Ships in the Night

       Churrr Churrr Churrr! Feet and talons pounded the rubberized decking as crewmen rushed to battle quarters throughout the great ship. Cher'cur stood by his station on the command deck as the First peered into the tactical tank. Reports flooded in from the ship at large. "Tactical stations manned and ready!" "Engineering ready for violent maneuvering!" "Medical on standby!"
       Churrr Churrr Churrr! Cher'cur stepped beside the First. "All stations manned and ready. We are at full alert."
       "Very good." Drawled the First, tasting his words before he said them. "Good indeed. We will close with caution. This thing looks dangerous."
       It did indeed. The tactical plot indicated a ship, if a ship it could be called, eight times the size of the Mothership
Victory. It defined ugly. It existed without form or design, something that, happened, in space, a Thasite War City. As he watched the tactical display the alien bristled with charged weapons, and escorts moved out to meet the Victory's strikers, far too many escorts.
       First rustled his wings again. "Close to main battery range. We will see how it likes our new toy."

       "First Cher'cur?" The younger man's beak swam in front of his face. "First, are you well Sire? We are approaching."
       "Yes, yes, a bit of down gathering." Images of the Victory's command deck quickly faded. Cher'cur pulled himself together.
       "We have a visual on your new command."
       Cher'cur stood. He rustled his feathers and wings before smoothing himself down. "Lets have a look then."
       The Vigilant loomed in the viewport of the shuttle. Tiny gnats of worker craft moved over the massive vessel as she stood beside the dock. The station's dock arms extended around her in a gentle caress. Vigilant still bore scars from her encounters with the United Federation. He glanced at his new aide.
       "Repairs are 97% complete Sire. We should be space ready within the week."
       "Good Acke'cur, good. I will be glad to see the last of those repairs painted."
       The young man rustled again. Cher'cur shot him a bemused eye. "You have questions?"
       "Yes Sire." He replied with hesitation.
       "Speak then."
       "Your Second Sire."
       "Most Second Taggel is a good officer. I could not ask for better."
       "He killed his First."
       "An unfortunate necessity."
       "Sire, can you trust an officer that will challenge his superiors?"
       "That is the duty of lessor officers Acke'cur. With Taggel I know I have an officer that knows his duty, and will perform it when called upon."
       "Yes Sire." The answer was still hesitant.
       "Buck up boy, a new adventure, your first deep space trip. Ah, wouldn't your Father be proud."
       Acke'cur puffed a bit. "Yes Sire, he would be."
       "Let us test your new skills as an aide. What is our fleet strength?"
       "We have six strikers, and two seekers, in addition to the Vigilant."
       "Two seekers... I don't like the sound of that."
       "If I might question Sire, why?"
       "Seekers are built to seek Acke'cur not to follow some massive hen around."
       "I believe sir they are listed as long range scouts."
       "However they are listed, the High Firsts are in error placing them with us."
       "But the Federation, Sire."
       "Acke'cur, two seekers will not stop the Federation weapons, only research into our own weapons will accomplish that."
       "Are we to contend with the Federation, Sire?"
       "Always we contend with those that will place limits on us. What is our first task?"
       "We are to meet with the USS Kongo at Nabol to pick up the crew of the seeker Horizon."
       "The Kongo again."
       "She is a nuisance, Sire. She has contended against us, and caused a good deal of the damage we are currently repairing."
       "Yes, I know this. Acke'cur, you are far to young to appreciate the value of a nuisance. I am to understand that the Horizon was lost down a wormhole?"
       "Yes Sire, from the sketchy reports we got back she was dumped into the lap of a Federation ship over 1000 light years away."
       "They are extremely lucky to even be alive."
       "Yes Sire, the Federation is only returning the Acceptian crew. According to the report all others requested to remain with the Federation."
       "My understanding that the Horizon was not a happy ship."
       "Their First was murdered by a Kronin marine."
       "She was not a happy ship at all. Did he turn himself in?"
       "Yes Sire, and he was exiled by the new First."
       "I would call that a condemnation of his command then. Acke'cur, never place yourself in a position where the Kronin want you dead. It is worse than losing a challenge for one's honor."
       "I will keep this advice Sire. We approach the shuttlebay."


