Captain's Log, 3rd April 2631.
Redemption has arrived safely at our first stop-off on the way to Laurentii space. Along with our two support ships - the
Tiberius and the
Gorkon - we have made the journey through slipstream space to the Federation world of Khitomer. A number of Klingon shock troops will be joining the crew of the
Tiberius, and we are also meeting up with the last two support ships - USS
Highland and USS
BenjaminSisko. I am looking forward to hosting all four captains for a meal this evening in my wardroom, and more personally catching up with Captain Robau, an old friend.
First of all, though, I have to welcome on board the Special Representative from the President's office, who has arrived on board the
Highland. Ambassador Benjamani and I will be meeting him in Transporter Room Four at 1400 hours local time. I… look forward to getting his input on the upcoming negotiations...
Transporter Room 4
In orbit of Khitomer
Colin Groves closed his eyes as the transporter effect collapsed his molecular structure and swept him across the gulf of interstellar space to the USS Redemption
He had never liked transporting. Even back in his Starfleet days, he had much preferred shuttlecraft and transport capsules. Still, sometimes, there was no choice but to bite the bullet.
Doesn't mean I have to like it
, he thought sourly.
When the transporter effect faded, he opened his eyes to find himself in a much brighter transporter room than the one he had left. He looked around, taking in the clean colours and smooth contours. He had followed the construction of Redemption
from afar, his ties to Starfleet giving him access to some privileged information he wouldn't have had otherwise. He knew that the Corps of Engineers had made a conscious effort to reflect the better days of the old Federation in this ship, but this was bright even compared to the Galaxy-class ship he had just left.
Apart from the blue skinned Bolian behind the transporter console, there were three other people in the room waiting for him. Colin recognised Ambassador Benjamani from a press conference she had given after the talks with the Andorian Empire the year before. It seemed a safe assumption that the man in the dress uniform was Captain Sarine, but he had no idea who the attractive Cardassian woman beside him was.
He stepped off the padd, hefting his bag, and holding out his hand to the captain.
"Captain Sarine, my name is Colin Groves, President Baxter’s Deputy Chief of Staff. This is my assistance, Nargle."
The young Ferengi had been staring around the transporter room with eyes wide as saucers, but when he heard his name he stumbled forward, bobbing his head.
"Nice to meet you," Sarine said with a tight smile. His tone of voice belied his words. "I am Captain Sarine, this is my executive officer, Commander Prin Ly'et."
"Mister Groves," Prin said, taking his hand. Colin felt a little surprised at how soft her skin was. She really was lovely, her dusky skin bringing out the green in her eyes. Her hair held a touch of honey in its raven sheen, while her body filled out the Starfleet uniform nicely.
I wonder if all her skin is that soft
, he wondered with an inner smile.
"And this is Ambassador Benjamani."
Colin realised he had been holding onto Commander Ly'et's hand for a little too long and he dropped it suddenly, turning to the ambassador in an attempt to hide his blush.
The ambassador’s welcome was even frostier than the captain’s had been. I was afraid of this
, he thought. Taking her hand, he nevertheless pressed it briefly to his lips, then straightened again. He glimpsed a flicker of amusement in her eyes, quickly quashed and replaced with the same icy, calculating gaze. Oh well, can’t charm them all.
He turned to Sarine.
"Captain, I don't want to be any more of an imposition than I already am. I served in Starfleet, I know how people like me are generally received."
served in Starfleet?" Commander Ly'et asked.
"You'll have more than enough time to swap academy stories when you show him to his quarters, commander," Sarine said, a touch of heat in his voice. Commander Ly'et frowned at him.
Is he jealous?
Colin was surprised. Sarine seemed like such a cold rock of a man. He glanced from one to the other, wondering whether there had ever been anything between them.
"For now," Sarine went on, turning back to face Colin, "I would like to invite you to a small dinner I will be holding in my wardroom this evening with Captain Hennandez and the other captains of the support fleet. Ambassador Benjamani and the other members of the ambassadorial staff will be there as well."
