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The Human Equation

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					 This is a work in progress. It is Copyright  Michael J. Natale. Star Trek characters
         are Copyright Paramount Pictures and are used without permission.
                                  Please don’t sue me.

            It is provided here for personal, non commercial use under a
      Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivatives license.




                              THE HUMAN EQUATION

                           A work of Star Trek Fan Fiction

                                          by

                                  Michael J. Natale

                         michael@seewhatsinmybrain.com




                                   CHAPTER ONE


STARDATE: 3228.6 Near the Klingon Neutral Zone...
THE USS ENTERPRISE



       Captain James T. Kirk spun about in his command chair, looking with eager

eyes at Spock's back as the Vulcan leaned over the science console. Kirk was

beginning to wonder what was taking so long for a simple firing solution from

Spock. After a heartbeat passed, Kirk became nervous and said, "Spock?"

       Spock continued to peer into the small display and replied, "No activity from

the Klingon vessel since the last phaser volley, Captain. Enemy's shields are down
The Human Equation                      Page 2                                  Natale




seventy nine percent, forward missile tube disabled, power utilization curve down

eighty percent. There is other damage to unidentified systems."

       Kirk clenched a fist in soundless victory, knowing that by detecting the

smaller cloaked vessel before she had a chance to de-cloak and fire, the Enterprise

had virtually disabled the scoutship. Now, the innocent people on Omnicron I could

at least get a break from the barrage of disrupter fire from orbit, and the Enterprise

could withstand any frontal assault the small Bird of Prey could dish out. Kirk

clenched his teeth. "We've got 'em!"

       With that comment, the mood on the bridge changed immediately from silent

concentration to one of immediate release. Though they knew they were far from

out of danger, the bridge crew took hope and courage from Kirk as he expressed his

optimism.

       Sulu's shoulders immediately relaxed, Uhura breathed a sigh of relief, and

Chekov leaned slightly back in his chair, though he still kept his hands firmly on the

console's controls. Spock nodded slowly, watching the scout lilt to one side.

       "Lieutenant," Kirk said, as Spock moved to stand beside him, "open a channel

to that ship."




THE IKS K'PAK



       Captain Kul leaned his angular skull on a gauntleted fist and brooded. For the

sake of the crew, he let no sign of his inner turmoil be displayed on his proud

features. His crew was the finest in all of the Empire, and he would die proudly with

them in battle, if that was what The Stars demanded. They deserved to die a Klingon
The Human Equation                      Page 3                                 Natale




death with a Klingon Captain, and he would see to it that no weakness or doubt

would spoil their vision of him as just that in what could be their last moments.

        Still, he had honor to answer to, and he would not lie down for death so

easily...

        His thoughts were interrupted seconds after they had begun when the

communications officer related, "Sir, the Federation Captain is hailing us." The

younger Klingon swallowed covertly, and continued, "He wishes to discuss terms for

our surrender."

        The Captain stood and glowered at the viewer displaying its interpretation of

the Enterprise hanging against the tar-like blackness of space. Behind the Enterprise

and to her right, the Federation Science Outpost Omnicron I lazily orbited the

immense planet that overshadowed all three structures.

        Kul cursed his decision to answer the tight beamed transmission from the

science station that found its way to his ship. He should have known that the human

who promised cooperation would find he had no spine now that the moment of

truth was here. In his years serving the Empire, Kul found most humans fit this

description, and devoured that explanation readily.

        Still, Kul mused suspiciously, the Enterprise had responded swiftly to the

Outpost's distress call; much more quickly than Kul had expected. Could this be a

trap designed to lure the Klingons into provocation? The Federation had its shiny,

untarnished reputation to uphold -- if they wanted a confrontation with the

Klingons, then this was certainly how they would go about dragging them into one.

        No, Kul decided after some thought. He admitted to himself that he had been

caught red handed by the Enterprise. The Federation starship had made them look

careless; caught them even though they had cloaked as soon as the Battlecruiser
registered on their sensors. This disturbed Kul, for he knew then who his enemy
The Human Equation                       Page 4                                  Natale




was. This Starship Captain was well known throughout the Empire as one of the

Federation's finest, and now, his battlecruiser sat waiting for Kul to surrender to it.

       Waiting. Even though they knew the status of Kul's ship, they still waited and

held their fire.

       That, Kul decided with sudden finality, is their greatest mistake.




USS ENTERPRISE



       Uhura turned back from the console and said with surprise in her voice, "The

Klingons are signalling that they accept surrender, Captain, and wish to discuss

terms. Requesting visual."

       Kirk returned a surprised expression, but made the slightest nod to Spock.

Kirk put on his poker-face and returned to peering across the bridge at the image of

the Bird of Prey.

       Spock turned to Uhura and said flatly, "On screen, Lieutenant."

       A moment later, the view of the listing Klingon ship was replaced by the

image of a smoke filled bridge bathed in scarlet, an enormous and proud Klingon

Captain sitting in his command chair waiting to speak. The Klingon stared into the

viewer with open disgust, and everyone on the bridge could see it.

       The Klingon spoke first. "I am Captain Kul of the Klingon Scout K'Pak. We

will hear your terms."

       Kirk stood, and folded his arms across his chest. He began to pace, unused to

such reasonable demeanors in Klingons. "This is Captain James T. Kirk of the

Starship Enterprise.     You have violated our space and fired on an unarmed
Federation Outpost. You will surrender your ship to me and prepare to transfer
The Human Equation                        Page 5                               Natale




your crew into security facilities aboard the Enterprise, where you will be processed

according to the doctrines within the Border Treaty made by our two governments.

Those are my only terms, Captain. We will accept no other arguments. Any attempt

at deception during these proceedings will result in your immediate destruction.

The conflict has already been settled here, among The Stars. I give you two minutes

to inform your crew." He turned and signalled Uhura to cut the transmission before

the Klingon had a chance to respond.

          Spock took two steps forward to once again stand directly behind Kirk.

"Captain, might I remind you that the Klingons could be securing time to repair their

systems? They do still have limited shields and weaponry, I find it highly unlikely

that they are surrendering so willingly."

          Kirk nodded. "So do I, Mr. Spock. Maintain Red Alert, lock phasers on target,

stand by photon torpedoes."




THE IKS K'PAK



Captain Kul ended the transmission, scowling at Kirk as he did so. This human

knows much of Klingon Philosophy. His reference to "The Stars" showed that he

knew of the Klingon's "religious" position. The stars and other heavenly bodies that

looked down upon all things were the closest thing to Gods that the Klingons could

accept.

          It was believed that all acts of honor and courage would be seen by the stars

and remembered. The fact that this human starship captain knew this disturbed

Kul. He has dealt many times with our people, a trifling voice in his head reminded
him.
The Human Equation                      Page 6                                 Natale




       He could not help but note the irony in the Enterprise's bridge design. The

Captain has his back to no less than three of his junior officers. The Earthers are far

too trustworthy, he thought without humor. This will be their undoing eventually.

       The officer manning the sensors turned quickly to his captain. "They're

locking phasers."

       Switching to the shorter, more efficient combat-mode of Klingonnaese,

Captain Kul responded, "Lieutenant, what is the status of available power?"

       The Klingon at Sciences, Karg, answered sharply, "80% off-line, Sir, but I have

managed to channel remaining power evenly through the shields and disrupters."

       "We have weapons, then. Status of Enterprise?"

       The science officer double checked his sensor report, then answered,

"Forward shields powered to 125% of capacity in preparation for our destruction,

Lord. All other shields are diverting power to their forwards, and are down 45%.

Enterprise's phasers are locked on us, targeting our command pod."

       Kul nodded his enormous head, and rumbled, "We will attack! Prepare for

battle, but make no movements that could be interpreted as hostile until I order so.

Cloaking Device?"

       "Functional within three minutes, sir, but only for a short moment. We will

have to cut the power we have running to the shields by 78% to get even a brief

moment. The Federation vessel will be able to target us within one minute of

activation."

       "We will use the Cloak to disable their sensor lock, then make a Warp 3 burst

to the Enterprise's starboard side. That will give us time enough to deactivate the

cloak and fire on their engines! Gunner, target their starboard warp engine with full

batteries, fire when target presents maximum aspect. Sciences, bring shields on line
as soon as Gunner completes the firing pattern."
The Human Equation                       Page 7                               Natale




       The bridge erupted with Kul's orders, as the officers bolted to carry them out.

The constant state of battle-alert grew even more intense as the Klingons manned

their stations, and the tactical display on the viewer projected their course and

targeting pattern.

       On the screen, a small radius with cross-hairs slithered towards the display

of the Enterprise's warp engines, and the gunner locked the firing pattern into the

computer. He turned towards his Captain. "Firing pattern locked in computer,

Captain. Ready to download to weapons systems as soon as we cloak."

       Kul felt a mean rumbling deep within the bowels of his stomach, and half

stood in his chair. "Activate Cloaking Device!"

       "Aye, Sir!" Karg responded, keying in the codes and commands to relay to

Engineering. A second from now, they would exchange the roles of Hunter and

Hunted with the Enterprise...




THE USS ENTERPRISE



Everyone was jolted out of their complacency as the computers running the main

viewer began to dissolve the image of the Klingon ship off of the forward viewer.

The Klingons had activated their cloaking device. Spock darted to his station, and

remarked, "It appears we were right, Captain."

       Kirk nodded, "Sulu, fire all phasers, last targeted position!"

       "Aye, Sir, firing phasers!"

       An instant passed as the Enterprise's phasers carved lances of crimson

through the blackness of the void, only to scatter through empty space where the
The Human Equation                         Page 8                                 Natale




Klingon ship was only seconds ago. Sulu shook his head in frustration, "A clean

miss, Captain, they must have moved."

         Spock straightened, saying, "Klingon Bird of Prey de-cloaking off the

starboard bow! Enemy presenting minimal aspect...they have aft weapons locked

on our starboard warp engine!" Spock glanced at Kirk, who hammered the intercom

button on his command chair.

         "Scotty, divert all power to the starboard shields..."

         "...Too late!" Spock said, and the ship shrieked in protest as four dull

explosions unsettled everyone on the bridge. The lights dimmed, then emergency

lights came on as the computers began to re-route power to the essential systems.

         In the background, Spock was reading a damage report as it came up on the

screen in front of him. "Starboard warp engine damaged, starboard shields out;

power utilization down 25% shipwide..."

         Uhura was attempting to raise Starfleet on subspace radio, but reported that

the Klingons were jamming all frequencies again. Kirk was out of his command

chair and standing behind Sulu, "Sulu," he began, but the Helmsman cut him off.

         "...Phasers locked on target, Captain. Photons read clear and ready to fire."

         Kirk’s eyes never left the viewer, but he nodded to his Helsman. "Fire, Sulu,

fire!"

         The Enterprise purred thickly as the phasers cut into the Klingon Scout, as it

turned its aft to fire its torpedoes. The phasers collapsed what little shields the

scout had, and struck the pylon that connected the command pod with the rest of

the ship.     Leaving behind charred and molten metal as they struck, the phasers

sliced horizontally along the length of the connector, causing the scout to tilt toward

the planet.
The Human Equation                       Page 9                                 Natale




       Simultaneously, two photon torpedoes were launched from the aft tubes and

homed in on the Klingon vessel. The first flew off into space as the Bird of Prey

made an emergency heading change to evade the torpedo, but it did so at the cost of

presenting a clean target for the second.




THE IKS K'PAK



Kul managed to stand, despite the pummeling his ship was taking, and bellowed

with rage. "Helm, I said COUNTERMEASURES!"

       His order was carried out, but the viewer showed the second torpedo homing

in too fast. The tiny sensor pods that emitted verethol radiation designed to confuse

the photon's homing systems were launched a millisecond too late. Karg braced his

console and shouted, "Torpedo has acquired, Captain. We cannot evade!"

       Kul turned and pressed the comm button on his chair, "Engineering, divert all

power to port shields, NOW!"

       A heartbeat slowly plodded by. Good, Kul thought, that will be enough...

       A nanosecond later, the torpedo detonated.

       The ship rocked almost vertical, and everyone on the bridge was cast into

one corner. Systems were overloading all over the ship, sending showers of sparks

and flame bursting into the air. A moment later, the inertial dampeners were

functional again, and the bridge crew hastened to their stations.

       "Engineering, damage report!" Kul paced impatiently, ignoring a deep gash

in his head that delivered a thick, pinkish river of blood flowing down his chin.
The Human Equation                      Page 10                             Natale




       A deep voice filtered through the comm-link. "Port wing nearly severed, all

port systems out, including weapons and shields. Cloaking device out, port warp

engine down 90% in power. We have little left, sir. "

       It was as if Kul didn’t even hear. "Casualty report, Karg."

       The Klingon checked his screen and replied heatedly, "Six dead, one wounded

in Engineering, Sir."

       Kul frowned and slammed his fist into the arm of the chair, rocking it on its

pivot as he did so. He knew now what it was he had to do. If he was to die here,

today, then he would not die alone. "Helmsman, plot a collision course, heading

two-three-seven, mark one-one-two..."




THE USS ENTERPRISE



Kirk nodded to Scotty, now running Engineering from the bridge console, and patted

him on the back. "Good work, Mr. Scott. How long before starboard is back on line?"

       Scotty grimaced as he assessed the damage control screens in front of him.

"Three hours, Captain, but we have 35% power output from it now, and considering

th' hit th' Klingons made on her, she's holdin' together well."

       Spock joined the two and said, "Captain, we show a powering down of

weapons on the Klingon ship. Our salvo did substantial damage. They are currently

at 50% power or less; they have no port systems, and cannot outmaneuver us in

battle with the damage we inflicted on their navigational wings."

       Kirk walked past Spock and Scotty to Uhura. She looked up at him as he

came towards her and said, "Channel open, Sir."
The Human Equation                          Page 11                                Natale




       "Captain Kul, this is Enterprise. Prepare to beam aboard your survivors. You

have no chance for further hostilities, and we do not wish for further conflict

between us. I repeat my demand of surrender."

       Uhura's fingers danced across the console, as her hand went to the receiver

in her ear. "They're refusing our hail, Captain. All I'm getting is static -- they’re still

jamming all local comm traffic."

       Kirk and Spock exchanged knowing glances for a brief second, then Kirk

rushed for his command chair. Spock went to his station, sat down, and began

scanning.

       Kirk stepped around his command chair and sat down. "Shields, Mr. Sulu?"

       "Aye, Sir, powered to full." Sulu confirmed it as he spoke with a glance

towards the console.

       "Captain," Spock began, "Klingon changing course. Klingon vessel is heading

for the Outpost on what appears to be a collision course!"

       Kirk leaned forward, not believing his ears. "What? Sulu, put us between the

Klingons and that station! Uhura, contact Mr. Thorn, warn him of the situation, then

get me Starfleet Command!"

       The officers responded to Kirk's voice with hastiness and accuracy born from

years of working under his command. They anticipated their Captain's orders and

had already begun their tasks.

       Kirk took a deep breath, not liking being forced into destroying the Klingon

vessel. But, if they were going to threaten innocents on Omnicron I, then the

Enterprise could play the role of executioner adequately.           "Mr. Sulu, fire main

phasers!"

       "Locking phasers.....firing, sir!"
The Human Equation                       Page 12                                 Natale




THE IKS K'PAK



Captain Kul watched the outpost looming before them, appearing to accelerate

towards them at impulse speed. He knew the Enterprise would destroy them, their

Captain must, but Kul would guarantee that he would not die alone. The Stars

would witness his sacrifice of his life, his crew and his ship, all to regain what little

honor he had left. The final battle, to be ended when Kul's life ended, nullifying any

further questions of honor and courage.

       The Enterprise's phasers cut into the small scout, already weary from battle

and damaged nearly beyond repair. The bridge rocked, and the sensors panel went

dark. Kul looked over as Karg leaped beneath it with a filtration wrench, hoping to

regain the picture on the viewer. A moment later, he looked up from under the

console, and the picture returned, just in time to see the Enterprise barrelling in

front of the K'Pak to block their way.

       "Aft shields holding, Karg?" Kul roared.

       Karg merely nodded.

       "Open fire with all remaining weapons on the Outpost, prepare for warp

speed."

       "Aye, sir! To glory! To Honor!" The bridge crew resounded as one. They

knew this was their final battle, a battle from which only honor was the true victor.

Even at the cost of their lives, they would emerge victorious over the Enterprise, and

forever be emblazoned as champions in Klingon culture.
The Human Equation                      Page 13                               Natale




        This human captain, Kul thought, thinks it is only the two of us here and now.

But it is not. The Stars will see. They always saw. And they would remember honor

for all time...




THE USS ENTERPRISE



The Enterprise was matching the Bird of Prey's power output on impulse only, not

daring to use the warp engines for a number of reasons. The first was that their

starboard warp engine was damaged, and the delicate balance of power from both

engines needed to be in perfect equilibrium for successful warp maneuvering. The

second reason was their proximity to Omnicron I. A Warp Jump at this range would

undoubtedly distort the space around the Enterprise, and some effects could weaken

the shields of the Outpost even more than they were already.

        Omnicron I was coming under heavy disruptor fire as the Klingons

approached the final 1,000 kilometers.         It's shields were barely holding, and

amazingly, the K'Pak's were withstanding the pounding Sulu was dishing out to her.

The Enterprise was taking her apart piece by piece, but they just couldn't stop the

hell-bent vessel.

        Finally, Kirk stood and gasped, "Uhura, contact Mr. Thorn and tell him we’re

getting his people out of there! Prepare cargo transporters for emergency E-Vac!"

        Spock countermanded. "No time, Captain."

        Kirk cursed and shouted in frustration, "Sulu, I don't care if you have to ram
that vessel, keep it away from the Outpost!"
The Human Equation                      Page 14                                Natale




       Sulu brought the Enterprise past the red-line on impulse power and pitched

hard in front of the Klingon vessel. The saucer section collided with a resounding

BOOM against the remaining navigational wing of the starboard side, shearing it off

completely and sending debris whirling in all directions. The collision klaxon went

off, and joined the Red Alert Klaxon in virtually washing over the voices of the crew.

       Sulu brought the Enterprise hard about and began to bear down upon the

rapidly deteriorating Klingon vessel, now careening through space as little more

than a smoking fireball.

       "Our forward shields are down 65%, starboard shields absorbing wreckage,

Captain." Spock looked at Kirk and had to raise his voice. "The bulk of the Klingon

vessel is still on course. Estimated time to impact: forty five seconds."

       As they advanced closer to the Outpost, the Enterprise was still battling to

maneuver the bulky starship into the path of the Klingons.           Even without its

navigational wings, the ship was lightweight and more maneuverable than the

Enterprise on impulse power only. And, Kirk thought, her helmsman is giving Sulu a

run for his money.

       "Prepare to fire photon torpedoes! We'll have to destroy her and hope we

don't take Omnicron I with them."

       Spock immediately arched over his station. "Not enough, Captain. We could

only fire one salvo before they reach the Outpost. The drive section would survive

long enough for impact.”

       Kirk counted the seconds down with each heartbeat that he felt hammering

in his throat. Finally, he said, "Scotty, what about piggybacking the torpedoes

through the firing tubes?"
The Human Equation                      Page 15                                   Natale




       Scott looked at him like he had lost his mind. "Cap'n, if the firing sequence is

off even one millisecond, the torpedoes will impact with each other and the whole

ship will blow!"

       Kirk’s expression was hard; determined. "Then I'm leaving it up to you to

make sure the firing sequence is not off, Mr. Scott. Uhura, amend log entries and

jettison log buoys for the past month. Implement emergency emptying of photon

tubes on my obligation. On my command, Scotty...."

       Scott pounced on the engineering console and began quickly keying in

command strings and nullifying safety measures on the torpedo tubes. He relayed

the notification to the Photon Control Room via computer, it would be faster than

words. Once the sequence was tied in to the ship's computers, he opened a small

panel that had a keypad inside. He keyed a few commands into the pad, and

announced, "Sequence programmed, Captain. Weapons slaved to my board in five,

four, three, two, one..."

       "Ten seconds to impact!" Spock announced, meeting Kirk's stare.

       Uhura shouted, trying to drown out the Red Alert and Proximity Alert

Klaxons' shrieking. "Log buoys jettisoned, Starfleet Command standing by!"

       "Fire!" Kirk felt the ship roar as the torpedoes, now piggybacked on top of

each other, raced with split second accuracy, out of the tubes and towards the

Klingon ship. Kirk hoped his gamble would not be in vain. "Divert all power to the

forward shields!"

       A handful of bright streaks of scarlet light lit up the viewer. In the span of

two seconds, they homed in on the Klingon ship, all ten striking and detonating

simultaneously. The bridge crew shielded their eyes as the explosion radius grew to

3,000 kilometers. The Klingon scout erupted into thousands of fragments of burnt
and twisted metal, a direct hit in the engines vaporizing the bulk of the ship.
The Human Equation                        Page 16                                 Natale




         "Target destroyed, Captain." Spock announced, scanning the debris. "The

Outpost's shields have overloaded and there is some minor damage from debris to

her superstructure, but it is relatively intact."

         "We did it!" Kirk said quietly through clenched teeth.

         "And thot's not all, Cap'n," Scott began, a look of disapproval on his face.

"The Photon Control Systems are fused, totally useless. There's a level six breach in

forward tube numbers 1 and 3. The tube walls are scorched, but the superstructure

held."

         "How long before repair, Mr. Scott?"

         The Scotsman shot Kirk a sideways glare. "I'll need a Starbase for this one,

Cap'n.    She's off-line anyway sir, we've exhausted our torpedo supply on th'

Klingons."

         Uhura muted the assorted damage reports coming over the speakers, and

adjusted her earpiece. "Damage reports coming in from all stations, sir. Starboard

Engineering reports warp drive at 40% normal capacity, Photon Control reports an

extensive sensory overload in their targeting net."

         Scotty groaned.

         Kirk nodded. "Route a complete report to Mr. Scott, Lieutenant."

         "Aye, sir, downloading now." She withdrew a computer solid and began filing

the information onto it as the reports came in. Scotty was leaning over her shoulder,

shaking his head as he read the reports coming in.

         Kirk breathed a heavy sigh and wiped the sweat from his forehead with his

sleeve. "Lieutenant," he said to Uhura, "Cancel Red Alert, secure from General

Quarters. Inform Mr. Thorn we'll be beaming down in thirty minutes with his

permission. Convey my salutations and relief that the station is fine, etc., etc. "
The Human Equation                     Page 17                               Natale




       Uhura nodded, and Spock joined Kirk as he stood and straightened his

uniform. Scott cleared his throat and stood, a look of anticipation on his face.

"Cap'n," he began, and Kirk waved him off.

       "Granted, Mr. Scott, dismissed. I'll expect a damage report by the time we've

beamed back from Omnicron I."

       "You'll have it, Cap'n."

       "Captain," Spock began, "It is possible that there may be more Klingons in the

area. At least, we may logically assume that our presence here has been relayed

back to the Empire. I suggest we maintain condition Alpha, Yellow Alert."

       Kirk nodded towards Uhura, and she signalled for the condition shipwide.

One step below Full Red Alert, condition Alpha Yellow Alert kept Battle Stations

manned and ready, while systems were powered down and repaired.

       Kirk motioned to the Vulcan as he headed for the turbolift. "C'mon, Spock,

let's go to Sickbay and check the damage. Uhura," he called over his shoulder, "I'll

take Starfleet Command in my briefing room."

       The Vulcan followed him into the turbolift. As the doors began to close, Kirk

said, "Mr. Sulu, you have the conn."




Dr. McCoy sat back in his chair, put his feet up on his desk, and rubbed his eyes. He

peered across his desk at Kirk, sitting relaxed in a chair, and Spock, who stood with

his hands clasped behind his back.

       McCoy swallowed hard. "Thirty wounded, six dead."

       Kirk's eyes went to the floor, burning with anger. "Six too many," he said

through clenched teeth.
The Human Equation                        Page 18                                   Natale




         McCoy leaned forward. "They died of massive radiation trauma when the

starboard warp engine was hit.         They were killed instantly.       Considering the

circumstances, it could have been much worse, Jim.             The crewmen that were

wounded all have superficial wounds. Think of all the innocent people you've saved

on that Outpost."

         Kirk sat motionless for an instant longer, then said, "Route the files of the

deceased to my quarters, Doctor, I'll compose the appropriate communiques to their

families later today."

         McCoy nodded.

         Kirk and Spock headed for the door. Kirk looked over his shoulder and said,

"Meet me in Transporter Room 3 in twenty minutes, Doctor, you have landing party

duty."

         McCoy took his feet off of the desk and flipped his computer on to retrieve

the appropriate records. "Okay, Jim."




OMNICRON I, DILITHIUM MINING FACILITY
IN THE SPINWARD ARM OF THE OMNICRON SPIRAL


         Base Commander Michael Thorn reviewed his orders from the Federation

Starship. His eyes scanned the computer screen quickly, nervously. He sat in

Operation Command Center III, one deck below Base Operations, and close to his

personal quarters. He had made this area his personal study, a location where he

had access to the entire base through the computers without the curious eyes of the

rest of the facility. Rank had its privileges, after all. And its downsides, too.

         Stand by, the communiqué said. He sighed.
The Human Equation                      Page 19                                 Natale




       Thirty more minutes wouldn't make much of a difference...would it? After all,

the Federation starship did just eradicate the Klingon factor -- their Captain must

still be picking up the pieces now.

       Thorn didn't like the Federation diplomatic sort, they were usually

contemptuous of his work and even more so of his progress. Never good enough,

they would always say politely. He put up with them to insure the continuation of

funds for the research that they deemed so necessary, so crucial to the furthering of

the Federation and the galactic man.

       They literally poured funds into the facility, knowing that the fires of progress

were being fueled by one of the galaxy's most brilliant men -- Michael Thorn. What

they didn't realize was that he was conducting research of his own here, to benefit

himself as well as the Federation.

       Thorn had never met an actual starship captain, and though he would judge

the man when he met him, he was glad he had Federation backing once the

Klingons arrived. The Outpost had barely survived the bombardment by the Klingon

starships, and this Captain couldn’t possibly be as bad as a diplomat.

       Luckily, being so close to the Klingon Neutral Zone, it was standard

procedure to have shields raised at all times on an unarmed Research Facility. If

this was not the case, the Enterprise would likely have found a pile of atomized

neutronium and titanium...all that would have been left of Omnicron I and his years

of study and research.

       His dream -- a very nearly completed and realistic dream -- very nearly lost

within seconds over some political debate that the Federation Tribunal should have

sorted out years ago.

       Still, it puzzled Thorn as to why the Klingons had opened fire on the station.
Thorn knew what they wanted. It had been Thorn himself who had sent the
The Human Equation                      Page 20                               Natale




encoded transmission deep into Klingon space. But he hadn't counted on the

Klingons opening fire when they didn't receive a return hail on their predetermined

frequency.

       They must have thought he changed his mind. Damn savages! Didn't they

even consider that I might have been in the middle of a crucial experiment?

       Thorn rebuked himself for thinking he could deal on a civilized level with a

race as untamed as the Klingons. There were other powers, he knew. There were

other governments that would be interested in what he was selling.

       His second choice, the Romulans, weren't much more trustworthy than the

Klingons. However, like their Vulcan cousins, they at least had innately scientific

minds. Logic and curiosity would have at least delayed an attack on the station, and

then, he wouldn’t have been forced to call the Enterprise.

       But the Klingons weren't inquisitive, merely oppressive. When he had not

returned their hail promptly, they simply had opened fire.            That was what

concerned him, they didn't even seem to be interested in what the facility itself

might actually have to offer in the way of scientific spoils. Thorn had sent them an

offer of technology beyond their imaginings...technology with which to confront the

Federation once and for all.

       They hadn't even investigated it...they just began shooting.

       It was clear to anyone with even a medical tricorder that the asteroid

contained tremendous deposits of dilithium. If that's what they were after, they

could have pulverized the asteroid with their disrupters and towed the pieces home.

       Omnicron I had no offensive capabilities, only defensive screens and shields.

Part of the "Agreement" the Klingons and the Federation signed a decade ago. An

agreement that was known to everyone from here to the Orion Colonies as being
laughed at by every Klingon in uniform.
The Human Equation                          Page 21                                Natale




       So why the Enterprise? A distress signal had been gladly issued when the

Klingons began firing on Omnicron I, but Thorn had not wanted the Federation

flagship to respond...he didn't know if he could handle a starship captain. Especially

not this one, he thought, cursing his bad luck.

       Thorn mulled it over for a few more minutes, and finally decided that he

would have to get his answers from the Captain directly.             He will answer my

questions, and then I will decide what the future of the project is; not before.

       Thorn had many friends in the Federation Sciences Division. If he was forced

to, he would gladly pull every string, every favor, uncover every secret he knew

about certain members to get his facility relocated away from hostile territory and

out of the inquisitive eyes of Starfleet.

       His facility.

       Thorn snickered at his own audacity. He reminded himself that he was doing

the work of galactic mankind, that all would benefit by his discoveries here. The

future of the Federation and countless other worlds would be thrust into a new age

with the work that he and his comrades were doing. And, if his own personal

research were going as well as it seemed, then that was even more accurate. The

recent discovery had been a breakthrough, solving many problems that he himself

had been unable to conquer with conventional methods...

       Thorn picked up his drink and reminded himself that it was not likely that

this starship captain would approve of his work. No one had before, why should this

man be any different? Perhaps it would be best if the Captain remained ignorant of

my personal research, Thorn decided protectively. Only the official work here need

concern him.

       The door to Operation Command Center X scanned a lifeform outside the
door and chimed softly yet persistently. Thorn tilted his scotch back, basking in the
The Human Equation                      Page 22                               Natale




burn of the drink as it slid down his throat. He set the tumbler down softly on his

desk and waited for the chime to ring twice more. Finally, he sighed. "Come in."

          The door activated at Thorn's command, and slid open, revealing a man of

roughly forty years standing expectantly in the doorway. At least, at first glance, it

looked like a man. In actuality, Gart was a Tulmasian, a race who enjoyed the

pleasures of three distinct sexes; male, female and those of Gart's gender,

hermaphroditic. While males and females were both heterosexual with regards to

each other, both genders were intensely attracted to the Kafka, as they were called,

and regarded them as sort of a nobility within their own race.

          Thorn winced when he saw it was Gart. The kafka made him nervous and

uneasy. Mostly because it seemed so human, so much like a human man that flirted

with femininity. A slim build, very little muscular development, a lilting, almost

musical voice. Male features, yet no facial hair.

          Thorn knew that the kafka rarely sought sexual pleasure outside their own

species, but his ego kept him constantly wondering what the kafka was thinking

about him. Whenever Gart impaled him with his bottomless black eyes, Thorn

always thought the creature was seeing straight through to the very depths of his

soul...

          Thorn had met those of other races who preferred members of both sexes, or

even the same sex, and found it easily acceptable. Somehow, despite his liberal

feelings towards these preferences, he found himself sensitive and a bit offended at

the thought of Gart being attracted to him.

          "Commander," Gart began, a voice so dispassionate it sent chills down

Thorn's spine, "The Federation Captain and his landing party are awaiting consent

to beam down. He will require your presence, of course."
The Human Equation                      Page 23                                Natale




        Had it been thirty minutes all ready? "Of course, send my greetings and

authorize his landing party to beam to the Transporter Bay. Tell him we'll use our

transporters, Gart. Damned Starfleet protocol and all." When receiving guests, it

was the receiving party's responsibility to provide transport. This fit in perfectly

with his plans...

        Gart bowed low, not out of formality, but out of an annoying habit of his race

that the kafka had a heavy dose of.         He met     Thorn's eyes.     "As you wish,

Commander."

        As soon as the doors closed with Gart's exit, Thorn opened his desk and

pulled out a small bottle of mouthwash, unscrewed the cap, and swallowed a

mouthful. Not as flavorful as scotch, he noted, but just as necessary.

        It will not sit well to have even one drink on my breath, he thought. Thorn

blanched at the prospect of the imminent bureaucratic bull that would accompany

the Captain and his landing party, and stood and left his office.




Kirk, Spock and McCoy beamed down to the station's only receiving transporter pad,

an enormous cargo transporter twice the size of the Enterprise’s shuttlebay.      The

scientists on Omnicron I utilized the massive transporters to bring sizable

shipments of dilithium off of the asteroid as well as moving excavation equipment

out to it.

        They were greeted by a slim man wearing light sapphire robes. He stepped

away from the transporter console and folded his arms in front of him. Kirk took

this as some form of greeting, and stepped forward and offered him his hand. "I'm
Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation Starship Enterprise. This is my First Officer
The Human Equation                      Page 24                               Natale




Mr. Spock, and Chief Medical Officer McCoy. We're relieved that everything is

alright, Commander. My communications officer tells me there were no fatalities

here."

         The man seemed a bit surprised at Kirk's words, and quickly corrected,

"Excuse me, Captain, Commander Thorn will be here momentarily. I am his second

in command here at Omnicron I. My name is Gart. I bring thanks from the scientists

and their families at your successful repelling of the Klingon attack."

         Kirk was nonplussed at thanks coming from the second in command, he

reminded himself that this is not a military outpost. The ranks of the officers were

honorary, to offer some semblance of a command structure. Normally, Thorn would

have extended official thanks and gratitude, but Kirk had already forgotten about it.

         The doors to the transporter bay spread open with a soft hiss and

Commander Thorn walked in. He was dressed in a simple drab robe, with loose

fitting sleeves. Above his left breast, the symbol of the Federation Sciences Division

was emblazoned into the material. He had a shoulder length crop of sable hair with

gray highlights tied back in a thick ponytail, and a burly moustache rested above his

lips. He strode up to Kirk, and extended a hand, shaking it solidly.

         He flashed a winning smile at Kirk. "I am Base Commander Michael Thorn.

Pleased to have you here, Captain."

         Kirk made introductions once again, then stepped in behind Thorn and Gart

as they turned to leave the Bay. "We have a number of questions for you and your

staff, Dr. Thorn. Starfleet will want some answers as to the condition of my ship, and

frankly, I'm concerned with the Klingon interest in Omnicron I. Even so close to the

border, their mere presence is an act of War. Did they communicate to you what

they wanted? Demands; threats -- anything of the sort?"
The Human Equation                       Page 25                                 Natale




         Thorn frowned inwardly. This man didn't waste time. He made to speak, but

found he wasn't fully prepared for straightforward questioning like this. Instead of

answering Kirk, he said, "Captain, I believe that this conversation should be

reserved for another time, perhaps after you have had a tour of the Outpost? The

Klingons are gone, and the station is out of danger. I must admit I am still a bit

shaken. "

         Kirk did not waver at this flagrant attempt at misdirection. "Sir," he started

cordially, his features growing hard, "If I didn't make myself clear enough, the

Enterprise has just engaged in hostilities with an enemy vessel. An enemy vessel

that nearly incinerated this station. Six members of my crew are dead, and thirty

others injured badly. I will have a tour of your facilities -- an official one. However I

need the answers to some immediate questions so I can make a report as soon as

possible to Starfleet and to protect my ship. The Klingons have breached the Treaty

of Khalrani VII, and this could mean Intergalactic War. Surely your facilities tour can

wait?"

         Thorn stopped, openly disturbed by what Kirk had said. The winning smile

had vanished. "Very well, Captain, I misunderstood the importance of the situation,

please forgive my insensitivity. You must understand this is a experimentation

facility. We are not military men." He turned from Kirk and faced Gart. "Gart,

please prepare Operations Command Center V where we will give the Captain and

his officers an immediate debriefing."       Gart nodded and shuffled off rapidly,

disappearing around a corner up the hall. Thorn beamed at Kirk. "Sufficient?"

         Kirk returned the smile, and said, "Very, Commander. Proceed."

         As they resumed walking through the corridors of the Outpost, Spock

stepped forward, next to Thorn, and listened to the Commander's description of the
The Human Equation                   Page 26                      Natale




labs they were passing. Most of what he said was what McCoy always termed

Techno-Babble, and Kirk tuned the man out quickly.

       He turned to McCoy and scowled.
The Human Equation                     Page 27                                Natale




                                  CHAPTER TWO



       "And so, Captain," Thorn concluded his magnificent fabrication, "our sensors

picked the vessel up as soon as it de-cloaked. I of course attempted to hail them, but

they refused reception, and offered no return hail. They merely," he spread his

hands, "opened fire. I immediately dispatched a Priority One distress call, and

luckily, it was transmitted simultaneously to their activation of some sort of

jamming equipment. That's it, Captain."

       Spock stepped forward from behind Kirk and asked, "What exactly is here on

the station that the Klingons would want bad enough to risk interstellar war,

Doctor?" Thorn winced at this question, and Kirk caught it.

       Kirk stopped pacing and faced the man directly. "What is it, Dr. Thorn? Is

there something here that the Klingons want? Or something perhaps they don’t

want the Federation to have?"

       Thorn noticed surprise in Kirk's voice, as if the Captain couldn't believe that
there could be anything here that could warrant even his attention. Well, Thorn
The Human Equation                      Page 28                                Natale




thought, I have to tell them sooner or later. "I believe I know what it is the Klingons

should have wanted, Captain." Thorn paused, as if to appear doubtful, but was

pleased that the Captain was playing so well into his hands. "However, the logical

approach would have been for them to attempt to take it. They weren't interested

in our research. For some reason, they wanted Omnicron I destroyed."

       "What is it they should have wanted, Doctor?" Kirk was getting aggravated.

       Thorn stood. "I'll have to show you. I assume your officers are cleared,

Captain. They will need a level six security clearance if you wish them to accompany

us."

       Kirk nodded. "They have it. Let's go."




As they entered the Dilithium Cutting Labs, a duty officer immediately hurried

towards them and offered protective eye wear for each of them. The young officer,

eager to meet an actual starship captain yet bound by duty, looked at Thorn

inquisitively.   Thorn appeared nervous and said nothing.         Then suddenly he

remembered protocol.

       "Ah, yes, Captain, forgive me, we have so few visitors, sometimes procedures

elude me. Security Chief Thomas needs to see your Identification Codes. Strictly

routine, you understand. We must keep our records in order, you understand."

       "Understood, Doctor," Kirk said. He and McCoy withdrew their computer

solids, while Spock had already had his out, and was having it confirmed by the

Security Chief. The young man placed Spock's solid into a small tricorder-like

device. A moment later, he withdrew it and repeated the procedure with McCoy's

and then Kirk's.
The Human Equation                        Page 29                             Natale




       Security Chief Thomas was dressed in a plain grey tunic with the Federation

Sciences Division emblem stitched into the material. Not Starfleet personnel, Kirk

noted, then smiled at the man politely.

       "All is in order, Sirs." Thomas stepped out of their way. "You are cleared to

proceed."

       Thorn and Gart led the way into the jungle of machinery and cutting phasers,

following a precisely marked yellow line painted on the ground. Thorn spoke as

they walked.

       "This is the area where the unrefined dilithium is cut and made ready for use

in starships such as the Enterprise. Normally, the stones are cut using a multi-

phasing process known as Core Cutting.              The phasers bombard the dilithium

through polarity reversing lenses made of Corsalite XII from Acturas. As you know,

dilithium concentrates any energy directed at it and rebounds that energy back at

the source at many times its original strength. That is how it is able to filter the

matter/anti-matter mix in your engines and turn it into such vast, useable energy.

The polarity lenses invert the phaser beams, having the opposite effect."

       "The phasers cut the stones at many times their original power, with no

danger of rebounding," Spock concluded reasonably. "A highly efficient technique,

Doctor."

       Kirk smiled a forced grin and said, "Doctor?” Kirk hoped this prodding

would not go unnoticed. The man bothered him. He was obviously stalling, but for

what reason, Kirk couldn't guess. Perhaps it was just a case of the man being so

involved in his research that any outsiders brought on a sort of suspicion. Kirk had

seen it many times with scientists on Outposts like this. They get too attached to

their work and forget who pays the bills.
The Human Equation                       Page 30                             Natale




       Thorn grinned respectfully and nodded. "Not much further, Captain." They

walked past swarms of men in lab coats standing in small recesses set many yards

away from the safety zone walkway. Two men stood at either side of a deep black

lens, roughly four feet in diameter, placed between an immense cutting phaser and a

lump of dilithium. The stone was held aloft by two vise like prongs twenty yards

back. A third man stood behind the phaser, adjusting the control terminal bolted to

the floor right next to it.

       The phaser fired, and the men holding the lens turned it precisely in its

hinged holder. They pitched it forward at the instruction of the firing man, until he

yelled, "Clear!" and the men stepped back.

       Shards of dilithium leaped off the stone, some as large as six inches in

diameter. The phaser was cutting a small, one inch slice into the infinitely dense

material. The phaser shut down, and the men began setting up for another shot.

       Kirk watched through his filtered goggles, and became interested. "How long

does it take to cut a piece of dilithium that size, Doctor?"

       Thorn shrugged, looking back to see the stone Kirk was indicating. "Oh, four

to six hours to bring it down to a three inch piece suitable for emplacement in a

starship’s Intermix Chamber."

       McCoy nudged Kirk. "Scotty would love this, Jim."

       Kirk turned to respond, but Thorn stopped in front of an iron door. Two

armed lab technicians stood in front of it. Kirk glanced at the sidearms with open

interest. Heavy archaic weapons. Probably too dangerous to use energy weapons in

a place like this, he thought. Kirk was surprised that there were still no Starfleet

personnel here, but decided to save that question for later. If Starfleet was funding

this project, then why were lab technicians guarding a top secret area?
       "Here we are, gentlemen."
The Human Equation                     Page 31                               Natale




       The two sentries looked at Dr. Thorn curiously, and one stepped forward.

"Identity Solids, Sirs."

       The three men repeated the procedure as before, and this time, Thorn and

Gart handed the two their security clearances as well. Spock raised an eyebrow.

This was not lost on Kirk, who returned the Vulcan's puzzled expression.

       After the two guards cleared the way, Thorn turned before they entered.

"Gentlemen, what you are about to see is Priority One...Top Secret. This discovery

could well put the Federation fifty years ahead of the Klingons and the Romulans,

even with their cloaking technology. If you'll please follow me.”

       The three foot thick steel door opened silently, revealing a relatively small

chamber beyond. As the door opened, a hollow klaxon went off inside the area and

the intense light coming from a cutting phaser stopped. The twenty lab technicians

inside all removed their goggles and looked towards the five men entering curiously.

       When they entered and Thorn began talking, the lab supervisor in the room

called for an unscheduled break, and they began to file out of the chamber.

Everyone except the four security guards inside the room left.

       The walls of the rectangular chamber were lined from floor to ceiling with

computer banks.       In the center of the room, a spherical bank of computers

surrounded the cutting phaser and its controls. At the opposite end, facing a wall, a

small piece of an amber gemstone was held in a vise identical to the ones they had

seen outside.

       Behind the lump of dilithium, the wall was heavily armored with blast

shields; blackened and scarred from what appeared to be dissimilar sources of

energy. The stone, however, remained unblemished; rough and dull in contrast to

the wall behind it.
The Human Equation                         Page 32                                Natale




          "This," Thorn began as the door closed behind the last technician, "is one of

three pieces of what we have unofficially named "Trilithium". The asteroid you have

seen contains several metric tons of it. It is synonymous with dilithium to our

sensors, and the only way we have of verifying the difference is through actual

input/output energy tests. Mining the stuff is nearly impossible. It took our best

specialists six months to extract this sample, and we have been trying to cut it ever

since. Our results have been less than promising."

          Spock stepped forward, openly interested. "In naming it Trilithium, we can

assume that this stone generates a trinary energy field.”

          Thorn nodded. Kirk looked back and forth between the two, confused. “A

trinary energy field, Mr. Spock? I thought that was impossible?”

          The Vulcan clasped his hands behind his back and explained. “As you know,

Captain, di-lithium is named so due to its binary field it projects when exposed to

EM band emissions. Trilithium, therefore, must be named so due to a trinary energy

field."

          “Logical,” Kirk mumbled, still confused as to the actual scientific significance

of what Spock just said.

          Thorn nodded with respect. "Correct, Mr. Spock. We named it Trilithium

because it generates a trinary energy output field when exposed to multi-phasing

energy bombardment. We have as of yet been unable to contain the third field,

however. Its power is derived from a source we cannot define."

          Spock shot an eyebrow up, tilting his head. "Indeed."

          Thorn continued. "The difference between the two stones is only noticeable

within specific spectrums of energy. One of which is, of course, the derivative

energy when a matter-anti-matter reaction is propelled into the stone. A third
The Human Equation                         Page 33                                Natale




energy output field is projected.      During preliminary tests, this third field has

measured at least five times as strong as conventional dilithium output."

       "Fascinating," Spock commented, an eyebrow shooting upwards towards his

forehead.

       "Sure," McCoy interjected, seeming to follow the conversation, "but what

good is it if it can't be cut? You can't put it in a starship like that! Two minutes after

you reach warp speed, you'd go up like a sun!"

       "You have an extremely analytical mind, Doctor McCoy," Thorn said, smiling.

“And you have correctly guessed that therein lies our problem. The way the power

is filtered through the stone demands that a certain shape be attained through

cutting and processing. The increased energy is enormous, and must be controlled

through accurate filtering. A rough stone installed in an intermix chamber is far too

dangerous to be practical, but with the right knowledge, it can be made into the

stones like the ones you use on the Enterprise...safe and effective. We have a

working theory about a way to cut even this, though it is a bit dangerous. If you'll

please follow me."

       They walked towards the computers and the cutting phaser. Thorn indicated

the device. "This is no ordinary cutting phaser, Captain. We have taken the normal

unit, and enhanced its output. We filter the beam through a complex series of filters

and lenses, allowing only negative output to compose the end product, which strikes

the stone. A pure, anti-proton cutting phaser. So far, it is the only form of energy we

have been able to even scratch it with."

       Kirk frowned, saying, "That's a bit dangerous, Doctor Thorn."

       Thorn smiled an innocent smile, "Quite true, Captain, quite true. However, all

of the specialists who are working on the Trilithium Project are volunteers, and this
room has been specially built to withstand an overload of the phaser, should that
The Human Equation                      Page 34                                 Natale




tragedy ever occur.      We are working in the interests of galactic expansion,

progression towards parts of the universe we have yet to even dream of!"

       "At what cost, Doctor?" Kirk asked what seemed a rhetoric question. Though

he fully expected an answer, Spock interjected smoothly.

       "If this stone can be cut to allow the channeling of energy through it, Doctor,

how much more warp speed could a ship the size of the Enterprise expect to gain

given the constants of velocity and relativity with regards to a starship through a

warp continuum?"      Thorn rolled his eyes back in thought, then answered, "A very

crude estimate, you understand, but approximately 250 to 300% more power,

increased warp field dynamics, greater stability and control in warp continuum, oh,

the advantages go on and on. Furthermore, while standard warp speed is calculated

by the speed of light cubed by the warp factor, this would allow the warp output to

be factored by at least 5. We could break the Warp 10 barrier without actually

accelerating past it in the same Cochranian Continuum! The speed would be much

greater, while still retaining the original warp field dynamics."

       Kirk and McCoy looked at each other in vague understanding, while Spock

raised an eyebrow respectfully. "An illustrious achievement, Doctor. Have you

addressed the problem of matter reaching a Zero-Mass State?"

       Thorn shook his head.       "I don't think it would, Mr. Spock.      The speed

advantages would not result in an increase in warp field fluctuations, rather..."

       Kirk held his hands up, silencing the two. "Have you notified FSD Command

about this?"

       Thorn nodded. "Barely. I notified them of the discovery a month after we

found it. They sent an intelligence agent here to investigate the Outpost and secure

an official report. He left some time ago, and my orders were to proceed and report
every month. They decided against assigning Top Secret priority to the project.
The Human Equation                         Page 35                              Natale




They felt that the increased security and starship cover would arouse Klingon

interest."

         Kirk nodded. "Doctor, any ideas why the Klingons wouldn't have just beamed

down and taken what they wanted? They could have knocked your shields down

long enough to transport troops, and it was clear that they were not trying to disable

the station, they were trying to destroy it." Kirk paused, pacing and trying to

speculate on what could have happened. “Perhaps they know something about

this...Trilithium...that you don’t?”

         Gart looked sideways at Thorn, who tried not to return the glance. "No," he

said, innocently, "There’s no way they can even have found out about this -- we have

kept a tight lid on it.”

         "Then there is only one logical conclusion," Spock said. “We must assume

there is a Klingon agent stationed on Omnicron I.”

         Thorn looked openly skeptical, and McCoy stepped in, agreeing with the

Vulcan. “How else could the Klingons have been appraised of the work being done

here?”

         Kirk looked questioningly at Thorn.

         Thorn shook his head.         "I don't know.   Starfleet security monitors all

communications incoming and outgoing. Every one here has at least a level four

security clearance. I don't think the leak was from Omnicron I, Captain. But, I

suppose that’s what you’re here to find out, right?"

         Kirk nodded, but on the inside, he knew this was false. Something about this

place was wrong, he could feel it. He had smelled it before, in a hundred places on a

hundred different worlds. This station bore the same scent of danger and treachery

that was as familiar to him as the scent of a favorite lover's perfume.
The Human Equation                      Page 36                               Natale




       "Thank you, Doctor, we'll make our report and contact you as soon as

possible." Kirk reached into his belt and withdrew his communicator, flipping it

open and bringing it up to his mouth in one deft motion. "Kirk to Enterprise. Three

to beam up."

       Thorn laid a gentle hand on Kirk's arm. "Captain, you'll have to do that out in

the corridors. The labs are shielded against transporter and sensor beams."

       Kirk looked annoyed and walked out of the chamber, heading for the door

into the corridor. Spock and McCoy followed. Sure enough, Scotty was signalling on

Kirk's frequency.    Half way to the door, Kirk opened his communicator again,

hearing the Scotsman in midsentence.

       "...Scott to Captain Kirk. I canna get a lock on ye. Please Confirm. Scott to

Captain...come in Captain..."

       "Re-establish lock-on, Mr. Scott, and energize."            Kirk closed the

communicator and placed it back into his belt. A moment later, the transporter

consumed them.

       Thorn and Gart stood in the hall and watched them go. "It seems," Gart

began, his voice lilting lightly, "that the Captain will make his report after all,

Commander."

       Thorn nodded grimly. "Yes," he began to pace, while Gart merely stood still

and watched him carefully, "as long as he reports what he has seen, there will be no

problems here. If he begins to poke around, we may have to eliminate him."

       Gart seemed concerned at this, and stepped aside Thorn, the two of them

resuming their walk down the corridor. "Your choice of words...eliminate? Michael,

does it appear that this will be necessary?"
The Human Equation                     Page 37                                Natale




       Thorn hated it when Gart called him Michael. Again, he couldn't figure out

why, it was just something about the kafka. "Yes, I think it is. Are you beginning to

have second thoughts, Gart?"

       Thorn flashed him a dangerous look, which Gart detected and processed.

Gart chose his next words carefully. "Of course not, I believe wholly in our work

here, Commander. However, I do not believe the elimination of a Starship Captain

can be accomplished without undue suspicion. There would be a Board of Inquiry,

Investigators, a virtual morass of bureaucratic bafflement. I believe that if our work

could be accomplished on a schedule congruent to the Captain's elimination, then

perhaps..." Gart let the sentence lay on the ground like a wounded animal, begging

to be picked up.

