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Star Trek: "Before Destruction!"* - An Original Novel By Michael Rossi

                                 Author's Note:

          The following story takes place immediately after the
     'Vintage' Trek episode entitled "Requiem for Methuselah".  It
     also ties into the entire Trek world, thankfully created by
     the late Gene Roddenberry.  Specific episodes that are referenced
     prominently are: "Requiem for Methuselah", "Whom Gods Destroy",
     "Day *f the Dove" and "Errand of Mercy".  As with all works in the
     Trek universe, this one takes a few liberties... but only a few, and
     maintains the "Character" and "Spirit" that has made Trek my favorite
     world of imagination.  Although this story relies on past episodes,
     it is independent of any other "S.T. Novel" or the contents therein.

          I would like to take this time to thank the writer's of the
     aforementioned episodes, and all the others who have contributed to
     the world of Trek in a positive way.  Specifically I wish to thank
     them for showing me that, although fictional, it reflects hope, truth,
     loyalty, justice, honor, faith, and love.  Trek authors have boldly gone
     where others have feared to tread.  Tackling delicate issues of morality
     and justice unflinchingly, from the very beginning.  Episodic topics
     have ranged from the "Cold War" to the "Bible" and have always spoken to
     current issues with an underlying sense of the "right" and "wrong" of
     them, or the "good" and "evil".  I attribute the success of the series
     not merely to the actors and crew, but to these writers who envisioned
     a hopeful future, but never left the wisdom of the past.

             Thank you.



                                   And Now:


                          Star Trek: "Before Destruction"*

            *Star Trek is a Registered Trademark of Paramount Pictures
                         Copyright 1991 by Michael Rossi

                            ***    PROLOGUE    ***

             Captain James Tiberius Kirk, of the Starship Enterprise,
        yielded finally to the merciful, if often elusive, hand of sleep.
        Dr. Lenard McCoy had helped him on his way.  His cabin was darkened
        as he sat behind his desk with his head down atop folded arms.
        The sleeves of his gold and black Captain's uniform were still
        moist from the tears he was unable to hold back any longer.  Though
        asleep, he was neither at rest nor at peace.  Phantasms of his
        tormented heart were there to greet him as he entered the place of
        his dreams.

             Behind him, like a chiselled monolithic sentinel, stood the
        Vulcanian Science Officer, Spock.  He looked upon his Captain,
        moved with a compassion he had never experienced before.  Not
        expressed on his face, nor seen in the fathomless depths of his
        eyes, the emotion drove him, forcing him to a decision.  His
        logical mind did what it could to prevent him from acting, but the
        force from his half-human heart was irresistible.  The pain of his
        Captain was now inexplicably yet undeniably his own.  And then the
        decision was made.

             Spock, the man, moved towards his Captain, and gently placed
        his fingers upon the troubled brow of his friend.  He closed his
        own eyes and concentrated.  "Forget," he spoke to the heart of his
        Captain, "Forget..."

                                 *         *         *

             "They will be coming..." the voice spoke out prophetically.

             "How many?" came a second voice with a strange sadness in it.

             "Two ships, one from either side.  But only one of their
        'landing parties' will descend," answered the first voice.

             "Should we prevent them from approaching?" came a third voice.

             "No," said the second, "It must be."

             "They are fearful.  They believe we have answers to their
        fear," said the first.

             "Perhaps they are correct but they may not wish to hear
        what we have to say.  For they have heard the truth from the
        beginning, and are still willingly ignorant of it.  The pride of
        their vain imagination, their love of 'self', these are points of
        their blindness.  Nevertheless, we are merely messengers of the
        truth, not creators of it...  Let them come," spoke the second

        "Let them come," agreed the third voice.

        "They shall come..." prophesied the first.

                                      PAGE A

                                ***  ONE  ***

                  Captain's personal log, Stardate: 5845.9.
             "It has been mere hours since we have left orbit around
        Holberg 917g, yet my memory of it seems to fade with our increasing
        distance.  Holberg, was not on our intended agenda but a necessary
        break from our course, for on its surface in crude form was the
        vital mineral "Ryetalyn" which when refined was the main ingredient
        for a cure to Rigellian Fever.  A landing party from the Enterprise
        had contracted Rigellian Fever weeks ago and the virus had swept
        the crew, which made our need one of desperation.  Upon arrival at
        the out-of-the way planet, Myself, First Officer Spock and Dr.
        Leonard McCoy found the dwelling of a most amazing man."

