Admiral Richard Barnard tried to read the report again, but something was in his eyes. Funny that, he read far too many such reports every day, why this one should affect him. He rubbed his eyes and looked again.
REPORT: STARFLEET COMMAND
FROM: USS PARIS Commander Jack Sherman
RE: TASK FORCE 15
Captain's Log, supplemental. Met seven Romulan ships of a new design, USS Saverajo destroyed after attempt at parley by Captain Nelson failed. USS Paris ordered to observe and report, ordered to not engage the enemy. All other ships engaged. All Romulan ships destroyed. USS Winston Churchill, USS Mao Tse Tung destroyed. USS Ulysses S Grant observed hit and accelerating away at a high rate of speed. All attempts at contact failed. USS Ulysses S Grant, and all crew listed as Missing In Action. Sensor logs appended.
Commander Jack Sherman, USS Paris.
Missing in action, that somehow made it worse. He didn't know. Howard was an old friend, and he had sent him on this mission.
Grace burst into the room and the middle of his pity party. He looked up in agitation.
"Admiral, are you going to sit all day? The shuttle leaves in half an hour. We, that is I have to have this place packed and ready to move. I can't imagine why you would prefer this cramped office to he new one in Frisco."
"I prefer the view for one."
"Knowing Starfleet we will likely get moved back after the new spacedock is finished."
"Humph. New this new that. What is wrong with the good old?"
"You seem to approve of the new where your precious ships are concerned."
"Well, that is different"
Barnard looked out at his coveted view. Four of the new Daedalus class ships were building. Beautiful, every one.
"Respectfully, will you move your Admirally rear so I can finish in here." She stopped in front of the hat rack, unused except for Howard's hat, left over two years ago. "What do you want done with this?"
Barnard jumped up to rescue the hat and its holder.
"I'll take it with me."
On time a half hour later Barnard was siting on the shuttle, well, hat in hand. With his other hand he held the antique bent wood hat rack. His rather off carry on luggage got some looks from the other passengers, but as he was the highest ranking of said passengers, they didn't look long, or hard.
Shortly after the shuttle landed Admiral Barnard was in the temporary headquarters. For something temporary, it looked pretty permanent. With Grace hustling along before him he entered the new office of the Fleet Commander. Grace busied herself with getting the front office in order, Barnard walked back into the main office. It was, as promised, huge. The windows had a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge. He could see the workers climbing over the bridge, repairing it for yet another century of service. Somehow the view was not as good as that cramped cubical with its one meter porthole. Barnard sighed, and set to work.
For the next several weeks he was involved in the great move. Shuffling personnel around, arranging for shuttle service to the docks, and still doing the job he was paid for, keeping track of the ships that the Starfleet claimed for its own.
Slowly the life around him, Earth, began to seep back into his consciousness, and he wasn't sure he liked it. He had been distantly aware of the resistance to the Romulan War, but in the space dock, it was a distant rumble, an accompaniment to the never adequate budget, or a lack of needed supplies. Here, outside his huge window it was a constant roar.
In addition, he had a new pest, reporters. They wanted his opinion, they wanted his time, and worse, the politicians wanted him to give it to them. Even as these thoughts passed through his mind, another of the beasts was perched outside, waiting to smother him in questions. Well the inevitable could not be avoided forever. He punched the intercom.
"Grace, send her in."
A moment later a woman, thiryish and attractive, wearing the current styles entered his office. He rose to greet her. She came in quickly, her hand extended. Barnard extended his hand also.
"Robin Chirpy, San Fransisco Examiner, how do you do Admiral." She quickly took in the room around her and sat down.
"My Father had a sense of humor, I have considered suing him for it."
"Then consider it dropped. However, my time is brief so let's get to the point."
"As you wish. Admiral Barnard, what my readers want to know is where is Starfleet spending all its money?"
"The long answer is published, and a matter of public record. The short answer is on ships, and people to man them. That is what we do."
"But why so many ships, Records show that Starfleet has built enough ships in the last four years to completely replace the fleet, but is only showing a 50% increase in strength. Where are the ships?"
"As if you didn't know Ms Chirpy, destroyed. Destroyed in a war we don't even know why we are fighting."
"Then why are we fighting, if you say we are.?"
"Because the Romulans are fighting, and will not answer hails or calls to tell us why we are fighting?"
"Who are the Romulans?"
Barnard got up to pace. "I wish I had that answer, part of the reason we are fighting them might be because we don't know who they are."
"But we are fighting them."
"When you are attacked, it is best to defend. Ms. Chirpy, if you have a point, please get to it."
"The fact is Admiral, you have no proof that Romulans exist."
"For a nonexistent threat they kill a lot of people."
"See that hat."
She turned to look at the aforementioned object. "Yes. That uniform style changed two years ago."
"Correct, that hat was left in my office by Captain Howard Nelson, a good friend, two years ago. A few weeks ago I got a notice that his ship had been damaged, and was last seen blasting off in a random direction. The US Grant held 100 people, my good friend included. Also destroyed in that battle were two other ships of the same class, the Churchill and the Mao Tse Tung, and a scout. By my count that was four ships, and 460 people gone. In addition the USS Paris recorded 7 ships of Romulan design, all were destroyed."
"Ms. Chirpy, shall we look at the realities of space battle? Battle in space is usually done with atomic warheads attached to missiles. You try and hit your opponent with the missile, he tries to hit you. Space does not transmit shock waves, so even a near miss tends to do very little harm. A direct hit, totally destroys the steel cans we call ships. The result is, ships seldom get damaged, just destroyed."
"What about the occasional damaged ship, like the Grant?"
