Stardate 139364.5 (Wed 3 Oct 2300): Hostile Gorn and Kzin vessels have been crossing into Federation space, and the arms race between the two powers is heating up. While returning to the Merrimac from Starbase 23, a shuttle carrying Capt. Phillips and Lt. T’Maril is forced to crash-land on an uninhabited planet.
Captain’s Log. Stardate 139364.5
The past two months of patrolling the Federation border with the Gorn and Kzin has been uneventful, to say the least. There hasn’t been so much as a rogue meteoroid that’s crossed nearby. I find myself beginning to agree with the crew that something needs to happen, if only to break up the monotony.
U.S.S. Merrimac NCC-1715
Patrolling the Gorn/Kzinti Border
3 October 2300 1400 hrs
"Captain," said Lieutenant Commander Jason Stern from the Tactical station behind and to the left of Captain Jack Phillips’ center seat. "I’m picking up a Kzinti warship crossing the border. She’s on an intercept course."
"Yellow alert," Phillips ordered. The Bridge lighting dimmed, the amber alert lights flashing, as the alert klaxon sounded. "ETA?"
"Three minutes," Stern answered.
"Hail them," Phillips said.
"Hailing frequencies open, sir," Lieutenant M’Ress, Merrimac‘s Caitian communications officer, purred.
"Kzinti vessel," Phillips said, "this is Captain Jack Phillips of the Federation Starship Merrimac. You have crossed the border into our territory; reverse course and return to your space."
"No response," M’Ress said a few moments later.
"They’re still on an intercept course," Stern said.
"Kzinti vessel," Phillips repeated, "you will return to your own space, or you will be returned to your territory."
"Still nothing," M’Ress said.
"They’re arming weapons," Stern said. "They’ll be in range in thirty seconds."
"Red alert," Phillips ordered. The amber lights turned red, and the alert klaxon sounded once more.
"All stations report ready, captain," M’Ress announced from her station.
"They’re firing," Stern said. "Two torpedoes, five seconds to impact!"
"All hands, brace for impact," Phillips said, punching the comm link on his chair’s armrest. Turning to Stern, "Return fire!"
The ship shook as the torpedoes impacted. Stern finished inputting the target lock coordinates and pressed the firing command on his control panel. Two torpedoes launched from the Merrimac, and the ship’s phasers simultaneously let loose upon the Kzinti ship, which rocked under the barrage.
"She’s taken heavy damage," Stern announced. "They’re retreating to their territory."
"Commander Akric," Phillips said, activating his chair’s comm link once more, "damage report."
"Minimal, sir," Akric’s voice came over the comm system. "The warp core’s matter injector is slightly out of alignment, but we’ll have that fixed momentarily."
"Good to hear," Phillips said. "Defensive status, Commander Stern?"
"Shields holding at eighty-five percent," Stern said. "All weapons are on-line."
"Pelosi, hold position here," Phillips ordered. "Let’s make sure our visitor doesn’t try to come back when we’re not looking."
"Aye, sir," the young Bolian woman acknowledged.
U.S.S. Merrimac NCC-1715
Patrolling the Gorn/Kzinti Border
4 October 2300 1600 hrs
"Commander," Phillips said to his first officer, the Andorian Commander Shralev, "the ship is yours. Do try and keep her in one piece."
"I will endeavor to meet your expectations, sir," Shralev said.
Phillips turned and walked up the ramp of the shuttlecraft Hawking. Once inside, he keyed the ramp’s closure.
"Is everything good to go?" Phillips asked as he stepped into the shuttle’s cockpit.
"Affirmative, sir," Lieutenant T’Maril said from the pilot’s seat. "We’re just awaiting clearance to depart."
"Good," Phillips said as he settled into the chair opposite T’Maril.
On Approach to Starbase 23
6 October 2300 1027 hrs
Two days later, the Hawking came into an approach vector of Starbase 23.
"This is the shuttlecraft Hawking," T’Maril said, "transporting Captain Phillips. Request permission to land."
"Permission granted, Hawking," the voice of a spacedock control officer said. "Approach to shuttlebay sixteen; coordinates are being transmitted now."
The panel blinked, now displaying the data transferred from the starbase.
"Roger, Starbase 23, data recieved," T’Maril said as she brought the Hawking into approach for landing in shuttlebay sixteen.
6 October 2300 1330 hrs
"Captains," began the wiry Admiral Isoroku Naruhito, who was seated at the head of a conference room table with the commanding officers of the starships under his command, "as you are all aware, the situation with the Gorn and Kzin is becoming worse each day. The arms race the two powers have entered into is escalating at an alarming rate. Starfleet Intelligence believes war between them is imminent."
"With all due respect, sir," said Captain Patrick Glover of the Excelsior-class Starship Eratosthenes, "what does their situation have to do with us, as long as they keep the fighting out of Federation space?"