             "We found that the man, Flint, living in isolation from the
        rest of the universe, had no record of ever existing on file in any
        Starfleet or Federation memory banks.  That is, under the name of
        Flint.  However, our observations of his personal possessions..."

             Captain James T. Kirk sat upright in his chair.  To his
        astonishment, he could not recall any of his previous observations
        of Flint's personal possessions.  In fact, he was losing most of the
        thoughts that he was sure he had only moments ago concerning the
        man.  He remembered the floating M-4 robot that gathered the
        Ryetalyn.  He remembered the end result; his crew whole again.  But
        there was much missing... and something painful.  Something that
        could burst his heart, were he able to recollect what that
        'something' was.

             "Captain Kirk, this is Lieutenant Uhura, please respond." The
        communications speaker broke the dark silence of his cabin and
        snapped Kirk's head up.  The Captain blinked twice, hard, to arouse
        himself out of his trance-like state of thought.  He reached for
        the comm button and winced at a small pain in his side.

             "Kirk here; what is it, Lieutenant?"

             "I have picked up a weak distress signal, Sir.  I
        couldn't make out anything vocally but they used the emergency
        frequency with a pulse wave."

             "Were you able to pin-point its origin?"

             "It came from quadrant eight seventy-one, Captain.  No
        specific location as of yet, but I'm trying to narrow it down."
        Her voice was steady, yet expressed her concern.

             "Eight seventy-one?  Then it hasn't reached Starbase Sixteen
        yet?"  He understood her concern.  It was very likely that they
        were the only ones who had heard the distress signal.

             "No Sir.  If it makes it there at all, it won't be for another
        two hours.  It is very weak, Captain."

                                      PAGE 1

             "Two point one three hours, Captain," Spock added, obviously
        standing close to Uhura.

             "Thank you Mr. Spock.  Lieutenant Uhura, contact Starfleet
        concerning the signal.  Inform them that we are going in to locate
        its origin." Kirk switched off his log recorder.  "Mister Sulu?"

             "Yes, Sir!" The deep voice spoke confidently.

             "Set course for quadrant eight seventy-one, warp seven."

             "Aye aye, Sir," replied Sulu.

             Captain Kirk changed the comm channel to the intra-ship
        setting.  "This is Captain Kirk, all hands Yellow Alert, repeat,
        Yellow Alert!"

                               *         *         *

             Captain Kirk strode onto the bridge of the Starship
        Enterprise.  Glancing across the spacious cabin, he noted all were
        at their stations doing what he knew, was their best.  "What do we
        have in quadrant eight seventy-one, Mr. Spock?"

             The tall and lean Science Officer turned towards his Captain
        placing his arms behind his back in a "parade rest" fashion.  His
        shiny black hair gleamed in the luminescence of the overhead
        lighting.  Some time ago, he could state exactly when, Spock had
        committed to memory all Starbases and Federation outposts in all
        quadrants.  "Science Station Copernicus, Elba II, six abandoned
        Dilithium mines, and the Golon Star System, Captain," he stated.
        "It is, however, heavily traversed by Federation cargo barges and
        privately owned freighters," he added in a formal, even tone.

             "Keptin, it is only vun sector avay from the Klingon Neutral
        Zone.  Close enough to make a tribble squeal," said Ensign Checkov
        with a suppressed smile on his face.  Sulu, his companion at the
        helm, didn't bother to suppress his.

             "So noted Mister Checkov.  Uhura, try to make contact with
        Copernicus and Elba II."

        Kirk took the center seat, symbol of both a Captain's power and
        authority.  He stared at the main view screen watching the stars
        unfold.  He leaned forward and rested his right elbow on the arm
        of his chair, placing his chin in the palm of his hand.  The bright
        starscape before him was breathtaking, but even so, his mind began
        to drift back to the Holberg expedition.  'Something painful?'  He
        went over the events again in his mind; Rigellian fever, Holberg
        917g, Ryetalyn, the M-4 robot, Flint, bruised ribs.  'Bruised
        ribs?' Jim Kirk put his hand to his side.  He could feel the Flexi-
        truss under his shirt, and realized he did indeed have bruised ribs,
        but try as he might, he could not recall a single detail about how
        they came to be that way.