"We tried three times to capture Romulans ships. In each case they self destructed, once we had docked to them. The practice of trying to take prisoners was discontinued as counter-productive."
"Any evidence at all?"
"I can show you some pictures, if you have a strong stomach. We know that Romulans are humanoid, they have a head, two legs , two arms. We think two eyes and a mouth. We know they have copper based blood. Beyond that an explosively decompressed body doesn't tell you much, and we have only recovered two so far."
Barnard tossed a couple of filmys on the desk. Robin Chirpy took a brief look, and got very green.
"You see what I mean, pretty it isn't."
"Ahem, yes, I mean no, it isn't pretty."
"We also have a few chunks of metal that did not come form any source we know of. That so far is the only Romulans I can show you."
Ms Chirpy regained her composure. "So this is all the evidence of the Romulans you can produce?"
"That and an increasingly long, and depressing casualty list, would you like to read it or ask the survivors how real Romulans are to them?"
"Not right now, thank you."
"I have a question Ms Chirpy. Did you come for information, or to 'balance' the article and conclusions you already have written?"
"Admiral, that wouldn't be very good journalism."
"And that Ms. is not a very good answer. Now, if you are done biasing your report, I have work to do. Good day."
"And good day to you Admiral Barnard."
She exited with manners at least. Grace came in behind her.
"Your frustration is showing. Really Dick, you have to stop giving them the excuse they need to dislike you."
Barnard crossed his arms. "I am not a politician. They come in here with opinions formed, and are not even decent enough to admit it to you. Meanwhile, our families and friends are dying out there. Yes I get impatient."
"And they use it."
"In any case, make sure I get a copy of the report."
The report came out the next day. "Where are the Romulans?" As he expected, very little of the factual information made the paper. Just a mention of the "flimsy" nature of the evidence for the enemy, and a vague accusation that Starfleet was fighting a manufactured war. It was no more or less than he expected.
Sub-commander Terkin smiled a wicked little smile. The aliens would never know what their method of destruction was, surprise was complete. He sincerely hoped that the destruction of the colony would point out the futility of waging war against the Star Empire. The aliens were a strange lot. They cried for peace, but never offered surrender. Did they not understand that first you have to surrender to the Star Empire before peace could be discussed? Well, it mattered not as they would soon learn.
"So, Dr. Kow, can you explain the nature of your discovery?"
"Most certainly. I have learned of a way to teleport mass. Breakthroughs in the physics as we now understand them allow for the complete conversion of matter to energy, the recording of the material pattern, and conversion back to matter in the original form at the different locations."
"What uses do you see for this technology?"
"I foresee that with the perfection of my system, and utilization of the subspace communications we can transmit goods and even ourselves around the galaxy, we would no longer need ships."
"How soon will such a system be ready"
"Within five years we can have a working and practical model, if, we can get my project properly funded. However, as you well know, the 'war' that the Starfleet insists it is fighting is draining funds from legitimate sciences. I do not know to what purpose that the Starfleet is diverting large sums, people, and resources to, but I cannot believe their reports of a distant war."
"Starfleet and the Federation Council have confirmed over 4000 deaths and several hundred ships of various types destroyed in the last four years Dr. Kow how can doubt these numbers?"
"By the fact that no one can produce concrete evidence of an enemy. The 'Romulans' consist of two mangled bodies that could be any species and a hand full of junk that is claimed to be from outside the local group. Break up the Starfleet conspiracy and fund my project. They are afraid that if I succeed, they will have no place."
"Thank you Dr. Kow Ghu Mu. In a moment we will return with comments form the Dho Lamma as to the eternal consequences of matter transmission. I am Mark Griffin."
Barnard shut off the tridee. "Stupid idiots."
Martin called out form the kitchen. "Dick, why do you watch that junk, it just raises your blood pressure?'
"I have to stay informed. Its part of the job."
Martin came out with the light meal he had made.
"I didn't know that killing yourself with worry was part of the job?"
"With public sediment running so high against the war, I don't know that is going to happen. I can't even tell people if we are winning or losing. I know that little about the enemy. All I know is we have to keep fighting, and keep trying to talk."
"So what is the solution?"
"If I could only show the public the damage, let them touch it and see, first hand the destruction."
"Planning to ship junkets of tourists to see the war?"
"No, but you might have something. It occurs to me that we have no, and I mean no independent reporters in the field. Commercial carriers will not go that way, for good reason, and we haven't allowed dead headers on the military ships."
"Space and resources. For the El Nanth run the Grant had to do the greater part of the trip in hibernation. The Ane might be part of the Federation, but until our ships get a lot better getting there is going to be a problem. Hell, they have three good antimatter plants. We can't afford to send ships to get the stuff. The Romulan front is only about half the distance. That is still a haul. And so far we have to ship most of the material we use out there. Where the Romulan home worlds are is a total mystery."
"So you think the problem is that no one is reporting without a Starfleet filter?"
"Now that you mention it, yes, it is obvious. We have fought six years, and no war corespondents, just Fleet reports. Damn, sometimes we can be so blind. I have to get to work on this."
"I agree Admiral Barnard, the Daedalus is a most advanced ship. However, we get plenty of pictures of her building on Earth, why did you ask me up to spacedock."
Barnard basked a moment in the reporter's uncertainty. "Well, Daedalus just returned from her space trials Ms. Chirpy. Commissioning ceremonies are next week, and she sails for the Romulan front shortly there after."
"Yes, that. Only it will be slightly different. I have twisted a few arms. There is room for two passengers. I want you on that ship."
"Excuse me? You want me on the Daedalus?"
"Might I ask why?"
