THE COALSACK NEBULA
FIVE DAYS LATER...
Twelve ships had gathered in the outer reaches of the Coalsack. Regent
had been the last to arrive, but compensated by being the largest and most powerful. Next were two Intrepid
-classes and an Ambassador
-class. The rest were smaller ships, Novas, Defiants, even an Albacore
-class cutter. All had recently been commandeered by the humans in their crews. Lori Singer was the highest ranked, and the only captain to go along with her ship.
The gathering had only been waiting twelve hours before she
arrived, piloting an old-looking runabout. She opened a channel to each ship and asked everyone to meet aboard the Regent
. She docked her ship in one of the Sovereign-class's bays as the rest of the humans beamed over.
Lori went to meet her. Her heart was racing at the prospect. She was amazed, given the events that were going to take place, that it felt more like meeting a pen pal or a blind date for the first time than meeting a great leader. That's how close Lori felt to her.
She stood at the landing bay door and composed herself for a moment before stepping forward. The door opened wiith the sound of hydraulics. The woman had already disembarked.
"April..." Lori breathed.
April smiled that beautiful smile. She was as tall as Lori had imagined, and she was wearing a plain black bodysuit that highlighted a stunning figure. Lori immediately felt inadequate, herself barely more than five feet tall, plain-faced and a little plump. Yet April smiled at her anyway as they approached each other.
"Thank you for coming," April said when they were face to face.
"And thank you," Lori said. "I-we've all been really inspired by you."
"Then we're going to do great things together," April said. "I want us all to change the face of the galaxy, and we'll begin our efforts right away. Where is everyone?"
"On the holodeck. It was the only place big enough without using a cargo or landing bay."
"Then let's go."
Lori nodded and led off. As they walked the halls of the ship, April played tourist and commented, "I'm really glad you're one of us, Lori. You brought a Sovereign with you."
Lori blushed, and felt stupid for doing it, so she didn't turn to look at April when she responded. "I've only done what I could for the cause."
"No argument," April said. "This ship is exactly what we need. You are exactly what we need, Lori."
Lori blushed harder.
They continued in slience until they reached the holodeck entrance. "We programmed a Roman forum," Lori said. "Everyone will be seated around the speaker's floor. I'll lead you onto it. You should be prepared."
April smiled and nodded. Lori opened the entrance and they walked in.
Cheers erupted from the benches surrounding the marble floor of the forum. April grinned and waved at the people she had persuaded-and the ones those people had persuaded-to come together to remake the known universe. She let the ovation go on for about a minute, then signalled for everyone to settle down. When they were still and had their attention, she spoke:
"I see there's a little over five hundred of us here. There was a time when twelve starships could gather in one spot and there would be more than four hundred humans per ship
. Today, it took twelve, including one of the largest ships ever built, just to bring us together. I find that distressing. Don't you?" Everyone else nodded. "I'd like to change that. You know I do. I've spoken to many of you personally and you all know I have a plan. Now I can share it with you and we can put it into action. I want to start by making this ship our base. That will allow us to use the others as remote weapons. Next, I want Lori to retain command of the fine ship she's brought us. That will make her my second-in-command. Any objections?"
Smiles and a chorus of "No" and "No Objections" greeted Lori as she blushed harder.
"We'll decide who else does what over the next few days," April said, "and once our crew is formed, our real work can begin." She balled her right hand into a fist and put it over her heart. "For our home."
The others repeated the gesture with great feeling. "For our home," they echoed.