The Ocean of Night

By Putaro

Rating: R

Genres: adventure

Keywords: Romulans

This story has been read by 1550 people.
This story has been read 3497 times.

This story is number 2 in the series Five Year Mission


Chapter 5 – Hammer To Fall

November 5, 2156 2015 (Weechee Zone 3 Time) Enterprise, Edos orbit

Archer, Patel and Lee faced Plex across the briefing room table after a long day of negotiation.  They had brought up an aide and clothing for Plex from one of his other palaces and he was now gaudy in his general’s uniform, bestrewn with shiny ornaments and trimmings.  His bargaining style had ranged from steely resolve  to airily magnanimous to niggling about details.  They were close to finishing the agreement, but he had switched back to steely resolve mode.

Veena Patel had on her serious face and spoke in measured tones.  “General, we regret that we cannot recognize the Weechee Hegemony as the sole representative government for Edos.”

“It is a basic fact that the Weechee Hegemony is the most powerful nation on Edos.  I should be the government you deal with,” replied Plex.

“There are three major powers, General,” said Archer, “and we cannot ignore the others.  We would prefer that Edos have a single world government, the same as the other members of the Coalition, but that is not the case.”

Plex looked at Archer for a long moment, seeming to gauge something.  He waved all three of his arms in dismissal.  “Very well, it is of no consequence.  The agreement is fine as it stands.  I approve it.  Arrange for my shuttle to take me back to the surface.”


Later

Archer led Patel and Lee into the Ready Room.  “I think a drink is in order after that session.  I’m having scotch.  How about you?” he asked.

“Tom loves scotch and I think I’ll have one too,” said Veena.  Archer got out three tumblers and poured.  She surprised him by tossing her drink back and then holding her glass out for another.  He eyed her as he poured again.  “I think I have some tequila too,” he said.

“It’s a possibility,” she replied.  “Dealing with someone like Plex makes my skin crawl.”

“Do you think he’ll abide by the agreement?” Archer asked. 

Tom snorted.  Veena said, “He will while it’s to his advantage.  He’ll cheat any chance he has.”

“Well, we don’t need him for long.  Now, if we can grab the Grand Vizier from Arlex and these Traders we can put an end to this mystery and find out who was really behind the attack on Earth.”  Archer took his drink and sat down behind his desk.

“Another kidnapping?” Tom asked.

“Well, it worked with Plex,” said Archer.

Veena shook her head sadly.  “Just remember that the only reason you can do these things is that you have essentially unlimited power over this planet.  It’s not the way that decent people act.”

Archer nodded, closing his eyes and sinking back into his chair.  “You are very right, Ms. Patel.  You are very right.”  He looked up at her.  “I remember being a decent person once.”


November 6, 2156 0200 (Arlex Time) Arlex City

Once again the IPS shuttle hovered over a sleeping Edosian city.  Melek, seated at the engineering console, tapped a control and the loud hum of the shield opener filled the shuttle again but this time the shield below remained unchanged, a brilliant blue dome.

“Any time now, Melek,” came Reed’s voice over the comm link, barely audible above the hum.

“Keep your pants on, pink skin,” she retorted.  She changed some settings on the controls but to no avail.  Standing up she crossed the bucking deck of the shuttle to the science station.  “Can’t you hold it steady?” she shouted at Mayweather.  “I’m trying,” he shouted back.  “Maybe you could have a steadier draw from the EPS grid!”

At the science console she fired some probe signals at the shield, then shook her head and made her way back to her original seat and turned the opener off.  “It’s no good,” she told Reed over the comm link.  “This shield doesn’t have a back door.”


November 8, 2156 0800 (Lailong Western Time) Banlong Military Base, Lailong

The shuttle landed in a secluded area of the huge base.  Lieutenant Valois and his small team of MACOs exited and faced the group of about forty Edosian military, in four rows, there to greet them.  The Edosian looked somewhat like mushrooms in dark brown battle gear and helmets.  In unison, they raised all of their arms straight in the area then chopped them down.  Not knowing what else to do, he saluted and the MACOs behind him echoed him.  Two of the Edosians stepped forward.

