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Star Trek: Enterprise, The Open Door (Story Only)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing Archive' started by judgeking, Dec 25, 2010.

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  1. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Star Trek: Enterprise, The Open Door is written by taralon. I have put it into the Creative Writing Archive for ease of reading.

    Chapter 1

    “Those are the plates that were beginning to buckle in the last test Jon, I think we need to get a team in to add additional bracing.” Jonathon looked at the ventral plating that Commander Charles ‘Trip’ Tucker had them hovering under, and gave a nod as he saw the telltale rainbow coloring of strained plating.

    “We’re going to have to do that. We don’t want those plates coming apart at warp four point five that’s for sure. How long will it set us back?” Jonathan Archer looked over at his chief engineer who had already started entering data into the work pad he had strapped to one thigh.

    “I’ve already got the bracing ready to install we just need to get a team out and on the hull to pull the plating and put them in. Say ten, twelve hours? They should be able to work on it while waiting for the dorsal plating that still needs to be replaced.” Jon gave a satisfied nod at that. That the Enterprise was only a few days out from finally being ready to work, mechanically at least, was nothing short of a miracle. The Vulcans had been obstinate about the design from the very beginning. It was too fast, not tested enough, too well armed, all of which were laughable. It was fast though how much so in comparison to the newest of Vulcan cruisers, was hard to say. Jon had read the intelligence reports, and while he wasn't sure if they could out run one, he'd bet that they could give them one hell of a chase. It was well armed because the Vulcans had spent the last one hundred years telling humanity how dangerous surrounding space was. It was not tested because it was an experimental ship.

    “Those…phased cannons that Starfleet has spent so much time researching?” Jonathon himself was more than a little miffed about the last minute addition to the armament of the ship. They had pulled eight tried and proven pulse cannon turrets for a basically unproven weapons system. Those systems alone were going to push back the launch date by weeks.

    “The components are here for the projectors, but Starfleet design is still working on the designs for the mounting systems and power supply. They’re supposed to be pulling power directly from the EPS manifold but it’s all still theoretical. Besides weapons systems are Lieutenant Reed’s responsibility and he doesn’t like it when I step on his toes.” Jon could tell that Trip was going to rant more about the weapons, which he possibly disliked the last minute addition of even more than his Captain, but Trip was interrupted by the beeping of the workpod’s communicator. “Orbital six.”

    “Captain Archer, Commander Tucker, sirs.” There was the obvious compression warble in the voice, caused by the encryption that it had to undergo to talk with a Starfleet vessel, even one in earth orbit.

    “Go ahead.” Jon was tired of the constant interruptions. He could not even get a fly around of his ship, one that was due to refit and launch again in a few weeks time without being interrupted for one meeting or another with the damned Vulcans.

    “Admiral Forrest needs you both at Starfleet Medical right away.” Jon contained the sigh that tried to force its way through his lips. He shared a look with his chief engineer and future executive officer and gave a nod.
    Jon cast his gaze over the Enterprise once again as the work pod turned away from the ship. Just visible past her bulk another two spacedocks could be seen each holding the skeletal frame of the Enterprise’s sisters. Humanity would reach for the stars and would claim them, rather than meekly flitting about.

    ******

    Starfleet medical incredibly busy when Trip, and Archer arrived. The Vulcans were already present, already arguing with his superiors in Starfleet when they arrived.

    “Admiral Forrest.” Jon said, restrained enough Trip thought. It would take someone who knew him as long as Trip and the Admiral had to hear the frustration in his voice.
    Trip was content to let Jon take the lead as he could already tell that the Vulcans were somewhat upset he was here as well. Then again, being the de facto head of a not so secret, and moderately successful effort to back engineer Vulcan technology from observation and mostly invalid sensor logs had that effect around Vulcans. They disliked knowing that someone as volatile as he was; was perhaps more intelligent than they were.

    “Jon, Trip I think you know everyone.” Forrest’s tone was brisk, and sounded nearly as frustrated as Trip felt.
    Trip looked over everyone quickly noting that there were a couple faces that he did indeed not recognize. A female Vulcan, odd that, one rarely saw them outside of the Vulcan compound mainly due to the fact of their superior sense of smell. Or. The other was the being on the biobed behind the observation window.

    “Not everyone.” Archer said walking over to the observation window. “Who, what is he?”
    “He’s a Klingott.” Admiral Leonard said loudly only to be corrected moments later by the male Vulcan that Trip did not remember the name of.
    “A KlingON.”

    “Where’d he come from?” Archer asked, and Trip gave an internal sigh of relief and stepped unobtrusively into the background. Best that everyone just even forget he was here.
    Trip observed the Vulcans from where he stood, the female one in particular. They thought that they had their emotions completely in check, but after being around so many of them, while working on the Warp 5 project he had been able to learn to read them, more or less. This one did not look particularly happy to be here, but she showed at least more interest in him and the Captain than the other two did.

    “Oklahoma. A corn farmer named Moore shot him with a plasma rifle, after the Klingon blew up a grain silo that two other aliens chased him into. Moore claims it was self defense, Starfleet is inclined to believe him.” Forrest advised. Trip gave a nod and a low whistle, wondering what it was like to come face to face with that in a cornfield after an explosion.

    “Fortunately Soval and I have both been in contact with the Klingons before. They are a warrior people, one much concerned with honor. Should the full story of this incident come to their attention, no doubt you would be facing a full squadron of battlecruisers by the end of the year.” The older Vulcan Ambassador said condescendingly.
    Trip frowned at the words, which drew a questioning lift of the brow from the female. He gave her a glare in return before pointedly turning his attention back to the alien on the biobed.
    “Evidently this, Klaang, was carrying crucial information back to his people, on Qo’nos. The Vulcans want to delay your launch until this can all be cleared up.” Forrest continued, not batting an eye at the earlier interruption.
    Trip bit his lip at that. They were always coming up with one reason or another to delay the launch of the NX class vessel, as if humanity was not already out there among the stars. There were hundreds of freighters and Starfleet ships plying the space around Sol. Humanity was already out there, the Vulcans were only desperately grasping at straws to hold them back. At least this one was more imaginative than the last delay.

    “We will deliver Klaang’s corpse for a proper burial.” Soval said smoothly and without hesitation.
    Trip looked up at that, as did his Captain. The alien looked far from dead, true he did not look good, but he was definitely not dead.

    “Corpse? Corpse? Excuse me, is this Klingon going to die?” Jon strode into the medical atrium, demanding information from the Doctors therein. “Excuse me, is this man dead? Is he going to die?”

    Trip kept his eyes on the Vulcans, the two familiar faces were livid with rage, the female well she seemed to be more intrigued and amused than anything else. The Denobulan’s answer was muffled by the transparent aluminum wall, but Trip could still understand the words. Trip peered to try and make out the nametag, Phlox he thought it said.
    “Well his autonomic nervous system…”
    “A simple yes, or no answer will suffice doctor.”
    Trip hid his grin as the female Vulcan’s eyebrow raised again at Archer’s bluntness. Trip wondered if any of her companions was going to bother introducing her, or if logically, due courtesy was no longer necessary in their culture.

    “Short of being shot again, no.”
    “So, how do intend to go about killing him then? Poison? A knife in his sleep? Hardly an ‘honorable’ death for a warrior.” Archer asked as he charged back out of the isolation room. Trip joined him in staring down the triplet of Vulcans.
    Trip gave a short nod of agreement, thinking that being killed in a coma would be hardly honorable, and noticed that the female Vulcan did as well. At least one member of her race then saw how badly things could go for humanity if this Klaang was murdered.
    “Admiral, killing this man now, and taking his murdered corpse back to his people would not only be morally reprehensible, it would be the basis for a disastrous first contact. Hardly a ‘logical’ course of action.”

    “The Klingons, if we were able to speak to them, would demand the return of Klaang immediately. If they were to see him like this…” Soval interjected.
    “That’s your solution? Murder him? Admiral, don’t tell me that you are going to let them do this? With a man that landed on ‘our’ soil who is ‘our’ responsibility, how long are we going to continue to allow the Vulcans to dictate our policy.”
    Trip silently cheered Jon on as he took up the issue with the ranking human in the room.
    “Your ships are hardly up to dictating policy in this situation Captain. The fastest ship currently in your fleet would take a year to deliver Klaang back to his people. The Vulcan High Command has a course of action that you would be wise to follow. Especially until you learn restraint, and the ability to look beyond your provincial nature.” The woman, silent until now spoke up, her voice, unlike those of her companions still unaffected by emotion.
    “You have no idea how much we’re restraining ourselves from knocking you on your ass lady.” Trip mumbled to himself softly, but not softly enough for her eyes shot to him, and her eyebrow climbed her brow. Whatever she was going to say in reply was cut off by Admiral Forrest.

    “Perhaps it would be best to defer to their judgment in this case Jon.”

    “How long are we going to defer to their judgment Admiral? We’ve been doing so for the last hundred years.” Trip caught Jon’s look on the heels of his words, a silent plea to weigh in himself, and found his mouth opening before he had even thought of something to say.

    “Three days.”

    “What, Commander?” It was as if Trip’s presence had been forgotten by the higher ranking officers and they were calling him to task now for butting in.

    “Three days Admirals. It might be true that a NY would take a year or more to make the trip, but the Enterprise could make it in three, maybe four months. Three days and she’ll be ready for the flight.” Trip could not believe what a heavy burden he was placing on himself and his crews with that statement, but he knew it could be done and that it had to be done if humanity was ever going to take that next step to truly becoming a part of the galactic community.
    “Jon that’s crazy, surely you don’t believe it could be done. The Enterprise has not even passed trials yet.” Trip opened his mouth to speak, to answer Admiral Forrest but found Jon doing it for him.

    “If Commander Tucker says three days, he means three days. He’s got more hours in on the design of that ship, that engine than any other two men combined, and you all know that.” Trip felt a flush of pride go through him at his Captain’s words and gave a nod.

    “Dan?” Forrest asked, turning to the other Admiral.

    “What about your crew? You only have half a crew and your Communications officer is in Brazil on a leave of absence. You haven’t even selected a Chief Medical Officer yet.”

    “Three days, and a pick of anyone willing to volunteer who is already in Starfleet, that’s all I need. Give me, no give us a chance to prove we’re ready for this.” Jon pleaded.
    Trip could feel the tension in the room as Admiral Forrest looked from one of his fellow officers to the other.

    “You’ve got three days Jon, don’t let us down.”

    “You’re making a mistake!” Everyone in the room was surprised by Soval’s outburst, perhaps most of all Soval himself. Trip withheld a soft chuckle as Jon gave the older Vulcan a withering glare, and called him to task.

    “Shouting when you don’t get your way? You have been on Earth too long Soval.” Jon stated softly. The two men glared at each other for a moment, Human, Vulcan in a schoolyard staring contest. Finally Soval turned and walked out of the room, his aide following a short way behind. Trip expected the woman to immediately follow, but she stayed for a few moments more, studying the arrayed humans with a more respectful and appraising look on her face. A few moments more and she too left.

    “God help us, but you’ve got three days. Don’t either one of you fail, if you do there won’t be any second chances.” Forrest said softly before he and the other two Admirals filed out after the Vulcans.
    Trip gave a nod, and knew that Admiral Forrest meant that in more than one way. If humanity failed now, it would only be more fodder for the minority in politics to add to their attempts, and the Vulcan’s attempts to make Earth a client world of the Vulcan Republic.

    Jon though, Trip saw, was already working on his own problems. He was tapping on the glass and motioning the Denobulan physician over to him.

    *****

    “I hear that they’ve approved this thing for bio-transport.” The younger man spoke. Lieutenant Reed looked over at his bridge colleague, Ensign Travis Mayweather, an acquaintance of some years. He had been the Ensign’s mentor through Starfleet Academy and had referred him to the Captain as a helm officer when he learned the sudden rush for qualified crew. Having a person already experienced at deep space missions like the Boomer, especially for a helm officer would be a good thing. Malcolm was always thinking of the safety of his ship.

    “I hope you mean fruits and vegetables.” Malcolm said as he eyed the device. It had been a last minute addition to the design of the Enterprise, yet another experimental device onboard from Starfleet’s top secret science teams. There had been a lot of those experiments suddenly coming out into daylight in the last few months. The phase cannons had been another, and one of which Malcolm heartily approved. He had seen what the experimental device had done on the targeting range, and he for one was appreciative of the upgrade the eight installations would give the Enterprise. Rumor had it that most of these upgrades were coming from an alien spaceship that had been found under the ice on Antarctica.

    “I mean armory officers and helmsmen.” Mayweather said nervously in a soft voice. Malcolm found himself in agreement with the nervousness. There was a steady stream of crew members moving through the transporter room, carrying off small supplies that they did not have time to bring up via shuttle, or which had been suddenly unexpectedly needed. The activity was mirrored all over the ship, as supplies were taken on for the upcoming voyage.

    “I’m not sure I’m ready to have myself compressed into a data stream. I think I’ll stick with the shuttles thank you very much Ensign.” Malcolm shared a grin with the younger man, who looked as wary as he of the transport pad.

    “They say it’s safe.”
    Malcolm took a step back as his object materialized on the pad.

    “They say the same about skydiving, and yet people still manage to die of accidents every year doing that.” Malcolm replied as he stepped forwards to the case.

    “Good point.”
    Malcolm opened up the case, hoping that it contained the plasma coils that were supposed to have materialized and not the EPS valves that the case was labeled as, whatever those were. He could not help the curse that came when he found the case was indeed labeled correctly.
    “Damn it, if I’m to have weapons online in two days, I need those plasma coils.”

    “Weapons? Why do we need weapons? We’re just taking an injured man back to his home.”

    “Have you read the briefing on these Klingons?” Malcolm answered as he closed up the case and indicated Travis to take the other end. They stood with easy teamwork that had developed over the past couple hours. Lift and carry, is what both officers had been delegated to, as neither had any pressing duties elsewhere, not at the moment at least. “They evidently sharpen their teeth before battle, and they eat their food, alive. If we want them to respect us, we may have to force that respect.”

    The pair moved through the corridors carrying the case past the sparking work of fleet yard welders rushing to get all the interior panels secured, and of engineering teams working to wire up all the necessary internal subsystems. Many of those panels and systems had not been scheduled for installation for weeks. Everyone was rushing now, and Malcolm was proud of these people because nobody was complaining. Everyone understood how important the Enterprise had just become.

    “No doubt Commander Tucker will assure me my plasma coils will be here shortly.” Malcolm said as he ducked by cables that were hanging from the corridor ceiling. He mimicked the southern officers accent as he continued. “Keep your shirt on Lieutenant, your plasma coils will be here in the morning.”

    “No doubt they’ll arrive with our new Vulcan science officer and second in command.” Mayweather offered. Malcolm gave a nod and a grimace as he turned a corridor.

    “Why the Captain ever acquiesced to having them put a watch dog like her on us I will never understand. This was supposed to be a ‘human’ ship, a chance to go out there on our own without them holding our hand, and now we’ve got one of them onboard looking over our shoulder.” Malcolm paused as he looked at a dockyard ensign recalibrating a tactical system. “It will go faster if you repolarize the system before tuning Ensign.”

    “Yes sir.” The tone of voice told Malcolm she already knew that, but reminding everyone in earshot that time was of the essence was not a bad thing, and neither was reminding her who would be relying upon those systems.

    “Well we needed the Vulcan star charts to get this Klaang home. There’s not any human ships that have ventured out that direction and returned to bring back charts, the Vulcan’s warned us off exploring in that direction.” Mayweather said softly.
    Malcolm gave a nod, knowing that there was truth in the Ensign’s worlds. He stepped around an open grate in the floor from which a hand was reaching for wire cutters before answering.

    “Seeing the data on these Klingons I don’t have to wonder why. Though I wish we would have known of this possible threat before hand.”

    “Is that possible threat the reason why the MACO squad has been added to your tactical team?”

    “Yes.” Anything more of an answer that Malcolm would have made was cut off by their entrance to engineering and the arrival of the previously mentioned Commander Tucker. The man bounded over to the pair and motioned for them to put the case down even as he was opening it. “Commander Tucker, Ensign Travis Mayweather. He just arrived a short while back.”

    “Ah, our Boomer. Good to meet you Ensign.” Trip said as he bounded up the platform in front of the reactor.
    Malcolm noticed that the helmsman was taken aback by the display before them. The Warp 5 core was a new design, smaller, more powerful than any previous cores, and seemingly radiated that power.

    “How fast have you gotten her?”

    “Warp four, we’ll hopefully be running warp four point five all the way to Qo’nos.” Trip said proudly, his hand moving over the core. Malcolm gave an internal nod at the words. Not only was this ship the fastest in Earth’s fleet, or shortly to be so, it was also the longest legged. It was designed to give warp five ability, but it was also designed for a long duration cruise speed ninety percent of that designed velocity capability.

    “Four point five…” There was a reverence in Travis’ tone, a feeling that Malcolm himself felt, but for the trepidation that the thought of their arrival caused.

    “Excuse me, but without weapons that arrival may be short lived.” Malcolm said as he set his end of the case down.

    “Keep your shirt on Lieutenant, your plasma coils will be here in the morning.” Malcolm shared a look with Travis as his prediction came true. His smile faded to a frown at the engineer’s next words. “Besides without these EPS valves the only thing you’d get when you tried those plasma coils would be the clicking of EM switches, those were supposed to be here yesterday.”

    “You don’t think that someone is trying to sabotage this mission Commander?” Malcolm had to ask the question, it had been the forefront of his mind for hours now. There were too many misrouted and mistimed shipments of goods.

    “I’m sure there’s nothing of the sort Lieutenant. Just basic foul ups due to the speed at which we’re trying to get things done.”

    “But sir, don’t you think it is excessive?”

    “How do you tell what is excessive Lieutenant? This is the first time someone’s tried to complete three months of work on a ship in three days, there are bound to be some foul ups. Look, we’ve got all our basic needs and a hold full of crucial components. If need be I’ll make your damn plasma coils the first week out, you’ll still have plenty of time to get them installed and tested before we arrive at Qo’nos.” Malcolm gave a sigh and a nod. He could not argue with that statement, as much as he wanted the work done now.
     
  2. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 2

    “Since when do we need Vulcan first officers?” Jon winced at Trip’s words, especially seeing as hard as his engineering officer had been working in the past two days. He knew that Starfleet’s, no his, decision rankled his friend, but it had been necessary to compromise with Vulcan High Command to simply get the ability to carry out their mission. Not that they had taken that help any farther than the bare minimum, and had asked for almost unbearable concessions in exchange.

    “Since we needed their starcharts, and their database to carry out this mission.” Jon said evenly. He knew that with time, Trip would see the advantages of this arrangement, not the least of which for the engineer was the fact that he would not have to be on the bridge all the time. Jon knew, looking back, that having his Chief Engineer double as his first officer had not been a good idea. It was not fair to the ship as a whole.

    “So we get a few measly maps and some half written science reports, and they get to put an officer on our ship? No doubt she’ll be telling us what to do every moment, and reporting back to the Vulcan High Command every time we don’t do what we’re told.” Jon could understand that feeling, because he shared it himself. He opened the door to his ready room and Trip collapsed into one of the wall couches after entering. Jon did not think that there way anyone on the ship as tired as the Commander, who had been running on coffee and sugar for the past sixty hours according to his engineering crew. Jon himself had seen the Chief Engineer show up here and there, just when needed as if he had some sort of psychic powers. It was hard to slack off when there was such a palpable sign of the need to hurry right there beside you.

    “Four months there Trip, and four months back. Its not as if she’s going to be a permanent fixture onboard, she’s just along as an observer for this. If we do good, the Vulcans won’t have a reason to hold us back anymore.” Jon poured himself and Trip another cup of coffee before he continued. “Until then we’re to extend her every courtesy.”

    “Still it would have been nice of her to extend a ‘courtesy’ and helped with the fitting out. I don’t like being under the command of an officer that doesn’t look out for the ship and crew like you do sir.” Jon gave a nod as he settled back in his chair. H could not argue against the fact that having her help would have been good in the past few days. There was something to be said about Vulcan efficiency. “Still we are good for launch tomorrow. Thirty percent of the interior space still needs to be finished, and there are lighting, and power systems that still need to be hung. We’ll have a busy four months.”

    “Fitting out at sea they used to call it. At least half our crew aren’t conscripts, even if they have never been in space before.” Jon paused and gave a grin. “Still you can’t blame her too much. Just as we were saddled with her at the last minute, she was saddled with us. She’s spent the last two days getting special nutritional and medical supplies for her, our Denobulan CMO, and the Klingon onboard. Besides making sure the medical database contains all the necessary information. Not to mention packing, and seeing to the shipment of her gear, and making sure the Vulcan linguistic database integrated correctly with Hoshi.”

    “Okay, you’ve convinced me sir, she’s a shining example of Vulcan superiority.” Jon gave a chuckle at his friend’s wry tone and quickly cut it off as the door chimed. Sixteen forty-five on the dot, he should have expected she would be exactly on time.

    “Speak of the devil.” He mumbled before turning to face the door and call out. “Come in.”

    Jon watched as the Vulcan entered. He felt a tiny spurt of frustration, noticing that she had decided to wear a Vulcan uniform, technically allowed for under the regulations that had been first written up for MACOs on detached duty to Starfleet, but not one exercised much. A human would have made concessions for those around her and attempted to ease her integration by wearing the common uniform. It was the first time he really had a chance to study her, though she was at Starfleet Medical days before he had been more concerned with the Klingon than a new Vulcan face in Ambassador Soval’s train.

    “This confirms that I was detached to your command at 08:00 hours today sir. Reporting for duty.” Jon looked over the orders, knowing that she expected him to, and knowing that they would all be in order. If there was one thing about Vulcans it was that they filled out forms correctly. Still he did not notice the glance and the look of discomfort she had.

    “Is there something wrong Sub-Commander?” Jon looked over to Trip as he answered before she could speak.

    “I’m afraid that Porthos might be offensive to her sense of smell Captain. Vulcan women have a superior olfactory sense remember?”

    “I had forgotten. I hope that he won’t be too offensive to you?”

    “I have been trained to handle offensive situations.” Jon knew that was only going to spark another crack by Trip, and he was not disappointed.

    “I took a shower this morning, how about you Captain?” The look of, well it could only be loathing that the Vulcan officer shot Trip had to be curtailed before things go out of hand.

    “I’m sorry, Sub-Commander T’Pol, this is Commander Charles Tucker the third.”

    “Trip, I’m called Trip, if you don’t want to be offensive.” Jon knew that he should not take such pleasure in watching the antics of Trip, but did so anyways. Working with the Vulcans was always grating to him, and Trip was the only person he knew that annoyed them as much as they annoyed Jon. There, yep, there was the customary handshake that Trip always offered, and knew would be denied.

    “I’ll try to remember that.” The look of almost disdain was comical and Jon held off laughter by resuming his cool commanding officer mask.

    “While you may not share our, enthusiasm, about this mission, I do expect you will follow our rules. You are under my command and I will not have Vulcan High Command reading my every order after it has been given.” Jon knew Trip would feel better after those words, even if neither one of them believed they would be followed, or heeded. Vulcans could be very disingenuous if they believed there was a logical reason to be.

    “My reason for being here is not espionage. My superiors simply wish for me to be here to assist you.”

    “Your superiors don’t think we can wipe our asses without Vulcan assistance.” Jon hid his grin at Trip’s statement while taking a drink of coffee.

    “I did not request this assignment, and you can be certain that when this mission is accomplished I will be… pleased to leave your ship. Now if there is nothing further, there are duties I must attend to before tomorrow’s launch.” Jon watched as the Vulcan gave Trip another look and then turned back, expecting his dismissal.

    “That’ll be all.” When she turned to leave Jon noticed that Porthos, to Trip’s amusement had made an effort to get to know this new visitor and had sat at her feet awaiting an ear scratch. He gave a grin at the discomfited Vulcan as she left his office and shook his head. As the door closed behind her he looked to his Chief. “There has to be something else to this Trip. There hasn’t been a Vulcan that has lasted two weeks on detached duty on a human ship, let alone eight months. What it is...”

    “We’ll be sure to find out before it bites us on our ass, you can be sure of that Captain.”

    *****

    T’Pol could feel the excitement of the crew around her, a palpable thing to her Vulcan senses, threatening to overwhelm her as she stepped back aboard the Enterprise after the christening ceremony. An odd ceremony, considering the crew was only by minority actually of the Christian faith, one that felt it had long years of tradition behind it. It was very odd that they should break a bottle of alcohol over the airlock hatch though. She would have to inquire into such a ceremony to fully understand its nature.

    “T’Pol, perhaps you should follow Trip down to Engineering. I believe that it will be beneficial for you to see how he handles things down there.” T’Pol raised a brow at that. The idea that this human, someone who was actually younger than she, thought something would actually be beneficial to her was highly unlikely. Still he was her Captain, and as such she had to obey his command, however illogical this one might be.

    “As you wish.” Perhaps Engineering would offer some respite from the emotions that boiled around her, almost to the extant that she could feel them. That Vulcans should be so sensitive to emotion to foreign thoughts while at the same time maintaining so much control over their own was not an irony lost on her. Perhaps the fundamental reason why Surak had been so necessary was because of that sensitivity. Without his disciplines there was no check on an ever increasing feedback loop.

    Commander Tucker at least, was more subdued in his feelings, now unlike normally. He was, T’Pol realized, subdued because his mind was running over multitudes of scenarios that he could be facing almost immediately. Contrary to what the Humans thought, their ship was rudimentary, and unlikely to be as safe, nor as robust as the Vulcan equivalent. Where Vulcans had refined every available erg of energy out of a warp field, the humans had went about things the brute force way.

    They could not cycle their warp coils as fast as a Vulcan ship, so they used two nacelles each of which fired a coil in sequence. They were unable to build a reactor able to contain the number of matter - antimatter collisions necessary, so they enriched the matter mixture and used a portion of what would be ‘waste’ energy in a Vulcan design to further excite the warp plasma.

    T’Pol had to admit that though unrefined the entire system had a certain grace to it. Given a Vulcan warp core, along with Vulcan warp coils built on a human design, warp speeds as high as Warp 8 might one day become a possibility. Such a design would never be built however, not as long as the human’s maintained their combative attitude.

    Engineering was a madhouse of activity, but the emotions were much more subdued. T’Pol wondered if this would indeed be to her benefit. Having time to adjust to the human crew while in areas where they were not supercharged with emotion would help and in not small amount. She looked up as the Chief Engineer motioned her over to the Warp core.

    “Come over here Sub-Commander, and I’ll show you why humans call this tuning a drive.” T’Pol gave a nod and followed him over to the warp core control panel, interested in just how such a thing was done. She had heard the term before, and had assumed that like the Vulcans they used the inputs of multiple sensors, of intermix rations, temperatures, and plasma velocity to get their engines functioning correctly. As Commander Tucker pulled forth a primitive set of tuning forks from under the core console and set them on top of the panel, she learned that perhaps she was wrong.

    T’Pol felt the lurch as Enterprise left the space dock under impulse power, and if anything the movement in the room around her doubled as people went about their jobs. She knew they were monitoring magnetic fields and a myriad of other sensor displays, and she watched absorbed in the motion around her the scientist content to watch the working of a system that could produce an enrapturing harmony.

    “How you doing Trip?” T’Pol glanced up at the intercom as the Captain’s voice came over it. Had they cleared minimum distance already? If they had, it was a testament to Commander Tucker’s engineering skill. Tuning an inertial compensator so finely against the impulse engines was a feat that even a Vulcan would find difficult.

    “Ready when you are sir.”

    T’Pol watched as Trip monitored the displays, the muted hum of the standby warp core moving evenly to slowly pulsing thrum as the ship accelerated to, and broke the warp 1 barrier. She expected them to continue at that velocity for a while as instruments were checked, but the impulsive species they were, they did not. Power levels continued to rise, past warp 2, to warp 3, and finally past warp 4. There was a definite strain in the tone, the pulse of the warp engine that she could hear now, like a heart that was laboring under a load far too heavy for it.

    T’Pol watched as Tucker’s hands flew over the command console, trimming power there, adding it here, fine tuning the intermix ratios and the plasma valves on the warp coils. He was, she realized, imminently qualified for his position. Still it was obvious that they would not be able to reach past warp 4.3 at their current rate, the core was near its maximum indicated power output, as were all the accelerator stages. Had the Enterprise the more sensitive sensors that Vulcan ships had available, that might have been able to be bettered, by a significant margin.

    “Impressive Commander, I must congratulate you. Still it would seem that the drives are not performing as well as expected from simulations.” T’Pol arched a brow as the Chief Engineer smirked at her before picking up one of the tuning forks.

    “Let me give you ‘advanced’ Vulcans a lesson in drive engineering Sub-Commander.” T’Pol gave a little nod, giving him leave to continue, though his condescending tone was grating and threatened her self control. “Its one that I’ve tried to give every Vulcan engineer I’ve ever met, one that has never gotten much success since it didn’t fall into their version of logic.

    “See, the engine systems on this ship, are like a symphony. Without a conductor, without working together, all you get is noise that cancels itself out and pulses in the wrong areas. There’s no beat, no harmony to it. Right now these engines are like a world class symphony being orchestrated by a high school band teacher.” T’Pol gave a nod. She was not herself, a musician, but she had an appreciation for music. She had to admit that the one thing these humans did understand was composition of music.

    “I understand your analogy, though I still do not understand the point you are trying to make.”

    “Well, see, a Vulcan ship is like that same symphony under the guidance of a college music teacher. Better, but still not living up to its potential. Why? Because you Vulcans rely too much on your sensors. You try to quantify too much with numbers. You need to feel the engines, need to learn to listen with all your senses rather than rely upon a bunch of blinking lights. You’ve got to tune the whole ship engines, life support, the deflector dish, and even the hull as a whole instead of as pieces.” T’Pol watched, first bemused, and then with dawning respect as the engineer before her began to do just that.

    The warp factor indicator slowly crept up even as he slowly lowered the power setting on the reactor. Now that she saw the evidence before her eyes, she began to listen as he told her. She could feel it, feel the stumble that a sensor would miss, the Th-th-thrummm, that slowly surely, steadily under his hand became a harmonic Thrummm.

    Time passed, seconds slid by unheeded as the scientist that had always been in T’Pol became caught up in the experience. Her disciplined mind worked at breaking down every experience, categorizing and theorizing over his efforts. T’Pol was unaware that the entire engineering staff had fallen silent and was watching their conductor work his magic. It was something many of them had heard about, through stories or second hand accounts. What some had witnessed on other ships, under other equally qualified hands. Still every time it captivated.

    “So, what do you think?” T’Pol was startled out of her thoughts by the voice there beside her, holding a tuning fork that hummed, resonating sympathetically with the engines, with the ship around her. She looked at the display he gestured at, a triumphant grin on his face. “A full five percent under projected energy levels for this warp factor.”

    “Intriguing.” Was all that she could say, and that one word, in her mind said it all.
     
  3. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 3

    Silik stepped into the chamber, deep inside the helix city. It was a room built inside one of his people's vessels, but they had not built the room itself. No, this one was provided by their mysterious benefactors, the ones who had given his people space flight, warp drives, and had cured the mysterious plague that had decimated their race. The door hissed closed behind him, and the viewscreen before him lit up with the shadowy image of a bipedal figure.

    "Where's Klaang?"

    The voice echoed through the chamber and Silik only barely stopped himself from looking around to see where it came from. He had done that before, and it had never availed him well. In fact the first time he had come into the chamber he had done just that, and the figure had mocked him for it. Silik did not wish to undergo that humiliation again.

    "The humans have him." Silik found himself looking away from the figure on the screen expecting the worst. The expectation was not long lived.

    "What!" Silik cringed at the anger in the whip like voice. "I trust you lost others as well then."

    "Two of my men, one was my brother." Silik bit his lip at answering further. It would not be a good idea to provoke these people, he had seen what technology could do, and the Suliban's mysterious benefactors had more than proven a match for all the technology he had seen so far.

    "Good." The image spoke, gloating at his loss. Silik fought down anger at hearing the cold satisfaction in the voice. "You will recover the evidence, or you may be joining your brother in what hell waits for you. Klaang must not be allowed to take what he has found to his people, if he does, it will not go well for your world."

    "I promise, I will see to it personally." Silik gave a half bow to the figure and looked up before continuing. "When will we speak again? My people..."

    "That does not concern you. Recover your evidence or your people will need more than we will ever provide."

    The room went dark, and Silik found himself clenching his teeth, and his hands in anger. He would like to meet these people on equal grounds, to teach them the meaning of respect. But they held the upper hand. True they gave technologies to the Suliban, but none of his people truly understood how most of it worked.

    *******

    Jon stepped into the sickbay with some trepidation. It was not the first time he had been in the small room in the last three months, but today he would find out if all the bridges that had been burned with the Vulcans had been worth it.

    “Ahh, just in time Captain, our patient is regaining consciousness.” Dr Phlox said cheerfully. Jon stepped further into the room, closely followed by Hoshi Sato and the MACO guard who had previously been standing guard outside.

    Jon glanced at the guard, still unsure how to feel at their presence. He had commanded on other ships that had transported MACOs to colonies and outposts, but he had never had the space born version of a Marine under his command before. At least they had integrated with Malcolm’s team well in the past two months.

    “I thought you were only going to take him off the sedation a few hours ago Doctor?” Jon asked as he stepped closer to the hulking figure strapped down on an examination bed. Jon motioned Hoshi closer as she seemed rather hesitant to get any closer to the Klingon.

    “Indeed I did, however it seems I underestimated the ability of the Klingon physiology to recover from such a long medically induced coma. In fact, I dare say he would have been up and functioning months ago, had I thought the damage was not still life threatening.” Phlox paused for a moment, bent over a monitor and gave one of the all too large Denobulan smiles. “In fact I would say he will be awake any second now, though probably quite confused.”

    Jon looked over at the MACO who was now looking at the Klingon with a glower, and rather more than a bit of anticipation. Corporal Chuck Jenson, his tag read, was very nearly a match for the Klingon’s stature, and holding a plasma rifle for good measure. His presence was rather calming to Jon, especially when the Klingon tried to sit up, and started jerking at his restraints.

    “Pung ghap HoS!”

    Jon looked to Hoshi, who was poking and prodding at her handheld equipment with a frown. He watched her for a few moments, and took a step back away from the bed as an arm restraint creaked alarmingly. “Hoshi…”

    “I’m sorry sir, his dialect isn’t one that is in the databanks, the computer doesn’t recognize the syntax; the program needs more work.”

    “DujDaj Hegh!”

    “Hoshi?” Jon looked over at her again as Klaang shouted again. You did not need to be a linguist to understand the Klingon’s tone.

    “I’m sorry sir… If I can just…”

    “Just tell him we’re taking him home.” Jon reached out and put his hand over the translator device. He really didn’t trust the machine that Starfleet had been developing with the Vulcan’s help. It was the reason he had brought Ensign Hoshi Sato, legendary for her knack with languages on the mission with him. “Worry about the translator later.”

    She thought for a moment, before lowering her voice. “Ingan ... Hoch ... juH.”

    “Tujpa’qul Dun?”

    “He… He wants to know who we are.” Hoshi looked to Jon tentatively and he gave her a nod to reply. “Qu’ghewmey Enterprise. PuqloD.”

    Jon gave a sigh as the Klingon seemed to quiet down. This was going much slower than he had anticipated. Up to now, his only real interactions with alien species had been limited to those which humanity, and by extension the Vulcans had known for a long time. Most of those species knew English, or at least had translators for English.

    This was going much slower than Jon had hoped. Obviously getting any useful information conveyed would take perhaps days, maybe even weeks of work by Hoshi in the sickbay. He turned to give her orders to such effect just when the Enterprise gave a lurch, and Jon knew they had just dropped from warp. Shortly on the heels of that shudder came what could only be a weapon strike.

    Sickbay was chaos as the third weapon strike hit the ship. Small creatures, cages, glass jars had been flung everywhere with the first hit. Jon was struggling to get to the intercom to find out just what was happening to his ship. He was nearly there when the lights went out, leaving only a faint glow from some worms, in yet another glass container, as the only light in sickbay.

    “Suliban.”

    Klaang did not stop there, but began raging against his restraints, shouting out in words that were completely incomprehensible to Jon. Given the speed, and volume that they were coming out, probably incomprehensible to Hoshi as well. The metal of the Enterprise’s hull rang with the sound of docking clamps, still loud even in the center of the ship, where sickbay resided.

    “Phlox, sedate him. Corporal Jenson, your sidearm please.” Jon stepped forwards as the Corporal turned on his weapon-mounted light, to take the MACO guard’s pistol. A standard pulse gun it was familiar to Jon, and its charge indicator showed full. “Hoshi, find the emergency flashlights.”

    Corporal Jenson motioned towards the hatch; the only entrance to sickbay, and Jon gave a nod as he moved into concealment. There was no doubt in Jon’s mind that whoever had just attacked his ship, they were after Klaang. Probably members of the same species that Klaang had killed in the silo explosion back on Oklahoma. Hopefully, he thought, Trip would get power back up before those aliens were able to get to Klaang.

    After several minutes of silence, broken only by the breathing of Hoshi and Phlox behind him the doors began to creep open. Obviously the aliens had figured out the manual controls quickly. Jon looked over to Corporal Jenson and gave a nod as he raised his weapon to the door, illuminated as it was by the shakily held flashlight in Hoshi’s hand.

    The door gave a final crunch as the locking mechanism was retracted and then sprang open under the action of the internal springs. Only there was nothing in the hall, just empty space. Jon peered down the dimly lit corridor, a flash of movement catching his eye. He was just beginning to stand, to take a look as Hoshi’s flashlight suddenly moved and she hissed out.

    “There on the ceiling!”

    Corporal Jenson reacted before Jon even really knew what was going on. A burst of plasma fire took the figure of something, crawling along the ceiling, looking down at them with its neck twisted impossibly far. The bolts proved just as deadly to it as they would have a human however, and it fell heavily to the deck.

    Unfortunately it proved to be not alone, as in the distraction of its death two more humanlike figures came rushing along the ceiling and then leapt towards both Jon and Jenson.

    Jon found himself grappling with an opponent that greatly outmatched him in strength. Not to mention the alien’s bones seemed to be made of rubber. He tried kneeing the being, only to get flung up against the wall hard enough to knock the breath out of him. Seconds later the yellow-eyed alien stared at him, and then knocked his head back against the metal cabinet hard enough to make everything go black.

    By the time his senses returned, the lights were coming back on, flickering, but power was returning. Jon looked up to see Klaang gone, and the body of the dead intruder being dragged out the door. He triggered a couple bursts at the one dragging it, which encouraged them to leave the body behind.

    *****

    “Commander Tucker report.” T’Pol released the intercom button as she bent over her science station. The sudden drop from warp had not been expected and none of the readings she could access from her station gave any indication as to why it had happened. It was the first problem that they had experienced with the Warp drive in three months of flight. Something that she had thought, up to now, to be a rather remarkable testament to humanity, and in particular Commander Tucker’s skill.

    “I don’t know what happened Sub-Commander, we started venting warp plasma from the nacelles, and then the reactor just SCRAMed. It looks like a computer glitch; I’m working on it.”

    T’Pol thought Commander Tucker sounded rather defensive at the moment. No doubt he assumed she thought he was to blame for the reactor problem. Fortunately she knew that he was not to blame, after all it was no doubt a problem caused by the hasty launch of the ship. She reached for the intercom button to advise him of such, and was interrupted by Lieutenant Reed.

    “Sub-Commander tactical sensors are showing six small ships on an intercept course with us at high warp. They have weapons charged.” Malcolm looked up, his hands hovering over the tactical controls. “They are dropping out of warp.”

    “Activate the hull plating and charge weapons.” T’Pol activated her console viewer again. It was possible that these ships had something to do with the Warp drive failure. She noted their power curves, the fact that they used tri-cyclic drives, and the fact of their small size. They had to be short ranged, T’Pol thought, and began scanning for a nearby star, or base that they were associated with.

    “They’re firing weapons.” Lt. Reed’s report was unnecessary as the Enterprise rocked with the blow. T’Pol clutched her station as the blow was followed by a second, and then a third.

    “Evasive maneuvers Ensign.” It was all that T’Pol could do right now. Vulcan ships never returned fire until after communication had been at least attempted. After all it was not logical to return violence without at least hailing them to determine their intentions. “Ensign Mayweather, hail them.”

    “Channel open.”

    T’Pol was just beginning to speak when the lights on the ship went out, and main power failed with no sign of the backups. Obviously the ships had more to do with the warp drive malfunction, than she had first assumed.

    “We’ve lost all power.” Lt. Reed reported, needless in T’Pol’s opinion. Several loud clangs echoed through the bridge. When Reed continued, there was a definite air of being proven right in his voice. Given that he had warned time and again that this would happen at some point, he was probably not being to overbearing. “It would appear we are being boarded as well.”

    Time passed and T’Pol silently recited meditation techniques to keep the broiling emotions under control. Had Starfleet designed the backup power systems correctly this would not be happening. Obviously the backup systems were flawed, and just as logically Commander Tucker must be instigating a full main system restart. The darkness might be all that they would know until death came to claim them. T'Pol at least wished to meet that possible death as a Vulcan, as difficult as that was onboard a human ship.

    Four minutes, thirteen seconds, T’Pol noted as the lights first flickered back on, well under the ten minutes that Starfleet manuals gave for full manual main system restart.

    “Weapons, sensors coming back online.” Lt Reed was already furiously at work, trying to bring back up all of his systems even as he reported. “Internals still offline…”

    “Ensign Mayweather, full impulse and evasive maneuvers.” T’Pol once again activated her scientific scanner even as she awaited the Ensign’s cknowledgement of her orders. There were no longer six ships, now there were eight on sensors. Already they were moving into an array that would no doubt lead to an all out, multi-pronged attack.

    “I can’t sub-commander, impulse is still not responding. We’re dead in the water.” Mayweather turned to look at T’Pol as he said that last, but she had no time to spare on his ancient turn of phrase. The first weapons blast shook the ship.

    “Bridge, Tucker. You’ve got power, but drive systems are going to be offline for a while longer. Whatever they did to the computer has taken navigation and helm controls completely offline. I’ve got the backup systems for most everything else online though.”

    “Lt. Reed, I trust you are able to return fire?”

    “Yes, however our response will be limited to the phase cannons, the spatial torpedo launchers are still offline.”

    “Then do so. Concentrate your fire on the ships to our aft. We must protect the warp nacelles.” T’Pol looked up at the lights as they dimmed, the Enterprise taking another pair of hits, before the distinctive whine of the phase cannon filled the bridge. At least now they were able to defend themselves. It would have been better to settle things without violence.

    “Hull plating at eighty percent. We’ve disabled one of their ships, sensors are not detecting any power readings.”

    “Switch targets.” T’Pol replied automatically, as another new sensor reading spawned on the display, almost impossibly close to the Enterprise. “That ship Lt. Reed, disable it before they can go to warp.”

    “Firing… miss… all the ships, they are accelerating to warp, they’re out of range.”

    T’Pol looked up and saw the realization dawn on Lt. Reed’s face. That ship most likely now had Klaang onboard. That would be the only reason to board, and then leave the Enterprise without destroying her. T’Pol straightened as she looked around the bridge.

    “Perhaps now, you see just why Vulcans believe you are not ready.”

    *****

    Trip stepped into Jon’s cabin and paused. There were already five others inside the now cramped cabin. Jon paced back and forth, trying to walk off his anger Trip knew. Travis and Hoshi stood backed up against the wall, trying to stay out of his way, and out of his sight. T’Pol stood ramrod straight, obviously trying to maintain her distance from both Malcolm, who was glaring daggers at her, and from Jon.

    “Tell me good news Trip.”

    “We've got navigational systems and the Warp reactor online sir. We’ve secured the cell ship there was nobody aboard, but its database seems to be intact; if we can figure out a way of decoding it.” Trip let out a sigh of relief as Jon stopped pacing and leaned against the table he used for entertaining. “We’re still trying to determine just what happened.”

    “Captain.” T'Pol's voice had a hard quality to it, one that Trip was quite used to hearing in the condescending voices of Vulcans back on earth. In her voice it was new though. Trip turned with Jon to look at T’Pol who studiously refused to meet either of their gazes.

    “We should return to Earth. There is nothing you could have done to anticipate this. I am sure that Starfleet, and Ambassador Soval will concur.” There was a slight hesitation before she continued. “You have lost the Klingon, your mission was to return him. Now that you no longer have him we cannot complete those orders. We should return to Earth, there is nothing more that we can do.”

    Trip stared in shock at T’Pol who was looking at the Captain levelly now that she had spoken her piece. Obviously there was a boil of emotions just under the surface of her face, but like all Vulcans she was adept at keeping it from coming to the surface.

    “Return? Leave and go back without even trying to find out where these aliens have taken him? Go back to Earth and let Ambassador Soval say I told you so? No, we’ve come this far, we will find where they took him, we will recover him, and we will finish this mission, is that clear?”

    Trip had only seen Jon this upset once before in his life, and that was when the Vulcans had delayed the launch of the NX-Beta. Trip was just about ready to step forwards when T’Pol spoke again.

    “This is foolish. Your reaction is exactly why you are not ready for missions such as this. You are acting illogically.”

    “Damn straight I’m acting illogically. That’s what we humans do, or have you forgotten?” Archer turned to Trip, and for a moment Trip wished that he had found something to take his time up down in engineering. “Is there anything on that ship that we can use to track them?”

    “Well… the design is definitely short ranged, a few days at warp five at most. They use a tricyclic ion drive, so if we can isolate the plasma decay rate…” Trip glared at T’Pol as she cut off his line of thought.

    “Impossible. Your sensors are not precise enough and are not designed to isolate the decay rate without knowing exactly what it is. This is futile.”

    Trip glared at her. How the hell does she know what our sensors are designed to do, he thought. Then again, Vulcan children probably played with toys more sophisticated than what the Enterprise had. Just another example of how that 'superior' race was holding back from their supposed allies.

