Author: Brendan Chris
Commander San Jall yawned as he stepped out of the turbolift and into the small lobby of the building he was temporarily calling home.
With the launch of Haven and the defeat of the Qu’Eh, the orbital habitat/space station/city had become a veritable ghost town. Not that it had been all that full before, what with only a couple of thousand Matrians, Senousians and Starfleet members using it as a hiding place while it remained buried under the sand. Things had even livened up somewhat during the Qu’Eh attack, with thousands of enemy troops storming what they’d thought was an underground military bunker. And then there was the launch of the city into space. But as soon as the Qu’Eh crisis had ended the Matrian government members, along with the Matrian civilians, had packed up and returned to Matronus and to their comfortable offices in the main government buildings along Dignity Way. Within hours of Queen Anselia and King Hektor reclaiming their thrones, Haven had been declared off-limits to all but a caretaker crew, which consisted of a hundred or so Matrians and the crew of the USS Silverado.
Jall and Stafford, though somewhat surprised at these developments, were nonetheless ready and eager to help the Matrians get their new toy up and running. They’d been even more surprised when that offer had been turned down.
“But we may as well help out!” Stafford had objected, “I mean, until we get new orders from Starfleet we really don’t have anything to do! Our ship is wrecked and the rest of the Federation fleet is handling their own repairs, along with patrolling your border!”
“Chris,” Anselia had said, “My people have a lot of work to do and a lot of damage to repair. We are finishing the data dump of Haven’s computers as we speak. Everything else in the city can wait,”
“But there’s still huge areas of the station we haven’t even explored,” Jall had jumped in, “And we need to check supply levels, see about getting fresh food up here, not to mention how badly your people could use the shipyards,”
“And we’ll get to all of that,” Anselia had said, trying to calm the two Starfleeters down, “Don’t worry about it,”
“But what are we supposed to DO??” Stafford had demanded.
Anselia had crossed her arms.
“Take a vacation,” she’s said flatly, “After all you’ve done, you all deserve it.”
“But-“ Stafford had started.
“No ifs, ands or buts,” Anselia had cut him off sharply, “You and your crew will relax and enjoy the facilities that Haven and the rest of our planet has to offer. Now, if you’ll excuse us, We have much work to do before We can take a break of our own. And if We call up there and catch you without a beverage in your hands, We will report you to Starfleet Command for failing to follow orders!”
Now, a week later, Jall was already bored out of his mind. Beaming down to Matronus or Bevin to hit the nightclubs had entertained him for the first two evenings, but it didn’t take long for the Matrians to move past the ‘Hurray, We’re Free, Let’s Party’ stage and into the “I Want My Calm, Stable Life Back’ stage. Yanick had been too busy fussing over her egg to spend any time with him and he really didn’t feel like hunting for any of his other shipmates.
He finished walking down the ornate staircase and down into the Transit Hub. He looked out the broad, curving windows and into the well-lit track area. With main power restored the rows of illumination panels had come to full power, casting a cheery light off the polished stone walls. Plants were already growing in the broad garden boxes placed between the tram lines.
But it was the double doorway opposite the exits to platform level that was Jall’s destination. The heavy blast doors that had proven impossible for Valtaic to open had slid aside neatly as you please the moment Haven had been unlocked.
Jall walked through the doors and into what the computer said was called ‘Atrium 1’. He called it a big empty shopping mall. Granted it was a very nice, multilevel shopping mall with over five levels of crystal clear windows looking out into the city and several tiers of empty shops surrounding a tall, egg-shaped empty area. Actually, the whole complex was shaped as though somebody had stood an egg on one end and covered one half of the shell with windows and the other half with levels of shops. Still, there was nothing there except for a single storefront that was showing signs of activity.
Jall walked past two Silverado crewmen who were trying to hang a banner. He stepped around a pile of supply crates, pushed several boxes off the flat surface of what could only be a counter and sat on the stool.
“Bacon, eggs and a cup of coffee,” he said.
Steven Steiger, Silverado’s resident bartender and the manager of Unbalanced Equations, popped his head out of the kitchen.
“Jall, I’m not open for business yet. I just got my temporary lease from the Matrians; it’ll be another two days before I’m ready for customers,”
“Aw, c’mon Steve,” Jall said, “I saw the request. This is a restaurant unit, it’s already got replicators built in. Now, it’s been months since I’ve been able to sit down someplace that doesn’t serve only Matrian food and get something to eat. I’m not waiting. So scoot on over to the replicator and get me some breakfast,”
Steven looked like he was about to refuse, then shrugged.
“OK, fine. I can do that.”
He disappeared into the back for a moment, then returned with a plate full of…something.
“What the hell is this?” Jall demanded, carefully lifting a piece of bluish meat with his fork and examining it at eye-level.
“Matrian bacon,” Steven said flatly.
“And these?” Jall indicated a pile of red goo.
“Scrambled Matrian eggs,”
“Don’t you have any Terran recipes in that thing?” Jall whined.
“I’m installing them first thing tomorrow morning,” Steven said sharply, “So if you’d listened to me when I told you I wasn’t open yet, we wouldn’t be having this conversation!”
With that, Steven returned to his unpacking.
Jall was about to point out that he’d forgotten the coffee. One glance at the disturbing breakfast he’d been given was enough to convince him to just let Steven finish his work.
He’d barely managed to force down the eggs when his comm-badge went off.
“Haven Command Complex to Commander San Jall,” an officious-sounding voice came over the comm.
“I’m eating,” Jall said flatly, “Go away,”
“Mr. Jall,” the voice started.
“That’s ‘Sir’,” Jall snapped, “And when I say ‘Go away’, I mean-“
“Sir,” the now annoyed and officious-sounding voice cut him off, “I have an Admiral Tunney waiting to speak to you over subspace,”
“Next time,” he said sharply, “When I tell you to go away, just listen to me, for crying out loud!”
He slid off his stool and started the long walk to the Command Complex.
Captain Christopher Stafford stretched out on the soft sand, enjoying the feeling of the sun on his bare skin and the sound of water lapping at the shore. With his eyes closed, he could just about imagine that he was on a tropical beach somewhere, with nubile, bikini-clad women and plenty of icy drinks sporting little umbrellas.
“Why are we sitting here instead of on a real beach down on the planet?” Dr. Noel Wowryk said crossly.
Cracking one eye, Stafford looked over at Wowryk. The doctor was wearing a conservative one-piece bathing suit and a hat that looked big enough to land a shuttle on. Next to her, Lt. Commander Simon Jeffery had passed out on his beach towel and was snoring loudly.
“I was going to go down to the planet,” Stafford said, “But Anselia said she had a surprise for me, and that I should come here to see it.”
The three of them were on a small beach on Haven’s central island. Not far to one side was one of the six bridges connecting what had been unanimously declared ‘downtown’ with the rest of the city. A few meters further up the beach, grass and bushes were rapidly recovering from whatever bio-engineered hibernation the Old Matrians had used on them. Across the water they could see trees already budding among the towering buildings.
There was a shimmer of transporter sparks, then a twelve-meter boat started to appear right in front of them. Wowryk gave a small shriek of surprise as the watercraft finished materializing then plopped into the lake, sending a wave of water high enough onto the beach to soak their feet. Jeffery snorted then sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
A bikini-clad Matrian female puttered around on the bow of the yacht, deploying an old- fashioned anchor. She spoke to somebody briefly over her comm-badge, then a small floating dock materialized, leading from the beach to the yacht.
“Captain,” she said to Stafford, smiling suggestively, “Compliments of Queen Anselia, may it make your stay here more pleasant,”
“This is great!” Stafford exclaimed, jumping to his feet and running onto the yacht, “Hey guys, there’s beer here and everything!”
“This seems to be a lot of fuss just to improve your little vacation,” Wowryk said, “And isn’t it against regulations to accept gifts like this?”
But Stafford was already lounging, a beer in one hand while the bikini-clad Matrian started massaging his feet.
“I’m not taking this home with me, Anselia is just letting me use it, I’m sure.” Stafford said, looking toward the Matrian. She nodded in confirmation. “I just wonder how she knew I liked boats?”