“Area Leader Tran?” Valois asked.  The Edosian with six circles in the upper right corner of her uniform stepped forward.  “Greetings,” she said.  “I am pleased to meet you.”  She gestured to the other Edosian, who had two circles on his uniform.  “This is Small Group Leader Vang.  His Small Group has been assigned to your mission.”

Vang stepped forward.  “I’m excited to meet you,” he said.  “Though, I confess I don’t understand how we’re going to accomplish this mission.”

Valois gave a tight smile.  “Well, I’m responsible for creating this crazy plan.  We’ll knock the shield out from orbit then insert your Small Group and my MACO team with our shuttles.  We just need to keep them from bringing the shield back online until we can extract the Grand Vizier with our transporter device.”

“Transporter?” asked Tran.

“It’s a teleporter, disassembles objects and moves them through subspace – I don’t understand how it works.  The way it was explained to me, it doesn’t work through shields and the after effects of the blasts we’ll be using to take the shield down will prevent it from working for a few minutes.”

“I see.  A single Small Group will have difficulties if there is any resistance, though, and I’m sure the palace is well defended.”

“We’ll have orbital fire support.  Trust me, there’s nothing like it.  I have maps for the palace and an assault plan.  Let’s start getting the troops trained up.”


November 15, 2156 0650 (Weechee Zone 3 Time) Hegemony Command Bunker

The command bunker, deep underground, bustled with activity.  Plex leaned against his padded lectern at the rear of the large room, impatient for the action to begin.  After his kidnapping by the Humans it was good to be in control again.  His personal bodyguards were against the rear wall, the only armed Edosians in the room.  Large screens at the front of the room displayed satellite views of Arlex and a schematic showing the position of the Earth ship, Enterprise as well as Plex’s forces in near-Edos orbit.

General Ado paced in front of Plex’s position.  Two of his subordinates came to him and conferred briefly.  Ado turned, stepped in front of Plex’s lectern and raised his arms up straight then chopped them down.  Plex straightened and returned the salute.  “Sir, the diversionary attack is ready to begin,” the General reported.

“Good,” said Plex.  “Execute at the scheduled time.  Are the strategic forces ready as well?”

“Yes.  Everything is in readiness.”


November 15, 2156 1500 (Arlex Time) Imperial Palace, Arlex City

The Traders and the Grand Vizier were deep in a discussion of the details of the dilithium trade accords when the Grand Vizier’s aide knocked and entered.

“A thousand pardons, excellency.  Weechee attack craft are crossing our southern border.  General Calex informs me that interceptors have been launched.”

“What?  Get me the General right away!  Also, let the Emperor know that I will contact him shortly.”  His aide exited and the Grand Vizier whirled on the Traders.  “This is your fault!  Your bungled attack on Plex has him wanting revenge!”

Sonok refused to flinch.  “Our intelligence shows that the Weechee Hegemony does not have the means to invade Arlex at this time.  Repel Plex’s invasion and then we will enable you to take over Arlex.”

The Grand Vizier snarled.  “Wait outside while I attend to this.  The Emperor will not be pleased.  When we have crushed Plex’s forces I will deal with you!”


November 15, 2156 0700 (Weechee Zone 3 Time) Enterprise, Edos Orbit

“Shuttle reports in position,” Hoshi relayed.

“Good, right on schedule.  How about the Weechee?” asked Archer.

“They’re beginning the diversionary attack now.”

“Thank you. Looks like Arlex City is coming over the horizon.  Mr. Reed, you may fire when ready.”

“Aye, sir.  Torpedoes away.”

Two photon torpedoes rushed away from Enterprise on the view screen and headed for the planet.

“Let’s get the palace on-screen,” said Archer.  The view zoomed and showed the palace from the side, the view rotating slowly as Enterprise orbited forward.  Its blue shield promised security but that was going to be stripped away.  Around the palace a wide greenbelt stretched for about two kilometers, giving a good buffer between the violence they were about to inflict and any civilians.  The green belt was dotted with bunkers, anti-aircraft missile launchers and other defensive installations.  Even without the shield it would be a tough target.

“Impact in three, two, one…”  The screen flashed white and when the view cleared the blue shield still stood.

At the science station, T’Pol and Melek were watching the sensor readouts intently.  The goal was to take down the shield but not destroy the palace and that required finesse.  “Calibrate for eight point three terajoules,” called Melek.  “Eight point three set,” confirmed Reed, and he looked at Archer. 

