She slid silently through space, her systems operating at the peak efficiency that they were designed for. Milord Mudd's Ship Flower was the picture of perfection, everything about her served a purpose. No wasted effort..no wasted space. Androids did not require the specialized facilities that organics did and as a result of this, and Mudd's advanced technology, she was far more powerful and capable for her size than even the most spartan of Klingon and Rihannsu ships. Kirk, having been thoroughly programmed by Joy Seven to duplicate all of Kirk's actions, had been irritated at his difficulty in adapting his mannerisms to a ship such as this.
The MSS Flower entered the Marynan system, still cloaked, and came out of warp within the Federation blockade. The android Kirk knew that he was stretching his orders, but then he had been originally programmed by Joy Seven to break the rules. His thoughts were interrupted by his executive officer, Alyce-44, "Captain James T. Kirk, this mission is unauthorized."
Kirk looked at the Alyce, his habitual smile sliding onto his face, "Now that just ain't so, Number One."
Alyce-44, taking his comment literally, immediately corrected him, "I am Alyce number Forty Four, not Alyce number One."
Kirk endeavored to explain, "The first officer is always Number One. That is why she is first."
Alyce-44 hesitated for only moment, "This Unit is First Officer of MMS Flower. This Unit is Alyce Forty Four. Therefore First Officers are not always Number One."
Kirk sighed, these androids were more literal than Mr. Spock ever was, "First officers are Number One even if they are not Number One."
That shut her up for the better part of ten seconds. Alas, she rejected the circular logic, and continued the discussion of ship's policy. "The Kirk unit is lying. The Kirk unit always lies. The Kirk unit is not authorized to approach Marynan cloaked. This ship's mission is to deliver personnel. This ship's mission is not to save the galaxy. We are expressly forbidden from saving the galaxy."
Kirk sighed, wondering if any planet other than Mudd could possibly use the services of the greatest starship captain of all time. "Look, Number One. The galaxy is quite safe. How could we possibly be saving the galaxy?"
Alyce-44 ignored his comment as yet another circular argument, "The Kirk unit is also expressly not authorized to scratch the paint job of MMS Flower."
Kirk was getting exasperated, "The paint is quite safe, Number One."
K'rrrat interrupted the conversation from the Tac console. "Tarrrrget!". As the Flower was about to enter orbit, K'rrrat had detected a cloaked ship leaving the surface on the horizon of the planet. It was not a terribly good cloak by Mudd standards and there was an obvious disturbance of local space visible on the Flower's screen.
Kirk relaxed into the job he was born for...programed for? He checked the tactical board and saw no signs that any of the starships in the blockade had detected the vessel. Good. Eventually, Number One would have realized she wasn't going to win, and called in a Stella Class. Now he would not have to deal with that. "Bearing?" he called out.
K'rrrat purred her reply, "On main scrrreen. South pole exit. Cloaked. Brrreaking the containments thrrrough gap one."
Kirk began commanding a starship as only he could, "Execute intercept course number one. I want to be on her tail, Helm. Bring me right up her ion trail. Science, figure how good her sensors are. I want to be close. I don't want to be spotted. Tac, stand by tractors. Number One, Yellow Alert."
Alyce-44 began to argue once again, "This ship is not..."
Kirk cut her off abruptly, "The function of the First Officer is not to argue with the Captain. We have a cloaked ship breaking an ordnance set by the Federation Council, and this is the only ship in the area that can track her. Yellow Alert. That is an order."
Alyce-44 responded to her programming, "Yes, Milord Kirk."
"Captain Kirk, Number One," he corrected her.
"Number Forty Four, Milord Kirk," Alyce-44 replied.
What was it with the new era? The first officer was supposed to argue with the doctor, not the captain. Then again, what would a ship full of androids do with a doctor? "Alter course to pursue that vessel," Kirk ordered. If the androids didn't know when to bend a rule a little bit, they could maneuver a ship well enough. Sulu might have executed the maneuver with more grace, but even he couldn't have beat the android's precision. Kirk's elegant, beautiful and cold crew watched without expression as the Flower rolled into pursuit. Only, K'rrrat, the Caitlan huntress, showed the pleasure of pursuit, the close for her first real world kill.
