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Excerpts from the Staggering Stories Blog:


Staggering Stories Commentary #198: Babylon 5 – Day of the Dead
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 20 Aug 2017 09:00

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins and Keith Dunn sit down, visited, in front of the Neil Gaiman’s Season 5 Babylon 5 episode ‘Day of the Dead’, and spout our usual nonsense! Zooty has a terrible secret, Lennier has a shadowy visitor, Lochley is trying to establish an identity for herself and Kosh has another […]


Staggering Stories Podcast #269: Jago, Litefoot and AsBill
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 13 Aug 2017 09:00

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins, Fake Crumbly, Fake Keith, Jean Riddler and the Real Keith Dunn have a retrospective on Doctor Who ‘Series 10’, discuss Big Finish’s ‘Jago and Litefoot, Series 4’ audio boxset, play a game, find some general news, and a variety of other stuff, specifically: 00:00 – Intro and theme tune. […]


Staggering Stories Commentary #197: Doctor Who – Knock Knock
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 06 Aug 2017 09:58

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins and Keith Dunn sit down, bugged, in front of the 2017 Doctor Who S10 episode, ‘Knock Knock’, and spout our usual nonsense! Bill has herself some new digs, the Doctor is suddenly a man with a van and the landlord has a wood infestation. But enough of their problems, […]


Staggering Stories Podcast #268: Whittaker and Watling
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 30 Jul 2017 09:00

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins, Fake Crumbly, Fake Keith, Jean Riddler, the Real Keith Dunn and Scott Fuller discuss the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor, remember Deborah Watling, find some general news, and a variety of other stuff, specifically: 00:00 – Intro and theme tune. 01:37 — Welcome! 02:07 – News: […]


Staggering Stories Commentary #196: Babylon 5 – Rising Star
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 23 Jul 2017 09:00

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins and Keith Dunn sit down, allied, in front of the Season 4 Babylon 5 penultimate episode Rising Star, and spout our usual nonsense! Sheridan has a new job offer, Garibaldi has an impromptu rescue to mount, Ivanova jumps ship and everyone is generally very busy. But enough of their […]


Staggering Stories Podcast #267: The Doctor has a Fall
by Staggering Stories Podcast
Sun, 16 Jul 2017 09:23

Summary: Adam J Purcell, Andy Simpkins, Fake Keith, Jean Riddler, the Real Keith Dunn and Scott Fuller review the 2017 Doctor Who episodes ‘World Enough and Time’ and ‘The Doctor Falls’, take look back at Big Finish’s ‘Doctor Who: Spare Parts’ audio play, find some general news, and a variety of other stuff, specifically: 00:00 […]

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The Triangle: Eternity War Logo

The Triangle, Memoirs of a Mechanoid: For the fun of it

Leaking from the mind of Adam J Purcell


 

The tiny control centre rocked as the gantry outside, leading from the ceiling suspended room to the turbolift, broke from its struts. Tonb Terak was too busy to confirm if his handwork had indeed managed to dump his opponent into the deadly machinery below. The blood curdling cry of pain intermixed with the sound of the machinery mangling Death Bringer was enough to convince the injured Terak.

Leaning up against a control panel, Terak used both hands to rip the axe from his shoulder and gave a cry of pain of his own, this one through gritted teeth. The armoured figure looked down at his wound, almost tempted to remove his helmet to get an easier look but his natural reluctance to reveal his face prevented him. It was not a deep wound, his armour had defused most of the impact, but the shallow wound was already beginning to open up far more than he would like. He pulled a small canister from his belt and sprayed the area with a fine mist of bacta, mainly to prevent infection until he could get better treatment on his ship.

The bounty hunter sat for a few moments to regain his strength before venturing toward the door and swinging gantry beyond. Terak was pleased to see the walkway had indeed given out on one side, dumping the mechanoid toward the floor of the vast Venwi's Claim Utility Station below. He leaned out slightly and looked down to see Death Bringer caught up in the machinery below, as he had planned. Terak stepped out of the doorway into nothingness and fell, just missing the swinging gantry rail to his side. With a controlled burst from his jet-pack Terak landed effortlessly on the floor by the machine below.

Approaching Death Bringer, Terak was disappointed and somewhat surprised to see his foe had survived, albeit in less than perfect condition. The unconscious mechanoid had clearly lost his right arm and a good part of his right leg in the machine - the twisted metal bone and shredded artificial flesh caught in the machine that was straining to pull more of the mechanoid into its inner workings.

* Wake up, yes? * Death Bringer mumbled as he attempted to bring himself around but succeeding in only gaining semi-consciousness. He was clearly in considerable pain.

"Maybe this will help?" Terak said, relayed with a slight artificial quality, through his helmet's systems. Terak spun his blaster pistol around in his hand and brought the butt down onto Death Bringer's head with all his weight. Terak regretted it instantly as he felt the sudden and violent movement tear at his shoulder wound. He could see in the eyes of the mechanoid that the other was taking the situation in.

* Going to tell me your master plan, huh? * Death Bringer finally said after the blow brought him back to full consciousness.

