The Road To Ruin (Story)
View Single Post
Join Date: Nov 2012
Part IV: On the Cold Concrete
06-05-2013, 10:55 PM
Bar fight, week night
You don't look right
Poor mite, no bite
Wake up, first light
This is what we live
And what we see
Dance club, strip light
Get drunk, no sight
Watch it ignite
Live it up tonight
Nobody really cares
But it's not for me
(Save some for me)
So raise your glass my son
(Leave some for me)
We're telling everyone
(Leave some for me)
Living in everyday combat
Day-to-day commuter riot
Shot down, dancing in the DMZ
(And we will)
Walk on streets on fire
Caged in with razor wire
Shot down, living in the DMZ
Living in the DMZ
Times up, let's go
All that we know
You're my hero
Terror in the town, High Street
And I know you can't stop
Get involved mate
Panic on the cold concrete
(Save some for me)
So raise your glass my son
(Leave some for me)
We're telling everyone
(Leave some for me)
Living in everyday combat
Day-to-day commuter riot
Shot down, dancing in the DMZ
(And we will)
Walk on streets on fire
Caged in with razor wire
Shot down, living in the DMZ
Living in the DMZ...
Don't think you're safe 'cause it's not over...
Ian Watkins and Jamie Oliver of Lostprophets with Sean Blackout - "Everyday Combat"
PART IV: ON THE COLD CONCRETE
NX-86, within the Moab System's Oort cloud - Stardate 88196.85 (03.12.2411, 2026 hours Standard Time)
She had detected the two ships heading toward her part of space several minutes ago.
Contact One - Enemy-Red tactical warship, identified as IKS
, classified as "friendly" until otherwise indicated. Contact two - Enemy-White heavy escort carrier, identified as USS
... You again, Admiral LaRoca? Classified as "potential hostile."
She had analyzed the signals traffic between the two ships and the Moab Confederacy Defense Command. Both of the arriving ships were expected, but the Klingon garrison force commander expressed reservations about the arrival of the Starfleet ship. She had run half a million combat simulations accounting for the firepower and combat experience of all ships and crews, and factoring the likelihood that the KDF raptor escort would side with the
, and determined that the casualties dealt to the MCDC should hostilities break out would be entirely unacceptable.
She decided intervention was necessary.
, Deck Six Crew Lounge
"Did she actually say 'my mouth is on fire'?" Rusty asked his brother.
"Well, she tried to," Admiral LaRoca replied, "but she couldn't quite get it out because, well, her mouth was on fire."
The officers at the table with him laughed. "What's that sauce of yours rated at, anyway?" LCdr. Yoann wondered.
"Two and a half million scoville units," Jesu answered. "That's like your spiciest hasperat, times ten."
"So I guess these Pentaxians have their limits after all," said Stikvaa.
"Yeah, now I just have to figure out how to beat her with alcohol."
Rusty grunted. "Good luck with that. I talked to our El-Aurian bartender - she said Pentaxian booze is something like a hundred and ninety-eight proof, with the pH of sulfuric acid. Straight ethanol is less toxic to most humanoids."
Jesu's combadge chirped.
"Admiral, this is the bridge."
"Go 'head, Fozz."
is hailing us to relay approach vectors to Moab III."
"Good, patch them through to my PADD," Jesu ordered as he pulled the device from its pouch.
said the Ferasan officer known as Spitz.
Jesu LaRoca nodded to him. "Commander."
"I have received clearance for your ship to enter orbit over Moab III. However this comes with a great deal of trepidation on the part of the Klingon garrison force commander. It seems your reputation precedes you. If you deviate from the assigned course or take any action that may be considered as hostile, you will be fired upon. Is this clear?"
Jesu nodded again. "Absolutely. Just please remind them that I am coming at the request of Ambassador K'Dahn, and that the
will defend herself if attacked."
Cmdr. Spitz twitched his nose.
"I will ensure that the garrison forces and the indigenous defenses are suitably informed. If you could-"
The transmission was abruptly cut off.
"Bridge, what's going on?" Admiral LaRoca demanded.
"I don't know,"
Cmdr. Ibear replied.
"They just dropped out of warp and they're no longer transmitting. We're dropping to-"
Ibear's voice was silenced, and the lights went out, as the
's warp engines went cold and she came to an abrupt stop.
"What the hell?" Rusty stood up. The lounge which hand been full of crew members talking and laughing was now totally silent. Then a tall female humanoid alien materialized in the middle of the room. "Stay down!" Rusty ordered the officers as he lunged at the intruder, toe-claws raised.
Eighty-Six adjusted her holomatrix and let Cmdr. LaRoca simply pass through her. She swiveled her head and watched the Deinon tumble across the floor and smack his head against the bar. She raised the lights and faced the ship's commanding officer. "Hello again, Vice Admiral."
Jesu rose. "Eighty-Six, I presume?" She nodded. He leaned around her and called out to his brother. "You okay, Rust? You hurt anything?"
"Just my pride," the Deinon moaned as he staggered to his feet.
"What are you going to do with my ship?" Admiral LaRoca asked the hologram.
"That will depend on what you intend to do with my friends," she replied. She looked around the room, but she was actually exploring the entirety of the vessel she was inhabiting. "This is some ship you have here. More than a match for anything the Moabites or the KDF have in-system. Quad phaser pulse cannons, dual heavy cannons, phaser beam array, phaser turrets, quantum torpedoes, quantum mines... oh, and your torpedo point defense system. Plus a few dozen Type-16 fighters and the AEGIS defensive array... yes, I'd say this ship is capable of conquering the Moab System single-handedly, especially if your Klingon friend over there were to side with you."
"That is not my intention," Jesu assured her. "I merely want to talk with Governor Tran, express the Federation's gratitude for the part her military played in the rescue of our citizens, and talk about archaeology."
"Archaeology?" Eighty-Six repeated, her face expressing her suspicion.
"Yes. Moab has some sites of significant interest."
Eighty-Six crossed her arms and her eyes twitched back and forth as she scanned the
's library files as well as her own. "Yes, I see. Well, I suppose as long as you're only talking, I can allow you safe passage. And I guess the old notion of 'Speak softly and carry a big stick' remains sound diplomatic policy."
