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Powder Keg

Posted on Jun 26, 2018 @ 1:10pm by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on Jun 26, 2018 @ 1:10pm

Mission: The Trouble With Triticale

= Powder Keg =
(cont'd from "Rising Problems")


LOCATION: Sherman's Planet
SCENE: Side Street
STARDATE: [2.18] 0627.0013

Things were getting out of hand.

Eve Dalziel and Jasmine Yu found that the crowd had surged around them. It wasn't large - only around 20 to 25 individuals - but they were all agitated enough that fighting their way through it was difficult. The ringleader, K'lag, had continued to stir up the assembled citizens, and though the sudden appearance of two Starfleet officers had put a temporary halt to the chaos, Eve and Jasmine found that it quickly started back up again.

There were shouts - dozens of them, too many for either woman to easily identify - and then the sound of shattering glass. Someone had thrown a rock.

"Wait!" Eve yelled, but she never had a hope of being heard over the sudden roar of the mob.

Then there was the pressure - two, maybe three dozen bodies, all forcing their way in a single direction. Both Eve and Jasmine experienced the disconcerting feeling of being towed away in a riptide toward an uncertain, and almost certainly unpleasant future. Not for the first time, Jasmine Yu took note of the handful of burning torches scattered throughout the crowd.

She started to yell (she had to, to be heard over the roar of angry shouts from the crowd) to Eve: "If somebody throws one of those..." when, in fact, that's just what somebody did. The first fire started small, and though both Jasmine and Eve had spotted it immediately, their desperate shouts of warning were drowned out in a sea of anger and elbows, half-realized chants never quite on beat, and the continued sound of shattering glass. They watched, helpless, as the fire spread.

The crowd only noticed the spreading conflagration after the second building caught. By now, the ruddy orange glow and smoke had become to pervasive to deny, and Jasmine and Eve could do little but watch as anger gave gradually away to panic. Suddenly the inexorable pressure of the crowd began to change - now instead of being pulled along, the Starfleet officers found themselves being pulled almost in a dozen directions at once. The crowd was moving away from the spreading flames, though not in anything like an orderly retreat. The presence of cudgels and torches mixed in with all the high-minded bravado made this withdrawal dangerous - more than once, Eve and Jasmine had to pull one another out of the way of a misremembered trio of metal points as the farmer that wielded them tried to shoulder his way through an unsuspecting group of people.

Unfortunately, not everyone was as lucky. Blood was spilled.

It was about this time that the marines arrived.

Kass Thytos appeared in a flash of blue light. Behind her, a quintet of Federation marines, dressed in their imposing armor, and all of them - save Kass - holding the standard Starfleet phaser rifles. They had transported in at the edges of the crowd, doubtless as the insistence of Rr'llk, who would have wanted to avoid any compromised signal patterns as the Starfleet crew appeared. From these edges, they leveled their weapons, a few of them even firing harmless warning shots into the air to take some of the dander out of the nearest civilian antagonists.

What they had not counted on was the fire.

By now three buildings had caught, with the flames lapping greedily at a fourth, and the heat was so bad that Kassandra Thytos felt like she'd been transported into a blast furnace. Even denied conventional eyesight, the story her skin and sensor nets told her in the space of a few seconds was more than compelling She immediately shouted at her marines to stand down, to allow the mob to throng their way past them, away from the spreading flames.

Her voice was lost in a sea of desperate shouting.

From across the shimmering haze of heat, Jasmine and Eve managed to make eye-contact. They exchanged no words- by now, any talk would have been wasted - but the emotions present in their expressions told the whole story. Things had, very rapidly, gotten bad... and they were, unfortunately, at the center of it.


Martin Potter, Private, found himself standing against a surging crowd of angry, half-blooded Klingons.

He wasn't a racist - or at least, he wasn't in that way most fair-minded people believed themselves to be, in the light of full day and fair circumstance - but here, in the dark, surrounded by heat and fire and screams, Potter found in himself a disconcerting ability to easily separate friend from foe. It was, at its core, not the worst ability for a marine to have; it would save his life in more situations than not. Yet here, in this situation, that drive to action against all odds pushed Martin Potter in exactly the wrong direction.

An ugly, savage face flashed out from the crowd, distorted from the waves of heat radiating from the rapidly spreading flames. Martine Potter had all of one second to respond, and in that space these are the things he marked: eyes gone mad with either rage or panic (and can anyone ever really say which, after the fact?), the somewhat elevated musculature of a Klingon-Human hybrid, and the three deadly prongs of a farmer's pitchfork, glowing orange in the reflected glow.

These things were all Martin Potter, in that moment at least, needed. He opened fire.


Kass Thytos ran a tight ship. Nobody had beamed down to Sherman's Planet with anything set above stun.

