EVERY MAN MUST PLAY A PART
Previously: Episode Seven
JUMPER’s LOG, Star Date 2269, October 11th (4 Years, 2 Months, 11 Days)
There is an old Earth song… it was old when I was born in my first life… It says “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.” Apparently the planet Dork-Nem (yes, Zane thought it was hilarious too) had never heard of this song.
Dork-Nem was a several thousand year old colony… not that the Tellarites had had warp drive nearly that long, but rather because some other party had transported the original colonists their against their will. The Colonists had been reabsorbed into Tellarite culture centuries ago, but there remained cultural differences between the Nemians and the rest of the Tellarites, predominantly in their religion. And that was what our major problem was.
The planet had been experiencing a progression of larger and larger quakes, thanks to the rogue stellar core that was drifting steadily through the outer system. No one was exactly certain where the chunk of neutronium that massed nearly 40 solar masses had come from, but it was, inexorably drawing closer and closer to Dork-Nem’s primary, causing the star to bulge and deform, and the gravitational disturbance was slowly pulling the planet apart.
The Tellarite government hadn’t been caught totally off guard by this problem. They’d had over a year to prepare and had, with much yelling and complaining, managed to evacuate over 98% of the planet’s 450,000,000 colonists. The last 9 million were being… a bit of a problem.
As the planet had emptied, the remaining population had crowded ever more densely into the holy city of Gaavr, the oldest on the planet, and there they’d begun praying, night and day, for salvation. They were the disciples of a charismatic holy man named Zebl Glash who ranted and raved that only the faithful would be spared this test of the people’s faith.
The quakes were getting worse and worse, with every passing day, and the window for evacuation was closing. The evacuation fleet could carry almost 2 million or so in a single lift, and with a day and a half round trip to the holding camps at the nearest habitable world, it would take just over 8 days to get the remaining population out… but that presumed two separate provisions; first, that the planet lasted that long, and second, that the people were willing to leave.
My job was to work on the first. Lt. Commander Kobok was back on Vulcan, dealing with Pon Farr and hopefully getting some much needed relief, and so Lt. Price was the senior Engineer aboard. She and I were working on the problem, but the best we’d been able to come up was a series of self-drilling stabilizer / shield pylons with which to ring the inner city. We were installing the second of them while the ship’s fabrication department worked feverishly on the remaining 10. We weren’t certain how long they’d hold, but the planet itself seemed quite in a hurry to rip itself apart, with low level quakes creating nearly constant vibrations that were slowly shaking the ancient buildings apart, those that hadn’t already fallen.
Our security was being provided by elements of the Tellarite Army, who’d helped clear the area for the pylon and were looking on as we fiddled with the last fiddly bits… when the shooting started. The first shot pinged off the pylon’s plasteel superstructure, hitting me in the chest and spinning me around. I dropped. I might be bullet resistant, but I certainly don’t like being shot.
“Why are they using projectile weapons?” Price asked, apparently confused and definitely not taking cover. Engineers… I swear. Apparently, one of the soldiers agreed with me, as he flung himself on Price, but not before a plasma blast tagged her, blasting off her left arm… which thankfully was the prosthetic one. She immediately tried to get back up.
“Stay down, lady!” yelled the soldier.
“The Pylon requires additional calibration,” Price said.
“Look, Lady, your arm’s missing!”
“I am able to function within operational parameters.”
“Lady, your arm is fucking gone… pft!”
“It is not a concern, please go about your business.”
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“I will be, as soone as it comes back.”
“Comes back? Arms don’t come back!” the soldier snapped.
“Then I shall have to replace it.”
“In the middle of a firefight?” His tone was incredulous.
“Probably better than waiting until the firefight is over. I might need it.”
I rolled my eyes and hailed Potemkin. “Potemkin, this is Team Baker. We are taking small arm and plasma weapon fire. Please assist.”
“Roger Baker, wait three. I repeat three.”
“Will do Potemkin. Baker out.”
I pulled my side arm, regretting that I couldn’t pull something bigger out of the warehouse. I made a mental note to come up with something that looked like a phaser but was more powerful. Still, I had Victoria project a HUD on the omni-gel lenses over my eyes and began picking out targets. They weren’t particularly well trained at keeping to cover, and I managed to pick off several when they showed themselves to take shots. Price meanwhile was sitting against the wall and attempting to reconstruct her prosthetic arm out of the damaged unit and our tool kit. “Price! Draw your sidearm and return fire!” I snapped.
“I can see what you are doing. But if you don’t return fire, you’re not going to get a chance to use that new arm.”
