Captain Calhoun must face his own dark past!
- From the book jacket
- As the Thallonian homeworld faces catastrophe, Captain Calhoun must confront his own bloody past in a life-or-death struggle for survival and honor. But when the planet's ultimate secret is revealed, only Captain Calhoun and the USS Excalibur can save the last remnants of the Empire from total destruction!
Boretskee, now aware that he and his people are being used as hostages, hails Calhoun with Laheera in order to work out a compromise. Laheera warns Calhoun not to try to beam the hostages up as they are not in one centralized location, and as soon as they start dematerializing, Laheera will order the remaining ones killed. Still sticking with his original threat, Calhoun orders photon torpedoes armed and targeted at a populated area. The torpedoes will reach their target in 47 seconds, and Boyajian sets the safety locks for 44 seconds. Excalibur fires torpedoes. Laheera calls Calhoun's bluff however, and refuses to release the hostages, saying that she's far enough underground not to be hurt by the blast. With four seconds remaining, Calhoun orders the torpedoes aborted. The torpedoes explode in the atmosphere, causing a large flash of light and sound, but no damage to the Nelkarites. Laheera then laughs in Calhoun's face, and Calhoun agrees to transfer technology to her within the next 24 hours. After the transmission is cut, Calhoun reveals he has no intention of following through with that promise.
On Thallon, an unidentified man referred to as "the leader" is pacing about the Imperial Palace when Zoran appears. The leader asks how Zoran's plan went, and if they were successful in luring Calhoun aboard the Kayven Ryin. Zoran clarifies that Excalibur never arrived, despite the fact that both Ryjaan and D'ndai were certain that it would. They were only successful in luring a runabout carrying Zak Kebron and Si Cwan. The leader appears shocked to learn that Si Cwan is alive, but when Zoran boasts he died when the Kayven Ryin exploded, the leader is furious saying that Si Cwan's death would have better been committed in a public forum. He then tells Zoran that Si Cwan is not dead. Before the explosion of the Kayven Ryin, D'ndai's ship approached and beamed aboard Si Cwan and Zak Kebron and the two are now in custody. The leader plans to publicly execute Si Cwan in order to further his own goals on Thallon.
On Nelkar, Celter comes running into Laheera's office to give her some disturbing news. Excalibur has been broadcasting a recorded transmission down to Nelkar from their earlier confrontation where Laheera discusses her willingness to barter with the lives of her people. Not surprisingly, this has led to quite some uproar on the surface. Celter's attempts to jam the transmission or cut the comm system have failed as Excalibur keeps finding a way around them. Laheera flees into hiding and tells Celter of her plan to kill one of the hostages in front of Calhoun's eyes. Laheera opens a channel to Calhoun, who denies having any knowledge of this broadcast, insisting to Laheera that it must be some kind of unfortunate mistake. Laheera tells Calhoun he is clearly violating the Prime Directive here, but Calhoun will have none of it as she asked him to violate it earlier in order to transfer technology to her. She then tells Calhoun his plan will fail since Celter is about to address and calm the people.
Celter only gets out the words "My good people of Nelkar..." before the mob of Nelkarites breaks down the door to his office and proceeds to savagely beat and behead him.
Laheera is now aware that she has lost control of the situation. The mob is approaching, and in a state of panic, she puts a knife to her hostage's, a little girl's throat. Calhoun orders the hostage beamed aboard. Laheera then begs Calhoun to save her from the impending mob, but he reminds her that too would be against the prime directive. Seconds later, the mob breaks through Laheera's door and kills her as well.
An hour later things have calmed down a bit, with a man named Azazi taking control of the Nelkarite government. He assures Calhoun the refugees will be safe with him. Excalibur then leaves orbit to meet up with Marquand, though Shelby is irritated with Calhoun for not sharing his plan with her.
