You know I don't do happy-go-luck Trek all that well. I will be bringing the pain soon, I promise.
Glad you're liking the Burning Claw crew. Once I ran across the Venturi on the Memory Beta website I wanted to do something with them. And they felt like a good fit for this story.
They knew of the device before it pierced the sky. “A weapon?” The question shuddered the mercurial sea with alarm.
“Had the organics finally made their true intentions known?” The suspicion caused another ripple as the ocean began to divide itself against those that hoped and those that mocked such things.
Despite the divisions, the great unison had decided as one to allow more travel through their expanse, in particular more Federation exploration of their space.
It had been a highly contentious debate. There had been no unity for a long time during it, and scarce consensus now. Only the slenderest of threads held the great sea together. And now this intrusion from the stars might rip apart their grand unison for a long time to come. The device crashed on the far side of the planet, causing the sea to writhe with pain as it felt the projectile slam into rusted earth.
From the depths, two shapes emerged, ironically in the humanoid guises of those they both intrigued and frightened them. Silvery figures with vague facial features but articulated arms and hands glided among their brethren until they reached the shore. Each faction had produced a representative.
“We must investigate this device, to learn of its intent,” Hope said, its voice deepened by the collective aspirations of its compatriots.
“And what will you be prepared to do if someone has launched a weapon against us?” Fear replied, its voice thickened with distrust.
Hope lowered its head, drawing into it all of the varied thoughts of its faction. When it lifted its head, it gazed at Fear with sightless impressions where its eyes should be. “We will do what is necessary to ensure the propagation of our kind.”
“We shall see,” Fear replied, even doubting that.
“Yes, we shall,” Hope said, ignoring the other’s accusation. “Come,” he held out an arm and it took on the shape of a silvery wing. His body morphed into that of a creature capable of flight and then he jumped into the air and glided on the hot air currents. He paused, turning to look down at the still grounded Fear. “Let us see who is right.” He challenged, before taking wing again in the direction of the downed object.
Commander Tai Donar blinked rapidly, trying to stay awake as his head swam. The exchange between Norrbom and the Phalkerian assistant chief engineer was rapid fire and near enough over his head to task his patience, but he endured it.
Norrbom had proven her worth, helping A’nurd’s team increase get just shy of the 2,000 millicochranes the captain demanded. It was that last five hundred that had Norrbom and the assistant chief at odds. He didn’t know which one was more accurate so he stood back and watched the match. If anything it would give him an opportunity to see if Helen was as blunt and dagger wielding as she had been with him. If so, that might just be her personal style regardless of how she felt about his arrival on Erickson. And if that was the case, Donar was going to have to do something about it.
“Commander, a word?” A’nurd said quietly, suddenly at his side. If the Angosian’s heartbeat and pulse weren’t chemically regulated, the Munzalan’s appearance would’ve startled him. “In my office?” The furred alien gestured with both hand and tail towards the small office off to the side of the pulsating warp core cylinder, running the height of the ship.
“Of course,” he nodded, following the man, and for once pleased to be talking to the loquacious engineer. Once inside the thankfully soundproof office, A’nurd gestured at a bowl of blue fruit dominating his otherwise clear desk. After Tai declined, the Munzalan took one and began to nibble on it.
“Tulaberries,” he remarked. “I’m so glad that trade was reestablished with the Dominion so that the Alpha Quadrant can continue receiving these delights,” he paused to take another bite. After swallowing, he continued, “Unfortunately the Ferengi have a monopoly on the fruit and they charge exorbitant rates,” he shrugged, “but what can you do? What price perfection?” He asked before finishing the snack. He grabbed another, and held it up to Tai.
“You sure you don’t want one?” He declined again. “Just as well,” A’nurd sighed, putting the fruit back in the bowl. “Addictions can be such nasty things.”
Tai softly cleared his throat. “Did you need to speak with me about something Commander?”
“Oh, not really.”
Donar reined in his annoyance. “Then why did you ask me to come into your office?” He kept his tone measured.
“It looked like you were about to pass out there, being battered down with all of the technobabble being bandied about,” the Munzalan said, “I thought a respite was in order.”
The Angosian first officer nodded, not denying that the engineer was correct. A’nurd smiled, “I was right I suppose. I wish my mother was here, so that she could see that my counseling certification did not go to waste.”
Donar raised an eyebrow, “Counselor?” He hadn’t seen that in the man’s service record. A’nurd chuckled.
“I would think you would be the first one on this ship to understand that sometimes people have lives before Starfleet, after service, and shockingly sometimes during their time in the Fleet,” the engineer answered, unable to resist the lure of the tulaberries. He plucked up the one he had discarded just moments early. He sniffed if, closing his eyes to savor the flavor before digging in.
“Of course I do,” Tai said, without elaborating. The memories of Norrbom’s accusatory take on his past were too fresh. “I only reviewed your Starfleet record.”
“I understand,” A’nurd nodded, “but like you, in a way, I had a life outside the Fleet. A career…a family.”
“I didn’t know you were a family man.” There had been note of that in the records either.
“I was,” A’nurd’s expression saddened and he tossed the half eaten fruit in a waste receptacle at his desk. “I long time ago.” Tai nodded again, understanding intrinsically when to let a matter drop.
“But an engineer was something new, challenging. I had shown an early aptitude for machinery, breaking it apart and putting it back together as a child. My father had worked his way up to craftsman status in one of the major Alshain septs. It’s what allowed me, my entire kin, actually, to escape Munzala and the more naked exploitation of the Alshain there.
“But it also gave me an interest in exploring the nature of sentients, the mental machinery that beings used to exploit and enslave one another. When I returned to my homeworld I became a mental health professional, but my real passion was diagnosing how colonization had damaged the spirits of my people. It, admittedly, was not something that set well with our Alshain overlords or Munzalan collaborators.”
Tai sat back, astounded by the man’s revelations. “Both conspired to stop my research and my kin paid the price,” he looked down, his voice clotting with grief. Summoning back his tears and despair, the man’s eyes bore unwaveringly into Tai’s, and the Angosian saw a fierceness there he hadn’t thought possible. “I was exiled from Munzala. What was left of my life…a shambles, and even if I wanted to go home, there was nothing left there but cinders. So, I had a choice, I could descend or do the opposite. I’ve found a new home in the Federation, in Starfleet. And a new career, in engineering,” he smiled. “Just putting my hands on tools, it reminds me of those simple times with my father,” the man’s smile widened. “It’s the only thing I have left to remind me of him, and my kin.”
“I’m sorry,” Donar said, shocked that he had so underestimated the man so. “I had no idea.”
“Well, it isn’t something I share with everyone,” A’nurd replied, “but I felt you would understand. We all carry a secret pain and it’s what we do to deal with that agony that determines much of the course of our lives. I would like to think that we both have chosen to do something positive, to lessen the suffering of others by joining the Fleet.”
“I, well, I guess so,” the Angosian was nearly at a loss for words. He had never heard anyone say what was in his heart so easily, so plainly. This man understood his fears, his doubts, he got the pains and frustrations of reinvention. “I have misjudged you A’nurd of Munzala.”
The engineer grabbed another tulaberry and sat back in his chair. He held it aloft, allowing the room’s lighting to glint off the fruit’s shiny peel. “Rest assured that you are one of the few men who can say such a thing and still draw breath…but that’s another story.”
Tai chuckled, and it felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He hadn’t expected to find a brother-in-arms aboard Erickson, but now he knew he had.