    “Hoshi, was there anything that Klaang said during the attack that might give us an idea where they took him?”


    “There were only two words not in the Vulcan database. Probably proper nouns, Suliban, and Rigel.”

    Trip frowned as he saw T’Pol look away again, obviously trying hide her knowledge. Jon obviously saw it as well, as he turned on her again.

    “Do those mean something to you T’Pol?” Jon paused, giving her a chance to answer before his voice lowered menacingly. “I advise you not to hold back on me. Otherwise the rest of this trip for you will be made in very cramped, uncomfortable quarters.”

    “Suliban are a race of nomads. They are quite primitive, and are quite possibly our attackers. They use ships quite similar to the one we disabled.”

    “And Rigel?”

    T’Pol was quiet for a second longer, obviously unwilling to speak before she finally did so. “Rigel is a system not far from here, three days at warp four. It is on the edge of the Klingon’s territory.” She paused before continuing without having to be prompted. “Rigel was listed in the Klingon’s ship database as his primary mission objective.”

    “And just why is it we are now only hearing about this T’Pol?” Jon asked giving voice to the question that Trip wanted an answer to just as badly.

    “It was classified by the Vulcan High Command. I was not authorized to share our findings with you.”

    “Malcolm, I need you to get all the weapons systems back online. Work with Trip’s team and see if you can isolate a cause for the system failures. Hoshi go through everything in the Vulcan database about this Rigel. Travis, set a course, maximum warp. Trip, take T’Pol with you, and put her to work on that Suliban ship. Keep an eye on her.”

    “Aye Captain.” Trip said as he stepped aside for the others, hurrying to get out from under the eye of their irritated Captain. The order to keep an eye on her was obviously a snub, placing a watchdog on a watchdog if you would. Trip believed it served her right though, had she truly been a part of the crew there would be none of the torn loyalties she showed now.

    Trip followed close on T’Pol’s heels and did not bother to give her the space, either physically, or verbally that she wanted. “You know some people say you Vulcan’s do nothing but patronize us. I wish they could see you now, they’d be shocked by how much you’re helping us, they’d eat their words.”

    “Your mission was to return the Klingon to his people. You failed. It is illogical to pursue this course of action.”

    “I realize he’s just a simple earthling, but did it ever occur to you that Captain Archer might know what he is doing?” Trip reached out and grasped her arm, using the Vulcan dislike of touch to turn her, and trap her up against the bulkhead. “That maybe, as the superior officer of this mission he should have your respect? Should have your loyalty? Oh, wait, I forgot, loyalty is an emotion isn’t it?”

    Trip gave a nod as he saw the palpable hit in her eyes a second before she looked away. He stepped back, content now to let her have her personal space back, knowning he had knocked a chink in her armor. Honor, and loyalty might be emotions, but he knew that the Vulcans were proud of being both honorable and loyal. No matter however much that the High Command might act otherwise in their dealings with humanity.
     
    ParanoidSchizo, Lord Sia and Fellgar like this.
  4. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 4

    Trip shivered, not because the shuttlepod is cold, but because he has always thought of it as cold. It is a vast open room, the largest such on Enterprise and the only area on the ship that did not feel like it had every been inhabited. There were six shuttle pods locked into storage cradles against the ceiling covered in plastic and partially disassembled against the day that replacements were needed. Two more hung from the launch and capture rams in the front of the bay. A work pod hung from the port aft arm, and next to it, the distinctly inhuman cell ship.

    A cell ship Trip was becoming far too familiar with, along with a certain Vulcan first officer. Every waking moment, it seemed, for the past three days had been spent pouring over that ship. Its inner workings held significant stealth technologies, passive and active systems designed to mask it energy signature. Trip did not believe the technology to be more advanced than what Earth had, but simply that their technology that had taken a different path. Singularly the cell ships were not a match for the Enterprise, but in a group like the last time, they would be a force to be reckoned with. Luckily it seemed that they had taken the Suliban by surprise on their last meeting.

    The two shuttles were already prepped for launch and the catwalk was crowded with everyone that was going down. Trip knew that Jon was concerned with talking nearly all of his primary bridge crew below, but there was hardly any real choice. Rigel had a turbulent atmosphere, which meant that Travis had to fly one of the shuttles. Additionally Hoshi was needed for any communications problems that they might encounter, and Trip himself was needed to interface with any computer equipment. That left T’Pol, and Trip agreed with the captain that she was not necessarily trustworthy enough to be left behind as the senior officer. The heavy team of MACOs was Malcolm’s idea since he couldn’t go, and Trip found them reassuring from what he had read of Rigel in the Vulcan database, as overstated as it probably was.

    “Remember, Rigel is a mining and trade outpost. Thirty-two levels so keep track of your position and don’t get lost. Klaang’s trail is cold, but even after eight month someone should remember a lone, seven foot tall Klingon.” Jon turned to Trip meeting his eyes and giving a slight nod in return. “We should find some information on the Suliban here as well, it is the only station within range of their ships. We’re here on a mission people don’t forget that. Get what we need and get out, Klaang’s life might depend on it, and Starfleet’s future certainly does.”

    Trip checked his sidearm still not used to the way the pulse pistol rode on his thigh. They had become standard issue since the boarding when the bodies of a half a dozen crewmembers were found in the aftermath. Obviously the galaxy was a rougher place than Starfleet had expected, and Trip knew that T’Pol found the weapons even more distasteful than he did. They were out here to explore, to meet new races peacefully not to antagonize them. It was one of the few things he agreed with her about.

    “Travis you and Corporal Signes and Private Tussleback are with Hoshi, keep an eye on her; it is her first time off world. You’re to check out what you can find in the dock master’s office. T’Pol, Trip, follow up whatever leads you can find in the market you’ll be back up like agreed with Privates Langstrom and Wiels.” Jon stepped forwards to press a handful of cut gemstones and thin bars of latinum into the hands of Travis and to Trip’s chagrin T’Pol. “For the necessary bribes. Try and keep track of how much you use, I’ll have to write a report for Starfleet.”

    “What about you sir?” Travis asked, looking rather apprehensive about his assignment. It was a change from the initial plan in the briefing, where he had been tasked to stay with the shuttles. Trip knew why Archer had changed his mind; the boomer had more experience than the rest of them combined, well outside T’Pol, at interacting with alien cultures.

    “I’ll be taking Sergeant Meyers, we’ll be going through the dockside bars looking for information.”

    Trip would rather have Meyers guarding his back, all five foot five and a buck twenty of her, than the two hulking brutes he was stuck with. She was an intelligent sort and had served a stint as ambassadorial guard on a mission to the Andorians. Still Trip understood why the Captain had chose her, and it was not just because she was as cute as a pixie.

    “Kurasawki, Antowitz you have guard duty, rotate it and bundle up. The air might be breathable but it there is a blizzard going on down there.” Meyers sounded tougher than she looked, the unmistakable command tone in her voice that trip always wished he could learn. “Lets get this show on the road.”

    “Use your communicators if you find something. We’ll meet back at the shuttlepods in an hour regardless. “ Jon looked around the group.

    “We won’t let you down Captain.” Trip answered his old friend. He looked around daring anyone to contradict him, and even T’Pol was silent.

    *****

    T’Pol could not hold the past few days against Captain Archer. He obviously trusted Commander Tucker a great deal more than he trusted her. Working in close proximity with the chief engineer had both proven enlightening and frustrating. She had learned a great deal about humanity, and perhaps about the limitations that a strict adherence to logic imposed upon her own people.

    Prone to excited, emotional outbursts he may be, Commander Tucker had an exceptional mind well suited to the task of engineering. Had T’Pol not seen it in action should would have been hard pressed to discard what she now knew where prejudices towards humanity as a whole.

    Humans had a unique ability to understand, and accept cultural values outside their own. They were perhaps too willing to interfere in those cultures than T’Pol liked, and they had natures that spanned far too great a range of variables. She was beginning to understand that though perhaps different, their methods were likely more able to produce results in returning Klaang to his people even now than she had initially thought.

    They were much more adaptable both mentally, and physically than Vulcans were. Commander Tucker had continually challenged her in their dissection of the Suliban craft, knocking down her preconceptions of the superiority of Vulcan technology and methodology as he had done so. Still he was far too susiptable to distractions.

    “It does not concern us.” T’Pol kept her tone even as she dragged him once again away from yet another pleasure room. This one obviously occupied by someone who had purchased the ability to harm another. Had they not been on a mission, perhaps she would have allowed Commander Tucker to intervene. Maybe then he would have learned to not interfere.

    “We’re not getting anywhere with this Sub-Commander. These people haven’t ever even heard of Klaang, and even if they did, I doubt they’d want to remember it.” Trip murmured to T’Pol as they stopped by yet another information vendor.

    “Agreed. We will instead attempt to determine whether or not there is a significant Suliban presence nearby, and where such a presence might be located.” T’Pol turned to the information vendor, who was already holding its… hand out for a bribe.

    “Suliban… yes of course the Suliban. Everyone wishes to know about them ever since they established an outpost in this system. The fifth level, deep in the depths, the old caverns, you will find them.”

    T’Pol quirked a brow towards Commander Tucker as she digested this information. He gave a slight nod, and she paid the alien, increasing it when Tucker cleared his throat forcefully. She looked around for a second, locating their two MACO guards and then continued deeper into the crowd in search of a lift. Perhaps they should have pursued this line of inquiry from the beginning.

    *****

    Jon was content to let Sergeant Susan Meyers take the lead as soon as they reached the dockside. He knew from prior discussions, and a thorough reading of her service record showed that she had a knack for finding seedy bars. There were even references in a few records of service with Starfleet Intelligence in a branch classified beyond his security rating.

    “This is the one we want sir.” Jon had to lean close to her to even hear her words, so quietly they were said. He followed the indication of her head to a rather unlikely looking place. It was brightly lit, clean, and from all the movies he had ever seen the most unlikely place for finding the information they needed to know.

    “Are you sure, it doesn’t look…”

    “Like a place a spy would hang out at? That’s why it is the right place. Nevermind dramas back home, spies don’t like being in bad bars any more than the rest of us. Learned that while on Andoria.”

    “You’re the expert.” Jon murmured in reply. He stepped forwards and opened the door for her. As it was outside, the interior was cleaner, and more brightly lit than he had expected. Unlike Earth though, there were weapons apparent on everyone inside. In fact, Jon was beginning to feel conspicuously under armed by the amount of weaponry evident. “I’ll wait for you at the bar.”

    “Understood, this shouldn’t take long.”

    Jon made his way to the bar drawing the unhidden stares of most of the inhabitants there. All were of species he did not recognize. Some of the people would have little trouble passing for human or Vulcan on a precursory glance, others were far more exotic.

    “What will it be, stranger?” The bartender’s tone was gruff, and it reminded Jon that though these people might be strange to him, he was just as strange to them. He pondered the question for a second, it was unlikely that they had heard of any earth beverage, or even had heard of Earth itself. It would not be a good idea to appear to provincial.

    “You would not happen to have Andorian ale would you? It has been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a glass of that.” Jon moved to keep Susan in sight while he waited for the bartender’s response. The laughter from the bartender surprised him, as did the same response from the rest of the patrons.

    “Andorian ale? He asks if we have Andorian ale!” The hulking figure chuffled again with what was laughter before drawing out a bottle filled with blue liquid from under the bar. A glass was poured before Jon and he found himself smiling in response. “What type of bar would we be if we did not have Andorian ale? You may look strange pink skin, but you know your liquor. Now tell me, what brings you to Rigel, hellhole of the galaxy?”

    Jon covered his pause to think by taking a drink of the ale. The ale was just as he remembered it impossibly cold feeling on the tongue followed by a explosion of maltiness and the hint of citrus. It would be best to remember not to overindulge, given the alcoholic and mild aphrodisiac nature of the beverage. He could not really see who Susan was talking to, and he hoped that she was getting what they needed.

    “My ship, well we are the first ship of my people to come out this far. We are explorers, looking for trade and alliances. We had a run in with the Suliban…” Jon looked to his left as a vaguely catlike alien interrupted him.

    “Suliban! Ach! Say no more. We well understand then. Nasty things, they have caused no end of problems since their hive set up in the next system over.”

    “Damned pirates is what they are.” Another voice piped up from farther down the bar.

    Jon tried to hide his interest in another drink of ale. This was perhaps of more help than he had originally thought it would be. If nothing else offered itself he could take the ship and investigate this hive they had spoke of. Just maybe these people might know why Klaang was here as well.

    “I understand that the Klingons have had dealings with these Suliban.” Jon insinuated the question easily into the general rumbling, hoping that he might get another tidbit of information.

    “The only dealing the Klingons have with anyone is at the end of a pulse cannon, great straightforward people the Klingons.” The catlike alien said with relish, flicking its bare ears at Jon. He filed that away with the prompt to make a note in his log about these new creatures. Best to avoid them if they were anything like the Klingons. Jon turned his attention down to the far end of the bar where another being was saying something only half audible.

    “Pah! Seems the Suliban have done well enough raiding Klingon territory, they’re always selling the stuff down on…”

    “Jon.” Susan’s voice in his ear and the hand on his shoulder made him lose track of the rest of what the person was saying. “Klaang met with a Suliban down on the fifth level. I’ve set up a guide to show us to her.”

    Jon gave Susan a smile and finished the rest of his ale. He slipped a bar of latinum across the bar probably overpaying, but he had learned a lot today. It truly looked as if the Enterprise’s luck was changing for the better.
    *****

    Trip was taken aback when Jon and Susan materialized out of one of the darkened corridors instead of the expected Suliban. The pair seemed to be just as surprised to see him, T’Pol and their MACO guards inside the room.

    “Let me guess, you’ve got a meeting set up with the Suliban.” Trip asked looked from one to the other.

    “No… The person who Klaang met with.”

    “It is logical to assume that either the Suliban and Klaang’s advisor are one and the same, or that we have been, as you humans put it, duped.”

    Trip shot T’Pol a glare and was about ready to shoot his mouth off in reply to her when several more forms materialized out of the darkness. Trip reached for his pistol, as did most of the others before one of the Suliban spoke.

    “It would be most unwise of you to act in a hostile manner. I have additional men surrounding us.” The Suliban’s voice was nearly controlled at T’Pol’s and unlike the other aliens they had met on Rigel, their translator devices were silent, meaning that she was using one already loaded with their language. Trip shared a glance with T’Pol and both of them moved to back Jon up even as he stepped forwards towards the Suliban woman. “Who are you, and what is your interest in Klaang?”

    “Funny, I was about to ask you the same thing.” Jon took another step forwards motioning for Trip and the others to stay back. “As for Klaang we are looking to get him back from the people who kidnapped him off my ship.”

    “I had nothing to do with that. Where were you taking him?”

    “Home. We were taking him home. Now who are you, and what do you have to do with Klaang?” Jon was getting upset again, but this time was hiding it better than he had in the past. Trip frowned and ducked slightly as he heard something rustling in the corridors. He could not see very far, and it was making him nervous.

    “I am Sarin. I meet with Klaang, I gave him information.”

    “Information he was carrying back to his people.” T’Pol broke in without turning from where she was looking. Trip could not help but glance over at her. It sounded like she was letting go of more information deemed too sensitive by the High Command. “He was a diplomatic courier for his government.”

    “What type, of diplomatic information.”

    Trip could hear the anger in Jon’s voice, and could tell that T’Pol had probably just earned making the rest of the trip in the brig. It was getting harder to know who to fully back though. T’Pol was not a member of Starfleet, and where it did not go against her orders she tried to be as helpful as she could. Unfortunately it seemed that the Vulcan High Command was going to be as unhelpful as possible.

    “The Cabal…the rulers of my people have been having stage various attacks within the Klingon Empire. Attacks designed to enrage internal factions of Klingons against each other.” Sarin sounded rather honest. Maybe a little too so. Trip glanced over his shoulder at Sarin before another scuffling sound drew his attention. It sounded like it was getting closer. All the guards seemed to have heard it as well, for all in his sight grew tense, including the MACOs. That was a bad sign. “I gave Klaang information that could prove the Suliban were behind these attacks.”

    “Are they keeping him in the hive city in the next system? Can this information… can the Cabal find out what exactly it was now that Klaang has been captured?” Jon’s anger seemed to have nearly evaporated.

    “Yes, they will have him in the hive. As for the information, Klaang does not even know he carries it. It is encoded in a dermal implant under his skin. It is not the Cabal you have to worry about though, but the race that controls them, for they have agents in…”

    Trip did not have time to wonder what else she would have said, because a torrent of beam fire erupted around him. He found himself face down on the floor, behind a crate before he even knew it, with T’Pol plastered all over him, doing a credible impression of a linebacker on a safety blitz. He peered up to see that Jon was down as well, half buried under what was unmistakably Sarin’s corpse and looking near death himself.
     
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  5. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 5

    It took a moment for T’Pol to recover from knocking Captain Tucker to the ground. He was much more solidly built, and heavier than she had expected. Obviously he was much fitter and had a lower body fat percentage than a Vulcan of similar build would have. Disruptor fire whined around them, and there was more of the coughing grunt of pulse weapons returning fire every second.

    T’Pol followed Commander Tucker’s gaze to where Captain Archer was laying underneath the smoking corpse of Sarin. He had obviously taken the fringe of the disruptor blast and was in dire need of medical assistance. A glance either way showed that the MACOs were providing adequate covering fire for the force, but that none of them was in a position to rescue the captain.

    “Commander Tucker,” T’Pol said, suddenly intrigued by the light blue eyes, mere inches from her own. She shook off the distraction that they offered as she continued. “You will cover me while I retrieve the Captain.”

    “As soon as you get off me Sub-Commander.”

    T’Pol could hear the irritation in his voice, but ignored it. Calling attention to it now would be highly illogical. She moved to disentangle her body from his, and handed him her weapon. She crouched in anticipation of movement, focusing on what she needed to do, and the speed at which she needed to do it and survive. It was highly unlikely that the attackers would ignore her or Captain Archer once she moved into the open.

    “Go T’Pol.”

    T’Pol was moving even before the last word hissed out of Tucker’s mouth. A half dozen crouching steps brought her to the pair on the ground. Though she doubted Commander Tucker was hitting anything, the sheer rate of fire he was producing from the two pulse pistols, and the MACOs which joined him a short second later seemed to have sufficiently distracted the attackers.

    Still T’Pol knew she did not have time to take care with Sarin’s corpse, or with Captain Archer. It was this need for expediency that caused her to throw Sarin off the Captain and bodily drag him back over to where Commander Tucker was crouched. He handed her a pulse pistol back as he bent over his commanding officer.

    T’Pol checked the charge on the weapon, nearly halfway depleted and turned to provide him the necessary cover now. The Commander was undoubtedly more versed in human first aid than she was.

    “I forgot how strong you Vulcan’s are.”

    T’Pol gave the Commander a nod before popping up long enough to shoot one of the attackers in the upper levels. More Suliban, she noted as she ducked back behind cover to avoid the return fire. Already their fire had slackened, either because they were withdrawing, or because the humans were much more accurate than she assumed.

    “How is he?”

    “His pulse is erratic; pupils are varying in their dilation, trembles of the limbs…” Tucker trailed off as he ripped open the front of the Captain’s uniform. “Second and third degree burns on the torso. We need to get him back to the Enterprise as soon as possible T’Pol, this is beyond me.”

    “Understood, we will withdraw.” T’Pol looked up towards Sergeant Meyers catching the woman’s eyes for a moment. That was all it apparently took.

    “Langstron, Wiels, withdraw by jumps, covering fire in ten.”

    T’Pol had little trouble deciphering the hand signals that the Sergeant used, even without the benefit Starfleet training. She scanned the route that they would take noting the next best place to stop under cover while the others withdrew. Commander Tucker joined her as she moved to lift Captain Archer.

    “Need one hand free for surprises.” He said, lifting the pulse pistol in his left hand slightly.

    “Indeed.”

    They started moving as soon as Meyer’s hand closed into a fist. Surprisingly T’Pol found Commander Tucker forcing her to move faster than she had anticipated in order to keep up with him. As they moved closer to the mass of machinery she was steering for Tucker’s pistol snarled a trio of times, the last shot taking the Suliban that had leapt out in front of them in the chest.

    “Sorry, I’m better with a longarm.” T’Pol nodded to Tucker flipping open the communicator.

    “Ensign Mayweather return to the shuttlepods and prep them for launch. We will be returning to the Enterprise.” T’Pol could not help but feel slightly triumphant as Commander Tucker’s eyes widened with her next words. “I am taking command of this mission.”

    “T’Pol… Sub-commander you can’t, the Cap’n…”

    T’Pol cut the Chief Engineer off in mid sentence. “Captain Archer is incapacitated. It is only logical that command devolve to the next level. Thus I am in command, we will discuss this later.”

    *****

    Malcolm did not have much to do while he had command of the Enterprise. It was a babysitting job really, and he knew the Captain had given it to him expressly because Jonathon did not believe T’Pol could be trusted with it. It rankled that Jonathon had decided to take Mister Tucker along with him, but the engineer had been slated to be the first officer before T’Pol had been included in the crew.

    Being left aboard had allowed him to look into what was perhaps an even larger security concern; just how the Suliban had been able to disable systems all around Enterprise. He had finally been able to trace everything back to a computer subroutine, one that was not listed in the confirmation database. A subroutine that talked with a communications subsystem that was also, strangely not in the engineering database. All linked together to allow a communications burst to crash every computer system on the Enterprise.

    To Malcolm that meant exactly one thing, sabotage.

    Sabotage that had to have been perpetrated while the Enterprise was in drydock, hell given where the communications subsystem was it had to have been done months before the launch. Well before that Klingon fellow Klaang had even been given whatever he got on Rigel. Malcolm could only see one reason to work a game that long, to plan that far ahead in sabotaging the Enterprise and that was war.

    Likely, he thought, that if he ever mentioned that in a report that his superiors would believe him to be jumping at shadows. They’d call it paranoia, and it might just be enough to get him recalled. If of course he put it in an official report. There were other routes he could take, and after a minute of consideration he decided he would keep most of his thoughts out of the official report. A report he would supplement with a personal coded letter to an old commander. That would put the bug in the right ear.

    “Lieutenant Carsson, you have the bridge.” Malcolm gave the Junior Grade Lieutenant a merciless and humorless smile. Up until now the JGs had only had to take shifts during the Beta and Gamma shift, and always had multiple senior officers on call. They would have to learn sooner or later, Malcolm mused, given that the Enterprise had to leave Earth with only half of her senior officer complement. Without even pausing he punched the intercom for engineering. “Ensigns Milano, and Wright meet me in subcorridor twelve junction six, and bring a plasma cutter.”

    At least the Ensigns were steady enough. They had the benefit of Starfleet Academy training and previous posts on starships. The JGs, though, they were almost to a man staff pukes and REMFs. They had, in most cases, no prior experience shipboard and already a quarter of them, looking for glamorous assignments, were nearing burnout at the grinding pace of deep space operations. It was a program that Malcolm wished Starfleet would halt, dealing with the JGs as an Ensign had been hard enough, now as a full Lieutenant it was perhaps worse.

    Malcolm turned the corner and saw that the Ensigns were already at the junction. “Get that cutter set up and ready, we’re going to need to take this bulkhead down.”

    The scanner in Malcolm’s hand was indicating a lot of things behind the aluminum alloy panel that weren’t supposed to be there. The communications subsystem for one, but there were also sensors, anti-tamper devices, and enough explosive to blow a hole big enough in the ship to drive a shuttle through.

    “We’re going to need a Mark 3 dampener, and a bomb disposal unit from the armory Ensign Milano.” Malcolm said quietly as the pair finished up setting up the plasma cutter, and waited expectantly. “You may wish to have them ready the transporter as well. The device inside this bulkhead is quite enough to vaporize us all.”

    “Sorry sir, but it is offline.”

    Malcolm looked up surprised by the report. “Offline? Just what is wrong with it?”

    “Unsure sir, Commander Tucker ordered the system taken offline right before he went down planet, said something about the sensors being out of alignment. He was going to look into it when he came back.”

    Malcolm sat silently as he looked at the readings on the handheld scanner once again. He had been hoping to beam the weapon off the ship as soon as he had it removed. Now he was going to have to go through the much more difficult process of disarming it.

    “Well, isn’t that just bloody well perfect. We’ll have to make do I suppose. Evacuate all the sections immediately adjacent to this one, and lock down the emergency partitions then. Get me a defusing kit while you are down at the armory, Ensign. Wright, you will want to start cutting right….”

    Malcolm moved a few steps down the hall from where the device was located, outside of its sensor range. He would need to get a good look at it before he tried to open it up, in case it was wired to the panel as well. Malcolm consulted the scanner and then tapped on the wall.

    “Here, a six inch diameter hole if you would.”

    Malcolm stepped back as the plasma cutter made short work of the internal bulkhead. The wait for Milano to return with the rest of the equipment was much longer. Malcolm set up the dampener immediately, knowing that it would mask much of what he was going to be doing from the sensors attached the explosive device. He carefully threaded the optical probe through the hole and then down in the empty space of the wall. A low whistle broke his lips as he revised his estimate of whoever had done this went up a couple notches.

    “You two may want to evacuate yourselves now.” Malcolm suggested softly, not making it an order. It would be nice if one, or both decided to stay, but he was not going to order them to stay. There were times when as an officer you had to see that those below you were forced to make tough decisions themselves. When he looked up again, they were both standing nearby, silent, and sweating far more than he was.

    “Good. Wright, if you would, please start cutting the next panel bow-ward loose at its edges. Don’t bring it all down yet, and please for the love of god keep the plasma plume at the lowest setting.” Malcolm clamped off the optical probe and reached for the remote manipulators, threading them even more carefully through the hole. He purposely kept his voice even as he spoke. “Miss Milano… would you mind telling me why you chose to join Starfleet?”

    “I… I wanted to meet a Vulcan sir.”

    The answer took Malcolm by surprise and he turned away from the monitor for a moment to look at her. He turned back to his work with a slight chuckle.

    “Quite an extreme means to go about meeting a Vulcan Ensign. After all now here you are, in orbit above an alien world on Earth’s first Warp 5 ship, on a mission that will take at least six months, all to meet a Vulcan.” Malcolm gave another soft snort, snipping one of the leads on the device, which was luckily standard Starfleet issue. “After all you could have simply applied for a visit of their Embassy.”

    “I know. My mother always said I never did things half way. Still once I got into the Academy I realized how much I enjoyed the idea of being in space, of meeting new races.” Lizzy Milano snapped her chewing gum nervously. “Got to tour a Denobulan freighter my first trip out, was that exciting.”

    “And now here you are.” Malcolm said. He moved the optical probe slightly and used the remote manipulator to snip another wire, this one going to the detonator mounted to the block of industrial explosives. He let out a slow sigh and looked up to see how the cutting was doing. “And you Mister Wright?”

    “Nothing like wanting to see *a* Vulcan sir, I wanted to see Vulcan, and Andoria, and Denobula.” Wright trailed off as he nearly completed the cut, leaving only a small tab at the top to hold the panel. “Wanted to see all the planets I grew up reading about in the news. For me it was Starfleet Academy or ROTC, and my uncle, well he’s a freighter captain and he never had much love for the ROTC washouts. We’ll need to attach couplers to take the panel down sir.”

    “Leave that for a bit Ensign. If I was the person who put this little beauty in here I’d set up a secondary… yes, there it is.” Malcolm pushed the manipulators a little further into the wall. The secondary trigger was nothing more than a simple pressure switch, rigged to sense the wall. If you removed it a contact would trip and the whole special package would explode. “Ms Milano your gum if you would.”

    It was not a standard solution to the problem, but the chewing gum would work to hold the contact closed, and Malcolm really saw no other way of doing it. The space was too tight to work in. He withheld a grimace as he took the gum from her, and stuck it on the end of a probe. This would be tricky, as just the wrong bit of pressure would send the whole thing up in his face. Malcolm would much rather be working with an electronic trigger, but he could not deny the elegance of the chosen solution.

    “Lt Reed, report to the bridge please.”

    Malcolm stopped the movement of the rod, having nearly started enough to push it uncontrolled into the switch. He let out a long sigh as he glanced over to the Ensigns who were both white with fear.

    “Wright, the communicator if you would.” Malcolm did not bother to mask his irritation as the Ensign held the communicator out for him. “Lt Carsson I’m a little busy right now.”

    “I’m sorry sir, but the team, they’re on the way back up with an injury. The Captain’s been hurt, what do I do sir?”

    “You do your job Lieutenant. Get a med team down to the shuttle bay, and stand by to receive the shuttles. Ready the ship to break orbit and go to warp. Now if that will be all, I still have a bomb to get off this ship.” Malcolm gave a curt nod to Wright, indicating that he was done. He carefully pushed the gum into place and with a bit of heat from the manipulator’s laser, hardened it. “Bloody REMFs, they wouldn’t know what to do if the lights went out.”

    ******

    Trip stormed after T’Pol as she exited the pod. He had to hurry to catch up to her long purposeful strides that carried her towards the turbo lift and to the bridge.


    “Damnit T’Pol you can’t do this. Not now, not when we know where Klaang is being held.” Trip found nothing he could use in the stoic face and took a deep breath.


    Getting all emotional won’t help you any Trip, he chided himself. He let the breath out in a long gust trying to gather his thoughts. Getting worked up over something might show humans the strength of your beliefs, but to the Vulcan’s well with them it never worked that way. If you were behaving illogically then obviously your argument had to be illogical as well. It had never made much sense to Trip, but that was the way things were.


    He could not just let humanity’s dream slip away as quickly as T’Pol was walking down the hall. Jon might be dying right now in sickbay to see that dream to fruition. Trip blinked back a set of tears and took another calming breath. He had done this before, had gotten collected enough to rub those Vulcan’s high noses in the truth.


    “Sub-Commander T’Pol, I must recommend that our course of action be to follow up on the intelligence gained by the Cap’n.” There, that wasn’t nearly as hard as climbing the popular in the back of his grandparents yard. Maybe hurt more, but it wasn’t any harder.


    “Indeed?”


    At least now Trip was getting a response from her. He stopped beside her at the turbolift doors and studied her face while he thought of the phrasing for his next step.


    “Yes. There are numerous reasons to do so. We know where this Klaang is being held. Getting him back and finishing our original mission would be one. Another would be to allow us to prove ourselves, to prove to ourselves that we can do good things in this wider universe.” Trip paused for breath and his eyes narrowed. Had T’Pol just given a slight infinitesimal nod to that last? He needed to continue on that track then, even if he was just imagining it. “When the Vulcans deepened their relationship with us after the first contact, did they just do that because they saw someone who needed help? Or did they do it because they saw however unlikely, potential partners, potential equals? When you look at me, or Jonathon Archer what do you see T’Pol? Pathetic backward savages? Or men struggling against great adversity and capable of doing great good if the chance were given to them?”


    “An… an intriguing argument Commander Tucker.” T’Pol said stepping into the turbolift. Trip followed her closely inside, not willing to allow her the chance to keep him from continuing his argument. “It does not however, justify the recklessness of continuing on with this mission. I was issued orders against circumstances like these, orders which were approved by your Starfleet command.”


    Trip fell silent at that. That knocked the wind right out of his sails, to know that Starfleet had planned for the contingency of them failing. Then again they probably had not much choice in the matter with the Vulcans pushing the possibility. He looked up to find T’Pol looking at him expectantly, and he suddenly knew that she was waiting for a further argument, something that she could use to justify breaking her own standing orders.


    “What if, Sub-Commander, by acting now we could stop a war?” The lift doors opened to the Bridge and Trip preceded T’Pol out onto it. It was perfect timing, as the words would be recorded, not just by the bridge recorders, but by everyone on the bridge itself. Even if this went badly, it could turn out for the good Trip knew. “You heard what the Captain was told. These Suliban have been attacking Klingon outposts to try and start a war, a civil war. Millions might die if they are successful. Children, future doctors and poets and diplomats, perhaps even the Klingon version of Surak might die in the coming conflict.”


    Trip could tell by the raised eyebrow that he had perhaps gone a bit too far with the Surak remark. He had been on a roll though, and who knew he might actually be right. Oh, certainly from what he had seen in the Vulcan database about the Klingons it was unlikely to the extreme, but it was still possible. There was a distinct pause as silence fell over the bridge broken when T’Pol spoke.


    “Communicate with Rigel Lieutenant and get a course set to their warp limit after breaking orbit. Ensign Ming, warm up the subspace transmitter for a message to Earth.” Trip was pinned by T’Pol’s gaze before she motioned to the ready room. “If you will join me for a word Commander.”


    Trip preceded T’Pol into the ready room. There was already a sense of relief filling him, nearly being washed out for concern of his long time friend. How was Jonathon doing now down in sickbay? He would have to stop there and see before going to engineering.


    “You have convinced me Commander that it would be logical to proceed with the attempted rescue of Klaang. The basic teachings of Surak say that we are to wage peace, and so I will try.” T’Pol fell silent again before she continued. “Logic dictates that as long as Captain Archer lives, and may retake command that I attempt to anticipate the orders he will give. But I must also follow the dictates of High Command. I will compose a subspace message to my superiors indicating the course of action I intend to take. As long as no contravening order arrives before the rescue take place we will proceed.”


    Trip quickly did the mental math in his head. No more than a week to the next system, and three weeks for the subspace message to reach Earth. He looked up with increased respect for the Vulcan before him.


    “Do not blindly believe that all Vulcans follow the dictate of our High Command Commander. Now I believe Engineering will need you shortly.”


    It was clearly a dismissal. Trip turned to leave, but paused at the doorway. He looked back to find her studying him.


    “Thank you T’Pol.” He said softly, knowing that she would still hear him, before he continued out the door.
     
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  6. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 6


    Silik stepped into the communications chamber once again. The figure was waiting for him onscreen. It was bad enough having had to push his ships so far, but now he had not even had a chance to get treatment for the radiation poisoning long term exposure to the drives caused. He was exhausted, and wanted nothing more than to rest.


    “Did Klaang give the humans the information?” The demand echoed through the chamber even before the doors shut.


    “I don’t know. Klingons are highly resistant to the interrogation techniques we can employ. It will be several weeks before he even admits to having received it in the first place.” Silik burned as he remembered the Klingon laughing at him when he first posed the question. Even when recovering from the injury he had previously sustained the beast reveled in matching his will with the Suliban.


    “You must find out. We had not planned on having the Humans involved this early in the game, nor the Vulcans.”


    “What should I do about the Human ship? I have reports that it was heading towards Rigel.” Not for the first time Silik cursed his shadow masters. Yes they had helped his people in the past, but he knew they were holding back technology, information that would prove useful to gaining the Suliban a new home world.


    With faster drives, like the Human’s he would have been able to have word by now. With access to subspace transmission technology he would know where they were right now, and what they were doing. Or at least a better idea of what threat they posed.


    “If it continues on, destroy it. That will serve our purpose as well as a recall. You must not allow the information to get to the Klingons. The Humans may find out the information from the same source as Klaang.”

    Silik bowed his head in acknowledgement. “I have already taken steps to have the leak eliminated.”


    “Good, see that you do not fail again.”


    *****


    Jonathon Archer woke to the dull throbbing of pain all through his head and his torso. He’d been badly sunburned as a kid, bad enough to put him in the hospital for a week, and this felt much as that had. His prior experience led him to believe that he was in a hospital, and he tried to push himself up on one arm to see just where.

    “Easy Captain, you’ll be quite dizzy at first.” Dr. Phlox’s voice was comforting to Jon in more than one way. Just being on the Enterprise was a relief, given what Jon last remembered. The agony, and the need to know just what Sarin was going to tell him next.

    “How long was I out?” Jon croaked as he pushed himself into a sitting position with the Doctor’s help. His mouth was dry, and tasted like something had died in it. There also seemed to be several, things, moving under his hospital gown things he thought he did not want to ask about.

    “A little over thirty hours Captain. I wanted to give the Pressian eels further time to work on the burns, but I was instructed that you were needed.”

    “Was there anyone else hurt?” Jon looked around the sickbay, and given that he was the only one inside it, if there was they were not badly so. Or dead, he realized with a start.

    “No, no… Commander Tucker and Sub-Commander T’Pol were both a bit scuffed up, but nothing that needed attention. I regret to inform you though that I was informed that the woman you were meeting with was killed by the disruptor blast. If she had not taken the brunt of it, no doubt you would be dead as well.”

    Jon hardly found that comforting though being alive was better than the alternative. He turned slightly on the bed, letting his feet dangle over the edge as the pain slowly faded and his sense of balance returned. Something was under the gown, long and slimy against his skin, cold too.

    “How long do I have to have these… things on?”

    “Oh, they’ll fall off in the shower when they are ready to be removed. I’ll give you a container. Please try not to disturb them, they are quite useful at regenerating burned flesh, and are difficult to breed.”

    Jon stared at Phlox for a few long moments, trying to decide if the Denobulan was teasing him. With a sinking feeling in his stomach he realized that the Doctor was probably being quite frank. The door hissed open and Jon looked up to see Trip walking in carrying a uniform.

    “Good to see you up Cap’n. Is he good to get to the bridge Phlox?”

    “But of course, but of course. I would not have waked him otherwise. Doubtless he will feel the effects of the disruptor blast for a few days, perhaps a week, but the main damage has already healed.” Phlox gave one of his all too large Denobulan smiles before wandering over to feed yet more of his menagerie.

    “Trip…. T’Pol took command didn’t she.” Jon took Trip’s miniscule nod as an assent. Not that the Chief Engineer could have done anything, short of mutiny to stop T’Pol from doing so. Jon gave a long sigh as he started pulling off the hospital gown. “I’ll need to get up to the bridge then, get us turned around.”

    Jon looked to up see Trip was wearing that smile on his face that meant he knew something that Jon didn’t. It was a smile that was familiar, and more often than not Trip was right.

    “Only if you want to go back to Earth, Captain.”

    Jon’s mind was reeling from the implication of Trip’s statement. Why would T’Pol continue the mission? He looked to Trip for clarification and stood up reaching for the uniform that Trip carried.

    “Why?”

    “Damned if I know sir. Maybe I got a way with a certain Vulcan science officer like I got a way with warp engines.” Trip quailed under the look that Jon gave him and shrugged. “Best I can figure is that she either maneuvered me into a position, or let me get her in a position where she had a choice. She could either trash the Vulcans’ good standing with everyone on the crew and by extension everyone on Earth, or continue on. Oh, she put on a good side show by sending a dispatch back asking for ‘clarification’ of her orders, but we’re three weeks out sir, six before we could feasibly hear back. She sent it through Starfleet channels as well, encoded. You know Admiral Forrest would sit on that for at least a couple days, just to give us more time.”

    “So, where are we Trip?”

    “Sitting in space two hours out from the system they might be holding Klaang in. Malcolm’s got a plan worked out, but we though you should have the final yea or nay, since the doc said you were close to waking.” Trip gave a soft chuckle as he helped Jon into the uniform. “You’re going to love it. Malcolm is one devious bastard.”

    *****

    Devious bastard he was, but Malcolm wished that Captain Archer had found his idea unworkable once he woke up. It had been nothing more than a flight of fancy that had inspired it, something he had read as a boy in an old Age of Sail novel. Malcolm looked around the interior of the small ship, not much larger than that of a shuttlepod and saw no sign of the trepidation he felt. Everyone was far too caught up in the adrenaline rush. Not for the first time he wondered how they were going to get Klaang inside the ship, given how crowded it currently was by the MACO squad, and the two additional ship security personnel he had tapped for the duty.

    “Ensign Mayweather, are we ready to go?”

    “As ready as we’ll ever be. I even think I know what most of these controls do now.” Travis gave a laugh that turned into a cough under Malcolm’s stare. It was bad enough that the alien controls were only half translated. Most of those had been done by trial and error in the past two days. Having his pilot joke around about it was not doing Malcolm’s nerves any good. “Sorry sir, yes we’re ready to go.”

    “Disengage docking clamps and go to warp Ensign.”

    The ship lurched as the magnetic coupler disengaged, and lurched even more heavily as the impulse engines cut in. Malcolm found himself growing heavier as the thrust levels rose, and had to reach out for a handhold in order to keep himself upright. The ship’s entry into warp was accompanied by severe buffeting. The radiation alarm on the scanning device that Mayweather had strapped to the control console began to scream in warning. It interfaced with a more precise scanning array that Commander Tucker had pulled from one of the shuttles and welded onto the hull.

    “Commander Tucker was right, their inertial dampeners leave a lot to be desired. Their radiation shielding too.” Mayweather looked back from his seat to meet Malcolm’s eyes. “Luckily we’ve only got six minutes of this, or we’d be taking a lethal dose.”

    “Doctor Phlox says that he can mediate the damage Ensign. Concentrate on your flying.” Malcolm turned to look at the team behind him. “Check your loadouts people. This is the last chance before it will get busy.”

    Malcolm took his own advice and checked his weapon for the third time. The Mark II plasma rifle was a familiar companion and the power levels showed a full charge. All of the concussion grenades rode well on his harness, and he could feel no gaps in his armor. This time his team was loaded for bear, and unlike the Captain’s prior away mission was planning on getting into a fight. There would be no Suliban ambush this time. He let the pulse rifle dangle from its strap and turned to Sergeant Meyer’s checking her harness as she returned the favor for him.

    “We’re dropping out of warp sir. You might want to hang on, this is going to get a little rough.”

    The small Suliban attack ship dropped from warp with an even larger lurch than before. True to Mayweather’s word thing indeed got a little rough as two things happened at almost exactly the same time. Travis started the entry into the gas giant’s atmosphere, as the Enterprise dropped from warp behind them, and started firing upon the small ship. The ship rocked as a plasma cannon burst hit it, throwing Malcolm hard into the seat that Mayweather occupied.

    “I did not advise Ensign Stewart to come quite that close with weapons.”

    “You told him to make it look convincing Lieutenant.” Sergeant Meyers piped in over his shoulder. “In the future you might want to make sure his version of convincing and yours are the same.”

    “Indeed. Activate the beacon, and the damage Ensign.” Malcolm said as they dropped further into the atmosphere. The scanner showed a large return off the starboard bow, and down another three thousand meters. It had to be the Helix.

    Travis hesitated to read the notes taped onto the alien craft’s control panel. He pressed the button to activate what they presumed was the emergency beacon. The ship rocked again under another plasma burst, thankfully attenuated by the atmosphere. Malcolm gave a grim smile as that gave the sudden streaming of plasma from another one of Mister Tucker’s jury-rigged devices added plausibility.

    “It looks like they are taking the bait sir. Sensors are showing three dozen ships breaking off from the station, they’re on an intercept course for the Enterprise.” Travis banked the ship, throwing Malcolm into the side of it, and then banked back as he neared the station. “I’ve got what looks to be Klaang’s biosigns. He’s not far from a docking port, I’m taking us in.”

    The first MACO was through the hatch before it had even opened halfway, and well before the final echoes of the docking clamps rang through the hull. Malcolm pushed into the center of the bubble formed by the team members. Like the ship sodium vapor lamps dimly illuminated the station. Malcolm peered down a series of passages and then consulted his scanner.

    “Alright, Klaang appears to be one level below us. I want these passageways sealed off by foam, and a cutting charge to get us through the deck. There are no conduits in the way so it should be safe to cut through.” Malcolm stepped out of the way as his team went to work.

    Can grenades were tossed a short way down the passages, and then burst to reveal rapidly expanding foam. It had originally been designed to seal off sections of a station exposed to vacuum, but Starfleet had found the hardened foam to be highly resistant to weapons fire. A line of cutting cord was laid out on the floor in a rough circle and ignited. Seconds later the blue-white flare of the thermite based reaction faded away, and with a loud bang the floor fell to the next level down.

    “Here we go team. Seal off the side corridors for as long as you can, follow me, and no slowing down.” Malcolm matched his actions to his words and jumped lightly down to the next level. The tunnels were hazy with smoke from the reaction, and thankfully it seemed that nobody had noticed that they were here yet. There was no need to give orders, everything had already been decided, from who was going to guard the ship, to the order in which they were to proceed.

    Malcolm moved quickly, consulting the scanner frequently when he came to branching intersections to determine the quickest path. The thump of foam canisters, and the muted squeak of boots on the floor followed him through the corridors. He paused after a couple hundred yards and nodded at the path ahead.

    “He’s just ahead, just around the corner. I see at least six Suliban life-signs on the scanner, probably guards. We’ll take this as a standard dynamic entry. Concussion grenades, and then short on their heels.” Malcolm said softly, keeping from whispering, as that would carry farther. He pulled a concussion grenade from his harness and tossed it down the hall. The flash, and the blast were still powerful when the grenades went off and Malcolm was still blinking his eyes clear when he turned the corner.

    There were four bodies down in the hallway. Malcolm checked his scanner before pointing at the door with his plasma rifle. He gave a nod to Sergeant Meyers and moved forwards as soon as the door opened. He found himself face to face with one of the Suliban, the stench of burnt meat filled his nostrils as it went down. He turned towards the second and fired again, but not before it triggered an alarm of some sort.

    “Bloody hell.”
     
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  7. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 7

    T’Pol had decided that if there was one thing that humans did well, it was organizing chaos. The bridge was madhouse of shouting voices and contradictory reports. She knew that was in part because a large portion of the senior crew was currently off ship. Senior Chief Brooks was a good if not gifted pilot. T’Pol had read his record, and knew until the Enterprise the man had never been outside Sol System, and had never been in a position he was now. Unfortunately that lack was showing in his piloting, as he was slow to react to the tactical changes.

    Ensign Stewart on the other hand was young, brash, and highly excitable. He was far too excitable for a good Tactical officer in T’Pol’s opinion. Many of his shots were going wildly astray, and his use of Phase cannon fire was unduly draining the EPS conduits.

    “Captain Archer. Hull plating is down to eighty-three percent.” T’Pol turned away from her science viewer as she continued her report. “Another eight Suliban ships have joined in the attack.”

    “How long has it been? Do you think that they have Klaang yet?” Archer asked, half turning in his seat restraints towards T’Pol.

