Star Trek: Nullabor

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Page 2

Cmdr Kelsey stepped off the transporter pad and stood before the Vulcan. He had already changed into his Starfleet uniform. She could see by the two and a half pips on his right collar that he held the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Kelsey got straight to the point.

"So who are you and how are you going to extricate me from under cover? This had better be important to waste three months of infiltration work." She looked around as she spoke. They were clearly on a runabout. It would not do for someone from her syndicate to notice her gone for too long without explanation, not with Federation ships overhead. Not if she was coming back anytime soon at least. "What's Commander Walker got himself into this time anyway?"

The Vulcan decided to answer each question in it's original sequence. "I am Lt Cmdr Voraak. I have already arranged for your absence to be explained by your capture and extradition on charges of murdering the two Cardassians whom you were supposed to have eliminated as part of your original cover story. As for the importance of your removal from your current assignment, you may judge that for yourself. Now, Captain Walker..."

Alexis erupted in laughter. "Captain? How the hell did he swing that? I thought the brass hated his guts."

"I am informed that they still do. Nevertheless, he has been given command of the USS Nullabor, a Hercules class..."

"A freighter?" Alexis was shocked. "They gave him a transport ship? Now that's cruel. They'll never get me on one of those things."

"Actually, you are his new First Officer."

She exploded. "The hell I am! I was pulled off three months investment in time and effort to help him guide freight around the galaxy? Send me back down there! Who the hell do the two of you think you are, anyway?"

Voraak had seen this type of behaviour in humans before but never in a Betazoid. They had always been more reserved in his experience. He had put it down to their emotions, pleasant or otherwise, being on constant show on their home planet. This one however... "Before I do (and I can if you wish) I want you to consider something."

Alexis had been around enough Vulcans to be able to spot when they had a logical position based on more than rationalization. She calmed down. "What is it?" She studied the tall man of medium build. It was an incongruity she had rarely come across. The vast majority of Vulcans she had met had thin builds. This one looked quite solid. With his superior strength, she decided he would be very useful in a fight. The dark hair in standard Vulcan cut did little to soften the hard features in his face. The emerald eyes on the man gave her the impression he could use them to burn through anything he stared at. It was a look that reminded her of Walker.

"When Walker was offered this command, he felt exactly as you did just now. He was going to resign his commission over this until he was given his orders."

"Just what were they?" Alexis' curiosity was piqued. Walker loved Starfleet, but he never changed his mind about career decisions when he made them. Whatever those orders were, they had just saved Starfleet from losing a valuable officer.

"I do not know. What I do know is that he was given full authority to pick his officers. He chose me to be his Operations Officer and he picked you to be his First Officer. Starfleet agreed."

"Starfleet agreed? There was months of effort tied up in my operation. I can't believe that they would just abandon all that for a transport crew."

"Agreed. For that matter, why would they pull a systems engineer from the Essex just because a transport Captain mentioned my name? I was needed more where I was, yet Walker won. That is not logical, so there must be more to these circumstances than we can see."

"You're saying that Walker is not on the outer?"

"Why would they let him drag us with him? It is not logical."

Alexis considered her options. "What happens if I refuse? "

"I beam you back down and you continue where you are. I haven't put the cover story for your extraction in place yet. Nevertheless, if we are to get to Starbase 73 on time we should leave soon. It's a week's travel in a runabout."

Alexis cringed. It was bad enough being pulled from an assignment for transport duty, but a week long trip in a runabout... Still, the Vulcan was right. She had never known Walker not to know what he was doing. This did not make sense now, but she was sure it would soon enough. "I'm in."

Voraak nodded politely. "Have you any possessions you wish retrieved? It can be arranged."

Alexis did not doubt him. There was something in his manner that said he was more than just a simple systems engineer. "No. Let's get going."

"Good. You will find a uniform ready for you in the rear cabin, Commander." Voraak sent a brief coded signal to the surface of the planet. The cover story would now be planted by the best Starfleet operatives with whom he had ever served. He set course and engaged the warp drive as soon as she stepped towards the rear of the vessel. This would be a long trip, he realised. He was reminded of an old Earth saying Walker had quoted to him years ago when they had served in the Neutral Zone together. "Never enter a locked room with someone crazier than yourself." Voraak found himself wondering which one of them had made the error in judgement.