       Captain's Log Stardate 55143.3. We are currently at Starbase 224 awaiting the arrival of the USS Andros. We are to participate in the repatriation of Acceptian officers from Starbase 600. We await the arrival of both the transport and the Acceptians.
       The civil authority has been it's usual less than cooperative selves since they received Independent civil authority two years ago. The current Governor bends over backwards to prove he is not in the pocket of Starfleet. I find it interesting that they employ a considerable number of Orions.
       The colony authority has insisted that all Starfleet crew go unarmed off base. I have approved limited shore leave under the circumstances.

       Fleet Captain James Timothy Kirk looked under the unlikely object. His wife, and computer operations officer, Tathilan watched in bemusement. He prodded the old wood with a critical eye and ran his tricorder over it. Once again he pulled at the joints.
       "How much?"
       The old junk merchant mused a moment. "One fifty credit."
       "The fabric is shot. The padding is in shreds. Fifty if it is worth that."
       "Old it is yes, but that part of charm. One twenty five."
       "Seventy-five. I am going to have to rebuild the entire thing."
       "Ah, but the joy of restoration, how could I deny you that? One fifteen."
       Kirk eyed the old man for a moment. "Ninety, and I am being generous. How long have you had it?"
       "Ah, but I have grown fond of it here. Difficult it will be to part with. But for you, a true lover of old things, I can say one hundred."
       "Ah, but I most feed my children great Captaine, they must not go hungry. Ninety seven, I can go no lower."
       "Ninety-seven it is."
       They shook on the bargain, and Kirk got out his PADD and transferred the funds.
       "Tathilan sweet, would you transport that up for me?"
       The old chair vanished in sparkles.
       As they walked farther down the alley of the old market Tathilan gave Tim a look.
       **You really wanted that pile of junk. He isn't even married.**
       **I suspected as much, but you play the game. It might be in bad shape, but I spotted something that might make it worth the trouble.**
       **What was that, solid latinum hardware?**
       **Better, a bent aluminum plate, and I scanned it.**
       **Excuse me, but so?**
       **That chair is proof on how open the galaxy is Tathilan. The plate said 'Lay-z-boy', and the scans indicate that most of the wood and hardware's age match the date on the plate.**
       **Earth? Four hundred years old?**
       **Exactly. The padding and cover are nowhere near that age, the springs are not original either, but the hardware and the wood are. Lay-z-boy was one of the businesses that converted into war material for the Eugenics Wars, and never did recover in the post war depression. From Monroe, Michigan to the Orion border. Fascinating.**
       Their walking had taken them to the edge of the market.
       "Captain Kirk?"
       Tim looked in the direction of the voice he felt a prickle at the back of his neck. "Who's asking?" He fingered the spot where his phaser usually rested.
       "Mister Quin." Five men oozed out of the gloom of the alley. Each looked like no good. "Grab them." Said the first speaker.
       **Tathilan, run!**
       The men rushed Kirk, his foot was in hard contact with the chin of the first man before he even realized what had happened. His right fist jarred against something hard, and came away wet. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the first man fall as the third and fourth came at him from each side. The fifth man was trying to grab Tathilan. As she vanished he felt something brush the back of his head. He reached for it. From somewhere a man was flying over his head and crashing into the other one menacing him. As he turned his left hand came in contact with a humanoid arm, with one fluid motion the rest of the man somersaulted passed him with the pop of breaking bone. One of the assaulters was getting off the ground and Tim carefully kicked him in the solar plexus. A second made to rise and Kirk swept him back to the ground and applied a back kick to keep him there. A light sparkle to his right caught his attention. It was Tathilan, Miritath, and two security guards. Miritath looked over the wreckage on the street. Two men lay still. Three others flopped groaning from their injuries.
       "Tathilan, I thought you said the Captain was in danger?"
       **Well, the men the...**
       Miritath twitched his whiskers. "Captain, I would say the lessons have paid off."
       Ensign Timmor was bending over one of the men. "This man is dead."
       "These two need medical attention fast." Said Clarke.
       Kirk punched his comm badge. "Kongo", said the pleasant voice.
       "Captain Kirk here, please alert the Colony police that I have been assaulted at these coordinates. We will await their arrival. Medical attention is required here at once."
       No sooner had he finished speaking when transporter activity started. Several gendarmes and a trauma team arrived.
       "Mon Capitaine, would you please to explain?"
       Fleet Captain James Timothy Kirk, commander of the mighty Kongo and her 700 crew, sank to the ground and started to shake.

