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Jim Ausfahl 

Stardate 9735.1

Indri was reviewing the day’s repair reports, trying to find a pattern in the assorted malfunctions that might indicate a significant underlying problem that needed addressing. About the only thing he could find was a handful of repairs on cabin doors, suggesting the activities of a clumsy practical joker. Those, Indri filed with several earlier such reports, hoping to track the prankster down, and teach him or her how to pull his or her pranks without doing damage to the ship. Before he could finish his review, his BellComm chimed.

"Engineering, Indri speaking. How can I help you?"

"Bridge, T’Soral speaking. Captain Uhura wants you in the ready room for a meeting in fourteen point two minutes."

"Beats paperwork. Any idea what’s happening?" Indri was surprised; he’d heard nothing through the ship’s remarkably active grapevine.

"Coded transmission for the captain’s eyes only, twenty one point six minutes ago, using an encryption usually used for non-combat situations. I did not pry further." T’Soral’s tone of voice, though as level as always with a Vulcan, indicated that further attempts to mine her for information would be useless.

"Thanks any how. I’m on my way. Indri out." The chief engineer hurried to the turbolift. Moments later, he found himself on the bridge, Reichard in the center seat. Nodding to his friend, he ducked into the ready room, curiosity eating at him. As he entered, he saw that Drevan had already made himself comfortable, and was apparently working on some problem or other on a padd he had brought. M’Benga was sitting quietly, nearest to the spot Uhura would be taking. Tucker and Marsden were in conversation about some social activity they were hoping to get rolling with other crewmembers, and T’Soral sat, impassive as always, lost in her own thoughts. Indri took the sole open chair, finding himself sitting directly across from the seat that all those present expected to see the captain filling soon.

Before the engineer could strike up a conversation with T’Soral or Drevan, who were seated on either side of him, Uhura made her way into the room, sitting in her customary place. For a moment, she looked at the individuals gathered, her face all but unreadable. Before she spoke, she plugged a memory chip into a data port in her chair. "Superficially, our assignment is an easy one. There is an asteroid heading for a civilization that has not yet developed space flight, but that has achieved a substantial level of technology—one compatible with the middle of the Terran twenty-first century. The star system is, according to the duck blind, named Haitz. It’s a G-three main sequence star with six planets, the second of them being inhabited. There is a duck blind watching Haitz and its population, evaluating them for possible contact despite their lack of space flight; it was the people in the duck blind that saw the incoming asteroid, actually, and sent out the distress call to Starfleet brass. You should be able to tap into the chip to see what they’ve sent us."

"This sounds too easy, Captain," Drevan opined. "What’s with the encrypted message, for your eyes only, and all that?"

Uhura’s face twisted slightly in annoyance. "The media, I’m afraid. The last thing that they want is to have us tackle this and fail publicly."

"I don’t see where we can fail, Captain. Just let me and the phasers and the photon torpedoes at it!" It was, of course, Tucker, eager for a chance to deploy his weaponry. "Get us in range, and I’ll make mincemeat out of that thing."

"I wish it was that easy. Remember, Haitz has a highly technical civilization; we have to take this thing out without tipping our hands. We don’t want to let them know there’s a star-faring civilization out here until the folk in the duck blind and Starfleet’s Contact Division decide they’re ready." She tapped the control patch on her chair. "The other thing is that it’s a bit bigger than you seem to think." On the display, a large asteroid appeared, clearly moving against the background. "It’s coming in at about three and a half kilometers per second, relative to the Haitz system, on a trajectory that will impact somewhere in the planet’s northern hemisphere. It measures two and a half kilometers in diameter—roughly, of course; it’s somewhat irregular—and it’s nickel-iron."

Drevan’s antennae stiffened with excitement. "That’s a big, ugly one, all right. Let’s see, given the planet’s mass, that’d be a terminal velocity of, oh, about eighteen point seven kilometers per second. Ouch: it’s going to hit with somewhere above five thousand gigatonne energy, maybe nearly six thousand gigatonnes." He shook his head, his antennae wobbling comically. "I hope they don’t think we can shift that thing quickly. How much time to the expected impact?"

