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Old July 30 2013, 12:37 AM   #7
Sgt_G
Lieutenant Commander
 
Location: USA
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Re: Short story set in ST:TOS-era: TIMELINES

TIMLINES
(06 of 19)
(c) 2004 GLG


“Captain’s Log: supplemental. Having picked up the last of the diplomatic teams, we are returning to Earth. I fear troubling times ahead, and I can’t but help wonder whether these diplomats will make things better, or make them worse. But as of right now, they’re giving me a headache.” The young starship captain pressed a button on the arm of his chair, then pressed another.

The speaker whistled, then a voice said “Sickbay here.”

“Doctor, I hope you have something good for a headache.”

“Of course, Captain. I have a patient right now, but I can squeeze you into my schedule.”

“Outstanding. I’ll be right down.” He pressed the button again. “Lieutenant, you have the con,” he announced as he stood.

“Sir,” a pleasant female voice behind him interrupted, “I’m picking up a signal ahead ... very faint ... it’s ... it’s gone now, sir.”

He turned to the science officer, “Anything, Mister ...?” He stopped himself, for his senior science officer and trusted friend wasn’t there. His mind drew a blank for a moment as he tried to remember the young Ensign’s name.

She peered into the shielded viewer, adjusting the controls on the side, for several moments. She turned and replied, “Nothing, sir. There’s a system ahead -- a Type-G star with three gas giants, but no habitable worlds.”

He turned his attention back the Lieutenant at the communications console. She frowned, which looked unnatural on her dark complexion, “Nothing more, sir, it’s gone.”

He patted her on the shoulder and quipped, “Well, if it was important, they’ll call back.” He took two strides towards the turbolift then stopped when a sudden thought occurred to him. “Lieutenant, the Orion Syndicate has been pretty active in this region ... keep her to open space and avoid all contacts.” He’d rather not have a repeat of the last time he hosted so many diplomats.

“Aye, sir,” the young oriental helmsman smiled as he took the center seat.

When the Captain walked into the office in Sickbay, he could hear someone talking in the examination room next door. “I am in perfect health, Doctor. This is all a waste of time.”

“So you say,” the ship’s Chief Medical Officer retorted, “but what kind of doctor would I be if I didn’t check up on my former patients?”

“A less busy one,” came a weary answer. “Will this take much longer?”

“No, we’re almost done.” A pause. “Yes, these readings are acceptable. Your health, Ambassador, is excellent, although I would say ‘perfect’ is a bit of an exaggeration. Just one more thing, if I may. Would you step into my office, please?”

The two walked in, and the only hint of surprise on the Ambassador’s face was a slight movement in his left eyebrow. “Captain,” he greeted the Star Fleet officer, “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’ve enlisted the doctor in some subterfuge to bring me here under false pretense.”

The Captain feigned surprise, “Me, sir? No, sir. I came down to seek medical aid. All these diplomats onboard have given me a headache.”

The Doctor walked to a cabinet where he retrieved three glasses and a bottle. “I only use it for medicinal purposes,” he declared with a thick southern drawl. “Care for a sip, Ambassador?”

“Yes, Captain, I suspect you are seeking a private audience with me.” He turned to see what the Doctor offered. “Bourbon? No, Doctor. As you well know, my people do not partake of such spirits.”

Before he could leave, the Doctor countered, “Then perhaps some Niagara Falls ice wine?” as he brought a small bottle out of the cold storage unit. “I understand you developed a taste for it, all those years living on Earth.”

The Ambassador considered the offer, then acquiesced as he took a seat. “I suppose you’d like to know what all the excitement is about. Very well. I tell you this because I believe you may, one day soon, be of assistance. The Kzintis are at war. They were invaded by their neighbors on the other side of their territory from us. Apparently, the Kzintis killed one of the enemy’s royal family in a border skirmish, so the enemy retaliated in force.”

The two Star Fleet officers let the news sink in for a moment. “Are the Klingons involved?”

“Exquisite wine, Doctor, thank you. No, Captain, they are not. At least, not yet. The Federation has recalled representatives from all member planets to discuss what course of action to take. There are some in the Assembly that actually want to ally with the Klingons and attack the Kzinti Hegemony.”

“Good! At least some of them are talking sense.”

“The Kzintis are our allies now, Doctor. We have a treaty with them. We cannot forgo such things easily.”

“I’m a doctor, not a diplomat,” he replied with indignity.

“Yes, so I had surmised,” the Ambassador rejoined dryly. “You would actually side with the Klingons, Doctor? What is that saying -- ‘better the Devil you know’ -- is that your opinion?”

“Oh, I know these Devils, alright,” he retorted hotly, “I did my internship during what you politicians euphemistically called ‘a series of border skirmishes’. Did you know the Kzintis actually eat their prisoners?”

“Really, Doctor, you must learn to control your emotions; they will be your undoing some day,” he admonished. “And you, Captain, do you favor allying with the Klingons as well?”

“No,” the Star Fleet officer said, in a quiet, far-off voice. “I don’t trust the Klingons; I never have, and I never will.” He sat back in his chair and took a sip form his glass. “So, what is your position? Stay neutral, no matter what, I suppose?”

“Actually, no. Should they conquer the Kzintis, the Klingon Empire will only become stronger and will pose an even greater threat to the Federation. Sooner or later, we will be drawn into this war, regardless of what sort of appeasement we offer. Therefore, logic dictates that we must go on the offensive. We must attack the Klingons while their attention is diverted. I shall try to persuade the Assembly and Star Fleet Command that we must invade as soon as the Klingon fleet is fully engaged.”

The Captain deliberated this audacious plan. “A bold initiative, Ambassador, but it would lead to disaster. Due to years of complacency, overly-optimistic pacifism and budget constraints, Star Fleet is not ready for war on that scale. The Klingon fleet outnumbers ours two-to-one, and much of our fleet is in mothballs.”
“But they are surrounded by enemies,” the Ambassador countered, “and many of their ships are small. We believe that they will ‘sue for peace’ after a quick strike. You see, Captain, our ultimate goal is one of peace.”

The starship captain mulled this one over, and his mind’s eye, he simply could not see the Klingons capitulating after a ‘quick strike’; if anything, it would enrage them. Why was it that those with little military experience were so ready and willing to use military force? And usually with such little regard for those whose service they called upon. “A laudable goal, to be sure,” he said, finally, diplomatically. “But we have other enemies as well. What of the Romulans? The Klingons have been supplying them with ships and technology; they won’t like it if we stop that....” Their glasses rattled on the table briefly. “What was that?”

“What was what?”

“That ... vibration. I’ve felt that before.”

A slight frown appeared on the Ambassador’s lips. “A starship traveling at warp speed makes many vibrations, does it not? That was merely something in the engines, perhaps.”

“No,” he said slowly, “I know every vibration a starship can make. It felt more like ...” he paused.

“It felt like,” offered the doctor, “a ripple in time.”

The Ambassador raised a dubious eyebrow, “A ripple in time?” He took another sip of his wine, waiting for the two Star Fleet officers to expound on their theory.

The communications speaker whistled, then a voice said, “Bridge to Captain.”

The Captain pushed a button, and the helmsman’s face appeared on the view screen. “Sir, sensors picked up explosions of some sort in the system we just passed. Shall we investigate?”

“Negative. Continue on course. Contact Star Fleet Command and let them investigate it, if they wish.” He pressed the button again, and the screen went dark.

“There, you see, Captain? That was the cause of the vibrations we felt. The simplest explanation is usually the correct one. I must be getting back to my colleagues now. Good day, gentlemen.”

Last edited by Sgt_G; July 30 2013 at 03:39 AM.
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