Author: Brendan Chris
“I really don’t see how a voice-over is necessary. We haven’t had one in ages, and at this point if people aren’t following…what? What do you mean voice-overs are a contractually- mandated obligation of season finales? Speak Standard! Fine, very well. Where do I begin?”
“Hello, I’m Dr. Noel Wowryk. Previously, on Star Traks: Silverado…wait. How can this be Star Traks: Silverado if we lost the ship ten stories ago? Oh. Now I have to start again.”
“Previously, on Star Traks: Silverado, the final confrontation against the Qu’Eh Corporate Authority finally began. Using stolen Federation technology, the Qu’Eh located the secret Haven installation and dispatched an army of Customer Service soldiers to take it. In orbit, the Federation relief fleet is on the verge of arriving, but they don’t realize that the Qu’Eh have also stolen Federation weapons technology. Captain Stafford has to choose six people to unlock Haven and save it from the Qu’Eh, and on top of that, I’m now stuck chasing some Matrian historian in the hopes that he managed to record the Qu’Eh leader murdering one of the Matrian leaders in cold blood.”
“Now, it’s going to be a very busy day. Leave me alone so I can get back to work!”
Captain Jad Vorezze sat comfortably in his command chair on the bridge of the USS Banshee, Commander Burns to his left, Captain Velorn to his right and Commander Noonan standing off to the side.
“Matria Prime in thirty seconds,” Lt. Cmdr. Ben Rachow said from the helm.
“Red alert,” Vorezze ordered. The red lighting immediately started flashing on the Banshee’s bridge as the klaxon started wailing.
“All decks confirm battle stations,” Lt. Cmdr Dan Smith reported.
“All ships, this is the B…the B…um, the Medusa,” Vorezze said, thumbing the comm panel on his chair and remembering just after the last second to use the Banshee’s false name. (The Banshee had been reported as being destroyed as part of their entry into the ultra-secret Section 31.) “Prepare to drop out of warp on my mark,”
A short distance away, also speeding towards Matria Prime, Captain Elizabeth Simplot had just called for red alert.
“I can’t believe we’re actually taking this old bucket into a fight,” First Officer Iron Kren said, shaking his head, “I mean on purpose,”
“Aww, this old girl?” Simplot said, affectionately patting her chair, “The Stallion’s seen rougher days than this.”
“Yeah, mon!” added Lt. Cmdr Bianca Sinclair from Operations, “They don’t make ‘em like dis anymore!”
The ship shuddered and a panel dropped from the upper display of Kren’s Environmental Control console.
“With good reason,” he replied, picking up the panel and snapping it back into place.
“The Medusa is signalling,” called Lt. Cmdr Hurken from tactical, “We’re dropping out of warp in ten…nine…eight…”
Kren’s panel clattered to the floor again.
“All…I mean…most decks report ready for battle,” Kren said, slamming the panel back into place.
“All right,” Simplot took a deep breath, “Arm phasers, ready photon torpedoes,”
“Take us out of warp,”
The Qu’Eh fleet eased through the space above Matria Prime, hundreds of kilometres above the Evendra desert. In many ways, it was a mirror image of the scene that had played out months ago. This time the Qu’Eh vessels were taking up defensive positions between the planet and an incoming fleet, rather than playing the part of the attackers. The greenish ships with their boxy lower section and broad, table-top upper sections very much resembled a fleet of giant clipboards hanging in space. The smaller support ships had taken up positions around the larger cruisers and Qu’Eh fighters were already taking up formation. Only one Qu’Eh ship wasn’t part of the fleet; instead, it was firing down on the surface, attempting to breach Haven’s hanger doors.
Aboard the recently declared new flagship Fiscal Conservation, Manager Kalmers, pulled temporarily from the attack on Haven, watched the screen carefully, waiting for his Federation foes to show themselves. He’d studied the battles against Silverado carefully and had familiarized himself with every known nuance of that design. After all, the Federationers were a reasonably intelligent company; surely their ships would be carefully designed to be as uniform as possible.
With a series of bright flashes, the Federation fleet dropped out of warp, mere kilometres from the Qu’Eh. The USS Banshee was the center of the formation, with the two Excelsior- class ships, the USS Montreal and the USS Vendome, taking up positions to either side, the Proxima-class USS Champlain above alongside the Constellation-class USS Elfman. At the bottom of the formation was the Miranda-class USS Stouffer and the Constitution-class USS Stallion. No sooner had the ships dropped out of warp than their phaser banks came to life, spearing out and impacting the Qu’Eh shields. The Banshee’s complement of Peregrine-class assault fighters soared from her shuttlebay in pairs and immediately began engaging the Qu’Eh fighters.
“This is Captain Jad Vorezze of the United Federation of Planets!” a voice came over the comm, “Right…I guess I was supposed to say this before we opened fire, but surrender and depart Matrian Space immediately or we will fire…well, we will continue firing on you!”
The communication cutoff.
Aboard the bridge of the Banshee, Vorezze was watching the tactical displays carefully as the Qu’Eh fleet opened fire.
“Multiple impacts,” Smith reported as the ship shook from the Qu’Eh weapons, “No response from the Qu’Eh to your message,”
“Shields are holding and at 95%,” DiSanto added.
“How are they holding AND falling 5%?” Burns demanded.
“Well, we have our actual shield strength, and what our shields would be at if they weren’t enhanced with illegal Section 31 technology,” DiSanto explained.
“All ships report minor shield damage,” Smith continued, “The Montreal and the Vendome are moving towards the Qu’Eh flanks, the Stallion and the Stouffer are trying to get past them for planetary scans,”
“See?” Vorezze said, leaning back with his hands behind his head, “This is going to be a snap,”
Aboard his ship, Manager Kalmers was busy picking his jaw up off the floor. He’d been completely unprepared for the sleek, blade-like Federation ship that had burst out of warp, trailing various escort vessels and launching fighters. The two identical Federation ships, the ones that looked like supply boats with saucers attached were moving to the sides, firing at his ships the whole time. Another large vessel, this one with a huge, circular saucer, twin cylindrical secondary hulls and four rectangular warp nacelles, was raining down punishment on one of his cruisers. Not a single ship matched the design of the Silverado! His ship shook again as the blade-like lead ship opened fire again.
“Kalmers to Chairman P’tarek,” he opened a channel, “Chairman, we have engaged the Federations. Preliminary assessment indicates a significantly higher battle-quality rating than the one we gave Silverado,”
“Not unexpected,” P’tarek said calmly, “Switch to your new weapons. I will order our people here on the planet to release their own…surprise,”
Vorezze was knocked out of his seat as the Banshee bucked like stung horse.
“Shields are down to 70 and 68%!” Smith cried.
“I’m reading Federation weapon signatures!” Dr. Lang reported from the science station, “They’ve been upgrading their ships with our weapons technology!”
On the screen, the Montreal took a number of phaser hits to her port nacelle, her shields barely able to fend off the attack.
“The Stallion is reporting energy surges from the planet!” DiSanto called, “They’ve got planetary disruptors powering up down there!”
“Ohhh, pooey,” Vorezze muttered.
The mood was sombre in Haven’s command center. The lighting was still dim, the display screens and control pulpits were mostly dark, though a few had limited functionality. The light from the dimmed lumen-panels and the central holo-table gleamed softly on the red- patterned wall panels and the stone-patterned floor. On the upper level next to the holo-table, Christopher Stafford, Starfleet Captain and Matrian Minister of Planetary Defence, watched on the holo-table as the two fleets engaged each other.
“Get a channel open to the lead ship!” he ordered, pointing at the tiny holograms. Now that the ships were close enough for their transponders to be detected, the lead hologram was now labelled USS Medusa in tiny, glowing letters.
“Hold on,” Burke said, “I’m still getting used to this…does anybody know how you spell ‘shore-to-ship channel’ in Matrian?”
Every Matrian in the command center raised his or her hand. Grabbing the nearest one, Burke got to work.
There was an electronic-sounding ‘SWEERPPPP!’ and an unfamiliar bridge appeared on Burke’s screen.
“You’ve reached the Ban…um…the USS Medusa,” said the slim, unfamiliar officer wearing Captain pips, “This is Captain Jad Vorezze. Who the hell are you?”
“Captain Christopher Stafford, USS Sil…um…I mean Haven base,” Stafford replied, unable to hide how relieved he was to see another Starfleet officer, “Captain, the Qu’Eh have Federation-“
“We know!” Vorezze cut him off as the ‘Medusa’ shook hard, sparks flying from the ceiling, “They’ve also got planetary disrupters, and they’re firing them all RIGHT AT MY SHIP!”
“Those are Matrian property!” one of the council members snapped sassily.
“Well, these Qu’Eh buggers are borrowing it!”
“The Qu’Eh are concentrating their fire on the Medusa,” Burke said, “Even a Sovereign- class ship can’t take that kind of punishment for long!”
“Contact Leader, I mean, Commodore Hylin,” Stafford ordered, turning to Laheya and Jural, “Send her the coordinates of those disrupter sites and have her destroy them,”
“Those are MATRIAN property!” repeated the council members.
“If they knock down our ships, the whole planet is going to be Qu’Eh property!” Vorezze snapped from the screen.
Another figure moved onto the screen.
“Noonan!” Stafford almost laughed, “Matt! Thanks for bringing us a fleet!”
Noonan inclined his head.
“Of course. But Captain, the Qu’Eh fleet is inflicting considerable damage on our ships,” Noonan had an odd look on his face, almost…confusion? Stafford couldn’t recall ever seeing THAT particular expression on his imperturbable former officer’s face. “If there is…something else…you can do to help us, now would be a good time,”
“We’re…working on that,” Stafford said.
The bridge of the Medusa/Banshee rocked again.
“OK, enough chit-chat!” snapped Vorezze, “Our tactical officer has some bad guys to blow to pieces! No Vince, when I said ‘blow’ I wasn’t…don’t be so sensitive! Anyway, Banshee out.” The channel closed.
“Banshee?” Stafford scratched his head.
The channel abruptly re-opened.
“I mean Medusa! Medusa out!”
Stafford shook his head.