"Not more than five days, Drevan. There is, understandably, some imprecision in its exact trajectory at this point; all that Starfleet has is the data from the duck blind. One of the things that we have to do is refine that."

"Can do, Captain!" It was Marsden, this time. "Let’s hope that behemoth is going to stage a near miss; with the limited time we’ve got, there is no way in the galaxy we’re going to shift its course far enough, fast enough." He tapped into Uhura’s data chip, rapidly accessing the computer’s computational capacity.

"I think it is reasonable to assume that the impact is guaranteed, without our intervention; I can’t see Starfleet redeploying us if it wasn’t." Indri shrugged. "Of course, if it’s going to hit, I can’t see Starfleet expecting the Hyperion to do anything but rescue the folks in the duck blind, either."

"You’re talking like you expect the brass to make sense all the time, Indri. You know better than that. As it turns out, they do want us to do something about the asteroid: either prove it won’t hit, which I consider wishful thinking, or find a way of keeping it from hitting, which seems to me to need a miracle."

"Amen to that!"

"Thank you for your input, Doctor M’Benga." Uhura winked at him. "Back to business. Drevan, what is an impact of this magnitude going to do to the planet?"

"Total devastation. Even a one gigatonne impact would blow any atmosphere in line of sight out into space; this is five, maybe six, thousand gigatonne energy. No matter whether it hits on land or sea, this monster is going to make the planetary crust flex and ring like a tennis ball that’s been whacked hard with a racket. Even ignoring the expected crater, which is a monster, the crust is going to crack like an eggshell." Drevan looked Uhura in the face. "In other words, bye-bye civilization. In fact, that would be goodbye to all lifeforms on the planet, and probably the majority of the crust. We’re talking magma everywhere at the least, and perhaps the formation of a new asteroid belt in the system."

"Basically, this is a planet-buster."

"Exactly, Captain."

Marsden looked up from his calculations. "If the data they’ve shipped us is worth the energy to transmit it, it’s going to hit, all right, just a tad south of the planet’s northern pole. We have three days, fifteen hours, and about twenty-eight minutes before that happens, give or take five or six minutes, any how. Just thought you’d like to know, Captain."

"Thanks for the good news, Jim. Indri, is it possible to hit this thing with enough antimatter to blow it to bits?" It was clear that the captain expected an affirmative answer.

"In theory, yes, Captain." Indri whipped a padd out. "However, vaporizing it might be more to the point. A moment, if you please, to let me do a little calculation." The man’s fingers flew on the padd for a moment. "Quite possible, I believe. If we use anti-iron, or an antimatter version of the nickel-iron combination in the asteroid, we could plant sufficient antimatter inside it, in a containment field that we can cause to decay on command. Getting enough would be a challenge, though, depending on what you want. Fifty tonnes will turn the asteroid into cosmic rays. Thirty will turn it into a combination of vapor and rubble."

"Nice try, but no banana, Indri." To everyone’s surprise, it was M’Benga. "Even if we could get enough antimatter made in the limited time we’ve got—and I’d bet against it—that’s going to produce huge amounts of ionizing radiation, to say nothing of an obnoxious assortment of high energy particles. Drevan, run a quick computation on the radiation exposure that’s going to produce, will you?"

"No need. By the time we get that much antimatter readied and delivered, the monster is going to be no more than about five hours from impact on the planet. Even if we go with thirty tonne of anti-iron, it looks like we’re going to be getting a walloping dose of radiation." Drevan looked up. "I’m something less than enthused about that approach; that’s an unacceptable dose of radiation, for my part, and unless the lifeform is amazingly radiation resistant, it’s probably going to be lethal."

"I agree, Drevan; that’s unacceptable." Uhura turned back to the others. "We need some ideas, gentlebeings. I recall having faced this once before, back on the Enterprise with Jim Kirk and Spock, years ago, and we didn’t find a good solution then. We’ve got to find something, and it sounds like it had better be fast."

All around the table in the ready room, heads shifted into whatever posture the individual’s species used during deep concentration. The silence was almost palpable. Finally Tucker looked over at Marsden. "Think we could use Jorip Ma’s solution, Jim?"

