Author: Brendan Chris
“Increase power to engines five through nine by fifteen percent,” Captain Elizabeth Simplot ordered, her gaze focused on the gleaming orb of Matria Prime visible through Starbase 341’s transparent dome.
“Our orbit is already optimal,” replied the voice of her first officer, Matrian Colonel Myres Abela, “We’ve been making minor corrections all week, this is our final adjustment, there’s no need-“
“Just do it!” Simplot snapped, “Increase power to engines five though nine and give us a four degree increase in our Y-axis pitch.
“Yes, Captain,” Abela said, her tone a bit frosty. Yes, Matrians and the Federation shared the concept of the chain of command, but if anybody alive knew how to manoeuvre the massive, three-plus kilometer disc that was Haven, it was her! Still, she conveyed Simplot’s orders to Matrian Lieutenant Fissett, Director of Shipbuilding Lieutenant Commander Shurgroe and Director of Dome Operations Lieutenant Wyer as they manned three of the control pulpits in the command complex.
Simplot eyed Matria Prime as it slowly started shifting across the starry sky above the city.
“Reverse!” she ordered, “Cut engines five though nine, give me a twenty-second pulse on engines eighteen though twenty-two, then shut everything down!”
She could hear Abela parroting her orders to the Ops crew. Abela could call it the Haven Command Complex if she really wanted to, but to Simplot the three-level control center of the orbital city was quickly becoming Ops. She actually had Wyer working on a way to add Ops to the Matrian communications routing system without Abela noticing.
“Shut them down,” Abela ordered. Wyer tapped his panel and there was a low groan as Haven’s impulse/antigravity engines powered off. She stepped towards the railing of the command deck and looked down through one of the big lower windows. A holographic overlay had been added, showing a close-up of a section of lakeshore near the central island.
“Are you happy now?” she demanded.
Hundreds of meters below, Simplot bobbed atop the water, lying on a comfortable inflatable mattress. The waves caused by Haven’s movement were settling down as she stretched back out and pulled an actual paper book out of a waterproof covering. Haven was in its night cycle, the slow rotation of the city having turned the dome away from the sun. Sort of. Wyer was still sorting out the orbital mechanics. But the important thing was that now, with the bright day side of the planet below shining through the dome, there was just enough light for Simplot to comfortably read her book.
“That’s perfect,” she said, “Absolutely perfect! Well done!”
“You realize that with the velocity we need to maintain our orbit, we’re only going to be facing the day side for another thirty minutes,” Abela said, “And we’re not doing another orbital adjustment! We needed this one to stabilize our orbit after that little trip, but I’m not powering up the engines again just because you don’t have a night-light!”
“Relax, Colonel, I’ll be done in another half-hour,” Simplot said.
“And why are you swimming at night anyway? Couldn’t you wait-“
“Simplot out,” she cut the channel. Abela could be such a mother hen. Their relationship had improved over the last couple of weeks, to the point where they could work together without cursing, fighting or hair-pulling, but there was still a lot of room for improvement. But that was shop talk. Work stuff. Simplot had spent her whole afternoon going through rental requests and housing proposals for the station. The Matrian Council still hadn’t decided to start moving people up to the empty city, but they seemed to be planning something. On the other hand, that didn’t explain why she suddenly had fifty requests for store space coming from businesses in Federation space.
“Ahhh!” Simplot cried out, “Work stuff! Deep breath, Liz. Just read the book and ignore all that crap. Just for one night.” Grabbing her pina colada from the little floating drink-holder next to her air mattress, she took a long sip. The water was still slowly undulating from Haven’s orbital correction, not even the inertial dampeners could fully cancel out the effect, but that was just fine. With the starry sky above, the gentle waves beneath and the illumination from Matria Prime, this was about as relaxing as life could get.
There was a rush of wind and the roar of antigravity engines as something passed by directly overhead. A pulsing green light suddenly flashed as sirens went off.
Simplot jerked so hard she fell right off the mattress, giving out a squawk of surprise as she tumbled into the cool water. She’d barely gotten her head above water in time to see four figures, naked except for loincloths, lowering themselves on ropes from what looked like a small police flyer.
“Ma’am,” one of them said, “Private Yeks, Haven Civil Protection Team. Ma’am, you shouldn’t be out on the water after dark,”
“And it took four of your and a big f**king siren to tell me that??!!” Simplot shouted, trying to be heard over the screeching siren.
Yeks made a hand-gesture towards the flyer and the sound died.
“You shouldn’t be out here miss,” he repeated, “Can we offer you a lift to shore?”
“It’s eight meters away,” Simplot grumbled, “And I’m fine, really!”
“That’s right, I’ve been keeping an eye on her,” a voice called from towards the shore.
Simplot spun in the water to find herself facing a well built young human male dressed in an old-style Earth lifeguard’s uniform.
“Is that so,” Yeks said sceptically.
“It is,” the man said, “Don’t worry about it. And tell Franches the next time he wants to deal with a misdemeanour, he doesn’t need four policemen and a big-ass siren!”
“And FYI,” Simplot piped up, “Rappelling down in loincloths? I could see everything. You might want to reconsider that one,”
Yeks gave them both a dark look, then tugged his rope. The four of them were immediately lifted back to the flyer, though Simplot noticed with satisfaction that they all crossed their legs on the way up. The flyer pivoted, then soared back towards CP HQ in the North Suburb.
Simplot turned her attention to her mysterious benefactor.
“Thanks for that,” she said, trying to regain her dignity as she manoeuvred back onto her air mattress. “I did have somebody watching me though,” she added, drawing her gaze back temporarily from the very well-formed muscles beneath to the ‘Lifeguard’ shirt above. “A…a friend of mine is in Ops right now. She’s got one of those fancy holographic window thingies pointed this way,”
“Then I guess I better behave myself,” he winked.
“A little jealousy never hurt anybody,” Simplot teased, “Why don’t you strip off that shirt and join me?”
“Don’t have to ask me twice,” he said, flashing her a dazzling smile. He stripped off the shirt, revealing abs that had to be artificially implanted. Tossing the shirt on the shore, he ran a few steps into the water before diving under. He swam under Simplot’s mattress then came up the other side.
“So what’s a pretty young thing like you doing in a dark lake at night anyway?” he asked playfully.
“Oh, just blowing off some steam,” Simplot replied, throwing a mischievous look towards Ops before returning her attention to this handsome stranger.
Up in the command complex, Abela’s eyes narrowed even further as, on the window’s holographic overlay, Simplot grinned up at her before turning to the human in the water and giggling.
She snapped her fingers.
“Window L-3,” she said sharply, then made a cutting motion with one hand. Obediently, the holographic overlay faded, returning the view to that of a window looking down the side of the Command Tower and into the city.
“Glad to see we’re getting the bugs out of the user interfaces,” Wyer said, turning from his panel, “Now if we could just get the computer’s pseudo-personality online, we’d be set.”
“It’s not a matter of getting it online, it’s a matter of finding it,” Shurgroe said, “It wasn’t copied over from the planetary databanks before the city was locked down, and so much was lost during the war, well…”
“I know there’s a copy in the library,” Abela said, turning away from the railing and returning to the center of the command deck, “I just…have to find it,”
“The profile, or the library?” Wyer asked.
Shurgoe turned to him.
“W-What do you mean?” he asked.
Wyer rose from his station and moved to the central, Haven- shaped holo-table. With a few taps the default view, a globe of Matria Prime, shrunk and moved up to take relative position to the table, as though it were the actual city. Inside the raised outer edge of the table dozens of small holographic towers appeared, recreating the city exactly within the table. Several cylindrical objects started flashing, scattered throughout the city.
“These are the main computer cores,” Wyer said. Another tap and they vanished.
“And these are the backups,” another series of smaller cylinders flashed, these ones buried deep beneath ‘ground level’.
“And this is the physical backup library, where isolated copies of sensitive or valuable information are kept,” he tapped again. This time, nothing flashed.
“I don’t see it,” Shurgroe said.
“That’s because somebody decided to erase its location from the map when she decided that Haven needed to disappear for a few centuries,” Wyer said, giving Abela a look.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” Abela grumbled.
“But you know where it is, right?” Shurgroe asked.
“It’s a big city,” Abela said defensively, “I know…sort of…where it should be.”
“Sooo…we’re going exploring?” Shurgroe gulped. Searching a city this size for ANYTHING was bound to be a daunting task.
“You’re going exploring,” Wyer corrected him, “I’ve got to figure out this dome biosphere console,” he pointed at an as-yet unused workstation.
