Author: Brendan Chris
Station Log, Stardate 59398.4
“Y’know, all I want is a cup of fresh coffee. Y’know? Not replicated, not instant. We’ve got six Atriums, three of them setup to be malls, and the Transit Hub has enough real estate for a subdivision. But do we have a coffee shop? NOOO!
“I heard that starting up a new outpost can be boring. Like, really boring. I looked at some of the early logs from the nearest Federation outpost, and man were they bored. ‘Lt. Russell got his head stuck in an access panel’. ‘Lt. Porter finished building hood ornaments for all three runabouts’. ‘Dr. Nelson taught her slug to do The Worm’. Those people almost went crazy.”
“I’d be worrying the same, except I think it’s already too late. Lt Stoneryder seems to have learned a lesson from his flogging and is finally setting up his security office in Atrium 1, but he still breaks out in a sweat and starts twitching anytime Colonel Abela enters the room. Not sure why, she did an expert job with his…er…punishment. She didn’t even leave a mark! But maybe it’s from almost getting zapped to death by that force-field during the Atlantis incident. Whatever. Lt Cmdr Wyer is still repairing some of the structural damage his little bomb did to the lakebed, along with a few other things, and he hasn’t shown any signs of being taken over again by crazy past-lives…yet. But he keeps disappearing for hours at a time! Doesn’t tell anybody where he’s going, just vanishes into the city. Lt Franches and his Jungle Squad are looking for long underwear that goes with their loincloths and Dr. Annerson is going to teach Shurgroe to skate now that the lake is done freezing over…OH!”
“OH!” Captain Elizabeth Simplot jumped out of the chair she’d commandeered in Haven’s Command Center and started fluttering her hands in the air.
“OH!” she repeated, “OH! OH!”
“Is there a problem out there?” Colonel Myress Abela demanded, stepping through the door to her small ‘upstairs’ office. (Ops had several small rooms hidden behind the second level, smaller versions of the much bigger offices located lower in the command tower.)
“No! I did it!” Simplot said excitedly.
“I came up with a better name for Franches’ Civil Protection Team!” Simplot exclaimed.
“I thought we’d agreed,” Abela frowned, “that you weren’t going to run around renaming things! And in return, I wasn’t going to shove you out an airlock!”
“Oh, Abela,” Simplot shook her head, “Can’t we, like, program the translator so that your boring, Matrian names translate to my cooler names and vice versa?”
“That doesn’t help if my people start using your idiotic ideas!”
“Well, if they like them better…”
“What’s your bright idea then?” Abela asked angrily, giving the Matrian staff present a ‘don’t you dare’ look.
“Jungle Squad!” Simplot giggled, “It just rolled off my tongue! I didn’t even have to think about it!”
Abela rolled her eyes.
“I’m not calling them that,” she declared firmly.
“Can eat fish eggs!” Abela snapped, “She doesn’t name things here either, and if you think you’re going to bother one of the leaders of our society just because you have a-“
“No,” Lieutenant Fissett, one of the Matrian Ops crew interrupted, “Queen Anselia is on the comm,”
“And we really don’t care for fish eggs, Colonel,” the holographic head of Queen Anselia said acidly from the central holo-table.
“On Earth, caviar is a delicacy,” Captain Simplot said, turning to the table and smiling without missing a beat.
“Charming,” Anselia said, her mouth curling slightly.
Abela swallowed, embarrassed. “What can we do for you, your highness?”
“Have you heard of the Matronus Restoration Society?” Anselia asked.
“Nope,” Captain Simplot said at once, “Do they have an acronym?”
“They’re a research group,” Abela replied, giving Simplot a confused look, “They’ve been researching Old Matrian architecture and construction techniques from before the Gender Wars,”
“Exactly,” Anselia nodded, “And no, Captain. They don’t have an acronym. They’ve just finished studying the Old Matrian naval base on Quatrios Island and have expressed an interest in studying Haven next,”
“Quatrios Island?” Simplot wondered.
“Home,” Lt. Franches said from the security console, a towel tossed over his seat (at Abela’s insistence) in case his loin cloth should fail to cover his entire nether region, “My people split off from Matrian society early in the war…we descended from the soldiers stationed at a secret submarine base on a tropical island,”
“Ohhh!” Simplot nodded, “And here I thought the vine-swinging and loincloth was just a Matrian police thing! Do I sense a back-story?”
“It’s a beautiful place,” Anselia acknowledged, “We vacationed there after the Qu’Eh were defeated. Oh, the tranquil evenings…the fresh foods…the love-making in the jungle…”
“Nicely done, your Highness” Abela nodded.
At his control pulpit, Wyer frowned. That was not the sort of thing he might have said, but then these were Matrian women after all. You’d almost expect that if they’d been in the same room together, a high-five might have been in order.
“MATRESS!” Simplot suddenly exclaimed.
“We beg your pardon?” Anselia asked, shaking her head slightly as she came back to the current moment.
“MATronus REStoration Society!” Simplot exclaimed, “MATRESS!”
“You can pass that on to them when they arrive,” Anselia said.
“I thought nobody was allowed aboard Haven until you guys finished figuring out all the logistic stuff down there?” Simplot asked.
“We are making an exception for this group, based on their historical research,” Anselia replied.
“About that,” Abela jumped in, “Do you know when we might start getting citizens? Or work contracts for the shipyards? The city is still a ghost town, and we’ve been here over a month!”
“All in good time, Colonel,” Anselia replied, “Haven has waited two centuries for citizens, a few more months won’t hurt. Matrian Government Complex out,”
Abela glared at the blank screen.
“What is there to figure out?” she snapped, “The two orbital shipyards that actually survived the war and the Qu’Eh invasion are horribly back-logged, it’ll be months before the shipyards in orbit of Matria III can produce so much as a shuttle pod and we just happen to have six state-of-the-art shipyards, only one of which is doing anything constructive! If you count rebuilding an old clunker of a Starfleet ship as constructive!”
“That ‘old clunker’ saved your civilization,” Lt. Wyer pointed out quietly from his panel.
“Get back to your orbital calculations, mister!” Abela snapped.
“No,” Wyer said firmly, rising from his station, “I am going to 45 Bahkar Street to perform a structural analysis on the repair work done by the construction bots, after which I will be examining the building at 732 Lakeshore Blvd, which as you know was damaged by the Death Star. Should I find myself with extra time afterward I will continue trying to adjust our orbit so that we have only a single sunrise and sunset. Not before,”
With a cold look in Abela’s direction, he stepped quickly down the two flights of stairs to the turbolift column and left.
“Ahem,” Simplot cleared her throat, “Open purse, remove balls. Apparently.”
“Aren’t Starfleet officers supposed to understand a little thing called the ‘Chain of Command’?” Abela demanded.
“You’ve been riding him pretty hard the last few weeks,” Simplot said, “Besides…everything he just mentioned is stuff that he’s supposed to do,”
“I want him written up for insubordination!”
“Oh come on, Abela. For managing his priorities? Besides, could just as well write you up for harassment!”
Abela just crossed her arms.
“How about a note to file?” Simplot tried weakly.
“Oh, very well!”
Simplot looked around the command deck, but somebody had slipped into Wyer’s abandoned chair, leaving all the workstations full.
“I guess I’ll be in my office,” she said.
“Just use one of the screens on the second level,” Abela waved, seated comfortably at the central holo-table.
“But I don’t have those weird gestures figured out yet!”
“All the better to learn,” Abela said firmly, “Now that Wyer has managed to get the gesture recognition system working properly. Somehow.”
With a sigh, Simplot stepped down to the second level and stood in front of one of the huge screens. At the moment, it was displaying security footage from the Transit Hub. Of course, with the city all but deserted this footage consisted of little more than the occasional passing tram.
“Identify, Simplot, Captain,” she said, holding up her right hand. The screen quickly switched over to the Matrian Welcome Interface. After thinking for a moment, Simplot jabbed her right elbow behind her, opening her personnel records. A hand movement downward with a finger-wriggle scrolled her through the list of names until she found Wyer’s file. A quick hip-bump to the left opened it, then a quick chop with her left hand started a new note.
“This is a lot easier with a keyboard,” Simplot called up, “You know? Point and click? Or vocal-oops!” Apparently, turning her head like that was the command to call up the spell check. “Abela, how to I close this fricking spell checker!”
“Right hip bump,” Abela called absently.
“I feel like an idiot,” Simplot fumed quietly. She banished the unwanted spell checker with the indicated gesture, then began dictating the notes.