       The Colony Chief of Police was looking his guests over. Captain Kirk was waving his Chief Medical Officer away as he tried to apply a protoplaser to his scalp.
       "Enough with that thing Doc."
       "Not quite enough actually. I want you in medical for a full scan, before I clear you for duty. That is a nasty blow."
       "Yes sir, now can we finish this up?"
       The Chief said. "I have a few questions Capitaine."
       "You and your wife were shopping, correct?"
       "Yes, I had just bought a chair a few moments before."
       "And these five ruffians attacked you."
       "In essence."
       "Your defense was vicious."
       "My first thought was to stun them, but I was unarmed with any 'offensive weapon' as your government requested. They rushed me, I didn't have time to think."
       "Ahem, yes. Mr. Miritath, how long did it take for your security team to arrive?"
       "One minute from the first call which was at once."
       "And you found?"
       "Captain Kirk standing there looking stunned, and five men on the ground."
       "This is better than I would expect from Starfleet's standard defense training."
       "I am Captain Kirk's personal defense trainer. I consider him adequate, to some degree."
       The Chief looked the 300 pound carnivore over, and refrained form further comment.
       "Capitaine, did they say anything?"
       "Yes, something about a 'Mr. Quin'."
       The chief started slightly at the mental contact. "Yes Mrs. Kirk."
       **The exchange ran thus: One of the gang inquired of the Captain by title and name. He replied. "who's asking?" They said "Mr. Quin" and rushed us. Tim told me to run. I did so.**
       "You are not injured in any way?"
       **One of the lot tried to grab me. I teleported away.**
       "And the Capitaine does not possess this skill?"
       Kirk glowered at the Chief. "No, the Captain does not."
       "And how was the ship alerted."
       **I did so as the attack started.**
       "With your communicator?"
       **I am in constant contact with the ship.**
       "Yet this fight happened."
       Kirk said. "One would think we committed the crime here by your line of questioning."
       "Two men are dead Captain. We have a peaceful world."
       "With peaceful thugs that peacefully assault people. I will point out that had I been armed in my usual fashion no one would be dead."
       Doc Hanson jumped in. "I will interject here. Captain Kirk has suffered a blow to the head and a possible concussion. He is not fit for a lengthy interview."
       The chief looked as if he smelt something. "Do keep yourselves available for further questioning in this matter."
       Hanson tapped his communicator. "Hanson to Kongo, four to beam up."

       Tim lay back on the examination table while Hanson ran his instruments over him one more time.
       "It was as I thought, a mild concussion. That should take care of it. Don't go getting hit in the head again for at least twenty-four hours or you'll undo all my good work."
       Kirk rubbed the back of his head. "I'll be sure to tell that to anyone taking a swing at me."
       The Intercom chirped. "Bridge to Captain Kirk."
       "Kirk here, report."
       "The USS Andros has made orbit Sir. Commander Gephalt wishes to report to you."
       "Then extend him our welcome Mr. Faiee. I'll meet him in my ready room."
       "Yes sir, bridge out."
       "Doctor, if you are done duty calls."
       "Just be careful."

