Chapter Eight (cont.)
Six shimmering columns of light appeared in the square as Matt, the Ambassador, and the remainder of the away team materialized. Several of the Lorsham were waiting on their arrival, and the aliens bowed in unison. “I am Carelis, honored guests, assistant to Premier Vorshun. He is waiting within to greet you.”
As the Ambassador exchanged greetings, Matt took a moment to look around the city. The government complex was set upon the peak of a high hill, providing him with a spectacular view of the entire urban area. The Lorsham did not appear to favor soaring towers, for most of the structures were set low to the ground. Patches of vegetation and trees—parks, perhaps—were interspaced among the polished marble buildings, which were adorned with columns and bas-reliefs.
The overall effect was grandiose and suggested to the Captain a confidence and pride in the Lorsham people. But, there were only a handful of ground vehicles moving—and where were all the residents? Some few were walking amongst the buildings, but no more than would normally be found on the grounds of the Academy between classes. It was certainly nothing like San Francisco or London or Moscow. He turned his attention back to the assistant to the Premier and the Ambassador.
“This way, gentlebeings,” Carelis said, bowing again and waving them forward.
Over tiled mosaic floors and through halls lined with bold brightly-colored frescos they walked until they reached a vast rotunda beneath an impressive dome. Across the rotunda, the red-furred Lorsham who had greeted their hail sat on a gilded throne.
Vorshun stood as they approached him. “Welcome to the world of my people. Ambassador,” he said to the Vulcan, who bowed his head politely, “Captain.”
“Premier Vorshun,” the Vulcan spoke, “you have requested Federation assistance. I am prepared to offer such. How did this conflict with the Kraal begin?”
“The Kraal have always been disagreeable, and there have been skirmishes between us in the past. They seem to regard Shai’kar Morva as their sole territory, and have moved against us to consolidate their power; Mister Ambassador, I think they mean to conquer us.”
“But why now, Premier? What has provoked them into initiating hostilities against your people?”
“Provoked? Do you suggest that it is the Lorsham to blame for this? We have only sought to aid the Kraal, sharing with them our technology and our culture, and for that they repay us by . . .” Vorshun’s voice trailed off. “It does not matter. They have taken two of our worlds, they have destroyed a number of our ships. But now the mighty Federation is here to assist us in defending our homes.”
“Premier Vorshun, I am here to mediate an end to this conflict—not to get the United Federation of Planets embroiled in another war.”
The Lorsham’s eyes narrowed and his muzzle quivered slightly. “You will stand by and watch as the Kraal destroy all which my People have created? You will not aid us?”
“We will aid you, Premier. But perhaps diplomacy can resolve this conflict without the need for further violence.”
“Take your ship to Gelast II or Shirdon IV, Mister Ambassador. Look at the bombed out shells of my People, there. And ask yourself how you can negotiate with those who murder women and children.”
“Know this; if the Federation will not aid us, there are other powers who will. Bring in the emissary,” he barked at his assistants.
Matt could feel the rise in tension of the Lorsham around him; they clearly did not like what the Ambassador had to say. And it did not escape the starship captain that the Premier had not, in any way, actually answered the Ambassador’s question. Why had this war begun in the first place?
Heavy booted steps echoed from the tiles that lined the floor, and Matt turned to watch the Klingon officer stride into the rotunda. He nodded to himself as he noticed that the uniform the Klingon war bore none of the Imperial standards—instead he must either serve one of the Great Houses of the Empire, or be a renegade.
“Ambassador, may I introduce to you Captain Krull, of the Klingon Empire. His ship was visiting Shai’kar Morva when this crisis escalated. And he has been kind enough to offer us his protection—and the friendship of Chancellor Martok and the Imperial High Council.”
“Captain Krull, Ambassador Sepak of the United Federation of Planets.”
“Good day, Ambassador. I see that the Vulcans continue to keep Star Fleet on a short leash,” he barked, baring his teeth in a ferocious smile, which he transferred to Matt. “You must be the commander of that relic in orbit. Has Star Fleet taken to fielding museum pieces instead of proper ships of the line?”
“Calmly, Krull,” whispered Vorshun softly—almost too softly for Matt to hear. But Ambassador Sepak did raise an eyebrow.
