The room was silent for a few long moments as the enormity of what they'd just witnesses penetrated their brains.
"So what exactly are you saying, Admiral?" asked Chief Talsmin. "That these Talosians of yours are going to test us too? Because if they are, we're ready!" A general murmur of agreement arose from the table.
"I wish it were only that, Chief," said Pike. "No, this time it's much more serious. This time the Kelvans are coming for real, and odds are, it'll be with more than just a single Battle Planet. We *better* be ready!"
"How can we possibly fight multiple Battle Planets, sir? The *Knight* was destroyed, and they were up against only one," asked Lieutenant O'Neil.
"We have the benefit of hindsight, Lieutenant. >From these records we know what worked and what didn't work against the Kelvans. For example, phasers were of limited use. Torpedoes worked much better. We have the blueprints for temporal shield generators that proved effective against the Kelvan weapons. Plus we have the plans to build another Genesis Device. In other words, we'll be ready for them, and they don't know it."
"Plus we've still got our secret weapon," said Tyran nudging Kira with his elbow, referring to the Commander's special abilities.
"That's right," acknowledged Pike. "So. Here's the situation." He turned around to face the holodeck again and said into the air, "Computer, show tactical display."
Immediately a large three dimensional graphic representation of the Milky Way Galaxy appeared, hovering above the center of the room. The Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta Quadrants were clearly demarked, as were the political boundaries of the Alpha Quadrant major powers. The Federation was a blue colored zone about two thirds of the way out from the center of the Galaxy surrounded by the colors of the Klingon, Romulan and Cardassian empires, plus a few other smaller areas controlled by the Ferengi, Breen, Tzenkathi, Gorn and Tholians.
Pike narrated, "In the Talosian test the *Knight* faced, the Kelvans entered out Galaxy at the rim, here." A bright yellow flashing dot appeared at the outer edge of the Galaxy's disk, at about the eight o'clock position. "However, indications are that the real Kelvan invasion will follow a different route." At that, the first flashing yellow dot disappeared, to be replaced by a second dot, this one above the plane of the Galaxy halfway between the innermost edge of the Federation and the center of the Galaxy. "That's why the *Ronin* was assigned this mission to explore the region towards the Galactic core -- so that we'd be in position when the Kelvans arrived.
"This is our mission: to make first contact and try for a peaceful resolution if at all possible. Failing that, we are to engage the enemy, buying time for Starfleet and the other Alpha Quadrant governments to ready a defense."
He turned his back to the holographic display and it faded out. The room was once again silent. He saw the importance of their task register on the faces of the officers seated before him and suddenly the weight that had been hanging over him since he'd received the Talosians' message lifted. He knew beyond a shadow of doubt that this crew was easily the equal of his old crew on the *Knight*, and that somehow they'd find a way to accomplish the impossible task set before them.
"You'll find a complete copy of the information from the *Knight's* encounter with the Talosians and the Kelvan test downloaded into your personal computer space, including the specs for the new weapon systems. Please study it. Meeting adjourned."
With that everyone rose from their seats and began shuffling out of the holodeck. Pike intercepted Captain Evans and quietly said to him, "Not you, Captain. We still need to talk."
Commander Bentara was standing nearby and overheard. "Mind if I join you," she said, She said it not as a request for permission as much as a simple statement of intent.
Pike looked like he was about to object, but Evans intercepted him quickly and said, "Sounds like a good idea." Pike grunted in reluctant acceptance and said, "Let's go to your office."
*Minutes later.... *
Bentara had seated herself on the couch in the Captain's ready room, while the two men stood facing each other. Captain Evans spoke before Pike could begin. "Admiral, it's clear that if we're going to go into battle with the Kelvans, the senior officer aboard must take command, and--"
Pike held up his hand, interrupting his speech. "Those were my original orders from Starfleet, Captain. That's the real reason I'm aboard your ship. But I think it'll be enough if I took the position of "mission specialist" and let you retain command."
"With all due respect, Admiral" began Evans, but Pike cut him off.
"No argument, Ryan," said Pike. He gave his younger counterpart a reassuring smile. "I know how *I'd* feel if some big brass admiral came aboard *my* ship and took over."
"Well, if you're sure, Admiral ."
"I am," said Pike confidently. "You take care of your ship. I'll take care of the Kelvans."
"I think I got the better half of that deal, Admiral," said Evans ruefully.
"Hmph," was Pike's grumbled reply. With that, and a respectful nod in Bentara's direction, Pike excused himself and left the ready room, leaving Evans and Bentara alone.
<<< OOC: The complete story of the fight between the Knight and the Kelvans can be found at the Knight's web site under the chapter headings "The Fall of the Federation - Parts 1 and 2". >>>