolian woman and StarFleet's Chief of Operations. Admiral Giffel, an Andorian man and StarFleet's Director of Intelligence, and finally Vice-Admiral Wyngarde -- Commander in Chief of the Epsilon Fleet in the Gamma Quadrant -- who spoke once Chegwidden was seated.

"I think we should go over the case again", Wyngarde said calmly, "so a final decision can be made with the counsel of Admiral Chegwidden".

"Would anyone care to brief me first?" Chegwidden asked nobody in specific.

"Excuse Admiral Wyngarde, will you Cheg?" Foosar said with a mild smile, "the career of one of his favorite officers is on the line".

"This case is no laughing matter", Wyngarde commented, "It has nothing but gray areas".

"Again, sir", this time Chegwidden turned to Ross, "Some explanation about this ‘matter' maybe? And why I was called in such urgency, perhaps"

"The urgency is the easy part", Ross leaned back in his chair, "in four hours I need to report, in person, to the office of the President of the United Federation of Plants and to present to him the reasons for which I have decided to either award Captain Christopher Tal, of the U.S.S. Elita, the Archer Medal of Excellence, or on the other hand, to terminate his command position and court-martial him for several severe violations of StarFleet directives and Federation inter-stellar laws".

It took Rear-Admiral Chegwidden a few seconds to fully grasp the tone of Ross's words -- he truly had no idea, as of yet, which of the choices he was about to make, and it seemed he's been consulting the other Admirals for a long while.

"What incident of the Elita are we discussing?" Chegwidden tried to understand, thinking of past events -- there were several.

"The latest", Admiral Giffel said and handed Chegwidden a data-padd.

"As I said before", Wyngarde turned to Ross, "I think we should start again from the top".

"This is very extreme", Chegwidden said, mostly to himself, going over the main points of the report he held.

"We'll do as Admiral Wyngarde suggested", Ross decided. "Cheg, why don't you open the ship log's, loaded to the padd you're holding, and give us your insights as a counsel while reading them to us".

"These logs are of the past ten days, sir", Chegwidden wasn't sure how long it would take them, seeing as Ross had to report to the UFP President in four hours.

"Don't worry", Giffel replied, "nearly no one on that ship logged anything of any real importance, other than the captain. Start reading; you'll see why".

"Sir?" Chegwidden turned to Ross for confirmation.

"Let's start", Ross said, and Rear-Admiral Chegwidden opened the first log and began to read out loud.

 

Chapter 1

Captain's log, stardate 55586.7

We are on route to deep space, 5 light years from Federation territory. For once, our mission is of a pure scientific nature. For the past two weeks the U.S.S. Felicity has been surveying an anomaly, which seems to cause nanoscopic sub­­­­-space raptures in the region we are heading for. Yesterday their sensor array failed, and we were ordered to relive the Felicity and maintain the survey, while they undergo repairs.

Needless to say, Lt. Commander Mai, and I assume the entire science department, are very pleased with the mission. I, myself, am fairly interested in this matter. It should not take the Felicity more than a few days to complete repairs, but I would not mind achieving some sort of breakthrough while dealing with the matter in their absence. Surely it will be more satisfying than simply keeping track of it.

I hope for the best.

"Alright, Mr. Mai, let's have it", Captain Tal leaned back in his chair in the ready room. Above his desk was a holographic projection of one magnified sub-space rapture.

"I've read and reviewed the files we received from the Felicity, Captain", Lt. Commander Dave Mai, Science Officer of the Elita, was seating in front of Tal. "They had two major achievements, other than locating this anomaly to begin with. One was realizing the raptures were appearing in regular intervals, and the second, that they were doing so in fixed units over set distances".

"Meaning every once in a while several groups consisting of several raptures would appear and disappear?" Tal asked, simplifying the matter.

"Yes, sir", Mai said, making the projection express the effects they were discussing.

It showed five groups, each containing four raptures. All five groups were forming a circular formation in space.

"There is a center of gravity, pulling the groups together", Mai continued. "The only prove to its existence is the formation of the rapture groups -- each of them is a hundred meters from the others and five hundred meters from a singular center".

"Fascinating", Tal said, his eyes scanning the projection. The last time he took part of space exploration was before the Dominion War. "What do you think is the cause of it?"

"Well, I'm still following the reports of the Felicity's science officer", Mai said, happy to see the captain's interest. "She assumed, and I agree with her, there was once a normal mass quantum singularity at this region".

"A black hole? Really?" Tal wondered, "How long ago?"

"I'm estimating two, maybe two and a half billion years ago", Mai smiled.

"This region was a star system", Tal leaned back with amazement. "How can we prove it?"

"Well this is the tricky part", Mai said, shifting the projection, making it smaller, and showing the Elita at a distance of 10 kilometers from the anomaly. "It took the Felicity a long time to review this matter because the appearance of the many groups of raptures was repetitive in a ten days cycle. The end of another cycle will come about tomorrow morning, making all groups appear".

Once more, the projection demonstrated what Mai was explaining, showing well over twenty groups of raptures in the same circular formation about the singular center.

"If we create a miniature quantum singularity in the center of the anomaly, and by doing so, get the raptures to remain open and set, until the singularity is gone, it would prove they were once part of a natural normal mass quantum singularity". Mai looked at Captain Tal, as he watched the simulation over his desk once again.

"How would you create the miniature black hole?" Tal asked, no longer with the enthusiasm of a junior officer as before, but with a serious expression of a man responsible for many lives.

"A phased polaron beam directed at a monitored quantum explosion", Mai said as fast as he could.

"I see... While I'm ignoring, for now, your intent to launch a quantum torpedo to the center of the anomaly, how will you emit a phased polaron beam?" Tal did not miss a thing. "Last I checked; we are not a Jem'Hadar attack ship".

"Well, Lt. Ash came up with an idea", Mai gave credit to his officer in charge of the astrophysics department. "She assumed we could imitate the needed effect by emitting a concentrated, high-powered, beam from the deflector dish".

"That's very far from being a polaron beam, Commander", Tal noted.

"True, Captain, in its destructive qualities", Mai continued, "but it will generate the frequencies needed to affect the quantum explosion and create the..."

"Ha yes, the quantum explosion", Tal said sarcastically, "I almost forgot about that".

"Captain, I know this is a bit of a risk", Mai said, "but I believe that if we keep our safety protocols on highest level, and maintain safe distance from the anomaly, very little can go wrong, other than the experiment failing".

"Dave, you know Commander Lorei as well as I do", Tal said in a low voice, "the Elita's safety protocols are always on high level".

"Yes, Captain", Mai smiled.

"Did the Felicity's science officer reached the same conclusion as you have?" Tal wondered.

"I assume she did", Mai replied. "But with the New-Orleans class lacking the advanced deflector dish the Akira class has, they weren't able to try, even if they wanted to".

"I see",

Tal said. "And I'm sure you've already discussed the technical details with Chief Thomas before coming to me".

Mai smiled again and nodded in approval.

"Very well, let's get it done", Tal decided, turning off the projection. "Keep Commander Lorei in the loop; give her full progress report every five hours and I also want you to give her your opinion on bridge personnel for this experiment. When will we need to begin tomorrow?"

"No later than O-ten-hundred, Captain", Mai noted.

"Then I will meet you on the bridge at O-nine-hundred for final briefing, Mr. Mai", Tal nodded with a smile, "dismissed".

"Aye, Captain, thank you", Mai smiled back, and left the ready room.

The following morning, at O-nine-thirty-hundred-hours, the bridge of the Elita was all set for the experiment.

Lt. Commander Mai was not seated on the command platform, as he and Lt. Marion Ash were running final checks in the expanded science station in the back of the bridge.

From the back science station, Mai walked over to the engineering station, where an aggravated Lt. Commander Aaron Thomas, Chief Engineer of the Elita, was forced to go over the details of the deflector beam -- again. "You're almost as bad as Lorei on this one", Thomas whispered in Mai's ear.

"Doesn't sound like much of an insult buddy" Mai smiled at him.

Lt. Commander Blake was at the tactical station, quite enthusiastic about the matter at hand.

"What changes had been made to the torpedo, Mr. Blake?" Captain Tal asked from his seat in the middle of the command platform.

"We expanded the length of quantum release so to cover grater space", Blake responded. "It will expand the range of the explosion but will severely lower its strength".

"Very good", Tal said, pleased to the reduced danger. Mai walked up to the platform and took his seat to the left of the captain. Commander Lorei Karin, the Bajoren first officer, was on the right.

"We're ready, Captain", Mai said. "Just give the word".

"Go ahead, Mr. Mai", Tal smiled. "You are authorized to begin".

"Thank you, Captain", Mai replied.

"Scan for sighted sub-space raptures", Mai ordered the back science station.

"Scanning", Ash answered in an excited voice. She was a young human officer with brown hair and green eyes. "Over twenty groups of raptures are identified, Sir".

"Locate singular center and send coordinates to operations and tactical stations", Mai ordered.

"Done, Sir", Ash reported.

"Chief, report deflector status", Mai turned to Thomas.

"Ready and waiting", Thomas said.

"Lt. Wellsh, begin emitting deflector beam to given coordinates", Mai looked at Monica, the Operations Officer.

"Aye, sir", she replied. "Beam is charged and activated, reaching full strength... now".

"Commander Blake, are we set for launch?" Mai asked the Tactical Officer.

"One quantum torpedo, fore-launcher, ready", Blake reported. "Coordinates verified, awaiting orders".

"All set, Captain", Mai reported to Tal, "awaiting command".

Tal nodded, sent a quick look at Lorei to his right and gave the final order; "Fire".

The torpedo was launched; making its way right at the intended location, where the deflector beam was hitting the center of the anomaly, and detonating as planned.

As the quantum explosion accrued, the beam caused the center of it to affect the gravity forces forming the quantum's into a singularity affect; thus creating the miniature black hole -- once more, as planned.

"Quantum singularity created", Mai reported on the bridge.

"Sir, the raptures seem to be stabilizing", Ash reported.

"I think you have it, Commander Mai", Lorei commented.

"Very interesting", Mai noted. "The raptures seem to grow".

"Sir, each rapture has expanded in an equal manner and untied with the others in its group", Ash reported. "There are now over twenty raptures, each quadrupled in size".

"Mr. Mai, put an end to this", Tal commanded.

"Aye, Captain", Mai acknowledged, "Lt. Wellsh, terminate deflector beam".