“I wonder what that was all about,”
Mere meters below the Matrian ocean, Lt. Bith was seated in the C&C chamber of a two- hundred year-old Matrian naval submarine. She was trying very hard to convince herself that a sub was no more dangerous than a starship. Safer, even. At they depth they were at, she could open a hatch, swim up to the surface and frolic in the warm ocean with no harm, no foul.
She’d almost convinced herself when a drop of condensation dripped square onto the middle of her forehead, causing her to yelp in terror and tumble off her chair.
“Problem?” asked Heto, the Matrian male assigned to command this particular sub. Being part of the ‘primitive’ tribe of Matrians the Hazardous Team had found, Heto was dressed only in a skimpy loincloth, with his long hair pulled back in a ponytail that flowed down his tattoed back. Bith couldn’t help but find the image of him standing in the middle of an advanced submarine armed with antimatter missiles to be completely ludicrous. But she also couldn’t help but find it extremely erotic.
“Ahem, um, no,” Bith blushed. He helped her to her feet, his touch almost electric. She felt a literal tingling on her chest, right above her heart.
“Your communications device is vibrating,” Heto intoned.
“This is Haven to Commodore Hylin and all naval vessels,” came Agent Jural’s voice, “Deploy, deploy, deploy. Authorization gemet, irrada, irrada, teren. Standby to receive coordinates.”
“Game time,” said Heto as he programmed the target coordinates into the missile computers. Bith could hear Jural passing on more coordinates to Hylin. Within seconds, the order came to fire.
“Firing,” Heto said calmly. They watched the status screen, listening to the sounds of the missile hatches opening. Their sub shook as a series of missiles driven by impulse engines and armed with antimatter warheads, launched from their tubes and began arcing towards the captured Matrian planetary defences.
“You’re very calm about this,” Bith said, trying to make conversation.
“We’ve been waiting for a very long time to do something that might help our people to be free, rather than perpetuating a pointless war,” Heto said, “If we succeed in repelling the Qu’Eh, my people’s exile on that island will have been for good reason,”
“That is sooo interesting,” Bith said dreamily, looking deep into his eyes, “But now that we’re out of missiles, what do we do now?”
Their hands touched.
Three guesses what happened next.
“The planetary disruptors have been destroyed,” reported Kren aboard the USS Stallion.
“So has our port nacelle!” Sinclair cried out, “Shields are down to 10%!”
“Get us behind the Medusa!” Simplot ordered, “Shurgroe, can you do that funky shield recharge trick you and Jeffery came up with?”
“Um, no,” Shurgroe’s voice came over the comm, “That requires that we take a little less than the beating we’re currently taking. Shurgroe out.”
“He’s unusually calm,” Tereneth called from the helm as she struggled to pilot the ship back around the Qu’Eh fleet.
“I ordered Dr. Annerson to slip tranquilizers into his breakfast burrito,” Simplot admitted.
“The Stallion reports that the planetary disruptors have been destroyed,” reported Smith.
“But they took one hell of a beating!” added DiSanto.
“We have the advantage of mobility, we are not trying to defend a stationary target as the Qu’Eh are. Have all ships break away and take up a parabolic course around the planet,” Noonan said, “It will buy us time to recharge our shields. We can then loop back and re-engage,”
“It’ll buy the Qu’Eh time too!” Vorezze said, “And for all we know, they could have more reinforcements on the way!”
“I realize this,” Noonan said. That strange look was back on his face, “But I sense that time is what is needed right now.”
Wowryk was nearly knocked off her feet as the hanger bay shook. The outer door groaned as Qu’Eh weapon’s fire crashed down on it from orbit. One section of the multi-faceted door was already glowing red, a very bad sign. She had been running through one of the corridors that looked down into the bay, then had turned onto one of the walkways that made up the bridge/ramp system that would give her access to the movable landing platforms and the Matrian crew that was setting up a defensive position. Jeffery was right on her heels.
Grabbing at the railing, she briefly contemplated the three-level drop to the hanger floor before resuming her trek. A small group of Qu’Eh troops had forced their way through the small personnel door next to the hanger doors, but the rest of the enemy army had pulled back to avoid being hit by the orbital weapons barrage.
The hanger shuddered again, this time throwing Wowryk roughly against the railing.
“BOLLOCKS!!!” Jeffery shouted behind her.
Wowryk turned just in time to see him tumbling off the side of the walkway. His hands flailed for the railing, only to miss.
“SIMON!” Wowryk shrieked, throwing herself at him just in time to grab one ankle. Jeffery found himself suspended over the hanger floor.
“Stop squirming!” Wowryk yelled, trying desperately to maintain her hold on his ankle, “You’re too heavy!”
There was a deafening crash. Both Jeffery and Wowryk looked over to see one segment of the massive hanger door fall outward, hitting the ground and sending up clouds of sand. Qu’Eh troops would be pouring in within seconds, and Jeffery was a perfect target!
Less than twenty meters away, Wowryk could see the Matrians she had been looking for, each hunkered down behind the edge of the landing platform and aiming a phaser rifle down at the main deck. If T’Parief was right, they had recorded Chairman P’tarek murdering Mistress Laurette in cold blood, an act that would incite even the most complacent Matrian into open rebellion. But if she didn’t get the recording up to the command complex, that wouldn’t happen!
“Jeffery, you can survive this fall,” Wowryk called to him, “You just have to be sure you don’t land on your head!”
“Noel, that’s sort of a problem right now!” Jeffery screamed, dangling as he was, head down, “Ye can’t let me fall!”
Strategically, letting Jeffery drop was the thing to do. He would likely survive, she would be able to get the recording and all would be well.
“Noel! Ye can’t!”
Wowryk loosened her fingers. Jeffery started dropping.
Reflexively, she tightened her grip, just before his foot slid out of her grasp. She couldn’t do it. Logic and strategy and the good of the many and all that crap aside, she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t cut Jeffery loose again.
Before she could pursue that line of thought, one of the Starfleet shuttles that had been parked on the main deck eased into the air, taking up position under Jeffery and slowly ascending. Jeffery rolled onto the upper hull of the surface with a cry of relief, then jumped back onto the walkway. Inside the shuttle cockpit, Valtaic gave them a wave. Neither of them had seen him leap into the shuttle when Jeffery had fallen.
Jeffery seized Wowryk in a brief hug, then held her at arms length.
“That’s me girl,” he said, giving her a lopsided smile.
Wowryk swallowed, then started running towards the Matrians.
“T’Parief to Stafford,” T’Parief shouted, trying to make himself heard over the sound of phaser fire, “The Qu’Eh have breached the hanger doors! We’re being pushed back from the hanger!”
“Fall back into the outer rim,” Stafford shouted, “See if you can lead them away from the tram station!”
“That’s going to make it a little hard for us to get back to the island!” Jall shouted from next to T’Parief.
“If all goes well, we’ll have this place on-line by the time you get to the next tram station,” Stafford replied, “If it doesn’t, well, there won’t be much point in you coming back here anyway,”
“Ohh, this SUCKS!” Jall shouted.
From fortified positions on the main floor, on the adjustable landing platforms, and from sections of corridor that had had their windows removed, Matrian, Senousian and Starfleet troops fired their weapons down into the endless throng of Qu’Eh ‘Customer Service Agents’ that were now pouring through the breached hanger door. Now that they were inside the hanger instead of out in the open, the Qu’Eh were ducking for cover as quickly as possible, hiding behind support struts, shuttles and those forward defences that had fallen quickly. Up on the first platform, Wowryk threw herself to the deck just as a Qu’Eh blast seared past her head.
“Did you record P’tarek’s message?” she demanded, crawling next to the Matrian section commander, “Did you get him killing Laurette?”
“It’s right here!” the Matrian shouted back, digging into her utility belt and handing Wowryk a data chip, “What are you doing with it?”
“I’m going to broadcast it to the whole planet!” Wowryk said. The Matrian nodded in approval, then grabbed her arm.
“Laurette was trying to tell us something,” she said, “I’m pretty sure that’s why P’tarek killed her!”
“What?” Wowryk cocked her head. Before she could ask the Matrian what she meant, one of the Qu’Eh fired a photon mortor towards the platform.
“GO!” the Matrian shouted, shoving Wowryk towards the walkway. Wowryk and Jeffery sprinted down the walkway towards the relative safety of the corridors, the Matrian team close behind them. There was a deafening explosion, and Wowryk felt what seemed like a warm hand pushing against her entire back, sending her flying through the open doorway to the corridor and onto the carpeted floor, where everything went dark.
In the Haven command complex, Captain Christopher Stafford, Queen Anselia and King Hektor were gathered together on the second level. Up in the command deck, Ensign Burke, Lieutenant Fifebee and Sylvia were still calling status reports.
“The fleet has gone to full impulse,” Fifebee reported, “They’re swinging around to the far side of the planet, towards one of Matria Prime’s moons,”
“Most of the Qu’Eh fleet is breaking off to follow them,” Burke added.
“The Stallion is having a hard time keeping up,” Fifebee added, “They’ve taken heavy damage.” She brought up a detailed scan of the Constitution-class ship. One nacelle was heavily damaged, leaking plasma from a half-dozen places. Her saucer and engineering hulls were both pocked with scorch marks and one impulse engine was clearly only operating at half-power. “I don’t think she’s going to last long!”
“We’ve still got one enemy ship in orbit,” Burke said, “But they’ve stopped firing on us,”
“Because they’ve already opened the door for their troops,” said Mistress Laheya, “Now they think it’s just a matter of time,”
“With the number of Customer Service Agents we’ve got pouring into the hanger, it will be,” Jural said.
Next to him, Colonel Abela, retired, was looking over the railing and watching Stafford, Anselia and Hektor with a look of great interest.
“It can’t just be any six people,” Stafford said, referring to Abela’s statement that it would take six people to unlock Haven, “We’ve got to choose them carefully. That’s the whole puzzle right there,”
“We are aware of this,” Anselia said briskly, “But what six?”