===

Captain Walker stared at the young ginger haired Bajoran Ensign at attention in front of him. This young thing was the best pilot in the fleet? He looked like he was barely out of the Academy. Walker glanced over at Botha. The look on his face said he was thinking the same thing. "Why are you in front of me, Ensign?"

The Ensign Sai's confusion spilled over onto his face. "Sir?"

"I shall repeat myself. Why are you being assigned to my ship?"

"I am the best pilot in this Fleet Sir. I do not know why I am assigned to service on a transport."

"Are you saying this assignment is beneath you, Ensign?"

"Permission to speak freely Sir." It came out of Falar's mouth like a demand.

Walker and Botha looked at each other. They had both worked with Bajorans in the past. They both knew that if they let him he would speak his mind with no hesitation. "Permission Granted."

"Two days ago I pulled a shuttle out of a death dive off Io and because I had an Admiral in the back seat I am now here. I am an officer and I will follow orders, but I will not act like this is the assignment of my life for you. Hauling freight is not what I am in Starfleet for."

"Dismissed." The ensign walked from the office. "What do you think, Phillip?"

"I don't like it. I've spent too much time on this ship to see it ripped apart by some eager beaver pilot."

"Maybe so, but he doesn't seem like a fool to me. Besides, as he said, he is the best pilot in the fleet. His file proves that. We could use him."

"True enough, but if he thinks he is here for punishment, will he be of use to us?"

Walker smiled. "I think he would find opportunities to fly well wherever he is." Walker considered carefully the decision he had to make. he was silent for several moments before continuing. "Find him. Tell him to report to the cargo bay of the Nullabor in two hours."

"Yes Sir."

"Will she be ready, Phillip?"

Botha smiled. "Yes Sir." Botha left the room.

The next two hours were a blur for Walker. There was all the paperwork to complete, he had to finish packing, and he had to issue all the necessary standing orders and other edicts for how he wanted his ship run. It was a relief to finally stand in front of the podium in the cargo bay of the Nullabor.

There was a crew of sixteen in front of him. He was to pick up the last of his crew at Starbase 73, including his First Officer. He hoped Alexis wasn't too pissed about the orders. He looked over those in front of him. They were hardly what you would expect to find on a Starship but they would do. The full complement would be an interesting mix, he had discovered. Twelve humans, ten Vulcans, three Betazoids, a Bajoran and an unjoined Trill. Now that would make for a lively group he thought. The group in front of him were indicative of the majority of the crew. Young. He wondered when he had ever been that inexperienced.

"Attention to Orders!" Botha brought him out of his reverie. His chief engineer was also acting first officer until they reached the Starbase. Walker straightened his dress uniform slightly and read from the padd in front of him.

"To Captain Thomas Walker, you are hereby requested and required to take command of the USS Nullabor, registry NCC 65150. Signed, Admiral Dekker, Starfleet Command." He put down the padd and nodded to Botha.

"Computer, provide all command functions to Captain Walker and discontinue all Utopia Plenetia access, Authorisation Botha Theta 4887."

The computer responded in it's usual drone. "All construction access discontinued. USS Nullabor now in command of Captain Walker."

"Dismissed." Walker watched the crew go to their primary duty stations. Even Ensign Sai seemed willing enough. There was something special about taking a new ship out of space dock.

Botha approached. "Are you ready, Captain?"

"I am Commander. Let's take her out." Walker noted the smile on the man's face as he gave the order. They were a special breed, these engineers. It was like their ships were their family. They wanted to put them through their paces at every opportunity, give everyone else a reason to be proud of them as well.

Walker took the turbo lift to the bridge. It was a short ride, but it traversed all four decks of the ship. he would have to remember that. No heart to hearts in the turbo shaft.

The doors opened and he strode onto the bridge. The first thing he had noted about it on his initial tour was how small it was. It was a four man facility with positions for Conn, Ops, a First Officer and of course, the Centre Chair. His position. Unlike some of the newer bridges, these were all seated positions. He had to admit he approved of that. It didn't make sense to have officers standing for twelve hour stretches on a bridge.

