"All crew have reported in and
we are secured to leave orbit." McCloud announced from the Ops station.
"Good, go to Yellow alert and raise the shields" Captain Evans ordered. "Lieutenant, take us out of orbit and set a course for Deep Space 11, maximum speed."
"Course laid in Captain, we'll reach the base in five days." Tricia replied from the helm position.
"Five days, how come?" Ryan enquired. "I thought the base was only twenty three light years away."
"As the crow fly's Captain it is. But we're going to have to take a diversion around the Pluroria asteroid field. That's what's adding the extra day." Tricia replied.
"Could we navigate through it, Lieutenant?" Ryan enquired "If we can cut a day off our journey, I'd be much happier. Whatever this device is, the Romulan's seem to have a keen interest in obtaining it. Our encounter with the Tal'shiar operatives on the planet has proved that. We're no match for a Romulan warbird and I think we were lucky to escape with our lives. As the Warbird Commander said, he'd be back."
"Not that warbird." Nige said under his breath.
"We're certainly small enough to manoeuvre through the majority of the field, but it will be tricky." Tricia replied.
"So we'll need a good pilot won't we." Ryan replied, smiling at the Lieutenant.
"Altering flight pattern." Tricia announced. "Preparing to break orbit."
The Ronin started to move away from the planet.
"Captain, we can't break orbit." Tricia announced alarmingly.
"Cause." Ryan said turning to look at the Engineering station on the Bridge.
"Our relative mass has been increased by 50%, it's something to do with the device. Our thrusters are not powerful enough to break orbit." Ensign Johnson explained.
"So we're stuck in orbit." Ryan remarked. "Any suggestions?" he asked.
"Captain, Valarian battle cruiser is approaching, It's the T'ak H'ran. She's locked a tractor beam onto us. They're pulling us out of orbit." Nige announced.
"Ronin to T'ak H'ran." Ryan said.
[Commander Byork here.]
"Thanks for the tow Commander. But how did you know we wouldn't be able to break orbit?" Captain Evans asked.
[I'd like to discuss that in person, Captain if I may come across. We've been ordered to escort you to the border of our territory." Byork replied.
"Permission granted. I'll meet you in my ready room in twenty minutes. For now once again, I thank you for your help." Ryan said. "Lieutenant as soon as the Commander has come aboard, take us to warp."
"Affirmative Captain." Tricia acknowledged.
"Commander Kira, go to the transporter room and escort our guest to my ready room as soon as he arrived." Captain Evans ordered.
Twenty minutes later Commander Kira and Commander Byork arrived on the Bridge and walked towards the Captain's ready room.
The door opened and Captain Evans greeted his guest.
"Welcome aboard Commander." He said. "Would you like to sit down? I'm intrigued by your comments a few minutes ago."
The two officers walked towards the Captain desk, where Byork sat down, whilst the Captain went around the other side of the desk.
"What I am about to tell you is strictly off the record. If anyone in the Valarian Space Command heard that I'd told you anything of our experiments with the device, I'd probably be executed as a traitor." Byork said.
"You are amongst friends here Commander. But what about your crew? Can they be trusted." Ryan asked.
"The crew are loyal to both myself and the Valarian Kingdom. However, they all experienced the disaster and I know that several of my crew lost friends and family. They will not betray me." Byork replied.
"Disaster, exactly what happened?" Ryan asked.
"As you know, we found the device on a remote planet on the edge of our territories. We brought it back to the home world and discovered that it was some sort of transporter device. I'm sure your own people have already discovered this much." Byork started.
"They have, it seem to have a capacity to transport a large amount of matter, but we've not discovered how the device target's the destination." Ryan replied.
"Our scientists spent months examining the device and finally came to the conclusion that the only way to find out it's purpose was to power it up. The device was transferred and installed aboard the Battle cruiser Y'ak A'dar, which is the sister vessel to my own. We were ordered to escort and observe the tests, which were to take place in a uninhabited system about sixty light years away. There were over three hundred officers aboard and about the same number of scientists. The first test went well and the device was powered up. Then three days into the test, the disaster happened. The scientists in their infinite wisdom decided to bring the device up to full power. That was their undoing, the device went into overload and there was an almighty flash of light. The light blinded several of my crew. When we recovered our position, we discovered that there were two vessels. Somehow the device had made a duplicate of the Y'ak A'dar." Byork explained.
