Starbase 72 - Minos Korva System
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We Are Legion

Posted on Wed Dec 12th, 2018 @ 12:44am by
Edited on on Sun Mar 17th, 2019 @ 5:18pm

Mission: Freedom's Legion
Location: Project Long Jump Gala, SS Hermes
Timeline: 18 May 2389

Somewhere between intrigue and indifference. That was where Gareth stood. Metaphorically, at least. Physically he doddled outside the entrance to the Long Jump Gala ballroom on board the private yacht Hermes, waiting to be announced by the doorman. As Task Force Executive Officer, it fell to him to attend perfunctory social events that TFCO Admiral O’Connell could not. In truth, with so many matters of concern spreading their resources so thin, the entire Task Force could ill afford Zachary to break away from his office. Even so, Gareth could not help but wish it was the other man here instead of him.

One would think that he would feel at home among social elites, what with his more than privileged upbringing. But these people would surely be the sort who offered condolences for personal tragedy in temporary sympathies before launching into the next item on the gossip docket. Gareth had known many who called upon his parents in such manner, dispensing insincere grief for their enfeebled child to curry favor in one manner or another.

In short, politics made Gareth sick. Yet, it seemed a necessary evil to keep the spiral arms of the galaxy spinning round. Even in the 24th century, Project Long Jump would have been an impossibility without the pressed flesh of greased palms among the Federation’s upper crust. And so when the project leadership threw a gala to celebrate, commemorate, and otherwise cajole major donors and contributors, Task Force 72’s senior leadership was mandated to attend.

“I hate these things too.”

The man who stepped up beside Tau was dressed for the event, but not in the formal uniform of a fleet officer. His white hair was neat but not overly styled or controlled, and his face was lined around the eyes with smile lines that he didn’t seem to mind adding to. He gave a little shrug and reached into the inner pocket of his jacket.

“But sometimes people need to be seen supporting the advancement of the civilisation even when it's their pocketbooks and business empires doing the actual supporting,” he said, furrowing his brow until he found what he was looking for. He took out a slim little case, opened it to reveal an inset little capsule tray from which he plucked a light green capsule. He tipped his head back and downed it in a dry gulp, his face falling.

“You’d think nearly five hundred years of pharmacological research they’d have found a better way to coat a bitter pill,” he said, slipping it back into his pocket. He noticed Tau watching and grinned. “Ah, purely medicinal. The results of my previous early career choice of going into dilithium mining without fully researching the effects of aerosolized dilithium dust. A pill a day keeps the cancers from getting cancer so I’m told.”

He held out a hand.

“Maximillion Straus. I believe, Commodore Tau, I have you to thank for having to arrange this little get together of all the grand high muckety-mucks of the Federation?”

Gareth accepted the proffered hand and eked out a smile from his stony face. “I wasn’t in on the ground floor of the Long Jump Project, but I had the honor of pulling the trigger on the USS Traveller. You’ve done fine work here, Mr. Straus. I had hoped to send another vessel to support the Captain MacDonald, but I had no idea the outpouring of support we would receive from your foundation. Even for a man of your means, Canopus Station was an ambitious undertaking.”

Max opened his mouth to speak but was cut off.

“Oh, dear me, as I live and breathe, if it’s not Commodore Gareth Tau!” A voice equal parts nasally and shrill, with a healthy dash of dapper, blueblood haughtiness in a muddled European accent. “Had I known you would descend from on high to grace the plebs with your glorious presence, I would have prepared a marching band, or perhaps a symphony orchestra. But this is a most welcome surprise! I must remember to check with the vicar to see if Hell has indeed frozen over.”

As Gareth turned around, he groaned inwardly. This voice had been a persistent hound at his heels for months. Whoever the journalist’s sources were inside TF 72, they were deep.

“Cetus Lapetus.” The way Gareth spoke the words sounded more like an accusation than address.

“In the flesh, darling.” The wizened journalist shifted inside his glittering gold jacket and white fur overcoat to extend his bejeweled hand forward for Gareth to kiss. “Charmed, I’m sure.”