Lieutenant Wyer was fuming as he rode a tram out to one of the clusters of buildings commonly referred to as the Suburbs. Who the hell did Abela think she was? Queen Bitch of the Universe? He had a lot of work to do in this city, especially considering that his staff consisted of a dozen Matrians who knew about as much about Old Matrian design as he did. He didn’t have time to fiddle around with orbital mechanics just so Abela could be happy with her fricking sunrises!
The tram hissed to a stop at an underground station. Sure, the tracks on the surface gave a much better view, if underground and surface could really apply to a space city. But the underground tracks were heated, and it was pretty cold up there. Wyer would love to set the city back to Summer Mode, but the last time he’d fiddled with the weather system he’d managed to get it stuck on Winter. He’d also had a past-life incident that almost resulted in the city being blown up. So fiddling with the environment wasn’t exactly something he was eager to repeat.
He found a double-wide corridor that ran parallel to Bahkar Street and began walking. Despite being below street level, this part of the city felt surprising spacious. Entrances to the towering buildings, either commercial office complexes or residential towers, were spaced at almost regular intervals, usually with broad metal & glass windows set into patterned stone. Several small shops were evident as well, all vacant of course, and the occasional park-like space complete with skylight broke the otherwise lifeless design. Someday, this would be a really nice neighbourhood…assuming the Matrians ever started letting people move into the city.
After tapping in his access code and walking quickly through the lower lobby of number 45 (done up in a mahogany-like wood) Wyer rode the lift to the penthouse floor. The rooftop pool hadn’t been drained before the city had been locked down, and the expanding ice had burst through the pool deck when the city had shifted to winter. After a minor battle with the Matrians in Shipyard 3, Lt. Shurgroe had gotten him the construction bots he’d needed to have the repairs done.
Speaking of Lt. Shurgroe, the lanky human was bent over the collapsed form of a Matrian construction bot, his close-cropped hair patterned in the usual cabalistic symbols.
“Hey Wyer,” Shurgroe said, waving casually with one hand as the other gingerly poked at the bot. The lack of stutter indicated that Shurgroe was up-to-date on taking his medication…for once.
“Problem with the equipment?” Wyer asked.
“Only if I have too much to drink before…oh. You meant the bot.” Shurgroe flushed slightly. Wyer just stared at him blankly. “Nevermind. Yeah. This thing walked all the way from Shipyard 3 back here, through the snow, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why!”
“Weird,” Wyer nodded. He pulled out an engineering tricorder and started scanning the ceiling of the spacious penthouse suite.
“You’ll probably have to climb up to the loft to get a good reading,” Shurgroe said helpfully, “Nice place, huh? I might try to get my name on the waiting list in case they ever open up the building.”
“Yes,” Wyer agreed flatly. He began climbing the spiral staircase that led to the second level of the suite and from there to the third level, the loft. All three levels opened onto an open space, the far wall of which consisted of windows looking out towards the Inner Rim of the city. Banks of apartments, their windows dark, were visible below the ‘horizon’. Above was a beautiful view of Matria Prime. “Still, I think I’d rather have something closer to the lake,” he said.
But Shurgroe wasn’t listening anymore. He was talking to somebody who’d just entered the suite.
“Yeah, he just got here,” Shurgroe was saying, “He’s upstairs.”
“Thank you, Mr. Director,” a female voice replied, “Has there been any sign of activity from Atlantis?”
“Nope! Checked the lakebed myself this morning. It’s still parked there. Half covered in sand already. It’ll probably be buried by next week.”
Tuning them out, Wyer examined the loft. Yup, the structural repairs were up to standard. He could get a crew in here anytime to tear up the carpets and take care of the cosmetic water damage….a crew that would probably consist of perhaps two Matrians, if he could spare them from the lakebed analysis.
Making a note on his padd he turned to leave, only to find himself face-to-face with a blond-haired Matrian woman. She was dressed in the standard fatigues of the Matrian Defence Force, however where most MDF members on the city had a badge depicting a simple bird’s eye view of Haven on their right shoulder, her Haven badge had one of the six structures along Haven’s rim coloued in, with a Matrian number 3 stamped over the center of the city. She had strong features that, on a human, would have been described as ‘Nordic’. She was nearly his height, and had that solid (yet still female) build that distinguished the Matrian women from most other races.
“I’m….uh, that is. Good after…good morning. Um…” Wyer swallowed nervously, “Hi?”
“Lt. Wyer, I take it?” she asked, her voice perfectly polite.
“Y-yes sir. I mean ma’am! I mean…uh…” he tried to read the rank on her uniform, “Yes, major?”
“Major Dekaire, Master Shipbuilder, Shipyard 3, Silverado reconstruction,” she said formally, reaching out to shake his hand. Wyer stared blankly at the outstretched hand. Dekaire, looking annoyed, was just starting to pull it back when Wyer reached out, grabbed it and gave it a nervous shake.
“My pleasure,” he gulped.
“Colonel Abela asked me to meet you here, to help out with the structural verification,” Dekaire explained, “Since it was my bots that did the work,”
“Oh! Of course. I…that is…”
“But I can see you’ve got everything under control,” Dekaire went on.
Wyer stumbled for a reply, then settled for a nod. Dekaire gestured for him to precede her down the stairs.
“I’m sure Colonel Abela will be glad to hear you have everything well in hand,” she said once they’d reached the main floor. She gave him a quick glance over from head to toe, “But please, Lieutenant, if you need any help with anything, I’d be more than happy to sit down with you and give you whatever…help…you might need,”
She gave a suggestive smile, then left.
Shurgroe was staring at Wyer, his jaw hanging down around his knees with shock.
“What the heck!?” he exclaimed, “I had to build a malfunctioning, homicidal AI just to get that woman’s attention, and you just have to wave a tricorder around for thirty seconds?”
“She is very…uh, that is…I mean.” Wyer swallowed yet again, “She’s very attractive.”
“Yeah, I can tell,” Shurgroe said, “By the way, the next time that happens, you might want to put a padd over it,”
“Your…uh, just never mind.”
“Remind me again why we couldn’t use the transporter pads under City Hall?” Captain Simplot was asking as she and Colonel Abela rode a lift from the Hillsbrook Tram Station up to one of the observation levels for Hanger Bay 1.
“First, because there is no City Hall,” Abela said sharply, “There is the Command Tower and the adjoining Departmental towers. Second, because these researchers, though I applaud their work, are not VIPs or high-security persons requiring the secure pads, and finally because they’re arriving in a shuttle anyway,”
“I wanna see what’s down there!” Simplot whined.
“All in good time,” Abela assured her.
“Yeah, right,” Simplot muttered. They stepped out of the lift and walked down a corridor towards the hanger bay. Soon, one wall of the corridor was replaced with a series of windows looking into the ten-level chamber. This hanger, the only hanger that had been open to the outside world while Haven had been buried under the desert, had a central structure that supported several mobile landing pads. As they watched, the two pads closest to them slid neatly up into an opening in the roof. Panels slid into place, hiding the opening. From the open door to the control booth at the end of the corridor they could hear the voice of the bay controller.
“Set approach vector to 000 mark 4,” the male voice said, “Stand by, bay doors opening.”
The massive hexagonal door was divided into six segments arranged around a central seventh panel. As they watched, the three segments closest to them and towards the deck opened outward, like the petals of a flower. The seventh spit in half, the lower half opening with the lower outer segment. A tall, narrow craft nosed into the bay, at least three decks high but still narrow enough to fit between the wall of the hanger and the central platform support.
“An old Regal-class short-range transport!” Abela said, beaming with pleasure, “Why, I haven’t seen one of those since Haven was sealed! Let’s go down and greet our guests! Maybe they’ll let us take a look at the interior?? Ohhh, I wonder if they restored the leather upholstery in the passenger compartment?”
“Oh I just wonder,” Simplot sighed, rolling her eyes.
They took a flight of stairs down a few levels to the main deck, then stepped through a pair of heavy double doors into the bay itself. A pair of Matrian women were standing by the ship’s hatch, dressed in the plain robes of Matrian academia.
“Colonel Abela! Such a pleasure to meet you!” the woman on the right practically gushed. She gave a sort of half-bow, her short, dark hair barely moving. Gel, Simplot wondered? “Dr. Volergal. I’m sorry we’re a bit late, but they were trying to direct us to Bay 2, and of course-“
“-it’s the odd-numbered bays that are best configured for a Regal-class,” Abela said cheerfully, “Such a surprise that you’d know that! The design of the city-“
“Is available under the Old Matrian Act,” Volergal finished, referring to a piece of law that was making information on their past accessible to the average Matrian, “Plus there was a lot of useful information in that jungle outpost. Not that it can compare to your city, of course,”
“Hi, I’m Captain Elizabeth Simplot,” Simplot said, trying to break into the conversation, “I’m the Station Commander-“
“Where did you get this ship?” Abela cut her off.