As he entered this time he noted that the Conn and Ops positions were already manned. Ensign Sai as helm officer had the privilege of taking her out, and Botha had assigned one of his Chiefs from engineering to take Ops in the absence of Voraak (with Walker's permission).

He sat down in the chair placed in the centre position near the rear wall of the bridge. Between the heads of the two officers sitting in front of him he could see the viewer, which at present was displaying the ahead view. What was different on this ship was the windows on either side of the viewer. The ship really was shaped like an enlarged runabout and some of the design features of that smaller ship had filtered through. One of them was front windows. If he looked directly over the heads of each of the Bridge crew, he could see the scaffolding of the space dock in which they were held. With the viewer on it's present setting, it made for a rather panoramic view.

"Clear all moorings." This was going to be different. He had heard Captains say that often enough. This time it was him and he realised at that point just how far he had come. For that matter, how much was now riding on his shoulders. It humbled him.

"Clear all moorings Aye."

"Advise Plenetia control we are departing." This initial shakedown cruise was a seven day trip to Starbase 73. It would give him enough time to get used to his new position. It might even give him time to put the crew through a shakedown of their own.

"Plenetia control advise us we are go and wish us good travels, Sir." The Chief at Ops relayed what was a standard message to all ships on their inaugural flights.

"Thrusters at station keeping."

"Aye Sir."

Well, this was it. Walker realised that his command of this vessel began here, not at the podium. It was from this point that his decisions would decide the fate of his ship and crew. Once they were free in space, everyone would turn to him. "Take her out, Ensign. Thrusters ahead slow."

"Thrusters ahead slow Aye."

Walker noted the viewer and the windows both displaying the scaffolding moving to their rear and within seconds they were in free space. So far, so good he thought.

===

The Lissepian Captain had been pleasantly surprised with his acting medical officer. The people of Angel One had a reputation for being isolationists so he had not been expecting Lucifrelle to be as familiar with Lissepian physiology as she appeared to be. He had no idea where she got her experience, and he guessed that despite her current status on her home world she would not give him any information on where an exobiologist on Angel One came across this level of expertise.

It didn't matter in any event. They had been travelling for two weeks towards their next stop and already his crew was referring to her as Dr Eritt and giving her all courtesies due a senior officer. Very few people other than Lissepians received such treatment on his ship and so far no-one from Angel One had been considered worthy of such respect. The Angellians were tolerated as a trading port by the Lissepians because of the prices they were willing to pay. Without that, they would be happy to stay away from that female dominated planet. Just the thought of women having all the say over his affairs disturbed him. This Dr Eritt had been brought up to believe that it was natural but she clearly didn't feel that way now. Sure she was confident in her abilities to the point of arrogance, but she never crossed the line into dominance. His crew took it as strength and treated her accordingly.

It disturbed him that he would not be able to offer her a permanent post. She had systematically worked through the crew clearing up old ailments and inoculating them against the diseases they were likely to come across on their route. The crew liked her, he liked her, but the Angellians wanted her. Keeping her on board at launch had been risky enough, dropping her off at the next port of call was the safest option. They both knew that.

That concerned him almost as much. The Federation was a strange creature where diplomacy was concerned. Their military's Prime Directive was a case in point. They were just as likely to hand her back over as offer her asylum. This was a matter they had not discussed. There was no point. He could not hold her on the ship whether he wanted to or not. She had to make her own way. Something told him it would not be a problem for her.

In any case, they were about to find out. Starbase 73 had just hailed them and given them docking instructions. He checked her schedule for the inoculation and checkups. She had finished. He wished to himself that he could provide her with a more certain future after her assistance. He waited until they were locked down and headed for the gangway. He met Dr Eritt there, she was already packed and ready to disembark.

Lucifrelle turned to the man she had called Captain for the last two weeks. "Permission to leave the ship, Captain?"

"Luci, I wish..."

"I know Captain. Whatever happens, I won't forget the fact that you helped me. Still, we both know I should leave here."

"That doesn't make it right."

"Maybe not, Captain. It is necessary, however."