       Thorn obliged. "Of course, this all assumes that this Captain is the sort of

man who will delve too deeply into matters which are of no concern to him."

       Gart laughed, a soft chuckle really, and said, "I reviewed his file." Gart

glimpsed sidelong at Thorn again. "Perhaps you should review it as well, Michael."




USS ENTERPRISE



Kirk and Spock met McCoy in Briefing Room 3 on Deck 6, each carrying small

computer solids in their hands as they entered. Kirk walked in last, and spoke

without hesitation. "Bones, what do you have on Thorn?"

       McCoy put the solids into the computer. "Computer, Identify for Retina Scan.

McCoy, Leonard H., Chief Medical Officer, USS Enterprise."
       A moment later, the computer signalled confirmation. "Identity Confirmed."
The Human Equation                      Page 38                                Natale




       "Display medical scans of subject: Base Commander Michael Thorn,

Omnicron I Outpost. Access today's medical logs; reverse playback minus one-

twenty."

       The data came up on the screen, and Spock and Kirk looked over McCoy's

shoulder. "Nothing too unusual about Thorn - Human, age forty-one, excellent

health. The other man, er, ah, being," McCoy continued, scrolling past the rest of the

details about Thorn, "is a bit unusual. Gart is a Tulmasian. I had to look it up in the

library computer to correlate the readings I got from it."

       "Tulmasian?" Kirk repeated, confused.

       "The Tulmasians," Spock began, "are a trisexual species, having both male

and female genders, as well as a third hermaphroditic gender. The correct term for

Gart, Doctor, would be kafka, not he or she, and certainly not it."

       McCoy scowled at Spock. "My apologies, Mr. Spock, if my feelings offend you,

but we Humans are uncomfortable around anything that just isn't...well, natural!"

       Spock rolled his eyes ever so slightly. "Doctor, you have a most illogical habit

of attaching Human values and sentiments to completely non-human cultures and

beings."

       McCoy looked Spock up and down deliberately.            "Why, Mr. Spock," he

answered grinning proudly, "I believe you're right. Perhaps I do."

       Kirk saw Spock's mouth open in retort, and intervened. "Gentlemen, we've

no time for this, we have alot of work to do. Spock, what did you find in the library

computers about Thorn?"

       "Doctor Michael Thorn," Spock began, his hands clasped behind his back as

he started to pace, "was the youngest member of the Federation Sciences Division

ever to be awarded the Galactic Nebula Award for his research and assistance in
transporter technology. The transporter had been in use for fifteen years before
The Human Equation                     Page 39                               Natale




Thorn's redesign of it cut down beaming time from two minutes to the thirty

seconds it takes now.      He holds Masters Degrees in Theoretical Propulsion,

Transporter Technology, and Dilithium Properties and Practical Use. His Ph.D.'s

include Genetic and DNA Theory, Xenobiology, and several other non-essential

fields. Dr. Thorn's work with the Federation has included early stage research of the

dilithium powered intermix chamber which is now standard equipment on all

Federation Starships."

       "Early stages?" Kirk was curious.

       The Vulcan elaborated. "Dr. Thorn submitted designs and plans for the

intermix chamber along with several others in the field. When each was evaluated

separately, the Federation Sciences Division rejected his as unreliable. Instead,

another young ambitious scientist, Dr. Gregory Rippe was awarded the contract.

Thorn resigned from the project, insisting that Rippe had stolen his ideas and

switched his plans with Thorn's. The matter was investigated, and Dr. Rippe was

cleared of all charges."

       "Interesting," Kirk said, his brow furrowed in thought.

       McCoy released his gaze from Spock and relaxed in his chair. "What is it all

about, Jim? Why all the secret medical scans, the EYES ONLY transmission from

Starfleet this morning? What have we gotten into?"

       Kirk and Spock glanced to each other, saying nothing but communicating as

they often did without words.

       “Well I wish someone would tell me,” McCoy interjected, picking up on the

unspoken communication between Spock and Kirk.

       Kirk paced for a short minute, then decided to brief McCoy. He would need

his Chief Medical Officer's skills in the next few days, perhaps weeks, and McCoy
would work better knowing what was happening.             "Bones, Starfleet sent an
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emergency transmission to me twelve hours ago. Among other things, they said the

Klingon High Command had lodged a formal protest and complaint with the

Federation Tribunal against the research here at Omnicron I."

       "I can see why," McCoy said reasonably.        "If Dr. Thorn succeeds in his

research, the Federation will be the new big boy on the block."

       Kirk nodded, "Yes, Doctor, but when the Klingon Ambassador was asked how

they knew of the research that was being conducted on a Federation Outpost, they

responded by saying that they had received an anonymous message containing Top

Secret files transmitted from Omnicron I. They refused to elaborate, claiming they

knew nothing more. Spock isnt the only one who thinks there's a Klingon agent on

the station. The Federation wants it investigated."

       McCoy frowned. "That doesn't make sense, Jim. The Klingons know we don't

want war with them. Why would they think advances in warp dynamics could pose

that much of a threat to them?"

       "Quite correct, Doctor," Spock agreed. “The Federation Tribunal believes that

the Klingon agent must have discovered something else on Omnicron I. When they

reviewed the recordings made automatically at the time of the accusation, the

Tribunal discovered     that   the Klingon Ambassador reacted strangely to the

Tribunal's response. It was as if the Ambassador realized at that moment that the

Tribunal actually knew nothing of what he spoke."

       "That's the problem, Bones. The Ambassador kept silent about exactly what

it was that caused them to lodge a complaint with the Tribunal. Klingon Psychology

Experts say he's hiding whatever the truth is in hopes of using it against the

Federation, now that he knows we know nothing about it."

       McCoy spread his hands reasonably. "Well that explains the concealed scans
you ordered me to make when we beamed down, but why on Thorn?"
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       "We needed to know if we could trust him. The Klingon agent isn't likely to

actually appear Klingon.     More likely that he is altered in some way, either

genetically, surgically, or perhaps not at all. The Klingons are experts at mind

subversion through drugs and brainwashing, it could be anything."

       McCoy shrugged. "So how are we supposed to find this agent, Jim? If the

Klingons have used a mind altering drug in some way, it isn't likely it would show up

on anything but an extremely detailed scan. And what if we're wrong...what if the

security leak isn't someone on the station?"

       Kirk shrugged. "I don't know. Starfleet doesn't want to shut the project

down. The Trilithium discovery is too important. Despite what is going on under

the surface, if the scientists are able to complete their work, the Federation would

gain a scientific breakthrough comparable to the discovery of Warp Drive."

       "Indeed," Spock said. "It is highly unlikely that the Klingons knew of the

project and did not attempt to gain the knowledge. Logic would dictate that..."

       Kirk finished the statement for Spock. "....Someone, somewhere is lying to

Starfleet Command."
The Human Equation                      Page 42                                Natale




                                  CHAPTER THREE



STARDATE: 3228.7
USS PEGASUS, a PALADIN Class Destroyer
near the Romulan Borders



       Captain John Striker sauntered across the forward bridge, gazing into the

viewer precariously.   A small vessel tilted at an impossible angle off the Pegasus’

forward bow. Even the comparatively unsophisticated sensors that fed the signals

to the viewer computer picked up the heavy scars in the ships outer hull.

"Lieutenant," Captain Striker began, turning to the sciences station, "Report, please."
       The young man lifted his face from the sciences viewer, correlating his sensor

readings for a moment. "Mission Class Scout Ship, unidentified in Starfleet Registry,

sir. Her identification beacon is damaged, excessive damage to warp drive, impulse

drive at 50% power, life support failing, sensors destroyed, heavy radiation in the

surrounding area. The scars on outer hull appear to have been caused by heavy

plasma fire. Unknown's superstructure has reached critical state: it's in danger of

collapsing, sir."

       The Communications officer interjected, "Their distress call is continuing,
Captain."
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       Striker swore to himself. They don't even know we're here. "Put it on audio,

Lieutenant."

       The man complied, and the bridge was filled with a clamorous, static filled

message. "Mayday, Mayday! To any Federation Starship in this sector, this is the

Merchant Ship Colossus. We have been attacked by Romulan Scout ships on the

Federation side of the Neutral Zone....life support system failing, warp drive and

impulse out....super structure, main computer, and neutronic coils nearly

destroyed....Requesting assistance....please, respond!"

       A short glance from Striker sent the science officer's gaze back to the sensors.

       "Confirmed," Krumm reported from sciences, bent over his scanning

equipment. "All damage is verified and is consistent with Romulan plasma fire."

       Striker noted the desperate tone in the man's voice and recognized the

accent as that of British, from Earth. "Sciences, make an intensive sweep of the area,

report anything that could be a cloaked ship."

       The science officer gazed back at the Captain blankly. Striker sighed and said,

"Do the best you can, Lieutenant." Turning to the Communications Officer, he said,

"Open a channel to that ship."

       "Channel open, Sir."

       "Merchant Vessel, this is Captain John Striker of the Federation Starship

Pegasus. Repeat...Merchant Vessel...”

       A moment of sharp static and feedback was quickly quelled by the

communications officer. The voice that came through the link was shaky, yet was

suddenly filled with hope at the sound of Striker's voice. "Pegasus? From the

Federation? Thank God! We are in desperate need of assistance, you must help us,

please! We have twenty crew left alive, but barely! Can you assist, Pegasus?"
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       Striker marched to his chair and pushed the comm button. "Engineering,

prepare to lower shields and beam survivors aboard at my command." Then,

turning back to the viewer, he continued. "Colossus, prepare to beam your survivors

aboard. Will you be needing medical assistance?"

       The voice came back more desperate. "Negative, Pegasus. We've managed to

stabilize the few wounded left alive. I'm afraid the others...didn't make it." A

moment of grim silence, then the pained voice continued. "Standing by. Ready to

transport on your mark."

       "We'll use our transporters, Colossus, yours cannot be considered reliable

due to your coil output. Confirm."

       The voice was elated. "Whatever you say, Pegasus. Thank God you're here!"

       "Engineering," Striker said, "Use the cargo transporters to beam all twenty of

them aboard at once. I don't want the shields lowered any longer than they have to

be."

       "Aye, Sir. Standing by."

       The tall, redheaded Susan Mullaney, First Officer of the Pegasus, strode up

silently behind her Captain. "Captain, it is my duty as First Officer to point out that

we are now in violation of General Order #48: `When contact has been made with an

unidentified and unregistered vessel claiming to be allied with the Federation, no

action shall be taken until positive identity is confirmed.'"

       Striker nodded to the woman. "I know, Mr. Mullaney, we haven't got time to

contact Starfleet. You heard the man -- time is short." He pressed a small button on

the comm unit on his chair. "Let the log show that I, Captain John Striker, am

initiating rescue maneuvers on my authority as Captain of the USS Pegasus. End

Log." He looked to Mullaney, who -- apparantly satisfied by this action -- nodded
and went back to her position.
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       Striker looked at sciences, and the young man glanced back, shaking his head.

"I read all clear, Captain."

       Captain Striker tugged on his uniform, straightening it. "Engineering, lower

shields and energize. Colossus, energizing transporter beam now."




In the cargo bays, the transporters locked onto fourteen lifeforms and beamed them

aboard. The transporter chief was adjusting the console's fine tuning in transit to

compensate for the transportation of lifeforms in a unit that normally only

transported cargo and other non-living matter.

       Her head was still down, absorbed in monitoring the flux indicators when the

crew of the Colossus materialized. She never saw her killers, only heard the familiar

whine of a phaser set to kill a nanosecond before it struck her in the chest.




On the bridge, the moment after Striker had given the order to energize, Lieutenant

Krumm at sciences sprang upright. "Captain, I just detected a transporter beam

originating from the Colossus."

       Striker quickly crossed the space between them, leaning over Krumm's

shoulder. "Are you sure?"

       As if in answer, six pillars of fuzzy light began forming on the bridge. It took a

moment to realize what was happening, as the beams were silent, and their

composition was definitely not Federation technology.
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          Striker merely gaped in awe, while everyone else stood from their stations.

The beings that materialized were a mixture of men and women; three of each. All

human, but by no means the survivors of a starship attack.

          Rather, they looked as if they could provoke one.

          They all had a hard-edged look about them, and they all wore some form of

protective armor. Each held a weapon, trained on the respective officers at their

stations. From various belts and holsters, each carried at least one more pistol or

phaser of differing type. Strapped to their legs, held in place by flamboyantly carved

scabbards, each wore a long, thin sword. Their pommels were not unlike the

Samurai swords of Feudal Japan, Striker noted.

          One man, heavily armored in powered plasteel armor, held a steel pistol with

an immense chamber trained on the Captain. The firing chamber was already

warm; the eerie scarlet glow reflecting off the surface of the radiant armor. The man

reached up with his gauntleted fist, and removed his visored helmet.

          "Good morning, Captain." The man's voice matched the one they had heard

over subspace, there was no doubt. But now, it lacked the desperation and frailty it

had when they spoke only minutes ago. Now, it held strength, authority, threats. He

spoke in flawless English, a heavy British accent forming each word fastidiously.

          "Now, if no one moves, we shall have no injuries.        I expect your full

cooperation, of course, Captain."

          Striker's expression grew rigid and severe. Well, he thought, isn't he damned

polite?     "Who the Hell are you?" Striker demanded, striding forward proudly,

seemingly unaware of the weapon aimed at his head. "What is it you want? How

dare you..."
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       The man who held the gun took one step forward and pressed the barrel

firmly against his temple. "Do shut up, Captain." Mullaney had moved forward,

ready to pounce as the Englishman spoke, but Striker held her at bay with a gesture.

       The other five men and women were fanning out around the bridge, frisking

the officers for weapons and then lining them up against the viewer, hands over

their heads, backs to their Captain.

       Lieutenant Krumm attempted a badly aimed strike at one of the women, who

deftly dodged the attack and fired her weapon point blank. Krumm crumbled into a

sheet of reddish vapor as the remainder of the crew stared in horror.

       The blond Englishman said, "Is there anyone else who wishes to join their

mate?" Silence from around the bridge. At last, the man lowered the weapon,

though he still trained it on Striker's heart. "Captain, I intend to take this vessel, and

I will execute every last crewmember to a man, if I must. However, undeserved

violence can be avoided if you cooperate. Now," the man suddenly broke into a

dazzling smile. "What do you say, hmm?"

       Striker glimpsed around the bridge. The officers were standing against the

viewer, effectively subdued. Two of the terrorists guarded them with weapons

trained at their backs. The other two women and remaining man were beginning to

occupy the various stations, the females at the helm and navigator stations, the man

at sciences. One of his bridge crew was dead, God only knows what's happening in

the transporter room...

       "Alright, dammit," Striker snapped, "I'll cooperate on one condition..."

       The Englishman burst into a fit of controlled, terse laughter. "Conditions,

Captain? Oh, come now..."

       Striker was nonplussed. "...You'll need certain members of my crew to run
this ship effectively, but I must have your word you'll release the rest of the crew as
The Human Equation                      Page 48                                 Natale




soon as possible -- unharmed." Striker attempted to sound authoritive, but he knew

it wasn't very effective at the business end of another man's weapon.

       The Englishman seemed to consider it for a moment, then turned to the man

who was sitting at the sciences station. "Did you get that, David?"

       From behind Striker, the man nodded, holding up a small brown box with

three blinking orange lights on the top. "Right here," the man answered, smiling a

wolf-smile at the Captain. “Every last word.”

       "Thank you, Captain." The Englishman nodded to his companion, then

glanced back at the Captain.      "Goodbye."      Smiling, he swept his gun up with

spectacular speed, pressing it against Striker's head and pulling the trigger in one

skillful motion.     The weapon made no report, it fired its bullet magnetically,

eliminating noise and recoil - and the Captain - in one fell swoop.

       The crew turned at the sound of Striker's body smacking the carpeted bridge

floor, a thin fountain of blood sprouting up from the neat hole in the front of his

head. The two men guarding the rest of the crew had already heated their weapons.

They spread a veil of phaser fire that engulfed the Pegasus’ bridge crew in seconds.

       A moment later, all of the officers of the USS Pegasus lay dead on their bridge.

       The Englishman took a profound breath, and held his hand out to his

companion at sciences. The man handed him the small box. "Thank you, David."

       He cleared his throat and pressed one of the diodes on the cube, holding it

close to his clean shaven face. "Attention crew, this is Captain Striker. All personnel

are to immediately report to the shuttlebay for an emergency priority one

debriefing.   Repeat...All personnel, active and off-duty are to assemble in the

shuttlebay for an emergency priority debriefing. Striker out."

       David looked at the Englishman and said, "Jack, we should have AI systems
slaved into the bridge computers in about an hour. Until then, we'll have about 45%
The Human Equation                        Page 49                                   Natale




efficiency without a full crew; the twenty of us can handle it adequately, I should

think."

          Jack nodded. "Get to work then. Put a priority on changing the Prefix Code. I

don't want any surprises if we meet another Federation starship. I'll need silence

for a moment, please." He turned the tiny box over and opened a panel in the back,

withdrawing a small cord. He set the box down in the command chair. Opening a

small hatch in his armor, he retrieved his electronic toolkit.

          He then opened panel on the command chair's arm. He reached for the box,

tying it into the comm unit. He pressed a third diode on the box, and after a

moment, the lights began blinking orange again. The intercom sounded and the

message Jack just recorded played over every intercom and wall unit in the ship.

          In a perfect match to the so recently departed Captain Striker's voice.

          Jack unhooked the box from its connections and sighed. "Well." He tossed

the box back to David and sat down in the command chair. "There it is, then."

          The two men piled the bodies in one corner of the bridge, and then using a

standard issue phaser, disintegrated the mutilated corpses.

          Jack withdrew a small Orion made communicator and flipped it open. "Team

Two, this is Mother Goose, status report, please."

          "Mother Goose, this is Team Two. We are in the cargo transporter room,

armed and ready to go whenever you give the word."

          "Negative, Team Two. Seal the doors to the cargo bay and do not leave until I

give the word. Initiating plan SCORE FOR GLORY. Acknowledge, please."

          "Acknowledged, Mother Goose. Team Two out."

          Jack closed his communicator. A long moment passed on the bridge. The five

others were going about their work, tearing the guts out of each of the bridge's
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terminals, and using some form of Artificial Intelligence Interface to slave them all

together. Soon, all of the systems aboard would be controlled solely by the bridge.

       It was a delicate tactic, Jack knew, but he didn't plan on taking her into battle.

The chances of the bridge's systems going out under normal circumstances were

next to impossible.

       "This had better work," grumbled one of the men. "if we can't slave all the

ship's functions through the bridge, we'll have needed those men and women alive."

       Jack looked towards the man, then flashed his smile. "Oh, of course it will

work. The good doctor is one of the Federation's brightest little boys -- and one of

the most well funded, too. It must work."

       Jack turned his attention back to the viewer, seeing his old vessel hanging

there, useless. The AI systems had better work, Jack thought privately, or the good

doctor will have me to answer to...

       A few minutes later, Jack sighed and turned to David, who was manning both

communications and sciences, his skilled hands dancing over the rows of controls

that ran the computer core of the starship.

       "David, as soon as all department heads report green from the shuttlebay,

override all controls to the interior, lock the entrance ways, then open the exterior

bay doors."




USS ENTERPRISE



       Captain Kirk awoke the next morning early, and decided to go to the gym for
a workout before duty. He had a few hours before his scheduled duty-time, and
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what the hell, he was Captain. A strong workout always sweated away the thoughts

that could sometimes gnaw away at him about the headaches of command.

        He threw on some sweats and a tank top, grabbed his towel and shower bag

(he preferred real, hot water as opposed to the sonic shower) and made his way to

the Officer's Gymnasium. As he entered, he was surprised to see it full so early in

the morning. He usually did his workout before turning in at night, but infrequently

he had days like this, where he was up before the changing of duty shifts.

        Some officers were working out before shifts, others had gotten off duty early

and were working out before they retired for the cycle. They all straightened and

greeted him with "Captain," or "Sir", but he dismissed their attempts at formality.

        "As you were, everyone. I’m here for the same thing as you." Kirk threw his

towel and shower bag into the corner of the room, and walked over to the weights.

His left shoulder had been giving him trouble recently, so he decided to give it a few

extra pounds on the curling bar.

        As he worked his body into a heated, sweating state of awareness, his mind

began wandering back to the very thing that he came here to escape.

        The station. The Klingons. What was down there on that station that could

make the Klingons want to destroy it? It was possible, Kirk decided as he moved to

the next workout station, that the Klingons had taken what they wanted and were

trying to destroy the station merely to insure that the Federation was denied their

work.

        Something about that theory bothered him. A new form of warp propulsion

in the Klingon's hands could spell war between the two superpowers. If they had an

agent working on the station, and they got what they wanted, why not just leave and

not take the chance of letting the Federation know that you've got it?
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       Kirk reminded himself that it was believed that the Trilithium Project wasn't

what the Klingons had wanted. But if not that, what? Doctor Thorn certainly wasn't

talking, and Starfleet doesn't know. That left himself and his crew the task of finding

out what.

       He smiled to himself at the definitive nature of command. Kirk knew when

he had left his cabin for the gym that once here, the gold stripes on his uniform

would lag behind him, even if only in his mind. He finished his workout a short time

after that, picked up his things and headed for the shower, wiping the sweat from

his face as he walked.
The Human Equation                      Page 53                             Natale




                                  CHAPTER FOUR


Klingon High Council Chambers
Kronos, Homeworld of the Klingon Empire



       The Capital city Ch'Kree held the governmental quarter and its buildings and

ministries were the tallest on all Kronos. Their architecture was mostly sharp and

military in design, the governmental buildings being constructed of the simplest of
geometric figures. The walls had a tendency to slant down at angles congruent to

the ground, but that was the extent of any attempt at style.

       The atmosphere on Kronos suffered from everyday electrical storms, the low

pressure system never quite removing itself from hovering over the city. It hung

ominously, like some Dark God of ancient myth, hurling thunderbolts down on the

populace.

       But here, the inhabitants reveled in the storms.

       It was rumored among the inhabitants of that city that lightning was a good
omen, as it signified the favor of the Klingons over all other races by The Stars.
The Human Equation                      Page 54                                Natale




When lightning struck, it could only bring the will of The Stars and with it, all the

things that The Stars held dear...honor and duty and courage.

       Captain Koth of the Imperial Battle Legion walked towards the monstrous

Council Center. The gates allowing entrance to that quarter opening as the guards

recognized him and let him pass. The sky split with the resounding shriek of a

lightning bolt, and Koth glanced skyward absently.

       The omens are favorable, it seems. This bodes well for the Empire, he thought

automatically, and continued to march towards the Council Chambers.

       The Klingon High Council met once every two weeks, when the mysterious

clouds of Kronos parted and revealed the planet's triple moons. Tonight was such a

night. The moons hung in concurrent orbit, and though thousands of miles apart in

space, from the surface they appeared to overlap in a triangle fashion.

       It had been thousands of years ago when the first Klingon to dream of

unifying the then warring clans looked to The Stars for inspiration and derived the

symbol of Klingon unity from those moons. A trefoil triangle, superimposed over a

single sphere.

       The thought of his ancestors stirred Koth's blood. He began to long to be

away from here and back to his patrol along the Federation borders. There, he could

answer the call that swept like a raging inferno through his spirit...the call to glory

and honor and battle among the stars with his people’s ancient enemy.

       Koth wondered what mission of glory and honor the High Council had in

store for the Empire tonight. An emergency session was called, and though the time

of the meeting remained the same, the emergency status called all officers of the

rank of Commander or higher from their duty posts. Klingons were nothing if not

creatures of duty, and to have them recall the bulk of their senior commanders back
to the homeworld was an unprecendented event.
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       It had been declared only twice in the past. The first had been when the

Empire had declared war on the Romulans, then the second, with the Federation.

But both of those conflicts were hundreds of years in the past. Will the horns of war

sing their grim battlesongs again tonight, Koth wondered? With an effort, he quelled

his wishful curiosity, his trained mind reminding him that the Council would inform

him quickly enough.

       As he entered the Grand Halls, he was astonished by the sheer number of

Klingons in attendance tonight. He had anticipated an uncommon number, but

could not recall when he had seen the Grand Hall so full.

       The two aisles of audience seats ran the length of the hundred foot long hall,

with the Council's seats sitting between them, at the far end. The High Council's

spokesman, Admiral Kuv'ak, would occupy the raised center seat, while the six

Klingons to his left and six to the right would sit around the table, a few feet lower.

       Koth glanced around the room, recognizing many warriors from various

campaigns, some from duty sectors that were weeks from here at space-normal

speeds. He felt pride at being included in such an assembly of fierce warriors, and

he strode up to a Klingon he had been comrades with for many years, slapping him

on his back in greeting.

       The swarm of conversation ceased when the curtain behind the council's

seats swung open, and the thirteen Klingons of the High Council strode in. All

around the Grand Hall, the assembled captains, commanders and battle-lords found

seats among the bleachers.

       Admiral Kuv'ak was the most intimidating, garbed in his special ceremonial

battle armor that was more grand than the standard issue that all the High Council

wore. The metal breastplates were polished to a mirror sheen, and the black leather
The Human Equation                       Page 56                                Natale




was of the deepest jet. It was only ceremonial in the sense that it was well kept. He

wore it as much as for his own protection as his image.

         Rivalries were still common among the opposing families in the Empire, and

assassination was still the accepted means of ascension through the ranks, with only

the strong and most cunning Klingon families surviving. Each council member had

bribed, killed and politically extorted their way onto the Council, and every warrior

in the room would have it no other way.

         Those with enough power to rise to one of the thirteen most powerful

stations in the entire Empire deserved to rule over the others. That was the Klingon

Way.

         Finally, the Grand Hall fell silent and Admiral Kuv'ak stood. All others in the

room stood after him.       "I call this Emergency Session to order," he boomed.

Everyone saluted the Council in the Klingon fashion; a fist slapped against the chest

and then extended outward toward the Admiral, and then sat.

         Koth studied Kuv'ak for a moment, and decided he noticed something in the

Admiral's features that worried him.        Kuv'ak looks as if something profound is

weighing on his mind, thought Koth. Perhaps the lightning was not a stellar omen

after all...

         The Admiral stretched back in his seat and nodded to a Klingon who sat in

the bleachers close by. The warrior stood, and Koth recognized him as Kra'Tul, of

the Imperial Intelligence Legion. The IIL were the finest of the Klingon battle

commanders, and were given the most prestigious assignments, and the most

dangerous. Kra'Tul had been in the IIL for ten years, a respectable tour of duty for a

Klingon.

         During peace-ridden times like these, the IIL were the ones capitalizing on
the perilous assignments, and the other warriors were envious. Koth grumbled low
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in his throat, as well as others around the room, and rattled their weapons to show

their displeasure. Shouts and curses followed Kra'Tul to the floor, where he began

to speak, his voice silencing the growls from his audience.

       "Sixteen hours ago, not one parsec from our Spinward Borders, we received

word of Federation collusion and a plot to annihilate the Klingon race!"

       The Council sat in silence and watched as everyone sprang to their feet and

began bellowing.     Everyone was talking at once, but the Council sat dormant,

observing the entire affair like a nest of patient spiders lurking in their webs.

       Koth stood with the rest, but only to gain a better view of the Council. He was

an older warrior, more accustomed to the political games the Council played with its

commanders and field warriors. He saw plainly the ploy to rouse the Klingon

temper for what it was. A few other commanders his age were looking to each

other, hoping to read some sign in another's face as to the reason for this rising of

the bloodlust. Koth kept his face empty; unreadable, as did most of the others.

       Finally, Admiral Kuv'ak stood, and a few heartbeats later, everyone lowered

their voices to a dull roar and sat obediently.        "Kra'Tul, please manifest your

testimony."

       All heads turned towards the wall sized viewer at the end of the Grand Hall.

On it, a data disk was being played back. The screen went black, then gave way to

the symbol of the United Federation of Planets Sciences Division. After that, an

image of a human male filled the screen.           He spoke towards some unknown

recording device, a scientific lab barely discernable in the background.

       Beneath the image, the translation into Klingon was displayed in bright

yellow characters. "Personal log, Dr. Michael Thorn reporting. We have made a

significant breakthrough in the power transfer tests of the Trilithium sample
gathered as detailed in log entry 200.DTL."
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       "Hold," commanded Kra'Tul. The image froze. "Trilithium. A derivative of

dilithium, this new energy source has been reported to improve warp dynamics to

such an extent as to make breaking the warp 10 barrier an attainable feat!" He let

the innuendo hang for a moment, then flamboyantly spun towards the viewer again.

"Resume!"

       The recording continued.      "...and I have been attempting to fabricate a

practical containment field for the fragment, but tying it into the transporter has me

perplexed. It seems to be a simple matter of excessive power. The circuits and

relays overloaded the first time we attempted a routine transport."

       "Hold," Kra'Tul commanded again. "Here we see the corporeal stratagem

behind the Federation's discovery of Trilithium. This scientist does not speak of the

warp dynamics or the significant breakthroughs in speed and power, but rather, he

speaks of an unprecedented kind of transporter, further proving that they are

working on something other than propulsion research! Resume!"

       The image continued. "...are going to attempt to redesign the prototype

transporter to allow the matrix manipulation as outlined in Log Entry 231.TMM.

Our hopes are that through this, we will accomplish all that the log entry implies.

Dr. Michael Thorn, reporting. End log."

       The screen snapped off.

       Rumbles of bewilderment swelled through the audience hall. Koth furrowed

his heavy brow. He saw no intention here -- in fact, it was almost laughable. A few

snippets and soundbytes from a Federation scientist’s log that could be taken any

number of different ways. What is it the Council wishes us to see?

       Kra'Tul took the floor once again. "For those of you who do not grasp the

significance of those words, let me translate! Transporter matrix manipulation." He
let the words sit. "Transporter matrix manipulation. This is a procedure our finest
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divisions have been working on since the breakthrough of transporter technology!

In theory, it allows the operator, if skilled enough in Genetic Theory and Practice, to

perform DNA surgery or manipulation using the transporters to monitor the

reconstitution and rematerialization process at a DNA/Genetic level! Transporter

patterns would be stored in the reconstitution matrix before rematerialization.

Then, through a long and laborious process, restructured using a matrix

manipulation     device!      Personality    traits,   physical   weaknesses,    mental

disorders....could be programmed out. Or in. Diseases, genetic mutations...we could

even strip the immunity system right out of our enemies!"

       A wave of astonished murmurs rippled through the hall. Kra'Tul continued.

"Incredibly strong, monumentally intelligent, quickness, endurance...there is no limit

to the traits that can be coded in! It is our belief that if the Federation has developed

such a device, its only purpose can be to construct an army of genetic soldiers; a

process which they already cleverly have outlawed to the public sector, and

annihilate their strongest enemies. Namely, the Klingon people!"

       Again, pandemonium roared through the hall. This time, Koth caught the

Admiral grinning to another Council member. So, Koth thought, this is exactly the

reaction the Council wishes to promote. Of course, if all of this is true, then it is

completely justified and action needs to be taken. However, Koth had learned that

politics and family ties were usually the only thing one could count on as real truth

in the Grand Hall...

       "Silence!" The Admiral stood now, and began to speak. "Silence! We have

called you hear to formulate a response to this obvious attack, not to bicker amongst

ourselves." He waited a moment for the noise to subside. "We have already

launched a scout ship, the K'Pak, some twenty hours ago to the site of the Federation
Outpost. They made contact with the scientist himself, but found that he had
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changed his mind about selling this new information to us. Only a partial transcript

was included in his initial message, and only the K'Pak knew of the entire project

and its intent. The K'Pak relayed the transmission you just saw to the Klingon High

Command immediately, but were unable to complete their transmission due to

interference from a Federation Battlecruiser!” Here, Kuv'ak paused, studying his

audience intently. “We received word not two hours ago from the Ambassador to

Earth that the Federation is demanding an explanation for why the USS Enterprise

was forced to destroy a Klingon Scout Ship inside Federation Space! This is an

outrage! The Fed-"

       "Why was I not notified of this glorious mission into the enemy's space?"

Koth’s furious outburst had silenced the Admiral, a dangerous move, especially in

Council. "I should have been given the glory of the kill, it is my duty and my right!

Had I been sent, you would have the information you sought in your hands,

Admiral!" This was not a boast, but a fact, and everyone in the hall acknowledged it.

Koth’s exploits were legendary.

       The Admiral nodded toward him, agreeing to that fact as he spoke, and

replied, "You were not withheld without reason, Captain Koth. We needed your

experience, should the K'Pak have failed. It did. Now, we call upon your Battle

Legions to continue where the K’Pak’s honor has died."

       Koth glared at him with eyes as cold as the dagger that hung from his hip.

The Admiral really didn’t say anything, nor did he answer Koth’s question. Koth

decided to ask a question the old warrior could not dodge. "Do we attack the

Federation, Admiral, and take what should be rightfully belong to the Empire?"

       The Admiral became apprehensive; Koth could swear that was what he saw.

Weak old fool! "No," the admiral said, and raised his hand to indicate silence. "For
that is what the Federation must believe. With this new drive system implanted on
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their best ships, they would easily defeat the Battle Legions. Not only would their

speed be greater, but their weapons capabilities would outmatch ours."

          Though Lord Koth knew this to be true, he still raised his chin and growled at

the admiral, looking over heavy eyelids with a dark threat in his eyes. "What then,

my lord, do we do? Lie down for death? Let them slit our throats in the night as we

sleep?"

          Admiral Kuv'ak paced across the black marble floor, his booted feet echoing

loudly. His gaze reached Koth, and with a slow, deliberate movement, he pointed a

gauntleted fist at him. "You will succeed where the K'Pak failed. You will take three

KATANA class battleships and go to this outpost. You will retrieve all data pertinent

to this Trilithium and bring us any information regarding the transporter theory that

Kra'Tul outlined. Then, once all the scientists working on the project have been

eliminated and the Empire has this new technology in its grasp," he turned from

facing Koth and spoke his next words to the entire assembly, "THEN we go to war!

THEN we go to war!"




STARFLEET COMMAND
Alpha Section Intelligence; Gibraltar, Earth



Commander Harold S. Terrak of Starfleet Intelligence sat in a briefing room with his

immediate CO, Commodore Bob Jackson, and Chief of Starfleet Military Operations,

Admiral Damon Romanoff. A half dozen other Commanders and members of the

admiralty waited silently for a report from the man at the far end of the small room.
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       Terrak wore his brown hair long; tied to a ponytail and slung behind his

back. His face was unshaven, and his drab attire stood out against the muted colors

of the uniforms all the others wore.

       He wore black leather boots, pulled up to his knee. The hilt of a dagger could

be seen protruding from the one on his left foot. Slung low around his waist, a

holster hung vacant, emptied of its contents by the security guard outside the room.

A faded pair of blue jeans and a brown leather vest thrown over a white T-shirt

completed the outfit.

       Terrak didn't have time to change before being called to this emergency

briefing. He cleared his throat and began his report.

       "Sirs, my report stands as when I first gave it. I found nothing on Omnicron I

aside of a repugnant little scientist and the Trilithium project. What the Klingons

wanted with the station, I don't know. I was only checking out the Trilithium,

making sure the base was secure, inspecting what little security they have, and

checking out the crew. Everything was in order, but to be honest, I don't totally

trust Dr. Thorn."

       "Why is that, Commander?" asked Admiral Romanoff.

       "He seemed too eager to help me when I arrived. I read his case report

before arriving, and he has some kind of problem with authority."

       "Sounds familiar," Jackson muttered under his breath, glancing at Terrak

under hooded eyelids.

       Terrak ignored the jab and continued. "The past four projects he's worked

on were funded by FSD. Whenever anyone came to check up on his progress, he was

dictatorial, rude, and totally uncooperative.    Apparantly he doesn’t like to be

checked up on."
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       Admiral Romanoff turned to a bald headed man in a Captain's uniform. "Why

do we keep giving this guy funds then, Terry?"

       "Because of this," the man responded, passing the Admiral a holopad with

Thorn’s credentials on it. “He's the best, sir. He holds Ph.D.'s in six different fields,

and he has a Masters in Theoretical Propulsion, Transporter Technology, and

several medical fields. Thorn gets results, Admiral. As uncooperative he's been with

FSD's field boys, they always return with impressive progress reports despite his

personality problem."

       Terrak nodded. "Right, but with me, he practically led me by the hand on a

whirlwind tour through Omnicron I. It was almost as if he wanted me out of there as

soon as possible and he was being as nice as he could to make sure I didn’t stick

around too long. That's what I assumed anyway, but it didn't fit his usual behavior.

Of course, I stayed despite his protests that I would only get in the way and

investigated the place."

       Admiral Romanoff grimaced. Commodore Jackson followed suit, and the

other officers looked at each other nervously. Terrak just looked confused.

       "If I may ask, Admiral, has something happened since I left?" Terrak knew

damn well something had, or he wouldn't be standing here in front of half the

admiralty of Starfleet Intelligence dressed like a rogue from the Neutral Territories.

Better to let him make the call on the debriefing, Terrak knew.

       Romanoff took a deep breath and said, "Two hours ago, the Klingon

Ambassador to Earth and his envoys were called back to Kronos for an emergency

Council meeting. They stated internal political problems. We know better. Viewer

on."

       Instantly, all eyes turned to a small viewer embedded in the wall. The lights
faded without prompting, and an image filled the screen.
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         Admiral Romanoff stood and stepped in front of the screen. Was that a

picture of the Klingon Border, Sector Zero behind him, Terrak wondered? He listened.

         "This is Sector Zero, as all of you know, the most probable area of space the

Klingons would mass upon should an invasion ever occur. Here," he pointed to the

pictorial representation of the border between the two superpowers, causing a

small dot to appear everywhere his finger touched, "and here and here, we have our

border patrols. Three Tornado Class Destroyers with 3 Covet Class Escorts each.

Within three minutes of each other, we received independent reports of increased

Klingon activity within Sector Zero from each one of our patrols."

         A curious whisper went around the room as each officer contemplated the

ramifications of what the admiral had just said. The admiral held up his hand, and

the room fell silent. "Not a massing for an invasion, but a troop rotation on the scale

of 95% of their border forces. New ships came to replace the old ones, and the

replaced vessels warped back to the heart of the Empire faster than we could track

them."

         Jackson nodded. "As you know, the Klingon Empire is saturated with internal

political conflict.   Frequently, those who have the most political leverage are

assigned to the Borders of our space. That means the most experienced officers

were all called back simultaneously."

         Admiral Romanoff agreed.       "That's not the least of it.   Two Federation

Protectorates have filed appeals with the Federation for withdrawal and secession.

They cite major breakthroughs in relations with the Klingon Empire and are

considering forming an alliance with them instead."

         "That hasn’t happened for decades,"        Terrak groaned, stunned at the

Admiral’s news. He thought for a moment, then his eyes narrowed and he said,
"Which two planets, Sir?"
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       Commodore Jackson smiled a humorless smile. "Vega, and Jassoc III."

       The officers all began talking at once, attempting to shout over each other in

an attempt to understand what was happening here. Vega was a planet situated

near the Klingon Border on the Coreward side. To lose the advanced spaceports and

repair facilities would cause problems should open warfare ever become reality.

       Jassoc III was another planet within Sector Zero, this one being the largest

dilithium cracking facility within ten parsecs. The next closest was Omnicron I, but

that was a private facility, funded by the Federation Sciences Division but not under

direct military control.

       The facility on Jassoc III was owned by the planetary government, the

dilithium being sold to the Federation through a treaty signed over a decade ago.

The Federation had barely won the signing of the treaty, as the Klingons had wanted

mining rights also. The Federation managed to secure the trade agreement, and has

enjoyed prosperous trading ever since.

       Until now, Terrak thought, disgusted.

       Somewhere, in a seldom used node of the gargantuan computer complex

installed on the Starfleet Gibraltar facilities, there existed detailed plans outlining

the most efficient ways to invade Klingon space. There also existed theoretical plans

drawn up by Klingon psychology experts on the different ways the Klingons would

invade the Federation.       Of those, roughly half of them had predicted the

acquirement, by force or treaty, of Jassoc III and Vega by the Klingon empire prior to

open hostilities -- and everyone in the room knew it. To do so would cripple the

Federation's hold on Sector Zero, eventually overwhelming the forces there,

allowing for the first of many overthrown zones.
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       "That's not the end of the bad news," Romanoff's voice brought everyone else

to a state of quiet panic again. "Parac VII. The Grand Minister was assassinated not

two hours ago."

       Now, instead of hell breaking loose, the stillness in the room had the same

effect. The Admiral continued. "Under Paracian law, the Grand Minister's death also

means the death of any off-world policies he or she may have made as well as the

cessation of any customs or laws internally. They hold the death of the Grand

Minister as a religious omen, seeing his death as a call for change. Our people there

expect Civil War to break out in less than three days."

       Now Commodore Jackson stood to give his information. "Our agents say that

there are two major families which will attempt to gain the throne, one Pro-

Federation, one Pro-Klingon. With technical help from the Klingons in the form of

weapons and possibly even troops, the Pro-Klingon family could seize power and re-

write our trade agreement for the dilithium and metals from the galaxy's largest

producer of industrial crystals, Parac VII." He let the silence hang for a moment,

then lowered his voice. "If this happens, and the Klingons gain the resources of that

planet, then..."

       "Sir," Terrak began, his jaw tight, "what can we do? They're in Neutral space.

The laws in the Triangle are clear, and so is the Prime Directive: the Pro-Klingon

families are free to accept help from the Klingons if they choose. We, on the other

hand, can't offer help unless they ask us."

       "True, Commander. Unfortunately, the Triangle is under the boundaries of

the Organian Peace Treaty. To assist Parac VII in any way would lead to open

violation of that treaty. We have Dips there already petitioning for protection and

re-applying for membership in the Federation. Their social structure is the same as
it has always been...ruthlessly individualistic, they've rejected our diplomacy.
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Tolson," he said, turning to a middle aged woman sitting at the briefing table,

"inform all starships on active duty of the current situation. Use priority channel

seven and scramble."

          She stood left the room in a hurry without a word. Another man stood and

said, "Sir, suggest we contact the Border Patrols in Sector Nine to find out what the

Romulans might be up to.           Our intelligence is a bit ambiguous as to the

Klingon/Romulan treaty of 2311, and if we do end up locking horns with the

Klingons, I want to know exactly what our other "friends" are doing."

          Jackson nodded. "Do it, Naiman." The man turned on his heels and was gone.

          Admiral Romanoff stepped in. "For now, that's it. Brief your department

heads and consider this entire facility to be on condition BRAVO as of eighteen

hundred hours. Dismissed."

          Everyone began to file out, quietly talking amongst themselves with great

urgency. Terrak sat on the edge of the desk, politely letting his senior officers file

out ahead of him. After the last had gone, he felt a hand fall softly on his shoulder.

The doors to the briefing room hissed shut.

          Jackson took a deep breath. "Commander, how soon can your unit be ready

to go?"

          "Already standing by, Sir." Terrak answered without hesitation.

          Romanoff nodded. "Good. Take your best and go to Parac VII. Set up a

communications base in the jungles; my aid will transfer the appropriate maps and

specific orders to you personally before you leave at fifteen hundred.         We've

operated under the treaty zone before, so we can assume the Klingons' have

operatives there as well."

          Terrak nodded, agreeing. “I understand, sir.”
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          Admiral Romanoff continued.            "From there, you will do anything and

everything possible to remove the risk of Klingon occupation of Parac VII, is that

clear?"

          Terrak nodded. "Yes, Admiral."

          "I mean anything, Commander. Partisan activity, open rebellion, dammit, I

don't care if you have to arm these people and lead the insurrection yourself, we

want that planet kept out of Empire hands!"

          "It will be, Admiral. I'll take care of it."




THE USS ENTERPRISE



          Kirk reported to the bridge as soon as he had cleaned up, and called Scotty on

the comm unit directly. "Kirk to Engineering. Status report."

          Scotty's voice came on the line. "We've stabilized the shielding around the

firing tubes, but that's as far as we can go here, Cap'n. We need to get to spacedock to

finish the job, sir."

          "Understood, Scotty, I promise, as soon as we can."

          Scotty chuckled, "Aye sir, Scott out."

          Kirk stood and made his way to the science station. "Mr. Spock."

          Spock turned and said, "Captain," then went back to his work. "I have found

something very interesting." He indicated a portion of his monitor.

          Kirk bent over to see what it was. "What is that, Spock?"

          "Personnel and duty records from Omnicron I. I contacted Dr. Thorn this
morning and downloaded them to our computer core. I am reviewing them in
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anticipation of discovering the Klingon agent by process of elimination. The agent's

greatest weapon to date is his anonynimity. By cross-referencing these records with

our own, we should be able to determine who does not belong there. It is possible,

however, that the agent is not even officially on the files, considering the size of the

station."

       Kirk was anxious. "Excellent, Spock. Now what is it?"

       Spock pressed a few keys, calling up a massive list of names and dates. "This

is the station's assigned personnel as of six months ago. Two-hundred forty eight

scientists, one hundred security personnel, and sixty clerical and non-essentials."

He called up a second list, this one a bit shorter than the first.        "This is the

breakdown of security, Captain.        Twenty privately hired security men, eighty

supplied by Starfleet. This is the current duty roster. One hundred scientists, fifty

security. All of the security are Starfleet."

       "What happened to all the rest?"

       "Dr. Thorn released them from the project on his personal authority as acting

base commander.         However, Captain, this information was in a concealed

compilation of files. The file was hidden in a falsified version of itself on the

downloaded information.        I had no trouble debugging the security program

contained on it, but Dr. Thorn has not reported these dismissals to Starfleet or the

Federation Sciences Division. He has, in fact, gone to great lengths to keep this

information out of command's sight. I have a complete record of his falsifying

orders and transfer orders for the transferred personnel."

       "So he still receives funding for the original number of personnel." It was not

a question.

       "Correct."
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       Kirk frowned, his eyebrows dropping lower over his hazel eyes. "So what is

he doing with the rest of the funds?"




USS PEGASUS



       Jack Cryer was relieved that the Artificial Intelligence systems that his people

were calibrating into vital systems of this ship actually worked.         He had his

skepticism, of course, but didn't relay that to the others. The execution of the

starship's original crew was necessary, they would only try to regain the ship at the

first opportunity. A bothersome group, those Starfleet types, he thought with some

annoyance.

       When Dave Stevens, a large black man of roughly thirty years reported that

the bridge was now the control center for the entire ship, Jack smiled his charming

smile and said, "Thank you, Mr. Stevens." He pressed the comm unit to the "on"

position.

       "Attention crew, this is Jack. The ship is now completely under our control,

and we continue with our mission as planned. Each of you will be receiving a 2000

credit bonus from the good doctor, as per his conditions, the ship is relatively

undamaged. Good work, people."

       Not an inspirational man with merely words, Jack relied on his skill in

combat and terrorist tactics to inspire the men and women that followed him. That

kind of power was the only kind all of these people knew, and he was more than

happy to provide them with a suitable role model.
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       "Communications," Jack said softly, "try to raise the doctor on subspace. Use

the frequency he gave us, and make sure its in the cipher he programmed onto this

solid." Jack pitched a yellow computer solid to Stevens. "Even if another ship picks

it up, we're the only other people who can decode it, so we should be safe. Message:

Mother Goose to Brothers Grimm. Package is secured, contents eliminated. Necessary

to eliminate contents to insure delivery intact. Have payment ready upon arrival, will

transfer package to you only upon payment as promised. Mother Goose Out."

       Stevens was still manually coding the message a second or two behind Jack's

rhetoric, and nodded a moment later. "Broadcasting now."

       Jack smiled and sighed a short sigh of release. This mission was going

blueprint style, no snags at all. A new vessel was awaiting them at the Spacedock

facilities at Starhaven, one of the largest producers of non-military blockade runners

in the Triangle. He looked out at his old vessel, still lilting in space. It had served

them well, they had seen many successful campaigns on that outmoded ship.

       He began to feel a bit of sentiment about having to cripple her to carry out

this mission, but reminded himself that it had been necessary to capture the

Pegasus. Part of their payment was going to be a new ship, with a generous bonus in

cash to each member of the team. The Federation funds that Thorn was paying

them in was in Standard Credits, and couldn't be traced once they were converted

on the streets.

       "Julia," he said to the young Alpha Centurion with amber hair, "Time to go.

Target our old vessel. Raise our shields and fire when ready. Be sure to obliterate

the entire thing, would you? We don’t want any evidence left behind for anyone to

comb over."

       "Targeting now, Jack," she reported, initiating the weapons power up
sequence.
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        The forward phasers of the Pegasus were devastating. This was a destroyer,

built strictly for combat, from the engines to the weapons systems, everything was

warfare related. Most of the starships in the Federation tied their weapons directly

into the warp engines, but this was the newest destroyer of the fleet, and the

Pegasus had a nacelle all its own just for powering weapons. The third nacelle was

berthed directly against the underside of the oval saucer section, its only function to

feed the massive phaser cannons that appeared more like photon tubes than

standard starship phasers. The best feature about these weapons was that they

were totally undetectable until armed.

        The standard phasers built into the saucer bled power off of the same source,

and would give off coil emissions to an approaching ship scanning for weapons, but

the phaser cannons remained silent; passive until it was too late.

        The Rocinante took one shot from the port and starboard phaser cannons,

and disintegrated into a cloud of energy and atomized matter. Jack leaned forward

in his chair, astonished at the power of the starship. He caught Julia looking at him,

and he shot a glance at her, confused.

        "Are those standard phasers, Julia?"

        She shook her head and explained how the phaser cannons worked. Jack

listened intensely, and when she was finished, he sat back sharply. His mind raced.

What incredible power! No wonder the doctor wanted this ship. Jack began to

wonder what other new devices this ship had aboard, and decided he would spend

some time reviewing her construction specs.         Perhaps this ship may be worth

keeping, after all....

        Stevens turned quickly, a look of confusion on his face. "Jack, we have a

coded message capsule coming in on Priority Channel Seven...from Starfleet
Command..."
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OMNICRON I



       Kirk spun to face the seated Dr. Thorn again, thrusting computer solids into

his face. "I want to know why these records are falsified, Doctor, and I want to know

right now! I'm through wasting time!”

       Dr. Thorn pulled away from the solids and stammered, "I don't know, Captain

Kirk, I don't know! If you suspect that there's a Klingon agent on this station, why

don't you spend your time finding him, he's the one that probably did this!"

       Spock stepped forward, arms clasped behind his back. "Highly probable,

Doctor. However, your current roster is only at one-hundred fifty. Precisely as the

hidden file suggests."

       "I told you," he barked, upset now at being badgered, "I received orders to

dismiss those people, and logged their transfers in my records. Why they appear on

a hidden file is a mystery to me, too!"

       "I don't like mysteries," Kirk grumbled, "they give me a belly ache. Doctor, I

want you to grant Mr. Spock unlimited access to your computer core. If there's been

any tampering with records, he'll find out why and by whom!"

       Thorn swallowed, and straightened. "I can't. He hasn't the proper clearances

to be allowed to all the information held in this station."