“She asked me, Ah told her,” Jeffery said, yawning as he too fished a beer out of the cooler.
“And I don’t suppose anybody thought to ask what I’d like for my vacation?” Wowryk said grumpily.
“Anselia said yer surprise is still comin’,” Jeffery said.
“It had better not be another Matrian in a bikini,”
“Enough bickering,” Stafford said, “Let’s take this thing out into the lake. Sure, it’s not a very big lake, but it’s big enough,”
“Me last girlfriend used to say that,” Jeffery sighed, “Uh, I mean the last one before I started dating…y’know, just never mind,”
The Matrian girl, Gelinta, had just activated the engines when a shout could be heard from shore. Stafford and Jeffery looked to see San Jall running down the floating dock. He leapt just as the boat pulled away, landing on the deck and executing a flawless tuck-and-roll.
And rolling right off the other side and into the lake with a loud splash and a surprised shout.
Gelinta cut the engines long enough for Jall to climb, soaking wet, back aboard. He fumbled on the deck for the padd he’d dropped during his impromptu aerobics routine then turned to Stafford.
“Our orders came in from Tunney,” he said gravely.
Uh-oh. This didn’t look like good news.
The big question in the mind of all the Silverado crewmen since the end of the Qu’Eh invasion had been simply this: What are we doing next? The ship was horribly damaged, it was highly unlikely that Starfleet was just going to send them another one and the Matrians just happened to have this big, empty space station that just happened to be in need of a skilled crew. Needless to say, speculation had run rampant. Now, finally, it looked like some of their questions were about to be answered.
Stafford grabbed the padd and immediately started reading. He stopped, rereading the first few lines. He looked at Wowryk, frowned, read the padd again, looked back to Wowryk, frowned even harder, then resumed reading.
“What is it already???” Jeffery deamanded.
“Hmm? Oh, sorry,” Stafford swallowed. He turned to Wowryk, “The Matrian government is asking Starfleet for help staffing Haven. They think it’ll be a good way to boost their economy, and that a strong Federation presence will stop the Qu’Eh or anybody else from trying another invasion. They’ve even submitted themselves for consideration to the planned expansion of the Waystation program,”
“What about us?” Wowryk asked, “Are they transferring us? Offering you command of Haven?”
Stafford swallowed again.
“No,” he said, “They’re offering it to you,”
“Surprise!” Jeffery said happily.
Wowryk spun around, facing Jeffery with fury in her eyes.
“Did YOU have something to do with this??” she demanded.
“Well, Queen Anselia was wonderin’ who on the command crew would be interested,” Jeffery said, “Ah mean, she knew Chris wanted a starship command again, so I dropped yer name and-“
With a mighty shove, Wowryk pushed Jeffery off the side of the yacht and into the water.
“TAKE ME HOME!” she demanded.
“But Jeffery,” Jall started.
“He can swim back,” Stafford cut him off, stepping carefully away from Wowryk, “Gelinta, take us back to the dock, please”
After Wowryk stormed off, Stafford and Jall found themselves alone on the boat. Well, alone after Stafford sent Gelinta off looking for some stronger drinks.
“You didn’t tell them about the second part of the message,” Jall said.
“I didn’t get the chance,” Stafford replied, “Besides, that’s something we should announce to the whole staff, together.”
“You’re right,” Jall admitted. He was quiet for a moment, then “Is Jeffery really that bad with women that he completely missed Wowryk’s whole issue with power over the past two months?”
“He saw what he wanted to see,” Stafford sighed, “When she wants to, Wowryk can seem very comfortable in a position of authority. She handled it well as your First Officer, and she handled it well with the Matrian rebels. He saw dropping her name to Anselia as a way to win points with her…it didn’t even cross his mind that she might not want a command,”
“Would you want command of this place?”
Stafford looked around at the gleaming towers, the smooth lake and the crystal clear dome looking out into space.
“Nope,” he said, “I couldn’t deal with a station command.”
“You might end up with one anyway,” Jall said, gesturing at the padd.
“Don’t remind me,” Stafford sighed.
TO: CAPTAIN CHRISTOPHER STAFFORD, COMMANDER SAN JALL, C/O HAVEN BASE, MATRIA PRIME, MATRIAN SECTOR
FROM: ADMIRAL EDWARD TUNNEY, STARBASE 45, RAMSON SECTOR SUBJECT: ORDERS MESSAGE READS:
USS SILVERADO REFIT REQUEST REJECTED BY SPACEDOCK, STARBASE 45, ANTARES SHIPYARD AND EARTH BOX DOCKS. REFIT REQUEST EMPHATICALLY REJECTED BY DENERIA DRYDOCKS DUE TO QUOTE INTURRUPTED MARITAL COITUS ON PREVIOUS VISIT UNQUOTE. USS SILVERADO IS HEREBY DECOMMISSIONED, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY. DISPOSAL OF CLASSIFIED ASSETS TO BE SUPERVISED BY LT CMDR SIMON JEFFERY. REMAINDER OF DISSASSEMBLY AND DISPOSAL TO BE HANDLED AS DETERMINED BY MATRIAN PLANETARY GOVERNMENT. FURTHER ORDERS AND REASSIGNMENTS TO FOLLOW.
SORRY PEOPLE. NEXT TIME, TRY NOT TO PISS OFF SO MANY REPAIR FACILITIES.
Stafford and Jall exchanged a glance.
“Shit,” Stafford muttered.
“Nobody else has moved into this building yet, so you’ll have plenty of privacy,” the young Matrian was saying, “In fact, nobody’s moved into this entire suburb. The penthouse suite here has an unbeatable view of downtown on this side, with the other side looking out of the dome and into space. It’s a three-level unit, and I don’t have to tell you this is the only building in the neighborhood with one of those. Really, if the Council would have authorized it, I would have taken this place for myself!”
Lieutenant Patricia Yanick and Commander T’Parief stepped out of the corridor and into the suite that they were currently viewing. The three-meter ceilings and the floor-to-ceiling windows certainly made the place feel spacious, and the soft, tan colour of the walls seemed like a pleasant contrast to the strong reds and blues in the corridor. A food preparation area and dining room lay off to one side, while a curved staircase leading up to the next level lay off to the right. Past the staircase was a curved hallway leading…somewhere else in the unit. A comfortable living area was straight ahead, though somewhat lacking in furniture. Outside the expansive windows the gleaming towers of ‘downtown’ Haven were coming to life with lights as the Matrian sun disappeared beneath the lower rim of the dome.
A typical couple out hunting for living accommodations probably would have raced towards the windows to see the last of the sunset, or the view of downtown, or perhaps the spectacle of Matria Prime, the blue and green orb slowly dimming as night fell. Yanick and T’Parief, however, barely seemed to notice.
“It just doesn’t feel…right,” Yanick sighed.
“But you haven’t even seen the upper levels!” the Matrian said nervously, “There are two bedrooms and a recreation room on the second level, the master bedroom is on the third, in the peak, and-“
“I don’t want it,” Yanick said firmly.
“But this is the seventeenth unit we’ve looked at today!” the Matrian exclaimed, “Madam, I swear to you, these are premium accommodations I am offering you! Do you know how shocked I was that the Council even allowed me to show you something in the Suburbs?”
“Let us view the place for a moment,” T’Parief said, being about twice as subtle as was normal for him.
“But you’re viewing it now!” the Matrian said.
Apparently, T’Parief’s usual view that subtlety was a waste of time was not entirely unfounded.
“Get out, please,” he said, clearly indicating the door.
With barely a protest, the Matrian exited.
Yanick had crossed her arms over her chest and was staring at the food replicator. T’Parief stepped closer to her.
“And what is wrong with THIS one?” he demanded.
“I told you,” Yanick said, “It doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel like home,”
“Of course not,” T’Parief said, “It isn’t home. It is a space in an alien space station.”
“I don’t want it,” Yanick said again.
“We’ve spent the entire day looking at living quarters,” T’Parief said, the rattle in his throat indicating more than minor annoyance, “You’ve rejected all of them.”
