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- The USS Enterprise-E is sent to the Denab system for a routine exploratory survey. Unbeknownst to the crew, a dangerous foe lies in wait.
- 1 Synopsis
- 2 References
- 3 Appendices
William T. Riker, recently promoted to the rank of captain, gazes nostalgically around the bridge of the USS Enterprise-E before heading to the USS Titan, his new command. Another officer, who introduces himself as Martin Madden, enters the bridge and states that he's Riker's replacement as first officer of the Enterprise. Madden, nervous about meeting Captain Jean-Luc Picard, asks Riker for insight on his personality. Riker says that the captain is quite casual with the senior staff, and that Madden should call him by his first name. Worf and Geordi La Forge, both accustomed to Riker's practical jokes, see through it, though Madden does not.
Picard exits his ready room, and Madden approaches him. Picard welcomes Madden and asks him to join him for dinner in his quarters so they can discuss matters further. Madden replies with "[s]ounds good... Jean-Luc..." which takes the captain by surprise. He pretends to be angry at the embarrassed Madden, but he is really not. Picard then tries out the new restraint system on his captain's chair, indicating that "[i]t's about time" that the seats have restraints.
He then informs Madden of their new assignment, in the Denab system. When Madden asks if Picard has ever been there, he simply responds that "[i]t's a place where [...] no one has gone before."
Act I: To Boldly Go...
- Teaser • William T. Riker • Martin Madden • Geordi La Forge • Worf • Jean-Luc Picard • Act I • Joanna Faur • Dina Elfiki • Miranda Kadohata • Beverly Crusher • Act II • Kardok • Maglus • J'dan • Dagan • Graal • Act III • Vana Aleksandrov
- Unnamed USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-E) personnel • Unnamed IKS GhIqtal personnel
Governments and organizations
- The Battle in the Bassen Rift is referenced, and Data's death is acknowledged.
- Martin Madden joins the crew of the USS Enterprise-E.
- Miranda Kadohata, Dina Elfiki, and Joanna Faur are all promoted to senior staff on the Enterprise-E.
- Kardok is introduced for the first time.
Background and trivia
- A precursor to the main plot of this chapter was written by CaptFredricks in 2010 under the title "Lego Star Trek". It was meant to be a short "film" of sorts that he would make with his LEGO minifigures, but it never came to fruition. He preserved the story, though, and reused some of the plot details in this chapter.
- Several characters were taken from the original "Lego Star Trek" episode and renamed.
- They include: Martin Madden, formerly John Benson; Miranda Kadohata, formerly Ensign Turrell; Joanna Faur, formerly Lieutenant Jordan; J'dan, formerly Telnok; Maglus, formerly Klingon Gunner; Dagan, formerly Klingon Officer; Nen, formerly Klingon Helmsman; Graal, formerly Klingon Engineer; and the Master, formerly X. The IKS GhIqtal also was renamed from the original, IKS Pak'tu.
- The teaser for this chapter adapts a deleted scene from Star Trek Nemesis.
- This chapter received an extensive revision in August 2018.
- No major story elements were changed, but more dialogue was added in several places.
- The tense was changed from present to past tense.[a]
- Jean-Luc Picard's captain's log was altered in order to reference Shinzon and the Scimitar by name.
- Kardok's motives for joining the Zenith Alliance were more clearly stated than in the original version.
- Vana Aleksandrov and Dagan's relationship was explored a bit further.
Notes and references
|v - e - ?||Star Trek: Final Voyages|
|Zenith||"Zenith" • "Zenith, Part II" • "Zenith, Part III"|
|Volume 1||"Much A-Q About Nothing" • "Resistance Is Qtile"|
Newly-promoted Captain William T. Riker took one last look around the bridge of the USS Enterprise-E before leaving for his new command, the USS Titan. As he headed for the turbolift, another officer exited onto the bridge.
"Hello, sir. I'm Commander Martin Madden," the officer introduced himself.
"You're the new first officer, I take it?" Riker asked, extending a hand.
