Subject: FRONTIER: The explanation

SD 80301

I managed to fit the plot in here :)

When Angus awoke, the room was bathed in a pool of morning sunlight, he
stood up and stretched out his arms.  Leana was still curled up on the
floor before the hearth, they hadn't bothered to sleep in the bed, the rug
had seemed comfortable enough.

He walked to the window and looked out, in one direction there was nothing 
but miles of forest, to the other, miles of rolling hills spattered here
and there with small clusters of houses and the occasional farm.  He
noticed something that seemed a little odd, not far from the castle there
was a large metallic dome, it's polished surface glinting in the light.  It
seemed as much out of place as the Baron's disruptor.  He resolutely
decided that he would ask the baron straight out what was happening on this
planet, he was determined to find out why Q had brought them here and why
he had left them with no instructions or clues as to what they were
supposed to accomplish.

Leana stirred and Angus turned to face her, "Leana? Are you awake?" he

She offered no reply.

"Leana? Are you *awake*?" he repeated, louder this time.

She lifted her head off the floor and looked at him, and then sat up, "What 
is it?"

Before he could answer there was a knock at the door, Leana turned. "Come 
in," she said.

The door opened and a page boy carrying a tray walked into the room, when
he saw Leana he blushed furiously, put the tray on the floor and hurriedly
left the room.

Angus frowned, "You might have wanted to put some clothes on first."

She laughed and stepped towards him, "Why? Are you too ashamed of me to
show me off?"

He smiled, "Of course not, but I'd rather keep you all to myself."  She 
watched as he put his plaid down onto the floor and went through the
complicated procedure required to put the garment on.  Then he walked to
the door and lifted the tray,  "Fancy some breakfast?" he asked.

As they ate they shared in light conversation until Angus stood up, "I've
got an appointment to keep with the baron," he said, "I'll see you in a
while." With that he kissed her and then opened the door and walked back
through the maze of corridors and stairways that led to the baron's study.

When he arrived he knocked at the door.

"He's not here," said a familiar voice behind him, "He left in a big hurry 
this morning."

Angus spun on his heel to face the speaker, then without warning he grabbed 
him by the lapels and ran him into the wall, "Dammit Q!" he shouted, "This 
has gone on long enough, you can't keep us fumbling around like this!  Tell 
me why we're here or put us back on our ship." 

He let go his grip on Q who pushed him away, "I should have known better
than to trust humans for something as important as this, can't you see 
what's going on here?  Do I have to spell it out for you?"

Angus looked exasperated, "You drop us into the middle of a battle!  Then
you leave us to wander around a strange planet for two days, until by
chance we come across a castle, and we're supposed to know what's going on!
If you want us to do something then in every god's name, *Tell us what it
is!* We might even agree to do it."

"What makes you think you have the choice?"

"If you're capable of forcing us do whatever it is I think you probably 
would have done so by now, if this task is as important as you say."

"Very well then.  Have you noticed the dome outside this castle?"

Angus nodded.

"That is a defence installation that the baron of this castle uses to 
selectively destroy spacecraft which approach the planet."

"The baron claims that he is a being of even more power than you, why would 
he need weapons to destroy spaceships?"

"He has absolute power on this planet, but beyond that he has nothing."

"You mean that *here* he has more power than *you*"

Q seemed to cringe slightly, "Yes, he has."

Angus put the pieces together in his head, "So you need us here because 
you're impotent to do anything yourself." He carefully emphasised the 
sentence for maximum effect.

"You should be careful how you talk to your superiors, human." Q didn't 
attempt to conceal the malice in his voice.

"Why?  I don't believe you can do anything to me here."

"You may be here today Angus, but what about tomorrow?"

"I don't care about tomorrow."

"An attitude like that will get you into a lot of trouble one day." His
tone was a sinister one.

"Is that a threat?" Angus inquired.

"Call it a warning," Q replied.

The two looked at each other in cold silence for a moment, then Angus
spoke, "You said he selectively destroys ships, what is the basis for

"Whose side they're on."

"That doesn't make any sense," Angus said, more to himself than to Q,
"There are people of every race I can name on this planet fighting with
sword and shield, yet both sides have spacecraft.  If there's a war going
on here why aren't they fighting with phasers and disruptors?"

"Because that is not allowed."

"Not allowed by who?  Or what?"