For all the good it did; the sudden dagger of fluorescent orange phaser fire seemed to draw attention from the whole mob, even away from the rapidly spreading flames, which even now had spread to the fourth storefront. The mood of the crowd, which had previously had been panicked, seemed suddenly to hum with another kind of knowing self-preservation. Rioters, who had meant only to flee the danger of the spreading flames (which had started to lap at a fifth building, at this point threatening to consume a whole half of the street), now found themselves confronted by mortal opposition, flesh-and-blood bodies standing between them and the safety the situation had conditioned them to viscerally seek. The fire was an implacable thing, all smoke and pain, offering no possibility of victory. But those beings who had found themselves standing between the crowd and the fire... they could be overcome. Perhaps at great cost, even the cost of lives, but the chance was on the face of it better than the one offered to them by the spreading inferno behind them.

The first shot had been, arguably, a mistake; born of exuberance, or inexperience, or fear. The second, and the third, and the dozen shots that followed came from a place of grim necessity. Kassandra Thytos kept shouting for her team to give ground, even as they had already pulled the triggers of their weapons. Panicked farmer tried to overcome a wall of Starfleet-mandated discipline, attempting to push their way past a squad of trained soldiers - at first in panic, and then, too quickly for anyone to mark, in anger.

Suarez went down first, his phaser rifle still spitting as the crowd surged around him. Later, he would say he never actually felt the pitchfork dig into his shoulder, just a strange kind of pressure and then an inexplicable weakening of the knees. A few seconds later, Nguyen dropped too - not stabbed, fortunately, but having taken a hard shot across the back with an improvised club.

By now, the assembled marines had heard Kassandra's desperate shouting that they stand down, and had started to aim their weapons into the sky, away from the crowd. The panicked mob, most of whom had done nothing wrong, pushed their way past them. The marines had not failed to notice, however, those among their number had gone down, and they'd rushed in, seizing the arms of those who were responsible and wrestling them to the ground, even as their friends and perhaps family shrieked in horror around them.

Behind them all, the fire spread.


SCENE: Captain's Ready Room

The alarm went up quickly among the town, and the citizens had started to show up to fight the flames. Between them and the Starfleet marines, the situation - which had gotten out of control fast - started to be brought back into hand.

The final toll was two buildings almost totally destroyed by fire, and three more severely damaged. The worst injury was Suarez, a deep wound to one shoulder and accompanying blood loss. The PHOENIX's medical teams would see to mending it, though it was fortunate for Suarez they were in easy reach. Aside from him, there were four concussions, a few black eyes, and assorted bruises and contusions, on both the rioters and the assembled marines.

Ten townsfolk were taken into custody - all of Klingon blood - including the ringleader, K'lag. The arrested civilians were taken to the township's small jail and herded into a handful of cells, under the watchful guard of the marines. There were the predictable questions about who had started the violence - Potter would admit to firing the first shot but maintained he had been threatened with a weapon, and given the injury that Suarez had suffered, there were reasons to believe his account.

Kane frowned over the report, then set the PADD aside and looked at Jake.

"You've read it?" he asked.

Jake nodded. "It sounds like Kass and her team did the best they could. It could have been much worse."

"If Lt. Yu and Lt. Dalziel weren't there, it might have been," said Kane. "But this situation has come at a bad time."

Jake glanced out the window of Kane's ready room. He could see a few of the Klingon ships in distance, clustered together. Jake frowned at them.

"You don't think they're behind this, are you?"

"No conspiracies needed for angry drunks to cause havoc," Kane said. "But that doesn't mean something like this isn't what Is'toQ was hoping for."

"What do you mean?"

Kane leaned back in his chair and seemed to stare off into the middle distance. "The fires of resentment have been burning here for a long time, but Is'toQ is stoking those fires. The question is why. And now we have civilians in Starfleet custody... all of them of Klingon heritage. It could drive more people to Is'toQ's side."

"And then what happens?" asked Jake.

"That," Kane said quietly, "is what worries me."

Jake was about to reply when their communicator's pinged.

[[Captain,]] came the voice of Lt. Proctor. [[We've just monitored an energy surge from one of the Klingon ships.]]

Jake and Kane exchanged an uneasy glance, then Kane reached up to hit his comm-badge.

"What kind of surge, Lieutenant?"

[[We're verifying the readings now, but it looks like they've beamed down to the surface-]]

She stopped abruptly, the resumed.

[[Sir, we're receiving a message from the surface.]]

"Here it comes," Jake sighed.

"Put it through, Lieutenant," said Kane.

An instant later, they both heard the voice of Kassandra Thytos.

[[Captain, we got a serious problem.]]

"What is it, Major?"

[[I'm at the town lock-up, watchin' these eejits from last night. Sir, we just had a half-dozen Klingons beam down from the surface, an' there ain't no way these boys are locals.]]

"What do they want?" asked Jake.

[[They're demandin' we release the prisoners,]] Kass said.


NRPG: Things are getting complicated!

Shawn Putnam
Jake Crichton
Executive Officer


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