The Klingon turned back to the throne, and bowed low on one knee. “Forgive me, Premier. I did not mean to insult your guests.”
And the tone in which he spoke was one of reverence! Matt realized with shock. Not mocking, not sarcastic, but worshipful reverence—from a Klingon. What the . . .
A bell sounded, and the Premier frowned. “There are matters of state that require my attention,” he said as the gongs slowly continued to chime. “We will speak again, later today, Mister Ambassador. Please return to your vessel.”
The Ambassador slowly gave a half-bow, and Matt tapped his comm badge. “Republic
. Six to beam up.”
As the transporter beam formed around him, Matt could see the Klingon and the Lorsham prostrating themselves, chanting, “Blessed be Ordan, who . . .” but he rematerialized onboard the starship before he could hear the rest.
“Fascinating, Captain Dahlgren,” said the Ambassador as he stepped off the transporter pad. “Not exactly what I was expecting.”
Matt nodded, still frowning, as he walked over to the intercom on the transporter console. “Bridge, this is Dahlgren. Run a database search for Ordan—spelling unknown; start with Hera
’s records and see if there is any mention from her first contact.” He turned back to the Ambassador. “Nor I, Sir; but I believe we are living in interesting times, as the ancient Chinese said.”
Matt limped into the conference aft of the bridge, and his senior officers, the Ambassador, and the three members of his away team stood. “As you were,” he said as he took his seat.
“The Ambassador has now briefed you on what occurred on the planet’s surface. Ladies and gentlemen, something is not right here—I’ve got an itch between my shoulder blades like a cloaked Romulan is dead astern and ready to fire. So here’s what we are going to do: Mister Shrak, we are going to assume a modified state of Yellow Alert—and we are going to remain
there. All compartments are to be manned; all weapons are to have their local crews on station and ready to go hot on a moment’s notice. We will not raise shields; that could be viewed as provocative. Lieutenant Beck, I want full internal security, including roving patrols. Your Marines are authorized Type II Phasers, and your reaction teams Type III Phaser Rifles. Officers and senior NCOs will be issued a Type I Phaser. Doctor Talbot, Medical is to remain ready to receive casualties, and Mister Malik I want Damage Control manned and ready around the clock.”
“I could be wrong, but this Vorshun," Matt shook his head, "I don’t like the vibe I am feeling from him. Counselor Trincullo, have you formed any opinions about the Lorsham in general, and Vorshun in particular?”
“He was hiding something, Sir,” the counselor quietly replied. “That much was obvious—to you as well as the Ambassador and myself. I was carefully watching him, Captain, just like you asked, and well, body language is not the same across different races,” and here she looked down before she met his gaze firmly. “That said, his unconscious muscular responses, well . . . Captain, they frightened
me. He is a fanatic, in my opinion.”
Sepak nodded gravely. “I concur, Captain Dahlgren. It is a shame that we were unable to record the meeting, perhaps a more detailed analysis of the playback might reveal something we have each missed.”
Matt frowned and almost burst out laughing as Ensign Roberts, standing with his back against one wall slowly raised his hand like an Academy cadet. Chan groaned, and Lt. Commander Biddle shook her head. Matt forced his lips to maintain a stern and somber look.
“Mister Roberts, put your hand down before you look even more ridiculous. Do you wish to add something?”
“Y-yes, Sir, Captain Dahlgren, Sir,” the young man said. “I wasn’t really certain what Commander Shrak meant when he said I was your aide, Sir, other than to do exactly what you told me to do. But I was . . . I thought I might have to write a report to you on the away mission, and I . . . I-I set my tricorder to automatically record from inside the holster, Sir. I have the entire thing stored from beam-down to beam-up.”
“Good thinking, Mister Roberts. Well done, Ensign,” Matt said with a smile, and he nodded to Chan who still shaking his head—with his antennae jumping around hysterically got up and collected the tricorder.
“Miss Tsien, has a data-search of our memory banks indicated any results for the word Ordan?”
