SEASON 3: EPISODE 03
THE ONLY THING NECESSARY: Part Eight
Celcho sat with Ilata in one of the ship’s smaller lounges as they ate a meal. The ship had two main lounges in Fire and Ice but it still had several smaller lounges dotted around the ship so that personnel could grab a meal without having to travel too far from where they were working. This particular lounge was deep in the ship just off the shuttlebay.
“You haven’t told me much about your planet,” he said casually.
Ilata shrugged. “Not much to tell.”
Celcho suppressed a sigh. He had been ordered by the captain to conduct an ‘informal’ interview with Ilata to milk him of some intelligence about the planet. He was not sure of the details but it looked like someone had messed up and not given the ship completely accurate information. “Our sensors seem to indicate your world is in some sort of cold war.”
“Oh that, yeah the Coalition and us have been on the brink of war for a while now,” he said as plainly as if he was discussing a cake recipe. Either the war had lasted a significantly long time that it was all very normal or Ilata just did not really care about such things, he tended to think it would be the former.
“The Coalition of Zadic. They’re the other superpower. Well, it’s a group of smaller powers working together to combat the power and influence of the Totality.”
“Which you represent?”
He nodded. “The Coalition only cropped up after the last world war.”
“You’ve had more than one world war?”
“We’ve had three major global conflicts in the past. The last was long before I was born. Back before the war the Totality was a middle of the road state, which rose up to combat an aggressive power that was trying to take over the world. When the dust settled the Totality had won and became the dominate power in the world. Several years later several other smaller powers banded together to resist the Totality’s influence.”
“So Zadic is the driving state of this coalition?”
Ilata laughed. “No, Zadic’s our god...well, the head god to be more specific.” That was interesting; it meant that the Coalition was a religiously driven power. “Legend has it that we once lived with the gods but we wronged them and as punishment we were cast down onto our world. To remind us Zadic left a sign for us to find our way back to be by his and the other god’s side.”
“What was the sign?”
“Can you get an image of space around the ship?” asked Ilata. Celcho nodded and pulled out a datapadd. He loaded up a view looking towards the planet on the padd’s screen and showed it to Ilata. “Can you rotate the view away from the planet?” Celcho fiddled with the controls and the image panned. “Stop! There it is.”
Celcho looked to see what Ilata was pointing to. At first he could not pick out what he meant. There was really only one object of interest in view.
“The pulsar?” he asked pointing to it as well.
“Yes, for a long time people believed that it was sending a signal and if one could decipher the message we...or at least their group would be ascended to be with Zadic.”
“That’s just a pulsar. The pulses are what it naturally does; there’s no supernatural meaning behind them,” he voiced hoping he was not been terribly offensive to Ilata.
Ilata tilted his head to the right, which was the same as a shrug. “No one believes that it’s a message from Zadic anymore.”
“You mean no one in the Totality,” he specified.
“What? No, no one anywhere, even the Coalition doesn’t believe in that legend any more. Sure there might be some religious orders that are very conservative or traditional but they would be in a small minority.”
Celcho wondered if his universal translator was working correctly because he was not making any sense of what Ilata was talking about. “I don’t understand if the Coalition doesn’t believe it’s Zadic then what do they believe?”
“They believe in Zadic,” he replied as if it explained everything.
Celcho was about to attack his universal translator when it finally dawned on him the meaning of Ilata’s statement.
“The Totality is atheist?” That just drew a blank look from Ilata. “Atheist...atheism is the absence in the belief of a god or gods.”
Ilate nodded understanding the context of the word. “Yes. The Totality’s official stance is that no gods exist and that religion is a form of undue influence on the masses. There are no places of worship in the Totality. Practicing religion is a crime.”
Celcho was shocked by this. The Federation in itself had no overriding religion it espoused to but it did not deny its citizens from worshiping how they saw fit.
“You’ve remove people’s choice to worship what they believe?”
“For the good of the Totality we do,” said Ilata. He did not seem defensive about his answer; to him it probably was just how things were meant to be. “Most of the conflicts in our past were religious based. Religion has no role in a peaceful society other than to discriminate and persecute others.”
“So that’s why the Coalition opposes you, you deny their right to faith.”
Ilata gave him a look as if he could not believe what Celcho had said. “Religion isn’t a right, it’s backwards and confining. Sure it has its place but that is in the past when people didn’t know any better,” replied Ilata dismissively.
“Back after the world war I assume the Totality would have gained territory off your enemy, what did it do with these new regions?”