       "Sir," Spock stated evenly, "I hold a level seven Security Clearance. I believe

that is sufficient to cover any information stored on this station’s computer banks."
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       Thorn nodded, appearing relieved. It was obvious, however, that his relief

was a forced expression. "Yes," he said quickly, dismissing his last comment with a

wave of his hand, "that is quite sufficient, Mr. Spock."

       "Good," Kirk said, "He will begin immediately." Kirk looked to Spock. "Mr.

Spock, make three hour progress reports directly to me. Tie in your work to the

ship's Data Correlation Departments, I want an umbilical cord from you to the ship,

understood? I don’t want to be here any longer than I need to be."

       "Affirmative." Spock turned and sat at the console and began to work.

       Dr. Thorn stood and looked at Kirk, a frown forming on his lips. "May I

return to my work now, Captain? I believe you've detained me long enough."

       Kirk scowled, and he and McCoy stood aside as the man left. Kirk pulled his

communicator out and flipped it open. "Enterprise, two to beam up."




USS ENTERPRISE



       Kirk and McCoy were on their way to the bridge. Kirk took in the corridors of

the Enterprise with the same zeal he always felt upon returning to the ship, and said

to McCoy, "Well, Bones?"

       "Well what?"

       Kirk frowned. "Was he lying?"

       McCoy snorted a laugh. "I'd bet my reputation on it, Jim."

       "Did you get any scans?"

       The Doctor snorted a sarcastic laugh. "Didn't need to. A first year student in
Human Psychology could tell you Thorn is lying through his teeth."
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       Kirk's lips drew together tightly, forming a straight line. "I'd better report

this, Bones." The two of them turned and headed for the Captain's Briefing Room,

one level down, on the Officer's Deck.




OMNICRON I



Doctor Thorn made his way to his personal quarters. His pace was hurried, as it

usually was, but not so rushed as to draw attention to himself. He was sweating and

panting, however, and his heart was racing faster than normal. Thorn's blood

burned, he suddenly had developed a new, intense hatred for this Starship Captain.

       Churning with thoughts of deception and lies and projects whirling out of

control, his mind burned with rage.

       He threatens my work! Why can I not finish what I have begun? Always

interfering, always pressuring for answers to questions...more answers. This man is

the one thing standing in the way of man's evolution to a higher destiny! Why? Why?!

       Thorn rounded a corner and ran smack into Gart. The other stepped aside,

and gazed back curiously as Thorn walked past him without a word. "Michael?"

Gart called, but Thorn ignored him. He followed.

       Thorn walked into his private chambers and didn't notice Gart follow fast on

his heels until the other was already in the room. "Michael?" Gart repeated.

       Thorn whirled around, his face a mask of rage. "What?! What do you want?"

       Gart's   head   moved     backward,     startled   at    Thorn’s   sudden   and

uncharacteristic anger. Gart managed to stammer out, "I am concerned, Michael.
You don't look well. Is it the Captain that’s bothering you?"
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       Thorn didn't answer, so Gart repeated the question. "Michael," he said,

taking Thorn by the shoulders and facing him, "has the Captain found something he

shouldn't have?"

       "Yes its the bloody Captain," Thorn spat, tearing away from Gart's grip. "He

knows about the transfers."

       Gart frowned. "How?"

       "The walking computer found them. Now they suspect we've been slowly

relocating personnel. They'll confirm it in another ten hours. Six, if the Vulcan is

any good at all."

       Gart shrugged, as if this news were the final straw in some long stratagem.

"We must move, Michael! What about our evacuation plan? You were supposed to

hire a ship!"

       Thorn cast him an acid glance. "I have hired a ship! They should be here

soon. They are scheduled to pick us up in twelve hours."

       "Can we get an emergency message to them, I wonder?" Gart was pacing, and

Thorn sat in a plush chair, his face beet red in anger.

       "No, the Enterprise would surely pick it up. We're lucky they didn't detect the

last one."

       Gart sank down onto the couch. "Then it seems we are beaten. Perhaps if we

go to FSD now, while there's still time, our work could be properly funded,

researched. Then we could still..."

       "No." Thorn spoke the word with a finality that Tulmasian knew well.

       Gart picked it up and said, "You have a plan, then?"

       "Yes," Thorn replied. "I've paid Cryer to obtain a starship."

       Gart's eyes widened. "You did what?! How did you do this?"
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       Thorn looked into the kafka's eyes. "I paid Cryer's team through the funds

that the FSD keeps pouring into this useless hell-hole. What did you think was

happening with the money, anyway? I sold some of my patents to the Orions and

together, there was enough to pay their retainer. Don't worry, they have no official

connection that can be traced back to us and they’re being well paid. Their loyalty

lies where the credits are."

       Gart thought for a moment, then stood quickly. "Tell me, Michael, what did

Cryer do with the crew of this ship they ‘procured’?"

       Thorn shrugged. "Killed them, I suppose, if he had to. I told them to keep the

crew alive, if it was possible. Why? Does it matter?"

       Gart's brown eyes grew glassy, and the kafka sat down again. He turned on

Thorn. "Murder, Michael? Is that where our research has taken us? We’ve worked

so hard; sacrificed so much..."

       "MY research," Thorn thundered, standing and thrusting an accusatory finger

at Gart. "YOU are my assistant, kafka, don't forget it! We have to move and we have

to move now. We need the equipment and mobility of a Federation Starship, this

place is done for! We can’t wait for the project to go into the GAMMA stage. We

have to accelerate it and do it now."

       The look of absolute horror and disbelief on Gart’s delicate features was

terrifying. “You know we can’t just jump into GAMMA stage with this, Michael!

There’s no way that we can...”

       “We?!” Thorn screeched, hysterical. “We? Since when did this become OUR

project? You don’t even understand half of what I’m doing down there and don’t

pretend that you do! I built it, I programmed it, and if I say that it’s ready to go into

GAMMA stage, then goddammit, it is READY!”
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       "You've gone mad," Gart said, placing a hand on Thorn's shoulder and

spinning him so they faced each other. "We've not completed testing, counter-

testing, for pity's sake, Michael, the BETA experiments didn't even live! Since when

do you leapfrog past conventional testing methods and ignoring the failures of what

is -- whether you like it or not -- only our second attempt?”

       “Shut the Hell up,” Thorn growled.

       Gart tried to reason with him. “Perhaps if we talked to this Captain Kirk -

explain it to him - we could convince him that our work is solid..."

       "No!" Thorn shouted. “And it’s MY work, not OURS! I own the patents, I did

the research! You were nothing more than an,” he groped for words, his fury

robbing him of coherent speech. “A convenient assistant!”

       "If you won't," Gart began, starting to get angry himself, "then I will! Our

work is too important to...."

       His words were cut off as Thorn's hands shot out with lightning speed and

found their way around his thin, bony throat. Gart's spidery hands flew up to

Thorn's in an attempt to feebly wrest them free, but it was of no use.

       Gart's flailing arms knocked over a glass sculpture that fell, shattering into

thousands of tiny fragments. Thorn pressed Gart down to his knees, and with a wild

fury surging through his veins, continued to squeeze despite the pleas in Gart's eyes.

       Thorn squeezed until he heard Gart's windpipe collapse, then continued to

squeeze for a few moments longer. Once Gart's body moved no more, Thorn

loosened his grip and dropped the body to the floor.

       Thorn looked down at Gart's body and was surprised to find that his rage

only grew stronger. Killing Gart hadn’t eased the frenzy that caused his temples to

pound. Regret didn’t even enter the picture -- now that the Tulmasian was dead at
his feet, Michael Thorn realized he had been wanting to do that for quite some time.
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       Thorn withdrew a small hand phaser from within his lab coat. Setting it to

KILL, he disintegrated the body.




A few hours later, Thorn woke up, still drunk from the scotch he had been pumping

into his body after murdering Gart. His head pounded and he stared at the carpet

where only hours earlier, his associate had stood. It would not have been right to

call him a friend, Thorn reassured himself.

       He stood slowly, his stomach protesting loudly, and staggered over to his

desk. Sitting down before he fell, he keyed in a command code on the lock, got it

wrong, then tried again. The drawer opened obediently, silently. Inside, three

computer solids lay inside a clear vinyl case.

       On each, a label denoted their contents. One was marked, "KIRK", one

"SPOCK" and one "McCOY". Thorn picked up the one marked "KIRK" and fingered it

playfully between his hands. This solid, he thought, contains every aspect of Kirk's

personality. His strengths, his weaknesses, his physical makeup right down to the DNA

recombinants that make up the man.

       Thorn's transporter was the only transporter in creation capable of making

recordings of this type. Normal transporters could interpret the data, disassemble it

and then reassemble it at a distance; that was how they worked. Recording the

patterns had been tried, but always had failed. It was even possible to store

energized patterns for a short while in the matrix, then recall them on the

transporter's memory and reassemble the subject.

       Thorn's transporters were light years ahead of those primitive models.
The Human Equation                      Page 80                                 Natale




       His private research; the research that these damned officers were

interfering with, had enabled him to use the Trilithium as a power source for the

transporter. The official research would continue to be stalled as long as the idiots

in CyLab V tried to figure out how to cut the stuff. Truth is, he laughed to himself, is

that it can't be cut. Scratched, maybe, but not cut into any form usable by a starship's

intermix chamber.

       Even the cracking stations wouldn't be able to touch it, and it would be

another six months at least before they decided to move the project; let alone kill it.

Thorn didn't care about that, anyway. He was interested in the improvement of

Man, not machines.

       He had installed the uncut stones into the transporter; using its

extraordinary trinary energy field to accomplish what normal dilithium had failed to

do. That, coupled with exceptionally sophisticated transporter equipment, allowed

for both storage of patterns in the matrix indefinitely, and reassembling per the

user's specifications. Genetic manipulation of this sort was illegal, but this was not

crude Eugenics. Surely even the non-scientific minds of the Federation would see that?

       This was not selective breeding. This was genetic surgery. The ability to

record a person's strengths, both tangible and the elusive intangibles: the DNA

codes. These could then be integrated into existing DNA structures with no chance

of failure, no chance of permutation. Through use of this process, the universe

would grow and prosper, thrive on its own strengths, only limited by their

willingness to experiment with their own mortality.

       An acceptable price, he rationalized, standing tenuously. Another two weeks

would have brought the project to its GAMMA Stage....the testing of a sentient being.

They were on the threshold of doing just that when the Klingons had attacked. They
had arrived too soon, too fast. Thorn hadn't completed his research yet...
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       Thorn knew that as a scientist, he should stall the Enterprise as long as

possible, and complete those last two weeks of tests before proceeding to GAMMA

Stage. But the man, the human spirit that was Thorn decided otherwise.

       It must be now. Now or never.         His research would be discovered and

branded unlawful by minds that were simply unable to comprehend it. That was

always the way of man. When you don't understand something, destroy it. All for the

fear of losing face, for admitting that there is actually some secret knowledge in the

galaxy that they aren't aware of...

       Buried beneath layers of galactic red tape, his research would die if it were

unveiled prematurely. Thorn pocketed the solids and opened a second drawer. This

contained a fourth solid was jet black with an ivory label that read: THORN. He

placed it in the pocket with the others, then turned and staggered into the hall,

heading for the private labs in Wing Four.
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                                  CHAPTER FIVE




IKS K'Roc, KATANA Class Battleship



Captain Koth beamed aboard the K'Roc slightly ahead of schedule. He intended to

inspect the systems and troops before commencing. Koth was of sufficient age and

rank to have hand-picked his crew. They had served six glorious years together,

they had expected this early inspection and prepared for it.

       Koth was greeted by his new Duk'Muh Kragg, who had beamed aboard

moments before Koth to assure the reliability of the beam. It was the Duk'Muh's

duty to act as the Captain's personal liaison with the crew, and to insure the

Captain's safety while aboard.
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       All Commanders of the Twenty Battle Legions of the Imperial Klingon States

were assigned a Duk'Muh, the only position on board Koth's ship that he himself did

not conscript for duty.

       A prerogative of rank, it was said. Koth knew that the Duk'Muh was a

watchdog for the Empire, reporting back to his superiors via subspace radio

biweekly. Koth also knew that despite this, Kragg would die for him as long as Koth

himself remained fit for duty as Captain.

       Koth's last Duk'Muh was killed three weeks ago during a transporter

accident. Koth felt no remorse, save for the loss of an honored comrade, for it was

the Duk'Muh's duty and privilege to die for his Commanding Officer. Any other

Klingon would have seen this as a pointless death, but to die as a Duk'Muh

protecting his Captain...it was the highest form of honor a Klingon could attain.

       To serve and protect a leader of the Klingon battle legions was looked on as a

symbol of status and rank, and was a difficult position to attain in Klingon society.

       Koth had not formally introduced himself to his Duk'Muh yet, the other had

beamed up seconds before he had the chance. Koth had, of course, reviewed his

military records extensively before signing the transfer orders.

       Kragg marched forward and saluted his Captain. "Lord! Duk'Muh Kragg

reporting for duty! The honor is to serve, Captain!"

       Koth nodded his head, evaluating the klingon. Sturdy, nicely built...he looks as

if he could use a workout, however. I will remedy that soon enough...

       Koth turned to leave, his black cloak effortlessly billowing behind him. Kragg

hurried to step ahead of him - an action that would be met with death by any officer

other than Kragg - and went through the doorway first. Kragg led the way to the

bridge like an expert. Obviously he has studied the K'Roc, thought Koth. Good, I have
no desire to become a nursemaid, he reasoned.
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       As they walked to the bridge, Kragg remained dutifully silent, and Koth

relished the stirring confidence he detected radiating throughout the ship. All

throughout the vessel, the warriors they passed would stop their duties and salute

proudly, briskly.

       Koth knew them all by name, but refrained from greeting them other than a

nod, or occasionally, to an esteemed companion, a salute in return. This is a good

crew, he thought with pride, they will serve me well in the coming weeks.

       "Status report, Kragg."

       Kragg turned and stepped in stride with his commander, the proper place for

him during conversation. "The ship is ready to launch on your command, my lord.

The men are eager for battle."

       Koth inhaled deeply, proudly, frowning menacingly, "I too, Kragg. I find

myself longing for combat with this Federation Captain that destroyed the K'Pak on

her glorious mission. Their deaths will be avenged!" They strode a bit further, up

the enormous boom towards the command pod.




On the bridge, the fifteen duty stations were already manned, and the systems were

alive with colors and sound. The bridge was bathed in scarlet, and the warriors at

their stations turned and stood as someone called out, "Captain on the bridge!"

       Unlike the smaller Bird of Prey class ship, the KATANA class battleships were

tools of the warrior, Koth thought. Devastating weapons systems designed to

demolish planets, they outsized the smaller scouts by a factor of two. Most of the

extra space was taken up in various military systems, with only minimal crew

quarters needed. Only the finest of the Empire's warriors were assigned to these
vessels.
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       The Bird of Prey and KATANA classes both shared the same command pod

connected to the aft of the ship, but the K'Roc's rear quarter was blocky, and lacked

the grace of the smaller, more maneuverable ships. It appeared vaguely bird-like, its

"wings" protruding out at awkward angles; a trait the Klingons had attempted to

emulate from the Romulans after their technology exchange decades ago.

       What the KATANA lacked in grace, however, it more than made up in

firepower and pure military prowess.       The K'Roc carried three hundred duty

personnel and one thousand shock troops in cryogenic freeze for ground assaults.

The other two ships of Koth's company were identical. "Status of the Legion,

Kragg."

       Kragg stood to the side of Koth and peered into the monitor built into a

console before him. "Battle-readiness is attained, Captain on both of our escorts.

The Sub-Commanders show complete readiness in...twenty kirakans."

       "Open a channel to the K'Tuk and the Karash. Tie it in to our shipwide

communications."

       Communications responded. "Channel open, sir. Tying in now."

       Koth let the silence lay for a brief minute, then spoke. "Attention crew. We

will launch in twenty kirakans. The gauntlet has been thrown down, we have been

chosen to retrieve it. Battle-readiness must be maintained until further notice, but

no action is to be taken without direct command from me. Our mission is one of

stealth, not open warfare. Yet. There will be a time for us to crush the Federation

once our objective is within our grasp. Our honor must dictate our actions, and I

expect each and every Klingon under my command to die carrying out these orders.

On to Glory! On to Honor!"
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       The bridge crew growled and beat their consoles in approval, Koth joining in.

Their vessels were ready, their warriors ripe with bloodlust, now, Koth thought, the

game begins...




Koth waited patiently for the allotted time to pass. A glance from Kragg told him the

other ships were prepared as well.

       "Navigator, set course for the Omnicron Spiral, Warp 7. Engage cloaking

device when within 50,000 kelokams of spinward border."

       As the navigator responded, the Order Relay Officer began transmitting the

orders to the other two ships. The K'Roc was the flagship, and led the others out of

the massive orbital spacedock. The other two KATANAs followed in an inverted V

formation, flanking the K'Roc and matching speed. They moved at half impulse for

another few minutes, and at last were clear of the gigantic station.

       He felt like the chains of the Empire had been taken from his shoulders,

freeing him and releasing him into the Void. Now, I have only the call of my blood to

answer to...

       Koth sloped forward in his chair and thundered, "Warp speed!"




USS ENTERPRISE



       Kirk and Spock met in the briefing room. They sat down and Spock activated

the viewer. "Communications: Download message now," Kirk ordered into the

comm unit built into the table.
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       The screen lit up with the face of Admiral Susan Baker, Starfleet Command

Intelligence Division.   Kirk instantly felt a slight pain in his stomach at the

realization that Intelligence would only be directly involved if the situation was

something tremendous, something that threatened the Federation itself.

       "To all Federation Starships on active duty, this is Admiral Susan Baker, Chief

of Starfleet Command Intelligence Operations, Sector Zero. As of sixteen hundred

hours, all vessels are ordered to implement condition BRAVO, repeat....as of sixteen

hundred hours, all vessels are to be on condition BRAVO. We believe that the Klingon

Empire is massing on the Borders of Sector Zero in preparation for what can only be

an invasion. All military vessels are to begin three shift duty cycles and move to

Warfare Stations, repeat, all military vessels to Warfare Patrol Stations.

       All Exploration vessels are to report back to their Quadrant Starbases for

further orders. Until further notice, radio silence is to be maintained with regards to

non-military traffic on all other channels except Priority Channel Seven. New codes

are being downloaded with this message to your communications departments for use

in the coming weeks. All Command Officers are to contact their local Relay Outpost or

Starbase for immediate specifics and new orders using these new codes. Baker out."

       "How old is this message, Captain?" Spock asked.

       Kirk glanced at the time-stamp on the Captain’s Packet which held the

hardcopy output of the communication. He frowned. "Four hours."

       Spock kept his thoughts to himself, watching Kirk. "Spock, what do you

suppose it means?”

       “I find it highly unlikely that this situation is due to our battle with the

Klingon vessel,” the Vulcan stated evenly. “The Klingons have already disavowed

any official knowledge of the K'Pak being in this sector. Even if their claim proves
false, we must assume that there is something on the Outpost which is being
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regarded as enough of a threat by the Empire to warrant risking war with the

Federation."

         “Or something on the Outpost that the Klingons want to get their hands on,”

Kirk suggested.

         “Equally possible, Captain,” Spock nodded.

         "But what?" He pressed the open channel button on the unit, and keyed in

the code for communications. "Communications, patch me in to Relay Outpost

Twenty Four." Kirk didn't have to tell the young officer in communications to use

the codes that Starfleet Command had relayed to them, the man had already

replaced the old codes, Kirk knew.

         A young male voice responded. "Aye sir, please stand by. There will be a

twelve second delay in signal speed due to the Relay, Sir. Patching in now."

         The small screen lit up with the face of an Andorian, attired in the uniform of

a Starfleet Commodore. "Yesss, Captain Kirk. I have been expecting you to calllsss

usss."

         "Commodore Alras," Kirk started, "what is the situation?"

         Commodore Alras told him of the crumbling treaties, the increased border

activity, the removal of the Klingon representatives, and the assassination of the

Grand Minister of Parac VII. Spock and Kirk listened intently, trying to relate what

the Andorian was saying to their situation.

         After nearly thirty minutes, the Andorian finished. Spock spoke first, only

because Kirk was deep in thought. "Sir, I find it illogical to assume that these events

must be related to the some Klingon plot to attack the Federation. The planets Vega

and Jassoc III are free to make treaties with whichever government is most

profitable for them, and Parac VII is a neutral planet. The Klingons could have
The Human Equation                       Page 89                               Natale




accomplished these things without their having to be intent towards war with the

Federation."

       "Yess, Mr. Spock, I agree. However, Starfleet Command doess not share our

optimism. They feel we cannot afford to take the chance. Your immediate ordersss,

Captain Kirk, are to report to Starbase Seventeen in the Omnicron Spiral. At Warp six

you should reach ussss in forty minutessss."

       "What about Omnicron I? We've informed Starfleet of the situation on the

station...there has been one Klingon attack in this sector, and we have possible

internal action from an agent. What about the Trilithium project?"

       "You will rendezvous with the USS Britannia.            She carries an official

investigation team. After Captain Ciulla's ship arrivesss, you will proceed to Starbase

Seventeen. Any questions, Captain?"

       Kirk didn’t like it, but said nothing of his displeasure. "No."

       "Very well. Alras out."

       After a long moment of silence between the two, Spock's turned to face Kirk.

His eyebrows were raised. "Unusual, Captain."

       "Specifics,” Kirk stated. He knew what his Vulcan friend meant, he himself

felt the same way, but Kirk often checked his conclusions against Spock's.

       "The Klingons attacking the station; Starfleet Command preparing for War...it

does not logically fit together."

       "I agree," Kirk said. "But whoever said man was logical?"

       Spock tilted his head towards Kirk, but said nothing. He didn’t need to. Kirk

read the gesture perfectly. “I guess I’m asking the wrong man, eh, Spock?”
The Human Equation                         Page 90                            Natale



STARFLEET COMMAND
Alpha Section Intelligence; Gibraltar; Earth



Commodore Jackson rubbed his eyes and switched the terminal off. He had seen

enough flow charts and battle forecasts for one day. He sloped back in his chair and

checked his timepiece. Nearly midnight, he thought. Six hours gone by, and I haven't

gotten a damn accomplished. Perhaps a nap, he thought, will clear my mind. A few

winks, and then I'll get back to work...

       The door mechanism beeped delicately. Jackson ignored it. It rang again,

and he sighed and leaned back into an upright position. So much for his nap.

"Come."

       It was his personal aide, Ensign Madden. "Sorry to disturb you, Commodore,

but you have an urgent message on standby from Sector Nine Command." The

young ensign was gone as swiftly as he had come.

       Jackson switched his monitor on, seeing the bald head of Captain Tirel, Head

of Starfleet Intelligence for Sector Nine. "Good news and bad news, Bob."

       Jackson thought for a second. "Good news first. I could use some."

       "We've received reports from most of our Border Patrols in Sector Nine. All
clear, no unusual Romulan activity detected."

       "Most of our Border Patrols?" Jackson asked. He could feel the bad news

coming.

       "Yes, that's the bad news. We've received no word from the Pegasus. I released

the USS Tirade to investigate, and they reported the Pegasus had not checked in at any

of her assigned patrol stations, nor did she answer a Priority Class Hail."

       "Did they receive orders from us?"

       "Our Communications people confirmed that they did receive a confirming
signal from the Pegasus that they accepted our transmission."
The Human Equation                        Page 91                             Natale




        Jackson sighed. “Couldn’t they triangulate position from there?”

        "Negative. The reception echo was gone as quick as it had come."

        "Thank you, Captain." He switched the terminal off, and massaged his face

again. "What the Hell is going on here...."




USS ENTERPRISE



"Attention crew, this is the Captain. As of sixteen hundred hours, this vessel is on

condition BRAVO, repeat, Condition BRAVO by direct order of Starfleet Command.

All department heads review data being fed into the Information Net of the

computer system. Duty cycles are to be as follows: Two shifts, six hours on, six

hours off. Crew rotation will begin with the first shift cycle and continue to the

second and third. Repeat: condition BRAVO is in effect until further notice. Kirk

out."

        The Enterprise immediately went to yellow alert, sans the klaxon, and the

tension level on the ship vaulted through the ceiling. Kirk could feel it come up

through the decks like some sentient fog.

        Kirk felt as if his command chair was a singular nerve center through which

he could feel all of his crews emotions...happiness, fear, tension; and using this, he

would make his command decisions more effectively. Kirk smiled to himself. I wish

it were that easy...

        "Sensors beginning their sweep now, Captain," Spock reported. The Vulcan

was seated for what was to be a long and arduous day performing intensive sweeps
of the area, both long and short range.
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        Two decks below, in the torpedo bay, the men began to scrutinize the

damaged tubes once again.       Although the Enterprise's firing mechanisms were

damaged and the torpedo supply spent, the torpedomen had plenty to keep them

busy.

        Half of the crew transferred to stand-by status in other areas that were

needed, sciences, data correlation, sensors. The remainder of the torpedomen

stayed behind and ran diagnostics and simulations on their firing computers,

checking the accuracy in simulated conflict.

        The countermeasures officer removed and inspected each of the miniature

oblong sensor pods designed to jam the homing mechanisms of incoming torpedoes.

After finding a marginal malfunction in two of them, he corrected the problems, and

checked them all a second time.

        In the Shield Control Chamber, four men ran aggressive bombardment

simulations on the critical shield sections of the Enterprise.     Everything from

simulated responses of high energy plasma, like the Romulans used, to tunneling

neutrino beams was hurled at the shields, and the simulated response returns were

in the high nineties.

        The Shield Control Chief stifled the smiles of the petty officers as they saw

their Efficiency Rating and growled that he wanted 110% in an hour or he'd see to it

that each and every one of them was pulling double shifts until it was reached --

condition BRAVO or no condition BRAVO.

        In Engineering, the technicians performed diagnostic maintenance on the

engines and most of the ship's internal equipment in an attempt to detect any latent

flaws before they actually went into combat. Scotty ran about like a beheaded

chicken, his face sanguine and tools flailing about as he instructed the engineering
cadets with a firm hand.
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       The Phaser Crews were being briefed after they went through the routine

checks of their equipment, all of which was functioning perfectly. During simulated

combat tests, the crews performed faultlessly.      They were quite pleased with

themselves until, without warning, the Crew Chief came into the targeting center

and announced a stand-down of all computer targeting equipment and a manual

combat simulation.

       A simple exercise of Quantum Physics and Trigonometry, the Crew Chief

knew that if the firing computers went off line, this exercise would turn into a

horrible reality, and it was best to prepare the crew for it. Their Combat Efficiency

Rating peaked at 90%, and the Chief ordered an emergency briefing to correct the

10% grey area.

       The petty officers listened to the older and more experienced Crew Chief

with astonishment as she went over firing tactics and strategies the Captain was

most likely to employ during particular situations. She tried to instill the obviously

nervous crewmembers with confidence, but she knew in real combat, everything

she was preparing them for was of no use at all. Real starship combat was like a

ballroom dance. Every step had to be flawlessly executed, but there would always

be inconsistency, even amongst the most skilled of dancers.

       Especially amongst them, she knew.

       Security Chief Victor Francolini deployed his men all over the Enterprise,

with at least four armed and armored security in each major section. It was an old

procedure, written into Condition BRAVO at a time when shield technology had not

yet evolved into what it was today.

       During those years, the favored tactic was to knock an enemy's shields down

(an easy tactic to accomplish) and beam armed boarding parties onto enemy ships
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en masse. This allowed for more capturing rather than destroying of vessels, unlike

the present.

       Francolini was glad it was never taken off the BRAVO roster, knowing that it

was possible even with the Enterprise's shields, to be caught unawares with enemy

intruders aboard. God knows its happened enough times to us...

       All over the Enterprise, in every corridor and stateroom, the Klaxons silently

flashed amber, an irritating yet necessary reminder of the status of the rest of the

galaxy. Four armed security men stepped onto the bridge, and took their posts.

Two stood flanking the turbolift doors, and two stood flanking the Captain. The

officers on the bridge moved around them as if they weren't there, each person

absorbed by what their own role in this scenario might be.

       Kirk's yeoman, Janice Rand, handed him a report tablet. Switching it on, he

nodded as he read the amber words displayed on the screen. All stations report

secure for Condition BRAVO.

       Spock glanced at Kirk, then returned his eyes to the console. "USS Britannia

pulling into orbit right on schedule, Captain."

       "Captain Lewis on hailing frequencies," Uhura reported.

       Kirk straightened his uniform. "On screen, Lieutenant."

       The screen filled with an image of a stern faced woman, wearing the uniform

of a Starfleet Captain. Her brown hair was pulled back in a stiff bun, and her jaw

was firmly set.

       Over her left breast was emblazoned the Federation symbol, and behind that,

an image of the scales of justice, a thick tome in the left basket, an open palm in the

right. It was the symbol of the Federation Justice Department, and the Britannia

was the ship that carried the largest legal and investigative delegation aboard any
Federation vessel.
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       "Greetings, Captain Kirk. This is Captain Cheryl Lewis of the USS Britannia.

Status report, please."

       "All quiet here, Captain Lewis," Kirk responded, "prepare for file transfer on

my mark. We will download all the applicable data relevant to the case. Begin

downloading, Mr. Spock."

       A few seconds passed, and an officer behind Lewis on the screen nodded to

her. She glanced back at Kirk. "Download complete, Captain Kirk. You are relieved.

Britannia out." The screen went blank.

       Kirk instinctively looked at Uhura, who shrugged and said, "Transmission cut

off at the source, Captain."

       "I'd hate to be Dr. Thorn right about now, eh, Captain?" Sulu grinned over his

shoulder.

       Kirk grinned. "True enough, Mr. Sulu. She's a hard but fair woman. If Dr.

Thorn has done anything wrong, he'll be processed according to Federation law. I

don't envy his interrogation, however. Captain Lewis is known for being extremely

efficient and quite persistent. You didn't hear this from me," he said, and all ears on

the bridge turned to listen, "but her nickname among Command is ‘The Bulldog’.”

       The crew chuckled, and Yeoman Rand handed him another tablet, which he

read with repugnance. It was an order from McCoy for some of the bridge crew to

rotate shifts as soon as possible and report to sickbay for restocking of the whole

blood supply. Jim Kirk cringed when he saw that his name was on the list, as well as

Spock's and Chekov's.

       Kirk knew it was necessary, another BRAVO Condition regulation. The three

men listed among the others on the list had rare blood types, and it was always best

to keep a supply of one's own blood if a transfusion was ever necessary. He sighed
and signed the tablet using the Impression Pen attached to it. "Mr. Chekov," he said,
The Human Equation                      Page 96                                Natale




handing the tablet back to Rand, "plot a course for Starbase Seventeen, Warp Factor

Six."

        "Aye, sir, varp seex." Chekov laid the course in, and looked at Sulu. Sulu was

already executing the departure maneuvers, glad to put some space between The

Bulldog and himself.




OMNICRON I



        Suddenly, eternity ended. The blackest night in the history of its memory

was over. The longest night. The night without stars, without thought, without

dreams - or nightmares...

        Consciousness returned slowly, painfully, resisting being drawn from the

ethereal existence it enjoyed so much now. It felt something, something alien, yet he

thought it should know what it is...pain? Was that the correct term? Something in its

memory stirred, confirming it.

        Yes, it is pain.

        He realized that he was now trapped in a shell of skin, a spongy substance

that he found very amusing. This, he decided, was the source of his pain. Nerves, he

said aloud, remembering something he did not realize he forgot.

        Speech, he marveled, hesitant to repeat himself. He did not quite understand

what was happening to him.

        Then the memories came. Life - it was a word that meant so little to him

while he was in oblivion and he did not understand his exhultation at the thought of

the word. Now he felt the distinct presence of no less than three life forms inside his
own.
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       Life forms? No, he decided. That is not correct. Consciousness? No, still

inaccurate. Essences? Spirits?

       Souls?

       Yes, he purred, recalling a bit from each, savoring in the privacy of minds he

had been forbidden to touch through some defect of normal evolution. I am Thorn,

he said, remembering a bit at a time. Thorn. A name, nothing more. A label to

distinguish me from the others.

       A sign, a brand, a tattoo, unique to himself and himself only. Until now, he

had only had one name. Before, that was all his brain could have comprehended.

Now, in its modified state, it comprehended more.

       Altered? Hmmm? Altered?

       How is it that I am altered? He tried and tried, but he could not remember.

Could something have gone wrong? His mind raced, screaming for an answer, all the

while not understanding the question. He tried to force himself to tap into the

Others, but they were inert. He knew they were there, taunting, laughing, refusing

to become one with him.

       But there, nonetheless. It was only a matter of time.

       Thorn felt a brightness then, a burning at the top of his body, followed by an

intense white light. Slowly, his eyelids pried open like timeworn leather, his eyes

recoiling from the light in the transporter laboratory.

       When Thorn saw his equipment, then another piece of the puzzle fell into

place. Galactic Man. The words resounded and echoed throughout his head, as if

someone else had spoken them, but a quick, nervous look around the room told him

he was alone.

       Who is this...Galactic Man, then?
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          An enemy of mine? No. I feel more hatred for the thoughts in my own head

than I do for the prospect of a Galactic Man.

          Not a man, another voice chided, All Men.

          Ahhh, he hissed, remembering a bit more. He was to do the work of Galactic

Man. A great advancement, the words chimed like half forgotten truths, a scientific

process which will catapult man to the stars and beyond! The flesh will prevail, the

essence will prevail! All that is Man will prevail!

          Like molasses dripping from a spoon, his memory sluggishly returned. A face

crept into his mind, and he felt self loathing at what he had become when the face

took shape. The feeling was uncomfortable to him so he dismissed it, and the blond

haired, stern jawed face dissolved with it. He knew it was not his true face, but now,

somehow, it was...

          But still, the face was not completely gone. It hovered beyond conscious

recall -- a dark silhouette that sat watching him like a hungry, patient spider.

          Captain....

          What?

          Silence.

          What?

          Who is Captain? Not who, the same voice scolded. What.. I am Captain,

Thorn thought. Or part of me is, at least. Perhaps I am mad....

          No, he decided, and sat for another hour.

          Still, Thorn had not moved. All the while he remained as motionless as a

corpse, feeling immense vigor and vitality, but no strength to tap its power yet. His

memory was clearer now, but the thoughts still came into his mind randomly, and

without guidance from any self-protection mechanisms his psyche may have had
before.
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        Gart. Dead now, a voice reminded him harshly; by your own hand. Gaze upon

your hands...how can you ignore the blood that stains them? You committed murder,

the voice taunted him.

        It will not be the last time, another voice said without a hint of malice or

intent. Logically...

        STOP!

        The word had rung through his mind like a church bell in a closet. The voices

were still. Thorn knew he was master here, in his own mind, and also knew that if

he did not gain control soon, he would indeed be mad.

        Thorn stood, saw his clothes on the floor next to the transporter equipment,

and without being consciously aware of his nakedness or why he felt the need to

cover up, he dressed.




USS Spectre, a Cobra Class Stealth Vessel
On course to Parac VII


Commander Terrak and his team were in the officers mess, eating what would turn

out to be their last hot meal consisting of bona fide food in a long while. All the

members of the team knew it, but none spoke during the supper.             Each was

absorbed in his or her own thoughts, going over the details of the mission while

their minds were still clear.

        No outside interference to cloud the thinking, Terrak thought.

        As he chewed, he went over the mission in his mind. Where will the Klingons

be in relation to our position? What kind of defenses should I expect? What if there
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are just too many of them for a direct assault? What if the men won’t follow me? He

swallowed a hunk of meat and decided not to think about it.

        After dinner, the doors to the mess opened and two men walked in, waiting

patiently. Terrak realized it and looked up from his drink. He stood, and his team

followed. Commodore Tural and another man he did not know had entered the

room.

        "Commodore," Terrak said.

        "As you were, Commander." He nodded politely to the other five members of

the team. They all sat down. "This is Alec Kyle, he'll be accompanying you to the

surface to act as Xeno-Psychology Specialist on this mission."

        Damn, Terrak thought. He thought Command might pull something like this.

The last thing he needed was a civilian with him mucking up the works. Terrak

would be responsible for his safety. The last time that happened, it didn't work out

the way he had expected.

        "Commodore..." Terrak began, but Tural cut him off.

        "Mr. Kyle spent ten years here as a Diplomatic Envoy to Parac VII, but he was

really working for us. He put together the psychological and sociological profile of

the two major factions of Paracian society that you all read. You'll need someone to

advise you of the nuances of this society, Commander. Kyle's your man."

        The Commodore turned to leave.        "I'll leave the introductions to you,

Commander."

        Terrak tried not to frown visibly, but he knew he failed to hide his

dissatisfaction. Everyone else's face reflected what his own thoughts were. He

stood and shook hands with the thin man, almost crushing the man's hand as he did.

"Commander Terrak," Harry said, introducing himself.
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       The man seemed appreciative and polite. "Alec Kyle. I want you to know,

Commander, I've prepared for what we have to do on the surface. I hope I can be of

some assistance without getting in your way. I know that you and your team are the

real players here."

       Terrak studied the man for a moment. Thin, slight of build, pale complexion,

tall. Probably hasn't been outside in years, Terrak thought. His hands were smooth,

his fingernails clean and trimmed neatly. The other caught Terrak looking, and he

thought it best to be honest with the man.

       "Look," he said, "this isn't a personal thing, Mr. Kyle, it's just that we're going

to have enough of a problem just completing our mission, let alone having to watch

your back as well. Command thinks they can just drop in a civilian -- and let’s face it,

for all intents and purposes, that’s what you are -- command thinks they can just

bring in a civilian and drop them into a military zone. Well, I don’t know if that was

in your briefing, Mr. Kyle, but people get killed like that. People with alot more

combat experience than you."

       Kyle ignored Terrak’s outburst, and surprisingly, took a step toward Terrak.

"I understand, and since bluntness seems to be one of your virtues, let's lay it on the

table, shall we? If I had a choice, Commander, I wouldn't be here. Unfortunately, I

have a duty to the Federation just like all of you. I realize this planet is too crucial to

let fall into Klingon hands -- perhaps more than all of you do. It may be your job to

handle the military aspects of this mission, but it is my job to think like; to act like; in

essence to become a Klingon intellectually, Mr. Terrak.

       With the Klingon activity over the past few weeks, I believe they have every

intention to go to war, despite what the analysts say, and the Federation desperately

needs Parac VII. We both know the outcome of a military conflict with the Klingons
if they had the resources available on Parac VII. I know the people, I speak a dozen
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of their languages, I have contacts on the planet who are powerful, wealthy beings. I

know I'm just a civilian as you say, but while I admit I can't fill any of their shoes, I

find it doubtful that any of you could fill mine."

         Well spoken, Terrak was genuinely impressed. He kept his face carefully

neutral as he tried to gloss over the fact that Kyle had just scored a point on his side

in the verbal discussion department -- and everyone knew it. "Yeah, anyway, as for

the rest of the team, this is John McNiff, demolitions," he indicated each member of

the crew in turn, "Ted Toland, communications specialist; Hiroku Kai, small

equipment, Peter Allen, our witch doctor, and Cindy Swanstrom, my tactical officer

and right hand."

         Each of the team smiled awkwardly, thinking this civilian was liable to kill

each and every one of them. In reality, part of their reluctance to admit him into the

team was a form of loyalty to each other. These people had worked together on and

off for seven years. They knew each other better than anyone else did, even close

family members. They cared for each other and respected each other, they knew

each other's fears, strengths, weaknesses.           All this made for a highly efficient,

extremely dangerous intelligence team, and now a bumbling civilian who has

probably never seen combat is going to advise them. No one liked it, that much was

clear.

         "Have a seat, Alec." Terrak sat and pulled a chair out for Kyle.        "Alright

people, lets go over the Mission Op one more time." He looked at his chronometer.

"We make planetfall in six hours. The Spectre will approach the planet from the

spinward core, cutting an elliptical orbit across the northern magnetic pole.

When..."
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       "Excuse me, Commander," Kyle interrupted. "I was told that it was likely that

the Klingons were already there, probably in orbit under cloak. How will we get to

the surface?"

       Terrak frowned, cursing command for not briefing this civilian fully. "This is

a Cobra Class Stealth Vessel, but to every other registry in the Federation, even

Starfleet itself, it is a Tomares Class Merchant Vessel.      It has all of the latest

equipment on board. If the Klingons are in cloak, which we all know they are, they'll

monitor our progress as soon as we pull into orbit, and most likely tell their people

on the planet to order us away. They'll be instigating a civil war that's only two days

old, I'm sure merchant traffic won't be welcome. When they do order us off, we'll

pull an about-face, travelling back across the magnetic pole. That's when we drop."

       "Drop?" Kyle swallowed nervously.

       Everyone chuckled a bit, but Terrak really laughed. "You mean they didn't

tell you anything? Oh, you'll love this. In a sensor-shielded compartment on the

belly of this ship, an escape pod is berthed, packed with our equipment. Two more

will follow us down with more gear and supplies. The magnetic pole will give us the

sensor cover we need to drop, and since the pods' engines won't be ignited until

we've almost hit the surface," he punctuated his remark with his right fist slamming

into his open left hand, "we'll be on the ground before the Klingons know what

happened."

       "Chances are," Swanstrom said, brushing a lock of golden hair out of her eyes,

"even if they replay their sensor recordings they still won't know we're there. The

outer hulls of the pods are coated with a Citranium alloy, which bends sensor beams

back towards the source. The Citranium doesn't work well enough by itself to be

used regularly, but with the natural magnetic fluxes emanating from the pole, they'll
dismiss it as normal interference."
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       Kyle nodded, preoccupied with the thought of free falling through the

atmosphere of Parac VII with a group of heavily armed intelligence agents. What did

I do to deserve this, he thought? "Sounds great."

       Everyone knew exactly what the man was thinking, and they all began to

laugh. Not at him, but with him. They all were able to see the person they had once

been so many years ago. Green, unexperienced. Terrified.

       "Do you have any gear, Alec?" Terrak laughed.

       "Only my portable computer and archived files. They told me if I needed

anything I was to get it from you, Sir."

       "Fine. We'll get you a weapon and a light combat suit." Terrak took a long

pull from a glass of water. "One more thing, Kyle. Drop the "Sir." You may address

me as Commander. I work for a living." He stared hard at the civilian, a look of

animosity on his face.

       Alec blanched, his mouth opened to speak, but he stumbled for words.

Terrak stared for a moment longer, and couldn't contain himself anymore. The

angry face crumbled, giving way to a barely controlled laughing fit that everyone

joined in on.

       Alec caught on after a moment and smiled, and Terrak slapped him on the

back. "Just kidding, Kyle. Call me Terrak, or if you feel the need, Harry."

       Though none of them realized it then, this was to be the last time they would

laugh together, enjoying a joke shared between old and new friends.




USS ENTERPRISE
Starbase Seventeen, Sector Zero
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       Kirk stopped pacing and turned back to face Commodore Alrus. "What? Lost

contact? When?"

       "Four hoursss ago," the Andorian answered. "Starfleet fearss there may be

Klingon/Romulan collusion..."

       "I find that illogical, sir," Spock stated flatly.        "The Klingon/Romulan

Technology Exchange took place many years ago, marking the last civilized

transaction between the two races. Since then, their skirmishing has escalated to a

near state of war. Formal hostilities have in fact been waging over the industrial

planet Ashnu for three years. With all due respect Commodore, I suggest you lodge

a formal petition. Starfleet's operational orders for this sector must not be allowed

to resume under this pretense."

       "Yes, I agree," Kirk said, "this doesn't make sense. The disappearance of a

Federation Destroyer just doesn't happen every day, there has to be some kind of

idea what happened to it, some signs of a struggle, some sort of evidence..."

       "Nothing.     The Tirade investigated the last area that the Pegasus was

supposed to be patrolling, and the only unusual readingss were evidence of a recent

explosion, possibly a starship, but by no means a ship the size of a destroyerrr.

Sciencesss is analyzing the recordings from the Tirade even asss we speakss. So far,

the analysts are logging the Pegasus as captured."

       "Our orders, then?"

       "The USS Britannia is heading up the investigation at Omnicron I. However,

Starfleet has changed its mind again as to your status, Captain. You have my

apologies, but these are difficult times, and call for difficult decisions."

       The Andorian paced for a moment, his head lowered, apprehensive about his

next words. His antennae twitched slightly, betraying his inner turmoil. "Command
has decided that your vessel will be the first to harnesss the power of the Trilithium
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crystals. Starfleet Command hasss ordered you back to Omnicron I for immediate

refit, after which you will assist in front-line defense of the borders in Sector Zero."

       Kirk frowned, and Spock shot an eyebrow up. "Sir," Spock began, "the

Trilithium project has been underway for six months now and they have yet to find

an efficient way to cut the crystals into usable form.          Their method is highly

undependable."

       "There are always risks, Mr. Spock," the Andorian stated tolerantly, "it is your

job to take them at times. There has been progress, however? Your report stated

that they did have some Trilithium crystals being cut, yess?"

       Kirk grudgingly nodded. "Mr. Scott won't like this," he said to Spock, "the

missile tubes were bad enough." Kirk walked over to the large picture window in

the Commodore's office overlooking the hanger bay. The Enterprise hung there, a

sleeping giant, while the worker pods and engineering crews crawled over her like

Lilliputians. "And Scotty thought we were going to get them fixed."

       "You will have time for that, Captain. Our engineers will work triple shifts to

have you in space within six hours. Ah, yess, also we are replacing the memberss of

your crew who died at Omnicron I. They will be considered temporary until a

formal transfer can be processed. You have my condolenscesss, Captain."

       Kirk nodded.

       "However, we must insist that you leave Starbase Seventeen assss soon asss

possible after the refit, Captain."

       Spock raised a second eyebrow. "Indeed. Starfleet command feels, then, that

the situation is at a critical point?"

       Alrus nodded agreement. "That is correct, Mr. Spock. We are definitely going

to war with the Klingonsss, of that there is no longer any incertitude. Now, as
always, it is just a matter of waiting to see who makes the first mistake."
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                                    CHAPTER SIX

USS PEGASUS



       Jack Cryer leaned over Stevens' shoulder, checking the sensor scan. After

listening to the message broadcast to the entire fleet by Starfleet Command, he had

become nervous. They would surely know that the Pegasus was not at her post, he

knew that considering the circumstances, they would watch the Romulan borders as

well. He had dispatched a trailer to the communication, indicating the Pegasus had

received the message, but now wondered if that was such a smart idea.

       If Starfleet knows that the Pegasus received the message but then finds she isn't

at her post, what will they think? Will they think it captured, in the hands of the

Romulans? Will they send out a General Search order? Damn.

       Jack tried accessing the computer, but unfortunately it had nothing in its

databanks on Starfleet Regulations that he could access without the proper

command codes. He wished he had saved at least one of the crew so he could have
some answers, but what was done, was done.
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       They were now making their final approach to Omnicron I, where he would

discard this ship and its unanswered questions off on Dr. Thorn and be done with it.

They would be brought to Starhaven where their new ship the Ghostmoon would be

waiting. Too damn risky to hop galaxies in this thing, he thought with some regret.

       The screen in front of him blinked again, redirecting his attention here. It

showed a repeating sensor echo coming from the outer area of Omnicron I's orbit.

Jack checked the sine wave, and it repeated with regularity. Definitely man-made, he

thought. This wasn't right, Thorn had said there would be no interference...

       "Sciences, confirm identity of possible starship in orbit around the station."

       "Confirmed, Jack. She's broadcasting an ID Beacon, standard Federation

Computer Language. Accessing Registry now...registry logs indicate it to be the USS

Britannia, a Consort Class Frigate. Crew compliment two hundred fifty, armament

minimal. It's a bunch of lawyers, Jack."

       "What?"       He walked back to his chair, sitting down and staring at the

viewscreen, which was still blank. They were not yet in range for a picture.

       "It's the Federation Justice Department. They're in orbit around the station!"

       Jack commanded, "All stop!"

       "Helm answering all stop," Julia said, turning to face him as did the other

bridge crew members.

       Jack's head was on his hand, and he had a frustrated look on his face.

"Opinions, please."

       "It's obvious to me, Jack," Julia began, "he sold out. He got sloppy, or someone

got smart. Either way, you can bet they're not visiting on a social call."

       "I agree," Jack said, nodding. "They're there on business, that much is for

sure. The doctor will have some explaining to do when we arrive."
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         "We're still going?" Stevens asked, incredulous. "Are you insane? How do we

know what they've told him? For all we know, he's spilled his guts and they're

waiting to arrest us!"

         Jack shook his head. "Do you think they would put a Consort Class ship up

against this thing?" He indicated the ship with a roll of his head. "No, Dave, I

disagree with you. If they knew about us, they would have more than a mere

Consort ship there to greet us."        They'd have an entire fleet, Jack thought,

remembering what this ship had done to his old vessel.

         Up until now, Mark had been silent. Now he said, "So what's the plan, then,

Jack?"

         Jack leaned back in his chair and thought for a moment, aware of the eyes on

him. Suddenly, an idea struck him. "Mark, we have someone who can run the

Fabrication equipment, correct?"

         Mark nodded in agreement. "Of course."

         "Good. Get down to Fabrication and have them make up uniforms. Rank

insignia, the whole works. Only for the bridge crew, though, we'll need everyone

else to remain out of sight. The crew of the Pegasus will greet the Britannia in

typical Starfleet fashion. And before they know what hit them, we'll destroy their

vessel and finish this damned job."

         Jack inspected the faces that stared back silently at him.     No one said

anything. Since no one disagreed either, Jack decided that this was what they would

do.
The Human Equation                      Page 110                                 Natale




USS BRITANNIA



       Captain Lewis closed her briefcase full of materials and adjusted her uniform.

She was nearly out the door when the chime in her cabin signalled for her attention.

Cursing, she tossed the case onto her bed and pressed the comm unit button.

"Lewis."

       "Captain, we have unscheduled contact, bearing two-zero-two. It's the USS

Pegasus, Sir." Some surprise crept into the communications officer's voice at the

name of the ship.

       "The Pegasus? What do we have?"

       "Registry indicates she has border patrol, Sector Nine."

       Lewis' face went blank. This meant trouble. "Communications, confirm

identity, tell them to hold position...repeat...hold position. I'm on my way."

       She left her case where it was and raced for the nearest turbolift. Once

inside, she tapped her foot impatiently as the lift seemed to slow down on the way

to the bridge. She cursed Starfleet for refusing her escorts.      They needed all the

ships they could get for border duty and for token visibility around the protectorate

planets. If this turned out to be some form of Klingon sensor trap...

       Finally, the doors opened.

       She was barely out of the turbolift when the communications officer said,

"Pegasus standing by, Captain."

       "Put it on screen, Ensign."
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          The screen filled with the image of a blond haired, handsome man with a

disarming smile.      "This is Captain John Striker of the USS Pegasus.       Greetings,

Britannia, we're on our way to assist."

          Lewis glanced to sciences to get a quick nod from the man there. "Confirmed,

Captain, Pegasus is commanded by John Striker, Serial number...."

          Lewis turned back to the viewer, ignoring the man. "Assist? I received no

such orders, Pegasus, confirm."