“Oh come on, you can do that later,” Shrugroe whined, “I don’t want to be lost and alone in the city!”
“I can only experiment with this thing at night,” Wyer said firmly, “Otherwise I have to deal with solar influence, and I’m not ready for that yet! Plus, we have to get in the habit of doing things like this at night so we don’t disrupt the inhabitants, assuming we ever get any.”
“I’ll be coming with you,” Abela said. She had drifted back over to the railing and was looking back down at the water. “Enough bickering. Wyer, don’t you have work to do?”
“Yes ma’am,” Wyer sighed, sitting at the biosphere control console, “Let’s see if I can figure out how to give us a light fog,”
“So, you’re a human?” Simplot’s new companion was asking.
“Yes,” she replied, lying on her side to chat, “You?”
“I’ve got a little Klingon in my blood,” he said, “Just a bit. Great-great-grandfather or something,”
“It doesn’t show,” Simplot said, surprised.
“Well, it was a long time ago,” he shrugged, “But don’t worry, I still have an…asset or two…from that side of the family tree.”
“Hey, hey, TMI!” Simplot said…though she really didn’t mind. This guy was bold, bold in a way that reminded her of herself, Annerson, Sinclair and Terenth. Back on the Stallion the four of them had pursued men the way…well, the way this handsome stranger seemed to be pursuing her. Come to think of, there was something very familiar about this stranger. In fact, Simplot could have sworn she’d seen him before.
“What’s your name, hotshot?” she asked.
“Harrison,” he said.
“Uh, just leave it at Harrison for now,” he said. He frowned. “Does it seem to be getting colder to you?”
“Actually, it does, Simplot admitted. The air was getting crisp and chilly. Wait, no, now it was getting warm and humid.
“Um,” she looked up at the dome. Hazy mist was forming near the underside of the dome, quickly thickening into a layer of cloud.
“Maybe we should go inside,” Harrison suggested.
“What did you have in mind?” Simplot gave him a suggestive wink.
A flash of lightening and the crash of thunder filled the sky.
“First, getting the hell out of the water!” Harrison exclaimed, tossing Simplot over his shoulder and sloshing towards shore.
“This is your idea of a light mist?” Abela asked Wyer as she looked at the roiling grey mess outside the lower windows. The dull flickers of lightening could barely be seen through the grey, and the tiny holographic city in the holo-table was obscured by a solid mass of clouds.
“Oops,” Wyer said softly.
“Weren’t you telling me one of your past lives was a weatherman?” Shurgroe asked him.
“She was used to predicting the weather, not controlling it,” Wyer said, staring at his console, “OK, um, thunderstorms need energy, right? So let’s try using the dome to radiate some of this extra heat into space,”
Outside, Shurgroe and Harrison had collapsed, laughing, on the grass two dozen meters up from the water.
“I didn’t know this place could have weather!” Simplot laughed. She vaguely recalled Wyer and Abela chattering about biosphere experiments, but she’d been buried in Matrian leasing laws at that point. The muggy clouds had opened up (along with nozzles hidden in the dome supports) and sheets of rain were now pouring down on them.
“Me neither,” Harrison said, almost shouting to be heard over the rain. He rolled towards her, then took her in his arms, “But who cares?” He moved in for the kiss.
Simplot was about to give in when she noticed two things: First, the expression on his face when he was doing the ‘half- lidded kissy-face’ was really, really familiar. Second, she hadn’t seen it in the water, but he had a tattoo on his lower torso, half of it still obscured by his bathing suite.
“HEY!” Simplot snapped, yanking his waistband down just enough to see the rest of the tattoo, “I know you! You were in ‘Risa Gone Wild, Volume 2’! “
Harrison suddenly looked very, very embarrassed.
“You’re a porn star!” she shouted, “Your name isn’t Harrison! It’s…oh, what was it? Tereneth obsessed over you for a month…she even had your ‘Twelve Months of Steele 58000 Calendar’. Wait! Steele! Steele Stoneryder!”
“It’s Harrison Stoneryder, really! I used to be a…an adult performer.” Harrison admitted. He shivered, the air was suddenly getting colder, “But I quit that four years ago!”
“Oh really?” Simplot asked, getting to her feet and heading indoors. Truth be told, she wasn’t really upset with him, after all she wasn’t exactly Miss Innocence. But it was getting uncomfortably chilly, “So, let’s get out of this weather and you can tell me what a former porn star is doing on a Matrian city that’s closed to the public,”
Something hit Harrison right between the eyes. Up on the dome surface, hidden by the clouds, Wyer’s attempt to radiate heat was having an unexpected side effect: hail.
They ran for the nearest building, trying to cover their heads as the rain was quickly replaced by peanut-sized hail.
“What the hell is going on up there?” Harrison wondered as they dashed under the stone overhang of a residential tower.
“We’ll find out tomorrow,” Simplot shrugged. Of course, she knew darn well it was Abela trying to, literally, rain on her parade! That bitch! “So, you were going to tell me what brings you out here?”
“Oh yeah,” he nodded, “I’m the Starfleet Chief of Security,”
Simplot’s eyes narrowed. The Starfleet Chief of Security. What the Matrians were calling the Director of Policing and External Security (DoPES). The man who had ignored Abela his entire time on the station, had ignored HER repeated comm-calls, had skipped meetings, avoided the security office and in general had been a complete lazy layabout ever since Simplot had arrived.
“A pleasure to meet you,” Simplot said, smiling, “I’m Janet,”
This man would be destroyed.
The next morning, Abela met with Lieutenant Shurgroe in the Transit Hub, the huge multi-level, ring-shaped chamber directly beneath the command tower. The Hub housed the main switch tracks for Haven’s public transit system, along with boarding platforms, balconies, crossover bridges, staircases and the main entrances to the six Atriums. Shurgroe had simply shown up wearing his Starfleet uniform and carrying his tricorder and a padd. Abela, however, had emerged not from the broad staircase leading down from her apartment building, but instead from a turbolift. She was pulling an anti-gravity sled loaded with equipment behind her. She was dressed in her Matrian fatigues, but she was also carrying a heavy backpack. No, it wasn’t just a backpack, it was an actual rucksack!
“Uhh, what’s all that?” he asked.
Abela looked at him like he was an idiot.
“Food, water, a stove, raingear, winter wear,” she said, “I brought you a sleeping bag and a pack, since I figured Starfleeters wouldn’t think of this sort of thing,”
“We’re just going out to the s-s-suburbs!” Shurgroe exclaimed, his stutter kicking back in as he suddenly started getting very nervous.
“We’re going on a search through the city,” Abela corrected him primly, “And until Wyer gets the weather systems under control, I don’t know what we’ll have to deal with,”
“Can’t we just stay in the below-ground levels?” Shurgroe whined. He was a starship engineer. He should be helping Wyer figure out the biosphere weather control systems, or helping with the Silverado rebuild in Shipyard 3. But Wyer was adamant that he needed to find this library, and the engineers in Shipyard 3 had cut themselves off from the city, in an effort to ‘better focus on their work’. Now here he was with Abela, about to go trekking God knew where!
There was a commotion on the stairs as Dr. Janet Annerson came running down.
“Colonel Abela!” she called, “Wait a moment!”
Putting on her profession ‘It’s time to deal with somebody I don’t have a problem with…yet’ face, Abela turned to face the doctor.
“Yes, doctor” she said politely.
“Don’t forget this,” Annerson said, handing her a long, hollow tube and a case of darts.
“What’s this for?” Abela asked, her face switching to her ‘It’s time to deal with somebody I might have a problem with’ mode.
“Shurgroe,” Annerson explained, “He…well, he’s got a few minor problems that are easily controlled with medication. He just hates taking it. So if he starts getting jittery, shoot him with this. Preferably in the ass. Aside from being a good place to administer shots, it’s only fair since he’s been a constant pain in mine,”
With that, Annerson smiled politely and turned back to the stairs.
Abela was still turning the blowgun over in her hands when the turbolift doors hissed open and a short, wiry Matrian man ran out carrying two steaming travel mugs.
“Myress, you forgot your telibras!” he called, referring to a hot Matrian beverage. He stopped as he approached them, then held the other mug out to Shurgroe, “I made one for you too,” he added.
“Lt. Shurgroe, you know my husband Craigan?” Abela asked politely.
“Yeah, from the party a couple weeks back,” Shurgroe nodded. Something about seeing a guy doing such a…such a domestic thing seemed odd. 24th-Century, Josh, he reminded himself. And it’s the Matrian way. “Thanks.”
