Stardate 76643.9; August 24, 2399
Edited by Peter Bossley
Written by Chris Adamek
First Administrator Ceniir
Admiral Kathryn Janeway
Lt. Commander Jalya Trinn
High Overseer Xi’Yor
“Gentlemen… we have a problem.”
The sentiment was perhaps the most considerable understatement that Alan Christopher had heard in quite some time. Both articulate and straight to the point, Admiral Janeway’s words, unfortunately, did little justice to the goings on inside Cardassian space. As far as Christopher was concerned, they had a problem when Overseer Aladar turned up dead on Cardassia; the complete and utter decimation of the Cardassian fleet, on the other hand, was a full-blown crisis.
The culprit loomed ominously on the viewscreen in Starbase 54’s primary briefing room. It was a giant, hellish sphere, aglow in some wicked tendrils of haunting green light. As it plowed through the space-time continuum and into the heated battle, the sphere proceeded to systematically annihilate everything in its path—Elorg and Cardassian alike.
“The Cardassians were easily beating the Elorg,” said Janeway. She sat at the head of the table, and only occasionally glanced at the incredible carnage that accompanied the colossal sphere. Even after seeing it dozens of times, the destruction was still difficult to witness.
“The Elorg were both outflanked and outgunned,” Jeremy Talbot quietly continued. Seated at Janeway’s side, the intelligence officer couldn’t afford to look away; it was his mission to learn everything he could about the ominous sphere. “For a good twelve minutes, the Elorg took one hell of a pounding. We don’t know if they simply underestimated the Cardassians’ strength or if some other force was at work… but that Elorg fleet was doomed the moment it reached Cardassia.”
Seated beside Christopher at the opposite end of the table, Talyere readily agreed with Talbot’s analysis. “For such a momentous occasion, one would expect the Elorg to test the Andrinel in battle—yet I’ve seen only two of them in the available footage. It is curious, the say the least…”
Christopher had noticed that, too, but he simply assumed the newest additions to the Elorg were otherwise engaged. Since the attack on Cardassia, there had been several unconfirmed reports of an Elorg skirmish with the Talarians. But in retrospect, Christopher came upon another conclusion: “Maybe the Elorg knew the sphere was coming?”
“They have claimed it as their own,” chimed in Overseer Zeratul.
Janeway frowned. “But why would the Elorg willingly obliterate a hundred of their most powerful warships?” She paused for a moment to consider the sentiment. “No,” she said, shaking her head, “we’re still missing something…”
“Could it be another proving ground?” asked Christopher. “After all, the Elorg were willing to sacrifice thousands of Breen on Reza-Karun…”
Janeway glanced over to Talbot. “Do we know anything about the officers that served aboard those Elorg ships?”
“Not much,” replied Talbot. “But we do know that the attack was sanctioned by Cerebrate Ra’thenn and the fleet was commanded by High Overseer Xi’Yor.”
“Ra’thenn would sacrifice Xi’Yor in a heartbeat,” noted Talyere.
“True,” conceded Christopher, “but Xi’Yor isn’t a fool. He had to have known a hundred ships wouldn’t be enough to destroy the Cardassian fleet.”
Talyere shrugged. “Perhaps Ra’thenn gave him false information?”
It was certainly a plausible theory, but before anyone had a chance to expound upon it, Admiral Janeway raised a dismissive hand. “All of this speculation is intriguing,” she admitted, “but it isn’t getting us anywhere. We need to focus on what we do know.”
And she certainly had a point. They could sit around and theorize for the next five hours, but it wasn’t going to do much good. Without any hard evidence to support those theories, the conversation was little more than a bunch of fluff. Unfortunately, hard evidence was seriously lacking.
“We know that the Elorg might—or might not—have a powerful new weapon,” stated Captain Talbot.
And that was it.
News from Cardassia was slow to trickle in, and with the Elorg quickly moving to secure their new territory, that meager trickle of information would undoubtedly get shut off completely in the coming days. The status of Cardassia and its people would remain a mystery.
Something far less mysterious was the Federation’s unfortunate predicament. The destruction of the Cardassian fleet meant the Federation would have to face any Elorg invasion without one of its most valued allies—and while it was certain the Klingons would provide thousands of ships to the Federation’s cause, the future was nevertheless looking dim.
“We will require additional allies,” said Talyere.