Terak shook his head, when faced with certain death this mechanoid would make light of the situation. The thought reminded Terak to check how long he had left before the explosives, which he had carefully placed below the Utility Station, would go off. Terak glanced at the countdown device - less than five minutes. No time to mess about if he wanted a margin of error in returning to his ship. Like all people of his ilk, Death Bringer included, he wasn't about to sacrifice himself for a contract, even one paying as much as this one.

* Hired the local mob to capture or kill the delegates, yes? Hope to destroy the allegiance talks, right? * Death Bringer managed to get out, hoping to prise some vital piece of information from Terak.

"Something like that. I don't have time to talk..." Terak said with amused vagueness, not that it mattered if Death Bringer found out all he did, which was in fact rather little anyway. It amused Terak further as he saw the pieces slowly fall into place for Death Bringer, so evident in his facial expressions. "I see you've got it. You won't be alive to see the spectacle." Terak said as he pressed his blaster to Death Bringer's face - better he kill him now than give him the chance to escape.

Without warning the forefinger of Death Bringer's remaining hand flipped open and out shot a nasty looking metal spike - a dataprobe usually used for interfacing with computer systems. Before Terak could react the mechanoid drove the large spike into Terak's chest.

"Argh!" Terak expelled as he quickly tried to pull himself back and off the impromptu weapon. As Terak extricated himself Death Bringer followed up with a jet of liquid hydrogen cyanide from a hole in his palm. The deadly poisonous hydrocyanic acid squirted over Terak's chest, some of it hitting his newest wound. Terak couldn't help but howl in pain.

Bringing his blaster roughly to bear on Death Bringer, Terak squeezed off a couple of shots. Both bolts tore into the mechanoid's chest, ripping holes through his rib cage. Terak staggered back, his blaster clattering to the floor, as he saw Death Bringer fade into unconsciousness or death. Terak grabbed his own chest with one hand whilst fumbling for the remains of his bacta with his other.

Stumbling toward the small service hatch, leading out to the crest of the volcano known as Mount Vequess, Terak applied the last of his spray to his chest and checked the countdown. He had time still, just. He had one last thing to take care of before he left. He pulled a special comlink from his belt, preset to a frequency he had deliberately left clear from his jamming devices, and pressed a particular button.

The Avenger 2, Terak's spherical spacecraft, was nestled up against the side of the Utility Station, looking down upon the city below, at the foot of the volcano. Terak thumped the door release and staggered through into the craft. The door slammed shut behind him and he immediately slapped the ships intercom.

"R4, Destination B" Terak ordered the little droid on the flight deck, one level above. He knew the droid would follow his instructions to the letter and, as he felt the craft lift off, made his way directly to the medical bay to immerse himself in his full body bacta tank.

Keeping close to the ground the Avenger 2 disappeared behind the horizon so not to be seen by any ships in orbit above Venwi's City. Terak saw on the medical bay monitors a real-time holographic representation of the city side collapse of Mount Vequess. Another monitor displayed an interior monitor view of the Utility Station, just above the jamming field that had knocked out much of the communications of the city below. With amazement and a grudging respect Terak noted that Death Bringer had in the past four minutes managed to regain consciousness and cut himself free. Using the control pad on the inside of his bacta tank Terak keyed for the image to zoom in on the stricken mechanoid. Death Bringer was pulling himself across the floor to the turbolift, minus an arm and lower leg, each stump with straggly bits of artificial flesh hanging limply from them. The last image the camera relayed before it was destroyed showed the Utility Station being torn apart as the rock that supported it collapsed and millions of cubic metres of ferocious water from the great reservoir ripped the place apart, engulfing everything - mechanoid and all.

Terak allowed himself as much of a chuckle as was possible in his situation.

 

*********************

 

The bedroom light flicked on, the sudden glare rousing Pauline Preston from her slumber. She pushed herself up into a seated position, shielding her eyes whilst they adjusted and kneed her husband in his ribs to wake him up.

"The President..?" she asked, sensing from the intruder that something was badly wrong.

Dallymore nodded solemnly to the Deputy President's wife as she approached their bed. Pauline sat there stunned, barely conscious she was continuing to knee her husband, who was now slowly regaining awareness.

"What is it, woman?" Jon Preston spat out, less than happy to be woken. He looked into the eyes of Carolyn Dallymore, commander of Presidential Security and the Secret Service, and remained oblivious to the less than subtle signals. "What? Can't a man be allowed a decent nights sleep anymore?" he complained.

"Sankey..." Pauline whispered, knowing that something was wrong but not quite being able to bring herself to believe it.

"Yes. There's been an acc-" Dallymore began quietly, not knowing how to phrase it. "An incident at the conference..."

"You don't mean he's dead, do you?" Jon Preston blurted out tactlessly, the grogginess only slightly worsening his usual manner. Pauline Preston shot him a look that was totally lost on him.

"Indications are... Yes..." Dallymore said, in a state of shock herself.

"Bloody hell - so I'm the President!" Jon Preston said with a little too much glee.

"Jon! He's dead for god's sake! What happened?" Pauline said, barely able to keep her temper in check.