“Because I didn’t like any of them!”
“So instead, you prefer we live in our current, separate quarters?”
“No, Pari!” Yanick rolled her head, “I don’t want to go back there!”
“I don’t understand why this is such a problem,” T’Parief said, trying very hard to stay calm, “We will only be here for a matter of weeks. A month at the most. Once we’re reassigned, we will be departing. Pick a place, and let’s move in,”
“It’s not that easy!” Yanick said, “And there’s no guarantee that we’ll be leaving so soon!”
T’Parief crossed his arms.
“You are making this ten times more complicated than it has to be!”
“And maybe YOU just don’t care about what kind of place your child will be born…hatched in!” Yanick snapped, “And I’ll be damned before I let that happen in any old dump!”
“This entire city has never been occupied,” T’Parief said, “Pick building, or I will,”
“Don’t you dare!” Yanick shrieked, “We agreed to move in together, so we’re going to pick a place together!”
“Then I will see you at the housing center tomorrow morning,” T’Parief said. He inclined his head, then stepped out of the suite.
“Stafford to all senior Silverado staff. Report to the shipyard. I don’t remember the number…the one where our ship is docked. Stafford out.”
“We will consider it,” T’Parief said to the Matrian as he stepped through the hallway.
The Silverado senior staff, past and present, had gathered in the unfinished lounge looking out into the shipyard where their ship hung, motionless, in the scaffolding. On the ‘floor’ of the shipyard, teams of well-remembered Matrian construction bots were trickling out from access hatches and taking their places in a slowly growing formation. None of the staff cared or even noticed, save for Noonan. He was looking out into the bay with a look of calm interest. On a table nearby sat the padd bearing Admiral Tunney’s decommissioning orders.
“I can’t believe this,” Yanick said angrily, “That ship’s our home! They can’t take our home away!”
“We haven’t actually lived aboard that ship for months,” Valtaic pointed out, “Aside from which, I imagine we will all be getting new homes very soon,”
“Some sooner than others,” Jall said, throwing a significant look in Wowryk’s direction. She hadn’t said anything to the others about her offer from the Matrians.
“She was a good ship,” Jeffery said, turning to look out the window, “We put a lot of work into her, and she got us home every time,”
“Actually,” Fifebee piped up, “She technically did not. We had to be rescued from Deloria 2,”
“We towed the saucer back ourselves,” Jeffery said indignantly.
“And we are, even now, many light-years from a starbase,” Fifebee finished, “In fact, by launching Haven, you might say that we in fact had to bring a friendly outpost to Silverado,”
“She was a good ship,” Stafford echoed. He was quiet for a moment. “But she was past her prime. We had a good run on her. If Starfleet’s so sure that it’s time to scrap her, there’s not much we can do,”
“Isn’t there?” T’Parief asked, “If we choose to fight, we may yet keep the ship,”
“Not likely,” Jall said, “I already had this discussion with Tunney. With the amount of work Silverado needs at this point, it’s easier and more economical to just build a whole new ship. Especially since they can build a smaller, modern ship with the same specs,”
“Are we getting another ship?”
There was a sensation, almost a wince, which ran through the room. Nobody had wanted to ask that question. Well, nobody except for Valtaic. Of course, since he didn’t have the same history with the ship and the rest of the crew, nobody was sure if he was just being his normal, blunt self or if he really wasn’t concerned.
“No,” Stafford said, “I called Tunney back after he gave Jall our orders. We’re all being reassigned.”
Yanick and T’Parief exchanged a worried look. Well, Yanick’s look was worried. T’Parief’s was more along the lines of ‘Separate me from my mate? I’d like to see you try.’ Jeffery glanced over at Wowryk, who simply compressed her lips in a grimace.
“You don’t seem as upset by this as I might have expected,” Wowryk said to him.
“Four and a half years on my first command?” Stafford shrugged, “That’s not bad. Career-wise, I’m actually not in a bad position.”
“Career-wise?” Jeffery jumped up, “CAREER-WISE??? That’s yer big worry, yer career???”
“He’s right, Simon,” Wowryk said calmly, “We all need to think carefully about our options for advancement at this point.”
“That’s what Ah was thinkin’ when Ah told Anselia she should put ye in command of Haven!”
Yanick looked at Wowryk in pleasant surprise.
“Really Noel? Command of your own station? Congratulations!”
“I haven’t decided whether or not I want the position,” Wowryk sniffed.
“As opposed to spending another four years in a sickbay?” Valtaic cocked his head, “Logically, it would seem…”
Jall and Stafford exchanged a worried look. This conversation was venturing into dangerous territory.
“Look, people,” Stafford said, turning his attention to a small tray he’d set on the table earlier, “We all have some thinking and planning to do. And it’s something we all need to think about…on our own time. For now,” he opened a bottle of Matrian wine and poured several glasses. He looked around at the gathered officers for a moment, then raised his glass.
“To us,” he said, “Whatever happens next, we had a good run.”
It wasn’t long before almost everybody had taken off, most of them stopping at the huge windows to look out at the crippled ship on their way out. Soon only Stafford, Sylvia and Noonan were left.
“You were very quiet,” Stafford said, not to either one of them in particular.
“I felt like I was at my own memorial,” Sylvia said, not unkindly. “I don’t suppose it occurred to you that this is my body you’re talking about dismantling.”
Stafford looked surprised.
“I just sort of figured you’d get another one. Maybe something with a bigger computer core?” he said.
“Do you really think Starfleet is that eager to just hand me another ship?” Sylvia crossed her arms, “They weren’t that pleased about having me on Silverado…but at that point none of you knew how to remove me.”
“I’ll probably get another command,” Stafford said, “I can take you with me. Captain’s prerogative.”
“That’s sweet, Chris,” she said, “I hope you get another ship. I’m sure Anselia would have given you Haven, but Jeffery was pretty sure you didn’t want a station command.”
“I wish he would have asked me,” Stafford grunted, “I’m just surprised he went to Anselia with our ‘Wish Lists’ like that,”
“She went to him,” Sylvia admitted, “She’s basking in the afterglow of a really good evil- alien-ass-kicking. She wanted to show her appreciation,”
They looked out at Silverado for another moment.
“Chris, I was contacted by Starfleet yesterday,” Sylvia said suddenly, “They want me to go to the Daystrom Insititute. For ‘analysis’,”
Stafford’s head whipped around.
“They want to see what makes you tick?” he demanded angrily, “They can’t do that! They can’t order a sentient being to-“
“Cool your engines, star-racer,” Sylvia cut him off, “It wasn’t an order. It was a request.”
“Oh,” Stafford said quietly.
“I turned them down,” she said, “Personal preferences aside, I just,” she paused. “I think they’re envisioning an AI on every ship. I’m flattered that they see how useful I’ve been to you, but I just don’t think the Federation is ready for that kind of thing.”
Stafford considered the ongoing Hologram Rights fracas that was even still working its way through the Federation Council.
“I can see that,” he shrugged.
“Anyway, I promised Yanick I’d help with her egg. I should go,”
She gave Stafford a hug, then left.
Stafford refilled his wine glass, then turned to Noonan.
“And what about you?” he said, smiling. The smile slid off his face. Noonan looked…uncomfortable. It wasn’t something Stafford was used to seeing.
“I’m a bit surprised that nobody tried to make a case for keeping the crew together,” he said slowly, “I would have thought that Yanick especially would have been more vocal on that point,”
Stafford considered this.
“I think everybody was thinking about it,” he replied, “But you heard Tunney’s orders. They’re not transferring us to another ship. That killed the whole idea right there.”
“But do you think they’d like to remain together?” Noonan pressed, “Would you?”
“Well, I mean, Wowryk’s been offered her own command,” Stafford shrugged.
“Which has its own issues right there,” Noonan pointed out.
“You know about that?”
“It is not hard to figure out.”
They were quiet again for a moment. Noonan looked like he was sitting on something very prickly.