“Why, from Haven, Hanger Bay 7,” Volergal smiled, “It was one of the ships found with the city and taken down to Matria Prime for study,”
“Of course,” Abela nodded.
“But I’d love to see the city itself,” Volergal went on, “Maybe from the nearest Dome Illumination control room? I believe there’s one very close to here?”
“Right this way,” Abela said pleasantly, “Captain Simplot, I’m sure you can show the rest of Dr. Volergal’s team to their quarters? We’ve got them setup in guest quarters, Tower 5, downtown. Meet us in the Command Complex in an hour,”
With that, Volergal and Abela strolled away, chattering away happily about…something or other. Simplot turned to see that another dozen or so robed Matrians, mostly women, had emerged from the ship and were looking at her expectantly.
“Right this way,” Simplot said, forcing a smile onto her face.
“That was humiliating,” Shurgroe said.
“Now Josh, just relax,” Dr. Janet Annerson said, patting his hand, “I’m sure you’ll be just fine,”
“And you got through ordering our drinks and appetizer without stuttering at all!” Annerson went on, “Have you been taking your meds, for once?” Her eyes darted over at Wyer, “Did you remind him? Of course not. Everybody reminds him, but he never listens!”
The three of them were seated in the Silver Stallion Steakhouse, a large lounge/restaurant/sports bar looking out into Shipyard 3. The crew of the ship being rebuilt had (clandestinely) converted it into a restaurant, seeing as how the Matrian government had forbidden any development of the city until such time as they decided how to handle everything. Lt. Stoneryder had been the original Haven officer to find the place, but once he took Simplot there on a date (not knowing she was his CO) the rest of the Starfleet staff had quickly been clued in. On the condition that the place never be mentioned to Abela or any of the Matrian staff.
“Now, what was so humiliating, Josh?” Annerson asked, snagging a cocktail shrimp from the center of the table, “Are you having trouble with those ladies in the shipyard again? Are they giving you a hard time?”
“He was talking about me,” Wyer broke in, staring at the table.
“Were you giving Josh a hard time?” Annerson asked sternly. She frowned. “Josh, I don’t think you should be making advances to your coworkers. You saw how that kind of thing worked on the Stallion!”
Shurgroe and Wyer stared at her for a moment.
“Well, if you two are really interested in each other…” Annerson sighed.
“It’s n-n-not about us!” Shurgroe exclaimed, eyes wide, “He embarrassed himself in front of Major Dekaire! Completely! It was pathetic! But that’s all we meant! Nothing about the two of us whatsoever!”
“Ah yes, throw me right under the tram, then,” Wyer sighed.
“I’m sorry, Wyer,” Annerson said, “Do you want to talk about it?”
“I am having THE WORST day,” Simplot said, coming up to the table and dropping herself down into the last empty seat, “That was utterly humiliating!”
Wyer slumped back in his seat.
“Sounds like we’re all having such a fun time,” Annerson commented.
“Abela is just ecstatic that this research group is here, actually caring about her silly city,” Simplot fumed, “She may have build the place, but I’M supposed to be the one in charge here!”
“You are in charge here,” Annerson said.
“Not as far as Abela’s concerned,” Simplot fumed, “She’s just putting up with me until she can convince Starfleet that she can run the place fine on her own,”
“It seems as though-“ Wyer started.
“Josh, you’ve had to deal with the shipyard women. You know what I mean, right?” Simplot asked.
“Orders, please,” A waitress had approached their table, glaring down at them.
“Just a beef dip sandwich, please don’t hurt me,” Shurgroe said quickly.
“Oh, Tai salad,” said Simplot.
“Chicken breast,” Annerson added, “Vegetables on the side,”
“I’m not quite ready yet,” Wyer said.
The waitress crossed her arms and stared.
“Uh…uh…Wyer quickly scanned the menu, “A large…poutine?”
“If you say so, bub.” The waitress left.
“What the hell is a poutine?” Annerson asked.
“I don’t know,” Wyer said in a small voice, “I just…picked something.”
They sat in silence for a moment. Shurgroe started gazing out the double-high windows and into the shipyard. The ship being worked on was starting to resemble a Federation Ambassador-class starship again. The Matrian shipbuilding bots had tore the thing apart, right down to the superstructure, and a series of industrial replicators had re-fabricated any components that had been found to be in need of replacement. Once the project was done, the shipyard would (hopefully) be capable of producing new ships.
“So what’s on this afternoon’s agenda?” Annerson asked, “I mean, I’ll be sitting in my office all day doing absolutely nothing…I have to live vicariously through the rest of you,”
“Orbital calculations, if Abela has her way,” Wyer said glumly.
“I’ll be watching Abela bow and scrape to these MATRESS people,” Simplot added, “At least you can keep me company.”
“Meeting with Major Dekaire,” Shurgroe said, “She wants to go over some of the plans for shipping non-replicatable parts in from Waystation,”
Wyer looked over at Shurgroe, swallowed, then looked down at the table as the waitress brought their plates over.
“What planet is that stuff from, Wyer?” Simplot asked, looking at his plate in disgust. It almost looked like French fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds, but nobody from Earth would be twisted enough to come up with that particular combination. Gravy, OK. But CHEESE??? On French fries???
“I don’t know,” the Yynsian officer said, tentatively poking at the mess with his fork, “I wonder if it’s safe to eat?”
Annerson pulled out her medical tricorder.
“As long as you’re not lactose-intolerant, unable to process standard protiens or suffering from high cholesterol you’ll be fine,” she concluded.
“You’re my doctor. Shouldn’t you know that about me?” Wyer asked.
“Well, I don’t have your file memorized yet,”
“Oh,” Wyer stabbed his food with his fork, stared for a moment, then finally took a bite.
They all stared at him.
“Excuse me,” he gulped, jumped out of his chair and charging for the door.
Shurgroe nervously pushed Wyer’s plate further away from his part of the table. Simplot, on the other hand, snagged a chunk of the ‘poutine’ with her fork and tried it.
“It’s actually really good,” she said, pushing away her salad and pulling Wyer’s plate over instead, “Dunno what his problem is,”
“Alien taste buds, I guess,” Shurgroe said, his stomach churning in disgust as Simplot dug in.
“Mph-huh,” Simplot said through a mouthful of food.
After spitting out the disgusting whatever-it-was, Wyer walked angrily down the corridors leading away from Shipyard 3. Sometimes it just felt like every day on this blasted station was getting worse. Sure, it had looked for one brief moment like he might have been able to tag along with Shurgroe and try talking to Major Dekaire without embarrassing himself, but then Simplot had to jump in and start talking about his food instead. Nobody was listening to him; that was the biggest part of the problem, he realized. Whether it was Abela and her stupid orbital calculations, or Simplot butting in at lunch, or Annerson just completely ignoring him, his biggest problem was his coworkers. And of course if he tried to mention anything about it, the little incident with his past-lives would no doubt be mentioned, and he REALLY didn’t want to go there again.
He needed a little break, that was what he needed. Some time to himself. Boarding a tram, he rode around the Outer Rim to the vicinity of Shipyard 5. Stoneryder, despite being a true screw-up of an officer if he’d ever seen one, had given him one good idea: his own private play-pen. Unlike Stoneryder though, his private room was nothing more than an imaging chamber he’d found, probably meant to be used for analyzing starship designs or construction progresses. In addition to the various large screens, control panels, and the window looking into the shipyard itself, the room also had a small holographic generator. Tapping at the controls, Wyer stood back from the imaging platform as the shape of a slim, tall female materialized. She was fully clothed (clean up your minds, you perverts!) in a floor length blue gown.
“Good day, Wyer,” she said pleasantly, “What would you like to do with me today?”
Wyer grunted. Holographic engineering wasn’t very advanced on Matria Prime, not when their cortical induction machines could link users to virtual words…but that technology had been destroyed due to its danger. Still, this simple hologram met his needs.
“Salsa,” he said, “I’m in a bad mood,”
“Please select song,” the hologram said, a listing appearing in the air next to her.