                                      PAGE 2

             "Captain," Uhura spoke softly.

             Jim snapped his head up, realizing he was brooding in front of
        his crew.  'They all get paranoid when I brood.' He thought to
        himself, and spoke, "Yes, Lieutenant?"

             "Science Station Copernicus confirms their reception of the
        distress signal."

             "Did they locate the source?" He swiveled his chair to face
        the beautiful, dark skinned communications officer.

             "It's coming through now, Sir."  She placed her hand to her
        ear to block out the various sounds emanating from the bridge.

             "There seems to be some kind of interference, Sir.  I can't make
        out their message.  Possibly they are experiencing a solar flare or
        something releasing a large amount of energy in their quad."

             "Mister Spock?" He turned to his First Officer.

             "Analyzing, Captain." The Vulcan bent over his science
        station's instrument panel.  "Unsure, Captain.  As the Lieutenant
        pointed out, there is a vast dispersal of energy between Copernicus
        and our present course heading.  However, from the effect it is
        having on the subspace channel, I would hypothesize that it is an
        unnatural event."

             "I have it now, Sir," Uhura said. "Copernicus reports they
        have identified the source code of the distress call.  It came from
        a space-vessel named the 'Fringe Ranger', in the immediate vicinity
        of Elba II."

             "The Fringe Ranger?  Spock, search the records and let me
        know what information you can find on it." Kirk returned his chair
        to its foreword position. "Alter course for Elba II, Mister Sulu."

             "Aye, Sir."

             The turbo-lift opened with a 'swoosh'.  Dr. McCoy in his
        blue medical uniform, stepped out silently.  He looked down to the
        man in the center seat.  McCoy had been and continued to be
        concerned with Jim's emotional state.  Deep depression in anyone
        can hinder judgement and cause abnormal actions and reactions.  In
        a Starship Captain, the consequences escalate exponentially.  In
        worst cases, it could jeopardize the safety of the crew.  But it
        was Jim Kirk, his friend, whom he worried about.  "Sickbay is
        ready, Jim." The Doctor rested on the upperdeck's arm-rail.  "How
        soon till we know any more?"

             "Soon.  We are on course for Elba II, Doctor.  I trust you are
        equally prepared to minister to their specific needs as well?"
        Elba II had been the only mental institution in the Federation for
        the criminally insane for nine years.

             "I'm prepared for every contingency.  Which reminds me, I have

                                      PAGE 3

        a special prescription prepared for you in my cabin when you can
        find the time."

             "One of your '100 Proof' remedies?" Jim said, hoping it wasn't
        a sneaky ploy to get him close enough to sickbay to give him a
        physical.  "I'll have to pass until this is taken care of, Bones."

             Spock turned from his station's computer console, "Captain,
        the Fringe Ranger is a decommissioned Yeager-Class cruiser with a
        complement of thirty-seven officers and crew, now carrying supplies
        to frontier colonies and Starfleet outposts.  It was apparently
        enroute to Elba II.  I have also analyzed her distress signal
        with interesting results." Kirk nodded for him to continue.  "The
        signal appears to have been sent prior to the phenomena causing the
        subspace disturbance, and I estimate a 97.43 probability that it was
        being jammed from close proximity."

             "Jammed?"  Kirk rose from his chair and moved to the science
        station.  He observed the readings indicating that it was so.  The
        flattened waves and distorted peaks of the line image looked very
        much like a jammed signal.

             "Who would jam a distress call in Federation space?" the
        doctor asked no-one in particular.

             "As Mr. Checkov pointed out earlier, we are not far from the
        Klingon Neutral Zone, and pirates have been known to be operative
        in this sector.  Mr. Sulu, precautionary Red Alert.  Mr. Checkov,
        Screens up, charge phasers," the Captain ordered.

