The Gathering Storm
Padre walked down a hall in the Confederate
Capitol Building, nodding at people as he went. It was good
to be back at Sol. The environment was much more to his liking,
and the capitol city didn’t make him think a two-year-old
had designed it. Most importantly, there were no New Orions
on Sol. The Ambassador hated the New Orions, as did most everyone
in the Orion Sector. They were conceited, overbearing, and
far too powerful for Padre or anyone else to do anything about
it. Human scientists – scientists from every species,
actually – had been working for centuries to catch up
technologically with the New Orions. They were getting closer.
The Confederation Battle fleet could probably put a dent in
the Red Fleet, but only a dent. And then the New Orions would
rain down death upon the Confederation just as they had the
Mrrshan, Alkari, and others who opposed them.
Ambassador Padre reached his office. His secretary glanced
up from her work, a look of apprehension on her face. She
welcomed him back.
“What’s wrong, Beth?” Padre asked, sensing
something was wrong.
Beth glanced around the room, and in a hushed voice answered.
“One of those shapeshifters is in your office, sir,”
Padre frowned a bit. He had asked the Darloks to send someone
over to see him, but he still didn’t trust the changelings.
“It’s all right. Did he say what his name was?”
“I think it was… Conscience, sir. Nasty creature,
if you ask me.”
The Ambassador’s frown deepened. He had dealt with
Conscience before. He didn’t like dealing with the Darloks
under normal circumstances, but he hated dealing with a Darlok
that thought he had a sense of humor. Most of the time, it
wasn’t funny at all. Padre left orders for his calls
to be held, braced himself and walked into his office.
At first glance, there didn’t seem to be anyone there.
Not that he expected anything different. Conscience was hiding
– something the Darloks excelled at. Padre looked around
the room, trying to find anything that was different from
the last time he was home – over six months ago. Nothing
seemed out of the ordinary… except… didn’t
he only have two chairs on that side of his desk?
“Nice try, Conscience. Now shift to your humanoid form
before I sit on you.”
Waves seemed to run up and down the middle chair as it changed
shape and grew, coalescing into a roughly humanoid shape with
a blue robe, the “usual” form the Darloks took.
All Padre could see other than the robe was two glowing red
eyes – also ordinary from a Darlok’s perspective,
but enough to give most people the creeps. It was no wonder
no one trusted them, thought Padre. “You’re no
fun,” complained Conscience.
“We have work to do,” answered the Ambassador,
walking to his desk and sitting down. “Please, take
The Darlok glided over to a chair opposite Padre and seemed
to merge with the chair more than sit in it. The Ambassador
shook his head, then began his work.
“As I’m sure you already know, a week ago we
repelled the Harvester’s attack on the Terra system.
Right now, they seem content to consolidate their hold on
the Regulla system. They cannot be allowed to remain there.
It is only a matter of time before they come for Terra again.
We’ve been moving forces to Terra for our attack to
Regulla. The Trilarians and the Psilons are sending more ships,
also. However, there is one slight problem.” Padre turned
around to get some intelligence photographs.
“Damn it, Conscience, quit that now!” yelled
A sigh could be heard in the room. Slowly, Conscience rose
from the floor. “Did you like that?” he asked.
“I’ve been working on blending into flat surfaces.”
“It’s very impressive, Conscience. Now sit down.”
He did so. Padre showed the shapeshifter one of the intelligence
photographs. It showed a large complex on Regulla that seemed
to stretch on for almost a kilometer. “As far as we
can tell,” said the Ambassador, “this is a ground-based
stellar converter, or something very close to it. I don’t
know where the Ithkul got this sort of technology –
the only people I know who have it is the New Orions. Not
even the Psilons have anything close. Opinions vary widely
as to how much damage this thing can do, but if it’s
even half as powerful as the New Orions’ weapons are,
it could easily take out one of our battleships in a single
shot. It would tear through our fleet long before it could
even engage the Harvesters. Any campaign against the Ithkul,
as long as that weapon is operational, is doomed to failure.”
“I’m guessing this is where I come in,”
“Exactly,” answered Padre, somewhat annoyed.
“I need you to assemble a team, land on Regulla, and
destroy that weapon at any cost. Secondary to that, I want
you to disable or destroy as many of these other defenses,”
Padre handed the changeling more intelligence photos, “as
you can. We will provide you with any additional equipment
The two discussed insertion points, equipment requirements,
and timelines for the next fifteen minutes. When they were
through, Conscience glided out of Padre’s office, scaring
Beth and drawing the looks of several other workers. The Ambassador
sat back in his chair. It was good to be home, but there was
a lot more work to do.