The Last Days of the USS Starlight Pony (Chap 4)
Before we continue, I want to tank @Jadzia8 for helping me clear up the errors made in writing the story.

I have a number of chapters ready thanks to him so I will be posting them on a regular basis.

Now then...

Previously... Chapter 3:

 “Helm, set a course to Deep Space Nine,” Fludicus ordered.

“Aye, sir,” the female Tellarite ensign replied, “what speed sir?”

Fludicus thought for a second, “What is our maximum speed?”

“Warp 8.3,” The Tellarite replied, “and you still say that's too slow.”

And now...

The Last Days of the USS Starlight Pony (Chap 4)

Following the refits made, the USS Starlight Pony took a course from Deep Space Nine at warp two. Few could not help but notice the seemingly usual course taken consistent with those heading towards Cardassian space. 

It was an open secret the modifications aboard were for optimised for navigation within the Badlands. Questions on the matter went nowhere: Those who asked were quietly hushed and assigned overtime by orders of the Commander.

Six hours out at warp two, Fludicus began to give some unusual instructions to the crew.

“All stop,” he began. Once helm took the ship out of subspace and brought the ship to a complete halt, he continued, “Lieutenant Commander Mirra, please put the next watch on immediate notice. All senior officers are to report to the briefing room in fifteen minutes.”

Fludicus then got up from the captain's chair and went into the ready room.

Seventeen minutes later, Fludicus entered the briefing room. There stood the core of his crew at their respective sitting places.

On the right side of the centre seat was Lieutenant Commander Mirra, the first officer of the ship.

On the other side was the the second officer and the Chief Engineer Commander Thron.

Next to Mirra was the Tellarite Ensign Gepba. She handled the helm, and was clearly the youngest of the group. However, opposite her and next to Thorn was the newest member of the group. Dr Chio Armaat was a Bajoran who was recently transferred to the Starlight Pony. She was assigned to the sick bay, and had been quietly running it since then.

Fludicus got to his seat, and then, looking at the four officers that were present, said aloud, “Computer, lock the doors.”

A moment's silence. But it was clear that no one was going to leave the room anytime soon.

Fludicus took his seat, “Please be seated.”

As the four others took their place in the table, Fludicus began the meeting by asking, “What do you think of the True Way? Please be frank, we need to give some real discussion on this matter.”

Gepba was the first to speak, “They are a bunch of losers...”

“I would be lying if I disagree with that,” Mirra commented, “But with so much going on, I am not surprised that the Federation is not able to help in rebuilding Cardassia right now. Perhaps the True Way are just their way of getting more attention.”

“I find it hard to think of Cardassians being thankful for any aid rendered to them, although we do find such cases,” Thron said giving his two cents, “not all of the aid seem to be making an impact in their lives...”

“I do not mean to be... arrogant,” Dr Armaat began, “But while there is merit in your statements, I believe that they do not have the full picture of the situation.”

Everyone else kept quiet while the others, including Fludicus turned to the Chief Medical Officer. Fludicus did say one word, “Continue.”

“I was raised on stories of my forefathers sailing the stars aboard solar lightships. They were able to reach Cardassia many times over, even recording the development and progress of their civilisation,” Dr Armaat explained, “They speak of a resource-tight society, managing their meagre resources to the best of their ability. Despite that, they were a culturally rich society...”

“What does this have to do with the True Way?” Gepba asked, in a typical Tellarite fashion, “These stories...”

“Everything...” Dr Armaat replied, all intent to press her case, “Their civilisation, from the enlightened Hebitian Era to the early days of the Cardassian Union, revolved around scarcity. The Cardassians have tried top adapt to the issue though a magnitude of ways, only to find the constant need to expand the only solution – and itself root of the problem in the first place.”

“In order to provide the average citizen the necessary needs, the government of the day had to make some big decisions,” Dr Armaat continued, “It had to regulate and dictate the daily lives of its charges, as well as figure out how to meet it – even if it meant doing something we consider inhumane. Only a ruthless and brutal military regime could achieve these objectives satisfactorily.”

“Couldn't they innovate or negotiate or trade?” Gepba asked, “I mean... the Vulcans and the Andorians managed to overcome their challenges without descending into a militaristic regime.”

“The Cardassians...were very limited with whatever they had,” Dr Armaat replied, “Despite relations with Bajor, it was not possible to make any trades that could have improved their lot. In any case, much of the worst sufferings due to the resources shortages happened just before the founding of the Cardassian Union.”