For a moment, Marsden looked uncertain, then his face lit up. "Hey, that’ll work. Throw rocks!" Marsden turned to the captain. "We’ve got it knocked major time, Captain! The answer’s simple when you look at it right."

"I’m so glad to hear it. Care to explain yourselves?"

"I just did. Throw rocks." Marsden was warming up to the idea rapidly. "There’s a modest asteroid belt in the system. All we have to do is accelerate a handful of asteroids into trajectories that are going to smack this monster square in the chops. I have to figure that it won’t take a whole lot of them to pulverize it. No phasers, no photon torpedoes, no obvious anything. It can’t fail!"

Pleased, Uhura nodded. "The idea has merit, but I’m not yet convinced it’s a guaranteed success. I’ve seen too many ‘can’t fail’ maneuvers fail miserably. Indri? Drevan?"

"We certainly have the capacity to lock onto a reasonably large nickel-iron asteroid and accelerate it to whatever velocity we choose, Captain." Indri looked over at Tucker and Marsden. "I trust that you can supply the needed data for the desired trajectory?"

"You bet."

"We don’t need excessive velocities, either." Drevan looked up from where he had been doing some quick computations. "Figure we’ll use hundred meter diameter objects, run ‘em up to maybe ten kilometer per second, we’ve got a hundred megatonnes energy, easy. A handful of them, and you’ve got cosmic gravel." His turned to Tucker and Marsden. "Now, if you two can arrange it so that they all hit at once, from several different angles, we’ll really have a total wipeout. Think you can do it?’

Tucker grinned happily. "Oh, man, just give me the chance! This could be fun!"

Smashing things, Uhura decided, was much too much fun for the weapons officer, but she decided to shelve the thought. "Fun is nice, Joe; I’m more interested in results."

"Believe me, I can get results!" The man nodded to himself happily, studying the display on the table in front of him. "How about a half dozen, Indri? Hit it from above, below, right, left, front and back? Jim and I can get that going, no sweat."

"Works for me." The engineer put his padd down. "Nothing like a little overkill, eh? I’m loving this. Maybe a small delay between ‘em would be better. Let me do a hair of modeling down in Engineering, to see what the most destructive sequence would be."

Uhura was beginning to wonder if all males were as heavily into destruction as the ones around her. At least, she decided, M’Benga wasn’t cheering for the idea; that was a hopeful point. Of course, his being a physician, she supposed, might have something to do with it. As swiftly as the thought entered her mind, she decided to table it, and discuss it with the physician later—perhaps over a quiet meal together.

"All we need is results. Get to it, gentlebeings. Now get out of here before you start practicing on my table." Her smile betrayed the real feeling behind the apparently harsh words. Everyone but T’Soral abandoned the captain, heading to their assorted workstations to refine the effort. T’Soral was clearly absorbed in the readout before her. After a moment or two, Uhura decided to interrupt. "What are you learning, T’Soral?"

The Vulcan looked up, almost surprised to see the area all but empty. "I was looking at the social structure of the planet, Captain. It is remarkably interesting, in many ways cognate with mid to late twentieth century Earth."

"How so?"

"There are two major military powers on the planet, Mendebalde and Ekialde, locked in a war that has stretched for a prolonged period of time; with a very few exceptions, all other political units have been forced into alliance with one or the other of the major military powers. The scientists on the observation post estimate that the conflict has stretched for over a century, and has become the focus of both social groups. It is quite remarkable. It bears a strong resemblance to the so-called ‘cold war’ between the Terran NATO alliance and the U.S.S.R., except that this war has lasted far longer, and has had almost unending combat."

The Vulcan looked down at the readout before her before looking up and continuing. "At a conservative estimate, the conflict has killed one point nine seven billion of the planet’s inhabitants; the actual number may be as high as two point three billion. Considering that the planet has only two point nine six billion inhabitants at present..." She let her voice fade into silence, sensing that there was no need to finish the comment.

The figures were staggering to Uhura. She shook her head, amazed. "Nuclear weapons?"