“Six from your government, obviously,” Stafford said, “I mean, probably cabinet members, right? This is a government installation, after all,”
“But Abela is military,” Hektor pointed out, “Clearly this was meant to be a military establishment. Perhaps we should have Agent Jural bring some of his compatriots here,”
“She did say the Signal Analysis room was for Matrian Intelligence,” Stafford nodded, “But what about Admiral Verithi? She’s the head of your Defence Force,”
“She is also a captive of the Qu’Eh,” Anselia said, “I doubt we have time to find her,”
Stafford shook his head.
“How are we supposed to do this?” he snapped, his frustration becoming evident, “There are a few billion people on this planet, and I’m supposed to find SIX???”
Wowryk and Jeffery regained consciousness on a cold, hard surface.
“Ahh, Dr. Wowryk, how good to see you again,”
That voice. Wowryk wasn’t sure where she’d heard it, but she knew she’d heard it before.
Wincing, she opened her eyes and tried to sit up.
“Careful there, Doctor,” the voice said, “You’ve taken a bit of a hit. Really, I didn’t mean to nearly blow you up. In fact, I didn’t want to be here at all. But the Chairman insisted I beam down and take personal command of this mission. Anyway, at least you were luckier than those poor Matrians that were right behind you,”
Wowryk looked around. Next to her, Jeffery was also regaining consciousness. They were on the main floor of the hanger bay, which had grown oddly quiet. She realized that the defensive stations around the main floor and in the upper corridors had all gone silent. The Qu’Eh had taken the hanger. And they’d apparently taken her hostage. She finally found the source of the voice: Manager Kalmers.
“Your people have put up an excellent fight,” Kalmers was saying, “In fact, I’ve already made a recommendation that your defensive measures be rated ‘4 - Business Excellence’. Of course, your capture will lower your quality rating a bit, but that booby trap with the crater walls? Ohh, that was inspired! My troops would have been so pleased to know that their deaths were of such high quality!”
“You’re a sick, sick man,” Wowryk groaned.
A few levels up, T’Parief and Valtaic were watching the scene as it unfolded.
“We need to get Wowryk out of there,” T’Parief said quietly, “She has information that must make it to the command complex,”
“His rescue would be…preferred,”
Valtaic thought for a moment.
“The shuttle seems undamaged,” he said, pointing down at the shuttle he had used to rescue Jeffery. A stream of Qu’Eh troops were marching through the breached hanger door and into the corridors of Haven itself, but the shuttle was largely ignored, “If you can distract the Qu’Eh, I will use the shuttle’s transporter to free Wowryk and Jeffery,”
T’Parief considered this.
“The Hazardous Team is stationed at the tram station, while the bulk of our forces try to lure the Qu’Eh into the outer rim of the facility,” he said, “Can you beam us that far into the interference field?”
“I believe so,” Valtaic replied, “however, the shuttle’s transporter can only handle two people at a time,”
“Acceptable,” T’Parief said, rising to his feet.
“No, I don’t think the group has to be perfectly balanced between men and women!” Stafford insisted, “Gender doesn’t matter! It’s irrelevant!”
“Not on Matria, it isn’t!” Hektor shot back, “Gender equality has been the driving force behind our culture for over two hundred years!”
“But what better way to show that the genders are equal than to discard them as criteria of judgement?” Anselia pondered.
“Oh, that is SUCH a load!” Hektor and Stafford shouted.
Up on the upper level, Abela sighed. This wasn’t looking good.
“This is what needs to happen,” Manager Kalmers was saying, “You will contact Minister Stafford. You will tell him to cease hostilities, both by your fleet and by the rebels. He will then turn over this installation to the Qu’Eh Corporate Authority. We will permit the Starfleet officers and the Senousians to depart. But Matria Prime is ours.”
“And if I refuse?” Wowryk asked. She was carefully moving one hand to her pocket. YES! The chip was still there!
“Then we will destroy Haven. I understand it’s the last source of Old Matrian culture in the galaxy,” Kalmers said, “I’m sure your new friends would hate for that to happen.”
There was a burst of phaser fire behind her. Kalmers gestured at…whatever it was, then returned his attention to Wowryk. She had almost turned to see what the commotion was about, but as it turned out, it was a good thing she didn’t. If she had, she wouldn’t have seen the dark form of Valtaic as he snuck towards the shuttle.
‘STALL’ he mouthed at her.
“If you let me use my comm-badge, I will contact the Captain,” she said, thinking quickly.
Wowryk contacted Stafford and explained the situation.
“He wants WHAT?” Stafford demanded.
“He wants you to call off the fleet, to order the rebels to stand down and to surrender Haven,” Wowryk repeated.
“And call off the lizard!” Kalmers added, pointing behind Wowryk. She finally turned, only to see T’Parief clutching one Qu’Eh as a human, er, Qu’Eh shield while he phasered another.
“And he’d like T’Parief to stop his rampage,” Wowryk added.
“That’s ridiculous!” Stafford snapped, “Even if I did order the fleet to stand down, which I doubt they’d do, I don’t have any power to tell the rebels what…to…”
Stafford trailed off.
“That’s it,” he said quietly, “Noel, I’m sorry. I have to go,”
“Minister Stafford!” Kalmers called, “If you don’t surrender now, I assure you, the consequences will not be conducive to a positive business environment!”
Stafford had already cut the channel. Behind Wowryk there was a loud roar, followed by several Qu’Eh screams.
“ALIEN!” Kalmers shouted, pulling out a weapon and aiming at Wowryk’s face, “Surrender now, or I will kill her!”
T’Parief spun around, pointing his weapon at Kalmers.
“Hurt her, and you will not live to your next performance review!” T’Parief said coldly.
Kalmers paled slightly, but didn’t back down.
“Then we have a stand-off,” he said, “How shall we resolve this, alien? A battle to the death? Perhaps a boardroom debate? Or, if you like, I can prepare a PowerPoint presentation on the benefits of cooperating with the Qu’Eh.”
Wowryk and Jeffery suddenly dissolved in a shower of transporter sparkles.
“I think not,” T’Parief said, firing at Kalmers. Kalmers dodged, the beam barely missing him. T’Parief bolted into the corridor, trying to evade the dozens of Qu’Eh troops that hadn’t yet disappeared into the corridors.
“That’s it,” Stafford said quietly, “Noel, I’m sorry. I have to go,”
He closed the channel.
“If he injures Dr. Wowryk,” Anselia started.
“I don’t think he will,” Stafford said, “He wants a hostage. Besides, I know what we have to do now. Or rather, what I have to do,”
Anselia and Hektor looked at him expectantly.
“You Highnesses,” he said, “We came here, myself and my crew, to help with Matria’s entry in the Federation. We’re sort of new at that kind of thing, so are your people. And it didn’t help that your planet was invaded,”
“Well obviously,” one of the councillors commented from the level above.
“We wound up working very closely together,” Stafford went on, “Far more so than is normal for a starship crew and a people. You put me in your government and you gave me and my people a lot of power over the defence of your planet. We used Wowryk to organize the rebellion against the Qu’Eh. I’m not even going to go into where this fits in with Starfleet regs, things get pretty hazy where member words are involved.”
Stafford paused to take a breath.
“But the truth is, I don’t have any business making this decision for you,” he continued, “I’m a Starfleet officer, and a Federation citizen. And that means that I’m here to help you and support you any way I can. But when it comes to your own people, your own culture, and your own place in the universe, I have to step back. Because Federation membership isn’t about controlling our member worlds, and it’s not about making decisions for them so they don’t have to. It’s about working with them. My people are here to do whatever it takes to support you and your place in the Federation, but we’re not here to tell you what to do with your own civilization. We didn’t force you to join the Federation, and we’re not going to impose our will on you now.”
Stafford looked at Anselia and Hektor, then at the council members that had gathered. Finally, he looked at Abela.
“It’s not easy,” he said, “But it’s time for you to again decide your own fate,”
Anselia considered this for a moment, then stepped forward.
“We accept your resignation as Minister of Planetary Defence, Captain Stafford,” she said. It was first time since the invasion that she’d used his proper rank. She turned to Hektor, “My King, ladies and gentlemen, gentlemen and ladies, this is indeed a decision that should be made by the people of Matria. However, I would like to propose that, as a member world of the United Federation of Planets, we include a Federation representative, to offer their advice while we carry out this discussion,”
“Seconded!” called one of the councellors.
The vote was quickly carried.
“Captain Stafford, I hereby name you an Advisor to the Matrian Council of Governors,” Anselia said.
Stafford nodded. Sometimes, compromise was the best you could hope for from a situation. And as compromises went, sticking him in an advisory role was pretty damned good.
“Now,” Anselia said, “let us decide this matter, and quickly.”
Wowryk gave a yelp of surprise as she materialized in the tram station next to Jeffery. She immediately found herself surrounded by phaser rifles.
“Oh, it’s you,” Stern said, lowering his rifle, “We thought maybe the Qu’Eh were trying to beam troops in here,”
“Do ye still have the chip?” Jeffery demanded.
“Right here,” Wowryk said, patting her pocket.
“What chip?” Marsden asked curiously.
“The recording of P’tarek killing Laurette,” Wowryk said.
“Why did he do that, anyway?” Stern wondered.
“Noel,” Jeffery pulled on Wowryk’s arm, “The Matrians in the hanger, before they died-“
“They were saying the same thing,” Wowryk nodded. Now that she had a chance to stop and think, she really did have to wonder. Why kill Laurette? Why now? She’d been cooperating with the Qu’Eh since the invasion, and they’d seen fit to ‘promote’ her in their own organization. So why kill her? Wowryk said as much.
“More than that, why kill her and broadcast it right to us?” Marsden asked. As the team’s hostage negotiator, he had slightly more psychology training then the rest, “I mean, that’s not the kind of thing that’s going to get the Matrians to surrender, right? This has to have been a mistake. I mean, you want to use this to start an even bigger uprising!”
“Exactly!” Wowryk said, “So why did he kill her,”
“Let’s watch the recording,” Marsden said, pulling out a padd.
They watched as Laurette spoke, defying P’tarek’s orders to tell the Matrians to surrender. Suddenly, P’tarek pulled his disruptor out and shot her.
“Whoah, back that up and freeze it,” Rengs said. They watched the still frame, right as P’tarek began to reach for his weapon.
“He’s panicking!” Marsden said, “Look at his face!”
