Author: Brendan Chris
<Voice of Queen Anselia>
“We really do not understand this Earth custom. But if you insist, we will perform this…voiceover.”
“Last time, on Star Traks: Silverado, Captain Stafford missed our date because he was sedated in Sickbay, and we didn’t get any action at all! Men, never willing to…oh. What? This is supposed to be about what happened to the other characters, not us? We see. Our apologies.”
“T’Parief, Fifebee, Jeffery and Valtaic, after being captured by Matrian rebels, managed to escape into a sealed-off section of the underground installation they had found. In the meantime, word of a new Qu-Eh attack fleet has reached Matria Prime. Now, as the away team tries to figure out how to escape the installation, Stafford and the rest of the crew must figure out how to defend our planet!”
“Ah, Capain,” Dr. Wowryk said, “I was hoping I’d catch you before the meeting,”
“Oh yeah?” Stafford asked, walking towards the door to the conference lounge, “What’s up?”
“Well, sir, you’ve been under a lot of stress lately, and I’m a bit worried about how it might be affecting your health,” Wowryk explained.
“I went crackers and starting raving about coffee and cinnamon buns,” Stafford said dryly, “I think that ship has sailed,”
“It was scones, actually,” Jall said from behind them, “And stop it, you’re making me hungry!”
“I want you to wear this,” Wowryk said, handing him a small device, “It will tell you when your stress levels are getting too high,”
“Uh, whatever you say, Doc,” Stafford said, strapping the device to his wrist. It immediately started beeping.
“Let’s just turn down the sensitivity a bit,” Wowryk said.
“Just over twenty hours,” Stafford said, “That’s how much time we have before the Qu’Eh attack fleet gets here. And there’s still no word from our people on the ground.”
“That sucks,” Jall said. He was seated in the conference room, along with Wowryk, Stern, Yanick, Day and Sage. With so many of his senior staff missing and presumed in deep shit, he was relying heavily on Beta Shift officers, “But if you want, the Hazardous Team can break down that door in about fifteen minutes or so,”
“We can’t,” Stafford said, “I need the HT in Matronus, preparing the Matrian volunteer forces for a possible invasion. Except for Mr. Stern. You’re acting Chief of Security until T’Parief gets back,”
“If he gets back,” Sage said. Yanick gave a small gasp.
“Sorry,” Sage said sheepishly.
“Mr. Sage does raise a point, even if he did so with without an ounce of tact,” Dr. Wowryk put in, “We still don’t know if our people are alive or dead, a fact you don’t seem to be putting much focus on,” She was speaking calmly, but there was a glint of steel in her words. Frankly, Stafford was amazed at how politely she was bringing up her concern. He figured she’d be throwing stuff at him by now.
“I’m not writing our people off,” Stafford said, “But the evidence we have so far points at them being captured, not killed, right Mr. Jall?”
“I’m thinking T’Parief will be a big help in getting them out of trouble,” Stafford went on, “And, to be blunt, we have bigger problems. The entire planet is in danger. That doesn’t mean I’m willing to give up on our people,” he added quickly, noticing the angry looks on several faces, “But I think we can agree that they have a better chance of taking care of themselves than the Matrians do,”
“So what’s the plan?” Day asked, his hands folded on the table in front of him.
“The Matrian fleet is assembling as fast as it can,” Stern spoke up, “We also have a few cruisers and about two dozen fighters coming in from Senous,”
“I thought the Senousians had made more progress in rebuilding their fleet?” Stafford said.
“They’re not willing to leave their own world completely undefended,” Stern said.
“Everybody’s got their priorities,” Wowryk said darkly.
“How do we stand?” Stafford asked Sage.
“In deep shit,” Sage said.
“How about some specifics?”
“We have no warp core. The two Matrian reactors we patched in will help, but our shield and weapon power is going to be limited,” Sage said, “Sylvia is still off-line-“
“In a coma!” Yanick spoke up, “She’s not some random computer system!”
Sage looked at her strangely.
“In a coma,” Stafford said firmly.
“Right, well. Without her, our systems aren’t playing as nicely as they should be. We didn’t have the same disconnection problems we had when Stalart yanked her out of the core, probably because parts of her were still interfaced.”
“Anything new on that front, Doctor?” Stafford asked Wowryk.
“Some improvements in her neurotransmitter levels,” Wowryk admitted cautiously, “I think that’s a good thing,”
“She’s one of a kind, Chris,” Wowryk said, crossing her arms, “I don’t exactly have a medical journal I can refer to!”
“You’re doing fantastic,” Jall said soothingly. He gave Stafford a quick warning look.
“Anyway,” Stafford said, “I want this ship battle-ready as she can be in ten hours. Mr. Jall, I want you to beam down to Matria Prime and brief the Queen,”
“Aye, sir,” Jall said, “No problem! I’ll have that girl up on all the low-down in no time!”
Stafford and Wowryk stared at him.
“He means ‘no problem’,” Yanick translated.
20 Minutes Later…
“OK, I’m here,” Stafford said, walking into the spacious antechamber outside of Queen Anselia’s opulent office. Jall and Ambassador Owens were waiting for him. “Now, why can’t you brief the Queen? I thought you said she’d be down with all the left…I mean, up with all the back…ugh! I thought you said it would be no problem!”
“Well, there was a problem,” Jall shrugged.
Stafford’s stress monitor beeped.
“Indeed,” Ambassador Owens said dryly, “By the way, why are you beeping?”
“It’s for my health!” Stafford said. He tuned to Jall, “Why? What did you do?”
“It wasn’t anything HE did,” Anselia’s voice announced. A page had pulled the officer door open, revealing her standing there in her official ‘Matrian Queen’ wardrobe, “Rather, Captain Stafford, it was you sending your second-in-command to brief us when you could have done so yourself,”
Stafford was taken aback. Anselia had always been so cordial, so polite when dealing with him. Why was she acting like this?”
“I’m sorry,” he said slowly, “But this sort of thing usually falls to the First Officer. As Captain, I should be on my ship,”
“We realize that Matria is not officially a Federation member yet,” Anselia said, “But we think that given the circumstances, we should continue as if we were,”
“I agree,” Stafford said quickly. Was this about him missing their date?
“Actually,” Jall jumped in, “Maybe that’s not such a good idea-“
“Jall, if they were a member planet, what would we be doing right now?”
“Calling for help and getting ready to defend them,” Jall said.
“And what would be doing if they weren’t?”
“Invoking the Prime Directive and getting our asses out of here,”
Stafford stopped in his tracks.
“Oh. Good point.”
“Ugh, we do not have time for your political games!” Anselia cried, “We are all in danger, including your ship!”
“We could put the final issue of Federation membership to a vote right away,” Owens suggested, “Instead of waiting for another week,”
“Very well,” Anselia said, “We will see to it. Right now, we need our Minister of Planetary Defence to brief the Defence Council so we can start planning our strategy.”