"Apparently not, Captain, a point for which we should be thankful. The planet is comparatively poor in the heavier elements, particularly those that are radioactive. The opportunity to chemically isolate long-lived radioactive materials to pique the research into nuclear theory, as was done by Earth’s Madame Curie or Vulcan’s Sarthel, simply does not exist for these people. Their most sophisticated weapons are chemical warheads on MIARPed ICBM’s."

"ICBM I recognize from studying Terran history; ‘miarp’ is unfamiliar to me."

"It is an acronym, like ICBM; it stands for multiple independent autonomously re-targetable payloads. The main intercontinental ballistic missile releases numerous individual payloads; each one is programmed to seek a particular target to impact. Lieutenant Tucker would definitely appreciate these missiles, Captain. As I read the description, their default engineering would target high temperature metal: that would mean the exhaust of a hypersonic aircraft, or a jet, or perhaps another missile. They could equally target a surface vehicle, or a specific building. Their versatility is limited only by the sophistication of the silicon circuitry of which their computer targeting systems are made. Using duotronic circuitry and the more advanced image recognition systems we have, they could almost be set out to do independent patrol actions. Even with the primitive microwave reflection and infra-red detection devices their MIARPed ICBMs use, these missiles are a significant force with which to reckon, Captain."

"Sounds like we’d better keep Joe away from them, then, T’Soral; he’s already having far too much fun planning to smash the incoming asteroid. I’d hate to think what he might do with the MIARPed ICBM’s."

The chief communications officer looked up, her face almost stony. "It would not be worse than what these people have done to themselves with them, Captain. Excuse me." T’Soral made her way out the door, leaving Uhura deep in thought.


Uhura sat in the center chair, watching Marsden and Tucker at their respective consoles. Both men were clearly excited over their plan to destroy the oncoming asteroid. Drevan, much calmer, sat at the science console. The Andorian looked up. "Okay, cowboys, I’ve found you your first steer to rustle."

Gleefully, Tucker locked a tractor on the indicated asteroid. Marsden tapped on the console, initiating the towing scheme that he’d programmed in. "Accelerating on impulse, folks! Fasten your seat belt; we’re heading for eight-tenths lightspeed."

On the mainviewer in front of her, Uhura saw the asteroid rapidly growing in size. Without warning, Marsden let out a whoop, as the asteroid flew off the screen and the starfield in front gyrated wildly. Even as the view on the screen stabilized, Tucker whooped, "Yee-HAH!"

"What in space?" The captain was clearly uncertain whether she should be scandalized, amused, worried or what. What she had seen on the viewer had left her slightly dizzy, and a little nauseated.

Marsden turned. "Just a quick pivot to give the asteroid a little extra momentum, Captain. Sort of like a David’s sling effect, you understand." He tried to look sheepish. "Indri said that what with the artificial gravity locking us all in place and all, there should be no problem; the ship’s circuitry would compensate. It did, too."

"No harm done, Jim. Just one thing: next time, warn me, will you?" She shook her head, the dizziness and motion sickness clearing. "At least let me shut my eyes so I don’t get sea-sick."

"That would be space sick or motion sick, Captain," T’Soral offered. "This vessel is not actually at sea."

"Thank you for the information, T’Soral." Uhura rolled her eyes, remembering Spock doing the same kind of thing to Kirk, decades ago. Times, it seemed, and names had changed, but the underlying realities had not. "Either way, five more to go, right?"

"Yes, sir. I will warn you before we do any more acrobatics, sir."

"Thank you, Ensign. Oh, and one more thing..."

"Yes, Captain?"

"Ride ‘em, cowboys!" Uhura grinned, pleased by the surprise on Marsden and Tucker’s faces.

Gleefully, Tucker and Marsden launched the remaining five bodies at the incoming asteroid, performing the little flip at the end to propel the chosen bodies with greater speed. Their faces almost wore a look of disappointment when the last of them took flight.

"Well, gentlemen, how long to impact?"

Tucker turned to the science station. "Drevan?"

"They should hit all at once in about twenty-seven hours. That will make it roughly seven hours before impact with Haitz." The Andorian looked up from the console. "Anyone on the planet that’s watching the night sky should see a bit of a flash; I don’t think it’ll be visible on the day side at all. It should be worth watching on the mainviewer, though."