Pulling up a salsa track (Yynsian, not human) he took the hologram in his arms and started to dance. Holographic footsteps appeared on the floor, though he barely needed them at this point. An outline of the woman’s body appeared anytime he failed to lead her in the appropriate movement, but again he hardly needed it. His coworkers would never believe him to be an accomplished dancer, especially considering that most of his past-lives were terrorists. But hey, a guy had to have his secrets, right?
And at least the stress was flowing away. For now.
Later that day, Simplot found herself standing in Ops, bored. Abela had politely indicated that her presence wasn’t necessary and despite her irritation, she took the opportunity to escape the dull scientists. Leaning back against the railing on the second level, she was using one of the big screens to zoom in on different parts of the city. At the moment, she’d zoomed in on a small park complete with water fountain, nestled between two office towers. She’d managed to find the control system for the fountain, and she was amusing herself by turning it off (right hip bump) and back on again (left hip bump).
“Were those MATRESS people really at your home digging into an old outpost?” she asked Lieutenant Franches.
BUMP! Fountain off.
“Yes, ma’am,” Franches said, “They were there for about a month. Of course, the submarines are gone now, but there were records and technology that the government wanted,”
BUMP! Fountain on.
“I thought Haven had all of that,” BUMP!
“Yes ma’am, but Haven dates from before the war. That outpost was built during it. Plus, it’s less vulnerable than the city,”
“Hmmm. I wonder why Abela didn’t have Stoneryder put a security team on those people,”
“She asked me to handle it, ma’am,” Franches said.
“Simplot to Stoneryder,” Simplot tapped her badge. BUMP!
“Um, yes ma’am?” Stoneryder sounded a bit out of breath.
“Go connect with Lt. Franches’ security team and make sure we know what those MATRESS people are doing at all times!” Simplot ordered.
“Uh, I’m already ‘connecting’ with somebody at the moment,”
“I don’t CARE what you’re doing, that was an order!” she snapped, “I swear, if this place had site-to-site beaming, I’d beam you straight here, I wouldn’t care WHAT you were doing!”
“Simplot out!” BUMP!
“We’re probably going to have to whip him again,” Simplot groaned.
“I beg your pardon?” Franches asked.
“Interesting!” Dr. Volergal said, “And all of the stations are equipped with gesture-recognition?
She was in a good mood, that much was apparent to Abela. In fact, she was almost dancing on the spot. Whatever these MATRESS people were before they turned to research (and damn Simplot for putting that acronym in her head) she’d bet they’d known how to party. They’d been going about their tasks for almost two days now with seemingly inexhaustible, bubbly energy. It was almost infuriating actually. Stepping out of the way as one of Volergal’s helpers walked/cha-cha’d by, she returned her attention to the question at hand.
“No, most of the control systems use the standard touch interface,” Abela said, “But it came down to either putting control panels in front of all the big display screens, using voice-recognition or having people carry around little portable remote controllers. The design committee decided to use gestures and voice,”
“I wish we could talk to some of those people,” Volergal said, “Oh, the secrets that must be buried in this place! Even from you!”
“I…well,” Abela was taken aback, “I suppose I wasn’t privy to the full city design. I had a lot to manage, after all,”
“And a lovely job you did, too,” Volergal said. She gestured around the stellar cartography lab they’d found in the Department of Research and Knowledge (DoRK) tower. She watched one of her team as they tapped away at one of the computer stations. They gave her the slightest of nods, unseen by Abela. Smiling, Volergal turned back to the colonel, “But my people have just about finished their preliminary examination of the Command Tower…we’d love a closer look at the Command Complex.
A tiny warning bell went off in Abela’s head, but she quickly pushed it aside.
“Of course,” she nodded, “Shall we say 1500h?”
“Perfect,” Volergal practically bobbed with excitement.
Shortly before the appointed time, Abela stepped out of the Command Complex/Ops turbolift and stepped quickly up the stairs to the command deck.
“You, you and you, get out,” she said, pointing to Wyer and a pair of Matrian technicians.
“Hey, what’s up?” Simplot asked, turning from where she was staring at an enlarged image of a strangely shaped tree, its branches covered in snow.
“I’m giving the research team a tour of Ops…I mean, the Command Complex,” Abela gave Simplot a dirty look, “And I’d rather it wasn’t too crowded.”
“Uh, Colonel, I really think we should have a security team up here if you’re going to have strange civilians in Ops,” she said, “And besides, this place is huge. You could fit the whole crew in here. Well, the skeleton crew we have now, anyway,”
“Franches’ team will be here,” Abela waved away her concern, “And all these people have had background checks. I’m really not concerned,”
“Are you about to tell me that Starfleet ships are taken over or sabotaged by unarmed civilians all the time?” Abela raised an eyebrow.
“Well…no,” Simplot hesitated, “But y’know…once in a while,”
Abela turned back to Wyer and the two techs.
“Out!” she repeated.
With another dark look in her direction, Wyer descended towards the turbolift.
“You know,” Simplot said, “If his terrorist past-lives pop out again, you’re going to be the first person he blows up,”
“Hmph,” Abela snorted.
“If Akakkat or Krebbot decide to make another appearance, she is the first person to be blown up,” Wyer muttered to himself as he rode the lift down the Command Tower, “Computer, where is Lt. Shurgroe?”
Right. He was still working on getting the computer’s voice interface fully up and running.
“D-DoDO to D-DoS,” he called, tapping his comm-badge, “Where are you?”
“I t-t-thought you were just going to call me Josh from now on?” Shurgroe’s voice came back.
“That was before Dr. Annerson implied that we were starting a love affair,”
A brief pause.
“We’re not,” Shurgroe said, “You’re not my type,”
“Nor you mine,”
“They why…forget it. Why are you calling me?”
“Because I just got kicked out of Ops so Abela can showcase the place for her little band of groupies,”
“Look, why don’t you just-“
The comm-link suddenly went dead, seconds before the lift ground to a stop.
Standing there in the dim emergency lighting, Wyer just sighed.
“Look at the craftsmanship!” Volergal was saying, running a scanner over the marbled stone panels on one of the Ops staircases, “Modern Matrian ships and stations are quite utilitarian. Was this sort of design the standard before the war?”
“Well, not quite,” Abela said proudly, “Haven was meant to showcase Matrian culture to visiting races. A great deal of care was put into making sure that places like the Command Complex were suitable for entertaining guests,”
“Hmph,” Simplot grunted, sitting at the holo-table.
“And who are you again, dear?” Volergal asked Simplot.
“Oh, nobody. Never mind me!” Simplot grumbled.
“This is just so exciting!” Volergal tittered again. Several of her team were spaced around the second level, looking at the big display screens.
“So you said,” Simplot muttered to herself.
“This is an historic occasion, girls?” Volergal tossed off her academic robe, revealing a form-fitting bodysuit beneath, “This calls for a dance!”
One of her team produced a music player while the rest similarly disrobed. A slow beat began to play, one which all the researchers began to move to. It was evidently something they’d done before, as all their motions were identical.
Simplot had to admit, she was curious. One didn’t usually see a team of stuffy science-types break into dance. Ah, just one of the many interesting differences in Matrian culture. The beat had begun to speed up, and the researches were moving faster to the music. The dance had started off with long, exaggerated gestures, but now the bodies of the researches were twisting to the faster music.
Wait a minute…the dancer nearest her hand just done an odd sort of hand-jive that seemed weirdly familiar…where had she seen that hand movement before?
“Ohh, isn’t this great!” Abela gushed next to Simplot, clapping her hands. One of the dancers, distracted for a second, missed a step. The screen next to her flashed a brief warning, but she banished it from view with a quick hip bump. The rest of the dancers continued, either not noticing or…
Realization suddenly dawned on Simplot.
“We have to stop them!” she cried.
“Oh, don’t be such a bore,” Abela shook her head.
Simplot stared for a moment.
“Coming from you? Miss Oh-So-Proper?” she snapped, “You’ve got a dance troop doing the Hand Jive in the middle of Ops! Shouldn’t you be bitching about how unprofessional this is?”
Volergal’s arms were a blur as she writhed to the beat, the big grin never leaving her face.
“Given the respect they’ve been showing for Old Matrian design and tradition, I think i can give them a little leeway,” Abela said, “Now shush! I want to see the show!”
As the music reached its climax, all the researches drew their arms toward their chests, fists clenched, then thrust their elbows back. It was another gesture Simplot recognized…one that Abela had taught her a mere two days ago. It was the gesture that told the computers to execute a command sequence.