“Sounds good,” Stafford said, “Who’s your Minister of Planetary Defence?”
“Uh-oh,” Jall muttered.
“You are,” Anselia said, handing Stafford a briefcase and a rather official looking medallion of office, “Congratulations on your promotion, Mr. Minister. Commander Jall, I trust you will have your ship ready in time?”
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
“A-As ready as she can be,” Jall stammered. Stafford’s mouth was flapping open and closed like a beached fish, but Jall was far too stunned to notice.
“Good. Minister Stafford, your briefing starts in half an hour. Your assistant will show you there. Please try to do something about that strange sound beforehand,”
“But…but…my ship?” Stafford stammered, forcing out words.
“Chris,” Anselia’s voice turned gentle, “We know you men have a tendency to get emotionally attached to things. But we need you here. I have consulted Ambassador Owens, and Starfleet regulation something-or-other states that Starfleet officers will assist as needed during times of emergency. This is where you’re needed. Mr. Jall can handle your ship.” Her voice turned hard again, “We really must insist,”
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
“I realize this is unexpected,” Ambassador Owens stepped in, “But in this case, I agree with Queen Anselia. You can do more good here than on your ship,”
Stafford turned to Jall.
“You are NOT captain!” he said, “Silverado is still MY ship!”
“Uh-huh,” Jall muttered, an evil gleam in his eye. Stafford noticed his expression.
“Fine. Enjoy it while you can. You’re probably going to get blown up in a day or so anyway,”
The gleam immediately faded.
“It will be a great deal of work,” Anselia said to Stafford, “And we are afraid that some of our people will not be pleased with having an off-worlder telling them what to do,”
“Such as?” Stafford asked tiredly.
“Well, you remember Admiral Verethi?”
“The commander of your space forces?” Stafford shrugged, “We’ve been trying to meet her, but she’s always ‘busy’. And her messages have been sort of…rude,”
“Sort of rude?” Anselia smiled, “That’s good to hear,”
“Because it means she is trying to be polite with you,” Anselia sighed.
Jeffery pushed T’Parief out of his way, putting himself in the lead.
“Out of me way, scaly!” he snapped, “Ah’m still in charge of this away team!”
“I was checking for security risks,” T’Parief snapped back.
“The place is deserted! Jeffery said, “There are no security risks!”
“Are we there yet?” Valtaic sighed.
“Considering we do not know the size of the facility, or even our destination?” Fifebee said glumly, “Probably not,”
They four of them were still trapped in an underground Matrian installation. They still had no idea what the place was, or why it had been built. They also had no idea why somebody in Dreamland had tried to erase all trace of its existence while the Matrians were trying to conquer the sector with their mind-controlling SIDs, and no idea how a faction of Matrian rebels who wanted to return to the ‘old ways’ had found the place. All they did know was that the installation had been built by the Old Matrians and hidden away for close to two centuries. All the systems had been locked down; even Fifebee couldn’t access the computer systems.
They had escaped from the Matrian rebels by breaking into a sealed-off section of the installation. Valtaic had discovered the disguised force fields leading into the ‘secret’ areas and Jeffery had dropped the force fields long enough for them to get in, leaving the Matrian rebels stuck between themselves and the only known exit.
They’d expected to find whatever secret was hidden in the underground installation, whether it was a weapon, secret information or even treasure. What they hadn’t expected to find was what seemed like kilometers of dimly-lit corridors. After getting into the hidden areas they’d taken a right turn, in an effort to find the boundaries of the place. Instead, they’d been following the same corridor for nearly an hour, slowly creeping past cross corridors and trying every door they found, even though they all seemed to be locked.
As they moved past another deserted cross corridor, T’Parief crept in front of Jeffery again, scanning the area with his stolen Matrian weapon.
“Cut it out!” Jeffery hissed, pushing in front of him again.
“If I have a greater desire to die honourably than you, then that is my business!” T’Parief hissed, “You should be in the back, where it is safe,”
“Stop fighting,” Valtaic said firmly, “You both sound like infants!”
“You realize the further we go into this place, the less likely it is that a rescue team from Silverado will find us,” Fifebee said.
“Ah know,” Jeffery said, “But if they take out the Matrian rebels, they’ll tell our people that we escaped. Our whole mission is to find out what this place is!”
“If we had headed to the interior of the base, rather than trying to seek out its boundaries, we may have completed that task by now,” Valtaic said.
“Aye, thank ye for the twenty-twenty hindsight,” Jeffery said. Ahead of him, he could finally see that the corridor ended in a heavy pair of double doors, “Look! Finally!”
He rushed ahead, eager to find out what was there. T’Parief bounded ahead of him, claws extended. The two of them squabbled for several moments as Fifebee and Valtaic caught up. Finally, T’Parief agreed to cover Jeffery as the latter opened the doors.
Blinking, Jeffery walked into the room. It was a transit station, identical to the one they’d left an hour earlier.
“Did we go all the way around?” he asked.
“No,” Fifebee said, “By my measurements, we have gone in an arc, only a fraction of the circumference of a circle,”
“So what does that mean?”
“Follow me,” Fifebee said. She turned and passed through a security checkpoint, identical to the one they’d found earlier. She continued walking down the corridor.
“This is where I found the forcefield in the other section of the installation,” Valtaic said suddenly. Sure enough, an array of forcefield emitters ringed that section of the corridor.
“But this section isn’t sealed off,” Fifebee said, “Interesting,”
The four of them continued to walk through the corridors, the layout completely identical to the area around the hanger bay they’d originally found. Using her internal mapping system, Fifebee led the way.
“This has interesting implications,” she said. She’d led them into a control room, identical to the one in which she’d been forced to work for the Matrian rebels.
And it overlooked an identical hanger bay. Except this one had ships in it. Four Old Matrian attack ships, nearly identical to the ships Silverado had encountered on her first mission to Matrian space.
“Holy crap!” Jeffery exclaimed.
“Impressive,” Valtaic said.
“More than that,” Fifebee said, “We have traveled only part of the circumference of a circle. If this installation occupies a full circle-“
“Then there are MORE hangers?” Jeffery gasps, “But, Ah mean, it was a pretty long walk just to get here! If this is only the second hanger, than this place must be-“
“Over three kilometers in diameter,” Fifebee said.
“Holy crap!” Jeffery said again.
“This workstation is not locked like the other one,” Fifebee said, examining the control panel,”
“Can ye find anything?”
Fifebee tapped away for several moments. As she did so, T’Parief and Valtaic moved down into the hanger to investigate the ships.
“Access is very, very limited. It appears this entire installation was placed in a state of lockdown prior to being abandoned. I have some access to external sensors and communications, but all other systems are locked.”
