Thread: Fallout
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Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 829
# 26
09-21-2013, 11:39 AM
Tylha

King Estmere's needle-pointed prow is turned towards the planet, aimed straight at the roiling masses of grey and white clouds that - mercifully - cover most of the land surface. I stare moodily into the viewscreen.

The bridge is more densely populated than usual. The Orion renegade, Kluthli, is standing by chief science officer Zazaru as they work through the final details. Nearby, Anthi and the Reman scientist Temerix are working on another holo-display. This one shows the evidence we have gathered; the path of the IKS QIb laH'e' around the planet, the devices it deployed, their trajectories into Bercera IV's atmosphere... all annotated, with links to sensor recordings and communications logs. If Captain Klur ever comes to trial, the display is a neat summary of the case against him.

Also on the bridge, staring at the screen, are two civilians: Koneph Phoral and Osrin Corodrev. I turn to them, now. "We're ready to proceed. Is this... the best way forwards?"

Corodrev nods. "It's the best chance for the planet as a whole," he says. His voice is resonant, commanding - well, it would be, his genetic augmentation makes him the perfect image of the noble, manly Andorian thaan. His father thought in those sorts of stereotypes. Beside him, Phoral nods agreement. To some extent, I think, Phoral is a stereotypical chan, too, the witty, wisecracking wingman, the charming second fiddle to the thaan hero. No doubt there should be a pushy aggressive shen and a dependable, nurturing zhen somewhere in the equation, too....

"Recorders are running, sir," Anthi Vihl reports.

"Satellites deployed and in position," Kluthli says. Beside her, Zazaru just looks at the screen with sad brown eyes. Sometimes I worry that my science officer is too sensitive for our sort of work. But, then, we are all of us too sensitive for this.

I look towards Corodrev once again. "Are you sure there are no more survivors? I could pull back my auxiliary craft and do another sweep...."

"If anyone's still down there," Phoral says, "then they're somewhere we can't find them... and they'll be dying already from chemical or radiation toxicity." The toxins released into the planet's atmosphere, both from the initial bombardment and the subsequent vulcanism, have made it a nauseous chemical soup in a staggeringly short time.

"It's... kinder... this way, I think," Corodrev adds. I nod. I take in a deep, reluctant breath.

"Synchronize all disruptors and fire when ready," I order.

My android science officer, Amiga, handles the weapons controls with her machine precision. If she is troubled by what is happening, it doesn't show. "Energizing now," she says, flatly.

King Estmere seems to shudder as the disruptors cut loose. They are devastating enough weapons in normal combat; now, their energies are being aligned with the main deflector, channelled into a force-field web strung between the satellites we've positioned. They will create, not localized bursts of destruction, but a planet-wide field, tuned to a very specific setting.

The verdict from the science teams was in; the suspended tricobalt dust in the atmosphere would poison what remained of the planet's ecosystem as it settled. The only solution - to burn it off, now. The disruptor field affects tricobalt, and only tricobalt, making the atoms of that frightful substance undergo spontaneous decomposition, turning it into relatively harmless fission byproducts. The catch, of course, is that as this happens, the tricobalt gives up all its stored energy.

So, my ship's weapons fire, and for the second time, Bercera IV's atmosphere burns.

It is necessary, to preserve the remnants of life in the deep oceanic trenches. But it is the coup de grace for the rest of the planet; it is death to anything that breathes.

From this high up, it looks uneventful, at first. Perhaps the clouds roil a little on the sunlit side of the planet; perhaps there is a faint stippling of dots of ruddy light on the night side. Closer to, we would see the infernos that have suddenly sprung to life, hear the concussive blasts of the terrific explosions among the clouds.

Then - "What's that?" Anthi says.

"The aurora," Phoral replies, quietly.

Energised particles, striking the planet's magnetosphere. Normally, they come from space, in the form of the solar wind; this time, they are striking up from below, released by the fury of the tricobalt disruption. Ghostly greenish-blue light ripples across the upper atmosphere, wrapping the dead world in an eerie glowing shroud.

"Tricobalt reaction confirmed," says Amiga. We watch in silence, otherwise, until the lights die away.