The Flower dropped out of orbit, just missing the top of Marynan's atmosphere as it took the most direct path for intercept. The course would take it cutting through any orbital paths, but her advanced sensors detected nothing there. It would be safe enough, Kirk reasoned. Kirk was both right...and wrong. Suddenly the proximity alarms began screaming their alert. The science officer looked up from her screen. "Turbulence, Milord. Something is disturbing the ion trail."
Kirk spared only a glance, "Decoy, Science. Ignore it. Continue to close, Helm."
"Negative decoy," the science officer responded. "Too large for a decoy. It is a second ship. We are closing fast on the second ship. Evading to avoid impact!"
Kirk looked back, "Analyze. Can you ID her, Science?"
"Negative," The science officer responded. Kirk's allowed himself a look of surprise, he had after all been programmed as an exact duplicate, "An undetected cloaked ship? And we can't identify it? How is this possible?"
The Alyce did not even note Kirk's reaction, but looked back to her readouts, "It is a low power cloak and propulsion system. Analysis shows that the vessel is primarily stealth technology with an advanced cloak to cover any electromagnetic and spectral leakage. Vessel and cloak type is unknown however ion trail composition suggests a 93.539% chance that it may be Rihannsu in origin. The Romulans however, have no cloaked ships this small and there is nothing like it in the data banks."
Kirk had first command decision to make, but it felt old hat to him, "K'rrrat? If we take the Rom, you can find the lead ship again?"
K'rrrat gave Kirk a feline grin, "Aye, Kirrrk."
Kirk took it all in and jumped to the only conclusion that his programming allowed, "Red Alert. Engage tractors on target number two. Power up weapon's systems and standby..."
The Rihannsu intelligence ship sat quietly in it's surveillance orbit around Marynan. It circled the planet below exactly as it had for the past 38 days. It was nighttime onboard, if once could say that a ship crewed by four ever had a nighttime. All was silent onboard except for the quiet humming sounds of the life support system and the equipment cooling fans. It would have been boring duty for most, but not these men. The intelligence officers onboard were patient, they could remain here for another 380 days if so ordered....they had been selected, trained and conditioned to do exactly that. Hour upon hour, day after day, they did their duty to the Empire. The arrain currently on duty at the sensor console sat forward when a red light began blinking. He saw a shadow of a track and reassigned more sensors to the new signal. After some minutes he grinned. Some action for their bored comrades running patrol duty out there. A cloaked ship had launched from the surface. This was not the same ship that they had been detecting signs of on and off over the past couple of weeks That ship had always remained far from the planet surface and other ships. This was a poor cloak he saw, but even so it was probably not detectable by the other ships in the system. He knew that even the warbirds on patrol might not detect the ship, larger starships simply radiated too much of their own electro-magnetic noise. You had to be looking in the right direction to detect a cloaked ship. He plotted the escape vector of the cloaked ship and then alerted the riov of the vessel, "Commander, I have detected a cloaked ship leaving Marynan."
The Commander came forward and looked at the display, quickly coming to the same conclusion as the younger Centurion, "Our ships will not be able to track that vessel. Break orbit and enter a pursuit course. Break communications silence and begin sending intercept and targeting data to our warbirds, tightbeam burst transmissions. Use just enough power to get them there."
The small Rihannsu ship slid out of orbit and began following the cloaked vessel. The Centurion was concentrating on his track and did not notice the occasional blip on his screen at first. Then suddenly his threat board lit up, "Commander! There is a power surge being generated 500 kilometers aft! A cloaked ship of unknown type! I estimate a light or heavy cruiser by the power spike."
"Has it detected us?" the Commander barked.
The Centurion looked at his screen once more, "Yes sir, they are altering course to close with us...I can't get an accurate track, the cloak is too good."