"Yes, sir", Monica replied and carried out her order, shutting the beam down.

"The quantum singularity is gone, Captain", Mai reported. "However the expansion of the raptures has not diminished".

"On screen" Tal ordered standing up as Wellsh zoomed in on the anomaly.

"Is that what I think it is?" Lorei said with some amazement in her voice while Captain Tal nearly stepped off the platform so he could get nearer to the screen.

"I think so, Commander", Christopher said, turning to Dave Mai.

"Yes Captain", Mai, like everyone on the bridge, was also in awe. "It's a worm hole".

The sight from space was of a growing worm hole, which was not much different than the Bajoran one.

"Is it stable?" Tal wondered, yet did not anticipate what station has provided the answer.

"I'll have to say that's a negative, Captain", Ensign Erim Targo, the Carrdasian Helmsman of the Elita spoke before anyone else did. "We're being sucked into it!"

"Full reverse, maximum impulse!" Tal ordered still standing.

"I'm trying to, sir", Targo replied from the helms. "But it's as if the beam we emitted turned into a wire pulling us through!"

"He's not wrong", Chief Thomas replied, "even though it's been shut down, the particles emitted by the deflector beam left a trail strong enough, which is now pulling us into the center, if we maneuver to any direction, shifting the gravity from the center of the ship it could tear us apart".

"Chief, are you saying our best chances right now are to enter the worm-hole?" Tal's words were demanding of an immediate answer.

"Yes Captain!" said Thomas as the ship began rumbling.

"So be it!" Tal ordered and got back to his seat. "Mr. Targo, two quarter impulse, steady as she goes".

"Yellow alert, shields up!" ordered Commander Lorei. "All hands -- brace for impact!"

The U.S.S. Elita went head first into the worm hole and it closed behind the ship soon after entry.

The travel through sub-space was brief and soon the Akira class ship appeared from the other side.

"All stations, report!" Lorei ordered once the rumbling subsided.

"Shields are at 100%, Ma'am", Blake replied. "Hull integrity is at 100%, all weapon systems are operational".

"Same here!" Thomas reported from engineering.

"Scanner array functional, Ma'am", Mai reported. "All systems are at 100%".

"I have no reports of casualties or injuries, Ma'am", Lt. Wellsh reported from operations.

"Slowing down to thrusters speed, Ma'am", Targo replied from the helms, "Full stop in one minute".

"All systems are operational, Captain", Lorei reported to Tal. "We're fine".

"We are not fine!" Tal said, turning to Mai. "I want to know two things, Commander; one, where are we? And two, how and when will we be able to return?"

"I can't locate us anywhere in known space", Mai commented from his station, than got up and walked to the back station. "Star groups and alignment suggests we're still in the Gamma Quadrant, I'm having difficulty determining where".

Mai pressed his comm-badge, "Lt. Forster, report to the bridge a.s.a.p", Mai told the ship's head of Stellar Cartography.

"Lt. Ash", Tal turned to the young officer. "While Commander Mai attempt's to pin-point our location, please do your very best at assuring me we could always go back by the same route that got us here".

Ash stepped over to the command platform. Tal could see she was scared, but her adorable appearance expressed calmness.

"The raptures on this side are demonstrating the same qualities as on the other side", Ash said. "However, since the cycle has ended, we could not duplicate the effect for the next ten days".

"I see", Tal said, leaning back as much as he could and closing his eyes for a brief moment.

"I don't think the worm-hole will be able to sustain another travel", Commander Lorei said from her seat, going over status reports of the past 15 minutes. She got Tal's attention.

"Why?" he asked shortly and Lt. Commander Mai answered, while returning to the command platform.

"Like the Bajoran worm-hole, entering and exiting are not simultaneous", Mai explained. "We forced the other side to open, but it was traveling through it which opened this side. Unfortunately, the readings we collected after entry showed the rapture which created the hole has collapsed".

"So when we'll open this side, once we'll go through it will also collapse", Lorei added.

"Correct", Mai agreed, while noticing the entry of Lt. Forster to the bridge and quickly directing him to the back science station with a swift head shake.

"But we should be able to use our original entry point as an exit, correct?" Tal asked everyone on the bridge.

"Yes, Captain", Mai replied, "I hope so".

"So back to question number one", Tal said, as calm as possible, "Where are we?"

"I can't name the region, Captain", Lt. Gorge Forster said from the back station. He was a tall human man of dark skin and bright blue eyes. "But we are at least 20 thousand light years from Dominion space and about 5 thousand light years from the Delta Quadrant".

There was a long silence on the bridge.

Finally, the Captain spoke vary calmly, "Lt. Commander Mai, in two hours we will commence in the observation lounge for a senior staff meeting, in which you will summarize the situation in respect of where we are and what surrounds us in a radius of 10 light-years. Launch any probe you want and run any scan you need, in ten days, which will also be the time I hope we shall leave this region, it will no longer be unknown space".

"Aye, Captain", Mai replied.

Tal than turned to Commander Lorei.

"Commander, stay on yellow alert, just to be on the safe side", he said, also calmly and quietly. "take the next couple of hours to explain the situation to the senior staff officer who are not present on the bridge and make sure it goes down to every crew-member of the ship".

"Yes, Captain", Lorei said.

"Carry on", Tal ordered and the officers of the Elita moved about their missions.

It was very clear to all officers that Tal was truly as mad as he could get. Only Commander Lorei realized -- it was mostly with himself.

 

Chapter 2

Captain's log, supplemental;

We are literally in unknown space. With no way of contacting StarFleet I can only assume a search for the Elita will commence as soon as reports of our absence will reach starbase 1005. In a best case scenario they will find some, if any, evidence of a wormhole opening and assume we went through. In a worst case, they will declare the Elita M.I.A. and will inform our families of the situation. I do not wish for the latter but I must admit it is more likely of a scenario.

In ten days we will attempt to return the same way we came, but in the meanwhile, I shall do as I was taught long ago, in the academy, during basic navigation -- when in unknown location; mind your surroundings, find an overview point and only then decide on your following steps.

In the observation lounge, on the back side of the bridge module, Lt. Commander Mai was just finishing his final explanation of what went wrong during the experiment earlier on. The entire senior staff were listening for the past 40 minutes as Mai went over each and every detail and sensor reading of the events. Captain Tal insisted on a thorough presentation to the senior officers of the Elita, although most of them were on the bridge when it happened (with the exception of Lt. Commander Dureken Thik'kar, the Andorian Flight Deck Commander and Dr. T'Jenn, the Vulcan Chief Medical Officer of the Elita).

"Now that we are done with the troubling past, let's discuss the way in which the following ten days will be spent", Tal said once Mai concluded his presentation.

"We've launched ten class 8 probes to different directions", Mai said, "In a radius of 10 light years we were able to scan four solar systems".

"Anything of special interest?" Lorei wondered.

"From what we were able to gather at this distance, we know three of the systems are centered around red or blue giant stars and have several planets surrounding them, all of which seem to be gas-giants", Mai analyzed. "The fourth one is centered about a yellow star. We were able to scan at least five terrestrial planets within that system".

"I'm guessing that's where we'll be heading, Captain?" Chief Thomas looked at Tal.

"You're guessing wrong, Chief", Tal smiled. "We're heading at all directions".

"Runabouts, sir?" Thik'kar realized quickly where the Captain was going with this.

"Precisely, Commander", Tal said. "Have three of the Mustang Runabouts ready for deployment to the three giant star systems. Commander Lorei, make sure each runabout is fitted with a scientific team for staler surveying".

"Complete with engineering and tactical personnel on board, Captain", Lorei said, logging the orders on her padd.

"Captain, I suggest attaching a medical officer to each runabout", Dr. T'Jenn spoke in a soft monotonic voice.

"As you see fit, Doctor, inform Commander Lorei of the appointed officers", Tal replied and T'Jenn nodded in approval.

"Captain, may I recommend fighter escort for these missions", Blake commented from his seat. "This is as unknown, as unknown space can be".

"Agreed, Mr. Blake", Tal said, "Mr. Thik'kar, your recommendation?"

"The Mustang Class is heavily armed for its size", Thik'kar thought out loud. "I'd say a pair of Viper Fighters for each runabout. They could also follow into a planet's atmosphere if needed".

"Very good, get it done than, Commander Lorei will overlook all preparations and authorize departures. Once done, the Elita will head for the fourth system", Tal noticed both Chief Thomas and Lt. Commander Blake were about to say something and spoke first. "No senior staff officers may embark on away missions at the moment, nor any of the Departments Heads".

Both officers settled down, accepting the Captain's decision.

"Anything else, Captain?" Lorei asked for conclusion.

"Keep me informed, Commander. That will be all", Tal said, "dismissed".

As the senior officers left the observation deck, Lorei accompanied Tal to his Ready Room.

"Captain, isn't this a bit much?" she asked him once the doors sled shut behind them.

"Ten years ago I was the operations officer of the U.S.S. Valley Forge, Vice-Admiral Wyngarde was the Captain", Tal said, seating down behind his desk. "We were ordered to explore a planet located within a nebula and two hours to entering, our navigation system malfunctioned; took us a week to find our way out of the nebula -- we did not find that planet".

"Your point being, sir?" Lorei raised an eyebrow.

"The first thing Captain Wyngarde did, once we exited into space, was to submit StarFleet Science with the longest, most detailed report of that boring nebula. Told me it will sweeten the blow he will receive for getting lost in the first place", Tal smiled a bit, then got up to the replicator and ordered cappuccino for himself, and strong black coffee for Lorei.

"We can anticipate a tough enquiry when we return," Lorei said, sipping her coffee. "No question there".

"I'm not sure we will be able to reopen that worm-hole, and less then certain we'll be able to pass through", Tal said, his tone changing to a far more serious one. He turned away from Lorei and stared out his window at nothingness. "I'm responsible for this situation, and I'll be passing the time thinking of nothing else until -- and if -- we get back. But I don't want my crew to do the same. No good comes of pondering over these terrible thoughts, and as long as everyone is busy, they won't".

Lorei was quiet for a moment as she realized the Captain has considered this matter more than she thought. "It's a good idea, Sir", she said softly, "A very good idea".

"You're not excluded from it, Commander", Tal said, turning to face her once more. "Go on, get to work".

"Aye, aye Captain", she said, standing up and leaving the ready room.