Fifebee tapped a button. Behind Jeffery, a supply cabinet unlocked. Inside, he found several Matrian devices. He picked up a small round object with six small indents around its edge.
“Comm-badge?” he asked Fifebee.
“I believe so,” she said, “One moment, I will see if I can program it to interface with Starfleet systems. After several moments of tapping, she nodded at Jeffery.
“Jeffery to Stafford,” he said.
“Simon!” Stafford’s voice came back immediately. The interference they’d encountered earlier was gone, probably because they were now using the installation’s comm systems, “Holy S**t! Are you OK? What’s going on?”
“We found a group of Matrian rebels in this place,” Jeffery said, “They took us prisoner, but Valtaic broke us out,”
“Really? Our money was on T’Parief. Good show for the new guy, huh?”
“Chris, Ah got so much to tell ye,” Jeffery said, “This place, it’s huge! We dunno what it was for, but-“
“Simon,” Stafford cut him off, “Unless it’s capable of defending this planet, it’s going to have to wait. We have Qu’Eh attack ships on the way. Jall’s getting Silverado ready to go, but he could use your help!”
“Jall?” Jeffery asked, “Why aren’t ye-“
“Long story,” Stafford said darkly, “Let’s just say I’ve been drafted. Look, can you guys get far enough from that interference for the transporters to get a lock?”
Fifebee shook her head.
“According to these readings, this part of the installation is underground,” she said, “And the rebel Matrians are blocking the entrance we used,”
“No we can’t,” Jeffery told Stafford, “And Ah guess these ships we found aren’t much good then either,”
Jeffery filled him in.
“Crap,” Stafford said, “We could use those. Any chance of getting the hanger doors clear?”
“None,” Fifebee said, speaking into Jeffery’s badge, “However, given what we have found so far, I think we should continue our explorations. We may find something that will help. I believe this place was built as a bunker, a place to hide out for an extended time. Perhaps this is where the Matrian women planned on staying prior to the discovery of the Spatial Interphase Devices and Dreamland-“
“It’s a long shot,” Stafford said, “But we need any long shot we can get. I just hope the evening crew can take care of my ship without you four,”
“I believe,” Fifebee said, “that our concerns at the moment are much bigger than the welfare of a single ship,”
“You’re right,” Stafford said, sounding a bit sad, “Good luck. Stafford out.”
After signing off, Stafford allowed himself a moment to lean back in his plush, leather chair, flooded with relief. (Which at least caused the stupid stress monitor to stop beeping.) He quickly contacted Jall and updated him on the situation.
“Huh,” his First Officer mused, “So whatever it is the Old Matrians hid down there, it’s big, huh?”
“I guess,” Stafford shrugged, “Fifebee figures it was a bunker of some kind. Makes sense,”
“Could make a good place to hide, if the fight doesn’t go well,” Jall said.
“Speaking of which,” Stafford started.
“You want all the civilians and non-essential personnel beamed down to the planet?”
“As soon as possible,” Stafford nodded, “I’ve already spoken to some people here. Remember the stadium we used for the Sports Competition?”
“Yup. We’ll start beaming people down there right now.”
“How about those other preparations we discussed?” Stafford asked.
“I spoke with Admiral Tunny,” Jall replied, “He’s contacting Waystation to make the arrangements.”
“Thanks, Jall,” Stafford stood, “I have a meeting with the Defence Council shortly. I’ll contact you as soon as I can,”
“Ten four, oh mighty Minister of Power!” Jall smirked, closing the channel.
As the half-Trill’s image faded, Stafford grabbed his padds and stepped out of the lavish office he’d been given in the Matrian Defence Headquarters. Jall would take care of getting as many of his crewmembers to the relative safety of the planet, he mused to himself, and most of his second-string officers knew what they were doing.
Stafford smirked, shaking his head as he contemplated just how bizarre it was that he was trusting Jall, of all people, with the safety of his ship and crew. Once the real crisis had started, their seemly endless fighting and bickering had vanished, replaced by a working relationship that was almost scaring Stafford. The whole thing seemed unthinkable…and Stafford knew that if Sylvia were awake, she’d give him one of those motherly smirks and say something like ‘Chris, I knew you two would learn to work together sooner or later. How about some apple pie?’
The thought of Sylvia quickly brought his musings back to reality. Maybe part of the reason why he found it easy to trust Jall with his ship was because the stakes were so much higher now. Matria was a Federation planet in all but name. He had the Commemorative Federation China packed away in his quarters, to be presented to Queen Anselia at the membership ceremony. In the two years since their Reawakening, the Matrians had worked hard to bring themselves in line with the reality of the galaxy, and Ambassador Owens had spent over two years working with Anselia and the Council of Governors to establish relations with the planet. Hell, between helping with cultural research and holding their little sports events, Silvereado had been working hard to build connections with the Matrian people, to show them that even though they had once been enemies, they were now on the same team. And the Matrian people had, on the most part, shown the same effort.
There was no way Stafford was going to let all those efforts go to waste.
The Matrian Defence Council, half a dozen Matrian Governors and Governernesses, sat facing him in a semi-circle. Perfectly balanced between men and women, the council’s job was to ensure that Matrian space was properly defended. With the current condition of the Matrian star fleet, it was no wonder that their jobs had been very difficult. The council members were tired. They’d been working hard for two years to establish a defence force, a task made much more difficult due to the damage Silverado had done to their fleet years before, under Stafford’s command.
“Um, hi everybody.” Stafford said, smiling weakly, “I’m a bit new at this, so you’ll excuse me if I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”
None of the Council members spoke, nor did they appear to be amused. OK, fine. He was expecting a bit of animosity, especially because he’d practically been rammed down their throat by Queen Anselia.
Hell, he was pretty pissed off at that on his own.
“OK, look,” he said, leaning forward on his hands, “I don’t know why the hell I’m here. I’m a starship captain, not a Minister. But right now my mission is to help you defend your planet from this attack, after which I’ll happily go back to my ship, and some other Matrian can be your Defence Minister. OK?”
“This one is…childish,” one of the council members said to the other.
“But not unattractive,” the second added.
“OK, what do we have to work with?” Stafford asked, choosing to ignore the comments, “We have Senousian cruisers on the way, along with some fighters. We have Silverado, but our shield and weapon power is low after we lost our warp core. There’s, what, a dozen Matrian cruisers? A couple dozen scouts? Patrol craft? Hover-limos???”
“Yes, that is about right,” one council member said, nodding, “Of course, our technology is barely on par with the Qu’Eh,”
“About that,” Stafford said, “My science officer informs me that Old Matronian technology was easily on par with what we have in the Federation, but the ships we encountered two years ago weren’t. Any idea what happened there?”
“We put brainwashed men in charge of our technology for a hundred years, what do you think happened?” one of the female Matrians said. The men at the table shot her dark looks.
“I’m sorry,” she said, looking genuinely apologetic, “I didn’t mean for that to sound sexist.”