    “It has only been six point two five minutes since Ensign Mayweather reported that they docked with the station. Given the uncertainties of the mission I can state with no conviction as to whether or not it has been completed.” T’Pol answered trying to be as succinct as possible, while still being conciliatory. Getting the Captain even more agitated than he was in his current state would do the Enterprise and her crew no good.

    T’Pol was still uncertain as to why the Captain had allowed her to remain upon the bridge. She had demonstrated, through her message to the High Command, and through her actions that her loyalty was still uncertain at best.

    It was unsettling to not know what path to take. Even logic itself had been unable to guide her to a single certain path. Given her prior experience with the High command when she had worked with the Security Ministry, and later the light in which those actions had been largely contradicted by her time in the Vulcan Science Directorate she had no clear choice. Vulcan tradition demanded that she follow the orders of the ruling party to the best of her ability. Tradition mandated by thousand years of experience and by the dictates of logic that was the basis of Vulcan society. Her experiences told her that the High Command often acted irrationally and illogically in order to protect its own power base, as it was acting in attempting to confine Humanity to their own world.

    T’Pol had meant to ask the Captain the reason for his choice as soon as he had returned to the bridge, but had been unable to do so in a manner that would not upset the mission. As it stood, she had resigned herself to doing her job, as his science officer, and as his first officer to the best of her ability, and to defer the questions she had about that ability to the future. Perhaps then there would be time to dissect her choices after the battle. She did know that there was a nugget of truth to hold in Trip’s words. Captain Archer was indeed the officer in charge of this mission, and right or wrong he deserved her loyalty and her support during this mission. It had been… wrong… to attempt to subvert his command and force him to abandon it when she had.

    “I’ve got something sir…. Very faint. Yes it is Tra… Ensign Mayweather. He reports that the team has run into difficulties. The Suliban holding Klaang were able to set off an alarm, and now the team is having to fight its way out.” Hoshi turned to partially face both Captain Archer and T’Pol, looking between them both. She continued somewhat hesitantly. “Will there be any reply?”

    “Tell Travis to keep us informed. We’ll need to know as soon as they get Klaang onboard, our opportunity for sneaking him out has been lost. We’ll go with Plan B.”

    T’Pol raised her brow as she turned towards Captain Archer. In all the planning they had done before he had woken up there had been no mention of a Plan B. Indeed, even after he had returned from sickbay there had been no mention of this plan.

    “Just what, Captain, is Plan B?”

    “I’ll tell you when I come up with it T’Pol. For now we’ll just make it up as we go along.”

    T’Pol suppressed the sudden surge of irritation at those words. It was foolish to the extreme to try and make up a plan as the events were occurring. The fact that the situation was highly dynamic and chaotic currently only indicated that such a plan was probably doomed to failure even before it began. Still humanity had a gift for improvisation; perhaps they would be able to prevail where T’Pol saw no opportunity for such. She decided to hold her objections until all was finished, despite the fact that Captain Archer was obviously waiting for a response.

    “Indeed.” She answered succinctly, knowing that the Captain would choose his own way to interpret the answer. It seemed to serve well though, for he smiled and turned away, obviously pleased by her answer.

    *****

    Sergeant Susan Meyers had spent more of her life inside a MACO uniform than outside it. She had enlisted as soon as she could sign the papers in high school, at the tender age of 17. Twenty years in the uniform putting out hot spots around the world, and later throughout the colonies had taught her that plans rarely survived contact with the enemy.

    It had also taught her how to recognize a good officer, and when not to follow a bad one. Those that understood that they’d just jumped from the pan to the fire, and made the correct choices, be it a new plan on the spot, or just handing things over to someone that knew what to do, they were the good officers. The bad ones froze, or even worse tried to continue with the plan even past the point of failure.

    Reed, she really did not know which he was. He was a gifted security officer that much was evident. He had instituted a ship wide scan for additional devices after finding the first and had expertly disabled all of them. Susan was glad he had the training for it, as MACOs only received cursory training on how to disable demolitions. He had listened to her thoughts, and in some cases had gone to bat for her suggestions before the Captain, even when she knew he had not approved of them. Sidearms for the crew being the biggest change she knew he had resisted.

    Now Susan got to see if Malcolm Reed had a good combat officer inside him, or if there was going to have to be an unfortunate friendly fire incident. She would not kill him but would taser him if it meant getting the mission accomplished. Right now he was thinking, that much was evident, and thinking fast given how quickly he spoke after his surprise.

    “Your mission now Sergeant. That was what I was along to prevent, and it would appear I need more practice.” Malcolm said dryly. He studied the chair that Klaang was strapped into, obviously a device intended for torture. “I’m going to need a few minutes to get Klaang out of these restraints, if we want him alive. I wish we had a translator, but Hoshi says that it still makes more mistakes than it gets things right.”

    Susan could hear the self deprecating humor in the Lieutenant’s voice and thanked whatever gods were watching right now that he seemed to be one of the smart ones. Klaang was watching them quietly, Susan noted, which was an intelligent move given he did not know the group of heavily armed people were here to save him.

    “Ma’am the section seals are closing off.” Corporal Jenson reported quietly over the radio. Susan cursed quietly she always had hated station raids; security could cut off your movement so easily.

    “Malcolm get Klaang out of those restraints and give him a gun. If we don’t arm him I doubt he’ll come along quietly and we don’t have the time to drag him.” Susan checked her own scanner, set to scan widely along their route, but not in the detail that Reed had tuned his. “Everyone fall back into the room. Jenson, Wiels get the doors closed, and seal them shut somehow.” Susan turned back to Reed who had his pulse rifle shoved into Klaang’s gut and was studying the restraints. She thought she read respect in the alien warriors expression, which raised her estimation of the armory officer up another notch. “We’ve got six breeching charges left, up or down sir?”

    “Up. We can take the time to climb now, but when we get to the edge, speed is going to be a factor in getting back to the ship.” Malcolm said without even having to think about it. It was the choice Susan had been leaning towards. Hopefully the Suliban would only seal the level they were on, and not one three levels up.

    Susan wasted no time after his statement and motioned to Antowitz and Signe to start laying the charge. She watched them for a minute before turning back to Malcolm who was stepping away from a now freed Klaang. A Klingon that looked like he was ready to jump Malcolm at any second.

    Susan started to say something when Malcolm pointed at Klaang mimed shooting the Suliban, and unholstered his sidearm. He offered it to Klaang butt first. Susan watched as Klaang sat there, illuminated by the sodium light, and the flashing glare from her men welding the hatch shut, before he carefully took the sidearm.

    That care was more than Susan had expected from her reading the Vulcan database. From it she had expected Klaang to jump them, and had hoped that the Klingons were as misrepresented in it as the Humans, and most telling the Andorians were. It seemed that her trust in the Vulcan dislike for aggressive species had paid off.

    "Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam!" Klaang exclaimed as he pushed to his feet, thankfully shoving the gun into a belt at his waist.

    “Does anyone have any idea of what he just said?”

    “Well, based on my knowledge of the Klingon people, he just pledged his life to you, or stated something fatalistic, like it being a good day to die.” Susan replied to Malcolm’s question. She smothered a chuckle at the sour expression on his face.

    “Lovely.” Malcolm muttered in reply before turning to where the charge was laid. “If you wouldn’t mind Sergeant, might we leave this charming place?”

    Susan gave a nod to her team, and the second breaching charge went off. Seconds later the smoking plate crashed downwards, shattering a console as it fell. It was still settling into place when the first concussion grenade flew through the hole. Susan took two quick steps forwards; stepped into the stirrup Jenson made with his hands, and was thrown up through the entrance to the next level.

    Susan smiled softly as she scanned the room. It was quiet; no alarms on this level, and empty, a storage room of some sort. She moved in the direction of the nearby door, taking cover behind some boxes. She heard her team come up behind her, followed by the heavy movement of the Klingon.

    Two more level changes happened in much the same way, and the final one saw Susan studying a corridor instead of a room. Thankfully it was still deserted, and the corridor partitions were even more blessedly out of sight. Susan felt her team gather behind her, and she started down the hall in the direction of the ship. Hopefully their luck continued.

    Susan regretted thinking that as soon as she had done so. A Suliban, in a rush, and obviously responding to the alert generated below came around the corner and ran headlong into her. Susan found herself in a silent, deadly struggle. Her weapon was way out of line, and the Suliban had no hesitation to use his, or his superior strength to overwhelm her. She tried grabbing his arm in a lock, only to have it seemingly melt away from her grasp.

    Suddenly it was over just as quickly as it began. There was a coughing grunt from the Klingon, and his hand was wrapped around the Suliban’s neck. It died before it even knew what had struck it, opened by Klaang’s knife from left hip to right shoulder, the razor edge driving clear through its spine.

    “Where’d he get that?” Susan asked softly, as Klaang covered his mouth with his free hand, obviously indicating to remain quiet.

    “I have no idea. He pulled it from somewhere under his shirt.” Malcolm replied in an equally muted voice as they began to move forwards again.

    They were only a couple crossings from the very edge of the station when another roving patrol found them. This time though there was no opportunity for quiet, as the Suliban patrol saw them first and opened fire. Instinctively Susan ducked into cover behind a convenient brace, suddenly glad that this station was no more smooth-walled than the Enterprise. Klaang was already retuning fire she saw, recklessly peeking out from his own area of cover to fire rounds off at the Suliban squad. Another squad joined the fight scant seconds later cutting between the MACOs and where they could move down to their ship.

    Susan heard Malcolm and Signes start firing behind them, and knew that they had become well and truly enveloped.

    “Jenson, Antowitz by the numbers. Assault into the resistance, clear a path.” Susan counted to ten slowly under her breath, and then darted forwards, across the hall to where Jenson had a position but seconds before.

    Susan fired as she went blowing great red glowing divots into the metal of the corridor just past where the Suliban had taken cover. Already the return fire from ahead had started to slacken. Two of the Suliban, without the benefit of body armor, had gone down to fire from her team. Jenson was quietly cursing as faint wisps of smoke rose from the ruin of his thoracic plate. He was still upright though, so Susan knew it had done its job.

    Klaang slammed into the hallway on the other side, and from what Susan could tell he was laughing as he did so. Either he was a fast learner, or he was well trained. Running into a firefight without armor though, that was crazy, stupid, or both.

    Susan gathered herself for another leap forward, as she was passed by two more of her team. She glanced back towards Malcolm and was distressed to see him still where he had been but moments before. Damned Starfleet.

    “Lieutenant, get your ass up here. We don’t have time for this.” Susan shouted back at him, and saw him come to the surprising conclusion that he had been left all alone as tail end Charlie. At least he moved quickly when he had to, Susan thought as Malcolm rushed to make up the distance.

    Susan sprinted forwards again, past the last corridor junction and took up a defensive position facing back the way she had come. If they weren’t planning on making a hole in the floor it would have been a bad place to be. The space she was in now came to a dead end just a few meters behind her.

    Susan switched the pulse rifle over to automatic, and laid down a withering burst of fire down the corridor to her right. The air filled again with the haze of scorched metal and plasma, the sound dampening carpet began to smolder as well filling the air with smoke. It did make the Suliban back off though, and so she dumped the charge bar out of the rifle to replace it with a new one. Her last one in fact, which meant that she had changed out sometime before and forgotten about it.

    They were almost clear though; Reed and Signes were even now pulling back from their position as the still smoking Jenson and Antowitz kept the fire suppressed off to the sides. Susan pulled the last foam grenade from her harness. She had kept one, just in case, and now looked to be a good time to use it. She waited until Reed and Signes were almost across the junction before tossing the foam grenade into the middle of it.

    Screams filled the air for a few long moments as several Suliban were caught in the suddenly expanding foam. They were cut off as it sealed off the open area of the junction, sealed off the air from their lungs.

    “Just three levels down now sir.” Susan smiled at the dumbfounded look on Malcolm’s face. She knew that the speed at which things had turned bad, and then suddenly changed for the better had him dazed. “You might want to get on your communicator and let your men and the Ensign know we’re coming in.”

    *****

    “I’ve just got word from Travis sir…. They’re launching now.” Hoshi leaned forwards, as if that could clear up whatever she was hearing in her earpiece. “Travis says that the energy levels on the pod have fallen too low to go back to warp. We’ll need to meet with them.”

    Jonathon gave Hoshi a small smile of thanks as the Enterprise rocked as yet another barrage of particle beam fire lashed its hull. He really wished that he had Malcolm and Mayweather onboard right now. They’d have made easier work of these damned cell ships.

    “Bring us around on an intercept course with our Team Chief Brooks.” Jon flipped up a secondary console on the arm of his chair, and with a few deft keystrokes had tied it into the grappling mechanism. He was far from the best shot with the grappler, but there was nobody else on the bridge that was better. “Keep our heading steady Chief.”

    “Hull plating is at thirty-one percent Captain. We cannot take many more hits.”

    Jon knew that T’Pol was right, but there was not a lot that he could do about it right now. Sensors were showing that Travis’ ship had drawn a lot of attention when it broke away from the base. The Ensign had so far put on a good show of dodging most of the fire, but the larger ship was not as maneuverable as the small one-man Cell fighters were. The Enterprise was closing fast, and as soon as they had that ship aboard, they could break for orbit, and warp.

    “Archer to Engineering.”

    “Engineering here sir.” Tucker answered over the intercom a short while later. “You’ll have to make it quick, we’ve taken quite a bit of damage, we’re a bit busy down here.”

    “Make sure the reactor is warmed up Trip, we’re going to need everything its got here in a couple minutes.” Jon said, his attention half on the conversation and half on the sensor screen. They had closed dramatically on the cluster of Cell ships ahead. He started centering the grappler on the ship that had begun broadcasting a Starfleet IFF.

    “About the only thing I can vouch for right now is the warp drive sir.” Trip’s voice faded as the ship lurched under the blow of another particle beam. Jon desperately wanted to give better return fire, but while still deep in the gas giant’s atmosphere he could not deploy the phase cannon. The intercom cut out but not before Jon heard Trip bellowing in the background. “Wright, lock down that EPS conduit now!”

    “Ventral plating is down to twelve percent Captain.”

    Jon ignored T’Pol as he fought to keep the cell ship in the sights of the grappling device. Another hundred meters, there. He triggered the launch of the magnetic grapplers, keeping a bead on the cell ship to steer the wire-guided rocket propelled magnets. First one, and then the second maglock reported a positive seal. He triggered the winch mechanism and turned towards the chief.

    “We’ve got them. Full impulse, make for orbit and go to warp as soon as we clear the minimum safe distance.” The high-speed winches had already dragged in a half kilometer of cable, and were finally slowing as the ship approached the launch bay. Now everything was automated.

    The Enterprise groaned as the Chief hauled her nose up and pushed the impulse engines to the max. This was something she had never truly been designed for, but her hull streamlined for reduced subspace drag worked much the same in the thicker atmosphere of the planet. Soon they began to leave the Cell ships behind. The docking bays closing echoed through the ship and Jon turned to look at T’Pol.

    “It looks like we did it T’Pol.” Jon said, with a soft smile as he looked around at the crew.

    “Do not be so sure Captain. The Cell ships are powering up their warp systems, no doubt they are preparing to pursue.” T’Pol said calmly as her hands flashed over her keyboard. “Additionally we have lost power from weapons, hull plating, and the impulse drive. It would appear that Lieutenant Reed was unable to find all of the Suliban devices onboard.”

    “Warp drive?”

    There was a pause as T’Pol consulted her sensors. “That is still functioning.”

    “Chief, take us to warp.”

    “But sir, we’re still..”

    “That’s an order Chief! Warp 1 for fifteen seconds and then go to maximum.” Jon knew he was taking a risk engaging the warp engines this close to the planet. At best they’d perturb the orbit of the gas giant, at worst the warp core could rupture catastrophically. Hopefully by only engaging at Warp 1 he could lessen the risk to the engine.

    The Enterprise groaned as it accelerated to warp, the frame stressed in turn by a warp field tortured by the massive influence of the gas giant. Jon held his breath as the frame screamed for long seconds, finally dying away to nothing. He could feel his ship gather underneath him as Chief Brooks waited the fifteen seconds and then pressed the throttles to the max. Within seconds the numbers were accelerating past Warp 3.8, and then finally slowing as they reached 4.6.

    “Captain, the Cell ships have just entered warp themselves. According to their acceleration curve, and power signature they will top out at Warp 4.9. At that speed they will catch us in exactly two minutes, seventeen seconds.” Jon looked at his science officer for a long time, trying to will her to take back that statement. “Judging by their power use, they will be able to maintain that speed for just over seventeen minutes.”

    Jon pressed the intercom button again. “Archer to Engineering.”

    “What the hell just happened Cap’n? We put some serious stress on the nacelles and spaceframe just now. I’ve got systems blown all over engineering!”

    “Just some trouble with the bad guys Trip. And speaking of bad guys, they seem to be faster than us. I need more power.”

    “We’ve got everything at the max down here sir. That’s all we’ve got.”

    Jon sighed as he looked up at the tactical display on the main viewscreen. “I hope you’re lying to me Trip. This is a warp five engine, and if we don’t get warp five out of it in the next two minutes we’re never going to see it.”

    “Warp five on paper! We haven’t even got the dilithium crystal properly…” Trip broke off for a long moment, and a sigh could be heard over the intercom. “Alright, I’ll take the safety interlocks offline, they’re probably thirty percent too pessimistic given that the Vulcans had input on them, but I ain’t promising anything Cap’n.”

    The muted growl that had become commonplace on the Enterprise while cruising at high warp turned into a catlike scream of anger as the plasma accelerators were pushed over their limits. The whole hull started to rattle and shake, and Jon found his hands painfully trying to dig into the armrests of his chair. He was partially aware of people yelling in the background trying to make themselves heard, but Jon’s eyes were glued on the velocity gauge. It drove past 4.7, and then accelerated past 4.8. The ship heaved as it hit 5.0 and alarms began clamoring at the science station and the engineering consoles around the bridge. A long moment later it leveled off 5.1 and Jon knew at that moment that his father would have been proud of what he had designed.
     
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  8. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 8

    Trip was carrying a half dozen computer tablets when he stepped into the meeting. He was going on thirty hours with no sleep and he really couldn’t remember the last time he had stopped to eat. There was a lot of work to be done by the engineering crew, and right now he was beginning to see the drawbacks of the small tightly knit crew he had spent most of the journey with. Having a full engineering staff of twenty-four would be an incredible luxury right now.

    “Trip I hope we aren’t taking you away from anything too important?” Trip looked up from the tablet he was reading from as he slipped into his chair. Jon’s words were half teasing, and yet half serious.

    “No, just trying to get caught up on what all my teams are doing. We’ve got the breach in the EPS conduit on Deck D finally under repair. Another four hours and engineering should have all the major repairs done. We will still need to replace a couple dozen panels of the hull plating, check the superstructure in the nacelles and the like. That would necessitate dropping out of warp for a week, maybe two.” Trip paused as he set the tablets down on the table in front of him, only now noticing the slight wrinkling of T’Pol’s nose. “Sorry Sub-Commander.”

    “Any idea if more of those Suliban surprises are waiting for us?” Jon asked, ignoring Trip’s last statement. Trip could see T’Pol was trying to do so as well, though there appeared to be a slight olive tint to her cheekbones that was not there before.

    “Haven’t a clue Cap’n.” Trip said as he leaned back in his chair, taking the moment to stretch. “Hell, I didn’t even know we had the first one until we got back from Rigel. We’ve done a complete scan of the EPS system, and we don’t see anything else there.”

    “Ensign Sato and I have done a complete scan of the communications systems as well sir. We found another shunt, and closed that off. Hopefully they will not be able to remotely shut down our systems anymore.” Malcolm looked as tired as Trip felt, and well he should the Engineer knew. The Lieutenant and his security personnel had been working side by side with engineering since they had fled from the Suliban Helix.

    “Good, now for the bad news then. Sub-Commander, if you would.” Jon said, handing the floor over to T’Pol.

    “Ensign Sato spent some time with the Klingon Klaang, attempting to explain to him just why we are involved. She also explained that we were taking him home. During the course of this discussion it was learned that the system designated Qo’nos on the Vulcan starcharts was done so in error.” T’Pol paused to change screens on the briefing viewer to a representation of the starchart in question. It was one that Trip had seen often in one briefing or another. At a touch of a button, two specific stars were highlighted. “This system is actually that of Klinzhai, apparently the first colony of the Klingon Empire, and the main military system. Qo’nos itself is a further three weeks travel at our maximum cruise into Klingon controlled space.”

    Trip frowned to himself. Already the Enterprise had been pushed farther than had ever really been anticipated for her shakedown cruise. An additional month of travel there, another month back, that would push a lot of things right to the edge. They’d be forced to take on antimatter and deuterium somewhere, or have to stop and take on a lot of deuterium while they processed antimatter using the impulse reactors. That’d add at least another month to a round trip journey.

    “Cap’n I really don’t think I can recommend stretching our deployment that much further. As it is we’d be stretching our bunkerage to the limit getting to what we thought was Qo’nos and back to Earth. Now we’d have to stop to refuel somewhere.” Trip sorted leaned forwards onto his elbows and looked from Jon, to Malcolm, and then on to T’Pol. “Dropping Klaang off at their main military base… he should be able to continue on from there shouldn’t he? I can’t think of a place much safer for him than in the middle of the Klingon military might.”

    “On the contrary Commander.” T’Pol said turning to face him directly. Trip got the feeling that this was something that she had already discussed with the Captain from the tone of her voice. “The Klingon Empire is controlled by a rough quorum of the great Klingon houses. Whichever Warlord rises to ascendancy and is able to take control of Qo’nos either through direct military power, or the backing of the other houses controls the Empire as Chancellor. Currently Klinzhai is controlled House Duras which is rival to House Kor of which the current Chancellor and Klaang are members. Delivering Klaang to the power in control of Klinzhai would be delivering him to his death.”

    “I can’t recommend the direct route, we took quite a beating from the Suliban, and the Vulcan database indicates that the newest Klingon warships are more than a match for us.” Malcolm added

    Trip sighed and rubbed his forehead. This was all too confusing to someone as short of sleep as he was. He did understand that this was going to add weeks of flight time to their trip if not months. If it meant that they got home alive though, that was all that really mattered. At least the reactor seemed to be unaffected by the Suliban’s tampering or any of the encounters with them to date.

    “Given what we now know about Klinzhai and the factions inside the Klingon Empire we are going to have to take Klaang to Qo’nos ourselves. Klaang agrees, and says that several of the ‘Great Houses’ would take great pleasure in sparking a war by laying his death at our feet.” Jon stood up and walked over to the screen. His finger traced a route that was by no means direct to Qo’nos, and indicated by a glowing red light. “I’ve asked Travis to plot a course along this route. It takes us through Kriosian space, which currently enjoys client status with the Klingon Empire. Klaang advises that the Kriosians are fairly neutral in their dealings with the Great Houses. At the least they do not support the Houses pushing for renewed expansion and war. It will add another month’s travel time.”

    “Six months…” Trip trailed off. Well he had wanted to see the stars, seemed he was going to see a few more than he had originally expected.

    “I trust, that isn’t going to be a problem is it Trip?” Jon asked softly.

    “We’ll need to fuel up somewhere, get some deuterium at least. Otherwise we might be looking at asking the Klingons for their aid, and I get the feeling that would be a bad idea.” Trip looked to T’Pol who gave a soft nod, and to mirror Malcolm’s firm affirmative movement. “It’ll give us some time to pull apart that Suliban ship, see what we can learn about their technology.”

    “Our proposed route passes Krios Prime, the capital of what used to be the Krios Empire. It would be possible to stop there and refuel.” T’Pol stated as she turned to Jon. “With your permission I would like to continue the study of the Suliban ship with Commander Tucker.”

    “Done for both suggestions, and if nobody else has anything to add, I think we all have duties to attend to.” Jon started to push himself to his feet, and settled back into his seat as Malcolm cleared his throat pointedly.

    “About Klaang sir, now that he is awake, what are we to do with him?”

    Trip had not thought about that himself, but realized what a security risk having the Klingon wander around the ship would be. True they wanted to establish good relations with his people, but given the Klingon propensity to violence. Then there was having Klaang walking around without knowing what his abilities were, learning the secrets of the Enterprise.

    “We can’t lock him up in quarters until we get to Qo’nos, but I understand what you are saying Malcolm. We’ll give him the run of the ship, except for the Armory, the Bridge, the Transporter bay, and Engineering. Set up guards, work out a schedule and I’ll have Hoshi let him know.” Jon paused for a second. Trip could tell that Malcolm was resistant to the idea but the armory officer finally gave a nod. “Klingons are described as being honorable warriors. If the Vulcan database is correct about that, we would unduly offend him if we treated him less than honorably ourselves. I am sure he will understand the necessity of restricting his access to certain areas.”

    Trip yawned as Jon looked around the table. The time spent sitting still and not having to be constantly on the move had made him realize just how tired he was. As Jon and Malcolm filed out past his chair he started to gather up the tablets, and gave up after a few moments to just rest his eyes.

    “Commander Tucker.”

    The soft feminine voice jolted him out of the half dream state he had been in. Trip rubbed at his eyes. “Yes Sub-Commander?”

    “When was the last time you rested?”

    “I dunno… yesterday sometime?” Trip gave another yawn as he finished his sentence.


    “You will do yourself and the Enterprise no good if you overwork yourself Commander.” T’Pol stated while giving him a lifted eyebrow of a look. “After you have rested, we will meet to determine a course of investigation for the Suliban ship.”


    “As for a course of investigation I think we should concentrate on the warp drive...”
    Trip said as he pushed himself to his feet. He trailed off as he caught another stern look from T’Pol. ““I’m going; I’m going, see you in eight hours or so Sub-Commander.”

    *****


    Travis did not mind having the ships schedule so messed by the need to repair the damage from the raid on the Suliban Helix. It meant that he more or less had the bridge to himself. The Captain was in the Ready room, probably composing a report to Starfleet command about their actions, and their future route.


    Hoshi was off to the side working on the Universal Translating device, but Travis found it easy to ignore the soft mutterings she made to herself while working on it. Lieutenant JG Miles Carsson was on the bridge, and nominally in command but had not so much given an order or spoke from his position at operations. Travis could easily sit back and dream that he was in command of the Enterprise. Just sitting there and having the power of her engines, the grace of her quick reactions to the controls under his hands was a thrill.


    Travis had always dreamed of piloting something more powerful than his family’s J class freighter. Now he was, and he still could not really wrap his head around it. It was something too dreamlike and far too real all at the same time. Travis had expected to miss the launch of the Enterprise, given that it had been moved up so dramatically and the fact that he still had a year to go in the Academy.


    He still remembered the flutter of fear when he had been called into the Commandant’s office, fully expecting to be censured for his involvement in what was known as the “Whip Cream Episode”. He had been struck speechless when he had found Captain Archer waiting for him inside, along with a special dispensation to make him an Ensign, and lead helmsman on the Enterprise.


    “The Captain wanted someone experienced.” Travis murmured to himself quietly, his hands making a slight adjustment in their heading almost instinctively. He had experience all right growing up a boomer would give you that. Travis had his commercial license in four systems by the time he was sixteen, not counting Vulcan or Sol.


    Still nothing had prepared them for this. Warp five, Travis would have loved to have been on the bridge for that. He envied Chief Brooks in a way. Still he knew the Captain had needed him on that shuttle, which had been the scariest and most exhilarating thing in his life. He was still trying to figure out how he was going to tell that one to his parents. Get it wrong, and the next time he saw his father he’d get the lecture of his life.


    “It is hard to believe.” Travis murmured softly. Even right now they were still traveling at Warp 4.4, ten times faster than he had ever gotten the Horizon up to.


    “Tell me about it, three months ago I was in Brazil teaching students Trylaxian, now here I am millions of miles from home, on a starship learning a new language.” Hoshi said. Travis looked over at her, aghast that he had spoken loud enough for her to hear. “I joined Starfleet to be a translator, I didn’t ever think they’d put me on a starship as the communications officer.”


    “At least you both have reasons for being on this ship.” Travis turned to look at Miles. He noticed for the first time that the JG seemed rather deflated, and he stared in shock at the junior officer, nominally his superior. “I didn’t get to choose this assignment, and now, a year before we’ll ever get back to Earth. A quick little jaunt, yeah right, hardship assignment is more like it.”


    “With respect, sir.” Travis interrupted as he leaned forwards in his seat. “If you look at it that way that is all it will ever be. This is a chance, not just for humanity but each and every one of us. A chance to better ourselves, a chance to stretch our horizons and become the men and women we dream to be.”


    Travis had dreamed of this moment, years in the past. He had imagined being something more than just a boomer on a starship of a little known species, more than just running every time they came across a pirate. He had dreamed of a chance to make space safe for his parents and the other boomers working the space lanes. Right now he knew he was doing just that. He might not understand how, but the Captain obviously knew what he was doing. Travis only had to look at how even T’Pol was backing him to know that.


    “Well said Ensign.” Captain Archer’s words scalded Travis as he looked over to his command officer and then quickly turned back to his console. Jon moved over to the operations console and leaned over it, his hands braced wide apart. Travis gave him a glance out of the corner of his eye. “Lieutenant, I gave you a choice between an unremarkable career counting supply crates on a Lunar base. That is a hardship mission. True we might be out for a year or even, Starfleet willing, longer. But everything we do now builds for the future of our planet. You can choose, as Ensign Mayweather has said, to better yourself, or you can choose to stagnate.


    “For now Lieutenant, report to Engineering and tell whomever Commander Tucker left in charge there that you are to help clean up the mess that the blown EPS conduit on Deck D caused. Maybe a little honest work will help improve your attitude. Dismissed.” Travis heard, and saw out of the corner of his eye Carsson stalk off the bridge. The Captain stood there, leaning on his hands before he shook his head. “I’m glad that some people on this ship understand what is at stake. Now, Ensign Mayweather, about that course we were discussing. Commander Tucker tells me we’re going to have to make a pit stop.”
     
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  9. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 9

    T’Pol found Commander Tucker waiting for her in the mess. His words had been clipped, grouchy and rather short when she had answered the intercom. He now looked much more aware of his surroundings and alert than he had six hours before in the briefing. T’Pol moved over to get her morning bowl of Plomeek soup, something that had become a staple on the Enterprise.


    Several human vegetarians had professed a liking for the soup, most likely because they faced Chef’s wrath if they did not. T’Pol could understand Chef’s unwillingness to saddle himself with differing line of vegetarian cuisine to cater to what was, unfortunately a minority on the ship. She regretted, however that he had been forced to stretch the original Plomeek recipe with the addition of Terran vegetables. The taste was unfortunately now far from what she preferred.


    “Commander Tucker.” T’Pol greeted the engineer as she settled down next to him. The Engineer’s plate showed the signs of having been formerly overflowing with pancakes covered with an unhealthy amount of syrup, and distastefully a heap of fried bacon.


    “Good morning T’Pol, and how many times do I have to tell you its Trip?”


    “You expressed an interest in discussing our plan of action on the Suliban ship? Have you already determined where we should start?” T’Pol ignored the Commander’s comments about using his ‘nickname’. For a Vulcan to use such a familiar form of address would denote personal attachment, and in the case of unrelated people hinted at intimacy. T’Pol understood that for humans it was different, but she was not human. Though she was willing to allow them to go uncorrected when using the same forms of address for her, it would go against all that was Vulcan to do the same for them.


    It was obvious that Commander Tucker still resented her use of his title, but he seemed willing to let it go for now, T’Pol noted. He slid a computer tablet over the table to her, and turned to pour another cup of Coffee. T’Pol found the drink quite fragrant, but disliked the bitterness and the high quantities of caffeine that it contained. She turned her attention to the tablet studied it as she ate. Engaging in ‘small talk’, had become during the last three months, something of a skill of hers. Though it would have been more efficient to eat and then speak, even she had to admit that engaging in a conversation during a meal was often a pleasant change.


    “You mentioned last night that we should start with the Warp drive, but I see that you have already changed your course of inquiry.” T’Pol looked up at Tucker and raised her brow in inquiry. He paused in his own eating to move the honey closer at hand. T’Pol gave him a nod of thanks before adding a dose of the golden liquid to her chamomile tea.


    “Well you know I was in the shower this morning, and it just dawned on me that starting with their warp drive would be a waste of time.” Tucker said after swallowing. He gestured to the pad with his fork as he continued. “Now the readings we got from Mayweather’s flight of the ship lets us know that there were high radiation readings. Radiation mainly in the gamma band, and that you don’t normally get from Tricyclic Drive plasma. So, we missed something in the power system, and I think I know what.”

    T’Pol studied the diagrams on the tablet in front of her as she carefully spooned up the Plomeek soup. It was, different, today as well. Tucker was right though; they had missed something in their initial examination of the Cell ship. The power reading from the ships flight were far higher than even she had estimated they would be. The super-capacitors that they had initially believed to power the ship would be hard pressed to power it for a period of hours, let alone days.


    “Indeed, it appears that we did. The question being what?” T’Pol looked up as she tasted her tea. It was an indulgence she knew, to sweeten it as she did with honey, but she found it difficult to resist after having been introduced to the practice by Ensign Sato. T’Pol was interested in hearing the Commander’s answer, as well as his reasoning behind it. Though his methods were far from logical at times, the engineer had a keen ability at getting the answers to questions like these right.


    “A Quantum Nucleonic Reactor.” T’Pol’s eyebrow lifted again as she leaned forwards, her interest grabbed by Tucker’s statement. The Commander reached out to tap a button on the tablet, taking them to the next page of his presentation, which consisted of a blurry picture of something behind an access port. “Several of them in fact. They use induced gamma emissions to excite the drive plasma, it’s why we recorded so much gamma radiation.”


    “Indeed, however even IGE does not explain why we read elevated neutron, alpha and beta particles inside the ship.” T’Pol reached out to touch the display where the readings were indicated. Tucker’s hypothesis of using IGEs was ingenious but it was still flawed. Vulcans and humans had pursued that route in the past, but the stable nuclear isomers had power densities far lower than what was needed. Not to mention the fact that they only emitted gamma radiation.


    “That’s because they ain’t using a fully stable isomer, or mix of isomers.” Commander Tucker looked up to meet her gaze with his own, a smile stretching his face. It was, as the humans said infectious, even T’Pol could feel the edges of her lips quirk up minutely. “The isomer mix they are using is stable in the charged state, and stable in the discharged state. However in the flux state it is unstable, and we get half-life decay as the excitation event is occurring. That’s why we see the elevated levels of particle radiation in use, but not while it is powered down.”


    “Such a design would be inherently dangerous, and deadly to the crew. The Doctor’s reports on the Suliban’s physiology allows that they are more resistant to radiation dosages than are Humans or Vulcans, but they are not that much more resistant.” T’Pol paused as Commander Tucker paged forward again. She looked at the report that she had composed with him, as well as at his own thoughts on the technology the IGE device. T’Pol looked up at him, and he read the question in her gaze.


    “Yeah, I’m pretty sure that they didn’t figure this out themselves. They got this technology from someone else Sub-Commander.”


    *****


    Hoshi had shown up to her daily practice early, and found that the reason so many of the security crew and MACOs were sporting bruises. It seemed that Klaang wanted to recover quickly and had chosen beating them into the ground as the best method of doing so. Hoshi smiled grimly as she watched. She was so involved that she did not even hear the other two people step up to her.


    “They are a right bunch of fools.” Malcolm said from her left and shook his head sadly.


    “Indeed they are Lieutenant, but they’ve all got more balls than brains you know.” Sergeant Susan Meyers said from Hoshi’s right. Hoshi had sparred with the MACO Sergeant a time or two, and found the woman’s Judo training to be quite well suited for her. “Matching strength against someone who is stronger isn’t quite such a good idea.”


    “The only one Klaang is wary about going up against is the JG out of Engineering. Pierson is his name, won the New York golden gloves three years running when he was in high school. Has a wicked right counter. They went three rounds in the ring after Klaang saw him sparring.” Malcolm paused and gave a bit of a grin. Hoshi had seen him sparring the JG a couple times, just to keep in shape. The younger officer did have a wicked hook, and more power than his lithe frame suggested in his punches.


    “Klaang was working him over just like he was working over everyone else in here. Then Klaang said something, probably insulting, and wham bam it was over. Broke three of Klaang’s ribs and concussed him with a left hook.” Susan gave a wry chuckle before she continued. “You couldn’t tell now that happened yesterday. Damn these Klingons heal fast, almost like an augment.”


    “Their culture despises the weak, and the soft. Thousands of years of selection have seen that only the strongest, fastest healing survive.” Hoshi looked at Klaang and came to a sudden decision. “It is the reason why I’ve not been able to get anywhere in discussions with him. I should rectify that.”


    “Hoshi, you are not seriously thinking of fighting him are you?” Malcolm’s voice was very concerned. Hoshi knew he was probably thinking of how he was supposed to explain this to the Captain if it went as wrong as it could. “Because if you are, I might have to put you in the brig for your own safety.”


    “You and what army Lieutenant?” Hoshi said teasingly as she eyed the security officer. She knew that it grated on him that a lowly communications Ensign was perhaps the best unarmed combatant on the ship. It was something she never really thought about while she was growing up though. Grandfather required that she study in the dojo, it was something she took for granted that all kids did. Insular education at its best she now knew.


    Hoshi was skilled in the art known as Aikido. Not that she had ever been trained in any recognized school of that art, or that the practitioners would have recognized her training. Living in the post-apocalyptic world of Earth after WWIII had caused her grandfather to discard all of the untenable parts of Aikido, and boiled it down into a true combat art once again.


    “You fatherless son of a whore, you are too cowardly to face a real warrior in battle.” Hoshi roared out, well as well as her fragile voice could roar Klingon out. She had timed it just right as well, as Klaang paused for one fateful second and allowed the MACO he was fighting get a brutal hit to the gut in. Klaang brushed the man off with one arm, flinging him into a group of onlookers. Hoshi could see the debate going on behind the Klingon’s face. Did he ignore her words and not face such a weak opponent and take the dishonor of her slur, or did he face her and take the dishonor of fighting such a frail creature.


    Hoshi stalked out onto the mat, as MACOs exchanged knowing glances. They had faced her in the past, and knew that she was just as dangerous as the Klingon was, though in a different way altogether. She tried her best glower on the Klingon, and tried not to think how foolish this was.


    Just why was she doing this, Hoshi wondered. She did not personally need the respect of Klaang or the Klingon Empire. It was true that his disrespectful nature and bearing had been wearing down on her for weeks now. Perhaps it was about that respect, being valued for her skills whether it was with arms or words, which she wanted back. Hoshi had worked hard to become the top of her field, and to show that the schooling she had as a child did not hold her back.


    “Fight me or die a dishonorable coward, one that hides behind the women.” She coughed out, purposely choosing the word that denoted infirm, old, or pregnant women. Perhaps, Hoshi thought moving to slowly circle Klaang who gave voice to a shout of frustration, she had simply reached that point that her Grandfather had told her about. The point where a woman, or a man had to test themselves and decide if they were made for the world or not.


    “I will try to not hurt you too badly, you would do best to yield now.” Klaang replied in Klingon. Hoshi began slowly circling the Klingon warrior as she taunted him again.


    “Those are not the words of a warrior. Come I will give you an honorable defeat.”


    With another roar from Klaang, Hoshi found herself far too busy for further words. His first two rushes showed that though trained for close combat, it was in a system that requested the use of bladed instruments. His swings and attacks were clumsily adapted for being unarmed.


    Hoshi melted away from another attack, sidestepping lightly as she redirected his attack past her body, adding just a bit more force to his attack. Klaang stumbled and turned, a sudden glimmer of respect showing up in his eyes. He still appeared confused to Hoshi, as she failed to meet his attacks with any of her own. It was not the way of Aikido to meet strength with strength though.


    Hoshi waited patiently for her opening. Many of the moves available to her would not work against someone of Klaang’s relative size, and strength. There was only so much that one could do even with leverage. She slipped under an aggressive sidearm, pushing as she did with one hand against his back while moving to incept his toe with her foot. Klaang went sprawling, and earned the laughter of the assembled crew.


    That proved to be the motivation she needed. Klaang exploded back to his feet, and turned, his face red with rage. He charged, his arm swinging in an overhand cut at her, setting him up for a classic Aikido takedown. Hoshi sidestepped and retreated, causing him to lean forwards in an attempt to make the blow land.


    Had Hoshi met it with strength, the attack probably would have succeeded, instead she grasped the wrist as it whistled past her head, matched the flow of the blow, and added to it. She stepped forwards into Klaang, as her other hand came up to double the grip on his wrist. She pivoted as he moved past her, twisting his arm as he went and through the leverage the locked arm provided planted him face first on the mat. A sickening pop echoed through the room as his shoulder separated on the way down, and Hoshi made an effort to control her expression as she coolly stood over Klaang, his wrist held lightly in her hands.


    “Anger is the enemy of the warrior. Control it, or it will control you.” Hoshi spat in roughly translated Klingon, quoting her grandfather from so many years ago. “Do you yield, or shall I finish ripping off your arm and beat you to death with it?”


    “I yield slinger of dishonorable words.” Klaang growled after a short period of time. He had tested her once, trying to push up but had stopped quickly when Hoshi twisted the disabled arm further.


    “Words are weapons, and are no more dishonorable than the one who wields them. Learn not to let yourself be so easily provoked.” Hoshi let go of Klaang’s wrist letting the arm drop loosely to the ground as she stepped back. She gave him a polite bow, and then turned on her heel, quite content to leave quickly and divest herself of her lunch. She earnestly hoped she never had to hear the sound of a dislocating joint again in her life.


    *****


    Jon settled back in his chair, set his beer aside and tried to take back up his report to Starfleet. It was a private report to Admiral Forrest and not one that would be made public to the Vulcans. He tossed Porthos a bit of cheese and began.


    “Computer, begin recording. Admiral Forrest I hope that this comes as much of a surprise to you as it has to me. You have by now received word from T’Pol that she had assumed command of the Enterprise, and have perhaps heard the reports of her asking for additional clarification about her mission onboard.” Jon paused, thinking about Trip’s own private speculation why the Vulcan had done what she did. Jon personally believed that there were other reasons for it, up to and including simply attempting to regain the trust of humanity. He did not trust T’Pol even with her current actions, and would possibly never trust her.


    “I am uncertain as to what end her actions were toward. We did regain Klaang before he gave up the information to the Suliban. We also learned that there is another race in control of the Suliban attempting to cause strife in the main powers here.” Jon leaned forwards against his desk and his brow furrowed. “We did not learn who they were, or unfortunately what the ‘real risk’ to quote the Suliban agent’s words was. I am inclined to believe, based upon my own history with Vulcans, that T’Pol’s actions were done to merely sidestep the problem of having her authority questioned. She perhaps realized that the Enterprise’s crew would not support her in turning back towards Earth.


    “If T’Pol is on this ship as a plant, or if she is here to limit the actions we might take, to continue steering us she had to act as she did. She needs to personally gain our trust, and revealing her hand early would only compromise any future actions she might take.” Jon paused and leaned back in his chair. The Vulcans were quite able to take the long picture on things, given that they lived so much longer with humanity. “I have proceeded to let her believe that she may have gained that trust from me, in the hopes that I can uncover just what the Vulcans are now up to. I cannot believe that they would abandon their control of our actions so easily. We are continuing on to Qo’nos, albeit on a longer route than previously thought. Expect word of our accomplishment no sooner than three months from now. Archer out.”


    Part of Jon shied away from the pessimism of his views when he heard them aloud. They sounded bigoted in a way that he thought that he was better than. The Vulcans, however, had shown in the past that they were not to be trusted. How many times had they offered help, only to prevent Humanity from taking the next step because ‘they were not ready’? There were answers out there somewhere, and Jon meant to find them.
     
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  10. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Trip looked over at T’Pol for not the first time in a week’s worth of work. Though the Vulcan woman had a thing about cleanliness she was more than willing to get her hands dirty in tearing down the Suliban ship. The one piece Starfleet uniform was also much more flattering to her figure than the flowing, loosely cut Vulcan uniform she normally wore.


    He was glad he had talked her into wearing it, on account the Starfleet ones were easier to clean. Not to mention easier on the eyes, Trip thought leaning past her with a bit of a smirk to pull loose yet another power conduit from the wall. He had seen her struggling with it and having had the same problem yesterday he had figured out just what the trick was. You had to twist the thing clockwise at the same time as pulling out on it otherwise it just stuck there.


    “You Vulcans might be great on theory, but your hands on skills leave something to be desired.” Trip teased her lightly as he turned back to the diagnostics unit. It was finally showing that all the connections to the IGE device were finally disconnected.


    “I have not had much opportunity for ‘hands on’ training on a Suliban vessel Commander.” T’Pol said as she turned towards him, rising to the bait just like he thought she would. Logical or not, T’Pol showed willingness to verbally spar with Trip that he found intriguing. He’d always had a thing for women with a sharp wit and a sharp tongue to match. Trip rather thought she enjoyed the little matches as he did.


    “And you think I have? Admit it, T’Pol, you just don’t like getting your pretty little hands dirty.” Trip smothered another grin, mostly unsuccessfully as he kneeled down to try and lift the unit out of its cradle. Now that there were no live contacts, just pulling it straight out of its mount should be the last part.


    “Perhaps it is not hands on training, or an unwillingness to get my hands dirty but your greater familiarity with primitiveness, Commander?”


    Trip looked up at her and narrowed his eyes at her. “Are you saying I’m primitive?”


    Trip only received a raised eyebrow in reply. He frowned at her and pulled on the unit again, only to get nowhere with it. He stood up, his hands settling on his hips and looked at the device thoughtfully.


    “Perhaps we need to take more scans of the device. We have very little knowledge of how this is put together Commander.” T’Pol looked at him and added as if an afterthought, “Despite your intimate knowledge.”


    “You’re saying I’m primitive.” Trip shook his head and thought for a moment before taking up a hammer and bashing the side of the power unit’s frame with it. It shifted almost imperceptibly to the right then rose about a quarter of an inch. He lifted the hammer to T’Pol and gave her a grin. “Another score for primitive man.”