"From what little information we have so far, it appears a large dam burst and, well, washed away the conference city. One of our ships is there and mounting a rescue mission but indications are that virtually nobody's survived..." Dallymore said in a subdued tone.

"So, he may be okay? He could be one of the survivors?" Pauline prompted, hope evident in her voice.

"They don't think so... We'll know more later. We're sending three disaster relief ships to the area immediately but we're not holding out hope."

"What about that bast- What about Crookall?" Jon demanded.

"I'm told he escaped the area before the - accident. As did at least some of the Klingon delegation." Dallymore relayed what little solid information had come back from the USS Dauntless.

"You don't think it was an accident?" Pauline said, easing herself off the bed.

"It's not at all clear. We're assuming not, for now at least." Dallymore said, watching Pauline Preston getting out of bed. "The press don't know any of this, until we have confirmation, obviously..." she didn't like the way Pauline appeared to have something in mind.

"And what do we tell them when we do get confirmation?" Jon Preston spat out. "We've kept this entire conference to ourselves. We even told everyone that Sankey was on holiday! What are they going to think of us when we say he was killed during a secret conference with the Klingons? The press will bloody well murder us!"

"Do shut up Jon, we're worry about that later. I'm going to get some breakfast." Pauline stated.

"It's three in the morning." Dallymore informed her gently.

"Well, it's going to be a long day, might as well get it started." Pauline countered.

 

****************

 

A customized Loronar SkyBlind Recon Ship descended through the thick atmosphere of Formalhaut 5, toward one of the numerous large domed cities. Air Traffic Control for Lucifer City had been forewarned to expect the craft and it was directed to a prebooked docking bay.

What laughably passed for customs on Formalhaut 5, and especially Lucifer City, had been bribed to ignore docking bay 93 for the day. An apparently lone figure stepped out of the shadows to greet the bounty hunter descending down the spacecraft ramp.

"My associates are very pleased with your work." Mr. Gates said, with a smile that wasn't quite right somehow. He pulled a dark velvet pouch from his pocket, loosened the cords around the top and spilt some of the contents into one of his palms. "After your previous - partial success - I'm glad to see you've finally earned these." Mr. Gates said, spreading his finger around in the flawless diamonds in his hand, watching the way the dim lights caught them. He poured them back into the pouch and handed it over to Terak. "There are plenty more where those came from."

Terak took the pouch and immediately stowed in his belt, not even bothering to take much notice of the weight, let alone check the goods for himself. He wasn't in it for the money anymore. Once, long ago, he was. But not anymore.

"We have confirmation that the Federation President is - taken care of. We also know that Mr. Crookall and Chancellor Gowron survived and that both sides suspect the other. Now we have an equally interesting challenge for you Mr. Terak." Mr. Gates began.

 

*******************

 

A figure stepped out of the cylindrical booth into the starless night of London. He paused to look at the watch on his right wrist, balancing his weighty brief case as he did. Sir Basil Rutherford noted the time, already automatically synchronized to the local time zone, and it was exactly as he had expected - he was late, again.

Rushing on foot from the small group of public transporter units on the end of his road he failed to notice the figure watching silently in the shadows. The cool night breeze caused a brief shiver to run down Rutherford's back, it was certainly cooler here than the San Francisco midday sun he had just left, not that he had actually ventured out of the air conditioned offices of Starfleet.

Fumbling for an old fashioned metal key Rutherford stood perched atop a small set of concrete steps, leaning against the old wooden front door to his town house. This was the premier part of London, as it had been for centuries before and little had actually changed in that time. There were rarely any vehicles driving down the street now though, in fact it was more common to see a replica Victorian horse and carriage than a modern hover vehicle, thanks to the tourists and transporter technology. At nearly nine o'clock on such an autumnal evening the streets were deserted.

After a bit of jiggling the key turned in the lock and Rutherford promised to himself, as he did almost everyday, that he would get someone to restore the aging lock. Unfortunately such skills were rare nowadays as almost everyone had electronic devices but that wasn't the case for anyone down his street, such things were not even considered here.

Slamming the door behind him, the only way to ensure it closed properly, Rutherford dumped down his brief case in the hallway and shook off his raincoat, throwing it successfully onto the hat stand.

"Henrietta?" the middle-aged civil servant called softly down the hallway.

"Sshhh, just got them off to bed." whispered a similarly aged woman as she stood in the living room doorway.

Rutherford nodded knowingly and followed her into the comfort of the room beyond. "Sorry I'm late, all hell's broken loose at work, spent all day at Starfleet HQ."

"Oh? I haven't heard anything, though I haven't listened to the news tonight..." Henrietta Rutherford said, sitting down in her favourite armchair.

"I'm sorry, how was your day?"

"Same as ever - you know how our client's are! Nothing interesting - what's your news, then?"

"I don't know, that's it, nobody would say. Preston was in meetings all day, hush hush meetings, even I wasn't allowed in. Spent all day hanging around in case they needed me. Whatever it is I wouldn't be surprised if it were to do with these other universe groups. I expect President Sankey is on his way back from holiday as we speak."