"I prefer 'Speak
and carry the
stick'," LaRoca stated. "But I have no immediate plans to use it."
"See that you don't, Admiral," Eighty-Six said. "Because if you harm any of my friends I will have to take over your ship and destroy it. Consider this your one and only warning."
Eighty-Six smiled sweetly and disappeared.
LaRoca's communicator crackled
"-power's back online. I have no idea what just happened here, or-"
"It's okay, Fozz," Jesu announced. "Eighty-Six just wanted to work out some security concerns."
Meydenbauer Bay, Lake Washington, Earth
Frank Grimes lay in his bed aboard his old Chris-Craft cabin cruiser and stared at the stars through the skylight, emotionally drained by the events of the last forty-eight hours... last week... however long this nightmare had dragged on.
I really should take a vacation,
I should toss my combadge overboard, cast off, and take a private cruise to Tahiti. And never come back.
Then his combadge chirped.
"Frank, I have news that may interest you,"
Frank groaned and rolled over. "What's up?"
"A Vulcan Starfleet officer just woke up from a coma, and claims she is being telepatically assaulted by an Undine."
Grimes sat bolt upright. "Commander Traa'cee?"
"Correct. She is at the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, in K'Lan-ne, Vulcan."
Grimes jumped up and pulled on his clothes. "Contact whoever's in charge there and get me access to talk to her. And call Talby and have him pick me up at Boeing Field in ten minutes."
Moab Defensive Perimeter - 2148 hours Standard Time
Admiral LaRoca hovered over Pakray's shoulder at the tacops console, looking over the various ships that their sensors told them were in-system with them, besides the
. There was a pair of ancient D-7A
-class battlecruisers, and a more modern but lighter
-class, which together comprised the core of the Moab Confederacy Defense Fleet. There was a
-class battlecruiser, a D-7M K't'Inga, and a D-7Q Koro't'Inga belonging to the KDF garrison force. Additionally there were about two dozen birds-of-prey of various classes, ranging from tiny old
s all the way up to a
heavy. The bulk of the Moab Confederacy fleet consisted of modified
-class vessels, some still wearing the markings of their former owner, the House of Torg. They also had two ancient Starfleet ships in their possession. The IKS (ex-USS)
-class - older than Eigthy-Six, but upgraded with firepower on par with a
-class heavy escort. The IKS (ex-USS)
had been written off as lost in action by Starfleet a hundred and thirty years ago, but the mummified
-class had been salvaged and rebuilt from a hulk and now served as the ceremonial flagship of the Moabite navy.
"I've seen more impressive fleets sitting in junkyards," the Tellarite tactical officer observed.
"This junkyard fleet fought their way into and out of fluidic space," LaRoca reminded Pakray, "getting through a
Task Force Omega along the way. And now they have us surrounded. Keep an eye on them."
"Right, sir. They're giving us room to maneuver, but they're all holding just inside of weapons range."
LaRoca glanced over at the weapons consoles to make sure his WSOs had their hands well clear of their firing controls.
"We're being hailed, sir," Pakray announced. "From the station orbiting Moab III."
A man appeared who was very similar in appearance and dress to General Dwight Eisenhower, circa 1945. Muscular, indeterminate age, gray-haired and balding. "Welcome to the Moab Confederacy, Starfleet!" He said it cheerfully enough, albeit with a voice that sounded like gravel being crushed, but he emphasized the word "Starfleet" in the same derogatory way the Maquis had used the word.
Admiral LaRoca smiled and nodded in recognition. "Saul Moskovitz. I'd hoped I'd get to meet you."
"I always get nervous when Starfleet says that," Moskovitz responded. "You won't try to arrest me, will you Admiral?"
"No, of course not. You're a foreign citizen now, and all charges against you and Miss Tran have been suspended anyway. Actually I just wanted to tell you I read your book. I'm a big fan. I've recommended it to several friends of mine, on New Romulus, Cardassia, Gornar..."
"Trying to incite an uprising, Admiral?"
"Or prevent one," LaRoca shrugged.
"Right, well you're too late here."
"I know. I'm pleased to see that your new friends seem to be treating you much more kindly than the Federation ever did."
"Mm." Moskovitz stroked his chin, trying to cover his surprise. "I understand you are here to meet with Governor Tran?"
"And how long do you intend to stay?"
"Several days, I hope."
"And how many people will you bringing with you?"
"There will be eight of us in my initial landing party," LaRoca answered. "More may come down later, if Governor Tran allows our archeologists access to the ruins."
"Very well." Moskovitz straightened at his desk. "The Klingons have installed shield generators in our major cities, and I'd prefer not to lower the ones protecting the capital while your ship is overhead. It's not that I don't trust you, personally - it's just that I don't trust anyone, especially where Miss Tran's safety is concerned."
"That's perfectly reasonable."
"And anyway the atmospheric radiation interferes with transporters a little, so we avoid using them for space-to-surface transfers without a pad at both ends. So you can either beam in to the Klingon garrison outside of Xiao Loc City and take the train to Nha Tranh through Grantville, or you can come down in shuttles."
"We'll take shuttlecraft," Jesu decided. "I always prefer to explore the landscape a little before I visit a new world."
Moskovitz nodded. "Nothing like a little aerial reconnaissance, eh? Very well, I'll arrange escorts to the surface and someone from my staff will be waiting at the Shuttleport to guide you the Governor's office."
"Very good. What's local time down there?"
"Almost eighteen hundred. But we operate on a thirty-hour day, so that's just three hours past noon to us."
"Good to know. Nice talking to you, Minister."
"Likewise." Moskovitz closed the transmission.
NIteb mo' (Pragmatic Action)
Uminoe Kicur hovered over her science officer's console, listening to the radio traffic between the
and the planet. The
-class cruiser's sensors and subspace decompilers had been extensively modified for signals intelligence and information gathering. As she sat cloaked, less than two hundred meters below the fearsome Starfleet carrier's belly, she was able intercept every transmission to or from the
"This Admiral LaRoca is not what I had expected," Kicur said, watching him on the monitor. "He doesn't have a stick up his ass like other Starfleet brass. He's easy-going, almost casual, strolling in here surrounded by Klingons and acting like he's going for a walk in the park."