    “Indeed.”


    This time T’Pol joined him as he bent down to lift the device. Trip gave a soft grunt in surprise at the weight of the unit. T’Pol showed nothing, reminding Trip once again that Vulcans despite all their similarities were not human.


    “So, you going?” Trip asked as he heaved his end of the device onto a cart. He looked at T’Pol chewing slightly the inside of his lip.


    “Going where Commander?”


    Trip felt a sudden surge of irritation as she sidestepped the question. “Movie night, it is Tuesday night.”


    “I fail to see why I would have an interest in participating in the viewing of fiction.” T’Pol said as she settled her end down much more carefully than Trip had. He found his eyes drawn down to those slender, powerful hands as she started to fastidiously clean them.


    “It is not.” Trip said drawing another raised eyebrow. He thought a bit and then continued. “Fiction that is. Well not mostly. We’re showing ‘Cinderella Man’ tonight T’Pol; it is a dramatization of a man’s life. I think you’ll find it interesting the blurb for the movie says it shows an interesting slice of the great depression of the twentieth century.”


    “Why do you believe that I will find that interesting Commander?” T’Pol paused in her cleaning to study Trip thoughtfully and he suddenly found himself way out on a tree branch. How was he supposed to tell her he had read Starfleet’s intelligence report on her earth-side activities, it wasn’t supposed to exist much less be open for his perusal. He knew from it that she had an interest in Earth history, especially from the era in question.


    “You mentioned an interest in humanity’s motivations the other night at the Captain’s table.” Trip said in sudden inspiration. She had done so, though he rather doubted that the discussion really applied here. “Our movies are a good window into the human soul, T’Pol, a glimpse of what drives us as individuals.”


    “Indeed.” Despite her reply, Trip could tell that she was still not convinced. He really wanted to see her at movie night, he had a feeling she would enjoy herself, even if she did not admit it. So he pulled the final ace out of his hand.


    “Besides, both Klaang and Dr. Phlox are going to be there. It would do the crew good to see you there as well, to see that you’re one of the crew. It’d improve morale.” Trip looked at her and grew a bit more serious. “There’s been some personal issues in the crew that the first officer would normally deal with on a human ship T’Pol. Archer and I have been taking care of them, but if you’re really going to be the position in anything more than name you need to start becoming more accessible.” Trip held up his hand to stop the words that she was going to speak. “I know, you are, but you ain’t appeared that way to most of the crew.”


    “I understand.” T’Pol fell silent and Trip turned back to the IGE device. Maybe he could talk Phlox into letting him use the medical scanner on it. “If attending this event shall ease relations with the crew, and increase the efficiency of my position, I shall attend.”


    “I’ll save ya a seat Sub-Commander.”

    *****


    The console next to the bed trilled for attention, and then a half-minute later trilled again, even louder. Malcolm realized that it was not just something in his dream and reached out to bash the communications button, just once wishing that Starfleet had taken the recommendation for voice activated controls.


    “Reed here what is the problem?” Malcolm cracked open an eye to peer at the alarm clock at the foot of the bed. The red numbers horridly displayed “0300” making it the middle of his shortened night, and only two hours after he had been able to fall asleep.


    “Sorry sir, but we’re receiving what appears to be a distress beacon. The Captain wants all senior crew to report to the bridge.” Malcolm recognized the voice of Crewman Mike Booth, one of Hoshi’s off shift replacements.

    “On my way Crewman.” Malcolm groaned as he pushed off the sheets and carefully sat up in his bunk. At least on the NX class senior officers had their own separate quarters, even as small as his actually was. Otherwise there would be a tangle of people all attempting to get into their ready gear right now. The smaller NV class corvettes he had served on before had communal bunks, separated into male and female, enlisted and commissioned.

    Malcolm was glad that he had worked the past six hours to get the targeting sensors back into alignment. The entire tactical grid was a mishmash of Starfleet standard parts, hand made replacements, and as Commander Tucker so eloquently put it ‘spit, bubblegum and duck tape’. At times Malcolm thought that the only reason it worked at all was because he held it together with the force of his will.


    Enterprise had not been anywhere near ready for an actual mission, he knew as he stood to pull on a ready uniform. It had been set up as an engineering test bed and its first mission to Vulcan and back to Earth had been intended just to show the capabilities of the reactor. The tactical systems had been only in the planning stages prior to Klaang, and suddenly he had been pressed into service to patch together a system made from ten-year sensors that were controlling prototype weapons.


    A distress call, he thought with a sinking feeling, which would probably mean that there had been an attack of some sort. Maybe Malcolm could talk the Captain into just passing it by. He snorted walking out into the hallway, little chance of that he knew.


    “Hey Malcolm, know anything about this?” Commander Tucker asked as he stepped up beside Malcolm.


    “Nothing more than a distress call, that and we are going to be sticking our noses in it.” Malcolm gave a grimace as he looked over at Trip. “Any chance that the warp engines will run away and we won’t be able to drop out of warp? The Suliban showed we aren’t in any real shape to fight.”


    “Fraid not. All engineering systems are firing on all cylinders.” Trip looked aside at Malcolm and continued. “Still having problems with the tactical systems?”


    “When haven’t I? We’ve got another set of corrections dialed into the sensors, but the training mounts are still not tracking correctly. Its not a smooth delay either, which we could compensate for, all the mounts surge in fits and at odd times.” Malcolm gave a sigh and shook his head. “I don’t think it’s the software, so it has to be in the physical emplacement. I wish Starfleet would have went with the Mark II plasma cannon ball turret for the phase cannons instead of these retractable systems.”


    “Well then you’d be out on the hull every other week pulling maintenance on them. Ain’t a damn system that’s come out of that Skunk Works that ain’t fiddly as all damn hell.” Trip said, a feeling that Malcolm was in complete agreement with. “All the emplacements are doing it huh? Could be a ground issue, or the drive system binding up. I’ll get a crew on it, we’ll need to take one of them down though, you got a preference?”


    “Dorsal three, the emitter is flatlined again.” Malcolm said as they turned the corner to the turbo lift. T’Pol looked up from inside and pressed the hold button. They both pressed inside with her. Malcolm glanced over at T’Pol as she eased away from him, moving somewhat closer to Commander Tucker. His brow furrowed wondering if there was something there. A small internal shake of his head as he realized he probably just smelled, considering he had not pulled on a fresh uniform.


    The lift stopped a short time later, and opened to reveal the bridge. Malcolm expected the Captain to already be in his chair, but he was not. The beta crew was still at stations, and as he turned the corner he saw that Hoshi, the Captain, and Mayweather were all gathered around the console in the operations center. Malcolm joined them and looked down at the display.


    “Good, we’re all here then. As you know we have received what appears to be a signal from a distress beacon. It is only thirty-five minutes away, fairly close to our current heading. I’ve requested that our course be changed to provide an intercept.” Jon said, drawing an internal sigh from Malcolm. He had already known it was too late to talk the Captain out of it, but he had kept some little hope. “Hoshi tells me that the beacon is being broadcast in two languages, an unknown one, and Klingon.”


    “Klingon sir? I don’t think that they’d be much for distress beacons. Do we know why it has been activated?” Malcolm leaned closer, reading the sensor scans of the device. It was at the maximum range of the tactical sensors, and unfortunately the science sensors weren’t configured to tell much about a ship at that range either.


    “Sorry Sir, its just a general distress call from as far as I can tell. The ship’s ID, just what appears to be a registry number, and that assistance is needed.” Hoshi replied, sounding as tired as Malcolm felt. “I don’t think it is Klingon sir, just that they are using that because we are near Klingon space. Most of the races around here would know the Klingon language. They’re not responding to hails, and the strength of the beacon, well I think its been running a long time.”


    “It could be Kriosian, we have crossed the border into what Klaang has identified as being their space.” T’Pol added, and Malcolm gave a soft nod. He punched in a couple commands on the console.


    “It’d have to be a merchant vessel though Captain. Klaang advised that the Krios is only allowed to patrol within fifteen lightyears of their colonies, and along a very narrow corridor between them. This is way outside any of the marked lanes.” Malcolm looked up and around at every one of the officers. “We can’t rule out that there was a conflict here sir, and I must tell you that if there has been, we can’t afford a fight. We’ve had a series of systematic issues with the energy mounts, all I can really guarantee are the spatial torpedoes.”


    “Understood Malcolm, we’ll just hope that we don’t need to get into a fight. As a precaution though we’ll load spatial torpedoes and charge the hull plating before we drop out of warp.” Jon turned to the other people assembled for the briefing. “Travis I’ll want you at helm for this. Trip, get an engineering team ready to go, they might just be having power generation issues. Hoshi get the UT warmed up. Though they probably know Klingon, I’d like to get a translation matrix started if that isn’t their native language. T’Pol you’ll be in charge of the away team, work with Trip and get it set up, take at least two MACOs.”


    Malcolm gave a nod of satisfaction; at least the Captain seemed to have learned his lesson about leading from the front on dangerous, or possibly dangerous away missions. It didn’t do to have him placed in such danger, not when the rest of the ship counted on his leadership. He wished though that it was his team tasked with the security of the away team, but he knew the MACOs were perhaps better suited for the job.


    “Sir, I recommend that we wake Klaang, and request his input on this ship. He may have knowledge about these people and their language.”


    Malcolm breathed a sight of relief as Captain Archer shook his head, and denied T’Pol’s request.


    “He might, but until we know what is going on here, I think we will let him have his sleep. First contact can be touchy enough without having a grouchy Klingon on the bridge.” Jon looked around at them all, and then made his way out onto the Bridge. “Lieutenant Carsson I have the bridge.”

    Malcolm gave a nod at the Captains obvious dismissal to their duties and made his way over to the Tactical console to relieve Ensign Stewart. The junior officer gave him a courteous nod as he left the console.


    “I’ll be in the armory if you need me, sir.” The junior officer said. Malcolm was glad he had a steady officer on the off shift.


    “Of course Ensign.”


    Malcolm turned his attention to the console, the displays taking time to make sense to him. He blinked the weariness from his eyes and made several adjustments tracking the unknown ship as they closed with it. He was unaware of the time that passed, and was startled as the Enterprise dropped out of warp suddenly, several things becoming apparent on the tactical displays as the sensors and the software no longer had to contend with the warp field.


    “Sir, I’m reading residue from weapons fire. Heavy plasma cannons and particle beams.” Malcolm punched several more commands into the console, refining its display and the sensors still further. He wished, not for the first time that he could tie the science packs into the tactical network. “I’m reading no charged weapons, and the hull has damage consistent with weapons fire. Its all several weeks old sir.”


    “T’Pol, any life signs?” Jon turned in his chair, looking towards the science officer. Malcolm turned his gaze there as well. There wasn’t much to see as the Vulcan was gazing intently into the special display system assigned to that station.


    “There are a number of signatures consistent with bio-energy readings. I am unable to say for certain as the resolution of this device is insufficient for more detail.” T’Pol paused for several moments before adding without a question. “I am reading several old warp trails, leading to and from this vessel. The newest is no more than two days old.”


    Malcolm could hear Trip muttering behind him about insufficient scanners and primitive technology as the engineer moved behind him. He rather agreed. At times it was rather distressing to always hear how backwards humanity was from her, or how their systems were not designed for certain work.


    “Their warp core is cold Captain. Energy readings show only minimal power being provided by backup systems.” Trip turned to look at the Captain.


    “Hoshi anything?” Jon asked as Malcolm turned back to his sensors. If there was another ship out there, he wanted to see it before they fired on the Enterprise.


    “Nothing sir, just the beacon. I’ve ran the first contact protocol three times.”


    “Captain, we should leave. It is obvious that this ship has fallen prey to pirates and that they have slowly been stripping it. We can serve no purpose by remaining.” T’Pol sounded a lot calmer than Malcolm felt, and for now he agreed with her, if not the reasoning behind her advice.


    “I’m not leaving until we know who these people are, why they were attacked, and who their attackers are. This could be more Suliban meddling with local powers. You’ll continue with the away mission. See if there are any survivors, and get everything out of their computer system that you can.” Jon paused as he stared down the Vulcan science officer, and his second in command. “That’s an order T’Pol.”


    “Yes Captain."
     
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  11. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 11

    Nate Pierson was tapping his foot nervously on the floor of the shuttlepod. He had never felt so nervous in his life, not even the first time he stepped in the ring for a televised fight. The young engineer looked around the shuttlepod, crowded with five suited forms and the two cases of gear that Commander Tucker had insisted on.


    Nate could hardly believe here in a few moments he would be stepping foot on an actual alien vessel. True, it was easier to believe after he had gotten on the Enterprise, and even easier after having seen and fought Klaang. He did not know what to expect, none of the crew did.


    Klaang, there was something that he wished he could forget. Nate could still here scorn in the Klingon’s voice as had spat that insult out, still feel the echoes of rage that had burned through his body. He had thought he had left that all behind him, burned that demon out of his body and soul. Evidently he had not made as thorough a job of it as he had thought.


    Nate glanced over at the two MACOs, Hachirota Kurasawki and Chuck Jenson. The two large men filled the rear of the shuttlepod making it seem cramped. Their dull gray and black suits were so different than the copper and silver reflective suits that Starfleet issued. Would they have offered him the congratulations they had if they knew what he really was? Nate knew they would not, in fact they probably would have been among the first to escort him down to the brig.


    Nate turned his gaze back to Trip, whose suit was barely visible on the other side of the pilot’s seat. Trip he knew could not care less about who he was, or why he was the way he was, as long as Nate continued to do his job well. The Commander had a way of looking past everything to the person underneath. Nate had been shocked, and saddened to hear he had lost the first office position to T’Pol, Vulcan and enigma wrapped in conundrum as far as Nate was concerned.


    The shuttlepod thumped, and rocked hard as Trip in his usual heavy-handed piloting made the approach to the airlock a little too close. A thud followed by a soft hiss as the docking collar locked into place and began to inflate the temporary airlock.


    “Nate, get up there and see if you can figure out how to get the hatch open.” Trip said as he turned around in his chair to face the back of the shuttlepod. With the other chair occupied by T’Pol there was no way Trip was going to get by Nate knew.


    Nate pushed himself to his feet edging past Hachirota who switched places with him. It took a little force to open the shuttle’s main door. He filed that away in the back of his mind, most likely the pressure sensor in the airlock wasn’t up to snuff and over pressurized. Nate lifted his hand scanner after climbing up into the small space at the top of the pod; he scanned the hatch carefully and then put the device away at his belt. His eyes roamed the edge of the door until he spotted what looked to be a handle, or what would be a handle if the aliens had hands anyways.


    “I’m not reading any power sir, but it looks like they’ve got a manual system.” Nate edged around to the other side, as he tried to get in a better position to pull on the handle. He braced a hand against the side of the ship and pulled lightly on it. It slowly gave under the pressure. “Appears to be hydraulic maybe. This might take a while.”


    “Understood. Please continue.”


    Nate blinked a couple times in confusion as T’Pol answered instead of Trip, but he realized that the Vulcan was actually the one in charge of this mission. He began slowly, carefully pumping up the system, each pull-push combo leading to greater and greater resistance.


    “I’m not seeing any movement, it is getting really hard to pump. I think it might be frozen or something.” Nate gave a grunt as the handle stopped moving in mid swing. No matter what he tried, it was stuck. He reached down through the hatch. “Give me a hammer, I’ll see if I can break it loose.”


    Enterprise had on her books two-dozen special, Starfleet approved hammers. They had a tungsten-titanium allow head, a composite shaft and a no slip comfort cushioned grip. All of them had been found to be missing two weeks out of Sol. Nate snorted as the homebuilt replacement was handed up to him. It was made from a solid steel alloy hexagonal head, with a solid shaft handle, and a piece of high-pressure rubber hose for a grip. It was crude but it worked.


    Nate wedged himself in, tried to get mostly out of the way of the rebound. He swung the hammer hard against the door, slowly working around the edge in a clockwise fashion. The fourth swing he thought he felt something give, but it still didn’t appear to have moved, and the pump handle, if that was still stuck in place. He tried another swing at the same place, and nearly fell down into the shuttlepod in surprise as the hatch snapped all the way open, a vast pit of darkness below him.


    “Pressure has risen another three hundred millibars. It would appear we have found the reason why the hatch would not open.” T’Pol’s voice rang in Nate’s ears as he tried peering into the darkness. He turned up his helmet lights to full in anticipation of her next question. “What do you see Lieutenant?”


    Nate tossed the hammer through the hatch and watched as it suddenly started ‘falling’ to his left. He peered around in that direction. A few boxes and a couple scraps something that looked like paper was all that occupied the cargo hold.


    “It has to be a cargo hold. They’re gravity plating is still holding a charge, its off axis from our own. Appears to be a ladder here.” Nate looked back down into the shuttlepod. “We’ll have to power down the shuttlepod's gravity plate and drain the charge off it before we’ll be able to safely enter it.”


    “Already on it.”


    Nate waited a long minute after Trip’s words before he finally felt the force provided by the shuttlepod’s internal gravity field disappearing. He ducked his head down into the shuttlepod, and then carefully draped his legs through the hatch, feeling for a rung. He made his way down a bit before waiting for the next person. After guiding the boot of a MACO onto the ladder Nate climbed down to the bottom of the cavernous cargo hold. Several scorch marks adorned one wall and he felt his brow furrowing.


    “Sir looks like there was some personal weapons fire down here.” Nate retrieved the hammer and stuck it through a loop on his belt. He removed his scanner and directed it towards the wall. “Traces of iridium, plasma fire it looks like.”


    “Understood.” T’Pol’s voice was even flatter than normal over the radio and he looked up at the ladder to watch the others come down. “Wait where you are Lieutenant. The MACOs will secure the area and we will then begin to look for survivors.”


    Currently it was only Nate and the MACOs in the hold and when he saw a case being lowered by a line he understood why. He watched silently as the two soldiers quickly scouted the hold, given that it was mostly empty an easy process before heading to a hatch that would lead deeper into the ship.


    “We’ve got internal power to some systems ma’am. Appears the inner doors should be active, minimal life support and lighting. Air mix, well we’re not reading any oxygen, doesn’t look like we’ll be going external.” Corporal Jenson stated as the pair stood near the hatch.


    “We have six hours on the suit tanks, and if necessary we can refill at the shuttle.” T’Pol said over the radio as she stepped up beside Nate, Trip a short distance behind. She held up the Vulcan hand scanner, a device that Nate would love to be able to get his hands on. He knew that Trip probably felt the same way about it. “I am reading only faint biosigns to the aft of the vessel. We shall start our investigation there.”


    Nate felt very much the third leg as the pair of MACOs smoothly opened the hatch and moved through it in oiled precision. He followed, a short distance after so did Trip. When he turned his head he saw that T’Pol had her EM-33 out and ready and belatedly realized he should probably be holding his own. It came out of the holster with a rush of adrenaline, and Nate looked at it to visually confirm the safety was still on. His hand trembled, both from fear, and the sudden rush for the need to fight something, anything that accompanied the fight or flight reaction so strongly.


    The corridor was dimly lit and evidence of hostile boarding showed everywhere on the walls. Burn marks and the faint iridescent sheen of plasma weapons glittered under the light from the helmet lamps. The further they moved into the deserted ship the louder a throb of what could only be pumps became. It was the only sound but for the thump of boots. Splatters of what could only be dried blood now covered a few of the walls.


    “This is like some bad horror movie.” Nate heard Trip mutter behind him, the voice coming in clear over the helmet systems. Nate agreed with his senior officer’s sentiments. It was like some bad horror movie, which had come into vogue again a few years past. Nate used to like watching them, but he was not enjoying this at all.


    “Fifteen meters until we reach the biosigns.” T’Pol said ignoring the Commander’s sentiments. Nate wondered for a moment if the Vulcan had ever seen a horror movie before. From the calm in her voice he expected that she had not. “The biosigns are still very faint. It is doubtful we will find anyone alive.”


    One last hatch was all that stood between them and the reading on T’Pol’s scanner. Nate gripped the EM-33 tighter as if it could provide some measure of comfort. Nothing though could have prepared him for what was revealed with the hatch opened.


    Hanging from the ceiling by their heels were nearly twenty figures. Irregularly pulsing tubes and wires were routed into now empty abdominal cavities. The figures were obviously missing all their skin, and in places muscle had been carved away to reveal the start jet-black of what had to be bone. Nate found himself hyperventilating as the scene bored into his brain, flashes shown by the helmet lights, the smaller figures of what had to be adolescents, another one laid out on a table with plates around it, and a knife obscenely lying nearby.


    “Oh dear gods, they’re still aware.” Jenson’s voice barely penetrated the haze coming down over Nate’s mind.


    “Indeed.” Even T’Pol’s voice sounded deeply disturbed by the scene in front of them. Nate suddenly realized as a pair of eyes turned towards him, a jaw moving as if to beg him for help, for release.


    It was the last thing he remembered seeing before pitching forwards on his knees, his stomach heaving up its contents onto his faceplate.


    *****


    “This is not what we came into space to find people.” Jon ranted softly inside the ready room. The remnants of the Alpha shift were there, everyone trying not to look at the footage on the screen. Phlox and Klaang had been drawn into the briefing as well, one for his expertise in medical manners, and the other for his knowledge of local space. “It is not what we came to find, but it is the type of thing that Starfleet is supposed to stop when we do find it. I need to know why, I need to know who, and I want to know where they are now.”


    Jon looked up and around at the group, his eyes stopping on Phlox, and he leaned forwards onto his elbows. The soft murmur of Hoshi’s voice translating his works to Klaang filled the background of the room, along with the warrior’s rumble of shared anger.


    “They are Kriosian Captain, additionally scans show that most are male, and that the few females present would be of comparable development to a forty year old human. As the imagery shows, their major organs were… harvested.” Phlox trailed off as he pushed his computer tablet away and covered his face with his hands for a moment before looking back up. “The mechanical systems that were found were there to keep them alive as long as possible. Several had already succumbed to their injuries.”


    “And why doctor, were they still alive, kept aware?” Jon said his voice hard. To see that done to, people, to beings that looked so much like humans chilled him to his core.


    “There were several chemicals being filtered from their endocrine systems, adrenal analogues, neurotransmitters, endorphins, all are very hard to synthesize with perfect accuracy. They were kept aware to increase the production of certain of these chemicals.” Phlox shook his head as he folded his hands in front of him. His eyes looked around the room. “There are many cultures even in space known to Denobulans and humans that do not view outsiders as any more than animals. Thankfully we have moved past that, unfortunately many see other intelligent species, and ourselves, as nothing more than a profitable harvest.”


    Jon squeezed his eyes shut as he tried to come to grips with that. He had heard stories about Orion slavers, their attacks on vessels that had wandered too far outside the known spacelanes. Still this was something that even those pirates would not stoop to. Eating another intelligent being, harvesting it for nothing more than parts, that crossed some invisible line that most intelligent species refused to cross. It was something out of the dark ages before humanity became civilized.


    “Organ snatchers sir.” Travis said, and his voice sounded troubled and haunted to even Jon. Jon looked at him and gave an encouraging nod to the Ensign. “It was just stories sir, or so I thought. We took on a transient just before we returned to Earth.”


    Jon knew the term, though he had never met one before. Humanity was not the only species ill content to serve on ships of their own kind, not willing to work one route back and forth. They skipped from ship to ship, moving farther out, and then back to their home worlds as their will took them.


    “He told these stories, or at least that’s what dad said they were, bout the Organ Snatchers, aliens that’d storm your ship and steal your guts. He said they’d eat you, and that all that would ever be found were ships and crews missing everything inside them.” Travis looked up and said pleadingly. “I never thought that they’d be real sir, or I would have said something about them. Just stories told to scare children, that’s all I thought they were.”


    “It is okay Travis, I doubt anyone would have believed stories like that. Hell I don’t think I would believe it if I weren’t looking at this right now.” Jon motioned towards the viewscreen in front of them, which had thankfully changed views to just show the Kriosian merchant “Janur’s Folly”. “Hoshi, what does Klaang have to say about this.”


    Jon knew it was hard for his translator to talk about these things. She had fainted dead away, and woke up screaming in the sickbay after the first images had been piped back. He knew that Hoshi was made of sterner stuff if given time to confront things, think them through. Just look at what she had done to Klaang. Where she fell far short was in meeting an immediate crisis, and immediate threat. There was a long pause as Hoshi conferred with Klaang, a conference that Jon trusted Hoshi with far more than he trusted any machine with the same.


    “He refuses to answer sir, until he know exactly what you intend to do in response. I don’t think he really trusts us yet sir.” Hoshi paused before tentatively adding. “I think he is concerned with what we’ll do with his information sir.”


    Jon stood up and turned pacing back and forth for a few long moments as he contended with the emotions flooding through him. Fear was one of those, fear for his ship, his crew, his mission, but deeper than that was the anger that wanted him to go out and take revenge for each and every person aboard that other ship. To show whomever that was that they could not do that as long as he was around. T’Pol had already counseled over a communications link that they should leave the ship, and continue on their way, even perhaps turn back and abandon their mission.


    Vulcans had been doing that though for nearly a thousand years. Turning back when they came upon the horrors of the universe, fighting only when they had no other choice. He knew that they had refused to take a hand in the way things developed in space unless they had to, or they saw a benefit in doing so. His hands clenched as he turned back to Klaang and stalked over to the Klingon warrior. Jon leaned forwards to face the hulking presence that seemed to dwarf him even sitting down. It was time to show the Klingon just what Humanity was, that they would leave their mark on the universe and leave it a better place. That they would not back down when faced with evil.


    “Hoshi, I want you to translate this word for word.” Jon said softly as he met the Klingon’s gaze and refused to look away. “I’m going to find the people who did this. I’m going to track them down, and I’m going to bring justice to them. If they resist, I’ll fight them. If they surrender, I’ll take them to trial. I will not allow these thugs, these beasts to do this again, and by God if Klaang withholds information that will let me do this he can rot in a holding cell.”


    Jon waited until Hoshi finished translating his words to Klaang. There was a long silence, and then quite unexpectedly Klaang started to laugh. Jon stood slowly as the laughter died off and then looked expectantly at Hoshi as Klaang began to speak.


    “He says… He says that he should have known that a Captain that has a warrior like me onboard his ship would not shrink away from doing the necessary. He advises that the Klingons have had many conflicts with these beasts. They appear to be a pirate group, composed of several different species. I’m afraid sir he says he has no real specifics on them, only that they have been increasing their operations in the area.” Hoshi remained silent for a few moments before she continues. “The Klingons hunt them down when they can but the pirate ships have plasma baffles that mask their warp trails. Klaang says that Klingons are not able to follow trails more than a day old.”


    “Thank him for me Hoshi, even that give us something to work on. At least we know these thugs are not some local government.” Jon turned to Malcolm. “What have you been able to glean from the sensors Lieutenant?”

    “We know that the pirates used a high yield particle weapon. The scientific scans show that this ship has been visited several times since the initial attack. We don’t have a clear enough trail to trace them, but given the frequency of the visits we should be expecting another one soon.” Malcolm’s brows drew together as he thought for a second. “A trail from an incoming ship should be strong enough that we could trace it back to the source. See if they are peddling their goods directly as it were, or if they offload it at a base of some sort.”


    “How soon is soon?” Jon asked as he settled back into his chair. “And can we take them when they do arrive?”


    “Within a day, day and a half at the most Captain. I can’t be certain of that, they may decide not to come back for what is left. Sub-Commander T’Pol and Commander Tucker say that the freighter is fairly well stripped to the bone. As to taking them, I’d really need better sensor data on their ships than we have. I’d rather have the phase cannons working before we try.”


    “You’ve got until they arrive to get that done Lieutenant. I want to take that ship when it gets here, capture it if we can. I think it is about time that people like these learn the error of their ways.” Jon said as he looked around the ready room. It was a risk he knew, but one that appeared to already be paying off. Klaang was obviously in deep thought, as if he had not expected this turn of events. Jon watched him and wondered just which culture would be the most affected by deepening relations, Klingon or Human.
     
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  12. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 12


    “Sir, the ship is dropping out of warp.” Malcolm said softly. He was exhausted, having worked double shifts since the earlier meeting. Trip, and his crews had done nothing short of the impossible, having found what exactly was causing the targeting glitches in the mounts for the phase cannons. Unfortunately they were still days away from being able to implement a fix.


    “Hoshi, onscreen.” Captain Archer said, his tone flat. The bridge crew was securely strapped into their positions right now. Yet another upgrade Trip had insisted on, given their experience in prior skirmishes. Malcolm knew that only the damage control teams, the armory team, and Trip’s engineering squad was up and moving around freely right now.


    Malcolm turned back to his console, checking over weapons systems locked in low power standby. The whole Enterprise was dark, trying to mask its presence by emulating a cold piece of rock. It reminded Malcolm of stories he had read, written by a many great grandfather about his exploits aboard a submarine during WWII. Running silent, with her tubes loaded with Malcolm’s best ‘fish’, the thought brought a grim smile to his face.


    The ship appeared on the viewscreen, and Malcolm studied the visual image for a moment before turning back to his sensors. It had a large flat shape much like a stingray, and about two thirds of the way out on the ‘wings’ they bulged into the telltale shape of linear warp nacelles.


    “Sub-Commander, is this the ship?” Captain Archer asked softly. The tone of his voice increased the illusion that they were in a submarine lying in wait for their prey.


    Malcolm looked over to where the Science officer was hunched over her high precision viewing scope. He had tried the device once himself, but found it to contain an image far too confusing for him. All the data was compressed on one small high-density hologram, which one used the viewer controls to pan and zoom in on. Malcolm had decided that it took a lot of training, or a highly disciplined mind to see anything but chaos in it.


    “The power readings, plasma emissions and weapons signatures match our predictions to within eighty-seven point three-four percent Captain.” T’Pol paused as she swiveled in her chair to face the Captain and Malcolm. Though he could not see it, Malcolm knew his look of frustration with the precisely imprecise Vulcan was mirrored on Archer’s face. “It would be highly improbable that any other ship but the supposed pirate vessel would match our predictions this closely. They have also not apparently spotted the residue of our warp trail or the impulse drive.”


    Malcolm’s smile became a little less grim at the slight hint of exasperation in T’Pol’s voice. She was used to top of the line Vulcan sensor technology being at her fingertips. Malcolm knew that though the Enterprise’s sensors fell far short of that mark, they were quite capable for a species only a century into Warp flight. In fact, according to his intelligence briefing they were nearly equal to Andorian equipment.


    “We’ll continue with plan A then. Hoshi, bring up Echo 1 and transmit the surrender demand.” Jon turned to Malcolm. “Standby on all tubes Lieutenant.”


    That was an addition to his plan that Archer and T’Pol had insisted on. Personally Malcolm had just wanted to open the discussion with a pair of spatial torpedoes, hopefully set for maximum yield, but the senior officers had wanted to at least give the aliens a chance to surrender. A rumble behind Malcolm advised him that Klaang thought that this was ill advised as well. The armory officer had almost forgotten that stick situation as well.


    A whisker laser reached out to the subspace booster on the opposite side of the freighter from the Enterprise. There was a noticeable lag before the communications equipment on the satellite received the encoded signal, and rebroadcast it. They had purposely chosen to make the broadcast in Klingon only, not only to increase the chances of being understood, but also as a bluff.


    “Sir, they’re powering weapons, and they’ve raised some sort of energy shield. They’re moving to an intercept course with the communications relay.” Malcolm said, not truly surprised that they would turn out to be hostile. His hands moved over the keyboards in front of him, updating the tracking systems on the spatial torpedoes. His grim smile came back in full force. “They’ve just went active with sensors sir.”


    “Bring all systems live. Polarize the hull plating and charge weapons Malcolm.” Jon said, his voice tight with tension as he leaned forwards against his restraints. “Travis, lay in an intercept course.”


    There was a pause from when the order was given, until it was completed though. With systems dead cold, the book stated a good three minutes to restart the impulse reactors. Somehow Commander Tucker managed to shave a full minute and ten seconds off that time, and Malcolm pursed his lips in appreciation. The ship surged forward, systems flickering as they changed over from internal, to external power supplies again.


    “They’ve destroyed Echo One sir.”


    Malcolm heard Hoshi’s report but did not pay it much attention, as his tactical readouts were giving him a glut of information on the other ship. He transferred yet another set of refinements into the tracking systems of the spatial torpedoes.


    “What are they armed with Lieutenant?”


    “Like we thought sir, heavy particle beams. Only two, sir, and their arc of fire appears to be concentrated forward. Judging by their energy levels they don’t have the ability to charge them quickly, but a few hits will make short work of our polarized hull.” Malcolm said, calling up specifics from the screens in front of him. The energy shields were occluding most of the hull, and it was making it hard to figure out the specifics. Still he was getting enough to make some good guesses. “Doesn’t look like they have any torpedo tubes sir.”


    “Lieutenant, time to return the favor. Tubes one and four Malcolm, minimum yield.” Jon said his voice even tighter now Malcolm noticed, as the pirate vessel turned to meet them head on.


    “Firing.” Malcolm said a moment later after setting the yield. He locked both onto the signature of the warp nacelles and then pressed the launch button. Two yellow-orange sparks of light appeared on the viewscreen they moved slowly at first, and then with increased vigor as their small impulse engines throttled up to full.


    They held their straight-line course for only a brief time after going to full throttle. The torpedoes tracked away from each other at first, and then turned to cross paths in a preprogrammed evasion course. Malcolm had not known if the other ship mounted point defense systems, but it seemed likely they did. As the torpedoes turned into their final attack runs one disappeared in a cloud of vaporized metal, and then the rather minor explosion of the impulse reactor. The second managed to make it through what Malcolm realized was a laser defense net before the proximity sensor detonated the warhead. Hot plasma and sleeting radiation blew over the energy shield which covered the nacelle.


    “No damage sir.” Malcolm reported as the lights on his panel indicated that the tubes had been reloaded. He could not even tell if the energy shield had suffered any damage. There was a pulsing alarm on Malcolm’s board and he looked up at Archer in alarm. “Sir they are preparing to fire.”


    “Their shield is down three percent Captain. It would appear that at minimum yield our torpedoes will be ineffective.” Malcolm gave a soft curse at T’Pol’s report.


    Malcolm was thrown against his console, as Travis did not bother waiting for a confirmation from the Captain to push the Enterprise into a set of evasive maneuvers. The Enterprise groaned audibly as the abrupt vector change stressed its frame. It was not quite enough to avoid all the attack though, as the particle beam weapon ripped along the hull in a glancing blow. Lights dimmed on the bridge, and it was filled with the sound of Klaang yelling a phrase that seemed somewhat familiar to Malcolm.


    “Today is a good day to die!”


    Malcolm ignored it as he targeted the forward ventral plasma cannons, and just maybe, hopefully, the phase cannons as well. The Enterprise’s lights dimmed again as the torrent of plasma and phase cannon fire ripped out of the four emplacements. Malcolm’s grin became a curse as the plasma washed ineffectually over the pirate’s energy shields, and the phase cannons expended their energy into empty space.


    The Enterprise groaned again as Travis threw the ship into a corkscrew around their base course, still closing on the pirate. The decreased range led to lessened reaction time, and the next warning blare of Malcolm’s panel came too late. The Enterprise heaved as the heavy particle weapon battered her hull, energy washed over the polarized plating leaving it fairly unscathed but transferring its force to bones of the ship underneath. Damage lights lit up on the operations board, all over Malcolm’s tactical panel.


    “Hull plating is down to seventy one percent sir.” Malcolm said as he rerouted additional power to the plating relays, bypassing several in the area of the hit.


    “Impulse one is offline sir.” Mayweather said. Malcolm could feel the trembling in the ship’s hull from the imbalance. He could see the power levels dropping in the EPS conduits. “We’ve lost a lot of our maneuverability.”


    “Aft torpedoes, full yield Lieutenant.” Jon snapped as the Enterprise screamed past the pirate vessel.


    “Firing.” Malcolm said after a moment’s pause to verify the yield setting and targeting, still attempting to strike the engines of the fleet craft.


    Another pair of spatial torpedoes rocketed from the Enterprise. This time their antics were ever more wild than the last pair, as vectored thrust from their impulse drives shoved the small missiles around. They wound crazily in at the pirate ship, one taking a hit from a PD laser, and careening wildly off course. The second once again made it through, and sensors blanked as the proximity fused warhead went off with its full two hundred megaton capacity.


    Malcolm cursed as the sensor shadow from the fusion warhead cleared and showed the little ship quite intact. It was knocked ass over teakettle he noted, still rotating around its center of mass in a spin. Even now it was pulling out of the spin, regaining control, and coming around for another attack.


    “Shields on the alien vessel are down to seventy-four point nine-zero percent.” T’Pol stated leaning over her viewer again. “There are severe fluctuations in their power grid. Lifesign readings been significantly reduced on the enemy vessel, it would appear they have suffered significant casualties. They are charging their warp coils.”


    The Enterprise rocked again as the twin lashes of the particle beam cannons lashed the hull. Malcolm gave a soft curse as half his control panel went dead and with it his control of the phase cannons, useless as they were. He turned halfway around in his seat as Klaang started laughing, the UT having all but given up translating his rants.


    “Will you shut up!” Malcolm growled at the Klingon before turning back to his board to do what he could.


    “Lieutenant, don’t let them get away. Full spread maximum yield.”


    Malcolm looked up about ready to protest, as T’Pol spoke.


    “Captain that would likely destroy their vessel.”


    “If that is what it takes to stop these beasts then that is what it takes. Fire Lieutenant Reed.”


    “With pleasure sir.” Malcolm said with more than a little relish, having heard firsthand from Trip what had been done on the Freighter. Malcolm had no love for pirates to begin with, having been in more than a few scuffles with them in the past. His finger pressed down on the launch button.


    Four bright pinpoints of light broke from the Enterprise this time. The range was so short, and closing so quickly that the torpedoes ignored their implanted evasive maneuvers. All the drives kicked into high acceleration, steering for the smaller ship as it moved to race past Enterprise in a dash for safety. Their laser PD scored another kill, but this time it did not matter as the final three reached their standoff range and detonated almost as one. Once again sensors were blinded as the three warhead flashed into miniature suns, completely bracketing the small vessel. A moment later even those explosions were drowned out by the cataclysmic flash of blue-white light as the pirates antimatter containment failed.


    “Good shooting Lieutenant.” Jon said as he pulled loose his straps and then pushed the intercom button. Malcolm gave his superior a nod before releasing his own straps and turning to the still laughing Klaang.


    “Come now you brute. You’ve seen your battle, time to go.” Malcolm said as he motioned towards the turbolift door. Bad enough the Klingon had seen how pathetic their weapons were; Malcolm did not want him on the bridge any longer than necessary. He stepped into the too small turbolift with the too large Klingon, who was still chuckling away.


    “You well little man fight. Bigger guns need.”


    Malcolm gave a sigh as the UT began to make at lease a little sense of the Klingons wheezing words. He agreed with Klaang though he did need bigger guns, and as soon as he had the Klingon back into the hands of the MACOs he was going to see a certain Engineer about getting them.


    *****


    Trip for the second time in a mere week was sitting in a briefing room with the rest of the senior crew. Again he was carrying more computer tablets than the rest of them combined, engineering and damage reports for the most part. Expenditure sheets and spare parts lists and a half a dozen other things.

    Not for the first time Trip wondered if he should just load everything onto a single computer tablet. He gave a shake of his head, having them on separate ones made it easier to organize. They had been at Warp for almost five hours now, and just over six had passed since the brief battle. Luckily the meeting had given him a little chance to rest, given that most of the meeting had nothing to do with engineering systems.


    “What’s the word Trip?” Jon’s voice pulled Trip back into the present and out of his half doze.


    “Well, with what the way you let those pirates bash us about after making me go cold on all the systems, we’re lucky to be in Warp right now. The driver coils on Impulse one got the hell chewed out of them when they lost containment. I’ve got crews prepping a replacement now, the only one we have.” Trip paused as he looked up at the flickering lights and threw up his hands. “Half the polarization relays are blown, and the other half outta be taken out and rebuilt if we had the time. Frankly, sir, if this is the way we look when we win, I hate to see us when we lose.”


    Trip looked around at the faces at the table and wished that he had become anything but the head engineer. Except for Malcolm who looked nearly as tired as Trip felt, every other officer in the briefing looked well rested. He couldn’t see why Jon looked so pleased, because it couldn’t be the state of his ship.


    “T’Pol tells me that the Warp trail we are following should be able to lead us right to their base of operations.” Jon said cheerfully as he turned to the briefing screen. It showed an overlay of their current course on the starmap, and a dotted line indicating their previous heading. “We’re still headed more or less in the direction we wanted. Hopefully we’ll find the base these pirates are operating out of before we need to turn off for Krios prime. Will repairs, and upgrades to the phase cannons be done by then?”


    Trip looked at Jon for a long time before the question fully penetrated his brain. He scratched his fingers through the stubble on his chin and cheeks as he thought about the question.


    “Well in another two days we should have the upgrade to Dorsal Three’s mount finished. We can test it then and see if it works. Another three days after that we can have four of the eight cannons upgraded.” Trip paused as he gave a yawn. “Should have the hull plating back up by then, and we’ll be ready to put a new driver coil in for Impulse one. That’s a sit dead in space job though, gotta EVA to install it.”


    “Good. If your teams are already on it, get some rest Trip, and if I have to I’ll make that an order.”


    Trip waved a hand, brushing off Jon’s last words. He closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair as the meeting broke up, the bridge crew drifting back to their stations. He gave another yawn as he opened his eyes intending to gather up his computer tablets again. Trip was startled to see T’Pol was still there offering them to him. He took them with a bit of a nod.


    “Thanks T’Pol.”


    “Indeed.”


    Trip left the briefing room, the Vulcan close behind and after she did not turn off from the bridge he turned to look at her over his shoulder.


    “Is there something I can do for you?” He asked, being just a little irritated at having her hovering there. He was a big boy; he could get to his quarters without an escort.


    “Indeed Commander. It has been mentioned in my presence that movie night was canceled, by you.” T’Pol looked at him for a long moment.


    Trip blinked at her blankly. “Well yeah, with all that’s happened, I thought that it would best to just put it off for some time. We just found some people strapped…” He trailed off not wanting to think what that looked like, or about a certain JG from his department who was still in sickbay from his reaction. That boy was probably going to have bad dreams for a while, luckily they had Phlox or that would not be the only scarring he would have. “Then the battle and all the damage to repair. I would have thought you’d be happy not to have to go.”


    “Vulcan’s do not experience ‘happiness’ Commander.” T’Pol paused before continuing. “I believe that you are mistaken in canceling the event though. Dr. Phlox had mentioned that communal entertainment serves as an emotional catharsis for humans. Given all that has happened I would expect that it would be even more crucial now to continue with the event.”


    Trip frowned at the Vulcan, his brows furrowing as he tried to figure out if she was being serious, or simply teasing him. He gave a sigh as he realized that teasing someone would be illogical, and thus that could not be what T’Pol was doing. Trip realized that by taking this step T’Pol was looking out for the well being of the crew.


    “Fine, I’ll tell Chef to put it back on the schedule.” He gave a long yawn stopping at his door as he did so. “I’ll even let it out that you were the one that insisted the crew needed the relaxation."

    “Thank you Commander.” Trip swore he could see the edge of her mouth quirk into a momentary smile. “I will see you there in sixteen hours then. Ensure that you save a good seat.”


    T'Pol left Trip standing in the doorway to his quarters wondering just what had happened yet again. He shook his head wryly and entered a room he had seen far too little of lately.


    “I’ve got to get more sleep if I’m going to figure her out.” Trip mumbled as he fell into his bunk.
     
    ParanoidSchizo and sropike like this.
  13. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 13


    Klaang sat in the mess hall and looked around the room in confusion. These humans were a perplexing species, and they failed to fit into any of the roles defined by the Klingon honor code.


    There had been none of the posturing or shouting the previous day during the battle on the bridge. No boastful claims, no taunting of the enemy over subspace bands that a Klingon, or even Andorian, captain probably would have engaged in. It was almost frightening to watch the humans wage battle the same way they did everything else. They had fought calmly, quietly with a direct purposeful drive.


    Klaang was beginning to understand just why the humans were not driven to become a better warrior at every resting second. Some of them were great warriors yes, that Hoshi woman whom he had so scorned in the beginning, the junior officer from Engineering. He suspected that if he were ever able to fight them that Sergeant Meyers and Lieutenant Reed would both turn out to better than the average. They had the caginess of his Grandfather, the ability of a seasoned warrior to pick and choose his fights. Humanity need not fight amongst themselves every second, because by not doing so they fought better together when the time came.


    This, movie, which he had just watched was even more troubling. Fights for death and glory he could understand. Klaang could even understand why the human male had when given the chance went on to fight again after he had broken his hand, why he had entered the arena again. It was a very Klingon thing to do to pit yourself against a superior foe even if you knew you would lose. At least then you could face death with honor.


    Klaang did not understand why the human warrior had continued. He had lost his status as a warrior, shamed himself and his family by resorting to begging for jobs, for money. Klaang would have found an honorable way to die before that, one that would have left his family their pride.


    It was something out of a teaching epic; one of the type that were supposed to teach young Klingons some deeper message. Klaang had always hated them. He was never good at looking past the surface to the message underneath. Klaang scowled at the cup of coffee before him. He needed a good pot, or three of raktajino in order to puzzle through this one.


    Braddock had fallen low with his injury. As low, and perhaps lower than any Klingon had in any of the Epics. Klaang scowled and peered into the depths of the coffee, almost hoping that Kahless himself would appear in the dark brew to tell him the message behind the story.


    Klaang blinked in sudden realization. The message behind the story had been in the story itself. Hope, the belief that the future could be better than the present. Hope was why Braddock had continued the way he had after losing it all. He believed that one day he would become great again, Klaang finally thought, he knew that as long as he continued on that he would eventually be great again.


