Imperium in Imperio
It was almost completely dark in the room, the barren features of the interior were barely recognizable. A small ceiling light and glimpses of passing stars through the large window illuminated the shape of a middle aged man sitting at a desk, leaning back, his hand holding the lower part of his face. He was looking intensely at a small framed picture before him. A photograph of a woman and two young children, his family. The door chime went off, “Enter!” he replied after a few moments, hiding the picture under the desk.
A young female in her late twenties entered the room, carrying a data padd, she stopped in front of the desk, her arms folded behind her back.
“Sir, everything is in place. Rear Admiral Jessica Pita’s death has gone according to plan.”
The man nodded and said:
“Phoenix must take the blame. He must be behind this.”
“Sir, I have made sure Jesse Phoenix will take the fall for Pita’s death. Nothing will point back to us”, replied the female assuringly.
The man, his arm resting again on the desk, holding his head like a pillar a heavy rooftop, he hesitated for a moment, then finally looked up and replied:
“Good. You are dismissed”, the man told the woman.
She gave a quick respectful nod, then walked out of the room and returned to the bustling corridor, which was revealed beyond the door.
The man straightened up on his chair.
“Computer, initiate program Omega-1, authorization Jefferson-Gamma-Three-Zero-Four-Nine-Two”, the computer voice interface answered with an affirmative chime,
“Set a silent countdown for three hours - mark”, said the man.
The computer voice responds:
“Program initiated. Silent countdown active. There will be no further audio notifications.”
“Bridge to Deputy Director Jefferson”
“Sir, we are dropping out of warp and are about to dock with Starbase 56, they are waiting for you to disembark, before we head towards Earth for our refit.”
“Thank you, Commander Leslie. Tell the Starbase I am on my way to the transporter room”, replied the man, - “Understood, Sir. Bridge out.”
Rear Admiral William Jefferson, Deputy Director of Starfleet Intelligence stepped out of a turbolift into Ops of Starbase 56. A few young officers were working at their posts, fairly busy, yet eying him immediately.
A young commander approached him:
“Welcome aboard, Sir.” -
“Thank you. What is the status of the USS Valentine?”
“Sir, the USS Valentine should be here within the next couple of hours. She is traveling from Delta Quadrant. I will inform you, when she arrives. As you requested, our Intelligence personnel are finishing up their work meanwhile and will soon be ready to meet you.”
“Thank you Commander, have them meet me on Deck Four as soon as the Valentine approaches”, Jefferson replied before he left Ops.
Four hours later
Jefferson was making his way through the starbase corridors, walking fast and firm. Passersby made way for him and his associates. At his side Station Chief Commander Gracie Jones, stern-looking, tough, gushing out her sentences with efficient precision, walking slightly behind was her Deputy, Lt.Commander Mettus, a Saurian with pale, green-looking, slightly wrinkled skin, silent and analytical.
“...sector-wide yellow alert for all Starfleet vessels, tightened security and ‘the package’ on its way!
This incident sure stirred up some people”, Jones exclaimed.
“‘Opened a can of worms’, I should better say, but Mettus here would only find that delicious”, she said, giving her colleague a sly wink.
Jefferson was not in the mood for humor.
“You got all your files on hand?”, he asked.
“Yes, Sir, everything from our local resources. HQ has sent us what they could find as well, as did Commander Low from the Valentine. We are ready to brief you as soon as we get there.”
They entered the transporter room and proceeded to get onto the transporter padd.
“Sir, the USS Valentine is ready to receive you all. Standing by to energize on your command”, said the transporter operator.
The three materialized on the transporter padd of the USS Valentine. The ship’s First Officer was standing by, ready to greet them.
“Welcome aboard the USS Valentine. I am Commander Heather Low, First Officer.”
“Thank you, Commander. I think there will be plenty of time to get acquainted, later. We should get down to business.”
“Of course, Sir. If you please follow me”, the Commander said.
Inside the Valentine’s briefing room, the group had assembled around the table. Additionally, sitting at the table’s end was the ship’s captain, an elderly, slightly frail African man, emanating wisdom, Jeffrey White. All were listening to the briefing hosted by Low and Mettus.