Her science officer Naasstha nodded her huge head in agreement. "No wonder Ssharki likes him."
"He's kinda cute, too."
The Gorn looked up at that. "I don't think you want to go there, Colonel."
"Nothing to stop me from dreaming," Uminoe replied with a wicked smile. "Keep an eye on those shuttlecraft; watch them until they reach the surface. And uh, monitor transmissions to and from the
"Not quite trusting the General, are we?"
"I don't trust anyone I'm indebted to. And I'm wondering why he pulled us away from Task Force Omega to babysit his Human friend, when he's already got his attack dog doing the same thing." Uminoe straightened up and announced for the bridge "I'll be in my quarters. Alert me if anything interesting happens." She left to the chorus of "Aye Colonel" and rode the turbolift down to her cabin.
Alone, Uminoe Kicur activated her computer terminal to look over her mission notes.
to tie into "Mountain Road"
but why involve Starfleet at this stage?
She looked over the scans of the
, noting it's impressive firepower, and realization slowly dawned on her. She recalled a quote she'd seen in LaRoca's profile, discussing Starfleet policy with regards to neutral zone confrontations.
"You bring a gun, and we'll bring an arsenal,"
the Admiral had said. And the
was an impressive arsenal... "By the makers," Kicur suddenly said aloud. "Ssharki's preparing for a battle."
"Sir," Pakray reported. "One of the Moab BOPs - the IKS
is approaching from astern. They say they're your escort. Wait, hang on - I've got a coupla
s coming out of their space station: IKS
here to escort the landing party. Huh. It's like they don't trust us or something."
LaRoca tilted his head to his tactical officer. "Flag them as friendly on the IFF, send them a tacnet handshake and give them sensor information
. Let them know we trust
, at least to a point. Keep the shields down and don't even think about initiating a target lock on
, unless we get shot at."
The Admiral tapped his combadge as he walked to the turbolift. "Rusty, Teena, Hacksaw, K'lak, DABos, meet me in shuttlebay three."
His combadge chirped back. "Actually I need to see you all in sickbay before you set foot on that awful world down there," Dr. Maria Espinoza announced. "You too, Admiral."
"Yes ma'am. Deck five," he told the turbolift. He stepped out a moment later and walked right into Lt. jg. Mitiani Zain. "Excuse me, please."
She didn't. "Admiral, I uh, I wanted to wish you luck," she said awkwardly, "and, well, stay safe down there, sir."
"Thank you, Miss Zain, I certainly plan to."
She looked down at their feet for an instant, then leaned and gave him a terribly uncomfortable hug, before breaking away and rushing off past him down the corridor, nearly running into Rusty coming up the other way.
"What was that all about?" the security chief asked his brother.
Jesu stared bemusedly after Mitiani. "I'm not sure, but I think she has a crush on me."
Rusty shrugged. "Figures. I always knew she was insane."
The brothers walked on to sick bay, where LCdr. Dr. Espinoza had just finished treating the diplomats and was chatting with Stazratts. "Alright," Jesu said loudly, interupting their conversation. "Let's get this over with."
Stazratts took his cue to leave. "See you in the shuttlebay, Admiral."
Maria handed the LaRocas each a small capsule. "Take this. It will kill any parasites you pick up down there."
Jesu popped the pill in his mouth and downed it with a gulp of coffee. Rusty swallowed his dry.
"Hold still." Dr. Espinoza hit them both in the neck with a hypospray. "That should inoculate you against their viruses. And this..." she applied another hypo to the other side of the Admiral's neck "will temporarily immunize you to theta radiation. Rusty, you should alright; the exposure levels shouldn't be harmful to you. Oh, and Jesu, if you should engage in any intimate relations-"
"That won't be an issue," Jesu told her.
"If you do, you need to be aware of a particularly nasty strain of syphilis they have on their world. I can't inoculate you, but I can treat it, and you can scan for it."
"Thanks," Jesu said sarcastically. "Anything else?"
"No, that's it for you."
"Okay. I'll see you in a few days." The Admiral departed.
"He's got a lot on his mind," Rusty said apologetically. "Makes him forget his manners, sometimes."
"I know," Maria sighed. "Look after your brother, won't you?"
"I always have," Rusty dipped his head. "And I always will."
* * *
emerged from shuttlebay three, with the shuttles
following in close formation. They were immediately hailed by the Moab bird of prey orbiting just astern of the
"This is Captain Cham Nguoc of the IKS
. Please follow me to the surface. Stay close, and try not to deviate from my flight path."
Jesu nodded to his viewer. "Understood, Captain.
-class bird of prey pulled a tight split-S and descended toward the planet. The Starfleet smallcraft followed, flanked by a pair of Moab runabouts. "It's nice of them to stay in front of us," Yoann Teena remarked.
"Don't be so sure," Rusty said from the tactical station. "If I'm reading these sensor scans correctly, that BOP is loaded with tricobalt mines."
Jesu keyed the comm panel. "Hacksaw, K'lak, let's tighten it up a little, okay?"
They entered the atmosphere without any incident, although Jesu had to push his thrusters to keep up with the aerodynamic bird of prey. They slowed to subsonic speeds as they broke through the tropopause, and then the
suddenly altered course. "I thought you might like a little aerial tour of Landing County, Admiral," Captain Nguoc radioed over.
"Yes I would, thank you."
Their escort led them across some spectacular desert terrain, which bore a striking resemblance to some parts of southern Utah on Earth, probably accounting for how the planet got its name. "That's Diablo Canyon below us now, carved out by the Rio Grande, the only major river in this part of the world. To the left are the Shrieking Arches, so-named because of the noise the wind makes blowing through them. Just up ahead is Founder's Lament Mesa, which looks all green and pretty from up here but when you get in close its just a flat rock. Rich in copper ore, though. You can see a couple of pit mines down there. To the right and across the river is Xiao Loc City. Just downstream is the Grant Dam and Reservoir, which we use for flood control, irrigation and power. Below the dam is Grantville - the county seat - and then another couple dozen clicks further is your destination, Nha Tranh, the Confedracy's capital city."