       Kirk looked briefly around the bridge as he came on. Mr. Faiee, the only officer currently on the bridge turned to see.
       "Mr. Gephalt is on his way sir."
       "Thank you Mr. Faiee."
       Kirk settled quickly behind his desk. A quick look around the room proved all to be in place. The old leather couch looked inviting, but duty called. He did need to decide if the new chair was going in here or his quarters. In here it would be crowded for a recliner. His door call sounded ending the inner discussion.
       A heavy set bearded human stood framed in the door. He stepped in quickly. "Commander Erland Gephalt reporting Captain."
       "Fleet Captain James Timothy Kirk." Kirk rose to shake hands. "Have a seat. Now, what is this about a crew of Acceptians on the other side of the Klingon Empire?"
       Gephalt made himself comfortable. "I don't know the entire tale sir. I was assigned to shepherd them from Starbase 600. I was not present when then Captain Hailey recovered them."
       "Do you have the basics?"
       "Yes sir. While observing stellar phenomena, that in it itself is a tale, the USS Discovery observed the formation of a wormhole. The Acceptian Seeker Horizon fell through in damaged condition. Discovery aided the Acceptians in the recovery of their ship, and was accompanied by the Horizon until they reached Oz. At that point Starbase 600 was founded. Now Vice Admiral Hailey was placed in command. The Horizon was in the process of being refit when it was discovered that a proper refit would require a new ship. It was decided to ship the Acceptian crew via Starfleet vessels. I am leaving out a good deal."
       Kirk looked at the report in front of him. "So we have 35 Acceptians. I noticed that when the FarSight accompanied us that the crew of a Seeker was 75 Acceptians, and many other races as well. Where are the rest?"
       "I understand sir that the Horizon suffered appalling casualties as a result of her trip through the wormhole. A full 54 percent of the Avainoid crew died from wounds or were killed outright."
       "Ouch. That must have been one rough ride. What about the rest of the crew?"
       "I understand the non Acceptian survivors declined to return to the Acceptian Empire sir."
       "That is damning to say the least. What am I dealing with?"
       "They are sullen, difficult, demanding, and did I mention difficult?"
       "We will make an effort to see they are not bored. I will also hold them to ship's discipline. I understand that this was not the case on the Andros."
       "No sir, they were treated as passengers. I wouldn't wish such passengers on the director of any cruise ship."
       "We will see that they hue to Starfleet's higher standard. I understand that the Acceptian fleet has a similarly high standard. Was the Horizon that lax of a ship?"
       "I don't entirely know sir. They spent a good year on Oz doing little or nothing. This was after they were informed that the rest of the crew was leaving the service."
       "They have no morale to speak of then. I'll work on it."


       Cher'cur listened for a long moment to the low rumble of the great ship beneath his talons. Nothing in the fleet gave the sense of raw power harnessed to one's will like a Mothership at warp. The rest of his officers filed into the briefing chamber. The senior Kronin stood to the side of the chamber as was their place.
       At last all were gathered. Cher'cur chirped loudly. "Lords, officers, we have a mission before us. Second Taggel please to explain."
       Taggel stepped into the center. "Tactical." A map of the Empire, and the United Federation appeared around him. "The Horizon was lost out beyond the reported borders of the United Federation. Passed an area they call the Klingon Empire. The report reads that they have been transported via a regular courier to a Federation base here at the common border of themselves and the Klingons. From here the USS Kongo will transport them to Nabol, a neutral planet, and we will pick them up."
       Third Kee'tak said. "Sires, did the Federation say why a 'regular courier' was sufficient for one leg, but one of their battle cruisers for the second?"
       Taggel turned to the questioner. "No Third, they did not."
       Tecchen the Navigational Third asked. From the data we can see the Kongo has 400 light years to cross. We have been given 80 days to make Nabol?"
       "That is correct. The Kongo is a fast ship, one of the United Federation Starfleet's best. It was explained that 80 days are needed to allow for the unavoidable delays. The Kongo is expected to deal with the usual business their ships deal with as required."
       Tecchen clamped his feathers. "We are that behind the technology curve?"
       "In speed, yes we are. We have lightspace 24 cruise vessels. The United Federation has lightspace 28.5 cruise vessels."
       Third Keetctc asked. "What about the weapons gap? We were promised something would be done about our lack of lightspace weapons six months ago."
       Cher'cur chirped for attention once again. "That is being dealt with. As of yet we have no practical systems place. They are under research. We should be grateful the United Federation is not eager to do war."
       "Begging the First's deepest pardon, be we got out tails handed to us by ships we could not touch. I found this unnerving. I do not wish a repeat of the experience"
       Second Taggel continued with a nod from Cher'cur. "We have no plans to war with the Kongo, but to make a friendly exchange. I suggest we continue to bob our heads and make nice with the Federation."
       Cher'cur continued. "Indeed. We will act in the most diplomatic fashion we know how. Any further questions? " He paused, waiting. "Good. Since we have been given our leisure, and we have seekers among our flock, we will make an effort to use them as they are intended to be used. Attend your duty."
       Least Second Kerchin and his flock waited for Taggel as the others departed. "You were not confirmed in command."
       Taggel looked at him impassively. "This is a problem?"
       "It looks bad or one's career report."
       "If it must be known, I was offered a seeker command. I am not senior enough to command this vessel, no one present, is."
       "So, why did you not take it?"
       "Since you are so curious, I had already learned who the First was to be. One does not pass up a chance to learn from a legend."
       "It is dangerous to pass up a promotion Taggel. It gives people ideas. That trick of yours won't work twice."
       "That is Most Second to you Kerchin, and I suggest you remember it. I would also keep in mind that I am no longer an invalid, and I won't need... tricks."
       Taggel raised his wings and they parted to let him pass. Cher'cur noted these things from his throne, and said nothing.