“As you know,” he said softly, “I’m not without my own influences. Especially now,”
“I know about your special influences,” Stafford said, “and I can’t condone you brainwashing an Admiral into giving us special treatment,”
“Not like that,” Noonan corrected him. “Chris, you know the fleet was delayed because Fleet Admiral Ra’al refused to give Admiral Tunney a battleship.”
“Yeah,” Stafford frowned, “But you guys showed up with the Medusa, so I assume everything worked out,”
“I had to make a few connections with…a certain branch of Starfleet to get us that ship,” Noonan confessed, “In return, I am now indentured to them for several years,”
Stafford looked down at the table.
“I’m sorry, Matt,” he said, “I didn’t…I mean, we didn’t mean to…”
“It was my decision,” Noonan cut in smoothly, “And for myself, years are nothing. However, it has given me certain connections I didn’t have before.”
With that, he slid a padd across the table. Stafford picked it up. It had the schematics and specifications of a ship he’d never seen before. The saucer was oval, stretched forward in the same manner as a Sovereign-class ship with a pair of heavy impulse engines on the rear edge, attached to a raised structure that seemed to flow forward into the saucer. A short neck, a rarity in modern starship design, connected the saucer to a boat-shaped engineering hull. Further back, a pair of angular pylons supported two long, rounded nacelles. The nacelles were reminiscent of the ones on Silverado, only stretched out and capped with bullet-shaped Bussard collectors.
“It looks like a Sovereign, an Excelsior and an Ambassador-class ship all got together and had a baby,” Stafford said. His eyes poured over the specs. 36 decks, same as Silverado, but far greater in length. Modern weapons, shields and warp drive. It was a nice ship. Big, too. Solid, but without the slightly bloated look that Stafford always felt characterised the Galaxy-class ships.
“It is the new Vimy-class heavy cruiser,” Noonan said as Stafford read, “With the Dominion and Borg threats having receded, Starfleet is again moving in the direction of larger ships capable of long-term exploration missions. The first ship, the USS Vimy Ridge, will be launched in one month.”
“Tunny told us there were no ships launching anytime soon,”
“No ships that require a crew,” Noonan corrected, “The Vimy Ridge’s crew has already been assigned.
“Then why are you telling me this?” Stafford demanded.
Again, Noonan looked very, very uncomfortable.
“My superiors can arrange for you to be given command of the Vimy Ridge,” Noonan said, “Along with whichever officers and crew you wish to bring over from Silverado.”
“There must be a catch,” Stafford said suspiciously.
Once again, Jall was just making himself comfortable at Steven’s temporary lounge in Atrium One. And once again, he was rudely interrupted.
“Jall! Get out here!” Stafford shouted.
Grabbing his coffee, Jall sauntered over to the door, just about ready to tell Stafford where to go shove it. One look at the uncharacteristic expression of rage on the man’s face changed his mind.
“We’ve been set up!” Stafford snapped.
Seconds after Stafford had stormed out, Noonan heard the sound of a transporter beam. Without turning, he addressed the new arrival.
“Everybody here believes the Banshee, pardon me, the Medusa, has departed,” he said calmly, “Recalled to Federation space while the rest of the fleet handles security here,”
“We warped out of the system, cloaked, and snuck back in,” Captain Jad Vorezze said.
“I was prepared to return to Federation space with the fleet,” Noonan said, “I have not reneged on our arrangement.”
“Oh, I know. I just thought you’d like the feedback from your little bribery session here,” Vorezze said, pulling out a padd.
“For starters,” he said, “You should have started floating the idea that the crew should stay together while everybody was still in the room. If Stafford had been under pressure from his officers already, he would have been way more receptive to our offer. Even worse, you sat there and said nothing about the directions everybody was taking! You should have fed Yanick’s fear of being separated from her…lizard. You should have tried convincing Sylvia yourself to accept the Daystrom Institute’s offer! And the timing was just SO off! Now this whole thing just reeks of coercion!”
“It is coercion,” Noonan said.
“Of course it is! Section 31 is all about this dark stuff!” Vorezze grimaced, “And you’re going to have to get a lot better at it! Your review so far sucks!”
“You are sounding suspiciously like one of the Qu’Eh,” Noonan said calmly.
“Hey, for all their faults, those guys are meticulous with their paperwork,” Vorezze shrugged.
“I already told you that Stafford will never accept this offer,” Noonan said, “And he’s been exposed to my ‘special talents’ long enough to develop an immunity.”
“I know, I know,” Vorezze waved his hand, “That’s why we had you influence Jeffery into going along with the Matrian Queen’s little vacation-and-reward plan. There’s no way Stafford would be interested in the Vimy Ridge if he was already being offered a whole city,”
“He really isn’t interested in a station command,” Noonan stated.
“Look,” Vorezze let his hands drop to his sides, “Section 31 is barely interested in this whole situation. The Matrians, Stafford, your crappy ship…it’s not important to us. So let’s just say that letting the Dystom Institute get their hands on Sylvia will screw up their AI research in ways that would be…beneficial to Section 31. But the main thing here is that it’s a chance for us to see just how well you’re going to work out for us. So find a way to get Stafford to accept the deal!”
“You could simply kidnap-“ Noonan started.
“I told you, we don’t care enough about the situation to take those kinds of measures. It’s up to you to make it happen,” Vorezze crossed his arms, “Now go do it!”
Noonan gave Vorezze just enough to a snarl to expose his fang teeth, then left the room.
“I don’t get what’s going on!” Jall said, trying not to spill his coffee as Stafford dragged him up the stairs towards the passageway leading to the command tower lobby.
“We’ve been played,” Stafford said, “Somebody’s trying to get their hands on Sylvia, and they’re using us to make it happen!”
“What…Sylvia? Who?” Jall stuttered.
“I just had a little chat with Noonan,” Stafford said as they reached the passageway, “And whoever he pulled strings with to get the fleet out here, they’re ready to offer me command of a brand new ship if I talk Sylvia into going into the Daystrom Institute for analysis!”
“A new ship? Really?” Jall was stunned, “That’s great, right?”
“Wake up, San!” Stafford snapped as they reached the turbolifts, “A few hours after we get told our ship is being decommissioned, I just happen to get this offer? Somebody’s been planning this! If they’re willing to go to this much trouble to get Sylvia there, do you think they’re just going to let her walk out again after a couple of gel-pack scans?”
“I think you’re being paranoid,” Jall said, “Sure, there was probably some wheeling and dealing happening, but that happens at Command all the time! It’s politics!”
Stafford looking a little doubtful.
“It’s the Daystom Institute,” Jall said, “Not some secret shadow organization or something! If she’s being studied there then there’s going to be papers published, ethics boards watching the whole thing and the Federation R&D Oversight Committee!”
Stafford worked his mouth for a moment.
“Maybe you’re right,” he admitted, “Maybe I’m right. But I still want to talk to Tunney,”
They arrived at Haven’s command complex, climbed to the second level and faced one of the big screens ringing the deck.
“Could I get Admiral Tunney here, please?” Stafford called up to the command deck, “Starbase 45,”
One of the temporary Matrian crew tapped at his control pulpit. The screen came to life, showing a standard Federation hold message. After a moment, Admiral Tunney appeared on the screen.
“Tunney, how can I,” the middle-aged, goateed Admiral frowned, “Oh. It’s you two. What is it this time? I already told you the decommissioning order was final.”
“Where did that order come from, Admiral,” Stafford asked, “And when?”
“Are you planning on going over my head with this?” Tunney asked wearily, “I mean, if you really want to, knock yourselves out. No skin off my back. But you’ll be wasting your time,”
“Who sent the order?” Stafford pressed.
Sighing, Tunney tapped at his desk.
“It came down through standard channels,” he said, “Through my chain of command back at HQ. It originated from Admiral Grant, who as you know is still working with the refurbishment side of Operation Salvage.” Tunney frowned. “That’s odd,”
“The decommissioning order was put through before Lt. Commander Jeffery’s report on the ship’s condition had even reached HQ.” He shrugged, “I guess somebody really had their minds made up. Now, you can call up Admiral Grant if you like, but given what I just told you, I really think you should just let it drop. Enjoy your vacation, think about your options. Once the Matrians have their ships patched up, we’re recalling all of you, along with the fleet. Tunney out.”
