Thread: Fallout
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Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 814
# 22
09-20-2013, 08:47 AM

*/*---audio input above threshold level---consciousness to waking mode---somatic response[y/n]n---audio on*/*

"I think she's still asleep," Tallasa says. "What in the name of the Infinite is this stuff?"

"I do not recognize these file headers." Saval's voice. "The text file, though - a novel, early Earth twentieth century, entitled 'Pale Horse'. Do you recognize it?"

"A horse is an Earth riding animal," Tallasa says doubtfully. "It seems a strange subject, even for the Admiral."

*/*somatic response[y/n]y*/*

My eye opens. "Oh, for crying out loud, you two," I say, "it's relevant. Though this be madness, yet there's method in't."

"Sir," says Saval. "We did not realize you were awake."

"Never realize," I say. "When you realize, you make a real out of... I and zee... hang on, that doesn't work. Never mind." I swing my legs off the ready room couch and stand up. Do I have pants on? Yes, I do. Today will be a good day.

"'Pale Horse'. Know who rode a pale horse? Death. Death, in the Book of Revelations. And Hell followed close behind. Boris Savinkov," I owe them a lecture, "the author of this little drollery, was a political fanatic during the upheavals in the country known as Russia, after Earth's first world war. The winners of that struggle established one of Earth's nastier dictatorships. Savinkov was one of the losers... and, when you learn a little about him, you realize - oops, sorry - that that was actually a good thing."

"How is he relevant, sir?" Tallasa asks.

"Because he was a terrorist. A believer in the theory and practice of terror for the furtherance of political ends. In case you haven't worked it out yet, that's the kind of person we're dealing with. Terrorists are prepared to do unthinkable things, my friends, not for the sake of the things themselves, but for the response they get."

"I believe I understand," says Saval.

"It's the key to understanding what our man's after. We need to work out what response he wants from us - from Starfleet, from the Federation as a whole. Then we need to not give it to him. Does he want us to take revenge? Then we extend olive branches until everyone's sick of olives. Does he want us to run scared? Then we come out fighting."

"Question, sir," says Tallasa.

"Fire away."

"What makes you sure it's us he wants a reaction from? Why not the Klingon Empire? I'm assuming you think this was the work of a rogue operative - why can't he be aiming at the Klingon hierarchy? To cause an upheaval there?"

Damn. There's an actual brain at work under those two blue coathooks. I mean, I hadn't thought of that wrinkle. "Never assume," I say. "When you assume, you make - oh, the heck with it. Yes, you might be right. And there's no way to dictate which way the Klinks will jump... so, if you are right, well, there's not much we can do about it."

Tallasa nods, soberly, thoughtfully.

"So let's do Starfleet stuff," I say. "We all happily linked up with Sixth Fleet now?"

"Holding station at defense grid marker buoy epsilon 473," says Tallasa. "The fleet is almost at full strength, with only the Yukoku and the Warspite to report in. Admiral Gref has ordered you to report aboard the flagship Taras Bulba at 1530 hours, to attend the preliminary strategic briefing."

"Joy of joys," I mutter. "What time is it now?" */*0937*/* "Twenty to ten, never mind. Plenty of time. Oh, hi there, face-ache, what the hell do you want?" This last, to the communications ensign, who's standing at the ready room door with his mouth hanging open. I double-check; yes, I was right, I'm wearing pants.

"Sir," he says, "there's a communication for you - um, it's got a Starfleet priority - but, um, there's no origin code, we don't know who's sending it -"

"Spooky spooky spook stuff!" I carol happily. "Put it through. Let's have a seance, talk to the spook. Stick around, kid, you may learn something. On screen."

The desk console lights up, revealing a human */*species 5618*/* face, with a scar across one cheek that looks like it was done by Dr. Frankenstein, in the dark, while drunk. "Frankie, baby!"

"Vice Admiral Grau," says Franklin Drake. "I think you ought to know that your access rights to some comms channels... lapsed, some time around the year 2300."

"Oh, don't come that tone with me, Frankie. I remember you. I used to dandle you on my knee when you were a kid." He looks sceptical. "All right, it might have been some other kid. There was definitely dandling involved, though."

*/*species 5618---specific unit designated---Franklin Drake---priority for assimilation and memory retrieval due to specialist knowledge---*/*

Put a sock in it, Two of Twelve. "Anyway, yeah, you can help me out. When did the IKS Shara'nga change its name?"

Drake narrows his eyes. "Ronnie," he says, "don't meddle. You won't do any good if you meddle, and you could do a considerable amount of harm."

"Shara'nga," I say, "is a perfectly good Klink name, some Klingon general probably named it after his favourite targ, or mistress, or both. But, five months ago, according to those handy intelligence digests you keep in the dusty corners of Memory Alpha, the name was changed, to the QIb laH'e'. That's a cool name. Translates roughly to 'Heart of Darkness', doesn't it? Very Joseph Conrad."

"I'd prefer 'Heart of Shadow'," says Drake.

"I bet you do. Anyway. It's a Klink thing, isn't it? Ships with appropriate names. My ship doesn't have an appropriate name, but then I'm not a Klink. The IKS Heart of Darkness... as if it's getting ready for a deed of darkness. Am I right? I don't have to be, there's more. Planet wrecking munitions, who carries that much ordnance normally? Again, your intelligence digests have lots of good stuff about movements of industrial technology in the Empire. And who's this Commander Kysang, when he's at home?"

"Kysang is dead."

"Mistah Kysang - he dead. Right." I lean forward and narrow my organic eye at the screen. "There's a terrorist rogue agent at work in the Klink hierarchy, and it's someone a lot higher up than one carrier commander. Right? Look, you don't have to tell me anything, I'm out here on the front lines. But the girl on the spot is that psycho-smurf Shohl, and she probably needs to know about some of this, at least. So are you going to tell her, or shall I? Tylha Shohl, do you know her?"

"I know everybody," says Drake. "And you shouldn't worry about Tylha. She's already reached some of the same conclusions you have, and without breaking in the back door of Memory Alpha. Her preliminary reports make that clear. And she has additional resources that you don't know about... actually, that she doesn't know about. Yet." He smiles, a sly untrustworthy smile. "Don't worry about Tylha," he repeats.

"Frankie says relax, huh? Better be right, Drake. Too many people dead already, and with this much firepower gathering out here, there's gonna be more. When all the shooting's over... I'd hate to think the people who started it got away scot free."

"I wish I could promise that won't happen," Drake says. "But this is the real world, Ronnie, and we have to live with its imperfections. Bear that in mind." And the screen goes dark.