Captain’s Personal Log, Stardate 47221.4
Captain Matsumoto Sulu
We continue to ply our warp-speed tracking skills, to chase down the technological trail of electronic bread crumbs that have been so carefully lain before us. But, as important as this pursuit is, we have had to divert from it to fulfil an unexpected rescue mission. For a moment my hopes soared that we may have found the wayward USS Aurora, lost in the Shackleton Expanse a year ago, but my hopes were soon dashed: this was not them.
I was very surprised to receive this distress call, so deep in uncharted space, and especially from a Federation merchant vessel, Poseidon’s Rift. She is captained by a human called Milo Wynter, who claimed they’d been fleeing Romulan raiders from across the neutral zone and ended up trapped, hiding in the asteroid belt of an unknown system, under the debilitating barrage of intense solar radiation from the system’s unstable star.
As Grandfather Hikaru would have said: “if it smells of a horse’s ass then it’s probably full of shit”.
Poseidon’s Rift, under Captain Milo Wynter, trying to hide amongst the asteroids
And Captain Wynter’s story stank like a stable that hadn’t been cleaned in a year. For one, the neutral zone is 40 light years away. Second, if they were in trouble then why fly away from the Federation bases along the neutral zone, and the obvious help and protection they would offer? Third, a scan of Poseidon’s Rift’s computer showed that they had crossed into the neutral zone themselves, and a deeper scan of the ship flagged up a shielded compartment, doubtless full of some kind of contraband. It whiffed.
But Milo and his crew of eleven were in deep trouble: their warp drive had failed; the shields were keeping them safe for the moment but were weakening and fluctuating wildly under the solar storm; the asteroid belt was giving them some cover from the radiation, but it wasn’t a solution that would keep them safe for long. They were in need of our help, and the other concerns would have to wait. Or so I thought…
Captain Wynter refused to lower his shields to allow transporting, saying that the radiation was too strong and too big a risk to his damaged ship. We could probably have got away with a few seconds, but Wynter was adamant. So, Excelsior’s rescue crew boarded two shuttles: I commanded one with Torgh and a security team, and Doctor Ketsu, with Lieutenant Tokhtakhounov, medics and engineers, commanded the other. Once aboard Tokhtakhounov, accompanied by Chief of Security Torgh, went to assess the warp drives. Captain Wynter went with them while I de-briefed two of Wynter’s crew.
It was at that point that I wished I’d taken heed of Grandfather Hikaru’s homesy wisdom. Wynter sealed Poseidon Rift’s Engineering deck – the bulkhead slamming shut with a terrible thud. Tokhtakhounov and Torgh were trapped, and immediately taken prisoner at the sharp end of lots of phasers. As I said, I knew something like this was going to happen, and ever since I’ve wracked my brain to see how I could have acted differently, avoided this most predictable of situations.
But suddenly, because of my lack of imagination, two of my crew were risk of their lives. And not just them: the entire crew of Excelsior was at risk, the solar barrage still raining down and testing our shields at every moment: the longer we stayed here, the longer we were stuck here, the greater the damage. At some point I’d have no choice but to order Excelsior to leave, for the safety of the ship and her crew, even if at that moment I’d have to leave my two young officers behind.
Wynter demanded that we repair his ship and allow him to proceed unmolested (that is, without taking too close an interest in his unconventional cargo). Ketsu and I, with the majority of the rescue crew, immediately took Wynter’s two crew men with us into custody, but otherwise we were at an impasse.
At this point I need to applaud the bravery, composure and professionalism of both Engineer Tokhtakhounov and Torgh. I formally recorded my commendation in the official log of the mission, but I was very impressed with both my young officers. While the Poseidon’s Rift’s shields were up we were unable to use the transporters to resolve the issue. That said, Chief Engineer Resh superbly played the transporters, taking advantage of a momentary fluctuation to pluck one of Wynter’s crew and beam him to Excelsior’s brig! Wynter is a cool operator, and even seeing his man disappear before his eyes, beaming through what he thought were his shields, didn’t shake his determination.
Hopelessly out-numbered Tokhtakhounov pretended to co-operate with his captors, and used his examination of the warp drives to attempt to shut down the shields. He was so close to success, but at the last his plan was spotted and foiled at the last moment. Torgh, his Klingon heritage coming to the fore, tried to force the issue and use force to resolve the problem. Even being out-numbered 6 to 1, and the threat of multiple phasers, didn’t stop him. Inevitably, he didn’t succeed, but his actions rocked the morale of the kidnappers, especially after he was shot three times with phasers set to stun, and remained standing, his Klingon roar of pain echoing around the ship. I’m proud to say that the spirit of my old friend, Pok, lives on in his son.
Wynter’s position was weakening as the morale of his crew began to leak away. But he was determined, or should I say desperate. However, his plan had a terrible flaw: it left me in possession of his ship while he was locked in Engineering. In the end we broke past the magnetic seals and accessed the Poseidon’s Rift’s bridge, lowered her shields and beamed her cargo over to Excelsior: we found a cache of Romulan munitions – highly valuable in the Federation, but also highly illegal. The deadlock was broken and Wynter surrendered. His cargo would have made his fortune, a risk worth taking in his eyes.
I like the man: I don’t sense any evil in him, and he didn’t mis-treat or threaten to kill any of us. I think he’s a business man, a risk taker: it’s just this time the dice landed badly for him. He now sits in Excelsior’s brig awaiting our return to Narendra – it might be a very long wait…
As for his ship, we repaired the warp drive and parked her in the deepest of deep orbits, away from the radiation and solar winds. I sent a message to Narendra, in case they want to send a prize crew to take her back.
There was one aspect of this situation I didn’t formally record in the official log. But I need to record it somewhere so my personal record will have to do. During the deadlock, when I was accessing the bridge, Chief Medical Officer Ketsu threatened physical violence against the prisoners we had taken, to obtain information to resolve the stand-off. There may be circumstances so desperate, where the stakes are so high, that this behaviour by a Starfleet Officer might (and I stress might) be justified: but this wasn’t it. Ketsu didn’t do anything, and after the event claimed it was purely a psychological ruse to make the prisoner think he would be tortured and save the lives of Tokhtakhounov, Torgh and the crew. He has been severely reprimanded and given notice that this behaviour runs counter to every principle of the Federation, is beneath the honour of Starfleet, and is not acceptable on my ship. I think he understood. Time will tell.
But apart from that, all in all this was an interesting and exciting diversion from following this strange signal, but now we must return to the chase. If our calculations are right we are still several days ahead of our Romulan competitors, Captain Nurama of the Imperial Warbird Devian.
I wonder what awaits us at the end of the trail…