             The alert claxon sounded, causing the crew's adrenal glands to
        surge in preparation for the emergency tasks they so often were
        required to perform. Ignorance was the greatest cause of fear among
        the battle-ready members. Not knowing the situation causing the
        alert allowed their minds to race in all directions. The Captain
        had been on the other end of command, and understood his crew's need
        for information.

             "Kill the claxon, Mr. Sulu." Jim returned to his chair,
        standing next to it, and again pressed the intra-ship comm.  "This
        is the Captain speaking.  We are on a rescue mission, but have
        cause to believe there may be enemy involvement.  It may be a false
        alarm, but stay sharp. Kirk out."

             The sensor panel by Spock crackled with electricity then
        exploded, to the surprise of everyone.  Before Spock could ascertain
        the reason for this, the Enterprise was hit hard by some powerful
        but unseen force. The ship rocked and vibrated, pitching those
        standing to the floor and causing several more overloads on the
        sensor panel.  Sparks flew and smoke billowed from the unit's side

             "Mr Spock, what hit us?" Kirk asked, regaining his footing.
        Another jolt, less in severity, hit the ship.

             Spock, also gathering himself up from the deck replied, "A

                                      PAGE 4

        concussion-energy wave of some magnitude.  Sensor feedback shorted
        out any early warning we might have received,"

             "Lieutenant Uhura?" The Captain did not have to make a
        complete request of the communications officer.  The closeness of
        the bridge officers occasionally circumvented any need of formal
        query in events such as this.

             "Damage to shields 3 and 4, long and short range sensors are
        out, minor structural damage below C deck.  Engineering reports,"
        her report was interrupted by a voice over the bridge speaker.

             "Capt'n, we got a problem with the main energizers. How long
        are ya gonna keep ma engines goin at full tilt?" said the
        definitively Scottish voice of the Chief Engineer.

             "We will be going sublight in a matter of minutes, Mr. Scott.
        Keep us on line until then, please."

             "I'll try Sir, but the intermix reactor to me port nacelle
        just went into the yellow.  I wouldn'a like you to have to jettison
        the whole unit."

             The doctor slipped off the bridge into the turbolift.  No
        matter how little damage there was, you could count on 5 or 6
        patients appearing in Sickbay with bloody noses and minor
        abrasions.  With blood dripping from his left nostril, the doctor
        wanted to get in line before the "Coagul-aid" was used up.

             "Coming up on the Petroski solar system and Elba II, Captain,"
        reported Sulu.

             "Slow to one quarter impulse power, with Mr. Scott's
        permission," Jim Kirk said, looking up at the bridge speaker.

             "Aye Sir, Scott out."

             "Slowing, Sir."

             "Keptin, we are peeking up debris on collision sensors.
        They appear to be asteroids directly in front of us vair there
        should be none," said Checkov.

             "Increase forward viewer magnification to 40.  How are
        the shields holding Mr. Checkov?"

             "Shields at 78 percent, Sir."

             The stars were shining brightly in the distance, but in
        front of them, increasingly blotting out the pinpoints of light,
        were dark spinning rocks growing in size as the Enterprise neared

             "How much longer before we have short range sensors back?" the
        Captain directed toward Uhura.

                                      PAGE 5

             "Tech crew says we may have short range back in 10 minutes.
        They haven't given me an estimate on the long range sensors as of
        yet, Sir."

             The Captain nodded in acknowledgement, "Mr. Sulu, all

             With steady hands on the instruments, "Slowing," Sulu stated.
        "All stop, Sir," he reported. "Thrusters at station-keeping."

             Spock observed the forward view screen with arms folded across
        his chest.  "Captain, the asteroids still appear to be advancing in
        our direction rapidly."  Kirk examined the distant rocks on the
        screen as Spock continued.  "By their angle of trajectory and
        dispersal, I would estimate they originated from some central point
        ahead of our present course.  Possibly from the event point of the
        energy dispersal that has been disturbing our communications."

             "They are getting closer, aren't they." He took a deep breath
        and slowly exhaled noisily, as if he was about to do something
        that he wished he didn't have to. "Mr. Sulu, do you recall what
        regulations state about a Starship entering a field of asteroids?"