"So," I say, heavily, at the end. "We've done all we can, here, then." I try to make my voice brisk. "What's the status of the survivors?"

"All the serious cases have been transferred to our hospital ships," says Corodrev. "There's a few left in your sickbay, awaiting transport - your Dr. Beresford's been a huge help, by the way. Thank you for that."

"We'd better finish up those transfers, then," I say. "The patients will be glad to be off a military vessel, I'm sure... and I can take King Estmere off on the hunt for the Klingons."

"We'll get going and arrange the final transports," says Corodrev, and then frowns. "Ah. If someone could show us, again, where your sickbay is...."

"Oh, yes," I say, "it took us a while to get used to the layout of a Tholian ship. Come on, great-grand-uncle, I'll take you myself."

As we walk towards sickbay, Corodrev says, "I wish you wouldn't call me that. It makes me feel ancient. Besides, my father edited my genome so much... genetically, I have barely anything in common with you. We're the same species, and that's all."

"Oh?" I say. "I'd have thought he'd be keen to preserve his bloodline, or something."

"Preserve and improve," says Corodrev. "Have you ever seen pictures of my father?"

"I looked him up," I say. "I must admit, he didn't look much."

"He was a runt," says Corodrev. "Small, sickly and feeble. It's one of those - psychological things. He hated his own weaknesses, and he projected that hatred onto the things he thought were making Andoria weak. In his mind, the Federation."

"I'm surprised he let you develop that level of insight," I say. "What with trying to raise you as an augmented elite...."

"He was a lot better genetic engineer than he was a practical psychologist," says Phoral. "Besides, by the time we'd grown to adolescence - and were really into the rebellious, questioning-authority, stage - he had pretty much lost his grip. Of course, then the Nausicaans took us over... that wasn't fun."

"Can't have been. Well," I say, "I guess I can sympathize, in a way. I'm sure I'd be a disappointment to my thaan-father, too."

"Disappointed in a Starfleet officer?" says Corodrev.

"He wasn't into the military," I say. "He helped set up the original Gimel Vessaris colony - it was supposed to be a post-industrial, post-military, eco-friendly and socially harmonious place. Fine ideals. Unfortunately, they didn't count for much when the Nausicaans came and kicked the place over. So, as soon as my head healed up... I decided I'd join the outfit that stood between the idealists and the Nausicaans."

"Oh," says Corodrev. "Funny, I'd always thought of you as military through-and-through. The old Andorian way."

"That's Anthi, not me. My exec. She's old Imperial Guard to the core."

"You said your head healed up," says Phoral. "Is that where you got -?" He touches his right cheek, where the scars run on mine.

"Yes."

He smiles at me. "Maybe you should get that fixed."

"This is fixed, I'm afraid. As fixed as it gets."

He looks as if he has more questions. But he never asks them, because right then the alarms go off.

"Admiral," Anthi's voice says on the intercom, over the clamour, "we have a sensor contact at the fringe of the system. Definitely Klingon, and looks like a Kar'fi carrier."

I swear, and hit my combadge. "Anthi. Get us moving, schedule a rendezvous point with the fighters." All King Estmere's auxiliary ships are out scouring the Bercera system for traces of the QIb laH'e''s warp signature. "Maximum combat readiness."

"Acknowledged," says Anthi's professional voice. I hit the combadge again. "Engineering. How soon to reconfigure the disruptors for normal firing?"

"We address the matter with the utmost expedition!" Commander Thirethequ's voice comes back. "Our efforts, paltry though they are, will be crowned with success after no more than fifteen minutes have elapsed!"

Corodrev is looking puzzled. "Jolciots," I explain. "They're good people, but they're strong on the flowery language. Well, I think this is where we say goodbye. Get those civilians off the ship and head for safety. If that's Captain Klur returning to the scene of the crime, I'm damned if I'm letting him take another crack at them."

Corodrev opens his mouth, but Phoral tugs at his sleeve. "Let's not argue with the nice lady, Oz," he says, "I don't think she's in the mood."

I'm already sprinting back towards the bridge.