“Oh, I’m sure,” one of the males shot back.
“Well if YOU were brainwashed, you’d have a hard time working with advanced technology!” she said defensively.
“I WAS brainwashed! How can anyone maintain complex systems in that state, let alone build new or improved ones?”
Stafford chuckled, suddenly feeling a bit better.
“And what do you think is so funny?” the woman demanded.
“You just remind me of…somebody,” he said, “Look, buddy, relax,” he turned to the Matrian male, “She’s right. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, if your brain is a bit screwed up, you’re not going to do your best work.” He turned back to the table, “So what else do we have to work with?”
“We also have the defence satellites we’ve been building,” another member put in, “The network isn’t finished, but the satellites we have might help,”
“How long to activate them?” Stafford asked.
“A day or two,”
“We don’t have that kind of time!” Stafford said.
“We could activate as many as possible, then spread them a bit thin,” one council member suggested.
“Hmmm, no,” Stafford said, “That will just make it easier for the Qu’Eh to pick them off. What you really wanna do is cluster them together, so their combined firepower can take out enemy ships before they have a chance to do any damage. You won’t have full coverage of the planet, but you can defend a key area.”
The council stared at him for a moment, then broke out in excited chatter.
Geez, Stafford mused to himself, they taught us that at the Academy in Basic Tactics.
“We have a number of fighter craft in storage in the city of Theodorus,” another councillor mentioned.
“Starfighters?” Stafford said, looking surprised, “I don’t remember fighting those the last time we were here!”
“We never deployed them,” the minister shrugged, “I’m a bit fuzzy on the details, you understand, but I believe we decided that they would not be able to do any significant damage to a starship,”
“No, no, no!” Stafford exclaimed, “I mean, you’re right, they usually can’t, unless they have an impressive torpedo payload. But do you know how much of a pain they are? They distract your enemy, because he doesn’t know if they have the sort of shield-buster torpedos that could give him a really bad day! And any firepower he commits to taking out your fighters is firepower he can’t use against your cruisers! Let’s get those babies going!”
The Matrians stared at him.
“Fighters,” he told them, “I meant get the fighters going!”
“Speaking of space and fighters, where’s Admiral Verethi? If she’s in charge of your military, shouldn’t she be here?” Stafford asked.
“She is occupied,” one of the council members told him, “Let us move on to the matter of planetary weapons emplacements,”
And so it went on, back and forth, as the council attempted to hammer out a strategy to defend their planet. The scary thing, Stafford started to realize, was that the Matrians really did need him more than Silverado did.
At the moment, anyway.
“Captain on the bridge,” Ensign Burke called out as Jall stepped onto Silverado’s bridge.
“Burke, when did you become an insufferable suck-up?” Jall asked with a grin.
“Since I cared about my career, sir,” Burke replied.
“Keep up the good work,” Jall nodded, settling into Stafford’s chair.
Jall looked around for the source of the apparent discontent. I didn’t take long; Yanick had turned around in her seat and was glaring at him.
“What?” Jall asked, “Anselia put me in command.”
“She can’t do that,” Yanick said, “She’s not a member of Starfleet.”
“Trish,” Jall said, “She needs Stafford down there, for whatever reason. That means until this crisis is over, I’m in charge,”
“Yeah,” Yanick said, “But you’re not the Captain.”
“C’mon, Trish,” Jall laughed, “Don’t take this so seriously!”
“Chris is captain of this ship!” Yanick said sharply, “And there’s more to being Captain than just being in command!”
With that, she turned angrily back to face her console.
Jall remained in Stafford’s seat, looking around the bridge. He wouldn’t have noticed it before, but after Yanick’s little outburst, he could now see that some members of the bridge crew were sneaking small, angry glances in his direction. Was it actually possible that some of thought the same way Yanick did? Stafford was still captain of Silverado, true. But if he managed to get keep Matria Prime safe in the upcoming battle, Jall doubted that Anselia would let him out of his new job easily. As the leader of a soon-to-be Federation member planet, she’d carry a good bit of weight with Starfleet, maybe even enough to make Stafford’s new assignment permanent, leaving him as the logical successor to Silverado’s command chair.. Apparently though, some crew members weren’t as pleased about such a prospect as Jall would have thought.
Softly clearing his throat, he stood, leaving Stafford’s chair empty as he returned to his own.
OK, so he wasn’t the Captain. But he was in command. Silverado was his responsibility.
For the moment.
Fifebee, Valtaic, Jeffery and T’Parief stood in the transit station near the second hanger bay.
“So the question,” Jeffery said, “is where do we go from here?”
“I suggest we attempt to find the main control facilities for this installation,” T’Parief said at once.
“I disagree,” Fifebee said, “We need to determine the purpose and capabilities of this installation as soon as possible. If something here can help defend the planet, we need to know it. Plus, we need to find food, water and a place to sleep,”
“Why do you care about such things?” Valtaic asked, “You need neither food nor sleep,”
“Now, sweetie,” Fifebee smiled, “I don’t, but you boys do,”
Something nagged at the back of Jeffery’s mind. Before he could think further on it, Valtaic spoke again.
“Your concern for us is…appreciated,” he said, searching for the human pleasantry, “But I believe our priority should be to wrest control of the entrance hanger from the Matrian rebels. This place is obviously a place of power, and should be under Starfleet control,”
“But it is Matrian property,” Fifebee pointed out.
“Then it should be under the control of the Matrian Defence Force, which is soon to be absorbed into Starfleet anyway,” T’Parief said, “Not a pack of rebels.”
“All good points,” Jeffery said, “But I agree with T’Parief. Maybe if we find the control room, Fifebee can get into the computers and find out everything we need to know,”
“Indeed,”’ Fifebee inclined her head, “And perhaps undomesticated swine will fly out of my rectal cavity,”
“Is this a function of your program I am unfamiliar with,” Valtaic asked, “Or merely a strange human expression,”
“In her case, ye can never know,” Jeffery said darkly.
The four officers boarded the tram in the transit station. Bullet-shaped, the tram appeared to be designed to hold several dozen people. Large windows dominated the upper half of the vehicle. The comfortable, leather-like seats hadn’t appeared to have deteriorated at all over the years. As the four officers sat, small control panels in the right armrests came to life.
“Ah don’t read Matrian,” Jeffery complained, tapping at his tricorder.
“I do,” Fifebee said, “it says ‘Please Select Destination,’
“I could have told you that,” Valtaic said bluntly.
“Uh, Operations, please?” Jeffery said loudly, assuming the tram functioned somewhat like a turbolift.
“Control room? Control booth? Office of the Big Cheese?” he tried.
“Presumably, you need to speak Matrian,” Valtaic said.
