The Defiant class ship USS Tiburon is breaking orbit from Risa, where the crew had enjoyed some R&R. The Tiburon is a tough and versatile ship for Starfleet, able to accomplish any task assigned by the brass at any time. It has a small crew complement when you compare it to the giant fleet ships like galaxy classes. The Tiburon crew is a close-knit crew.
Admiral Bran Stimpson could be behind the desk of some Federation building anywhere but chooses to captain the mighty ship, so the crew refers to him as Captain. Captain Stimpson, sitting in the captain’s chair and eager to get under way, rests an elbow on his knee and gets the attention of the con. The con is manned by Lieutenant Tim Epperson presently. “Set course for Lota Geminorum IV at warp 6, Tim; I will explain soon when I call the senior staff to the bridge.”
“Course laid in,” replied Lt Epperson.
“Punch it,” Bran said, while pointing at the mostly blank view screen.
“We will be arriving in that sector in 14.5 hours, sir,” Tim said confidently, which hid his wondering why we would be heading there? Last Tim knew of Lota Geminorum IV was rumors spoken at DS9 regarding the Starfleet officers there who had tried to reestablish the Tribble population by reintegrating Tribbles into their natural environment. Klingons had eradicated the species to near extinction a long time ago.
Over the Tiburon’s main com system echoed Bran’s voice, “All senior officers report to the bridge.”
The whole staff congregated around the bridge. At the center sits Captain Stimpson, surrounded by humming and beeping workstations. At ops is sitting Fleet Captain Lee Montgomery, who likes to simply go by Lee, despite his high rank. The XO Commander Tom Gonzales stands at a multifunctional station to oversee and assist the crew as needed. First Lieutenant Rob Wade is chief of security and has his own station, as does Chief of the Boat Master Chief Dan Zaltsberg. When the call sounded, the officers who were not on the bridge made their way through the ship and through the whooshing bridge doors. In walked LCDR Kat Sawyer, the counselor, and LTjg Becky McDaniel, the Chief Medical Officer. Doctor McDaniel rubs Tim’s shoulder and stands near the con, and Counselor Kat stands a few feet from Lee. Lastly, LCR Dan Parker, the Chief Engineer, walks in from the engine room and takes a post at a remote engineering station to keep an eye on things.
Bran takes a full look around the bridge to be sure everyone is present and ready to hear the briefing. He begins, “I hope everyone had a safe and good time at Risa. It can either relax you or create the need to take a vacation; it can go either way. Well, while most of you were enjoying yourselves, the powers that be at Starfleet headquarters have assigned us the task of going to the Tribble home world. We are to collect 12 Tribbles and place them in stasis. It is the hopes of the science division that these Tribbles, under close control, can be reproduced enough to feed the population of Tangor. Tangorians are strictly carnivorous and live on a lush vegetative planet, and the plants can be eaten by, you guessed it, Tribbles. It would be a symbiotic relationship, they hope.”
First to speak is Doctor McDaniel. “I have read reports written by Doctor McCoy regarding slowing down their reproductive cycle. I think I can expand on his research and find a way to help the Tangorians.”
Jovial Master Chief interjects, “I wonder how they taste?”, rubbing his hands together and looking around the bridge, giving a nod to Tom, who shook his head smirking.
“Anyway,” Becky smiled, ” Lt. Epperson, will you help me with stasis algorithms later?”
“Of course,” Tim replied, without looking up from his hands pushing keys on the console flying the ship.
“We are going to need to set some strict security guidelines,” Rob made known. “The Enterprise under Kirk nearly was lost when they let Tribbles aboard. I will not have any mistakes under my watch.”
The Counselor, LCDR Sawyer, looked at Lee and grinned. “I want a cute one for counseling sessions… for me to pet.” Lee looked up and smiled back.
Bran stands up from his chair. ” Alright, people, you all know your jobs very well. I have full confidence we will be prepared when we arrive. Get to work!”
Just then the communication tones alerted Lee to an incoming message. “Captain? This communication is for you, and it is a high priority,” Lee spoke aloud to the bridge for all to hear.
This got everyone’s attention and Bran said, “On the view screen.”
An admiral appeared in super high definition on the view screen and began speaking. “Captain, I realize you have just gotten orders, and that is why I have chosen you and the Tiburon crew for this assignment. You are already heading towards where I need you to go.”
Bran sat back down and leaned way back in his chair, resigned to the fact orders always change somehow. The admiral didn’t seem to notice Bran’s body language or didn’t care. The admiral continued, “A science vessel was sent ahead of you to collect the Tribbles. Run continuous sensors ahead and laterally to try and find the vessel en route. Captain Slawg and his vessel have not been heard from for one week. If you find the vessel and if it is adrift, we want the captain’s log of Captain Slawg. There are a lot of people wondering what happened. Just set a beacon, and another vessel will come tow it home if it’s worst-case scenario.”
Admiral Stimpson listened carefully so he didn’t have any questions for the admiral on the screen. “I understand, and I will let you know if I have Captain Slawg or Captain’s Logs.” The other admiral squinted and then nodded, and in an instant the view screen became stars streaming past.
