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“All stop,” S’Tonn ordered, and N’Vel felt the deckplates below her feet shudder and twist as the ship’s impulse drive cut out and the station-keeping thrusters fired a short burst to compensate for their momentum. The internal-dampeners in the ship were always a fraction of a second late in keeping up with their motion, but they were a massive improvement over the old battlewagons leftover from the days after the Terran War, which required restraining couches.

“Scan for wreckage,” N’Vel instructed.

A young sub-lieutenant hunched over a sensor hood. “Showing…significant metallic debris, Admiral. Composite matches that of the superstructure and internal components of Sensor Station Twelve.”

“What caused this?” S’Tonn demanded.

“Unknown, Commander,” the sub-lieutenant said a little nervously. Some Romulan commanders had a reputation for cruelty, carrying on the tradition from the days of seafaring ships. N’Vel wanted to tell her not to be concerned, that S’Tonn had always seen cruelty as needless and regarded it a poor tool for command. But she said nothing. The young sub-lieutenant would learn for herself, just as N’Vel had.

“Scan for radiation,” S’Tonn said. “And put it the wreckage onscreen.”

“Yes sir.” A moment later the main viewscreen showed them a motionless shower of twisted, burnt metal.

“That’s blast damage,” S’Tonn said. “As surely as I’ve ever seen it.”

“But the debris field is too small, too tight,” N’Vel noted. “This wasn’t a missile or any other type of explosive, otherwise we’d be seeing debris thousands of meters from here.”

“It could be an energy weapon. We should know that as soon as our intrepid sub-lieutenant finished her scans…” S’Tonn said pointedly, causing the sub-lieutenant to flush.

“Yes…I believe…I do have the readings sir. Indications of a particle-beam weapon, but not consistent with Romulan disruptors.”

“So,” N’Vel said, feeling a rush of excitement. “We are attacked.” 

S’Tonn turned the bridge over to Centurion N’vek, his second in command, while he and N’Vel moved their conversation to the privacy of her quarters. Once inside the cramped officer’s berth--barely large enough to accommodate a single bed, closet, and desk that folded out from the wall (the sonic shower was shared with S’Tonn’s quarters on the other side of the bulkhead). They exchanged the banalities of command, while N’Vel swept the quarters for transmitter, and, when she was satisfied there were none, they switched to the conversation that had been looming ever since Sensor Station Twelve had gone offline.

“This is a bold move,” S’Tonn said, “even for the Klingons.”

“A renegade commander, I suspect,” N’Vel replied. “A young warrior trying to earn his stripes by poking the raptor’s nest.”

“An unusual way to go about it,” S’Tonn said skeptically. “One would think their war with the Terrans would provide ample opportunities--and targets--for such an endeavor.”

“Whatever the reason, we can use this. We have a real threat to Empire here, something that the Praetor should truly be afraid of.”

S’Tonn looked taken aback. “Admiral, I think perhaps you overstate this attack. It is, after all, just one listening post.”

N’Vel waved dismissively. “If K’prek can convince the Praetor that his empire teeters on the brink of insurrection simply by rounding up a few complaining food vendors, we can certainly turn this into a military crisis.”

“Perhaps, Admiral. But consider: K’prek has a limitless supply of dissidents. You only have the one destroyed listening post.”

“Meaning?”

“I believe in order to draw the Praetor’s attention away from K’prek’s imaginary threats you will need something more sustained.”

“So we hope for more attacks?”

“More than that, Admiral. We need to bring back an attacker.”

N’Vel nodded slowly, her mind racing with scenarios. “A foe. An invader. Someone whose carcass or whose ship’s hull we can present to the Praetor.”

“It would be best,” S’Tonn said deliberately, “if they were vanquished with the weapon.”

“We would show him the threat and the defense at one time,” N’Vel smiled coldly.

“Precisely, Admiral. We will need the weapon to be field-ready immediately.” 

“The first thing we need,” N’Vel said, “is bait.”



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