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[Age of Mouldwarp]    
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Cool Heads (Part 1)
Keb dreaded this duty above all others. Escort service. As chief of security for the U.S.S. Copernicus, the Bolian lieutenant commander was the first officer Captain Matheson turned to when a visiting dignitary came aboard the ship. He didn't mind it, really. It just wasn't much of a challenge. And it was invariably tasking on his nerves. The Romulan senator the ship was hosting, Tavol, was being as uncooperative as possible, insisting on seeing all the parts of the ship Keb couldn't let him. When shot down, Tavol would offer up a rude remark about "Starfleet hospitality," and Keb would have to use all of his restraint to not knock the senator's pointed-eared head with the pocketed phaser he kept at his hand at all times.

"Take me to Captain Matheson's quarters," Tavol requested.

Keb was astonished. This of all places would seem to be obviously off-limits. "I believe I'll have to pass on that," he replied right away.

"That wasn't a request. It was an order," the Romulan returned, equally promptly. "Admiral Logan was quite clear in his own orders, I believe. If you will not listen to me, perhaps your superiors will pull more weight?"

"Captain Matheson likes her privacy," Keb protested. "She'll be on duty again in just under an hour."

"Then she should already be prepared for visitors. Good," Tavol sneered. "I am to have access to all portions of this ship directly relating to the business at hand. The captain of this vessel would seem to apply."

Robin Matheson was, in fact, hardly ready for visitors. She was a notoriously heavy sleeper, a fact that had kept Admiral Logan from putting her in anything but support positions during the Dominion War. She was cranky, ill-mannered, and generally disagreeable if she got below seven hours of wink, but to be fair, the rest of the day she rivaled the best Starfleet had to offer. She simply needed her rest, and she had earned it the previous day. What Keb was now going through paled to the experience she'd had on Romulus itself. A high brass meeting with every member of the Senate, a private session with the praetors following that, and then a briefing with Logan via subspace. Commander Franzoni had been gracious enough to afford her an extra hour's rest, and even that would need be followed with the strongest cup of Green Leaf Tea she'd have needed since the War ended three years ago.

Tavol reached the door before Keb, and he promptly rang the chime. Matheson froze for a moment, but then called up the computer to find out who it was, and upon finding out, thanked the befumbled system directly that she was already in uniform.

"Come in," she at last allowed.

The Romulan senator found himself blocked by the Bolian, who was determined to establish himself as in command of the situation. Keb motioned the guest in before him, and Matheson extended a far too chipper greeting in turn. That cup of tea she'd gulped down was kicking in with great earnest.

"Senator Tavol, I've been expecting your visit," Matheson said.

"As you should have. Your security chief has been most uncooperative," Tavol replied, to which Keb shuffled a little.

"I don't pay Keb to be a push-over," Matheson returned. "Tell me, what brings you here at this hour?"

"We need to reach Kronos earlier than expected. I've received a communiqué that suggests war may be closer than we'd originally considered."

War?, thought Keb, who was now feeling more on edge than ever. The Soyuz class Copernicus had avoided much of the War for diplomatic missions such as this had first seemed to be. Though perfectly capable of combat, the ship wasn't his first choice to rally into battle, nor the crew one he'd feel comfortable fighting alongside. They were a good crew, sure, but war?

"Care to divulge? Oh my, of course not. You couldn't possibly be at liberty to," Matheson observed.

"You're quick, for a human," Tavol said. "It would seem the influence of the Duras family will not die, as all of its members have, including the recent fatality of young Toral."

"Which the Romulan government had nothing to do with, naturally," Matheson commented.

"The nuisance my own people are burdened with, the exiled Selar, is more likely the cause. Of all our struggles," Tavol replied matter-of-factly. "I wouldn't put it past her to double-cross her own cohorts."

Is that not a Romulan trait?, Keb said to himself.

"Have you any idea of where she is," Matheson inquired.

"We suspect in Klingon space," Tavol began, "where she has instigated more than just a civil war this time. She must be stopped."

"Kronos itself?" Matheson asked of the Romulan senator.