Tal stood there for a moment longer and pressed a button on his desk. The room was filled with the strong unforgiving tunes of the Carmina Burana. Christopher closed his eyes as the singing of the choir, combined with the playing instruments, made his desk tremble; the thoughts of getting his crew home devoured him.

Captain's log, stardate 55589.5,

Commander Lorei reported that the ‘Arrow', the 'Stallion' and the ‘Quicksilver', accompanied by the Viper fighters, have left the Elita and are making their way to the solar systems each was assigned to survey. None of the systems are further than 4 light years from where we exited the worm-hole and I have authorized cruising speed of warp 6.5. The Runabouts shall rendezvous with the Elita back there in 9 days, unless ordered otherwise.

So far, we are making our way to the yellow star system at warp 9 -- estimated time of arrival is in 24 hours.

Christopher woke up in his ready room. As he washed his face in the restroom he suddenly realized he has not left the bridge module since they entered the worm-hole, only moved from the bridge, to the observation lounge, to the ready room and so on.

"Time", he said while zipping his vest.

"The time is O-seven-hundred-hours" the computer replied and Christopher realized they may have entered the system already.

When he stepped onto the bridge Lt. Commander Blake made the call "Captain on the bridge" to which Tal quickly responded with a hand sign telling everyone to keep their seats.

"Report", Tal said and Blake, being the ranking officer at the moment replied.

"We're about to reach the outskirts of the system, Sir", Blake reported. "Commander Lorei, Lt. Commander Mai and Chief Thomas are on their way to the bridge".

"Captain, we're reaching the outskirts now", Targo reported from the helms, "Dropping from warp to full impulse for entry".

"Very good Mr. Targo", Tal said as he noticed the turbo-lift door opening at the front of the bridge and the senior officers stepping out.

"Come on, Mr. Mai", Tal said as Mai took his seat on the command platform, "Let's make this worthwhile, shall we?"

"I hope so, Sir", Mai said as he began the scanning of the system.

"Captain, you may not believe this", Lt. Wellsh reported from the operations station. "But I'm picking a radio transmission".

"Really?" Tal wondered, "From where?"

"I think I can answer that, Sir", Mai said, his hands running over his panel as he added, "on screen".

The main screen showed a very clear image of an item floating is space. While its design and writings were very alien to all officers on the bridge, it's purpose was very clear - a stellar probe.

"Can we determine this device's origin?" Tal asked with a clear interest in his voice.

"Yes, Sir", Mai replied, a big smile spread on his face. "I'm getting readings from the probe we sent to the system. The forth planet is an M class planet, located at 40.5 million kilometers from the sun, 6.7 billion from our current location. Population estimated at 4.5 billion".

"Unbelievable!" Tal said, not hiding his excitement.

"Any colonies within the system?" Lorei turned to Mai, "Are they warp capable?"

"No, Ma'am", Mai added. "I suggest we'll..."

"Helms, set course to the fourth planet", Tal knew what Mai was about to offer and could not agree more. "Make sure we are out of any sensors or satellite range they may have. Warp factor 5".

"Aye, aye Captain", Targo replied and set the course.

"The planet has two moons, Erim", Mai noted, "Get us in orbit around the smaller of the two, it should keep us away from the few orbital facilities they have. Transferring coordinates now".

"Yes, Sir", Targo replied, "Course is set, Captain".

"Engage", Tal said, and as the Elita made the jump into warp he turned to Mai again. "Perform a level 3 planet survey, Mr. Mai; let's find out whatever we can without going down there".

"Yes, Sir", Mai replied, "I'd like to monitor the survey from Science Two, if you don't mind?"

"Not at all, Commander, go ahead", Tal said and Mai got up to the turbo-lift.

"Dropping out of warp, Sir", Targo reported.

"On screen", Tal said and Lt. Wellsh complied. The view struck the crew with amazement as they watched a bluish-green world, half of it exposed to the light of the sun and the other, although in the dark, blinking with the lights of dozens of large cites of the native population.

"This is wonderful", Tal said, mostly to himself, standing up and crossing his arms.

"To think there are people down there, staring at the stars right now", Lorei said, standing next to him. "Wondering if there is life on other planets, it's amazing".

"Wonderful..." Tal whispered again then turned to Loeri. "Send Dr. T'Jenn to Science Two, Commander".

"T'Jenn? Really?" Lorei looked at Tal.

"Oh, yes", Tal smiled. "I'd appreciate her opinion, and I'm sure so will Lt. Commander Mai, don't you think?"

"No doubt, Captain", Lorei said, almost laughing, and she moved back and pressed her comm-badge.

"Ms. Wellsh, do you detect any orbital device or satellite which might spot us had we passed it by?" Tal asked his Operations Officer.

"Nothing I can't scramble, Captain", Monica replied.

"Good", Tal said, taking his seat. "Ensign, take us on a tour. Let's circle this world once and get back, one quarter impulse".

"Aye, Captain", Targo said and the Elita moved onward to orbit the planet.

Tal made himself comfortable in his seat, his thoughts were clearer than before. He concentrated on the moment.

‘Wonderful', he thought to himself once more, ‘Absolutely wonderful".

 

Chapter 3

Scientific log, Lt. Commander Dave Mai entry, stardate 55591.6;

We finished a level 3 surveying of what shall from now on be known as the Kallan Solar Systems. The native population of Kallan IV commonly call their sun with that name and we found it fitting to adopt it (even though they remain clueless to that).

The planet itself is mostly called Karre by the major native societies (it means solid land in the native tongue) and we have so dubbed its people as Karrenians. A full report will be entered at a later date and will include a detailed review of what we have learned so far, and there is much of it. In this entry I shall touch fewer general subjects, mostly concerning with social structure and progress, and not biological or geological discoveries.

To begin with, the people of this planet are not evolved primates, as is most commonly seen, but are in fact an equidaes humanoid species (humanoid horses) -- which first and foremost means they are all vegetarians -- a fascinating aspect to an evolving society.

There are over 120 independent countries, all are ruled by a local form of democracy and most are subordinate to one of the three major unified governments, the biggest and most advanced is the Unified Territories of the Southern Sea (UTSS) which is located at the largest continent and several major islands in the southern hemisphere.

Their last worldwide war was fought over a hundred Terran years ago and ever since armed conflicts have been limited in both range and length.

As far as technological advancement is concerned, I can easily compare Kallan IV to a pre-warp capable Earth (and naturally, before first contact).

Captain Tal has authorized an undetected scan for data of major space exploration agencies.

The UTSS space agency has successfully launched several objects into near space, one of which is the probe we have encountered upon entry to this system. They have been able to carry a very thorough unmanned research of their solar system, as well as establishing an orbital station which will be used as a base for longer manned missions within their own solar system with the use of sub light speeds spacecrafts. In the past, a yearlong mission of such a spacecraft was sent to orbit Kallan V and was a success.

However, and this is possibly the most exciting of discoveries, they have attempted to reach warp-speed two years ago. The experiment failed, but they are ready to try again. The vessel is already in orbit, manned by a team of five, and will attempt to reach warp 1 in less than 24 standard hours.

Due to our situation, I highly doubt the Captain will authorize a first contact procedure; in fact I'm fairly certain the Prime Directive does not allow interference with an un-united society, as advanced as the Karrenians might be.

In conclusion, I find it thrilling to study a normally growing species at this point of their evolution. The following days will be interesting indeed.

Captain's log, supplemental;

Lt. Commander Mai has finished his initial survey of this world -- Kallan IV.

I am nothing less of amazed by our simple, and yet probably most wondrous discovery; a growing, evolving civilization, as of now, unknown to other species in the galaxy. This is why I joined StarFleet. As a teenager my bedroom walls were covered with posters of other worlds -- as many as I could find. Today, standing on the bridge of my own command, overlooking a plant whose people are at an evolutionary peak, mere steppes from exiting into space, discovering the wonder of the universe -- I feel humbled and fortunate to witness this marvel, I truly do.

"Have we received any news from the runabouts, Lieutenant?" Captain Tal was in his command seat and asked Lt. Wellsh for an update.

"Aye, Captain, the ‘Stallion' has reached the system assigned and began planetary surveys", Monica replied from operations. "The ‘Arrow' and the ‘Quicksilver' are assuming arrivals in the next 5 hours".

"Flight Deck is in touch with the teams, I presume?" He asked Wellsh.

"Yes, Sir, every hour", she replied. "A report is passed to me and once in five hours we listen in on the contact -- Commander Lorei's orders".

"Very good, Lieutenant", Tal was pleased. The bridge was considerably empty as most stations were manned by junior officers. Ever since Tal has learned about the upcoming warp flight attempt of the Karrenians, he has barely left the bridge, keeping still as updates about the aliens came in.

Tal looked back at the science station. "What of the Karrenian vessel?" he asked.

On shift was Lt. Marion Ash of astrophysics. She approached the command platform and it was very clear to the Captain she was lacking confidence. She didn't stand on the platform, or got pass the tactical station, for that matter.

"Our reading indicates they have concluded final system testing", She replied quietly. "We are keeping track of their channels. Final full counting will commence over the next three hours... Captain".

Ash returned to the back station when Tal called her again.

"Lt. Ash, would you take the shift officer's seat, please?" Tal said, meaning for her to seat to his left where Dave Mai usually seats.

"Yes, sir", she replied and made her way there, seating down uncomfortably.

"Why are you nervous, Ms. Ash?" Tal asked her quietly.

The young officer looked at Tal, she wasn't sure for a moment if he really cared, but there was definite concern in the way he asked and looked at her.

"I don't feel comfortable being on the bridge, Captain", she said softly, trying not to look away from him.

"Why?" he asked, as simple as that. He knew what the answer will be.

"The polaron beam was my idea...sir..." she said, a bit shaken. "If not for that, we would not have been here, maybe unable to go home..."

"And would have missed the opportunity of seeing the people of Kallan IV attempting warp flight", Tal said, with a soft smile, projecting onto Marion all the fascination that grasped him when thinking of this fact. She smiled back, she couldn't help it.

"Lt. Ash, you came up with an idea, a good idea, to solve a problem introduced to you by a superior officer. That is your job", Tal spoke more seriously. "This idea was reviewed by the Science Officer of the ship, approved, than presented to me for authorization and I approved it too. The preparation and execution was monitored by the Executive Officer and the final command was, once more, given by me".

Marion stared at Captain Tal, listening to every word.