"Being a reporter, that would be your job."
"Because you are the most determined skeptic I can find. I am quite convinced that if I can prove it to you, the public will believe."
"So you want to toss me into deep space where I can be effectively censored."
"Ms. Chirpy, get real. You are going to the most extraordinary lengths to keep a false point of view. Censorship has not and never will be the policy of Starfleet. You will have free access to the subspace radio. You will have free access to the ship's data compression equipment so you can send visual reports. Anything you want to say, see, or comment on."
"If I want to interview your Romulans?"
"If you can manage that you will be doing us a favor."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because they, so far, have not talked to us."
"This is all very interesting Admiral Barnard. However, I can't wonder if it nothing more than ploy to get me out of your hair."
"Oh no, I am going with you. I am taking command in the field."
"And watching what I report?"
"I'll read it yes, after you send it."
"And if I chose to Ignore your offer?"
"I'll ask my second choice."
"You wouldn't care, after all, you won't be going."
"A certain Walter Winchman has expressed an interest in the trip."
"THAT fraud! Why, he all but reinvented yellow journalism for the century. I wouldn't trust him to write the beat report for Spokane."
"We take what we can get Ms. Chirpy."
"You bastard. You picked him knowing I would never refuse if he was going instead of me. Its a bluff."
Barnard pulled a letter out of his uniform. "He sent this yesterday, regretting that he was our second choice, but more than willing to go."
Robin snatched the letter from him, and read it. Barnard continued.
"In any case, it looks like he will be going. At least til the war is over Starfleet has decided on sending a media representative with every Daedalus class ship. So at the latest he ships out with the next vessel. However, I assume you will be going."
"Yes you S.O.B. I will be going."
Barnard smiled. "I love you to Ms Chirpy."
Jerminy huddled with his Mother in the fields. A mile away the town burned with a fierce light. It cast evil shadows around the ship that hovered over it still and blasted the ground. He saw the great bird painted on the hull, and huddled closer. His Mother softly sobbing hugged him to her.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP!
Robin Chirpy rolled over. "Shut up, take a message!"
The vid-phone kept the racket going. She rolled out of bed trailing the sheet behind her. Someone had her emergency code. She slapped the receiver bar oblivious to her state of undress.
"Admiral Barnard Ms. Chirpy."
"It's three o'clock in the fucking morning. This better be good."
"We leave in an hour. Be at the shuttle port, I have an aircar at your door."
"But, we aren't scheduled to leave to another week!"
"That just changed. Romulan forces have attacked the New Iberian colony We are flying relief now, and we leave in two hours. Be there or be left behind. Barnard out.
Robin staggered to the window, sure enough a Starfleet marked car was waiting at the curb. There was a knock at the door. Still half awake she answered it, flinging the door open. The rating at the door looked a little surprised to find a naked woman standing in the door, but he took it in stride.
"Chief Hailey madam, do you need help packing."
Robin Chirpy, blinked as the cool morning air hit her. She suddenly realized her current wardrobe, and blushed.
"Ah, yea, come in."
She padded back into her office and started packing her gear.
"What do you need Ms.?"
"What are the limits?" She called from the office.
"500 kilos of personal gear."
"Hell, I don't even own that much stuff. Just stuff all the clothing you find into something to move it in."
"Yes, madam. You want something to wear?"
"Oh hell, yes, the green suit."
She dumped the contents of the desk into yet another bag. And carried it to the door. She had a feeling that it wouldn't even be checked if the hurry was real. She stalked into the bedroom to see Hailey stuffing the last of her toiletries in or overnight bag. Her green suit, complete with underwear and shoes was laid out on the bed.
"Hey, you're halfway good."
"Married madam, I hope I learned a few things."
Hailey started to the car with the first load. Robin few into the clothes. She was dressed by the time he got back.
"Do you want your pillows and comforter?"
"Its a long trip madam, take all the home you can get."
She thought a moment, and dumped the top of her dresser into a shopping bag. Hailey got the bed clothes.
"is that everything?"
"That I can think of."
"Think of it now madam, no going back for toothbrushes."
She stood a moment. "Yea, that's it. Do you have a phone in that crate?"
"I'll have to make a few calls."
Five minutes later they were flying over LA at mach one. Robin was talking fast.
"Yea? Robin, it's three in the morning."
"I know, but I have to tell someone, and you have the code to my house."
"Some emergency, I am leaving now. I am in a Starfleet car headed for the shuttle right now. My place is turned upside down, I packed in what I could grab. Please take care of the arrangements I have already made, just do it a week early."
"What's the big rush?"
"According to Admiral 'Barnyard' (Hailey shot her a look.) Some colony has been attacked, and they are flying relief. Send me a detailed letter of what is needed via Fleet and I'll send you back instructions."
"No that is pretty much it. If the Chief here doesn't kill me with his driving, I'll be in space shortly. Gotta go, we are at the port."
Barnard was waiting on the ramp when the car stopped. He called a couple of spacers over when the harras nest was revealed. He grabbed a bag or two himself. Robin glared at him.
"This had better not be some stunt."
"No stunt." He grunted over the load. "I had less time to pack than you did."
"I'm crying in my beer. You moved to the Daedalus a week ago."
"In any case, we are going now." The shuttle hatch clanged behind them. "Sit down and strap in."
No sooner had she grabbed the belt than the shuttle lifted. The compensators fluxuated under the rapidly increasing Gs, then smoothed out.
"Hell, are we in that big a hurry. It will take months to get there."
"Weeks, Ms. Chirpy. And the less time the better. A day saved is a day sooner."