          "Downloading now, Britannia."

          Captain Lewis turned to her communications officer, who was already

receiving the transmission. She nodded to the Captain and said, "It's in order, Sir.

Authorization codes match today's posting."

          Lewis turned back to the screen. "We receive your orders, Pegasus, but still

don't understand why you're here. We need no assistance in this investigation."

          "We're not here to assist with the investigation," the man on the screen said,

smiling again, "we're here to protect you and the station, Britannia. We understand

the project on Omnicron I is of vital importance to the Federation and that the

Klingons have already attacked it once. We're here to make sure they don't do that

again."

          Lewis sighed. About damn time! "Very well, Pegasus. Continue approach."

          "Roger that, Britannia. We'll rendezvous with you in orbit in ten minutes.

Striker out."

          Lewis watched the Pegasus approach, the computer generated image of the

Destroyer growing larger and larger the closer it got. My God, she thought, that is

one huge ship.

          She didn't envy the Pegasus' standard mission, patrolling the borders of
Romulan space was always dangerous, even during times of peace. She thought how
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relieved they must be to have their orders change, to come to a sector of space that

was still bordering a major power, but a bit more secure. At least here, if they called

for help, the nearest vessel wasn't light years away...

       The Pegasus approached the station, and pulled into orbit directly behind the

Britannia. Lewis frowned, knowing from her days at the Academy that a military

orbit was generally higher than a standard orbit.

       "Viewer to aft," she said, watching as the viewer switched views. Two large

cavities in the saucer of the Pegasus were glowing with an odd light....Suddenly, her

senses came alive, and she turned to speak, the science officer turned, his face

aghast with surprise.

       "Captain, we have a weapons lock! Bearing..."

       Instantly, Lewis was thrown to the floor with the impact of a massive

explosion in the aft of the ship.




USS PEGASUS



       "Direct hit!" Stevens called out. "The phaser cannons took the rear shields

down completely!"

       Jack was pleased. "Lock main phasers on impulse and warp engines. Firing

pattern: Delta-Four! Fire!"

       The ship responded perfectly, the phasers powering up and firing within

seconds. Vermilion lances of energy tore into the impulse engines, then acquired

new targets to the port and starboard warp engines. Smaller explosions ran along
The Human Equation                     Page 113                               Natale




the length of the nacelles, cutting deep scars into the perfect milk white skin of the

starship.

         "Helm, bring us forward, full impulse power. Arm aft photon torpedoes!

Prepare to launch a full spread!"




USS BRITANNIA



         Lewis felt as if the weight of the entire solar system was on her shoulders.

She was pinned to the ground, and couldn't move at all. With an incredible effort,

she managed to turn her head to look towards the rear of the bridge. All over, the

scene was the same.

         The bridge crew was pinned to the floor. The artificial gravity must be

damaged, she thought. Just as she thought that, however, it came back on line, the

pain of release even more intense than being trapped.

         Finally free of the crushing gravity, she gasped, "Helm, Warp seven, any

direction!"

         The helmsman was climbing back into his seat, attempting to carry the order

out. "Helm not answering, Captain. I show zero power output from both warp

engines...the impulse drive's out too!" He turned to the Captain, his face a mask of

panic.

         She spun to order an emergency distress beacon, but saw that the
communications officer was sprawled out on the floor, unconscious or worse. She
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vaulted the rail that wound its way around the bridge and leapt into the chair at the

communications console. It took her a moment to locate the keypad she needed, but

by then it was too late.




USS PEGASUS



       The Pegasus soared directly above and over the bow of the Britannia, her

main dish eclipsing most of the entire vessel. As the destroyer moved further

forward, Jack counted the seconds in his head of the scene unfolding on the other

ship's bridge. He hoped he was not wrong, thinking that the Britannia would try to

maneuver first, and then would attempt an emergency call.

       "Five seconds to target acquisition," announced Stevens.

       "Lock on as soon as you can," Jack told Julia, who nodded, switching the

viewer angle to the aft of the ship.

       "Three seconds..."

       "Locking target into computer..."

       "One second...."

       The viewer on the Pegasus switched to combat mode, as the computer locked

the aft torpedo tubes onto the main communications array of the crippled Britannia.

       An electronic window spread itself over the viewscreen, placing multiple

crosshairs in a diamond pattern on the image of Britannia's blood red

communications dish.

       "Locked on!"

       Jack waited a heartbeat longer until more of the dish was within the window,
counted against some unknown timer and said, "Fire!"
The Human Equation                      Page 115                                Natale




USS BRITANNIA



       The bridge erupted in a shower of sparks as the communications console

overloaded, the energy from the torpedoes finding its way back along the pathways

that led it here. Lewis was thrown out of the chair, her face burned badly, landing

on top of the still body of the communications officer. All around the bridge, smoke

and flame leapt from the various consoles, the officers either dead or wounded lay

still about the bridge.

       The inertial dampeners gave out just then, and Lewis was flung into a

bulkhead and cut her forehead on a torn strip of metal that was protruding from the

destroyed engineering console. Smaller explosions on the bridge followed, as the

containment fields in the remaining systems were overloaded one by one. Lewis

was thrown a third time to the floor. The ship must be lilting, she realized through

the white-hot pain that otherwise occupied her thoughts at the moment.

       Damn!       The pain was incredible, she felt dizzy.         Got to get out, to

sickbay...maybe there I can get back up....get the ship out of danger. Dammit, I'll blow

the thing up and take these bastards with me, whoever they are...

       Captain Lewis' thoughts continued to be random, coming quickly. Her body,

however, was severely damaged and her last moments were spent in still

contemplation...
The Human Equation                       Page 116                              Natale




USS PEGASUS



          Jack didn't gloat over his apparent victory yet. He knew his luck was wearing

thin. The Artificial Intelligence Systems Thorn had supplied them with weren't

designed to handle all the myriad tasks involved in combat situations. Jack knew

that it was still not over yet. "Hard about, Helm, energize main phaser cannons."

          Julia eased the ship around one hundred eighty degrees, bringing the phaser

cannons on line with her free hand. "Cannons charged, Jack."

          "Power main phasers too, Julia. We've got to finish this now!" Just a few

more seconds, he prayed to no one in particular. Just a few...

          "All forward weapons locked on target, Jack."

          "Farewell, Mon Capitan." Jack blew the lilting image of the Britannia a kiss.

"Fire!"




OMNICRON I



          Dr. Thorn let the limp body of the Sensor Technician fall unconscious in his

hands. He removed his right hand from the pinching hold he had executed on the

man's right shoulder, looking at it curiously. A new talent, he noted, most pleased

with himself.

          Absently, he reached down, and snapped the unconscious man's neck.

          Since he had regained control of himself, Thorn had discovered that the

melding of the genetic/DNA codes with his own had apparently been a complete
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success. He was feeling things he had never felt before, his brain was alive, stirring,

saturated with knowledge he never before had.

          It far exceeded his expectations about the project, and Thorn was ecstatic.

He hadn't had time to run a complete genetic map of his system, but he had done a

few quick tests to make sure nothing had gone drastically wrong.

          Upon running a few simple diagnostic exams, he was exhilarated by the

results. His body was 40% more capable than before in the areas of endurance and

pure physical strength.       In addition, he had programmed out a few minor

imperfections such as a slight weight problem which he had inherited from his

father.

          When he ran a complete neuroscopic map of his brain, he discovered that

normal activity was up 35%. He was now using 55% of his brain's capacity, unlike

the 20% of a normal human. Thorn attributed that to the Vulcan's DNA/RNA map,

which melded excellently with his own, considering the differences in genes. The

Vulcans used nearly 85% of their brain capacity, and Thorn was ecstatic to find out

that particular attribute had been passed on.

          He was left wondering, however, how his undeniably human brain was

handling the accelerated Vulcan DNA.        Thorn had been curious about it, and

admittedly a bit cautious, but took the risk of melding Spock's DNA with his own

anyway. Now, a small part of him felt doubt that his brain would live up to the

demands that the Vulcan's psychic abilities had passed on.

          Psychic talent was another mystery to him. Though certain genetic traits

would be melded with his own, he didn't know enough about psychic sentients to

merit a worthy opinion.

          Since it was done and there wasn't anything he could do about it now, he
shrugged it off.
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       Later, he had gathered his things and prepared to leave. He had anticipated

what Jack Cryer would do once he arrived and found the Britannia in orbit. He

knew, therefore, his escape from Omnicron I depended on Starfleet's continued

ignorance of the situation. The death of the Sensor Technician didn't bother him

much, now that he had rationalized it to himself.

       He watched the battle for a moment on the viewscreen, then shut all the

sensor equipment down. He sat down at the master terminal, and found that none

of this equipment was unfamiliar to him. It wasn't like he had operated this

equipment to such an extent as to induce total familiarity, but rather, it all made

sense. The readouts, the knobs, the dials...all of it was laid out in such a logical

manner...

       Another gift from the Vulcan, he smiled. His fingers ran across the keys with

a life of their own, taking commands from Thorn's mind that Thorn himself watched

with a third person sort of interest. After a minute or two, the records for the past

twenty minutes were completely wiped from the sensor logs. Assuming no one had

actually looked out a port window, there was no way for anyone on the station to

know the Britannia had been destroyed.

       Even once they eventually figure it out, I'll be on my way. A new starship, a

handpicked crew, and...now where did that feeling come from? He felt as if he were

about to embark upon a great mission, a long quest, searching for...something.

       Thorn shook his head in an attempt at clearing it, and sighed. He would have

to take care of that as soon as possible. Too much chatter going on in my head, and

not enough of it mine....

       Thorn left, heading for his private labs. This place reminded him of a place

he knew he had not visited, again feeling an overwhelming sense of deja vu. His
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concern grew, but he was forced to put it aside for a later time. Once in his labs, he

checked the pile of equipment, and withdrew a communicator.

       Opening it, he hailed the Pegasus on their predetermined frequency. Thorn

grew impatient as it took a few minutes for a response. Finally a voice filtered

through the link. "Identify, please."

       Imbecile, Thorn thought. It was Jack, his British accent gave him away. Well,

at least the ship is alright. "It's Thorn. I am ready to beam up."

       "What is your status, Dr.? Say again - what is your status?"

       What was this buffoon talking about? Oh, yes, he reminded himself. The

codes. He recalled them one by one, then decided that they didn't need secrecy on

their side any longer. "Beam me up, Jack, it doesn't matter now. We'll be gone

before anyone knows, now DO IT!"

       His cargo went first, and for a moment, Thorn thought they might have

double crossed him. No, that was a foolish thought. An old feeling of paranoia that

he had yet to rid his mind of. They wouldn't dare, he decided, and was instantly

swallowed up in the secondary beam.

       Once on board, Thorn regarded the man waiting for him in the transporter

with contempt. He was tall, muscular, and had a smile that would disarm most

people just by looking at it. Thorn knew the man was a cold blooded killer, and that

repulsed him.

       A voice in his head reminded him that he had committed murder twice, but

he justified it by reassuring himself he had reason to kill.

       Not like this man, he thought, he kills for money.

       "Dr. Thorn," the man said, an unusual accent twisting his words, "there was a

matter of payment."
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       "Yes, of course," Thorn answered, a blank look on his face. "However, I offer

your team a proposition." Thorn handed the man a small computer solid. "That is

payment for what you've done so far, you may cash it when we arrive at Starhaven.

Or, I can pay you an additional three times the agreed upon sum if you agree to stay

on board for a month. I need a crew, you see...I can't run the ship alone." Not yet,

anyway, Thorn thought. Soon, however. Very soon...

       The blond Englishman seemed to consider it. "I'll have to talk to my people,

but I think I can give you a tentative yes." He extended a hand to shake. Thorn

looked at it and walked past him.

       "I'll be in Sickbay preparing my equipment. Have it brought there. When you

return to the bridge, set course zero-seven-nine, bearing three-six-three. Warp

seven." The doors hissed shut behind him.

       Jack stared at the closed doors, his face crumpling in confusion and suspicion.

His instincts told him something was very different about the Doctor...a sort of inner

strength, almost akin to leadership?

       No, Jack thought, that's not it. He thought for a moment more, then dismissed

it. It didn't matter, his team had worked for stranger men than Thorn, but never at

these prices. As long as Thorn continued to pay this well, Jack thought, he can be Dr.

Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, for all I care.




USS ENTERPRISE



       Kirk had barely set foot on the bridge when Uhura said, "Sir, I'm receiving a
distress call from Omnicron I."
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        "Put it on speakers, Lieutenant."

        "....this is Omnicron I...repeat, Omnicron I calling USS Enterprise....This is an

emergency distress call for the USS Enterprise, please respond..."

        "It just keeps repeating, sir," Uhura said, tilting her head, "they don't specify

what the emergency is."

        "Get me Doctor Thorn, priority one." Kirk pushed the intercom button and

keyed the sequence for Engineering. "Scotty, I need warp seven or better. Kirk out."

        Uhura complied, and the Enterprise accelerated a bit past the red line,

causing Sulu to clandestinely widen his eyes and shake his head slightly. "Warp

seven point six, Captain."

        Uhura checked the micro-link that attached to her ear for defective

operation. She plugged it into the console and ran a quick diagnostic program. The

whole procedure had taken only a minute, and the micro-link was working perfectly.

"Captain," she said, holding the unit in her hand, "I show Doctor Thorn's frequency

to be off-line, sir."

        "Meaning?"

        "Meaning," Uhura said, "that the doctor's communicator isn't on the station

any more. I've checked twice and my equipment is functioning normally."

        Kirk turned to Spock. "Spock?"

        "Executing final approach now, Captain." The viewer instantly filled with a

picture of Omnicron I, the blue-green planet Omnicron V hanging below it's high

altitude orbit. Caught in the planet's gravity, a massive belt of debris had begun to

form around the planet.

        Kirk stood in his chair, concern finding its way into his voice. "Where's the

Britannia?"
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       As if in answer, Spock reported his sensor scans. "Scanning heavy debris,

high radiation and anti-matter leakage, Tritanium 6 alloy, steel...cross referencing

now...." Spock straightened, and Kirk saw it. He walked over to the science station.

"Captain," Spock continued, "the debris in orbit is the Britannia."

       Kirk stepped away from Spock, walking slowly towards the forward section

of the bridge. He never took his eyes off the visual. He stopped just behind the

Nav/Helm Console, his mouth open.          Anger burned up through him, his jaw

tightened shut.

       "Red Alert, repeat Red Alert! Mr. Spock, I want a complete analysis of what

destroyed her, get your people on it immediately; I also want you to scan the area

for cloaked ships; Mr. Sulu, put us in Defensive Orbit Six; Uhura, find out if there's

anyone on the station who did send that message and notify Starfleet Command of

the destruction of the USS Britannia by unknown forces."

       As the crew responded to his orders, Kirk sat slowly back in his chair and

rubbed his eyes. Why? What could the Klingons have gained by destroying the

Britannia? And again, there the station sat, untouched. I don't know, Kirk thought.

Just too much of a damn coincidence.

       Kirk opened a small panel on his keypad, and pressed a button. A moment

later, a yellow light flashed once, then was dark again. His log was recording.

"Captain's Log, Stardate: 3228.9.      We've just discovered what could be the

destruction of the USS Britannia. It is my opinion at this time that a cloaked Klingon

vessel is responsible for the damage, but I still have my doubts as to why, if this was

a second Klingon attack, the station is still undamaged. The value of dilithium and

the new trilithium to the Klingons is obvious; especially during a crucial time like

this when they are allegedly massing for war. Still, we detect nothing on our
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sensors." Kirk pressed the pause button and gazed for a second at the viewer's

representation of the station.

       Kirk continued. "With the disappearance of the Pegasus from Sector Nine, it

is possible that a third party has entered the problem: The Romulans. If they

destroyed, or perhaps captured one of our newest destroyers, how do we know

what their plans are? Are they allied with the Klingons? I am also officially logging

my doubts about Dr. Michael Thorn. Where is he? Why hasn't he answered our

hail? He has left me wondering what his role in all of this is...."




STARBASE SEVENTEEN



       Starbase Seventeen yawned, stretched and opened its eyes.

       Upon receiving the Enterprise's message of the destruction of the USS

Britannia, the station had gone from condition BRAVO to condition ALPHA-ZERO.

Off duty personnel were recalled to their posts, and they began rotating a three shift,

four on-four off rotating cycle to keep the crews fresh and give them plenty of sleep

in between shifts.

       Immediately, the immense sensor platforms on Starbase Seventeen were

activated. As the sensors were about eight times as powerful as those on a starship,

they consumed an enormous amount of power and were rarely fully lit. Only during

times like this would the Starbase send its sweeping sensor band out across space,

collecting data that was processed by two hundred crewmen and transmitted on

subspace carrier wave to every Federation ship within the sector.
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          A broad, cone-shaped sensor band was emitted, rotating with the Starbase as

its axis, spreading out across Sector Zero.          It was a sweep with undefined

parameters, as they couldn't program something this massive to search for any

specifics and still maintain the range, so they sent out a general frequency wave.

          Once it detected something unusual, then the sensor computers would

analyze. This saved time and power, avoiding the sensors spending time analyzing a

stray asteroid or meteor that somehow was off its projected course.

          The crew in Data Correlation and Transmission, or D-CAT, as it was called,

worked frantically to supply the ships of Starfleet with real-time sensor sweeps.

With their sensors, they could virtually blanket the whole of Sector Zero and keep all

the local starships informed simultaneously of what was out there.

          Lieutenant Jordan, the Commander of D-CAT, paced stiffly, his hands clasped

behind his back. The circular chamber, lined with computer consoles and sensor

analysis equipment was alive with a flurry of activity. Sensor technicians manned

the consoles, checking the sweeping bands of curiosity for anything worth

investigating.

          Once they found something and analyzed it, they downloaded it to the

Transmission specialists, also manning some of the consoles, who would then code

it and broadcast it immediately to the various ships in the fleet.

          Everyone is doing their job well, Jordan noticed, a bit of pride surfacing as he

watched the crew execute their duties with amazing precision and discipline.

They're holding up well considering the circumstances.

          He was still having trouble believing they might actually be going to war.

Decades of a thread-bare treaty with the Klingons was on the verge of crumbling,

and this would be one of the first-strike targets that would come under Klingon
attack.
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       If they crippled SB17, then the entire Sensor/Communications Net in Sector

Zero would collapse. The Klingons could easily capture the starbase, relying on the

uninformed starships to remain at their assigned duty stations out of necessity. A

few ships were berthed here for defensive capabilities, and SB17 had some powerful

internal defense systems, but in a combat scenario involving the Klingons, the

defensive plans were full of holes.

       This was mainly because of the Klingons' cloaking technology. Jordan scoffed

to himself at the irony of it. Here we are, watching potentially the most dangerous

sector of Federation space, without the ability to be able to repel a massive Klingon

assault.

       No matter how many ships would be assigned to defend SB17, the Klingons

could scout ahead and be prepared, countering whatever defenses were there.

       Jordan shook his head. Everyone knows that, he reminded himself, feeling

useless and a bit guilty at not being able to do anything but command.

       His family knew that when he sent the last batch of letters home over

subspace right after the ALPHA-ZERO order was given. They knew the risks that he

was taking, and he tried to keep them as informed as duty would allow.

       The crew knows too, he thought. They knew the risks when they signed aboard,

no one was ordered here. He paced for a while longer, watching his crew for some

time. They knew the risks, he thought dryly, but like me, how many of them never

believed they could become reality?




OMNICRON I
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          Kirk, Spock and McCoy had beamed down to Omnicron I almost immediately.

At the insistence of Francolini, four armed security men accompanied them,

beaming down first to clear the beam down point.

          "Lieutenant Hoffman reporting, Sir!" The young security man assigned to

Omnicron I saluted stiffly as the three men from the Enterprise stepped off the pad.

          "At ease, Lieutenant. I'm Captain James T. Kirk, this is Mr. Spock, my First

Officer, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Leonard McCoy. Perhaps you can tell us who

sent that distress call, Lieutenant?"

          Despite Kirk's order, Hoffman didn't relax one bit. Here he stood, now in

command of Omnicron I since the disappearance of both Dr. Thorn and Gart, in the

presence of one of the most famous starship captains of his lifetime. One person

found murdered and another one claiming to have seen the destruction of the

Britannia...

          More stiffly than before, Hoffman said, "Yes, Sir! Please follow me!" He spun

on his heels and marched out the door.

          Kirk looked at McCoy, who only shook his head. Soon they were in a room

filled with computers and security screens, and Hoffman motioned for the officers to

sit. The Enterprise security men split, two guarding the door from the outside, two

inside.

          Another man sat waiting here, obviously nervous and shaken by some as of

yet unspoken occurrence. He was short and balding, and the sweat glistened on his

exposed scalp. He wore a pressurization suit, a white bulky thing that had the

symbol of the FSD emblazoned on the breast. Resting on the table, the helmet also

bore the same symbol. The man fidgeted nervously, coming to a semblance of

attention.
          "And this is?" Kirk said finally, after waiting too long.
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       Hoffman said, "This is Ted Felix, Chief Engineer of Omnicron I, sir. He and his

team were on asteroid XCJ-4756 setting up a new mining dome. Mr. Felix?"

       The man looked at Hoffman, then back at Kirk, knowing what the other

wanted. He nodded, then began. "We had finished the pressure dome a week ago,

and installed the mining equipment two days earlier. We were calibrating the

communications dish to link the asteroid with the station when the equipment

picked up enormous bursts of energy and radiation. Captain, it was a nightmare..."

       The man paused, his eyes going blank as the scene replayed in his mind. Kirk

put a hand on his shoulder. "Felix?"

       His eyes turned towards Kirk, then focused. He swallowed. "We had already

tied in to the station's sensor beam to allow the technicians in the dome to monitor

the asteroid movement for high density calibration, when we received the same

signal that they were monitoring. I think it was due to the duotronic byways

normally associated with subspace..."

       Kirk ignored Felix and spoke to Hoffman. "Do we have a recording?"

       Hoffman nodded. "Yes, I've gone over it twice, sir, and logged Lieutenant

Felix's statement as soon as he reported it. Sir, I don't understand it, perhaps it

would be best if I played it for you?"

       Kirk nodded. Hoffman reached over to the computer console and pushed a

solid into the drive. "Playback sensor recording, visual mode, mark six-zero-one."

       A second later, the small screen in the center of the table filled with an

exterior view of the station. There on the screen, they watched as one Federation

starship obliterated another.

       It took all of two minutes.

       The Britannia never even had a chance against the other ship. Kirk reached
over and keyed in the sequence for a replay.
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       The second time, Kirk pointed at the image of the Pegasus. "There!"

       "Captain," Spock started, locking eyes with Kirk, "the other ship...."

       Kirk nodded. "Lieutenant Felix, was anyone with you at the time?"

       Felix shook his head. "No, sir."

       "Thank you, Mr. Felix, you're dismissed. Repeat none of what you have seen

to anyone, is that clear?"

       "Yes, sir!" The small man snatched his helmet up from the table and scurried

out the door under the scrutinizing gaze of the two security men.

       "Mr. Hoffman," Kirk said, "I want to speak with the Sensor Technician on duty

at the time.     I want to know why Starfleet Command wasn't notified of this

immediately!"

       Hoffman took a slight breath, fidgeting in his seat. "I'm sorry, sir, that's

impossible. The sensor technician is dead. We found him murdered at his post. His

neck was broken...looked like a real pro did it, sir."

       Kirk's eyes narrowed. "What?" Kirk noticed the sidelong glance the young

man made towards Spock. "Do you have a problem, Mister?"

       Hoffman realized his mistake and flushed. "No, sir, its just that..."

       "Continue, Lieutenant." Spock said, unmoved by the man's attention.

       "Well," he swallowed, "one of the medics that examined Chris" - I mean

ensign McCauliff's body said that it looked like an old Vulcan technique. The

tolshearya, or something. I apologize, Commander, it's just that I.."

       "The Tal-Shia," Spock corrected, "was used on ancient Vulcan as a merciful

form of execution. The neck of the victim was broken instantaneously. Efficient,

and painless."
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       Spock, McCoy and Kirk exchanged glances. None saw anything in the other's

eyes that led to an answer, so they all turned back to Hoffman. Kirk still had an

angry look on his face. "How many Vulcans are there on Omnicron I, Lieutenant?"

       "None, sir."

       Kirk glanced at Spock questioningly. Spock knew the question and answered

before it was asked. "Only a Vulcan can perform the Tal-Shia, Captain. It requires a

deep understanding of the body and incredible strength."

       Hoffman leaned towards Kirk, his caution ebbed now that he knew

something of what was going on. "That's not all, sir. The equipment here on the

station was tampered with. Someone erased the recordings of what we just saw. If

Felix and his men weren't calibrating the communications link at the time, we

wouldn't even know about this. The asteroids are constantly shifting their orbits

and from time to time we feel the shock wave from it. We just thought it was the

same this time, sir. We had no other reason to think otherwise, I mean, we're in

Federation Space!"

       Kirk, Spock and McCoy all remained silent at the man's words. Hoffman

continued, knowing they expected it. "We have conducted a Phase One search for

Dr. Thorn and his assistant Gart. We came up empty, sir. They're simply not on the

station anymore."

       Spock's face remained impassive. "Do you recognize the other Federation

starship, Lieutenant?"

       Hoffman nodded. "Not specifically, Commander. I know it's a Paladin Class

Destroyer, my first commission was on one, but the recordings weren't able to

identify registry numbers."
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       "Some hours ago," Spock said, "we were notified that the Border patrol in

Sector Nine had lost contact with the USS Pegasus, on patrol near the Borders of the

Romulan Empire. The Pegasus was a Paladin Class Destroyer."

       Kirk nodded. "You're right, Mr. Spock. Too much of a coincidence. This

whole thing is too much of a coincidence."

       McCoy leaned across the table. "That may be true, Jim, but why would the

Pegasus destroy the Britannia? If the Romulans had captured the Pegasus the last

thing they would do would be to march it right back into Federation space and start

shooting!"

       "Doctor," Spock began, "it could be that the Romulans want us to think

exactly that. The Romulan Empire could have operatives within the Federation, and

most certainly does in Neutral space. It is logical to assume they are as aware as we

are of the current situations happening within Sector Zero, perhaps even more so."

       "Sirs," Hoffman tried to interrupt, "isn't it possible that the Romulans have

nothing to do with the Pegasus? I mean," he stammered, realizing he now had all

three officers' undivided attention, "the Klingons could have captured it so near

Sector Nine to cast the blame at the Romulans at precisely the time when the

Federation would be watching for Romulan collusion."

       Kirk softened his gaze at the young man and nodded. "Lieutenant, your right.

We've been so single minded We've missed the fact that there could be alternate

solutions."

       "Too long in the service," McCoy quipped.

       Kirk stood and opened his communicator. "Carry on, Lieutenant, we have a

report to make."

       Hoffman stood at attention, not relaxing until all five men disappeared in the
transporter beam. He was glad they were gone, Kirk made him nervous. He didn't
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look forward to the hours of filework ahead of him, logging and checking records,

notifying Chris' family of his death. That was the worst part. He had been promoted

to Base Commander through process of elimination, and found that the duties

associated with command weren't as glamorous as he once thought.




USS ENTERPRISE



       Kirk and Spock paced around the shuttlebay, examining some of the debris

the analysis team had recovered. The shuttles had been moved to the sides of the

bay to make room for an especially large piece of torn and twisted metal roughly

twenty meters square.

       Technicians crawled all over it, tricorders whirring and portable analysis

stations hovering nearby. The blocky units were roughly the size of a small human,

linked to the tricorders with thick heavy cables. They processed and gave a detailed

analysis of the material being scanned. They were faster and more accurate than

the tricorders, but weren't used much because of their power requirements and

slow mobility.

       When Kirk and Spock got closer to the work team, the Deck Officer stepped

up to greet them. "Sirs."

       "As you were, Morrison," Kirk said, looking past the tall man towards the

wreckage. "Have you got anything concrete yet?"

       "Yes, sir. We've only been at it for a short while, Captain, we spent most of

today decontaminating the antimatter residue that had contaminated the sample.
We're checking our initial findings again, but the sample shows evidence of highly
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pulsed phaser scars. The twisted and melted part is from when the ship exploded.

As for molecular composition, it's definitely a piece of the Britannia's hull, sir. Look

at this." Morrison whistled a sharp call, getting the attention of the crew. He

motioned with his hand in a circular fashion.

       The sensor crew stepped back, and put their equipment down. It took all

twenty crewmen to grab hold of the thing and turn it over, so that the opposite side

now faced Kirk and Spock.

       There, on the other side, half of a fifteen foot "7" was painted. To its left and

right, parts of other numbers, only partially visible could be seen. Kirk nodded.

"The Britannia was NCC-1799. That's a piece of her saucer."

       Morrison nodded. "Yes, Captain." The crew saw that the officers were

talking again and flipped the piece back, continuing to examine the underside.

       "Have you confirmed the identity of the Pegasus, Mr. Morrison?" Spock

stood, hands clasped behind his back.

       "Not specifically, Mr. Spock, but the scars on the sample were definitely made

by a Phaser Cannon. The Paladin Class Destroyers are the only Federation Starships

with the superstructure to handle a weapon like that, sirs. The only other producers

of ships that large is one of the other two major governments."

       Kirk nodded. The Klingons or Romulans. "Carry on, Mr. Morrison. Route

your finished report to my quarters."

       Morrison nodded and went back to work with his men.




The next morning, Kirk awoke early, wanting to get the full day ahead of him started
as soon as possible. Captains can't afford the luxury of sleep during wartime, he
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thought sardonically, feeling a bit guilty at having slept at all.   He still resented the

fact that he had to get up. Six hours sleep isn't exactly a good night's rest, but he had

managed on much less in the past; he'd survive.

       After showering and donning his uniform, he sat at his computer terminal.

He saw a small icon that read "Engineering: Analysis Report 85860.83" blinking softly

on the screen.

       He loaded the report and read it without reaction. It was no more than he

expected. The analysis of the debris taken in by the Engineering crew proved that it

was definitely a piece of a Federation made starship. After the Sensors department

analyzed the residual radiation left behind from the battle and fed their report to

Engineering, the evidence was more than conclusive.

       Federation Phaser Cannons leave behind a definitive radiation signature

behind when fired. The Sensors department reported positive detection of such a

signature.

       Kirk frowned.      This means that the circumstantial and physical evidence

attributed the destruction of the Britannia to the Pegasus.

       Kirk made a quick log entry and included both the sensors and engineering

department's reports with it. He downloaded the grouped file to communications

with instructions for emergency routing to all department heads and Starfleet

Command.

       Kirk leaned back in the soft padded chair and stared at the now blank screen,

his thoughts elsewhere. The puzzle gets more intricate as time goes by.

       Well I'm tired of it, he thought and stood quickly. Time to get some answers.
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He met Spock, McCoy and the same four security men as the previous day in

Transporter Room 3 shortly after. All of them seemed as if they had been there

awhile waiting for him, but he said nothing. They took their respective stations on

the transporter pads after the four security men had beamed down, and Kirk said,

"Energize."




OMNICRON I



       Six hours after beaming down, Kirk was still pacing impatiently. He waited in

Command Center VI for some report from Spock or McCoy. McCoy was in the area's

Medical Computer Center, while Spock was two doors down, searching his way

through the base computers.

       Kirk didn't know what to expect to find, but he knew he had to at least look.

Something was here, something people are willing to die and kill for. Kirk was sure

it wasn't the dilithium, or even the Trilithium. In all the events of the past few days,

no attempts at stealing any samples or data had been logged. It was as if the

Trilithium discovery was secondary news to something else...

       The door hissed open, and Spock stepped in.           He carried a handful of

computer solids.     Kirk spun when the Vulcan entered, anxious for any news.

"Spock?"

       Spock stepped forward and put the ten computer solids on the computer

console and sat down. He looked spent, as if he were physically exhausted, Kirk

thought, though he knew the Vulcan was not.

       Spock held up a small container. "Trilithium, Captain. I found it in Thorn's
desk in Command Center Five."
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        Kirk took the small box and opened it, fingering the small stones that lay

inside. "We'll bring it back to the Enterprise with us, and have Scotty take a look at

it. Maybe there's something he can do with it."

        Spock nodded, "That is not all Captain."

        Kirk looked at the Vulcan, "What is it?"

        "I have spent the last four hours debugging a virus program that lay dormant

in the base's computers until tampered with. I was partially successful."

        "Partially?" Kirk was astounded. He had never seen anything related to

computers that Spock couldn't beat.

        Spock nodded, and Kirk could swear the Vulcan was annoyed.

"Unfortunately, yes, Captain. The program was quite sophisticated. The computer's

own anti-virus software didn't even register it as being present. I found it extremely

challenging to counter its execution. It was a Trace and Burn program, designed to

trace the source of tampering, in this case my console, and destroy data as it was

being fed to the source. It was quite efficient, I only managed to deceive it long

enough to make these copies of some log entries I found quite fascinating."

        "How much data did you lose?"

        "Enough, Captain. I was unaware of the virus in the system for quite some

time. I cannot be certain as to the damage it caused. There is another problem - I

believe that in copying these files I may have unavoidably copied the virus as well.

Frequently, that is a fail-safe that is programmed into most Trace and Burn viruses.

In this way, we may only be able to view this data one time and one time only before

the virus encoded on the solids consumes it."

        "Spock, you mean to tell me there's a program in there that can outwit even

you?"
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        Spock drew his lips tightly together, unaware of his action. He appeared to

be groping for words. Finally, he conceded. "Precisely, Captain."

        "Why did he have his logs in there at all, Spock? Couldn't he have just erased

the data without risking detection with a virus program?"

        Spock shook his head.      "Negative.      Dr. Thorn needed to use the Base

Computers for his research because of their advanced capabilities. However, to

destroy an entire research log would leave an obvious gap in the records that even

this virus could not hide."

        The two men turned at the sound of the door opening, and McCoy strode in.

"I've got nothing, Jim. I've checked the medical and psychological profiles of every

member of this station, and came up empty, except for Thorn. He's the only one

capable of murder, as far as I can tell. But we knew he wasn't laying all his cards on

the table anyway. Other than that, the computers are clean."

        Kirk and Spock exchanged looks. McCoy caught it, and frowned. "What is it,

Jim?"

        "Spock discovered a virus in the computer system. It's possible that the

medical computers have the same virus in them as well. We'll have to discount your

information as unreliable, Bones, we can't be sure if this virus had time to alter or

destroy certain aspects of the medical files."

        "I believe I am ready to begin, Captain. If I may direct your attention to this

screen," he pointed to the center one, "this is where the files will be displayed. I will

attempt to misdirect the virus while you examine them. Doctor, if you could set

your tricorder to record and focus it on the monitor, we should be able to preserve a

visual record of the data contained on these solids."

        McCoy set his tricorder, and turned the sensing unit towards the screen. "All
ready, Spock."
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       Spock flipped another screen on, and called up the system itself. He was on-

line. He took one of the solids and placed it into the drive slot. The data began to

display itself on the screen that McCoy and Kirk were watching, but on the screen

Spock was focusing on, machine code began to appear. "The virus is present,

Captain...attempting to misdirect it now."

       Instantly, Spock's tapered fingers began flying across the computer keypad,

desperately trying to misdirect the sophisticated virus. The screen he watched

would just about fill up with machine code, then clear and begin again. Spock was

successfully holding it at bay, but not without considerable effort, Kirk noted. His

fingers were a blur, and there was even a slight slouch in his posture.

       Kirk read some of the data, it was one of Thorn's personal logs. "This is

amazing...look at this, Bones. Is this possible?"

       McCoy stepped forward, still holding the tricorder in front of him. He read

for a moment, then shrugged. "Surgery using the transporter has been tried, but

without any success.        The power required for holding the pattern of a

dematerialized being is enormous. Even directly linked to a warp generator, the

transporter equipment overloaded.            Starfleet has someone working on it

somewhere, but until we find a more powerful source of energy output than

dilithium, it'll be nearly imposs...." McCoy stopped in midsentence.      Kirk looked at

him, reading his thoughts. "Trilithium."

       McCoy considered it for a moment, then nodded. "Yes, theoretically. Yes! My

God, Jim...has Thorn discovered a way to make this possible? Do you realize what

this would do for modern medicine?"

       "Gentlemen," Spock said, his voice taut with concentration, "I urge you to

direct your attention to the screen, I cannot hold the virus off much longer."
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       They continued to read. Kirk began to read aloud. "Look at this, Bones....if

the prototype transporter works, not only will conventional surgery be possible using

the transporter to reassemble a being according to a previously recorded pattern, but

will allow for manipulation of the DNA/RNA at a molecular genetic level with

sufficient accuracy to make possible the grafting and joining of separate DNA

characteristics into one being. Bones, he's talking about Eugenics!"

       McCoy thought about it for a minute. "Not quite, Jim. Eugenics was a form of

selective breeding, using genetic science to breed out undesirable traits and breed in

desirable ones. What Thorn's talking about is essentially the same, but makes

Eugenics seem like stone-age science by comparison! I'd have to study more of his

logs to give you more than that, Jim."

       The screens snapped off suddenly. "I have lost it, Captain," Spock said, his

voice carefully controlled.

       Kirk picked up one of the other solids. "What about these, Spock?"

       "The same procedure will have to be executed. Once recordings are made of

all of them, we can return to the Enterprise and correlate the data."

       "Do it."




USS ENTERPRISE



       A few hours later, Kirk and Spock waited in Sickbay for McCoy's opinion. The

doctor sat at his desk, replaying the tricorder recordings that they had made of the

solids. He tied his tricorder into the ship's computers and displayed the data on the

larger screen terminal on his desk. It had been twenty minutes since he had said a
The Human Equation                      Page 139                               Natale




word, and Spock was equally silent.           The Vulcan seemed preoccupied with

something, Kirk noticed. He made a mental note to ask about it later.

       "Bones?" Kirk was impatient. He felt useless, sitting and waiting for McCoy

to tell him what to do.

       McCoy read for a moment longer and sighed. "Well, Jim, I was right. Thorn's

log entries are dated as far back as two years. He's been researching this thing in

actual prototype stages for quite a while."

       "And?"

       "Apparently, he's discovered a way to use the transporter to perform genetic

surgery on the recorded pattern that is made during transporting using his new

model of transporter. Once the altered pattern's programming is completed, the

person goes through the transporter again, this time instructing the computers to

use the altered pattern for reconstitution. If this is successful, we could program out

disease, physical handicaps, even bad habits, Jim."

       Spock frowned. Offhandedly, he said, "Unfortunately, Doctor, one could also

program these elements into a person by altering their genetic/DNA codes, if I

understand the process correctly."

       McCoy nodded. "Yes, but I can't imagine Thorn would invent such a thing to

use it as a weapon." McCoy was truly confused. "If he is intelligent enough to make

this thing work, why all the cloak and dagger? Why the lies and the disappearance?

I don't know, call it professional loyalty, but I can't believe he'd kill to secure his

secrecy."

       "But where is he, Bones?" Kirk was puzzled. "And why hasn't he informed

Starfleet of his discoveries?"

       "Well," McCoy said, smiling. "there is the matter of this type of research
being illegal without authorization."
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       "Yes," Kirk said, waving it off. "but I don't think that would have stopped

Thorn. You yourself said he was lying about the falsified records when we beamed

down. Now he's missing and his second in command with him. Well," he sighed, "at

least we know what the Klingons were after. We'd better notify Starfleet Command

immediately. Maybe its not too late for diplomacy."

       "Captain," Spock said, suddenly focusing on Kirk and coming out of a deep

thought, "I find it illogical to assume the Klingons will accept the fact that Starfleet

knew nothing of this. Even if they do believe it, they will undoubtedly want the

technology for themselves. The Klingons already experiment with genetics, they

have no restrictive laws regarding this."

       Kirk looked at the ceiling, leaning back in his chair. "You're right, Mr. Spock.

Do his logs indicate it being tested successfully, Bones?"

       "No, but in theory it should work, assuming that the Trilithium powered

transporter works successfully. The log entries end at a point where he was just

about to begin testing on live subjects."

       "Does it mention where this model transporter is, Bones?"

       Bones shook his head. "I don't know, let me look." He scrolled through

screen after screen of schematics and notes, some in the doctor's hand, some in

recorded format. Finally, McCoy stopped.       His eyes narrowed, and he backed up

one screen to read the information again. His jaw dropped.

       "What?" Kirk stood, walking behind McCoy and looking over his shoulder.

       "It says here that the transporter on the station itself was a working model.

It mentions a second stage prototype, but doesn't give a location."

       Spock's eyebrows raised, and both men noticed. Kirk gestured to the Vulcan.

"What is it, Spock?"
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       Spock stood, and began pacing, his head lowered in thought. "This explains a

great deal, Captain." He continued to pace.

       "Well..."

       "Ever since our return, I was puzzled by the sophistication of the virus

contained in the station's computer core. I found it to be a superbly designed,

exceedingly logical virus program of incredible complexity. What puzzled me is the

fact that of all the engineers and specialists on the station, no one, including Dr.

Thorn has the knowledge to code such a virus."

       "They could have purchased it, Spock," McCoy offered.

       Spock shook his head.        "Highly doubtful, Doctor.   I have a level Seven

Computer Rating with the Daystrom Artificial Intelligence Group. Only thirty other

members in all of Starfleet have equal or higher ratings."

       Kirk and McCoy looked at Spock, not understanding his point. "Gentlemen,"

Spock continued patiently, "that virus had to have been programmed by one of those

thirty men and women. I could not defeat it, only misdirect it for a brief time.

Logically, we must assume that it was coded by someone with at least an equal

rating in computer programming. I do not believe that any of the other people

holding such a rating are in this sector of space."

       "And?" Kirk prodded.

       "Doctor," Spock said, seemingly ignoring Kirk, "you just said that if this

prototype transporter was functioning correctly, it could record the disassembled

patterns of those who transport through it, and hold such patterns in a matrix

designed for editing and manipulation, is that not correct?"

       "That's what I said, yes."

       "Would it not also be logical, that if such manipulation is successful, then one
could also introduce recorded patterns into one's own?"
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       McCoy frowned. "You mean merge someone else's DNA or genetic map with

your own?"

       "Precisely."

       McCoy shook his head, "No. There would be no way the body could survive

the overlaying of genetics and other unique traits of another being."

       "But," Spock countered, "these unique traits and undesirable characteristics

could be edited out, or perhaps even be reconstructed so that they are compatible,

correct?"

       McCoy seemed to think for a moment, then nodded. "Yes, but that's just a

guess, Spock."

       Spock nodded, seeming to have gotten the answer he was looking for.

"Gentlemen, I submit to you that Dr. Thorn recorded my transporter pattern, and

quite probably yours as well when we first beamed down to Omnicron I. You recall

we did use his transporters. Further, I find it logical to assume he has used those

patterns to merge with his own."

       "That would explain your inability to counter the virus," Kirk said, agreeing.

       "Affirmative," Spock said, nodding, "I could only hope to bring the virus to

deadlock after deadlock because of the exactness of my computer knowledge versus

the virus programming expertise. Even other level seven computer experts have

varying degrees of skill, some slightly greater some slightly less so. Similarly, the

virus could never outperform me, as it was essentially, programmed by my own

knowledge and instinct for computers. Gentlemen, Dr. Thorn must be considered a

highly dangerous man, if he has done what we suspect of him."

       There was silence for a moment, as each of them realized what Spock had

suggested. Suddenly Kirk whirled, an idea striking him.
       "Bones, could this process of merging genes and traits have any side effects?"
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       "I don't know, Jim. I'd have to examine someone who's been through it."

       "What if Thorn did what you suspect, Spock, and there were some," he

groped for words, his hands searching the air in front of him for the correct words,

"unforeseeable side effects, some kind of mental kickbacks that upset his emotional

balance?"

       "What are you suggesting, Jim?"

       "What if he's running? What if he knows what the Federation would do to

him if it found out, and he managed to arrange to have the Pegasus brought here?

What if it has nothing to do with the Klingons or the Romulans?"

       Silence.

       Kirk and Spock bolted for the door.




"Essentially, Captain, what you are suggesting is possible," Commodore Alras said, his

antennae twitching slightly. Kirk and Spock stared at the small viewer, watching the

Andorian consider Kirk's report.

       "Commodore, it is my opinion that unless we detain Thorn, we'll be in the

middle of a war that should never happen. He's already destroyed one vessel,

there's no telling what his plans are. What is the word, Commodore?"

       Finally, Alras nodded. "Very well, Enterprissse. Your ordersss are to detain the

Pegasus and commandeer the data relating to the Trilithium Transporter Project. I'll

notify Starfleet after you've gone, I do not think they would agree with our position.

I'll have D-CAT download the last detected position of the Pegasus to your

navigatorsss, Captain. She was last seen heading back to Sector Nine."
       "Understood, Commodore. What about Omnicron I?"
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       Commodore Alras smiled a thin smile. "We will dispatch the USS Tomcat to

patrol the parsec surrounding the station. She's a Tango Classss Destroyer, and should

be able to handle the mission. She should be within sensor range of the station within

eight hours, travelling at scanning speed."

       "What about the defenses of Starbase Seventeen, Commodore?" Kirk didn't

like the idea of leaving the people of Omnicron I exposed to the Klingons, but neither

did he like the idea of SB17 issuing its only Destroyer out of its patrol area. If the

Klingons managed to destroy SB17, the communication/sensor net in all of Sector

Zero would fall...

       Alras shook his head, causing his antennae to flop back and forth. "We

cannot commission a new vessel to this Sector for quite some time now. Our defensesss

should hold up well if we come under attack. However, if war is formally declared, I

will be forced to recall the Enterprise, Captain Kirk."

       "Understood, Commodore. I'll brief the acting Base Commander as to what's

been going on before we leave. He's just a kid, Commodore, it might be a good idea

to send some people out here as well. Enterprise out." Kirk pressed the comm unit

button on the table. "Bridge, this is the Captain. Prepare to receive orders from

Starbase Seventeen D-CAT. Set course as soon as possible and warp out of orbit.

We are now on Red Alert. Kirk out."
The Human Equation                      Page 145                                  Natale




                                   CHAPTER SEVEN



IKS K'ROC



       Commander Koth watched the viewer as they approached the Federation

Outpost called Omnicron I. Here was the sight of the last battle of the K'Pak, Koth

thought. No sign of Federation protection, however. Koth's suspicions were aroused.

"Sensors: status of outpost?"

       The sensor technician looked up and said, "Shields and deflectors are up,

Lord Koth. They are making a routine sensor sweep, power level two; one rotation

every three minutes."

       Good, Koth thought, they will not detect us on that frequency until it is too late.

Still, his orders were to retrieve the data relevant to the new Federation technology,

not to destroy the station. Yet.

       "K'Tuk and Karash to jamming orbit," Koth growled.
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       Kragg repeated the order, and the communications officer relayed it to the

other vessels. A few seconds passed, and the communications officer nodded to

Kragg. Kragg turned to Koth. "Both of our vessels are in jamming orbit, Lord."

       "Initiate Jamming Sequence! Drop us down to 10,000 kelokams."

       The two KATANAs took position in a higher elliptical orbit above Omnicron I,

directly opposite each other, and began initiating the jamming field. The jamming

equipment sent out "black noise", an absorption field designed to stop nearly all

forms of subspace carrier waves, as well as predetermined frequency carriers.

       The three Klingon vessels remained in contact through a specially designed

communications node, which transmitted on a tunneling psycleic frequency that

would penetrate the field.

       The sensor technician announced, "Jamming field in effect, Lord, we have

communications breakdown."

       The K'Roc, in a tighter orbit than the other ships, was within the small bubble

that was unaffected by the field. "Hailing frequencies," Koth said, straightening

himself in his chair. "Deactivate cloaking device."

       "Hailing frequencies open, Lord."

       "Cloaking device deactivated!"

       "Federation Outpost, you are surrounded by three warships of the Klingon

Empire. You will drop your shields and prepare to be boarded immediately or I will

destroy the Outpost. Respond!"

       A few moments passed, during which time the comm officer re-broadcast the

message on all hailing frequencies. A signal was transmitted from the Outpost, only

to be absorbed in the jamming field. A minute later, the comm officer said, "They

are requesting visual, Lord."
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       "Tell them they have ten seconds to lower the shields before we begin firing."

Then, to the weapons stations, "Lock disrupters on target, stand by with torpedoes."

       "Weapons locked on target, Lord!"

       "The outpost is complying, Lord, they request we hold fire while they lower

shields."

       "Very well," Koth said to Kragg, "order them to assemble all of their officers

to meet our boarding party, unarmed. Send down a company of men to secure the

outpost."

       Kragg quickly turned and began barking orders.              "Begin cryogenic

deactivation! Medical personnel report to Cryo Labs! Ship's Stores, prepare for

Shock Troop Deployment!" The bridge was alive with activity as the Order Relay

Officer began downloading the orders to the appropriate departments.

       "Success!" Koth boomed, his fist clutched before him.




OMNICRON I



       "What the Hell would you have me do," Hoffman yelled, startling Lieutenant

Childs with his change of attitude. Hoffman, normally quiet, had been under an

enormous amount of stress lately, and it was beginning to show. "They'll destroy

the station, Lieutenant, trust me! Klingons don't make idle threats!"

       "There's got to be a way to break through their jamming field, sir. If we just

keep trying..."

       "...Then they'll kill us for trying it. The shields are down. They could have
taken them down for us, but they want something.           I'm hoping its us, alive.
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Otherwise I can't imagine why they wouldn't have just forced their way in. Damn, I

wish the Enterprise hadn't left! Perhaps we can stall until the Tomcat arrives. She's

supposed to be here within a day."

         Childs seemed to consider it, and nodded blankly. "What do we do until

then?"

         "You heard them, assemble the officers. Tell everyone else to stay in their

quarters and lock their doors. Have the officers assemble in the cargo bays. We'll

do just what they want, Mr. Childs, and we might just get out of this."




IKS K'ROC



         In CryoLab, the walls of the massive room were lined with hypersleep

chambers bolted vertically to the wall. Medical personnel were deactivating the

units, and the Klingons from ship's storage were dragging in anti-grav units stacked

with armor, weapons and equipment.

         Koth went down to CryoLab himself, knowing the Outpost could do nothing

to prevent the takeover of the station by Klingon forces. Once there, he saw with

satisfaction that the marines that were being revived were ready for battle. These

were warriors, all volunteers to be suspended in cryogenic freeze constantly, only

awakened when battle needed doing. After their purpose was served, they would

return to their coffins, to be put to sleep until blood needed spilling again.

         Most of the warriors who volunteered for Shock Troop duty knew that the

units had a 5% failure rate, and that for every one hundred of them that were
successfully revived, there were five who were killed during the process. The units
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also shortened the lifespan of the warriors within them by about twenty years.

These risks were a small price to pay for the opportunity to be an eternal warrior,

every Klingon's hope. The average span of duty for these troops was eighty five

years, because of the lack of aging the cryo systems induced. However, another 4%

of the Klingons would die because of the massive internal chaos being in cryogenic

freeze for 80% of their life inflicted on their cells and tissue.