“But our Universal Translators….oh,” Jeffery gulped, realizing that their translators had been confiscated, “Hey, I didn’t know you guys spoke Standard,”
“Your language is simple and primitive,” Valtaic said, “Much like your sexual habits,”
“Standard was selected as the predominant Federation language specifically because it is simple,” Fifebee informed him.
“Can we get this thing moving?” T’Parief demanded, impatient.
“Gleconum Derunari,” Fifebee said. She turned to the others, “That means ‘Control Room’ in Matrian, dears,”
Jeffery had a momentary sense of déjà vu. Something about Fifebee was really starting to bug him…but what?
The tram still didn’t move.
“Maybe we have to use the actual panels,” Valtaic suggested.
Fifebee tapped at the panel.
“It will not show me a directory,” she complained, “That would have at least given me a hint as to what our choices were!” she continued tapping.
Suddenly, the tram lurched forwards.
“What did ye do?” Jeffery demanded.
“I believe I have instructed the tram to take us to the center of this installation,” Fifebee said, “Logically, that is where the control center should be,”
“Assuming Matrians build their underground installations the same way we do,” Jeffery said.
“No,” Fifebee said, “I have been studying what information we have on the Matrians for months now. You will recall that the layout of their suspended animation chamber and Dream Nexus placed the control center at the center of the chamber. There is no uncertainty about it,”
“If ye say so,”
The tram had glided into the tunnel at the far end of the transit station and was picking up speed now. Looking out the windows, Jeffery could see the tunnel walls as they sped by. Dimly illuminated by the lights inside the tram, Jeffery could see antigravity guides, presumably keeping the tram perfectly centered in the tunnel.
“I believe the tunnel opens up ahead,” Fifebee said that.
“How can ye tell?” Jeffery asked.
Before she could answer, the tunnel walls fell away, revealing…
“Whot the hell?” Jeffery demanded.
“It’s very…dark…” T’Parief observed.
“Well, we ARE underground,” Fifebee pointed out, “According to my internal mapping systems, we are deep under the lava dome we observed on the surface. A zero light level is to be expected!”
“Are ye getting anything on infrared?” Jeffery asked.
Fifebee was silent for a moment.
“Unfortunately not,” she said, “Presumably, the temperature differentials of whatever is outside the tram are too slight to properly register. Also, whatever is interfering with our tricorders is also disrupting my other non-standard imaging systems.”
“We haven’t used this room in some time,” Stafford’s assistant, a young Matrian woman named Feli was saying. The various members of the Matrian Defence Council had gone their separate ways, rushing to put into practice the plans and ideas they’d come up with. Stafford was still feeling a bit dazed; he was having a hard time believing the meeting had actually progressed the way it had. He knew he wasn’t the best Captain in Starfleet…if he was, he and his crew wouldn’t have been jerked around, sent out of sight, cheaply used for public relations and made to work like uneducated high-school students when they visited a certain starbase. But he was still a Captain…and here were people who actually needed his expertise. Maybe Picard or Sisko or somebody could have done a better job, he mused, but all the Matrians were getting was Christopher Stafford. And that would just have to do.
“Why not?” Stafford asked, bringing his attention back to the conversation.
“We haven’t had any real need for it since the Reawakening,” Feli shrugged, “Things had been quiet, until the Qu’Eh attacked.”
“But what about defence?” Stafford pressed, “Monitoring? Readiness?”
“Well, Admiral Verithi was handling that. I guess you’re just going to have to set something up with her,” Fedi said, tapping a panel next to the broad set of double doors they were standing in front of. The Matrian Defence Headquarters building was another example of Matrian government architecture. The floors were polished marble; the walls were some sort of deep maroon wood. Smooth columns and pillars lined the walls and elaborate chandeliers hung from the gracefully arched ceilings. While a beautifully crafted staircase wound its way from the lower levels of the building all the way to the roof, Stafford and Fedi had used a turbolift to descend deep beneath the building to the Matrian War Room.
The doors hissed open and Stafford stepped into an airlock-like antechamber. Fedi followed. Finally, the inner doors opened. The six-sided chamber was large, with a curving domed ceiling. The outer rim was lined with workstations, at which uniformed Matrians were diligently working. Three slender walkways led up to an elevated platform. Six more control panels lined the rim of the platform, while the center was dominated by a broad, circular table. A holographic image of Matria Prime was projected above the table, with small holograms representing the various objects in orbit.
“Wow,” Stafford commented.
“I’ll make sure your lower office is ready,” Fedi said, bowing as she turned and walked towards a door set into one side of the room.
“I get another office?” Stafford asked, rather dumbly.
“It’s one of the perks of working a hundred meters underground,” a voice said from behind him, “That, and pretty secretaries,”
“Assistants,” Stafford corrected without turning around, “And I don’t think Fedi was chosen for her looks.
“Then you didn’t notice that she has physical characters similar to the dozen or so Matrian women you slept with during the Sports Competition? I understand that Queen Anselia was most eager to be sure you had the best of the best,”
“I stopped sleeping with random women!” Stafford snapped, spinning around, “And how the hell is it any of your business anyway?”
He found himself facing yet another attractive Matrian woman. This one was dressed in the deep blue uniform of the Matrian Defense Force. Stafford was still fuzzy on the uniform insignia, but he recognized the woman immediately from her pictures. She was the Admiral commanding the Matrian Defence Forces. He’d been trying to meet with her for over a week!
“I just wish our men were as easy to satisfy,” she said snidely.
“Admiral Verithi,” Stafford nodded, “I was hoping I’d run into you. Well, maybe not hoping. But I need to talk to you,”
“Is this where we talk about how bringing the MDF into Starfleet will ‘help’ our planet?” Verithi asked, hands on her hips, “About how abandoning our own traditions and working for you will make things ‘better’?”
Stafford noticed that several of the Matrians had stopped to stare at the two of them.
“My office,” he snapped, “We need to talk!”
“Oh, of course, you big, strong man, you,” Verithi snarled as she followed along.
“I think we’re here,” T’Parief grumbled, “Wherever ‘here’ is,”
“The tram is indeed slowing.” Fifebee confirmed.
“If ye say so,” Jeffery mused. He was still staring out the window into the total blackness beyond. They’d been traveling for several minutes, and since exiting the tunnel, Jeffery had seen nothing but total blackness. Once in a while he thought he saw something passing by, dimly visible in the light from the tram, but he couldn’t make anything out. As he looked ahead though, he could see in the tram’s dim forward lights that the antigravity track they were following curved gently upward. T’Parief cocked his head.
“We have entered another tunnel,” he said.
“How do ye-“
“The sound of the air rushing over the tram’s surface has changed,” Fifebee explained, before Jeffery could even finish asking.