       Kirk looked the new arrivals over. If a being with a beak could look "hangdog" this group did. He had them gathered in the chapel. He stepped up on the raised dais.
       "I am Fleet Captain James Timothy Kirk. I am the officer in command. I have been assigned to see you repatriated with your fellows in the Acceptian Empire. It is my understanding that you have spent the last year idle. Your time of idleness is at an end. The Kongo is not a cruise ship. She is a Federation Heavy Cruiser on patrol. You have just become the first Acceptian exchange officers with the Federation Starfleet.. Any questions?"
       These was some rustleing among the group. One finally spoke. "Yes sir, I do."
       "Who are you and you question please."
       "I am Provisional First Ga'fer. What sir is an 'exchange officer'?"
       "It has been the habit of Starfleet in the past to accept an exchange of officers with friendly or allied powers. Our people learn from them. They learn from us. While we have no formal agreement with the Acceptian Empire, I see this as the best way to integrate your crew into the workings of the Kongo. I expect that you will be a credit to the Empire, and that my report to your commanding officer will reflect this."
       "What are our duties to be sir?"
       "Counselor Deateli will evaluate your skills and recommend assignments. That is all."
       Commander Spacik joined him as he left. "Evaluation Sir?"
       "I don't know. What I do know is we are in for an education."

       **No one can doubt they are an interesting bunch.** Felialan stretched out in one Ava Ingles' cabin.
       "Yes oh horned one. The question is; are they good interesting, or bad interesting?" Technician Ingles continued to idly braid her mane.
       Her ears popped up. **Bad interesting? You can have that?**
       "Sure," said Gavin. "No one will argue that war isn't interesting. It also isn't good to be in."
       **OK, you have me there. I can think of plenty of places to be other than a war.**
       Ingles finished off with a nice bow. "There, try and keep it out of the flux integrator for a while."
       **But my mane hasn't been in the flux integrator.**
       "However, that would be interesting."
       Gavin pressed on. "What about the Acceptians?"
       **What about them?**
       "We have met a couple, but this bunch is different."
       **The FarSight crew had good morale and was intact. Word from above is that this bunch suffered a bad as in vile commander, the loss of their ship and half their crew and a year idle on Oz.**
       "In short they've had their lack of teeth kicked in."
       **Yes, and losing is not something Acceptians are good at.**
       Ingles pulled out the soft brush. "So we need to help them. How do you cheer up a gloomy bird?"
       **Good question. I can't say I have ever tried.**
       "What about 'we'? There is that 'we' thing you are always drifting off into."
       **I can't say that "we" have ever tried cheering them up either. Usually we are trying to make them into gloomy birds.**
       Gavin grabbed a brush and started in on the other side. "Why?"
       **Acceptians have overrun one of our worlds Mary. It doesn't make us inclined to like them.**
       "Should we dislike them?"
       **There is no reason to dislike individuals for the actions of the whole. Better I think to cheer up the gloomy bird and make friends.**
       "Good," said Ava. "I like making friends."