“Fire.”

A single photon torpedo, carrying twelve percent of the explosive power that demolished Hiroshima, headed for the palace.  “Impact in one…” said Malcolm.  Again the screen flashed but this time when the flash faded the blue glow of the shield was gone.

“Mister Mayweather, hover us at the attack co-ordinates.  Mister Reed, give the MACOs control of phase cannons one through four.”

“Fourteen minutes until the photon torpedo interference subsides and transporters are usable,” T’Pol reported.

Enterprise came to a stop, hovering on her thrusters instead of orbiting, transformed for the moment into a weapon of war.


November 15, 2156 1505 (Arlex Time) Arlex City

“Let’s clear the approach corridor,” Valois ordered.  On the weapons console, Cole designated the bunkers and anti-aircraft installations in their way.  Data flowed from the shuttle to Enterprise and the phase cannons targeted and fired.  Even attenuated by the atmosphere, phase cannon designed to fight starships were an overmatch for the concrete bunkers.  They slumped into puddles of lava.

“There’s the shield generator building, land us in front of it,” Valois told the pilot.

“I wish we could just blow this thing up,” Romero remarked to Cole as they exited the shuttle.

“Maybe you should have worked harder at coming up with a way to blow it up that wouldn’t breach the reactor,” she said.  “Five kilos of anti-matter going up would ruin our whole day and take out our snatch target to boot.”

The Edosian and Human assault team burst into the shield generator building and quickly stunned the technicians trying to get the shield back on line.  They went back outside, took up defensive positions and prepared for a long twelve minutes.


November 15, 2156 0700 (Weechee Zone 3 Time) Enterprise, Edos Orbit

“The interference isn’t clearing up as quickly as we expected.  T’Pol, do you have any ideas?” the Tactical Officer called across the bridge.

Archer swiveled his chair to look at the Science Officer.  She bent to her viewer and manipulated the controls.  The sound of the phase cannons firing on surface targets continued sporadically.  Half a minute later she straightened and turned.

“It appears that the palace is built on a substantial deposit of dilithium.  It is resonating from the photon torpedo blasts.  I calculate thirty-five-point-four minutes until the interference subsides sufficiently.”

Archer scowled.  “They must be sending reinforcements.  I doubt we can hold out that long.  We’d better go to plan B.  Communications, patch me through to Lieutenant Valois, please.”  The Communications Officer nodded to Archer and he spoke,  “Lieutenant, there’s a problem.  It looks like we won’t be able to transport them out for another thirty-five minutes.  Can you execute Plan B?

On the ground, Valois was shooting over a chest-high wall with a phase rifle.  The Arlexian security forces were trying another push on the shield building.  A squad of them was supporting an armored vehicle, this one tracked rather than moving on legs.  The whine of phase rifle fire intermixed with the quick bursts of the Edosian projectile weapons.  Romero shouted, “Phase rifles aren’t any good against that.  Chang, take it out.”  Corporal Chang was standing next to Valois, sighting over the wall with what looked like a child’s toy.  “Fire mission,” he yelled.  “Cover your eyes!”  He pulled the trigger and a half-second later an orange column came out of the sky and vaporized the armored vehicle, leaving a smoking crater behind.  The surviving Arlexians scattered.

The Captain’s voice came into his helmet, asking him to advance into the palace, something he had not been looking forward to.  “Yes sir, we can execute Plan B,” he replied.  He switched to the squad frequency.  “We’re switching to Plan B.  Romero, Cole, Vang, by the numbers, advance.”  The MACOs and Lailongese started moving.  “God bless us, there’s none like us,” he sent and rolled over the wall.


November 15, 2156 1525 (Arlex Time) Imperial Palace, Arlex City, Empire of Arlex

“Your Excellency, the evacuation vehicles are ready.”

“Good.  We will evacuate to the command bunker.  It’s fortunate the Emperor is at the Summer Palace.  ”

The bodyguards, the Grand Vizier and the Traders made their way down into the bowels of the palace to the parking garage.  There, several light armored vehicles were waiting, legs bent.