       Koth watched as the bodies of the unfortunate ones were dumped in a bin for

disposal and the bodies of the warriors who survived were aching for battle. They

fidgeted dangerously while the medical personnel gave them a quick check with a

mediscanner, then as soon as they were pronounced fit, they eagerly began to suit

up for duty.

       Koth walked amongst the warriors, who said little during their awakening

period. Most of these warriors were in cryogenic freeze when I was born, Koth

thought. They have probably seen four captains come and go on this ship...

       The life of a cryo-warrior was an honorable one, of that he had no doubt. But

it is not the life for me, he thought, just as a bin of Klingon bodies, now regarded as

mere wasted matter rolled by him.

       "Warriors!" Koth boomed, "On to Success!             We are in orbit around a

Federation Science station.      Your orders are to secure the station for Klingon

Investigation Teams. Prisoners are to be taken alive, if possible, especially the

officers, they may have valuable information for the Empire! On to Success!" This

was all they needed to know, Koth thought. They will do their job well, as always.
The Human Equation                    Page 150                                  Natale




The first Klingon Shock Troops appeared in the Cargo Bay to find a dozen humans,

unarmed, their hands held high over their heads. They all wore masks of rage,

defying the Klingons even as they surrendered to them.

       The leader of the small squad of Klingons, Doma, strode up to one of them as

his men surrounded the humans. "Who is in charge, here," he demanded in a low

voice, his accent thick as it stumbled over the words in Federation Standard.

       "I am, sir." Hoffman stepped forward, his eyes riveted to the Klingon.

       Doma walked around the man slowly, looking him over top to bottom. "You

are but a boy. You cannot be in command." Suddenly, Doma swept Hoffman's legs

out from underneath him, taking advantage of his own greater size and weight.

Hoffman fell on his back roughly, turning over just in time to hold a hand up to stop

the other officers from attacking. They obeyed him, relaxing a bit, but still keeping

their hands up.

       Doma nodded. "So," he said in surprise, "you are in command after all."

Some of the other Klingons chuckled. "You are now prisoners of the Klingon

Empire." Doma took his communicator out of his belt, and held it up to his mouth.

"Engineering, activate beam, we have twelve prisoners."

       Hoffman and the others stood motionless, and were able to hear the sounds

of screams and disrupter fire coming from the outer sections seconds before they

were swallowed up by the beam.




Koth turned at the sound of an incoming message from the Shock Troops. "Put it on

speakers, Kragg!"
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       Kragg motioned stiffly with one hand. The Communications Officer hurried

to carry out the order. "Troop Leader K'Tog, Lord Koth!"

       "Lord," K'Tog said, "we have located and secured the main security station.

There are internal defenses we could use, Captain."

       "Such as?" Koth asked.

       "Nerve gas," K'Tog replied. "We could flood the entire station, if that is your

wish, Lord. No harm would come to the prisoners, and the station would be ours in a

matter of minutes."

       Koth turned to Kragg, pressing the mute button. "Duk'Muh, status report of

Troop Leader Six?"

       Kragg turned to Combat Information Officer Kuup. "Troop Leader Six reports

a dozen officers detained and in the brig, Lord."

       "Sensors!" Koth growled. "Long range report."

       "Sensors show clean for 4,000 kelokams, Lord!"

       Koth looked over at his Duk'Muh. "Opinion, Kragg."

       Kragg leaned closer to Koth. "Lord, the troops have been in cryo-freeze for

six months now. The last raid was on the Romulan Outpost R'Hanndra IV, eight

months before."

       Koth considered his Duk'Muh's words, nodding his agreement. He pressed

the resume button on the comm unit. "Commander K'Tog. You may," Koth paused,

"indulge yourself."




Hoffman and two others sat in a small cell, its door made of iron on the inside, and
beyond that, a stun field. There was no way out. Their hands and feet were chained
The Human Equation                      Page 152                                Natale




together, and they were stripped of any clothing save pants when they were

captured.

         A short while ago, they had come to the cell and taken Greenfield away. They

had said nothing, merely activated some external security device that sent a

stunning charge throughout the cell. When they had awakened, Greenfield was

gone.

         Slowly, the door opened.

         The hall outside was staggeringly bright, Hoffman thought, shielding his eyes

as best he could with the limited mobility the chains allowed him. A massive

Klingon stood framed in shadow in the doorway. He stared inside, spit at them, and

stepped to the right. A second Klingon shoved Greenfield into the cell roughly. He

stumbled in, tripped and fell to the floor.

         The door shut and the others moved over to help him. Thomas turned him

over, and Greenfield's nose was bleeding. His eyes were glazed over, and they

stared off into the darkness, not registering pain, or even recognition.

         "Greenfield," Hoffman said, and got no response. "Greenfield? Dammit,

ensign, I'm talking to you! Wake up!" Hoffman was getting nervous now. The other

men in the cell looked at him with cautious eyes.

         "Sir," Thomas said, his teeth clenched shut in anger, and tears forming in his

eyes, "I don't think he can understand you. I don't know what those bastards did to

him, but I swear to you," this last part to Greenfield, "I'll get the bastards, Tim, I

promise." Thomas cradled Greenfield's head in his lap and buried his face in his

hands.

         Hoffman leaned back against the wall, sighing. Thomas and Greenfield had

been inseparable. They were the best of friends, this must be tearing him apart! It's
your fault, he told himself. If you'd fought them, at least you would have died fighting
The Human Equation                      Page 153                                Natale




for something you believed in rather than sitting in a cold cell waiting to die like a

dog...

         What could they have done to him, Hoffman wondered?                    Drugs?

Brainwashing? Anything was possible. He'd been briefed on basic Klingon tactics

and psychology when he was assigned to Omnicron I, but nothing in the

indoctrination mentioned this...

         The door opened again, and Thomas looked up, tears streaming down his

face. His eyes were fire, and before Hoffman could stop him, he screamed, launching

himself at the Klingon who opened the door. In his rage, Thomas forgot about the

chains around his legs, and was face down in front of the Klingon before he had even

crossed half the distance between them.

         The Klingon drew his disrupter, and Hoffman yelled, "NO!" The Klingon fired,

disintegrating Thomas' prone body.

         "Who is next?" The Klingon taunted, holding the disrupter tightly. He trained

it on each of them in turn, finally coming to rest on Hoffman. Hoffman turned away,

then decided to face his killer, a surge of courage pulsing through his veins. He

looked the Klingon in the eye, determined not to flinch, even if the Klingon fired.

         The Klingon pulled the trigger, and Hoffman's eyes instantly squeezed shut,

his head turning the other way on reflex. The shot blew a shallow hole in the wall,

sending hot metal tearing into Hoffman's flesh. As the smoke cleared, Hoffman

knew he was being made sport of.

         The Klingon holstered his weapon and put his hands on his hips, laughing a

deep laugh that bored its way into Hoffman's soul. The Klingon turned and left, his

laughter echoing into silence.
The Human Equation                     Page 154                               Natale




USS SPECTRE, Cobra Class Stealth Vessel



       "Executing final approach to Parac VII, sir," the navigator offered. His

Captain nodded.

       Captain McGrath opened the small panel on his command chair, keying

Engineering. "Commander, status report."

       Terrak's voice sounded distant, as if he were a few feet away from the comm

unit. "We're all set, Captain. Whenever you're ready."

       "Stand by, Team One." McGrath inhaled deeply. I hope to God this works.

"Communications, open hailing frequencies. Get me Paracian Ground Clearance."

       "Crossing magnetic pole on first pass, Captain," the navigator reported.

       "Paracian Ground Clearance requesting visual, Captain."

       "On screen."

       The viewer filled with an image of a man dressed in a Paracian military

uniform. "State your business, Spectre."

       McGrath attempted to look surprised at the man's military garb,

remembering he was not supposed to know Parac VII was in the early stages of Civil

War. "Sir, we have a trade agreement with House Devorac. I'll broadcast my

identity codes and download the merchant agreement immediately." He turned to

have communications do it.

       "Don't bother," the man interrupted, to McGrath's relief. "you are denied

access, Spectre. Do not attempt to land, repeat: do not attempt to land. You are

ordered to leave orbit immediately. Respond."

       McGrath got angry now, as they would expect. "Now wait just a minute, I
have a trade agreement with the House of..."
The Human Equation                     Page 155                                 Natale




       His words were cut off as the Planetary Defense Station fired a warning shot

across their bow. The massive ion cannons barely missed. McGrath put on his best

poker face, appearing dutifully astonished, and said, "Leaving orbit immediately,

Helm full reverse!"

       The communications officer cut the transmission, and McGrath let the false

expression on his face drop into a scowl. Klingon lackey, he thought with disgust.

"Prepare for drop," he said into the comm unit. A flashing green signal indicated

that they were in the pods, ready to go.

       "Crossing magnetic pole, now sir. We'll reach target location in six, five, four,

three, two, one....birds away, sir!"

       "Viewer, switch to underside." McGrath watched as the viewer switched,

showing the three small pods, barely visible to even their sensors due to the

magnetic interference, dropping through the atmosphere into the day side of the

Paracian jungles.

       "Good luck," he whispered, and watched them fall a moment longer.

"Continue on course, navigator. Make it seem real natural..."




Inside the free falling lifeboat, the seven people were strapped into the chairs built

into the sides of the ovaloid unit.        The speed was incredible, even with solar

powered inertial dampeners, they all felt as if their flesh would peel away from their

bones any second now.

       Kyle sat drugged, strapped into the chair with heavy restraining straps.

Terrak had known the man wouldn't have been able to handle the drop, not without
having done it a dozen times, like everyone else had. He ordered Allen to sedate
The Human Equation                      Page 156                                 Natale




him, under protest from the other, but Terrak reassured him it was for his own

good.

        Now, Terrak thought, fighting the violent effort by his body to expel his

stomach out through his mouth; Kyle's sleeping like a baby, while we fight to stay

conscious. Civilians, he thought. He would have shaken his head with that thought,

but right now it was pinned against the wall of the pod.

        A loud horn began sounding, it was the Collision Alert klaxon. Everyone

closed their eyes, and prayed to whatever Gods they believed in. The pods were

screaming towards the ground, free falling at an incredible speed, and the systems

were warning of an imminent collision.

        C'mon, Terrak thought, trying to goad the engines active mentally; kick in...

        Finally, with a jarring tilt to starboard, the engines and navigation systems

came on, swerving the small craft away from the copse of incredibly huge trees that

dominated the Paracian jungle. A minute later, the inertial dampeners kicked on,

and all six people were unstrapping themselves and rushing forward, to the

command consoles.

        Though there were only three seats here; one for Terrak, Swanstrom and Kai,

the others watched anxiously.       "Viewer on," Kai said automatically, her hand

activating it. The screen filled with an image of trees larger than the Redwoods that

grew on Earth. The pod was weaving in and out of them at breakneck speeds.

        They flew just below the tree line, Swanstrom guiding the small lifeboat

through the thick trunks with practiced skill. The other two pods that were filled

with their equipment were slaved to this helm, falling in behind them in a straight

line.

        "Slowing to eighty kilometers, seventy, sixty," Swanstrom guided the craft
lower and lower as they decelerated, following the pre-programmed map
The Human Equation                      Page 157                                Natale




coordinates and juxtaposing their speed and angle of descent to compute an

approach profile in her head. "Approaching target, beginning descent."

       It was only about sixty feet to the jungle floor, but they felt like they were a

thousand feet up. The giant Gruff trees trunks were eighty feet across, and they

were hundreds of feet high. The jungle floor was alive with indigenous life, most of

it virtually harmless, as long as you stayed out of its way.

       They landed softly, finally cutting their acceleration altogether and hovering

over the jungle floor for a moment before Swanstrom lowered them down. Kai

checked the instruments. "Lifeboats II and III are right behind us."

       "Alright, people, now let's not get too anxious...." Terrak leaned over in front

of Kai and switched on the active sensors. "Hiroku, set up a sensor field, say one

thousand meter radius, centering on this 'boat. Have it warn us if any life over say,"

he thought for a moment, "sixty pounds enters the designated area. If you can,

program in an energy detection and analysis program too."

       Hiroku nodded and got to work, calibrating the sensors and activating the

field. A few minutes later, she shook her head and said, "All set, sensors read clear."

       Everyone stood, except Hiroku, who would stay and monitor the sensors.

       "Alright everyone, grab your gear and let's make camp." He picked up the

large trunk that held his gear, activating the door by leaning on the control with his

shoulder. As it hissed open, revealing a noisy and humid jungle, the sounds of Kyle's

snoring drowned even these out. Terrak leaned over his shoulder and said, "And

will someone please wake up Kyle?"




USS ENTERPRISE
The Human Equation                        Page 158                           Natale




       Spock walked up behind Kirk. "Captain," the Vulcan began, but Kirk cut him

off.

       "I know," Kirk said, rubbing his eyes, "We should have intercepted the

Pegasus hours ago. A whole starship just can't disappear."

       "It is possible the Pegasus is destroyed, Captain, however, the sensors do not

indicate any extraneous debris in our path."

       Kirk thought for a moment longer. "Navigator, position."

       "Bearing two-point-two, Mark seven. Leaving Quadrant Vun for Quadrant

Two, Keptin." Chekov double checked his instruments to make sure the information

was accurate.

       "Exactly how far are we supposed to follow them, Jim?"

       Spock and Kirk turned at the sound of McCoy's voice. Neither had heard the

bridge doors open. "Bones," Kirk said, "why aren't you in Sickbay, Doctor? We need

a detailed analysis of Thorn's formulas and equations."

       McCoy shook his head. He looked weary. "I know, Jim, I found something

pretty interesting. I think you should see this." He turned back towards the

turbolift, and Kirk and Spock followed.

       "Mr. Sulu," Kirk said, "you have the conn."




In Sickbay, Kirk and Spock watched as McCoy queued up a computer simulation on

the large monitor built into the wall. The three of them sat opposite the screen

behind a small semi-circular table.
The Human Equation                        Page 159                               Natale




          "Now this," McCoy said, pointing to a computer graphic that was shaped like

a twisted ladder, "is the normal DNA strand found in most Humanoid species." His

hands ran across the keyboard of the control unit. "But this," he switched the

viewer to an image of a similar DNA strand, but this one was like a twisted rope

ladder with twice as many rungs, "is what the strand would look like after a trip

through Thorn's transporter."

          "So?" Kirk said. "It's mutated. We know that already."

          McCoy shook his head. "No, Jim, that's just it! It's not mutated. It's a higher

form of DNA, a superior strand. Two separate parts combining to make a stronger,

more efficient whole. It's like his process would force the DNA into an evolutionary

state."

          Spock raised an eyebrow.

          Kirk said, "But that's impossible!"

          "Not impossible, merely unreliable." Spock stated.           "There have been

numerous attempts at achieving this very science, Captain. All have failed."

          "So what makes Thorn's transporter theory work? Why does his idea sound

so plausible to you all of a sudden?"

          "Because, Jim, I've run simulation after simulation with the data and

formulae we found in Thorn's logs. All have run perfectly! Part of the problem with

the research that's already been done is that no one knows why it hasn't worked up

until now. The end product DNA strain was unstable, it was mutated, like you said.

Not like this, this is pure, natural, no chance of genetic rejection..."

          "If this is true, Doctor," Spock began, "then the Doctor has succeeded where

generations of scientists before him have failed. He has made it possible to make

Eugenics a safe science for mankind. Desirable traits and hereditary strengths can
be passed on from generation to generation, or even person to person; while
The Human Equation                     Page 160                               Natale




undesirable traits can be effectively wiped from the genetic pool, never to be passed

on."

       McCoy nodded, excited about the prospect.

       "All this," Spock continued, not impressed, "from a man who has murdered at

least two hundred fifty people."

       Kirk shook his head. "Why? Bones, is it possible that this process could have

some side effects that are undetectable in simulations?"

       "Of course, Jim, but..."

       "Then that has to be it, Bones. There's no other explanation for his actions up

until now. You've seen his psyche profile, he never had any mental problems that

Starfleet knew about.      What would drive a man to murder an entire ship's

crew....destroy another? There has to be an explanation."

       They sat in silence for a few minutes, waiting for Kirk to make his decision.

Spock and McCoy knew that he had made his mind up about something, they had

seen the look on his face hundreds of times. Right now, he was weighing his options,

balancing pros and cons...but the decision had already been made.

       Whatever it might be.

       "Spock, I want you and Scotty to take Dr. Thorn's notes and get to work on

Cargo Transporter Six. I want a working model of whatever this thing was that

Thorn built. We'll run tests of our own and hopefully, we can come up with

something. Bones, you keep studying what we have, I want computer simulations

on Humans, Vulcans, Klingons, Romulans...every type of being we have a bio for. I'll

be on the bridge."

       Spock stood. "I'll notify Crew Chief McAullife that Cargo area three has been

commandeered by command." He left.
The Human Equation                      Page 161                               Natale




         Kirk frowned, lost in thought. Without realizing it, he began to pace. Then,

he felt the eyes bore into the back of his head. "Bones?"

         "Jim, what are you going to do once Spock and Scotty finish?"

         Kirk stared back off into nothingness. "I don't know, Bones. I just don't

know."




Lieutenant Beverly Sherla, Third Shift Science Officer, had been ordered to report

for bridge duty to replace Commander Spock. She had showered and dressed

quickly, fussing over how she looked. She was not a vain woman, but wanted to

impress upon the Captain that despite Condition BRAVO, she could be ready at a

moment's notice.

         There was an old saying on Earth that everyone was famous for fifteen

minutes of their life. She knew this was her fifteen minutes; her chance to work on

the bridge with the first shift crew. They were the best, and just to be here was an

honor, even if it wasn't intended to be one.

         It was her desire to one day occupy sciences on First Shift, but she knew that

to do that, she would most likely be working under Mr. Spock, and he would be

Captain then. She shuddered at the thought of filling his shoes, and hoped she was

doing it at least adequately.

         Now, she stood poised over the sensor output module, correlating the data

that the sensors program deemed worthy enough to filter through to the bridge.

The rest of the sensory input was fed through Data Correlation, whose unenviable

task it was to sort through the constant input of useless data to find something

useful. For two hours she gazed unmoving into the unit, hoping to God she wasn't
slouching.
The Human Equation                       Page 162                             Natale




       Suddenly, her sensors lit up.

       "Captain, Sensors! Possible contact bearing three-four-three, range: sixty

thousand kilometers and closing!"

       Kirk straightened in his command chair. "Red Alert, Lieutenant Uhura. Mr.

Chekov, plot an intercept course, Warp Six. Notify phaser crews to stand by. Arm

photon torpedoes. Sensors, report!"

       Sherla read the data coming in now, and absently switched the science logs to

record mode, per protocol. "Definite contact, Captain, unknown vessel is on an

intercept course! Still out of range for a positive ID, sir."

       "Lieutenant," Kirk said to Uhura, "Broadcast Universal Greetings on all

channels in all languages. Request identification."

       "Aye, Sir, transmitting now."

       Sherla didn't understand the image she was getting through the viewer, but

her training told her it didn't matter if she understood it or not, it was her duty to

report it to the Captain. "Sir," she began, "vessel does not conform to any specs in

Starfleet registry. Nor is it broadcasting an ID beacon."

       "Visual," Kirk ordered.

       The viewer wavered, then firmed the picture into clarity. A small saucer

shaped vessel was speeding towards them. It looked like the saucer section of the

Enterprise, except much larger. There were no markings on the outside hull, none at

least, that the Enterprise's scanning computers could pick up. No warp engines, yet

it was closing too fast for impulse only.

       "Mr. Sherla, give me vessel's speed and bearings."

       Sherla felt the knot in her stomach tighten a bit more. "Warp one, Sir.

Bearing: one-eight-one." Another set of lights blinked on her console. "Sir," she
The Human Equation                       Page 163                             Natale




said, tension creeping into her voice, "I show shields and weapons powered to full

on the unknown's forward bow. Standard phasers, sir."

       "No response to Universal Hail or ID request, Captain."

       Kirk frowned. Something wasn't right. "Mr. Sulu, fire a torpedo across her

bow. Mr. Sherla, give me a detailed scan of that ship."

       Sulu keyed in a firing pattern to the console and fired a full powered photon

torpedo across her bow. The saucer tilted slightly as the torpedo detonated a

thousand yards from the saucer, an obvious and deliberate warning.

       The ship kept coming.

       Sherla finished her scan and reported, "Vessels composition is identical to

construction material used in Federation starships, Captain. The Warp Drive is

giving off unstable readings, sir, as if it was in warp-flux."

       "Keptin," Chekov reported, "ve vill overtake de wessel in thirty seconds."

       Kirk sighed to himself. "Slow to warp two, Mr. Sulu." This was damn unusual.

All of his instincts told him he was walking right into something, but he had no proof

of hostile intent. Still, the ship was speeding towards the Enterprise with weapons

and shields powered to full.

       "Battle Stations," Kirk ordered, "all hands to Battle Stations. Engineering,"

Kirk said, as he pressed the comm panel, "strengthen forward shields thirty

percent." The Engineers complied, routing power through the shield network to

strengthen forward shields.

       "Two minutes to contact, Keptin."

       Thirty seconds passed, and the door to the bridge hissed open.          Spock

stepped in and headed for the science console. Seeing Lieutenant Sherla bent over

the console, he went immediately to Kirk's side.
       "Reporting as ordered, Captain."
The Human Equation                        Page 164                             Natale




       Kirk gave Spock a quick sideways glance. "I didn't order you to the bridge,

Mr. Spock," he said under his breath.

       "You sounded the Battle Stations alarm. This is my station, Captain."

       Kirk knew there wasn't time to argue. Besides, Spock was right, and Kirk was

glad he was here. "What do you make of that, Spock?"

       Spock's eyes narrowed as he looked at the viewer. "It's saucer-like design

does not correlate with any Starfleet patterns I am familiar with."

       Something in what Spock said triggered a chord in Kirk's brain.            Kirk

suddenly had a horrifying thought.         In emergencies, the saucer section of the

Enterprise could be jettisoned, separating from the rest of the ship to make its way

to safety under impulse power. It was a desperate maneuver, and fortunately, the

Enterprise had only had to use it once. But this couldn't be that, could it?

       My God, Kirk thought, leaping out of his chair. "Sciences, 360 degree sensor

scan, maximum range, NOW!"

       Kirk cursed, knowing that the sensors had been trained on the incoming

vessel. He himself had ordered a detailed scan of the ship not moments ago. The

sensor beams would still be trained on that ship. If what he thought was happening

was happening, they were about to be in for a big surprise.

       "New contact!" Sherla reported, slight panic sounding in her voice, "Bearing:

two-six-nine, range: 20,000 kilometers and closing!"          Another second passed,

"Computer registry identifies it as a Paladin Class Destroyer....Sir! It's the Pegasus!

Or at least part of it...I mean..." her eyes widened as she interpreted the incoming

scans, "the saucer section is missing!"
The Human Equation                     Page 165                               Natale




USS PEGASUS



       Thorn sat casually in the command chair on the battle bridge, Cryer standing

to his right. "We've got them, I can't bloody believe it!" Jack was surprised at

Thorn's seemingly magical knowledge of what was happening on the starship, but

everything the man had said came to pass.

       The Enterprise had seen their unmanned saucer section and scanned it. They

would attempt to hail it, then when that failed, they would fire a warning shot across

the saucer's bow. Meanwhile, the drive section of the Pegasus would circle around

and attack from the rear.

       So far, the only miscalculation Thorn had made in predicting the Enterprise's

actions was that Thorn had stated they would use phasers, and instead, Kirk had

used a torpedo as a warning shot.

       Though he let no doubt show on his face, Thorn was beginning to wonder

what part random thought played in the process of thinking individual beings. His

musings were interrupted when the woman at the helm announced, "Phasers locked

on the Enterprise, sir!"

       Thorn had insisted that the crew refer to him as either Captain or Sir, and as

long as he kept paying them, and paying them well, they had obliged. Thorn had

studied the weapons on the destroyer, judging even the drive section of the Pegasus

to be at least an even match for the Enterprise.

       Their main weapons, the phaser cannons, had been disconnected and the

dummy nacelle rigged for a single course warp jump. The saucer was useless to

them now until they rendezvoused with it afterwards; they would have to rely on

the Pegasus' remaining armament to score a kill on the Enterprise.
The Human Equation                      Page 166                                 Natale




       And, Thorn thought with another part of his brain, my knowledge of Kirk's

tactics. Direct from the source....

       Thorn stood and leaned over Julia's shoulder. A computer generated profile

of the Enterprise was displayed, with flashing dots where Julia had targeted the

phaser and torpedo salvo.

       Cursing, Thorn shoved her aside and redirected the phasers and torpedo

targets slightly, to where they would do the most damage. He turned without

apology back to the command chair.

       He did not notice the cold look Jack gave him as he sat down and said, "Fire

all weapons! Prepare for evasive maneuvers, Julia, now listen carefully...."




USS ENTERPRISE



       Sulu glanced down at his board incredulous. "They've got a lock on us

Captain...."

       The ship reeled from the impact of torpedo hits as the lights on the bridge

went out, immediately queueing the emergency lights to bathe the bridge in red.

Not a second later, two more hits caused the Enterprise to tilt sharply to port,

throwing Spock and Sherla, the only two members standing, to the floor. This

turned out to be a saving grace for Sherla, for as she hit the floor, her science console

exploded in a shower of sparks and smoke.

       "Damage reports coming in from Decks twelve through twenty!" Uhura

barely held on to her console. "Engineering reports fatalities!"
The Human Equation                     Page 167                               Natale




       "Return fire, Mr. Sulu!" Kirk yelled, as he helped Spock and Sherla up.

"Scotty! Give me equalization on the shields, shipwide! Viewer split! Aft and fore!"

The viewer instantly divided the picture to show the incoming saucer section on the

left, and the Pegasus' drive section approaching rapidly from the rear.

       "Aft shield generator out, Cap'n, I canna give you any more!" The voice that

came over the open comm unit held a warning that Kirk knew would come. "The

mains are overloaded! We've been hit hard, Cap'n, you've got to get us outta here so I

can make repairs!"

       "Firing, Captain!" Sulu launched the two armed aft torpedoes and fired the

aft phaser banks. The helmsman aboard the Pegasus, seemingly empowered with a

sense of precognition, evaded the two torpedoes easily. The phaser strike was a hit,

however, the evasive maneuvering causing the Pegasus to actually move into the

path of the incoming fire. But the phasers aft were by far the less powerful of the

two attack modes Enterprise had available to it, and even the direct hit didn't take

the Pegasus' shields down.

       "Helm, hard about, three hundred sixty degrees!" Kirk dashed over to the

Damage Control Console, checking the profile of the Enterprise, watching the pulsing

lights indicate precise shots to specific systems. "He knows where to hit us, Spock.

How do I counter that?"

       Spock lowered his voice, as the rest of the bridge crew was ignorant to

exactly what had happened on Omnicron I. "You must use your skill as Captain to

come up with a solution that Thorn cannot possibly predict. He does have your

instinctive gift for command, but he cannot possibly predict a, shall we say,

inspirational maneuver?"
The Human Equation                      Page 168                              Natale




         Kirk looked at the Vulcan, glad he had come to the bridge. Spock was right.

Pull a rabbit out of your hat, Jim, Bones would say. Thorn can't predict anything but

what I should logically do, so...

         "Helm, full ahead, bearing minus three-three-three mark six, warp one on my

mark."

         Chekov frantically laid in the navigational commands.       "Course plotted,

Keptin."

         "Warp speed, Mr. Sulu! Phasers, fire pattern Delta-Omega, now!"

         The Enterprise protested loudly as she was shoved roughly into full impulse

utilization. The pitch of the ship changed as she moved, dipping the saucer end of

the Enterprise downwards relative to the artificial horizon.

         Kirk knew he would have only seconds before the Pegasus could fire again.

He prayed then, in the meantime, that it would be enough.




USS PEGASUS



         Thorn hadn't expected this specific action from Kirk, but he guessed the

Captain might not rely on conventional tactics. "Helm, three quarter impulse roll

starboard. Initiate!"

         The Pegasus moved, barrel-rolling out of the Enterprise's path. Suddenly, the

Enterprise streaked out of sight, leaving a multicolored warp-wake behind it.

Thorn's eyes grew in surprise. "All power to aft shields!"

         Stevens at the sensors and engineering stations, pressed a few buttons for

the third time.      "Shields not answering," he bellowed, angry.      "The artificial
intelligence systems are overloaded!"
The Human Equation                        Page 169                             Natale




       All eyes on the bridge glared at Thorn, and Jack pressed his face into Thorn's

unblinking view. "Tactical retreat, Thorn!"

       The ship suddenly rocked hard, and Julia struggled to retain control of the

helm. The Enterprise had fired on the Pegasus' underbelly.

       "Helm sluggish, Jack!" Julia was fighting with the controls, the last phaser

barrage from Enterprise had overloaded her systems as well. She threw her hands

up in defeat. "I've lost it!"

       Stevens shouted above the din of the Enterprise's phaser barrage. "Systems

overloading shipwide, you idiot!"

       Thorn shoved Jack out of his way with one hand, sending the Englishman

sprawling a few feet from him. His strength surprised both Jack and himself, but he

had no time to reflect on it. "Out of my way! You are relieved, helm!"

       Julia stood and went to Jack, her face a mask of rage. She half-drew her

sword, but Jack's hand stayed it. "No," he whispered, "not yet." The truth of it was

that Jack didn't think he could outwit the Enterprise without Thorn, and he didn't

want to spend the rest of his years on a maximum security prison planet, or worse --

floating through space as an atomized piece of debris.

       "Don't even think about it, Julia. You'll be dead before you take another step."

Thorn hadn't turned, nor had he stopped his emergency repairing of the helm

console. His hands were busy in a tangle of wires and circuitry.

       Stevens cursed. "The Enterprise is turning for another pass! If they cut into

us without the shields back on line..."

       "Thorn," Jack yelled, standing and drawing his pistol in one deft motion. "Get

us out of here or I'll blow your head off."

       Thorn half turned, but kept his eyes on the viewer. "Really?" His voice was
filled with skepticism, and Jack almost sensed that the man knew he was bluffing.
The Human Equation                     Page 170                              Natale




       Jack activated the magnetic chamber with a flick of his thumb. A slight hum

could be heard, and Jack adjusted his aim to put a red dot from the laser sight right

on Thorn's forehead. "Really," Jack confirmed.

       Thorn turned slowly back towards the viewer. "Alright, Jack. A tactical

retreat it is." For now, Thorn thought privately. "Activate homing equipment on the

saucer section," Thorn commanded. No one on the bridge moved. "You wanted to

get out of here, Jack, now do it!"

       Jack nodded without taking his eyes off Thorn. "Do it, Mark."

       The big man raced over to the console and fiddled with the communications

beacons. They had been prepared for a tactical retreat from the beginning, and it

annoyed Thorn that he had to admit it was time for such an occasion.

       A tight beamed instructional code was transmitted to the saucer section's

open channels, making a slight alteration in the navigational programming. "Course

correction entered, Jack.     The saucer section has acquired....its homing on the

Enterprise."




USS ENTERPRISE



       Kirk watched the viewer with expectant eyes. His gaze was trained on the

saucer section of the Pegasus, dangerously close to them and homing in. Spock had

manned the auxiliary science station, not as well equipped as the primary station,

but sufficient. Lieutenant Sherla had been ordered to Sickbay for treatment of a

deep cut on her forehead.
The Human Equation                    Page 171                               Natale




       "Thirteen seconds to impact, Captain." Spock read another screen to his left,

craning his neck slightly as it fed information rapidly to him. "They are using their

sensors as a homing beacon...we can't lose them, Captain."

       Kirk no longer cared about the Pegasus, right now, he was worried about his

ship. The Pegasus would wait. Grudgingly, he said, "Disengage weapons lock on

Pegasus, lock all forward weapons on saucer section."

       Sulu input the commands, angry and frustrated at having been denied the

kill. The Pegasus' shields were down, perhaps there would be time after the danger

of impact with the saucer was removed. "Locked on target, Captain."

       "Six seconds," Spock warned.

       "Fire, Sulu!"

       The Enterprise roared to life again, launching two full salvos of photon

torpedoes and phaser beams into the saucer. The saucer's shields went down with

the first phaser shot, and the torpedoes finished the job, atomizing the saucer.

Immediately after launching, Sulu had rolled the Enterprise hard to port. This kept

the shields from collapsing because of the debris whirling towards them at near

light speed.

       "Target destroyed, Captain.    The Pegasus is no longer in sensor range.

Captain, we have bearing and distance." It was a question, though it was phrased

like a statement. Kirk wasn't prepared to answer yet.

       Kirk heard Spock's report, and sighed. "Slow to impulse, Mr. Sulu. Damage

report."

       Uhura signalled for incoming damage reports to the bridge. She listened,

recorded them and prioritized them in under a minute. "Engineering reports twenty

two dead, Captain." Her face mirrored the feeling in Kirk's stomach. "Two dead in
Aft Shield Control; Aft Shield Control out; ten days repair time; Warp drive power
The Human Equation                      Page 172                                   Natale




efficiency down 50%, main power efficiency down 70%, Scotty says sixteen days

repair time; Sickbay reports fifteen wounded."

       Spock raised both eyebrows, nodding. "A very effective attack, Captain."

       Kirk stood and turned on Spock savagely. "Dammit, Spock, twenty two of

your shipmates are dead! Save your praise for Dr. Thorn's skills for another time!"

He went to the turbolift. "Mr. Sulu, get us to Starbase Sixteen, best possible speed.

I'll be in Sickbay, Mr. Spock, you have the conn."




USS PEGASUS



       "Enterprise    slowing    to   impulse      power...they   are   altering     their

course...definitely not pursuing."

       Jack lowered his weapon slowly, shutting off the magnetic chamber with the

same quick flick of his right thumb. "You almost got us killed, Doc."

       Thorn stood, walking away from the helm station. He reached the turbolift

and turned. "Mr. Cryer, get your engineers to the bridge immediately, navigation

and shields are to have top priority. Change heading to zero-seven-nine, bearing

three hundred forty degrees, as we discussed earlier. Set speed for warp two and

get us moving." The doors hissed open, and he stepped inside the turbolift.

       As they began to close, Thorn reached out and braced his arms against the

doors, stopping them from closing with a jarring thud. "Oh, and Mr. Cryer? If you

draw that weapon again on my bridge, you had better be prepared to use it. You'll

only get one shot."

       The doors hissed shut.
       "That's all I ever need," Jack growled through clenched teeth.
The Human Equation                       Page 173                               Natale




IKS K'ROC



          Hoffman was taken next. He couldn't remember when they came to take him,

all he could perceive was a blinding white light shining down from above him.

Slowly, he opened his eyes -- they felt like they were stuffed with cotton. He vaguely

remembered wondering why his stateroom here on Omnicron I was so bloody

bright.

          Then the memories came back with the rough insertion of a needle into his

arm. He wasn't on Omnicron I, he saw, as his eyes focused, he was on a Klingon

warship. The room he was now in smelled of antiseptic, and it brought him back to

his childhood as he recalled frequent trips to the doctor’s for treatment of diabetes.

Only for a brief moment did the pleasant memories come. Only until the Klingon

dressed in a plain grey tunic bent over his face to inspect him.

          Hoffman was startled, and began to sit up, when he felt the muscled arms of

another Klingon hold him down at the shoulders. The two Klingons worked silently

and quickly, like the drug in his veins, shackling him down and putting him into a

state of lethargy.

          Once he was secured down by iron bands, the second one let go. Hoffman

was lucid, but he couldn't even turn his head. Thoughts swam by his consciousness,

separate but his nonetheless. He felt as if his mind were being torn in two. One half

was conscious, awake, but another half had been cleverly put to sleep by the

Klingons and their drugs.

          "He is ready," one of them said, checking the readings he got from his medical
tricorder.
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       The other Klingon grunted and suddenly the room began to move. Hoffman

realized slowly that the room was not moving, rather, the anti-grav table he was

strapped to was being led down a long corridor.

       Occasionally a Klingon would jeer at him as they passed, some even spat, but

most merely grunted or growled softly at the human infestation on their ship.

       Where are they taking me, Hoffman wondered with one part of his brain. The

other, now sarcastic and lazy, yawned. You know where, he told himself darkly. The

same place as Greenfield and Chapman. And soon, you'll be just like them. There was

so much of the drug affecting his system now, he didn't even feel fear.

       They rounded a final corner and the doors whooshed open seconds before

his head was about to hit them. Inside, Hoffman could see other Klingons, these

dressed like warriors, waiting for him.

       They unstrapped him, stepping backward cautiously. Hoffman was amused

at the thought that the Klingons might be actually waiting for him to move. Hah! I

can't even turn my head!

       The Klingon who had wheeled him here bent over and picked Hoffman up in

a dead man's carry, setting him down in a metal recliner-like chair. Above the chair,

a clamp like device was suspended horizontally, open enough to admit Hoffman's

head. His mind kicked and protested like a hooked fish, but his body was dormant.

No matter how wildly he tried to move, he felt as if all his muscles were hundreds of

pounds heavy and he couldn't lift them.

       Once in the chair, the same Klingon who had placed him here pressed the two

sides of the vice against his temples. He felt cold metal, and a slight prick as each

inserted a fine needle into his head to feed small doses of a suggestibility drug

directly into the nerve centers of his brain. Hoffman's eyes rolled back in his head,
and he began to moan.
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       The doors opened, and a large Klingon entered, flanked by an even larger

one. The other four Klingons came to attention and saluted. The Klingon who

entered first stepped out of the way of the second, and clasped his arms behind his

back expectantly.

       The other Klingon walked slowly around the chair device, locking gazes with

Hoffman as he did so. He didn't seem to care that Hoffman couldn't see him. "So,"

the Klingon said, "you are Commander Hoffman. Your subordinates do not speak

well of you, Commander. I am Captain Koth, Commander of the Battle Legion of the

Klingon Empire."

       Hoffman wanted to scream at him, break loose of these feeble restraints and

strangle the Klingon dog with his bare hands. He tried to move, but again, was

rewarded only with failure.

       Koth seemed to sense this, and absently, he waved to one of the Klingons.

The man walked over to a wall panel and turned a dial. Hoffman's brain was set on

fire. His back arched, and finally his voice was set free. His screams echoed

throughout the small chamber for but a moment, but to Hoffman, they had lasted

forever.

       "Commander, allow me to acquaint you with one of the marvels of Empire

technology. The Klingon Mind Sifter." He patted the chair roughly. "A tool of

torture and execution; or a simple tool of interrogation. It is your choice to decide

which. The more you resist, the quicker your defenses break down. You are already

fighting a losing battle, which you are, no doubt, already aware of."

       Koth paced for a moment longer, then turned and said something to the one

he entered with that Hoffman couldn't hear. Both Klingons turned back to face

Hoffman. "Commander," Koth began again, "your subordinates knew little of what
was happening on Omnicron I. You and I know this to be true, the Mind Sifter
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cannot be misled. They were returned to their cells empty husks. Dead, for all

intents and purposes, really, their minds are destroyed, they exist only as shells

now. We will dispose of them as such when it is convenient for us."

       Hoffman felt anger and rage, pity and sorrow for his comrades, but his body

would not allow him to react to either. What will I do, he wondered, when this Lord

Koth starts asking questions? Will I be forced to answer, betraying the secrets of the

Federation and Starfleet?

       "Commander, I can offer one simple piece of advice, from one soldier to

another. We are both caught in circumstances that we ourselves have little control

over. Our respective governments are embroiled in a threadbare conflict that could

escalate to open war any day now. You and I are but soldiers, dogs under our

masters whips; they crack, and we obey. Here, I offer you your life. You have a

choice, Commander, to live or die. The Mind Sifter will know the truth, whether you

lie or not. If you lie, you will not live. Tell the truth, and well," he broke into a

savage grin, "you just might survive."

       Koth turned back to the technician manning the controls. "You may begin."

       The Klingon turned and started inputting codes into the machinery. Hoffman

felt a surge of adrenalin, and his pulse quicken. He was unconscious of his left foot

tapping steadily as the drug's dosage increased. His temples burned, and his mind

was beginning to lose the ability to focus clearly.

       Hoffman fought against it, but couldn't remember what he was fighting for.

He felt a trickle of blood run down his nose and into his open mouth, and felt his

body arch once again. His screams were intense, brought to the surface by pain his

body and mind could not even begin to comprehend.

       Then, as he heard someone begin to interrogate him, blackness took him.
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Koth reviewed the Sifter report in his ready room. He paced, carrying the electronic

tablet and reading the report. The Sifter Technician had said that Hoffman had told

the truth willingly, but Koth ordered him executed anyway for security reasons. The

man would have had too much of his mind intact to keep a prisoner, Koth decided.

       With Hoffman's execution, it was complete. All of the officers on Omnicron I

and scientists of significant status had been through the Mind Sifter. After that, they

were executed in the name of galactic peace along with the other non-essential

personnel. Koth looked out the port window, barely seeing Omnicron I in the

distance, orbiting the planet Omnicron lazily.

       It is vacant now. Of life and knowledge. His first of what he hoped would be

many missions of conquest for the Empire had been a success. Koth's attention was

drawn back to the report.

       All of the Mind Sifter reports had been studied by their onboard specialists in

Human Psychology, and a final report formulated describing what knowledge they

had gained. And it was rare knowledge.

       The first thirty screens of the report had dealt with the Trilithium project in

great detail. Included with this was information they were able to take right from

the memory banks of the station itself.

       The only mention of the transporter technology had come from the base

Commander, who Koth learned had just been promoted to Acting base commander.

His knowledge was sketchy, the human himself had obviously not been of sufficient

rank to have been briefed. The only solid knowledge he had was his own opinions

formed from a brief meeting with the officers of the Enterprise.

       The second half of the report stated that the Enterprise had pursued the
scientist who claimed to have discovered the new transporter technology in a stolen
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Federation starship. Why would this be, Koth wondered? Could the Federation

actually not have known about the Doctor's work? Koth doubted it, but also knew

that this doubt came from an inbred propaganda machine that embroiled the

denizens of the Empire with an intense anti-Federation attitude. He dismissed his

feelings for the moment, he would sort them out later.

         His thoughts were interrupted when the buzzer on his room sounded.

"Enter," Koth said, not taking his eyes off of his report.

         Kragg stood in the doorway. "Lord, if it pleases you, The K'Tuk reports that

the Trilithium has successfully been installed into their intermix chamber. They are

preparing for a test run now."

         "Have they run computer simulations?"

         "Yes, Lord. All were completely successful. Our own engineers confirmed the

data."

         Koth set the tablet down and followed Kragg out onto the bridge. On the

viewer, the station Omnicron I orbited the planet lazily.       Computer generated

images of the K'Tuk and the Karash orbited the station. They were still under cloak,

but their sensors were locked to each other, constantly relaying positional data

within the company to allow the viewer computers to generate real-time images of

their location.

         "Open a channel to the K'Tuk and the Karash, Lieutenant."

         The communications officer already had it open. "Channel open, Lord."

         Koth strode to the forward section of the bridge, just behind the helm and

weapons stations. "Karash, you will leave orbit with the K'Roc at my command.

K'Tuk, you will initiate the Trilithium Warp Drive, executing helm maneuver four-

seven-two. A two kelokam warp jump will follow. On to success!"
         The K'Tuk and the Karash signalled ready. "Leave orbit, helm."
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       As Koth issued the order, his Duk'Muh turned to the information relay officer,

"Order Karash to leave orbit."

       Soon, the two KATANAs were soaring away from the station, out towards

Klingon territory. "K'Tuk, initiate maneuvers now!" Koth sat in his command chair,

switching the viewer to aft mode manually.

       Once the Trilithium tested out well, all three ships of the Legion would be

fitted, and then the hunt would begin for the Enterprise and undoubtedly, this

scientist. Koth felt a bit annoyed at having the K'Tuk gain the glory from the first

live test run, but his Duk'Muh had insisted that the flagship itself not be risked until

the technology was proven. Koth was irritated at having his authority challenged,

but in these matters, the Duk'Muh had the final word.

       The viewer showed the image of the K'Tuk soaring in a practiced attack

pattern on the orbiting station. Koth watched as it made its final ascent, and then

ordered, "Warp jump now!"

       The K'Tuk surged out past Omnicron I, angling away from the K'Roc and the

Karash, leaving behind a crimson trail of folded warp space as they went. "Viewer

forward," Koth ordered, watching with awe as the K'Tuk accelerated almost out of

visual range.

       "Helm, pursue!"

       "Yes, Lord, going to warp seven!" The K'Roc accelerated smoothly, and the

image of the K'Tuk grew slightly larger on the viewer. It then shot out of sensor

range once again.

       "Sensors, report!"

       "Lord," the science officer reported, amazement plain on his face, "the K'Tuk

has exceeded warp nine and is rapidly approaching warp ten! Thier warp field is
mutating into a larger, more powerful sine pattern!"
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       "Success!" Koth roared. "Emergency speed, helm! Warp nine!"

       The K'Roc growled savagely, and fed the antimatter mix directly into the

warp engines. Koth had given an order, and it was obeyed without question.

However, the speed they were now reaching was considered dangerous, exceeding

the safety limits of even this ship, and this was not lost on any member of the crew.

       As they grew closer to the K'Tuk, suddenly the ship disappeared from their

sensors, vanishing with a large flash of light that grew into a multicolored tunnel.

Koth leaned forward, but at the same instant, the science officer shouted,

"Wormhole, dead ahead, bearing two-four-two, range: 3,000 kelokams!"

       "All stop!" Koth shouted, turning to Kragg who was already relaying the order

to the Karash.

       With another wail of protest, the K'Roc slowed down faster than she should

have, throwing Koth and a few others to the floor. The Inertial Dampeners couldn't

compensate fast enough for the drastic speed reduction.

       "Answering all stop, Lord!"

       Koth stood and straightened his armor, adjusting the breastplate slightly.

       There was no alert status lights or signals on board Klingon warships. Every

warrior aboard was always in a state of battle-readiness. Despite this, Koth could

feel the tension of his crew rise as they stared into the wormhole, wondering what

happened to their sister ship, the K'Tuk.

       A gaping wound in the fabric of space, the sensors aboard the K'Roc scanned

the anomaly and displayed it graphically on the viewer as a thin tunnel of swirling

chaos with a monstrous maw stretching in its myriad of colors into infinity.

       In reality, it was invisible to the eye, but the viewer computers created the

picture graphically from supplied data to give the crew navigational bearings.
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       Koth was about to order an intensive sweep to search for the K'Tuk. If

necessary, they would follow the K'Tuk into the hole and initiate emergency rescue

maneuvers.

       Then, without warning, the wormhole collapsed.

       The substance of the tunnel for as far as the sensors could reach vanished

and was instantly replaced by a trail of molten, twisted metal. Koth knew it was the

K'Tuk, it could be nothing else. "Sensors." he growled through clenched teeth.

       The mood of stunned silence was broken with Koth's softly spoken

command. The sensors technician struggled to get a rapid reading. "Debris verified

as the wreckage of the K'Tuk, Lord. It extends in a single path for the entire parsec."




Koth paced back and forth rapidly in the ready room, his breathing heavy and barely

controlled. Kragg stood silent, his hands clasped behind his back.

       "Duk'Muh!     Put every engineer who so much as saw the data for the

Trilithium experiment on report! How could our engineers not have known that a

mutating warp field of this magnitude would cause a Wormhole effect?! A first year

engineering cadet could see this!"

       Kragg shrugged, nodding. "Now that the data has been correlated, the facts

are plain, Lord. However, our men have never dealt with the triple energy field that

the Trilithium stones give off, Lord, their best estimates were predictions at best..."

       "Their incompetence cost the lives of thousands of Klingons! They are all

reduced one step in rank! I want a detailed analysis in my cabin memory banks in

two hours!"

       "Yes, Lord!" Kragg answered, coming to stiff attention.
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       "Also, log commendations for every crewman of the K'Tuk! They died most

honorably for the Empire."

       Kragg glanced out of the corner of his eyes at his Commander. "Lord," he

began carefully, "the Council will not sanction decorations for the K'Tuk. Their

deaths held no meaning in the further glorification of the Empire."

       Koth saw that Kragg actually approved of this statement, but he quelled the

anger within him. "Duk'Muh," Koth whispered, sending an instant chill to Kragg's

very soul, "the crew of the K'Tuk died testing a new propulsion system to be used on

every Klingon warship from here to the Romulan Homeworlds! Their deaths have

proved this technology unreliable, saving the lives of every Klingon aboard this ship,

as well as the Karash! Had I brought this Trilithium back to the Empire as you first

suggested, how many of the Council would have insisted on being on the first

Trilithium outfitted ship? How many more Klingons would have died? Surely you

aren't suggesting that the death of many of the High Council Members would be a

desireable thing?"

       "No, Lord, I..."

       "Silence!" Koth circled Kragg like a predator stalking his prey. "We also now

know that the Federation has no new propulsion system, and have evidence that

this transporter technology is also a failure! How else do you explain the

disappearance of the base commander on a stolen Federation vessel, and the pursuit

of that vessel by the flagship of Starfleet itself!"

       Kragg knew his Lord expected no answers, and remained dutifully silent.

       "I will make my report to the Empire, Kragg, and log with it my

recommendation that we cancel any invasion plans into Federation space." Koth

stood in front of Kragg now, face to face, staring into the other's eyes intensely.
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"Without these new technologies, and with the drought and famine on many of our

worlds, I question our ability to emerge from such a conflict victorious."

       Kragg let no sign of fear touch his face, but he loathed his duty right at this

moment. He knew he must speak, as Duk'Muh of the K'Roc, and representative of

the Empire's goals and desires. And, he reminded himself, his conscience as a

Klingon warrior...

       "Lord," Kragg started slowly, "I also must make a report. I respectfully

caution you to consider the implications if our reports are in disagreement. The

Council wants War. You are correct when you speak of the economic state of the

Empire right now. A War would unify our people, send the economy back to where

it should be. We are Klingons! The Federation would split if war was declared.

Vulcan would not likely be involved in such a conflict, and many would follow their

example. With all due respect, Lord, I submit that you are not seeing all that there is

to see. More forces are at work than our three," he corrected himself quickly, "two

vessels."

       Koth's eyes were amber coals of fury. When he spoke, it was with carefully

controlled rage. "Are you challenging my authority, Duk'Muh?"

       Kragg read the threat in Koth's eyes, and shook his head. "No, Lord." Kragg

turned and made to leave. When he reached the door, he stopped. "However, Lord

Koth, should our reports to the Empire be in conflict, I may have no choice but to."

       Koth inhaled deeply, jutting his chin towards the ceiling.        A low growl

escaped his throat. "That is your duty, Duk'Muh. But know this - if you attempt to

usurp my command without just cause, I will hang your innards from my command

chair as a reminder to the crew...and to your replacement."
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       Kragg returned Koth's stare, then turned and left. When the doors hissed

shut, Koth turned towards the wall and let out a deafening growl, bringing his

mailed fist crashing down onto the top of his desk.
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                                 CHAPTER EIGHT



STARBASE SIXTEEN



       Kirk and Spock met outside the Starbase's main turbolift that wound its way

around the cylindrical station. They were both in full dress uniform, and were on

their way to a briefing with Sector Command about the current situation between

the Federation and Klingon Empire.