             The Oriental officer looked at his comrade sitting next to
        him, and answered in an uncertain voice. "Uh, I believe section
        139, paragraph 62 or 63 states 'Stay the heck away from them
        unless it's an emergency'.  Paraphrased, Sir."

             "Are you willing to make the attempt?" Kirk asked him.

             A wry smile appeared on the adventurous Lieutenant's face,
        still looking at Checkov, who gave him an uncomfortable nod. "I
        think so, Captain"

             "In that case, shields double front Mr. Checkov.  Arm Photon
        torpedoes, we may need to blast our way through a few of them.  Do
        not wait for my command to fire.  That may take too long." He
        pressed the intra-ship communication switch.  "This is the Captain;
        prepare for rough maneuvers.  We will be piloting through a
        hazardous area so take all precautions accordingly.  Captain out."
        Then to the lieutenant with whom he now entrusted his ship, "Take
        us through, Mr. Sulu, and try to save the paint job."

             "Aye, Sir, accelerating to point zero-four sub-light."

             The sleek giant of a Starship moved closer toward the oncoming
        space debris.  The first tiny particles hit the shields, making
        sparks visible on the main viewer.  Although the vacuum of space
        made it impossible, the bridge crew could almost hear the micro
        asteroids hiss, as they came in contact with the ship's protective
        energy barrier.

             The larger asteroids were now approaching.  The collision
        alarm blasted through the silence on the bridge, then ceased as the
        Captain signaled its termination.  The Enterprise suddenly pitched

                                      PAGE 6

        starboard then to port as Sulu deftly navigated her through the
        deadly floating rocks.  The crew was being pulled side to side,
        as the artificial gravity strained to adjust to the inertial force
        changes.  Then their motion changed to up and down as the ship
        narrowly missed a large one cutting across her bow.  It was as
        if they were on some mad man's ride in an amusement park, but
        amusement was not what the crew was experiencing.  Without warning,
        spiraling in from the side, came a jagged asteroid that Sulu
        couldn't move around in time.  Almost immediately upon seeing it,
        it exploded.  It was destroyed by a torpedo that shot away from
        the ship like a fiery dart to obliterate the cold rock.  And still
        the asteroids came.

             Dodging the larger ones was becoming easier, but the smaller
        ones could neither be avoided, nor targeted in time.  They hit the
        ship in a unmerciful barrage, jolting and shaking the vessel until
        she felt as if she was going to come apart.  Flashes of powerful
        energy lit up the viewer as torpedo after torpedo shot from the
        ship's underside and either intercepted, or missed their targets.

             The strain on the ship could be heard over the whine of her
        impulse engines, accelerating and decelerating. And then came...
        silence, as Enterprise sliced through the ebony sky on the other
        side of the asteroids.

             Sulu was the first to breathe a sigh of relief, before the
        rest of the bridge crew realized the danger had passed.  He looked
        over to Checkov, who was shaking a little, then noticed  that he,
        himself, could not remove his hands from the controls.

             The Captain, being just that, would not let his crew know the
        extent of his relief, but he stepped down behind Sulu and Checkov
        and rested his hands on their shoulders.  "Next time we get to
        Aldebaron, I'm buying."

             Spock, apparently unruffled by their ordeal, noticed the green
        light on his science station's short range scanner and gave it his
        attention.  "Captain, Short range sensors are now operational," he
        announced. "We are nearing Jirus, the fifth planet in the Petroski
        solar system...  Fascinating," he stated, looking into the apparatus.
        "Captain, Jirus does not appear to be in its natural orbit."

             "This is... not good." He rubbed his chin slowly.  "Uhura,
        have you been able to contact Elba II at all, or receive any of
        their transmissions?"

             "No contact yet, Sir."

             "Spock?" He turned to his first officer, who was still
        looking down into his station's scanning equipment.

             "One moment, Sir." Spock pressed two buttons without looking
        up from the equipment, pressed another, then straightened himself
        and turned toward Kirk.  "Captain, " he said, "Elba II is not
        there."  He waited for the full meaning of what he said to sink in.
        "I believe we may have just passed through the remains of the

                                      PAGE 7

             "My God, Spock, are you certain?" Kirk said in astonishment.