Shortly the shuttle clanged down on the hanger deck of the Daedalus. As soon as the ship was secured, the alarm sounded for full Impulse. Shortly thereafter the Daedalus jumped to warp. It was a few minutes more before the shuttle bay was pressurized. Robin jumped up.
"Relax. The hurry up is over. Now we wait."
"Don't they need you on the bridge or something?"
"No, Captain Harris is quite competent."
"So the rush is over?"
"At least on the personal level. I'll get some of the crew to help you to your cabin and sort this out."
Chief Hailey knew where to look. He saw the flash of the Daedalus departing to warp. Down inside something longed to go with her. But a family man has family responsibilities. Someday, he and his would get back onto space.
Robin spent a good three days getting her stuff into the tiny cabin she was assigned, and what was not spend packing, and repacking the cramped space was spent learning the ship and ship's routine. The Daedalus was bigger than any interplanetary ship she had been on.
It took her less than a week to figure a few things out. The Daedalus had a good sized crew, over a hundred. Every time she turned around she saw someone loafing. Book in hand, playing computer games or even sleeping. She heard about other activities, but never saw those. Loafing on the other hand was everywhere. She decided that corning Admiral Barnard on the blatant lack of work was the best course of action.
"Evening Admiral, busy?"
Richard Barnard was relaxing after dinner with a magazine, he didn't look busy.
"No, run out of things to do?"
"In a word, yes and no. No one else seems to have anything to do. Everywhere I look the crew is loafing. Doesn't this concern you?"
Barnard put the magazine down. "No, not really."
"It would concern me more if everyone was busy. These warp drive ships all but run themselves, they have to. Really long trips are made under hibernation. No one awake to check on things. We build starships very well, and as a result they run very well. Most of the crew will have nothing to do until we either find something interesting to look at, which on this trip we are not stopping for, or something breaks, which is not good."
"So must of the crew is not needed?"
"Except for doing science, which is why we built the ship in the first place, or fixing damage, which is likely to happen going into a war zone."
"So what do they do?"
"Why don't you ask them, you're a reporter. Shame be that I should tell you your job."
"Just like that, interview the crew. No officer looking over my shoulder?"
Barnard just gave her a dirty look. "Interview or not, your choice, but you are the first reporter, not the only reporter we have invited out. Take advantage of the scoops while you can."
Robin sat down across from a likely member of a crew, a woman dressed in a rating's uniform.
"You would be the reporter?"
"Yes, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?"
"Sure, it beats another game of solitaire."
"Why did you join Starfleet?"
"Well, the standard answer, or so I am told is 'seek out new life etc.' Me, I like playing with warp drives."
"Why not a civilian ship?"
"Well, first I had to train to handle warp drives, and fleet was cheaper than a civilian school. Like, they paid me. Now after training me in this highly technical skill, Starfleet, not unreasonably, asked me to practice it in Starfleet. I would call it an even trade."
"So how long do you have to practice with Starfleet?"
"And of that, how much longer?"
"Well, I am counting my eighth year with Starfleet, and I don't see it ending soon, I like it. Heck, this time they even gave me a brand new ship to play with. And all they asked for me is that I bring it back."
"And will you?"
"Good Lord and physics willing."
"So, what do you do on the ship?"
An eager young man looked over the tech manual he was reading.
"I am a food preparation and reclamation specialist."
"Oh no madam, much more than a cook. Although I do whip up a mean batch of red-beans and ho'cakes."
"So what more do you do?"
"I program and maintain the ship's food processing and reclamation facilities. We waste nothing. If it has a second use, we second use it to it falls apart."
"Well, the ship don't have waste water tanks. We recycle the water endlessly, likewise the air. Other useful products can be had from waste recycling as well."
"I don't know if I want to go there. Why did you join Starfleet?"
"Well, I never been out of the hills til I was 17, so I thought I would see a bit more of the galaxy."
"Happy with it?"
"Yes madam. The hauls between planets are long, but the stops are worth it. I have seen things that will move a body to tears, and I would be the lesser man for not having seen them."
"What do you think of the Romulans?"
"Been in one fight, we got out OK. Don't rightly know why they are fighting us."
"So why do you fight them?"
"Well madam, when someone a starts a shootin' at you, yall's chance of seein home is much improved by shootin' back. That has been the Captain's policy in the past, an I can't say I disagree with it."
So how long will you stay in Starfleet?"
"Well, we have a lot of galaxy to see, I don't reckon I'll quit till I've seen it all."
The older man actually had something apart. Robin looked over his shoulder as he worked.
"What is it?"
"In short, a laser, but not that simple."
"A laser for what, it looks pretty big?"
"Ships main armament Ms. Chirpy."
"So that is what you shoot Romulans with?"
"If I have to, yes."
"Have to seen a Romulan?"
"In person, no. Have I seen Romulan ships, yes."
"What do they look like?"
"Large round nosed cylinders, they like to mount there drives on wing like pylons and paint birds on their ships. Pylons tend to be forward. Pretty things for all they are trying to kill us."
"You got that close a look?"
"They were in the light, and I was on the telescope. It's the last time I have had a good look at the Romulans."
"So, what would you do with a Romulan standing here, right now?"
The man stopped his work. "Miss, I would ask; Why?"
"Because I don't know, no one knows. To the best of my knowledge, no Federation vessel has ever fired first on the Romulans, no Romulan has ever hailed a Federation vessel, they just fire. So I would ask why."
"So, ahem, what does this laser do?"
It is part of the LAPAC weapons system. That is Laser Assisted, Particle Accelerator Cannon. An improvement on the PCC weapons we introduced three years ago. Higher punch for the energy expended and we don't have to aim the ship to aim the gun."
