Absalom West stared at the scanner in shock and disbelief.
Enough twisted wreckage to build a hundred starships with.
On the control console beside him, the normally cantankerous tribble named Gromit squonked a worried squonk and shuffled closer to the cockpit window as if to get a better look.
West checked the SS Rocinanté’s coordinates. Yes, his ship was at the right place, only Phoenix Station was no longer here. The vast debris field made it clear that It had been blown to bits in some cataclysmic disaster since his last visit.
A new worry suddenly creased his brow and he checked the scanner again. Sure enough, gamma radiation, but not in levels high enough to be harmful as long as he didn’t stay too long. Gamma rays meant that antimatter weapons had been used. This had been no internal catastrophe like the station’s fusion reactors failing or something like that. The station had been attacked and destroyed from outside! But by whom?
West looked to Gromit, but the tribble had no answers. Or if it did, it was keeping them to itself.
His thought were interrupted by an insistent bleep from the communication panel. A stern female voice came over the loudspeaker. “Unidentified vessel. Declare your name and business here,” was the no-nonsense demand.
West checked the newcomer’s transponder signal. Starfleet. Good, maybe he could get some answers from them. He clicked on the transmitter and replied in as friendly a voice as he could. “This is Cap’n West of the independent cargo vessel Rocinanté. We were headin’ for Phoenix Station for a little R&R, but that option seems to’ve been taken off the table. What happened here?”
There was a pause, then, “This is Captain Lee Carter... West? Is that you? What the hell are you doing here?”
West smiled. “Thought I recognized your voice, darlin’! What's it been? Five years? How y'all been?”
Lee Carter’s cleared her throat at West’s overly-familiar tone. She certainly did not want her crew to think she fraternized with West's type. “Actually it's been ten. But nevermind that now. It’s not safe here for you. There’s been an incident.”
“Yeah, I can see that. What’s the story? Can I help in anyway?”
|Captain Lee Carter|
“I appreciate the offer, West, but we’ve got it under control. Apparently a Starfleet admiral went insane and staged a coup, completely took over the fleet command base here, and drove off half the personnel at gunpoint. The commanding admiral surrendered without a fight, suggesting that either he was in on the conspiracy, or else he was a coward, never fit for command. The orbiting Phoenix Station was destroyed, though not before everyone on board was evacuated, and all the ground facilities were completely demolished. Most of the remaining personnel fled. At last report the base has been turned into a military prison camp.”
“I see,” said West. He wondered not for the first time why so many Starfleet admirals turned renegade or went outright insane. ‘Power corrupts’ he decided.
Carter was still talking. “We’ve scouted around. There nothing worthwhile left here. Just ruins, a few officers in the pocket of the renegade admiral, plus a few people that don’t have the sense to recognize what has happened. Most of the refugees that escaped managed to find their way to the Solaris system, on the other side of the Briar Patch. That’s where we’re heading next.”
“I’ve heard of Solaris,” replied West. “Some sort of newly discovered place with fairies? Sounds like an old spacer myth to me.”
“It’s quite real,” said Carter. “There’s a Starfleet facility there.”
“All right, I’ll meet you there.”
“Not necessary, West,” repeated Captain Carter. “Like I said, we’ve got things under control.”
“Yer fergettin’, darlin’,” replied West, letting his exaggerated drawl grow more pronounced, “You still owe me a dance!”
He clicked off the transmitter and leaned back in his chair. The smile on his face grew wider as he imagined the curious and embarrassing questions that last statement would evoke amongst the lovely Captain Carter’s bridge crew.
Phoenix Station had been a great place to hang out, fuel his ship, indulge in some R&R, and catch up on the latest galactic intrigue, but it was gone, destroyed in one fell swoop by one crazed Starfleet admiral and her lackeys. Solaris sounded intriguing though, with its mysterious space legends about fairytale peoples and magic.
He got the coordinates for Solaris system from the navigation computer and punched the numbers into the helm, and activated the autopilot. The pinprick stars outside the cockpit window smeared themselves into long streaks as the Rocinanté shot forwards at warp 5.
He was looking forward to dancing with Carter again.
HERE ENDS OUR ADVENTURES AT GALAXY FLEET COMMAND. THE STORY CONTINUES HOWEVER AT SOLARIS SPACE STATION!
THANKS FOR READING, AND WE’LL SEE YOU THERE!
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