Chapter 7: Conspiracy
With the Jem'Hadar warship dispatched and the Marines brought back aboard the USS Gryphon, it was time for some answers. The Oklahoma lay listless in space with holes all over it. Her nacelles were totally gone and half the saucer section was missing. A Nebula-class starship, the Windrider, and a Starfleet tug arrived on the scene while the Gryphon was waiting to report.
Admiral Winston was to come aboard the Gryphon to investigate what happened. Starfleet delayed Winston's original mission to Optera Prime and new moon base established close to the neutral zone for this purpose. He was an old time Starfleet officer with plenty of time in the Cardassian war.
Winston requested a meeting with Captain Seals, Lt. Col. Smith, and the sole survivor of the Oklahoma, Crewman Steve Salaba. Smith was in Sickbay looking after his wounded men. He lost two men from his platoon but they performed admirably, dispatching many Jem'Hadar soldiers. Captain Seals had Petty Officer Post prepare the Ready Room for the meeting. One hour later, Admiral Winston beamed on board and Seals and Smith were there to greet him.
Winston materialized on the transporter pad and stepped down to Seals' extended hand. As they shook hands, Seals looked over the Admiral. He was dressed in a grey Starfleet uniform with the red sweater underneath. At forty-three, he was starting to grey a little and his body was starting to get soft. Seals smiled and then the admiral shook Smith's hand.
"Welcome aboard, Admiral. I have the Ready Room waiting for your briefing, sir," said Seals as he gestured toward the hatch.
Admiral Winston nodded. "Yes, Captain, let's get this over with. I want to know what the damn Jem'Hadar are doing getting in so in close in Federation space."
"Well, hopefully Crewman Salaba will be able to tell us a little more of what happened. I know that when we encountered them, they were after something. 'Cuz why would they beam aboard unless they knew we were there?" asked Smith as they walked into the turbolift.
Seals ordered the turbolift to the bridge. "Sir, we know that it was just a training mission and they were easy pickings, but why a training ship?"
Winston rubbed his chin. "I don't know. As you said, Captain, let's hope crewman Salaba will be able to tell us something useful."
The lift arrived at the bridge and the three officers walked out. Chief Urban saw his Captain and Executive Officer leave the turbolift with the Admiral and yelled, "Admiral on the bridge!"
The crew all stood up at attention until Winston said, "Carry on." Then the trio walked into the Ready Room where Salaba was sitting waiting for them. He stood up at attention and Winston motioned for him to sit back down. Salaba sat as the rest of them did, too.
Winston looked at Salaba. "We all know why we're here. Let's go ahead and start. Mr. Salaba, please tell us what happened."
Salaba looked up. "Well, sir, I'm the Recreational Officer on board the Oklahoma . . . Er, that is, I was the Recreational Officer on board the Oklahoma. We were running some drills when they sounded Red Alert. I was very confused because we never sound Red Alert. I went to my station and the report came across that a Romulan Warbird had decloaked and had jammed transmissions. The ship is not fitted to take on a Romulan Warbird. And the next thing I know, we're getting boarded by Romulans!"
Winston rustled in his chair. He was very concerned. Not only did Jem'Hadar warships violate Federation space but the Romulans came across and attacked a training vessel and killed over thirty-eight cadets.
"Did you see the Romulans come on board?" asked Smith.
Salaba rubbed his chin, then looked puzzled. "Well, sir, I'm not really sure. With all of the screaming, phaser and distruptor fire, I couldn't tell who was who. I was knocked unconscious and don't remember much. Sorry."
The look on Winston's face was not a happy one. He swivelled in his chair and looked at Seals. "Captain, tell me more about the Jem'Hadar ship."
Seals straightened up in his seat and looked at Winston. "Sir, the ship appeared out of nowhere and directly fired upon the Oklahoma. Then it trained its weapons on us and fired. We had my Marines aboard the Oklahoma and we didn't want them being destroyed with the ship. The ship was a large battleship and has very powerful weapons, unlike ones we've seen. You can download the battle sensor readings to give to Starfleet Intelligence, if you'd like."
Winston shook his head. "Yes, I definitely will do that. Colonel, tell me what you and your away team encountered on board the Oklahoma."