The Commander knew that his small vessel could not stand up to a warship. They were totally unarmed, designed that way so that more sensor equipment could be carried. The Commander came to the only conclusion his training allowed, "Get us out of their range. Order our warbirds to change targets. Have them attack that ship before it fires on us!"
What followed was typical of incidents such as this. Too many ships...in too small of an area...operating independently. Weapons fire flashed and the MSS Flower shook...violently.
"Power priority is to shields!" Kirk called.
K'rrrat began to fidget, barely restrained, "Rrrequest perrrmission to rrreturn firrre!"
Kirk looked at her, "Against two Warbirds? Are you kidding? They might get mad!" He grabbed onto a console as the Flower shook again.
K'rrrat wanting action, tried to reason with him, "Sirrr. Tac humbly suggests, they arrre alrrready mad, Sirrr.."
Kirk thought grimly that K'rrrat was absolutely right, "Helm, decloak, now. Pursue target number two, impulse power, evasive. Ops, activate beacon. I want everyone to know who we are. Tac, get me a tractor on that little bitty Rom!"
The Alyce at science turned toward Kirk, "Milord? Disruptor flash is overloading sensors. We won't be able to track a cloaked ship while under this much fire."
Kirk staggered again, "Do what you can. Helm? WHAT ARE YOU DOING???"
The helm Alyce responded crisply, "Pursuing target two, sir, as ordered." As the Flower sliced between the two warbirds, her shields flashed first port, then starboard, the ship's inertial dampers overloaded by the impact.
K'rrrat looked to Kirk, beginning to wonder just why Joy Seven had placed him in command, "Sirrr! Tarrrget two lossst. We have not the powerrr to slug with giants, but ourrr torrrpedoes out rrrange thierrrs. We have speed on them. We have maneuverrrability. Rrrun. Give me rrroom. See if they rrreally want to dance!" K'rrrat's blood was up. She was out of the holodeck, and free. That the other side had more tonnage than she by several orders of magnitude did not seem to bother her.
The first officer was less enthused. "Milord. There has been a shield leakage. Main hull, 21 degrees, bulkhead four, lower, the paint is blistered. While I realize a blister is technically not a scratch..."
"Run?" Kirk ignored Number One and looked at K'rrrat as if she had proposed something quite indecent. "From a Federation planet? K'rrrat, never run when you can bluff! Ops! Open hailing frequencies! Broadbeam. Broadcast now! Don't wait for a response. Stand by for a switch to tight beam on the lead Romulan!"
Kirk paused, waited just long enough for the comm links to establish, and for whomever was on the other side of the link to recognize him. He then spoke. "This is Captain James T. Kirk of Milord Mudd's Ship Flower. Romulan commander, cease fire. Cease fire now. Cease fire," and here he paused suggestively, only to continue with supreme confidence, "or else."
The Rihannsu Commander stared at the apparition on the view screen, not believing his eyes. His exec looked up at him, "Commander. It must be a trick! Kirk is long dead!"
"Perhaps," the Commander growled at last. "But they must know they do not stand a chance. They are insane to threaten us. Ignore the hail, continue firing. Transmit a demand for surrender."
The MSS Flower rocked once more as the port shield began to buckle. Smoke leaked from one console, soiling the immaculate interior of the bridge.
K'rrrat growled at Kirk, irritated by inaction, "You do not appear to have frrrightened them Kirrrrk."
Kirk ignored K'rrrat, "Switch to tightbeam. I don't want anyone else in this sector to hear this." When he got confirmation Kirk began again, "Romulan Commander, this is Captain Kirk of the MSS Flower. We have proof that you have a cloaked ship operating in this area. Cease fire or I shall relay that data to the Task Force Commander."
K'rrrat, was still ready for action, "They will not lisssten Kirrrk. They are Rrromulans."
"They will listen," Kirk said. After all...his bluffs always worked, didn't they?
The Rihannsu Commander stood there stunned, "Impossible! None can detect our Intelligence Ships! *We* cannot event track them!"