“Override code accepted,” the voice of the city computer intoned, “Initiating command code transfer and security lock down,”
The main lighting in Ops shut down, leaving Simplot and Abela standing in the dim light from the emergency systems and the control panels…at least until the control panels also shut down. The researches sprung into motion, disarming the security team in seconds.
Abela’s jaw dropped.
“I hate being right,” Simplot groaned.
“And I love it when things go according to plan,” Volergal said, smiling darkly.
All around the city the skeleton crew looked up (or walked into suddenly sealed doors) in surprise as the city entered its lock-down mode. Blast doors slid into place, sealing off entire sections. The tram system shut down, the trams themselves returning to their maintenance bays as the surface tracks powered down and the underground tunnel system sealed itself off. The few buildings that been opened up re-sealed themselves, security doors sliding into place over the more ornate entryways. The illumination system in the dome supports, essential to maintaining a day-night cycle when the Matrian star was on the other side of the planet, went dark, putting the city into a sort of twilight lit only by the stars and a pair of nearby moons. The hanger doors sealed themselves, and the shipyards practically rang with the sound of closing security doors. In Shipyard 3, the Silverado Reconstruction Team abruptly found themselves cut off from the rest of the city literally instead of just figuratively.
Still standing in the dark turbolift, Wyer sighed again.
“Wyer to Shurgroe,” he tapped his comm-badge.
No anwer. He pulled off the badge and made a minor adjustment, setting it to transmit on its standard Starfleet frequency instead of interfacing with the city’s communications system.
“Wyer to Shurgroe,” he tried again.
“Shurgroe here. Hey, how did you get the-“
“Never mind. Do you have any idea why we lost power?”
Shurgroe tapped away for a moment.
“Um…the computer here just says it’s been locked down. Security system, maybe?”
Wyer thought back to what he knew about the city’s security systems.
“When Haven was discovered, the city had been locked down for nearly two centuries,” he said, frowning, “By Colonel Abela. She had left some systems such as communications and one of the tram routes open, both for her own uses and in the hope that the city would be rediscovered after the war ended. “
“No, this is a total lockdown,” Shurgroe said, “I’m in the DoS tower right now…I don’t see anything out my window. Tram tracks, buildings…everything is dead,” he thought for a moment, “How did they unlock the city the last time?”
“Colonel Abela had programmed a sophisticated behavioural-analysis program that determined who would make proper use of the city,” Wyer explained, “It could only be accessed from Ops.”
“Don’t think that will work this time,” Shurgroe said.
“No. I think we need Abela,” Wyer said, “I need to get out of this turbolift, find the stairs up to Ops and find out what’s going on,”
“L-luckily we have something the last group didn’t,” Shurgroe said, “One second,”
Wyer was about to start prying at the turbolift doors when he suddenly dissolved in a shower of transporter sparks, finding himself standing next to Shurgroe in the runabout Cataraquai.
“Almost forgot we had this thing,” Wyer admitted.
“Now I’ll just beam Simplot and Abela over and…wait a minute,” Shurgroe stared at the sensor display, “Why are there so many Matrian life-signs up there?”
“Abela was showing her new friends Ops,” Wyer sighed, “That’s why she sent me…oh dear. This lockdown isn’t an accident, is it…”
Shurgroe pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Persephone preserve us,” he muttered, “They’ve taken over the city. This is like basic Academy training all over again,”
“I told you there were secrets even you didn’t know about this place,” Volergal said cheerfully, stepping up the stairs to the command deck. She approached the holo-table, then ran one hand over the security recognition sensors on the underside. A glowing holographic hand print appeared, hovering over the edge of the table. Volergal pressed her hand against it, elicting an electronic sound, almost like a gong. The table flashed green, then displayed a city status readout. The remainder of Ops remained dim.
“How did you DO that?” Abela demanded angrily. She was about to make a move against the other women, but several of the researchers had bounded up the stairs to restrain Abela and Simplot.
“Well, I was doing some poking around in the databases in the Quatrios Island outpost, and I came across some very interesting dossiers,” Volergal, “Guess what I found out?”
“The master override sequence for the city?” Simplot asked. She turned to Abela, “Why would you people put that somewhere a common science-type could find it? For that matter, why do you even HAVE one? And WHY didn’t you TELL ME about it??”
Abela was quiet.
“Because she didn’t know about it,” Volergal said. She started tapping at the unlocked panel, presumable to begin taking control of city functions, “And it wasn’t just kicking around in the files for anybody to find. Unless of course, that person happened to be the head of Matrian Intelligence.”
“Admiral Maskota put you up to this???” Abela’s eyes flashed.
“Who?” Simplot wondered.
“The head of Matrian Intelligence!” Abela snapped.
“No, no,” now Volergal looked absolutely smug, “But, you know, we forgot so much about ourselves during the century or so we were in hibernation. For instance, do you know who the head of Matrian Intelligence was at the end of the war?”
“I was in stasis!” Abela grunted.
“It was Admiral…Volergal!”
“Really? Congratulations!” Simplot said pleasantly.
“I barely remember a thing about it,” Volergal shrugged, “But a little digging here, a little poking around there, and I managed to locate a few private files I’d apparently tucked away. Of course, Haven had been lost and forgotten at that point. But I still apparently had access to certain code sequences that were part of every Matrian system when it was constructed. Or so I found at the Quatrios outpost.”
“Enough trivia,” Abela cut her off, “What do you want?”
“I’m a former spymaster,” Volergal gave a smile that creeped the hell right out of Simplot, “I’m sure I could find a use for a giant, armed space station!”
“Ohhh, this is bad,” Shurgroe gulped, pacing back and forth in the runabout, “Two of us versus an entire troop of Matrian scientists?”
“How many other officers have problems like us, I wonder,” Wyer mused.
“I imagine t-t-they usually have s-s-security people that deal with things like this,” Shurgroe said. He sighed, then pulled a small hypospray out of his pocket.
“I hate this stuff, but I guess this really isn’t the time to be twitchy,” he said, injecting himself with medication.
“Hey, we have security staff,” Wyer snapped his fingers. He went over to the console and started tapping away, “Hmmm….no lifesigns in Civil Protection HQ,”
“Abela had them keeping an eye on the research team,”
“Fat lot of good that did,” Wyer frowned, “There is a life sign in the security office in Atrium 1. Presumable, our Chief of Security. Or the D-DoPES, as the Matrians like to call him.”
“Oh, I don’t want to deal with him,” Shurgroe whined, “He’s…annoying. And he wasn’t any use whatsoever when the Atlantis AI went rogue,”
“He’s still the Chief of Security…or the D-DoPES, whichever you prefer.”
“Ok, fine,” Shurgroe sighed, “Beam the dope over here, then.”
Lieutenant Harrison Stoneryder, known in some circles as the adult performer Steele Stoneryder, was reclining comfortably behind his desk in the Atrium 1 Security Office. Outside the glass doors leading into his office he could see the dimly lit, incomplete emptiness of the multi-level mall complex. Abela and Simplot had insisted that he setup shop here, but since there were no actual businesses open at this point, his life had turned into a dull routine of reading the news, watching pornography and sneaking off to the gym to work out. So he was slightly surprised when he dematerialized from his perch atop his comfy seat and reappeared suspended in mid-air above a runabout transporter pad.
“YEOWITCH!” he cried as his backside struck the unyielding transporter pad.
“There,” a voice said, “We’ve got him. Happy now?”
“What the-“ Stoneryder jumped to his feet and stalked towards Wyer and Shurgroe. The two smaller officers, for all their talk against him, had apparently forgotten that he was taller, broader and far more muscular than either one of them.
“Eep!” Shurgroe yipped, cowering behind Wyer.
“The city has been taken over by cheerful archaeologists, the Captain is in their hands, and we need somebody with security expertise,” Wyer said calmly.
“Franches and the CPT are handling that,” Stoneryder said, turning back to the transporter pad, “Now send me back to my office,”
“Aren’t you going to…I dunno,” Shurgroe wondered, “Rally the troops? Go in with phasers blasting?”
“Can’t imagine why I would,” Stoneryder shrugged. He shuddered as he remembered the last time he tried leading the troops and the resulting force-field burns.
Wyer cocked his head.
“Why are you here, then?’ he asked.
“What?” Stoneryder paused.
“Why are you here?” Wyer repeated, “You don’t seem interested in your duties. You don’t seem interested in the Matrians. And yet you’re a Starfleet lieutenant, which presumably means you put in a great deal of work at the Academy to get here.”
Stoneryder just glared at him for a moment.
“Plenty of time at the gym,” he growled, flexing one arm menacingly, “Now send me back!”