"It's that bad? Maybe the news has something." Henrietta turned towards the large luxuriant curtains at the end of the room and called out "News, current headlines, BBC" A foot or so in front of the curtains a two dimensional image faded in to show the logo of Henrietta's preferred news and current affairs broadcaster. The spinning globe logo was replaced by a news presenter behind a desk who began to rattle off the latest news headlines.

"The Alpha Quadrant governments are expressing open alarm as the Galactic Empire consolidates it's recent capture of Klingon Supply Yard and Construction world Swi'Vey by annexing a further two systems around it. Klingon protectorate Rendereax and neutral zone system Plamax have both fallen to the extra-universal forces.

Representatives of the major worlds in the neutral Triangle, the center of the current conflicts, have grouped together and are petitioning the Federation, Klingon Empire and Orion Republic to protect them. None of the three surrounding governments would comment on the requests.

Back on Earth, reports of the events in the Triangle have prompted libertarian groups to hold a mass rally. Three quarters of a million people have descended on the center of Geneva causing widespread disruption to the transporter networks, local citizens and services. There have been numerous reports of small scale rioting, looting and civil unrest and police have been said to have asked for assistance from the military to disperse the crowds. More on that as we get it.

In other news, the flu epidemic sweeping Olympus Mons has begun to subside three days after the mass vaccination programme undertaken by the Martian authorities.

And in sport, the Iraki Aquas have beaten the England Gliders, knocking England out of the world cup..."

"Off." Henrietta called out to the hidden holographic emitter. "Doesn't sound good, does it? No wonder Preston has spent all day at Starfleet HQ, sounds like there is a real situation brewing out in the Triangle, not to mention here..."

"Yes... I don't know, there was something... it was almost like panic at Starfleet, hanging in the air. Yes the Klingons should be panicking but those two minor worlds shouldn't have caused such sudden alarm to our top brass..? I just don't know..." Basil Rutherford leaned back in his chair, let his head flop back and stared at the high ceiling.

"Is that front door open again?" Henrietta shivered at a draft coming in from the hallway. "We really must get someone in to see to it." she complained, getting up and walking towards the living room door.

An armoured figure stepped into view, blocking Henrietta at the rooms threshold. She gave a small yelp of surprise that caused her husband to look around at her from his chair. For a second neither of the Rutherfords knew what to do or say and stared disbelievingly at the intruder.

Terak shook his blaster slightly to order Henrietta back into the room and away from the exit. She complied. The bounty hunter followed her in and, again with a mere gesture, ordered her into the chair next to Sir Basil.

"What do you want with us?" Basil asked uncertainly but no answer was forthcoming.

For several minutes the three of them remained virtually motionless with not another word muttered. The Rutherfords sat looking up at the terrifying figure before them, not daring to move in case he shot them for it. Terak patiently stared down at them, knowing time was on his side and the value of fear.

"Take whatever you want, it's not worth our lives or our chil-" Henrietta began meekly before stopping abruptly, realizing she had said too much and now her children's lives were in danger too. Terak cocked his head ever so slightly, enough to ensure that without being able to see his face they would still know he acknowledged the final remark.

"Please take all of it, just don't hurt any of us- You're not here to rob us are you?" Basil said with sudden understanding. Earth still had its problems but the fair distribution and sheer quantity of wealth was not one of them. There were very few robberies and burglaries anymore and most criminal behavior was recognized and fixed before it became an issue. Basil knew that it had to be about his job. "I don't know anything about what's going on right now - I swear. There's nothing I can tell you..."

Using his blaster again, Terak pointed at Henrietta and then to the door. She understood and, with legs like jelly, stood up and walked out of the room. Terak followed her out. Basil remained seated and heard the two of them ascend the stairs. He was almost petrified with fear. He glanced over at the replica early telephone and wondered if he should call the police. Part of him was wanting to do it but not enough. He remained frozen in his chair thinking of what would happen to his family if he tried to call for help. Basil remained like that for what seemed an eternity for him, unable to excise images of his family being brutally murdered upstairs and hating himself for not being braver or smarter than he was. It was eerily quiet.

In reality it was only a couple of minutes before Henrietta and Terak returned, this time accompanied by the two children, Timothy and Charlotte. The ten and eight year olds looked sleepy, confused and very frightened, both clutching onto their mother.

"I'll tell you absolutely anything you want, anything, just please don't hurt them." Basil pleaded with the impassive masked figure. Terak gave a slow single nod, which opened the floodgates. Basil spouted off, somewhat incoherently, everything he could think of about the government and his boss, Jon Preston, the Deputy President of the United Federation of Planets.

For almost an hour Terak stood statuesque as Sir Basil hurriedly blurted out everything that came to mind in the desperate attempt to save his family, even if it probably did mean the end of his career. Terak pieced every scrap of information together to form a framework in his mind, each little fact reinforcing or reshaping his understanding. Henrietta did what she could to comfort her two sobbing children. By the time Basil was faltering Terak already knew enough. As a twisted thank-you for his efforts Sir Basil was the last of the four Rutherfords to be executed.

 

*******************

"I've got an update for you, sir" Dallymore said to the shattered Deputy President, looking just as fatigued herself.