"Agreed. Permission granted." The Captain held out his hand. "Walk with whatever God's you hold, Dr Eritt."

Lucifrelle took the hand and shook it. "Thank you, Captain. A safe voyage to you also." With that she turned down the gangway towards her fate.

It was three hours later that she found herself in front of the young ensign. His dark eyes and the involuntary flinching at her darker thoughts betrayed him as Betazoid. She had officially requested asylum from her home and it had caused one terrible stir among the brass at the Starbase. Angel One still held the same strategic importance it had years ago during the visit of the Enterprise. Returning her would go a long way towards cementing relations between the two governments, but they seemed unwilling to throw her back into a system they found distasteful. It had finally been decided that the Admiralty on Deep Space 2 would make the decision, it being the only Starfleet facility at which intelligence on the Angellians was gathered.

This ensign before her had a simple job. All he had to do was organise her some transport there and quarters while she waited for it. She was surprised by his apparent unwillingness to assist.

"I assure you, everything is in order, Ensign."

"I'm sure it is, Doctor." This ensign even made her title sound like an accusation. "Unfortunately, we don't have anything leaving for nearly a week. There is a transport leaving then, the Nullabor."

"Fine. Where can I find it?"

"You can't. It hasn't arrived yet. It will be here in four days." The ensign was displaying a grin that Lucifrelle wished she could wipe off his face.

"You will assign me quarters then?" Asking the question in an even tone took all her self control.

The ensign's grin disappeared. It was clear that he wasn't making a dent in this woman's demeanor despite the rage he could sense within her. These Angellians clearly had better control over themselves than he had given them credit for. He ran through the assignments lists and found free quarters. He gave her the location and she moved off without a further word. Now that is one cold bitch, he thought to himself.

===

Alexis' blade flashed past the Vulcan missing his left ear by millimetres. He did not flinch, that would be a lethal mistake against this foe. He used the minimum force necessary to parry the blade safely past him, his eyes searching for a weakness in her defence, his mind constantly analysing her strategy looking for an advantage. A small bead of sweat trickled down past his right temple, betraying the exertion he had been under for the last ten minutes. Commander Kelsey on the other hand was bathed in sweat, but was still grinning at him with that wolverine smile of hers.

Voraak saw the slightest gap in her stance that left her right side vulnerable. It was the closest thing to an opportunity he had seen so far and he wasted no time striking. His blade darted forward in a lunge directly for the exposed region. He knew speed was essential against this opponent. Speed of attack, speed of thought, she was a far better knife fighter than he had estimated.

Alexis had noticed the Vulcan's mind probing for weaknesses and evaluating strategy. She had also seen that he would not see the gaping hole she now left open in her own defence as an obvious trap. In short, he underestimated her. Sure enough he struck, and she was ready. She parried the blade deftly with her hand which came from above in a blur of motion and with her knife hand, struck the blade deep into his throat.

The blade of her knife dissolved several millimetres from his skin but the holodeck computer registered the path the knife would have taken if it had not been holographic. "Lethal strike. Score to Cmdr Kelsey." The computer had a most dispassionate way of announcing the victory. Alexis thought about how Voraak would approve of that.

She sat back with a satisfied gleam on her face, staring at the Vulcan regaining his composure after the combat. Once the room had dissipated around them leaving the small holodeck's interior he spoke. "Congratulations, Commander. You are quite adept with the blade."

Alexis feigned surprise. "Well, now that's high praise from a Vulcan."

"Not at all, Commander. It is merely accurate."

Alexis laughed at this. "Does that mean that you wish to go again?"

"Not now, Commander, maybe tomorrow. We still have four days travel to the Starbase and we should not leave the controls unattended for too long."

"Just why does this runabout have a portable holodeck installed, anyway. You can't tell me Starfleet have started concerning themselves with the entertainment of transferring personnel."

"You are correct. This unit was installed for training purposes. The Captain does not want you to become rusty during transit. He would not elaborate, but I suspect the mission we are going to take on will require us to perform at peak levels."

Alexis was not amused. "You've mentioned that before. It still doesn't explain this. You don't need hand to hand combat skills on a transport. This must have taken days to set up and besides, I don't go rusty in a week."