"Far too obvious. We suspect a moon base around one of the sibling worlds," Tavol noted. The Klingons, as one Starfleet commander once noted for himself, never did anything small. They had no less than twelve moon bases within the planets of their empire, half of them suspected of being inhabited by rogue elements.

"Do you have a lucky guess as to which one or do we have to check them all?" Matheson said wryly.

"Fortunately, we've managed to narrow it down to one, yes," Tavol revealed. "Tro'Paq in orbit of Kronos IV."

Tapping her combadge, Matheson reported to the bridge, "Lt. Nelson, set a course for Klingon moon Tro'Paq, warp 5. I'm on my way."

Nelson soon found himself otherwise occupied. A Klingon Bird-of-Prey decloaked in front of the Copernicus, causing Commander Franzoni to order immediate evasive action: "Shake them if you can, Joel, but just buy us some time. I don't want to start a war without the Captain's permission." The Klingon ship, oddly, followed this course of action, pursuing instead of engaging the Starfleet vessel. Nelson was perplexed, but he was an excellent pilot. The chase was on.

At Ops, Lt. Cmdr. Hounsou offered some insight into the situation: "It seems the Klingons can't fire on us because their ship is damaged. They've already seen action today."

"From who?" Franzoni asked.

"There aren't any other ships in the area and I'm not detecting any residual signatures of recent origin," Hounsou reported. "But the Bird-of-Prey has definitely been wounded recently."

"Could it be another cloaked vessel?" Nelson wondered at the con.

"That would imply either another Klingon ship, or Romulans," Franzoni deduced. The ship rocked from phaser fire at that moment, and Matheson arrived simultaneously with Senator Tavol and Keb.

"Report!" Matheson shouted.

"There's a Klingon Bird-of-Prey out there, and another--" Franzoni began before another shot rocked the Copernicus.

"I can help you if its one of Selar's ships," Tavol directed toward Matheson. "But there's no guarantee that the Klingons aren't on that ship as well."

"I don't care; do whatever you can," Matheson replied before following Keb to the tactical station, where he relieved a Trill ensign.

"Damage reports are coming in; Doctor Sokor has twelve wounded. Decks 5 through 7 have hull fractures which Cmdr. Zimmer has already sent teams to repair, and shields are down to 85%, he reported. "Other than that, we could easily host a Dom'Jot tournament without raising too many eyebrows."

At Ops, Hounsou and Tavol had pinpointed a signature. "Its Romulan," Hounsou stated.

Matheson didn't wait long before turning to Tavol, "If there's anything else you can do to be of help here, feel free to volunteer it."

"Unfortunately, anarchists have a slight problem with authority, if you were thinking I could speak to them," Tavol remarked. "I could help you pinpoint the cloak frequency, but that's all."

"Better that than nothing," Franzoni said.

"Do it, then," Matheson barked.

The Romulan did as ordered, with a noticeable frown on his face. Keb meanwhile traced the pattern of the two shots and stated that he had a good idea of where the ship was. Matheson then ordered Nelson to back off from the Klingon ship's pursuit so Keb could have a better shot. Tavol and Hounsou tracked the Romulan ship down and relayed its exact position to Keb, who immediately opened fire. Two quantum torpedo shots later, the Romulan Warbird shimmered into view.

The Warbird fired upon the Bird-of-Prey upon decloaking, and the Klingon ship exploded in a ball of fire. Matheson looked on, shocked at the development, but Tavol seemed to have expected it: "You've reopened the door, Captain. What else did you expect?"

"Hail them!" she barked in return.

After a moment, Hounsou announced: "They aren't responding."

"Just make sure they don't try to run," Franzoni remarked.

For a moment, nothing happened. The Warbird sat in space, as if frozen by its own actions, and Matheson didn't know what else to do. "Try again," she said, finally, to Hounsou.

"It's not likely that--" Tavol began before Hounsou cut him off.

"Connection established. Putting on the main viewer; Praetor Neerok would like to have a word with you."

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characters and story © copyright Sean "Waterloo" McKenna 2001-2003; Star Trek copyright Paramount