After The Fall
Posted on April 13th, 2022 by Kathryn Harper, Jack Leirone and Hannah Ziredac
A couple of hours had passed since it all happened: the murder of her Chief Engineer by a mysterious entity that disappeared afterwards, the explosion of her passenger Hannah Ziredac’s embarked ship Skylark in the shuttlebay, and the subsequent systems failures that their intruder left for them to deal with during a security lockdown. Given the evidence that the assailant had escaped the ship, the lockdown had been partially eased, and the ship’s captain now felt it necessary to visit the injured in sickbay. Along with a few unlucky members of the shuttlebay deck crew were Commander Kuari, Ms. Ziredac, Second Lieutenant Landeskog, and Lt. Commander Jack Leirone, the sole survivor of their attacker’s massacre of the USS Meridian’s crew.
Commodore Harper approached Lt. Commander Leirone’s biobed, masking her true emotional state with a stoic expression — Command Demeanor, perhaps, but it could have actually been defensive detachment. “Commander Leirone,” she said, her voice quiet and calm. “I understand that you wanted to speak with me.” She would have come even if he had not requested it; Kate often visited those in sickbay, especially during troublesome times when its patient population grew.
Jack lifted his head as much as his position would allow. “Thank you, Commodore,” he said. “I know you’ve got a lot you need to do, with everything that just happened, but the matter of Sarreon needs to be addressed. I’m sure you don’t need me to convince you that he’s formidable, and deserving of the utmost concern.”
“I am painfully aware of that fact,” she stated somewhat directly before continuing in a softer tone, “But perhaps not as painfully as you are. Please, do not mistake my candor for a lack of compassion or empathy, but there is no time for such luxuries, at least for now. What can you tell me about this Sarreon?”
Jack smiled away his understanding of Harper’s demeanor, nodded. “First couple years, we only knew him as The Emissary. That’s what he is: an emissary for…” He paused. This sentence was never an easy one to swallow. “He’s an emissary for an intergalactic conqueror civilization called The Fall. Massive. Trillions of individuals, living in a forever-migrating superfleet. The Borg meet Genghis Khan—only they don’t assimilate by removing the capacity for free will. They do it the old-fashioned way: cult-like indoctrination. Thousands of generations have led to an entire civilization that believes every other one is beyond inferior. They hit an entire galaxy, wipe out opposition, absorb technology, take slaves and tribute, and move on.”
The commodore’s eyes widened and her eyebrows raised. “The first… couple of years?” Kate began as she processed this revelation; it almost seemed like unbelievable rantings of a madman, but she certainly got no sense of that from Leirone. Regardless, as a flag officer, Harper would have been briefed about such a threat. “Did we — Starfleet — just learn of their true nature? How am I just now hearing about this?”
“Well, that’s the thing, Commodore: Starfleet doesn’t know about this. I learned about them years ago, when I…” Jack sighed. This would mark the first time he just came out and said it to someone who wasn’t already in the know. “I’m former Section 31, Commodore. And not just Section 31; if Section 31 is under the false bottom of the Federation, my unit was under the false bottom under the false bottom. You won’t see my name in any declassified documents from your… Well. Your dispatching of the organization.
“My unit ran afoul of Sarreon back in ’74. Even then, he was a hard man to track. We picked up the pieces about The Fall where we could, but we didn’t get the full picture until far more recently.
“Three years ago, The Fall arrived. Our galaxy was on the chopping block. But something… something happened. We still don’t know what. We tried to get readings, but the energy signature at the battleground was nigh-untraceable. Something—some entity—wiped out The Fall like a shotgun shell through wet toilet paper. Whatever it was spared our galaxy a horrific fate.
“And after that, Sarreon seemed to disappear. We looked for him. Even though we weren’t active and had all moved on, we looked for him, and he was just… There was no trace. Until last year. Smaller colonies started to go quiet. Civvy ships. Small stations. We were investigating one of the latter on the Meridian, before he…”
Their faces flashed through his mind once more. Jason, Ariel, Olivia, Deria, Dester… Emari…
“I don’t know what he’s doing, Commodore. There’s no Fall for him to work for. But whatever it is, he needs to be stopped.” Jack cleared his throat. “Again, with the things you don’t need me to tell you.”
She nodded in silence; if the previous news had taken a moment to digest, this needed a full week, but Kate didn’t have that long. She dismissed a stray thought that wondered just when they would cease finding ex-Section 31 agents, finding it irrelevant at the moment. Finally, focusing on the task at hand amid the deluge of revelatory information, she said, “I will need your help to do that, Commander.”
“Such is my intention, ma’am,” Jack said. He gestured to his lower half. “Best I’ll be able to do personally is behind the scenes. Sarreon saw to that. But my friends are still out there, and they’ll want a piece of that son of a bitch more than anyone.”
Jack pushed himself up on his elbows and stretched his neck from side to side.
“Going after Sarreon with a starship full of angry officers and marines is like trying to kill a mosquito with a photon torpedo. My friends can pick up his trail, scout him out, corner him… Then the Atlantis can drop the hammer. Only problem is that my friends are the same way. Federation starship goes around asking for them, they’re gonna rabbit. We’ll have to get crafty.”
“I’ll find them.” From the neighboring biobed, the woman now lying on her side, with her back to them, spoke with a crackling, dusty voice. “If they can help me kill Sarreon, I’ll find them.”
Jack raised an eyebrow and looked to the Commodore, whose head turned to the source of the voice. Despite its unusually gravelly quality, she recognized it as belonging to Hannah Ziredac. “How, Hannah?” came her simple question.
Hannah didn’t move. “I don’t know. But I will.”
The few moments of silence that followed were interrupted by the voice of Commander Wright from the bridge, informing the Commodore that a hail had arrived from someone, asking specifically for her. Kate picked up on a hint of skepticism and curiosity in her wife’s voice before tapping her combadge to respond, “Put it through to me here.”
Commodore Harper, a woman’s voice said. I understand you’ve had an encounter with a dangerous man. I have information about him for you. It’s urgent.
“Who is this?” came Harper’s immediate answer. “And what can you tell me about Sarreon?”
My name is Destiny Salladay. And I can tell you what Sarreon is doing with the nurigana.
Jack furrowed his brow. “Nurigana? The hell’s that?”
Hannah spoke again. “The Lights. She means the Lights.”