<Starfleet Intelligence Headquarders. Deep, deep underground. Somewhere on Earth>
A polite knock at the door was followed by a slight cough and the sounds of a hasty brushing of vest and sleeves.
The handsome young human with close-cropped hair and zealous blues eyes walked into the office of one of the most important and one of the most unknown men in Starfleet. He had a datapad under his left arm, a barely suppressed spring in his step, and an obvious desire to make a good first impression. His salute was textbook perfect, and held just a beat too long as a subtle acknowledgement of respect beyond simple difference in rank.
“Sir, Commander Blake St. John reporting as ordered.”
The older man allowed the gravity of their meeting to sink in for a moment, then waved his hand at the only other chair in the room. “Please be seated Commander.”
“Thank you Admiral.”
The white-haired flag officer cleared his spotless desktop of a datapad and a trio of black cardstock folders, and waited for few seconds with interlaced fingers before carefully regarding new subordinate.
“Would those be your orders under your arm Commander?”
The SF poster-boy did not let an iota of his chagrin show as he handed the datapad across the desk, “Yes, Sir. I was assigned by Brigadier Munghao to your department with written orders to act as a political liaison to the office of the President, and with verbal orders to assist with Project: Big Gun. However, I cannot find any reference to the Project in the classified database, and must assume that Project:Big Gun is a code phrase.”
“In one way of thinking it is a code phrase. It is a code phrase for a highly classified project, called Big Gun.” The Admiral leaned forward and took the datapad from his desk, glancing briefly at the screen requesting bio-identification and voice recognition. He then placed it in a drawer with the others.
“Your personnel file says you have a unique set of genetic and social … advantages…. over other members of Starfleet.”
“Yes sir, I was born with a genetic defect that causes me to experience several incorrect and conflicting intellectual, emotional, and physiological responses simultaneously in reaction to exterior stimuli. So far, telepathic and empathic beings have proven unable to correctly determine my thoughts or emotions.”
“After one thousand one hundred ninty-one tests over the last twenty-nine years no biological or computerized study has produced a predictive pattern that could be considered more reliable than random guessing.”
“Your early deveopmentals showed that despite the apparent chaos raging in you mind and body you have scored constantly above average on every test ever devised to show signs of, to put it bluntly, retardation or psychosis.”
“Do you believe yourself to be unreadable.”
“So far, yes, Sir.”
The young man's pride was thinly masked, but could not be contained. A hint of a small crossed the clean shaven but weathered features of the man behind the desk.
“And are you proud of that record Commander.”
“No sir. My genetic heritage has been the subject of a great deal of inquiry and source of a considerable amount of frustration in my career sir.”
The spry officer blinked at the unexpected candor and verbal assessment of the Commander's emotional state, totally at odds with the young man's outward appearance.
“Something about one of your great-great grandparents I believe?”
“Yes, Sir. There exists anecdotal evidance that one of my ancestors was a confederate of Khan Noonien Singh, but extremely extensive testing has found no evidence of hereditary eugenic modification. The current medical consensus is random genetic mutative anomaly.”
“Ah. I see. That must have made things at the Academy… difficult.”
“What do you know about Project: Big Gun?”
“Nothing Sir. I have Level 10 clearance, and could find no trace of such a project on any Intelligence system dating back to per-formation of the Federation.”
“Good. Project:Big Gun does not exist. So much so that the details of the project have been classified Level 10 E.”
“I was not aware that there was such a classification Sir.”
“There is not. There are no written records of Project: Big Gun. Including you only seven people know of the project. Information about the project is conveyed by verbal means only, in person only, in one of three locations only; this office, the office of Brigadier Munghao, or on Big Gun herself. Is that understood?”
“Aye Sir,” Blake responded without hesitation. This was sounding better and better.
“The Brigadier refers to the security measures as 'Ears Only', and the level of paranoia as 'Excessive', but he does not set policy. What do you know about Galaxy class starship construction and history Commander?”
“Only what is in the classified files Sir.” The idealistic young man's casual reference to what must be pedabytes of data was boastful to the point of absurdity, but no one less than “extremely exceptional” walked through that door, so the Admiral took the officer at his word.
“How many Galaxy-class have been built?”
“How many Galaxy-class have been destroyed in the the line?”
The old man was mildly impressed. He'd missed the destruction of the USS Asgard.
“Nine months ago a Galaxy-class ship was found lifeless and adrift ten lightyears inward, spinward, and below the Romulan Neutral Zone. It showed slight signs of combat, and was under automatic emergency stasis and shutdown.”
“May I ask which one Sir?”
“NCC-1305-E, or NCC-71807 if you prefer.”
Blake gave a slow intake of breath and narrowed his eyes slightly. The Admiral was a longtime student of human nature, and agreed with 1191 previous tests. The man did give off completely random physical cues, even while tightly controlled by faux-military protocol.
“But sir, she was destroyed…. Twice.”
“All official records agree with you. The Enterprise even brought back salvage from her. What percentage of tritanium goes into the alloy used for the internal superstructure of a Galaxy-class?”
“Seventy-nine point one one percent sir.”
No bonus credit for answering easy questions, but the wise old man was pleased the kid had studied.
“The salvaged pieces recovered by Admiral Picard showed a uniform seventy-nine point one zero percent tritanium alloy. A nearly perfect forgery of an entire, destroyed ship.”
He let that hang in the air for a few moments.
“Not only that, but her internal computers showed her in stasis for two hundred eighty-one years.”
“Which would have put her in stasis several decades before the first Galaxy was commissioned.” The boy was catching on quick. Temporal anomalies were so common in the age of warp technology that some people didn't even blink about them anymore.
“Your mission is to take a crew of nine to the uninhabited Delveos System and scrub that ship from top to bottom. You'll give her a new warp core, a new main and back-up computer, and replication specifications for all new fixtures and features for a recommissioned Galaxy. Orders to scuttle the USS Trident will show that Fleet decided to accept the financial burden of repairing her instead of replacing her. The actual Trident hit the automated breakers ten hours ago. You will then bring the refurbished ship to the Orion System and await orders. You depart in ten minutes. Do you have any questions?”
“What is her new designation Sir?”
“The last report from the Top of the Hill said that the Impaler wants the next Galaxy to have a name of honor and distinction for a career of esteemed service. Big Gun is a ghost ship; it's only fitting we call her Republic.”