"Yes, sir," Madden replied, shaking his hand. "It's an honor, captain."
"Good to meet you, but I'd better get going. Would hate to be left behind by my own crew."
"Uh, sir..." Madden hesitated. "I haven't met Captain Picard yet. What's he like?"
Riker chuckled. "Well, he's not exactly a by-the-book type of officer – he likes to keep things very casual with his senior staff. In fact, the best way to get on his good side is to call him Jean-Luc."
"Jean-Luc? Alright, thanks, sir," Madden said appreciatively.
"No problem, commander." He nodded. "Geordi," he said, waving to his good friend, Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge, one last time before leaving.
"See you, comm – I mean – captain," La Forge replied, chuckling.
Lieutenant Commander Worf looked at La Forge in bewilderment at Riker's 'advice' to Madden. "Captain Picard does not 'keep things casual,'" he mused.
"The commander doesn't know that, though," La Forge responded with a smirk.
"Ah, I see. Captain Riker wished to fool him as a... practical joke."
"Exactly," La Forge nodded.
Just then, Captain Jean-Luc Picard exited his ready room.
Madden nervously made his way over to him. "I'm Commander Martin Madden, sir – the new first officer."
Picard extended a hand. "Welcome aboard, commander. I certainly hope your sudden transfer from the Talos didn't catch you too much by surprise."
"Not at all, sir. I'm privileged to serve on the Enterprise."
"Well, as you can see, there is much work to be done before we can leave. I'd like you to join me in my quarters for dinner at nineteen hundred hours; we have much to discuss." Picard began heading for his chair.
"Sounds good... Jean-Luc..." Madden stuttered.
Picard stopped and turned around with an unamused look on his face.
"Captain Riker was just pulling my leg, wasn't he?" Madden asked, embarrassed.
Picard turned back around, his mouth forming a small grin. He took a look at his chair, which seemed different than the last time he sat in it.
"What's this?" he asked of Worf and a young ensign, who were standing by the chair as he walked up.
"This, sir, is the Mark VII. It's got state-of-the-art ergonomics, command interfaces..." the ensign began.
"Captain, I told him that you were content using your old chair," Worf interrupted.
Picard looked it over for a moment. "Let's give it a try, shall we?" He sat down. "Well, it's... comfortable."
The ensign leaned down toward him. "Try this button, captain." He pointed to a button on the chair's armrest.
Picard pressed it, and a harness immediately strapped him down in the chair.
"Oh," he chuckled. "It's about time."
The ensign smiled confidently at Worf, who replied with a frown. Picard pressed the button once more and the harness disengaged.
"Thank you, gentlemen," he said, and the two walked away.
"Commander," Picard said, beckoning Madden over. "Our first assignment will be in the Denab system."
"Sounds good, captain. Have you been there before?" Madden asked."No. It's a place where..." he paused for a moment and grinned. "A place where no one has gone before."
"Captain's log, stardate 56950.3. It has been six weeks since our battle with the Reman warbird Scimitar in the Bassen Rift. In spite of Praetor Shinzon's coup d'état, it would seem we have been left with several possible avenues for peace with the Romulans. Meanwhile, the Enterprise's orders are to proceed to the Denab system for a routine survey mission."
Picard and Madden were seated at the table in Picard's quarters, finishing up their meal.
"Thanks for the dinner, captain. It was really good," Madden said with a slight stutter.
"You're welcome, commander," Picard replied. "Getting to know you has been quite... insightful."
Madden hung his head. "I-I'm sorry about earlier today on the bridge, sir. I meant no disrespect..."
"Oh, it's quite alright, commander. Mr. Riker was partially correct – I am casual with the officers that I have come to know and trust. In time, I'm sure you will join them."
"Thank you, sir," he smiled. "Oh, I almost forgot about the remaining unfilled officers' positions," Madden suddenly changed the subject, handing Picard a PADD.
"Operations manager, science officer, and conn officer," Picard read aloud. "Hmm. I believe Mr. Data had recommended Ms. Miranda Kadohata as his successor at ops," he remarked.