“Actually, Sir, there was a reference. Hera
included a sample of Lorsham literature in her first contact report, including a text known as The Book of Ordan
. I’ve assigned Social Sciences to dissect the text in its entirety and prepare a report for you and the Ambassador, but it is certainly a religious text, similar to the Torah, the Bible, the Koran, and others from Earth . . . and, of course, The Book of Ice
from Andoria. Not to mention all of other cultures and races. It speaks about an angel named Ordan who brought knowledge and society to prehistorical Hak’ta-thor. According to the text, it was Ordan who united the Lorsham and brought about their present day culture. Interestingly, there are several passages within the text that make it appear as if his angel came to the planet from space—and that was no nebula. This being then, at some point further in time, left to return to her home. But she left behind the Shai’kar Morva—the Cradle of Life among the Clouds of Space—to shield and protect the Lorsham until her return. And she does promise to return, to see with her own eyes what the Lorsham have achieved in her absence, and then to spread them throughout the galaxy until “the Word of Ordan is heard by every ear, and every mouth speaks the Glory of her Name
”. And that is a literal translation of the last line of the text.”
“Oh boy,” muttered the Trill engineer. “Zealots.”
“Captain,” chimed in Doctor Talbot. “With your permission, I’d like to have Medical go over those tricorder scans in detail—this business with the Klingon has me very worried. It almost sounds as if they have brainwashed him, and Klingons are not the easiest of races to mentally influence.”
“Agreed,” said Matt. “Chan, search our files again and find me everything that Star Fleet intelligence has gathered on Krull. If we have to fight, I want to know my enemy.”
The Andorian nodded his agreement.
The Vulcan cocked one eyebrow. “I realize that your ship is larger, Captain Dahlgren, but can Republic
successfully engage a Bat’leth
“It would be a close run thing, Mister Ambassador. She’s brand-spanking new, even if she is smaller than their Vor’cha
-class. Our shields are better, but she can cloak and we carry about the same amount of raw firepower. Let’s hope we don’t have to find out which captain is better.”
“In fact, I think I am going to send a message to Star Fleet Command, and request they send a second ship out this way. Just in case things take a turn for the worse.”
“I am not certain we will have time for you to exit the Cauldron and send that message, Captain Dahlgren,” the Ambassador answered.
Chan chuckled. “Our captain is well-prepared, Mister Ambassador. We dropped a chain of comm relay beacons on our passage through the Cloud. Rest assured, we can send a message to the Fleet from our current parking orbit.”
Once again, the eyebrow was raised. “You would have made an excellent diplomat, Captain Dahlgren. We appreciate the need for a . . . what is that human expression, ah yes . . . an ace in the hole.”
“Bridge to Captain Dahlgren. Bridge to Captain Dahlgren.
Matt hit his comm badge. “Dahlgren.”
“Premier Vorshun has just hailed us, Sir. He is ready to resume the talks and has requested that the Ambassador beam down.
Matt took a long look at his officers and then nodded. “I want you and your people ready, for any contingency. I’ll be accompanying the Ambassador . . .”
“Pardon the interruption, Captain Dahlgren. But that shan’t be necessary.”
Matt turned his gaze on the Vulcan and he inclined his head. “Go on.”
“I think that instead of beaming down with me, we should accept Premier Vorshun’s invitation to see his abandoned colonies with our own eyes. I doubt that he intended for us to do so, but he did grant us permission, almost in fact issued an order. Quite clearly.”
“I can assign you security, Mister Ambassador.”
“That would only provoke, Vorshun I fear. My aides are trained in defensive maneuvers—we will be fine.”
Chan snorted. “And having this ship head for the planets that were attacked won’t provoke him?”
“An ancestor of mine once remarked that it is easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission, Commander Shrak.”
Matt nodded. “And if we should happen to make contact with a Kraal vessel on the voyage, perhaps we might glean their side of the events.”
“Indeed. I might have to recruit you for the Diplomatic Corps, Captain Dahlgren.”
“Heaven forbid; I'll retire first, Mister Ambassador. Very well then, ladies and gentlemen, assume your stations and prepare to get under way.”
Matt waited as his officers filed out of the briefing room. “You are taking a risk, Mister Ambassador. We won’t be back for at least two days. Quite possibly longer.”
“That risk comes with the title, Captain Dahlgren, much like that of the Captain and crew of a Star Fleet starship. We who talk also serve, after all.”
Matt stood and raised his right hand in the Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper, Ambassador Sepak.”
“Good hunting, Captain Dahlgren,” the Vulcan answered as he extended his hand across the conference table. A hand that Matt took and shook firmly.