             "It would explain the orbital shift of its neighboring planet
        Jirus," said the Vulcan.  "The mass loss of one planet would effect
        the gravitational pulls of the entire system."

             "Uhura," said the captain, "Contact Starfleet Command.  Tight
        beam, and scrambled.  I want it to penetrate that energy wave.
        Fill them in and inform them we will scan the area for debris.
        Then prepare a warning buoy directing all ships away from this
        area."  Jim Kirk paused, thinking of Governor Cory, administrator
        of the Elba II colony.  A good man, gone.  "Launch buoy when
        ready," he said.

             "Aye, Sir," Uhura said while already beginning to carry
        out the order.

             "Klingon devils!" Checkov murmured bitterly to himself,
        though just loud enough to be heard.

             "Do you really think the Klingons would violate the
        Organian Peace Treaty, Sir?" Sulu asked his Captain.

             "Without a moment's remorse, if they had any reason to and
        thought they could get away with it.  However the Organians, not
        us, are the enforcers of the treaty."

             "What if they have found a way to cloak themselves from
        Organia like the Romulans cloak their ships from us?" questioned

             "Anything is possible, but I seriously doubt it," Kirk said as
        he glanced over to his First Officer who appeared completely
        engrossed with his scanner. "Opinion, Mr.  Spock?"

             Spock, of course, had taken the conversation in.  And while
        quite busy with his other duties, he had plenty of time to analyze
        the situation and formulate hypotheses.  "It seems unlikely that
        the Klingons would have such technology to do so, Captain.  I
        believe we may also rule out privateers, unless their ship was
        completely filled with anti-matter warheads, which I estimate as
        equally unlikely," said the First Officer, not looking up from his
        scanner.  "There is one more possibility, which I find more
        probable than the previously stated hypothesis."

             Sudden remembrance flooded Kirk's mind.  It had only been a
        few months ago, though their many adventures had made it seem like
        decades, that a once-great Starship Captain, driven mad, had
        battled Kirk and nearly killed him.  His last memory of the great
        man was one of hope and respect born anew, for a cure to the man's
        insanity had been administered.  Jim became angry with himself for
        letting recent events cloud his mind, keeping him from seeing what
        Spock clearly observed.

             "Captain Garth," Kirk said, almost allowing the sorrow of

                                      PAGE 8

        losing a personal hero to become apparent in his voice.  'and
        something painful' the thought seemed to haunt him.

             Finally looking up from his station, Spock faced his Captain.
        "It is a logical conclusion, considering the potency of the
        explosive he created.  However one could only guess as to the
        events that caused its detonation."

             "It was a very unstable material." Jim Kirk choked back the
        strange and sudden surge of emotion that had grabbed him a moment
        ago.  His emotions seemed strangely 'raw' today. "He told me that
        it could be set off just by dropping it to the floor."

             "And tremendously powerful," Spock added.  "Remember the level
        of destruction that one grain caused.  It is little wonder
        Starfleet delayed moving the substance.  With Elba II as isolated
        as it was, there was far less risk in storing it in Governor Cory's
        vaults than transporting it to another location."

             Jim stepped from his chair, "I don't like it Spock.  Something
        doesn't fit."  The Captain caught himself just as he was about to
        start pacing.  Instead he leaned against his command chair.
        "Precautions had been taken in storing the explosive.  It was held
        in the center of a stasis sphere by anti-gravitons, with its own
        power supply, much like we use to contain antimatter."

             "It is possible that some hostile attempt was made against the
        planet causing the containment field to fail and detonation to
        occur.  However that would again indicate the Klingons on several
        counts." Spock placed his hands on the rail before him and nodded
        toward Checkov.  "First, Elba II maintained a constant planetary
        force field around itself, making it virtually impenetrable to
        anything smaller than a military cruiser.  Second, Elba II's
        scanning equipment would have detected any unauthorized traffic
        long before it reached the planet unless it had a cloaking device."
        Keeping in mind that this line of reasoning still lacked any
        cohesive evidence, not to mention the problem the Organian's posed
        in the equation, he relented. "There are actually many scenarios
        that could explain much of what happened. However, until we have
        more facts for our analysis, we can only speculate."