“By now you all know that three days ago, Rear Admiral Jessica Pita died as a result of a shuttle accident. All reports confirm the shuttle exploded shortly before docking with her ship near the Antares Shipyards. Admiral Pita is the sole fatality. As of now, all evidence suggests the explosion was a result of intentional tampering with its fusion cells”, Low referred.
“What intelligence do we have on this attack, Mr Mettus?”, asked Jefferson.
“Starfleet Intelligence currently believes the individual responsible for this attack is former Station Chief Jesse Phoenix. We have gathered evidence from his residence, his personal communication terminal and from his quarters at Starfleet Intelligence complex.”
“What makes you so sure? After such a short-lived investigation?” asked Captain Jeff White, speaking for the first time.
“The evidence we collected leaves hardly any room for doubt, Sir. It was a pleasantly efficient investigation”, Mettus answered.
“Where is Jesse Phoenix now?”, Jefferson asked.
“At this time, both Starfleet Security and Starfleet Intelligence are unable to locate him”, Low answered.
“Intelligence believes he has left Federation space and is hiding in Klingon territory. His last confirmed sighting was on Drozana Station, where he checked in fourteen hours ago. The station’s records confirmed this. It would be reasonable to assume that he could have boarded a commercial vessel heading for Klingon space”, Jones explained.
Commander Low added:
“There is one more thing. Federation President Aennik Okeg is on his way here, he wants to be briefed personally on the incident.”
Captain White looked around, concerned.
“When is he going to arrive?”, he asked.
“The President should be here within the hour, Captain”, the Commander replied.
White and Jefferson shared a look for a moment.
“Alright, that would be all for now, thank you. We will continue this meeting when the President arrives”, Jefferson said while getting up from his seat.
He and his staff left the briefing room, followed by Commander Low. Low and Jones stopped at the door for a moment to look back at Captain Jeff White, who had not left his chair, staring out the windows.
Meanwhile a few lightyears away, the USS Leeds was coming into view, a sleek and modern ship, not huge, but regal in appearance, the Air Force One of its day, traveling at high warp, stars flying by at tremendous speed.
At his quarters Captain Bill Roy was trying to ease his slight apprehension by reading.
“Bridge to Captain Roy.”
“Roy here, go ahead”, he answered.
“Sir, sensors are picking up a spatial disturbance directly in our path. Sensors indicate that we won’t be able to form a stable warp field in there. I recommend we drop out of warp, and go at full impulse”, Commander M’Telle responded.
“Can’t we plot a course around it?”, asked Captain Roy. “Negative, Captain. Whatever that thing is, it is huge, flying around it would be useless, going through at impulse should be the best course of action”, she replied.
“Very well, Commander, take us out of warp, continue our present course at full impulse. How long of a delay will this cause us?”, Captain Roy asked.
On the bridge, Commander M’Telle, an alien-looking female responded: “It will delay us almost two hours.”
Roy’s groaning was audible over the intercom.
“Inform the USS Valentine and our VIP guest about our delay. And get the science boy to work on that anomaly, I want to know what is, as soon as I am back on the bridge.”
“Aye, Sir. Commander M’Telle out.”
She was turning to a now suddenly nervous looking young man in a bluish uniform sitting at his workstation.
“You heard the man, Ensign. Get to work!”
Shortly after Captain Roy stepped out of the turbolift onto the bridge.
“Report!”, he demanded.
“The analysis of the anomaly has been inconclusive”, M’Telle replied while vacating the captain’s chair for him.
A sudden faint chirping on his console made the Tactical Officer hastily push some buttons.
“Sir, I am picking up tachyon particles all around us. There appears to be several cloaked vessels following us.”
“Can you identify them?”, asks Captain Roy.
“It appears to be about half a dozen vessels, trace signatures suggest both Klingon and Romulan birds-of-prey”, the Tactical Officer answered.
“About? Can we get an exact number?”
