"Yes sir… Captain."
Mu sighed. Wasn’t it bad enough that he was being shot at every day? His yeoman’s barely-detectable sneer at the mention of his rank was an all-too common phenomenon on his bridge. Not that he could really do anything about it, out of a general concern for crew unity and functionality, not to mention that it was never quite derisive enough to earn a reprimand. Not that he really needed reason; a Captain could theoretically throw anyone he wanted to in the brig for any reason at all. The reality of the situation was that a Captain who was overly zealous in his prosecution of discipline would most likely be reassigned to the rear, where his rank and standing wouldn’t mean as much as he issued orders to his secretaries and manned the helm of a computer terminal. Worst of all, reassignment to a desk position would most likely land him in San Francisco, Fleet HQ complex, and most likely under the direct supervision of Vice Admiral Shi Whendi, his wife.
This was most likely the cause of the concealed contempt for him by his subtly rebellious crew. It was commonly assumed that Mu had been given his commission, and his choice of a succession of expensive and highly sought-after vessels, as a direct result of his wife’s influence. This was not true, of course… Shi would be more than happy to have Mu at the conn of a police cruiser deep in the interior, where the disorganized rabble of barely competent Federation Captains ran in circles chasing their tails while their enemies were beating down the doors. His dislike for this breed of commander, coupled with his inherent need to get away from the old lady, more or less propelled him through the ranks into the Captaincy. This would have been all well and good, except that Shi did in fact use some pull in order to get Mu named Liaison Officer for the entire fleet, relaying mysterious and unfathomable objectives to the few Captains who would even listen to him. After all, her partner couldn’t be a mere Captain, that wouldn’t do at all. It was hard to say which was the worst of the corollary outcomes of this assignment: the need to do additional administrative work, the frustration at commanders ignoring these directives, or the stigma of being known as his wife-Admiral’s pet project.
Mu ignored these gloomy thought by perusing the engineering specs of his vessel, a Bismarck-class battlecruiser with the unlikely callsign of Phssthpok. Why oh why had he been assigned to this tub? Turns like a pig, eats power like a pig, has a tendency to get horribly butchered like a pig. Many of the eggheads at Fleet thought they had gotten a pretty good deal, swindling Plasma-F technology from the Gorn. Too bad they didn’t try to get Gorn power plant designs to go with them in order to perform the amazing feats other empires’ fleets were known for, like combining weapons charging with the simultaneous ability to move. Still, it was the envy of many a Federation Captain who also wanted to have plasma, based on the assumption that since the vast majority of them had never figured out how to combat plasma, neither would their enemies. In the meantime, though, Mu continued to relive his glory days in the simulator, at the helm of a virtual Command Light Cruiser, and filling out daily requests to Logistics for extra aux warp cells that were perpetually unanswered.
Mu snapped out of his cdepression to regard the Comms officer. "What…" he began… It’s not my fault! I really am a good commander! Don’t give me a hard time! went unspoken but somehow subtly understood.
"Umm… no really, Captain. Klingon signature appearing ahead."
"Can we avoid him?" Mu’s ship was on its way to resupply, and really didn’t have time for this.
"Sorry Captain, he’s dropping out of warp too close to avoid his gravity well. Dropping to impulse."
Mu sighed… he had a feeling he knew who this would be. Klingon commander "EE" had just witnessed the wholesale destruction of a Klingon shipyard by Mu’s vessel and two allied Mirak cruisers, and probably headed off immediately to cut off Mu’s supply path.
"Fine, red alert. And that means MY red alert, not the Fleet standard red alert." Mu watched with dismay as the weapons officer once again sent order changes to the torpedo room, changing to overload status from standard loads, slowing them to a crawl. Why oh why must they always start with standards? Mu wished he could fly around in warp with overloads at the ready all the damn time, but no doubt as soon as they entered a combat area his loyal crew would immediately drop to normal or proximity mode, forcing him to start the charging process all over again. It was all the fault of those theory guys at Fleet… ever since some idiot had written his thesis on "The Value of Proximity Fused Photon Torpedoes in Any Situation At All" and slept with someone at Command to get it entered into Academy pedagogy, every damn Federation Captain had praised it as gospel, defaulting all torpedoes to Normal/Prox at load time. It didn’t seem to matter that many of the adherents to this philosophy of torpedo misuse typically wound up dead very quickly, as they were thus unable to retract their former endorsement of the proximity fuse while their atoms were scattered in the vaccuum.
"Impulse, sir. Sensor array shows a Klingon supply convoy ahead, and one Klingon cruiser, new command class."
