“Good morning, XO.”
“Good morning, Captain.”
Each and every day for the last two months had begun the same way for the crew of the U.S.S. Firebrand, N.C.C. 695. A Saladin-class Destroyer, the ship consisted of a circular primary hull attached to a single warp nacelle via a pylon extending from the bottom of the saucer at the rear. Although the Firebrand appeared a lightweight, the smaller Starfleet vessel could still pack a punch.
Her present mission had the ship and her crew of two hundred relegated to the dubious honour of border patrol. That it was along the now quiet Romulan Neutral Zone made it even more tedious.
The starship's captain was an earth-born human whose ancestry could be traced back to France in the old national system. Captain Suzette Duquesne was in her mid thirties and had only just recently attained that rank. She was of average height, brunette to match her eyes, and had a sweet, friendly smile that belied her keen intellect. Her mind was a natural computer which was able to complete complex analyses often before the ship's could.
As they stood in the turbolift headed for the Bridge, she looked up at her First Officer, a handsome, Deltan male named Juliar. His hair was the typical pure white for his people, and likewise his eyes were a deep blue.
The Captain gave him one of her trademark grins. In the mere two months they had served together aboard the Firebrand they had forged a solid bond. “What do you think the weather's going to be like today?” she asked. It was a little running joke between them they shared each morning.
“Cloudy, with a chance of rain,” Lieutenant Commander Juliar answered cheerfully.
Suzette's eyebrows shot up. “As long as it's not raining meteors. I've had enough of them to last a lifetime,” she said ruefully.
The turbolift came to a stop and its doors parted, allowing the pair to assume their duties. They were gratified to see that Alpha shift had already assumed their roles.
Suzette took her place at the Conn and logged herself in. Once her chores were done, she considered the small Chess board attached to her chair's armrest. She had considered her next move all night and had decided aggression was her best strategy. Before announcing her move, she glanced at the view screen.
The magnified image of the Romulan Warbird Eagle's Wing was mirroring their course on the opposite side of the Neutral Zone, putting them a mere ten kilometres away. Both ships were staying a respectful distance from the Zone and had been keeping tabs on the other for the last fifty-nine days.
Five solar days into the tedium, Suzette had suggested to her opposite number on the Warbird that he engage her in a game of Chess. They had to do something to alleviate the boredom, she had said in her proposal.
For three days she received no reply. Then, finally, they received a simple message. Yes. P to K4.
The instructions were obvious to any seasoned Chess player as the standard opening gambit. The game was on. Since then, each Captain had won a game apiece. However, in this game Suzette was already under threat.
She glanced at her Communications Officer. “Send B to KR4. That should get him thinking,” she said as darkly as one who reminded people of Snow White could.
Her XO spoke up and reported: “Coming up on Asteroid RNZ 13754.”
Captain Duquesne turned her eyes to the screen as the huge rock designated 13754 began edging onto the screen. If it continued to pass between them the Eagle's Wing would be out of sight for a few moments. Not to worry, Suzette thought. Their course had brought them by it five times already. The sixth should be no different.
A moment later, the Warbird vanished from sight. In the past, the Eagle's Wing would quickly increase velocity and be waiting for them on the other side.
Out of the corner of her eye, Suzette noticed her Science Officer's head pop up from his scanners in alarm. “Captain, I'm picking up weapons fire on the other side of the asteroid. A lot of it.”
Before Suzette could enquire further the Comm's officer announced: “Captain, we're receiving a distress call from the Eagle's Wing.”
Always the type to go where Angels fear to tread, Captain Duquesne ordered: “Battlestations!”
Throughout the pocket starship, her well trained crew raced to make sure the ship was ready for anything.
Suzette got to her feet. She always felt more in control of a situation when she faced it standing. “Helm: intercept course. Full impulse power. Arm all weapons and raise shields.”
The small, but highly manoeuvrable Firebrand quickly surged forward and circumnavigated the rock. What they found caused Suzette's jaw to drop.
The remnants of the Eagle's Wing sparked and crackled as the residual energy from the ship's shattered hull leaked out into space.
On either side of the hulk sat formidable Klingon D-7 Heavy Cruisers, their weapons pods glowing and pointed in her direction.
Realising instantly they were hopelessly over-matched the Captain ordered: “Helm, get us out of here.”
At that moment, both enemy vessels fired simultaneously, launching a volley of photon torpedoes that a small part of Suzette's brain registered as overkill. Another part wondered why they were Starfleet blue instead of Klingon red. The most part realised they would not get out of the way in time.
“Checkmate,” she said in resignation just before the torpedoes detonated.
The Klingon Cruisers cloaked five minutes later and headed home once they were certain that both ships were well and truly dead.