<Planet Garsol, Delta Quadrant; approx. 7 months ago>
Zharon looked over John Carter’s shoulder and again sniffed at the air in the cavern that served as the older man’s workshop. There was an acrid whiff of smoke in the air, which reminded the scientist of his own experiments. “And this is going to do what, exactly?” Zharon asked.
“Probably just get me killed.” Carter quipped. “I wish Pakita was here,” he added. “I was never very good at electronics.”
A few moments later, Bah-Ki entered the dim cavern. “We had two teams of foragers scour your crash site, Carter.” The younger Garsolan said. “If there are any other pieces of your craft out there, we aren’t going to be able to find them.”
Carter gave a curt nod. “It’s ok.” The Martian said. “I’ve got enough to work with… I think.” He added grimly.
“I can lend a hand if needed, Warlord.” The statement came from Zharon, the resident mad scientist of the Garsolan resistance. When he and Carter first crossed paths, the dusky blue inventor was sure that the displaced Martian was a gift from the gods of Garsol, and that Carter was somehow fulfilling an ancient prophecy. It had taken some time, but particularly since the last siege that the fliers had laid on the small, rock-bound group of survivors, Zharon had reluctantly come to believe that, while John Carter may not be an instrument of divine justice, he was at least an able soldier. Truth be told he was one of the fiercest fighters that Zharon had ever seen, and privately, Zharon had wondered if that was because Carter thought he had nothing to lose, let alone to live for.
Zharon only knew the broad strokes of John Carter’s life before his shuttle crashed on Garsol, and indeed, felt a weight of responsibility, since it was his experiments in trying to communicate with Garsol’s mysterious gods that had brought the Federation shuttle down in the first place. Once that connection had been established, Carter, and Zharon too had been hopeful that it might somehow be possible to retrace Carter’s route, or at the very least get a message out to Starfleet, but after some lengthy and failed experimentation, it had become clear that Garsol simply didn’t have the resources, and Zharon didn’t have the knowledge, to help John Carter get back home.
Next to the odd collection of mismatched parts, Carter waved the scientist in. “You’re more than capable, I’m sure Z.” Carter said, having already taken the liberty of shortening the scientist’s name. “But, please… it’s just Cater, ok?”
Zharon nodded. “Of course Carter,” He agreed. “Though, you’ll have less success in convincing the men to honor that request.”
Carter’s face screwed into a bemused smile and he reflexively rubbed is left eyebrow. It was a mannerism he’d developed what seemed like a lifetime ago, when he was adapting to the loss of his left eye at the hands of a former crewmate. For a time, he wore an eyepatch rather than opt for an optical implant, and now, some years later, with the implant now missing… having been gouged out by a particularly aggressive flier, Carter found that old habits did indeed die hard.
Since his defense of the Garsolan’s rocky home, some of the hard-tested inhabitants had taken to calling Carter “The Warlord”. John wasn’t sure that it was either deserved, or said in some sort of mocking praise. Either way, he knew he didn’t like it. “Tell you what,” Carter said as Zharon bent down to survey the haphazard collection of circuits, plates, transtators and magna-couplers. “They can call me whatever they want when we win.”
Zharon looked up quizzically, but let the comment go. There was another observer in the cave however who spoke up. “So, it’s WHEN now? Not if?”
The question came from Dadjinn, the de facto leader of the Garsolan resistance to what she understood to be the genocide of her world and people. As she seemed to do every time she laid eyes on John Carter, Dadjinn gave the strange visitor an appraising look, and then shook her head, as though she found something wanting. “Why the change of heart?” She asked bluntly.
“Call it nostalgia.” Carter said.
Dadjinn’s eyebrow arched in what most observers would see as a distinctly Vulcan matter. “I have NO IDEA what that word means.” She said. Then she turned and headed out of the cave. Before she’d taken two steps, she looked back over her shoulder. “We need to talk, Carter.” She said. “Follow me.”
Zharon and Bah-Ki looked on as Carter took a stutter-step in order to catch up to the tall, lithe swordswoman. After a few seconds, the older scientist looked to Bah-Ki. “Aren’t you going to follow them?”
The younger man held up his hands as if in defense. “No, no.” He protested. “Did you see that look? I’m not getting anywhere near her until she gets what she wants.”
