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[Age of Mouldwarp]   
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Cadavers (Part 6)
Night Falls
When the shuttle Alaric had completed the particle shift required of all visitors to Halley Minor, its passengers immediately disembarked, led by an eager Derek Parkes.  They had touched down not far from the Chancellery, where the negotiations Parkes had been brought in for were to take place.  In waiting as had been related already were Xeno Minister Holm and delegates from both the House of Macrons and the House of Pasterns.  Parkes immediately settled in, dismissing Lt. Jacobi and the rest of the security detachment from the proceedings, saying that they were no longer required to be "vigilant Starfleet types."

Jacobi did not fight it.  He had been given specific instructions from Captain Matheson, and as it so happened leaving the general vicinity of Parkes did not interfere with them.  Placing the security detachment around the Chancellery, Jacobi wandered off towards the Hall of Congregation, the one place that even Parkes had not been granted access to.

It was not night, so he did not bother skulking.  He was not disguised to appear as a native, though in truth not even the Federation had perfected that level of mimicry, so it would have been impossible all the same.  Differences in physiology could only be faked to a certain degree.  One might be able to fake a solid state from a gelatinous one, but not vise versa.  No matter, Jacobi had no intention to hide.  The distance between the Chancellery and the Hall of Congregation was a substantial one, and the lieutenant took the opportunity to sightsee.  Physiology was not the only things separating him from the Phalli contextually.  Culturally, the Phalli were like nothing Jacobi had ever experienced.  Even by abstract artistsí standards, Phalli architecture was out there.  He supposed it blended in well with the natural surroundings, and so that was a comfort to his eyes, but it wasnít even anything like dwellings for any primitive societies heíd ever studied.  If there was a middle ground between modern and primitive ground, without seeming like either to any significant degree, Jacobi supposed it could be found here on Halley Minor.

But describing it is not the point of this story.  In truth, Jacobi observed all of it only half-interestedly, his concentration being reserved for the task at hand. Matheson had been explicit, and to prove her good faith in him, she had revealed every last motivating factor in her decision to do it.  Her mentor Admiral Logan knew perhaps seventy-five percent, Commander Franzoni maybe forty-five.  Logan was under the false impression that Haley Minor had become personal, but Jacobi knew that it hadnít.  He also knew how much it hurt Matheson for her to know how wrong her closest friend was.  But until it was behind her, she couldnít fully open up to Logan, and even then she had begun to question to appropriateness of it, considering what her solution was.

Jacobi knew.  He began to stare straight ahead, steely, determined.  He hadnít bothered to learn the local language, and his motto had always been "if you donít know the language, donít use the UT as substitute."  It was an unpopular view, but it was indicative of the kind of character that had attracted Matheson to him as an agent of her solution.  
Around looping establishments in the comparatively narrow pathway of the city that had never known automated transportation, Jacobi walked.  He was fingering the phaser tucked inside the pouch that attached to his waist in a magnetic-like cling.  The contours of the weapon had always strangely excited him.  Such an exotic design for a gun.  From his studies of history, he knew that Starfleet had not always employed so elegant a design.  He had a replicated version of the type James Kirk would have used, itself a modified version of the original phase pistol.  God, did that seem a long time ago.  So primitive.  It brought a smirk to Jacobiís face just thinking about it, and he imagined he looked quite silly traipsing about the city, an outsider, with a smirk on his face.  He then wondered if the natives would even know how to identify a smirk if they saw one.  He wondered in Phalli smirked.  He knew, however, that they would not be smirking even if they could after heíd accomplished his mission.

Mission.  He hesitated to call it that.  More of a task, a chore.  Maybe not a chore.  It was not far off, whatever it was, since Jacobi noticed that he had nearly reached the Hall of Congregation.  Access denied, he considered.  Had he not already been smirking, he would now be.  He found himself hardly taking the matter seriously, and he figured that even in a few moments he would not, even if it jeopardized the task Derek Parkes had before him, or his safety.  No matter.  The former was the very thing Jacobi was headed to disrupt.

Two options.  Disrupting Parkesí task or jeopardizing his safety.  Matheson had chosen the former.  Two options.  As Matheson had also concluded, the people of Halley Minor had exactly two, and Jacobi was on his way to help them see that.

There.  The Hall of Congregation.  He had made it.  No one approached to greet him, and no one to escort him away.  He noted that the Hall was flanked with more security personnel than heíd left for Parkes at the Chancellery.  As much as he did not identify with Phalli architecture, Jacobi knew security personnel when he saw them.  His curiosity grew as to why Starfleet was denied access to this structure.  He supposed that this was a good thing.

Without any regard for the security force, he went for the entrance of the Hall.  He felt as if it was nonchalantly, but he gathered that it would make little difference to the Phalli.  As he did so, he drew his phaser from its holster and, pointing it at the doorway, fired a single burst.  

