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Old July 12 2006, 04:06 PM   #18
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.


June 2006-Subject: Birth of the Federation

Winner:

One Small Step by Starkers

Well here's mine...

* * *

By the time the ship’s engines finally gave up the ghost, it had been travelling for almost two hundred years.

It is a great fallacy that once an object starts to move in space it will move forever. Even in a vacuum there are forces that will work to slow a ship down, rob it of inertia. There’s gravity for one, and each time the ship passed within even a few million kilometres of a planet or a star, it was slowed down, just a fraction. Sometimes the process was reversed, and the ship gained impetus from its close passage to a planetary mass, but in the grand scheme of things the universe was against it, and it lost much more headway than it ever gained in this manner.

Then there were the multiple meteorite impacts, and collisions with other cosmic detritus, as if some higher power were tying to stop the little ship from going onwards.

Impossibly though, she did. Yes she slowed down, and yes she covered less distance in the hundred years following the death of her engines than she’d managed in the first five years of her flight, but even as one power strove to stop her, it was as if another urged her onwards; even going so far as to deposit a wormhole in her path, one that existed for less than twelve hours, yet threw the little ship more than a thousand light years further along and into the outer edges of the Tn Sway.

* * *

The Tn were an old race, one almost human like in their general appearance. The Tn Sway had been growing for five millennia, and showed no sign of halting, and each Fln that passed, each Pnm traversed saw more and more sentient species join the Sway.

Now a Tn scout pairing hung in space beside the little ship. There were two of them, a male and a female, resplendent in crimson vacuum suits that more resembled the chitinous exoskeleton of an insect rather than any conventional space suit.

Eager eyes peered out from within amber tinted visors made from triple layered resin, drinking in the sight before them.

‘What is its scale?’ Asked the male.

The female’s suit contained the pairing’s sensor array, and with a thought she activated these to answer her colleagues question. ‘Two hundred metres in length,’ she replied.

He nodded within his helmet, though he did not know why. His suit contained no sensors, only weaponry, and while her job was to understand the alien ship, his was to destroy it should it prove a threat.

He doubted this would be difficult.

‘Are those its propulsers?’ he asked, a gloved hand gesturing to the four tubes that hung apart from the ship, attached by spindly arms that made the ship resemble a bird’s skeleton.

‘Yes, I believe so. It looks like the ship is propulsed by a simplistic matter/anti-matter engine. She has two matter/anti-matter reactors.’

He laughed at that. The Tn Sway had outgrown such technology a thousand yeas ago.

‘I don’t think they’ve functioned for a long time though, the ship’s power signature is very low.’

‘What is it made of?’ he asked, his gloved hand reaching out but stopping just a fraction away from touching the bronzed hull.

‘Some duranium composite. Again it is simple, but effective.’

The suit’s computer poured thoughts into his mind. ‘We are running low on gel; our air will be gone in less than five units. What else can you detect?’

She didn’t move, her lithe form merely hung there in space beside the mysterious craft. To an observer she might have seemed dead, the abandoned corpse of a space farer who came to grief in this solar system years ago and had remained here, frozen in time, ever since.

He had worked with her for over a million units though, and he knew she was reliable. Separately they were formidable, together they were held in high regard within the Sway. Though her body was motionless he knew her mind would be racing as she analysed every scrap of data.

‘That’s unusual,’ she said after a moment.

‘What?’ suddenly he was alert, the suit’s plasma thorns primed to fire at a moment’s thought.’

‘The vessel’s main computer is an open mind, there are no plasma walls, no passwords…and it was designed that way. It’s like we were supposed to probe its data stores.’

‘So probe away, but make it fast,’ he replied. He relaxed but kept the thorns’ launch protocol on high.

‘Fascinating,’ she said at last. ‘The ship is named the USS Pax.’

‘What is a pax? And what is USS?’

‘Pax means Peace apparently, and the USS is some kind of identification prefix for ships belonging to something called the Federation?’

‘Federation?’

She shrugged inside her suit, forgetting for a moment that he wouldn’t perceive this. ‘I have no…wait!’
He almost launched the thorns then, only the flimsy nature of the alien ship making him stay his thoughts.

‘It’s ok, nothing threatening.’

‘Stop doing that,’ he admonished her. ‘At this range the plasma thorns might damage us as well. If I am to use them I’d rather it was to counter a genuine threat.’

‘Sorry,’ she replied, chastised. Technically they were of equal rank, but everyone knew the warrior’s word counted above the scientist’s. ‘There’s a message playing, continually repeating. When I first linked with the computer it detected us, and the message tried to reach out.’

‘So what did it say?’ he grunted. Absently he noted they had 4.62 units of air left.

‘I don’t know, I disconnected the link the moment I spotted it.’

‘Well reconnect it, words cannot harm us.’

Her face safely hidden beneath a visor, she smiled. He never used to be so inquisitive- she liked to imagine that some of her own personality was rubbing off on him, both in work and at leisure. It was the way with Sway scout pairings- two individuals who lived and breathed each other’s lives so completely that they became almost one. A third of Scout Pairings ended up retiring as mates, another third usually ended up killing each other.

This pair occupied the final third- a pairing who complemented each other so well that they were able to merge sex, violence, and science without their egos getting in the way, each of them able to separate their real existence from their existence as part of the pair.

‘Ok, I am prepared to initiate the link once more,’ she turned her helmet to look at him. ‘Ready?’

4.5 units. ‘Do it.’

For a moment nothing happened- then a new thought entered his mind, an alien thought.