"The rules."

"War can't have rules Q, games have rules." He paused and then added,   
"That's it isn't it, this is some sort of game."

"I have to hand it to you, you humans may be slow but you get there 
eventually.  Yes, this is a game, but not just any game, in this game the 
fate of empires is decided.  Your friend the baron is the mediator of this 
game, the gamesmaster if you like, he is the one who writes the rules and
it is he who is breaking them."  He hesitated.

"Keep going, this is beginning to get interesting."

One of the players in this game is experiencing a certain amount of 
difficulty, his empire has fallen into civil war, he has only few hundred 
troops who are still loyal to him.  Coincidentally, a large force of
soldiers from another continent somehow found its way there, and they are
rampaging unchallenged, all across it burning every settlement and killing
every person they meet.  Now, those soldiers couldn't have gotten here
without help, the empire they come from hasn't even discovered sailing 
ships yet, what has happened is the baron has allowed the player to
transport his people to a troubled empire using a means otherwise
unaccessable to them."

"That still doesn't explain why you've brought us here."

"I swore to this troubled player that I would help him, right now, there is
a ship on it's way here here carrying a cargo of phasers, disruptors and a
few small pieces of field artillery, enough to equip all his loyal troops. 
But that ship can't get here while that installation is operational, and as 
you've already guessed, I have no influence here."

"So you enlisted our help, but if you do get those weapons, it'll be a 
massacre, the others won't stand a chance, and who knows what'll happen 
after that.  With that sort of weapons they could..."

"It's a quandry isn't it?  But just think of the hundreds of helpless 
people those barbarians are killing every day."

Angus' eyes narrowed, "What are *you* getting out of this Q?"

Q's expression was unreadable, "My motives are not a factor you need to 
concern yourself with Mr. Murray."  And then he was gone.


Ramsay woke up with a clear head, he was pleased to find that he seemed 
capable of coherent thought again, the drug must have finally worked it's
way out of his system.  He ate the breakfast that had been brought to him
by a harassed-looking page boy as he mentally planned his schedule for the

At the top of the list in big black letters was "Find out what is going
on," and underneath that "Do something about it."  Angus was due to be
meeting with the baron this morning, hopefully when he came back he would
be able to shed some light on the whole shadowy affair.  He soon found
however that he couldn't sit idle and wait, so he decided to find Caroline
and see if the new morning had given her fresh insight.

When he left his room he saw Angus further down the corridor and waited for 

"Did you find out anything?" he asked.

"Everything." Angus replied, "Come on, we've got to go and see Caroline,
she needs to hear about this too."

They found Caroline in her room and Angus reeled off what Q had told him.

"It would appear that we're stuck on the horns of a dilemma," said Ramsay, 
rubbing his chin thoughtfully, "We're going to be held responsible for a
slaughter either way."

Caroline shot him a dark glance, "I say we do what he wants and get back to 
our ships.  The sooner we get off this accursed rock the better."

"That's always your solution isn't it?" Angus shouted, "Just kill them all 
and let God sort them out, don't you even consider the consequences of your 
actions?  Can't you even see what'll happen in the long run, when this
player gets around to subjugating his empire again?"

"If we listen to you, with your shining halo and your golden ideals we'll 
never get back to where we belong!" she retorted.

"This isn't our fight," put in Ramsay, "it's not for us to decide who lives 
or dies."

"Granted it's not our fight, but the decision is very much ours, and if
inaction is to be your choice then so be it."

Angus drummed his fingers on the windowsill, "She's right Will, we can't 
just sit on the fence on this one, if we do nothing we're no better than if
we do get involved."

"We aren't going to get involved here Angus, this is nothing to do with us, 
if people are going to get hurt because of it then that's too bad, but it's 
going to happen either way."

"It's time for a commitment Ramsay, you can either help me and my people 
destroy the installation or we'll do it ourselves."

"You can't do that!" Ramsay protested. "You said we were going to work 
together here."

"Because it suited me at the time, but now we have a way out of here and
I'm going to take it with or without your help."

"I can't let you do that Caroline."

"I'm afraid you don't have any choice, if you don't like it you're going to 
have to try and stop me."

"If it comes down to it Caroline, I will."

There was an increasingly tangible air of hostility, Angus held his breath 
and looked alternately at the two, it was clear that one of them would 
ignite soon.