       "Predictions, Spock?" Kirk asked as the turbolift doors closed.

       "I cannot make an accurate estimate without sufficient data, Captain."

       "Deck Ten," Kirk said, activating the lift. "I mean why after three weeks in

spacedock has the brass changed our orders again? And, why the emergency

briefing?"

       "Unknown, Captain, but we will find the answer to that shortly."

       The doors hissed open, and they stepped out into a chamber with a single
door on the opposite end. The sentries who guarded the door stepped forward, one
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of them recognizing Kirk. "Captain Kirk. You must be Commander Spock. I'll need

to see your identity solids and orders, then you can pass right through, sirs."

       Kirk and Spock handed the man their solids, and he turned and inserted them

into a wall panel that scanned the coded data and verified it. The other sentry

watched them, not suspiciously, Kirk noted, but efficiently.

       A minute later, the man stepped aside, and returned their solids to them. "All

clear, sirs, right through that door. The Admiral is waiting."

       When they entered, the conversation stopped abruptly, and the six men and

six women stood and greeted Kirk and Spock. Everyone except one man at the end

of the table was wearing Captain or Commander's rank. The man at the end wore

the uniform of the Admiralty. Kirk knew Jonathan Sinclair, in charge of Quadrant II.

       Spock and Kirk found their way to the two empty seats saved for them, and

the Admiral sat back down. After everyone else was seated again, the Admiral

cleared his throat.

       "Captain Kirk; Commander Spock, I believe you know the others." Indeed

they did, they were the Captains and First Officers of some of the larger starships

assigned to this Quadrant. A few informal nods to each other. There would be time

to talk later, chit-chat with old friends was done outside of the briefing room.

       "Now that we're all here, I'd like to commend each and every one of you for

the job you've been doing under the circumstances. Jim, I understand you lost

twenty two people. Damn sorry about that."

       Kirk nodded.

       Sinclair nodded to his aide, who stood and activated the screen. The lights

dimmed as charts and graphs filled the screen behind him. "Sirs, I am from the

Defense Department, my name is Benton Allen. What we say here is classified top
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secret and is not to leave the room. We are declassifying this as quickly as possible

and to command rank only on a Need-To-Know basis."

         He paused as everyone nodded politely. "For the past three weeks, the

government of Parac VII has been in the early stages of civil war.          Starfleet

Intelligence has had a team there since it started. They've just informed us that

they've discovered positive proof of a Klingon Strike Base some thirty miles outside

of Gogun's Peace, the capital of Parac VII. I apologize for the quality of the image,

gentlemen, but we only received word of it this morning over the emergency

telemetry channels and this is the best we could clean it up."

         The screen filled with a blurry image of a medium sized concrete like

building, with no windows and only one door. Though the picture was a bit out of

focus, there was no mistaking the two Klingon guards, armed heavily standing

guard.

         The picture dissolved and reformed to a bird's eye view of the entire

encampment. Allen continued. "The agents responsible took this via remote camera,

and though the unit itself was buried in the clouds, the clarity on this one is a bit

better. We believe this to be their primary headquarters, our intelligence team took

survey scans and detected heavy electronic equipment. It's our bet that there's a

Klingon bird in orbit under cloak supporting the ground troops with more detailed

sensor scans, orbital strikes, etc."

         The encampment was large enough to hold the building, a small landing field

for some unknown type of craft, and four heavily armored troop carriers. From this

view, perimeter guards could be seen every thirty yards or so.

         "According to the 2220 edition of Jane's Weapons of the Klingon Empire,"

Allen continued, pointing to the armored vehicles, "these heavy anti-personnel
carriers are mounted with two forward phaser turrets, and a grenade launcher with
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a range of about seven hundred yards. Inside, the titanium plating protects the

sophisticated sensor equipment from just about anything that the Paracians are

capable of using. Add to that the fifty shock troops each one carries, and you've got

yourselves the makings of a war, gentlemen. Our intelligence on these is sketchy at

best, but our best people say a company of these could take over the planet inside a

month."

       Spock raised an eyebrow. "With the Klingons backing the Paracian factions,

how long before total Klingon domination of the planet occurs?"

       "Our people say that with Klingon aid it will be six to eight months before the

civil war ends, then another six months for the Klingons to set up a puppet

government and install a Grand Minister sympathetic enough to be manipulated.

The Paracians don't even know it, I'd wager."

       "Once the war is over, they'd probably welcome the Klingons," Sinclair said,

frowning. "Their planet will be a wreck, I'm sure the Klingons will see to that. Then,

once they desperately need outside assistance, it will be time to pay the piper, as

they say."

       "What exactly can be done about the Klingons' interference?" Kirk was

curious.

       "Nothing," Allen said, clasping his hands in front of him.        "At least not

officially. Starfleet Intelligence has ordered the operatives to neutralize the Klingon

aide to the anti-Federation factions."

       Kirk frowned, and made to speak, but Spock was faster. "Mr. Allen, is that not

a direct violation of the Prime Directive?"

       "No, Mr. Spock, it's not. We like to think that it is more of a bending of policy

than a direct violation. The intelligence group on Parac VII will neutralize the base,
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then return to Starbase Sixteen. The civil war will progress as per Paracian policy,

and may the best man win, I believe the saying goes."

       "We had to fight damn hard to get that by the Federation Tribunal, people,"

Sinclair growled, silencing the murmuring of disapproval. "At first, the SFID wasn't

going to notify the Council, but it needed the Council's backing to put a permanent

surveillance ship in the area to keep an eye on the Klingons and make sure they

don't reinforce the war effort after we remove them from the picture. Once we

explained to the Tribunal the strategic importance of Parac VII, they readily agreed."

Sinclair paused, and then said, "What else you got, son?"

       Allen picked up the remote for the screen and advanced the image one frame.

A starmap was displayed, showing all three major powers' space and boundaries.

"The Federation has been attempting to negotiate with the Klingons, but they are

still denying that there is any extraordinary military activity within the Empire. The

Ashnu Conflict is still waging, as far as our intel sources tell us, but we have noted a

decisive reduction in troops and vessels by the Klingons near the Disputed Treaty

Zone borders. We still give a preemptive victory to the Klingons, signifying an even

greater starship shortage in the Romulan Empire, but this has been going on for two

years, and it's no closer to being solved one way or the other. That's all I have for

you now, sir."

       Admiral Sinclair nodded, and said, "If that's all, Mr. Allen, you're dismissed."

       Allen saluted, then turned and saluted the other officers, gathered his things,

and left the room. When he was gone, the officers all looked to the Admiral. He

carefully watched each of their faces, trying to read a reaction in each.

       When he got to Kirk, the Captain spoke.           "Sir, why was that material

declassified to us? We can't directly interfere with the mission on Parac VII."
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           Sinclair nodded.   "You're right, Jimmy, you're right.   I want my people

informed, and this stuff can't be downloaded to your vessels, not even through the

Starbase's computer net. As long as you're going to be operating out of this sector,

ladies and gentlemen, I want you informed of every bit of information I get my hands

on. It doesn't do me any good to keep it to myself, you're the ones out there risking

it all, not me."

           Kirk nodded, remembering how much he liked this man. Sinclair was a no

nonsense kind of person. The kind of man who let you forget he was an Admiral

from time to time.

           Admiral Sinclair stood and continued. "Now, on to the second reason why

you're all here. Everyone here has been briefed as to the Enterprise's findings on the

dilithium mining facility of Omnicron I. Captain Sullivan, I believe you have some

new data on that subject?"

           A red haired, middle aged woman stood, straightening her uniform. "Thank

you, Admiral. Screen on."

           The lights dimmed and the room's attention was diverted to the large screen

at the end of the chamber. "This is log recordings from the Cygnus' encounter with

the Pegasus."

           Kirk and Spock looked at each other, Kirk obviously annoyed at not being

informed. Well, he reminded himself, you're not the only starship Captain in the

fleet...

           The recordings began, showing a date of only three days ago. They showed

the bridge from a bird's eye view, with emphasis on the main viewer. "Here,"

Sullivan pointed to a speck on the main viewer, "is the Pegasus at our maximum

sensor range. We picked her up and immediately pursued, but broke off contact at
seven-seven-four, for obvious reasons."
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       Kirk wasn't familiar with those coordinates. When he pulled into spacedock

at SB16, he received his reassignment orders to this Quadrant and hadn't had a

chance to study the maps to that extent yet. He raised a pointed finger, "Excuse me,

Captain, I don't recognize the coordinates."

       "The Romulan Neutral Zone, Captain Kirk. The Pegasus soared right past

Solomon II and crossed the border. We ordered her off, but they refused hailing

frequencies, Hell, we even fired at her when we got in range. They must have a hell

of a Captain, whoever they are."

       "They do," Kirk said, flattered at the unintended compliment. He shot Spock

a sideways glance.

       Admiral Sinclair was the only one who knew about the DNA/RNA transfer

that Thorn had made before leaving Omnicron I, Kirk remembered. Sinclair nodded

to Kirk, who stood and said, "Viewer off."

       The lights snapped back on, and the screen went dark.             "Ladies and

Gentlemen, the Admiral has indicated that we divulge to you some classified

material. You've all read the reports about what my medical and science staff says

about Thorn's research. He's trying to make genetic surgery possible by using the

transporter to manipulate the molecular patterns while in the matrix."

       Kirk paced, looking to Spock for help, knowing the Vulcan would remain

silent until called upon to speak. A glance at Sinclair and a nod from the Admiral

spurred Kirk on. "My First Officer and I have evidence that leads us to believe that

Doctor Thorn recorded the genetic patterns of myself, my First Officer Mr. Spock,

and my Chief Surgeon Leonard McCoy. We also believe that he then went through

his transporter himself, pre-programming it to merge our genetic maps with his

own. However, we believe something went wrong, and the process produced a very
dangerous, extremely psychotic individual."
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       The silence that followed Kirk's words was impressive. Christine Sullivan

was the first to speak. "That explains it, then." Everyone looked at her. "That

explains why they were able to outmaneuver us and stay at our maximum sensor

range. They played cat and mouse with us, Jim! It wasn't just blind luck, and I

wasn't up against some half-trained terrorist. I was up against you, Spock and

McCoy, all rolled into one."

       "Is this possible?" Captain Soloc of the Intrepid asked. The Vulcan had a very

doubtful look on his face.

       Kirk merely looked at Spock, who caught the order and said, "It is not only

possible, gentlemen, it is reality. The Doctor has managed to meld our genetic maps

into one, granting him specific knowledge in some cases, more general instinct in

others. Since the Enterprise has been in spacedock, Mr. Scott, our Chief Engineer

and I have reconstructed Dr. Thorn's work and integrated it into our cargo

transporter."

       Admiral Sinclair stepped in. "It is our intention to use this device to form a

hypothesis of what happened to Thorn when he went through. The man has

murdered hundreds of people, and God only knows what he's heading for Romulan

Territory for.   This meeting is adjourned until 0830 tomorrow, when we will

assemble again on the Enterprise for a demonstration of the device. Questions?"

       Each of the officers was lost in their own thoughts, dreaming up their own

fears and nightmares of what was to come.

       "Good," Sinclair nodded, "until tomorrow then."

       Sinclair placed a hand on Kirk's shoulder as he was about to leave. "Sorry to

spring that on you, Jimmy, but I didn't have time to talk to you before the briefing.

You're men will be ready at 0830, right?"
       Kirk nodded. "Yes, sir."
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           "Maybe when this is all over, we can try the fishing trip we talked about back

on Earth, how's that sound, Jimmy?"

           Kirk smiled. Sinclair was like an uncle to him, though the man was only ten

or so years older than Kirk himself. "Sounds good, Admiral." Kirk turned to leave,

and felt the knot in his stomach grow one notch tighter. These past weeks had

strained him heavily, and he was beginning to get really tired. It sounds damn good,

he said to himself.




IKS K'ROC



           Koth's battle legions had been in Federation space now for three weeks,

following the last projected course the Enterprise and Pegasus had laid in. There

had been no contacts on the sensors for the past few days, and Koth knew the crew

was getting restless.

           A fist fight had broken out in the company's mess ten hours ago, and under

the advice of Kragg, Koth had let it go undisturbed until someone fired a disrupter.

           No serious damage had been done, but Koth knew when his men began

quarrelling amongst themselves, they couldn't work effectively as a team. He knew

that unless they regained the previous fervor of their mission, he may have to order

an emergency heading change into the Triangle to hunt down stray merchant ships.

Anything to keep the crew hungry, Koth thought. They miss the challenge of battle,

as do I.

           A week ago, Koth had made his report to the Empire via subspace radio, and

it was not well received. When he called up the week's communication logs to check
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his Duk'Muh's report, the ACCESS DENIED message had thrown him into a fury from

which he still had not recovered.

       Since then, he had planned, and the hunt began.

       Koth made the expected appearances on the bridge to check the sensor

readings and offer a word or two of inspiration to the bridge crew, but other than

that, he left the bridge in the capable hands of his Duk'Muh. Koth would spend hours

in his cabin or ready room, never discussing these absences with Kragg, as would

have been protocol. This went on for the entire week, causing more and more

suspicious glances to fall on him from Kragg's paranoid eyes.

       Let him wonder, Koth thought. Late in the evening, during the first shift's

sleep period, he queued up the subspace communications link and began coding a

new cipher to transmit his message in.             Cryptology had been one of Koth's

specialties before he was awarded command of the Legions, and he finished within

an hour. After that, he keyboarded a brief message and ordered it to transmit a tight

beam aimed to the heart of the Empire.

       Koth had written the cipher in a bulky code deliberately, making up the

commands and key-code antidotes on the fly. Now, as the message transmitted, it

took four to five times as long as it normally would have, as the communications

program was translating it at the same time as it was transmitting.

       Satisfied, Koth stood and left his cabin, walking towards the officer's

quarters. Two doors down, he drew his disrupter, and charged it to full. His

breathing was heavy, almost panting, and he consciously made an effort to silence it.

Koth's movements were unheard in the empty hallway, even with his bulky armor

on, the skills he had learned as a boy still served him.
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       He stopped at the door he sought and wondered if he had attained the same

state of agitation as his crew. Koth leaned his head against the door, dismissing the

thoughts. The door was locked with a privacy circuit, Koth saw.

       Fool, he thought bitterly. Your treachery has caused you to become careless,

my friend. To the small speaker unit near the door, he barked, "Captain Koth:

emergency open!"

       The door threw itself open with a hiss to reveal Kragg bent over a small

terminal, a look of surprise and anger playing across his features. "Lord Koth,"

Kragg said, not attempting to hide Koth's message as it scrolled up on his own

terminal.

       "You are relieved as Duk'Muh, and branded as a traitor, Kragg. I warned you

not to challenge my authority."

       "Lord," Kragg began calmly, neither begging nor attempting to hide his

subterfuge, "I am merely doing my duty, Lord. As Duk'Muh, I must watch each and

every member of the crew for signs of weakness. You, I must watch closest of all."

       "No!" Koth roared. "As Duk'Muh your only duty is my protection! Other than

that, any other action you take is yours and yours alone. And you must answer for

your actions to me."

       Kragg said nothing, merely raised his chin and growled.

       Koth switched the setting on the disrupter from destroy to the heat setting,

and fired once, striking him in the shoulder. Kragg's armor splintered as the beam

barrelled its way to flesh and lit the hair on his body on fire. Koth fired twice more,

once in the opposite shoulder and once in each leg, throwing Kragg to the floor.

       By now, Kragg was bleeding from the torn flesh now exposed on his

appendages, but his eyes only flashed defiance. "Why do you dishonor me! If you
want to execute me, then do so! I will not entertain you with a slow death!"
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       Koth shrugged, his back to Kragg now. He changed the setting back to

destroy in an instant. "So be it!" He turned and fired again, and Kragg was gone.

       The booted feet of security made their way to the cabin only seconds after

Koth's final shot. They looked to their Captain for an explanation, confused. "What

is it, Lord?" The security commander asked.

       "It is Kragg. He has been executed under the Kul'Tu,Kah!" The ancient right

of every Klingon starship captain to execute any member of his crew for any reason

whatsoever.

       Koth tucked his disrupter back into his belt and said to the security

commander, "Dismissed, Commander."

       "Yes, Lord!" The Klingon ordered the other two to follow him wordlessly

down the corridor. Koth watched them go, then turned back towards Kragg's cabin.

       He spent some time searching Kragg's cabin, but the Duk'Muh was extremely

thorough. Nothing which could be considered openly implicating had been left out

in the open.

       Koth sighed. It will be a long night, he thought, and sat down at Kragg's

computer. The security devices and codes were simplistic, compared to Koth's

knowledge of such things. In a few moments, he was in his Duk'Muh's personal file.

       As he read Kragg's personal log, his eyes narrowed and he growled deep

within his throat. Very interesting, he thought, and read the entire log. It spanned

the time from when he first beamed aboard to his last moments in this life.

       Koth passed a few hours this way, and nodded in satisfaction as he shut the

terminal off. Tonight, he thought with satisfaction, I will sleep well.
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STARBASE SIXTEEN
0830 HRS.



       Kirk and Spock received the small band of officers in the main transporter

room, and led them to cargo area three and its massive cargo transporter. Normally,

protocol would dictate that Kirk give the other Captains and the Admiral a tour of

the Enterprise, but there was no time for it now.

       "If you'll all follow me, please," Kirk said, leading the group out of the small

chambers.

       As they entered the cargo bay, the flurry of activity made Kirk a bit nervous.

Scotty and McCoy had both assured him that they would be ready by 0830 for the

demonstration, yet here they stood, a handful of subordinates with each, furiously

working on last minute adjustments.

       Scotty was only half visible, his upper half consumed by the massive console

of the cargo transporter. Two technicians stood by, waiting to hand Scotty the

necessary tools.
       McCoy was bent over a portable medical computer, swearing at the small

screen that displayed some unknown data to the doctor. "Dammit, man, I said one-

quarter, not three-quarters!" He was shouting at two of four medical technicians

who were standing near a large console, not unlike a second transporter console,

connected to the medical computer.

       One caught the entrance of the group and calmly shouted, "Admiral on deck!"

       Everyone stopped what they were doing and came to attention. "As you

were, please," Admiral Sinclair stated, his hands clasped behind his back.
Immediately, they returned to their work.
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         Kirk turned his back on the technicians and faced the group. "It will only be a

matter of moments, ladies and gentlemen, I assure you."

         "Take your time," Sinclair said, loudly enough for all to hear, "we want this

thing done right, Captain." Kirk was glad the admiral had dropped the "Jimmy", at

least in front of his crew.

         "If you'll excuse me, I'll check on the progress." Kirk left Spock with the

group and walked over to the transporter console. He bent down to see Scotty look

up in surprise from inside a morass of wires and circuit nets.

         "Cap'n," Scotty said, returning his attention to his work.

         "Scotty," Kirk said softly, "what happened? This was supposed to be ready at

0830."

         Scott looked up at Kirk with innocent astonishment.          "I've still got ten

minutes, Cap'n! The Trilithium is installed, but ye understand, I canna guarantee

this is gonna work?"

         A nod from Kirk. "I understand, Mr. Scott. There are never guarantees."

         Scott laughed. "Aye, Cap'n. Just a few more calibrations with the doctor, and

we should be all set. We dinna have time t' connect the medical equipment last

night, we were still debugging the bloody software! We just finished a few hours

ago."

         "You've been here all night," Kirk nodded. It wasn't a question. "Excellent

work, gentlemen, continue." Kirk left them to their work and went to McCoy, who

was shaking his head and frowning. Things must be getting better, Kirk thought,

noticing McCoy had stopped swearing.

         "Bones..."

         "We're going as fast as we can, Jim, you can't rush this stuff. Hey!" McCoy
turned to the group of med-techs. "Will someone please show Jenkins what a one
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quarter sensors feed is!" The med-techs scrambled, one of them stepping aside to

allow another to operate the console. "Goddamn rookies, Jim. I don't understand

why they wouldn't let us use our own people on this."

       "You know why, Bones. All these people have Top-Secret security clearances.

Starfleet doesn't want word of what happens here leaking out through anyone."

       McCoy grumbled and cursed a bit more, apparently satisfied with what he

saw on the screen. "Okay, Jim, I think we're ready."

       "It's all yours, Bones," Kirk said softly as he smiled and walked back to the

group of waiting officers. A yeoman was serving coffee to the officers, smiling and

chatting politely with some of them. Spock stepped forward as Kirk approached.

       "Can I be of assistance, Captain?"

       "Your timing is perfect, Spock." Kirk looked past him and said louder, "This

way, ladies and gentlemen, we're ready to begin." Kirk led them to a small row of

seats set up behind the cargo transporter.

       Kirk was still standing as the med-techs and engineering techs filed out of the

officers' line of sight, and Scotty took his position at the transporter console. McCoy

straightened his lab coat and stood at Kirk's side.

       "Ladies and gentlemen, this is Dr. Leonard McCoy, Chief Medical Officer on

the Enterprise. He and Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott will be conducting today's

demonstration." Kirk sat while McCoy fidgeted for a moment.

       McCoy cleared his throat. "Ladies and gentlemen, what we are about to do

has been tested only in computer simulation form," McCoy began, "but today, we're

using a Level Six HULISS for a live testing. For those of you who have never seen a

HULISS, it stands for Human Life Signs Simulator." Behind him, a pair of med-techs

were moving a large rectangular box with anti-grav supports. They maneuvered it
onto the transporter.
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       McCoy continued.         "What the HULISS does is accept pre-programmed

parameters to simulate vital signs, brain activity, even genetic or molecular

parameters can be programmed in. The HULISS is equipped with a sophisticated

Artificial Intelligence system, which will simulate what effect outside stimuli would

have on a given life form. It has an internal diagnostics node that will not be affected

by the manipulation, and when it rematerializes, we'll have a detailed report about

the changes immediately. This is useful in allowing medical experiments to be

executed without risking a live subject, with only a 10% margin of error in the areas

of psyche analysis."

       McCoy began to pace. "Now, you've all been briefed as to the basic precepts

of Dr. Thorn's work. What we hope to do here is send the HULISS through the

transporter, run the manipulation software while it's dematerialized in the matrix,

and rematerialize using the software matrix Thorn created. We will then evaluate

the results. Mr. Scott."

       Scotty keyed up the coordinates to route the HULISS into the transporter

matrix and hold it in limbo disassembled. McCoy returned to the medical computer

and monitored the screen, and the med-techs monitored the Matrix Manipulation

Console. Scotty waited for a nod from McCoy, then said, "All ready, Captain."

       "Energize, Mr. Scott."

       The transporter sounded different, the normal chiming noise associated with

the dematerialization of subatomic particles was now a deep, bass sound. Scotty

didn't seem bothered by it, though it surprised Kirk. It must be the Trilithium

focused power, Kirk thought.

       HULISS shimmered and vanished from the transporter pad. Scotty was still

inputting commands to the transporter console, then, finally satisfied, he addressed
the audience.        "What has happened, gentlemen, is the HULISS has been
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dematerialized. It's stored in here," he said, indicating the Matrix Manipulation

console, "in Transporter Machine Language. Th' Trilithium power source allows for

more detailed storage of th' disassembled pattern and for longer amounts o' time."

       One of the officers in the back raised a hand. "Commander, how long could a

pattern be stored in the matrix before it begins to lose its composition?"

       "In a standard transporter, the longest logged successful reassembling of a

stored pattern was thirteen days. With th' Trilithium powered model, our estimate

stands at approximately one year."

       Low whistles drifted through the room. A few whispers were silenced when

McCoy announced, "Transporter matrix stored successfully."

       "Beginning manipulation now," McCoy said, his eyes riveted to the screen.

He straightened and went to the console. "This will take a while, Captain. What

we're programming is a simple genetic enhancement, along with a separate dummy

pattern we'll try to merge together. There are certain genetic traits programmed

into the dummy pattern, and if they show up in the final product, we'll have proof

positive whether this works or not. Other than that, all body and brain functions

will be cleansed, as it were, of the impurities We've already programmed into the

HULISS, leaving a theoretically purified end product." McCoy paused, checking

another bit of data that was scrolling by on the screen. Satisfied, he turned and

faced the assembly, and continued.

       "This is accomplished by using mirror-image pieces of genetic material to

cover up certain portions of specific genetic patterns, thereby blocking their

functions. This has the effect of ridding the "organism" of its pre-programmed

impurities. The enhancements will be pre-programmed into "cloned" DNA, then

merged with the existing gene pool. It may be worth pointing out that if this is
successful, then selective breeding could become a reality. Offspring of beings so
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altered would be even purer than their parents, and so on. It could be possible to

breed out genetic deformities in the space of two generations."

       Kirk looked at Spock questioningly.

       Spock raised an eyebrow, considering Kirk's unspoken question. "It does

follow Dr. Thorn's research, at least in theory. I do not believe a more accurate

demonstration could be arranged without a live subject."

       Kirk stood, and the rest of the officers followed him to stand behind McCoy.

The console was alive with numbers and codes, flashing randomly across the screen.

A small window in the middle showed the keystrokes McCoy was programming into

the matrix.   Occasionally, McCoy would glance at the medical computer which

contained the files from Thorn's logs, and curse in frustration.

       A half an hour passed, with Scotty carefully monitoring the transporter

console and McCoy slaving over the newly built Matrix Manipulation Console. Kirk

and Sinclair paced, some yards away from the rest, and finally Kirk asked the

admiral the question that burned in his mind ever since coming here.

       "Admiral," he began, his voice soft, "what will the Enterprise's orders be after

we leave spacedock?"

       Sinclair glanced at him, a smile playing across the portly jowls. "Now, Jimmy,

you know I can't release information prematurely."

       Kirk knew he was teasing, and smiled with him. They stopped, and Kirk

faced him. "Admiral, I'd like a chance at getting Thorn before this thing escalates

into a major conflict. If he's managed to make this thing work like we think he has,

then the Enterprise is the only logical choice."

       "You've been hanging around Spock too long, Jimmy boy." His face took on a

more serious expression. "You know how I know that? Because I agree with you.
We have to wait to hear the doctor's analysis of the HULISS, but I've already put my
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recommendations in to Starfleet Command that the Enterprise be discharged from

Quadrant II to Free Duty Status as soon as possible."

        "Thank you, admiral," Kirk said, shaking his hand. "I appreciate this. I won't

let you down, sir."

        "I know you won't Jimmy, because if you do, it'll be both our butts in a sling."

They strolled back to the group just in time to see Scotty key in the rematerialization

process. They found their seats among the others.

        A thick electronic rumbling filled the transporter room, and the HULISS

rematerialized slowly.

        The diagnostics in the HULISS snapped on immediately, the lights and sounds

of the unit in action alerting McCoy to severe changes in its simulated genetic

makeup, as it compared them to its previous state.

        A moment later, it was reporting its analysis via telemetry-modem to the

medical computer. McCoy was already bent over the screen, his jaw dropping as he

read the results to himself.

        McCoy keyed in the command for a hard copy printout, then turned to the

med-techs and said, "Check that data," he indicated the screen, "confirm its accuracy,

ensign." McCoy's eyes never left the printout as he walked back to the front of the

room.

        "Well," McCoy said, "it appears to have been successful. Keep in mind that

these results are only simulated, but also that there is a 10% margin of error with

psychic activity analysis." He waited for that statement to sink in then read the

report. "Overall physical condition improved by 65%; mental capacity doubled;

normal brain activity increased to 45% - that's 20% above most human brain use

figures; HULISS had several terminal diseases programmed into its genetic makeup,
some dormant, some active, all have been eliminated...there's not even trace genetic
The Human Equation                      Page 204                              Natale




residue! We're checking for nested data within the dummy matrix now..." The

ensign handed him a hard copy printout from the machine. "My God, it's all here."

McCoy let his hands drop. "It works!"

       Instantly, everyone began talking at once. McCoy and Scotty were talking

fervently, shaking hands. The officers were engaged in heated discussion of the

ramifications of what they had just seen.

       "Excuse me, sirs?" One of the med-techs was trying to get the attention of Dr.

McCoy away from his discussion with Mr. Scott. "Excuse me, Dr. McCoy? We have a

problem with the HULISS."

       The conversation died down sporadically, the words cutting through the

throng of conversation. McCoy went to the HULISS and asked, "What is it, ensign."

       "The HULISS diagnostics have burned themselves out, sir. It went while it

was in the middle of analyzing a defect in the mental diagnostics program."

       "English, son," Admiral Sinclair said, not two feet away.

       "What he's saying, admiral," McCoy said, "is that the HULISS' internal

diagnostics burned themselves out trying to analyze a problem in its brain module."

       "What sort of problem did it detect, son?"

       The young man swallowed. "I'll have to correlate the recordings from the

medical computer, sir." He slid through the throng of people now standing over the

HULISS to use the terminal. McCoy joined him, standing next to him and reading the

data as it came up. A few minutes went by and the young ensign looked at Dr.

McCoy.

       "That's impossible, sir!"

       "I know, ensign." McCoy faced the admiral and the others. "Sir, what the

HULISS detected in its        brain functions module was, in fact, two distinct
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personalities. It tried to analyze both, but wasn't programmed to handle more than

one simulated consciousness within the same unit."

       "What?" Kirk was astonished. "That thing didn't have a personality in the

first place!"

       McCoy shook his head. "No, Jim, but it had a personality program, to simulate

a personality and adjust it if something drastic happened to the brain module.

Somehow, the process altered its internal brain pattern programming in a severe

malfunctioning anomaly.      I have no explanation for it, sirs, but      our HULISS,

gentlemen, is schizophrenic."




USS PEGASUS



       The Sickbay of the Pegasus was of sufficient size to accommodate most of

Thorn's equipment, and it had taken him almost two and a half weeks to install it all,

slaving it together through a specially designed AI system.            The Trilithium

transporter was then tied directly into the Sickbay Medical Computers.

       As soon as they reached Starhaven, the process would begin again, breaking

it down and installing it on the ship that was waiting there for the mercenary group

as payment for their deeds of murder and hijacking.

       Thorn was disturbed by his initial self-examination, noting some peculiar

deviations in his brain functions, but attributed this to his enhanced psyche. Still, he
The Human Equation                         Page 206                            Natale




was a man of science, and logged the incidents in his journals and prepared to

perform a detailed analysis of it later.

       Thorn set down the gyro-filter wrench and considered the problem that was

gnawing away at a separate part of his mind.

       Cryer.

       The man was becoming a real pain in the ass. When the idiot had figured out

Thorn was directing them into Romulan Space, he drew the line, not caring whether

Thorn thought him a coward or not. Thorn had appeared to give in, covering his

plot up by claiming to be attempting to throw off pursuit of the USS Cygnus, which

had been pursuing them for some time.

       Thorn considered it to be merely a temporary setback, knowing the

Romulans would still be there to buy his data on the Trilithium Transporter

technology when he was ready to sell it. Once Starfleet's operatives in Romulan

Intelligence learn that the Star Empire has this technology, they must respond in kind!

The threat would be too great not to; the Federation would have no choice but to

adopt the technique or let the scales tip in the Galactic Balance of Power.

       When the Romulans had developed cloaking technology, they had sent the

Enterprise into Romulan space to obtain a working sample. To restore the balance

of power. They had even attempted to install it on another ship after the Enterprise

used it, but found it only was operable for a short period of time before becoming

useless. A Romulan safeguard, the officials reported.

       At the time, Thorn had been privy to certain classified material, and he knew

that the fourth time the cloaking device was used on the prototype ship, the USS

Shadowrunner, the vessel had vanished permanently with all hands, including three

flag admirals, never to return or be heard from again. The Federation was able to
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obtain a great deal of knowledge in the way of detecting cloaked ships, however, and

the mission was declared marginally successful.

       My process is far more certain than that, Thorn mused. No safeguards, no

restraints. The Romulans will force the Federation to respond. And if not them, then

the Klingons. But Thorn didn't like dealing with Klingons, and over the past few

weeks had begun to develop a totally alien, completely unjustified hatred for them.

He resigned himself to study it later when he had time, and continued his

adjustments to the equipment.

       A small part of his brain regretted the necessity to force this upon the

Federation and galactic man, but all scientific discoveries have been purchased at

high prices, he reminded himself. High prices indeed.

       Still, these morons never suspect my true intentions - they care more for my

credits than for what galactic man and his enternal power struggles is up to...and

right now, that is exactly what I need.

       Thorn was finding more and more of the terrorist crew on this ship to be

morons and buffoons. Their thought processes were so simple, so basic, that to

Thorn, they were easily predicted, almost as if he read their minds. Easily read, and

easily manipulated, he chuckled to himself.

       After the Federation ship was out of sensor range, Thorn again put on his

actor's mask, ordering an immediate change of course to Starhaven to end their

business dealings once and for all. Once there, he had told them, they would get

their ship and money and be out of his way.

       Since the change of course, they had used the corridors of space unpatrolled

by any of the three major powers: The Neutral Zones. Thorn only hoped his luck

didn't run out before they reached Starhaven.
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       The ship designs that Cryer had submitted to him a few years ago were

superb. Now that every starship from here to Romulus would be looking for the

Pegasus, he had to get rid of her as soon as possible, and the Ghostmoon would be

perfect.

       It was a small scout vessel, officially, but upon seeing the plans, Thorn had

noted that it was really more suited to be classified as a blockade runner. It's sleek

design was so bird-like it was almost Romulan, with sweeping, graceful curves and

navigational wings for atmospheric flight. It only needed a crew of ten, and was

designed to be wide rather than tall, this was to present a minimal aspect to the

firing computers of larger starships.        Excellent weapons systems and strong,

well powered shields made this ship a perfect choice for what kind of work Jack

would use it for.

       That thought brought him back to where he started: Jack. Thorn had already

bribed a dozen of the mercenaries into betraying their former leader. They are

planning to kill him in fact, right at this moment, Thorn thought, checking the time on

the wall clock. Thorn had his doubts about whether they could actually pull it off,

and seriously considered doing it himself.

       But he isn't an ordinary man, Thorn reminded himself. He took this ship in the

first place from its Federation crew and disposed of them without a single life lost on

their side. That was impressive, no matter how much a nuisance he is.

       However, Thorn concluded, there can only be one Captain here, and for the

moment, I am the most qualified.
The Human Equation                      Page 209                              Natale




Jack Cryer had been on the bridge for twelve straight hours. He insisted on staying

there and would stay there, he swore, until they reached Starhaven. He refused to

sleep, knowing that if something happened, his people would need him here.

         His suspicions about Thorn had reached their height, he no longer trusted the

man or wanted to work for him. He always knew when someone was lying to him,

and he somehow always got the feeling Thorn was lying.

         Even when it was obvious the man spoke the truth. Jack considered killing

him, taking his credits and heading for the nearest Free Starport, but some ancient

code of the mercenary prevented this. A bad reputation in these quadrants can spoil

your future. No one wants a mercenary working for them that has a reputation for

killing the people who hired him.

         Still, he mused, who would know?

         Julia was almost as tired, and Keneshia was asleep at the navigators station.

Let her sleep, Jack thought. Our course is laid in, there's no need to wake her until

we reach Quadrant IV.

         Jack took his pistol out of his belt and charged the chamber to full. Leaning

back in the command chair, he placed the gun in his lap and closed his eyes. "Wake

me in an hour, Julia."

         "Okay, Jack," she yawned, conning the starship through the empty void of

space.




Jack woke to the buzz and whine of a transporter beam seconds before it took him.

He struggled, trying to move and negate the lock whoever had gotten on him. With a
The Human Equation                      Page 210                                   Natale




great effort, he threw himself off of the command chair and hit the bridge floor face

first, his body clear of the beam.

       The others on the bridge weren't as lucky, however, and he watched them

shimmer and then vanish. His body had been disoriented from being shocked out of

the transporter lock, and he was unable to help them. Jack glanced to where he had

left his gun, but saw it was gone. Probably swallowed in the beam, he cursed.

       He stood as quickly as he could, tossing his personal communicator on the

floor, not knowing whether a lock-on could be achieved without it, but not wanting

to give whoever it was a second chance. Especially if it's that bastard Thorn...

       Jack slammed his fist into the helm console, signalling all stop, then spun and

headed for the turbolift. Once inside, he picked up his tricorder and adjusted it to

scan for lifeforms not carrying one of the pre-coded mercenary communicators. He

received a signal seconds later coming from the medical labs. The only one aboard

the Pegasus who didn't have one of the communicators was Thorn.

       "Sickbay," Jack said through clenched teeth.




Jack burst into Sickbay at a full run, not expecting to see the dozen armed men - his

men - standing there waiting for him. Thorn stood in front of them, unarmed.

"Hello Jack."

       "You bastard," Jack said, "what the Hell is going on here?" Jack looked from

face to face among the mercenaries. "What did he do, buy you? What about loyalty?

Do you really think he's loyal to you? He'll betray you at the first chance he gets,

blokes! Just like he did me, and the rest of the bridge crew!"
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       Thorn strode up to Jack, holding up three computer solids. "Here is your

crew, Jack. Stored on these solids as nothing but tiny electronic numerical impulses.

But take heart, Jack, for they feel no pain. You see, I made these recordings," he held

up the solids again, "when I energized the beam on my transporter. Their actual

bodies have been atomized and are scattered across half the sector by now."

       Jack lunged at him, but even before the mercenaries could react, Thorn's free

hand reached out and clamped like a vise on the area between Jack's shoulder and

neck. Jack's eyes rolled back in his head and he fell to the floor, unconscious. Thorn

let go of his inert body, satisfied.

       The mercenaries looked at Thorn with open curiosity, one of them leaning

sidelong to see if Thorn had pointed ears.

       "Pick him up, gentlemen," Thorn ordered, walking over to the transporter

console. "And some of you get to the bridge and keep this vessel on course. Now!"

       Three of the mercenaries bolted out the door, and two others bent to pick up

Jack. They carried him gently towards Thorn. "Where do you want him, Doc?"

asked a man Thorn only knew as Evans.

       "On the transporter pad."

       Once they laid Jack's body on the pad, they cautiously stepped backwards.

Thorn inserted a fourth solid into his console and activated the beam.            Jack

disappeared.

       Thorn stepped away from the console. "Leave me now," he ordered.

       Once they all filed out, Thorn checked the console again, and satisfied,

withdrew the solid.       Punching in coordinates for deep space, he emptied the

transporter matrix of its current occupant.
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PARAC VII



       Terrak and McNiff crept through the jungle, two shadows in a sea of foliage

and shrubbery that dwarfed and concealed them.

       Terrak checked his tricorder. Another kilometer, and they would be there.

"We're entering the real hotbed area now, John. The Klingon sensor net extends

almost to our camp, but it's here, within a few miles, that we'll have to be most

careful." He snapped the screen down on the tricorder.

       "Keep that thing quiet," McNiff quipped, "and we may have a chance."

       "Let's see the print again."

       They sat down, and McNiff reached into his pack and withdrew a sealed tube.

Opening it, he emptied its contents onto the forest floor. Among a few other smaller

pieces of paper, a large piece of plasti-film was rolled up tight. He unrolled the thick

cylinder, and surveyed the contents.

       "Here," he pointed, showing a top-view of the Klingon Offense Base, "is where

there's the gap in the patrols. Every four hours they change the guards and resume

their duty from specific stations. They start here," he pointed to a section opposite

of the first, "and end here. When they change, there's a three minute gap in defenses

here, here and here."

       Terrak frowned. "I don't like it. There's got to be a reason the Klingons

aren't catching that." He hadn't been entirely convinced by the photos the small

surveillance camera had returned to them. "The Klingons are extremely efficient, if

nothing else. It's too easy, John."

       "Terrak, you've been saying that since the SURCAM brought these back. The

Klingons aren't expecting any opposition from the Paracians, and they don't even
know about us. If anyone of the Paracians hostile to the Klingons ever attempted a
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coup, it would be suicide and they know it. Perhaps we can use that to our

advantage?"

        "Maybe," Terrak said, lost in thought and still more than a little paranoid.

        "Now we've decided to do this, let's just get it done. We're well protected."

McNiff patted the phaser carbine rifle that he wore strapped to his side. Though

shorter and stockier than a full phaser rifle, the carbine packed more of a punch, and

was deadly at short ranges.

        Terrak nodded. "You're right, John." Still, he shook his head. "I still just

don't get it."

        McNiff rolled his eyes back in his head. "You're unbelievable. Don't tempt

fate, Terrak, just take our good luck for what its worth! Remember, Lady Luck is half

the deciding factor between success and failure."

        "So's getting killed."

        Terrak looked off towards the horizon, straining to see the sun's position

through the monstrous trees. "It's almost sunset. We'll wait here until then. After

the sun goes down, we move."

        McNiff nodded, taking his pack off and unzipping the back. He withdrew

several small cylinders, made of a dull brown metal. They blended in well with the

forest floor, Terrak noticed.

        McNiff immediately began to field strip each of the detonators, checking each

one manually for the tenth time that day. He didn't dare use the tricorder, though

that would be much faster. The Klingons' sensor net may have picked us up already,

Terrak thought.

        Terrak unslung his plasma rifle and held it gingerly in his hands. Absently, he

switched the safety on and began to inspect the weapon. This model was specially
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designed by Starfleet Intelligence, an upgrade from his previous weapon, which was

larger and more bulky.

       This one was sleek, and was no larger than the distance from Terrak's

fingertips to his elbow. It slim size was bought at the price of its width; the fusion

chamber in the rear of the weapon was almost as large as a man's head. All in all, it

was a very effective weapon. The nine inch suppression barrel he had attached onto

the end of the firing chamber would silence the weapon somewhat, but only from a

roar to a shout.

       He laid the weapon down across his knees, and thought hard to recall the

specifics about the Paracian day, and how many hours were left until sundown. He

leaned back against the trunk of the giant tree, feeling quite comfortable. Despite

the surface of the tree having a spiny, black bark, Terrak felt himself drifting off to

sleep, and jerked himself awake.

       McNiff noticed and said, "Go ahead, Terrak.          I'll keep an eye on the

perimeter."

       "Thanks," Terrak said, switching the safety off on his weapon. As he did so,

the microfusion chamber automatically powered up with a thick electronic hum.

"Wake me in an hour."




USS PEGASUS



       Thorn awoke for the third night to the voices in his head. They chattered,

tormented, and beckoned Thorn to join them. They held threats and promises, and

every conceivable half-truth that lay in between. His temples pounded and he
bolted upright in bed.
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       Be silent!

       The voices ignored him. He knew that it was impossible to believe that by

joining Kirk, Spock, McCoy and now Cryer's genetic patterns with his own that

separate psyches were developing.

       Wasn't it?

       Some fools thought accomplishing what he had done was impossible, and he

had proved them wrong. What if he himself was wrong? What if...

       NO! He refused to let the voices in his mind creep into his own psyche and

plant seeds of doubt.

       Thorn had been spending his nights in Sickbay for the past two, to be closer

to his equipment should something go wrong. He stood slowly, and found that his

body was soaked in sweat. He opened the medicine cabinet and withdrew a bottle

of Briesis Wine that the previous occupant of this room had owned.

       He downed his first gulp straight before he realized he even had the bottle in

his hand. A pure reflex action, a habit from one of...them...had surfaced. He held the

bottle away from him as if it were possessed.

       Was this a good sign? Like the neck pinch? No, Thorn decided, tossing the

bottle violently against the wall, shattering it into countless fragments.

       A shower. That's what I need. A shower. He stripped off his T-Shirt and went

into the bathroom. The shower was sent to Sonic, and he absently switched it to

real, hot water. As he stepped in, the water scalded his flesh and the startling

unfamiliarity reared its ugly head again.

       He had never taken a real, hot shower in his life. All the showers he had

taken with real water had been cold. He loathed hot water.

       He flung himself out of the shower, naked and dripping, panting with the first
real fear he felt since going through the transporter process. He stared open
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mouthed at the shower as if it were an agonizer booth, and despite his desperate

attempts to retain his composure, doubt found its way into his mind.

       No, he thought desperately, reassuring himself. I am Doctor Michael Thorn, I

am a learned scientist. My accomplishments are praised from here to Vulcan! This is

merely an adjustment phase, he told himself, not believing it even as the thought

formed in his head.

       Still dripping, he darted over to the medical scanner and laid down on the

bed on his stomach so he could monitor the readings. After a moment, he smiled,

and then cackled a nervous laugh. Everything was functioning perfectly. Body

functions were still far superior to any normal human's. Especially my old body, he

reminded himself. He was pleased.

       Pushing himself off the medical scanner, he walked into the neuropsychology

center of Sickbay and gazed at the psychotricorder. Did he dare? The device could

measure and map his brain out like a blueprint. All activity would be recorded and

analyzed. This would be the ultimate test, he teased himself. One final test that I am

not going mad...

       Yes! He exulted in his own enhanced ego, and sat down in the chair. Placing

the rigging device on his head, he began the long process. He caught himself willing

the voices to be silent again, then countered it, inviting them to the surface so he

could study them and analyze them after the psychotricorder had done its work.

       They flooded his consciousness like an opening damn. Not one, but several

distinct voices, so much noise in his head. They accused him, praised him, begged

him, loved him - every emotion seemed to have its own spokesman. None of them

actually sounded in Thorn's brain, but he could hear them just the same.

       Thorn covered his ears, a foolish act, a voice told him. One cannot silence the
voices in one's own head, Thorn told himself. "But these voices are not mine!" Thorn
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cried aloud. "Stop!" He tore the electrodes off of his temples, and his brain found

peace.

         Thorn glanced at the readout screen at the map of brain activity. It was a bit

higher than usual, he noted, even for his enhanced consciousness. He keyed in the

codes for an analysis of the data.

         What seemed like an eternity passed, and finally, the screen cleared and

displayed its horrifying analysis: Schizophrenia.

         The separation of thought and emotion by the manifestation of multiple

personalities. Thorn sat back in the chair roughly, as if pushed.

         How? Why? His mind raced, desperately trying to come up with an answer

for this.   Even with his accelerated thought processes, Thorn still questioned

himself, and could find no cause. This is treatable, he reassured himself, and more

than an adequate trade for the benefits I am enjoying.

         Thorn stood quickly, and began to turn the lights on his newly converted lab.

He powered up all his equipment, and sat down at the main computer interface, set

for a long night's work ahead of him. I will have the answer before morning, he

assured himself, but then wondered if that was his own thought, or merely an echo

of another's?




IKS K'ROC



         Koth was on the bridge within minutes of receiving the call. His science

station had found what they believed to be the site of a battle, possibly between two
starships as large as the Enterprise and the Pegasus.
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          The minute the turbolift doors opened, he barked, "Report!"

          "Sensors detect massive residual radiation, Lord, and extraneous transient

debris.     Our analysis team has verified the debris to be composed of trace

nutronium, irridium and titanium." A mixture of metals that could be nothing other

than man-made.

          "Then one of the two ships we seek met its death here," Koth said, looking at

the viewscreen longingly.

          "No, Lord, there is insufficient mass for it to be the Enterprise or Pegasus.

Intelligence reports that the Pegasus is slightly larger than the Enterprise, Lord."

          Koth took his place at the command platform, and rested his head on his fist.

"Then a piece of one, perhaps," he mused.

          "Possible," the sensor technician reported, "but we do not have enough data

to verify that conclusion, Lord. It is large enough to be a smaller ship."

          "But my instincts tell me it is not," Koth replied. "Intensify sensor sweep,

range six-thousand kelokams!"

          "Aye, Lord!" The Klingon busied himself with rapidly carrying out Koth's

orders. Word of Kragg's death had circulated around the ship, sending the bloodlust

of the crew to an even higher plateau.

          Minutes passed, and a part of Koth came alive inside him. His blood burned,

and he realized that he, too was feeling the effects of the complacency these last few

weeks had brought about. Now, he had evidence, something to go on. Perhaps I will

lock horns with this Federation Captain yet...

          As if seeing a favored lover, the sensor technician growled and grinned a

vicious smile. "Lord, we have detected a residual energy trail leading away from the

site, bearing: one hundred forty degrees, mark two-four-two!"
          Koth caught the excited hunger in the warrior's words. "Analyze!"
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        The science officer complied quickly, scanning the analysis data. "Dilithium

radiation...trace gamma and magma rays entering the z-spectrum...anti-matter

leakage! Lord, the trail was caused by a damaged warp engine. The residual

radiation and anti-matter composing the trail mark it so!"

        "Project parabolic course and coordinate!"

        A minute later, the forward viewer was filled with an image of the

surrounding star systems. "Our information on this quadrant shows we are now

within the bounds of the Organian Treaty Zone. The nearest Federation Outpost is

Starbase Sixteen. The energy trail is leading our sensor influence on a direct course

towards it. If a ship had to return to a Starbase for repairs, this would be the closest

one."

        Koth's pulse quickened, but he cursed inwardly at the Starbase being in the

Treaty Zone. The Organians were the only race that the Klingons actively respected

and recognized as having their own rightful place in the universe.

        The Klingon Empire's forced "treaty" with the Federation that the Organians

had imposed on both governments kept each side powerless to engage in hostilities

within the boundaries of the zone. All attempts to even power weapons up in the

zone resulted in a superheating of systems. Even protective gear had been tried, but

the Organian's power was too great.

        The Organians held immense alien power and used it whenever necessary to

enforce their demands of peace between the superpowers. Though their philosophy

of non-violence was viewed by Koth to be a weakling's position, he was helpless to

act against them, and he could understand, or at least respect, that kind of power.

        Still, he growled to himself, I have duty to answer to. "Relay Officer! Notify

the Karash we are changing course, bearing: one hundred forty degrees, mark two-
four-two, flank speed!"
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PARAC VII



       Terrak woke to a hand covering his mouth and holding his weapon arm

firmly. At first, his instincts told him something was wrong, and he began to react,

when he saw McNiff's blond head peering down at him.

       "Sleep well, Terrak?" McNiff smiled.

       Terrak nodded, then noticed the starlight. It had been around noon when

they first stopped. "Why did you let me sleep so late? Have you checked in?"

       "Yes," McNiff said in a whisper, "we can move easier at night. Home Base

informed me that the Klingons have patrols out during the day. Hiroku detected

several small surveillance vehicles covering the roads surrounding the objective.

Apparently, that guy Kyle has been earning his keep. He took a trip into the city and

did some poking around. He wasn't seen, or so he says anyway."

       "So what did he find out?"

       "He said that one of his contacts in Gogun's Peace has established an anti-

Klingon strike force that intends to take out the Command Base in three days."

       "Is that reliable?"

       "Kyle claims it is. He says he knew the Paracian years ago and he's a reliable

source. It was dumb luck that brought them together again. Sounds crazy, but its all

we have to go on."

       Terrak shook his head. "We'd better move, then. Like I've told you before, I

don't believe in dumb luck. If the Paracians try to take the Klingon Command Base
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out they'll be walking right into a suicide mission. I don't think they have what it

takes to do the job."

       "Yeah," McNiff nodded, "Kyle says the most these civ's have is about the

equivalent of Phaser II's."

       Terrak whistled a low whistle. The Phaser II was probably a powerful

weapon to the people of Parac VII.          But when put up against Klingon made

munitions, it didn't stand a chance. The Klingons have been making heavy assault

weaponry for centuries, Terrak reminded himself. He thought for a moment about

the courage of the Paracian people, and the foolhardiness.