* * *
The Moab escorts broke off five kilometers from the shuttleport and burned their impulse thrusters to return to orbit. Admiral LaRoca followed the shuttleport control tower's directions and set the
down on Pad Three, with the
landing on either side.
Jesu and his passengers exited the
-class runaboout's forward hatch, were joined the rest of the landing party, and were greeted exuberantly by an extremely thin Caucasian man with way too much energy for his frail and elderly appearance. "Admiral LaRoca! It is my pleasure to welcome to Moab! I am Quentin Heywood, Deputy Minister of State and Foreign Relations." His voiced approached that pitch range and decibel register that geologists use to shatter crystals. "I will be most honored to be your host and guide during your stay on our planet."
Jesu correctly interpreted the man's title as
Flunky Who Deals With Feds and Other People We Don't Want To Talk To.
"Pleased to meet you," Jesu lied. "Allow me to introduce my staff: Ennari Dai of Trill, Stazratts of Cestus III, Kugid Denaia of Rigel VIII, and Henry Allen Miller of New Rhodesia. And this my science officer, Lieutenant Commander Yoann Teena, my security chief, Commander LaRoca Rusty, and his deputy, Lieutenant K'lak."
Quentin Heywood locked eyes and nodded respectfully to each member of the Admiral's entourage as they were introduced. He lingered a moment on Rusty. Then he resumed his verbal assault. "I have a limobus waiting nearby. Come! I shall take you to the Government House, and then supper at the finest restaurant in the city - the first to serve replicated meals! - and then on to the sector-famed Garden Grove Hotel. Our days are a little longer than you are used to, but so are the nights, and I can personally guarantee you will sleep well in the most comfortable beds on the planet..."
Jesu found himself falling behind the painfully vociferous tour guide until he was bringing up the rear with Rusty.
"Can I kill him?" the Deinon whispered. "Or at least rip out his vocal cords?"
"Don't ask me again," the Admiral ordered, "or I might say 'Yes.'"
Ha Long Bay (MCDC/KDF space station, Moab III geosync orbit) - office of the Minister of Defense
One of the monitors on Saul Moskovitz's desk showed the feed from the hidden holocam in Quentin Heywood's spectacles. The other was open to a secure channel to Elizabeth Tran's office. She was also watching Heywood's video feed, also on mute. "You're right, he's not your typical Starfleet brass," Tran said.
"I've always said you have a gift for understatement. You notice his sash?"
Tran nodded. "Klingon warrior's ceremonial wear, emblem of the House of Martok."
"I did some digging into his KI record, or at least the part of it they let me access. He's worn that to every diplomatic function he's attended for the last year. He's
of that sash. Whatever he did to earn it is in the redacted part of the file, but he's
proud of it. At the Borg Conference on DS9, he was arguing about honor with the Klingon ambassador! ...Who happened to be Gorn, but
... and half of his entourage is from a KDF-aligned race, or from a border world, or a joined Trill who's probably older than the Federation itself."
"What's that reddish reptile? I don't recognize the species."
"It has been a long time since I've seen one," Moskovitz stated, "but that, dear child, is a
Elizabeth Tran's eyes widened. She had heard stories from Mouse and her father of a race of deadly warriors smarter than a Vulcan, stronger and tougher than a Gorn, and faster than just anything. The Federation had hired them to take back Betazed and a dozen other worlds during the Dominion War. They had torn through the Jem'Hadar soldiers like a pack of
through a herd of
s. They were the only species the Jem'Hadar had been known to run away from. But when they weren't fighting for their commissions, they kept to themselves. They were a secretive race and they wanted to remain that way. "What is a Deinon doing in Starfleet?"
Mouse scratched his nose; it was his tell - sign that he wasn't going to let on as much as he knew. "He must've been adopted by LaRoca's family. The Admiral introduced him as 'LaRoca Rusty'... Deinons are said to be
loyal to family, as much or maybe more so than the Gorn. It would make sense that he would follow his brother into Starfleet to look after him."
Elizabeth knew that Saul knew more to the story but she didn't press. "Okay. What can you tell me about the others?"
Moskovitz checked his files. "Ennari Dai is an accomplished diplomat. She was a member of the mediating delegation of the third Gorn-Klingon peace talks on Casperia. Since then, she's been at least peripherally involved with dozens of conferences and treaty negotiations. She joined the Admiral's staff after the Khitomer Summit in '09. She's been offered several embassy positions, but she's turned them all down, preferring to serve as a consul-at-large.
"Stazratts spent his whole life on Cestus III until the Gorn and Klingons drove out the Federation colonists. Actually, they wanted to assault the planet, but apparently the Gorn living there interceded and convinced the Empire forces to let the Federation evacuate their people. Stazratts was already a Federation citizen and he chose to leave with his friends. He started working for the FDC almost immediately as an advisor on colonial affairs, and he was assigned to LaRoca early last year.
"Kugid used to be pretty high up in the Orion Syndicate's external affairs bureau. Then he made an unauthorized prisoner exchange and Queen Di'an called for his head. He defected to Starfleet five months ago and he's worked with the Admiral since as part of his 'security probation.'
"Miller, I have nothing on. As far as KI is concerned, it's like he doesn't exist. Either that or what they have on him is not for my eyes. Anyway, I've got conjecture. New Rhodesia was on the wrong side of the Cardassian DMZ. He looks like he might be old enough to have been in the Maquis. And with that knife scar on his face it looks like he definitely saw some action somewhere, and not in Starfleet.
"Yoann was born on Bajor during the last year of the occupation. Did three years in the militia as a field medic, applied to Starfleet Academy, majored in biology, psychology, and metaphysics. Did a doctorate thesis on the ethical implications of interaction with infinite quantum realities. A polymath with battlefield experience. She's been with LaRoca for about two years.
"K'lak I don't know much about. His family's from a very minor Klingon House, not KDF officer material. They settled on Sherman's Planet in the early eighties. Farmers. K'lak applied to Starfleet Academy in ninety-eight. Went to intelligence right away. The rest of his file's redacted.