“Oookay,” He turned back to the window. Ahead of him, he finally saw lights. The tram was pulling into a large chamber, with antigravity tracks coming and going in what seemed like all directions. A huge column stood in the center of the cavernous chamber, stretching from floor to vaulted ceiling. On it, support brackets held over a dozen huge, blank displays. The track they were on merged onto a ring-shaped track that circled the column. Tracks merged with theirs, while even more tracks branched off. In the dim light, Jeffery could see that some of them went even deeper underground, while others remained on the same level. None that he could see seemed to go up, which at the moment was the direction Jeffery really would have preferred to go.
“Ah think Ah’m getting claustrophobic,” Jeffery gulped, suddenly having trouble catching his breath,”
“Uh-oh,” Valtiac sighed as Jeffery fell to his knees, wheezing. Fifebee was next to him immediately.
“Breath, Simon!” she ordered, “Try not to think of the millions of tones of rock that are crushing down from above us!”
Jeffery’s eyes widened, his breath became even more laboured.
“I do not believe that is helping,” Valtaic said bluntly.
Fifebee’s eyes flickered for a moment.
“Come on Simon,” she said, her tone suddenly changing, “Deep breaths. Look out the window; we’re in a wide, open space. This place has been here for hundreds of years, it’s not going to collapse just because we are here. Deep breaths, sweetie. In, out. There you go…”
Jeffery was slowly returning to normal. The colour came back into his cheeks and he rose unsteadily to his feet.
“Thanks, Fifebee,”he said shakily.
“Don’t mention it, dear,”
The tram eased off the central ring-track and glided into an unloading area. The doors hissed open, and a ramp extended smoothly from the tram to the surface. The four officers stepped out, looking anxiously around them. Fifebee tapped at her Matrian scanner for several moments before sighing and tucking it back onto her belt. The interference here was even worse than before. It was a wonder that her holo-relay was still functioning.
The lighting was still very dim, making Jeffery think of emergency lighting. That made sense, he mused, since the place was in lockdown mode. Squinting, he could see broad panels up on the cavernous ceiling that could be illumination panels. He could see shadows that could be doorways and long elevated balconies running along the curving walls. The main level they were walking on was turning into a maze of pathways, stairways and doors. Door after locked door. Symbols and squiqqles that could have been signs covered the walls and hung suspended from the ceiling.
“This is clearly the heart of a large transit system,” Fifebee said aloud.
“Yes, I believe we all knew that already, thank you,” Valtaic said.
“I know you did,” Fifebee shot back, “But I wanted to be sure we’re all on the same page,”
“As I keep telling your people, we are not standing on a book. We are all on the same underground pathway, however,”
Deciding not to answer, Fifebee continued walking.
“Were are we going now?” Jeffery asked, “Ah’m feeling totally lost,”
“I am looking for a way up,” Fifebee replied.
“Oh, thank God,” Jeffery sighed, “Ah’m about ready to get back above ground,”
“That is not what I meant,” Fifebee said, “Most races prefer to elevate their command areas. By applying basic trigonometry to the arc we traveled earlier and the distance we traveled in the tram, I have determined that we are now at the center of the installation,”
“I believe the massive merger of antigravity tracks back there told us that,” Valtaic added.
“If you do not have something helpful to add, shut up,” T’Parief growled.
“I am attempting to demonstrate that trigonometry is in fact good for something useful,” Fifebee said, “Now that we are at the center, we simply need to go up,” she pointed at a symbol of several stick-figures in a box.
“That appears to be the symbol for a turbolift or elevator.” She said.
“Lead the way,” Jeffery sighed.
Stafford led Verithi through the same door Fedi had vanished through earlier. Seeing the look on his face, Fedi quickly scrambled out of the room. The office was more cramped and utilitarian than the one up on the 20th floor, and contained utilitarian sleeping accommodations. Clearly, the place had been built for major emergencies.
“It’s nice to finally meet you too,” he said.
“Likewise,” Verithi said curtly.
The two of them glared silently at each other. Stafford and Jall had been in contact with Verithi several times since their arrival in Matrian Space. Part of their mission to facilitate Matria Prime’s membership in the Federation included preparing the Matrian Defence Forces for integration into Starfleet. Most Federation worlds kept their own ships and planetary defence forces, but contributing to Starfleet was a requirement for all member worlds. After all, if they wanted Starfleet to come to their rescue, it was only fair. Ambassador Owens and the Matrian government had come to an agreement: The Matrian Defence Force would be absorbed into Starfleet, Matrian shipyards would switch over to producing Starfleet vessels and Starfleet would provide ships to defend Matria Prime. The Matrians would have better ships defending them and Starfleet would have another source of personnel. It was a good deal all around.
Verithi didn’t agree. She felt that joining Starfleet would mean giving up the unique identity of the Matrian Defence Forces. Stafford and Jall had argued that first, the MDF had been made up of brainwashed men for over a century and, second, that they’d forgotten most of their identity. Verithi wasn’t buying it. Communications between Verithi and Starfleet had been curt and to the point, and somehow she was had been busy every time Stafford or Jall had tried to meet with her.
Now Stafford was bearding the lion in her den. Well, technically the office was his den, but it was her planet.
“Do you really think this is the time for us to be arguing about this?” Stafford finally said.
“Do you think this is the time for an outsider to come in and tell us how to defend our planet?” Verithi shot back.
Stafford located what was hopefully his chair and sat. How would Noonan handle this, he wondered. His former First Officer had had a way with upset people, even without using his funky hypnosis. He’d asked Noonan about it more than once, during the countless meetings they’d had. Noonan had replied that the best thing to do when in the middle of an argument is to try and understand the other person’s point of view. It was advice that Stafford had tried putting into practice on more than one occasion.
“I can see why you’d say that,” he said, thinking about what it would be like for him to be told that Starfleet was about to become part of the Klingon Empire, or something, “We were enemies, now we’re working together. It’s a big change. Not just for you,”
“We don’t seem to be working together,” Verithi said, “It seems like we’re working for you,”
“Oh yeah?” Staffored shot back, “Well it seems to me that we’re the ones risking our lives to help you defend your planet when we could just as easily leave!”
“No, you couldn’t!” Verethi said, “Your ship is stuck here!”
“It got that way helping you!”
“Your father wears army boots!”
“No, your mother wears army…wait,” Stafford shook his head, “What?”
“What possible reason could the Federation have for getting involved in our affairs like this unless they wanted control over us?” Verethi snapped, “What are you gaining otherwise?”
“We got involved because YOU INVITED US!” Stafford shouted, all thoughts of Noonan’s careful way of dealing with people forgotten, “Now listen here, you immature little bitch! We had no intention of coming back here - EVER - until your people decided that joining the Federation would be a good idea. And now we’re stuck here with an alien death fleet on the way, my ship is in bad shape, and I’m stuck on this planet playing Minister when I should be on the bridge of my ship telling Yanick to stop sticking peanuts up her nose!”
“What was that?” Verethi demanded.
Stafford looked at the stress monitor on his wrist. It appeared to have shorted out completely.