New command class… Mu fumbled with the library-computer terminal on his conn. "Little ship, neh… counter development to our own NCC hull?"
"Yes Captain, but improved."
"Bigger power plant, tighter maneuverability, extra transporters, larger marine complement, improved rear shielding… shielding superior to the Bismarck, sir."
Mu sighed. Of all the… why wasn’t the whole Klingon fleet in this little pocket dreadnought? "Fine fine, prepare some MIRV packs in the shuttle bay."
Comms beeped. "Incoming, sir."
The ridiculously oversized viewscreen blinked to reveal an aged Klingon, scarred and confident. And Mu’s eyes hurt. Yet another product of those fine minds at Fleet, the Fed viewscreen was too big to be useful, interfering with the duties of bridge officers as whatever it displayed wound up dominating the area, distracting his already marginally dependent officers from doing their jobs. Worse yet, a bigger screen just meant a bigger headache when interpreting transmissions blocked by warp signatures and deflectors, and Mu still suspected that despite all their claims to the contrary, Fleet tech had been unable to work out the local electronic interference problems. Visible flickers would plague the image if someone decided to load up a game of Civilization XI at the science station during a slow period.
"Ah, Captain Mu…" sneered "EE." Like he didn’t get enough of that from his crew… "You are in violation of Klingon space, and as a representative of the Klingon High Command, I demand that you vacate…"
"Yes yes, I have it on tape," Mu interrupted. "You’ve given this speech every time you’ve encountered a Federation vessel. Then I counter with something about a peaceful mission, you counter with some sort of treaty we’ve never heard of, then we protest, then you make an ultimatum, then we shoot each other. How about we just get down to shooting each other?"
"EE" looked amused. "Very well. I tire of this diplomacy at any rate. Prepare yourself." His image blinked off, but an audio channel stayed open, mercifully a small one on the arm of the conn. Not as if anyone on the bridge could speak fluent Klingon, and Mu figured it would be merciful to keep the guttural barks that passed for salutes among the Klingons to himself. He already had a headache anyway.
The phaser capacitor was full, and Mu ordered maximum available speed as it became available… "… WHILE OVERLOADING TORPEDOES." Why did he have to keep saying that? At any rate, Phssthpok slowly increased thrust, but not too much… those damn plasmas! Maybe he could replace those hardpoint mounts with something moderately useful, like extra brig space for his recalcitrant crew. Mu ordered another MIRV shuttle… the last one, since he was a little low on missiles… and kept reading up on the Klingon DWC while closing.
It didn’t look good. The DWC was more akin to the Fed CLC, in Mu’s view a superior ship to the Fed NCC. Tight as hell turns, decent payload, and of course, almost as much engine power as Phssthpok. More telling, of course, was the fact that "EE" could have had any ship he wanted out of the Klingon shipyard slave industry, yet he stuck around in this tiny hull. He’s smarter than I am, thought Mu. I should have kept the Command Light.
Finally the accursed plasma tubes were hot, their payloads held in force fields until released. The one good thing about the F torpedo was that its power was so pathetically weak it required no additional system energy to maintain its field, allowing Phthsspok to further accelerate to an acceptable standard for Federation vessels… i.e. pathetic. The ship lumbered closer to the convoy, in which "EE" lurked, using their large hulls to confuse his signature.
"Slow to twentyish, let’s see what he does," said Mu. He could almost hear the suppressed groans on the bridge, but Mu always waited. His crew might dislike his waiting game, but they often failed to realize that their life expectancy was significantly higher because of it.
"Enemy freighters firing on us…"
"Yeah whatever." Mu watched the bearing and thrust of the DWC. Very subtle, he thought. Good position control. We should get this guy teaching at Fleet, if we could insure he wouldn’t murder the freshman class for incompetence. He was oblivious as scrambled phasers plinked off the shields and missiles were shot out of the sky by automated Gauss cannon. Watch him, he’ll screw up sometime…
The DWC turned hard starboard and accelerated.
"Speed point eight five lights, plot intercept." The sluggish Bismarck groaned in protest, but complied.
It became obvious that the agile little ship was not about to be caught, and it weaved at point nine lights around the convoy. "Captain," said some unremarkable Lieutenant at the engineering panel, "we could catch them if we changed torpedo loads to…"
Mu shot him a withering glare, and he shut up. The DWC was about 110,000km away, and weaving to port. "Change course 30 degrees port, stand by weapons…"
"EE" was pouring it on, eluding optimal weapons range, trying to buy time for the convoy. But he was maneuvering more erratically than Phssthpok, and the range closed. 100,000, 95,000, 92,000… "All photon tubes prepare to loose, standby phasers…" 89,000. "Photons away."