Gareth balked at the gesture, even more so when a dazzling diamond bracelet slid down the other man’s wrist.

“I see you two have already met,” Max said with a grin, raising a hand to a server holding a tray of fluted glasses. “I do hope you were in earshot when the Commodore here vouched that he personally wanted to send another ship out to Messier 4 to support the good work the Long Jump Foundation is accomplishing. Adding to our joint accomplishments, of course.”

He took one of the glasses from the tray.

“Scientific and social expansion have only come by growth. On my homeworld, it was the invention of the sailing ship, the wind-powered kind, that saw our understanding of the world around us shift drastically. No longer could we argue the world was a disc, or that the sun revolved around our little world. It ushered in an age of exploration, enlightenment and technological development. From there we can see how such a shift in perspective a new way to travel brings us. Rocketry, jet propulsion, united my world in a way it had never known. Suddenly distant shores and peoples could be your colleagues and friends you’d meet for lunch. It allowed for new ideas to be spread at an astounding speed,” Straus continued, slipping into a well-worn topic. “We all know how warp travel affects our species and this entire quadrant of the galaxy. The United Federation of Planets could not be a reality without warp travel, without the freedom to explore and share the ideas of a hundred different civilisations. It’s why we had to go to Messier 4. And after that first report back from Remas and the Traveller...more the reason to go there in force. Right Commodore?”

Ignoring the flamboyant reporter’s outstretched hand, Gareth turned back to Max. “Correct, Mr. Straus. This project represents the very best that Starfleet has to offer, and perfectly harmonizes multiple facets of the Federation to achieve a united goal.”

Cetus Lapetus sniffed at the commodore. “Well put. How many other worlds will your task force put at risk now that the entire universe lies within reach of your iron fist?”

It was bad form to respond to antagonization. Gareth knew it would only give the gadfly journalist the tantalizing quote he wanted. That was why he had eschewed interviews with the man where Admiral O’Connell had not. “No more than the Saxe-Coburg dynasty, I would imagine.”

It was petty and beneath him to reference the reporter’s legal name, but Gareth would be damned if it didn’t feel satisfying in the moment.

“Quite sure of that, are you?” Cetus Lapetus effected a surly pout. With a snort of contempt, he gathered his layers of shiny clothing and accessories like the strutting peacock he was. “Good day, gentlemen.”

Gareth loosed a brief sigh of relief. “That felt good,” he quietly admitted to Max.

“You say that now, but he’s not the only would-be Baron in attendance. And whilst you don’t need the backing of a handful of people to get your work done, I do,” Max aborted a sip on his glass and then placed it back onto the tray. “If I was fifteen years younger, I’d want to be out there with Remas and the Traveller. Instead, I’m here, making peace with the prominent families who run the industries in the United Federation of Planets in all but name. Of the five present, I can count on one finger which of’em I’d trust to turn my back on. And then only whilst the sun shines on me.”

He slapped Tau on the arm.

“Now smile and make me look good whilst I try to remind everyone here their donations are going to a cause that will outlast all the monuments they could be building instead. Statues crumble, towers collapse, and cities get buried in the sand. But planets? Stars? Those can last a great deal longer for the person who shouts ‘first’ loudest.”

“I hear you,” Gareth said. “I’ll make nice.” Which, for him, meant staying quiet. Aside from a few curious glances, it seemed most were uninterested in making conversation with a mere commodore. Thank goodness for small miracles.

Gareth returned smiles and nods as they came until he spotted an empty corner that would serve well enough as a perch to watch the rest of the gala. It seemed that Max was preparing a formal address, and Gareth wanted to be firmly entrenched somewhere before the man began speaking.

“When we first started this project almost five years ago, it was I feel more to keep me from your doors than it was in your faith that it would bear fruit. But fruit it has borne. I invited you all here to witness the unveiling of the Alpha Phase Space Accelerator in its completed state. I wanted those of you who doubt what we do, to see what you were helping to build. And one day soon, this gathering will be held on Canopus Station which will be as easy to reach as Earth is to Vulcan,” Max said to the room. There were many in attendance filling out the hall, but there were five notable exceptions that stood out from the crowd.