“Don’t be gone too long,” Craigan said, kissing Abela on the cheek.
“I’ll comm if we’re going to be gone more than two days,” Abela kissed him back.
“Two days?” Shurgroe squeaked.
“You’d rather come back to your cozy apartment every night?” Abela asked, her voice slightly disdainful, “Perhaps we could reconfigure the transporters to do a site-to-site beaming?”
“Sure, that would be…” Shurgroe trailed off. He’d assumed that Abela’s little display of, er, machismo, was just her way of showing off. Now, he was starting to suspect that there was a bit more too it.
She was challenging him. She wanted to see whether he, and by that extension the other Starfleeters, could actually man up and do something the hard way.
“Give me that pack,” he said, grabbing the other rucksack off the sled and shouldering it. It was heavy! He tried to recall what he’d learned about these things at the Academy, assuming the Matrian version was similar. Let’s see, over the head…lean forward…arms through the straps…aaannnnnddd…pull tight. Yes! He turned to Abela, a pleased expression on his face.
“Very good,” Abela said dryly, “But you might want to put your gear in it first,”
Captain Simplot rode the lift down from her apartment to the basement level. Basement, below ground, parking one, whatever you wanted to call it, it was the level just beneath the city’s street level. It had been locked up during the initial discovery of Haven, but with the city now operation it was fully available. All the buildings seemed to be connected at this level, but Simplot hadn’t explored beyond the pleasant corridor that led from her building to a staircase that would take her up to the Transit Hub, where she could climb the more ornate staircase up three more levels to the glass-walled crossover bridge that would take her to the interior of the Hub and to the lower lobby of the command tower. From there, she could take another lift up to Ops.
Once, when a small comet had set off Haven’s proximity alarm, she’d commed Abela up to Ops. Somehow, the woman had managed to get all the way from her downtown apartment to Ops in about three minutes. Someday, Simplot would figure out how the hell she did that. For now, she didn’t really mind the walk all that much.
Finally, she arrived in Ops. To her surprise, all that was visible through the lower windows was a smear of light grey cloud. A few Matrian techs were wandering around the second level, flipping through security feeds on the big viewscreens and tapping away at their padds. On the third-level command deck Fisett and two Starfleet crewmen was seated at the holo-table going over basic station procedures while Wyer hunched over one of the twelve control pulpits that ringed the outer edge of the deck.
“Mr. Wyer, how are you today?” Simplot asked, putting a hand on his shoulder. Wyer didn’t respond. In fact, Simplot’s touch was enough to start him sliding in his seat. She barely caught him before he could slide right to the floor. “Uh, a little help here!” she called.
One of the Starfleet crew, Ensign Kesser, rushed to help her. But by the time he’d gotten around the railing surrounding the holo-table, Wyer had already fallen to the floor, his head hitting the marble-like faux-stone floor with a dull thud.
“How long has he been out?” Simplot demanded.
“Uh, he’s been sitting there since we got in this morning!” Kesser said as the other crewman called for medical assistance, “We just assumed he was here all night,”
Simplot finished checking his vitals.
“Well, he’s not dead at least,” she said, “That would have looked bad on my record…dead crew in a matter of weeks!”
The turbolift doors below them hissed open and Dr. Annerson rushed up the stairs to the command deck, collapsing in Wyer’s chair and breathing heavy.
“Oh Astral Dieties,” she gasped, “I miss starship turbolifts,”
“The patient, Janet?” Simplot prompted.
“Does he have vital signs?” Annerson demanded.
“Then he can wait until I catch my breath!”
After another moment or two of huffing and puffing, she climbed out of Wyer’s chair and knelt next to the unconscious Yynsian. Pulling out her medical tricorder, she began scanning.
“Brain activity…respiration…” she muttered, “And that bump on the head won’t help.” She climbed to her feet.
“He’s exhausted,” she said, “And showing signs of stress. It looks like he passed out at work overnight. I’m not sure why he hasn’t woken up yet though. I could give him a stimulant I suppose, but he’s Yynsian, and as I recall they have some weird mind-stuff that happens sometimes.”
Simplot was looking over Wyer’s console.
“He’s been working on the dome’s weather control system, from what I can tell,” Simplot said, “I don’t know why else he’d have controls for humidity and barometric pressure. And it’s, like, SO cool that we have a weather system, by the way. But he’s been trying to figure out how to control the city’s weather himself,”
“Oh,” Annerson nodded, “so that’s why it’s snowing outside?”
Kesser and Simplot looked down at the greyish smear outside the lower windows.
“How can you tell?”
“The command tower clinic is on Level 20,” Annerson said, “And it has a window,”
They sat in silence for a moment.
“So about the patient,” Annerson broke in, “I suppose I should take him down to the clinic for observation,”
“Of course,” Simplot nodded.
“That means one of you has to help me carry him,” Annerson clarified.
Simplot pointed at Kesser, who shrugged and grabbed the Yynsian by the feet.
“Don’t be silly,” Annerson said, “I’m an old woman, you’re a strong young pup. You take the heavy end!”
After helping Abela lug their gear into the front car of a transit tram, Shurgroe settled into one of the seats as she tapped away at her Traveller, a small padd-like device used as a sort of electronic Swiss-army knife by Matrian personnel. (She hadn’t shared them with Starfleet yet.) After the device helped plan their route, she tapped it against the tram control console, instantly programming the tram with her desired route.
“I’m programming the tram to take us to Hillsbrook station,” she said, “I’m pretty sure the library is somewhere in that area, either in the city or maybe in the inner rim.”
“Hillsbrook?” Shurgroe asked.
Abela rolled her eyes.
“Tram station 8-Alpha, if you want the official designation.”
“Sector 8, on the radial city track,” Abela clarified.
Shurgroe still looked confused.
“You’ve been living here for weeks and you haven’t figured out the transit system yet?” she demanded.
“I just tell the train where I want to go,” he shrugged.
“No wonder it takes you Starfleeters forever to get anywhere,” Abela grumbled. She tapped the ‘Go’ button on the console. The tram doors hissed shut and the cars lifted off the antigravity track. With a smooth hum, the tram accelerated along the curved track, the stone paneled walls of the Transit Hub passing by. The tram switched to the central track, picking up speed. It deftly switched to the inner track, continuing to accelerate as it bypassed the next two pairs of loading platforms. It then switched back to the outer track just in time to catch the track into an exit tunnel. Shurgroe barely had time to register the white space directly ahead before the tram rushed through at atmospheric isolation field and out into the city.
And into the middle of a blizzard.
Even Abela’s jaw dropped as they took in the scene outside. Snow was blowing through the air, falling as fat flakes only to be blown around again by the whipping wind. Drifts were already building up against the downtown buildings as the tram rushed out of downtown and onto one of the six bridges connecting the island to the ‘mainland’. An automated snow-clearing robot passed them, moving along the tracks in the opposite direction. The tram shuddered as the wind wailed through the bridge supports. Below them, the lake was a grey mass, the barest hint of ice starting to grow along the shore.
Shurgroe abruptly started shaking.
“Don’t be a baby,” Abela chided him, “It’s not that cold. And I’m sure Mr. Wyer will have us back to sunny skies in no time.”
“It’s not the cold,” Shurgroe gulped, “W-w-what if we get lost in the snow? I might l-l-lose a finger to frostbite. I don’t wanna lose body parts!”
Abela considered briefly, picked up Annerson’s blowgun and shot a dart into Shurgroe’s left buttock. He calmed immediately, plucked out the dart and tossed it aside.
“I wish Janet had never found that thing,” he grumbled.
The tram turned onto the main radial thoroughfare through the suburbs, then slowed to a stop at a station in the south-west suburb. Technically, Haven’s inner city wasn’t large enough to contain suburbs, but the term was an easy way to differentiate between the central cluster of buildings on the island as opposed to the three main clusters that circled it. Pulling on their heavy parkas and their gear, Abela and Simplot opened the tram doors and stepped into the whirling snow.
“We need to go a block back towards the lake,” Abela shouted over the wind, “There’s a building there that I want to check!”
Shurgoe just nodded and followed the older woman. They pushed their way through the foot-deep snow, trying to read the street signs despite the haze. Shurgroe looked up. He could barely see the outline of the nearest dome support through the clouds. He was somewhat surprised to see that small hatches in the support itself were a major source of the falling snow. This of course led his engineering mind to simply wonder WHY Wyer hadn’t simply turned off the snow generators yet.