"With pleasure," Colin replied.
"Good. Well, Commander Ly'et will show you and your assistant to your quarters."
"Thank you, captain."
"Mister Groves. Ambassador." Sarine nodded to both of them, then looked Prin in the eyes before walking out of the transporter room.
What a hard arse
, Colin thought.
Ambassador Benjamani also nodded to Colin and Prin, ignoring Nargle, then turned and walked out. Colin watched her go, already getting a bad feeling about this mission. Great
, he thought. I’ve been here a few minutes and I’ve already pissed off the captain and the chief ambassador. Great job, Colin.
His attention was quickly diverted, though, as Commander Ly'et turned to him.
"If you would follow me?"
He nodded, hefting his bag again, then indicated for her to precede him out of the transporter room. Nargle had gone back to looking around like a farm boy on his first day in the big city. Colin cleared his throat loudly to get his attention, and the Ferengi jumped, then scurried to follow them out into the corridor.
Colin barely even looked around at the brightly lit corridors, hardly sparing more than a quick glance at the black glossy infopanels, which carried information from one side of the ship to the other. All his attention was focused on the attractive Cardassian woman guiding him down the corridor.
"We have you quartered on Deck 12 Section 9, near the Ambassadorial quarters," she was saying. She glanced back at him. "We thought it would be best for you to be as close as possible to the people who will be involved directly in the negotiations."
Colin nodded. "That sounds like a good idea," he said geniely. "Of course, I am only here as an observer. I plan to have as little to do as possible with the actual negotiations."
She seemed surprised by that. "I assumed that as the President's official representative..."
"That I'd be taking over?" He smiled. "I'm sure Ambassador Benjamani thinks the same." Shaking his head, he sighed. "I have absolutely no intention of turning this into a tug of war between the President's office and the Federation Diplomatic Corps. Like I said, I'm here as an observer and an expert advisor - if I'm asked."
By this time, they had reached the end of the corridor and were stood in front of the doors to the turbolift. Colin took the opportunity to glance around at the brilliant white and grey walls, shaking his head slightly. He had been expecting Redemption
to be impressive but this… This was something else.
"Surprising, isn't it?"
He turned his head back to look at the commander. "Definitely."
"Where did you serve?"
"Three years aboard the USS Hudson
straight out of the Academy. Ensign in the security and tactical departments."
"If you don’t mind my asking… What happened?"
Colin shut his eyes, his mind reaching back into what now seemed like the distant past, although it hadn’t been more than seven years earlier. "We were involved in a skirmish with the Andorians. I was… wounded,” he said, making a physical effort not to glance down at his legs, “and sent back to Earth. While I was there, an old friend of my father's approached me and asked me to join Councillor Baxter's campaign."
Truth be told, he hadn’t had much choice. His career in Starfleet had been disastrous anyway – he had been reprimanded twice for insurbodination. He had never been able to get used to the fleeter mentality. When Myr – then the campaign manager – had approached him to work as her assistant, he had jumped at the chance.
"So you left Starfleet?" Commander Ly’et asked.
"I looked on it more as a different way of serving."
The commander smiled, but didn't respond. Colin recognised the look on her face. Great
, he thought. Another fleeter who thinks I've betrayed the uniform.
This was turning into one hell of a day.
The turbolift arrived and the doors swished open. The commander led them inside, nodding to the lieutenant in security gold who stood at attention inside. Colin glanced at the man - a young Klingon - then over at the commander. She smiled.
"New regs," she explained. "Ever since the Klingon attack on Romulus."
He frowned. "Why? I understood that the Klingons never beamed over."
Commander Ly'et glanced at the security officer, then moved in closer to Colin. He smelled her perfume, a light, airy, flowery blend, and felt his heart race a little. Stop it,
he told himself, reminded of what had happened last time he let himself be intoxicated by a woman's perfume.