“No. We need somebody with security skills to take care of this problem.” Wyer said firmly, trying not to think about the way his head would pop off if Stoneryder flexed like that with Wyer’s neck in a headlock.
“You know, if those Matrian people take the city and toss us all in the brig, it’ll be hard for you to get gym time,” Shurgroe piped up, “And the brig cells here don’t have pull-up bars,”
Wyer rolled his eyes, but Stoneryder seemed to consider this.
“And they’ll probably whip all of us,” Shurgroe added.
Shivering from the recollection of his last punishment session with Colonel Abela, Stoneryder stepped over to one of the unoccupied panels.
“First,” he said, “We’re going to secure an airlock and interrogate the guards. Then we’re going to move up to the bridge and make sure the people in charge are cuffed, blindfolded and…wait,” he frowned, “No, that’s the plot to ‘Sex Battles 3: Rocket Power’,”
“Eww,” Shurgroe muttered.
“I know, right? That’s why I turned that flick down,” Stoneryder shook his head, “What kind of stupid storyline is that, anyway? That, and they wanted me to use cherry body paint to simulate blood, and I can never get that stuff out of my chest hair,”
Stoneryder tapped the panel, activitating the transporter and beaming Simplot to the runabout.
“Anti-Hijacking Lesson One,” he said, ignoring the look of disgust of Wyer’s face and the thoughtful expression on Shurgroe’s, “Don’t let them keep your captain,”
“What the…” Simplot looked around for a moment, then stalked over to Stoneryder and smacked him upside the head, “You dunderhead! She was just about to explain the whole thing!”
“Maybe we should have worked harder to find Franches,” Shurgroe commented.
“Absolute moron!” Simplot was going on, still wailing (ineffectively) at Stoneryder, “Did you even CHECK on Franches and his people when they were guarding those Matrians? Read a report? Wonder at why they were poking into our computers?”
“They poked into our computers?” Wyer asked.
“Apparently! Because they found some super-secret override code that let them take over the whole place!”
“Lesson Two,” Stoneryder added, barely noticing Simplot’s fury, “The bigger the place, the more people it needs. They’re probably beaming up hoards of helpers right now,”
“OK, fine, first priority, we need to get the shields up so that can’t happen!” Simplot said, throwing one last slap in Stoneryder’s direction.
There was a dull clanging as something hammered against the runabouts hatch.
“First priority, we get the hell out of here,” Stoneryder amended.
“We’re having trouble getting into the secured levels, Doctor…Admiral…whatever,” one of Volergal’s minions reported, “Our people out in the Outer Rim will begin beaming up followers with those transporters…once they find them. They’re a bit…lost,”
“By the Mother,” Volergal rolled her eyes.
“What do you want?” Abela demanded.
“What do you think?” Volergal whirled on her, her cheer apparently a bit dampened, “I want control over the most powerful object in Matrian Space. Is that really so hard to comprehend that both you AND that Starfleeter can’t just figure it out on your own? Now leave me alone, I have scheming to do! See, first I plan to-“
Simplot abruptly dissolved in transporter sparks.
“What…WHERE DID SHE GO?” Volergal demanded.
The research/infiltration team looked around.
“Well, none of us has sensor access,” one of them said timidly.
Grumbling, Volergal tapped at the panel.
“There’s an alien ship in Hanger 3,” she said, “Tris, Bet, get out there and arrest those Starfleet people. Ret, find a transporter room and start bringing up the rest of our followers,” she turned to Abela, “We have a lot of work to do, after all,”
Abela found herself pushed roughly into a chair next to an inactive control pulpit.
“You’re going to use Haven against our own people,” she accused quietly, “What is it you want? Male regression again? Control over the planet? Did your preferred Governess not get re-elected?”
“Don’t be an idiot,” Volergal replied, “We both know the real future of this sector is what the other races can offer our people,”
“Right, that’s turned out wonderfully so far,” Abela muttered.
“Our people were once a driving force in this part of space,” Volergal went on, “We did it because we were driven, hard- working and clever. We will do so again. And whoever controls Haven controls Matria Prime’s gateway to the galaxy,”
“Getting poetic never solved anything,” Abela retorted.
“Y’know, I could just have you sent back to the planet instead of listening to your prattle,” Volergal said.
“By all means, beam me to the planet,” Abela agreed. So I can scheme until this city is back under MY control, she added silently!
“Why, so you can scheme until the city is back under your control? I think not. But I just wanted you to know that I could.”
Bitch, Abela silently fumed.
“Don’t worry,” Volergal said, “Once we have secured control of the city, I’m sure it’ll only take a few phaser shots at Matronus before the Queen and Council decide to let me keep control of it.”
“This is a city, not a battle-station,” Abela said, “You couldn’t handle a concentrated attack, even if you had a few hundred followers who knew the city. And it can’t go anywhere! How are you going to conquer the quadrant with a stationary object?”
Volergal shook her head.
“I may have forgotten a lot about when I was Matria’s Spymaster,” she said, “But I still have certain…mental processes. You might call them instincts. And those instincts are telling me that you don’t become a major power through pure force. Look how well that’s working for the Qu’Eh that tried conquering Matria Prime,” she paced along the command deck, “No, you need to be able to analyze your neighbours, learn how they think. Determine who in their government is most friendly to your cause, then see if you can influence events that put them in power. I know what’s down below the Command Tower…I know about the Signal Intelligence facility, and the other information gathering and processing facilities Matrian Intelligence built into Haven. I’m very confident that a facility like this is exactly what I need,”
Crap, Abela mused. Yup, Volergal was definitely crazy. But maybe, in some twisted way, brilliant. This woman definitely could not be allowed to control Haven.
But what could she do about it?
“Y’know, we’re pretty lucky the Old Matrians…or the New Matrians for that matter, never got site-to-site beaming figured out,” Simplot observed as Stoneryder and Shurgroe programmed the transporter.
“Technically, this isn’t a site-to-site transport,” Shurgroe pointed out, “We’re beaming from a pad to-“
CLANG! Another impact to the hatch.
“R-right,” Shurgroe muttered, “Less chatter, more grey matter!”
“I’m beaming us into one of the passages under the lake,” Stoneryder said, “The actual classified levels are transporter-shielded.”
“How are we going to get in?” Simplot wondered.
“With our security clearances,” Stoneyder said, the unspoken ‘ah-DUHHHH’ hanging in the air.
“But Abela said I couldn’t go down there!” Simplot whined, “You mean I could have gone any time??”
“Well, any time after your security profile was entered into the Matrian Planetary Defence HQ computer system,” Stoneryder replied, “The security databases are inter-connected,”
“Ohh, that lying BITCH!”
“That’s how I got in during my…incident,” Wyer said helpfully.
“Why don’t you get your head up into your own-“
Simplot’s reply was lost as Stoneryder activated the transporter, sending them all back to Haven’s central section.
“My own what?” Wyer asked after they rematerialized.
“I don’t know,” Simplot admitted, “I timed that with the transporter noise so I wouldn’t have to actually think of something to say.”
“Captain, you and I should try to find whatever passes for Auxiliary Control down here. Shurgroe, Wyer, you two need to find Haven’s shield generators and get the shields up before we have more bad-guys showing up,” Stoneryder said, tossing them each a phaser he’d taken from the runabout.
“You’re certainly large and in charge all of a sudden,” Simplot observed.
“Let’s just wrap this up so I can get back to the gym,” Stoneryder said, taking a moment to check out his own ass in a reflective surface, “My glutes need more work,”
“Before we all go running around, maybe you’d like to consider that some of us have actually been spending the last couple of months studying Haven’s schematics,” Wyer commented.
“H-hey, yeah!” Shurgroe agreed, “We know…stuff!”
Stoneryder gave them an exasperated look.
“You guys hauled me out of my office to plan this little security thing, so why don’t you just shut up and let me plan?”
“Just go figure out how to get the shields up, OK?” Stoneryder said, taking Simplot by the arm and taking her down a corridor.
Shurgroe and Wyer watched them go as Stoneryder stopped to swipe a hand against a security reader and then darted into the cold, steel-paneled high-security sections.
“You read the Silverado report on the city, right?” Wyer asked Shurgroe.
“Y-yeah,” Shurgroe nodded, “Signal Analysis control center? And the sensor-jamming field?”
“My thinking exactly,” Wyer nodded.
They turned and started walking in a completely different direction than the one Simplot and Stoneryder had taken.
“When will the in-charge types learn to shut up and listen to the engineers?” Wyer wondered aloud.