       Counselor Deateli looked at the questioner. He repeated his question. "Who is in change?"
       "Fleet Captain Kirk is in charge."
       "No, which of the Federation races is in charge?"
       "No one race is in charge. Those competent to command are promoted to command, regardless of race."
       "How can such a system work? Who's culture is dominate."
       "We have 153 members in the Federation. No one culture can dominate. In Starfleet we have Starfleet culture. Starfleet culture is taught in our officer Academy. While we are each proud of the culture we grew up in, we realize that not every idea is one that everyone can work with. Starfleet culture is an anagram of the bits of everyone's culture that work well for the most people. We of Starfleet put our personal culture aside for this meta culture while we serve. In turn we bring bits of the rest of the Federation back to our home worlds when we return. We aid in cementing the Federation together merely by being."
       "So Earth does not rule?"
       "No. Earth was central of location at the founding of the Federation. It serves as the meeting place for many Federation functions."
       "Why do you have a human as your Captain?"
       "Because this time he is the officer assigned to command this ship. It could as easily be any other Federation race. The important point is that while serving on this ship you will be expected to abide by the rules and regulations of Starfleet. This includes placing aside some of your own culture to better work with others."
       "What about flying? We need to exercise our wings."
       "We don't have the space for a flight deck as your larger ships possess. However, the holodecks can be programmed for flight."
       "We used holodecks on the Andros, one cannot fly in so limited a space."
       "We have a flight program on the Kongo. We have had Acceptians aboard before and, yes, the larger holodecks can accommodate your full wingspan, and allow you to fly."


       Taggel pressed the call, after a moment the door opened. "Enter."
       "Most First, you did call for me." The room was half darkened. Second Taggel could barely make out his commanding officer in the gloom.
       "Yes Taggel, I did. Please come... Ah, yes. Light." The lights came up on command. "Forgive me, it is easier to watch out the ports with the lights low."
       "Yes Sire." Taggel entered with more confidence.
       Cher'cur turned to face him. "I understand you refused posting as a first to serve under me."
       "That is correct Most First."
       "One does not pass up opportunities to learn from those that originate knowledge."
       "Am I all that now?"
       "Sire, you damn yourself with faint praise. Your tactics are well known and studied in every house, if for no other reason than to learn what to fear."
       Cher'cur spun to his feet, flipped his wings to his back and folded his hands behind him. He began to pace. "I have been given a treasure beyond price Second, a command of nine ships, and the one the equal of the other eight. It is a difficult thing to command a fleet, and a ship."
       "Yes Sire, it is."
       "Yes, I must remember you have had a small taste of the effort, and in trying circumstances."
       "Yes Sire, it was trying."
       "How do you think you did?"
       "I believe I comported myself well, and extracted the Empire from what could have been a much worse mire."
       "How do you think the Most Firsts think you did?"
       "I was offered a command equal to my ability Sire."
       "Commanding a fleet this large is very difficult. The Vigilant could suffer if I give the fleet the attention it needs."
       "Then it is clearly my duty to see that she does not suffer Sire."
       "How would you do that Taggel?"
       "As I always have Sire, by taking up the slack when Most First must look to other duties."
       "Good, then you understand your duty well."
       "It would be my hope Sire."
       "You are not of a Great House."
       "No Sire, my family is poor. I do not believe it a shame."
       "But is does not open paths to greater things."
       "I must struggle by on my merits."
       "Cleest, come in." The First's Deeple preener entered with a tray. "Most Second Taggel, I intend to lighten my load. I wish you to reconsider your refusal of command."
       "My reasons stand Most First, I wish to learn."
       "And so you shall. I wish you to take command of the Vigilant, as First."
       Taggel's every feather stood right on end. "Sire! I... I would be honored."
       "Paint his beak, and lay the chain around his neck. I will move my Banner to the overthrone. We shall have a proper fleet and a proper fleet command.

       Taggel timed his arrival on the Command Deck to coincide with the beginning of Kerchin's period as deck officer. The Kronin guards snapped to a tight attention as he entered. "First on the Deck!" Bellowed the Serge in charge.
       Taggel sauntered casually up the deck. He noted the shocked looks as various officers turned to note the First's mood, and then saw who the First was. Most rapidly bobbed their heads in approval as he approached the command throne. Kerchin turned to report the state of the ship. His beak hung open and his feathers clamped hard. Taggel stepped up to the command throne with an air of ownership.
       "Second report."
       Kerchin puffed slightly, to his credit he was quick. "We are on course as ordered. We are currently at lightspace 18 with all escorts in assigned position."
       "Good." Taggel sat and touched the all-call. His voice echoed throughout the ship. "Attention all. First Taggel speaking. Most First Cher'cur has placed me in command of the Vigilant, and moved to the overthrone." On cue Cher'cur appeared on the balcony above and behind the command throne. Taggel continued. "Comm."
       "Transmit the command change to the fleet."
       "By your Will Sire."