They stared at the blank screen for a moment.
“Are you going to talk to Sylvia?” Jall asked.
“No,” Stafford said firmly, “She’s already made up her mind.”
“I’ve already made up my mind,” Wowryk said, “And if Stafford is sending you of all people to try convince me of something, I don’t get where he’s going with this. Really. I mean, you of all people??”
T’Parief crossed his arms as he stood next to Wowryk in the Transit Hub.
“This has nothing to do with the Captain,” he said.
“OK, then what do you want?” she settled back in her desk, “Career stuff? You want to convince me to promote you and give you…what…the First Officer slot?”
T’Parief crossed his arms. He actually had considered asking Wowryk if she was looking for officers to join her, but something in her voice suggested that he probably didn’t want to pursue that one right now.
“I’m here because of Trish,” he said.
Instantly, Wowryk’s entire demeanour shifted. Instead of leaning back with an expression somewhere between annoyance and distaste she immediately leaned forward, her face filling with concern.
“Trish?” she asked, “What’s wrong? Post-partum depression? Is she showing signs of-“
“She cannot decide on a place to live,” T’Parief cut her off, “We have looked Downtown, in the Suburbs, and even Spaceside. She cannot be satisfied! She turned down a dwelling in the North Suburb because the floors had ‘too much wood grain’!”
Wowryk looked dazed.
“Suburbs? Spaceside?” she asked.
“Terms used by the Matrian real estate office,” T’Parief said, “It matters not. How do I satisfy her? We may still be here when our child is hatched, and it is important to her…to both of us, that our child is born in a proper environment.”
“And you think that proper environment is in a home with two unwed parents living in sin?” Wowryk asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Technically, we are common-law at this point,” T’Parief said.
“OK, whatever,” she shook her head, then thought for a moment.
“T’Parief,” she said, “You’ve been with Yanick for years. And you’ve met her parents, haven’t you?”
“I have,” he nodded. That had certainly been an adventure. He’d even been shot at, an event that had endured Yanick’s family to him in way that they probably would prefer not knowing about.
“Then you have an idea of where she lived as a child, and what she probably wants for her own children,” Wowryk said.
“I had not considered that,” T’Parief said.
“Of course not,” Wowryk said, “You’re a man, and men just don’t realize that your quarters are supposed to be a nurturing home, not just a place to put up your feet, watch the holovision and drink beer!”
T’Parief ignored the remark. He had preparations to make. But first…
“Have you decided whether or not you will be taking command of Haven?” he asked.
Wowryk sighed and almost seemed to deflate.
“It’s not as easy as everybody thinks it is,” she said, “Jeffery thinks I should be jumping for joy, and Stafford and Jall are too afraid I’m going to yell at them again to even ask.” She looked up at T’Parief, “I think you can understand my position, though,”
T’Parief just looked back at her, as if to say ‘If you wish to speak, do so. Or don’t. I’m good either way.’
“If you took command of a ship or a station, it would be great for your career,” Wowryk said, evidently deciding to take the plunge, “But do you really want to give up your job as Security Chief? Blasting bad guys, protecting the crew, being all big and bad? It’s what you love doing. It’s what makes you happy. Is command and responsibility really worth giving that up?”
T’Parief considered this for a moment. Then another.
A minute passed, then two.
“That’s pretty much how I feel,” Wowryk sighed.
Stafford was sitting in his quarters, mulling over his options. He could just not get involved; head back to Federation space and hope that his next assignment was a decent one. Unfortunately, if somebody at Command was playing political games with his crew, there was nothing to say they wouldn’t punish him for not playing their game. He might find himself in command of a garbage scow. Or, he could go find Sylvia and convince her that agreeing to an assignment at the Daystrom Institude for ‘study’ was a good idea, regardless of whether or not the Federation was ready for the leap in AI technology that Sylvia’s accidental creation represented.
The idea that he could go to Anselia and try to get her to give him command of Haven crossed his mind. Sure, he didn’t really want to be in charge of a giant, floating city. But it would be a way to escape his other situation.
He stood, drink in one hand, looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows of his apartment and out over the city. He’d chosen a place in one of the smaller clusters of buildings that sat between the ring-shaped lake and the thick, outer rim of the city; an area nicknamed ‘the Suburbs’. From his window he could see the shining buildings of downtown, with the thick, tapered Command Tower spearing right up to the clear dome covering the city. The Command Complex was not only perched atop this tower, it was embedded in the dome. There, the temporary Matrian crew along with several of his junior officers were handling the day-to-day operations of the three-kilometer-plus diameter city. Which, given that the city was deserted, really didn’t amount to much. But sooner or later the Matrians would open it up to habitation and the city would be flooded with tens, maybe hundreds of thousands, maybe even a million civilians along with the staff needed to operate the city. Considering Matria Prime’s new status as a Federation member world, half of that staff was likely to be Starfleet. The other half would consist of Matrian officers trying to adapt to life in a galactic community.
Nope, there was no way he wanted command of this place.
There was a soft chime from the apartment computer. He turned and walked down the comfortable hallway to the front door.
Fifebee and Valtaic stepped briskly in. No bottle of wine, no cheese plate. Nothing. Just what he’d expect from a pair of people who cared little for social niceties.
“Can I help you?” Stafford asked sarcastically, standing next to the door while Fifebee and Valtaic proceeded right past him and into his living room.
“I wish to know if you plan on taking any action geared on keeping the crew together,” Valtaic said immediately, “Otherwise, I will begin collecting letters of recommendation,”
“And I wanted to speak to you regarding my own career pathing,” Fifebee said.
Stafford took a long swig of his drink, then sat down.
“I don’t know if we’re going to try to keep the crew together,” he admitted, “Honestly, I thought everybody would be thrilled to move on in their lives,”
“I just got here,” Valtaic pointed out.
“Well, yeah, there’s that,”
Stafford was quiet for a moment.
“OK, look. I don’t have any answers for you at this point. It’s just too…too early. I’m not even sure what I want!” he took another swig of his drink, “I like the crew we have. I think we work well together. But four and a half years is a decent run for a crew, and I can’t help but think that it’s time to cut everybody loose so they can go their separate ways,”
“Even if we don’t know where those ways will take us yet,” Fifebee arched an eyebrow.
“Very well,” she stood. As she and Valtaic departed, Stafford noticed a small device on the floor outside his door.
“Did one of you drop this?” he asked.
“I did not,” replied Fifebee. Valtaic shook his head.
Bidding them good evening, Stafford stepped back into his apartment and carried the spherical device into his living room. It had several small, crystalline nodes on the outside, almost like emitters of some kind.
There was a flash of light from the device, and Stafford suddenly found himself standing on a starship bridge. It wasn’t any ship he recognized, but it was definitely Starfleet. The colours had more reds and creams in them than he was used to, telling him it must be a newer design. The layout was similar to Silverado’s bridge, with a sleek conn/ops console, port and starboard auxiliary consoles and engineering and sciences towards the back. Instead of a tactical rail, a solid looking panel rose out of the floor behind the command chair.
“Utopia Planetia Control has cleared us for launch, Captain,” Lieutenant Yanick said from the helm.
“All decks signal ready, sir,” an unfamiliar officer said from the First Officer’s seat.
“Sensors are clear,” T’Parief called from tactical.
Stafford stood there, trying to tear his eyes away from the modern panels, the crisp, sleek layout and the inviting image of the open end of a shipyard up on the screen.
With a shout of anger, he threw the device away. There was a crash as it hit the wall, then the scene around him vanished.
“That was properly planned,” Captain Velorn, Section 31 Advisor to the USS Banshee said as he, Noonan and Vorezze watched the spy footage of Stafford’s little fit on the screen, “You’ve dangled the bait before him, and how you’re making it even more irresistible.”
“Why is the Daystrom Institute going to all this trouble to get their hands on Sylvia?” Noonan asked, ignoring Velorn’s praise.