“Sir, it’s hard to pinpoint how many vessels, interference from the anomaly is screwing up our sensors. I have been able to count up to fifteen possible contacts now.”
“Why would the Klingons and the Romulans be attacking us? They would never attack the Federation together…”, said Commander M’Telle.
“Does it matter?”, asked the Captain.
He now began to address a man, who had been silently standing in the corner, almost unnoticed.
“Inform the package, Major.”
Major Winslow, MACO commander in charge of the President’s security nodded and walked into the turbolift to inform the VIP of the impending attack.
The Captain was now spraying orders:
“Prepare the drones and pre-arm all weapons, raise our shields. - Engineering, do what you can to get me a warp field, will you?”
“Should we go to Red Alert, Captain?”, M’Telle asked.
“No, we don’t want to provoke them. Maybe they are simply paparazzi… Open up a channel to them.”
“No response, Captain.”
After a beat the Tactical Officer added:
“Several birds-of-prey now distinctly identifiable on an intercept course and they are charging their weapons.”
“I would say that is a response. Send out a general distress call and stand by to engage the enemy vessels. Battlestations!”, Captain Roy ordered.
The lights on the bridge dimmed out, the enerving Red Alert sound blasting, red-lighted wall panels rhythmically flashing.
“The enemy vessels will be in range within thirty seconds”, the Tactical Officer reported,
“Sir, that just leaves six enemy vessels to deal with.”
The Science Officer soon interrupted:
“...that is, if there are no more cloaked vessels…”
On the bridge of the lead Klingon vessel, IKS Chang, bathed in red light and cold steam, the bridge crew silently awaited their orders to attack, watching the viewscreen, where the Federation ship’s appearance was growing ever larger with them closing in for the kill.
“Sa', vIwoH Sotlaw' 'oH vo' DIvI' Duj [General, it seems the crew of the Federation ship becomes agitated and calls for help]”, the Klingon First Officer remarked with relish.
“bagh Duj? [Which ship is it?]”, the Second Officer asked.
“USS Leeds. najwI' bopummeH HIv pong tlhIngan 'ej romuluSngan Duj [USS Leeds. A dream to attack the ship of this name, a testimony to the Romulans]”, the Klingon commander calmly remarked.
“'ar? [How many?]”, the Second Officer wanted to know.
“Duj jagh wa'maH cha' qen Hotlh [Second Officer, the enemy numbered ten ships on the last scan]”, responded the First Officer.
The Klingon commander rose from his chair, putting his hand on his chest, where a fiercely shaped dagger was strapped.
“DIvI' Duj He HIjmeH. DI' 'emvo' nargh 'ej qul Ha'DIbaH chuq [Full speed towards the Federation vessel. When the beasts are within range, let no one escape.]”
“HIja', Sa' [Yes, General]”, the Second Officer responded.
On the bridge of the Valentine, Jefferson was having a chat with the senior crew, when the Communications Officer interrupted them:
“Captain, there is an incoming distress call.
It’s from the Leeds, they are under attack by cloaked ships!”
“Set an intercept course and engage at maximum warp!”,
Captain White quickly ordered.
“Aye Sir, course set, engaging now”, the helm officer reported.
Meanwhile, on the USS Leeds’ bridge, the red alert was going off, hot sparks were spraying from a number of spots on the walls, a few consoles were smoldering, a small fire being extinguished by the automatic suppression system. The bridge crew, though shaken, was largely unharmed, one officer was helping another on his way to sickbay.
“Sir, the Klingon vessel is hailing us.”
“Put it on screen”, the Captain ordered while straightening himself from the encounter.
The partially damaged viewscreen of the USS Leeds switched from a blurry star field to the view of a Klingon Vor’cha- Class bridge, in the center an old Klingon facing them.
“General, thank you for your timely assistance”, Captain Roy exclaimed.
“Think nothing of it, Captain. Every good Klingon could do none other than trying to avert this cowardly attack”, the General railed with angry disdain.
“The High Council received intelligence that there was going to be such an attack on a key Federation contact and Chancellor J’mpok ordered me to assist”, stated the Klingon General.