“Huh,” he mused, “I wonder if this thing’s still under warranty?” He chuckled. His chuckle turned into a giggle, then a near uncontrollable laugh.
“I’m sorry,” he said to Verethi, forcing the words out between gasps of laughter “This has been such a crazy week! Evil aliens, blown up warp cores, hidden underground installations…and now I’m stuck as an idiot politician for the duration!”
“You didn’t really stop to think about how this might be affecting us evil Starfleet folks, did you?” Stafford asked, still giggling, “We’re hundreds of light-years from home, trying to defend the people who tried to kill us, kidnapped one of our crewmembers and made us play musical chairs with our bodies! The last thing we ever wanted to do was come back here, and now half of my senior staff is trapped in a bunker by a group of rebels and I’ve got Jall, of all people, running my ship!”
He stood, and started walking back to the war room, shedding the destroyed stress monitor on the way.
“The Federation doesn’t want to control you. There’s nothing out here we need that we can’t find closer to home. I guess what the point I’m trying to make,” he said, the giggles finally passing, “Is that we’re here because your people want to become part of something bigger. And we’re risking our lives to help you, because that’s what the Federation does. Since we arrived, the rest of your people have been working to learn about us while you, Ms. Admiral, have avoided us completely. Your people are choosing to become part of the Federation, and if you don’t like it, you can go f**k yourself!”
He left, leaving Verethi alone in the office.
“Hmm,” Verethi mused, “Mother was right. It’s never pleasant watching somebody go completely to pieces,”
Deep underground, the away team was making little progress.
“Are ye sure the turbolifts are this way?” Jeffery was asking.
“This is the direction indicated by the sign,” Fifebee replied.
“The sign could be wrong!” Jeffery shot back.
Behind them, T’Parief and Valtaic exchanged a glance. It had been over day since they’d left Silverado, and the lack of food, sleep and hygiene was really starting to get to all four of them. Valtaic tried another door as they walked down the corridor Fifebee was leading them down. Locked. Or powerless. Either way, the door refused to slide open and tapping at the small panel next to it gave nothing but annoying beeps.
“I find it unlikely that the Old Matrians could construct an underground installation of this complexity, yet fail to properly label it,” Fifebee said frostily. Her behavioural subroutines were clearly also being effected by the prolonged mission.
“Well, Ah haven’t seen so much as a ‘Ye Are Here’ sign since we got here,” Jeffery said.
“Most races who speak Standard pronounce it ‘You’, not ‘Ye’,” Fifebee said.
“Don’t start raggin’ on me, ye holographic-“
“These doors are also locked,” Valtaic stated loudly. He was learning that his perfectly ordinary habit of making blunt statements was great for defusing the Silverado crew’s bickering.
They had been following the same corridor that led out of the transit center for about ten minutes. The doors were still locked, the lighting was still subdued and there was still not much to see other than corridor after corridor.
“OH! OH!” T’Parief shouted, “This one opened!”
There was a scramble as all four officers rushed to the door in question. It was a large, circular double door with six curved, triangular indentations around the edge. Set into the side of the corridor, it had hissed open the second T’Parief had pressed the door panel.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard you sound that excited,” Fifebee commented as she peered through the door.
“I have been trapped down here with the three of you for over a day. I have been shot at, stunned, shot at again and chased deeper and deeper underground,” T’Parief said, “The prospect of accomplishing our mission and leaving excites me in ways that are almost dirty,”
Stafford was leaning over one of the consoles ringing the central platform of the Matrian War Room.
“Can you get a closer look at that fighter grouping?” Stafford was asking the tech.
The Matrian frowned in concentration, tapping at the console. The holographic display in the center of the room spun dizzily, the came to a stop. Stafford stared.
“Is that a…” he cocked his head.
“It looks like my husband’s-“ the tech started.
“Hey Captain,” Jall called, stepping into the room. He looked up at the display, “Hey, is that the Falic?”
“Phallic? You would know better than I would,” Stafford said.
“No, no,” Jall shook his head, “I meant the SFV Falic. One of the Senousian cruisers that joined us,”
“Oh yeah. I forgot that the Senousians like building things that look like giant…parts,”
“I brought your dress uniform,” Jall said, “Well, I actually made Ensign Burke carry it since you told me to bring him down too, but it’s the thought that counts.”
“Dress uniform?” Stafford asked.
“It’s almost time,” Jall said.
“What are you doing looking at twisted porn in MY WAR ROOM!?” a shrill voice cried from the lower level.
“Have you met Admiral Verethi?” Stafford asked tiredly.
“OH! Is this the Admiral that’s been avoiding us since we-“
“Yeah,” Stafford sighed. He turned to Ensign Burke and grabbed his dress uniform, “Burke, see if you can help this poor girl figure out how the holo-imaging system works? When I step back into this room, I want to see the Matrian fighter formations, not the penis-shaped Senousian cruiser and not the mountain on Matria Prime’s moon that looks like a boob!”
“Aye, sir,” Burke said sadly. He sat next to the pretty blond tech, “OK, let’s see if there are any asteroids out there that look like-“
“Admiral Verethi, this is Commander Jall,” Stafford said, “He’ll be commanding Silverado when the Qu’Eh attack.”
“Ah yes. The one that dumped Queen Anselia,”
“I guess women on this planet gossip as much as on any other,” Jall sighed. He looked at his watch, “Look, Captain, hurry up and change. We’re going to be late!”
Stafford gave Verethi a cold look.
“I’ll be ready in a minute,” he disappeared into his office.
Jall and Verethi stood in silence for a moment. Next to them, Burke and the Matrian tech cursed as the holo-display fizzled out.
“A pleasure to finally make your acquaintance,” Verethi said finally.
“Likewise,” Jall smiled politely.
They had finally found the turbolift.
“See?” Fifebee asked, “You should have had more faith in me,”
“Ah’ll have faith in ye, once ye figure out how to activate it!” Jeffery said.
Fifebee tapped at the panel for a moment. The lift hummed, then eased into motion. She turned to Jeffery expectantly.
“Fine. I have faith in ye,”
The turbolift, much like the tram, had curved windows that looked out into the turboshaft. Considering the turboshaft was nothing but blank panels lined with anti-grav rails, the view wasn’t very impressive.
“How far up are we going?” Jeffery asked.
“Judging from the number of options on this panel, we are going up at least forty levels, likely more. Possibly many more.”
“FOURTY??” Jeffery’s eyes widened.
“Yes. I believe we will be quite close to the surface,”
Jeffery stopped talking as one side of the turboshaft abruptly fell away, revealing nothing but blackness.
“More of this,” T’Parief grumbled.
“I still can’t see anything,” Fifebee said, squinting out through the transparent panels. As quickly as it had appeared, the darkness vanished, replaced again by turboshaft walls. The lift slowed, then stopped.