Naruhito eyed Glover for a moment before answering. "As long as they stay outside our space, not very damned much," Naruhito conceded, "but warships from both sides have been conveniently crossing the border with greater frequency of late. Not two days ago, there was even a firefight between a Kzinti warship and the Merrimac."
All eyes turned towards Phillips.
"Captain Phillips," Naruhito continued, "if you would fill us in?"
"Yes, sir," Phillips said. "After the ship crossed the border, we hailed them, but there was no response. Once they were in range, they fired a volley of photon torpedoes at us. We returned fire, and they retreated back across the border."
"They never established communications at all?" asked the Miranda– class Starship Lantree‘s Captain Jared Mirek.
"No," Phillips said, "unless you count being fired upon as communicating."
"As you can see," Naruhito interrupted, "as long as these incursions continue, their problem is our problem."
U.S.S. Merrimac NCC-1715
Patrolling the Gorn/Kzinti Border
6 October 2300 1632 hrs
"Enter," Lieutenant Commander Akric said. The doors to his quarters parted and Lieutenant M’Ress stepped into the room. "Can I help you, lieutenant?"
"Actually," the young Catian woman said, "I’m here to see if I can help you."
"I was not aware that I required assistance," Akric said, looking up from his monitor.
"Whenever you’re off-duty, you lock yourself up in here," M’Ress said, indicating Akric’s quarters with a wave of her arm.
"I prefer my privacy," Akric said. "Should I wish to waste my time in socializing, you will be the first to know."
"Having friends is not a waste of time," M’Ress argued. "What is so important that you can’t go out and have a good time?"
"’Having a good time’ is unproductive," Akric said. "If you must know, I spend my time keeping abreast of the latest technical advances, and I see if there’s a way to integrate them into this ship. I also seek to maintain peak efficiency of the ship’s systems at all times."
"That doesn’t sound like much fun," M’Ress said.
"To you perhaps," Akric said, "but to me, it is exhilarating."
En Route to U.S.S. Merrimac NCC-1715
7 October 2300 0501 hrs
"Sir," T’Maril said as she piloted the Hawking on its return trip to the Merrimac, "I’m picking up another vessel closing on our position; range two thousand kilometers, bearing 330 mark 15."
"What do you make of her?" Phillips asked, making his way into the cockpit.
"Unknown," T’Maril said. "She’s jamming our scanners. Attempting visual identification." T’Maril brought an image of the approaching ship on the small screen between the control panels. "Sir, it’s a Gorn ship. I’d say a battleship, judging by her configuration."
"Hail the Merrimac," Phillips said. "Inform them of our situation and request immediate assistance."
"Aye, sir," T’Maril said, keying the communications system. "Merrimac, this is Shuttlecraft Hawking. Do you read?" Static. "Merrimac, this is Shuttlecraft Hawking. We are being pursued by a Gorn battleship. Do you read?" More static. T’Maril looked at Phillips. "They’re jamming communications, sir. I can’t get a signal out."
"They’re charging weapons," Phillips said. "Evasive maneuvers."
T’Maril’s hands flew over her control board as the Hawking dodged phaser blast after phaser blast.
"Gorn vessel," Phillips said as T’Maril avoided another assault, "This is the Shuttlecraft Hawking, attached to the Federation Starship Merrimac. We are unarmed. Repeat, we are unarmed. Cease fire. You are in Federation space. Cease fire and return to your side of the border."
The Hawking shuddered as a phaser blast found its mark.
"We’re hit," T’Maril said, all emotion gone from her voice. "We’ve lost impulse drive. With thrusters and momentum, we may be able to make it to that nearby planet."
"Is it habitable?" Phillips asked.
"It barely qualifies as Class-M," T’Maril said. "Nighttime temperatures reaching two degrees celsius, and the atmosphere’s a little thin."
"Let’s do it," Phillips said. "And let’s hope our Gorn buddies don’t come down to finish the job."
"I don’t believe they are actually Gorn," T’Maril said. "They have been jamming sensors, but my intitial scans indicated the life- forms aboard were all warm-blooded."
"Well, whoever the hell they are," Phillips said, "they’ve won this round."
"Entering atmosphere," T’Maril said. "Impact in forty-five seconds. Inertial dampers and structural integrity fields set to maximum."
"Our pursuer is breaking off," Phillips said. "They’re entering orbit, probably to make sure we can’t get off the surface."
"Impact in ten seconds," T’Maril said. "Attempting to level our descent."
The Hawking struck the ground, bouncing and skidding across the surface for nearly a quarter of a mile before grinding to a halt. The transparent aluminum windows shattered, the nacelle struts were torn from the shuttle’s body. The Hawking would never be spaceworthy again.