"If I thought you were unfit to serve on this ship or on my bridge, I would have told you so", he continued. "The decision on our actions was mine and the responsibility for all that has happened is my own. That is my job, Lieutenant. Do not let it interfere with yours".

"Yes, Sir", she said, her back stretched, her head much clearer.

"Carry on", he said and turned back to the main screen.

"Aye, Captain", she said again and returned to her station.

The doors of the turbo-lift opened and Lt. Commander Mai, accompanied by the Elaysian Communications Officer of the Elita Lt. Nameer, stepped out of it.

Despite being an Elaysian, native to a world of law gravity, Lt. Nameer had no trouble moving about on the Elita. Before joining StarFleet, Nameer decided to undergo a medical procedure during which biological enhancers were grafted to his bones and muscles. All Nameer had to do was moderate the level of enhancement with a shot, once in 24 hours, to the gravity he wished to conduct in.

As Nameer made his way to the engineering station, Mai walked to his seat on the command platform.

"Report, Mr. Mai", Tal said as soon as Mai was settled.

"Since we assume most of the plant's surveillance equipment, civilian and military, on surface and orbital, will be focusing on the warp flight attempt, we thought it would be better to avoid leaving the cover of the moon", Mai informed Tal. "We'll launch a class 4 probe, which will be able to transfer not only data but also any transmissions and provide us with visuals if we wish it to".

"A good decision, Mr. Mai", Tal said and looked at Nameer at Engineering. "I assume you will be launching the probe, Lt. Nameer?"

"Aye Captain, I'll be ready in a few moments", Nameer said and after finishing in engineering he stepped up to tactical station 2 (also behind the command platform). "The modified probe is ready for launch, Captain".

"Engage", Tal authorized and the probe was launched.

"I must say, their design of the vessel is unique", Mai said. The vessel, still attached to the Karrenian station, was seen on screen. It was made of four major parts, the biggest being an oval shaped base, from which the second part was extended, that being the cockpit. It was nearly five meters long, and seemed very much like an oddly shaped horse head.

The last two parts, the ones Mai was referring too, were the warp nacelles. The pair were placed vertically, one above the base of the ship and one at the bottom.

"That is a bit different than how most species made their first warp flight", Tal said. "Have you found any reason for it to fail while scanning their systems, Mr. Mai?"

"Not at all, Captain", Mai smiled, "I think they'll make it".

While Christopher and Dave continued their conversation, Dr. T'Jenn entered the bridge and walked to the command platform.

"Captain, may I intrude?" she asked Tal.

"What's on your mind, Doctor?" he wondered.

"I would like to discuss something with you", she replied, "In person".

"By all means", Tal replied, and directed the Vulcan CMO to the Ready room.

When they entered Tal walked straight to the replicator.

"Cappuccino, Angelo Mio bland", he said, ordering his favorite brand. "Anything, Doctor?"

"No, thank you, Sir", she replied and Christopher walked to his desk and took a seat in front of her.

"Well, what's on your mind?" he asked.

"Commander Lorei instructed me to join Lt. Commander Mai in his survey of the planet, over 24 hours ago", T'Jenn said calmly. "I have come to submit my report".

"I thought your insights were included in the reports Mai handed in", Tal said.

"They were not, Sir", T'Jenn replied. "Twenty minutes past my arrival to Science Two I requested Lt. Commander Mai for a personal use of Science Three to further explore the planet in my own views. He approved".

"I would imagine", Tal said. He leaned back holding the warm cup in his hand. "Well? What fruits did your research bear?"

"There is genocide taking place on Kallan IV, Captain", T'Jenn said as simply as possible.

"What?!" Tal nearly spilled the coffee he was sipping.

"The northern continent is under the rule of the FRV, which stands for the Free Republic of Verial, as it is loosely translated", T'Jenn explained. "This republic is formed of 14 states, 10 of whom were a united axis during a civil war within the Republic, 10 local years ago".

"I'm listening, carry on", Tal said, focusing on her words.

"One of the states is called Gerat and was conquered at the final stages of the war", T'Jenn kept explaining. "The native people of Gerat are being systematically placed in confined villages which are broken into smaller societies as the years pass by. The elderly are killed, so are the sick and the handicapped. All actions are monitored by the government established by the capital of the republic. Organized raids, massive water contaminations and other methods all leading to the ethnic cleansing of the native people of Gerat".

T'Jenn handed Christopher a data-padd holding within it her whole research, including pictures and proof of what she found.

"The rest of the world knows of this? The other two major powers?" Tal asked while reading.

"The FRV was a powerful enemy to the UTSS during their world war", T'Jenn said calmly. "They know. I have found few but very real media reports and several books. There are refugee camps scattered across other countries, outside the FRV. But they will not risk another war".

"How many?" Tal said, looking for the answer in the padd, than looking at T'Jenn.

"Prior to the civil war, the people of Gerat were estimated at 30 million", T'Jenn replied. "Local reports estimate their numbers today at 25 million".

"5 million people?" Tal asked a bit unsettled. "Doctor, if there was a full scale civil war in these lands, I am sorry to say, this is not an unlikely number of casualties".

"Captain, I was able to scan and isolate a genetic pattern unique to the people of Gerat, and run a numeral head-count scan, based on that pattern", T'Jenn said. "While calculating my range of error into the scans I have conducted, I estimate their population at 7 million".

Tal looked at her, then at the padd, then raised his eyes once more.

"Are you telling me these people went from 30 to 7 million in 10 years?" Tal spoke very quietly.

"That is correct, Captain", T'Jenn replied.

"23 million were killed? 23 million people?" he asked again although he knew T'Jenn will not present a fact she was not certain of.

"Once again, Captain, that is correct", she said, not expressing a glimpse of emotion.

Christopher leaned backwards; his expression was of calm shock. He crossed his arms, than stretched them again. He was not comfortable in his own chair.

"I hoped for more of these people, Doctor", he said. "They seemed better than that, somehow. I hoped for more".

"Captain, I believe we should intervene" T'Jenn said, throwing Christopher out of balance.

"Intervene? In what way, overthrow their government?" Christopher did not anticipate such a statement from a Vulcan CMO and was less than pleased. "Would you have us destroy the FRV weapons? Assassinate their president perhaps?"

"Anger is not an appropriate response for my suggestion, Captain", T'Jenn responded and Tal chose to ignore the fact she was not trying to be condescending.

"It damn right is when this suggestion is to violate the Prime Directive, especially when originated by one of my senior officers" Tal raged.

"Captain, I believe we are responsible for more than probing these people", T'Jenn said in a calmness that was always amazing to Tal. "This is an extreme situation in which we have the ability to assist".

"The ability, Doctor, not the right", Tal was settling down. "Not only do we not have the right to intervene in the local affairs of this planet, but anything we would do at this point is reckless and short termed. I understand you are pained by this, but this world must be given a chance to evolve on its own".

T'Jenn was silent for a brief moment. If the Vulcan felt something, it was deeply hidden.

"Your refusal, as well as your reaction were anticipated", T'Jenn said. "I apologize for angering you, Captain, but seeing as I was with little choice, this action is the only one I could take on the matter".

Tal looked at T'Jenn, a deep gaze of the likes he gave very few people in his life.

"There was a reason I wanted you to take part in that surveying, Doctor", he said to her. "You really are an outstanding Officer, you know that?"

"I appreciate the gesture, Captain", T'Jenn replied. "My full report can be found on the padd, and if you have no objection..."

"Of course", Tal nodded. "You are dismissed, Doctor, thank you".

"Yes, Captain", T'Jenn said and stood up. Before exiting the door Tal spoke.

"T'Jenn... I really am sorry we cannot help them", He said, "I really am".

She nodded, and left the ready room.

For a few moments Tal was silent, he read the report.

"Damn it" he whispered quietly.

 

Chapter 4

When Captain Tal returned to the bridge most senior staff officers were there, Lorei and Mai on their seats on the command platform. Blake was at tactical station, as well as Lt. Nameer. Lt. Wellsh and Ensign Targo were at their own stations of operations and helms. Lt. Ash was still in back science.

"When are they starting?" Tal asked, taking his seat.

"They are about to start, Captain", Lorei reported, keeping up with the summarized information on her station. "The vessel detached from the station and is running final checks".

The doors of the turbo-lift opened and Chief Thomas walked in, taking his seat at engineering.

"Just in time, Chief", Tal noted. "Let's try and enjoy this, shall we? On screen"

On screen appeared a view of the planet, the warp vessel traveling slowly away from the orbital station.

The entire bridge shift were keeping track, as Wellsh and Nameer kept them posted with updates.

"Tal to Dr. T'Jenn", Tal said, pressing his badge.

"T'Jenn here", she replied. "What can I do for you, Captain?"

"Are you certain you're not interested in the warp flight, Doctor?" Tal knew what she will say, but had to ask.

"Thank you, Captain", T'Jenn said, "but I believe I will skip this small wonder".

"Very well", the Captain said. "Tal out" and the connection ended.

"I read her report", Lorei said to Tal.

"The most terrible thing about it all is that she's right", Tal said. Both officers stared back at the main screen.

"They have initiated anti-matter flow", Wellsh reported. "Their warp core is activated".

"Final countdown has commenced", Nameer said. "10... 9... 8..."

The vessel moved on. A light bluish glow spread from the two nacelles.

"7... 6... 5..." Namer continued.

The vessel was moving faster, reaching high sub-light speed.

"They are at half impulse speed by our measures", Wellsh reported.

"4... 3... 2... 1..." Nameer said. "Engaged!"

The glow of the warp filled the darkness of space as the vessel launched forward, leaving light behind it.

"They are at warp 1.2", Monica said from her station.

"Marvelous!" Tal was ecstatic.

"They dropped out of warp", Wellsh said. "Located now at 3 billion kilometers from Kallan IV and passed Kallan VII".

"They have now travelled further than anyone on Kallan IV ever has", Mai noted to Tal with a wide smile.

"Imagine the stories they will tell", Tal said to Mai, but everyone were able to hear him. "This is a major historic moment for this planet. Wonderful, absolutely wonderful".

"They're turning about", Wellsh reported.

"It takes them two hours to send and receive a radio transmission", Mai explained. "But seeing as they need time to recharge their thrusters before going into warp again, they can afford to wait".