Indeed, P’tarek’s expression was a combination of shock, horror and fear.
“He didn’t plan on killing her,” Jeffery said, “It was a…a knee-jerk reaction!”
“But why?” Wowryk asked, “She disobeyed him, yes, but that can’t be enough! The blowback from this recording, there’s no way killing her is worth it!”
“What was she saying?”
The played the recording back again.
“Try to form a-“ Laurette managed to say, right before P’tarek shot her.
“A conga line?” Simmons offered.
“An alliance,” Stern said, “Has to be. She wants her people to ally with as many races as possible to defeat the Qu’Eh.
Wowryk was shaking her head.
“No,” she said softly. Suddenly, she jumped up.
“We need to talk to one of the Qu’Eh!” she snapped, grabbing two phasers and a tricorder and moving back towards the exit, pulling Jeffery along with her, “Stern! Whatever you do, don’t let the Qu’Eh make it to the island!”
“Um, OK,” Stern shrugged, “That was the plan anyway,”
“Doctor!” Marsden called as the doors started closing, “What is it!”
“I know how to end the invasion!”
Jeffery wasn’t sure what Wowryk had in mind, but it apparently had something to do with confronting part of that small army of Qu’Eh CSAs that had forced their way into Haven. And somehow, he really didn’t think that two of them against several thousand Qu’Eh, with tens of thousands more waiting outside, was such a good idea.
“Noel, what’s this all about?” he asked as he followed her.
“We need to find a Qu’Eh or two and lure them closer to the center of the facility!”
“Ye mean like bait?”
“Wowryk to T’Parief,” Wowryk tapped her comm-badg.
“Last Ah saw, he was a bit busy,” Jeffery commented.
“Wowryk to Valtaic,”
“Valtaic here,” the alien’s voice was soft, “I trust you and Mr. Jeffery are safe, Doctor?”
“Aye, but we need a hostage!” Jeffery spoke up.
There was silence for a moment.
“Not a hostage,” Wowryk shook her head, “But we need a prisoner. Preferable someone who’s being forced to serve the Qu’Eh but isn’t actually one of them,”
“That shouldn’t be hard,” Valtaic said, “I have examined some of the stunned soldiers and found several different species,”
“Can you beam one to us?”
“I am no longer in the shuttle,” Valtaic said, “Beaming you away peaked Qu’Eh suspicion, and I was forced to flee. Commander Jall and I are presently four levels below the main hanger level, attempting to evade capture.”
“Can you lead the gits chasing ye to the tram station?” Jeffery demanded.
“I have been trying to lead them away from the tram,” Valtaic replied, sounding very annoyed.
“Change of plans.”
“Change of plans?” Stern asked as Wowryk and Jeffey came running back into the tram station.
“Either that or this was the shortest bright idea you’ve ever had,” Simmons commented.
“Other than setting up a confessional in Counselor Yvonnokoff’s office,” Rengs added.
“Ye could say that,” Jeffery said, diving around the corner of the tram station atrium and onto the platform itself. A moment later, Valtaic and Jall vaulted over one of the three security stations, tucked, rolled, then scrambled for cover.
“As requested, here are several Qu’Eh soldiers,” Valtaic said, nodding at Wowryk. Wowryk tapped at her tricorder.
“We’re deep enough into the interference field,” she nodded.
“OK, now what?”
“Attention Qu’Eh troops!” Wowryk shouted, “This is Dr. Wowryk,”
The Qu’Eh weapons fire doubled in intensity.
“You’re so popular!” Jall giggled.
Wowryk shot him a dirty look, reached down to the back of his trousers, grabbed his underwear waistband and yanked. Jall gave out a shriek of surprise (and pain) as his tighty-whities ripped off, coming free in Wowryk’s hand. She quickly attached the shredded remains to the butt of a phaser rifle and started waving her improvised white flag in the air.
The men looked at her in shock. Stern took an involuntary half-step back.
“I didn’t know she was that strong,” Jall whimpered, tears in his eyes.
The Qu’Eh weapons fire was slowing.
“How do they even know what a white flag means?” Jeffery asked.
“It came up in one of the assessment sessions we had on Silverado, when we were captured,” Wowryk said.
“What are the terms of your proposed merger?” one of the Qu’Eh called.
“First, we want some information,” Wowryk called out, “But before that, there’s something you need to know. Essential situation update, you could say,”
“What’s that?” the Qu’Eh leader called back.
“Well, Haven has a field that interferes with all alien communications and sensor technology,” Wowryk shouted, “Which means those lovely little implants fused into the sides of your heads aren’t working right now.”
There was a moment of stunned silence, then a fury of weapon’s fire.
“Way to piss them off, Doctor!” Kreklor snarled.
“They’re not shooting at us!” Jeffery realized.
Stern and Wowryk peeked around the corner, looking towards the Qu’Eh troops. Several of them, including the leader, were now unconscious on the deck while the others were dropping their weapons and tearing off their face masks.
“Please!” one of them begged, his bright green skin marred on the left side by implant scarring, “We surrender! We’ll tell you anything you want! Just don’t make us go back to the call centers!”
“Come with me,” Wowryk said.
Stafford once again stood on the command deck next to the central holo table, contemplating the six palm-shaped authentication points. Well, no. He was only contemplating the one. His point, the one that he would press his hand against, hopefully activating Haven.
The Matrians had made their decision. Six people had been chosen. Queen Anselia and King Hektor had been the easiest, most obvious choices. As the ruling pair, they represented the new gender equality that Matria Prime had finally reached after centuries of conflict. Next had been Craigan, there to represent the Old Matrians and the history of their people. The next three had been more difficult. Abela had been suggested almost immediately, however she had flatly refused. The council instead chose Stafford, meant to represent Matria’s new ties to the galactic community. Not ties of aggression or conquest, as Mistress Laurette had tried to form during the long hibernation of the Matrian women, but ties of support and cooperation. Finally, Agent Jural and Mistress Laheya had been chosen to represent both the current Defence Force and those original FAMINE rebels that had started the rebellion against the Qu’Eh.
The six of them stood around the holo-table while the rest of the room held their collective breaths.
“Very well,” Anselia said, standing next to one of the palm prints, “Two hundred years ago, our people hid this place, leaving it to future generations in the hope that we would have moved past civil war, past strife and inequality and back into an age of cooperation. We, Queen Anselia, elected leader of the Matrian Council and citizen of the Matrian Republic, feel that that hope has been realized. Haven represents an investment by our ancestors. The time has come to spend it,”
With that, she pressed her hand against the holographic palm print. The hologram flashed, an odd, echoing tone sounding through the command complex. The pie-shaped segment of the holo-table next to Anselia turned green. Next to her, King Hektor likewise pressed his palm to the hologram. Another tone sounded and another segment of the table turned green. One by one, the others followed suit. As the final point was authenticated, a clear tone sounded through the chamber. The table abruptly went black, then a single icon appeared dead center, a line of Matrian text beneath it.
“Fifebee?” Stafford asked.
“Roughly translated?” Fifebee shrugged, “It is the ‘on’ switch.”
Now Colonel Abela stepped forward. She was smiling widely and her eyes were wet.
“I can’t tell you all how long I’ve waited for this,” she said, sniffling a little, “My people, finally united. I’ve been wanting to share this with you for over two hundred years,”
With that, she reached into the hologram and activated Haven.
“I’m reading a power spike!” Fifebee called, eyeing her Matrian sensor device, “A very, very large power spike!”
All around them, the display screens and control panels were coming to life. Down on the second level the ring of huge display screens flickered on, displaying security footage from all over Haven. Images of the empty Transit Hub, the Qu’Eh controlled hanger, the tram station, even an exterior shot of the damaged hanger door. With a low humming sound, the main lighting kicked, in, curved illumination panels in the ceiling lighting the complex.
“This is more like it!” Ensign Burke exclaimed happily.
“Look!” Abela called, pointing out one of the lower windows and into the main chamber. Stafford, Fifebee, Sylvia and the rest of the officers bolted for the stairs, running around the second level then down to the lower level and the walkway around the turbolift column. Peering down through the windows, they could see the twelve towers surrounding the command tower lit up like Christmas trees. Further down, lights were coming on at ground level, illuminating the six tram routes emerging from the Transit Hub. Past the Hub itself, more towers on the central island were coming to life, towers that they’d been cut off from due to the lack of breathable atmosphere in the main chamber.
“Look at the lake!” Sylvia pointed.
Lights were coming up on the six bridges arching over the lake, illuminating the curved arc of the bridge support struts. The lit surfaces were reflected in the smooth waters, just now beginning to ripple as the complex came to life.
And it didn’t stop there.
Across the lake, much closer than they’d expected, another tower lit up, its colourful, brightly lit windows reflecting in the water. And another, and another. Whole clusters of buildings were coming to life all over the cavern as streetlights and antigravity tracks powered up at ground level. Finally, over sixteen hundred meters away in all directions, the outer rim of the facility came to view, its surface lined with row after row of lit windows.
“Oh my God!” Stafford breathed.
“It’s…it’s a city!” Anselia said, shaking her head, “All this time…it’s an Old Matrian city! Completely intact and preserved! Untouched by the war…by the devestation…”
Abela was smiling.
Behind them, the turbolift doors hissed open and Jeffery, Wowryk, Jall and a single Qu’Eh soldier stepped out.
“Captain, I know how to…” Wowryk trailed off, looking out at the panoramic vista, “Oh…”
“Wow,” Jall said, eyebrows raised.
Jeffery’s mouth had dropped.
“Uh, hi guys,” Stafford waved, not turning away from the view. “We found the ‘on’ switch,”
Back towards the hanger, T’Parief was in full stealth mode. He’d kicked off his boots, the better to pad silently through the carpeted corridors, and was controlling his breathing. He’d led the Qu’Eh troops on a merry chase around the corridors and chambers surrounding the hanger, but now it was time to go after his main target: Manager Kalmers. The man who seemed to be in charge of the Qu’Eh army. Luckily for him, the Qu’Eh were now running into the same problem the Silverado and Matrian personnel had found: Haven was just too damned big. Even with the hanger door blasted open, the bottleneck prevented them from getting enough troops in to fully secure the area around the hanger. It wasn’t helping that the Qu’Eh troops were chasing after every enemy they saw, allowing the defending team to lure them into spreading throughout the outer rim. T’Parief himself had managed to lead nearly two dozen enemy troops into the workshop several levels above the hanger, then lock them inside.
