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The Gathering Storm

Part Eight

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,” she hissed.

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 a seat.”

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 the Ambassador.

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,” interrupted Conscience.

“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 you require.”

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.




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