Smith entwined his fingers, looked straight ahead and spoke. "Sir, it is puzzling. We came aboard and went onto the bridge. It looked like the whole crew had been vaporized or extracted to another location. There were some dead cadets but no instructors were found. Human blood was evident but no Romulan blood was found. This I took as either the Romulans got the jump on the crew and took them down with little or no resistance or the people who attacked weren't Romulan."
Winston looked very confused at Smith's report. "Colonel, are you trying to tell me that the Romulan ship might have been a ploy and that the attack was not staged by the Romulans?"
"Yes sir, I do believe that after going over the bridge and ship video. It showed Romulan aggressors but then the video was destroyed by a shot to the system. Whoever did this was swift and efficient. Too efficient, if you ask me."
Seals was concerned. His First Officer was bringing up a theory that he didn't want to think about. The reality was that someone, Romulan or other, attacked the training vessel and killed everyone on board. Or so it seemed. But they left the ship dead in space with the ship holding nothing important strategically, militarily, or other. Why?
Winston looked back at Salaba. "Mr. Salaba, can you please tell me more about what happened up until the time you were knocked unconscious?"
Salaba nodded. "Sir, the instructors were acting kind of strange that week. It seemed like some of them were very nervous, and in fact, some of the instructors were replacing four of the old instructors. Most of the current Instructors didn't even know these four replacement Instructors, but I guess it didn't matter. We had some communications with another Federation Starship but I never heard of the ship before. I believe it was the USS Katana if I recall. One of the Instructors had mentioned he was from the Katana and it came along to transfer records and beam over some equipment. We never did see the ship. Just heard the bridge crew talking about it."
"That's very odd. I've never heard of the Katana. Have you two?" Winston looked to Seals and Smith.
"No, sir," said Seals.
Smith shook his head. "No, sir, not to my knowledge. Hold on, sir. I'll pull up the records on the Katana." He turned to the computer console. "Computer, bring up all files and data on crew and ship for the USS Katana and display on view screen."
The computer's voice responded. "Working. . . . There are no computer entries for ship USS Katana, no records in Starfleet, or in Mars shipyards. Specified ship does not exist."
Winston stood up from his chair and leaned on the table. "What the hell is going on here, gentlemen? We have two supposed races attacking Federation vessels. We have a ghost Federation ship, the Katana, flying around. I've got thirty-eight dead or missing cadets and an odd number of instructors, but nothing is coming up clean." Winston then looked at Seals. "Captain, take your ship and crew and give them some liberty. In fact, I'm extending their liberty one more day. You can resume your mission then.
"In the mean time, I'm going to get a team in here to research the remains of the Oklahoma and see if we can come up with anything. I've arranged for two Starfleet Intelligence officers to meet you on Deep Space Nine. They will accompany you on your trip. They are very efficient and very good at gathering data, they will be your 'Diplomatic Core' in official terms, but you know what they are really for.
"As for Mr. Salaba, I think you could use a recreational officer aboard, if you would like to take him."
Seals stood up and put his hands on his hips. He sighed. "Thank you, sir. The crew and I appreciate your generosity and we'll enjoy the extra liberty. I think having a recreational officer around will be good for morale. Colonel, will you see that someone gets quarters for Mr. Salaba?"
Smith stood up, grabbed his beret and tucked it into his arm sleeve cuff. "Yes, sir." Then he looked at Salaba. "If you'll follow me, I'll get someone to show you where you can hang your hat."
Salaba stood up and followed Smith out the hatch.
Winston grabbed his padd and walked closer to Seals. "Mike, I know that this is unnerving but I have to get more information on what the hell is going on. I know you have your orders and mission parameters, but as soon as you find anything out, you let me know."
Seals rubbed his chin then looked at Winston. "Aye aye, sir, I'll do that. I'm confused with the whole matter but right now I've got a crew that is looking forward to getting some liberty."
Winston smiled a little, then patted Seals on the shoulder. "Well, Captain, take your crew and get some rest. You'll need it. I want a written report transmitted to my office in the next forty-eight hours. Till then, Godspeed, Gryphon."
The two officers walked out of the ready room and onto the bridge.