Haven is big. I mean, really big. When you consider that the city itself consists of many dozens of towers, you know it’s big. Add to that several dozen levels in the Outer Rim, a thick ring over three kilometres in diameter, along with many more levels of habitable space in the supporting disc under the city and under the central island of Downtown and you come up with a plenty of space to stash pretty much anything you could possibly want.
The high-security levels took up much of the space below the Transit Hub, right down to the conduits feeding from the energy transceiver planted in the center of the city’s lower surface like a prickly bulls-eye. The Matrian government had had many plans for the city as it was being constructed, and being privy to the top-secret project had given Matrian Intelligence just a bit of an unfair advantage when it came to adding their own…interests to the city.
Signal Analysis was a large chamber, even bigger than the Command Complex, buried deep under street level. Designed for analyzing information coming from across the Matrian Empire, it had huge display screens, banks of analysis computers and all the support facilities Intelligence would need to run a tidy and sophisticated operation. It was also the closest thing to a backup command center that the city had. The interference-generating stealth system, on the other hand, had been the first major system installed in the city, as a means of keeping the construction site hidden. The original plan had actually called for the stealth generators to be dismantled and the space used for other purposes after the city was launched, since hiding a three-kilometer domed disc from sensors was pretty pointless when the naked eye could pick it up easily, but nobody had really had time to consider that point.
“So, how do we get past the override to turn on the sensor jammer thing?” Shurgroe asked.
“This part of the city should be less affected by the lockout,” Wyer said, “That’s the way it was when it was discovered. Just try turning it on,”
Shurgroe punched at a few controls, then shook his head.
“Wyer to Simplot,”
“Do you guys have the shields up yet? They’re going to have reinforcements any minute now!” Simplot’s voice came over the line.
“And a pleasant day to you as well, Captain,” Wyer replied, “We actually decided the sensor jamming system would work best, as it is easier to access and blocks transporters,”
“Great, go turn it on,” Stoneryder’s voice came over the comm, “We’re trying to find a command center, buzz off!”
“We’re in a command center,” Wyer said flatly, “But we can’t activate the field from here.”
“You guys were heading right for one of the generators when you left us, though,” Shurgroe said helpfully.
“They why didn’t you tell us…ugh…engineers,” Simplot sighed, “Fine. Shurgroe, walk us through this. Wyer, figure out how to get control of the city back!”
“I know how to get control back,” a voice said behind them.
Wyer and Shurgroe spun around to see Major Dekaire, the blond-haired Matrian shipbuilder standing in the entrance to the large room, a smoking phaser rifle held up casually against one shoulder.
“But I don’t think any of you are going to like it,” she finished. She paused. “Actually, I’m just saying that to be dramatic. Hopefully one of you will like it, a lot. Otherwise we’re sort of screwed.”
“Doctor Volergal, we’ve managed to penetrate the Starfleet craft,” a peon reported over a comm channel, “But the Starfleeters are gone. Their transporter was used to beam four people into Downtown Haven, but the records seem to have been scrambled somewhat,”
“Why didn’t we detect that?” Volergal demanded, turning to one of the researchers seated nearby.
“Um…I wasn’t looking for transporter traces?”
“Ugh,” Volergal shook her head, “This is what happens when you use people who haven’t fought a real war in over a century!”
“Yes,” Abela said, “Too bad the patriots that fought the Qu’Eh are too loyal to take part in your little schemes,”
“Don’t start with me!” Volergal fumed, “Volergal to Team Three! Transporter status!”
“We found the general-access transporter complex between Shipyards Six and Seven,” a voice reported, “We’re ready to begin beaming now,”
There was the sound of buttons being pressed, then a transporter chime, followed by what sounded like a shower of sparks, a small explosion and several screams. And vomiting.
“OH GOD!” somebody shouted over the line, “TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF!”
“Somebody’s activated the city’s interference field!” one of the researchers reported, “Transporters are offline!”
“I knew we should have gotten shuttles too!” Volergal’s second-in-command muttered.
“Worst hijackers ever,” Abela groaned, “I’m honestly feeling a little ashamed to be the same species as you right now,”
Volergal’s good cheer was definitely packing it in for the day.
“Kill the aliens,” she snapped.
“That should do it,” Shurgroe said, watching the display on his tricorder break into gibberish as the city’s interference field scrambled its functions, “Anything not directly tied into city systems is now offline. We’re still visible to the naked eye but mostly invisible to sensors, and transporters should read us as an invalid target and prevent beaming. Y’know, unless a transport was in progress when the field went up,”
“What would happen then?” Simplot asked over the comm.
“Um…don’t think about that. Or ask about that. And definitely don’t picture it. By Mii Clane, you don’t want to do that!” Wyer interjected, “What are the odds of that happening anyway?”
“We’re on our way back,” Simplot reported, “Any luck with Dekaire’s plan?”
They looked over to where Dekaire was accessing the security footage from the Command Complex.
“Yes,” she said, “But we’re lucky that Mr. Wyer’s D-DoDO access can still get at security footage. Even a lockdown doesn’t block some requests,”
“Um, yes,” Wyer said, looking nervously over at her, swallowing, then holding a padd he’d found strategically over his groin, “Am I doing this right?” he asked Shurgroe, “Is it some Matrian custom?”
“It’s f-f-for hiding y-y-your…this isn’t the time!” Shurgroe said, “Besides, you only need it when you’re…umm…feeling exited.”
Wyer shifted his eyes in Shurgroe’s direction, then towards Dekaire. Then towards the large screen displaying the footage from Ops right before they lost control of the city. One of Volergal’s research was doing a move that looked vaguely like the old ‘Mashed Potato’.
“I see,” he said, carefully setting the padd down. He accidentally brushed against Dekaire’s arm, blushing and pulling his hand back, “S-sorry,” he gulped.
“Have we got it?” Simplot asked, stepping into Signal Analysis. She stopped, then started looking around. Her attention was drawn towards a glass wall dividing the main chamber from a separate conference room, complete with beverage service built into one wall, “Why couldn’t they give Ops something like that? Why do we have to ride the lift down two levels to have a meeting!?”
“We have it,” Dekaire said.
“Have what?” Shurgroe asked
“The code sequence used to lock the city,” Simplot said.
“I thought we were watching a dance contest,” Shurgroe said.
“Volergal said the code was hard-wired into the city, for whatever reason,” Simplot said, “That means she can’t have changed it yet. If we use the same code, we can transfer control of the city down here,”
“And then use the anti-intruder system to eliminate them?” Wyer asked.
“Well, the Matrians have an anesthazine system installed same as Starfleet ships and stations,” Stoneryder said, “But the gas has an expiry date. And it expired around the same time our great-great-grandfathers were getting their first big-boy hairs,”
“You are SUCH a pervert,” Simplot said, giving Stoneryder a look of disdain.
“Baby,” he cooed, “One night with me and you’ll love how perverted I am,”
One sore fist (Simplot) and one black eye (Stoneryder) later, the conversation continued.
“Once we have control of communications, we can call up our own help from the planet,” Dekaire said.
“Would have been nice if they’d figured out on their own that something was wrong,” Simplot mused, rubbing her fist.
“Are you ready? Dekaire asked.
“Yeah,” Simplot sighed, “Look, just nobody record this. It’s going to be embarrassing.”
“I was afraid you weren’t going to like this plan,” the blond Matrian major said.
“It’s not that I don’t like it,” Simplot grunted, “It’s just…I’m really not much of a dancer, OK?”
“Ok, stand over here by the console…yes.” Dekaire looked at her notes, “Now, start with the standard interface activation…good. Now, you need to get a lateral, rhythmic motion going with your hips, starting at sixty beats per minute, that will initialize the code,”
“I feel ridiculous,” Simplot sighed.
“Y-y-you look pretty ridiculous,” Shurgroe offered, “Sort of hot, but very ridiculous,”
Simplot gave him the finger, resulting in a curse from Dekaire and the need to start the process all over again.
Wyer watched Simplot as she attempted the code, suddenly understanding why Volergal and her people had buried the override sequence in a dance. It would have been obvious something was up if they’d just started making gestures at the computer system, true. But there was a flow to the code, to the body movements it entailed that just worked more efficiently with a rhythm. And it was clear that Simplot wasn’t getting that. Her movements were slow, clunky and lacked grace. She’d probably get it eventually, but if it came down to a competition between her and Volergal, Wyer knew she’d be in trouble.