"And then LaRoca... well, what can I say about him. Three years ago he was a security ensign on a frigate patrolling the Federation's backwater, trying to erase the disgrace of a friendly-fire incident. Since then, he's been promoted to Vice Admiral faster than
anyone in the history of Starfleet, and he's been in every single hot zone from Vega to Defera to New Romulus to here."
"Definitely not typical Starfleet brass," Tran repeated thoughtfully.
The Limobus took Admiral LaRoca and his group on a semi-circuitous route into downtown. "We need to avoid the mercantile district," Quentin Heywood said, "because, well..." he waved toward the right as they crossed a side-street. The Starfleet people glimpsed a scene of chaos, as hundreds of lightly-dressed Orions clashed with armored militia troops in a melee brawl.
"What's going on?" Rusty wondered.
"Some of the Orion population went berserk, civilians and military both," Heywood explained. "Were not exactly sure why. They were shouting about something along the lines of 'The Return of the Good Masters.'"
Jesu shot a glance at Kugid, his Orion diplomatic advisor. Kugid shook his head and gave the Admiral a look that said
you wouldn't understand.
Jesu frowned. "How long has it been going on?"
"It started yesterday. The KDF got their people under control pretty quickly, but it took a while to get the riot control militia deployed to help the local police. This has been going on in every city with a sizeable number of Orion citizenry, and this city has the largest. At least by now they have it contained to a few blocks."
The Limobus turned back on to the main thoroughfair. Risking another earful from Heywood, Admiral LaRoca asked "You have a whole branch of your militia devoted to riot control? How often does this sort of thing happen?"
"Every few months or so, but less often recently. We had a miners strike last summer that was pretty ugly, but nothing compared to the commuter riots a couple years ago or the Water Wars of ought-five."
"Part of living in a DMZ, Jesu," Hank Miller said. "There's never enough of everything for everyone. So sometimes those without will try to take from those with. And then every day you live under the threat that combat will come to your home."
"It used to be much worse," Heywood told them. "Things have gotten better since we joined the Empire."
They drove past a group of Klingons, emerging from a bar and laughing. "They definitely make their presence known, don't they?" Stazratts remarked.
"You should have been here last week - you would have gotten to see joint operations drills. Or last month was Tet. Instead you walk in on the middle of a nasty riot. You really picked a hell of a week to visit, Admiral."
K'Lan-ne Municipal Shuttleport, Vulcan
landed smoothly, guided by its Caitian pilot. Frank Grimes opened the hatch of the
-type fightercraft and immediately thought he would melt. The temperature had to be close to 50C.
"How long do you think you'll be, sir?" Lt. T'aalb wondered.
"No telling. Depends on how bad of a shape she's in, and if the doctors will even let me see her. I suggest you check into a hotel and get comfortable. I'll call you when I'm ready to go."
"Right, no problem." T'aalb hopped out of the cockpit and followed Grimes to the airtram station. He was panting before they were halfway there.
Grimes reached the Resnick hospital twenty minutes later and was bounced around by some profoundly unhelpful administrators and nurses before he reached the intensive care ward where he was assured Traa'cee was being treated. He wandered unmarked corridors for what felt like hours being ignored by the staff before he saw a Reman opening a door. "K'Jetsk!"
The surprised Reman spun and squinted. "Captain Grimes? What are
"I heard Traa'cee woke up."
K'Jetsk nodded. "Yesterday. Come in here." He led Grimes into an observation room. "This is Dr. Prol, one of the top men in his field. Doctor, this Captain Frank Grimes, who is... also one of the top men in
Prol bowed his head. "Captain."
"You people sure don't make it easy for visitors to find your patients," Frank complained.
"You know, friends or family members who want to visit people in the hospital."
The Vulcan scrunched his eyebrows together. "For what purpose?"
"Just to be with them."
"How illogical. Surely they would know that our patients are receiving the finest standard of care. Their presence would in no way aid recovery, and would only prevent these 'visitors' from performing their own contributions to society."
"Well, logical or not, I'm here to visit Traa'cee."
Prol shrugged and dimmed the lights, and waved to a one-way mirror which showed Traa'cee in the next room, in bed and sleeping.
"I thought she was awake," Grimes said.
K'Jetsk grunted. "She was. We had to sedate her after she tried to take a laser scalpel to her head."
"She was raving about an Undine inside of her mind, and that she had to get it out."
"We tried to help her," Prol told the visitor, "and calm her down, but she became increasingly agitated in spite of our efforts. Her behavior was extremely irrational. We've sedated her until we can get a specialist to meld with her."
"This doesn't make sense," Grimes muttered. "She was attacked by the Tal Shiar, not the Undine. Has she ever even encountered an Undine before?"
"Yes," K'Jetsk answered, "but not since early last year. The working theory as that the Tal Shiar device unlocked a repressed memory which may have somehow triggered a psychic link with the Undine."
"That would be extremely interesting if true," Grimes said thoughtfully. "Dr. Prol, I really need to talk to Traa'cee as soon as possible."
"I wish I could tell you when that may be, Captain."
* * *
"You will never be rid of me," It told her. "Even death will hold no peace for you. I am a part of you now. I am bound to you, to your
. You are mine,
"No!" Traa'cee shouted at It. "You're
. You don't exist, outside of my dream. Once I wake myself up, you will be gone."
"You really think that? Tell me, Vulcan, has a dream ever shown you the future? Have you ever debated metaphysics with a figment of your imagination? Have you ever dreamed of killing yourself?"
Traa'cee said nothing. But she thought...
"Of course not." It warped Its evil face into a smile. "And this is no dream. You have a purpose to fulfil, Vulcan. And the sooner you get to it, the sooner the pain will end. But if you continue to resist..."
Traa'cee screamed inside her mind as she felt hot needles all over.
On the outside, she silently wept.