    “To fall far means only that you have further to climb when you rise again.” Klaang murmured to himself. To struggle out hell, that was a common enough thread in Klingon epics. The more difficult the battle, the more honor you gained. To purposely endure a fall from honor, just to climb from it again, what type of warrior would that take? What mindset must these humans have to willingly risk further dishonor as they struggled on?


    Klaang looked up and around the room. The mess hall was still more dimly lit, and though it was far from crowded as in mealtimes, it was still fairly full. Several tables held groups of crew, some talking about the movie that they had just watched, others discussing the battle. That was to be expected, given that it had been a glorious one. Klaang had been in a few himself on his mission for the Chancellor. Those had been running fights, swatting at the Suliban even as they pushed him farther and farther away from Klingon space.


    Klaang frowned as he thought about that. During that long flight he had longed to turn and face the Suliban directly. He had not, for he had given his word to the Chancellor, to the Klingon Empire that he would bring back word of just who was manipulating the actions of the great houses. Fighting the Suliban directly as he longed would have meant going against his sworn word. His honor had been staked on keeping his word. If he had turned, had stood to fight, and dying without bringing that information back would have made him honorless.


    Was there greater honor to be found, Klaang wondered, in enduring the shame that time and personal failure might bring to a warrior? Klaang lifted the mug and swallowed another gulp of the bitter weak drink. How many Klingons had been in his training class that had lost fathers or mothers after a loss of honor? They had fire in their bellies yes, but always they were a step behind hesitant to take any real risk. They were cautious, unwilling to face the same risks that had shamed their parents.


    Braddock had not been cautious, Klaang knew, when he had returned to fighting. This, movie, had depicted that well. He had already lost everything that a Klingon would have found important, his honor, and his pride. Desperation, Klaang had known that feeling in that agricultural field on Earth. He had felt it as he fled into the silo, and then blown it up behind him. It could be a powerful motivator Klaang knew, and he hoped that he never had to face these humans when they got desperate.


    Strange their customs might be, but they were warriors still. Warriors the like of which the Klingons had never met before.


    *****


    Travis leaned over the table in the messhall looked around carefully. There were other people nearby, but he did not want this to get overheard by too many. Life onboard a ship meant that everything you said would get back around to the parties you said it about sooner or later. Personally he would rather have it later as the two people it was about were his superior officers.


    “Did you see that Hoshi?” Travis asked in a conspiratorial whisper.


    “See what?”


    Travis shook his head. For a communications specialist, Hoshi could be dense about interpersonal communications sometimes. Travis thought it had been rather obvious. Maybe, he thought, it had to do with having experience in the past seeing people who were both trying to hide something from themselves, and the rest of their crew.


    “T’Pol and Trip.” Travis could not help the grin that spread across his face at Hoshi’s shocked look. “I told you there was something between them.”


    “Travis! They just sat next to each other during the movie.” Hoshi eyed Travis in a way that he could not read. “If that’s what you’re basing your suspicions on, then we have something going on too. As well as half the crew.”


    “I didn’t mean it like that Hoshi.” Travis murmured as he cast another furtive glance around the mess hall. He knew a moment of confusion at the sudden look of disappointment on her face. “You could see the tension in them both while they were sitting there. Ramrod straight, not saying a word to each other after the movie started. I’m telling you there’s something going on there, whether they are admitting it or not.”


    “Travis, look, I’ll be willing to admit that there might be some truth to that from Trip’s side. But T’Pol? She’s a Vulcan. Have you ever known her to be anything other than ramrod straight and serious?”


    Travis rolled his eyes as Hoshi as he settled back into his chair. She had a point he knew, but that still did not mean there was not something going on. He took a drink of his tea and leaned his elbows on the table again.


    “So, what do you think it was then?”


    “Nothing. She was obviously there for professional reasons.” Hoshi stated. Travis quirked a brow at her and gave her an encouraging nod. “I heard it from the engineering crew. Trip had to all but blackmail her to get her to show up tonight. She only agreed because it would foster better relations between her and the crew.”


    “Better relations between her and Commander Tucker no doubt as well.” Travis added in an undertone, and an eyebrow waggle. Hoshi was trying to choke back laughter now, and Travis had to give a chuckle of his own. What he was implying did seem improbable to the extreme. Long journeys like this got boring without something to talk about. Besides stirring up the pot was something he was known for back on the Horizon. Half the time he had even been right. “I’ve been told that under that cold logical shell, Vulcans are a… passionate… race.”


    Travis let the keyword roll of his tongue, and had the supreme pleasure of watching Hoshi blush. She tossed a napkin at him, which he dodged with a laugh.


    “I don’t even want to know where you think you’ve heard that.” Hoshi said as she in turn furtively glanced around the room. No doubt trying to find out just how much attention they were drawing. Travis gave her another grin, the communications officer was fun to be around, and provoking a reaction from her was entertaining. “You’re going to get us in trouble with T’Pol if you keep talking like that. And do I need to remind you that as first officer, she’s in charge of discipline?”


    “Ouch… you’ve got me there.” Travis said, suddenly aware of just what they were in for if he continued much longer. Disrespecting an officer, especially the Vulcan officer was likely to be an uncomfortable experience. “Have you ever wondered, just why she is here?”


    “What?”


    Travis knew there was not any reason to clarify who ‘she’ was. It was a question that had consumed him in the early days of the mission. He had grown up in the outer rim of human expansion, on the forefront of their expansion. Though he had met hundreds of aliens, knew dozens of species personally, Vulcans had always remained an enigma. Their planets were largely closed, even to human traders. Self sufficient they had advised the Horizon many times not to return, the few efforts his father had made to open routes into their territories.


    Insular, long lived, with a space faring history as old as some earth religions. They had however, sent out emissaries, and guided dozens of species through the rough road to interstellar relations. Their history seemed at odds with how they treated humans.


    “Well, I mean why is she, personally, here. Not what her orders are from the high command. The crew seems to know them well enough.” Those orders had been the focus of much discussion in the days after the attack on the Helix. Everyone had a theory, and not a few of them were of the conspiracy sort. “The longest a Vulcan’s ever lasted aboard a human vessel before now is three weeks. Is she here to guide us? To help us? To study us?”


    “I think she’s here because she finds humanity her best route to what she wants.” Hoshi’s answer was anything but satisfactory to Travis. He knew his frown communicated that to Hoshi because she continued almost without pause. “Vulcan society is one of slow steady, even logical progress. Their language shows that they are slow to progress, even slower to accept changes. T’Pol is a scientist, more than anything else. Scientists that I’ve known have always wanted to see new things, to study and learn from those things. How is T’Pol supposed to do that on a Vulcan ship, which might choose to study one new phenomena every decade?”


    “So she’s just along for the ride so she can see what we see?” Travis asked confused.


    “You haven’t seen her communications records. She’s filed no less than twenty-seven new discoveries and research papers in her time on Enterprise. That’s to the Vulcan science council alone, and doesn’t include filings to Terran publications.” Hoshi said softly, causing Travis to lean over farther to hear her. “I think she wants to see and experience new things. Something she couldn’t do on a Vulcan ship.”


    “Which does not preclude her experiencing ‘new’ things with Trip.” Travis said with a chuckle, still not quite ready to let that one go. “That may explain why she’s here with us, but it doesn’t explain why she went against her orders prior to the Helix. We both know her orders were to turn us around.”


    “If I knew the answer to that one Travis, I’d be taking claim of the ship’s pool.”


    Travis gave a wry chuckle. There was quite a substantial pot already accumulated on that little bet. He wondered vaguely how Chef was going to find out which one of the myriad of guesses was the correct reason for her actions.


    *****


    Jon looked between his two senior officers. Trip had been unusually subdued, and seemingly distracted since he had arrived. He knew that they had both attended movie night, but he knew Trip had seen the title before. T’Pol he could understand her reticent nature, as given a choice she would choose silence over conversation during a meal.


    “So, what did you think about Trip’s choice of films for movie night T’Pol?” Jon asked, finally deciding to meet the question head on. Her answer, he knew might just enlighten him on what her motives in regards to the Enterprise really were.


    “It was intriguing.” T’Pol said setting aside her silverware for the time being. Jon gave a nod for her to continue before exchanging a glance with Trip. “I do not understand why James Braddock felt it necessary to once again pursue such a violent career to provide for his family. I find it, disturbing, that humanity finds boxing entertaining.”


    “There are many on earth that would agree with that sentiment T’Pol.” Jon said as he set his own silverware aside. He leaned forwards onto his forearms and clasped his hands above his plate. “It is a very violent sport, less so now than it was in the past. Every few years one group or another tries to ban it, they’ve succeeded temporarily a few times, but it always come back.”


    “Consider it, and the other sports like it, an outlet for our violent emotions. Heck, you’ve worked with Lieutenant Pierson, you can’t tell me he’s any less adjusted than the rest of us. Outside the ring the man’s a saint.” Trip chimed in. Jon had to hide a smirk, as the engineer did not bother to take more than few moments between bites to put in his two cents.


    “Indeed. It still leaves the question though of why he picked the choices he did.”


    Jon looked at T’Pol for a long moment before he realized that she actually meant her question the way it sounded. Jon gave a sigh and a shrug of his shoulders.


    “I think that could easily be asked of every human at some point in time or another T’Pol.” Jon looked at her for a long moment before looking over to his friend for help.


    “When you come right down to it T’Pol most humans can be understood to have one driving force. Is it good for my kids?” Trip put in, finally pushing away his plate and taking a long draught of the wheat beer he enjoyed. Jon made a noncommittal sound just to force Trip to continue. Hearing just what his engineer thought of something always meant he came away with just a bit better understanding of his friend. “Braddock went back into the ring because he saw it as his best chance to better the life of his family. He risked his life so that his children might have a better future.”


    “Logically one should always make the decisions that will lead to the best possible outcome.” T’Pol said, and Jon found it necessary to interrupt her thoughts.


    “For a better future need not apply only to the good things that humans do though T’Pol. Some of the most heinous parts of our past occurred for the betterment of the future.” Jon said as he stood and moved over to the view port. “The Eugenics War, some of the purges during the WWIII. Testing of biological and chemical weapons on people.”


    Jon turned to look at T’Pol. For the first time he saw her troubled by these ideas. He gave a bit of a nod, a prior discussion with Trip coming back to him.


    “Just because the future outcome is supposed to be good does not mean that it automatically will be good. A series of events put into play from a logical plan, a logical decision will not have to end in a way that is good for anyone.” Jon stepped closer, leaning over the table as he met T’Pol’s eyes. “Humans have a saying T’Pol; the path to hell is paved with good intentions.”


    Jon watched as she struggled internally with that for a few moments. Her hands carefully folded up the napkin from her lap, and set it down beside her plate.


    “I believe I now have more questions from this discussion than answers. I need to meditate on this.” T’Pol stood looking between the pair. “If you will excuse me.”


    “We’ll see you around T’Pol.” Jon said softly and watched at the Vulcan left the rather smallish Captain’s table. As the door hissed closed behind her, he turned to Trip. “There’s something bothering her Trip, and it is not just the movie. Do you have any idea what it is?”


    “Your guess is as good as mine Cap’n. Another human working with someone as often as she is with me would open up a bit. She’s still as tight as a clam. I’d guess she’s worried about how the Vulcan High Command is going to react to her little mutiny, but she’d just say ‘Vulcan’s do not worry.’”


    Jon snorted at Trip’s attempt to mimic T’Pol’s emotionless delivery. It failed in spectacular ways given his southern accent. He raised his glass a bit to the Chief Engineer.


    “I know it is hard on you Trip, but until we can get her figured out, I’m going to continue throwing you both together as often as possible. At least I know I can trust one of the pair then.” Jon gave a bit of a frown as Trip snorted. “What?”


    “Oh nothing, but let me tell you working with T’Pol isn’t half as bad as you think it is. Yeah she’s got the typical Vulcan charm in spades, but she’s a hell of a lot better looking than mister Vellik ever was.”


    Jon gave a chuckled himself and a wry shake of his head. Somehow he doubted that T’Pol would appreciate Trip’s thoughts on the matter.
     
    ParanoidSchizo and sropike like this.
  14. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 14


    T’Pol sat in the silence of her quarters. For yet another night sleep had eluded her, which was not as pressing of a need as it would have been for a human. It was, troubling, that she continued to be plagued by doubts. Doubts that were only growing worse as time went by, not better. Questions continued to pile up in regards to humanity, and the few answers that she had been able to find only sparked more questions.


    She had grown up with two separate, and seemingly irreconcilable viewpoints regarding humanity. Now it was becoming increasingly obvious that one of those viewpoints was not only wrong, it had been purposely fabricated. Fabricated by the High Command, and not to properly educate Vulcans about their newest neighbors. T’Pol had known that the rot of corruption had run deep in the High Command, she had not realized that it had run this far.


    Her schooling had portrayed humanity as a violent race. Humanity was full of passion and anger, and as likely as not through their illogical nature to come to ruin. A ruin made all the more likely by their constant striving to blatantly ignore the guidance offered by Vulcans.


    Vulcan schoolchildren were taught of the violent nature of humanity, the wars that had dotted their past, and the heinous crimes perpetrated against their own kind during and between those wars. Their greed was another thing that was often discussed in the Vulcan classroom, the overwhelming desire to own and consume everything.


    It was, disturbing, for T’Pol when she realized that not once had the brighter aspects of humanity been touched upon. The struggle of Martin Luther King Jr, whose dream still echoed through the streets of the poor. If anything that dream had swelled in the hearts of humanity as time progressed. Now they dreamed that not only would the color of skin not be the judge of a person’s character but the color of their blood, be it red, or blue, purple, or even green.


    Ghandi was another notable figure in humanity’s history that was sorrowfully missing from the official Vulcan account. The human counterpart to Surak, he had preached a standing of complete non-violence. T’Pol knew he had lived it as well, his followers finally able to shame the British Empire into giving India back its self rule.


    T’Pol gazed at the candle in front of her, her thoughts still troubled by the double standard. For every General Green who perpetrated vast atrocities against the people of earth, there was an Andrew Carnegie who used the wealth and might built during his life to build schools and libraries.


    T’Pol was finding it harder to doubt the stories of humanity that her foremother T’Mir had told her as a child. T’Mir’s stories emphasized humanity’s kindness, their willingness to help another in spite of, or perhaps because of, their illogical nature. T’Pol remembered those stories with fondness, not because of the content of them, but because of the time spent with her foremother.


    T’Pol had in time decided that her foremother was, as her mother put it, remembered her time on Earth with humans in the best possible light. Now, T’Pol was unsure that was the truthful belief. It seemed far more likely now, after having lived with the humans on the Enterprise that T’Mir’s view was the more accurate one.


    Humans were full of empathy and compassion and after she, at Commander Tucker’s insistence, made an effort to become part of the crew they had embraced her willingly. Though they seemed unwilling to believe that there were meals that T’Pol wished to partake in quiet solitude, there were always offers from other members of the crew for her to join them. They were, T’Pol knew, making an effort to welcome her into their ranks. Much as the overtures


    “Why does the school not tell us this about humanity?” T’Pol had remembered asking T’Mir during one of the extended summer visits. The answer, “Because they do not wish you to know” seemed far more truthful now than it had as a child. Logically this could be because the High Command had made a decision to make it so.


    T’Pol leaned over as her thoughts finally settled. She had made her decision, made it weeks ago when she had decided to follow through to the Helix after listening to Commander Tucker’s impassioned speech. She had only been putting off the inevitable by thinking that she could still remain true to the High Command as well. It was time, and past time to severe that connection once and for all, to state and follow her true beliefs.


    T’Pol rose and moved to her desk. She would compose a personal message to her mother about T’mir. It would serve to let those monitoring her communications in the Vulcan Science Directorate her true intentions. It would also serve to restore her ‘peace of mind’ as the humans described it.


    *****


    “I told ya it would work.” Trip said as he stepped back from the weapons console. True to his word the test run of the new and improved training system for the phase cannons worked perfectly. All four of them his team had managed to scrape the parts together for.


    “I did not doubt you in the least Commander.” Malcolm’s grin threatened to split his face, Trip noticed. “I would like to know what you found wrong with the old ones. I’ll need to put it in my report back to Starfleet.”


    “Already sent the upgraded specifications back to them Lieutenant, but if you need to know.” Trip gave a shrug and called up the schematic of the mount on the weapons console. He pointed out several sections as he continued. “The old mounts pulled power directly from the EPS conduit that serves the weapon. It should have never been done that way, as the EPS system is prone to power fluctuations when under load. Fire the weapon, and the whole system gets drained. Most of the other systems pull power off of a local power conditioner.”


    Trip looked up to make sure Malcolm was following him, and gave a sigh of relief when the armory officer nodded thoughtfully. Sometimes trying to explain just what he did in engineering to anyone but T’Pol and Archer was more of a pain than it was worth. He was still writing letters home to Elizabeth trying to explain to her just what a warp engineer did during the day.


    “They didn’t pull the super-conducting cable into the phase cannon mounts because, well the system was designed to use the EPS conduits. Of course it would have helped if the person who designed the training mount had actually understood how the EPS system worked.” Trip gave a shake of his head and called up a modified schematic. “We modified the power system, added a couple big capacitors to condition the power, and some components to charge them up. Basic twentieth century electronics engineering.”


    “How much longer until you’re able to modify the rest of the system?” Malcolm asked as he tapped on the screen. “The Captain says we’ve got to be getting close to the pirate’s base system, we’re less than a week out from Krios now.”


    “A week, maybe two. Everything we’ve built so far has just been a matter of pulling parts off the shelf. We’ve got to fab them now, and what with the call for everything else, the machine shop is behind.” Trip rubbed his chin as he looked at the systems. He let out a rush of air in a sigh. “I could do the rest, but it would mean we’d fail to complete the repair of the polarization system.”


    “Which would not do at all.” Malcolm gave a nod and shrugged. “We’ll just fix the bow mounts forward then, and let Travis aim the ship.”


    "I still don't understand why you wanted the aft cannons fixed first." Trip said as he brushed a hand over his stubble covered chin. "They don't seem well placed for offensive actions."


    "Given the placement of the aft mounts, we do have good coverage to the front as well Commander. Better arcs of fire for those mounts, and they allow us to defend the warp nacelles from attackers to the rear as well." Malcolm replied as he turned to meet Trip's gaze. Trip gave a flinch as he looked at the schematic again. When the armory officer put it that way. "I do not know about you Commander, but I for one do no fancy walking home if one of the nacelles gets taken out."


    Trip had no more opened his mouth to reply to that when the intercom trilled. “Lieutenant Reed and Commander Tucker to the briefing room.”


    “Well it looks like we got the guns fixed just in time Lieutenant. I doubt we’re being called up for milk and cookies.” Trip teased as he turned towards the exit of the Armory. He thought he had heard a little frustration in T’Pol’s voice over the intercom. No doubt she had already gone a round or two with the Captain over whether or not they would be making another stop.


    “I just hope there’s not many more ships where we’re headed. We’re already down to forty-two spatial torpedoes.” Malcolm shook his head as he followed Trip into the turbolift. “We’re supposed to be an exploration vessel, not a bloody patrol vessel.”


    “You’re not fooling me Malcolm, I know you want a crack at these bastards more than the rest of us. Otherwise you wouldn’t have been pushing so hard to get the phase cannons back online.” Trip turned to look at the Armory officer. A faint whine filled the car as the turbolift took them up to the Bridge.


    “I’m surprised you had the time to help out Commander, or the inclination, given your infatuation with Sub-Commander T’Pol.” Trip looked at Malcolm rather shocked by the vehemence in the armory officer’s voice.


    “Just what the hell is that supposed to mean Lieutenant?” Trip asked his hand moving to press the car halt button. Trip turned his angry gaze on Malcolm and leaned closer to him. “If I didn’t know better I’d say you were disrespecting an officer Lieutenant.”


    “Not at all sir, but you have been spending an inordinate amount of time with her.” Malcolm refused to meet Trip’s gaze. He gave a shake of his head before he continued. “There have been several rumors floating around Commander.”


    “And that’s all they are Lieutenant, rumors. The time I’ve been spending with the Sub-Commander has been on the Captain’s orders. Unless you’ve been away for a while, there is this Suliban ship in Shuttlebay Two that we’ve been dismantling in my oh so copious free time.” Trip stepped back slightly. He continued in a much more subdued tone. “Besides, even if we were having some sort of relationship, seeing as we’re both senior officers, and of roughly equivalent rank, it would be none of your concern.”


    Trip stared down the Lieutenant until he received a nod in reply, and forcefully punched the resume button on the turbolift control panel. He had heard the rumors themselves, but he had served shipboard, and stationside for years. Rumors were the name of the game in such a situation. Part of Trip seethed at the thought that things were proceeding as they were, and part of him, well that part was jealous that they were not true.


    Sometime in the last few days he had come to realize that he enjoyed spending time with her because he didn’t have to explain things to her. Well, not engineering things at any rate. She simply understood things that he found important, things he enjoyed talking about.


    There was the fact that the available pool of potential dates onboard the Enterprise was limited to one, T’Pol herself. Even that would make the most unapproachable types seem suddenly the life of the party. Trip gave a wry shake of his head as he entered the briefing room, trying to put the conversation and the uncertainty about it behind him.


    Trip paused in the doorway, a look of concern on his face as he entered the room. “We’ve slowed down. Warp three, two point nine maybe.”


    “Captain Archer ordered the decrease in velocity based upon the findings of our sensor systems.” T’Pol stated turning towards him. He gave her a nod, trying not to think of what he had just been thinking of a few minutes past.


    “Before you ask Trip, yes we found them.” Jon motioned to a chair, and Trip eased himself into it. The briefing room was becoming far too familiar of a place in Trip’s opinion, and he longed for the days past when he could do his job from the known comfort of engineering. Trip looked over to T’Pol and silently thanked her for having taken the job of first officer off his hands, or this room would be more familiar still. “Thanks to T’Pol we have been able to modify the sensors for increased resolution at range.”


    “I merely enhanced the software algorithms Captain.” T’Pol said, and Trip could tell she was uncomfortable with the Captain’s thanks.


    Trip had noticed that T’Pol was working much smoother with the crew these past few days, having taken more of her meals in the mess hall than she had previously. Maybe movie night had been blow that cracked her shell. Whatever the cause it was welcome.


    “Whatever the source, we now have their base on sensors. We still haven’t been able to get much out of them about it, except for that it has been often visited in the last few months by several different ships. Klaang,” Trip looked over at the Klingon as Jon indicated him with a sweep of his hand, “says that he has heard of bases of this type before.”


    “They place them up where ever they harvest to come.” Klaang barked, the universal translator broadcasting the translation a few seconds later. Hoshi was still working on it Trip knew, and he still had to figure out how to work the cancellation circuits into place as well, so you only heard the translation. “Dig they like rodents cheese into. Rock with their caves filled. Armed rock well is.”


    “What he meant to say sir.” Hoshi started to speak, only to be interrupted by Archer’s lifted hand.


    “They set up bases where ever they operate, dig into the asteroids, and arm them.” Jon said as he turned to the rest of the crew. Trip could see the mental gears working behind the Captain’s eyes. He knew he wasn’t going to like this plan, probably because Enterprise was going to have all the carefully done repairs undone again. “Our sensor scans, though low resolution at this range showed as much. They also showed three more ships, roughly of the class we fought earlier.”


    “It would be foolish to rush into this situation as you did the last time.”


    Trip had to agree with that one. They had gotten pounded in their last run in with the organ snatchers, and he did not want to think what three of them would do even with the new phase cannons. Especially in range of whatever weapons an asteroid could mount. It would be ugly to say the least.


    “I have to agree with her sir. We’ve got the four aft phase cannons online, but they have limited firing arcs useful in a battle.” Malcolm gave a sigh that Trip knew was frustration before he continued. “It might be best if we simply continued on to Krios and let them know where this installation is sir.”


    “That’s something I’m not willing to do Malcolm. Not while they still have ships over there that can let them escape, or let them continue to attack unsuspecting merchant ships while we’re on our was to Krios.” Jon said softly. Trip knew that when Jon was speaking in the tone he was using now, he was up to something. “Besides I already have part of a plan thought out. We know these bastards like to capture merchant ships, so why don’t we use a ruse de guerre, and make them think we are a merchant ship.”


    Trip found a grin parting his face as he leaned back into his chair to hear just what Jon had in mind. This was beginning to sound like it would be fun.


    *****


    Lieutenant JG Mark Carsson had command of the bridge again. He was beginning to hate his shifts on the bridge. He was sure that Captain Archer was just trying to find something else to call him to task on again, so that he could humiliate him once again. Perversely it was even worse when one of the other officers were on the Bridge; be it T’Pol with her condescending Vulcan demeanor or Malcolm Reed with his disdainful British attitude.

    Mark knew that they were all out to get him to ruin his career. He had lost track of the number of times he had been chastised for failure to carry out his duties correctly, or for, as the armory officer put it, ‘frankly an attitude ill suited for an officer’. He had the past few weeks spent more time scrubbing down hallways or crawling in the maintenance spaces than he had in his own bunk. It was scutt work not fit for anyone with an education, stuff that crewmen should have been doing not an officer.


    Mark devoutly wished now that he would have told Jonathon exactly where he could shove his offer for a shipboard position. Mark knew now that only the dregs of Starfleet willingly took such positions. They were officers too surly, too impolite to be seen or trusted in the public eye.


    Mark had important duties back on Earth he had given up to come on this mission. A chance of a lifetime, he had been told. A chance to make and be history after you get back, his parents had encouraged him. He had bought it too hook, line, and sinker, bought into the belief that this would skyrocket his career, make him a name. Instead, what was he doing? Washing walls and scrubbing out plasma injectors like a grunt. Risking his life onboard this ship to avenge a handful of aliens too stupid to travel the normal space lanes, and dumb enough to get caught at it.


    “What is our status Lieutenant Carsson?”


    T’Pol’s voice jerked Mark out of his quiet contemplation, and he glared at the Vulcan from his station. She had done it on purpose he knew, waited until he had shown the slightest inattention to his duty before jerking his chain up short. Just like he expected of a damn alien.


    “I see.” T’Pol said after Mark spent a few moments of quiet, desperate scanning of the sensors. Her voice was cold and hard as she continued. “If you are not going to pay attention to your duties on the bridge Lieutenant, perhaps you need duties you need not pay attention to. My compliments to Commander Tucker, and ask him to find you something non-critical that does not need ones attention.”


    “Aye, Aye Ma’am.” Mark bit out, not bothering to hide the anger or the scorn in his voice. He knew it would have happened anyways. It never did matter what he did, they always found fault with his actions. He nursed his anger on the way to the turbolift keeping the shame under it at bay.
     
  15. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 15

    Jon tried to keep the boiling emotions off his face as the Enterprise slowed further. The plan, if you could call it that, was to slow to a sedate warp 1.7 that a freighter with drive troubles might have. They would put out a general call of distress and hope that it would call these organ harvesters in. What could be more enticing than a crippled freighter full of more goods, Jon thought.


    So much could go wrong though, a bad shot could leave them stranded and at the mercy of their attackers. That was the reason for his embroiled emotions. Jon had let Malcolm talk him into firing without warning. They knew these guys were pirates of the worst sort, but it rankled not to even give them a chance to surrender. That chance might doom his crew however, and Jon was not willing to face that.


    “Hoshi, send the distress call.” Jon turned to look at Malcolm. If he gave the order it would be all over in a few minutes. They were not but a half hour from the base now, at the pirates’ maximum warp. “Malcolm polarize the hull plating and energize the phase cannon mounts. Fire when they drop from warp.”

    “Aye sir.” Malcolm’s voice was filled with a grim pleasure.

    Jon frowned as he looked away, locking his gaze on the viewscreen. How far humanity had come, and yet it still reveled in violence and death. He shook his head quietly and forced himself to study the long-range sensor data on the viewscreen. The pirates, the organ stealers, had reacted faster than he assumed they would. Probably due to the fact that the Enterprise was so close to the base. Well, Jon thought with a chuckle, that’d at least cause the damn bastards to buy better sensors next time.


    “Trip,” Jon asked as he pressed the intercom, “how are we coming down there.”


    “We’re ready sir. It’ll probably look like we’ve blown half the warp drive.” Trip said, and Jon could barely hear the nearly silent addition. “Hell, we might even manage that too.”


    “Trip.” Jon said, a bit of the exasperation leaking into his voice.


    “We’re ready Captain.”


    “Good.” Jon turned back to the forward viewscreen. It had already switched to a three dimensional representation of the local area. As he watched the scale wound down as two small attack vessels arrowed in on the Enterprise.


    “The ships are charging weapons.” T’Pol’s report was emotionless, but Jon felt another brief stab of fear.


    Was he indeed making the right choice? He looked at the viewscreen for a few long seconds that seemed like minutes. They were charging weapons, and they would probably attack the moment they merged warp fields with the Enterprise. There were things that Starfleet officers swore to do, and not the least was to protect the weak. Jon gave a sigh, and tested his seatbelts.


    “Travis, as we discussed, time it when it feels right.” Jon said softly to his helm officer. The Boomer had a feel for warp flight, and piloting dynamics that Jon envied. The young officer could literally ‘fly by the seat of his pants’.


    “Aye sir.”


    Jon bit back a sigh. It was done, and he had cast his dice. He had known that there would be combat on this mission, on any mission. He had seen it before in other ships, skirmishes against pirates and smugglers. It still twisted his gut every time he had to give the order to fire, to doom people to death.


    The Enterprise lurched as it dropped out of warp, both nacelles spewing energetic warp plasma into the surrounding vacuum. Both of the attack ships followed, and without even trying to communicate lashed out with their particle beams. The Enterprise heaved as one scored a glancing blow to the dorsal surface of the saucer. The snarl of a phase cannon echoed through the ship as Malcolm returned fire.


    Jon clenched his jaw as the attack went wide. He knew that spewing the plasma would blind the Enterprise just as effectively as it blinded, and jammed subspace transceivers on the attacking ships. He had stilled hoped that Malcolm would be able to. Jon’s thought trailed off as the phase cannon snarled again, and the forward viewscreen zoomed in on a ship that was now leaking drive plasma, and molten hull plating.


    “Their warp drive is disabled sir.” Malcolm reported as his hands flew over his console. “As we expected their shields are single phase modulated sir. They’re blocking a lot of the energy in the phase beam, but more than half is getting through.”


    Jon could feel the Enterprise strain as the second attack ship came into view for a split second. The bridge filled with the snarl of the phase cannons again as four beams of coherent force lashed out at the ship. The Enterprise groaned, and Jon felt force bleed through the inertial damper as Travis pulled the ship up and over in a corkscrew loop to try and keep up.


    “They’re too maneuverable sir.” Travis said as his hands moved quickly across controls and on the stick.


    “Just keep with them Travis.” Jon said as he gripped his armrests harder. The Enterprise shook again as the first attack vessel came around and scored another blow with its particle beam cannon.


    “Hull plating down to ninety percent.” Malcolm reported even as the snarl of the phase cannons ripped through the bridge again. The first ship began tumbling as the shot nailed one of their impulse drives. A short instant later the Enterprise’s sensors were blinded by the catastrophic detonation of the impulse drive. “The enemy ship has been destroyed sir.”


    “Good Lieutenant, now get the other one.” Jon leaned forwards against his harness. The viewscreen had been reconfigured into something that was reminiscent of a flight simulator.


    The warp plasma that the Enterprise had dumped when she dropped out of warp flashed and fluoresced as energy dumped into it. Purple cascaded into vibrant green as the assault vessel added its own warp plasma to the artificial nebula. Jon found the site eerily beautiful, streaked with lightning like flashes of particle beams and phase cannon fire.


    The Enterprise staggered as the display momentarily blinded the sensors, and Travis as to the position of the second enemy. The bridge lights flicked and several panels sparked with overloads. Jon gritted his teeth together wishing that there was anything else that he could do. It was in other hands now, and both of those people were better at their jobs than he would be at them.


    “I’ve got them.” Travis whispered, barely audible to Jon.


    Jon as thrown hard into his straps as Travis dumped power from the driver coils, effectively canceling most of the Enterprise’s current velocity. The attacking ship soared over the top of the Enterprise. Jon gave a fierce grin as Travis pulled the nose of the ship up. Four phase cannons went into rapid fire, hammering at the enemy vessel. Most of the beams went harmlessly aside, but others slammed into the ship. Shields flashed with energy, and hull plating began to glow, and then stream iridescent trails of plasma.


    “I am reading a fluctuation in their Warp Core, Captain. It is overloading, an explosion is imminent.” T’Pol’s voice drew Jon’s attention to her, but only for a second as he turned back to Travis.


    “Ensign…”


    “Activating warp now sir.” Travis said, anticipating the rest of Jon’s order.


    The Enterprise stretched and flashed into Warp an instant before the core breached behind them. The bridge rocked with turbulence, and Jon let out a breath of relief he had not even realized he had been holding. He turned back to the viewscreen and decided to continue with the next step.


    “Set a course for the asteroid base Ensign. We’ll continue with our plan of attack.” Jon swiveled his chair to look over at T’Pol. “Any sign that they have realized what has happened?”


    “Sensor returns indicate that they have been powering weapons emplacements since we first sent the distress call Captain.” T’Pol said, taking his question as assent to place the schematic up on the main viewer.


    Jon gave a soft whistle as the weapons emplacements were highlighted. Jon narrowed his attention to the energy reading of the third ship. If that was an attack vessel things might get a little concerning. Especially given that Jon planned to board the asteroid vessel. Klaang had indicated that the organ stealers often dabbled in slavery as well, and Jon wanted to free any captives there might be.


    “Do we have any better readings on that final vessel T’Pol?” Jon asked. He had barely spoken when the view zoomed in on the vessel in question.


    “It appears that the vessel is a merchant vessel or military transport. It has several weapon emplacements, and a very high power signature.” T’Pol looked up as the view sharpened dramatically. “We are only reading limited life support, and life signs on the vessel currently. It would appear to be no current threat. The are high concentrations of life signs not far from the vessel, perhaps holding cells, or sleeping quarters.”


    “Three minutes Captain.” Travis reported in a soft voice as to not unduly interrupt the report.


    Jon thought quickly. He had always expected to take whatever captives off on the Enterprise, but given any large number that would take several shuttle trips to ferry them over. That would increase the amount of time that the Enterprise would need to remain at the base, increasing the opportunity of another attack vessel arriving. It would also increase the probability that someone on the boarding crew would be severely injured or killed.


    “Change in plans. Malcolm, Travis, we’ll come in with the intention of destroying the defensive emplacements around that vessel. I want it intact. We’ll have the boarding party board it first, and then continue into the station. Ready the tow cables, we may have to pull that ship out of there.” Jon gave a nod to himself as he saw Travis adjust their approach. “Relay the change of plans down to your team Malcolm.”


    “Spatial Torpedoes have been reset for EMP, and directional burst sir. I have the weapon emplacements targeted. We should only need a single pass.” Malcolm said softly. Jon could hear him speaking softly over the intercom to the MACOs in the shuttlebay. From what he could hear they were rather upset with the last minute change in plans. Jon gave a grim smile; they would just have to deal with it.


    “Dropping out of warp in five, four, three, two, one…”


    The Enterprise stretched into real space, her emergence from warp once more accompanied by a cloud of energized warp plasma. This was going to run their stocks fairly low, but Trip was sure that he could obtain or make a replacement supply once they reached Krios. Jon hoped the Chief Engineer was correct; otherwise he might be squandering a very vital resource.


    There was a muffled thump, followed closely by three more as the torpedo tubes cycled. Jon watched as the flickering red star-like objects raced away from the viewscreen. Three disappeared in glaring flashes as point defense weapons systems unseen on the long-range scanners destroyed them. The final one impacted a heavy particle beam turret, which disappeared in an eruption of molten rock and steel.


    “They have more point defense than anticipated sir. We’ll have to make several passes with the torpedoes to guarantee we get all the turrets, and the point defense. They might be able to take out a shuttle, as well as a missile.” Malcolm reported from his station. Jon chewed on his lip for a few moments before making a decision. He had wanted to use the torpedoes because they were designed for this sort of work, using kinetic energy to destroy the emplacements rather than the thermal impact of the plasma or phase cannons.

    “Use the plasma and phase cannon’s Malcolm. Take out what you can on the first pass, but try not to heat it up too bad. Decrease speed Travis.” Jon ordered, knowing he was taking a definite risk. The Enterprise rocked under a pair of particle beam weapons almost immediately after it slowed. Jon frowned, knowing that the damage done today was going to be a lot worse than he anticipated.


    &&&&&


    Sergeant Susan Meyers was devoutly wishing that they had included a Lieutenant to command the MACOs. Perhaps the higher ranked officer would have more swing with the ship’s senior crew. Her biggest point of contention right now with Lieutenant Reed and Captain Archer was currently sitting across from her. Well Klaang, and the fact that they were constantly changing the plan. Sure no plan ever continued unchanged after meeting the enemy, but now they were changing things before they even encountered the enemy.


    “You understand Klaang? New plan, take ship, then find prisoners.” Susan enunciated slowly making sure that the Klingon understood. At least the big brutish looking warrior had fit fairly well into her squad and seemed to be willing to take her orders. He moved well too, and obviously had more close combat experience than the Starfleet armory officers. She would have liked it more if he had the combat suit that the MACOs wore, even better if they all had the powered Zoot suits that heavy combat squads used. He was only wearing his normal equipment and a full-face air mask though. He had assured them he could survive even vacuum with the limited gear.


    “Yes. Take ship.” The UT device strapped to his chest at least partially translated Klaang’s words. Susan narrowed her eyes as the Klingon rattled on for several more seconds before shouting out something that the UT knew very well. “Today is a good day to die!”


    “You’ve still got that wrong Klaang.” Neil Langstrom said from behind the Klingon. “Today is a good day for our enemies to die.”


    Susan joined in on the soft laughter that filled the shuttlepod. A few moments after the UT fell silent Klaang joined in well, possibly finding the statement funnier than the rest of the boarding party. Susan still felt uneasy about not only risking her whole team, but Klaang as well. She had no choice but to admit that Captain Archer was right about needing the alien to possibly talk with any Kriosian prisoners. Hell it had taken Hoshi three hours to explain to Klaang what he needed to say and why. Susan just hoped the change in plans did not foul up the script too badly.


    “Launch in five.” Chief Brooks’ voice broke into Susan’s musing. She barely had time to realize what the words meant when the shuttle was kicked out of the Enterprise’s shuttlebay. This was no leisurely atmospheric drop either; as the Chief flipped the ship on thrusters and the impulse drive howled up to full power. “We’re coming in hot Sergeant, there’s still a lot of point defense active.”


    There was a crackling roar that punctuated the Chief’s words. Susan recognized it for a high power laser trying to burn through the shuttles thin hull. She hoped that the Chief was good enough. Susan nearly lost her stomach as the sudden jink of the shuttle under the Chief’s hands bled through the inertial damper. At least the roar disappeared.


    “Releasing chaff and screamers.”


    Susan wondered how effective the ancient countermeasures would be. Clouds of Mylar strips and active jamming pods filled the space around the shuttle. They rapidly raced away from the pod towards the asteroid base as the Chief kept them in their decelerating burn.


    “We’re in the shadow. Two minutes.”


    Susan turned her chair around to face her team. She caught the eye of Corporal Jenson and opened the tactical channel. Her helmet filled with static as the link hooked up with the other shuttle, hopefully just a few tens of meters away.


    “We’ll do this just like in training people. Jenson, and Kurasawki you’ll secure the ship. Wiels, Tussleback, you’ve got the airlock. Everyone else, foam bomb side passages, explosive weld any hatches you see. We need to move fast and hit them hard.” Susan looked around the small shuttle as the impulse engine died away. Small bursts of thrusters shoved her against restraining straps for a few minutes. As they died away the thump of the temporary airlock and the activated maglock filled the shuttle.


    “Firing anchor cables. Sergeant me and Crewman Bauer will join your team on the ship and see if we can get it fired up for you.” Susan glanced over her shoulder at the Chief. “We’ll wait for the all clear Sergeant. Momma didn’t raise any heroes.”


    Another soft chuckle filled the shuttlepod. Susan gave a sharp nod, even as the top hatch opened up. There was a sharp bang after a few moments that indicated that Jenson had activated the ripper. The explosive powered device was designed to tear open bank vaults if necessary, and Jenson’s voice a moment later confirmed it had worked as advertised.


    “We’re in sir. Shuttle is aligned with grav plating, proceeding.”


    There was no time for further talk as the assault team, plus Klaang, rushed into the alien vessel. There were not many hostiles onboard, and the few that they came across went down under a hail of plasma fire. There was no time, and Susan did not have enough people to take prisoners. She had advised he team quietly, and without the Captain’s knowledge to simply take out anyone that looked hostile.


    Most of the aliens were familiar to her anyways, Nausicanas for the most part, a single Orion. The MACOs had several encounters with them before. Seemed to be a standard for both species to prey on merchants together. It did not take long to clear the alien freighter, which after they reached the main corridor was obviously set up as a slave ship. Cells lined both sides of the corridor, and given that Klaang was acting he had seen similar cells before.


    Susan motioned her team forwards as they meet up with the second team near the main airlock. She had been expecting more resistance than this, but when they entered the airlock she realized why they had not. The temperature was incredibly high, even through the suit. Opening the airlock door was like opening a door into the furnace, places on the wall, either EPS conduits, or places where the Enterprise had struck the base glowed faintly orange.


    This was not part of the plan.
     
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  16. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 16


    Klaang watched with respect as the MACO team he was with tore through the enemy ship. He did not have much to do, which was grating. Unlike a Klingon warrior group this one did not bother to allow every warrior to get a kill as they came. No, it looked like they were keeping in their normal order.


    They had been fairly quiet up to the point of opening the airlock. It impressed him to see their silent teamwork. The last time he had battled with them, drugs and torture had blurred his mind. He had not realized just how skilled the group was. They were like a pack of jackal mastiff’s hunting a targ. Quiet, deadly and efficient, but it was that last that truly impressed Klaang. There was not a single wasted moment as they had moved to the airlock.


    It was like feeling the breath of Kri’stak volcano roaring over you. The heat was unbearable, and growing worse with every passing second. Klaang growled in his facemask as the humans paused, obviously trying to decide whether or not to go on. Klaang watched engrossed as they continued their nonverbal communication. It was, he decided easier to understand the hand motions than the gibberish that often came through their translation device.


    Sergeant Meyers pointed at two of her warriors and then pointed inside the airlock, miming the closing of the airlock. There was another sweep of the hand to indicate everyone else, Klaang decided, and then down the corridor. He gave a nod, that body language at least he shared with them. It was a movement that seemed nearly universal though.


    Of course his ability to discern her meaning had been enhanced by his viewing of their dramas Klaang knew. This was much like that other drama he had watched, Rescuing Warrior Ryan it was called. He had found that one very intriguing and though it was another of their ‘fiction’ dramas. Hoshi had told him that it had been something that could have happened in the war it dramatized, but had not.


    As much as he had learned from it, it confused Klaang even more. That they should honor those that fought valiantly, recreate their stories in drama that he understood. That they might even created dramas of idealized heroes he could fathom. That message the aged warrior had remembered though, one not of honor, and glory, but of loss and pain, that he did not understand. That these humans focused so much on their fellows was hard to understand.


    The sudden tapping on his shoulder brought Klaang back out of his thoughts and into reality. They were moving further into the corridor, and Klaang found himself trailing the Sergeant and her warriors. Stepping out of the airlock was like moving into the mouth of hell. Klaang could feel his exposed skin begin to dry and burn. His armor became oppressively hot. A jet of something, coolant perhaps, struck his shoulders and back causing him to stagger a step and grunt in pain. Klaang did not even consider saying anything about the injury. It was not serious, and he could continue.


    “Fifth level of hell like is.” Klaang heard the soft mutter from before him, but between the suits, the facemask and the UT he could not tell who had spoken.


    If this was the Human version of Hell and the fifth level no less, Klaang wanted nothing of dishonor. Who knows, the humans might have the right of what the underworld was like. Still they were finally getting a cooling breeze from the ventilation ducts. They had moved deep enough into the base that the damage the human ship had done to the exterior was no longer turning the corridor into an oven.


    “Klaang.” Sergeant Meyers said, one word that he could immediately recognize without the UT. Klaang moved forwards through the bulk of the other warriors, still standing head and shoulders above them.


    It was immediately evident why he had been called forwards. There was a branching in the hallway, a tri-level branch. The Sergeant motioned down at her scanning device. It was simple enough to make out what the glowing dots and faintly glowing lines were. He frowned before looking up at the hallways once again, scouring his memory. He had seen a base like this before in training video, and now he tried to remember just what had went were.


    “Warriors lie down this path.” Klaang said, not bothering to lower his voice. He tapped one of the symbols on the wall, and then pointed to himself, and made a fierce expression. He looked at another of the symbols and searched his memory again. “This is the path to the engineering center.”


    “What? I understand not last.”


    Klaang let loose a rumble of dissatisfaction. He wished that Hoshi was on this mission, she had become quite skilled in the warriors language. The translator device though, it was frustratingly deficient. Klaang vowed to spend longer working on it upon the return to Enterprise, besides it would allow him further study of Hoshi.


    “Trip.” Klaang said as he gestured down the hallway. The Sergeant gave a nod of understanding. “The slaves, the prisoners will be down this final hallway. There will be guards, a security checkpoint.”


    “Right.” Sergeant Meyers turned to the other warriors. “Signes, Langstrom, Sterns guard here you do. Klaang Antowitz assault me with prison.”


    “Sir.” Signes spoke up only to be cut off by the Sergeant. Klaang gave a grin for she managed her warriors well.


    “Stay frosty Corporal.” Sergeant Meyers gave the group a toothy grin. “Klaang besides two you of make.”


    That came through clear enough and Klaang let loose a coughing roar of laughter. He quieted down with a harsh look from Meyers, subsiding into a soft chuckle. They were not far now, and however good these human warriors were, their numbers were now pared down to a mere pittance. Klaang felt his blood begin to heat at the thought of the coming fight.