Phillips and T’Maril, who was nursing a broken arm, ran from the wreckage into the nearby woods. They waited, watching the shuttle. Nothing happened. They stayed where they were, watching the wreckage as Phillips opened the medkit he’d grabbed before evacuating the Hawking.
Two hours later, Phillips said, "I think it’s safe to say they’ve left orbit. They probably think we’re dead. They likely know we can’t get off the surface."
"So," T’Maril said, "we’re stranded. What do we do now?"
"We need shelter," Phillips said. "We can probably whip something together in these woods. They’ll also be good for finding food."
As Phillips used his phaser to cut down several trees and turn them into smaller logs, T’Maril searched the wreckage of the Hawking to see if there was anything salvageable. She came up to Phillips, who was clearing off a section of ground and laying the logs to build the foundation of a small cabin.
"Sir," T’Maril said, "I was able to recover some emergency rations, thermal blankets, a tricorder, and our communicators."
"How are the sensors and the comm system aboard the shuttle?" Phillips asked.
"Inoperable," T’Maril said.
"Great," Phillips muttered. "It’s getting dark already. We’d better sleep in what’s left of the shuttle tonight. We can work on the cabin some more tomorrow."
As night fell and the air grew colder, Phillips and T’Maril had to huddle together under the thermal blankets to stay warm. Phillips found the situation disconcerting, especially given that their proximity was beginning to arouse him.
"I’m sorry," Phillips apologized. "It’s not appropriate, between a captain and a member of his crew…"
"Sir," T’Maril interrupted, "I understand. It’s a natural reaction. I’m not offended."
Finally, mercifully, the two eventually fell asleep.
20 October 2300 2118 hrs
Phillips and T’Maril had been stranded on the surface of the planet for two weeks, and the cabin was complete. The emergency rations had run out by the fourth day, but they had been able to find food in the woods.
T’Maril had no trouble identifying edible plants with the tricorder, but was reluctant to eat the animals Phillips had trapped. Unfortunately, the plants they had found were not enough to meet their nutritional needs by themselves, and T’Maril relented.
Phillips and T’Maril, upon completing the cabin, had turned their attention to repairing the damaged sensors and communications equipment in the wreckage of the shuttle. Using a makeshift solar array T’Maril had constructed to recharge their phasers, communicators and tricorder, they were able to keep the shuttle’s power cells operational, but the wiring and damaged panels were not so easily repaired, and they had spent considerable time trying to jury-rig the systems. They were, admittedly, far from success.
The nights inside the cabin were not as cold as when they’d slept in the wreckage, now that they had four walls and a fireplace, but the temperatures within the cabin were still very cold. The two were again huddled together for the night.
"Jack?" T’Maril asked, as she had taken to referring to Phillips by his given name.
"Yes?" Phillips responded, shifting under the blanket.
"I must inform you," T’Maril said, "I find you attractive."
"Now, T’Maril," Phillips said, "we’ve gone over this. I’m your commanding officer. It wouldn’t be appropriate."
"Commanding what?" T’Maril asked. "We’re stranded on an uninhabited planet, with no means of getting off-world."
"We will be rescued," Phillips said.
"In all honesty," T’Maril replied, "our chances of getting the communications system back on-line are extraordinarily slim."
"We can do it," Phillips said. "Now, let’s get some sleep."
26 October 2300 1317 hrs
Over the course of the next week, Phillips and T’Maril spent less time conversing. T’Maril’s hopes of being rescued faded by the day, while Phillips became more adamant about repairing the communications system.
Finally, three weeks after crashing on the planet’s surface, the unit sparked, then came to life.
"Hawking to Merrimac," Phillips said. "Do you read? This is Shuttlecraft Hawking to Merrimac. Do you read?"
"Merrimac here," M’Ress’ voice finally crackled through the speakers. "There’s a lot of static in your transmission. Where have you been, sir? We were beginning to think you were dead!"
"We were forced down by a Gorn battleship," Phillips said. "Transmitting our coordinates now." Phillips pushed a button, sending the pre-coded data stream, giving their precise location to the Merrimac.
"Data rec–" M’Ress said, to be cut off by static, then the communications system died completely.
"Well," Phillips said, "we got our position to them. Now that they know where we’re at, they’ll be able to send a shuttle for us."
"Hopefully, they’ll bring fresh uniforms," T’Maril said. "We’ve been wearing these for three weeks."
Captain’s Log. Stardate 139438.2
After three weeks stranded on the surface of an uninhabited planet, Lieutenant T’Maril and I have successfully returned to the Merrimac. Apparently, quite a bit has happened while we were gone. The Gorn and Kzin declared war on one another, and the hostile actions from both sides on vessels within Federation space have increased. However, with the information T’Maril and I obtained before crashing, one has to wonder: is it really the Gorn and Kzin who are attacking us, or is there someone else, hoping to drag the Federation into this war?