"Captain, I'm picking up a transmission emitted towards the vessel", Nameer reported, a bit unsure of what he was getting. "It's not from their home world and definitely not from us".

"Lt. Wellsh, assist Mr. Nameer with his attempts to pin-point the origin of said transmission", Tal ordered. "Mr. Mai, activate long range sensors".

"Captain, the transmission is coming from outside the system", Wellsh reported.

"Scanners aren't picking anything as of yet, Captain", Mai said.

"The vessel received the massage, Captain", Nameer reported. "It's not in their own language. I have the pattern, attempting decryption".

Commander Lorei joined Nameer at his station, trying to understand whatever they were getting.

"Captain, I'm picking up a fade signal", Wellsh reported. "Something is making its way towards the system, very fast".

"How fast?" Tal demanded.

"Scanners can't identify or measure speed, Sir" Mai said.

"We're almost done with the transmission, Captain", Lorei reported. "It seems to be repetitive".

"Open a channel, I want to hear it as soon as we can", Tal said.

"Aye, sir", Lorei said and a channel with mixed sounds and noises filled the bridge of the Elita. "This signal is not unknown, almost as if... prophets!!!"

The distortions of the open channel turned into words.

"We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ship. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance -- is futile".

Tal stood up. He could barely hear his Operation Officer over the pounding of his heart.

"Captain, a ship just entered the system!" Monica nearly screamed from her station. "It's a Borg vessel!"

"Red alert! Shields up!" Lorei got back to her seat, "all hands; battle stations!"

The alerts filled the ship with red lights.

"Captain, the Karrenian vessel has been caught in a tractor beam", Monica reported.

"Ensign, set course, maximum warp! Engage immediately" Tal commanded, "Mr. Blake, arm all weapon systems!"

"Quantum torpedoes are loaded, phasers charged, Captain", Blake reported.

The Elita made the jump to warp, reaching the spot in less than a second.

"Tal to Thik'kar" Christopher pressed his comm-badge.

"Awaiting orders, sir", the Andorian replied already aware of the situation.

"Begin immediate departure of all fighters in battle formation", Tal ordered. "Your targets will be submitted shortly. Feel free to lead the attack with the ‘Daffodil' if you wish to do so".

"Aye, Captain, Thik'kar out".

"Ms. Wellsh..." Tal said and Monica knew what he wanted to know.

"A Borg pyramid, Captain", she said, her voice shaking. "The base is 500 by 500 meters. Maximum height is 450 meters. Captain... they began assimilating the Karrenian vessel".

"Captain, the vessel has no air and is falling apart", Mai reported. "I'm scanning no life signs or biological matter; they must have beamed the team to the ship for assimilation".

"They won't attack us unless we interfere with their mission", Lorei stood next to Tal. "That buys us a short while to determine our tactics".

"We have no time whatsoever", Tal said. "Commander Lorei, coordinate the fighter squadrons attack. Instruct Commander Thik'kar to target main weapon systems and engines. Mr. Blake, Mr. Mai; locate the Borg main communication systems, long and short range, and destroy them".

"Aye sir!" all officers responded.

The Elita launched forward, once all fighters departed, Ensign Targo provided Lt. Commander Blake the chance to use all forward launchers, both of the saucer and the weapons pod.

"Captain, why the communications?" Lorei asked, seated next to Tal.

"This is a scout, Commander, here to assimilate a sample of this species", Tal replied, his face harsh and his sight focused. "I have no intention of allowing it to submit its findings".

In a masterly coordinate attack, the Elita's task force charged forward. Two waves of Peregrine Fighters attacked with torpedoes and pulse phasers, weakening, or even taking down, the shields around the pyramid weapons emitters. At the same time, a first burst of four quantum torpedoes, launched from the fore launcher of the Elita, took down the shields protecting the pyramid sub space transmitters.

"We got through the shields, Captain", Blake reported.

"Ensign, bring us about for a second attack", Tal ordered and Targo obeyed, shifting the direction and returning to the attack.

"Captain, the Borg seemed to complete the assimilation of the Karrenian vessel", Wellsh reported.

"Then they'll soon turn their attention to us", Lorei said and opened a channel to Thik'kar. "Lorei to Thik'kar, complete your attack and retreat to safe distance".

"That's affirmative, Ma'am", Thik'kar said and the officers on the bridge of the Elita could hear his next commands to the Viper Squadron. "Let's go Fangs! Summers, take your wing to port! T'Keg, you go starboard! Gorth, your wing follows me, straight ahead! Engage! Engage! Engage!!!"

The two wings, of five Viper fighters each, attacked the weapon systems to the sides of the pyramid, turned away and then returned and released their final burst of torpedoes and phasers on the back of the Borg ship.

Lt. Commander Thik'kar, piloting the ‘Daffodil', the fourth and last Mustang Runabout, and accompanied by four Viper fighters, opened fire at the fore of the pyramid, causing massive damages.

"The Borg weapons are down to 30%, Captain", Wellsh reported. "Their shields are at 50%".

"Chief, transfer all auxiliary power to shields!" Tal ordered.

"Got it, we're at 120%, Captain!" Thomas replied.

"Fire!" Tal shouted, looking at the screen.

Blake obeyed and doubled bursts from 8 torpedo tubes, as well as phaser fire, hit the systems of the pyramid.

"I'm not detecting any transmissions of the Borg ship, Captain", Lt. Nameer reported from tactical two.

As Targo turned the Elita once more, the Borg opened fire.

The bridge shook about as the officers tried their best not to be thrown off their stations.

"We got hit, Captain", Wellsh reported. "Shields are down to 70%"

"Mr. Blake, aim whatever you have at the aft tubes towards main engines! Fire! Now!" Tal commanded.

"Aye sir!" Blake said as the Elita trembled once more.

The four tubes released a burst of three torpedoes per one, all going through the shields and hitting their targets.

"They sustained a direct hit, Captain", Mai reported. "Power down to 30%, we can get them..."

"Ensign Targo, fore attack pattern, Chief, Transfer all available auxiliary power to phasers!" Tal said.

"We have none left, Captain", Thomas shouted as the Elita shook again.

"Then get the power from the engines and aft shields, I want phasers on 130% output", Tal ordered.

"Now we're talking, transferring power now!" Thomas said.

"Ms. Lorei, make sure the Peregrine Fighters join us for this final push", Tal said and Lorei complied.

The Elita launched forward once more, followed by the fighters.

"I'm locked, Captain", Blake reported, "Fighters are coordinated for attack".

"Fire!" Tal said and the final burst of phaser fire and quantum torpedoes hit the pyramid. The Elita and the fighters fell back as the small Borg ship exploded from the inside out.

"Fighters are assuming re-entry procedures, Captain", Lorei reported and then talked in general, "Down red alert. Yellow alert, all hands return to..."

"Belay that order, Commander", Tal said. "We are now on a high alert, all posts are doubled, all personnel are on six-on-six-off shifts. They'll be back. When the collective won't hear from this ship they will send a second scout. The Borg won't abandon their dead or wounded".

"Should I collect the senior staff?" Lorei asked.

"Defiantly, one hour", Tal said, standing up. The screen showed the remains of the Borg ship. "Lt. Wellsh, report our status".

"All systems operational, Captain", Monica replied. "Shields are down to 30%, hull integrity is at 90%. Sickbay reports 20 wounded, most in light condition, no fatalities". She almost smiled when she said that.

"Tal to T'Jenn", Tal pressed his com-badge, "Report".

"I have one wounded in critical condition, Captain", she replied. "He's being treated and shall survive. The rest sustained medium to light injuries and 17 will return to service in 24 hours".

"Thank you, Doctor, once done report to my Ready Room", Tal said and T'Jenn complied before the link was shut.

Tal took a step back and settled down in his chair.

"Captain, all fighters are back in bays 2 and 3", Lorei reported. "Commander Thik'kar has reported no damages, they were not targeted".

Tal was quiet for a moment. They're ok, his ship is safe.

"Had this been a cube..." he said so only Lorei could fully understand him.

"Yeah... " she knew what he meant. "Sadly, it helped their first concern was to assimilate the Karrenians, otherwise our attacks would have been..."

"Futile?" Tal looked at her.

"Probably unsuccessful, Captain", Lorei wasn't sure what to say.

"Make sure all departments are serving in the six-on-six shifts", Tal said. "I'll see you in the observation lounge in an hour -- Dr. T'Jenn is excused as long as there are medical reasons".

"Of course, Captain", Lorei said.

Tal got up to walked to his ready room, as he got off the command platform he took one more look at the remains of the pyramid.

"Mr. Mai, monitor Kallan IV", Tal said quietly. "In an hour they'll know something is wrong".

"Yes, Captain", Mai said.

"I want to keep an eye on the planet as well as the entire system", Tal said to Mai. "Full range scans, probes, whatever is needed".

"Will do, Captain", Mai said, "We should get closer to the orbital route of Kallan V, our cover will be expanded that way".

"Very well, Ensign Targo, take us towards Kallan V", Tal ordered the helmsman, "As Mr. Mai suggests. Ms. Lorei -- senior staff -- an hour". She nodded.

Tal walked into his ready room and the door closed and locked behind him. He looked around, his desk, the windows, the corner with the couches. The room seemed big. Bigger.

"Dim lights", Christopher barely whispered and the computer softened the lights of the room. He unzipped his vest, throwing it to the right, towards the couches and was left in his red shirt only. He loosened his collar and took in a long breath, as deeply as he could. The room was huge. He fell down to his knees, leaning forward on his arms, breathing in slowly and deeply.

He was absolutely terrified.

 

Chapter 5

Captain's log, stardate 55698.6

We re-located into orbit about one of Kallan IV's moons and continued surveying the planet. The Unified Territories of the Southern Sea, as well as the other major governments on the planet, remain unaware of the true nature of the events leading to the destruction of their warp vessel, yet they are assuming just that although having no proof whatsoever. I have not changed my orders regarding shifts and readiness for the past 48 hours. We have no true advantage, in our situation, against the Borg. Vigilance remains our best weapon.

When the doors of the turbo lift opened, Lt. Commander Thik'kar stepped through. It was during what was usually known as the graveyard shift, although the bridge was manned by at least two senior officers at all time ever since Captain Tal ordered the red-alert to remain on.

At this point, Dr. T'Jenn was at the second officer seat on the command platform and Blake was at tactical.

"Are things really that bad, you were given bridge shifts, T'Jenn?" Thik'kar said with a smile, making his way to tactical.