Government House, Nha Tranh, Moab III - 1922 hours local time
The former Federation Administration building was a pastiche of items and building codes going back centuries. As the growing world had needed additional space here, they just dug down or added on in that haphazard way that people with better things to do than worry about the current trends in architecture do when they need a little more space. The result of which was a labyrinth of rooms, atriums, hallways and corridors haphazardly linked by both enclosed and open walkways.
Quentin Heywood led LaRoca's party into this maze. "Please stay together," he suggested. "It's easy to get lost in here."
Close to the center of the 'building' were the original first-landing structures, and this was the interesting part: they left the insignia and registry stencils mostly intact, never bothering to paint over them. A fifty-two star flag stenciled on a sheet of titanium alloy that dated to the original DY-200 SS
reflected lighting fixtures
in an atrium which displayed many warp pioneer artifacts, all of which Heywood proudly described in painstaking detail.
A few steps down, around a corner and up an outdoor walkway, and there was the Canadian Maple Leaf flag and the dedication plaque of the RCS
- these formed the door to the office of the local representative of New Saigon, which was in the gutted section 44 of the SS
Ngo Dinh Diep
, one of the private-venture ships that formed the original colonial flotilla in the early years of warp travel.
And then through the New Saigon office, down a stair, and past a generator room containing a still-working thorium fission power generator, buried almost at the center... The stencil was charred on hull metal that rust showed contained high levels of chromium, nickel, and manganese mixed to an iron matrix doped with titanium - centuries old. Rusted, neglected, half-forgotten... but still there. An image of Earth, bisected by a broadsword from above.
?" Jesu read the name incredulously. "What the-"
"Um, must be a prank," their guide told them in a
Nothing to see here
tone of voice.
"Mind if we take a closer look?" Rusty asked.
The hatch-door opened with a protesting squeal, and the room beyond was dark, empty, and stripped bare. Still, there was enough to discern where the bridge stations had stood, and ripples in the metal showed where it had been exposed to vast amounts of heat... Admiral LaRoca wished he'd brought a metallurgist with him. And a spatial quantum mechanics expert.
"We don't use it for much," Heywood semi-explained as he closed the hatch and led the group away. "Mostly it's just there to support the levels on top. Sometimes it serves as a storage room."
"'Kay..." The Admiral wanted more of an explanation but he obviously wasn't going to get one.
"The main office complex is just ahead."
The group approached something that actually resembled a building rather than a kludged-together assemblage of old spaceship parts. The central office spire looked a lot like a late-21st Century Earth skyscraper tower, although greatly reduced in scale. They entered a lobby built into the shell of an old cargo module and rode a very old (but perfectly serviceable) turbolift to the top floor some twenty-three stories up. The turbolift deposited them into anteroom that was spacious and comfortable, with several large leather couches surrounding a stone coffee table and an attractive young female receptionist presiding from behind a sleek and modern desk. "Welcome to Moab," she said, rising to greet the visitors. "My name is Kelly. Governor Tran will be out shortly. Can I offer you any refreshments while we wait for the Governor? A mint, perhaps?"
"Do you have any coffee?" the Admiral asked. "It's pretty late in the evening, by our clock."
"Certainly." Kelly walked to a standard Klingon replicator and requested "Coffee, Columbian blend. Do you want cream or sugar, Admiral?"
"Actually, I was hoping for local flavor."
"Local coffee doesn't taste anything like your coffee, and it's extremely strong," Kelly warned. "I don't think you'll like it."
"I'll be the judge of that."
Kelly shrugged and turned back to the replicator. "Cancel. Straight
." She produced a tiny cup of a thick, viscous black fluid.
Admiral LaRoca cautiously sampled the brew. "That is wonderful," he declared. He took another sip. "Could I trouble you for the rep pattern?"
"I'll, uh see what I can do. Anyone else want something?"
"I'll just have a raktajino," Ennari requested. The others added their orders. None were as brave as the Admiral.
Governor Elizabeth Tran opened the door of her office.
She wore something like a 21st-Century dress suit, black with a white blouse. Her shoulder-length raven-black hair was brushed down. She wore no makeup, and no jewelry apart from a pair of silver hoop earrings, a patriotic lapel pin, and a steel-cased wristwatch.
"Admiral LaRoca! Thank you for waiting. I..." she looked around at his entourage. "I'm afraid my office is not large enough for all of you. Perhaps one or two of you could accompany the Admiral..."
Hank and Ennari stepped forward. "The rest of you, wait out here," Jesu ordered.
Rusty crossed his arms and leaned against a wall. He spotted a Moab security officer standing very unobtrusively in the corner of the room and they exchanged professional nods. The others found seats on the couches.
Jesu glanced around the inner office.
It was fairly small - not much larger than his ready room on the
- perhaps four meters by six and much of that was taken up by Tran's massive wooden desk. The desk was bare apart from a dual-monitor computer terminal and half a dozen perpetual motion toys - a Newton's Cradle, a Perpendulum, a magnetic levitator-top, a variety of gyroscopes. The Klingon trefoil flag hung from the wall behind it, and the flags of the Moab Confederacy, Moab III, New Saigon and the nearby Cold Butte colony were displayed on posts on either side. On the wall to the left of the desk (which housed the door the Admiral had just walked through) there were a variety of trophy weapons, ranging from 17th-Century flintlock firearms and an even older bat'leth to a very modern split-beam disruptor rifle of Orion manufacture. The wall to the right of the desk was a window, affording a very impressive view of the city and the mountains to the south. The opposite wall was a huge viewscreen, which cycled different maps, charts and graphs.
"Madame Governor, I have brought gifts which I hope you will accept as a token of friendship. First, a product of my homeland." He pulled a bottle from an attache case he was carrying. "Casa Noble tequila anejo. And second, to go along with your fine collection of weapons," he waved toward the wall, "a recent purchase from my friends on New Romulus." He produced an elaborately decorated plasma pistol, inscribed along the barrel and handle with a raptor in flight.
"Most thoughtful gifts indeed, Admiral," Elizbeth Tran said graciously. "I very much appreciate the gesture, thank you."
"Thank you for granting us an audience, Madame Governor," Jesu said.
"My pleasure, Admiral," Tran replied sweetly as she sat behind her desk, and discretely placed the gifts in a bottom drawer.