       Would you do any differently, he asked himself? If this were Earth, being

invaded by superior forces, would you just lie down for death? No, Terrak knew. The

Paracians were doing the only thing available to them, the only thing they could do.

       An old professor of his at Starfleet Academy had once said, "You can never

achieve victory until you are willing to die before defeat."

       A simple phrase, spoken off-handedly to a group of young cadets, but the

then wide-eyed Terrak had adopted it as gospel.

       Terrak had reflected on those words many times in the past. It defined who

he was, though at the time, he couldn't place why he related so much to what the

professor had said. Those words, and his strict belief in them, had saved his life

more than once.

       His mind began to drift again, back to the days before Starfleet, to the

nightmare on the Klingon Prison Planet where his family had "lived". His escape

from there was still little more than a mystery to him, all he remembered was living

those words out without consciously realizing they would ever be spoken.
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       Enough of this, Terrak scolded himself. There's people on this planet who need

help. And there's Klingon blood to spill. "Let's go." He stood and picked up his gear,

staring into the Paracian sun, longing for the hours ahead.
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                                  CHAPTER NINE



STARBASE SIXTEEN



       The Enterprise was signalling all clear to leave spacedock.       The giant

spacedoors at the end of the berthing chamber were still closed, but as they

approached them, Kirk knew they would slowly begin to open, revealing the road

the Enterprise would travel: the stars.

       "Deactivate gravitational moorings, disengage umbilicals."

       Sulu checked his screens.     "Aye, sir, umbilicals uncoupled, gravitational

moorings deactivated."

       "One quarter impulse, Mr. Sulu."

       "Aye, sir, one quarter impulse."

       It took five minutes to get to the spacedoors, Kirk knew, and had always

hated this part of leaving spacedock. He could see the stars beyond the doors as
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they opened, like a beautiful painting done by a master artist on the wall of the

berthing chamber, beckoning him out to join in its beauty.

       But it holds no beauty now, Kirk thought.

       Kirk couldn't help but feel tense as he embarked on what would be his most

challenging mission. Starfleet had deemed Thorn's work unreliable with the failure

of the HULISS experiment. Complete deactivation of the HULISS was the only way to

rid it of its defective programming. Unfortunately, with humans, it's not that easy,

Kirk thought.

       After they received news of the loss of contact with the inhabitants of

Omnicron I, the analysts and Klingon psychology experts had come up with a

possible answer to the massing troops and military actions happening throughout

the galaxy. It could only be a prelude to war. No one wanted to admit that the

nightmare would begin again...the last conflict with the Klingons - the four years war

- was a bloody mess that barely ended without total annhilation of both

governments.

       Now, it seemed the impossible would happen again. The treaties would

crumble and the Klingons would attack.        The War would spread, shatter the

Federation, possibly even divide it. A war over a technology which is an unproven

tampering in the natural evolvement of galactic man.

       In a second emergency session, it was revealed to Kirk and Spock, as well as

the other Commanders in Quadrant II that Omnicron I had been cleansed of human

life and left virtually crippled, its memory banks destroyed and ravaged of data and

materials.

       Whoever had done it was careful to leave behind no evidence that could be

traced back to them, but everyone knew it was a Klingon strike force. An advance
party, perhaps one or two scouts or destroyers. Equipped with the cloaking devices,
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they could penetrate and evaluate Federation defenses and God only knows what else,

Kirk thought.

       The analysts theorized that the Klingons must now know about the

transporter technology and the Trilithium crystals. They believe that they want to

obtain the technologies with the express purpose of initiating hostilities with the

Federation.

       That would explain their reluctance for open war without it, Kirk mused,

remembering an intelligence report he had read describing the economic state of

the Klingon Empire was not at its best. To Starfleet, it was clear that the war was as

real a threat as ever, and like most wars, the killing would begin over one or two

isolated incidents. Billions of beings would be drawn into bloodshed and terrorism

over the actions of one or two men.

       It was times like this that Kirk was thrilled and apprehensive all at the same

time about possibly being one of those men.

       The Federation Council is meeting at this very moment, Kirk reminded himself,

to determine whether a formal declaration was in order or not. Kirk knew they could

spend weeks just assembling the entire Council and hearing arguments before any

official decision is made.

       Meanwhile, the real cause of this entire conflict is somewhere out here, he

thought. Kirk tried to deduce what Thorn's plans could be, but he could only come

up with one answer. He was going to sell the technology to the Romulans. The list

of alternative motives for Thorn was growing shorter by the hour.

       Though Thorn was responsible for the deaths of hundreds and possibly

billions if war broke out, Kirk still didn't relish the idea of hunting the man down

and destroying him. It was too much like outright murder. But that had been his
orders from the highest seat on the Federation Council.         Stop Thorn at any
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cost. His experiments were unsuccessful in the eyes of the Federation, but to the

Klingons or Romulans....psychological inconsistencies held no great problem for

either of them, not when faced with what the technology was capable of

accomplishing.

       Armies of perfect warriors could be made, programmed to be as deadly and

efficient as the user decided. If one or two became unreliable, make more. The

Klingons, who already dabbled in genetic enhancement and manipulation of a more

conventional sort, would embrace the power it would give their troops, even at the

cost of their sanity.

       They already held their troops in unreliable cryogenic freeze chambers, only

awakening them for battle. It saved on supplies and life support, and kept warriors

in service for as much as five decades. Of course, Kirk reminded himself, that

assumes you survive. And they volunteer for that, he thought, unbelieving.

       The Romulans had experimented with genetic enhancement, but with less

success. However, they held the threat of psychic abilities as well, something which

no one had been able to speculate on given the data they possessed.

       When asked, Spock theorized that it would be possible, with much practice,

to "construct" an individual with psychic potential to virtually any degree, melding

one psionic with another, each end product becoming stronger as the process

continued.

       The thought of Romulan Mind Lords at the helm of cloaked warships sent a

chill up Kirk's spine. This served to effectively extinguish any apprehensions he had

about his orders to find the Pegasus (and Thorn) and destroy them as quickly as

possible.
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       The Enterprise had just cleared the spacedoors. Now they were clearing the

safety zone around the Starbase itself. This was an area of a few kilometers within

which they could not yet engage their warp drive due to the proximity of the station.

       "Navigator, lay in course six-two-six, bearing: two hundred fifty degrees.

Bring us to warp three as soon as possible, Helm."

       "Course plotted and laid in, Keptin."

       "Warp three, Captain." The Enterprise responded smoothly to Sulu's touch,

accelerating to warp three in a matter of seconds.

       "Mr. Spock, begin long range scanning. Initiate short range at a distance of

six thousand kilometers." Kirk sat back and took a deep breath. It would be a while

now. The hunt would begin slowly, as the long range sensors churned out across the

blackness of space, feeling blindly about for a speck of dust in the vast emptiness.

The short range sensors were more alive, seeing little with great detail, but not as

far.

       Kirk hoped that despite the long range sensors' lack of detailed scanning

ability, they would find something, anything, worth investigating. This kind of

search was next to impossible, but the Pegasus is wounded, damaged in their last

encounter. If we can find any kind of sensor trail, any kind of....

       "Captain, I am receiving a peculiar echo on my sensor boards...correlating,"

Spock studied the data that streamed across the bright sensor output device.

"Possibly a cloaked vessel, Captain. It seems to be flanking us, matching speed and

course."

       "Is it possible it's something else, Spock?"

       "I have not received definite conformation from my sensors, but since no

known natural phenomenon can travel faster than light, there are only two
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possibilities. One, the sensor equipment is malfunctioning, or two, it is not a natural

phenomenon."

       "Have you checked the equipment yet?"

       "Affirmative, Captain. All sensor nets functioning normally."

       "If it's a Klingon ship, we're in the Organian Treaty Zone, so we're safe as long

as we stay within its boundaries. Mr. Sulu," Kirk ordered, "Slow to warp one, Mr.

Spock correlate sensor data."

       Spock bent back over the output device. "Confirmed, Captain. Echo has

slowed to warp one.       Captain," Spock said, turning to Kirk, "I believe we can

eliminate the Romulans. They are not bound by the Organian Peace Treaty as the

Klingons are, and would most likely have attacked by now. I also find no logical

reason the Romulans would enter our space. The Klingons, however..."

       "...Have plenty," Kirk finished for him, nodding agreement.          "Lieutenant

Uhura, signal Red Alert; Helm, bring us about, Mr. Spock, track that echo, I want

definite confirmation its a cloaked ship. We've got to have no doubt before we can

act, the Council wants to avoid conflict at all costs. Sulu, raise defensive shields, but

don't power the weapons."

       Spock turned back to his equipment, and Sulu executed the slow turn. They

continued on for another minute, then Spock announced, "The echo has changed

course and is following...coming about bearing four-one-four, mark eight. Logging

as a definite contact, Captain."

       Damn! Kirk had no desire to go into battle, and even if he did, he couldn't.

The minute he ordered anything more than defensive action, his systems would

overheat and the Organian's power would prevent the two ships from engaging.

Fortunately, he thought, that works both ways.
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         "Chekov," Kirk said, "bring us back on original course. Advise when we are

within 1,000 kilometers of Organian Treaty zone boundaries."

         "Aye, sir," Chekov said, re-plotting the course again, "Two hours to boundary,

Keptin, present speed."

         "Warp five, Helm."

         As soon as Sulu confirmed the order, Spock straightened, and grasped the

viewing module tightly, "New contact! Bearing one-one-one, mark four. A second

echo, Captain, flanking us on our starboard side."

         "Continue on course," Kirk said, trying to calm the nervousness he saw in the

others around him with a reassuring tone.

         What are they doing? Two cloaked ships flanking the Enterprise. They want

something, Kirk decided. They are following me for a reason. They don't need to flank

me to destroy the Enterprise, they could just wait until we crossed the Treaty Zone. If

they knew we were here, they certainly could have projected our course...

         Thorn! Kirk's mind suddenly snapped awake. They must have followed our

trail to Starbase Sixteen and...

         "Uhura, open hailing frequencies!"

         Spock turned from his science station, a look of confusion on his stoic

features. "Captain?"

         "Do it!" Kirk said to Uhura, who had hesitated when Spock questioned the

order.

         "Hailing frequencies open, Captain."

         Kirk stood. He paced for a brief second, thinking about what he would say.

"Klingon vessel or vessels, this is Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation Starship

Enterprise. We are aware of your current position and demand you deactivate
cloaking shields and come to all stop. You are trespassing in Federation Territory
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and are violating the Organian Peace Treaty." Kirk knew this last part was false, but

he said it anyway with authority. He looked at Uhura and said, "All languages, all

frequencies."




IKS K'ROC



         Koth listened to the message of the starship captain with anger and

frustration. He sat back into his command chair more roughly.

         How? How had he known they were there? Koth calmed himself with a

discipline born of years of service, knowing that this captain had much experience in

detecting cloaked vessels. Legends said that he had actually captured a Romulan

cloaking device. Of course his best scientists would have studied it, pried forth its

secrets....

         No, Koth said. Had they found what they wanted, then the Enterprise would

have a cloaking device. More likely, they couldn't replicate the technology, and the

captured device sits in a laboratory somewhere, waiting for someone bright enough to

discover how it works...

         Still, he must be a soothsayer, Koth thought to himself, our cloaking screens

are at 110% power output, and still his sensors detects us!

         The communications officer was silent, his gauntleted fists hovering over the

communications station, waiting for an order from Koth to respond. He looked to

his Captain, but only saw rage and defiance.

         "No response," Koth growled softly.

         "Lord, they know we are here," began the science officer, "they..."
         "No response! We are within the treaty zone, they are as helpless as we are."
The Human Equation                      Page 231                               Natale




USS ENTERPRISE



       The silence on the bridge continued for a full thirty minutes. "Re-broadcast

the message, Lieutenant," Kirk ordered. Uhura complied.

       "Message broadcast, Captain, my reception echo shows it was received by

both vessels, sir."

       Kirk sighed in frustration. "Continue on course, helm."

       Spock left the science station to stand next to Kirk. "Captain, it may not have

been a wise choice to alert them to our detection capabilities. If war is inevitable,

this could prove to be a breach of intelligence."

       Kirk frowned, nodding. "Perhaps you're right, Mr. Spock. I expected some

kind of response from them, a threat, anything. I think they're after Thorn. They

wouldn't be flanking us otherwise, its just too damn friendly. If they were looking

for war, why travel into an area of space where combat is impossible? A trap could

be set just outside the Organian Treaty Zone, they could have us easily once we

exited the zone, we wouldn't have had time to scan for them." Kirk shook his head,

staring at the viewer, "I don't think that's it, Spock. I think they don't want to lose

us. I think we're their only link to Thorn."

       "Quite logical, Captain."

       "Perhaps we can talk to them, make them realize the Federation has no

intention of using Thorn's technology... tell them that it doesn't work?"

       Spock shook his head. "It is unlikely they would believe you, Captain. Even if
they did, they would still seek the technology for themselves. It is very possible that
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the ships which follow us are the same ones responsible for the Omicron I Massacre.

They could have stolen that information from the memory banks of the station itself,

in which case, we could be considered a First-Strike target."

       Kirk winced.     That was a thought that he had been avoiding direct

confrontation with. But that was Spock's job, to bring those thoughts out into the

open, and remind his Captain of the proper course of thinking when his illogical

human brain dwelled on subjects irrelevant to the mission at hand.

       "Thank you, Mr. Spock. You're right, of course. Mr. Sulu, get us out of the

Zone at maximum warp."

       "Maximum warp, aye, sir."




IKS K'ROC



       The Enterprise burst into warp seven without warning, leaving its two

shadows behind for but an instant. Koth roared, "Pursue! Shields to full, prepare for

simultaneous decloaking and firing the instant we are over the Organian Zone

Boundaries!"

       The two cloaked Klingon vessels accelerated to pursue, and charged after the

Enterprise. The K'Roc's maximum speed could reach Warp 9, in emergencies, but it

was extremely dangerous, and even Koth was hesitant to initiate it. However, as the

image of the Enterprise vanished off the viewer, he bellowed with rage and

thundered, "Engineering, emergency speed!"

       As they seared through the rapidly decreasing space of the Organian Zone,

the communications officer began actively working on this console, and Koth
frowned.
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        "Communications, report!" Koth glanced quickly from the viewer to the

communication station, then back again.

        "Lord, we are receiving a tight beamed priority signal on the reserved

channel. I am checking the codes and beam integrity, now, Lord." A moment

passed, and the Klingon turned to his Lord. "Lord, its source is verified. It is from a

member of the Imperial Intelligence Legion on the Starhaven Shipbuilding Facility."

        Koth's curiosity was piqued, and as his gaze remained fixed on the image of

the Enterprise trying to escape, he said, "On speakers, Lieutenant."




USS ENTERPRISE



        "Treaty boundary in vun minute, Keptin." Chekov glanced at Sulu, but Sulu

had his eyes glued to the viewer, watching the simulated red line that represented

the Organian Treaty border growing closer.

        "They'll follow, they have to. Signal Battle Stations, Lieutenant. Stand-by on

Red alert."

        Uhura's voice relayed the order over the general speaker system, her voice

taut. This order is getting far to easy to repeat, she thought tiredly. "Attention all

hands: Battle Stations! Repeat: All hands report to Battle Stations! This is not a

drill. Repeat:..."

        Spock leaned close to Kirk without looking directly at him, not wanting to

draw attention to their conversation.       "Captain, I remind you that whatever

threadbare peace exists now between the Empire and the Federation could be

destroyed if we engage the Klingons."
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       "I'm certainly not lacking in motive, Spock. As you pointed out, these could

be the ships responsible for the Omnicron I Massacre."

       "And if they are not..."

       "Then they're still inside Federation Space, flanking our vessel."

       "Logic states that...."

       "...they would have engaged us if we weren't in the zone." Kirk finished

Spock's statement with his own ending. "Now, we have to assume that they will do

just that once we reach the zone boundaries."

       Spock nodded, agreeing despite himself.           With some difficulty, Spock

conceded. "Logical."

       Kirk turned his attention back to the screen in time to see the boundary

penetrated. The computer bleeped happily and announced, "Now exiting Organian

Treaty Zone.

       Spock returned to his station instantly.

       Chekov verified the Enterprise's bearings and confirmed, "Confirmed, Keptin.

Ve are exiting the zone now."

       "Weapons are free, Mr. Sulu. Bring us up to full Red Alert Status." Uhura

sighed and signalled the red alert klaxons.

       Sulu input the commands to the Phaser Crews and Photon Bays. A brief

instant later, they signalled back with three flashes of a green light on Sulu's board.

"Weapons show green, Captain. Phasers charged and Torpedoes armed."

       "Cloaked vessels exiting the zone now, Captain," Spock reported. "We now

have a firm fix on the sensor ghosts."

       Kirk stood. "They'll have to de-cloak before they can fire. Mr. Spock, signal

me as soon as that happens. Sulu, try and get a lock on one of the echoes."
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       Spock straightened, then rechecked his data, surprise carved into his

features. The odd blue light that the output device gave off danced across his

chiseled profile.     Kirk saw the familiar look of confusion on the stoic features,

and said, "What is it, Spock?"

       Sulu looked at his console in confusion. "I show no sensor echoes to aft,

Captain."

       Kirk stood. "I thought you had a firm lock on them, Spock?"

       "Vessels have passed us at approximately warp eight." Spock continued to

scan. "They are on what appears to be a direct course bearing one-zero-eight, mark

nine." Spock automatically downloaded the coordinates to Chekov's console.

       Chekov glanced down at the figure, and projected a course. "Navigation

panel shows those coordinates are a direct course to the Starhaven Shipyards,

Keptin."

       Kirk sat back down slowly. "Navigation, pursue. Lieutenant Uhura, contact

the Starhaven facility and warn them of the approach of the Klingons." What could

they be going there for, Kirk wondered? Could he have been wrong? Could the

Klingons not have been after Thorn after all?

       All of his instincts told him they were. Kirk had learned long ago to trust his

instincts, and with the help of Spock, had learned to use them in conjunction with

logical, deductive reasoning to a near art form.

       On occasion, like a few minutes ago, he was actually able to use his instincts

and logic to dumbfound even the indomitable Mr. Spock. Now, both logic and his

instincts were in agreement. Thorn is at Starhaven. It didn't matter how the

Klingons had found out, or why the Enterprise didn't know it.
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       A small part of him was thankful that he had encountered the Klingons, now

it appeared they would lead him right to Thorn. Whether his thanks for this would

be attributed to good or bad luck still remained to be seen....




STARHAVEN SHIPBUILDING FACILITY



       Kirk and the rest of the bridge crew watched as the massive station called

Starhaven grew before their eyes. The station was almost identical in design to Sol I,

the massive starbase that orbited Earth. Appearance, however, was where the

similarities ended.

       On Starhaven, the governing forces were less than amiable. Any who desired

to could orbit or dock with Starhaven, as long as there were no hostile intentions

towards the station or its inhabitants. Political conflicts were left in space when

docked here, in Neutral Territory.

       This was evidenced by the sixteen ships in orbit around the station. Spock

was accessing the library files as the approached. "I show no evidence of the

Pegasus in orbit, Captain, however, she could be berthed inside. In orbit, there are

four Orion Charger Class blockade runners, two Romulan Cargo Freighters, eight

starships not currently in Starfleet Registry, and two KATANA Class Klingon

Battleships. Their engines are still outputting a mean temperature of 4,000 degrees

Fahrenheit, Captain. They are our sensor ghosts, Captain."
The Human Equation                     Page 237                                Natale




       This last report brought Kirk to his feet. "What?" His gaze was a mask of

rage directed at the viewer.

       "Unfortunately, the Klingons are free to orbit Starhaven. As are we." Spock

stood next to his console, his eyebrow raised in contempt at the felonious nature of

the Neutral Territories.

       "Starhaven Orbital Approach on hailing frequencies, sir." Uhura held the

earpiece tighter, readjusting its fit and listening carefully. "Requesting we state our

purpose and come to all stop for clearance."

       "All stop, Mr. Sulu," Kirk said, pacing angrily. Then, to Uhura, "Response:

Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation Starship, USS Enterprise. We are here to

investigate possible encroachment of Federation Space by the Klingon Battleships

you now have in orbit. Also, to investigate a possible stolen Federation starship

berthed in your facilities. Send my compliments and greetings, etc., etc."

       Uhura transmitted the message. "Message transmitted and received, sir.

Requesting we stand by."

       A few minutes passed with no response from Orbital Approach, and Kirk

grew impatient. "Uhura, raise me Orbital Approach, please. Request visual."

       Uhura complied. "Orbital approach standing by."

       "On screen." Uhura fed the signal to the main viewer, and the picture formed.

A man with a balding head and a bright orange sports coat stuck his face in the

screen and smiled a broad, toothy grin.        A thin bead of sweat ran across his

forehead, and he wiped it away with his sleeve. A button tacked to his chest proudly

displayed the message "NO SHIP TOO LARGE, NO FEE TOO HIGH" printed in bright

pink block letters.
The Human Equation                       Page 238                                Natale




         "Captain," the man said, "I am Minister of Public Relations, Ted Dooley." His

face twisted in a second forced smile, then he said, "I assure you we do not deal in

stolen Federation..."

         Kirk cut him off. "...of course you don't, Mr. Dooley, however, we have our

orders. And, as our message stated, that isn't the only reason we're here. There is

the matter of the Klingon ships that are now in orbit. I assure our investigation will

be a peaceful one, we have no hostile intentions towards your customers."

         Dooley half frowned, half smiled. "I see." He glanced quickly to his left, then

returned his attention to the viewer, "Well, Captain, I would certainly like to give you

clearance, but you see, the ah, truth of the matter is, umm...."

         A large Klingon in full battle armor stepped in behind Dooley and shoved him

aside.    He wore the Bat'Ruk, the Klingon sash of Captaincy draped across his

shoulders, its deep black leather engraved with ancient runes of the Klingon

language.

         "I am Captain Koth, Lord of the Imperial Battle Legion you see parked in orbit.

You are Captain Kirk of the Federation starship Enterprise?"

         "That's right, Captain Koth," Kirk shot back, "and I want an explanation for

your presence in Federation space."

         "Your inefficient sensors officers must be mistaken, Kirk. You should sign a

Klingon Warrior on board your vessel, then you would have an efficient officer, or a

dead one."

         A Klingon officer aboard the Enterprise, Kirk thought. That will be the day...

         "Our sensors officer wasn't mistaken, Captain Koth. We have visual proof

and sensor records. I can transmit them over if you doubt my word."

         Koth growled. "Do not attempt to blame the Empire for encroachment on your
precious "territory" when the only proof you have is most likely falsified records. And,
The Human Equation                       Page 239                              Natale




Captain, if we were in Federation space, you would most certainly not be here now. As

Mr. Dooley will tell you, we have been in orbit for some time now. Is that not correct,

Mr. Dooley?"

       Dooley's bald head shot back into the picture, nodding furiously. "Yes, that's

correct. They've been here for quite some time now, in fact..."

       Koth shoved Dooley back out of the picture again. "You have Starhaven's

answer to your request for orbit, it has been denied. Be assured, we are prepared to

defend the rights of this station, Captain."

       A threat, Kirk mused? No, not with this one, he reflected, looking at the

Klingon's proud chin, and dark eyes. A promise. A desire. A need. He turned to

Uhura and with a look, she read his meaning and muted the visual. "Spock?"

       "It appears he means what he says, Captain. The second KATANA class ship

is powering its engines back up."

       "Uhura, resume!" Kirk spun back towards the viewer, his eyes afire. "Captain

Koth, if your vessel attempts to block our way to orbit, we will attack and destroy it.

Mr. Sulu, lock all weapons on that incoming ship!"

       A second later, Sulu nodded to Kirk. "All forward weapons locked on to

incoming vessel."

       Koth bellowed with rage. "You would not dare risk open war between our

people!"

       So, Kirk thought with satisfaction. It was a bluff. Kirk wanted to gauge the

other's reaction to a threat of his own, and was satisfied with the results. He walked

behind Sulu and gripped his shoulder tightly. Sulu turned, and Kirk winked at him,

then turned back to the viewer. "War is inevitable, Captain Koth, don't insult my

intelligence by saying you believe otherwise. Only a coward waits for battle! Fire,
Mr. Sulu, full phaser barrage!"
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       Sulu deliberately let his finger hang over the relay button that would order

the phaser crews to fire. One heartbeat....two....

       "Wait!" Koth bellowed, his face a mask of rage and hatred. He withdrew the

large black communicator from his belt and held it up to his jaws. "Karash, this is

Koth. Come to all stop. Await further orders. Out." Koth put the unit away.

"Fortunately for you, Captain Kirk, formal declarations of hostilities have not reached

us yet. You may board Starhaven. Out."

       The picture snapped off.

       Well that must have hurt, Kirk thought. I insult the Klingon and threatened

one of his ships and he didn't retaliate. It's turning out to be a pretty good day, Kirk

thought. "Well, Mr. Spock, that certainly tells us something about the Captain's

orders, now doesn't it."

       Spock nodded. "Indeed. Logically, we must assume he is under orders to not

engage us. Were he not under orders, Captain Koth would most certainly have

ordered the other ship to attack by now, Captain."

       Kirk nodded. "That also means that they don't have Thorn's transporter

technology."

       Spock raised an eyebrow, nodding in consideration of Kirk's statement. "This

gives new insight into the Klingon's true position on war with the Federation."

       Kirk agreed, slapping Sulu on the back. "Good work, Mr. Sulu, for a minute

there I thought you just might fire."

       "So did I," Sulu said, a bit disappointed.

       Kirk straightened his wrinkled tunic, and pressed the log entry button on his

command panel.

       "Captain's Log, Stardate: 3220.8. We are in orbit around the neutral space
shipbuilding facility Starhaven. After playing cat and mouse with a pair of Klingon
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warships in Federation space, we were prepared to engage in hostilities with same.

Instead, they broke off their paralleling course and warped past us to Starhaven. We

have followed in hopes that they too are searching for the renegade Thorn. Upon

our arrival, we learned that the Klingons had already beamed aboard, and were

"persuading" orbital control to refuse us entry. When we threatened the Klingons,

they backed down, and released control of the station back to the proper authorities.

In my opinion, this action clarifies the Klingons' reluctance in going to war with the

Federation, and this information should be relayed to all Diplomatic envoys and

Chiefs of Staff immediately. Captain James T. Kirk, USS Enterprise reporting. End

Log."

        Kirk stood and said, "Uhura, scramble and broadcast to Starfleet Command.

Mr. Spock, you're with me, Mr. Sulu, you have the bridge."




PARAC VII



        Terrak and McNiff approached the perimeter of the Klingon base crawling on

their stomachs. They spent the past hour crossing thirty yards of jungle, moving at a

snail's pace. Their picture from the SURCAM didn't pick up any sensor equipment or

motion detectors around the Klingon camp, but Terrak knew it was likely that they

couldn't be detected by a visual sweep.

        Since they didn't know what sort of electronic defenses the Klingons had set

up, they were taking no chances. Both men felt relieved that they had gotten even

this close, but attributed some of their luck to the special uniforms they wore.

        Nicknamed "Chameleon Suits", the fabric that the heavy tunics and trousers
were woven out of was actually called Cryonite. A thick, canvas like material, it had
The Human Equation                      Page 242                                Natale




the benefit of absorbing most forms of electronic beams aimed at it; but with limited

effectiveness.

       The reliability of the suits was not very promising, as the material's special

property tended to fade with age. Combined with the fact that the Cryonite was

outrageously expensive, this kept the Federation from using them on a large scale.

Only special intelligence teams were given access to this equipment, and even then,

only on the most dangerous of assignments.

       They moved with their heads to the ground, not watching their objective as

they approached. If you don't wish to be seen, don't look where you're going, Terrak

recalled from his Academy training. It had been proved centuries ago that humans

and other even more primitive lifeforms could sense when someone was looking in

their direction, even if the source could not be visually detected. Their biggest ally

right now was their "invisibility."

       Any general sweeps for lifeforms in this jungle will be difficult anyway, Terrak

reassured himself. The jungle is absolutely alive with all sorts of life. To pinpoint us

would be nearly impossible.

       McNiff crawled next to him, holding his tricorder out ahead of him, watching

the viewscreen as they went. The tricorders that both men carried were plated with

irridium, shielding them for survival in combat situations. These tricorders also had

the benefit of using a alternate scanning beam than their standard service

counterparts, and were silent while operating.

       A small graphical display constructed from their recon photos had been fed

into the tricorder to give them a "map" of the area. If the Klingons had followed

previous patterns, then the small blinking blips representing sentry posts would still

be in effect.
The Human Equation                       Page 243                                   Natale




       Slowly, McNiff reached across and touched Terrak's shoulder, signalling him

to stop. He moved the tricorder's viewscreen over in front of Terrak, showing him

the display. McNiff pointed to a small red blip that was constant. He pointed to

himself and Terrak. Us, he mouthed wordlessly.

       Terrak saw what he was pointing at, and swallowed slowly. Not twenty

yards away, the first of the perimeter guards would be stationed. He resisted the

urge to look up, trying desperately not to give his position away.

       They had approached in a wide circle, coming around to the rear of where

the armed vehicles were parked. Once they eliminated the sentry, and with a lot of

luck, they would be able to make their first strike and get out with their skins.

       McNiff looked at the expression on Terrak's face and shot back a look that

said, "But you don't believe in luck, remember?"

       Terrak just shrugged.

       Terrak didn't need to talk to McNiff, they had already discussed how they

would deal with the first sentry hours ago. Terrak scanned the ground, looking for a

heavy tree trunk, which was not difficult to find. He withdrew his tricorder, already

active, and took a silent deep breath.

       Swiftly, he stood, standing and spinning behind the tree trunk in the space of

two seconds. He glanced at his tricorder. The sentry hadn't moved. Twenty yards

was a fair distance to spot anything visually, but more than likely, the largest

building from the photograph contained sensor equipment and Terrak would take

nothing for granted.

       He issued a quick nod to McNiff, who repeated Terrak's maneuver, hiding

behind one of the large trunks opposite Terrak's. They repeated this painstaking

procedure, moving from enormous tree trunk to enormous tree trunk, waiting five
The Human Equation                        Page 244                           Natale




full minutes between maneuvers. They continued until Terrak risked a glance, low

at the ground, and saw booted feet not fifteen feet away.

       He shouldered his tricorder, and withdrew a small standard issue phaser

pistol. It, and all of their weapons, had been charged and armed hours ago, not

wishing to risk the noise powering up a phaser would emit while this close. Terrak

double checked the setting. Heavy stun. That should take the bastard down, he

thought. He would have preferred to set it to kill, just to tie up any possible loose

ends, but the stun setting was quieter.

       McNiff had two of the small detonators in his hand, looking at Terrak

expectantly. Terrak lowered his head, and mouthed a few words, then blessed

himself in the manner his religion demanded.

       McNiff had always thought this was odd, as he himself was not a religious

person, but then, Terrak had lived through many things which would have killed

many men....

       Terrak nodded to McNiff quickly, and stepped out from behind the tree,

leveling the phaser at the Klingon's back. Without hesitation, he sighted the weapon

and fired.

       The shot brought the Klingon down, but he was not yet unconscious. Damn

armor, Terrak cursed. He had hoped the armor wouldn't absorb that much of the

stun blast, but the Klingon was still moving, struggling to stand against the

deadened nerves in his body.

       Terrak sighted again as the Klingon turned in rage. He pulled the trigger

again, hitting the Klingon squarely in the chest. The sentry fell to the forest floor

and was still. Terrak had buried himself behind the tree again, and listened. He

waited to hear the sounds of an alarm being raised, fully expecting the sensor crews
The Human Equation                       Page 245                           Natale




he knew were there to detect the phaser blast, even on heavy stun. A few moments

of curious silence, and he and McNiff moved slowly towards the body.

       Terrak stopped when he reached the body, while McNiff continued into the

camp perimeter towards the armored vehicles. Terrak watched, his pistol raised, as

McNiff casually dropped to the ground and rolled beneath one of the vehicles and

began his work.

       Terrak stripped the Klingon of his weaponry and communicator. He opened

the communicator carefully to avoid activating it, and memorized the frequency it

was tuned to. When we make it back, he thought, we'll need to monitor their

communications.

       Still, no alarm had been sounded. Perhaps the Klingons are a bit too casual,

Terrak wondered? Terrak knew they didn't expect any Federation resistance, but

he didn't think they would be relaxed about their security. The Paracians certainly

could never put up any kind of effectual assault against this base, especially with

their fanatical tactics.      A frontal assault would be their choice, with nothing

more than men and weapons.           Perhaps the Klingons waited for this expected

assault, letting their guard down for other types of attacks. The Paracians would

attack, that much was certain.

       They would be dead in minutes, Terrak thought, recalling the military profile

of the Paracians he had seen prior to the outset of the mission.

       He checked his chronometer. The green display signalled the time, counting

the seconds down. Another ten seconds....five....three...

       Terrak looked up to see McNiff roll out from under the last vehicle as he

mentally reached One. He carefully made his way back to Terrak. He looked

questioningly at the Klingon, unconscious on the ground. Terrak picked him up,
indicating with a nod for McNiff to grab the Klingon's legs.
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       He did, and Terrak guided him slowly towards the vehicles. They set him

down and rolled him slowly under one of the heavy, bulky assault vehicles. Terrak

couldn't leave him alive, and he couldn't take him prisoner. Terrak knew it was a

poor way to die, not fitting for a Klingon warrior, but he had no choice, and did it

without regret.

       As they turned back towards the jungle, the last effects of the silent

transporter beams were just dissipating. Both Terrak and McNiff were caught by

surprise, their weapons holstered when they had moved the stunned sentry.

Twelve Klingon warriors stood ready, weapons trained on them.

       The apparent leader tucked his disrupter into his belt and said, "Do not

move! You are now prisoners of the Klingon Empire!" Then, he turned to the

others. "If they make any attempt to resist, shoot them."

       It was obvious that the words were for the benefit of the two humans, as the

Klingon had spoken them in clipped Federation Standard. Terrak felt bile rise in his

throat, and his fists clenched together tightly.

       I hate Klingons.

       Klingons had killed his entire family when he was but a boy. His family had

been taken captive and used as slave labor on a prison planet. The mining caves

were dark, Terrak remembered in a brief flashback. His eyes were riveted to the

Klingon commander's. The other was giving orders quietly to his second, and

sensed it.

       He turned around, amused at the fire this human had in his eyes. "You wish

to beg for your life, human?" He half turned, sharing a short, guttural laugh with his

men.

       Terrak merely stared back.
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       The Klingon caught the dark, bottomless void of Terrak's eyes, and his grin

quickly faded. Not to be intimidated, the Klingon stared into the death's head he

saw in Terrak's gaze.

       As he did, the Klingon grew curious that he should come face to face with his

own destruction and recognize it. Everything in his mind told him this was a very

dangerous man, and his instincts told him that he should be killed.

       Lord Gunther has other plans for them, the Klingon thought absently,

disappointed at his Commander's orders that they be taken alive.

       McNiff had his eyes riveted to the ground, glancing cautiously at Terrak's

feet, waiting for him to spring. Mentally, McNiff was going over a quickly formulated

plan of attack should Terrak initiate an escape attempt.

       Slowly, deliberately taking his time, Terrak raised his hands over his head,

interlacing his fingers behind his neck, McNiff mimicking his commander's action.

       Terrak's gaze did not falter, nor did it fail to communicate his message to his

Klingon captor. Alright, it said.

       You've won.

       For now.




STARHAVEN



       The two security men beamed down before Kirk and Spock, and checked the

area visually. Seeing no trouble, other than an obnoxious man in dazzlingly bright

clothing, they signalled the Enterprise that the beamdown point was secure.
The Human Equation                       Page 248                                  Natale




       Kirk and Spock beamed down to the station's receiving area, and were

greeted by an eager Ted Dooley. His clothes seemed even more neon in person, and

his smile even toothier. The glow radiating from his near bald head was staggering.

       Dooley thrust a hand towards Kirk before he even stepped off of the

transporter platform. "Captain! So glad you could make it! So glad! How may we at

Starhaven be of assistance to the Federation, hmm?"

       Kirk glanced at Spock, communicating his dislike for the man already. It was

clear that Dooley was sent here as a watchdog, most likely to prevent them from

doing their job while making it seem as if the station was being cooperative. Kirk

smiled back, a fake smile all his own.

       "Mr. Dooley, this is my First Officer Mr. Spock." Kirk indicated the Vulcan.

Dooley smiled and nodded to him. Best to establish just who is in command right

away, Kirk thought. He and Spock stepped down off the platform.

       "You may assist us by granting us access to your library files and repair

records for the past month. After we have discovered if what we are looking for is

here or not, we'll be out of your way as quickly as possible.."

       Dooley smiled, less confident this time, "Captain, I ahh.."

       Kirk deliberately interrupted him. "And, Mr. Dooley, tell me, just out of

professional curiosity - why are there two Klingon warships parked in orbit?

According to our records, your station has no contracts with the Klingon Empire."

       Dooley's grin changed to what actually seemed genuine. He grabbed the

broad red velvet lapels of his jacket and rocked back and forth on his heels.

"Captain, you must understand that much of the financial success of the Starhaven

Shipyards depends on professional discretion in regards to our customers. Surely

you    realize   that   we    cannot     divulge    certain,   ah,   how   shall   I   put
it...privileged...information?"
The Human Equation                         Page 249                            Natale




       "Mr. Dooley, I am a representative of the United Federation of Planets. As

such, I am empowered with certain privileged information of my own. Starfleet has

contracts with you, isn't that correct?"

       Nervously, Dooley eyed Kirk up and down. "Yes. But I hardly see how..."

       "You're a businessman, Mr. Dooley, and here's my proposition. Either you

assist us in every way we demand, or I will personally see to it that those contracts

are permanently dissolved and voided from Starfleet Command's computer banks."

Kirk flashed his best imitation of Dooley's mile wide grin.

       Dooley's smile disappeared altogether. His eyes narrowed, even more than

they normally were, and wrinkles appeared on his forehead. "I don't believe you

have the power to do that, Captain."

       Kirk placed an arm around Dooley's shoulder, walking towards the door.

"No, you're right, I don't. However, I have plenty of friends in the Administrative

bureau who could. When you get to be a starship captain, Mr. Dooley, there opens

up endless doors through which other people begin to owe you favors. I can't think

of a better way to cash in on them. Besides, the Federation is not aware of your new

association with the Klingon Empire. I'm sure they would be interested to hear

about it. There are plenty of other shipyards in the galaxy, Mr. Dooley."

       "You're bluffing," Dooley said, after studying Kirk for a moment longer.

       Kirk removed his arm and squared off with the smaller man. In his most

authoritive voice, he responded, "Then call my bluff. Order me to leave. You

certainly have the power to do that, I'm sure, or you wouldn't be here." His eyes

were riveted to Dooley, who squirmed under Kirk's gaze. Kirk had spent years

perfecting The Look, and enjoyed Dooley's discomfort, it gave him an edge.

       Dooley considered for a moment, then sighed a heavy sigh. "Very well,
Captain. Apparently the Klingons and the Federation aren't so different after all."
The Human Equation                        Page 250                            Natale




       Kirk's attention unconsciously disconnected The Look, downgrading it to a

mere Stare. "What? What do you mean?"

       "The Klingons also...requested....assistance. They too were refused. They

threatened us, not with extortion, but annihilation." He sighed in resignation. "They

too, were given access to our computers."

       Kirk stepped away from Dooley and withdrew his communicator. "Kirk to

Enterprise."

       "Enterprise, go ahead, sir."

       "Uhura, notify Mr. Scott to put the transporter on emergency stand-by. We

may have to warp out of orbit in a hurry. Navigation and sciences are to track any

course the Klingon vessels take should they leave orbit unexpectedly, and Mr. Spock

and I are to be beamed up immediately. Don't bother signalling, just do it. Confirm."

       "Aye, sir. Relaying orders now."

       "Good. Maintain Yellow alert, shields up. Kirk out."




At Kirk's insistence, Dooley had allowed them access to their berthing bay, where

ships could dock on the inside of the station. After assuring himself with a walk

around the entire perimeter of the station that the Pegasus wasn't berthed here,

Kirk asked Dooley to excuse them for a moment. They stared out into the null

gravity bay where ten starships presently hung, suspended as if in liquid.

       The umbilicals and gravitational moorings that held the ships in place were,

of course, invisible to the naked eye, but were there just the same. Engineers in

pressure suits used their jet packs to guide themselves expertly as they crawled like

an army of ants over the various vessels awaiting repair or construction.
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        Most were independent merchant ships, but there were two frigates and

what appeared to be a small scout class starship present.

        The scout ship looked as if it were newly built, and stood out amongst the

others as its hull was shiny and untouched by phaser or disrupters. All of the other

vessels had scars along the superstructure from previous battles, being fixed,

replaced or reinforced by the Starhaven Engineering crew.

        Kirk stared out into the bay, and felt a longing to be back on his ship. This

place reminded him of Sol I, where he first took command of the Enterprise, and it

dragged memories to the surface rapidly. The smell of the place, the view of the

berthing bays, it was nearly identical. He could almost see the Enterprise waiting

there, silent yet patient, like a treasured love. Kirk's memory of that event never left

him, and the Starhaven facility's atmosphere forced it to replay in his mind.

        Spock stood nearby waiting patiently, until he saw a frown appear on Kirk's

face.

        "Captain?"

        Kirk looked at Spock, not realizing the Vulcan had been studying him. "Oh,

yes. I was just thinking. What do you make of this, Spock? Is it possible that the

Pegasus could have been here and stripped by now?" Kirk's face spoke of doubt

about that possibility.

        "Since we have no way of knowing where Dr. Thorn went when last sighted,

it is difficult to speculate. The Pegasus is a Destroyer, Jim, and it would have taken a

very long time to dismantle her, especially if they wanted to keep the systems

intact."

        Kirk's eyes grew wide. "What if they didn't? What if they destroyed her,

travelling to here by shuttlecraft, or," Kirk said, slamming his right fist into his left,
"they could have used the Stingers on board!"
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       Spock nodded.      "True.    The Pegasus is equipped with Stinger class

fightercraft."

       "What is the maximum speed of a Stinger, Mr. Spock?"

       "Stinger class fightercraft are capable of warp one, Captain. However, in

emergency situations, they are able to accelerate to warp one-point-six. At times..."

       "So the Pegasus could have been set to self destruct even up to a parsec away

and then Thorn could have come here with the Stingers." Kirk nodded, wearing a

deep tread into the carpet. "With warp capability, they could have come from

anywhere in a relatively short amount of time."

       Kirk strode up to Dooley, Spock and the security officers immediately behind

him. "Mr. Dooley, bring us to your main computer center now, please."

       "As you wish," Dooley said, his smile disappearing again behind a mound of

wrinkled flesh.

       A few minutes later, they reached the section of the station that held two

large security doors with the letters "ComCen III" written in bold red letters on the

door. "This is it, gentlemen. After you, Captain."

       Kirk made to step inside, but Johnson, one of the security officers, cleared his

throat rather loudly. "Sir?" the man inquired.

       Kirk sighed, extending a hand and stepping out of their way, letting them do

their job. The security men entered first, and Kirk and Spock darted in as Kirk saw

the two men stiffen and put their hands on their phasers as if to draw them.

       As they entered the small chamber, Kirk frowned as he saw what they were

reacting to. A Klingon landing party. "At ease, gentlemen," Kirk said, as he saw the

Klingons hadn't drawn any weapons yet, and apparently had no intention to.

       The Klingon Kirk recognized as Captain Koth of the K'Roc, shrugged towards
Kirk and smiled a toothy grin. "A wise decision, Captain Kirk."
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       Kirk's eyes were ablaze. He whirled on Dooley. "Why didn't you tell me they

were here? Don't you realize what could have happened?"

       Dooley grinned a wolf's smile and shrugged innocently. "You didn't ask,

Captain Kirk."

       Kirk knew that Dooley did realize what could have happened, in fact, was

probably counting on some form of confrontation to get rid of the Federation

officers or the Klingons.

       It didn't matter to him which.

       Kirk spun, sensing that Koth was approaching him, and smiled inwardly as

the two security men barred the way for the Klingon. Koth stood at least a foot

taller and half again as broad as the two large human men, but they formed a wall

that Koth was unwilling to pass.

       Yet, Kirk reminded himself again, wondering how long he could push this

Klingon Captain before his honor demanded retaliation.

       Kirk placed a hand on each man's shoulder, and the two security guards

stepped aside, not liking their Captain's unspoken order. Each still had a hand on

their phaser, ready for whatever was to come.

       "Tell me, Captain," Koth began slowly, "why are you here at Starhaven? Have

you been following my vessels all the way from the Triangle?"

       Kirk snorted a short laugh. "Captain Koth. We both know you haven't been

near the Triangle until you entered it leaving Federation Space! We tracked your

"cloaked" ships well within Federation territory.    My government demands an

explanation."

       Koth stood silent for a moment, glaring at the smaller human. Then, he

rocked back on his heels and roared. Or laughed, Kirk couldn't tell the difference.
Small grunts came from the four other Klingons in the room as they poured over the
The Human Equation                      Page 254                                   Natale




computer equipment. "You amuse me, Captain. I had thought that Starfleet trained

their starship captains well, obviously we have been misinformed. Your pitiful

attempts at misguided lies dishonors me! Speak of it no further, I warn you. My

patience is thin..." His voice indeed held a warning, one that Kirk easily read.

       Kirk gently eased the two security men fully aside and stepped to within

inches of the larger Klingon. In his most authoritive tone, said, "I don't need to

remind you that we're on Neutral ground, Captain Koth! I'll speak of what I damn

well please! I demand an explanation for your presence in Federation space! You

speak of dishonor, well I put it to you that you dishonor yourself. If one doesn't have

the courage," Kirk spat the word at Koth, "to defend his actions, he has no honor."

       Koth bellowed, and as if by magic, his dagger was drawn and sweeping

towards Kirk's throat. It never reached Kirk, as Johnson's hand shot out to intercept

the strike, and the other security guard's phaser flew out of its belt loop.

       Kamaron leveled the weapon at Koth's head. With an effort to make sure

Koth saw what he was doing, Kamaron reset the phaser with his thumb to the lethal

setting. Kirk didn't even flinch, it was over in seconds. The two Captains' gazes

were still locked.

       The other two Klingons had found their feet, and out of the corner of his eye,

he saw that Spock had his phaser trained on them. Koth stared into Kirk's eyes, fury

and rage at being thwarted making its presence clear. "Kill, me, Kirk! Do it, if you

have the stomach!"

       Knowing it was a greater insult, Kirk said, "No, Koth, I won't. I'll let you live

in dishonor with your lies and cowardice."

       "Kill me if you wish, human," Koth roared. "but dishonor me no more! If you

do not, I will surely kill you!"
       "Hold him, Johnson."
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       "My pleasure, sir," Johnson shot back, his gaze riveted to the massive Klingon.

       Kirk knew that the Klingons weren't likely to listen to what he had to say, but

he was duty bound to at least try. "Listen, Captain Koth, personal feelings aside, I

believe our two governments are seeking the same thing.              Perhaps we can

cooperate, share our information..." Kirk let the sentence trail off as he saw the stiff

lipped refusal etched into Koth's sculptured face.

       Kirk sighed. "Mr. Johnson." The man waited eagerly for the order that never

came. "Let him go."

       Johnson shot a look at Kirk as if his Captain had lost his mind. "Sir?"

       Kirk riveted Johnson to the floor with The Look. "Is there a problem obeying

my orders, Mister?"

       Johnson slowly stepped back, releasing Koth's wrist. Kamaron lowered his

phaser, but did not holster it. Koth regarded Kirk with open curiosity now, his deep

brown eyes narrowing to slits.

       "You should have killed me, human."

       Kirk looked back, "Later, Captain Koth. Right now, I have more important

things to do."

       Kirk turned, and Spock holstered his phaser and stepped in stride with him

as they left. The two security men backed out of the room cautiously, watching the

Klingons until the doors hissed shut. Kirk rubbed his eyes and said to Dooley, "Mr.

Dooley, I presume there is another Computer Center we could use?"

       "Of course, Captain," Dooley responded, his voice smooth as silk. "Follow me,

please."




USS GHOSTMOON, Viper Class Scoutship
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       Thorn panted in rage, sweat pouring from every pore in his body. He sat up

straight on the diagnostic table, and swung his legs onto the floor of Sickbay. He

checked the readout, noting that all of the displays were perfectly normal, absolutely

no problems at all.

       Everything was just as it should be.

       Then why is my mind ready to detonate with every thought?! Why! Why! Why!

       He felt a sharp twinge in his right hand, and glanced down towards it. He

withdrew the bloodied piece of meat that was his fist from the smashed diagnostic

viewer.

       Though it had been only seconds, he didn't remember punching the viewer,

didn't even remember his rage. He only stared at his bloodied fist in confusion.

       Something was wrong, his mind told him. Something was desperately wrong.

       Thorn walked to the sink and rinsed his hand off, picking the glass out of his

knuckles as he did so. Since arriving at Starhaven, he had barely finished installing

his medical and transporter equipment when the Enterprise and the two Klingon

vessels parked in orbit.

       A bad turn of luck, he cursed silently. Dooley would delay them. Besides,

there were no records of this ship being built in his name. The Stingers that they

had arrived in had already been stripped by the Starhaven Engineers, and the parts

sold to a score of dealers eager to get their hands on Federation technology.

       Half of them already had left Starhaven, bringing the last of the evidence

against Thorn to disparate ends of the galaxy.

       It had been days before, however, that the anomalies had begun.

       First, he had blacked out, regaining consciousness in someone else's cabin.
The room was a total wreck, he had apparently destroyed everything within reach.
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The occupant was no where to be found, and was still missing. Thorn could only

speculate that he had killed her, but he couldn't remember for what. No matter, he

thought. She is of little consequence.

       The second incident came while he slept, a seizure of such force that it nearly

killed him. Blood ran from his ears and nose, and his body shook spastically. After a

full diagnostic, he had discovered that as well as the seizure he couldn't explain, he

had suffered a minor heart attack.

       Thorn treated himself without alerting the crew, injecting blood and heart

stimulators designed to strengthen both into his veins. Thorn had been careful to

hide his condition from the crew, but wasn't sure in his periods of amnesia how

much they had seen.

       He was sure they knew, however hard he tried to conceal it from them. They

all knew, he thought, and they just wait to kill me in my sleep and steal the glory of my

discoveries for themselves!

       They know, his mind taunted.

       You're a marked man, Thorn.

       He was convinced of the treachery of the crew, after all, they had betrayed

their former leader all for a pile of Federation credits. They couldn't be trusted, he

decided blankly.

       As he bandaged his hand, he went over again in his mind for the fifth time

that day how he would kill them once they were out of this facility and the Artificial

Intelligence systems were securely installed on this ship. For each of the devious

cutthroats, he had devised a long and painful death. A punishment, he told himself,

for betraying their former leader.

       And for the betrayal of me...
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          His hands shook as his rage boiled within him, a feeling of betrayal already

rooted deep within his soul, if he could still lay claim to one.

          Years of loyal service together, and then this....why had they betrayed me? I've

always done the best for them, had always gotten them the highest paying jobs. Now,

this...