“Always somethin’, huh? They’ve sent us their warp frequency so we might pick up their trail,” Tom said to Bran.
“Tom, I also want you to work with Rob, please. Two heads are better than one, and Tribbles are no joke. They can be trouble,” Bran let Tom know.
Stars are flying past the aggressive vessel Tiburon. “Chief medical officer’s log: I have spent the last several hours working with Tim to construct stasis chambers that are synched to the ship’s computer and integrated with the transporter system. Polygeminus Grex, or ‘Tribbles,’ have been fully analyzed. I think we are ready for the away team’s special delivery.”
“That’s what is going to keep the Tribbles from over-populating my boat?” asked Master Chief, pointing broadly at the stasis chambers as he entered the area where Becky and Tim are working.
“You bet, we ran several simulations, and Becky has added her own enzyme gas to ensure they stay however they come!” Tim told Dan.
“Nice, let’s hit the mess hall before the away team gets mustered,” Dan suggested to both Becky and Tim. They all walked out of the medical bay and the doors whooshed shut behind Becky, who followed last. She gave a satisfied look at the chambers one final time.
Dan, still standing at an engineering station on the bridge, suddenly heard an alert come from the station. “Captain! I have picked up an ion trail. It matches the warp signature of USS Homophone, guess we will know if they’re… there soon.”
“Yellow alert,” Bran said. “We don’t know what we are getting into exactly. We should be on guard but not appear too aggressive. I wonder what Captain Slawg ran into out here?”
“I suggest heading to these coordinates; it looks like the trail ends here, sir,” Dan advised
“Lee, lay a course, full impulse. Be on the ready for anything,” Bran commanded.
“I am heading to engineering; I want to be at battle stations if needed, sir,” Dan said, then went to a bridge exit and departed.
“This is my first time to Lota Geminorum IV, and I have a bad feeling,” Kat said, along with the constant bridge noises. Everyone heard her quiet utterance, and they silently agreed.
“I can reassure you, we are ready for any attack from within or without. Rob and I have set up a series of force fields in case there is a Tribble breach,” Tom confidently said.
All the speaking was a distraction, and time passed quickly. Tiburon was within view of Homophone. “Red alert! It looks as if there was a dual duel. The science vessel is barely intact! Is there a breathable atmosphere within?” Bran asked.
“Homophone had limited armament and wouldn’t stand a chance against a Ferengi garbage scow,” Rob let the bridge know.
Tim did some console touching and heard some beeps in reply to his manual query. “There is oxygen and nitrogen in 25% of the ship. Should we investigate?”
Bran selects his usual away team of the smallest variety. He asks Tom, Rob and Becky, along with two MACO for protection, to beam over. Master Chief is running the transporter. “I will try my best to put you where there is air,” he said, with usual mirth.
The away team fizzled out of the Tiburon and rematerialized in the Homophone. It’s dark except for intermittent red lights and alarms sounding. There are brutal injuries on obviously dead bodies strewn about the corridor. A MACO bravely heads to one side of the team, and the second takes the rear. Tom is visibly shaken, which has rarely happened in his Starfleet career. The injuries could be done by only one weapon he knows of, and he doesn’t want to share it with the team yet. The team heads for the bridge if possible.
On the bridge, Captain Slawg’s body sits at attention. Captain Slawg’s head looks up at his body from the floor in front of his captain’s chair. The rest of the bridge crew is in a similar state. No single crew member has a full body. The composure of Tiburon’s away team is exemplary. Amongst such carnage, it takes all their training to recover data, records, and of course Slawg’s logs, which Tim is downloading into a pad.
“Five to beam back,” Tom called into his communicator, and the five beamed home to their ship.
Tom looked at Rob, and silently they knew they were thinking the same thing. “Klingons did this. Without a doubt, bat’leths caused those wounds,” Rob said.
“You can’t be serious, Klingons? Why would they attack a Starfleet vessel which is so under-classed? There is no honor in that,” Bran said, dumbfounded.
“I’m downloading the logs into the ship’s computer,” Tim said quickly. He wants to get to the bottom of this mystery.
The ship’s computer says a recent star date, and Captain’s Slawg’s voice plays over the speakers. “We have arrived at the Tribbles’ home world. The away team has been on the planet for fifteen minutes, and we await word.” His words were cut short by the sound of transporting, and then there isn’t another audible word. There are lots of screams, grunting, and then nothing.
“I am not picking up any cloaked ships on sensors,” Lee said. “There is a red giant and several planets one light year from here. Tribbles must be there.”
“Full impulse, Tim. Launch the location buoy and Starfleet can recover the crew and Homophone, if we are all ready,” Tiburon’s captain ordered
“We are in geosynchronous orbit,” Lee let the bridge know.
“Bring two MACOs to the surface and round up the Tribbles. When you’ve secured the fuzzy dozen, let Master Chief know, and we will beam them to Becky,” Bran said, laying out the plan a final time.
The six of the crew stood in a circle on the transporter pad and soon were no longer there. They are on the surface of the planet now.
