“You called, sir?” said Roger.
Matt motioned for Roger to sit. “Our orders have been changed.”
“More supply and aid runs?” said Roger.
Matt chuckled. “We’re actually being diverted from the one we’re on now.”
“We’re going to rendezvous with the freighter Blue Star, transfer our cargo to them, then head for the B’Qal system.”
“Other than being a source for tritanium, what’s so important that we need to go there?” said Roger.
“B’Qal IV is an ally to the Federation, and as you mentioned, an important source of tritanium ore. However, for years, an isolationist group, Ym’ruxin, The B’Qali word for one people, has tried to force all non-B’Qali off their world. The group has never been more than an annoyance, but yesterday they launched a well-organized, large-scale attack all over the planet. In short, they’ve seized control.”
“What does Command expect us to do?” said Roger.
“They’ve taken the Federation ambassador, her staff and security force, as well as most of the Central Parliament,” said Matt. “We’re to get our people back, locate the president who is in hiding, and find a peaceful way to resolve this. Because the Ym’ruxin attack was so large and sudden, it’s suspected someone is supplying and funding them. We’re to find out who and what their agenda is.”
“That’s a tall order. Why us?” said Roger.
“We’re the closest ship. More will be sent when available.” Matt paused. “Rog, the ambassador is Joanne Tucker.”
“Joanne Tucker? From the Academy?” said Roger.
Matt nodded. Joanne Tucker was one of the best and most loved teachers at Starfleet Academy. She taught courses on diplomacy and interspecies relations. It was both a happy and sad day for her cadets when she was able to become a diplomat herself.
“Assemble the senior staff for a briefing in thirty minutes,” said Matt.
Roger nodded and headed out.
Alone in his ready room, Matt imagined how it must have been on B’Qal when the attack came.
In the darkness, there was a low rumbling. It seemed like something unreal, something on the edge of awareness. It quickly grew in volume and intensity, rushing inward, like some voracious predator falling on its prey. Everything shook, and all that existed, was swallowed by its fury. With a gasp, Federation ambassador, Joanne Tucker, abruptly sat up in her bed, her eyes heavy and her mind clouded by sleep. Blinking, she looked around her bedroom, wondering what had disturbed her rest.
A sound louder than thunder crashed around her, vibrating her stomach, shaking the room, and knocking objects off the nightstand. There was a pounding at her door.
“Ms. Ambassador! Ambassador Tucker! Are you all right?”
Jo knew that voice. Pushing away the last bits of slumber that held her, she jumped out of bed and ran to the door, just as another explosion shook the building.
“Commander Stone. What’s going on?” For the briefest of moments, Commander Robert Stone, the commanding officer of the security contingent guarding the Federation embassy compound on B’Qal IV, eyed Jo. She was 5′ 6”, with long, brown hair, brown eyes, and an attractive face. She was past age 60, and though she had some extra pounds she had vowed for several years to work off, she was still a beautiful woman. She was wearing a white nightgown that was low-cut, and just short of revealing what lay hidden beneath it. Feeling her face growing warm with embarrassment, she grabbed her bathrobe and put it on, tying it closed around her middle.
“We’re under attack, ma’am,” said Stone. “It’s not just us, it’s all over the city. Explosions and gunfire erupted precisely at 0000 hours. I need to get you to your shuttle. Now.” His strong voice emphasized that last word.
“Attacked? By whom?” said Jo, not quite believing what Stone had told her, though another explosion rocked the building.
“We don’t have time to discuss it,” said Stone, his voice much firmer. He grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the room, almost dragging her behind him. She scrambled on bare feet to keep up with him.
Everything was a blur as they raced from the living area, down a connecting corridor, through the offices, and to the corner of the building that held the shuttles and runabouts, though her sharp mind was analyzing the situation. The only possibility was the Ym’ruxin was behind had the attacks. For years, they had been against all alien influences being on their world. They had tried politically to make changes, but because there was so much prosperity from exporting their minerals to the Federation, they had been defeated, both in Parliament, and in general elections.
Jo had been on B’Qal IV for about a year, having established very good relations with the president and governing officials. It was a relationship that greatly benefited both sides. It hadn’t always been good for her, as the B’Qali didn’t trust her when she first arrived. No matter what she did, there was something there, something she couldn’t get past. She had searched through the cultural database to see if she was violating a custom that offended them, but there was nothing. She finally learned the reason why, when Zala, her B’Qali aide that was her liaison to the government, explained that her name, Joanne, was the same as a B’Qali word, j’yoa’an, that was slang for crude sounds an ill-mannered person made in public.
In B’Qali, her name was Fart.
Once that became known to her, and she explained to the B’Qali leaders that on Earth, her name meant, God is Gracious, she had been accepted with open arms. The B’Qali had a rich religious history, so they considered her to be a blessed woman; her arrival on their world was viewed to be divinely inspired.
Now that things had changed, and the compound was under attack, Jo hoped and prayed for all the blessings she could have would be bestowed upon her.
Jo and Commander Stone were almost to the shuttle area, when there was a cracking sound, and the power in the building went out. Stopping for a moment, Stone turned on a flashlight he had, and they resumed their trek, but now, slowly and cautiously.
“Why haven’t we seen anyone else,” Jo said in a whisper.
Stone didn’t answer. Jo thought he might be keeping bad news from her. Perhaps he just didn’t know.
“Stay here,” said Stone. “I’m going to scout ahead to make sure it’s clear.” He turned off the flashlight. “If it is, I’ll blink this on and off once, and you get here fast.”
Jo nodded, but was unsure if he saw her in the dark. “Okay.”
Stone moved off and disappeared around a corner. The explosions in the complex had stopped, but she could still hear the echoes of shelling in the distance. What were the Ym’ruxin doing to her beloved B’Qal?
With the noises of combat in the city, and the eerie silence inside the embassy, goosebumps began to form on Jo’s skin. Pulling her robe tighter around her, she strained to hear something, but there was nothing.
After a few long seconds, there was a crash in the darkness ahead. Several blasts of energy weapons fire ripped through the air. There was a sickening thud, and it was deathly silent again.
Jo was already afraid, but she was now beginning to panic. Her breathing had increased, and her heart was pounding; her blood felt hot. She began flexing her hands, balling them into fists. It was primal, like every instinct in her was screaming at her to run. She had to force herself to calm down. It was taking all her inner strength.
There was a shuffling sound and two shadowy figures cautiously advanced. They were tall and had broad shoulders. Recognizing the silhouettes of B’Qali males, Jo ducked into a doorway, daring not to breath. Her heart began to pound again. This time, so loudly, she was sure the two could hear it.
The B’Qali stopped when one reached out and grabbed the arm of the other. He began sniffing the air.
“Come out now, Human, and you will not be harmed.”
Jo tried to make herself as small as possible, sliding to the floor and scrunching her knees against her chest. Her toes dug into the floor. She wrapped her arms around her legs and buried her face on her knees. Her eyes were closed so tightly, they began to water.
“Come out now.”
To Jo, the B’Qali voice had become unintelligible gibberish in the background. All she could hear now, was the treasured sound of her mother singing her a song, when as a little girl, she had been wakened in the middle of the night by a thunderstorm. She could feel the comfort and safety of her mother’s loving arms wrapped around her.
She never wanted to leave that place.