“And that is?”
“Up to Carter, I think.” He shook his head and bent lower over Zharon’s shoulder. “What are you doing exactly?”
Zharon’s eyes lit up. “It’s quite fascinating actually. We’re going to use this device to channel energy…”
<U.S.S. Gorgon, orbiting Telar Prime; Present Day>
“Damned Pig heads can’t even take care of their own planet. Just look at that… it’s so, brown.” The disgusted comment came from Alex DeMarco, a Lance Corporal with regulation “high-and-tight” black hair, a clean shaved face and a small but powerful build, and the newest addition to Gorgon’s Starfleet Marine detachment.
“Not every planet in the Federation’s like earth, you know.” The rejoinder came from Jan Kayjik, another of Gorgon’s Marines. She sported an equally regulation bob cut that she tended to tuck behind her right ear so that her Bajoran earcuff was plainly visible.
“Yeah, but they SHOULD be. I mean, that’s my point, you know?”
Kayjik remained silent for a few seconds as DeMarco continued “We… that is humans, worked hard to make earth something special after the Eugenics Wars, and what do we get for it?”
“Clean water, unlimited energy, freedom to go where you want, when you want…”
“Shut up.” He said tersely. “You know what I mean. You’re Bajoran. You know how tough it can be when…”
“When people who aren’t like you want to take what’s yours.” DeMarco paused, taking a brief look around the empty corridor, as if to make sure the conversation wasn’t being observed. “Do you know how many aliens are on Earth now?” He asked, though he didn’t stop for an answer. “They’re everywhere. In our neighborhoods, our schools… They eat our food, they’re all over the beaches, you can’t go anywhere and NOT see them.”
Kayjik gave her crewmate a sidelong look. “You DO understand that I’M an alien, right? I’m NOT human?”
DeMarco nodded seeming to dismiss the comment. “Technically, yes, but you guys… you really kicked ass! I mean, you didn’t take alien occupation lying down. Armed resistance! That’s something to be proud of.”
“I guess that’s one way to look at it, but…”
“But, nothing!” He said proudly. ”You didn’t roll over. You kicked the crap out of the Spoon-heads.”
“They INVADED and OCCUPIED Bajor.” Kayjik clarified. “That’s a little different, don’t you think?”
“What’s going on now is worse! DeMarco exclaimed. “I was on DS Nine once. There’s a bartender there…”
“Quark.” Kayjik said with an eye roll. “Everyone in the quadrant knows Quark.”
“Right.” DeMarco nodded as the pair continued to walk. “Anyway, something had set him off, and he kept going on and on about root beer.”
“What’s Root Beer?” Kayjik said as she stopped short and the pair waited for the arrival of the turbolift.
DeMarco was shocked, and he blinked his eyes twice, not only for emphasis, but for effect. “You don’t know what root beer…” He paused as the lift arrived and the doors opened. “You know what, it doesn’t matter.” The Marine continued as the pair entered the lift car.
“Recreation Deck” Kayjik said. Then the car began to move. “You were saying?”
“Quark hates humans.”
It was Kayjik’s turn to blink. “What?” She said, genuinely surprised. “That’s ridiculous. Quark doesn’t hate ANYONE.” She advised. “He just likes Latium more.”
DeMarco shook his head. “Just hear me out.” The corporal pleaded. “He went on and on about how the Federation shows up and slowly takes over everything… lets people THINK they run the show, but really, the Feds are pulling the strings… only it happens so slowly that you don’t even NOTICE, until it’s too late.”
“So what?” Kayjik asked. “In case you haven’t noticed, WE ARE the Federation.” The Bajoran said, the fraying of her patience beginning to show.
“My point is, it works both ways.” DeMarco said flatly, as if the logic was unimpeachable. “The aliens are pulling the strings on Earth now, and it happened so slowly, WE didn’t even notice.”
Kayjik shifted her weight and folded her arms across her chest. “Are you just talking? Or is there a reason you’re telling me this?”