Picard continued reading over the list of candidates for the other positions. "Joanna Faur served as a training pilot at the Academy. She's received three commendations for her service there."
"S-Sounds like a good choice for the conn."
"Indeed. Do you have any recommendations for a science officer?"
"I'd like to offer Dina Elfiki for you to consider, sir. She's got multiple degrees in physics and astrometrics, and... I've met her personally. She's got a good head on her shoulders, sir."
"Hmm, yes. Her profile did stand out to me. Very well, commander. Inform the three of them of their new assignments."
"Aye, sir. Thanks again for the dinner."
Picard stood and saw him to the door. "It was my pleasure, commander."
Joanna Faur met Dina Elfiki in a corridor.
"Where you headed?" Elfiki asked.
"The senior staff meeting." Faur responded. "You too?"
"Yeah. I guess this means we're senior officers now."
"Guess so," Faur smiled.
They entered a turbolift at the end of the corridor.
"Bridge," Elfiki told the computer.
The turbolift began to whir.
"How'd you get this assignment?" Faur asked, breaking a momentary silence.
"By Commander Madden's recommendation. We've known each other for a few years; he must've put in a good word to the captain."
"Oh... I was sent here as a replacement helmsman in the event that something happened to the head conn officer. I was on a long list of names; I really don't know what made them pick me."
Elfiki chuckled. "There must be something special about you, though. To be hand-picked for the position from a roster by none other than Jean-Luc Picard is a testament to your ability."
"Thanks. I hope I can live up to the hype."
The turbolift halted, and the doors opened to the bridge. The duo proceeded to the staff conference in the officers' lounge. Picard, Madden, La Forge, Worf, Miranda Kadohata and Dr. Beverly Crusher were already seated and waiting for them.
Picard spun around in his chair. "Welcome, ladies. Please take a seat."
"Yes, sir." Faur nodded.
They both took their seats.
"It's very nice to meet both of you," Crusher said, smiling.
"Nice to meet you too, doctor," Elfiki responded.
"Now, I understand you are skilled in physics and astrometric sciences; correct, Ms. Elfiki?" Picard asked.
"Good. It's been some time since the Enterprise had a proper science officer, and I think you'll do quite well."
"Thank you, captain," she answered, smiling.
"And Ms. Faur, you are an accomplished pilot, I take it?"
"Yes, sir. I served four years as a training pilot at Starfleet Academy," she responded.
"Very good. Now, for our assignment – we have been sent to investigate the Denab system. It will be a routine exploratory survey. Ms. Elfiki, as an astrometrics scientist, I'm sure you will quite enjoy mapping this system," Picard stated.
"Indeed, sir. Right up my alley."
"Right. Now that everyone knows their assignments, we shall proceed... to explore," Picard said, grinning. "Dismissed."
The senior staff stood up and began filing out of the room.
"Ms. Kadohata, one moment please," Picard said, turning in his seat.
"Yes, captain?" she inquired.
"I understand you served under Mr. Data before his death."
"Yes. He was an exceptional officer and a good friend, sir."
"He was an invaluable member of my crew for many years. I have only just begun to realize how much I had grown to depend upon him."
Kadohata chuckled. "He could always cheer me up when I was feeling down. It seems like that would be a difficult task for an android, but not Data. Somehow he always knew how to make your day a little brighter."
Picard grinned. "Data was one of the most human beings I've ever known. He was also one of the best friends I've ever had. If he had the confidence in you to take his place at ops, I trust his judgment."
"Thank you, sir. I will do my best."
The Enterprise arrived in the Denab system.
"Drop us out of warp, lieutenant," Picard ordered.
"Aye, captain," Faur responded, disengaging the warp drive.
"Captain, I'm detecting an unidentified vessel in the system," Worf reported.
"Visual?" Picard asked.
The vessel appeared on the main viewscreen, but was too small to be recognized.
"Magnification factor five, Mr. Worf."
