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Chapter Notes: The Pieces Assemble...by Jespah
Story editing by Ln X

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Chapter 3
The Pieces Assemble
By Jespah


Introducing
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Kirk had his pieces. He was – and he had to admit this was a bit arrogant, but such was life – he was the King. The Queen was at Communications – Miss Uhura. His knights were Spock, his First Officer, and Montgomery Scott, his Chief Engineer. For bishops, he had Doctor Leonard McCoy and Nurse Christine Chapel. For castles, he had Helmsman Hikaru Sulu and Navigator Pavel Chekhov. As for pawns they were, most assuredly, any number of redshirted Security personnel.

Not exactly anonymous cannon fodder, but they were not officers either. But, like pawns, they could be useful for opening gambits, defensive strategies and diversions. A pawn could even reach the eighth rank at the end of the board – literally rise through the ranks as it were – and become a different, more powerful piece. That was what had happened with Ensign Chekhov.

As they sped toward their rendezvous with the Draco, Kirk thought of games past, and not just of his matches with Spock. Every time, he had felt himself getting better, absorbing more information and projecting more authority. Strategies were becoming tighter and more harder for an opponent to read and anticipate. Spock was probably not letting him win. No that couldn't be. So the chances were good that it was all him.

Battle was a lot like that. He remembered when he was green, fresh and almost winging it. Life was not like that anymore. While he did not go for drawn-out tactical meetings, he did find that going over ideas in his head beforehand was helpful. And so his thoughts went to the scenario that was playing out before him.

The Draco had been damaged by a gravitic minefield, assuming the freighter was even there at all. There was a chance that the whole thing was a massive trap. And the location! That was not good, it was near disputed space, which bordered with the Klingon Empire.

So what the devil was the Draco doing there in the first place? he thought.

He involuntarily shook his head, his mind now focusing on the matters at hand.

"Mister Spock," he said, "do we have any information on the Draco?"

"The ship has a Captain Robert Craddock in command," replied the Vulcan First Officer.

"What do we have on Craddock?"

Spock scanned the records quickly. "It seems he is a direct descendant of a namesake Robert Craddock from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. That Craddock was a geologist at the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. He studied Mars. But the Craddock from the present has several reprimands on his personnel record. It seems many of them are for infractions such as breaking ranks with convoys and going off on his own."

"A maverick would you say?" Kirk asked.

"Perhaps," Spock concurred, "but also it would appear arrogant, and seemingly convinced of the utter rightness of his actions."

"Within visual range, captain," Uhura said.

"On screen," Kirk replied.

She brought the picture up. There was the minefield all right, and there was the freighter. There were burns and breaches on the hull, though it appeared to be more or less intact it was not moving. "There is a message coming in, sir."

"On screen!"

"This is the Draco," said the man on the command chair, who looked wearied and gaunt. "I am Captain Robert Craddock. I advise you to keep your distance."

"We're here to help you," Kirk assured Craddock.

"Keep your distance."

"Craddock!" Kirk exclaimed.

"I said, GO AWAY!" Craddock thundered with what seemed to remain of his waning strength. He keeled over to the side and a young Ensign ran over to save him from falling. She looked up at the viewer, frightened.

"I'm afraid he's right," said the young Ensign, "We're trapped in here. And I hate to say it, but by now maybe you are, too."

The Enterprise jolted and the viewscreen suddenly reverted back to the usual view of outer space.

"Sir, I'm losing helm control!" Sulu reported.

"We're nowhere near the Draco!" Kirk replied. "Full reverse!"

"Helm's not responding!" Sulu countered.

Kirk smacked his Communications panel. "Scotty!"

"Captain," Mister Scott replied, "the engines are overheatin' somethin' fierce! We'll have to ease up or we risk a breach!"

"Take it down several notches, Mister Sulu," Kirk said. "Chekhov, plot us a course out of here, bearing, one nine four seven."

"Captain, that would not be advisable," Spock said.

"Oh?"

"It appears we are surrounded by gravitic mines."

"But we didn't see anything. Sensors didn't pick up anything," Chekhov protested.

"Spock?" Kirk asked.

"Mister Chekhov is correct. Beyond the visuals, we did not receive warnings of any sort. But that does not alter our current situation." Spock adjusted some controls. "I am compensating by creating a quantum beacon. Wait one moment while I deploy the beacon. Miss Uhura, kindly adjust the viewer image to account for the quantum readings."

The picture on the viewer was duly adjusted and it was possible to see the magenta outlines of several additional gravitic mines, stretching out for several kilometers in all directions.

"They are behind us, above us, below us, in front, to port and to starboard," Chekhov said. "I estimate there are at least four thousand of them."

"Four thousand five hundred and twenty-six, not counting the mine or mines that disabled the Draco," Spock replied after looking at, and checking, the readings.

"The closest mine is some twelve hundred meters to port," Sulu said.

"Let's remain at a full stop," Kirk said.

"Aye sir," replied Sulu.

"What would account for this?" Kirk asked.

"If I may, sir," Uhura interjected.

"Yes, Lieutenant?"

"Perhaps the added mines were cloaked somehow. That would explain how Mister Spock was only able to give us a visual after deploying a quantum beacon."

"That is a logical explanation," Spock said, "and if it is correct, then at least the cloaked portion of this minefield is not of Klingon origin."

"Oh, what is it, then?" asked Kirk.

"Romulan."

Before he could respond, a proximity alarm was tripped. "Klingon ship coming in, sir," Uhura said, a tinge of fear in her voice.

She fiddled with the controls and the image on the viewer shifted to that of the Klingon D7 battle cruiser dropping out of warp. A second adjustment to the controls and the quantum images of the cloaked gravitic mines were again superimposed over the Klingon mines. The Klingon ship was just as deeply ensconced in the mine field as they were.


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