"Time card audit!" Commander Jason Van Steenwyk announced.
A groan arose among the combatants on the bridge.
Smash ignored him. He was busy.
"Where did those other Klingon ships come from, XO."
"Out of nowhere, sir. Our sensors did not anticipate their arrival, and they should have," Blackfive reported. His head was down, peering into the long-range sensor display.
"Sir," Matt looked at the captain. "I believe that we will have to leave and bring back reinforcements."
Smash let those words sink in. He could hear Commander Van Steenwyk making his rounds:
"...no. That is not the proper charge number for this activity. You are..."
"Captain," it was BarcoRaptor, "the Kingons have stopped responding to our communications."
"Captain," it was D'Goddess, "two of the ships are positioning for an attack. They'll probably use photon torpedoes, while the remaining ships cut off our escape. We must make a decision quickly if we are to escape at all."
Meanwhile "...you can not fire a phasor bank using that account number unless..."
Smash watched as the Klingon vessels took their time positioning themselves. And Joanie was right, another few minutes and there would be nothing they could do but die.
He decided. There was no choice really. He had to save the ship. In time they could come back and help the colonists; if they were still alive.
He opened a ship's channel.
It was then that Commander Van Steenwyk stood up on a table in front of the bridge, right in front of the view screen.
"Attention, attention. May I have everyone's attention please. This will just take a moment and then you can go back to what you were doing."
Twenty blank faces confronted him. To anyone's recollection, no one had ever done this during a battle.
"I have been auditing time cards as you know, and I have a few comments..."
"Commander Van Steenwyk," Smash interrupted with a growl.
"One moment Captain," he continued, "Always remember and never forget, you must not use the 'Battle with evil Kingons' charge number during training exercises even if that exercise involves simulated Klingons. You must charge to the 'training' account. If you will, please place a single line through the error..."
"Commander! What are you babbling about. This is not a training exercise, and if I do not get us out of here in the next 30 seconds, everyone can use the 'deceased' charge number. Now please evacuate the bridge!"
Now Jason looked astonished. He turned to look at the battle screen behind him, then at the sensor output display. Finally he whipped back around and faced the Captain, anger flashed in his eyes:
"That," he said, "is not funny. If you don't want me to participate, Captain, then tell me so. But I am not fresh out of the Academy, you know. I know what a battle looks like and what a train..."
"That is enough!" Smash roared. "XO, set us a course out of here at maximum warp."
Blackfive immediately gave the order to lay in the course.
Jason looked confused.
Then D'Godess said, "Captain, he's right."
"I have double checked the instruments, and I have analyzed the input. There is no attack. In fact, there are no Klingons."
Smash acted immediately.
"XO, stand down. Joanie, explain!"
"We appear to have been under a type of mass delusion; a psychic attack. The PK sensor shows it originating from the planet's surface. Commander Van Steenwyk was not affected because he entered the bridge after the attack was already under way."
D'Goddess turned from her instruments and faced the Captain.
"Apparently, we are unwelcome, sir."
Captain Smash, closed his mouth and faced his First Officer.
"Never mind. We're staying."
Looking down at his hands, he picked up a pen and hovered over his own timecard.
"Uh Jason? Can you give me a hand here please?" he asked sweetly.
Captain's log: Stardate three point one. We have entered into orbit around Beta Gamma IV in response to a distress signal from the colonists there. Upon arriving, the ship came under attack from psychic weapons apparently originating from somewhere on the planet's surface. The attack was repelled without casualty. Contact is now being established with the colony's leadership so as to gain some insight regarding the situation on the surface."
Smash thoughtfully switched off the recorder.
"Lt Donovan, have you raised the colonists yet?"
"Just now sir."
"To whom will I be speaking."
"President of the General Counsel, Tiffany Fuse. She is formally addressed as Madame President."
The planet disappeared from the view screen and an image of Madame President replaced it. She was seated in the center of a curved table with three empty chairs on either side of her. A large stylized map of the planet was on the wall behind her.
"Welcome to our planet Captain Smash and thank you for answering our distress call."
"It is our pleasure, Madame President. How may we assist you?"
"We would be very grateful if you would deploy a team to our planet's surface. It would be useful if your team consisted of your science officer, an entomologist, and a few demolition experts."
"Yes, we will need to destroy the nest, once you find it of course."
"Do you really think that will be necessary? Demolitions I mean?"