After about ten minutes of slow, laborious gesturing and multiple restarts, there was a chime, a computerized voice, then all the lights went out. Wyer let out a breath of relief, glad he wouldn’t have to reveal his own, private talents.
“OK, now we just have to find a security template like the holo-table upstairs, then we can take control of the city,” Dekaire said.
“Easier said then done,” Simplot said, “And I swear to God, Stoneryder, if you try anything in the dark I’m going to neuter you!”
“I’d never try anything,” Harrison snapped, silently pulling his pants back up, “What kind of guy do you think I am, anyway?”
“What the,” Volergal exclaimed as Ops went dark, “Did we lose power?”
“Somebody entered the override code!” her second-in-command called as the computer voice announced that the command codes were once again being transferred.
“Tris, dance,” Volergal snapped.
Abela watched silently as one of the hijackers went through the same dance as before, though somewhat faster. The second she finished, Volergal slammed her hand down on the holo-table, regaining control of the city.
“Nice try,” she chuckled, “Cend, how many places in the city would accept that override code?”
“The Command Complex and Signal Analysis,” Cend replied.
“Get our people to Signal Analysis and kill the Starfleeters before they try that again!”
Abela, no longer a major concern, shifted slightly in her seat, turning towards the holo-table.
“Oh, here it is,” Simplot said. She’d waved her hand over an odd-looking interface built into one of the walls and saw a holographic palm template appear. Pressing her hand against it caused the nearest panel to come to life.
“I have access,” she said.
“Override Code Accepted,” said the computer. There was another chime, then the panel went dark again.
“I don’t have access?” she frowned.
“Too slow,” Dekaire said, “Somebody in Ops must have re-entered the code. Do you remember the routine? We need to enter the whole sequence again,”
With a sigh, Simplot moved back to the gesture-recognition system, only to find Wyer already there. He didn’t want to do this…he figured his crewmates would start asking awkward questions…but at this point he really couldn’t see any alternatives.
“Let me,” he said. He turned to Dekaire, “Can you give me some music? Preferably something fast,”
“Sure,” Dekaire said slowly. She brought up a Matrian dance track.
Wyer jumped into the recognition area, one arm up in the standard initialization gesture. As the bass started, he starting moving his hips almost the same way Simplot had, though less rigid and robotic. More of a Soul Train kinda move, this time. He turned, his left arm starting a twirl that accessed the security control systems, while his head started bobbing in a motion that was completely useless to the code entry, but good for helping him look cool (he thought). Around him, jaws dropped as his body writhed, seemingly random kicks and arm thrusts corresponding to the gesture code that had to be entered.
“You have GOT to be kidding me,” Stoneryder said dryly.
“Maybe it’s a past-life thing?” Shurgroe wondered.
“If it is, I like it better than the terrorist past lives,” Simplot shrugged.
“Get ready!” he called, arms coming together across his chest as he prepared to give the execute command.
Blinking, Simplot ran back to the panel, slamming her hand down just as Wyer thrust back his elbows and the computer intoned “Override Code Accepted”.
“Unlock everything!” Dekaire shouted.
“I know, I know!” Simplot said, tapping at the panel and transferring control functions to Signal Analysis.
“We’ve got Matrian life-signs coming down the corridor,” Stoneryder said, tapping at a panel the second it came to life “Sealing the doors!”
Up in Ops, Tris was dancing away again.
“Override Code Accepted,”
“See if you can unseal the doors from up there!” one of Volergal’s team called over the comm.
Down in Signal Analysis, Wyer was starting to sweat.
“Override Code Accepted,”
“I almost got a message out last time,” Shurgroe said, “If it got saved in ‘Drafts’, I should be able to…n-nope, gotta start again,”
“Open up, in the name of the Matronus Restoration Society!” somebody called.
“No!” Shurgroe shouted, his fingers running over the panel.
A brief pause.
“You’re not nice!”
“And PMS is still a week away,” Simplot muttered.
“Override Code Accepted,”
“Maybe Gini should take the next one,” Tres panted, sweat stains forming on her shirt.
“Whatever, just get those aliens!” Volergal snapped.
“OK, I’m n-not even going to bother writing an explanation in the next message, I’m just going to type HELP and send it to every military destination I can!” Shurgroe said angrily as Wyer danced yet again, “That’ll show those mean girls that I mean business!”
“Override Code Accepted,”
“Did anybody bring a bottle of water?” Wyer asked, wiping sweat off his forehead.
“Override Code Accepted,”
This time, instead of sitting passively by, Abela charged at the holo-table, slamming her own hand down on a recognition template before Volergal had the chance. She barely had five seconds to try entering a command before a phaser beam splashed against her back. Eyes fluttering and blackness closing in, she hit the ‘Execute’ button.
“Initiating emergency system restart,” the voice of the computer announced throughout the city, “Computer functions will be unavailable for twenty-three point five minutes. All city systems reverting to manual control. Have a pleasant day,”
“What the f**k?” Stoneryder asked.
“The interference field is down,” Shurgroe said, looking at his tricorder.
“So’s the security system!” Stoneryder said. There was a groan as the doors to the chamber slowly started to open, probing Matrian fingers prying between the thick panels.
“Josh, did your message get out?” Simplot demanded.
“I think so, I don’t know!” Shurgroe wailed.
A phaser blast shot in from between the door panels. Stoneryder returned fire, forcing the probing hand to pull back. Another phaser blast came through, this time Simplot and Wyer joined Shurgroe in returning fire.
There was the sound of running from the corridor, followed by many phaser discharges. After a moment of silence, a voice came through the opening.
“Captain Veath, Matrian Planetary Security,” a hard, female voice called, “Are you having a bit of a problem in there?”
“That depends on whether or not you just stunned all the bad guys,” Simplot said calmly.
“Well then, we’re just peachy. How are you?”
“Glad to hear it,”
Station Log, Stardate 59401.2
“Huh. I guess the Matrians really do care about this place. Shurgroe screwed up the typing and send ‘HELF’ instead of ‘HELP’, but they got the message anyway. As soon as the interference field went down, Matrian HQ had troops beaming into Ops, all six shipyards and the nearest unshielded access point to the high-security decks. Volergal and her team were rounded up and taken into custody, and we’ve restored the city the full functionality. Steady as she…well, whatever cities do.”
“Colonel Abela and Mr Shurgroe are planning on changing or removing that override code as soon as possible, assuming they can figure out how it was wired into the system. In the meantime, we’ve taken the gesture recognition system temporarily offline,”
“So, all’s well that ends well,”
“I can’t believe you lied to me about getting into the high-security levels!” Simplot said accusingly as Abela sat across the conference table from her, “I’ve been asking about that place for weeks!”
“You’re an alien!” Abela countered, “If this was a Starfleet station, would you let me into the top-secret areas?”
“Your government already gave me access!” Simplot snapped, “You had no business going against them!”
“I didn’t go against them,” Abela shrugged, “I just…took my time passing on the information.”
They glared at each other for a moment.
“Your people performed…acceptably,” Abela finally admitted, “Although they never would have succeeded without Major Dekaire.”
“They never would have succeeded without Mr Wyer either,” Simplot countered. She sighed, “But you did shut down the computer and end that whole stalemate. But still! Wyer!”
“Who would have thought,” Abela said, “Under that still, proper, DULL exterior is a man of rhythm.”
“Well, I hope this at least proved he isn’t as incompetent as you thought,” Simplot said hopefully.
“Hmph,” Abela replied.
“By the way, why were all those clean-up crews out in the Outer Rim?”
“Don’t ask,” Abela shudded, “Let’s just say that some of those crooks got a little more than they deserved!”
Simplto stared at her.
“So what happened? C’mon, tell me!”
“Save the city, and what thanks do I get? Go work on the lakebed, Wyer!” Wyer muttered angrily to himself. He was in an access tunnel under the lakebed, checking the integrity of a seam that had been stressed by the explosion many weeks ago. The layer of sand and silt at the bottom of the lake had absorbed much of the shock, but there was still some work to do.
Wyer turned awkwardly in the tunnel to find Major Dekaire approaching.
“Ma’am,” he gulped, going through his toolkit until he found a padd suitable for strategic placement, “What can I do for you?”
“I think the question,” she said, pulling the padd out of his unresisting fingers and tossing it over one shoulder” is what can we do for each other? If you’re interested, that is.”
“I…uh…well…that is…um…yes?” Wyer squeaked.
“I thought so,”
And with that, she pounced on him.
As uniform parts were tossed around the tunnel like confetti, Wyer couldn’t help but think that maybe life on the city wasn’t all that bad after all.