His exec looked up at him from the main floor of the bridge, "Yet they *do* seem to know about it Commander." He hesitated for a moment, "What shall we do?"
The Commander looked around his bridge at the crew awaiting his decision. The secret existence of the Intelligence Ships was of the upmost importance, "We will serve and die as Rihannsu warriors! I will *not* allow plants to leave this system! No response to that hail. Jam their transmissions, full power." They would have to destroy that ship now.
The young arrien was about to commence the jamming when his comm board bleeped. He turned to face the Commander, "Sir, communication from the task force Commander."
The Federation task force commander was taken by surprise as the Rihannsu Warbirds broke our of their patrol pattern and raced towards the planet. They had sent out a single message, "Cloaked ship leaving the planet. Intercepting now." The Admiral watched, his command staff trying to catch up with the rapidly developing situation. The first flashes of combat came as the Warbirds fired their disruptors at coordinates relayed by the Rihannsu Intelligence Ship. Suddenly, the MSS Flower decloaked, her shields aglow with the energy lancing across them. She was dwarfed by the two monstrous ships, barely visible between them. With her small size, maneuverability and surprising firepower, she would have been nearly the match for one of them...but not two. The Admiral watched as the two Warbirds slowly wore the small ship down. They would eventually prevail. He sent a couple of his starships into positions where they could render aid, if needed, but he hesitated offering any help to the Rihannsu. They were notoriously independent. And this *was* a violation of the blockade.
Suddenly his tac officer turned toward him, "Sir, that is the Mudd relief ship, the transponder identifies it as the MSS Flower."
The Admiral looked back at the screen in shock, realizing what must have happened. He turned to his comm officer, "Get me those warbirds onscreen."
The face of the Rihannsu Commander filled the screen, "I'm occupied right now Admiral....."
The Admiral cut off the Rihannsu Commander, "This is the Commander of the Federation Task Force. Cease fire at once, I repeat cease fire at once. Rihannsu Warbirds Hatham and Latta, cease fire."
The Rihannsu Commander looked at him incredulously, "They are fleeing with the plants! I will not allow them to escape!"
The Admiral stared at the Rihannsu on the screen, "Commander, that is the Mudd relief ship. Need I remind you of your orders from el'Llairhi S'ten ch'Rllaillieu? That is a friendly ship! you will cease fire at once!"
The Rihannsu hesitated for a moment and then gave in, "Very well." The viewscreen blacked out back to the starfield. After what seemed like hours to the Admiral, the beams lancing out at the MSS Flower stopped. He would have to deal with the Rihannsu Commanders later, but for now he had some bones to pick with the captain of the MSS Flower for pulling such a stupid stunt.
Onboard the Warbird the Commander sat down in his chair. What would he do? He was under direct orders from el'Llairhi S'ten ch'Rllaillieu to obey the Federation Admiral. They may not actually have any evidence of the Intelligence Ship...not of whose it is anyway. He would have to explore other options. He looked up, "Cease fire. Get me that ship on the screen."
When Kirk's face appeared, slightly self-satisfied, the Commander spoke, "You identity has been confirmed. You may proceed to the planet." He turned back to his comm officer, "Cut transmission. Helm, resume patrol pattern."
Some time later, the Admiral sat in his office, facing a comm screen with Kirk on it. He was not a happy man.
Kirk looked exasperated, "Admiral, you aren't listening. I picked up two cloaked ships on my approach, one likely Romulan, and the other likely a smuggler. The Romulan disappeared during the battle."
"Captain Kirk," the admiral responded, his voice dripping irony at both the tittle and the name. "I *know* that there were two cloaked ships out there. I will concede that there may have been three cloaked ships out there. But I can assure you that any cloaked ships out there are all the enemy, with the possible exception of the Romulans." He looked hard at Kirk, "I can not understand why Mudd would have chosen to use a copy of you to command their ship. But while you're in my sector, don't pull any more stunts like that again."