As the doors hissed open, Jeffery, T’Parief and Valtaic all let out small gasps of amazement.
“Ah think we found the control room!” Jeffery exclaimed.
They stepped out of the turbolift into a large, curving room. Jeffery slowly turned, taking in the space. The turbolift they had taken was in the center of the room, set into a thick round column. As he slowly rounded the column, he saw other turbolifts as well…three in total, all facing outward. It reminded him a bit of the setup Waystation had. The entire chamber was sort of pod-shaped, making it feel like Jeffery was standing inside a giant M&M.
Surrounding the central column was a ring-shaped floor of polished stone. Or something that looked like polished stone. Three evenly spaced stairways led up to another ring-shaped walkway, interrupted occasionally by what could be doorframes leading to other rooms. Or imaging frames for big display screens, it was hard to tell. Between the stairways and below the walkway, six curving windows set into the lower curve of the pod looked out into total blackness. Above the walkway, the curving outer wall was covered with display screens. Most were completely dark, but some had dimly glowing images and symbols. Three more stairways, offset from the first three, led to the top of the central column. The top of the column was capped with a circular command deck. A series of control panels ringed the command deck, in the center of which was a broad, circular table. If any of the away team members had been in the War Room beneath the Matrian Defence Headquarters, they would have found the setup of the central command deck to be somewhat familiar. Finally, above this top deck, six more transparent windows looked out into-
“Rock?” Jeffery mused, looking up.
“Or sand,” Fifebee said, frowning. Her analytical subroutines were working in overdrive, “But in either case, this is clearly both the command center of this installation and most likely its highest point.
“Really?” Valtaic asked, poking at one of the dead consoles, “then what is that beneath us?” he gestured at the pitch-black lower windows.
“I suspect it is a cavern,” Fifebee said.
“Aye, of course!” Jeffery said, “It’s obvious!”
“If it is so obvious, why didn’t you think of it?”
“Because Ah was too busy having faith in ye!”
“Please, explain,” T’Parief interrupted.
“The Matrians used an underground cavern to house their Dream Nexus and the hibernating females after the end of the Gender War,” Fifebee said, “And this installation, which was built prior to that, is clearly also meant to be an underground bunker of some kind. Whereas the other cavern was built beneath the city of Matronus, this one was hidden beneath the desert.”
“So what’s in the cavern out there?” Jeffery gestured at the windows.
“We have no way of knowing.” Fifebee shrugged, “I suspect this is simply a naturally-formed cavern that they used as a convenient place to build this installation. In which case, what we are looking for, the reason why it is here, is likely located somewhere in this central tower.”
“Ye mean we have even more searching to do?” Jeffery groaned.
“Are you ready for this?” Jall asked.
“Are you?” Stafford shot back.
“I’m always ready to look sexy for the cameras,” Jall grinned.
“Ugh. Whatever happened to the good old days when we could just come in, blow things up, then leave? Why do we have to do all this political crap now?”
“Because sometimes making things go bang isn’t the end of the story,” Jall said, “Sometimes you have to stay for breakfast. Whether you’re hungry or not,”
“Let’s do this,” Stafford sighed.
The two of them stepped out into the Matrian Council Chamber. The dais on which the King and Queen normally sat had been altered: the thrones had been removed and a simple but elegant table setup. The screen dominating the rear wall was displaying the Federation logo. Every Governor and Governess was in attendance, filling all the seats normally filled. Those that were typically empty due to the Republic’s population drop were filled with high ranking functionaries, news correspondents and the crème de la crème of Matrian society. Smiling at the crowd, Stafford and Jeffery joined Queen Anselia and King Hektor on the dais. Lieutenant Yanick was off to one side, a comm-headset plugged into her ear. Several other Silverado crewmembers were packed into the crowded observation gallery.
“Your Majesty,” Stafford greeted Anselia.
“Captain,” she nodded regally.
“Ready to do this?”
“Then let’s get this show on the road,”
Anselia stepped forward, then tapped a button on the table. A chime rang out through the room. In the inset podium beneath the center dais, the Speaker rapped his gavel.
“This session of the Matrian Council of Governor’s will come to order,” he said, his voice ringing through the chamber, “The floor recognizes Queen Anselia, elected leader of the Matrian Republic,”
“Ladies and gentlemen, gentlemen and ladies,” Anselia started, the double introduction meant to symbolize that neither gender should come before the other. (They switched the order of the two phrases as well every second week.)
As Anselia spoke, a voice chimed in Yanick’s ear. It was Ensign Bith, up on Silverado.
“Ensign Yanick, we’re receiving a transmission through the relay,”
“Send it through,” Yanick said softly. A soft been indicated the incoming transmission.
“Thank you for calling Matria Prime, despot-free for over two years! You’ve reached Lieutenant Yanick, how may we assist you?”
“I’m ready, Lieutenant,” the voice said.
“Of course, sir. One sec,” she stepped over and tapped Stafford’s arm. Stafford turned to Anselia as she finished her speech. She in turn pressed another button, signalling the Speaker.
“The floor now recognizes President Bradley Dillon, elected leader of the United Federation of Planets,”
“One second,” Yanick said, “I’m still trying to figure out this big TV of yours,” she fiddled with a control device, “Input…subspace video…output…audio, transfer…fluxing…”
The huge viewscreen flickered, showing President Dillon, back in his office on Waystation and seated behind his desk.
“Queen Anselia, Mister Speaker, people of the Matrian Republic. It brings me great please to join you for this auspicious occasion,”
“Thank you, Mr. President,” Anseila nodded. She turned, and picked up a padd from the table, “On the matter of Federation membership, including all rights, privileges, obligations and agreements, the Matrian Council of Governors has voted as follows,” she paused, looking out at the sea of politicians, Starfleet officers, reporters and camera lenses. Her words were being broadcast across her planet, to Silverado and through the Matrian Sector subspace relay to worlds and peoples her small Republic couldn’t even conceive of.
“To accept the terms of Federation membership,” she said, “Against: Seventy three votes. In favor: two hundred and thirty-three. The motion passes.”
There was a round of applause as both Stafford and Anselia stepped forward. On the table, printed on actual paper, were the terms of Federation membership. Picking up an ornate pen, Anslia signed her name. Stafford followed, signing on behalf of the President.
“As President of the United Federation of Planets,” Dillon boomed from the display, “It gives me great pleasure to welcome the Matrian Republic to the galactic community. Rest assured, your people will enjoy the full benefits of Federation membership. At this very moment, four starships are en route to Matria Prime to help against the Qu’Eh threat. They may not arrive in time to help with this battle, but they will help with the next. And any following, until every Federation citizen on Matria Prime can rest assured that their world is safe and secure.”
“Well, that’s that,” Stafford said to Jall as the room broke out again in applause.
“Yup.” Jall nodded, “Now for the hard part.”