“They aren’t, we are,” Velorn waved a hand, “Our own research on cybernetic AI shows that Sylvia’s a dead-end. They’ll never reproduce the sequence of events that created her, and even if they did, the ethical concerns over the use of living tissue and artificial personality will keep the whole thing tied in permanent knots. And Section 31 prefers that Starfleet not attain any significant advances in AI research for at least another century,”
“I see,” Noonan relaxed, trying to get a sense of just how honest Velorn was being with him, “Why not simply order her there?”
“Too risky, after the whole Data incident some years back,” Velorn said, “We want her moved there with as little publicity as possible.”
<The better to be able to make her disappear, if the Daystrom Institue actually produces results.>
This last wasn’t spoken, nor was it distinctly thought. It was just a sense. A feeling.
But Section 31 had specifically wanted Noonan for his ‘feelings’.
And this feeling was definitely telling him that Sylvia needed to stay far, far away.
“Anyway,” Vorezze cut in, “Now that we have Stafford literally drooling for that ship, let’s put Phase 2 into play,”
“Yes,” Noonan said, his eyes narrowing ever so slightly, “Let us proceed,”
Section 31 wanted to see how well he could play these sorts of games? That was fine by him!
Another day, another sunrise.
T’Parief had taken Yanick to the roof of an apartment block attached to the outer rim of Haven. Before them, clusters of windows reflected the stars, the buildings either uninhabited or simply darkened in the deep hours of the night. Overhead, through the clear dome covering the city, they could see the dim shape of Matria Prime’s night side. Splashes of light lit the dark globe where ground-based cities slumbered.
On the horizon, there was a steadily growing glow. The atmosphere of the planet started to take a hazy, blue colour and the shapes of the spires and towers of Haven slowly become visible. Then, as Haven’s orbit brought it around the planet, the sun seemed to jump over the horizon in a brilliant blaze of light.
Next to him, Yanick snuggled against his side.
“OK,” she smiled, “I see why you wanted to wake up so early. It’s beautiful,”
T’Parief didn’t necessarily agree. To his mind, the wispy atmosphere of Matria Prime, the dome above them and finally the city of Haven itself just seemed far too fragile to be beautiful. But part of a relationship, regardless of your culture, was indulging your mate’s interests from time to time.
“It would be a good place for our child to hatch,” he said calmly.
“You think?” Yanick said, looking up at him.
“It is the site of a great battle, and a place you find beautiful,” he replied, “It has…something of each of us,”
“Hmmm,” Yanick smiled, “That’s a great way to think of it. But…Pari…you know, we never really discussed…I mean, we never talked about having a baby,”
T’Parief blinked. What? They had had sex, repeatedly. There was now an egg. End of story.
“We didn’t think it was going to be this easy,” he said.
Easy??? Yanick thought to herself. I was running around fat as a cow all through TWO rescue missions!
“Being a mom is a big thing,” Yanick said, “I haven’t even told my parents yet,”
“I informed my mother,” T’Parief said, surprising her, “She simply asked if I wanted the ceremonial birthing gown shipped out,”
“You wouldn’t like it. Too many spikes. Aside from which, we probably won’t need it for a hatching,”
“Oh,” Yanick was quiet, “So, you’re really OK with this? You just, y’know, plow along like you do with everything. I don’t know if you’re happy, or upset, or just don’t care…”
“The birthing of spawn is an occasion to be celebrated,” T’Parief replied firmly, “Think on it no further,”
“OK,” Yanick gave a small grin.
Besides, T’Parief thought to himself, making the child was the easy part. Deciding how to raise it will prove to be…interesting. Oh yes, there were definitely going to be issues down the road.
They sat for another moment, then T’Parief rose and helped Yanick to her feet.
“Come, I have something else to show you,”
They walked back to the roof access. Haven had been designed to make the best use of available space, and so most buildings had rooftop gardens, parks etc. The grass and shrubbery on that particular apartment building was still recovering from hibernation, but the glass-paneled doors leading back into the building looked good-as-new.
They took a turbolift down to the first floor, well over twenty levels below them. They walked a few paces to a wood-paneled door, which obediently slid open for them.
“Another apartment?” Yanick almost groaned.
T’Parief simply led her inside.
The suite clearly took up a good portion of the ‘ground’ floor of the building. Instead of the unending floor-to-ceiling windows of the other suites they’d looked at, this one had more of a mix of wall and window. Sunlight was peeking in from the fresh new day outside.
Yanick was walking around the main living area.
“Something’s…different,” she said. She paced around, then marched off down the hall to the den, the master bedroom, the recreation area and the nursery. In many ways, it wasn’t any different from the other dozen or two units they’d viewed. It was larger and spread out over one level, as opposed to the compact multi-level units they’d seen. Of course, being in a wide building attached to the outer rim instead of in a tower made the single-level design more practical. Suddenly, Yanick found her attention drawn to a pattern on the wall.
It took her a moment to realize what she was looking at. Shadows. Slowly shifting shadows as the sun shone through the trees outside the window.
Running back to the living area, Yanick threw open a glass panel she’d barely noticed before and found herself not on a balcony, but standing in a grassy yard. Behind her, the building towered above and the upper lip of the solid outer rim was visible where metal met transparent dome. But in front of her the buildings were half-obscured by slowly-recovering Matrian trees. In the open gaps, she could see Downtown in the distance. They must be looking through the gap between two of the clusters of buildings that made up the Suburbs, she realized. The scent of fresh water from the lake wafted through the air as a gentle breeze blew through the trees.
T’Parief stepped out to join her as she kicked off her shoes and let her bare toes sink into the soft grass.
“This is exactly what the other places were missing,” Yanick said, sighing contentedly, “It’s perfect. We’ll move in right away! Oh, Pari! Thank you!” She grabbed him and kissed him passionately.
And thank you, Dr. Wowryk. T’Parief thought to himself.
Stafford and Jeffery were sitting in the lounge looking out at Silverado’s dark form. He had to hand it to them, the Matrians Anselia had assigned to oversee their vacation were world-class. They’d apparently noticed that the Silverado officers were spending a lot of time in the unfinished lounge overlooking their ship and had called in a construction crew to finish basic construction and to help Steven move his temporary Silverado establishment out from the Atrium. They each had a plate of brunch-type food in front of them, but Stafford was just picking listless at his.
“So, nothin’ new on yer new career-advancing assignment?” Jeffery asked, just a bit of bite in his tone.
“Nope, you?” Stafford shot back.
“A whole ship full of people, and the only ones with assignment offers are Noel and Sylvia,” Jeffery sighed.
“About that,” Stafford jumped at the opening Jeffery had given him, “What do you think about this Daystrom institute thing?”
“Ye mean with Sylvia?” Jeffery shrugged, “Why?”
“Well, you know her better than any of us,” Stafford pointed out, “You two spent a lot of time together when Tunney had you doing your little repair tour,”
“Aye,” Jeffery looked sad for a moment, “To the USS Stallion,” he said, toasting with his orange juice, “She was a piece of junk, but she saved our lives,”
Stafford lifted his coffee in reply.
“Have you heard from any of the Stallion officers? You knew them, after all,”
“Aye,” Jeffery said, “We had a round of pints at Queen Anselia’s ‘End of the Occupation’ Ball. They’re off helpin’ the rest of the fleet,”
“Good. But back to Sylvia,” Stafford put his coffee back on the table, “Do you think she’d like it at the Daystom Institute?”
“How the bleedin’ hell would I know?” Jeffery chuckled, “Ah’ve never been,”
“I guess,” Stafford said, trying to figure out just how to phrase things, “I just…I wonder if maybe she’s turning down this offer before she’s had a chance to consider the benefits,”
“Not thinkin’ somethin’ through?” Jeffery raised an eyebrow and poked his Eggs a la Kroxnik, “That doesn’t sound like Sylvia to me,”
“I know,” Stafford said, “But, I mean, what if there were ways that…other people…could benefit from that?”
Jeffery looked up.