It was colder than he expected. They were further from the lake, with the SW suburb blocking the airflow from that direction. Shurgroe pulled at the straps of his rucksack, trying to keep himself steady despite the slippery sidewalk beneath him.
Finally, Abela led him to a broad building. Unlike most of the gleaming towers, this building was made of faux-brick and was only about six stories high, plus another six stories in a squat tower that sat on its roof. Smaller towers climbed from its corners. Climbing the steps to the pillared entrance, Abela tapped at the security panel then slipped inside as the glass-paneled door slid neatly aside.
“Hey-U,” she gasped, pulling off her cap and brushing the snow out of her hair.”
“Hey me what?” Shurgroe asked, rubbing his hands together in an effort to warm them up.
“Welcome,” Abela replied, “To Haven University.”
Dr Annerson puttered around in her clinic, a small medical center roughly the size of an Intrepid-class sickbay, located partway up the command tower in one of the six sub-towers that flowed out from the central structure. Haven had a proper hospital in the south-east suburb, along with several emergency facilities scattered through the Outer Rim. But the tiny population hadn’t warranted a large enough medical staff to man anything bigger than the clinic. Seeing that Wyer was resting comfortably on one of the biobeds in the treatment area, Annerson settled into her office to review the data on Yynsian medicine. She ordered a tea from her replicator, then glanced out her window at the blowing snow and changed her order to a hot chocolate.
“Too bad you’re not enjoying this view, Mr. Wyer,” she said absently. Let’s see. Unconscious, but stable. No apparent threat to his life, minor neurotransmitter anomalies. Hmmm. The Federation medical database had been loaded into Haven’s medical computers within hours of Annerson stepping foot in the city, and it was telling her to check for reduced isoboromine in Wyers prefrontal cortex. She tapped a panel, routing the readings from Wyer’s bio-bed to her desk terminal and wondering why Starfleet ships didn’t have that handy little functionality. Yup, there it was. Low isoboromine. Hmmm…in Yynsians, that usually meant…
“Uh-oh,” she muttered.
Up in Ops, Simplot was sitting at Wyer’s console.
“I don’t know if I should touch any of this,” she said, “I mean, Wyer spent hours at this thing and all he managed to do was start a blizzard. Which…y’know…if he was trying to start a blizzard then he did a great job,”
Lieutenant Fissett was standing next to her.
“It’s not like you could make things any worse,” she said.
“I suppose you’re right,” Simplot shrugged, “But still, if I’m going to mess with his work, I’m going to mess with his work by the book. Where’s his log? I need to document what I do,”
She hesitantly reached for the touch pad in the center control panel. One section of the big display immediately switched to Wyer’s log.
“Excellent,” Simplot said, pleased with herself. “Now, I’ll just…wait, what’s this?”
She read through the last entry in his log.
“Uh-oh, she muttered. She jumped to her feet.
“I’ve got to get to Sickbay…the clinic!” she said, “Just…don’t touch anything!”
With that she ran down the steps.
“I mean it,” she called from the second level as she jogged along the outer perimeter of Ops to the next staircase down.
“Not a thing!” she called, rushing down the stairs and diving into a turbolift.
Fissett cautiously reached a finger towards the console. Kesser reached over and swatted it away.
“Do you really want to take the blame if things get worse?” he demanded.
Fissett considered, looked outside, then pulled her hand away from the panel.
Simplot rushed into the clinic after a minor detour once she found out she was in sub-tower 3 while the clinic was in sub-tower 2. She rushed through the doors and past the small waiting area only to find Dr. Annerson sitting next to Wyer sipping a cup of cocoa. Wyer was sitting up in his bed now, but something about him was…different. He was lounging back with his hands behind his head and a look of smugness on his face.
“Janet, I’ve gotta talk to you! It’s about Wyer!”
“He’s under the influence of a past life,” Annerson said, sipping her team.
“He’s under the…wait, how did you know that? I just read about his plan in his log,”
“This is Mat’dak,” Annerson said, gesturing at Wyer, “He was a night-club bouncer on Yyns four hundred years ago,”
“Ma’am,” Wyer/Mat’dak said, then belched.
“Plan?” Annerson prompted.
“Uh, Wyer’s Yynsian, so he has past lives that sometimes bubble up to the surface,” Simplot said.
“I know that,”
“So he was trying some kind of Yynsian meditation to bring one of them back.” Simplot went on, “Fransie, a weatherman. Weather-person.”
“No, she just pointed at the map while somebody read off the forecast,” Simplot said, “But given the mess he’s made of the city so far, I think Wyer was getting a bit desperate,”
“Can’t blame him,” Mat’dak said, “Do you know how long it’s been since he got laid?”
“Quiet you,” Simplot said, “So he didn’t get the right past life. Any idea when Wyer will be back?”
“The medical file says he should come out of it in anywhere from a matter of minutes to a day or two,” Annerson said, “In the meantime, we might see a few random lives popping up to the surface. I’ve requested a complete list from Yyns…some place called the Temple of Mi Clane has it. Until then, I’ll keep him here for observation.”
“Good,” Simplot checked the time, “Then if there aren’t any major crises happening, I have a lunch date,”
“A date?” Annerson leaned forward, “With who? Matrian? Starfleet? Do I know him?”
“Ditch him,” Mat’dak cut in, “He’s just using your rack to get into the VIP line. He’ll be looking for the next best thing the minute he gets into the club,”
“It’s not a romantic date,” Simplot said to Annerson, “It’s more along the lines of ‘he must be destroyed’.”
“I thought that was the fifth date,” Annerson cracked.
As the women talked, Mat’dak relaxed on his bio-bed. He was a calm man, after all it took a lot of self-control to be a successful bouncer. This little reprieve from the depths of Wyer’s mind was nice, but he’d led a good, full life and was ready to rest.
Not all of the fourteen-odd lives contained in Wyer’s life-force were quite so relaxed.
“It is MY turn!” a sinister voice cried from the dark ether.
“What’s your hurry, buddy,” Mat’dak replied calmly, “There’s plenty of drink, plenty of wenches and plenty of song. Wait your turn.”
“I will not be denied!” There was a brief mental assault; more a testing of the waters than anything else.
“Stay in line, buddy!” Mat’dak warned.
“Infidel!” hissed the other life-force, “I KILL you!”
In the outside world, Simplot was just taking her leave. Akakkat, one of the most feared terrorists of Yynsian history, sank back into Wyer’s mind to contemplate his next move. Soon, he would live again!
Shurgroe looked around at the arching ceilings and gleaming stone pillars of the university. The smaller towers at the corners of the building were actually dormatories, Abela had informed him, while the main brick-work building housed classrooms and laboratories. The ornate central tower held the more up-scale lecture halls, staff offices and conference facilities.
“Keep up, Starfleet,” Abela called. Josh pulled his eyes away from a door labelled ‘Experimental Stealth Technology Laboratory’ and hurried to keep up.
“Why are we exploring an empty university?” he asked.
“We’re not exploring it,” Abela said, “I’ve got the complete map and layout of the place on my Traveller,”
“Nevermind. The point is that the university has its own extensive library,”
“So we’re looking there.” Shurgroe nodded, “Makes sense,”
“No, we’re not,” Abela corrected him, “Young man, think for a minute. Would we keep classified information in the same building as the majority of our drunken youth?”
“It works for Starfleet Academy,”
“No, we’re looking for the university’s main data conduits,” Abela said, “I clearly remember that we’d located the classified library somewhere in this part of the city, because we’d used the same data trunk for both libraries.”
Now Shurgroe was intrigued.
“You ran trunks as needed instead of building a full grid over the whole city?” he asked, his engineer’s mind suddenly analyzing the pros and cons of that approach.
“Not bad, sonny,” Abela said. Shed found a door leading down into the basement levels, “Now help me guide the grav-sled down the stairs without killing either of us!”
Captain Simplot stepped off the tram at Silverbrook Station. Located in the Outer Rim near Shipyard 3, Queen Anselia had renamed the station in honour of the ship that had helped push back the Qu’Eh invasion, much to Abela’s dismay. Not wanting her uniform to tip Harrison off to her true identity, Simplot was wearing a flattering yet casual dress. Her hair, brown this week, was flowing over her shoulders and she’d indulged in just a hint of perfume. Well, to most people emptying half the bottle wasn’t a hint, but it was definitely an indulgence! As she stepped out of the loading area and into the station lobby, Harrison strode up to her.
“You look fantastic, Janet,” he said smiling. He himself was neatly dressed, cleaned up and pleasantly scented.
