by John R. Plunkett
Zion, capital city of the Gosper Fringe, on the planet Grandia
At precisely 06:49 Dr. Havershiem emerged from his bedroom. A voluminous, green velvet robe hung on his spare, bony frame as if on a coat rack. A pair of fluffy pink bunny slippers, somewhat worn and faded, adorned his feet. (The right one had lost its left eye.) He crossed the room in a brisk, very deliberate fashion, going to stand before a row of windows that filled the entire front wall of the office. He kept his back straight and his hands clasped behind him, a pose nearly stern enough to be called parade rest. For a time he gazed intently at the skyline of Zion, spread out before him in a breathtaking panorama.
"Do you know what I see, Selah?" the doctor inquired, still facing the window.
Selah looked up. She stood by the doctor's desk, having just placed the silver tea service on the corner of it. The strainer tinkled faintly on the fine china as she stirred it in the hot water, adding a few drops of lemon and a dab of honey.
"I see death," Dr. Havershiem pronounced. "The writhing of a body after the head's been cut off."
"The Federation sanctions?" Selah ventured.
Dr. Havershiem nodded, sharply and decisively. His features, hatchet-like under the best of circumstances, hardened still further. "When the Federal Convention convened to write the Articles of Federation, they didn't bother with us because we were too remote. While Starfleet committed genocide against the Sauron, the Federation politely looked the other way. No one cares about the shocking and rapacious abuses committed by corporations which are licensed and supposedly overseen by the Colonization Authority. But when one single Morph tells them hir sob story, why then something must be done. But nothing substantive, no. Rather, something to give the appearance of action without requiring any actual investment or sacrifice. So... they embargo our trade." The hard face became even more fearsome, taking on an aspect like that of napped flint. "I wonder if the bleeding hearts who enacted this policy ever think about all the Morphs that've been euthanized because their owners can't afford to keep them. Do they ever reflect on how the onus of their action falls primarily upon those they're ostensibly protecting?"
After a meditative pause, the doctor continued. "We can't expect any help from our 'friends' in the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. They make plenty of noise, protesting and denouncing and decrying, but they won't do anything. They won't risk bringing the Federation's ire upon themselves. Never mind that checking Federation aggression is the whole point of the League's existence. They'll squawk even more when it's their turn, to be sure. By which time there won't be anyone left to help, even if they're willing."
"The Damocles Hegemony still trades with us," Selah ventured to point out.
Dr. Havershiem dismissed the notion with a savage gesture. "The Hegemony is not our friend. We are conveniently located to support their Barnard's Star colony, and that is all. They don't fear the Federation, but they also care nothing for our long term survival. When we cease to be useful they'll cut us loose without a second thought. No; any solution to our predicament must come from our own efforts or not at all."
Turning sharply on his heel, the doctor left his vantage and took a seat behind his desk, sipping the tea Selah had prepared. "Ahh, he sighed. "Perfect, as always."
"Thank you, Doctor." Selah inclined her head.
"Obviously we can't fight the Federation, not by ourselves," the doctor mused, idly stirring his tea. "The whole League together would find it hard going. Even assuming full cooperation on the war effort." He snorted derisively. "Which is why they can treat us in such a cavalier fashion. They don't believe there's anything we can do to hurt them. Therefore... we need to change the rules. Make them come to us."
"How do we do that?" Selah inquired.
"On Terra, back in the 21st century- before the Gene Wars, of course- so-called 'rogue nations' would begin projects to develop nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons," Dr. Havershiem said. "Interestingly enough, the purpose of the projects was often not to actually develop the weapons. Rather, the project served as a bargaining chip. The rogue nation would agree to suspend the project in return for foreign aid. There were nations which subsisted almost entirely by extorting the global community in this fashion. What we need is something like that. Something which threatens to upset the comfortable balance of power. It doesn't matter if we actually could do it, or would even survive using it. Only that it would shock the Federation out of its lazy, complacent rut. To avoid that they'll give us everything we want. Then they'll call it a victory, claiming they averted a tragedy through skillful diplomacy." He laughed derisively.
"It has to be something the Federation can't anticipate and block," Selah pointed out. "Their intelligence services are watching us. If we make any attempt to import sensitive technology, they'll move to stop it. If we had the time and resources to develop the technology ourselves, the sanctions wouldn't affect us."
"Very true," Dr Havershiem allowed. "It has to be something the Federation doesn't currently see as dangerous. Something we can bring online quickly, at relatively low cost."
"Does such a thing exist?" Selah wanted to know.
Dr. Havershiem extracted a data chit from his desk drawer. He slid it across the highly polished desktop in Selah's direction. She picked it up, placing it against her forehead. The Link acted as a reader, allowing her to access the data. Despite all her training her eyes widened, her ears perked, and her mouth fell open slightly. "They've discovered a way to clone Stariionae?" she exclaimed.
"Not 'they' in general, no," Dr. Havershiem corrected. "Two members of the Renzari delegation made the discovery by accidentally disturbing a unrelated experiment. It came to light when they attempted to conceal the evidence of their interference. They informed their superior, who forwarded a report to their home world. Now they're waiting for an opportunity to smuggle the samples off the station. Despite the atmosphere of friendship and cooperation, they don't intend to share. The samples are stored in an unsecure location, because putting them under security means admitting that they exist and have value. Nor is there any mention of them in any official records; all communication regarding them has been strictly informal. Which means the Science Corps has no idea they even exist. It also means we have to move quickly; we found out by accident, and Federation Intelligence could as well."
"If the Renzari can't get the samples off the station, how do we?" Selah asked.
"Easy." Dr. Havershiem's smile broadened into a crooked, Mephistophelean grin. "You will go on board Star Home and collect them."
Selah's right ear twitched. "Why will they let me on board?" she ventured into the now deafening silence.
"Why, what else could they do when Leanna's only sister imitates her sibling's bold escape and reaches Chakona just in time for a tearful reunion when Leanna arrives on that selfsame world to begin hir new life?"
Leanna is the creation of Bernard Doove.
All other characters and this story are copyright © 2008 John R. Plunkett.
To be continued in Chapter 2.
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