“Probably what they do now. Make religion illegal, destroy places of worship and religious texts, objects, and remove the status of religious figures. That’s what we did when we incorporated a new state a few years back.”
“What do you mean by incorporate?”
“We sent in our armed forces, removed theirs and made it a state of the Totality,” he explained using his utensil as props.
“So to promote peace you create war?”
“Look, I’m not all that fond of that part of my society. Especially given I had to fight to enforce these policies before I became a test pilot. It’s the reality of our world, we do it to survive,” defended Ilata. “The Coalition isn’t as advanced as us but they do vastly outnumber us in manpower, though these days it’s the nuclear threat that keeps each side from doing anything too rash.”
Ilata nodded. “It is crazy.”
“No, I meant M-A-D, Mutually Assured Destruction. It doesn’t matter who is the first to attack with nuclear arms because the other side will always still maintain enough strength to launch a just as devastating second strike. So it doesn’t matter who pulls the trigger, you both go down. It was a principle back on my world when we were in a similar situation.”
“You were in a similar situation?” asked Ilata, for the first time sounding interested in the conversation. “How did you get past it?”
“Well, we didn’t, at least without going to war. Nearly a hundred years after the first development of nuclear weapons we fought our third and last world war on Earth. Over 600 million dead, many major cities completely destroyed and a decade where our civilisation teetered on the edge of the abyss.”
“But you survived.”
“Funnily enough it was the development of warp travel that saved us. Another race noticed and visited us; it was fairly coincidental that the test flight was noticed by a passing ship given the size of space. They visited us and over the next century humanity managed to put the past behind it and unite as one with the purpose to advance all of humanity, not just one section of it.”
“Warp drive is likely to do the opposite here. The Coalition is strongly opposed to space exploration. They believe that to push beyond the veil will lead to our destruction.”
Ilata gestured around them. “That’s what they call the nebula, Zadic’s Veil. They believe it shields the worthy, us, from the unworthy and the enemies of the gods. They think if we go outside we will bring back the end of our world.”
Celcho was about to say that it was a surprisingly reasonable assumption and close to the truth given the Tzenkethi were just down the road but decided not to. “I can see why they would not be pleased by our presence.”
“I bet they have already named your ship something like ‘the chariot of death’ and pointing to your ship as the first sign of the coming apocalypse,” he said jokingly.
“So you think if we approached them they would not accept to meet with us.”
Ilata glanced around the room. “My partner works as an assistant to a minister so I usually have to be very careful about what I say. If you don’t support the government you’re a traitor. One wrong word and she’d lose her job faster then...well faster than my warp ship.”
“You can’t speak out against your government? Question their actions?”
“Only if you want to enjoy life behind bars! We have to be united behind our leaders because that is the only way we’ll prevail. That state we absorbed I mentioned, well I fought in that war as a fighter pilot and I was based in the state after we won so I’ve met these types of people before. I’ll admit they aren’t as ignorant and bigoted as the government and news claims and I even liked some of them, even before they rejected the lies of religion. But they are still stubborn, close minded, set in the errors of their ways. All in all if you did beam down to meet them they would be just as likely to shoot you as they would be to hand your hand in friendship.”
That was hardly a ringing endorsement of the Coalition but he did put forward the possibility that they could work something out with the Coalition. The captain had wanted him to ask that specific question, though he was not sure what the captain could do with the answer.
“So there is no way the Totality and the Coalition could exist peacefully?” he asked.
“If a state of cold war is peaceful then yes there is. That’s really what my test flight was about. It was about getting the technology to be able to move beyond this system.”
“To seek a new home,” finished off Celcho.
Ilata gave him a look as if he thought Celcho was simple minded. “Why would we want to surrender our homes? We knew we were not alone and that we might be able to find advanced civilisations, like yourself, and gain advanced technology.”
“There is only one way this war can be ended. We have to tear down the Coalition and make it see the errors of its ways. The only true peace that can be obtained is in Totality dominance.”
Celcho sighed. The captain was not going to like this.
The acolyte looked up at the dark night sky. He wondered exactly where the alien vessel was above them. Wherever it was it was far out of his reach.
“Do you think he’s coming?” asked his companion.
“He’s not late yet. We can afford to wait,” he reassured his partner. They were in one of the industrial districts of the Totality capital. Vast warehouses and factories surrounded them that produced the goods of the state’s economy, though at the moment they were very much alone.
“I’m glad you did.”