They embarked and the hatches were closed.  As a group the vehicles rose on their legs and scuttled for the tunnel.


November 15, 2156 0726 (Weechee Zone 3 Time) Enterprise

“We have vehicles in the escape tunnel.  I’ll bet they don’t know how good our sensors are.”  The tactical officer put a schematic view up on the main screen.

Archer looked at the moving dots.  “That must be the Grand Vizier trying to bug out.  Damn.  Can you identify him from the life signs?”

“Maybe…there’s still a lot of interference.  Hello!  I’ve got two life signs that read as Vulcan!”

“When do you think we can beam them out?”

“The tunnel exit is just on the edge of the interference zone.  It may take a couple of tries to get a good lock.”

“Get them as soon as you can,” said Archer.


November 15, 2156 1526 (Arlex Time) Arlex City, Empire of Arlex

The Grand Vizier’s armored vehicle was a standard military vehicle on the outside but the interior was richly appointed with padded leather walls, high-resolution view screens, and a thick rug, fortunately for the two Romulans sitting on the floor as the vehicle ran through the tunnel from the palace.

They felt the vehicle go up an incline, presumably the exit.  The view screens brightened as they exited the tunnel and the streets of Arlex replaced the monotony of the tunnel.  A few seconds later sparkling particles began to envelop Sirol, then stopped.  Jo’rek shouted “Transporter!” and fumbled under his tunic for his suicide pendant.  As the sparkling particles began to form around Sirol again, he triggered the device.


November 15, 2156 0726 (Weechee Zone 3 Time) Enterprise

Malcolm reared back from his sensors in dismay.  “Someone just blew up the vehicle!  Looks like some kind of micro-sized anti-matter bomb!”

Archer swiveled to look at him.  “Were they attacked?”

“There weren’t any weapons signatures anywhere nearby.  I think the bomb was in or attached to the vehicle.”

“Damn.  Any possibility the Grand Vizier was in another vehicle?”

Malcolm touched a control and brought a view of the surface up on the view screen.  A crater over a hundred meters in diameter was visible.  “Captain, there are no other vehicles.”

“Get the troops back.  We need to come up with another string to pull on.”


November 15, 2156 0726 (Weechee Zone 3 Time) Hegemony Command Bunker

Plex paced in the rear of the command bunker as the tactical displays showed the ebb and flow of his forces attacking the borders of Arlex.  The fighting around the Imperial Palace continued with the aliens and the Lailongese making rapid progress through the defenses.  The blasts from the hovering starship made any kind of significant resistance impossible and reinforced to Plex how impotent he was compared to the aliens, an unacceptable situation.  He needed control of Edos to even begin to be on an even footing with them.

The satellite view of Arlex suddenly flashed and he swiveled his head to look at it.  “What was that?” he demanded.  The military hierarchy directed their attention down the chain of command until it was focused on a young lieutenant standing at a console near the front of the room.  He turned from his instruments.  “Sirs, the explosion destroyed an armored vehicle column that had just exited a tunnel, presumably from the palace.  The type of explosive is unknown – the yield would have required a very large amount of conventional explosives, but it was too small for a nuclear weapon.  We have indications of high energy gamma rays and neutrinos but no neutrons or other nuclear by-products.”

Attention turned to the science staff hovering on the edges of the room.  After a quick huddle, their leader turned and saluted.  “We believe that it was a small anti-matter explosive.”

“Alien technology!” General Ado blurted.  “Was this the Humans?”

 “We don’t think so.  The anti-matter weapons they have been using were much larger and launched from their ship in missiles.  We could track them as they came down from orbit.  The amount of anti-matter needed for this explosion was tiny. You could keep it in your pocket.”

“It is of no importance,” announced Plex.  “Those vehicles most likely contained the Arlexian Grand Vizier, as that coward attempted to scuttle away like the garflat he was.  I will now take command of this planet, as the Humans desire.  General Ado, are the launch orders ready?”

Ado received a confirmation from an underling and turned to Plex.  “Launch orders are ready to be executed on your command.”

“Excellent,” Plex purred.  He fished his launch key from within his tunic and pulled the chain up and over his head.  He inserted the key into his lectern, punched in his authorization code on the pad and turned the key decisively.