The reaction was instantaneous.  It seemed to Jacobi that every on of the security personnel converged on him, yet he continued toward the door itself, which had been blasted wide open by his phaser burst.  He made it just inside before he began to be seized by, it seemed, every last one of them.  He peered inside.  A host of official-looking types looked at him with what he considered to be sheer apathy, and he wondered once more why access had been denied.

He saw it just as he was turned outside the Hall.  An apparatus so convoluted Jacobi took a brief moment to consider all the incongruous events in his life.  Thatís when it struck him.  The planet was miniaturized not as a matter of nature but by design.  Mathesonís conclusion that the Phalli and their political troubles were better off united against the Federation than as a member clicked in his mind.  When he had heard it he had nearly scoffed, but now it made perfect sense.  These people had issues they needed to resolve for themselves, not the least of which included seemingly contradictory opinions as to their future.

He was taken by force, as genial as that sounds when considered with the Phalli gelatinous physiology and if you imagine it to be not unlike childhood roughhousing as Jacobi did, back to the Chancellery, or just to the side, where he was placed inside the facility he gathered to be a holding pen.  After a period of time he and his security detachment estimated as at least more than one day, he learned that Derek Parkes was no longer planetside.  This was the brunt of speculation for much of the continued stay in the holding pen, though Jacobi had his own suspicions that he kept to himself.

At one feeding time, Jacobi enquired of the server what was happening.

"You have caused harm to Starfleetís cause here," was the curt reply.  

"What of Derek Parkes, hasnít he returned yet?"

"Your friend has not," the still cold Phalli server retorted.  "He perhaps realizes that he has failed because of you."

"Thatís hardly fair," Jacobi said in response.  "It isnít his fault."

"Blame is not the issue," the Phalli stated.  "Federation cowardness is.  You intruded on forbidden ground.  For some people, this is unforgivable.  Perhaps Parkes realized this."

"Perhaps," Jacobi said, dismissively.  Even if he had a more substantial return, the Phalli server did not give him the chance to deliver it.  He had already overstayed his visit.

So there he had it.  A simple action, though admittedly a considerable one, had been all that was needed.  If Mathesonís strategy worked up to this point, Jacobi was inclined to believe it would continue to reverberate in other, more productive ways.  He had to hand it to her.  He now regretted even the thought of scoffing at her.  He had converted.  He was penitent.  The first thing he would do upon returning to the Copernicus would be to admit his sin to the Captain and beg forgiveness.

That is, if he returned.  He was beginning to suspect that perhaps he would not, and he wasnít even speculating yet what the penalty would be for his actions.  He hadnít before and he wasnít going to start now.  It would not be true to his character, and thatís why Matheson had picked him for the job.

Death.  That was a thought that concerned him.  Had he committed to a plan that effectively meant suicide.  He was beginning to consider the consequences.  The hours were mounting, and even the days.  He had never been a prisoner of war before, not even during the conflict with the Dominion.  Torture was not within Phalli inclination, thatís what Jacobi began to consider next.  Not desperately, more nonchalantly.  He savored each new consideration like a glass of replicated scotch.  It was hollow to him.  Not real.  Inconsequential.

He blocked off fairly quickly the impulse to experience the pathos his security detachment had fallen into.  They were weak.  He was feeling ashamed again, and this was for Starfleet frailty.  If death was to be his fate, then he was going to learn to relish it, on this point alone.  He wanted to be alone now, away from this wretched mass of quivering men.  Even though he could not read a Phalliís features, he did not think that he had seen anything but resolve on their faces.  Even divided they were filled with resolve, and he now yearned for the day that they could put away their pettiness and add that strength to the Federation.  Even if he wouldnít live to see it.

Jacobi concentrated on Captain Matheson, on how he would relish basking in the sweet glow of her secret victory.  He felt ashamed once more, at having considered death an escape from his career in Starfleet.  The detachment in this holding pen was not Starfleet.  None of its members were.  He was Starfleet.  His strength, his integrity.  His resolve.  

He was not going to be confined here much longer.

The events on Haley Minor had gone by as if in a blur.  As Jacobi had carried out his assignment, Derek Parkes, or to be more accurate Gul Pentek, had made a sincere effort to resolve the differences of the dominant Phalli political parties.  But centuries a conflict would not be resolved around a table, at a discussion, no matter how much each of the factions wanted it to be.  Pentekís selfish designs slipped into his reasoning long enough for him to forget about maintenance of his projected image.  An exclamation from Minister Holm had alerted him to a glitch and that had been all he needed to craft a hasty exit.  

This occurred after Jacobiís attempted forced admittance into the Hall of Congregation, but before the Chancellery had been notified.  The sincerity of the talks was proven then, and their fall sealed not by Jacobi but by Pentek.

This was the stuff of irony.  
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characters and story © copyright Sean "Waterloo" McKenna 2001-2003; Star Trek copyright Paramount