"Excellent. It sounds like we’ve potentially got the problem solved, gentlebeings. We stay in position long enough to be sure we’ve finished the project, then we move back to patrol." The Bantu woman settled into the center chair comfortably. There was something about solving a problem that had stumped Kirk and Spock that felt unspeakably good.


The excitement on the bridge was almost palpable. Uhura sat in the center seat, her eyes fixed on the same scene everyone else was watching on the mainviewer—the asteroids the Hyperion had launched slowly approaching the larger body. Reichard arrived, somewhat earlier than necessary to take over for the night shift on the bridge; others members of the night shift were doing likewise, all of them intent on watching the ‘fireworks’ on the viewer. Even though the asteroids were moving at what would have been blinding speed seen from nearby, on the viewer they seemed to crawl toward their target. At impact, the viewer turned brilliant white for a moment; when the blinding glare dissipated, the huge asteroid was essentially gone, replaced by an expanding cloud of debris. Spontaneously, the bridge was filled with whoops, cheers and applause from the crew.

Perhaps wiser and certainly more cautious than the others on the bridge, the captain turned to her chief science officer before celebrating. "Drevan, what’s the status?"

"Much improved, Captain, but not resolved. About a third of the asteroid has been reduced to rubble the size of my fist and smaller; about a half of it, unfortunately, is in fragments of fifty meters diameter or larger, and at least a third is over a hundred meters in diameter." He looked up. "The planetary surface won’t be destroyed, Captain, but the exposed landmass is going to be devastated, and some of the fragments are going to generate pretty respectable tsunami. Short of a miracle, or an unbelievably clever solution, Mendebalde and Ekialde are going to be thoroughly devastated, and so are a lot of the smaller social groupings."

She turned to face the Andorian. "I need an estimate of the probable casualties."

"Hard to be precise, Captain, but between one and one point five billion, I’d guess."

"That’s potentially over half the population, Lieutenant." There was no question that Uhura was not satisfied with what she had heard. "We need a solution, quickly. I’m open to ideas."

Silence reigned as all present racked their brains to find a solution; nothing was forthcoming. T’Soral looked up. "Perhaps the correct focus should be on the fact that our intervention will save at least one point three six billion beings, as well as their entire planet, Captain."

"Perhaps so, T’Soral; the glass is, as the saying goes, half full." Uhura stood. "But half full is still half empty, too, and that’s maybe as many as a billion and a half intelligent beings dying. That is something I refuse to accept. Ken, take the conn. I’m going to be in the ready room, and I don’t want disturbed for anything short of a major crisis, or a solution to the problem before us. Drevan’s right; we need a miracle, a great, big, major miracle. I’m going to see if I can find one." She disappeared into the ready room, the door closing behind her.

Drevan looked over at the Vulcan communications officer. "That looks like one grieved woman, Mole. What’s yer take?"

"For not bein’ a telepath, Snowdome, yer good." T’Soral looked at the door. "What I can read of her mental signature indicates deep distress." She looked back at her Andorian friend. "She is strong; I just hope she is strong enough to handle being responsible for the expected outcome."


Behind her, Uhura heard the door close. With a flip of her hand, she turned out the lights to the room, and in the pale light of the simulated sunset filtering in from the arboretum, she found her chair and sat in it, staring blankly, praying for inspiration. She knew that T’Soral was right: the maneuver was saving the planet itself and something between one and two billion beings; she should rejoice in that. Somehow, however, the thought that over a billion adults and children were still going to die overshadowed that reality. Before her, the arboretum slowly slid into its simulated night, the already dim light in the ready room sliding into a darkness lit only by the scant glow of the indicators on the assorted inbuilt devices and control areas.

Uhura closed her eyes, trying to guess what James T. Kirk would have done. Nothing came to her. Motionless, she stared at the lightless window before her. Even though she didn’t even know what the beings looked like, she found herself haunted by the reality of their impending destruction. How long she sat in the darkness, she did not know, but suddenly, her hand shot forward, fingers long accustomed to the control surfaces of communications consoles tapping out the BellComm address of the individual she wanted.

