Chapter 7 <cont'd>
It had been so long since Lar’ragos had used his innate abilities for anything other than tactical purposes, he’d almost forgotten how rewarding it could be.
Communications with the Ferou had started off as audio-only, in sporadic and awkward exchanges until the Universal Translator had established a linguistic matrix for the aliens’ language.
Once clear communications had been established, Lar’ragos informed the Ferou that they were approaching a heavily populated region of the galaxy, comprised of many disparate governments, more than a few of them openly hostile to perceived interlopers.
Over the days that followed, a dialogue had ensued with the mysterious race, which proved reluctant to show themselves or reveal much at all about their physical or social characteristics. They were polite and pleasant, but inscrutable otherwise.
The Ferou made no promises as to altering their present course, but continued to ask numerous detailed questions about the societies of the Alpha Quadrant and the prevalence of Class-M planets in the region.
When after six days of ongoing conversations the species finally agreed to visual communications, they were revealed as graceful creatures of indeterminate origin, non-humanoid, and ephemeral in their appearance. Ranging in color from dusky brown to ghostly white, they appeared almost insubstantial, as though a strong wind gust might rend them apart.
Theirs had been a low-gravity world, barely a tenth of Earth’s standard 1 g, and the Ferou had originally evolved in a region of the planet where deep valleys and gorges had protected their fragile ancestors from the ravages of predators and inclement weather.
The ensuring discussions between the Ferou and Lar’ragos, Counselor Liu, and Science Officer Shanthi proved highly educational for both sides, especially with the valuable diplomatic input of Pell Ojana, participating via subspace from Galaxy Station.
Thus the delicate ballet of diplomacy and intercultural exchange had been handled to the best of Europa’s
collective abilities leading up to the first face-to-face meeting. It was as good an initial First Contact scenario as one could hope for, especially given the significant divergence in biology between the species.
Transporter Room Two, USS Europa
“There’s a handful semi-corporeal species on record, dating all the way back to Earth’s pre-Federation explorations of the mid-22nd century,” explained Shanthi as the diplomatic party assisted one another in the final alignment of fasteners, the straightening of creases, and the lint-removal of their dress uniforms in the transporter room.
“But there’s nothing close to the specifics of the Ferou. They seem to be a unique composite of an amorphous high-tensile but low-weight biological weave, something akin to Terran spider-silk, which generates a highly-charged electromagnetic field. It’s that field that the Ferou use to move and manipulate their environment.”
Lar’ragos and Liu exchanged a knowing smile, both officers amused by the young scientist’s obvious zeal for the mission.
“But nothing that’s going to shock us, though, right?” Liu inquired as he fiddled with the cuff of his left sleeve for the third time in as many minutes.
“No, no,” Shanthi enthused. “Well… not much, anyway.” The tall Zulu frowned and opened his tricorder to re-check his figures yet again.
Of all of them, Lar’ragos seemed the only one not bothered by the stiff, high-necked ceremonial garments.
“How can these not drive you crazy, sir?” Taiee asked, her own neck already chaffing after only a few minutes.
“Try being completely enclosed in Class-4 combat armor at sixty degrees Celsius for eighteen hours on surveillance detail,” he replied wryly. “No contest.”
The transporter technician motioned to Lar’ragos, calling him up out of the throng and into the control booth. The acting-XO was awaiting him on a visual feed from the bridge.
Lar’ragos gazed down at the image of Juneau seated in the captain’s chair. “How are things topside, Lieutenant?”
“Good, sir. I’ve got a few last minute updates for you, Captain,” she replied, referencing a padd in her hand. “No abnormal activity from the Ferou, and their fleet formation has dropped to impulse speeds in preparation for our rendezvous. What we have detected is two anomalous sensor ghosts approximately fifteen-million kilometers out that seem to be remaining at a constant distance from us.”
That caught Pava’s attention. “What do you think?”
“My guess is it’s our Romulan friends, sir. Since our encounter with the Vexam
, they’ve been getting progressively better at attenuating their cloaks to mask themselves from our sensors.”
“Agreed,” Lar’ragos concurred. “They’re just curious, and they’re willing to let us do all the leg work while they sit back and take copious notes and detailed sensor readings.”
“Should we alert the Ferou to the Romulans’ presence, sir?” Juneau asked. “They might get spooked if they’re able to detect them at closer range, or if one of them decides to decloak without warning.”
“Good idea. Make their presence known to the Ferou, and let them know it’s likely our shy allies keeping watch.”
“Aye, sir. Good luck.”
Lar’ragos signed off, nodded to the chief, and stepped down into the crowd congregating at the base of the transporter dais.
“Okay,” Lar’ragos said, quieting the group. “Remember, we’ll be dealing with a point-one-seven g environment, so we’re going to be very nearly weightless over there. Be mindful of your movement, especially if any Ferou are in close proximity to you. We’re the proverbial bulls in their china shop, and as delicate as they are, an otherwise harmless gesture with one of our limbs could cause one of them significant injury.”
Lar’ragos nodded to Shanthi, prompting him to take over.
“Their atmospheric oxygen content is lower than ours,” Shanthi explained. “That’s why Lieutenant Taiee’s given each of us a Tri-Ox booster that should keep us at normal levels without breather units. If you begin to feel lightheaded, and it seems to be more than just a case of the low-g willies, let Doc know ASAP.”
Taiee stepped forward to continue, “We received information ahead of time on all of the Ferou foodstuffs that they’ll be serving at the diplomatic reception, and we’ve eliminated everything that would prove toxic to humans and El Aurians. They’re primarily vegetarian, thankfully, though be warned, most of the prey-animals they traditionally hunted have the consistency of Terran jellyfish.”
That elicited more than a few groans.
“If you eat something that disagrees with you, and most of us probably will, come see me straightaway and I’ll give you something to settle your stomach.”
Lar’ragos clapped his hands enthusiastically. “Alright, children, everyone onto the pad who’s going on this field trip. Stay with your travel-buddies, and no horse-play.”
As the away team assembled on the transporter dais, Taiee nudged Lar’ragos in the ribs with her elbow as she whispered. “Who are you calling children?”
Lar’ragos rolled his eyes in response. “I’m four-hundred years old, Doc. You’re all
children to me.”