"We have reason to believe that there was a spy onboard Redemption when the attack came."
Colin felt his eyes grow wide. "A spy?"
The commander nodded. "Yes." She stepped back. "So we have tightened security throughout the ship."
He nodded, his mind racing. A spy in Starfleet, working for the Klingons? It was almost unbelievable. He wondered suddenly whether Myr knew anything about this. He was going to have to contact her, let her know what he had learned.
The turbolift drew to a halt. When the doors opened, Colin began to step out and found himself face to face with an attractive blond woman, her beauty marred slightly by a scar that ran down her cheek. He stopped, surprised and intrigued by the depth of her clear blue eyes.
"Lieutenant Williams, what are you doing down here?" There was the slightest hint of censure in Commander Ly'et's voice.
The young woman - Lieutenant Williams - blushed slightly. "I... Uhm… The thing is that, uhh... When..."
"A simple answer will suffice, Lieutenant."
Something passed over the young woman's face, something Colin would have sworn was anger. It vanished so quickly, though, that he could very well have imagined it.
"I was actually hoping to meet Mister Groves, commander."
Williams nodded. "My cousin asked me to come and see you. Lizabeth? Lizabeth Carter?"
Colin felt his cheeks burn as all the blood rushed to his face. Lizabeth. Of course. Now that he looked her over, he could see the resemblance, which only made him blush all the more.
He wondered whether she could be like Lizabeth, an augment? No, surely not. No augment would be allowed to serve in Starfleet.
"Of course," he said after a moment, "of course. I take it she got my message, then?"
Williams nodded, smiling. "She did. She wanted me to tell you that she would love to."
Colin felt a grin split his face. "That's... nice."
"She also asked me to offer to take good care of you once you arrived. So, you know, if you'd like, while you're here, I mean, I would love to show you around the ship?"
Before Colin could answer, Commander Ly'et intervened. "I'm sure Mister Groves would be delighted to, Lieutenant, but for now I need to show him to his quarters."
Was there the hint of jealousy in that controlled voice? Colin liked to think there was. What do you know?
he thought. This day might be looking up after all.
Lieutenant Williams straighted, looking past Colin at the commander. "Of course, sir. If you'll excuse me?"
Giving one last, lingering look at Colin, the Lieutenant stepped past him, the commander and Nargle - who had been staring at her open-mouthed since the turbolift doors had opened - and into the lift. Colin turned to watch the doors close behind her, and he would have sworn that she winked at him just before they did.
"Shall we?" Commander Ly'et asked after a moment, her voice frosty.
"Yes. Yes, of course."
Moving much faster than she had up until now, the commander led Colin and Nargle down the corridor. They passed a handful of doors before Commander Ly'et stopped in front of one specific one. She input a code in the pad next to it, and the door slid open.
"These will be your quarters, Mister Groves. Your assistant has the quarters just opposite, if that is alright?"
Colin nodded, wishing he could find some way to ingratiate himself with the attractive commander again. "Of course. This will be perfect."
She smiled a little more warmly. "Good. Well, I need to be back on the bridge. I'll leave you to settle in?"
Nodding again, Colin took a chance, holding out his hand. The commander glanced down at it, then to his relief, took it in hers.
"Thank you very much for all your assistance, commander. If you wouldn't mind, I would really enjoy a tour of the bridge and engineering sections when you have a moment?"
She hesitated for a moment, then nodded. "I'm sure that can be arranged."
"Wonderful," he said. "I look forward to it."
Nodding to Nargle, she turned and walked back down the corridor. Colin watched her go, enjoying the view until she vanished round the corner. Quite a woman
, he thought.
He turned back to find Nargle struggling with the bags on his shoulder. Sighing, he reached out and plucked one from his side.
"Come on," he said, casting one last glance down the corridor at the departed commander. "I guess we should get settled in."