“Ye know somethin’ Ah don’t,” he accused, “Ye’ve got the same look ye did when Cynthia Folsen was cheaten’ on me, back on the Exeter,”
“Cynthia Folsen is ancient history,” Stafford tried to distract Jeffery.
“Ye were the one she was cheaten on me with!”
“Well, technically, you could say she was cheating on ME with YOU,” Stafford shrugged. Ahh, crises averted.
“Ye can’t distract me that easy,” Jeffery said, “What are ye hidin’?”
Or maybe not. OK, fine. Time to come clean.
“Some of Noonan’s shady new connections have offered to give me command of a new ship if I convince Sylvia to take the assignment,” Stafford said, pulling out the padd Noonan had given him, “Along with letting me bring anybody I want from Silverado,”
Jeffery didn’t even look at the padd.
“Don’t do it,” he said immediately, “It’s shady, it’s suspicious, and nothin’ done like that EVER turns out good,”
“But…Simon…look at the ship!”
Jeffery continuted to ignore the padd.
“Ye do this for them, then five years down the road they’re gonna come askin’ for another favour,” he said, “And they’ll have yer precious career by the short hairs if ye play their game,”
“I know,” he said, “But you can’t tell me that keeping our team together isn’t worth a bit of risk,”
“Not this kind,” Jeffery said.
“Even if it would keep you close to Noel?” Stafford added, “You know she’s not going to take the Haven assignment. She hated leading the Rebellion. She wants to go back to being a doctor,”
Jeffery glared at him, then snatched the padd. His jaw dropped.
“Vimy-class?” his jaw dropped, “They almost used them as a test-bed for the Quantum Slipstream Drive prototype! Ah mean, it turned out the drive wasn’t even close to ready for a ship that size, but,” he scrolled through the padd, “Ohhh, they left the mounting points and power conduits in for future developments!”
Jeffery suddenly slammed the padd back down on the table.
“Nay,” he said, “Don’t even look at it. Throw it away, Chris, and pretend it never happened.
“Captain Stafford, Lt Commander Jeffery,” a voice cut in. It was Valtaic.
“Riven,” Stafford said, calmly putting away the padd and gesturing at an empty seat, “We could use a little distraction,”
“Then I am able to accommodate,” the dark-skinned officer said, taking a seat and setting several padds down on the table, “Our new assignments have come through from Starfleet Command. I’ve already notified the others; they will be joining us shortly.”
“Let’s wait, then,” Stafford said before Jeffery could fish his padd out of the pile, “We’ll see what the future holds together, shall we?”
It wasn’t long before the rest of the senior staff, plus Sylvia had arrived. It was barely lunch time, but Steven had produced a round of drinks anyway.
“To the future,” Stafford said, raising his glass. Uneasily, the rest followed suit.
“All right,” Jall shrugged, “time to open our Christmas presents, huh?”
“Yup,” Yanick said, looking at the pile of padds, “Time to take the plunge.”
They all continued staring at the pile.
“Oh, fine,” Wowryk grabbed hers from the stack. She wouldn’t say it to the others, but she really wanted to know what alternative Starfleet was offering to the Haven thing, “Where am I going? Stafleet Medical? Or some backwater to pull splinters out of somebody’s finger?”
She turned on the padd, the rest watching eagerly. Her eyebrows rose for a moment, then her face fell.
“What is it?” Yanick demanded, “Is it the splinters? Or maybe ingrown toenails?”
Wowryk didn’t say anything, only tossed her padd in Stafford’s direction with a look of disgust.
Stafford gingerly picked it up.
“Commanding Officer, Starbase 341:Haven,” he read, “Ohhh,”
“I don’t want it,” Wowryk said flatly, “I’ve thought about it, I know it’s a good career move…and maybe one day I’ll go in that direction. But I’m not ready for command. This whole Rebellion thing…it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But I’m not ready to do something like that again,”
T’Parief pulled his padd out of the pile.
“Executive Supervising Officer of the New Zealand Penel Colony,” he read. There was a rattle in his throat. No combat. No Hazardous Team. No glorious slaughter of the enemy. Just a recovery paradise for what passed for criminals in the Federation.
“Traffic control, Starbase 213,” she said, “But that’s over fifty light years from Earth! They can’t do that, Pari and I are having a baby!”
“You’re not married,” Wowryk said, “And if you didn’t register with Starfleet as common-law, they don’t have to post you together,”
“But we can appeal this, right? “ Yanick demanded, “I mean, hello? Baby!”
“You can,” Stafford said, “But by the time you got everything cleared up…it could take a year,”
“Or more, if somebody wants to tangle the red tape,” Jall added. He would know, his demotion appeal had been purposefully sabotaged for four years. He pulled out his own padd.
“First Officer, Deep Space 12,” he read.
“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Stafford said.
“Except that this is the fourth Deep Space 12 they’ve built,” Jall said, reading from the padd, “Some hostile race called the Lasmi blew up the first three,”
“Ah’m overseein’ Silverado’s deconstruction,” Jeffery said glumly.
“Pacifica,” Valtaic said, looking displeased.
“Ohh, great beaches,” Yanick said.
“For an alien who generates as much energy as Valtaic, a water planet is not a pleasant posting,” Fifebee pointed out, “Incidentally, I have been assigned to a dead-end posting on the science colony of Starung IV,”
Taking a deep breath, Stafford took the last padd on the table.
“Captain of the USS Weir,” he said glumly, “Oberth-class science ship. Obsolete, and what the hell do I know about science anyway!?”
They sat around the table in silence for a moment.
“Well,” Sylvia said, trying to be cheerful, “At least now you know where you’ll be going and can start making plans, right? I mean, it can’t be that bad,”
Stafford started to open his mouth.
“Shut it, Chris,” Jeffery said warningly.
“Jeffery, I have to at least say something,” he said.
“You mean,” Jall started, a look of realization on his face, “Ohhh, you told the engineer.”
“Told him what?” Yanick asked, “And, more importantly, why didn’t you tell me?”
“I’ll tell all of you,” Stafford said, closing his eyes for a moment. “I think somebody screwed us over with bad assignments on purpose,”
There was the predictable chaos at the table. Questions, objections, accusations. Etc. You get the picture.
“How do you know this?” Fifebee asked.
“Because right after we got the decommissioning orders, Noonan told me that the same people who arranged for the Medusa to lead the fleet out here to kick Qu’Eh butt could arrange for all of us to get a new ship,” Stafford said.
“This sounds unsavoury,” Valtaic said.
“It is!” Jeffery said loudly, “Totally!”
“Why?” Sylvia asked.
“Because,” Stafford said tiredly, “In return, they want me to convince you to take the assignment to the Daystrom Institute,”
There was silence around the table. Sylvia looked thoughtful.
“So if I go to the Daystrom Institute for study, you will all be assigned to a new, top-of- the-line ship?” she asked.
“Well, myself and anybody I want to take with me,” Stafford started, glancing in Jall’s direction only to have Yanick kick him under the table. “Er, yes. All of us.”
“I see,” Sylvia stood and started walked to the door.
“WHOAH! Where do ye think yer goin’?” Jeffery demanded.
“To accept the assignment,” Sylvia said, “Where else?”
“No, ye can’t,”” Jeffery said firmly.
“I agree,” Stafford said, “We can’t ask you to do this,”
“You didn’t,” Sylvia said.
“He didn’t ask,” Wowryk said, giving Stafford a dark look, “But he did manipulate you into a position where you would feel obligated to offer,”
“Well, that wasn’t exactly my plan,” Stafford cleared his throat.
“How could you do that?” Yanick demanded, “That’s….that’s…”
“Really not on!” Jall finished, “And Sylvia, no. I’m not going to any fancy ship if I have to think about you stuck in some lab!”
“As opposed to what, San?” Sylvia asked, “An assignment to a space station with a 75% chance of being destroyed?”
“We’re being played,” Stafford said, “Decommissioning Silverado, dangling this new ship in front of me, giving us all awful assignments. Once again, we’re stuck right in the middle of somebody else’s game!”
<Yes, but they’re not the only ones that know how to play games.>
“Who said that?” Stafford demanded.