LaRoca continued "And may I also take this opportunity to officially express the Federation's gratitude to the Moab armed forces for the safe return of our prisoners of war. And unofficially our gratitude for revealing how badly we have been infiltrated by the Undine."
"That... was also my pleasure." She waved toward chairs placed on either end of her desk. "Won't you sit down?"
"I'll stand, thank you." The chairs looked uncomfortable. Ennari remained standing as well. Hank took the chair near the wall. The Admiral went on. "On a personal note, I'd like to express my profound regret and disgust at the way your world has been treated by the Federation for the past many years. I honestly am surprised you didn't break away sooner."
Tran seemed taken aback, but she recovered quickly. "I suppose we are a sentimental people," she said, not really meaning it. "Our connection to the Federation was our last connection to Earth."
"Yes, we saw on our way here that this whole structure serves as a sort of history museum. The pioneer spirit of your ancestors obviously means a lot to you."
"We remember or past, but we embrace the future," Tran declared. "The Klingons offered us a better future than the Federation ever did."
"I think The Federation sometimes forgets its past too easily," LaRoca remarked. "And I think it's more than a little afraid of the future."
Governor Tran leaned back in her chair, and began playing with her watch. "I must say, Admiral, these are not the words I expected from a representative of the Federation Council."
"I do not represent the Council, Madame Governor. In fact, they didn't even want me to come here. 'Too dangerous' they said."
"Well then, Admiral, exactly why are you here?"
"I'm here to right wrongs. Are you ready to dispense with the diplomatic banter and talk business?"
Tran slowly rose from her desk. "You want to talk business? Very well. What do you want, Admiral?"
"You're direct; I like that." LaRoca smiled. "We would like access to the
ruins. Miss Dai here was an archeologist in a past life. I also have several Klingon scientists aboard my ship - including my first officer - who are very interested in examining the ruins, particularly in light of the recent incursions into Federation space."
"I'm sure that could be arranged," Tran said courteously. "Anything else?"
"Just one thing more," LaRoca answered. "Eighty-Six. I want her back."
Elizabeth Tran laughed, dropping all pretense of tactfulness. "Even if I were willing to turn her over to my enemies - and make no mistake, Admiral, the Federation
my enemy - if I were willing, what makes you think I have any control over her?"
"I've spoken with her. She is clearly loyal to the Moab Confederacy. If you were to tell her that her services were no longer needed - or wanted - and that you want her to return to Starfleet-"
"Let me stop you right there," Tran interrupted. She came around the desk and started waving her hands in the air while she spoke. "Eighty-Six doesn't care what I want. She serves us at
pleasure, not mine. She operates according to her moral values, which tell her that we are right and the Federation is wrong. I can tell her to go home and she will ignore me. She will continue to protect us from you for as long as the Federation opposes us."
LaRoca smirked. "...Which brings us to what I can offer you. What would you say if I were to guarantee you the Federation's official recognition of independence, and a unilateral non-aggression treaty by the end of next month?"
"I'd call you a liar," Tran replied icily, crossing her arms. "The Council would
LaRoca leaned against her desk and crossed his legs. "Clearly the intelligence report Mouse has on me isn't nearly as good as the one Hacksaw here has on you." He flicked her Perpendulum in the opposite direction and then stared at her. "I rarely lie to a beautiful woman, and I never make a promise I don't intend to keep. Madame Governor, I am the intersection of Starfleet Security, Intelligence and the FDC. When I talk to the Federation Council these days, they listen. Did you ever wonder how the fat, lazy Federation managed to beat your Empire to New Romulus?" He spread his arms and bowed his head.
Elizabeth Tran stared. Wheels were spinning inside her head as LaRoca went on.
"In the past year I have been the difference between war and peace with the Dominion. I kept the Klingon Empire at the table while Admiral D'Vak reformed Task Force Omega. I've persuaded both the Federation Council and the Detapa Council to consider the Cardassian Union a Federation protectorate. Oh, and I killed the head of the Tal Shiar and stopped his mad plan to let the Iconians take over the galaxy. Needless to say, my record of recent accomplishments has earned me a great deal of clout with my government. If I deliver a recommendation to the Council, you can bet they'll act on it. And I also have a good friend in the KDF who carries a lot more weight with the Klingons than you do, and he can make sure any deal we cut with the Feds sticks with the Klinks."
He pushed off from her desk and walked around her, and gazed out her window. "So what I'm offering is a chance for you to write your own ticket. You want to be taken seriously as a major player in galactic affairs? You got it. If you just want to be left alone, that's fine too." He turned around to face her again. "You just tell me what you want from the Federation, and you'll have it. In writing by the end of next month."
"In return for Eighty-Six," Hacksaw added.
Tran sat down on the edge of her desk. "That is... an intriguing proposal, Admiral LaRoca. I will have to give it some thought. In the meantime, please consider yourself and your party to be guests of the Moab Confederacy. Quentin has already arranged your accommodations. And I will be happy to take your survey team to the
ruins tomorrow. I've been meaning to visit the site myself."
LaRoca bowed his head again, this time out of formal respect. "Thank you, Governor."
Elizabeth Tran stood and offered her hand. He shook it. "Before you go, would you like to see a magic trick?" she asked.
"I was hoping you would suggest that," LaRoca said with a grin. "I've been looking forward to a display of your talent."
A deck of cards appeared in her hand, which she fanned out. "Pick one."
LaRoca selected a card from the middle of the deck and showed it to his advisors. It was the Jack of Hearts.
"Now put it back," Liz Tran instructed. Jesu did. She shuffled the deck quickly, then spun around and threw it at the window. Cards went flying everywhere, except for the Jack of Hearts, which was stuck to the glass. "Is that your card?"
LaRoca nodded. "I'm impressed."
"I know how you did that," Ennari spoke up. "When you shook the Admiral's hand, you transferred an adhesive compound that would activate a few seconds after contact with the plastic laminate on your cards. Then you simply shuffled the sticky card to the top of the deck, so..." she approached the window to confirm her hypothesis, only to discover that the card was on the
of the glass. "Huh. Okay, I have no idea how you did
LaRoca smiled. "I'm
Ten minutes later
The Starfleet people had gone, and Elizabeth Tran paced in her office, fiddling with a quatloo coin as she spoke to Saul Moskovitz on her wall monitor. "The thing is, he was so damned
everything he was telling me. Now whether or not
believe him - that requires some thought.