Si Cwan and Zak Kebron are imprisoned under the Imperial Palace, and as usual, are arguing. Kebron promises Si Cwan he will not allow him to be tortured. Some guards approach, and Si Cwan recognizes one of them as Herz, who was dismissed after Soleta and Spock escaped in House of Cards. The guards threaten to take away Si Cwan, but Kebron breaks free of his constraints in order to protect him. Terrified, the guards fall back. Kebron then declares that their cell is the new Federation embassy on Thallon, Si Cwan is their Ambassador, and any attempts to torture Si Cwan will be met with force. Kebron refuses to let Si Cwan leave the cell and attempt to escape as due to his status as the single most identifiable Thallonian, the cell is ironically the safest place for him. Though this infuriates Si Cwan, he has no choice in the matter as without Kebron's help, he cannot break through the door.
Back on Excalibur, Selar attempts to politely plead Burgoyne 172 to stop pursuing her. Calhoun is confused as when they arrive at the last known location of Kayven Ryin, there is nothing around. Sensors pick up debris from both the Kayven Ryin and Marquand. Calhoun has the biological remains brought aboard so Selar can make an analysis. Selar identifies the remains as being purely Thallonian, with no Brikar DNA, meaning that Kebron must still be alive. Lefler then detects an ion trail from another ship leading to Thallon. Calhoun orders a pursuit course.
On Thallon, Herz is trying to explain the current situation with Si Cwan and Kebron to D'ndai, Ryjaan, Zoran, and the leader, now addressed as Yoz, the former Thallonian chancellor. Yoz demands to know why they can't extract Si Cwan from the cell, and Herz tells that attempts to force Kebron away with weapons and nerve gas had failed miserably. Yoz demands that poison gas be used to kill at least Si Cwan, but D'ndai warns against this, saying it will only turn Si Cwan into a martyr. Si Cwan must be tried in open court. D'ndai says the charges will be aiding the Xenexian rebellion, specifically the murder of General Falkar, Ryjaan's father. Zoran covers for this lie, saying that there were times when Si Cwan would leave Thallon for extended periods of time, and Ryjaan seems to be the only one who isn't in on this deception.
Soleta and Selar are discussing the problems of her re-emerging pon farr when Excalibur arrives at Thallon. Returning to the bridge, Soleta classifies the ship they followed here as Xenexian. Calhoun identifies further by stating that it is his brother's ship. D'ndai then hails the Excalibur to invite Calhoun aboard for a private discussion. Calhoun uneasily agrees and prepares to depart, giving the order for the crew to find the whereabouts of Kebron and Si Cwan while he is gone.
Yoz now appears outside of Kebron and Si Cwan's cell. Si Cwan is furious at Yoz since he now realizes he helped organize the rebellion and destroy the empire despite the fact that the royal family trusted him. Their argument is interrupted however by a massive earthquake. Earthquakes are not uncommon on Thallon, but they have been increasing in frequency drastically as of late. Yoz then informs Si Cwan of his trial and the three depart for what was formerly the throne room.
Calhoun arrives in D'ndai's quarters and the two have a rather tense discussion over the selling out of Xenex to Danteri interests. D'ndai then tells Calhoun that Thallonians had an alliance with the Xenexian rebellion, and M'k'n'zy simply didn't know it because he was too obsessed with battle. He claims that the Thallonians supplied the rebellion during the war, but afterwards they didn't want to appear indebted to them so they allied with the Danteri. D'ndai then tries to invite Calhoun back to Xenex to help lead, but Calhoun refuses.
Down on Thallon, Soleta and Lefler are visiting the area where Soleta's ship sunk during House of Cards. Still unsure as to how that occurred, Soleta begins running some tests on the area. When Lefler starts into a narrative on one of her "Lefler's Laws", Soleta begins to inform her as to how irritating of a habit that is. However when she turns around to face her, she realizes Lefler has sunken into the ground. Soleta is able to pull her back up to the surface Shelby and McHenry are attending the trial in order to ensure the safety of Kebron and Si Cwan. They cannot interfere however due to the prime directive. McHenry speaks to Yoz and compares his attempts to rebuild the Thallonian Empire to moving the furniture around on the Titanic. It is futile, as the ship will still go down. Shelby and Yoz discuss this further while Calhoun and D'ndai beam down. It is now that Ryjaan reveals the charges of this trial. Si Cwan must answer to the Danteri law of Final Challenge for the murder of Falkar. Final Challenge allows the accuser to carry out an execution, so Ryjaan will fight Si Cwan to the death. Kebron and Si Cwan now arrive and Kebron is released into Calhoun's custody while Si Cwan faces trial. Yoz then reads off the list of charges and it becomes clear that Yoz seeks to try Si Cwan for all crimes committed by the royal family. Ryjaan then steps forward to accuse Si Cwan of Falkar's murder. Si Cwan is confused as he has never even heard of Falkar. Calhoun steps forward, as he can not stand to see Si Cwan answer false charges, and tells Ryjaan it was not Si Cwan that killed Falkar, it was him. Ryjaan doesn't believe him at first so Calhoun has Falkar's sword beamed down for proof. Ryjaan then invokes Final Challenge against Calhoun, and Calhoun accepts. At this time Shelby and the Excalibur crew storm out of the courtroom and beam back to the ship, taking Calhoun with them.