       Tathilan finished stripping in the hotel room. **Wear sunglasses.**
       Tim was putting his uniform on a hanger. **On the holodeck?**
       **An accurate simulation is accurate. This includes the sun.**
       Tim was about to open his mouth and ask the computer for sunglasses when they sparkled into existence. He put them on. **You think being married to you this long I would catch a clue.**
       **I've never encouraged "personalness" in the holodeck. It inhibits people.**
       **Noted.** He slid the glass door open and stepped out into the withering light of a simulated El Nanth. **Which one do you want today?**
       **The Mummer's Cup. Pleasantly warm, the rock blocks most of the sound.**
       **I thought the sound was part of the experience?**
       **It is, but you want variety.**
       The two stepped over the rock ledges. They had to swim a couple of the larger pools. After a good ten-minute walk they got to the pool of choice. A few moments were spent settling in to the small cup in the rock. It was slightly bigger than two people would need. Water burbled over the deep ledge into the pool..
       **I'm glad you saved this program.**
       **It beats the hot tub in the gym.**
       "Bridge to Captain Kirk."
       **Never, fails.** "Kirk here Mr. Spacik, what can I do for you?"
       "We have a distress call Captain."
       "Are we in range to do something?"
       "Yes Sir, five hours at warp 9.5."
       "What is our ETA?"
       "3.375 hours sir."
       *I assume we are underway?"
       "Yes Sir."
       "I'll be up in 90 minutes."
       "Yes Sir."
       Tathilan blinked at her mate. **You don't want to know what it is?**
       Kirk sank back into the water and closed his eyes. **Yes, but I am going to relax dammit.**

       Kirk was on his way to the bridge when the turbolift stopped, Ga'fer stepped on.
       "Sir, do you mind if I observe how you handle this matter?"
       "Certainly, although you might be disappointed at the mundaneness of it."
       "I'll take my chances."
       Kirk stepped out of the trubolift at 90 minutes exactly. He moved to the center seat as Spacik vacated same. Ga'fer kept out of the crew's way.
       "We have a distress call from the Liner SS Lady Chantilly. She reports damage from an unknown source. Engineering has taken severe damage and has been evacuated. They blew the warp core as well. Master Bolart reports the ship stable, but not going anywhere."
       Kirk paged rapidly over the data on his screen. "Sensor readings?"
       Regiban reported. **We have no ships in the vicinity, no evidence of spacial anomalies.**
       Kirk frowned. "The damage report looks like a gravitic mine."
       "Indeed." Said Spacik. "However the area has never been reported as having mines."
       "Get me the Captain."
       "Hailing now Sir, channel open."
       "This is the USS Kongo, James Kirk commanding. Master Bolart what is your status?"
       The voice came over the speaker. "James Kirk? James T. Kirk?"
       Kirk rolled his eyes. "No relation. What is your status?"
       "We have three dead and 20 injured. We have enough life support for years. The hull has been compromised. We have lost main engineering and all warp power."
       "Hold on Captain. We are less than 2 hours out."
       "We read you loud and clear Kongo. Lady Chantilly out."
       "Mr. Solin where is the nearest Starbase?"
       "227 sir, two days out. They report their tug is on assignment."
       "Naturally, that would be too convenient."
       "What is the Lady Chantilly's crew and passenger load?"
       "Three fifty-nine sir."
       Kirk winced. He hit the comm. "Mr. Felialan, I suggest you rig us for overload life support?"
       **Yes Sir and as good as done.**
       "Understood. Everyone keep taking readings. I'll be in my ready room. Call me if you find anything or when we are within fifteen minutes of physical contact." Kirk got up and entered his office.
       Ga'fer watched him leave. He turned to the ship's first officer. Funny that they called the second "first" and the First, something else. "Mr. Spacik. How would I approach the Captain with a question?"
       "I assume that you mean, what is the proper protocol to approach the Captain?"
       "Ring the call on his ready room and inquire if he has the time to spare your question. If he does, he will spare it, if not, he will make an appointment to answer it, or refer you to someone that can answer it."
       "Thank you." Ga'fer approached the office door and pressed the call button.