“I thought you might want in.” DeMarco said. “There are some guys in the unit, and we could always use another good fighter…”
<Sol III. Geneva, Switzerland; Office of the President of the United Federation of Planets. Present Day>
Malia was glad that the day was almost over. Running interference for the Kostya Presidency, and the ever-prying eyes of the press was always fun to a point, but lately, at least today, the battles had seemed particularly tedious. She leaned forward slightly from behind her desk and tapped on the control to buzz her Administrative Assistant. “Billy? Is he here yet?” She said into the audio pick-up.
“He is, Ma’am. He just walked in.”
A predatory grin crossed her face as she pictured the conflict to come. “Give me thirty seconds, and then send him in.” She instructed. As she spoke the stood up and smoothed out the lines of her dark purple pant suit. She moved gracefully and then perched herself on the edge of her desk. She paused a moment to adjust the shoulders of her jacket. Her fingers lingered for a moment on the top button of her blouse, and after a moment, she moved to unfasten it. Combined with the cut of her jacket, the effect was to reveal more cleavage than her job usually called for, but considering who she was about to speak to, she deemed it to her advantage. Another moment later, the door to her office opened.
Jack Warner, Special Advisor to the President, strode confidently, almost smugly into Malia’s office, pausing only slightly to take in the surroundings before focusing his attention on Vladimir Kostya’s Press Secretary. “Malia, my dear.” He said with practiced smoothness. “So nice to see you again.” He smiled as he extended a hand, which he Deltan took politely.
“Not at all, Jack.” She nodded. “Thanks for making the time to see me.”
With unearned familiarity, Warner sat casually in one of the two large chairs in front of Malia’s desk, where the Press Secretary was still perched. “What can I do for you?” Warner asked as he leaned forward, fingers laced together casually.
“I want your daughter.” Malia said with that same shark-like smile.
<Planet Garsol; Somewhere in the Delta Quadrant. 7 Months ago.>
“You’re a madman.” Dadjinn said, turning to look John Carter in the eye.
“I thought that’s what you wanted me to be.” He responded flatly.
“What I WANT is VICTORY!” she spat back. “I want those damn fliers out of my sky and off my world.”
Carter shook his head. “I can’t promise that.” Carter admitted, rubbing the patch over his left eye again out of habit. “But I AM going to take the fight to them.”
The dusky blue sword wielder stepped closer. “But for how long?” She asked.
“Long enough.” The Martian answered. “My phaser has nearly a hundred shots left if I’m careful. I’ll take them out of the sky, then it’s up to and the fighters on the ground.”
“As ever.” Dadjinn said grimly. “It had better be as you say, Cater.” She insisted.
John took a chance and placed his hand on the alien woman’s shoulder. She looked down in surprise, but didn’t pull away from the show of comradery. “If I’m wrong,” Carter explained, “I’ll be dead, so… I better apologize now.”
<U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-E, Leaving Halkan Prime; Present day.>
Inside his ready room, Jean-Luc Picard rubbed the bridge of his nose before continuing his log entry. “Captain’s personal log, addendum.” He said in a clipped, matter-of-fact tone. “I am hereby going on record as opposing our current deployment orders. It is my understanding that Captain Dazok and the Gorgon are enroute to this system to continue where we have left off.” Picard paused again, considering his next statement carefully.
“The Gorgon is an Akira Class attack cruiser, and I am not ignorant of Starfleet’s displeasure at my choosing to respect the wishes of the Halkan government regarding their refusal to agree to expanded dilithium trade with the Federation. Given more time, I am confident that I could have come to an agreement with the Halkans. Clearly, Starfleet disagrees. It is my fervent hope that Gorgon’s arrival does not signal a more… aggressive shift in Starfleet diplomacy. I do however concede that my hope is most likely in vain. End Log.”
The Enterprise system chirped in compliance.
Picard sat straight before pushing his chair away from the desk. He took the few steps over to his wall-mounted replicator. “Tea, Earl Grey…” The last phrase caught in Picard’s throat. “Cancel.” He concluded. After another long pause, Picard stepped over to small collection of crystal decanters and bottles kept on a low sideboard. The Enterprise Captain took a small, irregularly shaped bottle filled with blue liquid and held it for a moment before pouring a short, neat glass of Aldebaran whiskey, downing the libation in one goes.