"What about the atomic missiles I have heard so much about."
"I am happy to say those are history. The new system, while not as flexible in the aim, is much more powerful. The RAIL torpedo launchers will send unpowered missiles at much higher speeds than the old powered missiles. We only have a 5 degree from center launch area, and please do not publish that, but the target's ability to dodge is all but eliminated."
"Relivistic Acceleration In-line Launcher. No I didn't think of it."
"What do you mean by Relivistic?"
"It means that the projectile leaves the ship at a considerable fraction of the speed of light. Too fast to dodge. Because of this we can eliminate the proximity fuses and the atomic bombs. Normal explosives are used, and we might be able to take a Romulan ship somewhat intact."
"What about their tendency to self destruct?"
"I think we will wait till we know they are all dead. But that's not my call."
"Anything else new?"
"Yes, the virtual ship."
"Yep, a force field ship around the solid one. Test indicate it can take a direct hit from an old style missile and survive. Well if you will excuse me, I have to get this done."
"Sure, thank you."
Robin Chirpy set the cameras up, and sat at the table. Across from her was the Commander of the Daedalus, Captain Joan Harris. She settled in, checked her monitors under the table. Satisfied with the results, she began.
"This is Robin Chirpy reporting form the Captain's office on the new Federation Starship Daedalus. We are on a rescue mission, the very first assignment for the newest ship in the fleet. I have been asked not to reveal the exact location or course for security's sake.
We are speaking with Captain Joan Harris, commanding officer of the Daedalus. Captain, do you consider it an honor to be chosen for this ship?"
"Of course I do. It tells me that Starfleet thinks highly of my skills. First command of a new class is given only to experienced Captain's."
"How do you feel about this first mission?"
"Well, it wasn't the planned first mission, however, I am glad the Daedalus was ready to meet the need. She is the fastest ship in Starfleet, therefor the best for any rescue effort."
"What are your feeling on the war?"
"I would rather not."
"Not speak of your feelings?"
"No, I would rather not war. Daedalus is ideally suited for the science work that is Starfleet's main task. We have more lab space that any ship before us, and a larger scientific crew to man them. Due to improvements in technology, we don't require a larger handling crew just because the ship is bigger. So that extra space goes to science."
"Do you have them aboard now?"
"No, the hurry we left in, and the medical personnel and supplies mean that most of the scientists that would have come on this cruise got left behind."
"So what after the rescue mission?"
"We don't have orders for that yet."
"You mean you can't tell me."
"Well I can't tell what I don't know."
"Is Starfleet that paranoid to not let you know your own orders?"
"Let me address this issue first. You seem to think that military security is paranoia."
"The public has the right to know."
"Not, when it would endanger the lives of my crew. Reasonable security is necessary to keep the foe from learning of your plans and tanking advantage of that knowledge."
"Starfleet has said the Romulans are not talking to us, why do you worry?"
"Just because they have not talked, does not mean they don't listen. We cannot afford to assume they don't listen. However, I don't have any secret sealed orders. Admiral Barnard said he would make the decision based on the needs of the Colony. That comes first. As we don't know how bad the Colony is, we can't decide."
"I notice that along with labs your weapons have improved."
"A sad fact we have learned, is that; "Peace comes from the barrel of a gun." As much as we hate war and detest the fighting, we have to be able and willing to defend the peace we desire. If we don't others less dedicated to that peace will end it for us. So yes, we improve the weapons, the better to enforce peace."
"You are saying that Humans cannot end war and fighting?"
"Among ourselves? I would certainly hope so. Among others? We can but offer peace, and insist if they want war. We have to be able to insist."
"I would suspect you would be a defender of a strong defense."
"It has been proven, peace without a strong defense is not possible."
"I think that is our final word. Thank you Captain Joan Harris. This is Robin Chirpy reporting."
Chirpy switched off the equipment and began taking it down. Captain Harris spoke again.
"I take it your don't agree with a strong defense?"
"What makes you say that?"
"I am a people person Ms. Chirpy, that is why I am Captain of this ship, I know how to read people and get the most out of them. So, as to my first question?"
"No, I don't think we should spend money on weapons, war is behind us. Earth should be through with war and the weapons of war."
"And what do we do about those that don't agree with that? Hand them flowers when they point guns?"
"Well I think... well... I don't know, but shooting isn't the answer."
"How about we do it my way until you figure out something that works."
Robin just looked sheepish, but defiant, as she packed the last of her gear.
Admiral Barnard was examining a "turkey" sandwich when Robin Chirpy came into the Mess deck. He noted the somewhat dejected look. He put down the suspect food and invited himself to her table.
"Looks like life isn't going your way. If you are eating the food around here, I understand."
"What is wrong with you people? Can't you see that violence solves nothing?"
"I see you have been talking to the crew."
"Yea, you have them all well indoctrinated."
"I translate that to mean you are not getting the answers you want."
"Everyone on this ship gives me the `We hate to fight but someone has to' line. Why don't they say what they mean?"
"You mean, what you want them to say? What you want to hear? 160 people on this ship are racing to rescue an attacked colony Do you honestly believe that Starfleet cooked all this up to impress Robin Chirpy?"
"I would like to hear something besides a military viewpoint in Starfleet."
"Well you haven't asked me."
"You, the Chief of Fleet Operations? I might as well interview Attila the Hun."
"Preconceived ideas are a bad idea in any field of investigation, they can blind you to truths that are right in front of you. For example the preconceived notion that dynasties must follow one another in order, placed a two hundred year error in Egyptian, and all earth archeology for over a hundred years."
"What would you know about investigations?"