    Klaang trailed the Sergeant down the hallway wishing not for the first time that he had a Klingon disruptor. He had trained with one of their pistols, but the weapon felt wrong in his hand, alien and unknown. He silently switched it to his left hand, and drew something that felt much more natural with his right. He would have rather had his mek’leth, but that was lost with his scout ship. At least he still retained his house dagger.


    They continued down the corridor and Klaang found that every step was heightening his anticipation. His vision sharpened as the battle lust took of him, and his blood roared in his ears. He was almost quivering with excitement as they stopped at a turn in the corridor. The Sergeant pointed to her ear, and then made a motion indicating around the corner. Through the rush of blood he could faintly hear someone or someones around the corner.


    Klaang nearly rushed around the corner with a battle cry upon his lips, but he was able to restrain himself as the Sergeant extended a device that Klaang was familiar with from their dramas. These humans were quite handy with such things, Klaang noted, as the mirror on a stick poked around the corner and revealed the shapes of more than eight guards. A slightly movement showed that immediately behind the guards, with no more cover than a few bars, were the would be slaves, packed into a single cell with hardly enough room to stand. A firefight would undoubted wound, or even kill many, an entirely dishonorable proposition.


    Klaang made a sudden decision as he took all that in, and hurriedly tried his own version of the silent communication these MACOs used. He pointed to himself, brandished his knife, and mimed plunging it into something. There was a short pause as Sergeant Meyers considered that, and looked back to her mirror.


    She gave a slow nod, and then took a cylindrical device from her vest. Klaang recognized it as one of the explosive devices the humans were fond of. She in turn mimed pulling the ring on it, throwing it around the corner and then covered her eyes and turned her head from side to side. It dawned on Klaang that the device was to blind the guards and a cruel grin stretched across his face.


    Normally he would not even consider such a thing, but these slavers had no honor. They had set up their cell in such a way that rescue would be as likely to harm the prisoners. They faced their opponents behind a shield of the helpless, killing them like parasites would be honor enough. Klaang gave a soft nod, which was immediately followed by the toss of the canister down the hallway.


    “Today is a good day to die!” Klaang roared on the heels of the explosion of sound and flash of light, taking the lead in the charge into the group of guards. The translator echoed something into his ear, but he could not understand it over the roar of the human warriors, and the ringing caused by the explosive device.


    The first Klaang came too was an Orion, corpulent as all their kind was. The knife made a soft sound as it slid through flesh and cloth, overpowered by the sudden cry of pain a moment later as the foul creatures gut spilled upon the floor.


    The rest of the battle, if it could even truly be called that, was a flash of impressions to Klaang afterwards. The strain of muscles as he locked grips with a Nausicaan, the flash of pain as a knife went under his guard. Triumph as a blade slide home and another of the dishonorable pirates fell to the ground, the strings of his life cut. The sudden dread as another came forward, a blade raised, certain death, and unexpected jubilation as a blast of plasma fire burned the threat down.


    A few short, sweet minutes later Klaang was standing in the middle of the destruction, heaving in great mouthfuls of air that smelled and tasted of blood and burned flesh. He turned to look around the room, noting with pleasure that both the humans were still standing. The prisoners seemed shocked by the violence that they had witnessed, but Klaang could see the hope kindle in their eyes as they looked to him.


    “Join the MACOs,” Antowitz said softly in a grim voice, “explore strange new worlds, seek out new life, new civilizations…”


    “And then kill them.” Sergeant Meyers finished in a voice just as thick.


    Klaang stood dumbfounded for a moment by the sentiment, and the fact that the UT had seemingly translated it in a perfectly. A deep rumbling laugh started in his chest, and burst forth in torrents from his throat. These humans truly were grand.


    &&&&&


    Hoshi tried to immerse herself in her work, just to ignore the sheer terror that gripped her. This was something that she had hoped to never see in her life. This battle was worse than all three others before it, each building on the prior, until now she was all but paralyzed.


    Hoshi had joined Starfleet to indulge her passion, to learn new languages and about new cultures. Not to be here where she was now, in the middle of a battle. Some, she knew, enjoyed the conflict. Travis found it exhilarating, she could see it in every line of his face. Malcolm, it was no surprise, relished the chance to hunt down that which was so contrary to him. Jon, there was stress around his eyes, but Hoshi rather thought that was not because of what they were doing, but rather because of the risk to his crew.


    Hoshi reached up to her ear, cupping the earbud slightly as she tried to make out the communication despite the harsh static. She looked up and tried to school the fear she felt out of her voice.


    “Sir, they’ve located the prisoners.” Hoshi said softly. The Enterprise rocked under another shot from a particle beam weapon, and she was not able to bite back the sudden bark of fear.


    “Good.” Jon said, thankfully ignoring her inarticulate cry. “Tell them to hurry back to the freighter.”


    Hoshi passed on the information over the radio link, skillfully boosting the signal to cut through the interference that the battle was causing. This was what she was good at, the dance of communications controls, computer protocols; it was just another language to her.


    Language was an extension of her Grandfather’s teachings in her mind. How better to use an opponents strength against them, than to talk them out of a fight? How better to redirect an attack, than to make a possible enemy a friend? Hoshi had applied herself to learning every language she could find, under the approving eye of her family’s patriarch.


    “Chief Brooks reports that they have the freighter’s warp drive online sir. However, they will not be able to activate the impulse drive, as he says it was torn apart for maintenance.” Hoshi said. She was finally able to push the fear into the back of her mind with her job.


    “Inform the Chief that the Enterprise will tow them clear.” Jon said calmly looking over to Malcolm and getting a nod of agreement.


    Hoshi looked up at the viewscreen after relaying the message. The asteroid base filled the screen, parts of it glowing balefully from the strike of phase cannons. Jon had had Travis hold them fairly far away from the base, avoiding the lash of the weapons still aboard it. But Hoshi knew that soon they would be driving back into its teeth.


    Inside that base was Klaang, and the MACOs. They were the only people that treated Hoshi as anything other than the timid soul she was. Klaang especially, given that he had seemingly accepted her as a warrior since the earlier encounter.


    Hoshi frowned as that was brought back into her mind. Had she truly been all that much less afraid at fighting Klaang? Had she been in any less danger than she was now? There was a difference, given that then she knew she had to fight. Her frown deepened, and she did not even notice that it was now drawing the attention of not only her Captain, but that the tense set of her shoulders had captured the attention of the Vulcan first officer as well.


    Was this, Hoshi asked herself, any less necessary than the fight with Klaang? That had been for her pride, to get him to respect her. Was saving the lives of who knew how many people from a life of slavery or being dissected for their organs, any less important?


    “They’ve made it to the branching sir, they’ve reported that significant resistance is beginning to form.” Hoshi reported, absently passing along the report from the subspace radio. Her mind was still occupied with her own internal struggle, so much so that she did not even notice as the Enterprise shuddered from another particle beam.


    “Hull plating down to sixty-two point three percent Captain.” T’Pol advised.


    “Tell them to hurry Hoshi.”

    Hoshi gave a soft nod as she boosted the transmitter power a bit more. Her brow cleared slightly, as she wondered if perhaps this was on of those times when you had to fight.



    *****


    Malcolm really wished that he could simply unleash all the power at his disposal. This mucking around with half power phase cannon shots, and trying not to damage the base too much was exposing the Enterprise to far too much damage to his liking. He understood why he had to do it, but it did not mean he had to like doing it.


    At least the Captain had agreed about the eventual fate of the base. There was no way that Malcolm was willing to let what was the center for nefarious operations continue in existence. Not when a bombardment of spatial torpedoes at full yield would put paid to the torture and selling of sentient species. It would draw down their reserves more than he had anticipated, given how good the point defense was over there.


    Captain Archer had given him orders to ensure the complete destruction of the base. They were going to offer to let the bastards surrender, inevitable Malcolm knew given that T’Pol was onboard. Probably it would have even been inevitable had she not been aboard.


    Malcolm felt his smile grow a bit wider as another phase cannon shot reduced a particle beam emplacement to slag. That was one less weapon to worry about, though he had to be careful with the use of his new weapons. They dumped a lot of additional thermal energy in the area surrounding the weapon impact.


    It was evident from this extended trial that the beam collimation would need to be improved. There was significant side scatter to the beam, on their shielded opponents that had not been evident. However that side scatter was wasted energy, especially when that energy might be needed to actually pierce the shields in the first place.


    “They’ve got the last of the prisoners aboard the freighter, the MACO team is breaking contact.” Hoshi reported. Malcolm looked up, finally realizing just how long he had been involved in his own thoughts, and his own work. “They say they’ll be aboard in two minutes sir.”


    Malcolm had let almost the entire assault pass by without so much as a thought about the team inside the base. He knew he did not have to think about them. They were well suited for the task, more so he knew, than his own armory team. It hurt to admit that, even to himself, but Malcolm had already decided to bring his thoughts to Captain Archer, and to recommend a larger team for future missions.


    “Travis, take us in, one quarter impulse, we’ll need to pass near the freighter and parallel the necessary undocking vector.” Jon order. Malcolm met his gaze as the Captain turned towards him.


    “Tow cables are ready sir, as is our parting gift.” Malcolm stated, anticipating his Captain’s request.


    “Good, standby on the cables Malcolm. I want to get this right the first pass.”


    Malcolm gave a slight nod, and transferred command of the energy weapons down to his armory team. He dropped a text message into their consoles letting the team know they would need to be prepared to take up rapid fire of the torpedoes. He wished, not for the first time, that the Enterprise had magazine launchers instead of the submarine like loading process. That took up most of the three minutes he had, and the ping of the sensor indicating they were within tow cable range came almost as a surprise.


    “Cables away sir.” Malcolm said a moment after pressing the command button. Six powerful grapplers rocketed from their alcoves near the aft impulse engines; trailing behind them lines of Vulcan made superalloy cable.


    “Sound the collision alarm.” Jon said softly. There was a slight pause between when the alarm echoed through the hull, and when the jerk as the cables caught tension. “Full impulse Travis. Hoshi, send the ultimatum.”


    Malcolm could barely hear himself think as the strained scream of the impulse engines filled the bridge. He gave a grimace, and made a mental note to advise Starfleet in his next report that there needed to be additional sound dampening put in place around all the major systems. Well, except for weapons, he thought with a soft grin, he rather liked the sound they made as they did their work.


    “Freighter is clear of the dock sir.”


    “Come to course oh-seven-six mark one-one-nine Travis.” Jon turned to Hoshi. “Any response to our ultimatum Hoshi?”


    The ship rocked under a barrage of particle beam weapons. The lights flickered, and Malcolm was only listening with half an ear as damage reports lit up his board. His hands flew over the keys, rerouting power for a few of his weapons systems, trying to get additional power to the hull plating.


    “I think that is their response sir.” Hoshi said, and Malcolm had to chuckle at the dry humor in his voice.


    “Rapid fire all tubes Lieutenant.” Jon said and though his voice was strong, Malcolm could hear the reluctance in it still.
     
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  17. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 17


    T’Pol made her way into the mess hall. Given the propensity of the human species to sleep almost more than they worked, and given that the Captain had encouraged her not to spend more time on the bridge than he scheduled shift, she had spent many hours there. Especially after Commander Tucker had taken her to task over her duties as a first officer aboard the Enterprise. As it had been for the past two days since rescuing the would-be slaves from the alleged pirate base, the room was full, nearly every seat taken. T’Pol knew that was because the berthing spaces were filled to over capacity. A few bunks had even been placed into rarely used science spaces.


    The lighting was subdued, as it always was at anytime other than the main-shift something else that T’Pol had tried to change. It was not logical to make the whole ship stick to a night-day cycle when there was no sun. The Captain and the rest of the senior crew had overruled her over the matter. Ensign Mayweather was the only one who had offered an explanation, and though it was far from satisfactory it had been intriguing.


    ‘We tried that on the Horizon Sub-Commander, nearly every cargo ship has at one point in time or another. Everyone went nuts after a couple weeks though, snapping at everyone else, and moody. Circadian rhythm thing.’ T’Pol remembered him saying. Those words had prompted her to make her own research, finding the interior lighting and day-night cycle actually had sound scientific backing for it.


    It was an unusual part of human biology for them to be so intimately tied to the rotation of their world. Vulcans were much less influenced by the light cycle of their world. The bright moons, and thin dry air meant that even night on Vulcan was brightly lit, much more so than Earth ever was, even on the clearest of nights.


    T’Pol paused at the drink fountain, a peculiar smell that reminded her of home filling the air. A faint almost imperceptible downturn of her lips signaled that she needed additional meditation time. Living in such closer quarters with such an emotional species was trying in the best of times, and now under these more crowded conditions T’Pol could feel her emotional control begin to slip even further.


    T’Pol had never attempted the Kohlinar; her emotions were far too close to the surface as it was to attempt the rigorous purging and suppression of them. She knew her control needed to improve before she could even thing of attempting the process. Lately onboard the Enterprise, it had become even more difficult to suppress them. Now she was feeling them break through her mental walls on a weekly basis. It was both troubling, and at the same time incredibly satisfactory; the small spark of anger and strangely pleasure ever time she verbally sparred with Commander Tucker was, in a word, addicting. Was she, T’Pol mused, already on the verge of joining the V’Tosh ka’tur?


    “Chamomile Tea, hot.” T’Pol intoned into the beverage service device, and withdrew the steaming cup of water, and the small plastic container of the concentrated essence of the drink. She turned and noted that there were few seats empty in the mess hall.


    Quiet conversation and muted card games filled the time of most of the members here. Her eyebrow lifted in curiosity as there was even a table filled with Kriosian women. She would need to speak with them at some point in time, if for no other reason than to get another opinion on human culture.


    T’Pol’s mouth drooped again as she saw her normal seat was taken already, by a raven-haired woman with the telltale red piping on her shoulders. Arjita Sharma, T’Pol’s memory supplied as she stepped closer to the table, armory crewman first class. T’Pol cleared her throat, having witnessed Commander Tucker having done so many times when he wished the attention of someone. It seemed and illogical method of requesting attention, but humanity was often illogical.


    “Is this seat taken?” T’Pol asked, calling again on her mimicry of the Commander. She had found no other way to ‘fit in’ with the crew as he called it than to take on some human methods of communication. Additionally it was part of her duties to ensure the good morale of the crew, and T’Pol theorized that doing so on an individual basis would reap better rewards than her expansion of the ‘movie night’ tradition.


    “What? Uh… um, no….” Arjita stammered out, seemingly surprised that anyone was asking that question of her. She glanced quickly to the other tables nearby as if making sure that T’Pol was not speaking to someone else.


    T’Pol looked at the owner of the voice for a long minute before realizing that Crewman Sharma was perhaps as incompetent with human social skills as T’Pol. T’Pol set her hot water down on the table and settled into a chair across from the other woman. She suddenly realized that the aroma that had reminded her so much of her mother’s house rose from the other woman’s cup.


    “Excuse me Crewman Sharma, but may I ask what it is you are drinking?” T’Pol had finally identified the scent. It smelled like Vulcan Fire Spice Tea, something that her mother had often enjoyed drinking. T’Pol appreciated the flavor, but had found better appreciation in lighter flavored blends.


    “Its just… well that is… Its not against regulations…”


    “It is personal stores then?” T’Pol asked as she poured the concentrate into her cup of water. Without truly thinking about it, T’Pol lifted a plastic dispenser and added a spoonful, shortly followed by a second of honey into her drink. “I only wished to know what it was you drank, because it smelled familiar.”


    “Oh… well… It is only chai.”


    T’Pol was finding the conversation almost vexing. Normally when she attempted to engage another member of the crew in conversation they took over the conversation quickly. T’Pol merely had to input a question now and again to steer it where she wished it to go. This conversation was, as Commander Tucker had sometimes commented to her, like pulling teeth.


    “Chai, an earth tea made with black tea leaves, cardamom and other spices.” T’Pol remarked softly as she brought her cup up to sip at her own drink. She felt herself relax slightly; her shoulders loosen as the sweet mixture flowed over her tongue. “I fail to understand why this mixture would smell familiar to me. I do detect traces of redspice and fire mint in its scent.”


    “It is a family recipe.”


    T’Pol felt her brow rise as the other woman answered in a complete sentence, without they shy stuttering. Perhaps Crewman Sharma merely needed to be set at ease about the conversation. T’Pol knew that several of the crew found talking with her to be intimidating, something that she was trying in her conversations with them to slowly remedy.


    “Vulcan families as well have traditional blends passed from member to member.” T’Pol paused for another drink of her beverage, wondering what it was about honey that tasted so good. “If it is a family secret, I shall understand why you do not elucidate me as to why Vulcan spices have been added to the mixture.”


    “Oh, well, no its nothing like that ma’am.” Arjita forced the words out. T’Pol quirked her brow at the other woman and took another drink of her tea. “Its just, well my uncle started a business growing Vulcan spices for the consulate and restaurants. It never made enough money in that alone, so we attempted to add it to a variety of family recipes.”


    T’Pol felt her eyebrow rise. It was an interesting proposition to take the food of one world, the spices of another and combine them. Chef was doing much the same with the Plomeek broth, and T’Pol had been forced to admit days ago that she was no longer sure she had a preference for the traditional recipe any longer.


    “That explains much.” T’Pol said with a soft bow of her head. She could feel the eyes of the other crewmembers upon them, even those that were outside of immediate hearing range. That was part of the reason why she had been so hesitant to take Commander Tucker’s advice and ‘mix’ with the crew.


    “Would you like some?”


    “Perhaps another time, it would be illogical for me to fail to consume the rest of my beverage.” T’Pol murmured and turned her gaze towards the computer tablet that that Crewman Sharma had set aside. She recognized the schematics of the spatial torpedo on the screen, but had to wonder why the missile specialist was reviewing them. It was unlikely that the Crewman needed to familiarize herself with the weapon, and the Captain disliked off duty hours being spent on duty assignments. “If I may as what you were working on before I arrived?”


    “Oh, well it is not work related, not really anways.” Arjita said trying to hide the fact that she was working on work issues outside of her duty hours. T’Pol gave a soft nod as she reached out to turn the tablet slightly. “I’ve been trying to come up with modifications to the torpedoes that would let them be warp capable, but, well we just don’t have the technology.”


    “Interesting.” T’Pol was truly intrigued by the idea. The Vulcans had such weapons themselves, but she had never thought that her crewmates would be working on them in their free time. She turned her gaze back to the Crewman and decided that she would follow the progress of the design. It would make for an interesting distraction during her free hours.


    &&&&&


    Phlox at times envied the Human need for sleep every day. Though he was not the only doctor aboard the Enterprise, he was the one that was awake at all hours of the day. Now, he rather disliked the fact that he had talked Captain Archer into a non-regulation rotation of his shifts.


    Still how else was he to fill his time? Even T’Pol did not have it as bad as Phlox did. True Vulcans could go several days without sleep, but they could adhere to a daily cycle much like Humanity. Normally his shifts filled his time well, doing the very thing that he loved. His office hours were expansive, and outside of his normal four-day per ninety-day hibernation cycle, and his exercise time any member of the crew could call him upon.


    It was, normally, exciting as well to be able to watch the beginning steps of a new race of explorers into the stars. Denobula had gone through their age of exploration while humanity had been basing it out in their world wars. Exploration in the universe that was vastly more dangerous than their home world had quickly dampened the fire. Something that Phlox had decided was unfortunate.


    Just seeing the wonder in his crewmates eyes the first time they made a new discovery, even if it was just on sensors, was deeply satisfying. Watching them stumble around in their interpersonal relationships was a constant source of mirth. For all their differences from Vulcans they were almost as reticent in their mating habits.


    Even with all the possible enjoyment around him, Phlox was not currently enjoying himself. With the evidence of medicine perverted for torture all around him, he found it hard to enjoy anything. It was a brilliant use of endorphins and endorphin like substances. Phlox found it hard to believe that such brutal people would make such a refined concoction. He gave a sigh as he leaned back in his chair in the darkened sickbay.


    Phlox was far from the only one there as the medical facility was filled to overflowing with the worst emotional, and mental cases from the freed prisoners. There was also the duty officer, Dr Neil Pulaski who was quietly reviewing something in his attached office. Probably medical charts for the patients currently interred inside the sickbay. Phlox found the doctor quite skillful, as well as entertaining to be around. While on duty, and without any pressing need for their skill they often shared a game or more of Gin Rummy, one of many games these humans had that Phlox found immensely intriguing.


    Phlox found it strange that he was both part of this crew, and at the same time aloof from it. Their outrage at what had been done to the people aboard the merchant ship had mirrored his own, and yet where a Denobulan crew would have done as T’Pol advised and continued on, these humans had taken it upon themselves to track down the organ stealers. They had even held a memorial service for the unknown crew, something Phlox found disturbing, and yet comforting at the same time.


    Phlox had asked about that, and he had found that every person he asked had a different explanation. They all came down to one core idea though respect for another life. Phlox’s smile faded as he stood and made a round through the sickbay. Very few of the figures crammed into the space were awake, and a smaller percentage of those awake, were actually aware of anything. He soothed those he could with gentle looks, a faint smile as he continued around finally ending as his compatriot’s door.


    “Come in you damned Denobulan.” Neil growled from behind the door. “If you’re going to do my rounds, the least you can do is keep me from being bored.”


    Phlox’s grin widened as he stepped into Neil’s office. The man was gruff, but he was a skilled physician and one that had a good bedside manner. He was an excellent friend Phlox decided, and a major reason Phlox felt welcomed into the crew. Neil was also helping him with his persistent problem of putting off other members of the Enterprise’s crew.


    “Reading up on our guests are you?” Phlox guessed as he recognized the computer tablet, being as it was one of his own. Everything he had figured out or guessed about the physiology of the Kriosians was on that tablet. Most of the information had come from the cadavers of the merchant ship.


    “Ain’t got anything else to do. Besides, I’m a doctor and not one of those damned head shrinks. I should be able to fix their bodies even if I can’t fix their souls.” Neil tossed the tablet across the desk to Phlox. A bottle and a pair of glasses appeared on the desk a short time later, pulled from a locked drawer in the desk. Phlox’s eyes narrowed in thought. “Medicinal brandy, I’ll write you a prescription if you want one.”


    “No need Doctor, I believe I can order one for myself.” Phlox chuckled as he spoke, watching Neil pour the clear liquid into a pair of water glasses. Normally he would have to frown at the practice, given that they were on duty, but now it was a matter of ‘Doctor heal thyself’. He needed this, and he could tell Neil did as well.


    “I know what you’re problem is Phlox.” Neil said a few moments later after a slow sip of the pear flavored liquid. Phlox looked down at the glass and gave a sigh. He knew this was coming and he was berating himself for making it so obvious. “You’re trying to come up for a reason why you should take what you’ve learned from that unholy chemical concoction they had those women on. You’re tearing yourself up about either adding it to your repertoire and saving lives with something that was created for evil, or not using it and dooming others to death.”


    Phlox started as he realized that Neil had not taken the track that he had expected the other Doctor to take. It was true that he had thought of abandoning his research into the perversion of medicine that the organ stealers had used. Phlox had expected the other man to return to their discussion of his place on the crew though. He had been attempting to fit in for weeks, and though he had found an easier welcome than the Sub-Commander Phlox also knew many of the crew thought him overly cheerful. Some members of the crew unfortunately thought it was only an act so that he could later perpetrate some nefarious deed upon them.


    “Human Doctors have to deal with that all the time Phlox.” Neil said, and Phlox realized that he had taken the silence and surprise in the wrong way. “Hell half our medical advances came through the misuse of medical knowledge. Nazi experiments, Augments, digging up cadavers to learn how the organs fit together. If it hadn’t been for our criminal past, we’d never be able to save as many lives as we do today.”


    “I’ve often wondered why humanity made such taboos about the gaining of medical knowledge. The limits that you placed on research made it so that some things could only be researched through such heinous methods.” Phlox lifted his brandy to his lips, savoring the alien flavor and slow burn of the intoxicant as it slid down his throat. These humans had such a passion for alcohol, it was no surprise they were so good at making it. “Maybe you can explain why?”


    “Damnit Phlox I’m not a historian.” Phlox shared a chuckle with Neil as the other man took another drink of his brandy. The medicinal bottle disappeared back into its locked drawer. “It isn’t how the other guy obtained the knowledge Phlox, it is how you use it. And I know you’d never use it to hurt anyone. You’ll use it to save them, and that friend, will make all the suffering it has caused in the past worth something.”


    Phlox felt his smile growing again. Optimism was his favorite emotion. It seemed even these humans were not immune to its effects.
     
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  18. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 18


    Every navy had its traditions. It was traditional for a Captain to have a ready room right off the bridge. Someplace he could retreat during the long duty hours that every Captain kept. Someplace to catch some sleep or enjoy a meal. A place to do paperwork or just contemplate the cosmos around him in quiet solitude. Chief Engineers had a place much like that, and it was tradition that had kept the tiny cubicle just off main engineering. It was loud with the throbbing hum of the engines, the muted sounds of conversation, but it was private.


    That privacy, and that tradition was the reason why Trip currently was out of a bedroom. Of course he would have given it up anyways. The crowded conditions on the Enterprise and the need to give the former captives as much personal space as possible necessitated that. Trip had been raised a gentleman, and gentlemen were supposed to suffer at a lady’s expense, or at least that was what Aunt Greta had always told him.


    Being stuck down in Engineering with the Captain’s order to his crew that he be restricted to no more than ten hours on duty a day, that however was a bit of a trial. Trip had a hard time bounding out the door every time his finely honed instinct told him something was amiss in his kingdom. He needed to trust his crew to know what they were doing, and for the most part they had eared that trust through their past actions. Sure, they had been rough in the beginning but that roughness had smoothed out with the passage of time. There were even a couple that Trip thought might one day deserve their own Chief Engineer positions.


    Besides it wasn’t as if he didn’t have other things he could do while not being outside his little office slash bedroom. He was way behind on paperwork, requisition slips, production orders, loss forms, not to mention the necessary quarterly evaluations. Then there was the fact that there were half a dozen sensor anomalies and malfunctions that needed troubleshooting, and a stack of reports that had come from earth in the latest subspace message burst.


    The content of that message burst was what was worrying. Tension was escalating between Earth and Vulcan at an unprecedented rate. The launch of the Columbia had been accelerated the moment that Enterprise had left orbit, and was growing close to launch right now. Vulcan had seemed to realize that their grip on Earth was slipping and had stepped up economic pressure in a bid to bring things back under their control.


    Trip gave a sigh as he settled back into his seat. It would not work, but the sudden escalation in tension had allowed both sides to ramp up their industrial espionage activities. The subspace burst they had received yesterday had several reports in it for him about the fruit of those activities. He looked over the precise reports with interest, noting that the Vulcan equipment was much more efficient than he had even thought. No wonder T’Pol was always complaining about the crude state of his precious Enterprise.


    “Thinking of T’Pol…” Trip muttered as he turned back to the sensor malfunction reports. Yes indeed, he had remembered correctly and there had been an unknown drop into maintenance mode for a bunch of subspace science sensors. He flipped through the reports on the tablet, and noticed the one glaring lack.


    T’Pol had not complained about the unexpected maintenance glitch.


    That set off alarm bells inside Trip’s head. She had never missed a chance before to file a complaint that was directly related to the ‘primitive nature’ of Human built equipment. The fact that she had not complained this time could only mean one thing, and that was that the malfunction wasn’t really a malfunction.

    That thought made Trip go cold inside.


    He started working on the issue before he really even had finished figuring out that there was an issue. The sensors obviously had captured an embedded message in the subspace burst. Obviously that message was also captured by the regular communications gear but ignored. A pattern in the noise was the only thing that Trip could think of, and a few keystrokes latter he was downloading the signal buffer from the communications gear.


    Trip plugged in a computer tablet containing a program he wasn’t even supposed to have anymore. Then again he had never been one to throw away a useful tool. It would be nothing short of a miracle anyways if it actually worked. Now it was just an exercise in patience while the computer did its magic on the raw signal, and the tablet added its cryptographic brew to the mix. Patience had never been Trip’s strong suit.


    “Why the hell would she do something like this?” Trip muttered pushing up out of his chair and started pacing back and forth in the crowded room. He knew that this was going to go bad on her even if it wasn’t her idea. “Captain’s going to have a cow.”


    The Captain’s reaction wasn’t the main one in the forefront of Trip’s mind though. It was Trip's own. The fact that she could betray him, him in such a manner was tearing him up inside. He thought that they had evolved into a friendship as much as a Vulcan and a human could be friends anyway. That she would just toss that so easily out the window hurt.


    “Damn it Trip, its not like she’s your wife or something. Hell admit it you and the Cap’n both thought it would come to this.” He berated himself. He hated having conversations with himself, but often it was the only way he could find relief from the frustration he felt.


    The soft beeping of the computer equipment indicated that it was done, and he turned back towards his terminal. Hope rose within him, hope that he was wrong and this was all a misunderstanding.


    ‘Three messages decoded.’ The message on the viewscreen burned its way into his eyes. Trip let out the hope in a long sigh and called up the first.


    “Well, that ain’t so bad. Actually that’s pretty good…” Trip mumbled as he read through the message. Why the Science Directorate had to send something encoded, and not with the general mail was beyond him. That they were praising T’Pol for her current discoveries, and her role as a ‘role model for future Human-Vulcan endeavors’ was actually a pretty positive thing.


    “This one ain’t so good.” His voice was a deeper growl as he read the dispatch from the High Command. It berated T’Pol for not doing just about everything that Trip and Jon had been worried that she would do. It was good to see that she had not bowed to her superiors and had allowed the Enterprise to sink or swim on its own. It was not good to see that the Vulcan’s were quite so interested in seeing their failure though. It did not bode well for relations between their two worlds. If messages like this had been intercepted before, well then Trip knew exactly why the construction schedule of the Columbia and the Discovery had been accelerated to such a degree.


    “She’s going to kill me.” Trip groaned pushing up from his chair. He really should have stopped with the second message and not continued on with the third. Truthfully the content shocked him. T’Pol was engaged? Why the hell hadn’t she ever said anything? What was this about no longer being willing to put off the wedding? Just why the hell had it been coded in a High Command cipher, and just why did it read more like a formal reprimand from a superior than a argument from her fiancé? It had been a day and as far as Trip knew she had not brought up the fact she had to return, now, or have their engagement annulled. Hell it almost sounded like they were threatening her mom’s position.


    “Trip to Captain Archer.” Trip said as he pressed on the intercom button. Hoshi or her relief would put through the call to the correct room Trip had faith in that.


    “Go ahead Commander.”


    “Cap’n, we need to talk. Privately.” Trip frowned as he pressed his finger down on the computer tablet, completely erasing the third message. He’d tell Jon that it had been there, but it was private, and by damned if he was going to piss T’Pol off anymore by showing it to the Captain. Though her response to that thought would probably be a very angry, ‘Vulcans do not experience anger’.


    “My ready room, ten minutes. Trip, is there a problem?” Trip could hear the concern in the Captain’s voice. He gave a nod though he knew the other man couldn’t see it.


    “Yeah, there’s a problem.”


    &&&&&


    Nate Pierson was down in one of the most hard to reach access tubes in the Enterprise. He did not mind the work, greasy as it was, the close confines were something he was used too, but the sheer oppressive heat was something nobody on the crew but the Vulcan first officer could enjoy. Having to do maintenance on the polarization relays around the deflector dish, while at warp, was hardly a comfortable pursuit.


    Normally it was a job that you had to lug the long weight of an air hose up to do as well. The bolts that held the polarization relays in place were tightened beyond what mere human strength could accomplish. Luckily Nate had a bit more than mere human strength. He had pulled the hose in far enough that a cursory inspection from outside would show he had taken it.


    Doing jobs the rest of the other Engineering crew did not want to do gave him a chance to think by himself though. It was surprising how little actual privacy there was to be had onboard the ship. Everyone for instance, except for the two themselves, knew of T’Pol and Trip’s budding romance. It was the talk of the entire crew, and Nate had even had to buy into the pool of when they would actually acknowledge the connection and ‘do’ the deed. However, being somewhat pessimistic in his views of the universe he had to pick a date far out into the future, a year past his closest rival.


    For all the crew buzzed about that conversation lately on the ship had been all but non-existent. People were subdued because of the Kriosians onboard the ship. Slavery was an ugly thing that no human had had to deal with for a long time. Just having these people aboard the ship made every feel unclean. They should have done more; Nate should have done more.


    Nate swiped at the tears that were leaking from the corners of his eyes once again. He tried to concentrate on his work, but truthfully replacing burned out relays was something everyone in engineering could do half asleep. You did not need to think about what you were doing when you had done it a couple hundred times in the past month.


    “Shit.” Nate said as his hand slipped on the wrench and he bashed his knuckles against a rather sharp edge. He really needed to pay more attention than that.


    ‘Nate I know you wish you could do more, but by god you’ve already done more than some of the crew. Sure you’re only an engineer, but so am I. Engineers are what keep this ship running and make it so we can make a difference.’ Trip’s words still echoed in Nate’s ears from the earlier discussion. Nate still felt like he was not making enough of a difference. He could still see the accusing stare of those cadaver-like bodies back on the freighter.


    Nate had just wanted a transfer over to the armory team. It had been denied though, and truthfully he could not blame the Commander for turning down his transfer request. Engineering was running understaffed as it was, and losing a single person this far out with no hope of replacement. Well it just was not going to happen voluntarily.


    Nate wished it could have been possible. There were a lot of people on the Enterprise now that were wishing that they could move into a different position. Most had to do with romantic ties. Which was another reason Nate was crammed as far away from everyone else right now. He really wished he had not come across those two crewmembers in that storage locker. At least they had not been on duty, even if they did work in the same department.


    Nate gave a soft curse as he tried to hold the new relay in the right place, and attempted to bolt it up from his blind position. It was the last relay that needed to be replaced. Another fifteen minutes was the most he could drag this out, and then he needed to reenter the small world of the ship.


    &&&&&


    T’Pol looked coolly around the briefing room. Most of the main shift bridge crew was currently present, as well as the alt shifts bridge leads. It was the first time everyone had been gathered for a meeting. She was uneasy at the presence of the two new members. Lieutenant JG Carsson had little if any value to bring to this meeting, and Lieutenant Sally Ivanova though professional had been rude in every non-professional encounter with T’Pol.


    T’Pol did not know how to go about fixing the latter. It was illogical to continue to have strained relations with another member of the command staff. She would need to investigate just why the other woman was so set on being antagonistic. As far as T’Pol understood she had done nothing to wrong the other officer.


    This meeting though was one that had been too long in coming in T’Pol’s opinion. It would never have been needed on a Vulcan ship at any rate. If these human’s would merely exhibit more control over their sexual urges this would not be a problem.


    “I think we all understand just why this meeting was called together?” Jon asked and T’Pol gave him a nod of understanding. Almost everyone else followed her lead. Commander Tucker, T’Pol noticed, only flushed a deep red in response. It was an interesting response from the fair-haired man. “Good then I’ll just meet this head on. Starfleet does not have any official standing on fraternization between equals in a crew, and Starfleet does not wish to have any official standing on the position. Starfleet’s only official stance on the matter is that it not interfere with the performance of duties or discipline, and that the matter remain discrete.”


    “I hardly find the matter of having two crewmembers having sexual relations in a storage closet, discrete, Captain.” T’Pol stated turning her head to meet his gaze.


    “Indeed it is not Sub-Commander. However, the basis of this meeting is not whether or not we should punish them for their relationship, but rather what we should do because of the manner in which they were conducting that relationship.” Archer said and T’Pol inclined her head acknowledging his point.


    It was incredibly distasteful. It was also something that had Commander Tucker been first officer no doubt he would have dealt with it personally. T’Pol however held that position and her status of being Vulcan rather than human meant she did not know how to deal with it; thus this meeting. It was a wholly unsatisfactory affair.


    “So we have two crew having sex in a closet. They were caught. Put them on a punishment detail and get it over with.” Lieutenant Ivanova seemed to be even less interested in dealing with this than T’Pol. In fact the other woman seemed entirely disgusted by the occurrence. Still T’Pol had to agree that the quicker this matter was settled the better. Having decisive action that meant T’Pol would not have to intercede in such matters again would be for the best as well.


    “Indeed. It would be best if the crew was notified that they should abstain from sexual activities while on the mission as well.” T’Pol was not expecting the shocked looks that those words prompted or Doctor Phlox’s reaction.


    “We cannot do that T’Pol. This mission is both emotionally and physically stressful for all members of the crew. Sexual activity is a vital form of stress relief.” Phlox said softly as he looked around the room. “I dare say that there are several people within this room that could use some healthy relief of stress.”


    “Yeah T’Pol, you look like you could use a little ‘stress’ relief yourself.”


    T’Pol felt a spurt of anger which she quickly quashed as she looked over at Commander Tucker. She should have known he would take the opportunity to goad her.


    “Vulcans are driven to mate once every seven years Commander. I assure you that I am not in need of relief from sexual tension.” T’Pol allowed her tone to allude that the Commander perhaps was in need of such relief. He had been acting quite antagonistic towards her ever since her arrival onboard. It would explain much if the stress of his position were the cause of his actions.


    “I think that the problem isn’t that they were having sex in a closet, but rather that they had to have sex in a closet.” Travis said in a quite voice from his seat. T’Pol noticed that he failed to meet everyone’s gaze as he continued hesitantly. “With the ship being as crowded as it is right now, it was only a matter of time before it happened. It was only a matter of time before it happened prior to this as well.”


    “They didn’t have to do anything, Ensign.” Ivanova’s voice came out with a sneering undertone, and more than just a little anger.


    “That is quite enough Lieutenant. You will remain civil during this meeting.” T’Pol stated. She knew her tone would sound cold to the others present, but currently she did not mind that. “I will remind you that Ensign Mayweather has more shipboard experience than any other human aboard. Ensign, what do you suggest as a solution to this problem?”


    “Well, we need more personal space. Nobody has any privacy and nobody can get any privacy. You can’t even get ten minutes alone now, and before we saved the Kriosians you couldn’t get more than an hour by yourself.” Travis looked up and met T’Pol’s gaze. She saw a steely determination in the set of his face, and realized he had given this matter much thought. “I think we need to set aside a set of rooms to be used on a rotating basis by each member of the crew. A weekend room where you can just be alone.”


    “That’s an excellent idea Travis.” Jon exclaimed as he pushed out of his chair. “We could give everyone aboard a weekend to themselves a month. Give out extra time, or vouchers to those that excel in their duties.”


    T’Pol felt her eyebrow lift. It was an intriguing idea, one that even had a basis in Vulcan ships. Private meditation areas had been provided on every Vulcan ship since shortly after the introduction of space flight. Even Vulcan crews found that solitude was sometimes a necessity.


    “It would only be necessary for the non-senior crewmembers.” T’Pol added to the discussion. “Given that every officer of Lieutenant junior grade or higher already has a private room.”


    “Good, that’s settled. Trip, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to put them on punishment detail…”


    Jon was cut off by Trip’s reply. “Already have them on duty cleaning out a wastewater tank. They understand.”


    “Good. Meeting adjourned. T’Pol, Trip I want a private word with you.”


    T’Pol hid her shock smoothly behind an impassive face. She had been half expecting this ever since she realized her mistake with not submitting a repair request for the science sensors. The notice that Commander Tucker had accessed the transmission logs had only confirmed her suspicions. As the door closed behind the others she looked calmly at the two human officers before her. They were an obvious united front.


    “Trip passed on to me two of the three messages you received via an encoded signal T’Pol.” Jon paused meaningfully. “We’ve discussed the content of the first two messages. I must say that I am quite surprised by the seemingly contrary stance of the High Command versus the Science Directorate. I need to know where your loyalty lies T’Pol.”


    T’Pol withheld the answer that came immediately to her lips. Anger was illogical. It was an emotional response to a situation that she knew had been coming. Still it was her first reaction to learning the news that Commander Tucker had indeed read the missives. She had suspected but not known that they had the ability to actually decode the signal. Had the High Command already known this? Was that why Kos had sent the third message as he had, to insinuate to the humans that she was in the wrong?


    “As long as I am a member of this crew it lies first with you and this ship Captain, then with the Science Directorate. You should know that the Directorate finds the current status of relations between Vulcan and the neighboring political powers disturbing and quite unsatisfactory.” T’Pol paused before she turned her glare on to Commander Tucker. “And the third message?”


    “It was private T’Pol, the Cap’n didn’t need to see it. Hell I didn’t need to see it.” Trip’s voice was apologetic as he met her eyes. “I don’t understand why they sent those messages the way they did. Especially that last one.”


    “Neither do I Commander. It is quite a dissatisfactory turn of events.” T’Pol noticed that more than a little of the cold anger she felt had slipped into her voice. She would need to meditate in order to gain control of her volatile emotions once again. “If I may be excused Captain? I need to attend to my daily meditation.”


    “T’Pol, I expect you to bring me any new messages you receive in this manner. If you want us to trust you, you have to show that you are worthy of that trust.” Captain Archer met her eyes without flinching and T’Pol gave a slow nod. It was only logical that he would want a display of her loyalty. She knew now she had made a mistake in not taking her ‘secret’ missives to him beforehand.


    “Indeed I shall Captain.”
     
    ParanoidSchizo and sropike like this.
  19. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 19


    Trip could tell she was mad as he tried to catch up to her. It was evident in ever line of her back, the stiffness of her shoulders, and the quick pace of her stride. Yeah, he knew she wouldn’t take the fact he read the letters well. Which meant an apology, which meant facing that anger.


    “T’Pol… Sub-Commander wait up!” Trip called as he hurried after her. She was really upset, considering she had not responded in the least to her name. Trip gathered himself only to be rocked back on his heels by the raw fury in her eyes. Yeah, she was pissed. Trip glanced around the corridor noting that they were drawing the looks of several people already in it. “T’Pol we need to talk about this, privately.”


    “You already know everything that there is to know Commander. Why should I acquiesce to your request for additional private conversation?” T’Pol’s voice was even, and her tone was mellow, but Trip noticed that Vulcans had many of the same non-verbal anger queues that Humans had. Her jaw as tense, her eyelids slightly closed to narrow her gaze, a faint dark olive tint flushed her face.


    “Because the rest of the crew doesn’t know T’Pol, and I think you’d rather keep it that way.” Trip watched the tension ease out of her at his words, and gave a faint smile in return.


    “You quarters?” T’Pol asked her voice much softer and her eyes no longer promising violence just hinting at it.


    “My quarters right now consist of the Engineer’s hole in main engineering. Maybe it should be yours.” Trip hated to give up the home field advantage, but sound wise the Engineer’s hole was about as private as the messhall. People outside could hear him snore when he was asleep.


    “I had forgot that you had volunteered to give your quarters up to the refugees.” Trip saw more of the anger fade from T’Pol’s eyes before she turned away. “We will continue this in my quarters.”


    Trip sighed in relief following her down the corridor at a much more subdued pace. She was still upset he could tell, though he thought he might be the only person on the crew that could. Time amongst Vulcans and in particular this one had taught him how to read the subtle clues of their emotional state. It was still there just buried, and only occasionally did they let it rise to the surface.


    “Come in.” T’Pol requested softly as the door to her quarters opened up before them. Trip followed and was unable to keep his gaze firmly away from her furnishings as he initially planned.


    T’Pol’s quarters were not what he expected. They were serene as he had guessed but without being spartan. Tasteful pieces of art or perhaps relics hung from the walls and candles in warm petrified wood containers graced many of the flat surfaces. It was in a word beautiful and in another relaxing.


    “I see your human curiosity does drive you to invade my privacy whenever you can.” T’Pol turned and the anger was back in her eyes. There was an animal passion in the heat of her gaze, and Trip found himself unsure of whether she was going to slug him or kiss him. He hoped for a moment it was the latter.


    “I’m sorry T’Pol it wasn’t what I was expecting. Just took me off guard how beautiful your living space was.” Trip paused and T’Pol gave a slight incline of her head accepting the meaning behind his words. He let out a sigh and dropped his gaze from hers to move on to the next portion of this difficult conversation. “T’Pol you have to understand those messages coming in like that, I had no choice but to read them. When I realized just what that final one was about, well it was like a train wreck. I just had to finish it through to the end. I’m sorry T’Pol, I apologize for intruding into your privacy like that.”


    “The need for an apology and the giving of forgiveness is an emotional response.”


    Trip flinched from her words and looked up at her. Her face was still and gave nothing away even to his practiced eye.


    “You really don’t understand apologies or me, do you T’Pol?” Trip did not bother waiting for her shocked response as he stepped right over her attempt. “It is not about being emotional and needing forgiveness. It is about admitting that I was wrong, and that I wronged you in my actions. Whether you forgive me or understand me is up to you. But just remember if I had to, if I have to do it again I will.”


    Trip stood there at a silent impasse with T’Pol for a long time. He could tell his confession that he would do it again had sparked her anger again but this time it finally just drained away. It was not hidden just, released.


    “It would be illogical for me to blame you when you are not the source of my discontent.” T’Pol said turning away from Trip in what he recognized as discomfort. “Kos and I had an agreement in place before I left Earth on this mission. That he should decide to renege it now in the manner that he had is both illogical and troubling.”


    “Yeah, I didn’t understand that myself.” Trip said softly deciding to risk everything on a gamble. He had a friendship with T’Pol or at least thought he did and friends helped each other through hard times. “Why didn’t he just send a message through normal channels? Why did it read like he was threatening your mother’s position?”


    “I do not wish to discuss this Commander.” T’Pol stated coldly grasping Trip’s arm and turning him back to face her. “It is enough that you know of the events. They are not open for your comments.”


    “You may not wish to discuss it T’Pol but I can see that you need to discuss it. I already know about it, and I can’t see you wanting to reveal all this to someone else.” Trip gathered his thoughts and tried to make at least a somewhat logical connection between them. “This is something that should be discussed with family, and you don’t have any on the ship. Friends often can help fill the void left by family T’Pol, let me help you with this.”


    Trip searched her eyes for some sort of clue as to what she was feeling when the Vulcan mask dropped over them again. He hated it when she clamped her control down hard like this. It made her seem so dead inside and it hurt him to see the death of the impish woman she was whenever it happened.