          "Treachery!" He thundered, his fists clutching again, soaking the bandages

with blood.

          Then, the feeling was gone, as quickly as it had come. He was wondering

where those feelings came from, all the while knowing precisely from where.

          Jack Cryer.

          Ghosts of the past, Thorn reassured himself. Merely your own conscience

punishing you for your crimes.

          Your own, he mused, or someone else's?

          He looked into the mirror. The face that stared back at him was hardly

familiar. His skin was bone white, and soaked with sweat. All of his facial hair had

disappeared, for reasons he could not medically explain. Deep hollow sockets held

his eyes, profound black balls through which the pain of the galaxy was reflected.

Beneath them, wreaths of red and black circled down his sunken cheeks. His black

hair was still long in the back, but his hairline had receded a full six inches over the

past few weeks, and the top had streaks of gray in it where none were before.

          Shards of gray cut their way through the deep jet of the rest of his hair, like

blood from an open vein.

          Sacrifices, he told himself, his eyes not believing the image in front of them.

Surrendering towards a greater good, towards the betterment of mankind.

Nevertheless, he stared at the ghoul he saw reflected in the mirror, knowing that it
was indeed his own image.
The Human Equation                    Page 259                              Natale




       And for the first time since The Joining, he could not be sure who that truly

was.
The Human Equation                     Page 260                               Natale




                                   CHAPTER TEN



PARAC VII



       Terrak and McNiff were held inside a simple brig, awaiting questioning.

There was only one exit, and aside from the force-screen that lined the doorway,

there were three Klingon warriors guarding the corridor beyond.

       They had been stripped down to their briefs, and relieved of their stockpile of

equipment. Their hands were cuffed behind their backs with iron manacles. The

only reason they hadn't been executed on the spot is that the Klingons were still

unsure of who exactly they were and if they could be of any value.

       After the sentry they had stunned had been revived and the detonators

detected and disarmed, the Klingons were still left with a puzzle that neither Terrak

or McNiff was willing to extrapolate on.
The Human Equation                     Page 261                             Natale




       Though the guards made sport of them twice since their confinement, the

beatings were not severe. Nothing, Terrak thought, compared to the interrogation

that would come.

       The interrogation had not yet begun, and any attempts at communication

with them so far had proved useless. Terrak and McNiff wanted the Klingons to

think that they were Paracian Rebels, so they spoke in thick, practiced gutteral

language of the Paracian people.

       The game is almost up, Terrak thought. When the inquisitor arrives, the truth

will come out.     As brutal as the Klingon methods of interrogation were, their

effectiveness was never questioned.

       Terrak thought of what the rest of the team must be doing now that they

were overdue.      He hoped they wouldn't attempt a rescue. The corridors and

perimeter of the camp were far more secure than they appeared.

       Terrak tried to think of what Cindy would do, now that she was in command.

Terrak decided that she could go either way, depending on what she knew about the

situation.

       The force-screen snapped off and two Klingons stepped inside. The third

waited outside in the corridor. The two Klingons motioned with their rifles for

Terrak and McNiff to stand up.

       Slowly, they did.     They had endured their previous beatings without

practiced fatigue, to further their deception at being Paracian. They hollared and

yelled, screamed for mercy in Paracian...everything to ensure the Klingons believed

their ruse.

       They just don't give up, do they, Terrak wondered? How many times can you

beat a Paracian before he dies, he mused absently.
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       The Klingons stepped back from the door, and indicated with a nod that they

should go out of the cell.

       Damn! It's time to pay the piper...

       Terrak's heart raced. Not out of fear for himself, rather for what would

become of the mission if his identity were discovered under the Mind Sifter. He

knew he had only a split second to decide...

       Terrak took two steps forward and glanced at McNiff, who's eyes locked with

his. Instantly, the two of them sprang into action, darting out of the line of fire of the

Klingon in the corridor.

       Terrak leapt as high as he could, tucking his knees into his chest. At the same

time, he swung his cuffed hands downward, and landed with his legs between his

arms. His hands were in front of him now, and the stunned Klingon next to him

reacted a moment too slow.

       In one fluid motion, Terrak stepped behind him brought his arms up and over

the Klingon's head. As soon as his arms were around the guard's head, he twisted

the body in front of him, just in time to absorb the disrupter blast from the third

sentry. The Klingon vanished in a haze of decaying scarlet.

       At the same time, McNiff kicked his opponent's rifle upward just as the

weapon discharged. He dropped his body roughly, landing parallel to the floor and

delivering a jarring kick across both the guard's knees.

       A loud crack echoed throughout the chamber as the guard crumpled, howling

in pain. Though on the floor now, he levelled the weapon on McNiff, growling

something in Klingonnaese.

       "No!" Terrak took one step, two, and leaped high across the room. The third

Klingon fired at Terrak, but his shot missed.
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        The Klingon who was aiming at McNiff had to redirect his attention to the

flailing body soaring towards him, and fumbled for the trigger, changing his target

for one last time.

        McNiff took the opportunity to roll on his back, and bring his foot upwards

rapidly, then drop savagely onto the Klingon's shoulder.

        This jarred him enough to misdirect his shot, and Terrak landed knees-first

onto the Klingon's chest. He grabbed the guard's hair and lifted his skull, slamming

it down on the floor as hard as his muscles would allow. As the form went still, he

fumbled with his manacles to grasp the rifle.

        The third Klingon was in the room now, and his weapon had just re-charged

from the last shot. He aimed the rifle at Terrak's back.

        McNiff forced himself into a squat, and launched himself at Terrak, knocking

him off the body at the same instant as the remaining guard fired.

        Terrak was thrown into the corner of the room, and spun back towards the

scene just in time to see McNiff's body come apart in a subdued flash of disrupter

fire.

        Without taking the time for the thought to settle, he leveled the rifle on the

Klingon and pulled the trigger. His knuckles were white as the rifle fired two more

times. Finally he realized he had slain the guard with the first shot.

        Carefully, he subdued the emotions welling up inside him, determined to

escape so that John McNiff's death had some meaning. If that's what you want, John -

I won't let you down...

        He dropped the rifle and took a disrupter pistol out of the belt holster of the

dead Klingon. Terrak quickly searched the Klingon, but found no keys for the

manacles.             He carefully positioned the disrupter so that he could fire on
his manacles without hitting his hands, and pulled the trigger.            The chains
The Human Equation                         Page 264                                    Natale




disintegrated in the center, leaving the two cuffs and a short piece of chain dangling

from each wrist.

       Looking around instinctively, he left the room, prowling the corridors of the

Klingon base like a starving panther stalking its prey...




Terrak considered himself lucky that he hadn't been detected yet. Perhaps the

security here isn't as tight as I thought, he mused. I would have had security cameras

on the cells, at least. He decided not to ponder on his good fortune, lest he curse

himself, and make his luck expire.

       As he rounded the corner, he saw a guard pacing in front of a door, and

pulled back quickly to avoid being seen. His breath was coming quick, the need for

revenge and the old memories of his childhood causing his blood to boil and his

heart to race.

       He tried to formulate a plan of attack, but his mind was a seething blur.

Terrak felt afraid for the first time in a long, long while. His hands shook, his breath

came in short bursts, and he realized that he was covered in a cold sweat.

       Images flashed through his mind of his childhood growing up on the Klingon

Prison Planet as slave labor. His mother, beaten by a Klingon guard...his father,

disgraced into allowing it...his brother...slain for keeping a piece of the dilithium that

they were mining because he thought it was "pretty"...

       Easy, he said to himself, it's just the memories, that's all...that's all in the past...

       Think! Still, his brain was foggy with the burning desire for revenge causing

his adrenalin to flow in excess. Finally, he set his jaw firm, and stopped trying to

block out the feelings. All at once the memories came, all the hatred and caged
anger, all the prejudice and revulsion for Klingons boiling to the surface.
The Human Equation                       Page 265                              Natale




       Without consciously making the decision to, Terrak stepped around the

corner to the center of the intersection, levelled the weapon, and fired. The Klingon

had seen him and drawn his own blaster, firing at the same time.

       Terrak's shot caught the guard in the chest, but the thick plating on his armor

absorbed most of the blow. Unlike the rifles, the smaller blaster pistols didn't have a

disintegrate setting. These did the job slowly...

       The Klingon's shot had caught Terrak in the shoulder; absently he felt a

burning sensation in his right arm. Terrak quickly pulled the trigger again, this time

before his opponent could return fire.

       His second shot was aimed perfectly, and even the Klingon's bony head

couldn't take the volley without protection. He toppled backwards violently, his

body trying to keep its balance instinctively.

       Terrak glanced behind him and from side to side. He noticed the burnt,

blackened flesh of his shoulder with detached curiosity. No time...

       Terrak ran towards the door, knowing it would open soon, and leveled his

gun on the center of the door as he walked. His eyes were riveted on the seam that

separated the two doors, his finger flinching spastically, waiting impatiently for the

second when the seam would part.

       Finally, it moved, with the sounds of angry voices on the other side, and a

klaxon sounding throughout the base. Terrak fired, aiming for the center of the door

as it opened to reveal more Klingons. The first few shots tore out of the weapon in a

matter of seconds, scarring the doors and sending molten metal sputtering into the

air.

       The guards had gathered close to the door, anxious to charge into the

corridor, and Terrak calmly aimed and fired, sighting a new target and firing with
automatic accuracy. All four of the Klingons were dead in as many seconds.
The Human Equation                          Page 266                            Natale




         Terrak stepped over the bodies and entered the room, taking in his

surroundings with practiced awareness. He glanced back at the door, wishing his

first volley hadn't destroyed the closing mechanisms. If I could close the door, I

would stand a chance...

         The room was some sort of engineering chamber, a large pulsing column in

the center of the room. He glanced at the controls with an unattached sort of

recognition.

         A small screen showed the layout of the octagonal base, indicating the

chamber where he now stood with a different color. The room was on the outside

periphery of the base, and two of the walls led directly out into the Paracian jungles.

         Terrak could sense his freedom only meters away, and again felt an old

familiar feeling...one of anxious claustrophobia. A feeling he never realized that he

still carried. He felt dizzy, entombed...

         He forced his mind to clear, even if for a moment, and recognized the

equipment. A small fusion chamber supplied power to the base, all of the controls

were here to shut down this entire building's power supply.

         A new thought entered Terrak's mind, allowed access by his primitive thirst

for vengeance. The Klingons in orbit were most likely alerted when the base's alarm

systems went off. Soon, this place will be crawling with more Klingons than even I

can kill...

         Terrak looked at the room again, scrutinizing the walls, floor and ceiling, and

seeming to calculate something in his head. He tucked his blaster into his belt and

walked back over towards the bodies of the fallen guards. He took all of their

weapons, one by one.
The Human Equation                       Page 267                                 Natale




       Terrak inspected the blasters quickly, searching for the control panel that

changed the settings from Stun to Disrupt. That figures, he thought, just like the

weapon I have, there are no other settings except destroy.

       Shrugging, he activated the chamber, causing the magnetic coils inside the

weapon to begin to charge. A prolonged charging would cause a superheating of the

disrupter field. A short time after that, the field would collapse, and then...

       ...overload.

       He did this to each in turn and set them down gingerly around the fusion

chamber.

       Then, he pulled his own gun out and took a deep breath. He prayed that his

luck wouldn't run out now. Glancing back briefly at the chamber, he knew it was too

late to stop now.

       He trained his gun on the wall and fired. He bombarded the wall with searing

disrupter fire again and again...until a small hole began to appear, and daylight crept

through.

       He glanced back furtively at the disrupters he had laid around the fusion

chamber. Their coils were red hot...they would blow soon. He continued to fire,

widening the hole until it looked as if he could get through.

       Terrak tossed the blaster through the gap and began to wriggle through. The

molten metal around the hole seared his bare flesh, but he barely felt it, his instincts

taking over, and sparing him the pain until it was convenient to allow it.

       Finally, he was out, and no sooner did his feet hit the ground did he pick up

his blaster and bolt away from the base as fast as his legs could carry him. As he ran,

he calculated how long the blasters would have before they exploded, and how fast

he could run to get to minimum safe distance.
The Human Equation                         Page 268                           Natale




       Ignoring his result, he ran as hard and as fast as he could towards the jungle,

the blood rushing in his ears louder than an ocean's wave.

       Just as he crossed the open ground to the perimeter of the camp, he saw the

sentries on duty rush out of their positions, weapons raised at him, shouting at him

to stop in Klingonnaese.

       He dropped his blaster and stopped, and put his hands up, stalling for a

moment longer. They approached cautiously. C'mon, he thought, his heart beating

out the seconds...come closer...just a little further...

       The last sound Terrak heard was the explosion caused by the disrupters

overloading. A second, deafening detonation abruptly followed.

       The resonation saturated his ears, and he closed his eyes tight as the white

hot wave of energy and heat surged towards them at phenomenal speed.
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                                 CHAPTER ELEVEN



STARHAVEN



       Kirk paced a deep canal into the carpeted floor of the computer center. His

patience had just about expired. For the past few weeks, all he had done was chase

Thorn across the galaxy, limited in what he could do by rules and regulations.

       Now, Spock poured over the computer matrix of the station, searching for

some clue to Thorn's current whereabouts. The Vulcan hadn't spoken in over an

hour, and Kirk knew that meant he had found nothing.

       Outside these walls, Kirk thought, the galaxy is preparing to enter a war over a

dangerous and reckless technology. Billions of beings will die, beings that at this very

moment, perhaps aren't even aware of the danger.

       So what are you prepared to do about it, Kirk? The voice of his conscience

taunted at his pride. Your duty is to serve Starfleet Command, and in turn, the
Federation. You have the power in your hands to stop this war before it begins.
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        Use it...

        "Dooley," Kirk barked, startling the man.          "I want an inspection of the

starships berthed in your bay immediately."

        Dooley regarded Kirk evasively. "You know I don't have the authority to

authorize that, Captain."

        "Then take me to whoever does, Mr. Dooley.               I've had it with your

bureaucratic bull." He flipped his communicator open. "Kirk to Enterprise."

        "Scott here."

        "Patch me in to Communications, Mr. Scott."

        "Aye, Cap'n. Standing by."

        "Lieutenant Uhura, get me the Appropriations Officer on Starbase Sixteen,

Priority Channel One."

        "Aye, sir. Please stand by." Uhura's voice reached Dooley's ears, and he

suddenly understood what Kirk was doing.

        "Captain," he broke into an adorable smile. "You wouldn't do that would

you? I'm sure we can come to some sort of an arrangement..."

        Kirk glanced at him inconsequentially.

        Uhura's voice came back through the comm-link. "Commodore Rocheford

standing by, Captain. There is a four second delay due to the signal processing

download from the Enterprise."

        "Dave," Kirk said, smiling and turning from Dooley. "How are you? It's Jim."

        "Jim?" The voice on the other end of the comm-link sounded only feet away.

"How the Hell are you, Jimmy-boy? I haven't heard from you in months!" Rocheford's

voice took on a serious tone. "Is there something wrong, Jimmy-boy? You know

Priority One is reserved for official use..."
        "I know, Dave, I'm afraid this is an official call."
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        "What can I do for you, Jimmy-boy? Anything you need, just name it."

        Kirk grinned at Dooley. "Stand by, will you Dave?" Kirk pressed the mute

button on his communicator. "Commodore Rocheford is in charge of Appropriations

for Quadrant II, he operates out of Starbase Sixteen.            You understand that

Appropriations includes Starship Building Contracts to private organizations like

Starhaven. When we went through the Academy together, I helped him get into

Command School." Kirk smiled a wolf's smile. "He has me to thank for where he is,

Mr. Dooley, and now, so do you."

        "Wait, wait!" Dooley was near hysterical. "Tell him to forget it, I'll get you

your inspections!"

        Kirk resumed the communique. "Dave, I'll have to call you back and let you

know if I need anything. I think I already got what I was looking for...sorry to bother

you."

        "No bother at all, Jimmy-boy, just let me know if I can help. Rocheford out."

        "If you'll both follow me, please," Dooley said, heading for the door. He

exited, and they followed a few feet behind.

        Spock joined Kirk, and glanced sidelong at his Captain. "Captain," Spock said,

his head tilted to one side. "Lieutenant Rocheford is in charge of Munitions aboard

the Enterprise. If he had called your bluff, you would have-I believe the correct

expression is-played out your hand."

        "Yes, Mr. Spock," Kirk said softly, "I was playing a hunch that he wouldn't

take the chance that I was bluffing."

        "Basing command decisions on the random actions of others does not seem

logical."

        They rounded a corner and headed through the doors marking the entrance
to the berthing bays. Kirk glanced up at the lettering that read, "BERTHING BAYS -
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SECURITY ACCESS ONLY. He glanced back at Spock and whispered, "Logical, no.

Effective, yes."




Kirk and Spock had inspected two of the freighters, and had found nothing but irate

Captains and their crew. No one was cooperating, even those who had no animosity

towards the Federation resented having their ships inspected by Kirk and Spock.

        Hours were ticking by, and Kirk hated the possibility that he was wasting his

time.

        They had occupied Dooley's time from the moment they had arrived, and the

little man was no longer the cheerful ball of charisma he had been when they first

arrived. His face was sullen, his expression frustrated.

        Kirk and Spock were on the walkway that wound its way around the massive

space where the ships were berthed. They approached the next access tunnel that

led out to a small transporter. From there, they would beam to the next ship in line

for the inspection.

        Spock carried a small electronic tablet with him and keyed in the list of ships.

"The next vessel is the USS Melborne, Captain. The Corinthian Freighter with the

phaser burns on the port side."

        "Fine. Mr. Dooley, please inform the Captain we'll be boarding..."

        Kirk's words were cut off as a piercing alarm began whooping throughout the

station. Emergency klaxons snapped on, and the corridors were filled with bright

yellow lights.

        The control computer of Starhaven Station issued the warning over all the

intercoms, "Warning...Spacedoors are closed...warning...Spacedoors are closed..."
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       All three men whirled to look into the berthing bay. One of the small scouts

had ignited her impulse engines and was slowly moving towards the Spacedoors.

Engineers in pressure suits were thrown clear of the vessel by the backlash of

energy released by the impulse drive.        They flew like insects, smashing into

bulkheads and berthed starships.

       Dooley bolted down the corridor, Kirk and Spock right behind him. After a

minute, Dooley raced into a computer center. "What the Hell is going on!?"

       One of the technicians covered the microphone on his headset.

"Unauthorized departure, Mr. Dooley. The Ghostmoon has jammed the umbilical

field moorings and is headed for the spacedoors."

       "Thorn," spat Dooley.

       Kirk grabbed him by his lapels. "You knew!?" Kirk slammed him against the

wall, releasing him.    He whipped his communicator out.         "Kirk to Enterprise,

emergency!"

       "Scott here, Captain. Standing by."

       "Red Alert, Mr. Scott, there's a scout vessel headed for the spacedoors of

Starhaven. It's Thorn. I don't know if he's got codes to open the doors or not, but I

want the Enterprise between the scout ship and open space. I'll be standing by on

this channel, keep me informed. Kirk out."

       Dooley bolted for the door, but Spock casually reached out and grasped the

man's shoulder. Instantly, his body went limp and fell to the floor.

       "Thank you, Mr. Spock."

       "Quite alright, Captain."

       "Sirs," the young technician stammered, "Berthing Control says that the

spacedoors are magnetically sealed and emergency bulkheads are being activated."
       "Excellent, how long before he reaches the spacedoors?"
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       The man glanced at a screen, and replied, "One minute, forty five seconds

present speed."

       "Carry on," Kirk said to them, then walked over to Dooley's body. Spock

helped him lift the portly man, made even heavier by his unconsciousness. With his

free hand, he flipped the communicator open again. "Enterprise, three to beam up.

Have a security detail waiting in the transporter room to transfer Mr. Dooley to the

brig. Kirk out."




IKS K'ROC



Koth nodded as the last words of Kirk's message to the Enterprise died out on the

bridge. The communications officer turned to Koth, "Shall I play it again, Lord?"

       "No," Koth said, "Battle Stations!            Prepare to intercept the scientist!

Navigator, set course one-one-zero, mark two-four-six! Relay Officer: message to

Karash: Karash to take up parabolic course via those coordinates. Execute!"

       The helmsman loaded the coordinates into his console as soon as the

navigator programmed them in. He eased the K'Roc into a slow, impulse turn that

put them right behind the Enterprise.

       The Karash was moving at the same speed in the opposite direction,

approaching from the spinward side. They would have the Enterprise in a pincer

formation, and overtake the scout vessel before the Federation Starship had a

chance to react.

       At last we lock horns, Kirk! At last, there is blood to spill!
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USS ENTERPRISE



Kirk and Spock strode onto the bridge and took their stations without preamble.

"Scotty," Kirk said as the other vacated his command chair, "is there any way to open

the spacedoors by remote?"

       "I'm sure th' station has access codes to open the doors in an emergency,

Cap'n. If Thorn has managed to get his hands on those codes, then..."

       "There's nothing Berthing Control can do to stop them."

       "Aye. If they open the doors, then the null-gravity field will collapse due to

subspace compression. The entire berthing bay will be in a vacuum and everyone

will die!"

       "Uhura, raise me Starhaven Control."

       "Standing by, sir."

       "Starhaven, this is the Enterprise. Can we assist?"

       "Negative, Enterprise," the voice was female, probably, a subordinate of

Dooley's. "We're trying our tractors now."

       A moment of still silence washed across the bridge. The voice over the

carrier wave frequency continued. "Tractor beam engaged and...locked on!"

       Kirk stared at the visual of Starhaven Station, and imagined the scene inside

the Berthing Control room. They must be cheering right now...

       Then the voice returned over the channel. "We've lost it...my God! Emergency,

emergency...evacuate Berthing Bays, repeat, evacuate Berthing Bays..."

       Spock, bent over his scanners, looked up at Kirk in alarm. "Captain, I'm

picking up heavy antimatter activity and power build up from the Ghostmoon. They

could be trying to initiate warp drive."
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       Scott snorted. "Are they mad? They'll take half the station with them from

the backlash from the Warp Field!" He looked at Kirk. "They'll be lucky if they don't

kill themselves!"

       "Uhura, open a broad channel, all frequencies..."

       "...already open, sir."

       "Ghostmoon, this is the Enterprise...do not initiate warp maneuvers within

the station!    Thorn!     I'll guarantee you safe passage out of this quadrant,

anything...just don't engage warp drive! Respond!"

       They watched the image of Starhaven expectantly, the visual showing the two

Klingon vessels in a pincer formation with the Enterprise in the middle. This

bothered Kirk, but knew that they wanted Thorn as bad as he did, and couldn't take

the time to worry now.

       Suddenly, the spacedoors to the station exploded outward in a shower of

phaser fire and debris that sent pieces barrelling out towards the Enterprise's

forward shields. Tiny yellow pinpoints of light swarmed out of the cavity, blinking

once or twice on the viewer indicating them as life forms, then vanishing as the

vacuum of space took them.

       Kirk's mouth dropped open at the scene on the viewer, his eyes unbelieving

as the Ghostmoon tore through the outer doors. Scotty leaped to the Engineering

station, monitoring the forward shields and adjusting the power output.

       The Ghostmoon streaked out of the hole, its warp field badly mutilating the

outer hull of the station. It soared directly towards the Enterprise, tacking hard to

starboard as it flipped on its side, sweeping past them quickly.

       The Ghostmoon opened fire as it swept past, cutting into the Enterprise's

starboard shields with its phasers. The shields held up, and only a minimal loss of
power was reported.
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       Kirk watched the Ghostmoon and stepped over to the weapons station

readouts. He looked at the target display readout and saw a computer generated

side view of the Enterprise. Blinking red dots indicated where the Enterprise had

been hit.

       His eyes narrowed, and he thought for a moment. "Mr. Spock, activate short

range sensors, prepare for a full intensity sweep..."




IKS K'ROC



"Pursuit! Emergency speed!" Koth was on his feet, shaking his fist at the scout ship.

       "Sir," the science officer growled, "I show severe damage to the

superstructure of the scout vessel. Her warp engines are superheated and will

require downgrade to impulse drive within..." he checked his instruments..."ten

minutes."

       "Status of Enterprise?"

       "Switching scanning beam now, Lord." The Klingon switched the sensor

mode furiously.        His eyes darted to the right as he read the scanner report.

"Pursuing, Lord. They are at warp seven, sir.           Their engine output is nearing

maximum!"

       Koth's soul, if it could be said that he had one, was on fire. Kirk would not

arrive before them. The speed differences between warp seven and warp eight

were vast, and they would arrive much too late to find anything but the black

coldness of space...
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         The K'Roc and the Karash closed on the Ghostmoon, and all attempts at

ordering it to slow to impulse went ignored. Finally, the coil emissions grew too

great, and the ship eased into impulse power.

         "Gunner," Koth began, "One third disrupter power...target forward shields

only! Fire!"

         The officer complied, and the disrupter blast was enough to take the

overloaded shields down without damaging the ship.

         Koth stood and barked, "Form a heavily armed boarding party from the

K'Roc! Have Engineering teams stabilize the vessel and a science team to get

Thorn's files and any equipment! I want him alive...the Klingon who kills him will

die the instant he beams back by my hand! Success!"

         Koth waited, counting the minutes that it took for his crew to respond. Two

ticked by, when the beaming room called up to the bridge, "Standing by to energize

beam!"

         "Energize! Success!"

         Koth regretted not being able to leave the ship and lead his men on their

glorious mission, but with the Enterprise even hours behind, he would not risk

losing the chance to battle with Kirk.

         Kirk was somewhat of a legend among the Klingon people. He stood for

everything the Klingon's hated the most. He was a constant challenge to their honor

and their courage. Kirk was the ultimate challenge...the ultimate adversary.

         Koth looked forward to his meeting with the starship captain, here...in the

arena of The Stars...where honor and glory were carved forever into the fabric of

history...
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THE GHOSTMOON



       The landing party beamed down, weapons ready, postures defensive. The

bridge of the Ghostmoon was empty. The alert klaxon was on, the siren whooped

noisily in the background.

       The Klingons didn't seem to be surprised at the emptiness of the bridge, in

fact they looked forward to hunting down their prey. The leader, Dut'Luch, signalled

the beamdown point safe for the engineering and sciences teams to beam down.

       The next eight Klingons appeared, the only symbol of their station was a

combat-tricorder slung over their breastplate. The sciences division.

       The engineering team all carried various tools of their trade, but among these

were the weapons and armor that all Klingons wore that were as much a part of

their trade as were the gyro-wrenches and filter fields.

       The three boarding teams split up, each heading to different parts of the

small ship, to search for prisoners and information.

       Dut'Luch led his men into the engineering section, figuring this to be the

most likely place for anyone to hide. From here, they could control the systems on

the ship as well as from the bridge.

       The engineering chamber was also empty, which disturbed Dut'Luch a bit.

The red lights here flashed silently, having no sounding alarm as the klaxons on the

bridge did.

       The Engineering crew immediately went to work, checking the engines.

Their equipment was hooked up quickly and efficiently, taking no more than a

minute or two. The chief engineer of the K'Roc activated the diagnostics banks of

the equipment.
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       The engineer read the data that was fed through the diagnostic computers

and was puzzled. "Engineer's log: the safety measures have been removed from the

warp engines shielding, possibly to attain a greater warp speed.            Until full

diagnostics can be run, the exact reason is still unknown."

       New data scrolled up the screen, and he drew back from the machine and

looked about the room.      Unslinging his tricorder, he set it for a wide sweep.

Dut'Luch caught this and questioned the action, only to be silenced by a stiff hand

from the engineer. He was tracking something, that much was obvious.

       Slowly, tricorder extended in front of him, the engineer walked over towards

one of the panels. He looked past the screen behind the panel to the small crawl

space beyond.

       He dropped the tricorder and grasped the screen, tearing it out of its frame.

Poking his head over the panel and into the crawl space, he reached in and

withdrew a small black box. It had a small device attached to it, sending a visible

field around the box.

       Slowly, he set it on the floor. "What is that?" Dut'Luch asked.

       "I do not know. The small oval device is a miniature shield generator. It

generates a shield of limited power around an item or object, disguising it to sensors

as another form of power. I thought it odd that I was reading shield output from

behind the life support console."

       "Open it." Dut'Luch said, coming closer.




IKS K'ROC
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Koth watched as the relay officer received constant reports from the landing party

relay officers. They fed information back to the ship, and in turn, the relay officer

would feed any pertinent data to the Captain.

       Koth saw the officer blanch. "Captain, relay officer Kod reports they have

discovered a device of unknown origin aboard the Ghostmoon."

       "Visual!"

       The screen wavered for a moment, and cleared to the picture of the engineers

surrounding the black box. They were dismantling the shield generator around it.

       "Engineer! Report!"

       The engineering section had no communications station, so the engineer

withdrew his communicator and said, "Lord, we have know idea what it is yet. We

must remove the shield generator before we can scan it."

       "Proceed. Have you found Thorn?"

       "Negative, Lord," Dut'Luch answered, stepping nearer to the engineer. "My

men are scouring the ship. We will find him, Lord. Alive."

       "Good."




GHOSTMOON



Dut'Luch held the tricorder out in front of him as the engineer completed the last

step in removing the shield generator.

       Dut'Luch frowned. "What is this...I do not understand." He handed the
engineer the tricorder.
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         The engineer read the data, and his eyes went wide. "Antimatter..."




IKS K'ROC



Koth heard the word that the engineer breathed and bolted to his feet. "Warp

speed, full reverse! Divert all shield power to forward shields!"

         The others on the bridge had heard also, and hastened to put some distance

between the doomed scout ship and themselves.



GHOSTMOON



The small magnetic field that held the particle of antimatter in stasis wavered.

Finally, it's harmonics didn't match the program its creator had imbued into it, and

the field dropped quickly, allowing the antimatter to come in contact with the single

particle of matter.

         The detonation of the Ghostmoon was spectacular. The ship disintegrated

faster than the eye could see, and sent a shockwave rippling out towards the two

Battlecruisers that were desperately trying to outrun it.

         The Karash was behind the K'Roc, and couldn't escape the fringe of the

shock-wave's destructive power. The K'Roc was consumed in a brilliant sphere of

milky energy; a mere speck inside a greater whiteness that followed at near light

speed.




STARHAVEN
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       Kirk and Spock watched the security monitors as the Enterprise followed the

two Klingon vessels out of sensor range after the Ghostmoon.

       The security chambers on Starhaven was more than happy to receive the two

Starfleet officers, and with everything that had happened in the past half hour, was

more than happy for their promise of help.

       "Well, it appears the Klingons didn't have the nerve to scan the Enterprise,

Mr. Spock."

       "Obviously," Spock replied, "or they would have detected the transporter

beam that brought us here. They also would have detected the maximum capability

of our warp engines and realized that Mr. Scott is not pushing the engines as much

as he could."

       "I hate to think what would have happened if you hadn't detected that

suspicious sine wave coming from the Ghostmoon. Who knows if it was even

anything, but at least we got the Klingons off our backs for a while."

       "So it would seem."

       "That sensor program you've been working on worked perfectly. You've

earned your pay for the week, Mr. Spock. Now that we know Thorn is on Starhaven,

and not on the Ghostmoon, we have to figure out how to find him."

       "Unfortunately, I did not have time to program the sensors to be more

accurate than they were, Captain. It may not be as easy from here."

       "Well, let's have the solid, hopefully the computers are compatible."

       Spock handed Kirk the solid and said, "The Enterprise's computers are multi-

tasking, artificial intelligence units based on plasma-cryon nets to exchange

information. I believe the Starhaven computers should be the same. Although the
plasma information net isn't exactly as..."
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        Kirk held a hand up, silencing Spock. He handed the solid to the sensor

technician. "This is a custom built sensors program, written by Mr. Spock. If you

can make it work, we'll be able to find Thorn and get your station running back the

way it should."

        "I appreciate it," a young woman, dressed in civilian clothes said, "the

Federation assistance you called for over subspace radio will be greatly

appreciated."

        "You understand," Kirk started, "I will have to report the Klingon trade

agreements to Starfleet Command?"

        "Of course, Captain.    The Federation represents a very sizable piece of

business to Starhaven, and I can assure you that we wouldn't do anything to

jeapordize that. Mr. Dooley's...shall we say...indiscretions...are entirely his own, I

assure you. Chances are, he was writing himself a generous commission from the

Klingon sales that I'm sure the Starhaven Board of Directors will be very interested

in hearing about." She turned to the auburn haired young man next to her. "Go

ahead and do it, Cranston."

        Cranston shrugged and inserted the solid into the computer. The sensors

went blank for a moment as it read the disk, then the sensory module came back on

line.

        "It should be ready for use, Captain," Spock said.

        Kirk bent over Cranston's shoulder and said, "If you don't mind?"

        The young man was confused for a second until the woman pulled a blank

chair up next to her, and nodded towards it. "Oh," he said, understanding, and

vacated the chair.
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       Spock sat down, and began keying in the codes for the sensors to begin their

search. A few minutes passed, and Spock muttered something about the computers

being too slow, when the sensor screen snapped on.

       "There!" Kirk said, stepping towards the controls. A small blue blip blinked

steadily, laid over a blueprint image of the station. The blip was in the center of a

large chamber. "Where is that?"

       "One of the lower cargo holds," Cranston said, pointing to the doors. "See

those doors? Security sealed. Dooley must have sold him the codes or something.

You'll have a hard time cutting through those, they've gotta be three feet thick, solid

mitolite."

       "I don't intend to cut through them." Kirk shot back, "Where is the nearest

transporter room?"

       Before the man could answer, Spock cut in, "Intra-station beaming is

extremely hazardous, Captain. In addition, the base's sensor equipment does not

have a strong enough signal to lock onto Thorn. If the Enterprise were here, then

perhaps..."

       Kirk waved him off, turning back to Cranston. "Then we'll go to him, Mr.

Spock. Lieutenant, the transporter?"

       "Take a left, then a right, then two lefts. It's at the end of the hall. I'll call

them and let them know you're on the way, sir."

       "Thanks," Kirk said, drawing his phaser. Spock followed him out the door.
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                                 CHAPTER TWELVE



STARHAVEN



       Thorn had become a shadow of a man.

       His breath came in short, sputtering rasps, his sickly chest shrunken to half

what it once was. Deep, blackened eye sockets held emaciated orbs of darkness, the

scarlet bags under his eyes revealing that he had not slept in days.

       A total crash of his DNA network had occurred days ago. Since then, his

condition worsened quite literally by the hour. Synaptic failure in certain parts of

his brain had nearly caused critical brain trauma. Only the Vulcan's DNA map had

given his mind the will to resist total breakdown of neural functions.

       How long he could continue this, he did not know.

       His walk was now a lope, his shoulders hunched and jutting out of his back at

impossible angles. He drooled and chattered to himself constantly, but his mind was
somehow still as active as it had been. Only his memory fell short from time to time.
The Human Equation                       Page 287                                  Natale




       If anything, Thorn thought, I am in better mental condition than I have ever

been. But my body disintegrates around me...

       Thorn attributed his condition to the inability to carefully research the

symptoms. Since the symptoms had started to appear, he had only limited time on

his equipment, not nearly enough to diagnose and treat a problem of this

complexity.

       Kirk had chased him here, and somehow found him!

       But I've fixed that...the Ghostmoon will give me enough cover to escape. Dooley

should be here any moment with the codes and transfer papers for my new ship.

       Mine, he thought. All my systems installed on the ship to automate it. Even if

he had spared any of the mercenaries, he wouldn't need them now and he would

have to kill them. Better that it was done while I still could, he thought bitterly.

       How much more blood must be spilled? Stop, now, while you still can!

       Thorn shouted at the taunting, continually sarcastic voices that burrowed

into his thoughts. Since his acceptance of his fate, Thorn had become used to the

multiple personalities that he had developed. He hated each one, but he tolerated

them with grim patience, barely held at bay by a mind that was ready to snap like a

rope pulled taut.

       Only until I can go through the transporter again...just one more time will be

enough. One more time through and I can rid myself of these infernal nightmares...

       He still had his old, untouched DNA pattern, but was unsure whether he

could reverse the damage to his system or not. Privately, he doubted he could, but

when the voices taunted him about it, he would screech at the top of his lungs that

he created them, and he could send them back into the void from which they sprang

at anytime.
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       Thorn busied himself by stacking the crates full of equipment for the fourth

time in as many hours. He made a perfect pyramid of the metal boxes, and when it

was complete, he studied it, then took them down just as carefully and began again.

       This action seemed to make perfect sense to Thorn, though when he

questioned himself about it, he couldn't produce an answer as to why he was doing

it.

       Suddenly, the whine of a transporter beam filled the room, and he turned to

see two columns of light materializing in the room. He drew his phaser, and hopped

for cover as well as his twisted, broken body could.




Kirk and Spock materialized in the center of the cargo hold. There were massive

crates piled in perfect pyramid shapes all over the room. One, in the center, was

incomplete.

       Kirk set his phaser to heavy stun and instructed Spock to do the same with a

nod. Spock complied, but holstered the phaser in favor of his tricorder.

       As soon as he activated it, they saw Thorn.

       He poked his head up from behind a pile of crates, and Kirk grabbed Spock

and tackled him to the ground as a phaser bolt seared through the empty air where

the two of them stood not moments ago.

       "Kirk!" The voice that came from behind the crates was a hysterical shriek.

"Leave me alone! Why can't you just leave me alone!? I am a respected scientist! My

work is to benefit mankind, not to harm it...you idiot!!! Why have you come here!?"

       Two more phaser blasts followed, discharging too near for Kirk. He rolled

into a defensive crouch. "It's over, Thorn! Give yourself up. We have the Enterprise
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waiting in orbit to take you back to the Federation Council, where you'll be given a

fair trial!"

        "The Enterprise? How!? The Ghostmoon..."

        "...We detected a suspicious sine wave and suspected some sort of trap. Mr.

Spock had programmed a sensor module to search for your specific mutated DNA

patterns. It was a shot in the dark, but it worked. Thorn, the Federation is prepared

to go to war with the Klingons over your technology...that we both know doesn't

work as you expected, does it? Stop now, before you become responsible for the

deaths of billions!"

        "I don't give a shit about a war, you simple minded dullard! My work will

thrust mankind..."

        "...Into intergalactic war with the Klingons and possibly the Romulans. Some

part of you, some," Kirk paused, "human part of your soul that is still Dr. Thorn must

still care about that!"

        Silence.

        Spock read his tricorder. "Captain, I show a serious mutation taking place in

Dr. Thorn's body. His brain activity is erratic, the fact that I am detecting it on a

general tricorder scan would indicate a severe trauma of some sort. I do not think

he can be considered sane at this point."

        "At this point?" Kirk asked. "He's always been insane, Spock." Kirk peered

over the crate he and Spock were hiding behind.

        Suddenly, from Thorn's direction, a phaser flew over the crates and landed a

few feet from Kirk. Spock switched the scanning beam from Thorn to the phaser,

and confirmed the look Kirk shot at him.

        "Overload."
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       Kirk took one look to see Thorn bolting out the exit at the opposite end of the

room. He stood and dived towards the phaser. As he landed, his hands wrapped

around the weapon, and he fumbled quickly to deactivate it.

       Finally, the high pitched whine stopped.

       Spock and Kirk stood and darted out the door behind Thorn, only to pull back

in instantly as more phaser fire whisked down the hallway.

       "Spock, lock your tricorder on him, if we lose him now..."

       "Affirmative, Captain." Spock's eyes were riveted onto his tricorder screen.

"Locked on, Captain. Thorn is thirty yards ahead of us, waiting around this corner."

       "Thorn!"

       Thorn stepped out from the corner ahead and fired, and Spock and Kirk

pulled back into the room a second time.

       "He's moving," Spock said.          "He seems to be moving at an unusually

remarkable pace, considering my earlier readings."

       "Let's go..."

       Kirk's communicator beeped. As they ran, he tore it out. "Kirk here."

       "Scott here, Captain."

       "Scotty! How's the ship?"

       "Fine, Cap'n. The scout ship exploded, and took one of the Klingon ships with

her. The Klingon vessel was last seen limping back towards the Klingon Neutral Zone,

I'll be surprised if she even makes it that far."

       "Scotty," Kirk said, seeming to ignore his last comment, "I'll need you to lock

onto Mr. Spock's tricorder signal and feed the coordinates to the transporter room."

       "Aye, sir, locked on now."
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       "The signal you're locked on to is Dr. Thorn. Beam him up and detain him.

We'll follow immediately after. Lock onto my signal and send down a fully armed

security detail to commandeer the equipment at these coordinates."

       "Aye, sir, stand by."

       A minute passed as Spock boosted the signal from his tricorder to improve

the link to the Enterprise. Kirk's communicator signalled them to prepare for

transport.

       Moments later, they were in the transporter room of the Enterprise.




USS ENTERPRISE



       "Where's Thorn?" Kirk asked the transporter technician.

       "In the matrix, Captain. Commander Scott said you wanted him held, sir..."

       Kirk nodded to the four security men, who drew their phasers and took up

defensive positions around the receiver pad. "Re-energize, ensign."

       The man complied, constituting the beam to its original frequency and

collimer settings. A column of light dropped from the ceiling to the floor, but no

figure was inside. The transporter console began to buzz as an alarm went off.

"Captain, I'm losing integrity in the pattern...the transporter is having a problem

reading his matrix structure..."

       Spock stepped up to the console, and the technician immediately stepped

aside. "Cross-circuitng to B, boosting gain," Spock stated as his fingers danced

across the board. "Re-calibrating beam. Powering down for re-energization."

       The empty beam vanished, and the whine disappeared slowly. Kirk pressed
the comm-unit on the transporter. "Scotty, report to transporter room three on the
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double!" Switching channels, Kirk called, "Dr. McCoy to transporter room three,

medical emergency!"

       Spock watched the power level as it slowly climbed. "Focusing reconstituting

modules and interfacing with matrix materialization circuits. Standing by, Captain.

I believe I can hold him until Mr. Scott arrives."

       The doors to the transporter room whisked open and Scotty stepped inside.

Immediately, he stood by Spock as the Vulcan relinquished the controls to the Chief

Engineer.

       "The subject is held in a continual repeating phase two matrix. I have

reconstituted the beam and the matrix occupancy reads full."

       Scotty readjusted a few controls, his eyes following his hands as he raced

across the console. "I see, Mr. Spock. Booster Pathways standing by, Captain. Give

the word, but I canna guarantee I can bring him in. His pattern is decaying, and

there's nothing I can do t' stop it."

       Dr. McCoy entered, two medical technicians directly behind him.              He

surveyed the men in the room and turned to Kirk. "What's the problem, Jim?"

       "Stand by, Doctor." Kirk met Scotty's gaze. "Energize."

       The beam reappeared, empty again. Scotty cursed and began to manually

reintegrate the beam. Spock stood by his side and adjusted a few calibrations as

necessary. Scotty's eyes left the board and drifted expectantly onto the pad.

       Everyone's gaze followed.

       The beam began to take on somewhat of a man-like shape, appearing much

like a man bending over. Scotty didn't like the beam's composition, and checked his

readouts. He shook his head. "I think I've got him, Cap'n, but my board shows a

serious malfunction. The integrity of the pattern has been compromised."
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       Suddenly, the room went quiet as the whine from the beam disappeared. All

eyes fell on the writhing mass of flesh that used to be Michael Thorn. It steamed as

if immersed in boiling liquid, and shook spastically as if recently withdrawn from it.

       Thorn's arms and legs looked broken and twisted, his skin covered with

black and purple blotches. His face was a mask of pain and rage, all gnarled into a

defiant growl. Thorn twitched spastically once, then let out a mournful howl not

unlike that of a wounded animal.

       He shook once, and was dead.

       McCoy lifted the mediscanner and gazed up at Jim. "He's dead, Jim." He put

the scanner in his pocket. "His DNA and neural paths all were overloaded. The

transporter couldn't make heads or tails of the mutations he had inflicted on his

system and his body couldn't take one more transport. The DNA paths were just too

delicate."

       "Take care of that, Doctor," Kirk said to McCoy, indicating the body. "I'm sure

Starfleet command will want a full autopsy report as soon as we reach Starbase

Sixteen. Mr. Spock, you and I have a report to make to Starfleet Command."




Kirk woke reluctantly and dressed to report to the bridge. The first thing he had

done when the Quadrant had stood down from Condition BRAVO was get a decent

night's sleep.

       As he walked onto the bridge, he glanced at the viewer and crumpled his

expression.      Not recognizing the nebula the Enterprise was skirting, Kirk said,

"Navigator, report."
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       "New course, Keptin, per Mr. Spock's orders. Ve are on route to Parac VII to

pick up Federation Operatives on our way back to Starbase Sixteen."

       "Spock?"

       Spock left his station to stand beside his Captain. "Orders from Admiral

Sinclair, Captain. The Klingons have withdrawn from Parac VII. The operatives

were successful in neutralizing the Klingon resistance there. The Paracian people

have chosen a new Prime Minister who has reinstated all the trade agreements with

the Federation that were on temporary hold."

       "Any casualties from the agents?"

       "Two reported dead, several others wounded.          Dr. McCoy has Sickbay

prepared."

       "What about Jassoc III?"

       "I am afraid the Jassoc government is still negotiating with the Klingon

Empire for trade and treaty rights. That may be a planet that the Federation will

never deal with again."

       Kirk sighed. That still meant the Federation was walking away from this

whole affair with a bloody nose, and Kirk didn't like it. Such a waste, he thought to

himself. Thorn's ideas may have actually been useful, if they were properly researched

and brought to more humane conclusions.

       "Estimated time to Parac VII, Mr. Chekov?"

       "Two hours, sixteen minutes. Present speed: Varp three."

       "Increase to warp five, Mr. Chekov."

       "Varp five, Aye, sir."
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The Enterprise pulled into orbit around Parac VII within the hour. Kirk supervised

the transport of the operatives from the bridge. He had ordered a meeting with the

operative team leader, and checked his chronometer for the third time.

       Another hour, he thought anxiously. Then, I'll have the answers to the final

piece of the puzzle. Then, it'll be R & R for the crew of the Enterprise...

       "McCoy to bridge."

       Kirk pressed the button on his chair. "Bridge here."

       "Captain, I think you should report to Sickbay."

       "Bones?"

       McCoy sounded edgy, nervous. "Jim...just come down. I think you'll want to

see this."




Kirk entered Sickbay, and was instantly drawn to the operating table where McCoy

stood, waiting. "Now, Jim...I think you'd better take it easy..."

       Kirk moved McCoy aside to peer down at the burnt and scarred hunk of meat

on the autopsy table. He didn't recognize who it was, it was impossible to make out

any features. Kirk knew McCoy meant for him to see this, and felt a twinge of

anticipation in his stomach.

       "Bones?"

       McCoy cast his eyes at the floor and handed Kirk a small, black leather pouch.

Kirk unzipped it, and opened it.          Reaching inside, he withdrew a Starfleet

Identification solid. Slowly, his mind acknowledged the words that were etched into

it.

       Commander Harold S. Terrak, Starfleet Intelligence.
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       Kirk felt the twinge in his stomach grow into a full fledged stab. Terrak and

Kirk had known each other for a year, had worked together when the incident at

Quadri-Gamma-Seven and the Guardian of Forever had escalated to near interstellar

war.

       "How?"

       "Overwhelming antimatter and M-Ray burns; radiation permeating all the

way to the marrow in his bones. From the condition of the tissue I'd say he was

right on top of one hell of an explosion. Ms. Swanstrom is waiting in my office, she

was Terrak's Second. She can explain everything."

       Kirk glanced again at what was left of Terrak's corpse, and placed a hand on

McCoy's shoulder as he walked by. "Thanks, Bones."




Kirk sat in his cabin, and opened the sealed metal notebook that was among

Terrak's personal belongings. The LED readout on the cover read, "LAST WILL AND

TESTAMENT" and below that, in smaller letters, Harry S. Terrak. The Starfleet

Intelligence symbol was stamped in silver in the background.

       Kirk gingerly opened the case, and withdrew the handwritten will. His eyes

scanned it, reading the deceased burial wishes and assignation of property.

       As he read, he stopped and looked in the folder. There was a computer solid

sitting there, just as the letter had said there would be. Kirk nodded slowly to

himself.

       Lazily, he pressed the button on the comm panel. "Kirk to bridge."

       "Bridge here, go ahead Captain."
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        "Lieutenant Miles, notify all personnel of funeral services en route to

Starbase Sixteen, tomorrow at 0800 hours.           To command rank and above:

attendance is required, full dress uniforms. Also, notify our guests as well."

        "Aye sir."




USS ENTERPRISE, 0800 Hours



Kirk and the other twenty command rank officers of the Enterprise stood waiting in

transporter room six.    They lined the walls that wound their way around the

transporter console. Scotty stood waiting, fidgeting nervously, his hands behind his

back.

        Kirk hated funerals, he always had. He hated facing death in any other way

than cheating it out of his own. Unfortunately, as Captain, he had a duty to perform.

        The doors to the transporter room hissed open, and the two ceremonial

guards stiffened and barked, "Ten-Hut!"

        Everyone in the room snapped to attention. Slowly, in walked Terrak's team,

in full Starfleet uniforms, carrying the anti-grav unit that held Terrak's body. A

Federation Flag was draped over the corpse, hiding it from the curious eyes of those

who had not seen it.

        Those who had, averted their gaze respectfully.

        The four surviving members of Terrak's team walked slowly over to the

transporter pad and set the anti-grav down slowly. Each one of them knelt down

before the body to pay their last respects, then joined the Enterprise officers,

standing at attention.
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        Kirk swallowed hard and knew this was his cue. "Ladies and Gentlemen, it is

with great sorrow that we hold these proceedings today. Even in the shadow of

Commander Terrak's death, he wished those who attended these services to hear

his voice one last time," he held up a solid, "and I will honor his wishes and play it

now."

        Kirk walked over to the transporter and handed Scotty the solid he had taken

from the will package. It was a simple voice file, and could be played through the

transporter's communications filter.

        Everyone stood silent as the solid was queued up.

        "Greetings," Terrak's voice filtered through boisterously, "I want to thank all

of you, whoever you may be, for attending my funeral. I also wish it to be known that

while I have no living blood relatives, the crew of whatever starship has the unenviable

task of burying me in space shall become my family."

        Terrak's message continued. "We are brothers and sisters in a cause - the

furtherance of freedom and individual liberty through the United Federation of

Planets. I do not feel my death was in vain, as long as I died on duty, protecting the

Federation from its enemies. Please, if there is anyone present that I knew in life, do

not grieve for me. Rather, remember me when you remember your duty to your ship,

your captain, or Starfleet. Remember the sacrifices that we all make and those that

have been made in the past in the name of liberty and freedom, and thank God that

you are fortunate enough to be a part of the miracle of Starfleet. May the wind always

be at your back, Captain. Thank you and farewell."

        Kirk stiffened to attention and announced, "Ten-hut!"

        Scotty stepped away from the transporter, and Kirk took his place at the

console. The officers snapped to attention and stood, silently waiting.
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       Kirk set the coordinates for deep space, widest possible pattern dispersion,

and energized the beam.



                                       ###

				
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