“Thank you,” Simplot said, forcing out a smile, “But Harrison, what are we going to do in the Outer Rim? The city is empty! There isn’t even a restaurant yet!”
“That’s what you think, babe,” Harrison smiled. He led her into the curved red and blue corridors and out towards Spaceside, the very outer rim of the Outer Rim.
Simplot’s plan was simple: Get as much information as she could about this lazy good-for-nothing, then punish him for his insubordination. She’d already done some digging around in the Matrian databanks and had the perfect plan in place.
Harrison had led them to a turbolift that took them up a couple dozen levels before easing to a stop. Stepping back into the corridor he walked right towards a tall pair of frosted-glass doors. He tapped at the panel, interspaced with a series of breaks. One tap. Three. Five. Pause. Six. Pause.
135060, Simplot silently repeated to herself as the doors hissed open. Inside was a fully fledged Earth-style steakhouse. Simplot felt her eyebrows rising up in surprise. One wall of the restaurant was comprised of double-high windows looking out into Shipyard 3. Wrought-iron chandeliers hung from the ceiling and the furniture appeared to be made of heavy slabs of real wood. The inner wall contained not only a bar but also the food preparation area, a salad bar and even a modest buffet.
“Pretty cool, huh?” Harrison said, “The Silverado people got tired of waiting for the Matrians to actually start up some businesses in this place and started their own. Strictly off the books, you understand.
“That is SO….” So against regulations, Simplot wanted to say. But that steak DID smell really good. And she was undercover!
“SO cool!” she said instead, letting a little Valley High accent slip into her words.
He led her to a seat near the windows, but Simplot could barely restrain a gasp as she recognized the people sitting near by: Silverado’s senior staff! If they recognized her, they could blow her cover!”
“Uh, let’s find a nice quiet spot in a corner somewhere,” she said instead.
Shrugging, Harrison led her to a more secluded spot.
“Sure hope they know what they’re doing out there,” he said, nodding out into the shipyard. Simplot glanced out. She assumed there was a ship somewhere in there, but if there was it was completely obscured by the cloud of hull plates, structural members, power conduits and other random ship pieces that floated around the zero-g shipyard like a metallic cloud.
“I’m more worried about what you can do…in here,” Simplot said, rubbing one foot against the inside of Harrison’s leg. Keep him off balance. Her foot was quickly approaching knee-level. Most men would be turning into a gibbering mess right about…now.
“I like where your…mind…is going,” Harrison said instead, to Simplot’s dismay.
“Can I take your order?” a waiter had interrupted at just the right moment.
“Let me see the wine list,” Simplot said, yanking her foot away.
“Uh, beer,” Harrison said, looking disappointed.
Half a kilometre closer to the lake and a few dozen levels down, Abela and Shurgroe had found their way into a maintenance corridor that followed the data trunk leading out of the University.
“It’s like a maze down here,” Shurgroe said. He’d pulled out an old-style PEN of all things and started making tiny doodles on the palm of his hand. At least until he had to clutch at his rucksack strap to steady the damned thing after he banged it against an exposed pipe.
“What are you doing, anyway?” Abela demanded.
“Oh, just a good-luck sigil I learned,” he said, “It’s just for…um…wayward travelers.”
“Relax,” Abela said, “You’re perfectly safe!”
“I-I know. But better safe than s-sorry,”
Abela was quiet for a moment.
“I didn’t know that human culture included magic,” she said.
“M-most don’t,” Shurgroe said, “I mean, they all have their myths. But nobody seriously believes in it anymore,”
“But you do,”
“I b-believe that it doesn’t hurt to be thorough.”
“Hmmm.” Abela mused.
“Do M-Matrians have anything similar?” he asked.
Abela looked over at him.
“Would it matter?” she asked.
“I’m always interested in learning new spells and sigils,” Shurgroe replied.
“Even if they’re not actually part of your culture?”
“The Federation is all about exploring other cultures,” Shurgroe replied.
The lights in the corridor suddenly went dark. A second later emergency power kicked in. Their comm-badges crackled to life.
“Haven Command Complex to all personnel,” Ensign Kesser’s voice rang out, “No reason for serious alarm people, just a minor power outage. Also, we have a Yynsian running around the station under the influence of a past life! Confusing, I know, but if you see Wyer running around, STAY THE HELL AWAY!”
“We should return to the command tower!” Abela said.
“Transporter?” Shurgroe suggested.
“Starfleet might have perfected site-to-site beaming,” Abela said quickly, leaving the data trunk and searching for a stairway to street level, “But when we did it, we usually just melted people into walls!”
“No transporter,” Shurgroe gulped.
Abela was working another door panel. This one wasn’t responding to the normal ‘open’ command. Finally, Abela entered her classified access code and the door popped open.
“What the heck is this?” Shurgor wondered as they stepped into the room. The place was big, at least three levels high. A large computer console took up most of one wall on their level, presumably linked into the data trunk. A hexagonal table dominated the center of the white-paneled room. Hundreds of rectangular Matrian data chips rested in softly glowing sockets on the table surface.
“Oh good,” Abela said, “We found the data library,”
“This is IT??”
“What were you expecting?”
“Books! Piles and scores of books! Data discs! Non-volatile media!”
Abela rolled her eyes.
“Just how primitive do you think we ARE???” she demanded. She’d evidently located the master index, as she had her finger running down a list of items. Finding what she was after, she quickly located an isolinear data chip, removed it from the table, plugged it into the computer console and tapped a few buttons. The chip flashed sporadically, then went dark again. Abela returned it to its previous location.
“Wha?” Shurgroe asked.
“Everything on that chip, including the computer personality, has been transferred to temporary storage,” Abela replied, looking for and locating the street level exit on an upper level balcony, “We can do the rest from the command tower, once we figure out what the problem is with Mr. Wyer.”
She turned to Shurgroe, looking somewhere between annoyed and confused.
“You jump at shadows, Simplot has no concept of responsibility, the security man…well, I haven’t even been able to find out his name yet, the lazy good-for-nothing. And now Wyer is possessed by a…a…past life???” she shook her head, “Are ANY of you people NORMAL???”
“If we were, this would be a pretty boring place?” Shurgroe offered, his tone making the statement sound more like a question.
“Let’s go,” Abela grumbled.
Kesser’s announcement hadn’t reached Shipyard 3. Simplot and Stoneryder were just finishing up their meals when there was a brief flicker in the lighting, followed by a gentle rumble as a nearby emergency generator kicked in.
“What was that?” Simplot sat up at once.
“Relax,” Harrison said, “The Matrian engineers down there are still having some problems with the industrial replicator. It’s cool,”
Simplot wasn’t entirely convinced. Excusing herself, she made her way to the ladies room.
“Simplot to Ops,”
“Simplot to Haven Command Complex,” she sighed, “Report,”
“Lt Wyer is running lose,” Kesser replied, “He set off some kind of power cascade in Atrium 4 that overloaded the grid, then he scurried into the lower levels!”
“I’ll be right there,” Simplot said.
“Don’t you dare!” Simplot could hear Annerson’s voice in the background.
“Janet, this isn’t the time-“
“Franches and his jungle people are tracking Wyer,” Annerson said, “Abela and Shurgroe will be here in a few minutes and power will be up in fifteen minutes. Nobody was hurt.”
Simplot hesitated. Then another thought crossed her mind: As chief of security, why the HELL was Stoneryder still sitting in the restaurant while Franches and the Matrians chased after a crazy Yynsian???
“You’re right,” she said coolly, “I’ll be up shortly, but I need to deal with this personnel problem first,”
She quickly returned to her table.
“Everything OK?” Harrison asked, smiling.
“Oh, you know us girls,” Simplot laughed. The laugh sounded fake, even to her. How could she get Harrison out of the restaurant and into a situation where he could be dealt with, and quickly? THINK, Liz, she ordered herself. What did show about this man? Lazy, negligent, former porn-star…wait-a-minute!
“You know, she said, trying to look mischievous, “A friend of mind had every single one of your holo-programs. She said her absolute favourite was this one where she had you in this dungeon setup,”
“Ahh,” Harrison nodded, a gleam in his eye, “Pleasure- Mistresses of Andoria 3: The Revenge’,” he said.
“It’s too bad we haven’t gotten around to setting up some holodecks aboard the city,” Simplot sighed, “It sounded like fun,”
“Can you keep a secret?” Harrison whispered theatrically, leaning over the table.
“Sure can, big guy,”
“I’ve got my own little playroom hidden four decks from here,” he winked.
“Perfect,” Simplot grinned.