She stepped closer, "If I thought for one moment that you were a threat I 
would have killed you back in the forest."

He laughed sharply, "Ha! I seem to remember that you spent most of *that* 
encounter on your ass, in the mud!"

"I felt sorry for you, you fight like a stillborn puppy."

He slapped her.

Caroline stood shocked for a moment, an expression which quickly changed to 
one of rage, she made to punch him but he experly swept her legs out from
under her and sent her crashing to the floor.

"Not bad for a stillborn puppy," he remarked.

Faster than he could follow her boot lashed out and caught him square 
between the legs.  He fell to the floor, his face contorted in agony, and 
Caroline scrambled over to him and lashed out at him, releasing her anger
in a flurry of blows accompanied by a feral growl.  Ramsay managed to
deflect enough of her wild punches to get in a few of his own.  Unable to
choose his placing he still succeeded in striking a hefty blow to her jaw,
stunning her, and enabling himself to get further from her and get a little
more space for control.

Upon seeing the brawl increase in intensity, Angus ran forward to try and 
separate the two combatants.  Alerted by the commotion, m-Leana stormed
into the room, assessed the situation as best she could and dealt Angus an 
uppercut that hurled him against the wall.  She then leapt at Ramsay who
was unable to stave off both attacks.

Angus stood up groggily, in time to see Patrick burst in, he wasn't sure 
which it was until he plucked m-Leana from the fight and threw her across 
the floor like a rag doll.

After his vision cleared Angus saw that Patrick was standing between Ramsay 
and the two women, and some of the others had came into the room including 

Ramsay and Caroline glowered at each other, thunder on their faces.  Ramsay 
heaved himself off the floor and walked towards her, Caroline walked
towards him.  Patrick shifted to the side slightly so that he could see
both of them clearly, then he planted his weight firmly and crossed his

Ramsay clenched his fist but Patrick shot him a threatening glance and he 
grudgingly stood down.

For what seemed like an eternity, silence reigned.

Caroline swept an errant lock of hair from her face, "Did we accomplish 

"Not yet," Ramsay snarled.


They both spun to face the doorway, where the baron stood, his face a mask 
of fury.  He barged into the middle of the room, shoving Patrick out of his 
way, to face the two commanding officers.  Their defiant looks quickly 
withered under his glare.

"Is this how you set example to your underlings?!" he boomed, "By waging 
war in my halls?!"

"We were of different opinions on a *fairly* important matter," replied 
Ramsay, "My apologies if we have offended you."

"I will have an explanation," he said.

Ramsay and Caroline began speaking simultaneously, the baron silenced them 
with a gesture and pointed to Caroline.

"You first."

Hesitantly at first, Caroline explained the situation that Q had presented 
them with, the baron's face grew ever darker as she spoke, "I refused his 
demand of course," she said, "But *he*" - she stabbed a finger at Ramsay - 
"wanted to comply so that he could get back to his ship!"

Ramsay stood aghast, the baron slowly turned to face him.

"She... she's lying!" Ramsay protested.

The baron studied Ramsay for a long moment, the sense of impending doom 
made his knees shake slightly, "I am well aware of that fact."

Caroline's jaw dropped, she tried to speak but the words thought better of 
it and refused to leave her mouth.  

The baron slowly turned to face her. "I find your lack of honesty
insulting," he said quietly.

Caroline drew herself up, "You, are a hypocrite."

"Oh?  And how do you reach this conclusion?"

Angus stepped forward and faced the baron, "You're breaking the rules of 
this 'game'." he supplied, "That seems to lack honesty."

"You told Q yourself didn't you that 'war can't have rules'?  This may be a 
game Angus, but it is a game of war, and all the rules thereof apply."

Angus nodded in understanding, "No rules," he said.


"I think I want to kill Q."

"Take a number and join the queue," Ramsay said.

There was a white flash and Q appeared next to Ramsay, he took a step 
towards the baron.

"Q, if you dare to come any closer I'm going to break your kneecaps."

Q stopped mid-step, and he was met by dark glares from everyone in the
room, "I think an explanation may be called for here."

                       Respectfully submitted;
                        *  Allan MacLennan   *
                        *                    *
                        * [Lt.] Angus Murray *

          "Put your faith in God and keep your powder dry."
                           Oliver Cromwell

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