T'Jenn looked at him with a blank expression.

"I have passed the required bridge officer examination nearly six years ago", she replied calmly. "Seeing as I am perfectly capable of maintaining a shift as second officer and had no case of medical emergency to handle, both Commander Lorei and I saw it fitting that I would assist at the current situation".

"Hmm... ok..." Thik'kar smiled at her. "I was kidding, you know..."

"Yes. I did" was all she said, turning her attention back to the panel she was viewing before.

"Don't even try", Blake said, "How's everything down there?"

"Crowded", Thik'kar replied. "I've got 24 Peregrine pilots and 28 Viper pilots, all sleeping on Flight Deck, either under their fighters or right in the cockpit".

"Aren't you missing a few?" Blake wondered.

"Yeah, we've sent Fangs 15 to 20 with the runabouts", Thik'kar replied. "That's another 12 pilots".

"Are they coming back?" Blake asked, "Lorei told me the teams were done with their systems surveys".

"I don't know yet, I'm here to talk to the Captain about it", Thik'kar said. "He's in?"

"I think he's sitting with Dave", Blake said.

"I might as well go in", Thik'kar said, "How's his mood?"

"The same as after the attack..." Blake said, breathing out.

"Then Mai is getting creamed in there?" Thik'kar smiled.

T'Jenn turned to them.

"Lt. Commnder Thik'kar, I believe this so called mystery you seem to be troubled with could be easily solved by entering the Captain's Ready Room", T'Jenn spoke from her seat. "Surely, it is a far more logical approach than the speculations Lt. Commander Blake and yourself are raising at the moment".

The two officers stood in silence for a few seconds as the Vulcan doctor went about her business on the bridge.

"I served with a few Vulcans in the past", Blake whispered. "They're not all like that..."

"Don't they say the same thing about Andorians?" Thik'kar whispered back.

"Don't they say that about every one?" Blake smiled.

"Guess they do..." Thik'kar streached. "Any way, wish me luck, I'm going in".

"Good luck, pal", Blake said as Thik'kar made his short way to the Ready Room door. "You'll need it".

"Thik'kar to Captain Tal", Dureken said while pressing his badge. "Here as you requested, Sir".

"Come in", Tal said and the doors hissed open.

When Thik'kar stepped in he was struck by two things, the first being the cold, as the temperature was no higher than 19 degrees Celsius, and the other was the massive holographic projection above Tal's desk. It was of what was identified by StarFleet Intelligence as a Tactical Borg Cube.

Captain Tal was standing near the cube, looking into it, walking around, while Mai was seating on one of the couches, going over info-padds.

"Captain?" Thik'kar said after a few seconds in which Tal did not address him.

"Sit down" Tal said, pointing at one of the chairs by his desk.

"I can't see any other solution, Captain", Mai said after Thk'kar was seated. He got up and walked to stand near Tal, only than noticing the Anodrian. "Oh, hey Dureken, didn't see you there".

Thik'kar barely opened his mouth when Tal spoke to Mai.

"Than if that what it comes to, so be it", Tal said. "Thank you, Mr. Mai".

"Not a problem, Sir", he replied and started picking up his pads.

"I'll be with you shortly, Mr. Thik'kar", Tal said and walked to his restroom.

"Well? How bad was it?" Thik'kar asked Mai as soon as Tal was behind closed doors.

"Not bad, just long", Mai replied. "We've been at it for six hours".

"Doing what?" Thik'kar asked.

"Going over known Borg vessels and possible invasion", Mai said.

"Is he alright?" Thik'kar wondered and Mai stopped for a second. Did they really doubt the Captain out in the open? That wasn't right, even if somewhat needed.

"He's fine", Mai said at last, lowering his voice, "Focused, far more than usual".

Tal exited his restroom and returned to his desk.

"Thank you Mr. Mai, we're done here for the night", Tal said.

"Yes, sir", Mai replied, "I'll see you on the bridge. Take it easy, Durken".

Mai and Thik'kar exchanged looks of concern and support as the Science Officer left the ready room.

"Commander Thik'kar", Tal started, "How are we set down at Flight Deck?"

"All pilots and navigators are spending their time on deck", Thik'kar reported. "If needed, all fighters can be deployed in two to three minutes".

"Very good", Tal replied, going over data pads.

"Captain, there's the question of the away teams", Thik'kar noted.

"I understand they have concluded their surveys", Tal looked at Thik'kar.

"Yes sir, they have", the Andorian said. "Should we order them here?"

"No", Tal said, staring in mid air. "Instruct them to return to the location of the wormhole, and make sure all data regarding its opening is submitted to them. If, for any reason, we are unable to return they should try to do so".

"I highly doubt the Mustang class deflectors will be able to imitate a polaron beam", Thik'kar said.

"As do I", Christopher replied. "But it's the best chance they have... if the worst comes to pass".

There was a short moment of silence. Although Durken was an experienced officer, and in fact older than his current commanding officer, he still hesitated.

"Anything else, Mr. Thik'kar?" Tal said, going back to reading the padd.

"Captain..." Thik'kar started. "There's the question of, well, just how efficient is the status in which Flight Deck is managed at the moment... I mean..."

"You want me to authorize Flight Deck back to normal?" Tal raised his head.

"At least to yellow alert, Sir", Thik'kar said. "My men need to get some real rest".

"Your men will endure", Tal said in a serious tone.

"Captain, we are perfectly capable of..." Thik'kar began to argue his point.

"The wormhole will be ready to reopen in three days", Tal said, going back to reading the padd. "Until that moment, we are the last line of defense this growing civilization has. Your pilots will maintain full vigilance until this is no longer the case".

"Sir, in a case of emergency we can deploy in less than seven minutes", Thik'kar urged his Captain.

"If the next vessel to enter this system is a tactical cube, we won't have seven minutes", Tal replied.

"If the next vessel to enter this system is a tactical cube, it wouldn't matter if we have the 7th fleet!" Durken said.

Tal looked at him in silence as Thik'kar stared back.

After what seemed to Thik'kar as an eternity, Tal turned his head back to the padd.

"Your men will endure", Tal said quietly. "That will be all, Commander, thank you".

"Sir..." Thik'kar started.

"That will be all, Commander Thik'kar," Tal didn't raise his head. "Thank you".

Thik'kar stood up and walked to the door. "Aye, Captain", was all he said before leaving the ready room.

As the Flight Deck Commander stepped out the door, Blake noticed he wasn't happy.

"Well?" Blake asked as Thik'kar walked to the tactical station.

"No go", Thik'kar nodded to the sides. "We're staying on full red alert".

"Was he mad?" Blake asked.

"That's the thing, I've seen him mad", Thik'kar said to Blake, so only he could hear. "That's not that, it's more like, he's in a bad mood, it's like... you know how when he gives commands you get this feeling it's the absolute right, even if you disagree?"

"Yeah, I get what you mean", Blake replied. "He's unsure of his actions".

T'Jenn stood up from her seat on the command platform.

"Commander Blake, do you know the whereabouts of Commander Lorei?" she asked calmly.

"I'm pretty sure she's getting her two hours of sleep", Warren replied. "Why?"

"I see", she said. "Commander Thik'kar, would you mind taking my place as second officer for a few moments?"

"Sure", Thik'kar nodded.

T'Jenn nodded as well, expressing her gratitude, and walked over to the ready room, entering upon the Captain's approval.

She walked in to find Christopher by the replicator, getting himself a shot of espresso.

"Anything for you, Doctor", he asked her.

"Deka Tea perhaps, Sir", she replied.

"Really?" he looked at her surprised, sipping on his coffee. "I had no idea you like Bajoran tea".

"I don't", she said, "I suggest you drink it, Captain, it is very soothing".

He walked over to his desk and invited his CMO to be seated as well.

"What's on your mind, Doctor?" he asked.

"I would first wish to proclaim that I am here of my own initiative and was not requested nor persuaded to do so by any of the senior officers of the ship", she said. "In addition, were it possible, I myself would have requested Commander Lorei to say that which I am about to say, as she holds the fitting position through which such claims and statements ought to be relayed in the first place".

"But seeing as Commander Lorei is asleep, and since whatever it is that bothers you is of most urgent importance, you decided to speak your mind outside of the fitting chain of command?" Christopher asked.

"And for that I claim full responsibility, sir", she added.

"I see", he said, taking another sip of his coffee. "Well, I have yet, in my career, reprimanded an officer for speaking their mind on legitimate matters". There was an almost sarcastic tone in his voice, reminding T'Jenn of their last conversation.

"What's on your mind, Doctor?" he asked her again.

"You are letting your own disability to control this set of events affect the logic and relevance of your decisions".

Tal was silent for a moment, took the final sip of his coffee and stared at T'Jenn.

"Explain, please", he asked quietly. T'Jenn did not hesitate.

"You are avoiding making a critical decision", T'Jenn said. It was not certain rather the directness of her words was due to her Vulcan nature or for the sake of the situation. "Thus we remain at our current position, exhausted and on high alert".

Tal was silent. He looked at her, and then lowered his eyes somewhat. He gazed at her again to the sound of her next question.

"Captain, are you afraid?"

After a brief quiet moment he replied.

"Terrified"

"So am I", she said.

"Really?" he asked in a serious tune.

"Yes", she said. "It is a difficult sensation to overcome with rational thinking, especially when personal trauma is attached to the matter".

"Your husband?" Tal completed her line of thought about her loss at Wolf 359.

"Correct", T'Jenn replied. "However, you have no personal trauma involved with the Borg, and I do not let mine interfere with my work".

Christopher got up and walked over to the window. He could see the dark side of the moon they were orbiting.

"My first instinct was to run", he said, partly to T'Jenn, mostly to himself. "Run like hell and as far away as possible".

The Vulcan stood up and walked up behind him.

"I mean, these are the Borg", he said. "We have no backup and even if we did... the Epsilon Fleet doesn't have enough ships to stop a cube... and the whole of StarFleet won't be able to stop ten. We were lucky, the people of Kallan IV were not. If... when, the Borg shall return, that's it. Their civilization is over and done".

He turned to look at her.

"No space travel, no discoveries", he said quietly. "In a matter of few days, their world and society would be all but extinct. Assimilated... and there is nothing. Nothing! I can do to stop that from happening, not even if we violate the Prime Directive. Nothing..."