“The tram station’s over there!” Shurgue shouted. The snow wasn’t falling anymore, but it was still being whipped around by the chilling winds.
“Too slow!” Abela shouted back, “By the time we wait for a tram, get to the tower, climb the stairs and all there’s no telling what that nutjob could do!”
Abela led him into the nearest building and rushed straight for the elevator.
“Don’t tell your captain about this little trick,” Abela winked. She pulled out her Traveller, then spoke.
“Command Center, emergency priority,” she pressed her thumb against the authentication panel in the turbolift, “Commit.”
With that, the turbolift dropped straight down, then shifted into lateral movement, taking them towards the central tower at breakneck speeds.
“I knew it!” Shrugroe snapped as they shot into an underwater tube crossing the lakebed. Through the windows of the lift doors he could see the occasional clump of seaweed, “These elevators CAN move between buildings!”
“Only in emergencies!” Abela said sharply, “The rest of the time, you use the transit system like everybody else! “
Shurgroe didn’t look happy.
“I know more about this city than anybody alive,” Abela told him as the lift reached the vertical shaft leading up to the command complex, “If you want to succeed here as an engineer, you don’t want to be on my bad side!”
“Good point,” Shurgroe admitted. The car slowed then came to a stop. Abela rushed out into the command complex without paying him a second thought.
Lieutenant Franches adjusted the strap holding his bow to his back as he ran into Atrium 4, his team close behind them. Despite their primitive appearance, the long hair, the leather straps, the loincloths and the bows & arrows, they were just as technologically advanced as the rest of the Matrians. More so, actually, as their tribe had dedicated the last two hundred years to hiding away from the chaos of the Gender Wars and to preserving Old Matrian knowledge. But that line of exposition can wait. At the moment, Franches and his team were running into the Atrium. He wasn’t sure what to expect as they stormed through the short corridor between the Transit Hub and the Atrium, so he was a little surprised to see Major Jakerd and a team of engineers standing in the middle of the empty, egg-shaped multi-story chamber studying an open panel.
“Which way did he go?” he demanded.
“The, uh, the security footage showed him running that way,” Jakerd pointing, “Towards the dressing rooms and prop storage!”
Atrium 4 had been designed to serve as a concert hall or theatre.
“No signs of damage,” Franches noted as he looked around, “How did he- “
“He programmed a feedback surge into the sound system,” Jakerd said, “And bypassed the cut-offs. If we’d been running the city at full power, he could have taken out the whole Atrium!”
“Starfleet treachery!” one of his team members, a wiry woman, snapped.
“So it seems,” Franches said.
“They say he’s just a bit…mixed up right now,” Jakerd said, “But whatever the case, this guy sure hates art!”
Franches waved his team forward, giving chase.
Simplot rushed into the command complex and practically flew up the stairs. Abela, Annerson and Shurgroe were standing on the second level, the three huge screens nearest them showing security footage of Atrium 4 and the surrounding areas.
“Report!” she ordered.
“Hey!” Annerson said, “You’re supposed to be taking care of- “
“He’s not going anywhere for awhile,” Simplot cut her off, “Besides, I thought it would be a good chance for some Starfleet/Matrian bonding later!”
“What?” Abela demanded.
“I got you a present,” Simplot said, grinning, “And not some sacred statue this time, either!”
“But yes, I know, it’s time for business!” she said, killing the grin before Abela could yell at her for not taking the situation seriously, “Janet, any idea how to get Wyer back?”
“I’ve mixed up a brew that should at least trigger the next past-life to pop out,” Annerson replied, “I gave it to Franches and his team. Did you know they already have blow-guns?”
“But we have a bigger problem,” Annerson went on, “Wyer’s records just came back from the Registry of Past-Lives at the Temple of Mi Clane,”
“The what from the where?” Abela asked.
“Yynsians really do carry past lives with them,” Simplot explained to her, “It’s an alien thing. You just learn to accept it, sooner or later,”
“Right,” Abela scowled.
“Anyway, Wyer has eighteen past lives running around in his head!” Annerson looked meaningfully at Simplot.
“So the average is six!” Annerson said, “Do you know WHY he has an extra eight lives in there?”
“Sounds like he died a lot,” Abela crossed her arms, “Which means he has plenty of practice for what I’m about to do to him!”
“No,” Annerson said, “Worse,”
“Enough with the suspense thing!” Simplot snapped.
“Eight of his previous lives were terrorists!” Annerson wailed.
Now Abela looked lived.
“You MUST,” she said, her voice dripping with venom “be JOKING!”
“No,” Annerson gulped, “From what I’ve seen in the records, we’re dealing with Akakkat, a religious extremist known for bombing cultural centres to stop the spread of…uh,” she consulted her padd, “Infidel heresy. But when he changes lives we might get Krebbot, a freedom fighter for a smaller Yynsian province who had a habit of bombing mass transit, or Refec, a suicide bomber from an old Yynsian civil war!”
“How did this guy get into Starfleet?” Abela demanded.
“Well, our recruitment policy says we can’t discriminate based on past life experiences,” Annerson shrugged.
“How would that even get into the rulebook?” Abela wondered.
“I imagine the Yynsians put it there,” Simplot said.
“Don’t worry,” Annerson assured them, “We just have to catch him and keep him restrained until Wyer comes back.
“As long as he doesn’t blow anything up first!” Abela snapped.
Wyer/Akakkat ran through the silver & grey paneled maintenance corridors deep below the Transit Hub. Akakkat had, in fact, been trying to rig an explosive resonance cascade in the power systems around the concert hall, but just enough to Wyer’s influence had remained to ensure that only a relatively harmless power cascade resulted instead. Furious, Akakkat was now focusing almost all of his energies on burying the Wyer life-force as deeply as possible.
He took a left into a stairwell leading deeper below ground. Akakkat had spent much of his admittedly brief life hiding from the infidels; the underground environment was comforting. Unfortunately, he was focusing so much on repressing Wyer that he was completely unprepared for the mental assault of Refec.
The struggle was brief, and within minutes Akakkat was buried just as deeply as Wyer. Refec opened his eyes, alive again!
He quickly consulted Wyer’s memories on this infidel flying monstrosity and formulated a new plan of attack.
Simplot, Shurgroe and Annerson had moved up to the command deck and seated themselves in the comfortable seats surrounding the holo-table. On the second level Abela was still shouting commands back and forth to Lieutenant Franches and his team. Her Matrian crewmen were pacing the ring-shaped second level, gazing intently at the double-high screens as they displayed shifting security footage.
“I have movement in Sector 3, Level 5-minus,” reported one of them.
“Franches, get somebody to Sector 3, Level 5-minus,” Abela snapped, “And I want the exits sealed to Sectors 1 and 4!”
A few minutes later, Franches reported back.
“He’s not here, ma’am,” he said, “He must have slipped out before the doors were sealed.”
Simplot shook her head.
“These guys just don’t know how to deal with this kind of thing,” she said.
“Then why aren’t you showing them?” Annerson asked.
“Wha?” Simplot started.
“Part of our mission here is to teach them what they need to become part of Starfleet, isn’t it?” Annerson said pointedly, “I don’t see how you’re going to accomplish that if you’re sitting around here muttering about how incompetent they are,”
“You are absolutely right,” she said, “I wonder why I never thought of that?”
“That’s what you’ve got us for,” Shurgroe shrugged.
“Hey, don’t go stealing credit for my advice, cult-boy!” Annerson said.
As they began to bicker, Simplot rose to her feet and stepped purposefully toward the railing around the command deck.
“Colonel,” she called down, “I want one of your people scanning for Yynsian life-signs on the lower levels. It’s far more effective than tracking him by the security cameras!”
“The controls for that are right beside you,” Abela shot back.
“I’m not that familiar with your systems,” Simplot replied, “I need one of your people to help me here,”
“Now, Colonel,” Simplot said, lowering her voice.
“As you wish,” Abela inclined her head, “Fissett, assist the Captain. “
The Matrian woman moved quickly up the steps and sat at the control pulpil next to Simplot. She tapped a few controls.
“There,” she said.
Simplot looked at the screens surrounding the pulpit.
“I don’t see anything!” she complained.
Annerson had moved to the railing and was staring down.
“Ahem,” she cleared her throat, then pointed.
Simplot looked down, only to find that the lower windows had switched to holographic mode. They still showed the city, but the blowing snow was no longer visible, and the buildings appeared as translucent wireframes, their internal rooms and passageways (at least those facing the command pod) now fully visible. A series of humanoid shapes were scattered in the residential tower nearest them, and several more were moving through the Transit Hub down below.