The vessel's size increased on the viewscreen.
"It appears to be a Klingon vessel, sir," Kadohata said observantly.
"Yes, it does, doesn't it?" Picard mused, stroking his chin.
"What are they doing out here?" Madden asked nervously.
"Unknown," Worf responded. "I recommend we proceed with caution."
"Well, let's not be rude. Mr. Worf, hail them," Picard said, standing and fixing his shirt. "Oh, and... take us to yellow alert status. I want to be ready for anything."
"Aye, captain. Yellow alert confirmed. Communication channel open."
"Unidentified Klingon vessel, this is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise. We request that you state the reason for your presence here."
The only reply was static.
Worf shook his head. "Nothing, captain."
"Unidentified vessel, this is Captain Jean-Luc Picard..."
Picard sighed. "Not exactly the welcome I was expecting. Suggestions?"
"Sir, I recommend a warning shot across their bow," Worf suggested. "A show of force might—"
"No, we're not an enemy of your people, Mr. Worf. I wish to avoid a conflict if possible."
"But sir, they have refused to answer our hails. Surely..."
Picard turned to Worf with a look he knew all too well.
"Yes, sir," Worf complied.
Picard returned to his seat. "That said, we'll remain at yellow alert until further notice."
"Maybe their communications array is damaged?" Madden suggested.
"We can't rule out the possibility," Kadohata agreed.
"Alright, alright. Suppose their communications are down. How can we get a message to them?" Picard asked.
"Subspace communication is the norm for conversing between ships, captain," Kadohata pointed out.
"But I'm not looking for the norm, commander." Picard turned to the tactical station. "Mr. Worf, are your people familiar with the old Earth communication known as Morse code?"
Worf nodded. "Yes, sir. It has never been widely used by us, though."
"Can we relay a message to them using Morse code that they could decipher and respond to?"
"Perhaps. I will attempt to send them a message, sir."
"Good. Thank you, Mr. Worf."
"Now what, captain?" Madden asked."Now... we wait." Picard rested his chin on his hands.
Onboard the other vessel, the captain, a rather muscular Klingon, was sitting in his chair and staring at the viewscreen. A clicking sound could be heard from the tactical officer's station.
"They are attempting to contact us by means of an old Earth code," the tactical officer, a Lethean, informed the captain in Klingonese (the Klingon tongue). "Shall I respond?"
The captain stroked his beard thoughtfully. "Clever, these Humans."
"Sir, shall we attack?" the Klingon first officer asked. "We have them right where we want them."
"Not yet." the captain responded. He turned to the tactical officer. "Tell them that we have suffered a power failure and are in need of a new power core. Our engines are down, and we are operating on minimal life support."
"Understood, sir," the tactical officer complied.
"J'dan, prepare a boarding party," the captain told the first officer.
"Aye, captain," J'dan replied. "Dagan!"
Dagan, the Cardassian operations officer, followed J'dan to the turbolift.
"Maglus, tell them that we also require medical assistance. Once they drop their shields, you will disable their weapons array and warp drive. Do not destroy them," the captain told the tactical officer sternly.
"Yes, captain," Maglus replied.
"Songs will be sung of this day. The Klingon Empire will soon return to its former glory," the captain mused to himself.
"Sir, they have responded," Worf reported. "They request medical assistance, as well as a small engineering team with a replacement power core."
"This doesn't feel right," Kadohata said, caution in her voice.
Picard pondered the situation for a moment. "Until we have reason to believe otherwise, we must assume they are telling the truth. Mr. Worf, I'd like you to lead an away team over there with supplies and a power core for the Klingons."
As Worf started for the turbolift, Kadohata stood to face the captain.
"Sir, if I may... the Enterprise needs Mr. Worf at tactical – just in case this mission of mercy goes south."
"Are you volunteering to lead the away team, Ms. Kadohata?" Picard inquired.
"I am, sir."
Picard nodded. "Very well. Mr. Worf, resume your station."
"Sir..." Worf protested.
"You heard my order, commander."