“Let me guess,” Fludicus said, “You think the reason why the Cardassians are the ruthless and cruel were because they were simply... impoverished?”

“That is part of the mix,” Dr Armaat concurred, “the other is the passage of time. Being under this ruthless regime for so long, the people would only know the values the government advocated in order to sustain its survival. This... decoupling of self for the sake of the state makes the Cardassians open to ideas that make us.... cringe.”

“The genocides, the forced labour...” Mirra counted out the Cardassians' atrocities.

“The wonton murder of POWs...” Thron threw that one in. 

“It all came crashing down on them when the state could no longer provide them at the Battle of Cardassia. Poetic justice, as many of my kind and even some of the Cardassians themselves would see it,” Dr Armaaat was clearly not party to that opinion, “A good chance to rebuild their society and reform their ways regardless.”

“With the amount of aid we are giving, it seems that its not working,” Mirra commented, “The True Way seems to be stronger than ever.”

“The whole point of the reconstruction aid is to get them started to recovery, not to get them dependant to us,” Thron argued, “I guess everyone, including the Cardassians themselves missed the point.”

“I do trust that some Cardassians, most notably Councillor Garak, have realised that the point and the need to restart and rebuild, not to mention appreciate the aid and resolve the long standing shortages within their homeworld,” Dr Armaat remarked, “As we learnt from history, it is the lack of resources and the means and opportunities that makes some civilisations to turn to oppressive policies. Unfortunately, as we have noticed, there are some who are more used to the old regime, and thus oppose the way forward.”

“You suppose that the True Way is a mindset problem rather than that of resources,” Fludicus said.

“Exactly,” Dr Armaat replied, “It will take several generations to change the society's mindset, and we are seeing some promising results.”

Everyone else nodded in agreement.

“As I said, they are a bunch of losers,” Gepba remarked, “The True Way do not know how to take opportunity of change.”

“Perhaps they did in the wrong way,” Mirra said, “They stole some of the Cardassian navy and weapons. They took advantage of the chaos following the  Dominion War and waited for the chance to come and sow their brand of chaos within the Quadrant.”

“I am surprised that Cardassia is not actually following them,” Thron said.

“Those on Cardassia have seen the fruits and the harvest of liberty and cooperation,” Dr Armaat said, “We need to help the replicate that success through the former Union to bring more away from the True Way.”

“In the meantime, the best way to deal with them...” Dr Armaat was clearly not liking what he was about to say. But Fludicus had the answer.

“ to deal with them as we have dealt with all this while,” Fludicus seemed have seen the discussion come to its logical conclusion. The other senior officers seem to nod in agreement, “Well then, on to business. I trust you all know who we are up against...”

He then stood up and then looked at each of his officers in the eye. They all knew that something big was up when he did that.

“What I am about to tell you is highly classified,” Fludicus began, “We have been assigned a mission directly from Starfleet Intelligence.”

Fludicus then approached one of the wall display screens as the others adjusted to et a good view of their scene. Fludicus then began to touch the screen which then displayed a section of the Badlands with a single dot pinging a base location.

“This is the location of a Maquis base now suspected to be under the control of the True Way,” explained Fludicus to his crew. “Starfleet Intelligence has informed me that this base holds significant value to the enemy.”

“As you all may know, the Badlands serves as staging grounds for the True Way to launch ambushes  against Federation or Cardassian defence forces. This does not mention the numerous attacks on civilian shipping that provides the flow of supplies they depend on,” Fludicus continued.

“I am certain you have come to know of a recent raid, made notorious by Gul Madred. Starfleet Intelligence has some information concerning the raid so sensitive that that, for the reasons that will become obvious, has been withheld from the public for the time being and from you all – that is, until now.”

Fludicus then had the screen display a diagram of civilian freighter ships,  being attached by multiple Cardassian vessels from multiple directions. The screen began to focus on a freighter located in the middle of the convey, and then on a section of the ship, and finally on a box within the ship's section, displaying what seemed to be the contents of the cargo within. 

Mirra and Thron immediately recognised what it was. Dr Armaat showed no reaction but blinked at the screen. Only Gepba was not clear at all what made the cargo so important.

“Decalithium?” Gepba asked.

“I am surprised that you do not realise,” Fludicus said simply, “Decalithium is the raw material for making Red Matter.”

 (Please play for shocking end effect)  Tongue


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