"I have a Doctorate in Archeology"
"Alright you have a hobby."
"No, profession. I started my career as a field archeologist for USEPA, that was thirty years ago."
Ms. Chirpy just stared.
"I did my Doctoral work on Andor. Did you know that until they met us the Andorians didn't have a concept for Archeology? The idea that you could learn about your past by digging it up had never clicked as a concept. In fact we had to do a lot of talking and demonstrations as to the value of forensic archeology before they would even consider it. The idea of digging among the dead, disturbing the rest of family didn't go over very well, until they learned what could be learned from ruins, and the fact we treat the dead, no matter how long dead with reverence. The idea of more knowledge about their ancestors, that got them moving. I worked ten years on that project. I can say the best ten years of my life."
Robin chirpy blinked twice. "You're, an archeologist? How did you get to be admiral?"
"I got promoted, move to field commands, and then to ship commands for scientific investigations, and then to planing, and some how into fleet command. I got promoted right out of my field."
"How can you be in favor of a war!?"
"I am not `in favor', those are words you put in my mouth. We are fighting because we are being fought. We didn't ask for a fight, didn't want a fight, and we are willing to end the fight, but not at any cost to civilians. We will not back off and let our worlds be over run."
"You're still fighting."
"Ms. Chirpy, you are not going to understand until you drop your assumptions, and look at the facts."
"So, when do we arrive?"
"Well, if everything holds together next week. I just pray there is someone left to rescue."
Sub-commander Terkin lounged in the command center of his warbird. Patrol was boring, but not when you expected prey. The settlement had gotten off a distress call. That meant another ship would be coming soon. His own subspace had not been idle. He had called for reinforcements. Five more ships were on the way. The rescuers would be in for a warm welcome.
"Five blips on the long range sensors Sub-Commander. All register as ours."
Good, Terkin thought, the trap will be complete. "Estimated time of arrival?"
"Seven ticks Sub-Commander."
Helm, move the ship into deep space. Communications, hail the approaching force, and request orders."
The proper replies came from the proper officers. It would be glorious.
Daedalus moved steadily into the Gamma Alpha system. The bridge was filled with quite purpose. Everyone faced the new improved viewscreen. Captain Harris swiveled softly, waiting. She turned with Admiral Barnard and Ms Chirpy came up.
Chief said. "Admiral on the Bridge."
Barnard said. "As you where."
Quiet settled back over the bridge.
Petrov at Navigation spoke. "We have passed the first marker Captain."
Harris said. "Helm slow to Warp Factor 2, sensors keep sharp."
"Warp Factor 2, Aye."
"Sensors are at maximum power."
The Chief spoke. "Shall I hail the colony Captain.
"Belay that Chief. Letting them know we are here will not get us there faster, and it will let any attacker know we are here."
Aye Captain. Radio silence."
Aboard the Razor Kiss Sub Commander Terkin licked his lips. A new type of Federations ship. It looked fat and slow. Orders stated to wait till the ship landed, they would destroy it on the ground.
The silence was broken only by the occasional command until the Daedalus made orbit around New Iberia. Captain Harris stood up.
"Are the shuttles ready?"
"Yes Sir, all Personnel aboard, cargo secured and ready to launch."
"Launch all shuttles."
Sub-Commander Terkin waited, he was the forward most ship, The Razor Kiss could just make out the enemy through the haze of the planet's atmosphere.
"Sub-Commander, activity from the enemy ship, they have launched shuttles."
"Curse them, they are not landing. Call the fleet, inform them the prey is not landing."
"Captain, I am getting an energy anomaly just inside the atmosphere."
Captain Harries took a look in the scope.
"Helm, give me a higher orbit."
"Captain, I have subspace energy from that anomaly."
"I have five blips at extreme range, no IFF."
"Captain Harris turned to Ms. Chirpy. "Well Ms. Chirpy, you wanted to meet the Romulans. Looks like you might get a chance." She turned back to her command. "Raise shields, inform the shuttles they are on their own, arm all weapons sound battle stations."
Klaxons rang throughout the Daedalus as crew members rushed to their stations. Robin Chirpy bent close to Admiral Barnard.
"What happens now?"
"We hail them, and if they don't answer, we fight."
"You said this was the best ship Starfleet has, are we safe?"
"Ms. Chirpy, in war there are no certainties."
"Mr. Simone, hail the unknowns."
"Aye Sir. This is USS Daedalus to unknown ships, state you origin and intentions."
Captain Harris added. "Mr. Harper. I want to see your touch on the LAPAC, if we are fired on, take the missiles out."
"Aye sir, fire on incoming." He bent to his weapons scopes."
"This is USS Daedalus to unknown ships, state you origin and intentions."
Silence cut the air as the bridge waited for the reply that would mean friendlies.
"No reply Captain."
"We have broken orbit and are in free space."
"Unknowns have closed to extreme missile range. The orbiting ship is following us."
"Good, if they are on our tail they are not attacking the planet."
"No answer Captain."
"We are in medium rage."
"Hold your fire. Target the leading unknown with the RAIL."
Robin found she was having problems swallowing. She watched the blips closing on the viewscreen. She wanted them to just go away. These people where serious. They were prepared to fight, and if necessary to die. She closed her eyes, and looked again, a childish move, nothing had changed. She found she was sweating, and her hands shook.
"All hands report battles stations."
"Weapons armed and locked."
"Unknowns continue to ignore hails."
"Range closing. We have incoming."
On the screen smaller blips separated from the big blips, and started moving forward.
Invisible beams reached into space and contacted the missile, it exploded, venting its contained fury on empty space. Captain Harris was elated, but she remained in control.