Worf sighed. "Aye, captain."
Picard pursed his lips. "Proceed, Ms. Kadohata. Good luck."
"Thank you, sir," she replied before entering the turbolift.
Kadohata entered the transporter room where she was joined by La Forge, Crusher, an engineer, a security officer, and two nurses.
"Everyone good to go?" she asked.
"Ready when you are," La Forge replied.
She tapped her combadge. "Kadohata to bridge, we're ready down here, sir."
"Understood, commander," Picard responded. "Mr. Worf, tell the Klingons we're ready on this side."
Worf nodded. "Aye, captain."
"Drop shields," Madden added.
"The Klingons have confirmed," Worf said. "Dropping shields."
"Energize," Kadohata told the transporter chief.
They dematerialized and moments later arrived on the Klingon vessel.
"Hello, Starfleet," the Klingon transporter chief said, pointing a disruptor at them.
The security officer put his hand on his phaser, ready to shoot the Klingon if necessary.
"Where's your captain? We were told he was in need of immediate medical attention," Crusher asked.
"Come with me," the Klingon replied, weapon still drawn.
They followed him out of the room.
Elfiki's console suddenly started to beep. "Strange," she muttered to herself.
"What is it?" Madden asked, turning to face her.
"For a moment, I was reading trace amounts of polaric radiation in Cargo Bay 2."
"Cargo Bay 2?" Picard questioned.
"What do you think it could be, captain?" Madden questioned.
"It could be nothing, but I'd like you to take a small security team down there and investigate."
"Understood," Madden replied.
"Correct me if I'm wrong, lieutenant, but isn't the use of polaric ions prohibited because of their instability?" Picard asked, turning to the science station.
"You're right, captain," Elfiki agreed. "Something's off down there."
"So that means the radiation wasn't caused by us," Madden said.
"Most likely not."
"Lieutenant, what effect would polaric ions have on internal sensors?" Picard inquired again of Elfiki.
"It's possible that they could disrupt them... long enough for a small away team to beam over while our shields are down," she blurted out, suddenly realizing what Picard had discovered only moments earlier.
Picard turned to Madden. "Commander, be careful down there. I have no idea what you may find."
Madden nodded and walked into the turbolift.
The Enterprise away team arrived on the bridge of the Klingon vessel.
The vessel's captain stepped forward to greet them. "Welcome to the IKS GhIqtal. I am Kardok," he introduced himself.
"Hello, captain. Are you well? I was informed that you had been injured..." Crusher inquired.
"I'm quite well, doctor, as you can see."
"Where are the injured then?"
Kardok grinned menacingly. "I'm afraid there are none."
"Then why the hell did you invite us over here?" La Forge asked, tension in his voice.
This elicited a laugh from Kardok. "You honestly haven't figured it out yet? Perhaps you should have your visor checked, commander. I 'invited' you here to witness the destruction of your precious Enterprise. Your captain will join you shortly, and we will take a trip to see... him."
"Him?" Kadohata questioned.
"Yes," Kardok grinned. "The Master."
"Who is the Master?" Crusher asked nervously.
"He is the one who sent us here to lure the flagship of the mighty Federation into our grasp. Picard will make an excellent bargaining tool to attain what we want," Kardok replied.
"Which is?" La Forge took his turn at questioning Kardok.
"How do you Humans say it? The... keys to the castle?"
La Forge shook his head. "If you think the Federation is just gonna lay down arms to serve this 'master' of yours, you're sadly mistaken."
"You amuse me, Human. Your puny Federation is nothing compared to the might of the Zenith Alliance. You've never heard of us, I'm sure... but we've been growing in the shadows. Members from various races in the galaxy, including Humans, have already joined our ranks."
The Gorn chief engineer walked onto the bridge. "Sssir!" he shouted, snapping to attention. "Engineering is at your disssposal."
"It is time. Bring main power back online," Kardok ordered.
"Aye, captain," the Gorn responded.
"Raise shields and ready weapons."