November 15, 2156 0730 (Weechee Zone 3 Time) Enterprise

The Captain had his head cradled in his hand, apparently deep in thought as Malcolm and the remainder of the bridge crew dealt with the aftermath of the battle.  Malcolm was conferring with Valois as the MACOs and Lailongese made their way back to the shuttle when alarms began going off on his console.

“Bloody hell!” he hollered.  “The Weechee are launching a nuclear strike!”

“Against who?” asked the Captain, swiveling to face Malcolm.

“Everybody!” said Malcolm, as he took in the multiple tracks across his monitor.  “We’ve got missiles heading for the major cities of Arlex and Lailong!”

“Can you stop them?”

“I’m going to damn well try.  Switching to Protector Mode.  Captain we need to get over Lailong ASAP.  We’ll take out the missiles as we go.”

The Captain turned his chair back forward.  “Helm, execute defensive pattern beta five and put us over Lailong, full impulse, direct path and mind the mountains!  Communications, tell the Lailongese to hold their counter-strike and see if we can find anyone to talk to in Arlex!”

Malcolm had prepared for this moment since the attack on Earth.  Protector Mode was a software upgrade he had pushed the Starfleet Weapons Lab to create.  Enterprise’s computer scanned and identified the missiles launched from the moon base and ground silos in Weechee and started hitting them with phase cannon fire.

The view screen tilted as Travis executed beta five and heeled Enterprise ninety degrees to starboard, allowing the ventral cannons to fire on targets above the ship.  Enterprise went from hovering to hypersonic almost immediately as she entered the atmosphere on a straight-line path across the planet.  The shields, pushed by the power of the impulse engines, battered a tunnel through the air and Enterprise became a fireball with lances of orange phase cannon fire reaching out to swat nuclear weapons from the sky.  Edosians for hundreds of miles on either side of her path saw her passage and then felt it as the sonic boom rolled over them but didn’t know, yet, how close they had come to death.

All eyes on the bridge were irresistibly drawn to the large view screen as Enterprise tore through the atmosphere and her path came closer to the planet.  The fireball surrounding Enterprise had overwhelmed the cameras and the view screen had switched to a computer-generated view.  Malcolm steeled himself as wireframe mountains grew at an astonishing speed and then suddenly they were past.  The noise from the phase cannons had merged into a steady hum and the number of targets on his console went down steadily.

“That was five hundred meters, everyone,” Travis announced.  “I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the ground there.”

Minutes later, Enterprise slowed to orbital speed and then to a dead stop, hovering over Lailong.  Malcolm breathed a sigh of relief.  “Got them all, sir, we got them all!”

“Well done, Commander Reed.  Well done, everyone!” said the Captain.  “Now, we just have to find whatever hole Plex has dug himself into and dig him out of it.”


November 15, 2156 0740 (Weechee Zone 3 Time) Hegemony Command Bunker

Plex stared at the screen.  The Humans had destroyed every missile before they could hit.  There were no more strategic forces – the Weechee Hegemony had shot every last missile – or had they?  He scanned the list of strategic assets on the display built into his lectern.  No, the submarine Rexnor, first of a new class of submarines, built to dive over one thousand meters deep to hide from orbiting spies, had not been used.  It carried only six missiles, but those would be enough to at least give him revenge on Arlex.

General Ado came to the front of his lectern.  “Excellency, the Humans are calling.”

“Ignore them for now.  I want Rexnor’s missiles targeted on Arlex City and ready to fire immediately.”

“Excellency, Arlex is already leaderless.  Rexnor is our only remaining strategic asset.  We should retain it until we have replaced our missiles.”

Plex turned to his head bodyguard.  “Marex.  Please execute General Ado.  Outside in the hallway.”  Marex gestured and two of his team grabbed Ado and took him, protesting, out of the room.  Marex pulled his sidearms and took up a position to the right and in front of Plex.

“General Pazu,” Plex said.  A shot was heard from the hallway.  “I want Rexnor’s missiles targeted on Arlex City and ready to fire immediately.”

Pazu approached.  “Yes, sir.”  He gulped.  “I’m sorry Excellency, but it will take several minutes for Rexnor to come to launching depth.”

“No matter.  Prepare the orders for my authorization.”