Now, he was sneaking towards the hanger control booth, certain that Kalmers would be inside. Sure enough, there were a pair of guards standing next to the double doors. All he had to do was sneak up quietly and hope they didn’t noticing him in the dim lighting.
There was a rumbling sound, then the lights in the corridor abruptly switched to full strength. T’Parief winced, covering eyes that were too used to the dim lighting. Ahead of him however, the Qu’Eh were cursing in pain. Apparently they had some kind of light amplification built into their facemasks.
Not one to miss an opportunity, T’Parief sprinted at them then jumped, the nearer guard being crushed under his body weight while he reached out with his thick hands to strangle the life out of the other. Quickly finishing, he reached towards the doors, preparing to force them open. To his surprise, they hissed open automatically, revealing Manager Kalmers. The Qu’Eh was staring intently at one of the control pulpits, which was now unlocked and displaying a complete status report on its main display.
“Hold it right there,” T’Parief said, pulling out his phaser.
Kalmers spun around, pulling his weapon and firing. T’Parief ducked, the shot hitting a display screen behind him and shattering it. He returned fire, but Kalmers had ducked around the pulpit, his back to the window looking into the hanger. Bolting up the steps to the pulpit, T’Parief fired again. This time, the window behind Kalmers blew out, raining shards of transparent material to the main deck. T’Parief expected a shower of return fire from below, so he was somewhat surprised when only a few scattered shots came. Looking down, he saw that a force field had appeared across the damaged door, cutting off the invading army. His lack of focus nearly cost him his life as Kalmers brought his weapon around for another shot. T’Parief barely managed to avoid the beam, taking only a singed burn to one bicep rather than being disintegrated. While he was evading the shot, Kalmers brought one hand down on a control panel. Outside, the adjustable landing platforms came to life, moving randomly up and down their tracks. T’Parief lunged at Kalmers, only to miss as the latter threw himself out the window and at the nearest platform, barely catching hold of the edge and pulling himself up and over. With a roar, T’Parief followed.
That’s when the whole hanger started to shake.
“What are you doing bringing HIM here?” Stafford demanded, pointing at the Qu’Eh soldier that Wowryk had brought into the command complex. Nurse Veeneman had come up with one of the SM-BIRD gadgets and was removing the implant from the man’s head.
“He’s not a Qu’Eh,” Wowryk explained, “He’s enslaved, the same as the Matrians,”
“Then we’re fighting an army of unwilling slaves?” Stafford bit his lip, “Uh-oh,”
“Well, it’s about fifty-fifty,” the not-exactly-Qu’Eh soldier said.
“Um, they’re still trying to kill us,” Jall pointed out, “I mean, is it really that different from fighting the Borg?”
“We don’t have time to worry about it now,” Stafford sighed, “Look, now we know what’s going on. Haven is a city. We need to keep the Qu’Eh away from it long enough to…I don’t know. It must have defences, right?”
“Still looking!” Lieutenant Pye called from the command deck, “I think I’ve got emergency force fields over the hanger door, but there’s a lot to go through here!”
“About that,” Wowryk pulled out the data chip, “We need to broadcast this to the entire planet. More than that, I know how to end the Qu’Eh invasion! If Haven really is a city, then it probably has exactly what I need!”
“I do not believe Haven is a city,” Fifebee said calmly, still looking at her Matrian sensor.
“What?” Stafford demanded, glancing out at the brilliantly lit buildings filling the cavern.
“The power spike I detected?” Fifebee said, “It is still growing. Whatever Haven is supposed to do, I believe it will do it in about ten seconds.”
Stafford turned to Abela, who smiled.
“Surprise!” she laughed.
Stafford clutched at the railing as suddenly the entire command complex started shaking. Down in the Transit Hub, piles of supply containers were tumbling to the floor, dishes were shaking off the tables in the Matrian restaurant and confused civilians were looking around like the sky was about to fall in. In the outer rim Qu’Eh, Starfleet, Matrian and Senousian troops stumbled around as the decks shook all throughout the base.
In the command complex, everybody covered their eyes as a brilliant beam of sunlight broke through the sand covering the upper windows. The sand was pouring off the domed ceiling of the complex, revealing the clear, sunny blue desert sky outside. Looking out into the cavern, Stafford could see a widening beam of sunlight shining down on the central island as sand continued pouring off the cavern ceiling, which he could now see was a crystal clear dome.
Aboard the USS Stallion, Captain Simplot was getting very worried. They’d managed to get their shields back up to 60% or so, and most of the Qu’Eh fleet was off chasing the Federation fleet around the moons of Matria Prime. The Stallion was only concerned with a single Qu’Eh ship, the one holding orbit over the Evendra Desert. They were exchanging pot shots as the Stallion tried to lure the Qu’Eh away from Haven, but the Qu’Eh were having none of it.
“Captain,” Lieutenant Gonzolaz called from the science station, “I’m picking up a huge energy surge on the planet!”
The screen flickered to life, showing an aerial view of the Evendra desert. At first, it seemed like any other patch of desert, with acre after rolling acre of sand. Suddenly, something seemed to move under the surface, then the sand abruptly split, revealing a clear dome. In the center, looking tiny compared to the overall size, was a pod-shaped structure with six big windows. The sand kept pouring down the dome as the object heaved itself to the surface. Beneath the dome, they could see a cluster of buildings surrounded by a rippling lake. As the sand continued to pour down, they could see dozens, possibly hundreds of buildings encircled by a thick grey rim. Soon, a thick, dome-covered disk was hovering over the surface of the desert, held up by a network of massive support struts with anti-gravity units the size of football fields.
“Holy shit!” Tereneth exclaimed.
“The Qu’Eh ship is moving into firing position!”
Simplot didn’t even hesitate.
“Take us in!”
“Energy readings are off the scale!” Fifebee called, struggling to be heard over the deafening rumble of falling sand.
“Captain!” Pye called. Stafford looked up, to see him pointing at one of the big displays on the second level. It showed a Haven-sized disk hovering over a sandy crater, the inside of which now was filling with sand as it poured off the city. The floor of the crater was lined with a network of massive, glowing anti-gravity units, which were mirrored in the strange framework supporting the city. Bolts of energy crackled between the opposing systems as the city hovered, the last of the sand pouring off the domed surface.
“Haven is not a city,” Abela said smugly, “Or, perhaps I should say, it’s not JUST a city,”
There was a blinding flash of light on the display as Stafford and the rest were thrown to the deck.
Deep under the city, huge geothermal energy units sucked heat from the planet’s mantle, converting it to energy at a staggering rate. Storage units, held at limited levels for hundreds of years, had started building to critical levels the second the activation sequence had been started. Energy was already pouring into the antigravity units used to force the city up from under the desert, but their power demands dropped rapidly as the weight of the sand poured down off the dome. At both the center of the city and of the crater, identical devices were sucking up all the available power, building up to the energy levels needed.
With a blinding flash of light a brilliant beam of energy lanced out of the crater, spearing the center of the city dead on. The massive energy receiver array sucked in every watt of available power, splitting it, channelling it and sending it surging into the propulsion array ringing the outer rim of the city.
Breaking free of the support scaffolding and riding a dazzling beam of energy, Haven heaved itself into the sky.
“Chris!” Jeffery called, clutching one of the railings.
“What, Simon?” Stafford called back.
“Ah think we’re flyin’!”
“Flying? FLYING???” Stafford looked over at Abela, “IS THIS THING SUPPOSED TO BE FLYING???”
Abela was laughing hysterically.
Aboard the Stallion, Simplot was also holding on for dear life as her ship shook around her.
“Return fire!” she ordered, “All weapons!”
Phasers and torpedoes shot out of the Stallion’s weapons array, impacting the Qu’Eh ship.
“Their shields are weakening!” Kren reported.
“But ours are down to 40%!” Hurken added.
“Stallion to Stafford!” Simplot shouted, tapping at the panel. She frowned. “The guy running the show down there is Stafford, right?”
“I’m pretty sure,” Sinclair said, “He’s the Silverado human. The one with the unfortunately flat ass?”
“Right, that one,” Simplot nodded. She repeated her hail.
“Stafford here!” the screen came to life to show a Starfleet captain in a faded uniform clutching at a railing. Behind him, Simplot could see a sunny blue sky and a rapidly receding horizon, “We’re a little busy down here!”
“And we’re a little busy up here,” Simplot shot back, “Trying to keep the Qu’Eh from blowing you up! You are the guy in the flying Frisbee, right?”
That caught his attention.
“Captain Simplot,” he said, “Under no circumstances are the Qu’Eh to fire on Haven! Dr. Wowryk is convinced we can use this thing to end the war, but my people tell me we won’t have enough power to use Haven’s shields until the engines cut out!”
“And how are you ending the war?”
“I don’t know! She hasn’t told me yet! But keep the Qu’Eh off us, by any means possible!”
The signal cut off. Now Simplot could see the disc-shaped city on the display, a beam of energy still connecting it to the planet.
“Haven is passing an altitude of twenty kilometres,” Gonzolas reported.
The Stallion rocked again as the Qu’Eh ship fired.
“Bring us around for another pass!” Simplot ordered, “And get the rest of the fleet over here! We need some help!”
After leaping to the landing platform, Kalmers had immediately taken cover behind the Senousian scout that had been parked there. T’Parief dove into a roll as he hit the platform, narrowly missing another weapon’s blast. He ran to the scout, flattening himself against its hull and waiting to see if Kalmers was going to come around after him. Outside the breached hanger door, he could see wave after wave of sand pouring by, the roar of it nearly deafening. As the sand thinned and faded however, he was certain he could hear clanging footsteps, footsteps that were growing fainter.