Oleg Kuznetsov had the lanky frame of his Martian heritage, though his Starfleet Intel file was lighter on the details of his youth than the faded tattoos around the wrists of his suit jacket. But being the head of the Zvezdolet Design Bureau, the premier civilian shipbuilders in the United Federation of Planets allowed one to redesign their own past as well as their ships.

Carter Ingram was of middling height, average appearance, and had seemed to go out of his way to be as unassuming as possible. One of the many sons and daughters of the dynasty that was Ingram Nanoscale Solutions. He was as close to a public face as you could get with the secretive and insular tech giant. Communications, advanced electronics, and the quadrant leaders in nanotechnology and research. Not to mention a counter-espionage wing that verged on ‘private army’.

The twin Vulcans Uta and Tosk looked virtually identical, regardless of being brother and sister. Hairless, their clothing tailored to match to an eerie degree, and capable of staring into nothingness whilst running a quadrant spanning telecommunication empire. Rumours persisted on a rotating fashion concerning the side businesses the twins of LogicGate dabbled in: illicit trade with the Consortium, weapons smuggling, even stand-up comedy.

And finally, rounding out the four kingmakers of the UFP’ starter set, was a rotund Bolian in a suit the same colour as his skin tone. Hask Kasmir, current Director General of the Bolian Merchant Marine, stood out as being the go-to name for shipping across the Alpha Quadrant. From simple bulk cargo, to armoured freighters that were rumoured to be nearly as advanced as their Starfleet counterparts, the BMM livery was a sight seen all across the UFP on the side of shipping containers and starships alike.

The Criminal.
The Warlock.
The Twins.
And finally The Facilitator.

Starfleet Intel did like their funny little nods and in-jokes when it came to assigning code names to wealthy industrialists and financiers.

Max was winding his speech down and stepping aside to leave the large open wall of the hall free of obstruction. The holographic drapery faded to reveal a projection of nearby space. Framed in the distance was the conical shape of SB72, a merely fist-sized image more seen by the glinting of sunlight off its hull than anything else. In the mid ground was a brown rocky planetoid, a rock a few hundred kilometres across and littered with the silvery trace work of habitation and storage modules. And then, in the foreground and projecting up and pout through the top and bottom of the projection, was the Phase Space Accelerator.

With a diameter a Spacedock class starbase could pass through, the three interconnected rings of the Accelerator were made of a gold material that pulsed with a inner light. Here and there construction mechs and Workbees flared to brief life, and the Starfleet Corps of Engineers’ ship the USS Tim Allen was dwarfed by the width of the ring itself. It was wrong to think of it as a gateway, or even a wormhole. All it did was generate a field of altered space in which...math happened. Dangerous, world-shattering mass making the planetoid between SB72 and the Accelerator more of a blast shield than not.

And according to some of the projections for a full power malfunction, not an effective blast shield at that.

“Sooner than we can imagine, this device and more like it will open the universe to us, the authors of a new age of exploitation!”

A muffled murmur ran through the crowd as the last word, spoken in a voice not belonging to Maximillian Straus. It held an odd accent to it, the sing-song twang of rolling seas and emerald isles. It echoed from the rooms speaker systems, a low mirth-filled chuckle.

“I do apologise for interrupting such a fine and delightful display of grandeur as this...but a man like myself must know the right time to step out from the shadows and into the light,” the voice spoke. The holo of the starfield outside shivered with static, replaced by man’s shoulders and head. His face was obscured by an ovoid mask, devoid of eyes or mouth, a blank canvas of sorts. “My name is Legion, and I have waited long in the shallow gutters of this utopia you have built yourselves for just this moment. Where else could I find an audience of the people who matter so much to the Federation than here before this modern Tower of Babel?”