"T’Soral here, Captain."

"How much do you know about the computer systems on the planet?"

"Only what the scientists in the duck blind have sent. Why?"

"Look, Mole, I want to know if you can tap into their computer systems well enough to let the Hyperion control them, and do it quickly."

"Their systems are comparatively primitive, Captain. Given that some of the clandestine tools I have could crack into almost anything the Federation has, I should be able to break into their systems in less than an hour. I estimate twenty-three point six minutes will be all I need."

"Good. Do it. I want Tucker to be able to do anything I tell him, with anything and everything they’ve got."

"Of course, Captain. What is your plan?"

Uhura sighed, unhappily. "I don’t know yet, T’Soral. It’s still forming, I guess; all I know is that I need into their computer systems. Hack into it as fast as you can, Lieutenant, and do whatever it takes short of tipping our hand. Uhura out."

Knowing that T’Soral could hack into the planet’s computer systems, Uhura found that a plan began to gel. Working out the details took some time, but finally, she was as close to satisfied as she could get, short of calling in others to analyze it. The plan was risky, and perhaps unworkable, but it was all she had, and she was sure there wasn’t enough time to refine it the way she would have preferred; the cost would be high, and she knew it, but the price failed to seem excessive to her. Stiffly, she stood, surprised at how difficult getting up was. How long have I been sitting here? Too long. Time to get things moving.

With a determined tread, she entered the bridge. "Stand down, Reichard; I’m taking the conn. O’Doul, get Drevan and T’Soral up here now. I want Greggson, Marsden and Tucker up here too. On the double. Ken, you’re on Science Two; Drevan’s on Science One. O’Doul, you and T’Soral will be manning communications together. Move!"

Whether it was the tone of her voice or the look on Uhura’s face, the crew knew this wasn’t the time to debate. Reichard moved swiftly to his new post, Uhura taking the center chair. "Time to impact, Ken?"

"First hit in the atmosphere, maybe ten minutes. Last hit, about twice that, maybe less." The turbolift door opened, Drevan and T’Soral coming out at a run. "Drevan—we need a sharp estimate on impact."

Blue fingers flew over the console on Science One, the Andorian not even bothering to take the seat before he began working. "Eight minutes, thirty-five seconds for first dust. First of the large fragments, twelve minutes eleven seconds. Last of the large fragments, eighteen minutes fifty-four seconds, Captain."

Tucker came out of the turbolift; moments later, Marsden and Greggson followed. "Tucker, to Weaponry. Has T’Soral given you control over the planet’s missile systems?"

He scurried to his place rapidly scanning the display. "Looks like I have control of every weapon they have."

"I want every missile in Mendebalde moving in an arc across the ocean separating Mendebalde from Ekialde now, in a trajectory just below Haitz’s northern pole."

"Captain, I..."

"Shut up and do it, Ensign. Now. There isn’t time to argue or explain. The responsibility is mine, this way." Uhura’s voice had a sharp edge to it that made it clear that she was not about to tolerate a quarrel. "Drevan, I want the incoming debris cluster on the screen. T’Soral, I want you and O’Doul to keep me abreast of what is happening on the surface in both Mendebalde and Ekialde. And I want a line open to the duck blind."

The captain was almost on the edge of the center chair, gripping the arms tightly; the tension in the captain rapidly spread to infect all on the bridge.

"Ekialde’s civil defense system is engaged, Captain. The sirens are signaling and every one is heading for air raid shelters." The Vulcan looked up. Seeing the expression on the Bantu’s face, she decided against further comment.

"Tucker, get Ekialde’s missiles in a mirror trajectory toward Mendebalde." The captain’s mouth had tightened into a thin slit, her eyes only barely wider open. "Now." Her dark brown fingers had paled with their grip on the arms of the center seat.

On the mainviewer, the swarm of fragments appeared on the screen. All eyes watched.

"Mendebalde’s emergency defense system’s sirens are triggered, Captain," O’Doul announced. "The Mendebaldens are heading for shelter."