"Yeah?" Preston said sounding not completely interested. The two of them, and several others beside, had been awake for thirty-two hours straight, it was now approaching four o'clock in the morning in the San Francisco situation room.

"We've now recovered the last of the Federation delegation and we have DNA confirmation that the body we found twenty hours ago was the President..."

"Why'd it take so long?"

"To identify him?"

"yuh..." Preston half yawned.

"It's total chaos down there. Two Starfleet relief ships have now arrived, as you know, and we've already found a few survivors, just under five hundred. That's of about half a million by our latest figures..."

"Is that it? Do you think I really care about a few dead natives?"

"Well, no, er, Mr. President." Dallymore said, for the first time someone called Preston by his new title. He looked up at her, suddenly aware he was slouching. He shifted his not inconsiderable weight and took a long look around the large oval table and then beyond to the windowless situation room now occupied only by the two of them. Preston had retreated here to escape the various officials, politicians and military commanders that were running around like headless chickens. By rights they should all be meeting around the famous situation room table but the earlier meetings had broken up and fragmented about to various personal offices around the complex.

Sensing it was time to get Preston back home Dallymore prepared the way. "There is one more thing, sir." Preston turned back to her. "I've gotten reports of a Klingon and a human kid causing the Dauntless and the rescue teams some trouble. It seems they have found evidence of a suspicious craft leaving the area of the Utility Station minutes before the disaster. They've apparently left in pursuit. Should we send the Dauntless after them or continue to coordinate the rescue effort?"

"A Klingon and a kid?! How will we look if the press ever found out we left a rescue mission to chase after a Klingon and a kid? We've got an investigation team heading out there, let them look into it."

"The FIA team will be there in a few hours. Time to head back to London, Mr. President?"

"You're not bloody wrong, it must be light there by now."

"About four hours ago."

Exhausted the two of them headed down the hall to the transporter room. Two immaculately dress-uniformed guards saluted the new President without knowing that he was, at least in practice, now the President of the Federation. In theory he would have to wait until he was sworn in but nobody seemed ready to take that move, even though constitutionally it should already have happened.

"Downing Street" Dallymore instructed the transporter operator as they assumed positions on the pad. Before they knew it they were both standing in a basement half way across the world.

"Transporter inhibitors back up, sir." the London transporter chief said cheerfully. Preston simply grunted in return.

The two of them made their way up the narrow but plush stairs to the ground floor. It was there that they met Pauline Preston.

"You both look terrible. Would you like some lunch?" Pauline asked, always ready to get into the kitchen despite the fact they had a maid on hand.

"Give it a rest, woman, I just want some sleep." Preston said more angrily than he would dare do to her if he were more awake.

"Fine, well you enjoy your little sleep Mr. President" she responded sarcastically and saying -his new title as if it were an insult. She stormed off. Jon Preston grumbled something under his breath.

"We're going to have to make arrangements for your swearing in. We've got the speaker and leader of the opposition ready, they're both here on Earth, thank goodness. We'll probably use Judge Hugh, if that's okay. We'll do it as soon as you're ready." Dallymore said, trying to remember the procedure she was told less than an hour ago.

"Who says ambition counts for noth-" Preston began as they ascended the famous stairs, watched by pictures of past British Prime Ministers. Initially he began to marvel at how easily he had become Prime Minister, then elected by his Earth regional peers to also represent his world as Earth President, then to also be named by Sankey as his Deputy and now... It was then that he noticed something odd, something he'd never seen before. "What the bloody hell is that..?" he said urgently, pointing at a small green metal device attached between two eighteenth century prime ministers.

"It's a bomb! Get down!" Dallymore shouted, instantly recognizing the item.

 

********************

 

"Who are you?" demanded Preston to the newcomer.

"Charles Hill, Dallymore's boss?" the young man responded, expecting Preston to recognize him.

"Oh, yes. I'll only deal with Dallymore. Where is she?"

"I told her to get some rest - but it appears she ignored me." Hill said, seeing Dallymore approach the two of them siting in the back of the incident van, double rear doors open, across the street from Preston's official London residence.

"Report, Commander." Hill ordered Dallymore.

"We've just had confirmation it was a Klingon device. It was easily disabled but was clean."

"Clean?!" Preston exclaimed.

"As in deliberately cleaned of organic residues such as skin cells, sir. We can't immediately trace it back to anyone." Dallymore explained.

"Bloody Klingons. Do we still think it was them that killed Sankey?" Preston said angrily.

"We don't even know it wasn't an accident yet, not for sure." Hill said as neutrally as he could.

"Why don't you shove off, Director Hill! Where the hell were your people when they planted this device?" Preston countered.

"If I may, sirs?" Dallymore interjected to both bring order and impart an important piece of information she had received moments before. "We've just had an anonymous call, to the Police, of an armoured figure running toward the Aldwych embassies from this direction."

"Embassies? How did they..? Have them all contacted and warned, it could be our man. Heck of a long way to run, though..." Hill ordered. Preston looked at him as if he thought the other was being deliberately obtuse. Who else could it be but whoever planted the Klingon device?

"We're already doing that, sir. I'll check on their progress. I've also ordered a special forces team on standby." Dallymore said as she walked off toward the large group of police and security service personnel gathered around a makeshift incident room tent a bit further down the road.