Admiral Winston had beamed back to his ship and two other Starfleet ships arrived to aid in the investigation. Seals sat in his center seat, ready to make a ship-wide announcement. He looked over at VanEseltine. "Commander, put me on ship-wide audio and video, please."
VanEseltine tapped some buttons on his communications console, then looked back at his Captain. "Sir, ready when you are."
Seals stood and straightened his posture, adjusted the red uniform jacket and cleared his throat. Then he nodded to VanEseltine. "Crew of the Gryphon, I'd like to commend you in your valiant effort in yesterday's battle. You performed admirably. I'm very proud of the effort and valor displayed by the crew as a whole and by the Marines who were on the Oklahoma. I'm very confident in your abilities to handle combat and stress. Good work. Admiral Winston has awarded the ship with an extra day of liberty so enjoy it while we got it. We'll not get some for quite a while. Thank you for your efforts; they do not go unnoticed."
Seals motioned for VanEseltine to cut the video and audio. VanEseltine complied then Seals sat back down in his seat. Smith walked onto the bridge and sat in his chair. "Sir, Salaba has a room now and we are ready to get underway. Nice speech."
Seals chuckled a little. "Thanks, Bill." Seals then motioned to Commander Johnson. "Commander Johnson, plot course for Deep Space Nine. It looks like we will get the liberty we've been waiting for."
Commander Johnson tapped some controls on the navigation grid then plotted in a course for Deep Space Nine. "Sir, course plotted."
Seals pointed his fingers forward and said, "Warp Nine. Engage."
Johnson manipulated some controls and the ship started to move forward. Outside, the ship's nacelles folded up and then the Gryphon slipped quickly into warp.
Lt. Higdon was sitting in Engineering with Commander Hovey and Chief Marchant going over the schematics and workings of the new computer that was installed back on Minos. Higdon was the Chief of Computer Operations and was doing her best to download all files on current hostile ships and enemy offensive weapons and defensive capabilities. The Minos computer was responsible for the destruction of a civilization and nearly destroyed the USS Enterprise, so harnessing its power and integrating it into the systems of the Gryphon were going to take some heavy duty work.
"Commander, have you downloaded all the information we have on the Dominion and Jem'Hadar into the computer?" asked Higdon.
Hovey nodded. "Yes, and I've also attached some security safeguards to prevent the computer from taking over or overloading the ship's systems. I'm trying to run an interface with the Defensive and Offensive Systems of the ship right now."
Marchant ran some diagnostics on the new computer. She was moving her tricorder all over the new system to ensure there were no problems. "This has got to be one of the most advanced computer systems I've ever seen. It duplicates systems and enhances them from existing technology and resources aboard the ship. I've gone over deflector shields and their efficiency has been upgraded almost 200%. These new shields were tough, but now they are amazing."
Higdon made some adjustments with the computer. "I'm now integrating and aligning the sensors and communications systems. This computer thinks and learns. Chief, I need you to integrate and adjust the engineering systems like warp and emergency power so we can get optimum output from the warp core and impulse engines."
Marchant nodded then replied, "I've already done that. I'm just running some tests to see if everything is meshing correctly."
"Well, ladies, it seems like the two of you are on the ball. I've got to go to the bridge. Call me if you need any more assistance," said Hovey as he walked away.
Hours later back on the bridge, Johnson looked at her helm then punched in some buttons, she then said, "Captain, Deep Space Nine in two minutes."
Seals sat in his chair and looked at Johnson. "Slow to impulse power. Commander VanEseltine, hail the station."
"Aye aye, sir," responded VanEseltine.
The view screen came alive with the face of a Bajoran woman with red hair. She was wearing a burgundy uniform. "This is Major Kira to USS Gryphon. What can we do for you?"
Seals stood up. "Major. Request permission to dock at the station for some well-deserved liberty."
Major Kira looked over her shoulder then nodded her head. "OK, Gryphon.
You are cleared to dock with Pylon 3. Welcome to Deep Space Nine."
|• Honor Among Warriors: The
Gryphon Story, © 1997 by William D. Smith, is reproduced from
the August 1997 issue of Gryphon Trek
Gazette with permission.|
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