Picard set the bottle back and moved to set back down behind his desk. He tapped a few commands into the system that was all-but invisible within his desk. A moment later, the insignia of the U.S.S. Titan was on his comm screen. A moment later, Counselor Deanna Troi’s round face, crowned by a tumbling pile of tight, brown curls filled his view.
“This is Counselor… Captain?”
Picard fought a blush, and an uneasy smile crossed his face. “Hello Deanna. I hope I didn’t wake you?”
The half-Betazed Counselor shook her head and brushed a few errant curls from her face. “No, no, Captain. Not at all.” She assured him. “Will’s in a meeting with the Terra-Forming team,” she explained, “but I can get him if it’s urgent. Are you… well, Captain?” Deanna asked warmly.
Reluctantly, Picard shook his head. “I am troubled, Deanna.” He admitted. “But, I actually wanted to speak to you for a moment, if you have some time?”
“Always, Captain.” She returned with a smile. Troi knew that there was no way that her empathic powers would work on a subspace call with her former commanding officer, but it didn’t take an empath to know something important was behind Picard’s call, and the Counselor knew Picard well enough to be sure that if he were calling her now, something truly grim must be on the horizon.
<Planet Garsol; somewhere in the Delta Quadrant, 7 Months ago.>
John Carter snapped the front closure on his blood-red duty coat and reflexively brushed at the shoulder where the clasp held the old-fashioned uniform closed. He took a moment to brush some dust from the flared pant leg of the 23rd century uniform, and then he went back to checking the complex web of straps and cinches and looked more like a mountain-climbing harness than the hope of a besieged world.
Instead of the belt that was meant to go with the rest of the uniform, carter wore the life-support belt that had travelled with him since his ill-fated departure from the NX-01 Museum, over a year ago. With Zharon’s help, Carter was able to cobble together two small power packs, dozens of feet of wiring, and sections of the anti-gravity plates he was able to salvage from the wreckage of his shuttle craft. The grav plates ran parallel to Carter’s arms and legs, like some sort of abstract suit of medieval Terrain armor, with several pieces missing. A complex web of wires and micro-switches dotted the palm of an old enviro-suit glove he wore on his left hand, and the two power-packs he was able to remove from the shuttle hung on his back, thanks to the desert survival pack he’d managed to find as well.
Looking on in Zharon’s workshop, the scientist looked like a proud father. Bah-Ki looked on skeptically.
“You look ridiculous.” He quipped.
“He LOOKS ready.” Zharon said. “Victory is close now.”
Carter looked at the older man, his face screwed in a questioning expression. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” He said.
“Do not worry, Warlord.” Zharon continued. “It will work. The gods will see to it.”
“You know,” Bah-Ki added. “It occurs to me that we haven’t had a successful test of this equipment.”
“I blame myself.” Carter added with a bemused smile.
“So do I.” Bah-Ki said with a nod. “You’re sure you can get to the promontory?”
“Sure.” Carter nodded. “I know it looks ugly, but, it actually moves really well. Shouldn’t be a problem once I get moving anyway.”
“Assuming you don’t plummet to your death.”
“Right,” Carter said as he began moving through the cave system. “Or that. Thanks.”
<U.S.S. Harpy, Beta Reticuli; Present Day>
Life in Starfleet was many things, but predictable was not one of them. Still, for most members of Fleet, that was part of the allure. Not knowing what came next, or what challenge was over the horizon. ‘Risk is our businesses as a famous Captain once said, though at the moment, Mark Pallas couldn’t recall who.
As a native of Regulus V, whose family had connections to Starfleet, Mark had always known that sooner or later, he’d end up in a Star Fleet uniform. In the cramped quarters of Harpy’s auxiliary control station, he looked at the status readouts and hit his comm badge. “Pallas to Bridge.”
“Tell Yamashita her instincts were right, Captain. The lateral sensors were out of alignment. I’ve got them synched again though. You should be able to get a much clearer read on the control satellite now.”
“Excellent work Mr. Pallas; and faster than anticipated. Your efficiency will be noted.”
“Glad to hear it. I’m headed back up. Pallas out.” The channel chirped closed, and the dark-haired lieutenant went made his way back toward the bridge, not noticing the blinking red telltale that had come to life on the communications display.