T'Jenn watched her Captain feeling useless. As much as it can be said, she was uneasy witnessing that.

"What is our objective, Captain?" she asked him.

"Well, funny you should ask", he almost smiled and returned to his desk, taking one of the padds. "I have been going over these for the past two days..."

He settled down and pointed at the other chair so T'Jenn would do the same.

"The 30th Directive of StarFleet", Tal read from the padd. "Starfleet Command recognizes the right of each ship commander to interpret the specifications of the Prime Directive as he or she sees fit, consistent with the conditions of other existing Directives in effect, and based upon circumstances that may arise in dealing with newly discovered sentient races".

"You are looking for a loop-hole, to determine we can help Kallan IV," T'Jenn commented.

"Indeed", Tal replied. "And you would think it'd be simple enough seeing as the 16th, and the 20th directives, both deal with the obligation of StaFleet vessels to assist, defend and provide medical care for sentient species and civilizations".

Tal placed the padd down.

"All would be very simple if not for one problem" he added.

"The Prime Directive", T'Jenn said and began reciting, "The 1st Directive of StarFleet; As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Starfleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Starfleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship, unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation".

"Correct", Tal said and stood up. It didn't surprise him T'Jenn knew the directive by heart.

"Ironically, we stopped the Borg too quickly", he almost smiled at T'Jenn. "Had they reached the planet, had the major governments been given any prove of the invasion..."

"Sir, I find very little point in this search for a legitimate reason to help, when one has presented itself already", T'Jenn said, standing in front of her CO. "The Borg attacked this civilization".

"And were stopped", Tal replied. "We have absolutely no way of knowing when they will be back. A day? A month? For all we know it could take another five-hundred years".

"The Prime Directive, or any other directive for this matter, will not provide us with much help at this situation", T'Jenn said. "I doubt greatly such a scenario was ever imagined when said directive was first drafted and revised".

Christopher gazed right into T'Jenn's eyes.

"Is this about the Gerat genocide?" he asked her angrily.

"Captain, this is about a decision you need the make", she replied.

He continued to stare at her yet T'Jenn barely blinked back at Christopher. For a few moments none of them spoke.

"While I am considering violating the Prime Directive in this situation", Tal said quietly. "This is not the same as doing so due to a strictly local affair of an evolving culture".

"We would be stopping an absolute wrong, Captain", she replied. "I see no difference".

"There is a huge difference, doctor", Tal argued.

"It is an extreme situation in which we have the ability to assist", she said in a monotonic voice, "The ability, but not the right".

"No, we do not, T'Jenn!" Tal finally broke loss. "We cannot assist! Even if I do give them all of our knowledge, every bit, this is not the Federation, it would take them centuries..."

He walked around the ready room while talking. T'Jenn could not ignore the red color filling his face.

"For all we know, the Borg could have visited earth hundreds of years before the Enterprise encountered the first cube", he stood closer to his desk. "How are we?... I mean, how can we?..."

He was frustrated.

"God damn it! GOD DAMN IT!!!" Tal banged both his hands on the desk, breaking one of the padds. "They're a growing civilization, T'Jenn... how can we stand by and watch, how do I...? God damn it!"

Tal was almost frozen, keeping his hands on the desk, his head bent forward, his eyes shut.

"As I have said before, Captain", she spoke quietly, and Tal almost felt empathy in her voice. "You have a decision to make, and it is yours and yours alone. I think it would prove best to keep our daily routines separated from your inner conflicts".

Christopher looked at her.

"Tell me, doctor, what would you do?" he wondered. "I don't mean in a general sense -- practically, what would you do?"

"Although I believe it is rather clear", she replied. "My opinion is of no importance".

"What do you mean your opinion is of no importance?" Tal said strongly. "You are a Lieutenant Commander of StarFleet and the CMO of this ship. I want to know by what means you would judge my actions".

There was a short moment of silence before T'Jenn spoke.

"I am your subordinate, Captain", she replied at last. "I cannot instruct you how to act, and as Chief Medical Officer of the Elita, my professional analysis is irrelevant on this matter".

She walked to the door of the Ready Room without being dismissed.

"Doctor", Tal said softly, mostly looking outside his window at the view of Kalla IV. "As my personal physician, what opinion do you hold?"

"If asked so, in future inquiries, Captain", she answered in her monotone voice. "I would say you seemed to be of perfect health and of sane mind".

She turned and left the room.

Christopher nearly crashed on one of the sofas. He stared at nothing for a few minutes then finally pressed his comm-badge.

"Tal to Lorei", he said and waited about two minutes for the reply to come in.

"Lorei here", she sounded very tired and obviously was just woken by the call. "Yes, Sir?"

"I gave it some thought, Commander", he said, closing his eyes. "Take us down to yellow alert".

"Aye, Captain", Tal could almost hear her smile of relief, "Anything else?"

"Senior staff", he said, "at ten-hundred-hours".

"Will do", she replied.

"Good night, Commander", he said, already fading away, "Tal out".

Once the connection ended, Christopher took a deep breath in. he heard the sound of the ongoing red-alert subsiding and could feel the lights dimmed in his ready room. He wasn't really relaxed, but for the first time in two days, Christopher went to sleep with a clear mind.

 

Chapter 6

Captain's log, stardate 55704.8

We now enter the final 24 hours of our stay in these star systems. I cannot risk missing the time table in which the wormhole can be opened -- I owe my crew a chance to go home, as long as it is possible. My senior officers, and myself, are ready for several scenarios. We shall wait as long as we can. To some point, I must admit, it would have made things much easier had it been only our lives that were on the line -- this is not the case.

"How further can we postpone our departure?" Tal asked Ensign Targo at the helms.

"If we leave now at warp factor 9, we'll get there with about an hour to spare", Targo replied. "At maximum warp, we'll reach the wormhole about ten hours before it can be opened".

"We're pushing it a bit close, Sir", Lorei said to Tal. "This timing leaves us with a very narrow space for any possible incidents on our way back".

"We won't wait much longer", Tal replied, looking at his personal screen. "Two more hours".

"Aye, Captain", she replied. "Mr. Mai, increase all sensors spread to maximum".

Mai wasn't sitting at his seat on the command platform, as he decided to personally handle the final scan of the Kallan system from the bridge science station. His seat, however, was being used by Dr. T'Jenn.

"Yes, Ma'am", he replied. "Sensors are on full. Combined with the several probes we have launched, we are now covering and monitoring space in a 2.4 light-years radius from our current location".

"Anything of interest?" Tal asked.

"Nothing so far, sir", Mai reported. "We are maintaining connection with the runabouts, so while there is still a no-scan zone between the wormhole and the edge of our scans, we have a pretty good cover of local space".

"So we'll also have a pretty good heads up if a cube makes it way over here to blow us all to hell, huh?" Thomas smiled from the engineering station.

"Thanks, Chief", Lorei replied without looking at him, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "How lucky we all are to always depend on your uplifting remarks".

"You can depend on my..."

"Enough", Tal stopped Chief Thomas, sending him a warning glare.

Lorei turned to T'Jenn, "Anything to report regarding the population of the planet, Doctor?"

"On several matters, actually", T'Jenn replied. "As could have been expected, planetary media has been extensively covering the warp flight disaster, as it is considered. The UTSS space agency released on official statement in which they explain the warp flight itself was a success, yet they assume the engines malfunctioned while attempting to recharge".

"Too bad", Mai lowered his head, "they did everything right..."

"Are they showing any signs of a second attempt?" Tal asked T'Jenn, who was charged with the responsibility of tracking civil life on Kallan IV.

"The construction of a second vessel will be initiated soon, Captain", T'Jenn replied. "However, that is not the most dramatic of affaires on Kallan IV".

"I am not a great fan of suspense, Doctor", Tal said.

"The FRV armed forces are performing an extensive exercise, mainly concerning with the deployment of many ballistic missile units", T'Jenn read from her station. "The exercise also includes major ground troops maneuvers, as well as naval and air-forces readiness. For example, two infantry divisions were deployed near the borders of the Gerat state -- most peculiar, Captain".

Tal gave T'Jenn a long stare. He wasn't mad with her.

"Captain..." Warren started.

"Yes, Mr. Blake, war preparations are nearly always the same", Tal said. "In any culture, under any circumstances."

"But why now, Captain?" Monica wondered from her station. "Why now, if they haven't fought a war in a hundred years?"

"The FRV wanted to see if the UTSS could base itself as an interstellar super-power", Lorei replied and Tal nodded. "War is always about resources", Christopher said. "Had the FRV been able to join forces with the other major governments and reach for the stars, to explore new worlds, the petty quarrels of home could have been neglected. With such an opportunity unavailable for the near future, they are attempting an older one".

"Which have always, in any civilization", T'Jenn noted, "Has lead to much greater losses then any minor gains".

"They UTSS has reacted, no doubt", Lorei said.

"Yes, Commander", T'Jenn replied. "Counter maneuvers, for a possible offence, are taking place".

"Well, that's fantastic", Tal said sarcastically, "Ensign, set course to the worm hole. Let's leave before we witness the beginning of the Karrenians second world war".

As Ensign Targo punched in the coordinates of the worm-hole, Lt. Commander Mai got the Captain's attention.

"Sir, I'm picking up a high speed object on its way to this system", Mai looked at the data, coming from a long range probe. "It's 1.2 light years away, heading here in warp factor 9.9997, ETA; 8 minutes".

"It's a light-mass artificial object, Captain", Lt. Wellsh reported from operations.

"Red alert, shields up; All hands -- battle stations!" Lorei said and pressed her comm link. "Lorei to Thik'kar, prepare for departure".

"That may not be necessary, Ma'am", Mai said from the back station. "This thing is only 30 meters in diameter".

"A sphere", Lorei said, looking at Tal.

"Ms. Wellsh, utilize all means to seal this system to any outgoing transmissions of any kind", Tal ordered and Monica quickly transferred the mission onward to Lt. Nameer in communications.

"Captain..." Lorei's eyes crossed Tal's. She nodded.

"We're doing this", Tal said, the whole bridge heard him.

"Communications reported task completed, Captain", Wellsh reported, "We're scrambling all signals".

"The sphere entered the system", Mai reported. "We can verify it's a shuttle belonging to the former pyramid".

"Mr. Blake?" Tal looked past his shoulder.

"Ready, Captain", Blake replied.

"The Borg are scanning the planets systematically", Mai reported. "They'll reach Kallan IV in five minutes".