Calhoun is furious and demands to return to the planet. Shelby won't allow him since as captain, he shouldn't put himself in danger like this. Calhoun claims though that he is the only one who can give Ryjaan justice, and he owes it to the concept of justice to fight him. Shelby tells him to be careful and Calhoun departs for Thallon.
Soleta and Lefler are going over their findings and make a rather disturbing discovery. They hear sounds emanating from Thallon that form the pattern of a pulse. However unlikely is seems, there is some sort of lifeform living within the hollowed out planet, the seismic, killing all life on Thallon.
Soleta hails Yoz in order to urge him to evacuate everyone off Thallon. Yoz seems suspicious but agrees to consider it. He relays the message to the people of Thallon, and they eagerly flee the planet in whatever ships they have left. Ryjaan and Calhoun have met in the mountains of Thallon in order to complete the Final Challenge. They begin to fight as another earthquake rages, resulting in an avalanche that traps Calhoun as Ryjaan approaches. Calhoun breaks free of the rocks and tries to talk Ryjaan out of fighting but fails. Calhoun is losing to Ryjaan at first but begins to turn the tide until another explosion shakes the earth. By this time there isn't much in the way of earth left as it is now sinking into the lava. Ryjaan is dangling into the lava with Calhoun standing above him. Calhoun tries to save Ryjaan, but he refuses and tumbles into the lava. Calhoun is then beamed back on board Excalibur. He hastily returns to the bridge and is brought up to speed by the crew. The ships all flee the system as the creature breaks free of the planet that constrained it. It is somewhat avian in appearance, but made of what appears to be flame. Soleta fails to identify it, but Burgoyne claims it is the Great Bird of the Galaxy.
The creature pursues Excalibur, luckily not paying attention to any of the smaller vessels. Excalibur goes to warp but is still being followed. Suddenly, the creature appears in front of Excalibur as the ship seems to pass through its mouth. Suddenly the creature is gone without a trace. As the crew begins to settle down, Kebron puts through a transmission they received earlier from Zoran for Si Cwan, telling him his sister is still alive, and to try to find her if he can.
Selar has now resolved herself to talk to Burgoyne about aiding her in her Pon Farr, but decides not to when she sees Burgoyne disappear into hir quarters with Mark McHenry. Meanwhile, Calhoun and Shelby head to the team room for a drink.
- Ronni Beth • Boretskee • Boyajian • Burgoyne 172 • Mackenzie Calhoun • Cary • Celter • Si Cwan • D'ndai • Herz • Zak Kebron • Laheera • Robin Lefler • Mark McHenry • Meggan • Okur • Ryjaan • Selar • Elizabeth Shelby • Soleta • Polly Watson • Yoz • Zoran
- Referenced only
- Azizi • Arthur Conan Doyle • Falkar • Sherlock Holmes • Hufmin • Juif • Kalinda • Rojam • Voltak
Starships and vehiclesEdit
Races and culturesEdit
States and organizationsEdit
- Lefler is incorrectly portrayed with a commander's insignia on the cover of this novella.
- A Brikar can hold his or her breath for up to twenty minutes
- Ryjaan is the son of Falkar
- It appears possible that the Xenexian rebellion was aided by the Thallonian Empire in order to undermine Danteri authority, unless of course D'ndai was lying.
The Two-Front War
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The Two-Front War
Worst Case Scenario