"I'll keep you informed, Deputy President." Hill said as he stepped out of the van to follow his colleague.

Hill approached Dallymore, who was already in a rapid conversation with one of the other security operatives.

"Found him?" Hill asked her.

"Perhaps. We can't contact the Betazoid consulate." Dallymore said to him without turning to face him.

"Fantastic. This is getting out of hand. I'm getting Preston to the emergency transport, gather the others we need for the swearing in. I'm taking them to Safeworld B, we can do the ceremony en-route. I'm leaving you to deal with the Betazoid situation." Hill ordered.

"Yes, sir." Dallymore acknowledged, half turning to look at him in the corner of her eye. Hill stalked off toward Preston but Dallymore remained frozen, watching her boss shrink into the distance of her peripheral vision. She was only brought back to reality a moment later by another colleague handing her a strong cup of coffee.

 

******************

 

"Their transporter and sensor blockers are up, we can't get so much as an infrared reading on the place, sir." the special forces commander relayed to Dallymore.

"You would have thought Betazoids would be less worried about their privacy." Dallymore replied, sounding exhausted again now the adrenaline had worn off from the Downing Street incident.

"On the contrary, sir, I think being able to hear each others thoughts make them even more paranoid about it. Besides, it is standard procedure to protect all important governmental facilities. My men are ready to take the place, if that is what you still want, though I would suggest you contact the Betazoid government first, this is sovereign territory, sir."

"We don't have time for that, commander. Goodness only knows what's going on inside there. Given the events of the past few days I can't take any chances. Send them in." she ordered.

"Are you sure you don't want to contact the Betazoids first? This could become a diplomatic incident..." the special forces commander warned, less than thrilled to be taking part in what could so easily go down in the history books as a monumental mistake.

"Only if we mess it up. If this goes well we will look decisive in the face of terrorism. You've told your people to use stun gas and non-lethal phaser settings unless absolutely necessary, yes?"

"Yes, as you instructed. We'll do all we can to protect the Ambassador and her staff. For the record, I think we should seek permission, or at least inform, the Betazoid government."

"Noted. Go in." Dallymore was quickly losing her temper. Never before had she known a special forces commander to so worry about the niceties of interplanetary politics.

The commander grimly nodded his acceptance of the order, turned to look out of the window of their hastily borrowed room, to the Betazoid consult across the street. All looked quiet and peaceful, at least for another thirty seconds.

 

**********************

 

The last member of the group hurried up the small metal ramp, Hill encouraged speed with his urgent 'get up here' gesturing. The ramp began to swing up before the old man even had time to get off it. The Starfleet Runabout, heavily modified to look like an old private yacht, ascended gracefully into the air.

"Lucky I'm on Earth, they say to me." the old man groused. "I don't feel very lucky, certainly not being stuck in this old rust bucket."

"Take a seat, Mr. Speaker. This could be a rough ride." Hill said to the straggler of the group. In this case there was a good excuse for being the last to show, besides being over a hundred years old the Speaker for the Federation Parliament was also in the middle of a meal with the President of Japan up until fifteen minutes before. He was warned he could be needed at any second but didn't really expect the call for a good seven or eight hours, or so he was told to expect by Hill's people.

"Why the hurry? What's going on... what did you say your name was?" the Speaker wasn't nearly as senile as he liked to make out and he greatly enjoyed playing up his old age.

"Hill, sir. This is purely for your protection and that of, soon to be President, Preston's." Hill said as if he were explaining it for the fifteenth time.

"Why can't we sit with the others?"

"We can go through into the common room once we've left the atmosphere. Until then we must remained seated here, sir, for our own safety." Hill said resignedly, wondering why it had to be this old man who was last. He would much prefer to be stuck in the small vac-suit/tools area with the leader of the opposition, the Vulcan's leader, Sakin, or even the oafish Preston. Next time he would wait before giving the lift off signal so they'd have time to go through...

"I've never had a smoother ride..." the Speaker began and indeed it was a textbook flight. It was then that he noticed the vac-suit locker across from him slowly swing open.

 

****************

 

Three black open-sided aircraft glided in at considerable speed down toward the Betazoid consulate, from three different directions. As one, black armoured special forces soldiers jumped from sides of the vehicles, trailing cords that attached them to their transports. The vehicles stopped abruptly just in front of the three exterior walls to the building. With perfect timing the soldiers all ran out of cord slack just as the vehicles stopped. With the help of their forward momentums they all swung toward and crashed through the large windows around the top and middle floors of the consulate, a dirty grey smoke trailing behind each of them. More of that grey smoke suddenly exploded outward as the tethers went lose and the vehicles turned and speed off, this time heading off in the same direction.

Dallymore watched on from across the street, in constant communication with the the Special Forces commander next to her and his men.

Inside, the black gas-masked figures rushed from doorway to doorway, always throwing in a small gas grenade before each venture into another room. Their goggles gave them almost perfect vision despite the thick chocking gas. Using a combination of hand signals and brief code words they quickly secured room after room but so far had seen no resistance or any sign of any hostages.

