Star Trek: Defiant

"Absolute Zero" - Part Two

Written by T'Mal


CONFERENCE ROOM:

Lt. Cmdr. Takila Mak addressed those gathered around the table. "There's not much I could dig up."

This -was- unusual. Mak was the best Intelligence Officer in the Federation. He had contacts everywhere and almost always knew everything about everyone. If he didn't know, it never took him long to find out.

"They have all the proper security clearances." Matute said. "We've checked and double-checked for verification. It all looks good."

"Almost too good..." Mak was the suspicious type, he had to be. "There's the usual stuff, service records, background checks, word-of-mouth...nothing about his current mission. No one seems to have any idea what this -test- of his involves. If they do, they are amazingly quiet about it."

"Maybe you are all being overly paranoid." Laine Rael said. "You could stop by Sickbay, and I could give you a hypospray for that."

"I'll help you!" Wolfram offered. Myah was known for her fun-loving nature, something about being half Vulcan and half Betazoid.

"No thanks! You can stay away from me!" Lebin said, he'd had all the hypos he ever wanted in the past.

"Besides," Laine continued, "The Captain will be here any minute, and it will all be explained to us."

K'larn gave a little Klingon grunt. He'd take a straight-out honest fight anyday to a bunch of cloak-and-dagger stuff.

As if on cue, the door to the conference room opened and Tourles, Bridges, and Hardin entered. Before anyone could get to their feet, the Admiral admonished them to remain seated.

"No need for introductions. I am Admiral Tourles." Tourles said. "Let's sit, shall we? I will explain, and then I will do my best to answer your questions. Those that I am allowed to answer."

K'larn uttered a low growl , inaudible to everyone but Mak and Lebin who were sitting on either side of him, and both of whom silently agreed. The Captain seemed to feel it if not -hear- it and gave the three of them a look which said "I'm with you."

Admiral Tourles seemed oblivious to it and plowed along with what he had been saying.

"As your Captain has already been informed, I am here to perform testing on the crew of the Defiant. The personnel and equipment I have brought with me from the Draco are to aid me in the procedure. As we speak, your holodeck is being reconfigured to suit our needs. Starfleet has found that recalling large groups of key personnel back to the holo-facilities on Earth takes too many of our finest ships out of commission for far too long. It takes too much focus away from the mission, and since our fleet is so spread out, we feel this is a far more effecient way to gather the data we require. We are, in effect, bringing our facilities, training, and testing programs to the places they are most needed."

"Excuse me, Admiral," Bridges said, "But, what will the testing involve? How many of my crew? How long will it take?"

"The tests we have done so far have taken no more than two hours for the program to reach it's end. Of course, that time will vary based on performance. It may only take 15 minutes. I have a list of those who are to report to the holodeck tomorrow, and the details of the test itself are classified."

Lebin had been listening, and studying the PADD he had brought with him. "Why are we shutting down so many of the ship's systems?"

"Yes, I understand that the weapons systems are to be taken off-line." K'larn was deeply bothered by this.

"Along with internal sensors...comm...transporters...the science labs...life support to mimimum...the warp engines!" Lebin was used to trying to keep things running smoothly, not shutting things down. It was like crippling the ship.

"These systems will not be required during the testing and may interfere with it. Most of the power for these systems will be re-routed to the holo-systems. Our program requires far more power than your average holonovel or exercise program. It is our standard procedure." Tourles answered.

"We will be unable to defend ourselves in case of attack!" K'larn stated vehemently.

"You will not be attacked. We will be entering orbit around an uninhabited planet, Cavitch III, and the USS Draco will be escorting us. They will be on guard against any unforseen emergencies and will be in full control of their weapons and sensors, I assure you. We have done this many times, with no mishaps. You will have to take my word for it that all proper precautions are being taken to guard the Defiant. She is, after all, our flagship, one of our most valuable assets, and Starfleet would be very unhappy should anything happen to her. Now, if there are no more questions, I have work to do." Tourles stood, and made ready to depart. "Captain Bridges, I will have one of my team bring you the required names so you may notify your crew involved and I will see you tomorrow, at the holodeck."

Tourles left Bridges and his officers feeling only slightly more satisfied than before he had arrived, and in some ways more disturbed.

CAPTAIN'S QUARTERS:

The Captain of any Starship has quarters which are roomier than those of the rest of his crew, even on a ship like the Defiant, where space is allocated for power, not comfort. Captain Bridges rarely got to make good use of his, as busy as he usually was. It was a place to sleep for a few all-too-short hours between one crisis and the next. He was far more familiar with the Captain's seat on the bridge than with any of the chairs in this room. The wide span of stars visible from the chair he now occupied lacked the color and substance of those he was used to seeing "on screen."

Three hours before, Lt. Commander Chad Mackowick had piloted the Defiant with his usual skill into a geosynchronous orbit around around Cavitch 3, an M-class planet with no distinguishing features. One moon, remarkably like Earth's, no known sentient life forms...overall, a pretty boring place. Within moments of "parking" the Defiant, strangers had flooded the bridge, Jeffrey's bridge, and took control. Why, Admiral Tourles had as much as taken over his command, and there was nothing he could do about it.

At first, it hadn't seemed so bad. He told the computer to transfer all the unfinished paper-pushing business he disliked dealing with to the terminal in his quarters and had dispatched with the whole tedious lot of it in under two hours. Now he wasn't sure what to do with himself. He wasn't ready for sleep, his mind just would not relax.

Jeffrey stifled the urge to go see his Imzadi, Laine Rael, CMO of the ship. Although he was "on hold" for the next few hours, Rael's department was on regular duty, and he knew she was busy, tending to the usual minor illnesses and injuries as well as fitting in a little time for a research paper she was working on. He sensed in the way Imzadi do that she was deeply engrossed in her work and his presence would only be an unneccesary distraction.

He glanced at the PADD on the table next to him, read again the names Tourles had given him: Bridges, Hardin, Matute, Mackowick, Lebin, and Wolfram, Barak...a great group of people, he would trust any one of them with his life, and they proved themselves worthy of that trust daily. He smiled to himself, remembering the surprised reaction he'd gotten the day at the Academy the day he had -beaten- the Kobiyashi Maru, the supposedly unbeatable test they had been so proud of. He had no real doubt that that those same people would be in for a similar surprise tomorrow.


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