Thankfully, Christopher had foreseen the need for additional allies long before Cardassia’s fall. “And I know just where to look…”
Janeway cast upon him a most quizzical gaze. “The Romulans?” she guessed.
He nodded. “The Romulans…”
Casually strolling through the station’s myriad corridors en route to the Starlight, Alan Christopher was struck with a rather curious realization… he was walking in silence. That wouldn’t have been unusual had he been alone in his journey, but Christopher had been in the constant companionship of Matthew Harrison since before the meeting with Admiral Janeway.
“You’ve been quiet,” he noted as they approached the junction that would lead to the marketplace. Already, Christopher could hear the relentless chatter emanating from the throngs of people milling about the station’s commercial core. “Are you constipated?”
Harrison arched a curious brow. So bizarre was the question, he had no choice but to respond. “I am uncertain if I should dignify that with a response,” he calmly stated. “But if you must know, my bowels are functioning normally…”
In all reality, Christopher was unconcerned about Harrison’s bodily functions. He just wanted to break the thick layer of ice that had inhibited the conversation… and an odd quip never seemed to fail. “Should you need to evacuate, I would avoid level thirty-four if I were you…”
“Ah, yes…” Harrison instantly picked up on the conversation thread. “The clogged toilet… It would seem the quality of your humor has gone down the drain since my departure from the Starlight.”
Christopher chuckled. “Very funny,” he said.
“I learned from the best,” Harrison promptly replied. “Commander Tompkins is a most humorous individual.”
Relatively certain that he had just been insulted, Christopher decided that the ice was sufficiently broken. He provided Harrison with a reasonably terse glare in response to the insult, and then allowed the conversation to proceed. “So, does that sphere have you worried, Matthew? I don’t think you said two words at the meeting…”
At least some of Christopher’s sentiment must been pretty close to the mark, because Harrison’s mood instantly soured. As they stepped into the bustling marketplace, a black cloud seemed to form over his head. “I am worried about many things,” he quietly admitted.
“That’s not like you,” Christopher noted. In the past, Harrison tended not to worry about his problems—he instead chose to solve them in a methodical and logical manner. “That’s not like you at all…”
Harrison shook his head. “I know,” he wearily sighed. “I was apprehensive about the mission to Cardassia before leaving—and when it suddenly turned into a considerable failure… Suffice to say, it was a stressful event.”
Christopher could relate. He had seen his fair share of stressful missions gone wrong—from the prisoner exchange that ended in an Elorg attack on Ka’Tula Prime, to the journey into the Zhargosia Sector that brought upon the wrath of the Drusari, Alan Christopher had seen it all. Stress, it seemed, was his constant companion.
Humor always helped to lighten the mood. It was the light at the end of Christopher’s tunnel. Even in the darkest of hours, a decent quip always put him in a better mood. Harrison, on the other hand, was content to keep focused on the task and hand… but in this instance, the task was out of his hands and beyond his ability to control—a situation that certainly put Harrison ill at ease. Christopher sensed that change of pace was in order.
“Don’t worry about Cardassia,” he said, providing Harrison with an encouraging pat on the back. “You did fine.”
“Did I?” He seemed skeptical. After all, the entire Cardassian fleet might have obliterated as an indirect result of that mission.
But Christopher knew better. “Matthew,” he said, “you did everything that you could under extraordinary circumstances—and until we know more about the sphere and the Elorg… it’s useless to place blame.”
This time, Harrison seemed a bit more receptive, but there was obviously a lot on his mind. He wasn’t about to throw all of his tumultuous feelings out the nearest airlock just because Alan Christopher told him to… But maybe he could leave them behind for a couple of days?
“The Columbia is going to be in for some minor upgrades the next few days,” Christopher suddenly recalled. “Maybe a trip to Talon IV will help to clear your mind?”
“You want me to accompany you?” Harrison paused for a moment to consider his options, but it didn’t take long for him to realize a trip into Romulan space would be infinitely more useful than a few days of sulking aboard the starbase. “I assume my quarters have been reassigned?”
Christopher nodded. “Lucas moved in about a week after you left,” he said. “Since you consider him such a funny guy, perhaps you could bunk with him? Maybe even trade a few jokes?”
Harrison abruptly raised a dismissive hand. Funny as Tompkins might have been, he absolutely did not want to live with him. “Guest quarters will suffice.”
And Christopher smiled. “You… Me… Lucas… Together again. It’ll be just like old times!”