"Sir, we've got to do something," the away team's security officer said to La Forge. He pulled out his phaser, pointing it at Kardok, and in turn received several disruptors pointed at him.
Kardok chuckled. "Put your weapon away. It will only get you into trouble."
"Crewman, put the phaser down. We're outnumbered," Kadohata told the young, confused officer.
"I..." he hesitated.
Maglus unholstered his disruptor and fired it at the ensign. Kadohata and Crusher rushed to the ensign's aid, and La Forge and the engineer pulled out their phasers.
"Enough!" Kardok yelled. "Maglus, confiscate their weapons."
"Sir," Maglus complied.Crusher examined the security officer. "He's dead," she lamented, gazing up at La Forge solemnly.
On the Enterprise, J'dan, Dagan, and a Human Zenith operative, Vana Aleksandrov, had infiltrated Cargo Bay 2.
"Alright, stay down," Aleksandrov told the others. "It won't take them long to figure out that we hid ourselves with that polaric radiation."
"We need to get to the bridge," Dagan said.
"Just stay low and follow me," she replied, looking suspiciously about the cargo bay.
"I am in command of this team," J'dan said, standing to his feet. "From now on, you will follow my orders only."
Madden and his security team suddenly entered the cargo bay. J'dan spun around and grabbed for his disruptor, but Madden was too quick for him and shot him down.
"Son of a bitch!" Aleksandrov exclaimed, seeing J'dan fall to the floor. "New plan... run!"
She and Dagan made their way to the far end of the cargo bay, where they reached a Jefferies tube.
"Cover me!" she called to Dagan.
He managed to hit two of the officers accompanying Madden, but Madden landed a lucky shot to the wall just above Aleksandrov's head. She ducked inside the tube to avoid being hit by debris. Dagan finally landed a blow, shooting Madden in the shoulder and rendering him unconscious. He then escaped into the tube along with Aleksandrov.
"Oh," Madden groaned, waking from his temporary stupor. He stumbled over to J'dan, who was still lying on the floor, and pointed his phaser at J'dan. "What is your mission?" he asked.
"I will not answer to you, petaQ!" J'dan then stabbed himself with his own blade to avoid capture.
"Damn it." Madden tapped his combadge. "Security alert! We have intruders on Deck 6."
The crew of the GhIqtal was preparing to attack the Enterprise.
"Status report, Graal?" Kardok asked his chief engineer.
"Systems are coming back online from sleep mode. The ship will be fully functional in two minutes," Graal replied.
"You won't succeed in your plan, Kardok. The Federation and its allies will stop you," Kadohata said sternly.
"Hah! Such courage you have, to stand up to a Klingon warrior, commander."
"You're no warrior. Not an honorable one, anyway," she retorted.
Kardok snarled at that remark. "You are very bold, indeed."
"What's honorable about taking allies of the Empire as prisoners?" La Forge questioned. "You're acting atypical of a Klingon crew."
"Fool! You still believe we are part of the Klingon Empire? This is a Klingon ship, yes, but it is no more a part of the Empire than you are." Kardok took a moment to calm himself. "While we do seek the Empire's best interests, the Alliance is its own separate entity."
"Sounds like a whole bunch of nonsense to me," Kadohata scoffed.
"Kardok, what will happen to us?" Crusher asked.
"That has yet to be determined, doctor," Kardok replied. "If you cooperate, perhaps the Master can find a use for each of you."
"Oh… well, if it's all the same to you, I'd much rather return home."
Kardok chuckled. "This is your home now. I suggest you get used to it."
Crusher looked to La Forge, who gave her a blank expression in response.
Aleksandrov and Dagan made their way to a transporter room.
"Get on," Aleksandrov told him, gesturing at the transporter pad.
Dagan quickly stepped onto the pad. "Hurry, Vana! I don't wanna end up in a Federation holding cell."
"Didn't I tell you not to use my given name? Don't say it again, unless you want to go another round in my chamber of horrors," she shot back.
"Apologies..." he said sorrowfully. "It won't happen again, mistress."
