The late morning sun was smiling upon the lush countryside in a beautiful valley. The sky was deep blue. A number of wooden cottages in small clusters surrounded a large cubist structure, futuristic, much glass and steel, similar looking annexes stood nearby. The space inbetween was a wide-open pedestrian area with broad paved walkways, water basins and fountains, a vast park with meadows, large willow-like trees, exotic alien flowers blossoming, everything vibrant green and alive. People were strolling the paths, enjoying the weather, some in more formal attire were converging at the central building, chatting, bargaining, a group of children was playing hide-and-seek between the trees. An idyllic Eden, apparently far from the troubles of galactic politics.
An older Vulcan woman, wearing a slightly weathered jumpsuit and straw hat was kneeling in the dirt, tending the crops of her garden patch with a spud. Her hair was steel grey, slightly soaked from her sweat, her features were graceful. Next to her another man was standing, watching her.
Captain White looked down on her and she looked up to him.
“The tubers, they require much attention before the harvest”, Tikal said to him with a knowing smile.
She now looked beyond him towards the sky, her face showing mild concern. White turned around and followed her gaze. Up in the sky a narrow white path, like a bolt of lightning, a long cloud of thin smoke trailing it, made its way down towards the settlement in slow motion speed. The children were still playing in the park nearby, running, climbing, laughing. Captain White looked closely at the bright blazing rod, closing in. Tikal was standing next to him now. She took his hand and both watched the hell unfold in front of them.
The bolt of lightning struck one of the annex buildings, a split second later it exploded, an intense white light flooded the whole area with blinding intensity, the glare, as if by a thousand suns, was searing everything, people were cowering, covering their faces, trying desperately to escape the immediate heat. They ignited like match heads, an unquenchable halo of green plasma began to engulf every object, devouring, dissolving matter with an unearthly hiss. With a thunderous roar the wall of air pushed outwards from the epicenter, the blast wave now smashed everything in its path to smithereens, buildings were disintegrated, their bricks carried away as easily as grains of sand, massive trees shattered into kindling, people, crooked figures of ash, frozen in their dying positions were blown away like piles of leaves.
Captain White bolted up, screaming, bathed in sweat, gasping. A startled orderly called for the Doctor to come. White immediately began to hold his forehead in pain. The ship’s Doctor raced over.
“Captain, it’s alright, it’s alright. Calm down. Everything is going to be fine”, the medical officer said appeasingly, trying to push White back down on the bed again.
The Captain’s breathing began to slow down. He was looking around, trying to get his bearings.
“You are in sickbay, Sir. You had an accident.”
White now leaned back in his hospital bed, relaxing somewhat, the pain in his head slowly went away.
“Argh, what happened?”, he inquired.
“The plasma conduit adjacent to the replicator in your ready room overloaded, there was an explosion and a piece of wall hit your head. You were knocked unconscious.”
“How long have I been out?”, White wanted to know.
“A few hours”, the Doctor explained,
“Listen, you have a mild concussion. It’s not that bad, but you have to take it easy for a couple of days.”
“The replicator?! Yeah, I think I was ordering something and then there was this noise”, White babbled.
“Don’t worry about that right now. Commander Low is running the ship and as far as I know the Chief Engineer is already working on the malfunctions”, the medical officer told him.
“Malfunctions? Is there more than an exploding replicator?”
“Yes, Captain, I heard something about engine problems, but please try to focus on your recovery for now, the ship is in good hands.”
The Doctor was about to turn away, when White said:
“My forehead, it hurts at the same spot as before.”
“Well, Sir, you were hit on the head during the accident.”
“No, you don’t understand”, White interrupted,
“When I was down at the hospital to see the Vulcan survivor, I suddenly felt dizzy and there was this pain.”
The Doctor frowned.
“A Vulcan, you said?”
“Yes, she was Vulcan. We went down to ask her what she saw during the attack”, White explained.
“And did she tell you anything?”, the Doctor asked.
White tried to think, slowly he realized.
“Yes, but, I don’t know. I just woke up from a nightmare. It was as if I was there, with her, during the attack. I could see it, feel it.”
The Doctor pulled out a medical tricorder, adjusted it quickly and then began checking Captain White.
“Captain, you have highly elevated levels of activity in your neurotransmitters. This is odd. After an accident like that, the brain should not react this way. Unless...”
“I read about this a while ago in a medical journal. They made experiments on the physiological effects of mind melts on non-Vulcans. They found exactly the same. Elevated levels of neurotransmitter activity. Sir, maybe that Vulcan performed some kind of mind melt with you”, the Doctor said.
“But she didn’t touch me, how is that possible?”, White quizzed.
“Maybe some different form, less invasive, then what we are used to know about the procedure, but these values, I can’t really explain them any other way, Captain.”
The Captain pondered this for a moment, then he exclaimed:
“She wanted me to understand. We asked her what she had seen, but she couldn’t just tell us, she wanted me to see it through her eyes.”
White slowly rolled over to the edge of the bed, groaning, he swung his legs down and got on his feet, struggling with his first step.
“Where do you think you are going?”, the medical officer demanded to know.
“I have to talk to Director Thalen.”
“You are in no condition to resume your duties, Captain. As your physician I strongly advise you to stay in bed.”
“I have to do something first, I’ll be back soon”, Captain White promised.
Station Chief Gracie Jones listened carefully while the Klingon Intelligence officer, Commander Krag, was explaining the latest findings of his office to her.