"Fire control, target missiles and fire at will, evasive action. RAIL fire when ready, targets of opportunity."
Affirmatives from around the bridge. The Daedalus moved out of the path of the incoming missiles even as her guns fired again and again, the excelent targeting taking out one missile after another, with few misses.
Suddenly the lights dimmed and the entire ship shook with a rumble. A streak of light shot from under the bow toward the one of the Romulan ships. The Romulan had just stared a turn when the projectile struck. Atmosphere vented form several points around the ship, and it stopped maneuvering.
Captain Harris said. "Well done, keep on your toes, target and fire at will.
Commander Ranshur looked at the result of his attack with awe. This was no lumbering herbivore, but a predator with teeth.
He barked. "Report!"
"All missiles destroyed, Honor's Blade reports massive atmosphere loss and heavy damage amidships. She cannot maneuver or fight. They estimate three hours to achieve sub-standard fighting ability."
"Tell them to proceed, with standard precautions."
"By your word Commander."
Ranshur had to think. This new ship was different in more than shape. Both weapons it had fired had been new as of the last report. Care must be taken, that the ship taken as well if possible.
"Order all units, Prator's Fist."
"Romulan units are moving off."
Robin spoke for the first time. "A retreat?"
Harris said. "No Ms. Chirpy, a regrouping. They will likely try the Newbari englobement. To get us in a position were any move will be fatal. We will not play however. Report."
"Damaged unit is not under power and seems to have no weapons armed."
"Move in, finish them. Then head after the next closest Romulan unit, full impulse."
The Daedalus closed on the wounded Romulan and fired her beams into the crippled ship until it exploded. She then turned to the next target in line.
Commander Ranshur watched his helpless comrades die under the enemy guns. He thought to himself. "We have taught them well, perhaps too well."
He spoke to the crew. "Begin the englobement"
"Commander, the enemy ship is following Prator's Luck."
"Then adjust, the englobement to contain both of them."
"The englobement is moving to take both of is in Captain."
"They want to play sacrifice, so be it. Line up the RAIL and fire."
After a moment, the rumble of the launcher shook the ship again. The projectile missed by meters.
"Again Mr Harper."
After a moment, the big launcher rumbled again. This time the projectile hit the ship square astern.
When the debris and flash cleared the Romulan was tumbling end over end uncontrolled.
"Direct hit on their impulse engines."
"Heavy radiation, the entire ship would have been radiated if they don't have good shielding."
"Drop him, target the next ship, and open hailing frequencies."
"Aye Sir. Hail is open."
"This is Captain Harris of the United Federation Ship Daedalus to all Romulan ships. We will accept your surrender now."
Ms. Chirpy looked and Admiral Barnard. He said nothing. The Daedalus continued to run after the next closest Romulan.
"Romulan ships, we have demonstrated the ability to destroy you at will, I will accept your surrender now."
Commander Ranshur looked at the filmy, and read it again.
"Incredible, they are demanding we surrender. Sub-commander, your opinion."
"Surrender is not an option."
"That is a given, however, is this a bluff?"
"These new weapons do not seem to be as wantonly destructive, but the applied forces are, effective. They have speed on us, and they seem to maneuver faster. They are closing with yet another of our ships."
"englobement complete Commander."
"All ships fire."
The Romulans suddenly turned and fired missiles. The Daedalus was menaced by four incoming warheads.
Captain Harris remained calm. "Helm, continue course, fire at will Mr Harper."
Beams lanced out form the Daedalus destroying the missile headed right at her bow. She continued on course firing at the closing Romulan as they came.
Lt. Barker at engineering reported. "We have a drain on the shields. I think we're being hit by beam weapons."
"Shield effectiveness is down 20%, and falling."
Mr. Simone said. "I am getting reports of minor system shorting and casualties in the ship."
"Mr. Barker, are we getting feedback? Mr Harper, any time would be nice."
"Affirmative on the feedback Captain, shields are sending the overloads into the ships other systems."
The RAIL gun fired again, and the Romulan ship vanished in flash and debris.
"Shorted systems throughout the ship, secondary systems on-line. Shields at 85%, we have warp and impulse at will."
"Medical reports no serious casualties."
Captain Harris sat silent as the reports filtered in. She got up and went to the sciences station.
"Mr. Lee, how good are you subspace sensors?"
"How good do you need them?"
"Can you track the Romulan ships in warp?"
"Even if we are and they aren't?"
"Yes, recent improvements make that possible."
Harris moved back to the center seat. "Give me Warp factor One Come around heading 330 mark 90. Mr Lee, tell me when we are directly below the Romulans. We will close to 20,000 kilometers drop to full impulse and go in shooting."
A buzz filled the bridge as the orders were carried out. Admiral Barnard sat up. Looking a little concerned. Robin Chirpy noticed and commented.
"No, not if everything works. Harris is pushing the technology to the limits. It's bold, and it could work. Now, let us useless folk set back and be quiet.
"The enemy ship has vanished from the scope. Commander Ranshur jumped to his feet.
"They have entered warp speed. Last heading is out of the system."
"Track them, why are they retreating?"
"I have lost the track commander, They are out of range."
Even as he spoke the universe exploded around him.
"Fire fire fire."
"Beams shot from the Daedalus and the RAIL fired one shot then another. The biggest of the Romulans disintagrated under the hail of fire. More beans from the rear mounted weapons cut into a second Romulan ship until it tumbled free.
Daedalus came to rest amide the ruins of her foes. Only one Romulan ship faced the superior Federation vessel intact enough to fight. The two damaged Romulans detonated, either as a result of damage, or self destruct. Daedalus and Razor Kiss faced each other across the void.