Gareth stood unmoved by the confusing if brazen interruption. As the only uniformed Starfleet officer in the room, all eyes turned to him. Not least of which was Cetus Lapetus, whose flamboyant facade had long dropped into one of a keen, watchful bird of prey. Taking a breath, Gareth accepted his duty and stepped forward to stand alone with the hologram.

“I am Commodore Gareth Tau of Task Force 72 of the Fourth Fleet. What is the meaning of this… ‘Legion,’ was it?”

“First thing I learnt as a child at my mother's hip, was to never speak to the monkey when the organ grinder’s available. So whilst I appreciate your civility Commodore Tau, I’ll be speaking past you and not to you for the time being,” the masked figure said, and then refocused on the attendees. “But he raises a point. Why make myself known now to you, one and all? I’ve been working in the shadows for years, speaking to them that work so far beneath you they might as well be considered a species of extremophiles. You speak for the United Federation of Planets in all but name, and yet not a one of you can speak the name of the poor souls who cart away your night soil. But here you are, lining up to pay your respects to this great mechanical god you’ve erected for yourselves. Built with blood money and the sweat of those who live on the fringes of your empire. New Far Florence, Caspin’s World, Betarix III, Carpathia and Tumble Down are just names I could associate of worlds touched by each and everyone of you here. Worlds that lie dying, or dead, or traded to the enemy of right thinking folk because it got you something you needed. Those worlds had people, families...and I must be the voice and the will of those who have none.”

As Legion spoke, around the room comm devices were beginning to urgently chirp and draw the attention of their owners.

“Make no mistake, I do not wish you dead this day. You are no good to me, or the millions of lives you will improve over the coming months, as corpse fodder. But I must make you realise that I have the will, and the means, to make you see the plight of others as I see it,” Legion’s face turned to Tau. “You are going to be very busy Commodore, but I will not break your shiny door through the firmament. You have commitments to the colonists out there to uphold, and I will not forbid a man to follow his duty as he sees fit. I will contact you again with my manifesto, and the desire of the people who have no voice but that of Legion.”

The man’s speech was growing tiresome. Gareth clenched his fingers into fists and yelled, “Will somebody turn this damned thing off!”

As if on cue, the hologram flickered out, leaving the crowded gala aghast in a solemn moment of silence and disbelief at what had just happened. Gareth took a quick survey of the room, noting that nobody seemed the worse for wear. Even Cetus Lapetus had resumed his garish antics amidst his clucking crowd. It took a moment for Gareth to locate Max, but once he laid eyes on him, he sprung toward the man.

Of course, traveling through the room became a little hectic once the initial shock wore off. Some people turned frantic, others incredulous, and still others even mocking. Gareth snorted at the gaggle of chickens around him and kept his pace. Whoever this Legion was, he hadn’t declared himself until Maximilian Straus took center stage. That likely meant ---

“We are Legion!”

Gareth stopped in his tracks and searched for this newest interruption. Through the hubbub he saw three members of the wait stuff clustered together in the center of the main floor. They held up chalices that seemed out of place among the flutes they had been carrying on trays just moments ago.

“We are Legion!” cried a different one of the three. He doused himself with his chalice, presumably as the one before him had done.

Gareth had no time to react before the third one followed suit.

“We are Legion!”

And with those immortal words spoke, all three servers struck a flame to their clothing. The ignition flash lit up the room like a bolt of lightning. In the instant for his eyes to re-adjust to normal lighting, the three servers were already collapsing into a heap of burning flesh and sinew. The hissing blue flame spoke to some kind of chemical accelerent, meaning that the burn was controlled and unlikely to spread beyond the human bonfire before them. Of course, the stench of burning flesh and clothing obscured whatever the accelerent could have been, at least to Gareth’s nose.

“Everybody, listen up!” Gareth shouted. “We’re going to evacuate the room in a calm and orderly fashion. All staff should be detained pending an investigation. We…” He lowered his chin and shook his head while pinching the bridge of his nose. “We’ll get to the bottom this.”

 

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