The Vulcan resigned from the debate with typical Vulcan fatalism. "You may be right, Commander. All I know is that this vessel was made available to me at the time I was sent to fetch you. If it had been set up specially for our use then it was set up before the Captain even knew about this assignment. I do not have the answers you seek."

Alexis fought the surge of irritation she felt at this answer. He was right, but that didn't mean he was telling her everything. She noticed that he was now staring at her.

"Shall we go back up front?"

"You go." She still had energy to use up. "Call me if you need my assistance, otherwise I will go against my computer target."

"I must warn you, even though they have the ability to learn, these targets do not compare against live simulations."

"Mine does. I have been training it for years. It also has an accelerated learning curve built into it. You should try it sometime if you doubt it's ability."

Voraak's face grimaced in a manner that displayed his disapproval before leaving. After he had gone she moved over to the arch and disabled the safety protocols before initiating the target. Live targets may be interesting, but live knives always added to her incentive to win.

The target lunged at her slightly before she was ready. It had learnt long ago that to beat this opponent you had to strike when she was least prepared. What the target had yet to learn was that Alexis was never completely unprepared.

Voraak had already changed into uniform after his vibe shower and had been sitting at the runabout's controls for an hour before she came out. He noted that she looked completely drained. She was soaked in her own sweat and he also noted what looked like a superficial cut on her right forearm. This did not surprise him, he had already analysed her Starfleet records and he decided that it would be unlikely that she would leave the safety protocols in place. He also knew that the best course of action he could take would be to ignore it.

"You are finished your exercises for the day?" Voraak could appreciate the need for physical fitness, but this petite woman was taking exercise to extreme levels.

"Yes, Lt Commander. I am thank you." By using his rank, she was clearly trying to remind him of his position. Alexis was already beginning to feel that this Vulcan was being a little too familiar and protective of her. It was irritating and she would rid him of it as soon as possible.

"You seem upset by my question. I assure you that there is no reason."

"And I assure you that my exercise, eating habits, or any other aspect of my life outside my duty is none of your concern. Do you understand that Voraak?"

"Yes Sir." Voraak did not intend to press the issue. He remained silent.

Alexis noted the lack of communication. So, she thought, Vulcans brood just as well as humans. Her Betazoid senses told her that he was doing no such thing, but his behaviour approximated sulking so well that it amused her. Still, they could be working together for a long time, and even if not there was still four days remaining before they reached Starbase. "I'm sorry, Voraak. I did not mean that quite the way it sounded."

The Vulcan looked over at her. "No apology necessary, Commander. I was in error."

She knew that she would never get used to that. The Vulcan gift for self-effacement was alien to her. The way they could just up and admit they were wrong just because their precious logic told them they were, she found it offensive. This time she held her tongue. Four more days aboard the runabout with a Vulcan, and then a ship with him on board after that, she must have really pissed off someone in the flag brass, she thought.

===

"All stop here, Ensign." This place was perfect for a shakedown of the crew. Nothing for light-years. No-one watching. In the four days they had been at warp they had fixed several minor bugs and effected two minor repairs, fairly light for a shakedown cruise on a new ship, especially for the first of a new class. Walker knew that the new crew was a separate matter entirely. They were almost as new as the ship and it was time to put them through their paces.

"Sir?" Falar obviously doubted his hearing.

"I said All Stop Here." the captain repeated his order.

"Aye Sir." The ensign complied, all the while thinking his captain had just fallen out of his tree.

"What's out here, Bateson?"

The chief sitting at Ops replied. "Nothing Sir. There is nothing of interest at all. We aren't even anywhere near the usual traffic routes."

"Perfect." The Captain eased back into his chair, a smile playing across his lips. The chair felt a lot more comfortable now after four days, not just physically but also the responsibility and authority it represented. He felt ready to put his crew through a few paces. He hit a key on the console situated on the left arm of the command chair. "Let's go through some manoeuvrers to test the ship out, shall we?" He hit the ship's master intercom. "All hands prepare for training exercises."

The screen ahead showed a Romulan Warbird decloaking. The chief screamed. "Warbird arming all weapons!"