As per the plan they all convened on the central hall on the ground floor. That was considered the most likely place for the hostages to be held as it was the largest open area. The special forces team split into three groups of five, as they had arrived, and each took one of the three large sets of doors around the grand hall. With a brief radio signal the three teams stormed the room. The doors exploded inward. Two of the five on each door took cover around the sides and threw in gas grenades. Before there was even time for the grenades to hit the floor the other three of each group stormed in. The nine of them each took a different angle to cover. As the smoke grenades exploded and spewed forth the familiar dirty grey gas the other six stepped into the doorways to cover their colleagues. All fifteen of them scanned about to locate their quarry. All they saw were ten Betazoids tied together in the middle of the room. It was then they noticed that some of the hostages had devices strapped to them. In perfect formation and without the slightest hint of panic all fifteen soldiers ran backward toward the doors they had entered by, never once taking their eyes, or weapons, off the hostages and the grand hall. Green gas began to escape from the devices on the tied and gagged hostages, it was then that the soldiers realised that they weren't wired up with explosives but gas canisters. The initial nine soldiers quickly moved in on the unconscious Betazoids in an attempt to free them from the unknown gas. The other two on each door stepped into the rooms beyond to double check they were still secure for a rapid exit. The Betazoids were quickly cut free from the canisters and each other. It was very clear that they were all dying, their life signs could be seen to be falling on the soldiers' goggle displays. In teams of two they quickly lifted up the unconscious forms and rushed them into the rooms around, away from the green gas cloud. Before any of the Betazoids had even left the grand hall they were dead.

Dallymore looked, stunned, at the special forces commander. "Get medics in there, quick. Get those transporter barriers down and beam them out. Do... something!" she shouted at the commander.

The commander shook his head glumly. "There's nothing we can do for them. Look - I've got a chemical breakdown on that gas from my boys' sensor telemetries. It looks like whoever rigged them up expected us to use gas. Doesn't look like this stuff would have been lethal on its own, only when combined with a gas like ours would it cause... well, it combined to form some type of protoplasmic poison, it seems. One things for sure, there'll be hell to pay for this... What's more the building is clear, there's no sign of whoever did this..."

Dallymore leaned over in her seat, doubling up with her head between her knees, wishing to do nothing more than sleep. Sleep forever.

 

************************

 

Searing pain burst its way through Hill's chest. The force of the blast knocked him from the chair he was half siting in as he turned toward the figure climbing from the tall storage locker behind him. As the life ebbed from him his thoughts raced around and around. Why didn't he do a full security check of the runabout? How did this attacker evade his sensor scans? How did he know about this contingency plan - only Hill's own people, Preston himself a few select senior officials were supposed to know. Will he defeat this attacker? Will he ever see his family again... It was then his severely damaged heart gave out, his blood pressure dropped to nil, he lost consciousness and slowly died.

Terak stepped over Hill's body and confronted the old man sitting in front of him. The Speaker appeared shocked but by no means terrified. There was a steely defiance in the old man's eyes, not to defend himself, as he had clearly decided that would be a pointless and undignified gesture, but to face down his killer with resolve. Pausing briefly to acknowledge the Speaker's determination Terak could sense his victim recognized the admiration. His usual enjoyment of a termination was somewhat dulled in this case, Terak blasted a large hole through the old man's forehead to make it an instant death.

Despite Terak having carefully silenced his blaster the muffled sound still reverberated around the little room. Expecting the worst Terak pressed his back against to the wall next to the door heading further into the vessel. There was a jolt as they went to warp. Terak waiting a few minutes to see if they had heard the two blasts and were going to respond. With no sign of that he hit the door control.

Judge Sara Hugh stood up, her dress with large polka dots looking particularly out of place. None of the three of them in the common room where given time to change before being rushed off to the runabout by Hill's people. Jon Preston, despite his plump proportions, was looking rather haggard and staring blankly across the cabin. The other man, Sakin, looked calm and rational, just as his Vulcan childhood had drummed into him. Sakin's simple robes gave away no hint of his importance, did you not recognize his face you would have no way of knowing he was the Vulcan premier and official leader of the opposition in the Federation parliament. Together with the Speaker and two witnesses, Hill and his pilot, they were all that were required for Preston to take the Oath of Office and assume the position of Federation President. Hill was to record the proceedings for distribution to the press once the death of President Sankey was unveiled. Unfortunately, the ceremony would never take place.

"Shall we get this over with then, gentlemen?" Judge Hugh prompted the other two. Before either of them could respond the door at the back of the room slid open. The three of them turned, expecting to see Hill or the Speaker.