Four angry red torpedoes flew out of the bow, and incredibly, some of them impacted on the DWC’s #5 shield, bringing it down and scorching the bare hull. Mu reflexively hit the phaser control on his conn arm repeatedly, and energy lanced out, slicing into the Klingon bulkheads. Something garbled came over the comms circuit… it sounded remarkably like, "EEK."
"Slow to sixteen, change torpedoes to…" he winced, "normal mode. We’ll need our speed… Shuttle bay."
"MIRV on that pig to our rear."
"MIRV away." The doomed shuttlecraft dropped neatly out the back of Phssthpok, exploding shortly thereafter into six missiles, the majority of which impacted neatly into the freighter to their stern.
"Plamsa room, prepare a pseudo to keep him thinking. We’re going after the convoy."
His first officer, a weaselly little man, turned to him. He could never really remember the names of his first officers, as he wound up rotating them out periodically, primarily because they did what this one was about to. "Sir, he’s wounded, shouldn’t we try to…"
Mu glared at him and made a mental note to look up his name so he could effect a transfer. "Commander, ever been to a Klingon world?"
"No sir, I graduated in…"
"The Klingons are poor, boy. Dirt poor. The supplies in ths convoy might represent the gross national product of the Empire for a week. They starve their subject races so they can ship hardware to the yards. It’s not getting there."
The first officer looked abashed. "Sorry, sir. I just thought it might…"
Mu had ceased listening to him. All I want on my bridge are obedient automatons, is that too much to ask? On his mark, a pseudo torpedo flew out at the Klingon cruiser, distracting him very briefly. "Target the convoy, fire phasers when ready. prep and launch another MIRV at discretion. Drop some drones at that DWC at your discretion." Of course the drones would never hit, but they might soak up some of "EE’s" power, slow him down a bit. Phssthpok moved lazily about the freighters, firing at will, occasionally eating some minor phaser fire from the convoy or disruptors from their defender. Two more freighters were out when the DWC came about on intercept.
"Hold fire. Helm, try to maneuver about to get us a firing solution." Phssthpok tacked laboriously around, trying desperately to get the DWC into some sort of firing position. It was slow going, and "EE’ was too nimble. By the time they had something akin to a solution for the plasma, he was fast and too far… ah, what the hell. "Loose plasma."
Two pathetic torpedoes screamed out of Phssthpok and lazily swerved around on the DWC, dropping the aft shield. It was not the only shield to go, though, as mines started popping out in Phssthpok‘s path. "Mine alert!" squeaked the helm officer, a master of relaying the obvious.
"Hold course, we need to…" Mu started, then the ship bucked. The mines armed at the aft shield! Good timing… "Evade, helm." One more mine shook Phssthpok as the plasma space pig swerved out of the path of the others.
"Like that, Flathead?" sneered "EE."
"Not bad…" replied Mu, genuinely admiring the tactics, when he noticed some of his bridge crew staring at him, apparently disapproving of his comment. Mu flipped off the comm panel and explained. "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU LOOKING AT!"
The Klingon turned to gain distance… some more phaser-1 fire scratched at the dead aft shield, and estimated damage flicked across the tactical screen. The little ship was doing surprisingly well, and had significant acceleration advantages. Mu turned Phssthpok back into the convoy. He was watching another freighter lose hull integrity when the DWC came up behind him.
"Drones away on that pig," he ordered, and two missiles snaked out at the crippled freighter. "Helm hard about, need a firing solution."
The DWC was too fast again, and swooped in with disruptors and phasers, cutting into Phssthpok. "Damage control procedures, marines to guard stations." Mu had modified the Fleet standard positioning of system guards against hit and run raids, moving his soldiers from the areas most likely to be assaulted into the areas most likely to be damaged by ship fire. More than once had he saved the integrity of a vital ship system with this concept, at the minor expense of an anonymous trooper’s existence. He turned off casualty report intercoms, as he always did when using this tactic. No need for additional audio clutter.
By now the freighter had met Mu’s drones and was lighting up the sky in a grand display of of decompression. However, the convoy’s demise was at the expense of most of Mu’s shielding, although precious little damage made it through to kill a strategically placed marine or two. The DWC was a bit worse for wear, but most of its damage had come from that first salvo and the plasma/phaser attack on the #4 shield, and "EE" wasn’t about to expose those so readily. In fact, he was coming in now for a pass… Phssthpok was slow, recharging weapons at an absurdly pathetic rate, and its drones were gone. Disruptors shot out of the Klingon vessel, beating down a shield, and the Klingon veered away…
"STAND BY FOR HIGH ENERGY TURN," said the computer.