    “Very well, your argument is logical.” T’Pol motioned to a seat. Trip settled himself into it and watched her kneel on what had to be a meditation cushion. “You will control your emotional outbursts or I shall show you to the door Commander.”


    “Trip, not Commander T’Pol. We’re friends here and now not officers, you should call me by my name and not my rank.” Trip glared at her. Was it so hard for her to simply call him by his damned name?


    “Very well then Charles.” T’Pol continued either not noticing Trip’s open mouth stare, or simply refusing to call attention to it. “You must first understand that…”


    &&&&&


    Klaang was feeling a bit frustrated. He had spent almost all his waking hours the last two days working as a liaison with the Kriosians and at the same time working with Hoshi on the universal translator. True he was looking forward to the fruit of that labor given that it was now spitting out something resembling sense on ever sentence it got. That meant more movies, and more specifically a series the MACOs nearly worshipped. They had refused to let him watch it though until he could actually understand it.


    Given that it had to be a heroic ballad head and shoulders above what he had seen in the past, he could understand that they wanted him to fully understand the honor he was being given in watching the tale. It did not mean that he was pleased by the delay but only that he understood it.

    Still that was not the reason that Klaang was frustrated. He had demanded a rematch with Hoshi yesterday, and she had acquiesced albeit reluctantly. Now though he saw that Hoshi had been just toying with him. They were not going to the cargo bay that was set up as a training area, but rather to one that was set up for one of the ‘games’ that the humans so enjoyed playing.


    Given the crowd that had already gathered, and the half hidden exchange of bets going on around the room it was obvious he had been the only one that had not realized just how the rematch was going to take place. When he saw the smirk on Hoshi’s face he had to adjust his opinion of her up yet another notch. She had played him, played him like a veteran warrior plays with a child. There was no way he could back out of this now, not without leaving a substantial part of his honor behind, and he could see she knew that as well.


    “Are you ready for our rematch Klaang?” Hoshi’s voice sounded falsely sweet to Klaang. Her smile though gave it away. She enjoyed besting him, but damned if he was going to go down without a fight.


    “Yes.” He said simply before following her through the door. He recognized the court being that he had played a few of the MACOs before. Some called it handball, but Klaang liked the other name for it that the MACOs had taught him, murderball. Which was played by the MACOs with an abbreviated and aggressive set of rules. “The normal rules?”


    “Of course the normal rules. I serve first since you are the challenger.”


    Klaang barely had a chance to realize what her words meant before the hard rubber ball was whistling off the wall at him. He reflexively swatted a return that was redirected a moment later by an all too fast Hoshi. Klaang swore as the ball impacted his thigh before he could react, no doubt leaving behind a future bruise.


    “Those are murderball rules.” Klaang growled as he bent to retrieve the ball. He tried not to stare as the movement brought his eyes down to the level of the quite short shorts, and an impishly cocked hip.


    “I know, who do you think taught them to the MACOs hmmm?” Hoshi replied in that all too sweet voice again. Klaang glared at her but could not keep it up as her eyes twinkled at him. “Down by one already, I didn’t think it was going to be this easy.”


    Klaang growled at her as he handed the ball back. Perhaps this was going to be enjoyable after all. It was not fighting but these humans had taken competition to completely unthinkable levels. Everything could be a competition to them, and though they would probably deny it every competition was training for battle.


    Even this, Klaang thought as he lunged for the ball, was training for battle. It trained speed, agility, and the ability to devise a strategy as you played against your opponent. Unfortunately as Hoshi jammed him on the return he realized that this was a battle he was not suited to win. Klingons were power and stamina Hoshi was speed and grace so of course she had chosen a game that would suit her better than him.


    “Two nothing.”


    Klaang ignored her taunts as he had been taught and forgotten by long ago masters. Now he had to relearn it and correctly. Letting Hoshi under his skin would only lead to her victory all the quicker. He gave a grunt as the ball hit him again, damn but she had a fast serve.


    “Three…”


    The game devolved quickly from there. Klaang used the lack of rules to his advantage, brutally shoulder and hip checking Hoshi every chance he got. She used her grace to trip him up, back him into a corner play wise and jam him every chance she got. Klaang was able to drag it out for another two changes of the server but eventually she defeated him.


    “Not bad.” Hoshi stated as she helped Klaang up off the floor. He noticed she was bleeding from a split lip before she wiped the faint trace of blood away. “I’ve never had anyone actually score on me before.”


    “Might I ask why we played this game, instead of sparring like I intended in my challenge?” Klaang asked wincing as a stretch pulled on ribs that might have been just a touch more than bruised. He was startled by the shy smile that broke out on Hoshi’s face before she leaned in to speak softly.


    “A true warrior does not let her opponent choose the ground upon which they fight.”


    Klaang gawked at that choice piece of wisdom. It sounded Klingon; hell it probably was a Klingon proverb somewhere. Hoshi was a deceptive, ruthless, and above all else smart. Damn he was beginning to like her.


    &&&&&


    Private Niklos Antowitz was a MACO. It was now the only thing in his life. He loved the terror, the excitement and the camaraderie of the force. It was lot different than he had once expected his life to be. Back when he was in the University and drifting from class to class without actually learning anything. Or later when he was working the parts counter at the local agricultural supply store and thinking that there had to be more to life than this.


    Walking up to the recruiter had been the turning point in his life. When he had found purpose and a need for his stubborn outlook on life. He had fit into the corp like a hand in a glove. Now that he had been in for two years he was thinking about making it a permanent career choice. He’d need to talk to the Sergeant; those that re-upped out in the ass end of nowhere got a nice bonus package.


    Nick looked around the messhall and a faint smile creased his face. There were other reasons to like the corp and a lot of them were sitting in here right now. Freeing a bunch of would be slaves from some horrendously bad guys had a way of making you feel ten feet tall and made of steel. Too bad the hot alien chicks were a bit hard to talk to given that they didn’t seem to speak anything Nick could understand.


    He did wish that they might be a little more forward in expressing their pleasure at being liberated. Outside of a few shy smiles, and one fumbling kiss in a dark corridor Nick had gotten the short end of the stick from the grateful aliens. Hell even Sarge had showed up once with the ruffled look from a heated embrace and a familiar glow around her face. That was something you didn’t want to think about around your superior officer all that often though.


    Nick let his gaze wander over to a familiar face in the Kriosian cluster at the far end of the messhall. He knew her from when they had actually rescued the women. She had seemingly shook off the shock of what happened the quickest giving the blood and guts spread across the guardroom only a precursory glance. She had been one of four that had gotten everyone else rounded up and organized after Klaang gave his little speech.


    Nick had seen her type before in the back streets of his hometown. She was beautiful and intelligent, but knew her beauty was a tool that could be used both for and against her. She was a survivor and wielded her intelligence and her beauty in a way that would guarantee her own survival.


    Damn it, Nick thought, she was still drop dead gorgeous, and giving him what could only be the ‘come hither’ eyes. Of course, he thought a moment later, they could be the ‘I’m coming hither’ eyes. She had pushed up from her seat at the table and started his way as soon as she had made sure he was looking right at her. Nick couldn’t help the sudden racing of his heart, or the sudden tightness of his pants. Any woman that looked like that, that looked at him and started coming closer would get the same reaction.


    After all Nick was barely twenty something and still well within the age range heightened physical urges. MACOs wouldn’t have it any other way. The best warriors always came from the group of people that were highly motivated to breed and protect their own. It was why armies always filled their numbers with post pubescent males since the dawn of time.


    Nick doubted she would come over to him anyways. What would a good-looking intelligent alien chick like her want with a two-bit MACO grunt anyways? Sure he had a future in the corp if he didn’t get killed first, or if he didn’t do something stupid, but he’d never have the high profile career that one of the Navy boys would have. Besides she had seen the dark eyed, madly grinning, blood spattered animal he had become in that brutal fight for control of the guard room. Nick knew there was darkness in him an anger that he kept carefully chained and leashed until it was truly needed.


    Nick kept thinking that right until she plopped herself down right in his lap. The laughter of the rest of the crew at his situation was fairly easily ignored, not that he had to work at it much. Having a sloe-eyed and shapely lass that you had just been fantasizing about sitting in your lap tended to do that to a person though.


    “Niklos.”


    Her voice had a husky, smoky quality to it and the vibrating purr of her accent on his name. She looked deep into Nick’s eyes, and suddenly he found the reason why they called it drowning. Her delicate scent spice mixed with soap filled his head, and she said the two most frightening and exciting English words that he had ever heard.


    “Marry me.”
     
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  20. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 20

    Sergeant Susan Meyers was used to dealing shocks, surprise, and plans not lasting longer than the initial contact with the enemy. She was not, however, used to having her own team plot and engage in action against her.

    They meant well she knew, but no matter how they tried to sugar coat it they were only making her life harder not easier. Moving Klaang into the barracks during one of the staff meetings she had to attend was their first action on that front. An innocent enough action all things considered given that she had been contemplating it herself. It was easier to guard him if Susan did not actually have to keep tabs on him plus it helped alleviate some of the boredom that both sides were feeling.

    Their action without her orders and the Captain’s backing had put her in a touch position though. Sure there was always that crazy saying about it being better to ask forgiveness than permission but that was just a crazy saying. In reality it was a pain in the ass especially for the superiors of those begging for forgiveness. It had taken Susan three days to explain to the Captain she had not known what was going to happen, and that even without knowing it that she still thought it was a good idea.

    This was going to make the Captain blow his top. Not that Susan could blame Niklos for saying the first thing that came to mind, namely yes. She even had to give the Kriosian woman credit for having studied English enough to actually form the question without the UT. Given that it had been someone other than Hoshi Sato that had done it, it was downright amazing. The Captain was not going to be pleased at all, especially once Susan advised him that there was jack shit all he could do to stop it.

    Marriages during missions in the MACOs were fairly common. You usually did not get much past a six-month deployment without seeing at least one in a mixed crew. The MACOs had learned in the past that it was best to just ride with them, and later to actually write up regulations authorizing them the few times they had conflict with Starfleet over the issue.

    There was even a good reason to allow them. MACOs were by and large on the pointy end of the stick. They defended merchant ships from boarding actions, and they boarded pirates in the tour of their duties. Unlike the majority of their Starfleet brethren they would face death and blood at knife range. You had to have an outlet for all that and in the common tradition of humanity that outlet was sex and often marriage. Susan snorted MACOs were by definition loyal.

    So if you removed the biggest reason that MACOs went AWOL during a leave, the ability to get married and have a family, you kept valuable soldiers on the front line. Susan had been in the unenviable position of being a man or three down out on the end of a long resupply line before. She had dealt with it then but it was a position she would rather not be in again, and thus the reason why she was going to make sure Jon saw things her way.

    Susan pressed the entrance button and stepped into the briefing room. There was a sudden silence as she stepped inside, and a small grin twitched the corners of her lips. Strategy was something that was used not only by Starfleet but also by the MACOs as well. Susan paused just a step inside the door and let the assembled officers draw their eyes over her chest salad.

    Susan had to admit it was fairly impressive for her rank. Seven awards for bravery under fire in a dozen skirmishes with pirates and planet bound raiders. There were good conduct metals galore and the three unmistakable points for purple hearts. Unlike some of the other career Sergeants in the MACOs she had seen action, and plenty of it even before this mission.

    “She trumped ya Cap’n.” Susan grinned slyly after Commander Tucker broke the silence. She had not really expected to have any allies in this briefing but the look on his face indicated she already had one. “So are we going to go through the motions or are ya just going to admit defeat?”

    “We are not, going to go through the motions Trip.” Jon snarled at Commander Tucker while Susan eased herself into a seat. If she could keep them working against each other this might be easier than she had originally anticipated. “And I am not admitting defeat. This is unreasonable, we’re a Starfleet exploration vessel not the damned love boat.”

    “A Starfleet vessel with a MACO contingent Captain.” Susan said evenly as she opened the folder and started passing around several papers. Having the pertinent regulations on hand was always a good idea, and having them on hardcopy rather than computer tablets served to underscore the differences in the services. “Though we are by our orders bound to accept the commands of your command crew as far as they do not contravene our founding creed and regulations, Starfleet is in turn bound to allow our own regulations and tradition so far as it is not detrimental to the crew.”

    “How is allowing one of your men to get married to some alien seductress he doesn’t even know the name of not detrimental to my crew? The morale problems are rather obvious aren’t they?” Archer growled in reply leaning over the table. “Not to mention allowing her extended access to the most advanced Starfleet ship to date if I do that. The possibility for espionage alone…”

    “First Captain, her name is Kamitama and though you seem to have a skewed concept of what happened we in the Corps have had a very in depth discussion with her after the event in the messhall.” Susan let her sly smile grow a bit larger as she saw the sudden shock on Jon’s face. T’Pol and Trip she noticed only gave a slight nod and probably didn’t even know they echoed each other in their mannerism. “The Corps has always looked after its own Captain, and I wouldn’t let one of my men do that if I thought they were being used in a nefarious manner. “

    “She’s that good with English already?” Hoshi asked with a sudden brightness in her voice and face. Susan could understand why as the linguistics officer had been working shift on, shift off for almost a week straight now in an attempt to bridge the gap between the crew and the Kriosians that they had rescued. Having another linguist that was as good, or nearly as good as she was would only make Hoshi’s work easier and faster.

    “Not quite that good I’m afraid Hoshi, but good enough to carry on polite conversation. To truly talk with her though we had to switch over to Andorian, with Klaang providing help in Klingon ever now and again.” Susan watched Hoshi’s face fall a bit before sparking again when the essence of the words dawned on her. Susan gave her a genuine smile before turning full force on Jon again. “Kamitama worked as the front officer for her ship in trading Captain, as a necessity she worked hard to learn as many languages as possible, and polished her skills in learning about and interacting with foreign cultures. With her ship destroyed and her family dead she has no future other than living on the welfare of the royal family. Is she using Niklos? Yes. Is it for some sinister purpose? No not unless you think trying to make a better life for them both is sinister, and I for one have seen a MACOs get married with worse reasons. Her experience aboard her father’s ship would be boon to the Enterprise, rather than a detriment.”

    “I’m still not allowing it.” Jon growled bursting out of his chair to pace around the room. “Goddamn it this is getting out of hand. First we have who knows who having sex everywhere that they possibly can, and then we have to go and make special love suites for them. That comes perilously close to condoning such behavior as it is, and now you want me to go and marry someone off? How am I supposed to do that without creating a formal Starfleet stance on interpersonal relationships?”

    “You need not take any such stance Captain.” Susan jerked her gaze back over to T’Pol as the science officer continued her interruption of the Captains impassioned speech. “This is not a Starfleet matter as is stated in the regulations that Sergeant Meyers has handed out. In fact even the case of a MACO marrying Starfleet personnel has been covered and specifically allowed. The only Starfleet matter at hand is whether or not you can keep the Private’s wife from remaining aboard the Enterprise after the marriage. Denying her passage would be heavily detrimental to the morale of the MACO squad and in my belief the Enterprise as a whole.”

    “T’Pol I am not allowing a foreign national aboard this ship even if she is a civilian.”

    "It you wish to be technical, Captain, she already is." T’Pol stated sharing an altogether female look with Susan.

    Susan gave a soft sigh, as Jon seemed to give in to the marriage argument. Now was the only real problem of getting him to allow Kamitama to stay. She frowned as she moved right to the point.

    “Captain, I know its going to be difficult, but there are precedents. I for one am not losing a promising soldier due to desertion. If I have to lock her up in the barracks or provide a guard everywhere she goes to keep him aboard then I’ll do what it takes.” Susan glared at Jon until his face fell. Finally he had realized that for all the fact he was the Captain he really did not have a choice in the matter. Everything had been decided prior to this trip at a level higher than he was.

    “I doubt that will be necessary Sergeant.” T’Pol injected again, and Susan wondered just why the Vulcan was on her side. “We were discussing the shortage of manpower and falling productivity before your arrival Sergeant, and I have now realized we now have a solution to the problem.”

    “T’Pol, no.” Jon said sternly, and Susan looked between the two officers.

    “As a Starfleet officer in command of a ship the regulations do allow you to give field commissions and draft members of merchant ships to fill necessary duty roles, Captain.” T’Pol stated smoothly and Susan felt her eyes grow wide as she realized just what the Vulcan was insinuating.

    “T’Pol those regulations were written for the drafting of officers off of human ships.”

    T’Pol interrupted before Jon could continue.

    “The regulations do not explicitly state that Captain. The letter and exact meaning of the pertinent regulations simply state ‘any merchant ship, or crew thereof may be called upon or drafted’.” T’Pol continued softly. “There may be others among the Kriosian refugees that would like the opportunity to make their way outside of the welfare of their government. Additionally Starfleet and yourself have shown a tendency to recruit non-human members for vital positions and specialties.”

    “Yeah Cap’n, and I have to say there other reasons to do it as well. We’ve been lucky so far, but I don’t have half the senior specialists I need. Life support is being held together by spit and bubblegum. I know that one of those Kriosian girls is sweet on one of my Ensigns and is an environmental engineer. We were on minimum levels for staffing when we left Earth, and now I’ve got to say those minimum levels were too minimum for comfort.” Trip jumped in to the relief of Susan.

    “You’re not seriously suggesting that we marry these girls off just to fill needed engineering positions are you Trip?” Jon groaned obviously exasperated by his Chief Engineer.

    “If it keeps us breathing, maybe.” Trip shot back. “I ain’t saying we marry them off Captain. We should just give the ones that might want to stay and who are useful a chance. Worse comes to worst we can drop them back off at Krios in six months. Besides it ain’t like we’re going to make them slaves or something Cap’n. They’ll get paid, and when we get back to Earth they can apply for citizenship if they want it, find other jobs, or even formalize their positions in Starfleet.”

    With both senior members of his command staff coming in on her side it was only a matter of time before Jon saw the light now.

    &&&&&&

    T’Pol was a loss as to what to do after the earlier meeting. Jonathon had eventually succumbed to the combined arguments of almost the entire senior staff. Only Lieutenant Reed seemed to have misgivings about the issue. Given his position as an Armory Officer and his role in the security of the ship that was only logical.

    With a plan in place to ease the issues with having an overworked crew T’Pol found herself turning towards personal problems. The problem of her fiancé, and the demand to return to Vulcan immediately for their wedding was the most pressing issue. Trip’s words had illuminated much of the possible reasons behind Koss’ actions. All of those possible reasons were probable, logically argued, and extremely troubling.

    T’Pol had in the past few days found it difficult to choose what to do. On one hand she would be turning her back on tradition and in uphold the honor of the tradition. If she chose to honor tradition her actions would only serve to allow Koss and his parents to degrade it. It was obvious now from thinking over everything that Koss’ actions were deliberately manipulative, and dishonorable to all of Vulcan tradition. To use his position and his family’s power to deliver the message in such a way, and to threaten her mother’s position was vile.

    “T’Pol?” Arjita’s soft voice jolted T’Pol out of her thoughts. “Would you like to join me in a cup of chai?”

    “That would be agreeable Arjita.” T’Pol consented realizing that she was in the messhall, and that the nostalgic scent of the tea had lead her there. T’Pol contemplated her actions as Arjita poured another cup of the tea, and decided to, as Commander Tucker put it, act on a whim. “I am in need of advice and it would seem that you might have a unique perspective to offer. I understand that your culture once practiced arranged marriages?”

    “Not so once for some. My Grandfather was very conservative, and much in love with the old ways. He tried to arrange all of his granddaughters marriages.” Arjita laughed softly as T’Pol’s eyebrow quirked in interest. “It was an intensely uncomfortable time. Grandfather did not understand why we did not wish his help, and we could not understand why he was trying to get us all married before we had lived our lives.”

    “You do understand that the practice on Vulcan is still a foundation of our society?” At Arjita’s nod T’Pol continued looking down at her tea as she broached the uncomfortable subject. It would be best to keep most of the information as secret as possible and only to cover the important parts. “When I was a child my parents arranged my betrothal, and eventual marriage to Koss. We had an agreement before this mission began that the marriage would not take place until after my return. He has illogically reneged on our agreement and proceeded to pressure me with his power over my mother’s position.”

    T’Pol found it hard to keep the sudden anger and disgust she felt out of her voice, and promised herself that she would increase her meditation time after this. It was likely that being around Commander Tucker’s volatile nature during the meeting had worn down her emotional control.

    “I hope that you’re not considering continuing with the arrangement T’Pol?” Arjita spoke softly as she raised her cup to her lips, and T’Pol could tell she was genuinely troubled. “Arranged marriages in my culture were normally arranged after both parties reached adulthood. The families would consider the couple’s compatibility, their education, and the other family’s social structure in order to create a lasting, caring marriage.”

    “Traditionally much the same can be said of Vulcan marriages.” T’Pol ventured into the ensuing silence. “Families seek matches that will eventually add stability to their children’s lives, and variety rather in their interests rather than commonality. My parents had a deep companionship before my father died.”

    “Do you believe that you could achieve this with, Koss?” Arjita asked.

    T’Pol found herself at a loss for words, as she suddenly found herself asking that question inside her own mind. Could she respect a man that had already treated her in such a way? Would she ever have the ability to draw strength from their marriage the way that her mother had, even after her father’s death? There was only one answer, and now it was obvious.

    “No.” T’Pol stated.

    “Then you already know what you should do T’Pol. I do not believe that even your mother would want you to force yourself into a match that you obviously revile so much, even for her sake.”

    T’Pol gave a soft nod and took a drink of the tea. It was a good blend, perhaps even better than her mother’s favorite. It would be unfortunate to waste it on such a poor subject of conversation.

    “How is your project for the Armory coming Arjita?” T’Pol asked pleasantly in order to turn the conversation to a more satisfactory subject.

    “Well, truthfully? Not very good.” Arjita gave a long sigh as she settled back into her chair. “Your work with Commander Tucker on the cell ship has at least given me a possible method of powering the torpedo with a QNR. Unfortunately the ship doesn’t have the necessary materials to actually construct one right now. I’m hopelessly stalled in the theoretical stage, and I can’t really go much farther on that without a Warp Physicist. I think I might have a practical design for the warp drive but even that is going to be too large I think. Trying to cram the warhead, the impulse motor, and a warp drive into it is going to take up way too much space any way that I look at it.”

    “Is there a reason why it needs to be a drive?” T’Pol asked her brow quirked in interest. “I had understood that this was be fired from warp at another ship. If that is the case you only need a warp sustainer.”

    T’Pol’s brow drew together as Arjita began bouncing in her chair. Her eyes were entirely too shiny at the moment, and she gave what T’Pol recognized as a squeal of glee.

    “If I do it that way,” Arjita trailed off in thought before grabbing the nearby tablet and quickly began jotting down notes. “I’d only need a little bit of warp plasma for the QNR to energize, and that I could scale down because I wouldn’t need nearly as much power. The coil would become much simpler as well, and the impulse engine could be entirely eliminated.”

    T’Pol was satisfied in providing the woman a solution to her problem. It was good to know that she was as much a friend to Arjita as she had proven to be to T’Pol. T’Pol finished her cup of chai and watched for a few silent minutes as the Indian woman continued to scribble notes onto the pad.

    “Thank you for the company and the tea, Arjita,” T’Pol said to the obviously distracted woman. “I am going to retire now to my meditation. I bid you a pleasant eve.”
     
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  21. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 21

    Malcolm Reed was not nearly as pleased with the results of the staff meeting as T’Pol, Trip, or even Jon was. It had taken time, but even the Captain had eventually given in and seen the necessity of taking on additional crew from the Kriosians.

    For Malcolm that was a nightmare.

    He could understand the need for more hands especially in certain fields for engineering. He had been loaning Trip his more experienced techs since the beginning of the journey. It was fairly common knowledge that if you could service an impulse drive for a torpedo you could probably do the same on the impulse drive for a ship. Plasma relays for weapons systems worked just like plasma relays for power junctions. Giving Trip that help had let the Engineer use his more generally trained staff to take care of other problems; such as keeping the environmental systems running, and making sure the bio-recyclers were in top condition.

    Malcolm knew there were a thousand and one things aboard the ship that could go wrong at any one instant. He was the Armory officer he had to plan for those things going wrong, and if they did he still had to ensure the security and safety of the ship.

    Adding more crew was necessary, but still to take completely unknown people and draft them in? It was a security risk unlike any he had ever seen before. Malcolm gave a sigh as he stepped into his office. It was more of a closet than a real office mind you, and in fact had started out as a supply room in the armory. He did need someplace to do paperwork and efficiency reports, so this had become it.

    Malcolm picked up a piece of paper and contemplated it silently before placing a pen against it. First there was the issue that this Kamitama and any others they might recruit from the refugees had no security clearance. Well actually now that he looked at it, that really was not such a big thing. Sure they had no security clearance, but right now there was not a single one of them that could speak English fluently let alone read it. Malcolm gave a nod and made a small note beside that issue. It would be necessary to increase the computer security protocols.

    Malcolm was just starting to really get into it when the door chime rang.

    “Come in.” He tucked the paper away as he turned to face the door. He was not expecting to see Crewman Arjita standing there. She was a rather quiet person, and never had trouble in his experience. Still her face was filled with trepidation. “Is there something amiss Crewman?”

    “No sir, I just had a project I’ve been working on that I wanted to show you. I had hoped that I could perhaps get permission for additional simulation time, and perhaps begin fabrication of a prototype.” Arjita’s voice was soft and Malcolm had to strain to hear it.

    A project? Malcolm had seen Arjita working on something in the messhall several times. It was technically a violation of regulations to be doing something work related in the off hours, but truthfully only T’Pol and Captain Archer seemed to follow that one, of the good officer anyways.

    “Just what sort of project?” Malcolm knew it had to be weapons related, but authorizing it would depend on how well thought out and what it was. Arjita seemed unwilling to speak, and rather just handed him the computer tablet she was carrying.

    A canister filled the screen, one that looked rather similar to probes that could be launched from the torpedo tubes. It was a bit longer than the typical spatial torpedo and failed to taper at any point. A small furrow formed on Malcolm’s brow as he paged down and read over the specifications for the intended design.

    The first thing that caught his eye was a merculite booster for the velocity to clear the warp field and to provide the necessary overtake velocity, it wasn’t a bad idea. There was a spatial warhead straight out of one of the normal torpedoes, but with the power to initiate detonation coming from a QNR. The same QNR was also used as power, his eyes narrowed as he quickly paged through the rest of the specifications before looking up at Arjita.

    “Is there a reason why this does not have a warp drive? Or a guidance system for that matter?” Malcolm asked while tapping on the tablet to indicate just what he was talking about not that it was necessary.

    “I was going to use a warp field generator and a standard warp coil, but no matter what I did or thought of, there wasn’t any way to make it smaller than a shuttle.” Arjita paused and looked at the tablet and then brought her gaze back up to meet Malcolm’s. He could tell that she was nervous, but he needed to understand what she was doing. Some of this was beyond him. “When I mentioned the problem last night to T’P… Sub-Commander T’Pol she asked why I did not use a warp sustainer instead. Her mention reminded me of the technology, and it seems to fit the bill exactly.”

    “Crewman Arjita, that does not tell me what I need to know. You’ll have to excuse my lack of knowledge when it comes to obscure warp technologies, but what is a warp sustainer?” Malcolm was getting a little frustrated now, and it showed in the dry bite of his voice. It was bad enough to have Trip lord some bit of technological trivia over him, but now his own crew was doing it as well.

    “Oh, sorry sir. It was something that they used to test warp field theory with. It is basically a one use, consumable, vectored field coil.” Arjita paused and when Malcolm gave a dissatisfied grunt as his only reply, she hurried on. “It basically works similar to a warp drive. The thing is it only has two states, off, and continuous acceleration until it burns out or runs out of power.”

    “So, it is very similar to a merculite rocket.” Malcolm said as the use began to dawn in his head. Her nod of agreement pinned in down for him but he immediately saw a problem. “If it is so simple and well known, why hasn’t Starfleet used one in their own pursuit for a warp capable torpedo?”

    “Because they use a lot of power sir. A coil the size that I’m proposing for this torpedo would require the full output of the QNR from the cell ship to activate and provide continual power. Even then designing it for more than thirty five seconds of flight would be a waste, because the QNR would be drained.” Arjita nervously wiped her palms on her uniform before she continued. “It is why I want more simulator time sir. I’m not entirely sure the QNR could even power it.”

    “And the lack of tracking systems?” Malcolm did not really like that latter part. He supposed it could be just because of a lack of room to fit it in. If that were the case he would have to require they be added.

    “A warp field generated by a sustainer cannot be steered sir.” Arjita calmly replied. “Or at least that is what Trip told me. It is theoretically possible but nobody has figured out how.”

    Malcolm frowned as he looked back down at the tablet, moving through all the specifications again. He was not really reading it, but needed to do something while he thought about her request. Simulator time was easily made available for something like this, it could revolutionize Starfleet battle tactics. Still the numbers already looked good, and simulations were just that, simulations. They needed more concrete data to actually be able to determine whether it would be a waste of time and materials or not.

    “I’m afraid I won’t be able to authorize additional simulation time right now Crewman. It is completely unknown if we could even make a QNR as efficient as the one from the cell ship, or construct everything in a casing as small as you propose.” Malcolm shook his head as he looked up at her. He let a little smile break out on his lips while she looked down, obviously disheartened by his words. She needed a reminder to always wait until he was done speaking. “Still pursuing this would be in Starfleet’s best interest, so I’m going to authorize the construction of a demonstration device. Feel free to begin the requisition of fabricator time and construction materials. You also have my authorization to pursue this and this alone during your normal shift hours. Oh you should to work on this as soon as you can. Dismissed.”

    Malcolm could not help the soft chuckle that broke from his lips after she grabbed the tablet and fled from his office. Sometimes it was just too fun to surprise his underlings. Now he understood why his former superiors had always done the same to him.

    &&&&&

    Niklos had never in his life as a MACO went through something as grueling as what he had just done. Boot camp had not come close. Hell week had been a walk in the park in comparison. Spacediving on covert insertions was a breeze.

    Getting your ass chewed off by a woman that barely came up to mid-chest, and who despite all that could tear him apart with her bare hands. Oh, she had never actually raised her voice, never betrayed anger or anything at all, but that was what had made it so dreadfully frightening. When the Sergeant was serious, she was serious. You tried not to piss her off when she was, and God help you if you did.

    Had Niklos known she was going to be that way over this he might never have told Kami yes. Then again, it really was not that bad. Sure he was more or less told he would be given every grunt job on the ship for the next, well forever. He did have a fiancé now, even if he had barely more than a few hours alone with her. It was confusing truthfully, but when she had asked him and told him she meant it he had immediately known she was telling the truth.

    He’d learned much before the Sergeant had started her verbal tirade. They were going to be able to get married. They were not going to have quarters together. He was not going to have to get of at Krios. Most surprisingly was the package that had been laid into his hands.

    ‘You’re her fucking fiancé now, and it seemed suiting to have you deliver this to her. You get to explain what it means, why it means that, and everything that come with it. You give it to her tonight, and you don’t open it before hand.’ Sergeant Meyers had said after she had handed it to him. He wondered what exactly it was.

    With a shrug Niklos made his way over towards messhall. He knew Kami would be there, and he had put a reservation on the dorsal observatory for after hours. It was one of the few places you could currently get a personal moment in, and was romantic to boot with the view of the way the Warp field smeared the stars along with the light glow of the nacelles. He was a guy and a MACO but that didn’t make him stupid in the ways of romance.

    She was right where he thought she would be. Niklos had noticed while watching her before that the Kriosian women had tended to maneuver in tight groups. Some had changed rooms with others willingly, some not so willingly. Clans she had explained to him in the short time that he had known her. He figured that the six other women close to her own age were probably all the family she had left alive.

    “Kami.” Niklos greeted her as he gave a small bow to the group. The MACOs had taught that the oriental mode of respect worked for almost all known cultures. Nik was glad to see that it worked with Kriosians too as the group gave him shy smiles.

    “Niklos.” Kamitama’s face fell as she heard his greeting, but he watched as she propped it up with a smile and gave a nod. “It is not good?”

    “No, it is fine. The Sergeant was able to get the Captain to agree. We need to talk though.” Nik gave a sigh and held up the envelope and the looked around the table. He was supposed to find out how many of the refugees with skills wanted to stay? Hell that was easy enough, at least six more. “What is in here and other things.”

    Nik was glad to see her nod in understanding. He still did not know how much English she had learned. What she knew she was good with, and that made even more difficult to figure out what she did not know, or had not already figured out. It still surprised him how easily she learned a new language. He was not a slouch himself in that department after a month of work he could hold a basic conversation with Klaang in Klingon, but this was on a whole different level a Hoshi level.

    The walk to the observatory was interesting to say the least. It was quite apparent that Earth customs and Kriosian ones differed greatly. Kami held his forearm the entire way there, and all but demanded to walk on the wall side. Nik made a mental note to ask about that sometime.

    The observatory was like it always was. The Trans-Al bubble covered room and let in the deep blue glow of the warp nacelles, the only illumination except for the consoles on the sides that controlled the currently quiescent observation telescope. It was not quiet, and truthfully the metal tread floor and the few chairs around the edges were not comfortable but it was private.

    “Now,” Nik said turning to face her as soon as the door shut behind them. “I need, I need to know why you are doing this Kami. This isn’t some fairy tale story, and I'm not a prince. I made a promise when I said yes, and I don’t go back on my honor. But I need to know why.”

    There was silence for a long time, but Nik was used to silence. Words meant something alarms meant something, but silence? It did not mean anything except for the absence of sound. That had been pounded into his head by a drill instructor in boot camp. Wait it out, something will eventually happen, and when it does you’ll be ready for it.

    “Our peoples different are Niklos.” Kami said as she turned away to look out at the view afforded by their position. She gave a long sigh before turning back to him and looking back up into his eyes. “On Krios a woman without clan is nothing. She is property to be bought or sold, a service to be used. A woman that is the head of a clan, unless she is of a royal one, is nothing more than a stepping-stone for another clan. A means for them to gain additional power.”

    “So you…” Nik trailed off as the statement sunk into him. She was the last of her clan, and it seemed that she was implying she was the head of it as well. He let out a long sigh and closed his eyes. This was way above his pay grade, way, way above. “Why me? Why not someone else?”

    “You are a warrior Niklos, of all that were aboard this ship you, the MACOs, and Klaang risked your lives for my clan. We are the last, the last ship, the only ones left of my family. Some of the others have related ship clans that they can petition to repay that debt. Some are clanless. It is a great debt to us, and Klaang is of a Great House. I chose the one I liked best from you. Do you blame me?” Kami turned away and Nik ground his teeth together. The more he was learning about the Kriosian culture the more he disliked it. Not because of the people it produced, God no, Kami was a strong woman every one of the refugees were, but because of the positions it placed them in. “I will do my duty to my clan Niklos. I will be a wife to you.”

    Kami tensed under Nik’s hands as he rested them lightly on her shoulders. Just how the hell was he supposed to comfort someone he did not understand? Shit, how was he supposed to marry someone? It didn’t matter though, he had given his word, and he was not one that went back on it. He’d have to learn how to do both, one step at a time.

    “How many, besides your…clan, would stay if they were offered positions on the crew Kami?” Nik asked, needing to get this out of the way. He felt her shoulders tense even more under his hands. A grimace crossed his face as he realized just what type of ‘positions’ she might be thinking he meant. “They would be positions on the crew. Paid positions doing the same jobs any other crewmember might do. They would be equals to any of the other members in the eyes of Starfleet. I imagine for some of the positions there might be a temporary commission, and possible officer status.”

    “Officer? Crew positions?” Kami turned quickly in Nik’s grasp and looked up into his eyes. “There are many who would risk it if they could believe it was true. Many will not. Of those that will risk it? There are twelve, maybe twenty.” She looked down then before turning her gaze to his. “I can ask, and make a list.”

    “Good, the Captain wants to know, and he’s kinda decided I have to be the one to find out.” Nik gave a bit of a grin. That was the last time he was going to come to the attention of the senior staff, he vowed. He reached back and pulled the envelope loose from his belt where he had stuck it for safekeeping. “Which reminds me, the Captain wanted me to give you this.”

    Nik watched as she tore open the envelope and pulled out two pieces of paper. Seeing those, well that was fairly telling, the official letterheads and gold pressed paper meant they were official. He read them upside down as Kami looked them over, obviously not understanding. His quick indrawn breath seemed to clue her in that something was going on.

    “What is it Niklos?’ Kami asked, worry evident in the sudden thickening of her accent.

    “It seems you are one of those that are getting that Officer position that was hinted at. You’ve been drafted Kami, because of the engagement, and you outrank me now.” Nik looked up to the disbelief written in her eyes and couldn’t help a chuckle. It was a laugh that turned into a curse when the papers drifted from nerveless hands and he had to catch her when she collapsed. “Shit, they don’t pay me enough for this.”
     
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  22. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 22

    Travis had missed this for the past week. Hoshi had been so busy working with Klaang that their nightly get together after shift in the messhall had been abandoned. It was hard working with a crew that you did not know, while being in such close proximity with them. It was exciting though, knowing that there were so many new people to get to know. This was something he had never had to deal with on the Horizon everyone had been familiar, too familiar.

    Still, Travis missed talking with Hoshi. She was the only one on the crew that he truly felt like he knew outside of Malcolm, and the armory officer was not someone he could gossip with. A ship without gossip is a ship without a soul his mother had always said, and he had taken that to heart. Besides, there was just so much to talk about.

    “I told you there was something between them.” Travis whispered as he leaned over the table towards his two companions. Phlox had become the third part of their triumvirate, and though the Doctor did not add to it he seemed to enjoy the discussions. “You can’t seriously believe there isn’t now can you?”

    Travis threw his glance over at the table where the two in discussion sat. This was going to be the talk of the crew, or would be once the issue with Niklos and Kamitama blew over. The scene was one that before Enterprise’s launch, and even shortly after was unthinkable. Trip was sitting down enjoying a piece of pecan pie al a mode with T’Pol. Sharing the ice cream lathered treat with her in fact, as it had been the last piece.

    “Travis, they’re just friends.” Hoshi sighed and kicked his shin under the table. “I’ve told you before, there is nothing going on there. She is Vulcan, and Vulcan’s don’t do things that way.”

    “How many ‘friends’ do you know that share food like that Hoshi? If it were any more blatant they’d be feeding each other bites.” Travis gave a snort and shook his head.

    “Personally I see nothing amiss in the way they are acting to each other. They seem quite fond of each other’s company.” Phlox gave a grin before turning back to his own food. Travis just gave him a glare; trust Phlox to come in on the side of Hoshi.

    “See, even Phlox agrees. Besides what I want to know Travis, is what do you think about their plan?” Hoshi did not have to look over to the pair for Travis to figure out whom she was talking about, and just what plan she spoke of.

    “I don’t know, we tried alien crew a couple times on the Horizon, but it never really worked out. Then again we didn’t have anyone near your or even Kamitama’s caliber with languages.” Travis glared at Hoshi as she broke out into giggles. “What?”

    “Sorry, it is just her name. Every time I hear it I can’t help but think what it means in my native language. Come on, Spirit spirit or goddess spirit? It is funny.” Hoshi snorted again and shook her head. “Everyone’s been calling her Kami for short, which is just as bad. Oh Kami, oh goddess. It sounds like everyone is swearing to a god.”

    “Oh, well I think if it works out it should be a good thing. I’ve talked with Lizzy Milano down in Engineering a couple times. She’s been more or less taking care of the environmental plant. From what she says we’re going to be pushing it hard if we don’t get someone more familiar with the ins and outs of balancing a system like that.” Travis frowned as he looked down at his food. “I’ve been on a ship with a bum plant before, it is no fun.”

    “I can’t believe that Commander Tucker would let things get that bad.” Hoshi did not sound concerned enough in Travis’ opinion, but she had grown up on a planet.

    That would skew anyone’s sense of danger, Travis thought. Always having more air to breath, more water to drink, and having a recycling system developed by millennia of evolution. Growing up aboard a ship meant that in the back of our mind you were always concerned with where the next breath of air came from.

    “We’ve got backup systems sure, but that would mean rationing water and using food concentrates. The main environmental system is a biomechanical system, very tricky to maintain. You’ve got to constantly make small changes in order to keep the algae tanks growing right, and balance use against production.” Travis gave a shrug of his shoulders. “It’ll probably be strange to the Kriosian that they have their eye on, but she should have the basics down well enough. Lizzy’s just been working things from the manual, and she says its not been working well.”

    “Travis is right Hoshi, having life support problems onboard a ship is nothing to take less than seriously. It is life and death.” Phlox gestured with a carrot before he continued. “Back when we first took the Kriosians onboard, Commander Tucker was having me do daily toxin checks on the atmosphere and water as well. It pays to be safe.”

    “Well, I for one am glad that we might be getting more help, and not just because we’ll be breathing easier. Kami, I’ll be glad to have her help me with translations.” Hoshi smirked a little at her play of words Travis noted. He gave a shake of her head as she scowled. “I do wish that the Captain would have made her a specialist in communications rather than putting her in charge of the Quartermaster duties.”

    “Well can you blame him Hoshi? We're luck we all wear one hat on this ship. Trip? He’s beat my mom’s record by three.” Travis held up his hand and started ticking off duties with fingers as he started. “He’s the Chief Engineer, morale officer, research specialist, environmental engineer, secondary shuttle pilot, the Captain’s sounding board, Quartermaster, and Vulcan-human liaison officer. A bit much don’t you think?”

    “Indeed. Trying to get Commander Tucker to realize the necessity of eight solid hours of sleep a night has been futile. The man is constantly on the go, I worry for his continued health.” Phlox looked over at the odd couple that was now sharing conversation over a rather pungent smelling tea. “If they are involved in a romantic relationship it is for the best. He could use the stress relief that sexual encounters provide humans.”

    Travis laughed at Phlox’s deadpan delivery and Hoshi just gave him a glare. Travis pushed back his chair and raised his hands in defense.

    “I didn’t say it this time Hoshi.” He said defensively, moving out of range of her deadly shin kick. She was rather cute when she was upset, but she was taken. Travis for one did not want to deal with a scorned Klingon boyfriend. Dealing with Klaang was bad enough as it was. Not that he’d hint anything was going on between the two in the presence of either. “You guys are coming to movie night right? We’ve got a classic lined up, double header of the original Alien series.”

    “Alien?” Phlox asked.

    “I can’t believe we’re showing that.” Hoshi groaned.

    “I’ll see you guys there tomorrow. I need to go check up on the bridge. We’re getting close to Krios, and some worlds have strange traffic patterns.” Travis pushed back further from the table and gave a grin. “Remember Phlox, don’t forget the popcorn.”

    &&&&&


    Klaang was in his favorite place to think on the ship, the training arena. He had a lot to think about, and truthfully before he had come onboard the Enterprise it was something he never did, as much as he now knew he should have.

    Being about a ship this long with these humans had been enlightening. Klaang was seeing points to his former instructors’ teachings that he had never realized before. Always before he had looked at the surface of things. Where he saw strength, he assumed there was strength, and where he saw weakness, he assumed there was weakness. Now after such a long time among these human’s he was learning things that was never any Klingon’s strong point, subtlety and distraction.

    Hoshi, Klaang had found, was incredibly talented in hand-to-hand combat and she was very well versed in tactics. She never faced him in a head on fight where he had dictated the terms. When she chose their battleground, she won, and she always made sure that she chose how and when they would duel. Her ability was cleverly concealed behind a façade of a mild mannered linguistics officer.

    Even those that should have no reason to hide what they were did it as second nature among these humans. Sergeant Meyers was a battle-hardened warrior if he had ever seen one before. She killed when she had to without compunction, but with mercy. There was none of the boasting that a Klingon would have, and the deprecations she slung at her lower officers were always made in fun. Yet, outside of combat she was open and caring. The cold steel that lit her eyes in the middle of combat was not present outside it.

    Klaang watched those around him as he was carried on his way to his people. They still had not answered his main question though, but he knew that sooner or later it would be. Why. Why they risked so much for so little gain.

    Klaang’s fist rocketed into the weight bag as he scowled. They risked everything to return him. The good will of their allies. They wagered the future of their space program. They set their own lives on the line for his. And for what gain? The good will of a single Klingon house, and the possible enmity of the rest.

    What was the answer to his question? Klaang did not know, not yet anyways. It was wrapped up in how they hid their strength though. They did not boast of it like a Klingon would. It was tied into why they fought, when they did so.

    Klaang’s fist slammed into the bag again. They had discipline that would shame the best Klingon warrior. He had saw that, realized the truth of it when he watched the first episode of the show ‘Band of Brothers’. A leader like the one that they had been saddled with, coward he was, would never have lived past the first day with a troop of Klingons.

    Klaang still had not decided whether or not that discipline was a detriment, or a bonus for these humans. It drove them to do things that were suicidal, and not for glory or honor. They did it only for the sake of that discipline.

    Klaang stood there for a long while reveling in the burn of sore muscles in the song of the blood through his veins. He still did not have his answer, but now he had realized something that was perhaps more important. Should his people and these Humans ever fight the Empire would never win. They might be able to kill every last human in the universe, but they still would not win. His people would have to sacrifice everything that made them whole to do such a thing and in the end it would mean nothing.

    &&&&&

    Jon did not bother to hide the small smile that lit his face as the Enterprise dropped out of warp. A new star system spread itself before his eyes on the viewscreen. It was a star system that was bursting with life. This was what he had joined Starfleet to see, this is what his father had given his entire life to accomplish.

    Man was meant to seek out strange new worlds, to find and discover new life.

    It was strange to not hear the ever-present throb of the warp drive in the background and not to be in a battle. The last few days had changed Jon, the crew, and possibly even Starfleet in a way that would echo through time. Their hand was reached out in friendship, but it was warmth that sheathed a core of strength.

    Jon gave a silent snort shaking himself from his thoughts.