A volley of invisible blaster bolts ripped through the judge and sent her large frame crashing into the wall opposite. The Vulcan jumped to his feet and with surprising strength and speed knocked into the side of Terak. The two of them crashed into the wall. Preston became alert for the first time since having left Downing Street and reached over to punch the pilot cabin door release not far from his position. The pilot briefly glanced around to see who was at his door and did a double take at the unlikely scenario he had glimpsed. Terak saw the door open and the pilot beyond and knew he must prevent the pilot from sending a distress call. Sakin's incredible strength was pinning Terak to the left wall and holding his right arm, gun and all, against Terak's side. If Terak shot his blaster he would likely take his own leg off and had no chance of bringing the gun to bear on the pilot. Twisting suddenly to the right Terak was able to free his left hand. Instinctively knowing his left forearmed positioned net gun would do little to stop a distress button being pressed, Terak instead reached down toward his left knee and pulled out a fusion cutter. As the pilot keyed his panel to prime a distress call Terak, rather awkwardly, threw the ignited cutter toward the pilot. It was a better throw than he could have hoped given his predicament and the fusion cutter sliced a deep wide groove in the back of the pilot's neck. It was a bit lower than he was hoping but did the job just as well, the pilot collapsed forward onto his control panel. Sakin responded by suddenly pulling Terak back from the wall, twisting him around and thumping him back, face first, against the wall again. Terak's helmet clanged against the metal bulkhead and Terak, taken entirely by surprise by the Vulcan's strength, dropped his gun.

"Who are you?" the Vulcan asked, sounding more curious than angry. Terak wasn't in the mood to answer questions. The bounty hunter was pinned to the wall again, this time front on rather than side on, the his helmet pressed against the wall and his free hands trying to push away to lessen the pressure on his neck. The Vulcan leaned against him with all his weight - he was a tall man, much more so than Terak, and well built with it. There was no way Terak could free himself with brute force. Two jets of flames erupted from Terak's jet pack, not enough to actually give any significant upward momentum but more than enough to roast the Vulcan. Sakin jumped back with a cry of pain, his robes ablaze and literally melted to what remained of his upper legs. Terak spun around with his new freedom, pulling a vibroblade from his belt as he did so. As a single motion he spun around and slashed the blade across the burning Vulcan's throat. Sakin, rapidly resembling a torch, fell to his knees and collapsed forward at Terak's feet, dead. An automatic fire suppression system kicked in and a conical force field projected down from the ceiling, enveloping Sakin's body. Starved of oxygen the fire followed its host into death. Terak stepped around the force field to confront his real target, Jon Preston.

Preston laughed uncomfortably. "Look, if you want money, mate, you can have it all. I've got a pretty penny stashed away for a rainy day, you see..." Terak just looked at him inscrutably. Preston gave up that tack as his short temper gave out for the last time "You could have killed me anytime, you bloody bastard! It was you who planted that bomb at number ten, you wanted it to be found, it was probably you who made that call about the embassy as a diversion! You've been playing with us. Why?!" Preston stood up, his anger boiling over to the point where his sense had left him. "It's just a bloody game to you, huh?" Preston lashed out with a heavy punch to Terak's face. Despite his helmet taking most of the impact Terak was nonetheless knocked back a step and Preston, instinctively from his boxing days, pressed his apparent advantage and grappled the bounty hunter. Preston tried to wrestle him to the ground and a savage head butt from Terak did nothing to slow him up, Preston was fighting for his life. Terak was, as ever, enjoying the sensation of letting the prey get the upper hand, he liked the challenge of fighting his way back to victory. Preston was a large man, he enjoyed his food and was renowned for never walking anywhere, though he wasn't particularly fit his size did bring some inherent strength and a great deal of weight to bear forth. The two of them slammed to the ground next to the still smoldering remains of Sakin. Preston eased himself up to prepare to pummel Terak from above but before his could fully balance his weight Terak held his right fist in his left hand and with the power of both arms cracked his right elbow into Preston's jaw. Preston rolled off Terak onto Sakin and, slightly stunned, spat out blood and bits of shattered tooth. Terak, much fitter and nimbler than Preston, jumped up into a prone position and, again, brought his hands together for a powerful elbow. This time he didn't just rely on the strength in his arms but instead aimed all his weight down onto Preston's not inconsiderable stomach. Preston tried to roll out of the way but was only successful in making a half turn and Terak's elbow instead succeeded in striking one of Preston's kidneys. In extreme agony Preston completed his roll onto his front, next to Sakin.

Terak grabbed one of Preston's arms and turned him over, he liked to see his victim's face as he killed them. That was one regret of his last mission to kill President Sankey, he hadn't even had the chance to meet him let alone kill him face to face. The same regret he had about the Betazoid Consulate but at least there he got to subdue them personally, even if he did have to leave it to the Earth security forces to inadvertently kill them. He wondered if his plan had succeeded.

"Why?" Preston choked out. "Why didn't you just kill me when you had the chance before..." Preston said as best he could, now actually looking forward to the release of death, it had to be better than the past couple of days, after all.

"For the fun of it." Terak said simply, though not mentioning his secondary target, he could have finished Preston with much less trouble than he chose to.

Terak stepped over to his fallen blaster, crouched down to pick up, stood up and returned to looking down at Preston. Aiming his weapon between Preston's eyes, he stood there immobile for several long agonizing seconds, wondering if Preston had any fight left in him. He didn't. The single invisible blaster bolt ripped a large hole centered on the bridge of Preston's nose and blew the back of his skull clean off. Terak lingered over the body for a moment, wondering how many others had killed two such important people in the space of a week. Not many, he ventured a guess. Not many at all.

THE END