“Wow,” Simplot said, her eyes wide, “That’s WAY easier than trying to squeeze a couple dozen decks worth of starship on a little screen! Can you zoom in on the Yynsian life signs?”
Abela turned, then leaned over the railing to face the nearest window. She snapped her fingers.
“Window L-3” she called. She then pointed both index fingers at the Transit Hub, and spread her arms. The window obediently zoomed in, adjusting transparency so that Simplot could now easily see five decks below the ring-shaped chamber.
“It’s easy,” Abela snapped, turning back to the security footage.
“But we still haven’t found the Yynsian life-signs!” Simplot complained to Fissett.
“What are Yynsian life-signs?” Fissett asked.
“They’re in the Starfleet database, dear,” Annerson said helpfully.
“You two,” Simplot said firmly, “Why are you still up here? Get down there and help them catch Wyer!”
Shurgroe gulped. Annerson took him by the arm and pulled him towards the stairs.
“Close your eyes, Josh,” she said, “We’ll be in the turbolift in a minute!”
As they passed Colonel Abela, Shurgroe cracked his left eye open just long enough to snag her Traveller from her belt.
That would make things easier.
Refec had spent a few more minutes maintaining the seemingly random route Akakkat had been taking through the lower levels of the Downtown island. Wyer’s memories were not very detailed when it came to the layout of this strange place, but they did include a rough map of the city, including a series of passageways that led under the lake. When he came across one he immediately sprinted as fast as possible, putting as much distance between himself and the security team tracking him as he could.
After his sprint became a wheezy run and finally an exhausted jog, he came across a cross-corridor. From there, it was a simple matter to reach his goal: one of the city’s three antimatter reactors.
Refec had lived and died during a time when Yyns had barely begun experimenting with fusion bombs, and so he wasn’t familiar at all with antimatter. But his Wyer-o-pedia told him that it would make one hell of a big bang, which was exactly what he wanted.
“Tissue salt content,” Fissett muttered to herself as she adjusted Haven’s internal sensors, “Bio-electric field micro-voltage. And…body temperature vs. heart rate graphs,”
There was a soft beep, then all the dots on the sensor displays vanished, save for one.
“Where is that?” Simplot demanded, doing the point & zoom motions that Abela had shown her to zoom in on the Yynsian life-sign. He’d already crossed the lake and was headed for a large, windowless structure.
“He’s almost at one of our reactors!” Abela cried.
“Simplot to Shurgroe,” Simplot tapped her badge, even as Abela relayed orders to her own team, “He’s nearing reactor…um…reactor two! I don’t think we’re dealing with Akakkat anymore!”
“No,” Annerson’s voice came back, “From the profiles Yyns sent, I’d say we’re probably dealing with either the suicide bomber, or the guy that sprayed antimatter at a police station.”
Simplot was dumbstruck.
“Threw WHAT at WHO???” she demanded.
“Yyns had some dark, dark times,” Annerson’s voice came back, “Like Earth was much better?”
In a turbolift rushing beneath the lake, Shurgroe and Annerson were waiting impatiently as the seaweed outside shifted gently in the current.
“Do we r-r-really want to chase right after a suicide bomber?” Shurgroe asked.
“Not my choice,” Annerson said, “But who knows what kind of problems he could cause if he decides to blow himself up in a public place!”
“Hmmm,” Shurgroe thought for a moment, then tapped at Abela’s Traveller. The turbolift picked up speed. Rather than shifting at the next cross-junction, it continued travelling towards the Outer Rim.
“Josh? The bad guy is back there!” Annersoner snapped.
“I have a better idea.” Shurgroe said.
Refec stared in awe at the Matrian reactor stack that dominated the chamber he’d entered. The doors had been sealed, but the knowledge in his Wyer-o-pedia had allowed him to bypass the temporary lockout. Shaking himself mentally, he ignored the reactor column and instead moved to a series of small magnetic bottles stacked in a nearby storage rack. They were intended to transfer small quantities of antimatter between reactors, but would do just find for what he had in mind.
It was the work of minutes to move a small amount of antimatter to a bottle and strap it to his tunic. Wyer’s knowledge told him even that tiny amount, barely the size of a seed, was equivalent to an entire pack filled with TNT. A few minutes more and he had a primitive detonator. Perfect.
Now he just had to select the perfect target.
“He’s on the move again,” Fissett reported, manipulating Window L-2. “He’s in a tram, heading for bridge three!”
“Sensors are detecting small quantities of antimatter!” cried another tech.
“Abela,” Simplot asked, worried, “What would happen if we had an antimatter explosion in the Transit Hub?”
Abela’s eyes widened.
“Depending on the size, it could shut down our whole public transit system,”
“That’s not so bad,” Simplot gave a sigh of relief.
“Or it could enough structural damage that the command tower and twelve surrounding sub-towers come crashing down in a giant fireball!” Abela finished.
Simplot’s eyes bugged out.
“JOSH!” she screamed out, “You better have a plan!”
“Lock down the trams!” Abela snapped. Out the window, they watched Refec’s tram slow to a stop, barely a quarter of the way over the bridge.
“We need to get down there,” Simplot snapped, dashing for the stairs.
Abela’s hand reached for her Traveller, only to find it missing.
“That little Starfleet sjikit,” she grunted. “Fissett! Traveller!”
Without asking for details, Fissett unclipped her own Traveller from her belt and tossed it to Abela.
“What’s that?” Simplot asked, following Abela into the turbolift.
Don’t worry about it,” Abela replied. She tapped at the Traveller, then tapped it to the turbolift panel. The lift dropped down the tower, then shot off to the side. In under a minute, the doors opened into a corridor near the edge of the Hub structure. Abela ran down the corridor to a maintenance exit, leading them right behind one of the transit tracks where it exited the Hub. Just ahead of them was the atmospheric field that kept the outside weather outside.
“Hope humans are resistant to frostbite,” Ablea said, forcing herself through the field and running along the tracks.
“Oh, sure!” Simplot said, following.
“He’ll probably get past the door lock on the tram,” Abela called out, “But hopefully that gives us time to catch him before he gets to the island!”
It had indeed taken several minutes for Refec to open the doors. Control was becoming more difficult; access to Wyer’s memories was taking far more effort than it had previously. His time was short.
Shivering as he stepped into the blowing snow, Refec looked up at his destination: the towering buildings of Downtown. He started running.
“Colonel, we’re in position at the other side of the bridge,” Franches reported, “We’re starting to move towards you,”
“Carefully, Franches!” Abela called, “Don’t spook him! He could blow this entire bridge to pieces!”
“Better the bridge than Downtown, ma’am,”
“There he is!” Simplot called. Sure enough, they could see the small, dark figure of Wyer running towards them, right between the tracks. She pulled out her phaser.
“So, how do we actually capture somebody who has a bomb strapped to his chest?” Abela asked.
“I have no clue,” Simplot replied.
“WHAT?” Abela demanded, “I thought you Starfleet types were used to stuff like this!”
“Well, suicide-bombing really isn’t a very popular practice, you know!” Simplot shot back, “I suppose we talk to him and hope that Wyer regains control?”
“Why do you people even work with aliens like this?” Abela asked.
“I don’t recall this sort of thing happening before,” Simplot admitted, “But the notes on Wyer’s file say that he’s usually very stable. He’s probably just overworked. Or maybe…” Simplot suddenly remembered the sound of Wyer’s head hitting the deck after she’d accidently pushed him out of his seat. “Uh-oh,”
“Well…head trauma has been known to do this to Yynsians. And I sort of accidently pushed him out of his chair when he was passed out in it, right after he tried to summon a past-life with weather experience”
Abela thought this over for a moment.
“I suppose it’s comforting that this sort of thing won’t happen at random.” She said.
“I’m glad you understand.”
“But he will be wearing a crash helmet for the rest of his stay here!” Abela finished.
“STOP RIGHT THERE!” Simplot shouted, aiming her phaser at Wyer.
“Let me pass, woman!” Refec replied, his hand moving near a blinking control on his belt, “Or I will kill us all right here!”
“You’re confused,” Simplot said, “This isn’t Yyns! Whoever you’re angry at, they’ve been dead for hundreds of years!”
Refec/Wyer’s expression wavered.
Abela’s eyes flickered up at the bridge support. The bridge itself was supported by two columns of duranium that arched from the central island to the mainland, supported halfway by a pair of curving pillars anchored to the lakebed. Support cables stretched from the main columns to the bridge platform on which they stood. Barely visible was a single figure. Its long hair was blown behind it in the wind, and it wore a loincloth over a layer of long underwear. The figure was sprinting across the curved column, precariously balanced, a coil of rope over one shoulder.