Growling, he rushed around the scout only to see Kalmers running down the walkway towards the exit leading to the surrounding corridors. T’Parief was about to fire his phaser when the entire hanger bucked, knocking T’Parief to the platform deck. His phaser flew out of his hands, skittering across the deck and over the edge of the platform. Ahead of him, Kalmers was tossed right off the walkway, his weapon also disappearing into the deck clutter. The platform had descended to its lowest level and was just beginning to ascend again, so the enemy leader found himself landing painfully on the roof of a runabout rather than splattering across the deck. He rolled off the runabout then bolted towards the shattered hanger door and, presumable, the Qu’Eh weapons crate sitting near their entry point.
T’Parief flung himself off the platform before it could go any higher, landing in a crouch on the deck. He sprinted after Kalmers and was completely shocked to see the desert floor quickly receding outside the hanger door as Haven rose into the air. He was so shocked, in fact, that he didn’t notice when Kalmers, ignoring the distant weapons crate, suddenly reached down and snatched up a chunk of metal support strut and swung it around, catching the reptilian officer in the side. T’Parief was positive he could hear the <snap> of breaking ribs as pain shot through the side of his body. Kalmers swung again. This time, T’Parief took the impact on his arm, fracturing the bone but at least protecting his injured ribs. Reaching down for his own chunk of debris, T’Parief was barely able to block the third shot.
Regaining his balance, he easily parried the fourth shot. He and Kalmers were now duelling right next to the force field that had sprung up over the hanger door. The alien was strong!
“T’Parief to Stafford,” he gasped, barely able to afford the time to tap his comm-badge, “Deactivate the force field over the hanger!”
“T’Parief?” the voice came back, barely audible over the rumbling of the base, “I don’t think that’s a good-“
“DO IT!” T’Parief roared, lashing out at Kalmers and sending the alien stumbling back.
The field fizzled out of existence. Instantly, there was a rush of wind as the near sea- level air pressure of the base met the thinner, high-altitude air outside. Kalmers and T’Parief stumbled, each being pulled towards the jagged hole in the door. Kalmers took a roundhouse swing at T’Parief, knocking him off balance and sending him tumbling out the hanger door.
T’Parief dug his claws into the metal ledge running the length of the hanger exterior, barely managing to keep himself from going over. The view was unbelievable! Haven was now kilometres in the air, the Evendra Desert now a sandy smear on the landscape far below. The curvature of the horizon was already visible, and as the wind whipped at T’Parief he could, more then ever, sense the upward movement of the giant base.
He flattened himself against the outer surface of the door just as Kalmers swung out onto the ledge, amazement visible on his features as he found himself confronted with the view.
“Surrender,” Kalmers shouted, trying to regain control of the situation, “I promise you will have no more than a formal written warning appended to your file!”
T’Parief simply swung his metal beam at the alien’s head.
Kalmers ducked, lashing out at T’Parief. The two of them parried and thrusted for nearly a minute, both careful to stay far back from edge of the ledge. The air was still whipping around them, but it was rapidly thinning. Kalmers was slowing, his mouth open as he gasped for air. T’Parief, with his more hardy constitution, was merely feeling winded.
Kalmers brought his beam around in a desperate attempt at a headshot, leaving himself wide open. T’Parief blocked him, then kicked out with one taloned foot. The movement was incredibly painful, his ribs burned as if on fire. But Kalmers flew back, tumbling over the edge of the hanger lip. At the last second, he managed to cling to the edge with both hands, but now he was now hanging over empty air as Haven soared higher and higher.
“I submit!” Kalmers cried, “I offer my Qu’Eh Corporate Authority stocks and bonds!”
T’Parief stood over him, his beam ready to deliver the killing blow.
“Perhaps I could work for your company!” Kalmers tried, “I have excellent management skills, and my-“
“Silence, filth,” T’Parief said. He leaned down, so the alien could hear him in the very, very thin air. “Many Starfleet officers believe that by sparing one’s enemy, one can foster good will and future relations,” he spat to one side as he said his, “Others believe that there is honour in sparing a worthy adversary,”
Kalmers looked up at him, fear in his eyes.
“I however, believe that letting your enemy live only gives him another chance to sink a knife into your back,” T’Parief said, baring his teeth, “But don’t worry, your death will be swift,”
With that, he swung his metal beam like a golf club. The tip impacted Kalmers’ temple, shattering the bone and killing him instantly. His fingers spasmed then released, sending his body falling towards the planet he had helped conquer.
“After all,” T’Parief said, tossing the beam over the edge and heading back inside, “I’m not an animal,”
“We just passed twenty kilometres,” Fifebee announced. Rather than continue gawking out the windows like most of the Matrian council, she’d taken up station at one of the now- unlocked and fully functional control pulpits, “The Stallion has engaged the Qu’Eh ship. The rest of the fleet is still out near one of the moons; they will not arrive until after we’ve cleared the atmosphere.”
“Jall,” Stafford said, “I want you to find every pilot we have and get them to the hangers! We’ve got dozens of small Old Matrian ships that can make a difference in this fight!”
“On my way,” Jall said, running down to the turbolifts.
“You will have to fight your way past the Qu’Eh soldiers,” Valtaic pointed out.
“Nothing’s perfect,” Stafford grinned. With that, Valtaic took his own panel and started trying to contact security teams.
“OK Noel,” Stafford said, turning to Wowryk, “Whatever this plan of yours is, I think we better put it into play. Now.”
“We have most of the Matrian councillors here, right?” Wowryk asked, cutting right to the chase.
“Right there,” Stafford pointed. The councillors were all clustered on the lower level, staring in amazement at the city.
“Good,” Wowryk said, “And I need as much communications bandwidth as we can spare, and enough comm consoles for all of them!”
“Easy,” Colonel Abela said, “The Signal Analysis room has all of that,”
“Uh, Noel,” Stafford said, “We sort of had a little talk before you got here. I’m not ordering the Matrians to do anything. Neither are you. This is their world, and whether or not they follow your plan or not is their decision.”
“Personally,” Hektor cut in, pulling his eyes from a display that showed the Stallion and a Qu’Eh ship exchanging fire, “I’m eager to hear Dr. Wowryk’s plan.”
“We all are,” Anselia agreed.
“So spill it, Doc,” Stafford said, “What’s this bright idea of yours?”
Wowryk looked briefly at the former Qu’Eh she’d captured, then smiled.
“I wasn’t sure it was going to work until I had the chance to talk to…Hassin, was it?”
“Yup,” Hassin nodded.
“But he’s familiar with Qu’Eh regulations,” Wowryk went on, “We don’t even need a 100% vote, just a big enough sample size to show that the population is in favour of-“
“WHAT’S THE PLAN???” Stafford, Anselia and Hektor demanded.
“Simple,” Wowryk smiled, “The Matrian Republic is unionizing!”
Stafford’s face was blank for a moment, then his eyes bugged out.
“BURKE!” he shouted, “Get ready to transmit! All frequencies! Noel, get over here! You’ve got a signal to send!”
Aboard the USS Banshee, Commander Noonan stepped calmly to one side to avoid a flaming chunk of superstructure as it slammed to the bridge floor.
“Direct hit on Deck 1!” Smith cried out, “Dorsal shields are down!”
“One-eighty degree roll to starboard!” Vorezze ordered, “Keep them away form that area!”
“PLEAAASE???” Charlotte was begging, “Can’t we PLEAASSE use just ONE Cataclysm torpedo?”
There was a flash on the screen as one of the Champlain’s four warp nacelles was blasted free, spinning into space then exploding against a Qu’Eh ship.
“The Montreal and the Vendome are still harassing the Qu’Eh flanks!” DiSanto reported.
“Any updates on the Stallion?” Vorezze demanded.
“Not since they called for help a few minutes ago!”
“We need to get around these Qu’Eh bastards before we can get back to the planet!” Rachow reminded him from the helm.
“Dr. Lang, is the jammer ready?”
“Just about!” Lang tapped at her panel, “NOW!”
“Activate!” Velorn ordered.
Wowryk hadn’t been the only one to realize that depriving the Qu’Eh of their implanted slaves would be a great way to get an advantage. The Banshee’s deflector dish glowed brightly, sending out waves of interference, more then enough to jam the channels they’d detected as using Qu’Eh traffic.
Abruptly, the captured Matrian and Senousian ships broke free of the fight, pulling as far away from the Federation fleet as they could and fleeing at top speed.
“What, they couldn’t stick around to help us against the bad guys?” DiSanto demanded.
“The Qu’Eh had those ships on the front lines,” Smith said, “they took the heaviest damage.”
“It’s better than a kick in the teeth!” Charlotte agreed.
“We’re getting a signal from Haven!” Carn reported.
All over Matria Prime viewscreens changed over to the government emergency broadcast channel. The rebels had avoided using it after Wowryk’s first message, considering how easily that one had been traced. But with Haven fully exposed, now was the time. Matrians had already gathered around viewscreens in their homes, at their workplaces and even in the streets as the rebel propaganda channel showed footage of a massive, unidentified object launching from under the Evendra Desert. The Qu’Eh controlled channels were oddly silent, claiming nothing unusual was happening. But as the hacked observation satellites zoomed in on the object, it was clear to everybody watching that not only was an entire city now rocketing towards space, but that the architecture was of a form that hadn’t been seen on Matria Prime since before the Hibernation.
Now, Dr. Noel Wowryk appeared on the screens, flanked by Queen Anselia and King Hektor. Behind her, the people could see a brightly lit command center.
“People of the Matria Republic,” she said, “Greetings from the Old Matrian city of Haven. Your government, along with the leaders of the Matrian Rebellion and Starfleet officers from the USS Silverado, have been hiding in this city since the beginning of the Qu’Eh invasion. We’ve kept this place a secret from the Qu’Eh, knowing that it could hold the key to defeating them.”
“In that, we were wrong,”
All over the planet, people were exchanging confused looks, even as more and more people gathered around the screens.
“The secret to defeating the Qu’Eh isn’t held here in Haven, or in the Federation fleet that even now is attacking the Qu’Eh forces. It’s in all of you. And now we know how to harness it! First, however, I regret to inform you that Mistress Laurette, who has served the people of Matria Prime well as she pretended to cooperate with the Qu’Eh, has been brutally murdered by the Qu’Eh leader, P’tarek.”