"Shields up. Evasive manoeuvrers, Ensign!"

"Aye!" Falar's hands flew over the controls. As they did he thought through this situation. They were already aware of what this ship could do. They had run all the computer simulations they needed to test that. This was not about the ship, it was about them. Well, if the Captain wanted to test him, he'd get a show. The ship dived sharply down and to starboard. The move was so sudden, the inertial dampeners were unable to compensate immediately. The entire ship lurched for a moment until the inertia reset itself. This happened several times as the Ensign ducked and weaved around the disrupter beams of the simulated ship.

The Captain bucked along in his chair, enjoying the ride. "This kid's good," he thought, "now if we can just get him to use his head as well..."

"What the hell is going on up there!" Botha's voice rang through the comms system with no trace of protocol. In fact, he sounded very upset. "I've got crew bouncing around down here."

"We were running some manoeuvrers up here." Walker responded. "Is there any way you can improve the response times on the inertial dampeners for directional changes?"

"I'll see what I can do. Give me an hour." Walker had discovered that Botha didn't grumble much after he was asked to do something, he just did it. He also knew that he would only have to wait one hour for the result.

"Ensign, hold here for one hour."

They held position in the middle of nothing for fifty-five minutes before the call came through from below. "Try that. My people are prepared for turbulence just in case."

Walker was impressed. His new Chief Engineer was working out quite well. He was a man of few words but great results. he seemed to know what was required and simply got on with making it happen. He was surprised Botha was not a Starship engineer, despite his lack of respect for due process. "Acknowledged. I'm patching a feed of the exercise through to your station." He hit another key before continuing the exercise. The ensign returned to his ministrations on the ship's guidance systems. This time there was no lurching, just the ship moving in wild random patterns being indicated by the flow of stars through the two front windows.

The Warbird screamed past on the screen and disrupter blasts skewed across the screen at random intervals. This was one of Walker's special simulations, similar to the one he had written for Kelsey four years ago. This one was designed to learn and adapt quickly to the flying style of the pilot on question. Ensign Sai had pulled the ship through six minutes of defensive flying against this target with no hits scored against him. This was a record. This kid was not just impressive, he was a natural.

Botha stared at the tactical screen in front of him. He could not believe this kid. As a rule, he didn't like flyers. They took too many risks with his equipment, pushed the envelope too far and created extra work for him. This kid was different. He pushed the ship, yes. But he did it in a way that didn't stress the envelope. He didn't ask more of the ship, he just asked more of himself, drove it smarter, not harder. He began to see he could have been wrong about this kid, maybe he was more than a hot head after all.

He watched the counter tick over. Eight minutes. He couldn't understand how that was possible, even watching the tactical display didn't help. It was nine and a half minutes before the Warbird scored a lethal hit, ending the simulation. The tactical screen went blank and Botha sat back in his seat. "Well, well. I think I like this kid." He mumbled under his breath.

Ensign Sai slammed his fist onto the support for the console at which he sat. "Damn! I should have been able to beat that test."

This took the captain by surprise. "What makes you think you didn't, Ensign?"

"The ship was blown up in the end, wasn't it?"

"Maybe it was. Consider this, though. You took this ship to nine and a half minutes against that thing. In the real world, that would be nine and a half minutes that the rest of the crew would have had to find a way to defeat the Warbird. You gave us what we would have required from you Ensign. Time. Everyone on board a Starship relies on each other and no one of us has to provide all the solutions, not even if they fly like you."

"I grew up in a Cardassian concentration camp without parents. I escaped by myself and lived off my own wits on several planets before joining Starfleet. Relying on others doesn't come naturally to me, Sir."

"Well, you had better get used to it then, Ensign. This is not a shuttle, there are others on board who will be relying on you, yes. Still you are not the only answer to this ship's challenges, and you need to learn to rely on the crew as they will rely on you."

"Aye Sir." The ensign turned back to his console. The captain noted the expression on his face as he turned. It did not fill him with confidence.

