Friday, December 24, 2010

Battle of the Christmas Tree Cluster

ChristmasTreeClusterCaptain’s Log, Stardate 4712.25. Old Earth date December 25. Christmas Day. On a routine mission to resupply the mining outpost at 58 G. Monocerotis VI, near the Cone Nebula, our science officer, Mr. Spock, picked up an unusual reading. A magenta star, connected to a quantum filament. Such… objects… are of strategic importance to the Federation, as they can serve as a… portal… to another quadrant of the galaxy.

We set course for the Christmas Tree Cluster to investigate.

As the crew enjoyed a holiday dinner of syntheham and Aldebaran yams, Lt. Uhura sang Christmas carols accompanied by Mr. Spock on his Vulcan lyre. A skeleton crew of junior officers cursed their lack of seniority as they manned the bridge and took sensor readings of the filament.

Without warning, a Klingon battlecruiser appeared from behind the magenta star. Apparently the filament provided a… conduit… to Klingon space. The crew hailed the battlecruiser. Commander Klaus identified his vessel as the Khomet, and warned that the Q’pid and six other vessels were awaiting his signal on the other side of the filament. Klaus informed the crew of his intent to conquer the dilithium-rich planets of the Christmas Tree Cluster, and demanded that our vessel retreat.

Lieutenant Hollee Mistletoe, a charming junior officer with whom I had a brief… encounter… on my last visit to Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet, signaled Red Alert. Unfortunately, the red lights blended in with the holiday ambience, and the senior staff remained on the Rec Deck. On Lt. Mistletoe’s orders, Ensign Douglas Fir raised the shields and charged the phasers. Ensign Fir called for photon torpedoes to be loaded in all banks, but the torpedo bay was… unmanned… due to a synthetic snowball fight that had broken out on Deck 12.

Reacting instantly to the Enterprise’s raised shields, Klaus signaled his fleet to come through the filament. The Q’pid and viQsin emerged from behind the magenta star. Before the remaining Klingon ships could come through the filament, junior science officer Slaybel Sring fired a beam of anti-lignin particles into the filament, disrupting its structure.

The viQsin fired a volley of torpedoes. Lt. Mistletoe called for Evasive Pattern Ho‑3, and all but one shot fell wide. The single torpedo struck our port nacelle, causing minimal damage, but alerting the senior staff to the combat underway. As Spock and I… carefully… made our way to the turbolift, we heard our phaser banks fire. When we arrived on the bridge, Ensign Fir reported that the Kring’l-type reactor aboard the viQsin had gone critical. And then, in a twinkling, the viQsin was gone.

We turned hard to starboard, circling the magenta star, but more rapid than eagles the Khomet and Q’pid came. Another volley of torpedoes from Khomet weakened our shields and damaged the phaser banks on Deck 8. I called to Engineering, but I knew in an instant that Lieutenant Riley had… partaken… of too much eggnog. Before Riley could begin the second verse of Aude Lang Syne, I ordered Spock to Engineering to find Engineer Scott and straighten things out.

I instructed Lt. Mistletoe to take the helm and… with a glance… she understood that we should keep the Klingon vessels to our portside. I have always found that in battle, a certain… chemistry… with your officers can save valuable time. We fired phasers at the Khomet, weakening their shields, but they returned fire with disruptors. The blast weakened our portside shields. I called to Engineering for more power. Scotty responded, “Aye, Cap’n, but ye Rudolph Transtator be still offline, and the fog of the nebula isn’t helping!” The blasts continued, and Ensign Fir reported a hull breach… in the Rec Deck that had moments ago been the scene of holiday levity. Fir complained, “I was hoping to at least get some leftovers. Sir.”

I ordered Lt. Mistletoe to position the Enterprise directly between the Khomet and Q’pid. We endured continued fire from both battlecruisers, as she… smoothly… eased us into position. Spock called from Engineering, warning that the portside shields could not withstand another direct hit until the Rudolph Transtator was repaired.

“Full reverse!,” I ordered. “Ensign Fir, execute countermeasure sequence Echo Lambda Foxtrot.” The countermeasures projected an image of our vessel into the Klingons’ sensors, making them think the Enterprise was still between them. The effect lasted only an instant, but an instant was enough. The Khomet fired a spread of torpedoes, as we flew out of sight. Merry Christmas to all, I thought, and to Q’pid—good night.

With a single Klingon vessel remaining, our bargaining position had improved, but our shield generators were still weakened. I ordered Lt. Uhura to hail Commander Klaus. It was immediately clear that he was in no mood to negotiate. “Commander niQlaS of the Q’pid was my brother, and I shall avenge his death! Syntheham is not the only dish that is best served cold.”

“What’s the matter, Klaus? You fired on the Q’pid, not me. I don’t need to check my list twice to know who’s naughty and who’s nice.” I caught the eye of Lt. Mistletoe. She appreciates my… sense of humor.

I called down to Engineering. “Scotty, we need to get that Rudolph Transtator back up and running.” “Aye, Captain. Mr. Spock is on his way to Jeffries Tube 3 t’work on it. Try t’keep the Kling’ns off our back… I wouldna want t’be in that tube if we take another direct hit.” “Understood, Scotty. Lieutenant, maneuver us into the Cone Nebula. The gas and dust should interfere with their targeting sensors.”

Fifteen long minutes—and a few close shots—later, Mr. Scott called the bridge. “Cap’n, thanks t’ Mister Spock, the Rudolph Transtator panel is shinin’ all lights red. We’re back in business; full shields at your command. Why they couldna use green lights like all the other panels, I dinna underst—Ensign Navidad! I dinna care if that tribble was in your stocking. Ye ken the regulations concerning those beasties! Report t’ Transp—”

“Thank you, Mister Scott. No shields, not just yet. Uhura, open a channel to the Khomet.” She did. “Commander Klaus, there’s no point in prolonging this exercise. We can’t hide in the nebula forever. As you can see, we’re having some problems with our shields, which we will be unable to repair without returning to a starbase. I will surrender myself and my ship on the condition that my crew is released unharmed.”

“Captain Kirk, your terms are acceptable. Prepare to be boarded,” Klaus responded. The turbolift doors opened, depositing Spock and Dr. McCoy onto the bridge. As I briefed them, Ensign Sring announced that the Khomet had lowered its shields to transport a boarding party onto the Enterprise.

“Shields, Mister Fir! Fire phasers! Target their dorsal shield generators. Now!”

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Ensign Fir reported a direct hit. “Their shields are down, Captain. It won’t take much more. Orders, sir?”

Suddenly, the Khomet banked left, and in an instant it was… gone. “Ensign Sring, report!”

The junior science officer examined his sensor readings, and responded, “Captain, the effect of the anti-lignin pulse has worn off. The Klingons re-entered the quantum filament.” Spock relieved Ensign Sring at the science station, and confirmed the readings.

“So, they’re back in Klingon space?” I asked. “It’s a Christmas miracle,” Dr. McCoy grumbled from behind me. “Negative, Captain,” replied Spock. “The anti-lignin beam realigned the filament, altering the trajectory of vessels traveling through the filament. The Khomet was propelled toward the supermassive black hole in Sagittarius, at a high galactic latitude.”

“The North Galactic Pole,” I replied.

Spock continued. “Affirmative. If we again re-align the filament, the Khomet will have quite a long journey back by warp drive. By my calculations, sir, Commander Klaus will not be able to return to this sector of the galaxy for… one galactic year.”

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