The view abruptly cut to a video recording of two holograms, clearly being transmitted by a Qu’Eh device. The Qu’eh army and the sides of the sandy crater were visible around the edges. The entire planet watched in horror as P’tarek pulled out his weapon and shot Laurette.
The view cut back to Wowryk.
“The Qu’Eh have unwittingly shown us their greatest weaknesss,” Wowryk went on, “They killed Laurette the instant they realized they might share this secret with you! And it is simply this: the Qu’Eh are here because they need slaves. They need ‘employees’ to fuel their corporate machine.”
“And there is nothing a heartless corporation fears more than unionized employees, fair workplace conditions, and collective bargaining rights!”
A comm-code started flashing beneath Wowryk’s image.
“So, call up your Council representative, care of the City of Haven, and vote ‘YES’ to the unionization of the United Workers of the Matrian Republic! Operators are standing by!”
The message began to repeat.
All across the planet, excited Matrians exchanged glances, then rushed to the communications systems.
Aboard his ship, P’tarek’s eyes widened in terror.
“NOOOOO!!!!” he screamed, “P’TAREK TO ALL SHIPS! DESTROY HAVEN!!! BLOW IT OUT OF THE SKY! EMERGENCY PRIORITY!”
Aboard the Stallion, the situation was getting even more grim. Several panels had blown out and the old ship was groaning with effort as Tereneth tried to out-manoeuvre the Qu’Eh ship. Wowryk’s transmission had been cut off and ignored the moment it begun as the crew tried to keep their ship in one piece.
“The Qu’Eh ship has stopped firing,” Sinclair reported.
“And a whole bunch more are on the way,” Gonzolas added, “They’ve broken off their attack on the Federation fleet and they’re coming right at us! ETA, five minutes!”
On the screen in front of them, Haven was just clearing the Matrian atmosphere, the energy beam still surging between the planet and the discus-shaped city. The buildings beneath the dome gleamed in the light of the Matrian star, the lake roiled with white-capped waves as the water churned under the vibration of the engines. The Qu’Eh ship pulled away from the Stallion, setting course directly for the city.
“Follow them!” Simplot snapped.
“The comm-channels are flooded with calls!” Wowryk said, eyeing one of the control pulpits, “They’re all being routed to Signal Analysis! As soon as we have a big enough sample size, we can declare the Articles of Unionization. Um, how are those coming, by the way?”
“We’re working on it!” Anselia and Hektor said, drafting the legislation at a speed that was almost unheard of.
“We’re leaving the Matrian atmosphere,” Fifebee replied.
“I’ve got the Qu’Eh and Federation fleets on sensors,” Burke reported, “They’re changing course, coming right at us!”
“Can we raise the shields yet?” Stafford demanded.
There was a sudden
\<SWUUURRRRRRRRRRRRPPPP\> as something very,very big powered down.
“The energy beam from the planet has shut down,” Fifebee reported, “Engines are now operating off of internal power. If we attempt to charge the shield generators before we attain a stable orbit, we may lose engines and end up crashing back into the planet!”
“Stafford to Jall,” Stafford called, “Are our ships ready?”
“Jall here!” the other officer yelled. The sound of weapon’s fire could be heard in the distance, “We’re trying to get into Hanger 4, but the Qu’Eh aren’t making it easy!”
“Captain!” Burke shouted, pointing out the window.
Stafford spun around to see a Qu’Eh cruiser heading straight for the command complex.
“They’re on a collision course!” Fifebee said, “Impact in two minutes!”
“Evasive maneouvers!” Stafford called out.
“This is a city, not a starship!” Lieutenant Pye called from a pulpit displaying engine controls and orbital trajectory data, “A course change will take at least ten minutes!”
“Fifebee, the shields?”
“We’re at least four minutes to a stable orbit!” Fifebee replied.
“If that ship crashes into us, a stable orbit won’t matter!”
“SIR!” Burke shouted again, “LOOK!”
“For the love of,” Stafford cursed, spinning back towards the window.
The USS Stallion soared over the edge of the city, traversing the dome in seconds. Her secondary hull passed mere meters over the command complex, sending everybody diving for the floor. Streams of plasma and gas spilled from a dozen breaches in her hull as she unleashed another round of weapons fire against the Qu’Eh ship.
“HOLY CRAP!!” Jeffery screamed.
“I’m getting transporter signatures in Hanger 6,” Fifebee reported, “They’re Starfleet!”
“Simplot to Stafford,” the comm channel rang, “If you’re actually capable of raising your shields, which I highly doubt, now would be a very bad time!”
There was a hum and a shower of transporter sparks as Simplot and her bridge crew materialized in the command complex.
“Captain Simplot!” Stafford exclaimed, “What are you-“
“Shhh,” she shushed him, putting one hand on his arm and turning to watch the Stallion, “Just watch,”
The Stallion ploughed into the Qu’Eh ship head on, her saucer shattering like a dropped plate as it struck the Qu’Eh ship’s hull, knocking the other ship off of its collision course with Haven. Her engineering hull and twin nacelles slammed into the enemy ship like javelins, her warp core detonating in a blinding flash of light. Haven shook, buffeted by the explosion. But when the space around them had cleared there was no sign of either ship.
“Captain Simplot,” Anselia said, stepping forward, “I speak for the people of Matria Prime when I say, thank you,”
Simplot smiled sadly, still watching the last known position of the Stallion.
“You’re welcome,” she said.
“We’ve attained a stable orbit,” Fifebee reported, “The engines are offline, power is being redirected back to citywide systems. Shield generators are charging. It will take several minutes to build to full power, but we can raise partial shields at any time.”
“Raise shields,” Stafford ordered, “Tell Jall to start launching ships as soon as we can. Oh, and does this thing have any weapons?”
Matria Prime was in revolt.
Across the planet, from Matronus to J’Taeria to Bevindale, Matrian citizens were taking to the streets. Laheya’s rebels had already been engaging the Qu’Eh on as many fronts as possible, but now the enemy forces found themselves confronted with enraged citizens. Thousands of comm calls were going up to Haven, most being answered by a very hastily rigged recording system, but enough going through to the actual council members themselves to convince even the most sceptical of Matrians that it was no joke, that their government really was back and that they really did have a plan to oust the alien invaders.
In orbit, the battered Federation fleet chased after the Qu’Eh ships as they soared towards Haven.
Aboard his ship, P’tarek was rapidly losing his self control. On his screen he could see the blue and green orb of Matria Prime, above which orbited the thick disc of Haven. Ships were beginning to spill from several hanger bays evenly spaced around the exterior. Inside the transparent dome he could see the glimmering spires of the city.
“Destroy it,” he ordered.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a battle from this perspective,” Stafford said, shaking his head. Outside the upper windows, he could see the Qu’Eh fleet taking up position. A holographic overlay had appeared over one window, the one nearest Fifebee’s panel. As she scanned the various ships, tiny boxes of text appeared next to each of them, detailing their status and capabilities.
The Qu’Eh ships opened fire, the energy bolts spearing through space and crashing against Haven’s shields. The command complex rumbled slightly. Stafford squeaked, flinching back. There was something about seeing capitol-ship-sized energy blasts striking shield mere meters from his face that was terrifying on a whole new level. T’Parief had just emerged from one of the turbolifts looking somewhat battered and bloody, and had taken one disinterested glance at the city spread out below them before takig up position next to Pye.
“Shields are holding,” Burke reported.
“Pye, have you found the weapons yet?”
“Um…Um…” Pye was sweating, “I found the torpedo launchers!”
“Fire torpedoes!” Stafford ordered.
Stafford turned to Abela.
“Let me guess,” he said darkly.
“Well, they were supposed to be delivered the Tuesday after the rebels destroyed Old Matronus,” she shrugged.
“Phasers? Disruptors? How do Mantrians have ‘Tuesday’, anway?”
“They’re designed to be controlled locally,” Abela sighed, “You’re supposed to use the command complex to, well, command other people! Not to actually control the weapons yourself!”
“Well, can you do something??” Stafford demanded.
“Yes, it’ll just take a few minutes,” Abela moved to Pye’s pulpit.
The city shook again as a series of Qu’Eh weapons pounded against the shields. Stafford stumbled against the railing around the upper deck. Clutching the railing, he found himself looking down at the lower window, three levels below. Through that he could see straight down the sides of the command tower and down at least forty high-ceilinged levels to the upper surface of the structure that held the Transit Hub. He pushed himself away, the bile rising in his throat and his head spinning with vertigo.
“Who the hell designed this place, anyway???” he demanded.
“The Qu’Eh fleet is attacking Haven,” Dr. Lang reported on the bridge of the USS Banshee, “They’re shields are beginning to weaken, but they have plenty of strength left,”
“I’m picking up a huge amount of comm traffic between the planet and the…um…city,” Smith reported, “The Qu’Eh are trying to jam it, but I think they’re pumping too much power into their weapons and shields to do a very good job,”
“Fleet status?” Noonan asked.
“The Stallion has been destroyed, but her crew beamed over to Haven before their shields went up. The Stouffer has been disabled, the Montreal and the Vendome report serious damage and the Champlain is missing a nacelle.” DiSanto said, “The Elfmam has lost shields.”
“Haven is launching ships,” Smith said, “They’re not very big; attack ships, fighters and runabouts. But they’re keeping the Qu’Eh busy,”
“What about the Qu’Eh fleet?” Vorezze demanded.
DiSanto and Smith tapped at their panels.
“They’ve taken a beating. If they hadn’t stripped Silverado for Federation technology, they would have been destroyed half an hour ago. If they hadn’t had the enslaved Matrian and Senousian ships, even soon. We can probably defeat them, but it’s going to cost us.”
“We must maintain our momentum,” Noonan said, “Matria Prime is in revolt. Dr. Wowryk believes a successful union will defeat the Qu’Eh, and Haven appears to be heavily fortified. This is it.”
“I agree,” Vorezze sighed, “Onward!
“I still say we just end this whole thing with a Cataclysm Torpedo or two,” Charlotte muttered.
“How’s it going, Noel?” Stafford asked Wowryk as she monitored the activity down in Signal Analysis.
