PLANET X by Unknown

PLANET X by Unknown

Language: eng
Format: epub
Published: 1998-08-29T04:00:00+00:00

Chapter Eighteen

PICARD CONSIDERED THE tiny, blue-green sphere pictured on the viewscreen in front of him. The planet was hardly bigger than the pinpricks of light that served as a backdrop for it.

“Xhaldia,” said Riker, who was sitting in his customary position on the captain’s right.

Picard nodded. Then he looked to his left, where Counselor Troi was leaning forward in her seat, a tiny knot of concentration at the bridge of her delicately chiseled nose.

With the planet still a good several hours away at full impulse, the Betazoid would be unable to sense anything about the Xhaldians or their current situation. Her empathic talents simply didn’t extend that far.

Nonetheless, Troi remained intent on the forward viewscreen. Despite the vast distance between the Enterprise and her destination, the counselor instinctively continued to reach out, attempting to feel what the embattled Xhaldians were feeling.

Fortunately, subspace radio wasn’t nearly as limited as Troi’s empathic abilities. At this distance, it would only take a few seconds for a message to reach Xhaldia.

“Lt. Sovar,” said the captain. “Open a channel to Chancellor Amon.”

“Aye, sir,” the security officer replied.

Data, who was seated at Ops, turned to face Picard. He had a puzzled expression on his face.

“Sir,” he said, “there appears to be a vessel in orbit around Xhaldia.”

“A vessel?” Picard repeated. He eyed the viewscreen with new interest. “Why have we only now discovered this, Commander?”

“Judging from its position and the likelihood of a geosynchronous orbit,” said the android, “it was probably hidden from us by the planet.”

The captain frowned. This was an unanticipated complication.

“Maybe the Xhaldians requested assistance from someone else,” Riker suggested.

Picard shook his head. “Not likely, Will. The Breen are the only other presence in this part of space—and I don’t think the Xhaldians called on them for help.”

His exec grunted. “Good point, sir.”

The captain turned to his android second officer again.

“Maximum magnification, Mr. Data.”

A moment later, the image on the viewscreen seemed to jump closer to them—close enough to display a huge, rust-colored ship against a cloud-covered sweep of the planet’s surface.

Picard scrutinized the vessel. It was wide and relatively flat, with long, boxlike nacelles above and below it on either side, and its topsides were rife with a variety of impressive-looking weapon clusters.

It was possible the ship’s crew wasn’t especially warlike. But in the captain’s experience, vessels didn’t bristle with weaponry unless their occupants were eager to use it.

Picard glanced at Riker. “I’ve never seen this design before, Number One. Have you?”

“No, sir,” said his first officer.

Data worked his Ops controls. “I am unable to find a match for it in our computer files.”

“Captain,” said Sovar, “I cannot seem to raise Chancellor Amon. There appears to be a malfunction in the communications booster satellite.”

“Try another one,” Picard told him.

“I have, sir,” the Xhaldian assured him, an undercurrent of concern in his voice. “None of them seems to be working.”

The captain sat back in his seat and considered the evidence. An unexpected and hostile-looking ship in orbit around the planet. A malfunction in its only link to the outside universe.


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