<Starfleet Intelligence Sector Headquarters, M'Nkala City, Andor, Present Day>
Sutek of Vulcan blinked to dismiss the image that was in front of him. In the corner of his field of vision, he saw a blinking red dot. “Sutek to Cryptography Hub.” He called out to the omnipresent computer system.
“Crypto Hub here. Shreen on watch.”
Sutek paused a moment to put a face with the name. “Lieutenant,” he advised calmly, noting the Andorian tendency to first, assume the worst … an admirable trait in Intelligence work, but also to jump to conclusions, a situation Sutek would rather avoid. “Confirm our uplink to the Harpy, and begin analysis.”
“Acknowledged, Sir. Hub out.”
Sutek allowed himself a moment to fully appreciate what was about to be set in motion. The pieces were in place, and soon… if the President of the Federation was indeed the man Sutek had judged him to be, then the technological and military supremacy of the UFP would no longer be in doubt. Once any outward threats were forestalled, then they could commence with the real work that lie ahead.
Sutek turned his chair, so that his displays wouldn’t be observed by an errant subspace message, and then opened a secured subspace channel. In seconds, the seal of the President of the United Federation of Planets appeared on his monitor. A few seconds later, the face of Oliver Rhymer, special advisor to the President filled his screen.
“Good Evening, Oliver.” Sutek said smoothly. “Is the President available?”
“I’m sorry, no. He’s in conference with Malia on the Warner angle.” Rhymer paused for a moment, and a worried look crossed his face. “Is there a problem?”
Sutek kept his perfectly practiced Vulcan demeanor, despite the mention of the Deltan Press Secretary’s name. From a biological perspective, Sutek despised many species that he understood to be at the whim of their emotions. Tellarites, while inventive and clever, were far too quick to take offense, Andorians were too easily manipulated… But Deltans, given the way that their pheromones affected most sapiens, to say nothing of how their culture seemed to embrace inefficient and hedonistic practices, were the worst of the lot. Soon though, Sutek knew that the problems of other races impeding Vulcan’s destiny would be behind him, and within his lifetime, his world would once again be pure and untainted by alien influence. As weighty as those thoughts were, Sutek brushed them aside in an instant. “No problem, Oliver.” He said coldly. “Quite the opposite, in fact. Please inform the President that Operation: Apollo is underway.”
<Planet Garsol, Delta Quadrant; 7 months ago>
John Carter clutched his phaser in his right hand, and flexed his left open and closed. He looked up into the clear, noon-day sky, and could already see a wheeling flock of flyers overhead. It would only be a matter of moments before they spotted him. “All right,” he called back to Bah-Ki. “Switch on the power and then get clear. They’re already coming!”
“Warlo…Carter are you sure?”
“Yes, Grozit!” Carter spat back. “Now get out here and do it before I change my mind.”
Carter’s Garsolan ally nodded in grim determination, the scrambled out of the safety of his rocky enclosure. He stopped short, reaching out to hit two small recessed switches that rested in their harness, in the middle of Carter’s back, just as he had been instructed.
There was a loud “thunk” as long-dormant circuits engaged, followed a split-second later by a low, oscillating hum that both Carter and Bah-Ki could feel. A few sparks followed, and then Carter smiled as he saw the control studs on the palm of his gloved hand blink to life. Then, he felt gravity begin to lose its grip as he floated above the rocky ground of the plateau.
Bah-Ki blinked, looking on in astonishment. “It’s… it’s working. Praise the twin gods, it’s WORKING!”
It took a few moments for Carter to regain his balance and get used to his near-weightless state. He pulled back his first finger, and the controls responded by sliding him to his left. Then, he pulled his fifth finger toward his palm… sliding back to the right. “Ok.” He whispered. “Got it.”
He looked again at the phaser in his right hand, checking the charge indicator. “3/4… better be enough.” Carter looked back at Bah-Ki and gave the one-time-scribe a cock-sure grin. “Told you it’d work, Kid.”
With that, Carter closed his gloved hand into a fist. The circuits responded by sending a surge of energy to the anti-grav plates running along his arms and legs, and then the Martian shot into the sky, shifting his weight as he moved faster and faster, describing an arc that brought him rushing headlong into a swarm of blood-thirsty fliers!
<CMDR John T. Carter, Former Executive Officer,USS Republic>