"They realized their communications are being blocked", Wellsh reported. "I don't recognize any attempt to undo it. I doubt that they could even if they wanted to. I'm scanning no weapons or offensive systems".

"Captain, Kallan IV media and other systems are also experiencing major problems due to our signal scrambling", T'Jenn reported.

"Good", was all Tal said.

"It's definitely a probe", Lorei said to Tal. "No weapons, few drones".

"How many?" Tal asked.

"I'm scanning 50", Mai reported. "The sphere is one million kilometers from Kallan IV".

"Mr. Targo, move to intercept", Tal ordered. "Mr. Blake, hold your fire".

The Elita launched forward in full impulse, reaching the sphere in moments.

"Target is locked", Blake reported.

"Fire to disable", Tal said.

"Aya, aye Captain", Blake replied and the bottom phaser arc released several long bursts, hitting the main engines of the sphere, as well as teleportation systems. The sphere didn't stop, merely floated through space.

"Target neutralized, Captain", Blake reported.

"Fire at will, Mr. Blake", Tal said.

Blake's fingers flew over his main board, and a single torpedo was fired, breaching the hall of the sphere. There was no explosion.

"Done, Captain", Blake reported again.

"Scanning Borg vessel, Sir", Mai said. "Coolant gas spreads through the vessel. No life, sir"

Tal stood up and walked a few steps to the center of the bridge.

"Lt. Wellsh, if you please", he said.

"Yes, Captain", Monica replied and utilized the tractor beam. "Vessel in tag, Sir".

"Ensign Targo", Tal said, "let's end this".

Targo didn't reply, simply nodded.

The Elita moved back towards Kallan IV, entering the planet's orbit for the first time.

"Reaching low orbit", Targo reported. "Dropping zone in 4... 3... 2... 1... contact!"

Monica disabled the tractor beam and the sphere went into the planet's atmosphere, crashing on land a few moments later.

"It crashed in a military training facility", T'Jenn replied. "A remote desert location, deep within the UTSS territory, no local casualties and they have already spotted it".

"Mr. Mai", Tal said.

"Launching probe", Mai reported first, and then continued after a few seconds. "It crashed about two kilometers to the north of the sphere. They'll find it".

"Mr. Targo, take us to high orbit", Tal ordered and the Akira class ship shifted direction, slowly leaving Kallan IV's orbit.

Christopher returned to his seat.

"Mr. Mai, order all probes to self-destruct", Tal said and turned to operations. "Ms. Wellsh, keep all signals blocked until we leave this system. Mr. Targo -- set course to the worm-hole, maximum warp".

All officers replied and carried out their missions.

T'Jenn gave Christopher a long stare.

"Well done, Captain", she said.

"No... not really", Tal replied as he entered a code through his own access system on his chair.

"Sir?" Blake wondered as he noticed a single phaser beam was shot towards the planet.

"I'll explain later", Tal said.

"Ready, Captain", Targo reported.

"Engage" Tal said and they left the Kallan system far behind them.

Christopher was in his ready room writing on a padd, deleting it, and then writing again. Through the windows he could see the massive rocks which formed the asteroids field called Avalanche Ocean, originally mapped by his ship. The Elita was making way towards Ocean View Station, once a Dominion monitored Cardassian station and now a front line intelligence gathering facility in the Gamma Quadrant.

Commander Lorei entered the room and took a seat in front of the Captain.

"I'm almost done", he said, not taking his eyes of the padd.

"I've submitted a brief summery to starbase 1005", she said. "Did you speak with Admiral Wyngarde?"

"I did", Tal said. "He knows everything. He is soon leaving on a previously scheduled trip to Earth. I'm assuming the Commander-in-Chief will wish to speak to him".

"We'll need to submit all logs as well, as soon as possible", Lorei added.

"I know", Tal replied. "I'm almost done with the full report, and then I will also enter my final log".

"Have you thought about a good explanation to how we knew another vessel might enter the system?" Lorei asked.

"I did", Tal said, "I filed it under ‘a good guess'".

"As good as any", she said, then stared right at Tal. "Captain, are you ok?"

He looked up at her.

"No", he said, "Far from it".

"If you need some time off?" she said, smiling a bit.

"Thank you, Commander", he smiled. "Admiral Wyngarde asked the same thing".

"Something to consider", she said.

"And to decline", he returned his eyes to the padd. "Some time off will just mean more time to think about what's already done. No point to that".

"Yes, sir", she said and stood up. "Captain?..."

She rephrased the question in her head and asked.

"That one last phaser shot?..." he looked at her as she asked.

"I destroyed the core HQ of the two divisions in the Gerat state. They were performing genocide. I destroyed their coordinating headquarters", he said. They exchanged looks for a moment before Tal got back to writing on his padd, "Anything else, Commander?"

She walked to the door

"Captain..." Lorei was somewhat amazed.

"Had I told you in advance, you had made yourself an accomplice to a crime", Tal said, still writing. "I find it very unlikely your Bajoran roots would have left you with any other choice".

She kept quiet, simply nodding.

"Anything else, Commander?" he asked.

"Senior staff", she said, "O-nine-hundred".

"I'll be there", he kept writing and she left the ready room.

Christopher finished his written report and filed it in. he walked to the replicator and ordered a shot of espresso, than settled on his sofa.

"Computer, open my personal log", he said, took a small sip and continued. "Begin recording".

Captain's personal log, Stardate 55707.2;

The Elita returned to Federation space in one piece, all hands, shuttles and fighters counted for. The worm-hole collapsed and will not be useful for another passage.

My full report of the past ten days is concluded, complete with all ship logs of the same dates and is about to be submitted to StarFleet Command. Honestly, I expect nothing less than a removal from the post of command followed by court-martial, leading to a demotion of rank and my immediate discharge from StarFleet.

While our actions did stop the Borg, at least for now, from invading and assimilating the population of Kallan IV, there is no lawful justification to our interference with what could have still been the normal evolution of the people of that planet. By crashing the sphere and basically handing a probe filled with files of information -- the first of which, explain that they were successful in achieving warp speed -- we brought great change to that world. In addition, it was given to the local government of my choosing, not to a unified one. My senior officers, as well as several officers of the bridge, were fully aware of the possible repercussions of my intentions. They were all asked to carry out the tasks given to them, not commanded. I would have held nothing but highest respects towards any of them had they chosen to disregard my requests -- none of them did.

This, however, is not the end to my own intervention, as I have also acted against a specific government on Kallan IV. It was a single act I committed on my own and shall take full responsibility for.

Upon conclusion of this entry, so shall my report be concluded.

I have affected the lives of billions and can only hope I did not wrong them. That is all I am left with...

I hope for the best.

 

Epilogue

Rear Admiral Chegwidden was teleported onboard the U.S.S. Neverland, the Norway class ship Vice Admiral Wyngarde came to Earth with. The ship was still in orbit of Sol III, about to leave.

He walked to the offices in use by the Epsilon Fleet Commander-in-Chief. He had to tell him in person.

Admiral Wyngarde was seating at a desk, going over yet another padd as Admiral Chegwidden walked in.

"Well?" Wyngarde looked up at the JAG of StarFleet.

"He violated the Prime Directive" Cheg replied.

"So he did", Wyngarde said restless. "Well?"

"The Commander-in-Chief talked with the President", Cheg said. "I was called in, as well as the Federation Council Council of Law".

"Well?"

"Well, He's not getting the Archer Medal of Excellence, that's for sure", Cheg said.

"Why does this not strike me as surprising?" Wyngarde said.

"Look, we all agreed that violating the Prime Directive was not entirely out of place, but it was still that -- a violation", Cheg said. "Now, there is one major problem here, the Borg. The Prime Directive wasn't written with something of that sort in mind and now, well, they're going to attach an amendment to the StarFleet law".

"Who will?" Wyngarde asked.

"The Council", Cheg explained, "more precisely, the left wing members of the Council, in order to make Captain Tal an example, and prevent such violations in the future".

Wyngarde looked at Cheg, and was very concerned.

"The President is going to veto", Cheg said.

"You're kidding me", Wyngarde said standing up. Chegwidden stood up with him.

"I kid you not", Cheg said. "The President will veto and the law shall remain as it is. The case of Kallan IV will be dropped. No removal of command, no court-martial, not for Captain Tal or any of the Elita's officers".

"Excellent work, Admiral!" Wyngarde shook Chegwidden's hand. "Thank you!"

"Taking it a bit personal, don't you?" Cheg smiled.

"I've known the guy since he was an Ensign", Wyngarde replied. "Yeah, it's personal".

"Well, there's still the issue of the attack he carried on the local forces", Cheg said.

Wyngarde looked serious again.

"Cheg, they were carrying out genocide", he told him.

"I know", Cheg said, "But still..."

"What will we do about that?" Wyngarde asked, taking back his seat.

"I have to investigate it, officially. I'll appoint a special prosecutor from Starbase 1005 JAG unit", Cheg said. "I won't be able to settle on anything less than a ten year postponement of any promotion, in rank and position".

"I see. Ten years on the Elita", Wyngarde said, "I guess he won't have much to say on the matter, nor will he truly mind. If that is the best we can do, so be it".

"It is", Cheg said.

"Very well", Wyngarde said. "Thank you Admiral. You better be off. We're leaving soon".

"Right", Cheg said, feeling a bit uneasy. "Thank you Admiral".

He turned and walked to the door, yet just before leaving he turned once more.

"Admiral Wyngarde ", Chegwidden said, "Why does it still feel like I'm punishing an innocent man?"

Wyngarde looked at him, then his eyes returned to his padd.

"Because he was right", Wyngarde said quietly. "You know Cheg, these days, these... times. It seems as if we sunk so deep into the grey areas, we can't see the white and black anymore. Not even when they're right in front of us".

Wyngarde looked at Chegwidden.

"That was just that -- black and white, right and wrong", he said. "I know Christopher Tal from the day he graduated, he's not an innocent, I'll give you that. But he knows right from wrong -- and we just punished him for that, if for nothing else".

Chegwidden looked at the padd he was carrying, which had Tal's profile on it, as Wyngarde got back to reading his.

"Have you ever told him that?" Cheg asked

"I have", Wyngarde replied.

"What did he say?" Cheg continued.

Wyngarde looked at Cheg again and smiled.

"He said I was wrong..."

 

- The End -

 

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