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MAY/JUN Prometheus


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Joro cursed loudly at the ship's sensor console. He briefly considered hitting the thing but stopped himself in time, thoughts of repair costs floating through his four-lobed brain. Instead, the Ferengi typed the command to begin an emergency dump of his cargo hold before dropping out of warp and waiting for the three Jem'Hadar Attack Ships he'd picked up to approach. Joro's manifest showed he was on a return trip from Cardassia Prime with an empty cargo hold after dropping off a shipment of self-sealing stem bolts - which would lead to some very awkward questions if they'd detected him venting his hold. He sighed, this was likely to be a long afternoon.

* * *

There was a fire in the sky.

Ashom watched with interest as the line of flames streaked across the sky, reflecting on the sea below, before finally impacting into the shoreline with a dull boom and a plume of burning sand.

The darkness that followed was almost complete. Ashom waited, listening, letting his eyes adjust to the gloom before he stood up, brushed the sand from his robes, and walked towards the shore.

It had been a very eventful afternoon, he reflected as he slid down a sand bank and pushed through the stiff grass. At midday he had been in his temple, telling the old fable about the Flame Lord's steed. His congregation had been small, lost amongst the long benches. He'd been losing people for years, the old beliefs weren't popular now. Most of his flock had turned to the newer religion, the single all-powerful deity. All that remained were the truly faithful, those so devoted that they would never abandon the old ways.

Ashom remembered smiling down at them; Tanil, the tailor. Gurthod, the carpenter's apprentice. Pretty little Einsel the bargirl from the taverna. And then it had happened - Thorm had pushed her way through the doors along with a crowd of her followers and demanded that they leave. Ashom had been thrown out of his own temple, usurped by the new faith. The hardest thing had not been Thorm's grinning face as the priestess marched him from the building, rather it was the jeering crowd outside - Ashom recognised them all, many had been in his congregation last year, last month, even last week.

The mob had followed him through the streets, easily a hundred strong, as if the entire town had come to see him disgraced. He soon discovered that they'd already been to his house - the place was wrecked, the door destroyed, his belongings scattered across the floor and smashed under boot heels. As he stared in disbelief the first stone had been thrown, bouncing off the earth by his foot. More had followed, striking his arms and back as he fled his old home, ran from the town. He'd run in fear, blindly, until he'd reached the sea and could go no further.

Finally Ashom had rested, falling to his knees in the shifting sand. The crowd hadn't followed him this far and he'd felt safer here, the coast had always been a special place in his religion, a border between two realms. And so he had stayed kneeling as the suns set and the sky darkened until, as the last embers of the sunset faded into the ocean, he'd seen the flames in the sky.

* * *

"Explain why your cargo hold is empty."

Joro cleared his throat, making sure he didn't sound nervous when he spoke. He always felt this way around lawmen. The fact that these lawmen were giant cloned killing machines didn't help matters much.

"As you can see form my records I'm returning from Cardassia Prime. My ship is empty because I've already made my delivery."

"So why didn't you bring anything back to trade elsewhere? I've never heard of a Ferengi with an empty ship."

The way the Jem'Hadar First was grinning reminded Joro of pictures of a shark he'd seen once. The Ferengi considered his options; the First looked young, probably one of the alpha clones which made him only a year or so old, tops. The Founders might be able to clone the Jem'Hadar as perfect soldiers, but they lacked the experience of a good policeman. Luckily experience was one thing which Joro had in abundance. It practically oozed from him.

"And what do you suggest I trade? Kanar? Damok sauce? If you'd not noticed, Cardassian produce isn't exactly selling well on the open market these days." He paused, and took a gamble. "Or do you suggest I start trading in ketracel-white?"

The Jem'Hadar grunted and snatched a datapad from one of his soldiers. "Then explain why the atmospheric levels in your hold were less then ten percent when we boarded you. Perhaps you exposed it to vacuum before we arrived? And why would you do that, Ferengi?"

Joro clicked his pointed teeth together. "Why would I bother pumping air into an empty part of my ship? Have you any idea how much energy I save by switching off life support in the cargo bay? My ship runs sixteen percent more efficiently. Sixteen! Maybe you should try it yourselves?"

The First glared at him before stomping off to see what else he could poke his nose into.

* * *

A long finger from the incoming tide crept along the deep furrow on the beach and poured into the hole at the end where it erupted into steam with a sinister hiss. Ashom approached carefully and peered through the veil of vapour at the object half buried there. It was a box of some kind, glowing red like a beaten sword but cooling as the sea water pooled around it. Ashom let out a reverential sigh - clearly this... thing was a gift from the old powers! A box of fire that fell from the air to rest in the place where earth and water met.

The old priest waited and waited until the glow faded and the sea no longer bubbled as it touched the metal before he clambered down the wet sand. The box was badly misshapen but it seemed to him that it may have been smooth at one point, like a sailor's sea chest. It was heavy and half buried, immobile. Whispering a quiet prayer, Ashom fumbled for his tinder box and by the light of the small flame he traced the lines on the metal - here the join of a hinged lid, here the remains of a handle, here the depression where a lock would be. He pushed the warm metal and with a click and a s[...]e the box opened. Ashom held his light closer and stared at the contents in bemusement. Most of the objects were obviously melted or broken, cracked and shattered fragments revealing strange things beneath their surface - tiny coils of copper, strange green material dotted with bright metal. Ashom gingerly sifted through the pieces until his hand closed on something solid. The thing he lifted out looked like an unfinished crossbow, although it appeared intact. Ashom had seen one once, when a ship from some far away land had been blown into their harbour many years ago. But this one was long and pointed, with no place for a quarrel to sit and no bowstring. He held it like the sailors had done, his finger searching for and finding the little lever underneath. Pointing it towards the dunes, he applied some pressure although with little expectation.

* * *

Joro waved sardonically to the Jem'Hadar ships as they vanished at warp speed. It was funny, he thought to himself, how things turn out. He’d made a pretty decent amount of latinum running guns for the Bajoran underground during the Occupation, and now here he was smuggling disruptor rifles for the growing Cardassian resistance movement. Or rather he had been smuggling rifles before the Jem’Hadar had shown up and made him dump the crate.

Joro waited a decent interval after the Attack Ships had departed before activating the homing beacon, muttering under his breath when the scanners revealed the weapons had ended up on an M-class planet with a pre-warp civilisation.

“Great, that’s all I need. I guess I’d better go find them before they do any damage.”

With a sigh he swung his little ship around and engaged the engines.

* * *

The beam of light was brighter than the suns. The sound as it struck the sand dune deafening. Ashom stayed rooted to the spot for what felt like an age as the distant echoes rolled over the sea and the after-images faded from his eyes. Slowly he lowered his gaze to the object in his hands - truly this was a gift from the old powers indeed! A smile spread over Ashom's face, the powers had shown him the way. It was time to save his followers from those heretics in the town, show them the true power of the elements. this time he wouldn't be the one running in fear. He wondered how Thorm's grin would look as he burned down her church and her house. And maybe the houses of a few stone-thrower's, too. With them inside. Ashom's smile grew as he began to walk through the sand, away from the sea, back towards the town.

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