“I said,” T’Parief broke in calmly, “I will not be manipulated. I will resign my commission and join Yanick, so that we may raise our spawn together.”
“Then I quit too!” Yanick said, “The Matrians will let us stay here, right?”
“If they won’t,” Wowryk said firmly, “I will, seeing as how it seems I will have command of this infernal place thrust upon me,”
“T’Parief found us the perfect apartment,” Yanick said smiling sadly, “With trees, and bunnies…well, no bunnies. But there’s so much grass, I could probably have bunnies.”
“You guys can’t throw away your careers over this,” Sylvia said, “I’m so glad you’re making this commitment to be good parents, but if I go to the Daystrom Institute, you can raise the baby together on the…what’s the ship called, Chris?”
“Hmm?” Stafford looked up. He was still trying to figure out where that voice had come from. It had almost sounded like Noonan’s. Was his former First Officer trying to tell him something? “The USS Vimy Ridge,”
“Vimy Ridge? Never heard of it,” Jall said.
“Vimy Ridge was the site of a major battle in Earth’s first World War,” Fifebee recited, “It was an allied victory, and is notable as being the first battle in which the four distinct units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought together as a cohesive whole. Many historians consider it a defining moment in Canada’s growth as a nation,”
“That’s great,” Jall said in a clear ‘I-don’t-care’ tone, “But I still don’t give a shit about this whole ‘Needs of the many, needs of the one’ situation.”
“He’s right, Sylvia,” Stafford sighed, “It’s too risky. Look at the games they’re playing to get you there. They want you fairly badly. Who knows what kind of tricks they’d pull to keep you there once they’ve got their hands on you?”
“Or make ye disappear,” Jeffery said darkly.
Slowly, reluctantly, Sylvia sat back down.
“So,” Jall said after a moment, “Where does this leave us?
“Up several different shit creeks,” Stafford grumbled, “And nobody has a paddle.”
There was a commotion at the door as several members of Matrian security rushed in, each of them armed and wearing body armour.
“Oh really,” a familiar voice called, “We’re in the city of Haven…what kind of threat could there possibly be!”
“Just a precaution, your Highnesses,” one of the guards said.
Stafford and his crew rose as Queen Anselia and King Hektor walked into the lounge.
“May we interrupt?” Anselia asked.
“Your Majesty,” Stafford said, “We weren’t expecting you up here,”
“Chris, just because we haven’t been sleeping together anymore doesn’t mean you have to go back to being so formal!” Anselia teased.
Stafford smiled sadly. He hadn’t been surprised when his relationship with Anselia had petered out. After all, she had a planet to get back into order.
King Hektor was taking in the glum expressions around him, then looked over at the discarded message padds still on the table.
“Bad news?” he inquired politely.
“You could say that,” Stafford sighed.
“We got screwed,” Jall said bluntly.
“Your new assignments?” Hektor asked.
Anselia and Hektor exchanged a look.
“I had,” Anselia said, “The strangest experience last night…”
Aboard the USS Banshee, Commander Noonan was riding the turbolift to the bridge when he felt the ship accelerate into warp. As the doors hissed open, he stepped towards Captain Vorezze’s chair.
“Are we leaving already?” he asked.
“Section 31 just put a kibosh on the whole deal,” Vorezze said, his arms crossed, “You know anything about that?”
“I’ve been in my quarters all night,” Noonan said innocently.
“I know. We already checked the security footage,”
“And the communications logs,” Captain Velorn cut in.
“What happened?” Noonan asked.
“It seems that the Matrians are already starting to play in the Federation political games,” Velorn said, sounding as annoyed as a Vulcan can, “And, unfortunately, they’re goals seem to clash somewhat with ours,”
“How unfortunate,” Noonan said. Now, for one of the first times since starting this assignment with the Banshee crew, he reached out with the full power of his mind, “But I assure you, I had nothing to do with it. I put my best efforts into convincing Captain Stafford that sending Sylvia to the Daystom Institute was the proper choice,”
“Oh we don’t dispute that one bit,” Vorezze said, looking slightly dazed.
“Indeed,” Velorn agreed, “In fact, your initial performance assessment will be quite favourable.”
“Thank you,” Noonan said, turning to leave the bridge.
Section 31 thought they were the masters of the dark arts? HAH!
Working ‘for’ them was going to be very, very interesting.
The night before…
Queen Anselia had finally retired to her chambers after a very, very hectic day. The Historical Committee was calling for the tunnels under Matronus that had been used as a rebel base to be preserved for posterity. And they were still squabbling over whether or not to open the Haven launch base for scientific study. The first-stage antigravity structure that had pushed the city out of the sand was still sitting in the crater, along with the energy beam that had powered Haven’s engines for the ascent. The technology was unlike any other Old Matrian technology they’d found. And of course the Cultural Committee had given a long, boring report on the latest finds from the team studying the tribe of ‘primitive’ Matrians that had been found living on an equatorial island.
All in all, getting her planet back into order was turning into a ridiculous amount of work. But at least the Silverado officers, the Senousians and those Matrians that had done the bulk of the fighting were getting some much-deserved down time.
And now it was her turn. Anselia collapsed on the bed, ready to fall into a deep sleep. She relaxed her body completely and closed her eyes.
And, suddenly, found herself rising from bed, eyes opening. She wasn’t doing it, of that she was certain. Her limbs were simply moving themselves, as though she was a puppet being controlled by a series of strings.
Her puppet-master walked her over to her data console, where she sat down and accessed the link-up to the Federation data net. Her hands danced over the panel of their own volition, pulling up Starfleet message traffic. On her screen, she saw the assignments that were being offered to the men and women that had worked so hard to save her planet.
They were abysmal.
The ship was being scrapped, the crew scattered.
Of course, she didn’t know the Silverado crewmembers that well, other than Stafford. How was she to know what they’d want?
Her fingers danced again, pulling up her messaging system, then composing a communication to the Federation Council. Before the ‘send’ button could be pressed, however, a voice rang out in her head.
<What happens next is up to you.> it said.
And suddenly, her body was her own again.
Anselia stared at the screen for a moment, re-reading the message, then hit ‘Send’.
“It was very disturbing,” she said to the gathered Silverado crew, “And yet, I felt no hint of malice or threat,”
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Stafford said, “I…well, let’s just say I have a fairly good idea who it was. He’s a good guy,”
“Yes, I had that sense,” Anselia said, “In any event, it…he…seemed eager to show me that as the leader of a member world, I seem to have a strong influence over events in my local territory. But I will force nothing on you.”
She snapped her fingers. A council page stepped forward, then gently placed a padd on the table in front of Stafford.
“Accept, or decline. It is your choice entirely,” Anselia said, “Now, I have much business to attend to. But please, let me again thank you for everything you’ve done here,”
With that, Anselia, Hektor and their escort left, leaving the Silverado staff back where they started.
Except for one more padd.
“Well pick it up already!” Wowryk snapped, causing everybody to jump.
Stafford gingerly picked up the padd and started reading. The other staff could only catch a few words.
“Pending your approval…Haven shipyard…offer of…”
“Well?” Jall demanded.
“Do you remember how part of the Federation membership agreement with the Matrians included Federation shipbuilding?”
“Well,” Stafford swallowed, “The Matrians have decided that the best way to learn about Federation shipbuilding is to tear apart and rebuild an existing space-frame,”
He held his thumb over the ‘Approval’ icon on the padd.
“And it just so happens we have a ship that would benefit from a complete rebuild,” he looked out the window at the USS Silverado, “And a crew to take her out once they’re finished with her,”
“So,” he said, looking back at his crew, “the only question is, would anybody be interested in taking the old girl out for another spin?”
And thus concludes Silverado Season V, the Matrian Uprising arc, the Qu’Eh invasion, and so much more that I’ve been working on for the past three years. I can’t believe it’s done! But is it over for Silverado? Maybe…but probably not. Still, in the meantime, find out who really ends up in the command of Haven, and just what the Federation has in mind for their newest space station in the upcoming premier of Star Traks: Halfway to Haven, coming sometime in 2011!