“Just a minute,” Decker broke in. “I am in command here and I will decide what we are going to do. Cardassian commander, what are your terms?”
KadRiQ threw his hands up in the air. “If that is the way you want it, Human, that is the way it shall be.” The Klingon captain vacated the central seat and took over at the helm, nodding imperceptibly at Koloth. Immediately, the Klingon first officer piggybacked a brief squirt along the open communications line to Pompeii, explaining KadRiQ’s plan.
The Cardassian smiled in smug superiority. “Klingons are so brainless and primitive,” he remarked. “Now that we have that part out of the way, you should know that we will accept only unconditional surrender. Two of our ships will move within sensor range in a couple of moments, and you will follow them peaceably and dutifully. At the first sign of resistance, your ships will be hit with a massive attack and destroyed.” With that, his image on the viewscreen disappeared.
Moments later, Kirk emerged on the Bridge, winded and sweaty from having climbed several decks and run the rest of the way. “Report,” he barked, moving to the center seat.
KadRiQ turned to face him. “The Cardassians have been monitoring our movements throughout this part of the nebula and were able to triangulate our position. They then opened fire without warning and are demanding our surrender.”
“Jim,” Decker chimed in, “get that crazy Klingon off your Bridge before he gets us all killed! The Cardassians mean business.”
* * * * *
After a half hour’s rest and some refreshment, Spock, at the Creature’s urging, returned to his mind-melding with members of the Enterprise crew. With each new person whose will he co-opted, the telepathic link to the Creature grew weaker. Spock hoped the Creature would not realize what was happening until it was too late.
Abassian returned with the last of the red shirts – Security, Engineering, and Maintenance officers and enlisted crew – and then set off in search of the gold shirts. Spock had explained telepathically to the Creature that the command-division officers would be easier to control than those who served in the Sciences section – the one that Spock himself commanded.
The Creature had acceded to his suggestion nonchalantly. “It makes little difference, but go ahead,” the Creature had responded inside Spock’s head. “In a short while, your ship will be docking with the base, and I’ll be able to strengthen my control over your crewmen to the point that it is unbreakable.”
Spock noted the Creature’s confidence with some alarm, which he kept deeply hidden in the secure mental isolation zone he had created. “What about the Klingons?”
“I’ve never dealt with their species before,” the Creature confessed, “but once we get them out of their armored uniforms, they should be relatively easy to control, as long as they feel pain. If they prove too primitive to be of use, we’ll destroy them along with the others who are on their way aboard your ship.”
So, Spock thought, the Enterprise was already on its way. “Klingons, on the Enterprise,” he asked.
“Don’t sound so shocked, Spock,” the Creature replied inside his head. “If you think about it, it is logical. Skeleton crews were left on both vessels, so they were forced to join forces and combine their efforts. What they do not realize is that now we will have the most advanced starship in the quadrant and its highly-trained crew to take us where we need to go.”
“Unquestionably Captain Kirk has reported the events to Starfleet Command,” Spock replied, hoping to persuade the Creature to give up more information. “They will just send out fleets of ships to intercept and capture the Enterprise.”
The Creature issued its closest approximation to a human chuckle. “That’s where you’re wrong, Spock. Captain Kirk will insist that the Enterprise crew has been returned safe and sound, and that there is no danger. Dr. McCoy will provide medical certification supporting that report. Furthermore, the captain and chief medical officer of the Pompeii will do the same. By the time Starfleet becomes aware that something is amiss, it will be too late.”
“Ingenious,” Spock could only reply. “Flawlessly logical. However, I warn you that Captain Kirk is a very dynamic individual. I do not know if my mind-meld will work on him.”
“Your mind-meld won’t work on Cardassians either, yet I still have them under control. Do not worry about Kirk or the other ship captain; I will take care of them both.”
On that ominous note, the conversation was ended, and Spock once again set about his task of melding with the remaining Enterprise crewmembers.
* * * * *
“Despite what you may think you know about Klingons, Captain Decker,” KadRiQ replied, “you have very little true understanding of us.”
“That may be, Captain, but right now I am ordering Captain Kirk to have you removed from the Enterprise Bridge.”
“Just a moment, Matt,” Kirk chimed in. “I’d like to hear what KadRiQ has to say first.”
Decker rolled his eyes but gave his assent, as two Cardassian Kimal-class cruisers came within sensor range. “Whatever it is, you’d better make it fast.”
KadRiQ rapidly described his plan to both Federation captains; Kirk was intrigued, while Decker merely shrugged. “If we’re going to get blown to hell and back, we might as well do it fighting.”
Kirk thought for a brief instant. “Let’s do it. KadRiQ, you take care of maneuvering the ship. I want Chekov at fire control. Koloth, you keep sending sensor date to Pompeii. Matt, you watch our six.”
Decker nodded, but his reply was cut off by a new Cardassian on the viewscreen. “Humans and Klingons, are you ready to surrender, or die?”
Decker replied. “Lead on. We’ll follow. There’ll be no trouble.”
KadRiQ chuckled under his breath. “Ah yes, the always-honest and honorable Federation shows its true colors.”
When the two Cardassian ships executed a 180-degree turn to lead the two Federation vessels back to their base, Kirk seized the moment to attack.
“Go, KadRiQ,” he ordered, and the Bridge lights dimmed as the Enterprise diverted full power to engines in a high-energy maneuver designed to get it out of harm’s way while bringing its main weapons to bear on the two Cardassian cruisers slightly ahead. Meanwhile, Pompeii opened fire with its beam and pulse phasers at specific spots within the nebula. The old destroyer’s weapons found their mark, heavily damaging several Cardassian weapons platforms that had been towed into the area in preparation for the ambush. The remaining platforms opened fire.
KadRiQ nodded at Chekov, who opened fire on the Cardassian ships with all forward firing phasers and photon torpedoes. The first ship’s impulse engines were destroyed, while the second ship lost warp power when one of its close-in warp engines was cut in half.
The two Cardassian ships maneuvered on thrusters, opening fire on the Enterprise, which continued to execute a Klingon-style rolling and tumbling maneuver. People all over the Enterprise were thrown about as the ship’s inertial dampeners struggled in vain to control the artificial gravity.
“Scott to Captain,” came a desperate plea from the loudspeaker. “Sir, she’s not designed for maneuvers of that source. We’ve got to stop before we tear the innards out of ‘er!”
Kirk held on to the center seat with a death grip, ignoring his chief engineer.
“Bridge,” Scott again called in vain.
Enterprise took minor damage from the two Cardassian ships before destroying them both and opening fire on the remaining weapons platforms. The damage to the starship’s internal systems was done, though. Suddenly, the ship suffered a critical failure; all systems except life support overloaded and went offline. Enterprise began drifting, tipping over onto its nose.
To be continued..