             "Keep scanning, Mr. Spock.  Mr. Sulu, assemble a recon team to
        collect any debris floating out there.  Maybe we can piece this
        mystery together before Starfleet Intelligence gets here."

                                      PAGE 9 

                          ***    TWO    ***

           Light-years away, at the edge of Federation-occupied space,
      defense outposts guard a zone of space currently designated as
      'off-limits' to all vessels, Federation or otherwise.  This Neutral
      Zone separates the United Federation of Planets from the ruthless
      and powerful Klingon Empire.  Both galactic powers were initially
      allowed by treaty to peacefully enter the Zone.  But tensions
      between the two opposing forces had escalated to such a point that
      no contact between the two powers could be called peaceful or
      productive, by either government. The Zone had become a central
      point for espionage and counter-intelligence, making neither side
      confident that its military secrets remained secret.

           Each outpost skirting the Zone is a fully armed battle
      station, carrying the equivalent firepower of a light destroyer.
      The border is patrolled regularly by a rotating shift of
      Starfleet's finest cruisers and destroyers.  These precautions are
      designed as a check and balance system, assuring total compliance
      with the pre-established Klingon/Federation treaty.  The standing
      orders at each outpost are as follows:

           1.  Hail all vessels approaching Neutral Zone and warn
               them off.

           2.  If compliance is negative; fire one warning volley and
               advise Starfleet via designated patrol vessel.

           3.  If negative compliance continues; disable vessel if
               possible, destroy vessel if not.

           Outpost Delta Gamma 13 spotted the distant ship streaking
      towards the Neutral Zone.  On the outpost's main battle bridge,
      night-watch was on duty.

           "Commander O'Hara, I have an outbound vessel at 038, warp
      7!" Lieutenant Tomy announced. She was a bit excited, it being her
      first tour of duty and first day at this post.

           The tall, fair-haired Irish Commander, O'Hara, had almost
      finished his own tour of duty on DG-13.  He had felt that this
      assignment was a form of punishment for the practical joke he
      played on his former Captain while aboard the USS Yorktown.  It
      is an established fact, that few people enjoy transporting down
      to a planet, only to find that their underwear has materialized
      on the outside of their uniform.  Though the Commander had not
      actually been caught in the act, everyone knew who had perpetrated
      it.  Neither was he openly blamed for placing nitrous oxide
      cannisters in the emergency respirators just before the Yorktown
      went on "Environment Alert" drills.

           It was all true, what people said about him; O'Hara was a
      compulsive practical joker.  Though he never meant any harm with
      his humorous escapades, he always seemed to over-do his pranks on

                                      PAGE 10

      the very people who appreciated them the least.  Usually they were
      the ones who also out-ranked him.  And although he tried, O'Hara
      could not even force himself to stop.  If there were humor in it,
      O'Hara would go out of his way to play or overplay the joke.

           "I'm right here, me darlin'. You don't have to shout," said
      Commander O'Hara to the young and nervous Lieutenant.  He stood
      behind her and sipped a warm cup of coffee.

           "Sorry, Sir.  I'm sending the standard transmission now." She
      touched her index finger lightly on the pressure sensitive switch
      and the high intensity warning signal was sent out, automatically
      placing the outpost on yellow alert.

           The slightly scaly alien Ensign at the weapons console turned
      sluggishly toward the Commander and announced, "Defense fields
      activated; station recorder is on; all 'feet' on yellow alert."

           The ensign was a Frillian from the planet Narn.  His face
      looked more reptilian than anything else, and his ever-open green
      eyes were large, with long vertical pupil slits in his iris. His
      uniform was cut to suit his unique physiognomy.  He had eight
      appendages in all, and a short stub of a tail.  Frillians, not
      having hands to speak of, use their long digited feet to operate
      all equipment;  One set of four to grasp and manipulate, the other
      set of four to walk with.  Mr. Spitt did, however, know the
      difference between 'Hands', a ship's company and 'Hands',the things
      that make it easier to pick your nose, but it pleased him to
      constantly punctuate the physiological differences between their

           "That's gettin ta be old, Mr. Spitt.  Why doncha try to be a
      wee less humorous and a bit more purple."