He turned to the voice and saw a figure step out of the shadows. He tensed as he watched the figure approach, his hand subtly slipping to his concealed weapon. The figure walked close enough that he could make out his features. It was who they were waiting for.
“Do you have the merchandise?” he asked suspicious of the figure.
The man raised his arms and the acolyte saw that he carried two cases. “Yes, two customised portable computers.”
The figure took a step forward, put down the cases and stepped back. He gestured to his partner to retrieve them. He did and opened one of the case to look inside.
“Looks like a computer,” his partner commented.
“That’s the point. They look like normal machines and security scanners will not reveal anything different.”
The acolyte was not about to take the figure on his word and pulled out a small handheld scanner. He ran it over the computer and then opened the second case and scanned it. The scanners did not detect anything out of the ordinary. The devices appeared to be genuine. There was the possibility that the items were and the figure was tricking them. However, there was really only one way to find out and to do that would waste the equipment. He was going to have to partly rely on the word of a stranger.
He gestured to his companion and he handed the figure the item they agreed to trade for.
“Why would you help us? You’re dealing with the Totality,” he asked, ever suspicious of strangers, especially ones from another planet that were dealing with the enemy.
“The exact reason why is not of your concern, suffice to say that by helping you I’m fulfilling my own objective. You should just be pleased with the ability I have just granted you. Do you have any question about the plan?”
The acolyte shook his head. It was a straight forward plan that even a child could follow. “We could expose your treachery,” he threatened.
“You could try but there should be no doubting that if you do attempt to do that the consequences would be dire for you and your people. I am presenting you with an opportunity that you will probably never get again, can you really waste that? Stick to the plan and you will get what you want.”
The figure turned and headed back to the shadows.
“You are right about this opportunity, we cannot ignore it,” he called. “However, if you betray us comrade I don’t care how advanced your ship is of how high it is in the sky. I will hunt you down.”
The figure stopped walking and started to laugh before turning back to them. “Your threats are meaningless to me, acolyte. I have fulfilled my part of the deal; you just make sure you do yours.”
The acolyte watched as the figure faded into the darkness. He had no heard any vehicle approach and assumed that the alien technology facilitated his arrival and departure. Their comrade was correct. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity but that did not mean he would just follow the plan that was given to him, he had plans of his own.
Captain Masters, Ambassador Whitechapel and their four person security team materialised inside a Echlan Totality military base. They were in a large cargo area and waiting for them were at least two dozen armed military personnel. One of them stepped forward.
“Welcome to the capital. As agreed you are to be checked for weapons. Any equipment you carry must also be checked. Please place it over here.”
One by one they were scanned. Two of the security detail went first, one was Starfleet security, and the other was a Marine. The marine had the most trouble due to the integrated systems in the Hazard suit. None of them were armed, at least externally. The ambassador had been clear that they would not take any weapons down with them. That was why he requested two Marines be part of their security detail. They carried enough weaponry in their transporter buffers to equip the team should the need come. He was not sure if Ambassador Whitechapel knew of the suits capabilities but he had not said anything and he was definitely not going to tell the ambassador. Two could play the ‘need to know’ game.
They were all checked and the military had got numerous scans of combadges, tricorders, datapadds but it would not do them much good as they did not have the material or computer technology to reproduce the items. Once that was done they were led to a briefing room where more military and government officials waited specially to brief them on the plans for the day.
“Welcome,” greeted the briefing officer. “I’m sorry that Defence Chief Qual could not be here. He will meet us at the capitol building before you are presented to the assembly.”
The man went on to detail their journey and the protocol expected of them during this short visit. The showpiece of the event would be the ambassador addressing the government in what was to be a live address to the entire Totality, plus no doubt the Coalition would also be watching. Masters was surprised by this; he expected that they would want a more private affair to start with. However, from the reports he had read the Totality had admitted to the presence of their ship, which had probably been forced by the reports and images from the Coalition of the Swiftfire in orbit.
The Totality had blocked reports on the ship and the outcome of the warp ship test, which had brought up speculations that the test was an abject failure and the pilot was killed or stranded. The presence of an ‘alien’ ship however was not one of the things the media had speculated. He wished that they did not keep the ship’s presence a secret but knew in reality that governments were often cautious in these endeavours and attempted to keep as much control over the situation as they could.
As the briefer droned on Masters was hoping that this would be one of the few times he would have to be actively involved. The whole situation still did not sit with him and the less he had to do with it the better.