Mu whirled on the Helm officer. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Sir, we needed a firing solution, and I…"
"IDIOT! We’re going to stress the hull so we can attack him with…" Mu scanned the tactical panel. "… phasers?"
The helm officer looked sheepish. He knew he’d be reassigned shortly. "We almost have a torpedo loaded…"
Phssthpok swung hard about… Mu took helm away from the moron, using the wasted maneuver to bring a strong shield to bear on the DWC. "All weapons fire…" he said, and 4 or 5 pathetic phasers tickled the DWC, followed by one lone torpedo, which barely dropped the previously weakened #5 shield and probably disabled their galley or something.
Mu slowed the ship to charge weapons, and glared at the helm officer. Engineering crews started surveying and repairing the structural damage sustained by the maneuver… it would be some time before they could try that again. "Station," he growled.
"EE" had accelerated to .99 lights, and Phssthpok was barely keeping up. Mu could see the rest of this battle in his mind… they’d maneuver a bit, "EE" would get behind him and stay there, and batter his rear shield for hours with disruptors while Mu countered with the eight phaser 1′s that could fire aft. Indeed, seeing how Mu had wasted his turn, EE danced around, wheeling, turning, ducking, and before long was on Mu’s tail.
Phssthpok suffered from the maneuverability problems inherent in almost all Federation ships, and though Mu carefully cut his acceleration to bring more power to maneuvering thrusters, "EE" stayed just out of torpedo arc. If Mu could run around like an idiot for a while longer, he might risk another high energy turn, which might be enough to cripple "EE" so he could be finished off. It would just take time…
The Comms panel blinked. "Sir, transmission from Fleet. Urgent request to return to base."
"Belay that…" Mu was mad now. Undersupplied, betrayed by the stupidity of both Fleet engineering and his incompetent crew, pursued by a smaller ship he should have easily been able to gut, he was mad as hell. "Continue this stupid chase."
A short time later, Comms beeped again. "Sir, Fleet again. Vice Admiral Whendi repeating orders…"
Mu winced. Not now… "Stand by on that transmission. Helm, maintain speed, course 12 degrees starboard… cut to point 4 lights and wheel about, stand by plasma…" "EE" foiled Mu’s solution yet again, and Phssthpok reluctantly sped away again, shields weak but intact. It was going to be a long race…
"Sir," Comms again. "Fleet transmission, priority one."
Mu sighed. "Fine. Relay to the conn." His minidisplay blinked to life, and he saw the face of his wife glaring at him.
"Captain Mu," she said, "Fleet requires that you return to base immediately in order to…"
Mu had an idea what this was about… some bizarre and no doubt misguided "secret project" that the Admiralty had been discussing. "Sir, there is a Klingon ship in the area."
"Fine, then, I’ll use code…" she sighed. "Get back to base pronto and… let the ‘dog’ out immediately!"
Several of the bridge crew smirked; Mu pretended not to notice. "Sir, an enemy Klingon ship is within striking…"
Mu sighed. "Aye sir. Phssthpok out." The display blinked out, much to Mu’s relief.
He flipped open the comm channel to the enemy ship. "Captain ‘EE’, we shall have to continue this some other time. I have orders to disengage and…" Phasers cut down the thin rear shield on Phssthpok; Mu ignored the blinking casualty lights. The fire then stopped.
"Oh, of course," interrupted the Klingon commander, chuckling. "You wouldn’t want to keep your wife waiting would you, Captain? I shall allow you to disengage."
Did everyone know? thought Mu. "Acknowledged Klingon vessel, we are disengaging. Do not pursue or we shall, uh, re-engage." Mu checked his system displays… Phssthpok was still largely intact, except for some phaser 3 mounts, and some marine casulaties that were likely making themselves currently useful by absorbing dangerous arcs of energy from damaged systems, thus protecting valuable repair crews.
"It was a good fight, yes?" queried EE.
"Yes, yes it was…" replied Mu, taking a moment to glare at his soon-to-be-replaced helmsman.
"This is a battle to sing about!" crowed "EE". Oh no, thought Mu. Not Klingon singing…
"5 seconds to warp," said the Nav officer.
Thank God… "Uh, sorry Klingon commander, entering warp. Phssthpok out." Mu clicked off audio and relaxed in his command chair, thinking of the horrific caterwauling that might now be filling the bridge of the Klingon cruiser. Glad I’m not there, he thought to himself. Then he remembered the stern face of Vice Admiral Shi Whendi on his conn display, and thought about what awaited him at Fleet.
Mu brought the Klingon DWC data back up on his display and stayed suspiciously quiet for a long time.