She grinned. "That's more like it." She energized the transporter and stepped onto the pad next to Dagan.
The duo rematerialized on the bridge of the Enterprise.
Worf took notice of them and drew his phaser. "Captain, behind you!" he shouted.
Picard turned around, only to be greeted by Aleksandrov's disruptor. She grabbed him by the arm.
"What do you want?" he inquired.
Instead of replying, she tapped the combadge on her arm. "jol yIchu'!" she called into the combadge.
"No!" Worf shouted, running toward them, but it was too late.
Aleksandrov, Dagan, and Picard dematerialized and were transported back to the GhIqtal.
"What should we do, sir?" Faur asked.
Worf pondered the situation. Before he could speak, however, Madden entered the bridge.
"Where's the captain?" Madden inquired.
"He was transported to the Klingon ship," Elfiki responded solemnly.
"W-Well... transport him back!" he stuttered.
Worf frowned. "It's no use, sir. They've raised shields."
"Not so helpless anymore, are they?" Elfiki asked angrily.
Madden took a seat in the captain's chair. "Mr. Worf, raise our shields."
Worf attempted to bring the shields online, but was prevented. "I... can't. Shields are not responding."
The GhIqtal suddenly cloaked.
"We can't track them," Elfiki said, examining displays at her console. She hung her head. "The captain and the others... they're... gone."
Picard entered the bridge of the GhIqtal, accompanied by Aleksandrov and Dagan.
Kardok spun around in his chair to face them. "Ah, captain! Welcome to the IKS GhIqtal. I've been expecting you."
"Who are you? Why am I here? What have you done with my crewmen?" Picard asked abruptly.
Kardok chuckled and answered each question in turn. "I am Kardok. You are here because I wish it. They are alive… well, except for one of them. There may have been a slight incident earlier..." he trailed off.
"Yes. One of your officers acted rashly, and it cost him his life. I'm terribly sorry, captain, but you understand, I hope?"
Picard shook his head. "No, I do not understand. Why have you brought me and my crew here? Why did you attack us?"
"Captain, captain. All in good time. No more questions now." Kardok smiled slightly. "You know, when I was in the Klingon Defense Force, I thought very much like you did. I questioned everything, and I felt lost… without purpose. The Zenith Alliance has given me the answers I craved for so long, and the motivation to seek my true purpose."
"And what purpose is that?"
"To bring glory to the Klingon Empire!"
Picard frowned. "This Zenith Alliance you speak of… I am unfamiliar with them."
"Soon, captain, you will be very acquainted with us." Kardok walked closer to Dagan and Aleksandrov. "Where is J'dan?" he asked.
"He… fell, sir," Dagan responded.
"I see. How unfortunate. We will have to continue the plan without him."
"Shall I take the prisoners to the brig, sir?" Aleksandrov asked.
"Take their junior officers. Leave the doctor, the blind man and the back-talker," Kardok replied.
"This way, scum!" she yelled, leading the engineer and two nurses off the bridge.
Picard walked over to La Forge, Kadohata and Crusher.
"Captain, are you alright?" Kadohata asked.
"I'm quite alright, commander. What about you?" he inquired.
"We lost our security officer, but other than that, we're fine, sir," La Forge responded.
"What does this man want, what is the Zenith Alliance, and why the hell is a Breen manning the conn on a Klingon ship?"
"We know about as much as you do, sir," Crusher replied.
Picard tugged on his shirt. "I intend to get to the bottom of this. Whoever these people are, I will find out."
Back on the Enterprise, Madden and Elfiki were attempting to locate the GhIqtal.
"Don't most ships give off tachyon emissions or residual antiprotons when cloaked?" Madden asked.
"Yes... unfortunately this particular one doesn't," Elfiki responded, frustrated.
Madden sighed. "These guys thought of everything."
"Sir! The Klingon vessel is decloaking!" Worf shouted. "They're charging weapons!"
"S-Shields?" Madden asked worriedly.