"Good." The captain stared at the screen. Slowly, almost inexorably, the fragments moved toward the planet. From the left side of the viewscreen, the first of the missiles came into view. As they watched, the missile split into a dozen fragments, each suddenly turning from its path toward an oncoming fragment, drawn by the intense heat and the presence of metal. A second, then a third missile entered the view, then dozens, each sending a cluster of independent warheads toward the oncoming barrage of falling metal. Fragment after fragment shattered into powder as the warheads impacted and detonated. Just when it seemed that the missiles were exhausted, a new crop of weaponry entered from the right of the view screen, demolishing yet more of the fragments.

Uhura slumped back into the center seat, her head thrown back, tears of relief rolling down the side of her face. "It worked. It worked. We did it, against all odds. Thank God, it worked."

"Captain, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s still a hundred and nine large fragments left. All but two of them are between fifty and a hundred meters diameter; that’s still a problem." It was Drevan.

"Tucker, deal with them. If you can’t handle that batch of targets, you’re not half the officer I think you are. Anything Drevan says is likely to hit where there’s population, destroy. Use phasers, photon torpedoes, whatever, I don’t care. Just do it. They’re all huddled in shelters, now, safe from the smaller debris, so there’s probably no one to see."

"Yes, sir!" The man’s fingers began pounding the control surface in front of him. Phaser energy lanced through space, disintegrating chunks of the remaining debris as Drevan supplied targets.

"If I may make a suggestion, Captain?"

"Make it quickly, T’Soral."

"Let any fragment that is expected to impact near a weapons production facility be diverted to hit it."

"Excellent. Drevan, Marsden, get on it."

Tractors reached out, diverting the falling iron, dancing between phaser energy vaporizing others. Fragments began hitting the atmosphere, lighting up the sky like a giant fireworks display. When they impacted, the surface showed brilliant sparks of light. Uhura turned to communications. "T’Soral, O’Doul, what’s happening on communications?"

The Vulcan looked up. "Mendebalde and Ekialde are already offering to make peace, Captain. It seems that both nations view the meteor storm as being a miraculous intervention that stopped them from destroying each other. The scientists from the duck blind are sending hearty congratulations, and their thanks. With this war ended, they say that there is a good chance they’ll be ready for the Federation in a couple of decades."

"Drevan—casualty report on the surface."

"Near as I can make out, rummaging through their computer systems and using such scans as I can without being detected, less than a thousand beings." Without warning, the Andorian exploded out of the chair by Science One, thrusting his right fist into the air, letting out a victory whoop. "Captain, I said we needed a miracle, and I was right. You found us that miracle!"

The bridge erupted into cheers. For a moment, Uhura listened. Resolutely, she rose, turning to Greggson. "Reichard, take the conn. Wills, if you’ll escort me to the brig?"

The chief security officer stared at her, aghast. "I don’t follow you, Captain. There’s a lot of noise here; I fail to understand—"

"I am voluntarily surrendering to your custody, Lieutenant Commander Greggson. I have committed a very major violation of the Prime Directive, which is a crime of the first order. Put me in the brig. That’s an order, Mister, or you can join me in the brig as an accomplice." Uhura’s face was as emotionless as a Vulcan’s, but there was no doubt in Greggson’s mind of her sincerity.

"Captain, I..."

"Against saving over a billion and a half individuals, the price of ruining my career is nothing. Now, Wills, before anyone else catches on." She moved to the turbolift. "You can file formal charges once I’m in the brig."

Reluctantly the chief of security followed his once captain, now prisoner, into the lift. As the door slid shut, Reichard turned, looking for Uhura. Not seeing her, he turned to T’Soral. "What just happened here? Where’s the captain?"

To Reichard’s surprise, T’Soral’s face was clearly struggling to remain controlled, and her voice was no calmer. "She sacrificed herself, Ken. You’re Acting Captain, now. She will be standing court-martial for violating the Prime Directive." T’Soral swallowed. "I need to meditate. O’Doul, communications is yours."

As the Vulcan disappeared into the turbolift, almost at a run, the jubilation on the bridge turned to silence, then to tears.

To Be The Tribunal

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