Reluctantly, she set aside her work and drew her phaser. I don’t know what her mental malfunction was, but she was a skilled, methodical shooter, picking off targets almost as fast as I could. Our reinforcements arrived soon enough, and, after driving off the fanatics, we were able to get the pylon up and running. But we hadn’t counted on the locals trying to disable the pylons.
As we installed the third pylon, I commented to Lt Commander Char “Are all your people crazy, or is it just this lot?” He chuckled “We’re all crazy in our own way S’Janus. These people are just scared.”
“So we should let them die?”
He shrugged “You cannot force someone to live.”
It was the last thing he ever said before a sniper round took the top of his head clean off and spattered me with Tellarite greymatter… which had the good grace to slough off as the sky opened up and drenched us all.
We started setting up portable shield generators before beaming down the pylons as we continued to work, leaving armed squads at each as we went. Yet it was beginning to feel like a lost cause. They were willing to kill just to keep us from trying to save them. I had no idea how the Captain and the diplomatic team were getting on, but I suspected they were getting as frustrated as I was. As the deadline passed and there was now officially no way to get everyone off the planet, I decided to take matters into my own hands once again.
I waited until the Captain returned to the ship and crossing through the Fanatic’s compound in full stealth mode, I made my way to “Prophet”’s citadel, the ancient temple facing the city’s largest plaza. Scaling the outer face, I made my way inside, quickly locating the so called holy man. I cast a wall of silence around us, appearing in my Asari form to keep him off his guard.
“What do you think you’re doing Glash?”
“What?! Who are you? How’d you get in here? Guards!”
“They can’t hear you Glash. And I got in here long before this place was built.”
“I brought your ancestors here, Glash. But that’s not important. What do you think you’re doing?”
“I am remaining true!”
“You’re going to get your people killed.”
“No! We shall be lifted up! We are faithful!”
“Yes. And that’s why I sent those nice Tellarites in their nice evac ships. To lift you up and take you away from this place.”
“But this is our home!”
“Yes, and Tellar was your home before that. I took you from there to here. I never promised that this would be your final stop.”
“But… You… you lie! You’re… you’re trying to-”
“Wingardium Leviosa.” I said, voice not changing in inflection, as I flipped him across the room.
“I… that… that was a trick!”
I transformed his pillow into a dove and it fluttered out of the room before flying out of the window.
“Y… you-” I could tell his resolve was buckling. I froze the walls on one half of the room, as I charred the curtains on the other side.
“Glash. I am not playing around. You will go to your people and you will tell them to board the ships and go to the promised land. Then you will wait for me here. I will come for you once the last of your followers have been lifted up. And I will take you to your just reward.” and with that I turned to Apparate away, leaving behind a remote surveillance bug.
He paused, considering. I raised my communicator and said “Now Glash. Or I’ll get angry.” I’d like to claim that I called down lightning at that point, but the crash of thunder and blast of lightning was entirely coincidental… plus, I had no idea how to call down lightning.
I had done what I had to, but I told no one. Not even Zane. Once Glash had given the word, the fanatics were all too eager to be saved. In fact, there was quite a lot of fighting for positions, though we made it clear that the younger individuals and family groups would be given preference, then slots would be apportioned by age and health. It wasn’t very nice, but triage is triage, and Vulcans are good at setting aside sentiment.
In the end, we couldn’t save almost three million of them. There just wasn’t time and lift capacity. As the planet cracked up in one final, titanic convulsion, we were beaming people up as fast as we could lock onto them, all transporters running flat out, with refugees packed into every available compartment. I’d even sedated as many as I could and stuffed them into the warehouse where they were covering nearly every available surface and cluttering up my spaceship (which still didn’t have a functional Warp Drive, but not for lack of trying. Building Nacelles isn’t easy.). But in the end, I fulfilled my promise.
“Glash.” I said, appearing in his room.
“Y.. you came!” he exulted. “I knew you would.”
“Yes. I came. Your insanity cost millions of lives, Glash.”
“But… It was for you. We stayed for you.”
“No. They stayed because you told them to. You stayed for you. I thought about killing you, Glash. I considered it long and hard. But instead, I’m going to leave you here… Here with the people you betrayed to your own hubris. Goodbye Glash.” And I left him there as the city slowly sank beneath the endless waves of magma that were sweeping across the planet’s surface. As the pylons protecting city failed, a deeply vindictive part of me imagined I could hear Glash screaming. Then I remembered that I’d left a bug in his apartment and realized I could.
“Victoria. Kill that feed, would you?”
Next: Episode Nine