Madden ran to the captain's chair. "All hands, this is the first officer. Battle stations!"
The GhIqtal fired its disruptors repeatedly, and the Enterprise sustained several hits.
"Mr. Worf, return fire!" Madden ordered.
"With pleasure, sir!" Worf fired a volley of photon torpedoes at the GhIqtal. "No effect on their shields."
Madden opened the internal comm. "Engineering, why aren't these damn shields working?"
"I don't know, sir. We're working on it," the assistant chief engineer responded.
Another engineer opened an access panel in the wall of engineering. A small device had been put inside.
"Sir, come take a look at this," he told his superior. "This shouldn't be in here."
"You're right. Question is, how did it get there?"
"Maybe the Klingons beamed it in after we lowered our shields..."
"It's possible. Either way, it's gotta go. Remove it." The assistant chief engineer tapped his combadge. "Commander, we think we may have found what was disrupting the shields. A small device has been placed in the shield controls access panel. We're removing it now."
"Understood," Madden replied.
"Got it!" the other engineer said gleefully.
It began beeping, more and more rapidly by the second.
"What's going on? Why's it doing that?"
The assistant chief engineer realized at the last moment what the device was. "Run! Get out! Everybody out!"
The engineering crew scrambled for the door. The device detonated, killing several of them and severely damaging main engineering. The explosion could be felt on the bridge as well.
"What the hell was that?" Elfiki questioned.
Suddenly, the lights on the bridge went dim.
"Main power is offline. Now running on emergency backup," the stand-in ops officer reported.
The GhIqtal swung around to strike again.
"Sir, we do not stand a chance against them. Their shields are holding at 97%," Worf commented.
"What do you propose we do then?" Madden asked.
"I don't know. These Klingons fight without honor – with tricks and deception. We have been caught completely unprepared."
"The two that took the captain weren't even Klingon... the ship must be stolen..." Faur said. "That or it's a mercenary vessel."
"That distinction will hardly be important if we all perish," Worf replied.
Madden stood up slowly. "S-Send a distress call to Starfleet on a secure channel. Inform them that this may be the last message sent by the Enterprise," he said shakily.
Worf paused for a moment. "Yes, sir."
Elfiki hung her head.
"When you're done, hail the Klingons. Tell them we surrender and will accept any terms they deem appropriate," Madden added.
The tactical console beeped.
"They are hailing us, sir," Worf said.
Kardok appeared on the viewscreen. "Greetings, commander. I am Kardok."
"Captain, we're obviously at your mercy now. What are your terms?" Madden asked.
Kardok chuckled. "I have no terms. My orders were to destroy the Enterprise."
"Surely you wouldn't..."
"Ah, but I can, and will. I just wished for you to see my face before I take your life."
"Sir, please. If you truly are a Klingon warrior, won't you have compassion for your prisoners?"
"I have more than enough prisoners on my ship already."
"Captain! You dishonor your family and the Empire by doing this. What could you possibly hope to gain by destroying a Federation starship?" Worf spoke up.
"Mr. Worf, you are the dishonorable one. You have betrayed our people by joining Starfleet. They are nothing more than self-righteous beings who spread their delusional Utopian propaganda across the galaxy. There is no such thing as a perfect state. They even have you deceived by their smooth-talking diplomats and politicians."
"You are correct – the Federation is far from perfect. That does not, however, give you the right to take the lives of hundreds of people."
"This debate is pointless. You will die, and that is the end of it." Kardok turned to Picard. "Any last words for your valiant crew, captain?"
Picard faced the viewscreen. "Even in light of this new threat, we shall rise up against it. Even if we all perish, our struggle will not be in vain. Evil will always be triumphed by good in the end." He turned to face Kardok. "Whatever you seek to gain by doing this, Kardok, will ultimately be for naught."
"How touching," Kardok grinned deviously. "I can feel the nothingness of my endeavors creeping in already. It is glorious!"
"You're delusional," Kadohata commented.
"Perhaps," Kardok agreed. "Maglus, fire!"To be continued...