“Our analysts are puzzled by these developments. There is so much which doesn’t make any sense. Your superiors are correct with their assessment about Gumo, he’s a small fry, a bloodsucker. He’s not a man of ideology. We can’t explain why his group would suddenly go to such lengths, especially attacking your people and not ours.”
“That is true, Krag, but his responsibility for the execution of the attack on Khefka IV is without a doubt, according to everything we have found so far”, Jones told him.
“You know what else is weird? All these other insurgent groups which have declared their allegiance to him now, there was nothing that indicated he involved them in the planning. As an outward impression, they want to make us believe they have become a united front against the Klingons and the Federation under Gumo’s leadership. Although everyone knows they hate each other or are at least rivals. And none of them participated in any sort of coordinated attack on other places. In preparation of these attacks, even the less relevant ones our people had to endure over the years from them, there has always been some form of buildup, more communications chatter, relocation of their families, increased alert levels in anticipation of our counterattacks. Now there was nothing. It’s as if none of them knew what was coming either.”
“Isn’t it possible, Commander, that Gumo simply wanted to keep his plans secret, so nobody could possibly spill the beans about it and maybe even warn us?”, Jones suggested.
Krag snarled affirmatively before saying:
“Whatever it is, now Gumo is the top dog, as you would say. It is probably only a matter of time, until more attacks of this magnitude will follow.”
“We have to find him first”, Jones exclaimed.
“Yes, my team is working on a number of leads which may help us find his whereabouts, his hiding places even.”
“Anything of particular importance?”
“A while ago, we received a tip about an old supply station in the Badlands. We used it as a forward base during the Dominion War. It was abandoned decades ago. There are rumors that a group of weapon smugglers towed it away from its original position and set it up as an arms storage. Gumo allegedly was one of them. He could be using it as a base of operations, way outside the reach of our normal patrols”, Krag explained.
“I see. But you don’t know exactly where this station is now”, Jones assumed.
The Klingon smiled mischievously and answered:
“No, but I know someone who might. You see, we brought you a gift…”
Captain White, only covered in the hospital gown from sickbay, stepped into the FIA’s investigation room. The technicians shot puzzled looks at him, as did Director Thalen, who was also present.
“Captain White, I didn’t expect you to join us today”, he said, trying to disguise his embarrassment about White walking towards him in the revealing gown.
“How are you feeling?”
“I’m better, thanks. Listen, about the inconsistencies we spoke about yesterday during the briefing, have you found out anything more?”, White wanted to know.
Thalen after a short hesitation shook his head no.
“Can you please show me that simulation again?”
The Director shrugged and nodded to one of the technicians who then pushed a few buttons and the holographic video began to appear.
“What are you looking for, Captain, if you don’t mind me asking?”, Thalen quizzed.
“You said yesterday you could not determine exactly why there was a crater at all and the distribution of the blast wave was unusual, right?”, the Captain mentioned.
“Yes, but I also stated that it might not be that important.”
White began to study the simulation intensely. He walked around the table, looked from different vantage points and angles, gently pushing the technicians out of his way to see better. His antics were starting to confuse the other people in the room.
Director Thalen, a little annoyed, asked him again:
“Captain, if you could tell us what you are looking for exactly?”
“That woman’s house, which one is it?”, White asked.
Thalen’s aide, who had been with them at the hospital the other day consulted his notes, then he pointed to one of the small cubes symbolizing the cottages in the colony’s outer perimeter.
White repositioned himself in order to watch the replay as if standing at that very house.
“Okay, now what if the shot from orbit had struck a very specific building, this one to be precise”, White explained while pointing at one of the annex buildings belonging to the embassy complex.
“How would you know that, Sir?”, Thalen’s aide asked.
“Well, uhm, Tikal showed me”, the Captain said and shrugged.
The FIA team shared looks of confusion. Thalen stepped up closely to White:
“Captain, a word please?”
They retreated into a corner of the room.
“What is going on here? What do you mean Tikal showed you?”
“She must have mind melted with me somehow yesterday, I saw it with her eyes when I was out, in a dream. The torpedo coming down, the very building which was hit. She saw it.”
Thalen, incredulous and mildly angry responded:
“Captain White, what you are doing right now is not very proper for someone of your stance. This is a major investigation into the deaths of way more than a thousand people. We need to stick to the facts here. You had an accident, a goddamn wall exploded and hit you in the face and now you are showing up here, out of bed, where I am sure the Doctor wants you to remain, staggering around, claiming you have seen the attack through the eyes of the only survivor. Who knows what kind of stuff people would dream about after a heavy blow to the head. Respectfully, but you aren’t helping us with this.”
Captain White, a little rueful, now selected his words carefully:
“You are right. My appearance here, like this, is somewhat unusual. But surely you remember when I got dizzy yesterday right after Tikal went into shock?”
“Yes, of course”, Thalen replied.
“I felt the same after I woke up from that dream only minutes ago. The Doctor detected elevated activity in my neurotransmitters, which he said were consistent with having undergone a mind melt recently. And I could see it clearly, the projectile coming down. It was not a large torpedo. I know because I had the unpleasant opportunity to watch a microtorpedo hit a building on Hitora just a few weeks ago. What I saw in my dream was very similar. It must have been a smaller type. Something the Patronage would have been able to use. And the building I saw was a good distance away from the embassy building, maybe this could explain the position of the crater.”
Thalen processed this. Though still uncomfortable with the situation, he took a deep breath and made a decision.
“Very well, Captain, we give it a shot, but only this one. And I want you to get changed!”,
he told the Captain who gratefully smiled. Then Thalen marched back to his team.
“Plot a new simulation with the building the Captain indicated as the possible origin of the explosion.”