Captain Harris looked at the lone ship, it neither fired, nor ran.
"Mr Simone, hail the Romulan vessel."
"Romulan vessel, I am prepared to accept your surrender."
Sub-Commander Terkin looked at the translation, and knew in his heart, defeat. He could not run fast enough, nor fight hard enough to beat this new ship. They had learned and learned well. But surrender was impossible, he would die a warrior's death.
"Communications, open a channel to the Federation ship, use their codes and language, give nothing of our own."
"Captain, I am getting a return signal. Common commercial code. On your screen."
Harris turned to read the scrolling words.
"Commander - Federation - ship -- surrender - not - possible."
"Will your force me to destroy you?"
"That - is - our - way -- surrender - not - possible."
"Please, why are you fighting us?"
"You - are - not - Romulan."
"Captain, he is firing on us."
"Return fire, evasive action."
The guns of the Daedalus fired, and the Razor Kiss died in the fire of the stars.
Captain Harris sat stunned by the glowing words on her screen. Admiral Barnard and Robin Chirpy came up behind her, and read over her shoulder. Barnard turned white, and walked to a corner of the bridge. Robin's hands fluttered to her face silent with horror. Only Harris could find voice.
"Oh God, oh my God."
A week later the rescue was well underway. Damage to structures and supplies was heavy on the colony, but lost of life was low. Not so low it wasn't felt however, the tears for the dead were plentiful. So far from the home soil, the loss of every friendly face was felt. However, they would survive, and carry on.
Daedalus patrolled over heads, looking for more Romulans, and seeking any clues about this implacible foe.
Robin Chirpy set her cameras up facing the destroyed village. She wore no make-up and her suit was a Starfleet issue medical smock. She had taken a little time from helping the colony to do the job she came for.
She let the cameras pan the destruction ,and settle on her.
"Hello Earth, this is Robin Chirpy reporting from the surface of New Iberia. Behind me you can see the ruins of the Colony's main village, New Limerick. 255 people died, and 1147 were injured in an attack by alien forces that have been confirmed as Romulan.
The fires are cold, and have been for weeks, the dead buried. Starfleet has driven off the attackers, and is helping the survivors. I arrived with that rescue force, and for the last week I have worked with it. However, the scars remain, both on the land, and in the hearts of the people. The Romulans will not be quickly forgotten here.
We of Earth are the fortunate, this war has not touched our homes, our loved ones. We don't have New Limericks dotting the countryside, or have to look on the shattered faces of the survivors of such attacks. We don't have to dig graves for the dead of this war, yet.
People of Earth, we didn't want this war, but it has been brought to us. The foe does not seek peace, we have offered that. In spite of all we have hoped and wished, this war, is as real as the dead in New Limerick. It's a war we can't bargain away, it is one we have to win. From the ashes of New Limerick, New Iberia, this is Robin Chirpy, reporting."
Admiral Barnard stood back watching. Robin came over to him.
"Alright Admiral, you win, I believe, so what now?"
"No Robin, I didn't win, it was never a contest, I didn't want to beat you. I just wanted the truth known."
"You still haven't said what is next."
Richard Barnard sighed deeply. "We fight. I go back to Earth with the proof that the Daedalus can beat the Romulans cold, and that we have to keep improving. We build lots of them, do our damnest to prevent another New Iberia, and fight so hard, the Romulans decide to live not die, and stop."
TH=30 HEI "Will they, stop?"
"I don't know, I honestly do not know. I only pray they have a limit."
"And if they don't?"
"It will be us, or them. Are you going back to Earth?"
"Yes, it's a nice place to visit, but I miss home."
"So do I. Give it another week or two. A patrol ship is on the way from Starbase 3. Then we can leave."
Admiral Barnard walked into the office he left a century ago. It was only 12 weeks, but it felt like eternity.
"Morning Grace. What's new?"
"Other than you have turned the entire Federation upside down, and doves have molted into hawks overnight, well, not much."
Barnard looked at the hatrack. "Any report on the Grant?"
"No Rich, still MIA."
"I got someplace to be."
He grabbed the Rack, and the hat, and left the office.
Moments later he was in the Captain's Club at Starfleet HQ. A small, but comfortable club solely for Ship's Captain's, and those offricers that had served in ship commands. One of the few perks of Rank.
Admiral Barnard looked around, a goodly number of his peers were present. He rapped on the bar for attention. The conversations quieted down. Everyone looked at the Admiral, and the odd items he carried.
"Ladies and gentleman of the Fleet. Each and every one of you has had friends we have lost in this war. Friends of who's fate we are uncertain. Some of which we will never know for certain.
Most of you knew Howard Nelson, a good solid commander, and friend to many of you. As every one is aware, the USS Grant was observed still intact, and jetting away. Captain Howard Nelson, and all his crew are listed MIA. This," he brandished the hat, "is the hat he left in my office before he left on the final mission. A final mission we might all take one day."
Richard Barnard firmly placed the hat stand near the club door. And gentlly placed the hat on the stand.
"Let this humble object stand for all those friends and comrades that have `stepped out'. Let it stand for all those that have not answered the final roll call, and who's fate we may never know. Let this humble hat, and its standard remind all of us of those that have gone before, and not yet returned. Let it so remain, until Captain Howard Nelson, reclaims it himself."
Barnard stepped up to the bar, and ordered a whisky straight. He raised his glass in toast. "To absent friends; the Spoils of War."
The Spoils of War -- Garry Stahl, December, 1998
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The Above is a work of fiction. All characters are fictional, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
Copyright Garry Stahl: December 1998. All rights reserved, re-print only with permission.