“Keep him distracted,” Abela snapped to Simplot.
“That’s what I’m doing!” Simplot replied tightly.
“I know Wyer is in there,” she said, “This is his body, and his life! You have no right to take it away from him!”
“He summoned us!” Refec replied.
“Actually, I’m pretty sure he just wanted the weather girl,” Simplot yelled back.
“No,” Refec replied, “He wanted our power! We will reshape this heathen place into our own image!”
“It’ll be hard to do that when you’re dead,” Simplot pointed out.
“We will return! In another body! In another life!”
“Yeah, and by that time everybody will have forgotten about what you do here!” Simplot shouted back.
Abela just shook her head. What the hell kind of conversation was this?
High above them, Lieutenant Franches was freezing his butt off in the wind and had just finished tying the rope to the bridge support. He was only going to get one shot at this…
“You’re not getting off this bridge!” Simplot shouted, “You might kill two of us here, but there’s no telling how many you’ll kill if we let you into Downtown!”
“Then our conversation is at an end,” Refec said, moving his hand towards the control on his belt.
“Wait!” Simplot shouted, “Uh, what about a suburb? Would that do?”
“HEY!” Abela snapped.
Refec seemed to consider.
“Is there a -YEAAHHH!!!”
His question was only half-finished when a blur swooped by, grabbing Refec/Wyer and flinging him off the bridge. Abela had seen Franches move into position from the corner of her eye, then jump from the bridge support, swinging like a pendulum straight at Wyer. Simplot however had been caught totally off guard. Abela dove at Simplot, pushing her to the bridge.
The bridge rumbled with the force of a powerful explosion, a column of water shooting up from the lake.
“Oh no,” Simplot managed to mutter, right before the wall of water crashed onto the bridge, nearly washing them off the edge. Just before the water hit, Abela barely had time to see the figure of Lieutenant Franches flying through the air.
Funny, before the water hid him from sight, she could have sworn he was covered with sparkling lights.
“You two,” Simplot said, draining her mug, “Are very lucky,”
“They’re not the only ones,” Annerson muttered, taking Simplot’s empty mug and replacing it with another one filled with hot cocoa, “Really, Liz? Running around outside in this weather without a jacket? Playing in the water when it’s below zero outside? You’re lucky you’re just cold! You should have hypothermia and about four missing fingers!”
“We took shelter in a building near the base of the bridge,” Abela said, sipping her own cocoa, “You’ve caused us a lot of problems, Mr. Wyer!”
In adjacent bio-beds in the clinic, Lieutenant Commander Wyer and Lieutenant Franches were bundled up in blankets; dermal regenerators strapped to their hands and feet where frostbite had taken its toll.
“You’re both lucky Josh decided to make a break for the runabout,” Dr. Annerson said, “If he hadn’t been hovering right over the dome, we might not have been able to beam you out before the explosion!” She turned to Franches “Or in your case, before you hit the water with enough speed to puverize half the bones in your body!” Shurgroe, looking sheepish, had already returned Abela’s Traveller. Expecting a minor explosion, he’d been somewhat surprised when instead she’d handed him a Traveller of his own.
“We’re all lucky the vest didn’t explode until it was underwater,” Abela said, “The damage was minimal, and nobody was injured. But this could have been an unmitigated disaster!”
“I can’t tell you how sorry I am, ma’am,” he said sheepishly, “I didn’t expect any of this to happen!”
“You could have told us before you tried,” Simplot said, “And you might have mentioned that little thing about, oh, having eight extra past-lives because they all died violently!”
“I…ahem…it wasn’t anybody’s business,” Wyer said , his voice becoming more confident.
“It wouldn’t have been, if this hadn’t happened.” Abela joined in. “But it did. And now we know.”
“There will be a reprimand in your file,” Simplot said, “And don’t pull this sort of thing again!”
She took Abela by the arm and led her out of the clinic.
“I still can’t believe we’re being so lenient with him,” Abela grumbled, “I’d like to see him sent back to Yyns on the next transport; preferably in a stasis pod!”
“One of the biggest lessons we have to learn at the Academy is how to deal with other cultures,” Simplot said, “It’s not always so simple. And besides, he’s a smart guy. We need him here.”
“Yes, we need him to end this blasted snow storm,” Abela grumbled.
“Can’t we just call it ‘winter’ and enjoy it for a while?” Simplot asked, “I mean, a couple more days and the lake will freeze over enough for us to go skating!”
“For a few weeks, perhaps,” she allowed. She frowned. “But speaking of personnel problems, we need to deal with this Starfleet security chief problem. He should have been here to take personal command of this incident, not us!”
Simplot snapped her fingers. “I completely forgot!”
“I have a surprise for you! Let’s get Janet, then we need to head to the Outer Rim!”
Lt. Stoneryder was a little tied up at the moment. Literally.
Thinking he’d been about to take part in a harmless, kinky little diversion, he’d led ‘Janet’ right back to his secret playroom, complete with chains, a few different costumes, a swing and even a fully equipped restraint cross.
Of course, he’d been somewhat surprised when, after tying him up, she’d headed right for the exit instead of the neatly hung line of ‘torture’ equipment hanging on the nearby wall.
After half an hour, he’d become convinced that she wasn’t coming back. Another hour, and he was worried that she hadn’t even told anybody where he was. He could be stuck there for hours, days even! Oh God, they might be finding his decayed corpse still tied up here, years from now!
Finally, after a small eternity, the door hissed open, revealing ‘Janet’ flanked by several other people.
“I don’t want to see this,” the man with strange shapes shaved into his scalp said, turning away. ‘Janet’ and her two remaining companions stepped inside.
“Janet, sweetie,” he said, trying to smile, “If you were going to get some friends to play, you should have told me!”
“Wow,” Abela said, one eyebrow raised as she surveyed Harrison’s muscular build and…ahem…well-filled briefs, “And he has…holographic programs, you say?”
“You told him your name was Janet?” Annerson demanded, smacking Simplot on the arm.
“Sorry Janet, I panicked!” Simplot shrugged.
“Wait, what?” Harrison demanded, looking at each woman in turn, “You’re not Janet? Who are you?”
“I’m Captain Elizabeth Simplot, your commanding officer,” Simplot said pleasantly, “This is Colonel Myress Abela, my First Officer and the senior Matrian Defence Forces officer aboard. I believe you’ve been avoiding her for several weeks now?”
A look of panic came over Harrison’s face.
“Um, if this is about-“
“This is about your COMPLETE disregard of my authority, and the disgusting SHIRKING of your DUTY!” Abela shouted.
“Franches and the Civil Protection-“
“Are here to handle city police work and Matrian affairs,” Simplot cut him off, “And they are SUPPOSED to be working under your supervision and LEARNING from your EXAMPLE!”
“Look, OK, fine, I messed up,” Harrision swallowed, “Can we say thirty days in the brig and call it even?”
“Oh, no, no, no, Harrison,” Simplot said, “See, you’re on a Matrian station, under Matrian law. And did you know that under certain, specific circumstances Matrian law allows corporal punishment?”
“Circumstances that happen to include gross dereliction of duty,” Abela said, as she pulled a whip from behind her back. Unlike Harrison’s play-things, this one looked nasty, with tiny strips of hard material embedded in the leather.
“W-wait,” Harrison stammered, “You can’t do that! Federation law-“
“In situations like ours, the Federation does try to make certain allowances for local law, at the Commanding Officer’s discretion,” Simplot said, “You’re a security officer, you should know that,”
“Now, I believe Matrian law requires a qualified doctor, to ensure no lasting harm is done?” Simplot asked.
“Present!” Annerson said brightly. She scanned Harrison with her medical tricorder. “He’s fine,” she said, “Besides, this thing of Abela’s won’t even leave a mark. It’s all electronic,”
“And we need somebody licensed by the Matrian government to administer punishments?” Simplot asked.
“Me,” Abela nodded, “Did you know that under Matrian law, there are cases where you can actually legally hire an assassin, if you have the judge’s approval?”
“Sounds like Andor,” Annerson said pleasantly.
“So, Lieutenant Stoneryder,” Simplot consulted her padd, “To beging with, we have twenty-three counts of disobeying a superior officer. That’s got to be good for what…ten lashes, Myress?”
“Easily,” Abela said, cracking the whip.
“Can we at least record this? I could make a fortune on my FederNet Fans channel,”