    “Hoshi go ahead and broadcast our prerecorded message.” Jon was a bit proud of that message. A triple layered broadcast in English, Klingon, and Krios it had taken the communications officer three hours to put together. Who they were, why they were here, the status of the refugees they carried. It was a message of peace, and yet it was spoken from a position of strength.

    Already the local authorities were reacting to their presence. Subspace sensors showed multiple ships changing course. Some were merchants moving to give them a wider berth. Others were no doubt military ships, changing course to intercept them.

    “Travis set your course for the fourth planet right now. One quarter impulse, no need to make them touchier than they already are.” Jon had been planning this moment ever since he had the discussion with Kami yesterday.

    She had warned him that the Krios government would be wary of their arrival. New species were something to be feared in this area of the galaxy. Krios was an old Empire, the oldest in this sector of space. It was a crumbled Empire, and though its people were still proud, they had bowed before the Klingons out of necessity. Still they would not be anything but wary of a new power, especially one that was as strong as the Enterprise indicated the humans were.

    ‘Captain Archer, I do not believe that you truly understand how strong your position is.’ Kami had told him while they were having their meeting. She seemed to want to drive home her views and even though she struggled, she continued to press the issue. ‘A ship as fast as the Enterprise, very few powers have anything capable as this. Many Empires including Krios and the Klingons have their fastest ships barely able to approach this speed, and yet this is merely your cruise. I am told that these are going to be the core of your fleet. Your people could build a powerful Empire of their own should they wish to, and few would court your wrath because your retribution could easily be as swift as it is terrible.’

    The fact that Kami, and through her the rest of the Kriosians would see Earth as powerful was news to Jon. It gave him something to mull over in the long hours he was on the bridge or in his ready room. He had been goggled by the Vulcan and Andorian views of humanity for so long. They had seen Earth as little more than a possible ally, a young impudent race without any real power. The new attitude was strange, but Jon had a feeling that it was possibly the more truthful view.

    It had only been the past couple days that Jon had even truly thought about where Earth was in the tier of powers in this area of space. For so long slow ships had hampered Starfleet, and though the fleet was large controlling it was an exercise in frustration. Travel times were long, and communications were slow in reaching Captains. It was hard to control a growing colony effort, guarding an expanding merchant marine, and policing your claimed space when it took months or even years for messages and help to arrive.

    The Enterprise, Jon was beginning to realize, represented a changing of policy and the dawn of a new power in this sector of space. Hell, if half of what Kami told him was true the Enterprise was possibly faster than the entire Klingon fleet. She might not be as powerful as their warships, but she could show them a clean heel.

    Given more ships built to the Warp 5 standard and it would not be long before Earth eclipsed Vulcan and Andoria as powers. That might be why Vulcan was trying so hard to hold them back, and why the Andorians were so hell bent on an alliance.

    It was an interesting line of thought, and one that Jon would have to discuss with Trip at some point in the near future. Maybe they could get together to watch a water polo match and share a beer while refueling at Krios. Jon knew that they both needed some downtime, and talking with who was becoming the local Vulcan expert might help shed some light on things.

    “We’re receiving a broadcast in Kriosian and Klingon, sir.” Hoshi reported with one hand covering her ear and her brow furrowed in concentration. “We are to keep our current heading and accelerate to… Well that has to be Warp 1 until further instructions.” She looked up after a short time. “Just a repeat and a warning not to turn from our course until we are met by their inspection ship.”

    “Travis, you heard the Ensign. Warp 1, hold your course steady.” Jon turned to look around the bridge a grin still plastered to his face. “T’Pol you have the bridge. Lieutenant Reed, you and I will meet our hosts at the airlock. Hoshi when instructed to, please request our visitors use the port airlock.”

    Jon was glad that he had taken the time to put on his good uniform before coming up to the bridge for the system entry. Given the courses that the ships were shaping, and the closing velocity they had just over fifteen minutes before they would be undergoing docking procedures.

    “Hoshi give me ship wide.” Jon waited for a short moment and cleared his throat as the communications officer nodded at him. “This is the Captain. I just wanted you all to know we have arrived in the star system of Krios Prime. I expect that within a few hours we will be unloading our passengers and arranging for refueling and resupply. I hope to be able to allow you all a day or two off ship to see the sights, but if I can’t I want you to all know that you deserve it. So far your performance has been in the best tradition of Starfleet. I’m proud of you all, and I’m honored to be able to command a crew such as you. This is yet another small step for a man, and yet another giant leap for mankind. May there be many more.”

    Jon gave Hoshi a smile, and gave a nod to indicate to cut the channel, before he turned and headed to the turbolift. It was time to start making history.
     
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  23. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 23

    T’Pol was concerned by what had happened in the past few days. She found herself lost without a true course of action. First she had acted to decisively end her engagement to Koss. The letter she had sent back through normal channels to him made certain of that in clear terms, and the longer letter sent in explanation to her mother was no less to the point. She had cast herself adrift from the traditions of her people by doing so. No longer did she have that as a stepping-stone in her life.

    That action had possibly ended her ability to hold a commission in either the Vulcan Science Academy, or the Vulcan High Command. The later because she was no longer a controllable asset for them, and as such could only be considered by the High Command as a rogue element. The Science Academy as well would have to wash their hands of her, as he actions had brought her into direct personal conflict with the wishes of High Command. They would have no choice but to publicly decry her if they were to be able to continue covertly working against the High Command.

    Then on the thinnest strands of logic T’Pol had taken steps to secure a future position aboard the Enterprise. She may have only spoken some of her reasons for backing the introduction of the Kriosians into Enterprises crew to the Captain, but she made no effort to keep the reason for that action from herself. What T'Pol did for Kamitama and Kamitama’s peers was actually a step towards being able to do the same for T’Pol’s position. There was much she could still do to help the humans and her, friends, aboard the Enterprise, but for that purpose her continued presence aboard was necessary.

    T’Pol wanted to remain to remain aboard the Enterprise, and the real reason for doing so was quite illogical. T’Pol found her work aboard the ship and with her crewmates to be fulfilling. She found their constant emotional interaction to be interesting, she was intrigued by their ability to reach out and open up to alien cultures. That her reasons for remaining aboard were based upon personal issues and not those of the greater good that she professed was illogical.

    As intriguing as she found it T’Pol would have to ask that in the future that they leave her out of the social interactions. As trying as her time aboard had been, it paled in comparison to the current situation. This was something that none of her training had adequately covered. The fact that the Universal Translator was working quite well only made the situation worse.

    Formal dining with the Kriosian ruling family had sounded innocent enough. T’Pol continued to view it as such until tailors had arrived to provide her, and the rest of the senior crew with ‘acceptable’ dining attire. Acceptable female attire in Kriosian culture appeared to trend towards long unwieldy skirts, which were slit up the side to almost the hipbone, and a brocaded corset that shoulders, chest and a broad expanse of her back. All the clothing was a rather garish scarlet. It was barbaric and wholly designed to accentuate the female figure for the enticement of some male.

    On a whole the dress showed far too much skin, and was far more form fitting than she was entirely comfortable with even in a private setting. Given that she would be attending a formal dinner in it while escorting and being escorted by Commander Tucker, it was entirely inappropriate. The allusion that Commander Tucker would have some sort of, romantic, claim upon her because of the garb, and the setting was quite unsatisfactory. It displayed her not as a colleague but as a trophy to be held over other males.

    “I will not wear this piece of clothing. It is entirely inappropriate.” T’Pol had to struggle to contain the anger that surged within her, to maintain the calm outward appearance and even voice. “I will wear my formal robes.”

    T’Pol looked over to Kamitama moving towards her locker when the other woman shook her head in shock. Kami moved to intercept T’Pol interposing her body between the Vulcan and the resting place of the robes.

    “I will not allow myself be displayed as a base object of, of lust.” T’Pol stated. She had let a little anger leak through that time. There were many reasons for her anger T’Pol know, anger for letting herself do this in the first place, anger at not researching the culture herself, and lastly the hardest to admit anger was that towards herself. That she wanted Char…Commander Tucker to see her like this. It would be necessary to meditate, but there was not enough time to do so before the dinner. As it was she would barely have time to change if she started now.

    “This is traditional formal garb for Kriosian nobility Sub commander.” Kamitama protested in a soft voice. T’Pol noted that the woman still kept her gaze averted whenever she could. Was that a sign of deference, or merely a standard formality of Kriosian body language? “To show up in anything else now after the First Monarch himself arranged for the measurement and production of the clothing would be an insult to him.”

    T’Pol closed her eyes and began an introductory breathing meditation. She slowly pulled her control back up out of the depths of her mind and locked the chains around her soul again. She willed their distraction away and made herself look at the situation logically.

    The Enterprise needed the goodwill of the Kriosian ruling family. There was much debate whether or not the human’s really had done what they claimed to have done, even with the evidence of the records and the former captives. T’Pol had to admit that her idea of bringing Kriosians into the crew had backfired there. The new prospective crew had refused to leave the ship. It was illogical but they had professed being afraid that the Enterprise would leave the system without them aboard. T’Pol knew, even if they did not, that there was no danger from that. Commander Archer was loyal to his charges, and he would never willingly leave them behind.

    It was necessary then for her to continue, as she was, necessary but distasteful.

    “I see the logic of your argument.” T’Pol relented as she turned back to the door to her quarters. Momentarily she wondered if Kamitama had to have similar arguments with the other members of the party.

    “Good, we need to proceed with the application of cosmetics.” Kamitama trailed off as T’Pol leveled her gaze once again.

    “That will not be necessary.” T’Pol continued on towards the door. “There is not time for an extensive application of cosmetics in any case. The shuttle will need to leave shortly if we are to arrive on time.”

    The walk to the shuttlebay was just as disconcerting as T’Pol had thought it would be. Members of the crew let their eyes linger on her form for longer that was absolutely necessary.

    T’Pol was unnerved when she saw that Commander Tucker had already arrived. She took the time as he turned around to study his own clothing. It would appear that Kamitama probably had as much difficulty getting the male members of their party to wear their traditional garb. Knee britches and long stockings started the ensemble, topped with layered coats one buttoned down to mid thigh, and the outer open and all it a pastel blue color. It looked, T’Pol decided, rather foolish and quite unflattering on Commander Tucker.

    “Commander.” T’Pol greeted as she lifted her gaze to meet his eyes which had returned the quick once over.

    “T’Pol. Looks like you and Hoshi got the better deal outta this clothing.” Trip apparently noticed the tightening that T’Pol felt in her face at his statement for he continued on. “You look…elegant in that. This just make me look like a fool.”

    “I do not feel, elegant, in this Commander.” T’Pol had noticed the slight hesitation in his voice as he had tried to come up with the correct description. T’Pol decided that his hesitation deserved a verbal reprimand. “And I do not believe that you look any more, foolish, than usual.”

    “Har de har har.” Trip replied as he stepped past her to the shuttle, moving quickly down inside it. “Very funny T’Pol. At least you don’t have to wear something that makes you look like some foppish noble out of a history vid.”

    “And at least you look like a foppish noble and not his concubine.” T’Pol retorted following him down into the shuttle. It was getting harder to ignore the roiling of emotions, and harder yet not to let the heat of her anger leak through. “To wear such…on Vulcan such clothing has not been worn in centuries, and in those times such a display was not respectable.”

    “I’m sorry T’Pol.”

    Both officers started as Jonathon spoke up behind them. T’Pol lowered her gaze not wanting to meet his gaze, and taken aback by the fact that she had not heard his and Hoshi’s entrance. Hoshi was wearing the same gown that T’Pol wore, only in a lavender color complete with the cosmetics that Kamitama had mentioned before. Jonathon wore the twin of Trip’s, only in a burnt orange. It would appear that if nothing else, T’Pol thought, at least Hoshi and her had received the better color choices of the evening.

    “However, when in Rome do as the Romans.” Jon continued looking between his two senior officers. “While we might believe their clothing is inappropriate, or humiliating they do not believe so. We are their guests here, and I cannot stress how important this contact is for them, for us, and for Vulcan. I trust that we will all handle ourselves in a professional manner. Understood?”

    “Cap’n”

    “Yes Captain.” T’Pol settled into one of the chairs after answering the Captain. This was going to be a long evening and she was not looking forward to it.

    “Now, with that settled could we please get this shuttle underway? The faster we get down there, the sooner this will be over.”

    &&&&&

    Trip was dedicated to following Jon’s words before they left the Enterprise. He was however feeling out of sorts with what he had to wear, and having T’Pol hanging off his arm like she was. He had not had time to go over all of the required etiquette that Kamitama had provided, and instead had drilled her on what he needed to do and not do when she was providing the finishing touches to his clothing. Eating pie with a fork type stuff.

    Having T’Pol standing well within what was normally personal boundary, and having her hand wrapped lightly around his bicep was decidedly unnerving. Given that their height difference and her evening wear every time he looked over at her he was gifted with a decidedly pleasant view made things only worse. They had only just arrived and Trip was already feeling the beginnings of a world-class headache coming on.

    “T’Pol, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but just why are you standing so close?” Trip murmured as he turned to look over her head, trying not to let his gaze drop any lower.

    “If you would have read the briefing Commander, you would know that an unescorted attendee at a party such as this is advertising their availability. I have no wish to fend off offers of a liaison in addition to previously discussed problems.” T’Pol sounded cooler than normal to Trip, and it was obvious that she was still miffed by having to wear what she was in. “I thank you for attempting to be circumspect.”

    Truthfully Trip thought she looked better than elegant in what she was wearing. It showed off her assets nicely without being overly blatant, and the occasional flash of a long, lithe leg only added to the allure. It would not have been too out of place in formal dining at Starfleet, and if they had worn something like that instead of their normal stuffy robes relations would have been better.

    Besides, now that she mentioned it he noticed that Hoshi was hanging off of Jon the same way. As was the vast majority of those already gathered. It was also apparent that the male clothing was as a whole, garishly colored. It made him feel a little better as there were worse things than sky blue in attendance, a flashing neon pink being one such.

    A person wearing neon pink, who was rapidly approaching the four Starfleet officers. A regal looking woman in a deep emerald green accompanied the man, whose dress was cut much more loosely than the majority.

    “Captain Archer, Ensign Sato, Sub-Commander T’Pol and Commander Tucker it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” There was a slight hesitation, between the beginning of the spoken words, and the translation that came through Trip’s earbud. It would take time to get used to it he realized and he concentrated on doing just that.

    Trip bit his cheek as he realized that the neon pink just happened to be worn by the very man they were here not to insult. First Monarch Krias, leader of the Kriosian people. Trip felt T’Pol’s hand tighten on his arm, and he duplicated the low bow that Jon was giving the ruler. He was a little upset with the Vulcan; he didn’t need a reminder to be polite. Maybe which fork to use first at dinner, but not a reminder to be polite.

    “The pleasure is ours your majesty.”

    Trip was more than willing to let Jon take the lead on something like that. He was here more as a show of solidarity, and respect than to make any real diplomatic moves. Unfortunately that didn’t seem to factor into the First Monarch’s own agenda.

    “I see that we have the luckiest men here tonight, I am sure that there is not a another woman as lovely as the Sub-Commander or the Ensign here.”

    Trip nearly yelped in pain as T’Pol’s hand tightened further around his arm. He quickly stepped in before the Vulcan could say something that would unduly sour the evening. It was fairly easy to decide what to say, as his grandfather had choice words on the matter before he had left. ‘Always compliment the other man’s wife’ the senior Charles Tucker had advised, ‘Doesn’t matter if its true or not, he’ll and she’ll thank you for it’.

    “I’m sure I’m not the luckiest man sire. Maybe the second, for you have to be the first. If I could beg an introduction?” Trip replied smoothly, trying to keep most of his drawl out of his voice, knowing that it would make the universal translators job harder. There was a slight pause as the machine rebroadcast his words in Kriosian.

    “My wife Kaliene.” There were a pair of smiles on the royal couple’s faces, and Trip decided that keeping the discussion firmly upon them was in everyone’s best interests.

    “Your wife? Surely not, your daughter I would have thought.” Trip congratulated himself as T’Pol’s hand lightened on his arm, and the two smiles broadened. The First Monarch’s with a bit of smugness behind it, the Queen’s with just a hint of teasing enjoyment. Trip caught Jon’s thankful nod from his side, and his own grin widened just a bit.

    “His wife indeed. Our daughter is currently on Qo’nos for a diplomatic engagement.” Kaliene replied. Trip gave an internal sigh of relief as the change in subject matter was taken. “I understand that you ship is bound there as well?”

    “Yes, we have endeavored to return Klaang of House Kor to his homeworld.” Jon stepped in once again, taking over the conversation much to Trip’s relief. “His ship crashed upon our world during his mission, and without our ship he would have been facing many more months of travel time.”

    “Very altruistic of your Captain. That combined with your behavior, makes me wish to believe the explanation you have given regarding the Kriosian citizens you have returned. However there are factions in the government that point to your continued holding of a significant portion of the captives that say you are not as altruistic as you say.” Kaliene continued looking from Trip to the other officers. Trip was fairly surprised when T’Pol chose to reply in an even voice.

    “Although I as a Vulcan do not completely understand the reasoning behind many Human actions I can assure you that there is nothing untoward going on. It may be illogical, but many of those who have been offered positions aboard, and who wish to stay are afraid of losing those positions should they go offship.” T’Pol glanced over at Trip before continuing. “Several have accepted positions within Commander Tuckers engineering department, and currently are working to catch up on basic maintenance.”

    “Positions? You mean to say that you have offered them actual jobs on your crew?” Trip was uncertain but thought that Krias sounded rather shocked by what he had just been told.

    “There would have been no way to truthfully keep them aboard otherwise. The Enterprise is an exploration and military vessel, we aren’t suited for long term carriage of non-essential personnel.” Jon replied. It had been something that Trip was rather surprised the Captain had relented to so quickly. Now you could not even tell that just a mere couple days ago he had been dead set against the idea. That, however, was before Cook had come and congratulated him on finding someone else to take a shift in the galley. “The commissions in Starfleet are only temporary mind you, and until we actually return to Earth will remain as such.”

    Silence ruled the room for a while as the people nearby had halted their conversations to listen in stared in shared shock at the Starfleet officers. Whispered words slowly filled the area stuff that Trip’s UT was not picking up. He hoped that Hoshi was getting some of what was being said, as it appeared the culture gap was even wider than what they had expected.

    “I must insist that I be given a tour of your ship. A vessel as fast as yours is a rarity in this area of space. Is it so in yours?” Krias made an abrupt change in conversation. Trip had to wonder if they had somehow crossed over into a taboo subject.

    “I’m sure that Commander Tucker would be glad to show you around his baby. I sometimes think that it is his ship, and he just lets me borrow it.” Jon covered smoothly much to Trip’s relief. “And currently it is the only NX class vessel in Starfleet, but there are three more under construction. Within the next month or two we hope to have a second.”
     
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  24. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 24

    Lieutenant JG Mark Carsson seethed on the bridge. The fact that he was here and had not been invited to attend the banquet on the planet below was yet another reason why he despised the Enterprise. He had, back on Earth, been a regular invitee to most of the social occasions centered on Starfleet. Which was the way it should have been. He was a rising officer in an expanding service. He was well cultured, well connected within the ranks, and the well-known favorite of a pair of senior officers.

    “My word meant something.” He murmured to himself, having not bothered to take over the Captain’s chair. The glares he received the few times he had made it not worth the effort.

    Enterprise had been his chance at rising further and faster than before. Mark had his life planned out before this trip. A shipboard cruise would put him in that rare club of deskbound officers, those that ‘knew the beast’ as it was. It would open yet other doors to him. Marriage to a well respected family. If he had played his cards right he could have been a Captain by twenty-six. Now, well he could feel all that slipping away.

    There was a stack of ‘Unsatisfactory’ performance reviews piling up in Mark’s folder. It was getting harder and harder to even care about how he did on duty because no matter what he did he always bore the brunt of the blame. Just last week a sensor had burned out on the portside science sensors during his watch, and instead of Ensign Valdez from the Science Department taking the all the blame for not noticing it, he had. All because he was the senior officer on watch, and because he had not performed satisfactory in his oversight role.

    Mark knew this trip was going to kill his chances of being a name in Starfleet, and all because the senior crew was jealous of his former performance. They wanted what he had, what he would have been able to achieve. Two bit ship officers that could not see the big picture who could not understand how things actually worked in Starfleet, and who did the real work.

    Now they had these damned women aboard as well. Slaves, they had deserved that. Now they were here and were the apple of the Captain’s eye. Taking over roles more deserving officers were due. Lounging back and having their own special quarters set aside. It was sickening to see what they were being handed on a silver platter.

    “Sir, we have an issue.” Chief Brooks’ voice broke Mark out of his mental tirade.

    Why the other man was even up on the bridge right now was a question. They were docked with an orbital station, and could not go anywhere. Even an emergency undock would take ten or fifteen minutes, and most of that would be because of the need to undo the pipes currently pumping huge amounts of deuterium into the Enterprise’s tanks. Mark scanned his display quickly wondering if something had gone wrong there, or in the antimatter processor. It all looked good though.

    “What is the issue Chief?” Mark realized he had taken to long to ask for clarification he could see it in the other man’s eyes. That was probably why the Chief was on the bridge. To check up on Mark to spy on his actions, and report them back to the Captain.

    “One of the D3 cruisers in the pair that the Captain marked for surveillance just went to warp. Course appears to be shaping for Qo’nos.” Chief Brooks obviously looked like he wanted Mark to do something.

    The pair of ships though had only been marked because their beacons had bore the mark of the House of Duras. Mark supposed that the Captain was concerned that the Klingons might attempt something against Klaang while he was here in Krios. Given that Duras was supposed to be an enemy of Klaang’s house Mark granted that it could be possible. Why take direct action though? There were easier ways of dealing with Klaang.

    “Qo’nos? Well I don’t see why we have to worry about that. Those cruisers can barely make Warp 3.5. We’ll overrun them easy, and besides a sub-space message would get to the capital faster.” Mark waved off the Chief. “We’ll put it in the report, the Captain can deal with it when he gets back.”

    “Sir, respectfully, the Captain wanted to be notified if either of those ships did anything out of the ordinary immediately.”

    Mark glared at the Chief, his anger rising as the older and more experienced man just let it was over him. No respect for the rank.

    “As I said Chief we will put it in the report. Breaking up a social encounter as important as the one the Captain is in now would be foolish. That ship is not going to get far in the few hours it’ll take the Captain to get back aboard, it can wait until then. Understood?” Mark was all but yelling at the end. The constant pressure and the constant criticism had finally got to him.

    “Understood sir. Respectfully, sir, I want it in the log that I disagreed with this course of action.”

    Mark glared at the other man, but worked the controls of the bridge recorder cutting the other man’s protest dropping it in the log file and annotating the disagreement with his thumbprint.

    “There. Happy? Now can we go back to the matter at hand? Namely making sure that we don’t blow the station up from an imbalance in the anti-matter producer?” The bridge was silent from the explosion, and though part of Mark was satisfied another knew he had just made another mistake.

    &&&&&

    Ensign Lizzy Milano was up to her elbows in the environmental system. At least this time she was not the only one and the company was not half bad. Though the UT still did not have a vocabulary broad enough to take on technical terms you just had to get creative in your explanations sometimes. It helped that Liameta had a background in environmental systems, and that those systems tended to work the same for all oxygen breathers.

    “This is the first stage of the scrubber. It removes the bad gasses we breathe out from the good gasses that we breathe in, and concentrates the bad.” Lizzy smiled as she chewed on her gum looking over at the older woman. It was a little strange to be giving the lecture to someone possibly half again her age, but well it was worth it. Trying to figure out how to describe oxygen and carbon dioxide in a non-technical and understandable manner. Luckily carbon dioxide poisoning was something humanity shared with the Kriosians. “. On this, well we need to make sure that it is operating at the right temperature, that the coils aren’t frozen, and that the water gets drained off right. The good get injected back into the downstream flow, and the bad get injected into the first of the processing tanks”

    Lizzy thumped the capped end of a trans-alum tank, which was surrounded by lights and filled with green goo. The tank bubbled as the high-pressure gas was injected into it, flocculating the mixture, and though invisible causing rapid growth in the algae.

    “The green stuff eats the bad gasses and exhales the good. We need to make sure that the balance of the tank is right. Not too much green stuff, not too little water, enough fertilizer, and the right amount of gas.” Lizzy looked over to the other woman and saw that she gave an understanding nod. Truthfully Lizzy thought that the other woman probably could teach her a thing or two about environment systems, even this human one.

    It was a little hard getting used to how the UT worked though. Luckily the Captain had decided that if they were going to be crewmembers they’d have to learn English, which meant in the future, there would be no worries if the central computer went belly up.

    “What temperature? Where is the maintenance access?” Liameta motioned towards the compressor and Lizzy gave a smile, popping her gum again.

    It was cool being able to talk and work so closely with someone that was not even Human. A little strange though as outside of the language they acted and looked fairly normal. There were a few things different the lack of moles for one, but that was something you had to look closely for.

    “The temperature is displayed right here. Green is good, yellow is on the warning edge, orange is out of range, and red is very bad. If it hits red it’ll shut down automatically and we go over to emergency systems.” Lizzy pulled open the maintenance hatch and pointed down into the depths of the machine. “Those are the coils, there might be some frost but no major ice. If there’s ice or water in the tray you need to check the drain which is right in the center, see it?”

    “Yes.”

    Lizzy glanced over to see that the woman was taking notes on the touchscreen of her computer tablet with the provided pen. Good, meant that she probably would not have to go through the discussion again. It helped that Hoshi was planning on running the maintenance and user manuals through the translator in the next couple days.

    “Now comes the bad part of today. The tanks don’t have an internal cleaner so we’ve got to purge them periodically, and scrape down the inner wall to get the goo off or it’ll build up and block the light.” Lizzy gave a scowl as she turned and began to work through the purge processes. She went through it slower than normal so that Liameta could follow along.

    “People are less prone to breakage than machines.” Liameta said quietly with a smirk. “Same on our ship, besides cleaning machines have to be cleaned by people as well.”

    “True.” Lizzy opened the compressed ship air to purge the tank of water and algae, and to make the air inside breathable before opening the access hatch. “Everything left in the tank, and what we scrape off goes into the waste reclamation system. The algae is put into another machine which separates it into starch, sugar, fiber and protein, and makes various powders and bricks and stuff that Chef uses in the galley. A bit gross if you ask me.”

    A chuckle let Lizzy know that Liameta thought much the same. The work passed fairly quickly with two to do it, but it was boring. The tank was big, dank, and smelly and Lizzy really wanted to get to know her new crewmate a bit better.

    “So, if you don’t mind my asking why did you decide to take up the Captain’s offer?” Lizzy asked after a few minutes of silence broken only by the sound of her popping gum, and the squeal of a squeegee on the tank wall.

    “Kamitama chose the path that was best for the clan. What is left of it now.” Liameta’s soft explanation caused Lizzy to frown and turn to her.

    “Clan? I’m afraid I don’t understand.” Lizzy scraped off another swipe of the green sludge left behind. Trans-alum was not supposed to coat with the stuff, but they still had not gotten the surface doping good enough. There were always microscopic ridges and cracks that allowed a film to form.

    “The clan is everything on Krios. It is the foundation of your family and your job. Clans gather power slowly; increase their status and their power. Ours, ours with the loss of our ship has nothing. If we were to remain on Krios we would have to start from the beginning. We would have to do any job offered, take any pay given.” Liameta looked away for a short time before going back to her work. “It is little better than slavery.”

    “So, you just took the job because it was better than what you faced? I’ve heard worse reasons. Hell I had worse reasons.” Lizzy grinned at the Kriosian. “Here I am umpteen million miles from home, and all because I wanted to meet a Vulcan.”

    “Do your people not have clans?” Liameta sounded puzzled to Lizzy and she gave a shrug.

    “Not like you anyways. We have families, and some families have family jobs. Ensign Mayweather for instance came from a Boomer, a merchant ship, and his entire family was on the ship much like yours. Still usually our families don’t choose what jobs we do, that’s an individual thing on earth.”

    Lizzy looked over at Liameta who appeared to be rather shocked by her words. She gave a soft sigh as she realized how difficult this was going to be to explain. Well there was not much else to do while they were working.

    “Let me tell you a little about Earth, and how humanity works.”

    &&&&&

    Lieutenant JG Nate Pierson was having a difficult time figuring out just what he was supposed to be doing at the moment. Weeks of working non-stop shift on, shift off had left him at a loss with what to do with his free time. He gave a slight shake of his head and made his way down to the gym. It would do him some good to have a few rounds with the bag, and there might even be someone down there to spar with.

    He was still having problems dealing with his inaction during the previous battle. Nate still felt he needed to do more, to be there on the edge and in danger.

    The only problem with that was the fact that when Nate came in from the locker room there was not anyone there besides the Klingon, Klaang. It appeared that everyone else was using the free time they had to catch up on personal chores due to the possibility of shore leave. Even Nate had to admit that the chance of getting off the ship and breathing something other than recycled air would be a welcome relief.

    “Greetings.” Klaang rumbled from where he was working through forms with one of the various rubber knives. It was fairly amazing how far the UT had come in such a short period of time.

    Nate gave him a bit of a nod. He was still not sure if he liked, or disliked the Klingon. The man had an abrasive attitude and tended to not be respectful of anyone who was not a warrior. It was, Nate thought, a rather telling sign about his culture. Everything revolved around the warrior ethos. What he heard from the MACOs indicated that their literature and fine arts was all but non-existent outside historical opera.

    “Good evening.” Nate replied, slipping a pair of fighting gloves on and moving over to the heavy bag. He had no real wish to fight Klaang again mostly because Klaang’s spars involved someone being injured at the end.

    It felt good to move again, and not have to hold back much. The sharp crack as a fist met the bag, and the anticipation to slide aside as it swung back before another strike went out. Training had always been the high point of his younger life a time when he did not have to keep his emotions in check, and when he did not have to be careful around others.

    “Lieutenant Pierson is your name correct?” Klaang’s voice came from his right and he glanced over there before continuing his routine.

    “Yes, and you are Klaang of House Kor.” Nate said while sliding aside from the bag once again. A three punch combo, double jab and a right hook slammed into it. He ducked while sliding to the left again ducking an imaginary counter.

    “I wish to tell you I meant nothing personal with my words during our former sparring session.” Klaang seemed to hover just outside of where the bag was going to swing to next, and Nate found himself hitting it harder as if just to launch it into the other man’s face.

    “Eh, no worries. Just don’t expect a rematch.” Nate slipped aside again, slamming another three hit combo into the bag.

    “I have a question for you, if you would not mind. I have been trying to understand humanity, and I am afraid that my research has only led me to more confusion.” Klaang grumbled from where he was.

    Nate straightened and stopped the swinging bag with one hand. He turned to face the Klingon and gave a nod.

    “I suppose if you’re coming to me for the answer to a question I’ll have to answer it.” Nate did not understand why Klaang was coming to him, but it probably had something to do with honor and respect. Outside Hoshi, he was still the only one that had beaten Klaang in a match. That had been a mistake, but it seemed to have worked out all right as nobody seemed to realize what it meant.

    “There are many contradictory things that I do not understand about humanity. You make films to honor your warriors, and yet at the same time you seem to have the need to make fictional accounts of idealized soldiers. Many are honorable, yet some are quite dishonorable and are not called upon it.” Klaang fell silent for a long time before he shook his head and continued. “How with such a dichotomy have you survived, how have you prospered?”

    “Hrm.” Nate reached up to grab the rope the bag hung from and leaned into it. This was not the question he was expecting. “If I get you right, you’re looking for what our goal is. What the most important thing is to us as a species right?”

    “Yes. Why do you do what you do?” Klaang seemed genuinely puzzled and Nate truthfully did not have an answer for him. It was not something he had really thought about, so instead of saying what was true to him he passed along something his father had told him.

    “We strive to better ourselves. We struggle to learn from our mistakes, understand our successes, and always take yet another step forward.” Nate gave a shrug. “It might sound simple, but that is how we have arrived where we are now. One step at a time into the future.”

    “I don’t understand.” Klaang growled in frustration and if his brow could have gotten any more furrowed it would have.

    “Neither do I, neither do I.”
     
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  25. judgeking

    judgeking United Nuclear Nations

    Chapter 25

    Jon was having the time of his life. Sure there were cultural minefields that both Kriosians and the officers of the Enterprise had to maneuver around, but it was a lot like he had imagined it had been on Earth before the invention of mass communications. Most of the issues were minor, or seemed to be, anyways.

    Jon found the non-verbal communication during the whole meet and greet, and on into the dinner to be quaint. The mutual escorts indicating that neither person was seeking a different liaison. Eating off the same plate with Hoshi was interesting, but they both shared a cultured palate willing to try new things. There were a few things on the table before them that they both mutually steered away from, and a few others that one liked that the other did not.

    It was, however, much more interesting to watch Trip and T’Pol in their own mutual exchange. It was, Jon thought, quite a bit like watching an old married couple at a buffet. The two times that Trip had went for a meat dish T’Pol had given him such a glare that Jon and most of the table had found it hard not to laugh. In retaliation the young Engineer kept offering up choice bits of this or that on the tip of his fork to T’Pol.

    It was nice to be able to sit back and enjoy a meal with company. He had taken to eating on the Enterprise when he had free time, and alone in his ready room or in his quarters. It was far past time, Jon decided, that he blow the dust out of the Captain’s dining room. Dinner with Trip and T’Pol could eliminate some of the more unnecessary of written reports, and breakfast with other crew could help in writing future personnel reports.

    “T’Pol, I’m pretty sure that you’re supposed to pick that up with your fingers.”

    Jon glanced at Hoshi and shared a grin at Trip’s words and both had to bite back laughter at T’Pol’s smooth reply.

    “Vulcan’s do not touch prepared food with their hands.” T’Pol was calmly trying to cut a hard grain stick in two with her knife and fork. “It would be quite impolite for me to do so.”

    “So, you’re saying our hosts are impolite?”

    “No, I am merely saying that my acting in the same manner would be in my culture construed as acting impolite.”

    Jon gave a grin as he turned back to his food. The bickering between the two was quite distracting if you let it be, but on a whole the Kriosians seemed to find it as amusing as he did. A sense of humor had always indicated to Jon that the wielder was someone he could make friends with, and seeing T’Pol wield her own warmed his feeling towards her.

    “Do they always act like this Captain?” The First Monarchs question brought Jon back to focus.

    “Truthfully, I’m not sure. They’ve always had verbal sparring matches ever since they meet, or at least they have in my company. I think I’d be concerned if they were to suddenly stop.” Jon glanced over at the two officers who were still embroiled in their own little argument further down the table.

    “They’ve known each other for a long time then?” Kaliene inquired and Hoshi stifled a giggle.

    “No, I would not say a long time.” Jon glanced at a time comparison chart and did some quick mental math. “They’ve known each other for one quarter of your local year. Commander Tucker and I met T’Pol shortly after Starfleet encountered Klaang.”

    “I find it surprising that they would be so comfortable with each other in such a short amount of time.” Kaliene remarked. Jon was surprised and yet encouraged when Hoshi spoke up in Kriosian language in response.

    “Quarter of a Kriosian year in the close confines of the Enterprise makes you either very comfortable, or very uncomfortable with everyone else.” Hoshi’s wry deliver and soft smile as well as the glance she gave the other Enterprise officers wrung a short laugh from the royal couple.

    “T’Pol is Vulcan is she not?” Krias, the First Monarch, asked and he waited for Jon’s nod before continuing. “Is Humanity a client race of Vulcan? We have not had open contact with any of the older societies since the outbreak of the Andorian/Vulcan war.”

    “That is a difficult question to answer.” Jon replied as he hit another one of those cultural minefields. Answering this question without going into the tension that existed between Earth, Vulcan and the other polities in the area was going to be difficult. “Vulcan and Earth enjoy close diplomatic ties but we are not a client race. Though there are portions of our political system that are pressuring for closer formalized ties, by in large we have attempted to remain separate, and neutral. Part of Starfleet’s, and United Earth’s eventual goals is to help establish a lasting peace between Andoria and Vulcan. We’re located pretty much right on the border between the two, and it is in our best interests for them to improve relations.”

    “It seems strange then that you would have a Vulcan officer onboard.” Krias continued after a moment to contemplate Jon’s words. Thankfully Jon did not have to field the question, as the dining hour seemed to be over. Plates were being cleared away, and T’Pol had heard the question during the interruption of her discussion with Trip.

    “The High Command had doubts that a race as young as Humanity would be able to undertake the mission. A compromise was made between High Command and Starfleet for an advisory officer to be placed aboard while in turn Starfleet received star charts that would allow them to attempt the voyage.” T’Pol’s words stopped the muted buzz of conversation again. People moved from chairs and in the general direction of the dance floor as the Royal couple led the way.

    “Young? We had assumed that because of their prowess with shipbuilding that Humanity was a race with a long Warp history.” Kaliene’s voice was surprised and Krias’ nod indicated his agreement. “Just how long ago did Earth enter the fold of Warp Capable worlds?”

    “A little under forty-six standard Kriosian years.” T’Pol stated accompanying Trip towards the dance floor. Jon was looking forward to this and not just because Hoshi was light upon her feet. T’Pol though appeared hesitant to increase her exploration of Krios culture with study of their dance and music. “Only nineteen Kriosian years ago did they manage to start their first extra-solar colony.”

    There was additional stunned silence around Jon and his crew, and he felt rather proud of Earth’s accomplishments. His father had played a large part in the strides they had taken. He was somewhat upset that they had not come farther than they had, and without the constant meddling of Vulcan they would have.

    “How many extra-solar colonies does Earth have now?” Krias seemed almost hesitant to ask, and Jon decided that it would be best to answer with emphasis on Earth’s role in joint colonies.

    “Solo Earth managed Colonies, three in total.” Jon replied as he stopped on the edge of the dance floor. The music had already started, but nobody had begun to dance, obviously it was reliant upon the royal couple taking the first turn. “However we have three joint colonies with Vulcan, two with Andoria, a single colony started in conjunction with Denobula, and we are in negotiations over beginning a joint project with Tellarite.”

    That made silence reign supreme for a long moment, and then the necessity for conversation vanished as Krias led Kaliene onto the dance floor. Jon watched somewhat put off by the sudden departure of the ruling couple. He decided it was probably due to the fact of Earth’s rapid rise towards power while Krios was still on the decline. Hopefully this would not sour relations. If nothing else Krios had good food, and excellent symphonic music, though they seemed to trend towards keyboard instruments.

    Luckily the somewhat humorous verbal sparring between Trip and T’Pol had started once again.

    “Vulcans do not dance.”

    “Come on T’Pol, while in Rome. Besides it doesn’t look all that hard. A simple waltz step will let us fit in.”

    Jon did not bother trying to hide the smile leading Hoshi out onto the floor and into one of those simple waltz steps. All in all today had not been a bad day at all. If this was the worst first contact he had Jon knew he would have a long and enjoyable career.

    &&&&&

    Hoshi was still trying to process what all had happened that evening three hours after returning to her quarters. Quarters that were thankfully empty. Her roommate worked third shift, and was already up and about doing social things. Which meant that Hoshi could relax with a little music. Bagpipes filled the air with their cry. It was one of Hoshi’s guilty pleasures, and one she had acquired to spite her parents.

    Besides the music helped her think, and tonight she had a lot to think about. Not only about what she had seen and heard, but about her position on the crew and the importance of that position.

    The beginning portion of the trip she had seemed to be something of a third wheel aboard. There was the need to translate Klingon into English yes, but any third rate linguist could have used the UT to attempt that. They would have done not as well as Hoshi had, but it would have been well within their ability.

    Hoshi’s work with the Kriosian refugees had helped give her confidence and shown her just what her position on the crew was possibly worth. Tonight had put it in a whole new light. It was not just learning the language but seeing how language interacted with culture and body language to convey meaning.

    Hoshi slipped earbuds into her ears plugged them in and turned on her personal computer. It was necessary to get this down before she forgot any of the nuances. It was something that she knew Jon had not really seen in their time with the royal couple, and would therefore misunderstand. He did not understand when a question was shock, and when suddenly silence spoke louder than a shout.

    “Report on personal observations during the initial welcoming dinner on Krios Prime.” Hoshi started after setting the computer to verbal input. “From my study of the Kriosian language and my discussion with Kamitama, I have determined that Krios contains a very rigid culture.”

    Hoshi thought over that rigidness. It had strong features in common with traditional Indian culture prior to the introduction of British culture. It was a strict clan/caste system with a slightly more lax system for a rise in status. It also had rigid guidelines on how a host was to act towards their guests, and those guidelines had apparently been strained this evening.

    “The royal subset of this culture has strict rules and guidelines that guide not only their use of language when talking towards a peer, but by association their attitude and actions toward that peer. I trend towards believing that the Krios First Monarch, Krias, and his wife Kaliene were genuinely impressed not only by our conduct but also by our accomplishments.” Hoshi found it strange that someone would be so impressed by what humanity had done so far. True they had come far since first contact with the Vulcans but in the grand scheme of things it was no more surprising than the distance they had come since the industrial revolution. Things had been slowing down on the advancement side, rather than speeding up.

    “The interaction between Commander Tucker and Sub-Commander T’Pol would have been off-putting during a dinner with Vulcan’s and their verbal sparring would have been seen as almost insulting during a dinner with Denobulans. However, tonight their interaction set the Kriosians in attendance at ease. I assume that this is because they have had much more interaction with Klingons recently.” Hoshi started tapping her fingers on her desk as the music playlist hit a lively tune. The heavy drumbeat and droning pipes made her wonder how the Kriosians would take to her favorite music.

    “At odds to this comfort was their actions during the discussion of Human advancement and our relation to the Vulcans. Body language, and the sudden influx of direct questions which were lacking some of the more usual polite pre and suffixes leads me to believe that they were shocked. More than just shocked in fact, I believe that they had suffered what a fundamental blow to their cultural psyche.” Hoshi remember all to well the sudden silence that had grown around them as T’Pol’s words carried over the group. Jon’s own words had only expounded upon what had already happened.

    “Krios is an old culture, an old civilization and they have already met with one relatively new empire that will eclipse what they once had in the Klingons. Tonight they have met another. They see their era on the wane, and as such we have a unique ability to reach out to them. Otherwise they will be bitter rivals until their final demise.” Hoshi gave a final nod before ending the record function on the computer. It would need to be cleaned up before she turned the report in to the Captain, and she could do that tomorrow before shift.

    She was valuable to the crew, and tonight had proved it. If there were similar things to observe on Qo’nos and other planets she would be among the first to request Captain Archer stop at every inhabited planet they came to. So many new people, so many new languages, and truly the sky was the limit. This was where she belonged.

    Now, she thought with a smile, she needed to find one Ensign Mayweather and let him in on all the juicy gossip pieces he had missed. Even if she had to admit now that there was ‘something’ going on between the Vulcan Science Officer and the all too Human Chief Engineer. Just what it was, was still far beyond her grasp. T’Pol was far too familiar with Trip for a Vulcan. He had even convinced her after a mere ten minutes to try a waltz, and she genuinely looked like she enjoyed the experience. Interesting, T’Pol had called it.

    Hoshi knew interesting when she saw it and right now she thought she seen interested. Getting Travis’ take on things, now that would be interesting.

    &&&&&

    Silik had not been to the Chamber in weeks. The Helix had moved in accordance to his orders, and now only the skeleton remained behind with the Chamber. He had done it because he could not trust their mysterious benefactor anymore. Not since Silik had failed to recover Klaang for them.

    Silik could not risk his Helix disappearing like others had. There were only twenty left now when once there had been hundreds. Time and the search for a new homeworld had not been kind to the Suliban. Their choice in masters had not been kind to them either.

    The wavering form was already on the viewscreen when he arrived. A sudden screech through the speakers sent Silik to his knees in pain. He clutched his head as blood began to leak from his ears. The shadow masters of the Suliban were not pleased right now. Still he had to arrive just on the off chance that he could regain their good will.

    “Report.” The voice echoed through the room and was as always unrecognizable as a man or a woman.

    Silik wondered just how far away they were, and not for the first time. Limits on subspace technology in the local area meant that they could not be more than a day or two away at his ships highest speeds. Not if the communication was to remain in real-time. Perhaps his shadow master was on a ship not far away. It might be to his, and the Sulibans’ benefit to find that out.

    “The Humans destroyed a pirate group near Krios Prime that we were associated with. Sensor logs from ships in the area confirm that it was the Enterprise.” Silik paused as he wiped the blood from his skin and stood again. He would not bow, not when he had information important to these people. “This could still work in our favor.”

    “It is too late. The Humans have already committed to expanding their Starfleet with additional ships.” The voice was louder now, and Silik would have had to been dead to not understand that the figure was angry. “Civil war within the Klingon Empire is a secondary goal.”

    Silik licked his lips as he realized that the figure before him did not understand just what ships there were in Klingon space. He gave a smile as he looked at the viewscreen.

    “What if a war could be provoked between the Klingons and the Humans? Right now the Great Houses are balanced on a knife-edge, many are ready to call for blood. The blood of Archer perhaps?” Silik smiled internally as the figure stopped its restless fidgeting and stared into the pickup. It began to laugh and Silik realized that the bait had been taken. Yes, he could still maneuver this into a position that was favorable for the Suliban.

    “Yes, a war between the Humans and the Klingons would serve. How do you propose doing so?”

    “The ships we were using to increase the tensions between the houses had already been retasked to intercept Archer. Several are between him and Qo’nos; some should be able to intercept him on the way there, or on his return. If they are good enough to trick Klingons, they should be enough to trick Starfleet.” Silik gestured in a waving off motion.

    “The humans will want sensor logs before they commit to war.”

    “Logs can be altered to indicate the humans fired first. Logs could then be forwarded to the right hands within the Klingon Great Houses.” Silik smiled as he closed the trap. “The Humans will have no need for sensor logs when they are facing a full fleet of battlecruisers.”

    “This is your last chance. See that you do not fail.”

    The screen went dark, and Silik hurried from the room cursing silently. He would forward on orders to the Helix. It would be necessary for it to move again should his plan not succeed.
     
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