       "Come." Kirk looked up to see Ga'fer standing in the door. "Ga'fer, what can I do for you?"
       "I have questions as to your procedures."
       "Please, ask, and have a seat."
       Ga'fer sat. "How to say this, you seemed annoyed at the crisis."
       Kirk smiled. "This sort of thing is really the bread and butter of Starfleet. We do far more rescue work than exploration. This time we happened to be closer than the nearest cutter. It is fortunate for the liner, however. We can evacuate the ship if required. A cutter would not be large enough to do so."
       "You treat the matter lightly."
       Kirk wiped the smile off his face. "Do you think so?"
       "I do not know all of you well, but I sensed the matter was of little concern or importance to you."
       Kirk looked worried now. "That is serious, very serious. If we are, 'treating it lightly', we have grown comfortable and complacent with each other. The former is good. The latter is not. Come on." Kirk got up and returned to the bridge. Ga'fer followed.
       "Mr. Spacik sound yellow alert."
       Spacik looked carefully neutral. "Yellow alert sir." The warning strips lit up and the Intercom repeated the alert.
       "Mr. Solin, engage all anti-cloaking protocols, and do a deep scan of the area and all close sensor space. Mr. Miritath bring all weapons to red alert status and ready shields."
       Spacik looked to Kirk. "Sir, do you expect something?"
       "No, but would it be wise to not expect something, and be wrong?"

       "Red Alert." Kirk tried to look boneless in the center seat.
       "Red Alert, aye." The alarm sounded throughout the ship.
       Miritath reported. "All sensors clear. No ships reported on short range sensors. Anti-cloak scanning is negative."
       "Steady as she goes. Mr. Solin what is the condition of the Lady Chantilly?"
       "She is holding her intended course at neutral impulse. The ship's warp core is on a 39 degree departure negative z axis."
       "Noted. Tactical?"
       "All clear as far as we can see sir."
       "Hail the Lady Chantilly. Mr. Regiban, keep scanning."
       "On screen."
       "Master Bolart, we are approaching now. What is your status?"
       "As before Captain Kirk. We have stabilized engineering. What do you advise sir?"
       "Once I have secured the area we will attempt to recover your warp core and ascertain damage. We will get you repaired and back on course of possible. We will evacuate your ship if we must."
       "Understood sir, we are standing by."
       Kirk turned to his sciences officer. "Regiban?"
       **Curious, the ships hull looks to be distorted by extreme gravity, but on a small scale.**
       "Small scale?"
       **Yes, the tidal effects are under a meter in diameter each case.**
       "Quantum singularity?"
       **The evidence suggests it. A closer examination is in order.**
       "Then let's make that examination."

       Master Bolart blinked again over coffee on the Kongo. "A black hole attacked my ship?"
       Regiban answered. **Yes sir. Spontaneous quantum singularites have long been a theory. You have the misfortune to have proved them.**
       He shook his head. "What are the odds that ship would get hit by one?"
       **Better than you might think Master Bolart. Warp drives, if mistuned, can set up the conditions under which they can form. Wormholes are the most common result of a mistuned drive, but not the only result. With the data from your control computer and my sensor readings I believe I can reproduce the event at will.**
       Kirk waggled an eyebrow at him. "Not on my ship you don't."
       **I believe it would be best done under test conditions. I will forward the notations to sciences command.**

       Kirk waited until the senior staff has settled in. "People, we have a problem. In the recent incident I had it pointed out to me that we have slipped into taking things for granted."
       Deateli asked. "In what way Captain."
       "I have reviewed the logs of the recent incident. We, myself included, took the matter entirely too complacently. Yes, it turned out to be a case of sightly mistuned warp drives. However, if the matter could have been a cloaked ship looking for another victim, we would have been the victim."
       Spacik was carefully neutral. "Your suggestion sir."
       "Be aware, hue a little closer to the book, and I think we could use more drills."
       "Do you think the crew should be informed?"
       "By all means. I want everyone looking at what they are doing and how they are doing it. Deateli, what are the crew numbers?"
       "Morale is high. The Acceptians are giving people something interesting to interact with. Efficiency is high. Standards are being maintained. The problem could be us, not the crew at large."
       Kirk nodded. "Deateli, Tathilan, Spacik, see if you can create some interesting drills, something out of the ordinary.

Continued in Part two

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The Above is a work of fiction. All characters are fictional, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.

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