===

Alexis Kelsey found that she had been underestimating her Vulcan shipmate during their voyage. She had dressed in standard uniform after her shift at the controls and went back to the holodeck for some activity that did not involve physical exertion. Alexis had always had trouble balancing all aspects of her persona and lately she had been tipping towards her more physical and violent natures. She had decided that if she was to become First Officer on a ship she had never seen before that it would be prudent to investigate the specs and layout of the Hercules class.

She ordered the computer to display all programs currently available that contained information on Hercules class transports. Fourth from the top of the list was one labelled "Voraak 116". She selected it and entered the 'deck. She found herself on a small four-seater bridge.

"Please select the mode you wish to use, lecture or exercise." The computer program that Voraak had set up was clearly a generic training simulation.

"Exercise." Alexis responded to the computer's query. She decided that the fastest way to learn the systems was to use them.

"Please select the position you wish to use," The computer asked for it's second parameter, "First Officer, Operations Officer, Helm Officer, or Chief Engineer?"

"First Officer." The computer's chime told her that the parameter was accepted and the that the simulation would now begin. Instantly the images of Captain Walker and two generic officers at Ops and Conn appeared at station on the bridge. She moved to sit at what had to be her post.

She looked over her console display built into the side wall against which she sat. She tapped several keys to establish for herself the baseline for the exercise. Their location, cargo, destination, current heading and speed were all detailed for her. She also had access to the technical specs if she required them. She called up the overview specs sheet. She whistled low under her breath. This baby was state of the art for a transport ship. She packed a warp core large enough to power her at speed even with a full load. She was amazed that they didn't put a larger shield grid or any armaments on her. She could have handled it.

"Captain, we are being scanned." The man at Ops reported in a casual manner. Alexis' head popped up from the screen.

"What by, Ensign?"

"I don't know Sir. There does not appear to be anything out there..."

"Shields!" Alexis knew a trap when she smelt one. As the shields went up they were struck by the disrupter from a Klingon Bird of Prey which had just decloaked in front of them. The bridge lurched as the shields absorbed the brunt of the attack.

"Evasive!" The Captain's voice sounded. The woman at Conn responded and sent the ship into a barrel roll.

"No! Pattern Theta. Then move into attack posture." Alexis had an idea. The holographic captain objected.

"Attack posture? Are you crazy? This is a transport!"

"Yes, and we are currently carrying some fertilisers, correct?"

"True."

"Kelsey to Engineering." She tapped her communicator. "Have a barrel of Nitric Concentrate and two barrels of Thelsa compound put into the rear airlock unsealed and get ready to jettison on my mark."

The Conn reported that they were now in attack posture.

"Good. Make a run at ramming speed directly for their bridge. At fifty metres off pull up. Got it?"

"Yes Sir." The Conn officer aimed the ship as ordered and increased speed. Kelsey just hoped that this simulation was culturally correct.

Sure enough, the ship did not move out of the way but increased shields to compensate for the impact. The Klingons always respected an enemy that was prepared to die in an attempt (however futile) to destroy his foes. They would let the humans sacrifice themselves out of respect.

Kelsey had no plans for dying just yet, whether for real or in simulation. She had her gaze fixed on the main screen. "Engineering standing by to jettison." The comment came over her comms line.

"Hold, " she was in total concentration, "hold, " the ship skipped off the shields as the Conn pulled up at just the right time, "Now! Rear view!"

The viewer switched to a view showing the bird of prey behind them and the three barrels with their payload bouncing off the shields. The contents of the barrels mixed together and soon came in contact with the shields...

The explosion was devastating. The bridge rocked as the after effects of the blast struck the ship. Kelsey smiled. It was amazing just how much she had picked up in three months with the Orion Syndicate. They didn't always have the resources available to them that the Federation had, some of the things they had used to construct bombs bordered on insane. Nitrogen and Thelsa Compound becoming volatile when subjected to an electrostatic field like a shield was just one of the little facts she had learnt over the last three months that she would never forget.

Voraak monitored the exercise from the console at the pilot's station. He had to admit that this woman was impressive. He had of course constructed the simulation to provide the necessary materials in the cargo hold for such exercises but the fact that she was aware of the chemistry that she had just used meant that she would be extremely resourceful. He reclined slightly as she started the next exercise.

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