Mouse nodded. "I can see why the Feds wouldn't have wanted him to come here. What I'm wondering is why they would let a rogue element like him operate independantly."
"I don't know. Maybe he's an Undine plant. Maybe they all are."
"You don't really believe that about LaRoca, do you?" Mouse asked her, watching her eyes.
"No. I don't know what I think about him..." she paced for another long minute, and looked at her viewscreen. "Mouse, I think I
- same time (0148 hours Standard Time)
Lt. jg. Mitiani Zain roamed sleeplessly through the ships corridors. It was quiet now - a good time to be lost in thought. Eventually she came to the biology lab. Her brother Sorbin was the lab's Gamma-shift supervisor, which meant he had the lab to himself from 0001 to 0800 hours. He liked to work alone.
Sorbin looked up from his PADD as the doors hissed open. "Good evening, ma'am."
"At ease, Ensign," Mitiani said with a smile. It was their little joke. Sorbin was actually three years older than his sister, but being a tactical officer, Mitiani had been promoted to Lt. in only two years while Sorbin had been a science ensign for the last five. "Watcha workin' on?"
"Trying to solve a little mystery. Commander Yoann asked me to correlate the biospectral scans of this planet to what we have on New Romulus. Between the ambient radiation and the harsh surface conditions and environmental toxins, this planet
should not be capable of supporting class-M life.
"But it does."
"It's the damndest thing. They call this world a class-N-Zero. Its almost as though it was terraformed by a species with specific non-humanoid requirements."
"How does that relate to New Romulus?" Mitiani wondered.
Sorbin poked at his PADD. "Dewa III has comporable radiation levels. Using that world's biosphere as a template and backtracing probable evolution paths, I'm trying to figure out how the fauna native to Moab III could have adapted."
"Huh. So how did the colonists down there manage to adapt?"
question, and so far I can only put it down to Human determination and ingenuity."
Nha Tran City - 2236 local time
Quentin Heywood herded the exhausted Starfleet visitors into the upscale Scott and Binh's Restaurant in the trendy giải tri district of the city, away from Orion riots. "...The first restaraunt on the planet to serve replicated meals to the public," Heywood droned on in that high-pitched whine of his. He nodded to the maitre d'. "LaRoca's party, table for nine."
"Right this way, please," the thin Vietnamese man said through a forced French accent.
"I highly recommend you order from the replicator menu," Heywood went on once they were seated. "Off-worlders tend to find our cuisine to be... unpalateable. In fact, the Klingons consider eating some of our food to be a test of courage!"
Jesu ignored the replicator menu, as did Rusty, K'lak and Stazratts. "What's
"That's a predatory fish that tastes a bit like rancid pork," Heywood explained. "Something of a local delicacy. It's very difficult and dangerous to catch, and you have to use a lot of spice to get past the rotten taste."
"Perfect." The Admiral closed his menu.
"What about this note next to the beef selections," Stazratts pointed,
"'Cooked to Meyer Standard'?"
"That's the process used to make much of the local animal life edible. The colony would not have survived without the work of Benyamin Meyer, who adapted kosher preparation methods to make the
and other animals safe to eat."
"Are you ready to order?" an attractive Asian-Latina waitress asked the party.
"I'll have the fried porker belly burrito with
sauce, please," the Admiral requested. "Non-replicated."
"The same, without the sauce," Rusty added his order, handing in his menu.
Jesu looked over the drinks list. "And a bottle of
Bia Diablo, por favor.
"Very good, sir."
Quentin Heywood gave Jesu LaRoca an amused smirk.
Garden Grove Hotel, eighty minutes later
Jesu LaRoca retched the last remnants of his meal into the toilet bowl. "Oh, God," he mumbled as he staggered to his feet. He flushed it down and shambled over to the sink to wash his face.
"Maybe you should stick to replicated food from now on," Rusty suggested.
The Admiral rinsed out his mouth and spat. "Ya think?"
K'Lan-ne, Vulcan - 1347 hours local time
Frank Grimes paced in his hotel room, too agitated to attempt to sleep, and the glaringly bright sunlight pouring through the window obviously didn't help. He remembered what it was like to fully liquid, to not require sleep, food, or drink... he absolutely did not miss it. But the thought of waiting on the Vulcans was enought to drive him mad.
He tapped his commbadge. "
, link to Atticus.
The AI responded a moment later.
"What do you need, Frank?"
"Where are you at with your Undine investegation?"
"Are you secure?"
Am I secure.
Grimes activated his sound dampener. "Of course."
"I have downgraded the current Subject Zero and upgraded a new Subject One, based on my research into Macintosh Terra and their Starfleet contracts spanning several decades. I discovered that those virused chips were actually created at the behest of Starfleet Intelligence."
"For what purpose?"
"An anti-piracy measure conceived by Rear Admiral Korolov of the Counterintelligence Bureau. The chips were intended to be 'monkey traps' - they were
to be stolen, and then once installed on a suspect ship, a waiting Starfleet vessel would send the activation codes, causing the affected ships to go haywire and leading to an easy capture."
Grimes frowned. "But Korolov retired over a decade ago, didn't he?"
"True, and this program was subsequently defunded. The chips never reached circulation."
"Okay, so how did the chips wind up in Moab boats, and who gave the Fek their activation codes?"
"That is what I am currently investigating, Frank."
Grimes rubbed his eyes. He thought of something Greg Sander had told him, almost thirty years ago.
"The problem with running so many black projects is that they tend to smudge the white ones, and before too long everything you work on is some darker shade of gray..."
"Atticus, I want you to introduce a new variable. Suppose 'Operation Mountain Road' was
always meant to fail...
* * * * *
"Freedom is just a pretty idea unless it's backed by Force."
The Masterverse Timeline
Ten Forward Fanfics
Last edited by sander233; 07-29-2014 at