Pazu saluted, and gave instructions to a subordinate while Plex waited impatiently.  When Pazu turned and indicated readiness, Plex pounded his authorization code into the pad and twisted the key with a snarl.  From the transmitter several miles away a Very Low Frequency transmission began its slow beat, calling out to the Rexnor.

“I will speak to the Humans now,” he told General Pazu.

November 15, 2156 0750 (Weechee Zone 3 Time) Enterprise, Edos Orbit

General Plex appeared on the large view screen.  Archer left the command chair and strode forward.  “General, I thought we had an agreement.  Why did you launch a nuclear strike?”

“We did have an agreement, Captain.  That agreement ended with the death of the Grand Vizier.  I saw the opportunity for Edos to meet your expectations.”

“Expectations?  What expectations?”

“Why, a single world government, of course.  Isn’t that your preference?”

“We expected Edos to peacefully form a world government!  We didn’t want a nuclear holocaust!”

“My mistake, Captain.  I thought you had told me that was how your own planet was unified.  Still, as they say, ‘No blood, no harm’.  We will discuss this later.”  With that, the screen went dark.

Archer managed to keep his jaw from dropping but as he looked around the bridge he could see that everyone else was clearly as shocked as he was.  He sat down heavily in the command chair.

Veena Patel had been standing at the rear of the bridge and she now came over to him.  “Are we just going to let this slide?” she asked.

“What do you suggest we do?  Kidnap him again?” replied Archer.

Just them Malcolm’s console began bleeping.  They turned to the Tactical Officer.  “It’s an alert from the monitoring satellites.  It’s another launch!” he exclaimed.  “Ocean based, looks like it’s headed for Arlex City.  Captain, the sub was less than two hundred miles away from the city!  Impact will be in three minutes!”

“Helm, back to Arlex, full impulse direct path!”

The view whirled and then was replaced with wire frames again as the plasma bow wave formed in front of Enterprise.  “Captain, ETA is five minutes.  I don’t think we’re going to make it,” said Travis.

“Get the MACOs away from the city,” Archer directed Hoshi.  He grabbed the armrests of the chair.  There was nothing he could do now except wait.


November 15, 2156 1550 (Arlex Time) Arlex City

The departure and subsequent detonation of the Grand Vizier had relieved the MACOs from entering the palace, much to Valois’ relief.  The Arlexian security forces had stopped making assaults, probably overwhelmed by the phase cannon strikes from orbit.  With Enterprise hovering over Lailong, though, the lightly armed IPS shuttlepods were at risk from Arlexian fighters on the way back to orbit.  They’d grounded the two shuttlepods and several of the MACOs and Lailongese were stationed in foxholes around them.  They continued to take occasional small arms fire, but nothing serious. They’d be fine until Enterprise returned to give them high cover.  He felt good about the mission; crazy as it had been, they hadn’t taken any casualties.

Lieutenant Sato’s warning came through Valois’ helmet.  “Everyone on the shuttles, incoming nukes!” he shouted over the unit frequency, as he got up from his foxhole to sprint back to the shuttlepods.  A countdown timer appeared in his helmet display, courtesy of Sato.  Two minutes and fifteen seconds to impact.  Small Group Leader Vang was in the foxhole next to him and as he scrambled out of it, a sniper bullet hit the Edosian in the back, blowing through his body armor.

“Vang’s down, I got him,” called Valois.  He grabbed Vang and got him upright as the others jumped into the shuttlepod.  Two minutes, five seconds, five meters to go – this is doable, he thought.  The first shuttlepod lifted off and he kept going.  Then a sniper bullet smashed into his leg and he fell.  He saw Chang in the doorway, about to jump out.  “No, just go, that’s an order!” he called.  Hands pulled Chang into the shuttlepod’s cabin as it accelerated into the sky.

Valois saw a large rock that could shield them both from the sniper and crawled to it, dragging Vang along.  He sat up against it and got Vang’s medkit off his belt.  Part of their joint training had included basic first aid and everyone’s medkit had labels in English and Lailongese.  He gave Vang a big dose of painkiller, then fumbled in his own medkit and gave himself one.  “Oh, that’s better,” he sighed.  He pulled his helmet off and threw it away.  Thirty seconds left on the countdown.