“Just about there,” she said, “We just need a big enough sample size to satisfy Qu’Eh policy,”
Haven shook again as the Qu’Eh launched another barrage.
“Shields are down to 70%,” Pye reported.
“Got those weapons working yet?”
“I think so,” Abela said, “Firing!”
Everybody looked out the window, expecting to see massive beams of destruction spearing out at the Qu’Eh ships. Nothing happened.
“Or maybe not,” Abela admitted, “Idiot garbage! When I get my hands on the kid that installed the weapons software, I’m going to…oh. I can’t. She’s been dead for hundreds of years. How depressing.”
Stafford clutched the railing as the city shook again.
Down in Signal Analysis, the council members were the center of total chaos.
“Yes, this is Councillor Yvess,” one man said, “I’m always happy to hear from my constituents. Yes, I realize the last couple of months have been very trying. But the sooner we get the Qu’Eh gone, the sooner we can…oh, you’re voting yes? Excellent. If you’ll excuse me, I have plenty more calls to answer!”
“Voting yes?” a nearby councillor said, “I’m so pleased to hear it,”
Throughout the huge room, government flunkies, after weeks of doing little more than babysit their superiors, were now scrambling around, tabulating results, numbers, names and entering them in the hastily created database that was delivering the results to Dr. Wowryk in the command complex.
“Captain,” Wowryk smiled, turning away from her panel, “We’ve reached quorum. The Matrians have unionized,”
“Hail Chairman P’tarek,” Stafford ordered. There was a beep, then a holographic viewscreen appeared above the central holotable. P’tarek’s face was clearly visible.
“Are you ready to end this madness. Mr. Minister?” P’tarek demanded, “I’ve been in contact with the Shareholders! They’re not willing to let this blatant disregard of company policy stand! Even now, we have reinforcements on the way. Surrender Haven to us and leave the Matrian system, and I promise you that-“
“The Matrians have voted to accept the Articles of Unionization, Mr. Chairman,” Wowryk interrupted.
“DON’T SAY THAT WORD!!!!” P’tarek screamed, making a Qu’Eh gesture to ward off evil. (To the Federation officers, it looked a lot like somebody checking off boxes on a clipboard.)
“Union?” Stafford said innocently.
“Yeah, definitely union,” Wowyk smiled.
“Mr. Chairman,” Anselia stepped in, evidently deciding she wanted her own part in declaring Matria’s independence. As well she should. “My people have voted through their legally elected councillors to accept membership in the Matrian Worker’s Union-“
“Please stop that,” Anselia snapped, “As I was saying, the Matrian Worker’s Union #1.”
“But…but…” P’tarek stammered, then seemed to gain confidence, “I mean, the Qu’Eh Corporate Authority refuses to recognize your…your union,” he made a face, as if he’d just tasted something sour.
“Chairman, we have it on good authority that the Qu’Eh company policy requires you to provisionally recognize a union, provided a quorum comprising a majority acceptance by at least 30% of the employees voting, and the majority of submitted votes being in favour. That recognition becomes permanent once a 60% quorum is reached.”
“BUT YOU CAN”T KNOW THAT!” P’tarek hissed, “The regulations pertaining to the handling of unions is NOT shared with provisionally employed worlds! If they knew that, they’d…they’d…I refuse to say more without consulting the Legal department.”
Hassin stepped forward.
“I knew,” he said, “All your long-term employees know. It’s in Policy Book 27, Chapter 4. Of course, once the populations of our planets were fully implanted, it became impossible for us to vote form a union.”
“You actually READ the policy books?” P’tarek looked incredulous.
“I’ve been implanted for fourteen years!” Hassin snapped, “What else could I do? I couldn’t even pleasure myself without one of your operators giggling in my ear! Once I was deep enough inside this installations jamming field, I was freed from the implant and willingly shared all I knew!”
“Sharing confidential company information with resistant employees is punishable by death!” P’tarek snapped.
“Look, buddy,” Stafford cut in, “The Matrians have unionized. If you want to continue to employ them, you better listen to their demands!”
“Ah, yes,” Anselia stepped forward, “First, we demand hour-long lunch breaks. Second, we demand half-hour coffee breaks twice a day. We also want premium entertainment channels in the break rooms and the choice of either thirty-five days paid vacation, or a four day work week,”
With an angry snarl, P’tarek slammed his hand down on his panel, closing the channel.
“The Qu’Eh ships are breaking off their attack!” Pye exclaimed, staring at his console in shock, “They’re moving out of orbit!”
“Send a message to the Qu’Eh ships,” Stafford said confidently, “Tell them to take their troops with them. They’ll be allowed to leave the system peacefully.”
“Making decisions for us again, Captain?” King Hektor asked.
Stafford looked embarrassed.
“Um, I mean, I recommend allowing them to-“
But Hektor was laughing. Anselia smiled, then repeated the order.
“The Qu’Eh are acknowledging,” Pye reported, “They’re ordering their troops to gather at beam-out co-ordinates.
Haven’s command complex was rocked with cheers.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 59045.5:
“With the withdrawal of the Qu’Eh forces, life in the Matrian Republic is slowing returning to normal. Queen Anselia and King Hektor’s government has been re-installed in the Matrian Council Chambers in Matronus, the Matrian Defence Force members that had been implanted by the Qu’Eh have been de-implanted by a team led by our own very capable Dr. Wowryk. Their ships are currently under repair while the Federation fleet patrols the Matrian system, awaiting their own turn for repairs.
“Unfortunately, the Qu’Eh occupation took a heavy toll. Laheya’s rebels, having succeeded in repelling the Qu’Eh, are now a bit of a wild card. Mistress, excuse me, Councillor Laheya has been elected into the Matrian government in a by-election in Na’aval District, replacing a councillor that was killed in the initial invasion. I’m sure her voice will keep Matrian politics…interesting…for the foreseeable future.”
“Colonel Abela has been re-commissioned into the Matrian Defence Force, along with Lieutenant Craigan. Sure, he used to be a rebel. But I think the Matrians agree that whatever part he may have played in the outbreak of the Gender Wars, the part he played in recent events merits it.”
“As for the Silverado crew, we’ve been invited by the Matrian Government to visit the city of Haven while we await further orders from Starfleet.”
“I can’t believe it’s over,” Stafford said, walking through one of Haven’s well-lit outer- rim corridors,”
“Believe it, buddy,” Jall said, keeping pace next to him, “We came, we fought, we hid, we fought again. And we kicked ass! Eventually.”
“Who would have thought that the Qu’Eh were such slaves to corporate dogma that they’d walk away from an entire planet,” Stafford said, shaking his head, “I bet the Shareholders are working overtime to strip out that little bit of policy,”
“Hmm, they could,” Jall said, “But that would be bad PR.”
“Well,” Jall shrugged, “They probably kept that little bit in their policies so that they could claim to be fair, ethical employers. They just made sure nobody could take advantage of it.”
“Lucky for us we got around that,” Stafford shrugged.
“Well, the people were revolting, their fleet wasn’t doing all that great and I’m pretty sure throwing a kilometers-wide city at them didn’t help matters,” Jall shrugged.
“I guess,” Stafford sighed, “But you know, after everything that’s happened, I really, really just want a vacation. Some time to kick back, relax and enjoy NOT being stuck in the middle of a government under siege,”
“I hear you there,” Jall said, “Speaking of what comes next, any hints from Starfleet as to what they’ll have us doing?”
“Nothing,” Stafford said, “We’re still re-establishing communications through the Matrian Sector relay.”
He turned off the corridor and entered an unfinished lounge overlooking one of Haven’s six shipyards. Shipyard 3 had been empty when the combined Starfleet/Matrian search teams had found it a week ago.
“I hear the Matrian government has declared Haven ‘off-limits’ to all but a few select groups,” Jall said.
“You heard right,” Stafford said, walking across the empty room to the ceiling-high windows that looked out into the cavernous shipyard, “Anselia and Hektor want to make sure they have time to transfer copies of all the historical records to secure sites on the planet. This place is the last relic of the Old Matrians, after all,” He leaned against the railing next to the window, looking out into space.
“We’ve been pretty lucky, haven’t we” Jall said.
“You mean surviving an attack, followed by an invasion, then months of hiding, a rebellion and a counter-attack?” Stafford asked, “Yes, I think we’ve been very lucky.”
“No, not that,” Jall shook his head. He frowned, “Well, yes, that too. But I mean with the Matrians, and our original issue. I mean, most starships fly in, solve a problem, then fly out. That’s what we did here, years ago. How many starship crews get the chance to come back and really work with the people they’ve encountered? It’s been over two months since we’ve arrived here, and we’ve built connections, got pulled into their government, fought alongside them, and suffered with them. Now we’ve succeeded in fighting off the Qu’Eh with them.”
“Look there,” Stafford said, pointing at a moving form barely visible in the distance.
“I see it,” Jall nodded. “But you know, I don’t think the Qu’Eh realize it, but thanks to them, the Matrians are going to more dedicated to the Federation than the average member planet.”
“You think so?” Stafford asked, still staring out into the distance.
“I do,” Jall said, “A lot of member planets only have the promise of Federation support. We make contact, invite them in, and they join up. Sure, sooner or later they see that cooperating helps all of us. But the Matrians…we promised a fleet, and we delivered,”
“Eventually,” Stafford laughed.
“And their entire council saw you step back and let Anselia and Hektor decide who should activate Haven,” Jall went on, staring out the window, “I hate to say it, but that was a good move.”
“You know Jall, you might be right,” Stafford said, “Personally? I hope you are. But I think our time here is almost done. And as much as it’s been fun, I’m ready to go back to the whole ‘exploring new worlds’ thing. Somebody else can take care of Matria’s future. Our work is done.”
They watched together as a pair of Matrian tugs slowly pulled the USS Silverado into the shipyard.
“C’mon,” Stafford said, clapping a hand on Jall’s shoulder as a series of umbilicals and gangways extended from the shipyard scaffolding towards the powerless ship, “I bet Steven left a bottle of Earth rum in Unbalanced Equations,”
“Doesn’t hurt to look,” Jall shrugged.
Wonder what the Haven activation looked like? Check out this cheesy but amusing animation to find out! (Make sure you use the HD option)