"So what we thought is true. It is some kind of 'cloning' device, but we never envisaged that it would be capable of creating a duplicate vessel." Ryan remarked.
"When we investigated the two ships we found that the real Y'ak A'dar had suffered major hull breaches and plasma fires from the overload and all the crew had died of asphyxiation or were brunt alive from exploding plasma. We lost everyone onboard." Byork explained.
"And the duplicate?" Ryan asked.
"That was intact, an exact duplicate of the Y'ak A'dar." Byork said.
"And the crew, were they also duplicated?" Ryan enquired.
"Yes. And unlike the 'real' crew they were still alive. Everything about them was identical, their appearance, their mannerisms and their memories." Byork said, sadness in his voice.
"I'm curious as to why your government didn't pass this information on to the Federation." Ryan remarked.
"Our Government was 'embarrassed by the incident. As we returned home, we encountered a group of Turkan raiders. They are a nuisance to some of our freighters, but not a major threat. Usually we disable their weapon systems and tractor them to the nearest base." Byork explained.
"But something different happened this time." Ryan said.
"Yes. For some reason, the Captain of the Y'ak A'dar ordered all the ships to be destroyed. They managed to destroy four of the raider ships before we managed to disable the Y'ak A'dar." Byork said.
"You fired on your own people, that's a hard thing to do. I know, I've done it both at a distance and face to face." Ryan remarked. "So what happened?"
"The Y'ak A'dar, with no offensive weapons to defend itself with ran. We gave chase and finally were forced to destroy the vessel. It was a sad day for the Valarian Kingdom." Byork said. "We lost sixty of my crew in that battle."
"You had no other choice." Ryan said. "It would appear that it was you or them. We're you able to find out what happened to the crew?"
"We managed to recover a couple of bodies and medical examinations found that their brains had been radically altered. But our scientist couldn't explain why this had happened or what effect it had had on the crew." Byork replied. "The official line is that whilst heading towards the test area, we were attacked by a group of Romulan war birds. The Y'ak A'dar was destroyed and all the crew lost their lives. "
"So your Government covered up the truth. To be honest that doesn't surprise me, there have been several occasions where the Federation has kept the truth from the populous." Captain Evans remarked. "Another thing that's been bugging me ever since our encounters with the Romulans is how did they know about the device." Ryan remarked.
"Unfortunately, I can also answer that. It would appear that the Romulans have been spying on us for a number of years. We found a small spy outpost situated on a moon close to the test area. We also intercepted and destroyed a Romulan Courier vessel leaving orbit. However, that was not before they managed to send a full report on what they had encountered." Byork explained.
"So they know of the devices capabilities, but not of it's side effects." Ryan remarked. "I thank you for this information and hope that this won't jeopardise your position. As a token would you care to dine with my first officer and myself this evening? I can't promise you as lavish a dinner as you served us, but I think we will have an enjoyable evening."
"I would be honoured Captain. If I may be so bold, I'd also like to take a look at your vessel. I have learnt from various sources that this vessel was designed to fight. It seems amazing that a ship so small could be so formidable in a fight." Byork asked.
"I'm sure the Commander would be delighted to give you the VIP tour." Ryan replied. "Shall we go and ask him?"
The two of them rose from their seats and headed back on the Bridge.
"What's our status?" Ryan asked.
"We're travelling at warp 8.7, with the T'ak H'ran alongside. All systems report green Captain." Nige said, rising from the command chair.
"So everything is running smoothly, good. Commander, I have a little job for you." Ryan said. "The Commander here has requested a tour of the ship and I said that you'd be delighted to be of service."
Nige caught his face before his reluctance showed. Diplomacy wasn't something that he liked to do. He'd spent the last few days being diplomatic and now he was going to have to do it all over again.
"Of course Captain, I'd be delighted." Nige said with unconvincing confidence.
Nige and Commander Byork headed towards that back of the Bridge and left.
Suddenly the lights dimmed on the Bridge.
"Captain to Engineering. What just happened?" Ryan asked.
[We had a momentary power drain Captain, nothing to worry about. Ever since we hooked the device up to the power grid we've experience one or two. They've not been noticeable until now because our power demands have been low. I've already compensated for the problem, it shouldn't happen again.] Lieutenant McQueen replied from Engineering.
"Keep an eye on it. Evans out".