Immediately after Master Chief told the bridge he beamed them down, Tiburon was rocked by some sort of energy blast. Sparks fly from consoles, and a new crewman to the ship was killed as her console exploded on the bridge.
“Red alert, obviously!” Bran hollered, as he punched the status button on his Captain’s chair simultaneously. “I want to see this vessel on screen now and hail them, Lee.”
“Shields are holding,” Chief engineer added.
Soon to be known to Bran, an old class Klingon Bird of Prey is flying at Tiburon. It had been hiding in the magnetic pole of a nearby moon.
The Klingon captain can see his vessel is not more armed or powerful. He weighs his options.
“Your hail is getting a response,” Lee said.
On the surface, the away team has no idea what is going on in orbit above them.
As on the destroyed ship visited earlier, the MACOs take their positions on opposite sides of the senior officers. Rob takes out his tricorder and begins getting readings. The well-known tones emit from the device.
“Let’s head in this direction. I am picking up Tribbles’ life signs in every direction, actually.”
The group moves in unison down a trail through thick tropical vegetation. After a short amount of steps the lead MACO stops and puts a fist in the air to silently tell everyone to stop and be quiet. He looks back.
“Check your readings,” he says to Tom, almost so quietly Tom barely made it out.
Tom uses his tricorder and notices Klingon signs closing in fast.
“Take cover!!” Tom says, just loud enough for all to hear. Not soon enough. A disruptor blast broke the silence, and the lead MACO was thrown against a tree as he was struck and fell motionless.
Rob and Tom both had their phasers in hand, firing, and started cutting down vegetation all around where the disruptor shot came from. A scream of pain came from that area and then a second. Silence once again surrounded the area. Even the sounds of animals are gone, and it is eerily quiet. The group remains still and quiet, and everyone is scanning the area with devices.
The aft MACO kneels over the struck MACO and closes the eyes of her fallen comrade. She remains stoic and strong despite her loss. There is still a job to do.
“They were probably some of the Klingons that attacked the science vessel,” Rob said.
“You think? Yeah, I would assume that too,” Tom agreed.
“Let’s keep going,” Tim urged. “I’m not getting a response from Tiburon. Those Klingon came from somewhere, and I would bet the paycheck we don’t get because we are in Starfleet that Tiburon is making a debris field orbiting this planet of the Klingon vessel.”
The group moves along down the path, determined and alert.
Meanwhile, in orbit Bran has taken the hail and is looking at a tired and older Klingon captain.
“Starfleet, we shoot first and don’t ask questions of any vessel that sends crew to the surface. There’s a long-standing order from the high council that no Tribbles leave this world!” the craggy Klingon said in a raspy voice.
Captain Stimpson sits on the edge of his chair and looks this Klingon right in the eyes. The two are locked in what could be a blinking contest. While this scene plays out for their opposing bridge crews, there is a lot of consternation going on behind those four unblinking eyes.
The Klingon captain had no fear destroying a Federation science vessel but is wary of this battle-ready warship that hovers in space just meters before them. Captain Stimpson is a Starfleet-trained tactician and has a pretty okay crew. The Tiburon would win in an all-out battle, but Captain Stimpson doesn’t want casualties. They create massive reports to be filled out.
Captain Stimpson speaks to break the war of eyeballs stalemate. “Listen, we can blast at each other, and we will be leaving with a few Tribbles, or you can keep that old rust bucket Bird of Prey as it is and keep pseudo guarding this planet tomorrow and we will still be leaving with some Tribbles.”
Klingon captains are not used to being addressed this way. The Klingon in his captain’s chair let out a belly laugh. “You have honor!! YOU have courage! We will battle another day, it seems.” The real reason for backing down need not be known now. Captain Stimpson had given the other side something to work with to save face and their ship.
Lt. Epperson leans back from his seat to face more towards the captain’s chair and says, ” The dampening field is down; we can communicate with the away team.”
“Tom, report?” the captain asked.
“One MACO casualty, two Klingon also killed in a fire fight. Everyone else is fine and we are ready to deliver the Tribbles to the stasis thing,” Tom reported efficiently.
McDaniel speaks, “Master Chief? Beam the whole away team to medical and follow the procedure we put in the computer to transport the Tribbles. Everyone, make sure you don’t have any in your boots when we get aboard!”
Once the away team materializes in sick bay, the adorable Tribbles look completely motionless, floating in their individual chambers. It seems like the plan is working, and the Tribbles will multiply one day and feed many Federation carnivores. The Klingon warship disappeared long ago and hasn’t been seen again. Starfleet will hear about what happened here. The Klingons will have to work with the Federation on monitoring this planet together in the future.
The Tiburon crew has settled back into their routines. Captain Stimpson rests an elbow on his knee and looks over the bridge, his crew, his friends. “Helm, any heading, and punch it!”
Space is almost completely still as the Tiburon disappears as a tiny blink of light.
LCDR Dan Parker – Chief Engineer
Special thanks to Lee Montgomery and Bran Stimpson