           Frillians were red in complexion when asleep and a bright
      lavender, when fully awake.  This would normally make it easy for
      one Frillian to be able to tell if another Frillian was enjoying a
      conversation or dozing through it, if it wasn't for the fact that
      their race is color-blind, and do talk a great deal in their sleep.

           Lieutenant Tomy pressed a series of buttons which allowed her
      to bring up a visual of the incoming ship on the main viewscreen.
      She snapped a fingernail pressing the last button.  That did not
      bother her though, for she had already bitten most of the others off
      over the past six hours.

           "Is that the best ya kin do.  I kin hardly tell the ship from
      the stars," said the Commander, squinting his blue eyes.

           "Viewer is at maximum, Sir," she said as she tried to pull the
      fingernail out from under the viewscreen resolution button.

           "Any change in speed or course?"

           "No, Sir. But they seem to be trying to skirt our position."
      She succeeded in removing the nail and tossed it nonchalantly over

                                      PAGE 11

      her shoulder.  It landed in the Commander's coffee and sank to the
      bottom, but O'Hara's attention was elsewhere.

           "Don't eat that!  It's my friend!" shouted the crimson

           "Wake up, Mr. Spitt!"  The Commander glared at the weapons
      officer.  He swore to himself never to let the ensign work a triple
      shift again.  Most of their small crew had been in and out of
      sickbay the two days past, with a curious form of 'intestinal
      disfunction of unknown origins'.  Unknown to the crew, that is,
      but the outpost's doctor pulled Commander O'Hara aside and warned
      him that if he ever found any trace of laxatives in the food
      processors again, he would have to 'file a detailed report to
      Starfleet, that would be incriminating to someone on this outpost
      of command rank.'

           "Mr. Spitt!" said the Commander.

           The Frillian cocked his head, "Aye Sir, it does seem to be
      foaming at the mouths," still bearing dark red scales.

           "Mr. Tomy, send an advisory to Starfleet and our support ship.
      Tight-beam, you know the drill," spoke the Commander, still narrowly
      viewing the Frillian.  "Place us on red alert while yer at it."

           "Aye Sir," she said as the Commander moved next to Mr.  Spitt
      at the weapons console and readied it.  The inbound ship was just
      far enough away to keep the targeting computer from getting a
      positive lock.  But since the Commander was not going to blast the
      ship with the first volley, only fire a warning shot, he allowed
      the computer to continue the sequence with the inaccuracy variance,
      and fire.

           "Torpedo away," O'Hara said calmly, as this was a very
      routine procedure.  At least twice a week they would get a stray
      ship with communications problems, or once and a while a contraband
      smuggler, never anything worth worrying about.  Everyone knew the
      Neutral Zone Laws and the consequences of crossover.  Klingons do
      not fire warning shots, and their patrol is two-fold the

           "Sir, scans show the vessel is going sub-light,"
      Lieutenant Tomy said.  "Their scanners must have picked up our
      warning volley.  I'll tell them to prepare to be boarded."

           "Do that, lassie.  How far is our support ship?"

           "I have the Schwarzkopf's ETA at seven minutes," she said

           "Bring us back down to yellow then, and get another officer up
      here to replace Spitt, will ya?"

           The ruby lights around the station signalling red alert
      stopped flashing and were replaced by amber... for about a second

                                      PAGE 12

      and a half...  Then the red came on again.

           "Sir, we are being fired on!" she said with an understandable
      bit of excitement.

           "Shields up," the Commander said, maintaining his calm, "and
      don't worry, me darlin'.  The Schwarzkopf is on its way.  And
      remember our scanners are the best in the Federation and we
      couldn't achieve a weapons lock at this distance.  I doubt they're
      likely ta come close enough ta hit the planet behind us."

           The torpedo sped towards them rapidly, closing the gap between
      the inbound craft and the outpost.  True to the Commander's words,
      it was far from its target.  Then it detonated.  The brilliance
      rivaled, then overcame, that of their local sun and still grew in

           Before Delta Gamma 13's crew could know what was transpiring,
      they, like much of the planet behind them, were gone.

                                      PAGE 13