Vang coughed up some blood, then gave a short chuckle.  “I grew up in the shadow of the mushroom cloud,” he gasped out.  Another cough, then “I have often thought I would be killed by a nuclear bomb, but I did not expect to be in Arlex when it happened.”

“Neither did I,” said Valois, and laughed. 

One of the missiles had been targeted on the Imperial Palace.  The flash from the hydrogen bomb vaporized them instantly.


December 3, 2156 0900 (Arlex Time) Enterprise, Edos Orbit

T’Pol walked with Archer to the locker room.  “Captain, you do not need to do this,” she said, once again.  “Yeah, I do,” Archer replied, once again.  “The radiation shielding should be good for half an hour.  That’s plenty of time. I also want to get a look at the city first hand.”  The bag he held in his hand was only a few kilos but it felt much heavier to him.

He entered the locker room and pulled out an environment suit.  As he put it on he reflected on the last two weeks.  After the attack and destruction of Arlex City, the Arlexian Emperor had agreed to an alliance with Lailong.  Faced with nuclear destruction, the Weechee Hegemony had turned Plex, along with the other high-ranking generals and civilians, over for a war crimes tribunal.

Any additional evidence of the “Traders” had been destroyed along with Arlex City.  The fleet being dispatched from the Coalition had been converted to a diplomatic and relief mission along with a large intelligence team that would go through the Edosian records with a fine-toothed comb looking for any other information about the mysterious Vulcans.  The diplomatic team would be busy negotiating for access to Edos’ abundant dilithium deposits.

Archer finished donning the suit then put on an additional radiation-shielding oversuit.  He walked to the transporter, where Trip was waiting.  “Are you sure you want to do this, Cap’n?” he asked. 

“Yes.  You’ve got the coordinates?” 

“All locked in, and ready to go.”

Bag in hand, he stepped up onto the transporter platform.  “Energize,” he said.

He materialized on the surface.  The ruin of the Arlexian Imperial Palace was close by.  The radiation meter on his wrist began to chatter.  This was the exact location that the shuttlepod had taken off from.  He looked around, wondering if he might find any evidence of Valois and Vang, but they’d been too close to the blast center.  There wasn’t even a shadow left of them.  This area had originally been grassy with a road and a small parking lot for the shield building. The open ground had been converted to a glassy substance and the paved areas had a melted look to them.  The blockhouse that had held the shield generator was close by.  It had survived well enough to prevent the anti-matter reactor from being breached.  A team had beamed down a few days before and quickly but carefully removed it.  The anti-matter had been added to Enterprise’s fuel supply.

He opened the bag and removed a stainless steel marker, engraved with their names, dates of birth and the date of their death.  He looked around for a place where the crust didn’t look so thick.  The bag also contained a mallet, which he took out and used to pound the pointed base of the marker through the glazed crust into the dirt of the planet.  He stepped back and saluted.  They were just two out of millions that had perished here, but they were the two who had been under his command.

He checked the radiation meter and it showed that he still had a good fifteen minutes left.  He walked to the top of a small hill nearby and looked over at what remained of Arlex City.  The steel frames of skyscrapers remained in places, the glass walls blown off them and the frames themselves buckled and bent.  He was the only living thing for miles around.  He wondered what would have happened if they had never come to Edos – would the Edosians have blown themselves up or would they have charted a different course?  With Plex and the Grand Vizier in the mix it seemed unlikely.  Was this a good outcome, then, just two cities razed?  Should the Coalition seek out these pre-warp planets and help them on their way?  But, as T’Pol had once said, the Vulcans had stayed to help Earth ninety years ago and were still there.  Maybe non-interference was the right policy.  At least his hands would be cleaner that way.

He signaled Enterprise to be beamed up.  Two crewmen in radiation gear helped him out of the oversuit on the transporter pad.  When their radiation meters showed no fallout on him, he went to the locker room and removed the environment suit then returned to his cabin.  He thumbed the communicator panel.  “Archer to T’Pol.  Let’s resume our exploration course.”


Comments:

Asso

“Captain, you do not need to do this."
But Archer does.
Is there hope for him?
Evidently not.
I hope in Trip.
And in T'Pol, obviously.
We shall see.
Go on, my friend. Go on.

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