"Yes Captain, it will. You see the bugs are acting with uncanny intelligence. They are attacking our vital centers with a high degree of coordination. Our weapons, which were few to begin with, are rapidly being drained. We can not hold out much longer. We must end this infestation once and for all."
"It seems so, yes."
Smash thought for a moment.
"Do you have psychic weapons, Madam President?"
"No, of course not, why do you ask?"
"Nothing. Please prepare for our arrival. We will be beaming down within the hour. Surprise out."
They were greeted in a large audience hall by the Madame President and a man.
"This is Michael Totten, our Minister of the Interior."
Smash introduced his team and they all shook hands.
"Can you show us the site of these ... uh...attacks?" Smash asked.
"Yes, please come this way," Michael Totten offered turning smartly on his heels. He stopped suddenly, then began jumping up and down vigorously. His face turned intense and got extremely red. Smash thought the man would explode. Joanie covered him with her disrupter rifle. Finally he stopped, brushed himself off, and stepped away, leaving a rather large oozing spot on the ground.
Joanie relaxed a bit.
"There's one," Totten offered by way of explanation.
They all stared at him. Finally Den Beste said, "Sir, next time if you would be so kind, do not damage the specimen so severely. I need a chance to study it."
Suddenly, Joanie shouted: "Clear!" and fired her weapon.
The spot where the dead roach was, was now a smoking pit.
"Lieutenant!" Smash said.
"It moved sir."
They filed outside to a central courtyard and headed for what appeared to be a large domed building. On the opposite side they could see a scorched perimeter that faced a barren expanse. Surrounding this perimeter were piles of dead and burned cockroach bodies stretching out as far as the eye could see.
"Here are your samples, Commander Den Beste. Some over there are pretty much undamaged."
"My lord," Smash exclaimed, "What goes on here?"
"This is the central power station. Most of their attacks have been centered here. Lately they have started attacking the information and living complex's as well, mostly as a diversionary tactic so as to split our forces. We have been spread so thin that we barely held on the last time."
Joanie caressed her Phasor and stroked her rifle. "Don't worry sir," she said gravely, "We'll melt 'em, and burn 'em ..." she continued muttering to herself in a half disgusted half ecstatic sort of way.
Smash turned to Tom and Den Beste.
"Start collecting samples, I want a full evaluation."
Smash's communicator clicked. He flicked it open.
"Sir, our sensors detect a large mass of life forms advancing on your position."
"About 500 million cockroach sized entities, sir."
"That's them!" Michael exclaimed.
"Duh," said Joanie her body tense. A bit of drool escaped her lips. Then she grabbed Den Beste's butt, and winked at him when he turned.
Michael pulled out a large whistle and used it to emit a high pitched wail. People scrambled to surround the building. Joanie pushed in front and locked an oversized ammo pod onto her rifle.
Smash could see the ground off in the distance moving in waves. He could make out a single column now splitting into three as the bugs moved to surround the site.
The last thing Smash wanted was to become bug meat.
The air shimmered in front of them. Someone was being beamed to the planet.
The team stared, while all around them people were scrambling to defensive positions.
When the materialization was complete, what was before them was actually two people, locked in energetic embrace.
Smash whispered to Den Beste, "I didn't know two people could be beamed at the same time."
"If they are close enough, I suppose..." he muttered.
"Cool," Joanie said and nudged Den Beste almost off his feet.
The two arrivals continued their embrace. Smash cleared his throat to no avail.
Smash repeated his command, only much louder.
The female of the pair, opened an eye and noticed their audience, and gently nudged her male partner, who reluctantly looked around. Then they jumped to their feet and saluted Smash.
"Identify yourselves immediately," Smash commanded.
"Captain E. Clair," the female stated.
"Lt Commander Steve Antler. We are the Starfleet Rapid Response Team."
"Rapid Response Team? I've never heard of it. What is your mission, Commander."
"The Rapid Response Team was organized about 6 Earth months ago. We are tasked with deploying ahead of a starship so as to assess the potential danger to Starfleet's most precious assets. As a result, we are equipped with small but very, very, very fast spaceships and two man," he glanced at Clair and leered, "crews. We spend a lot of time drifting in space with little to do..."
"A little late, aren't you Captain?"
"Well, sir, we were in another universe when the call came in."
"Another universe?!" Smash began, but was interrupted by the sound of millions of little cockroach feet scrambling their way.
He looked up. There was nothing but a writhing mass of blackness in front of him.
To be continued...