In his mind’s eye the warrior saw a white walled room, and in the centre of that room stood a man, at least it looked like a man. He seemed almost Tn like, more fragile, paler, but the resemblance was there all the same. He wore a uniform of some kind, blue with red stripes across the shoulders. He had the bearing of a warrior, but was obviously not- the close cropped hair was more befitting of a child than a fighter.

When the man spoke he smiled, and the warrior Tn was even more repulsed. What kind of way was that to start a greeting with another race?

‘Greetings to you who have found our little ship.’

Even the man’s voice, the language he used, sounded weak. The Warrior’s mind was well trained, and he heard the voice both in its originality, and translated simultaneously. He checked the gauge, 4.49 units left. He decided he’d give the message till 3.3 before abandoning the mission and returning to their shuttle.

‘My name is Admiral Andrew Dupree, and I represent the United Federation of Planets. It still seems odd to say that. By our calendar the year is 2161 and just a few days ago the inaugural UFP charter was signed. We have entered a new era of cooperation between races. Twelve different species signed the charter. Twelve unique cultures, many of whom were enemies in the past, but who have now agreed to work together in harmony. This ship, the USS Pax, was launched to celebrate the formation of this union. The ship is unarmed, and contains information about each Federation member world, it is our hope that many new races will learn about us, learn that as we move out into the galaxy we are not something to be feared, that as we reach out it is with inquisitive eyes rather than clenched fists. Mine is the first of many messages that will be beamed via subspace to this ship, hopefully the goals and beliefs of the Federation will grow even as this ship travels further than any of us have gone before.’

And then the man in his minds eye was gone. The Tn warrior grunted.

‘Does that mean you liked it?’ asked his partner.

‘Spare me, the man seemed weak, the notion of this Federation though…it is intriguing.’

‘Reminds me of the first cheln of the Sway, back when only four other races had joined.’

He nodded. ‘He spoke of further messages, are they there?’

‘You are worried their little club did not survive?’ she asked

‘Curious,’ he replied.

She resisted the urge to laugh. ‘Yes there are, do we have the time to see them?’

He didn’t look at the gauge. ‘We have time.’

Another white room appeared in his thoughts. This time though it was a female who stood before him. Strangely she seemed stronger than the male from earlier. She was obviously of another race, the sharply tapered ears and skin colouring told him that. She looked old, wise with it but mainly old, and she wore dark trousers and a tunic of gold. Her right hand was raised in some curious gesture.

‘Live long, and prosper all who encounter the Pax,’ she said, her voice like an androids. ‘I am Captain Ch’nar of the Starship, Explorer. It is my honour to be the latest bearer of news to this fine vessel.’

The Tn frowned. She talked about honour yet expressed no emotion. He decided he didn’t like her.

His feelings did little to stop her talking though.

‘It is stardate 4981.5, and at this time membership of the United Federation of Planets stands at 94. The Federation has grown further than any of us thought possible when the charter was signed. To those this ship encounters, be advised, our message is still one of peace and understanding.’

Even as she vanished he snapped his head towards his partner. ‘The next one,’ he said.

Another white room- but a man this time, a tiny frail man, his head devoid of hair. The Warrior almost laughed at him, until he spoke, suddenly the Tn warrior heard strength there. This man was a leader…

‘This is Captain Jean Luc Picard, of the starship, Enterprise, and it is my great honour to address you, to speak to all those races and civilisations that the Federation has not yet encountered. I sometimes envy the Pax, odd to empathise with a creation of metal and circuits, but the things the Pax must have seen…more than I ever shall.

It is stardate 56125.8. The Federation has survived a war that cost us dearly, yet still we grow. Today the Kel’net’lop’sun joined the Federation, the 275th race to do so. We are at peace with the Dominion and the Romulans, and the Borg have not been seen in some time. Truly I feel we are on the verge of a golden age, and I am sure the Pax has played a part in that…’

He was gone.

‘There’s one more,’ said the female scout, pre-empting the question she knew was coming.

‘Excellent. Play it.’

She smiled. She had already triggered the message.

The white room was gone now, and instead the messenger was stood by a lake, twin suns burning brightly in a a pink sky above him.

He was a curious creature. Tnlike, but also strange, like a humanoid hedgehog. He looked soft, weak…

‘Hello!’ he shouted, his enthusiasm jarring. ‘I’m Feenix, Delta Quadrant Federation President. You can’t believe how happy I am to be here today, how happy I am to talk to the beloved Pax, a legend within the Federation, and still going, at the edge of our strongest scanners, but still there!’

‘This creature is annoying.’

‘Shush, he’s still speaking.’

‘….date AX/254.L, and today it is my honour to tell you that Federation membership stands at 487 species! The Federation has not been at war in 65 years, life expectancies are up and Quinex flu has finally been eradicated. This will likely be the last message able to reach the Pax, and so my final message is to those races who are yet to encounter our most long lived of emissaries. Already 13 member races had their first encounter with the Federation through the USS Pax, and it is my hope that I now speak to future Federation members.’ He grinned. ‘I look forward to meeting you!’

And then it was over.

For a moment the two Tn Scouts hung there in space. Finally the scientist spoke. ‘It’s amazing. Such…such…’

‘Arrogance.’ Said the warrior

‘Yes, arrogance. 487 species and they think they rule the universe, think we will be grateful to join their Federation.’

The warrior shook his head sadly. ‘The ship’s databanks contain full details of its route?’

‘Yes, if we wish the Sway will be able to travel back along that route.’

‘The Sway will wish to,’ said the warrior with conviction.

‘But they’re so small.’

He laughed, a deep throaty sound. ‘You have forgotten your tenets- the Sway did not come to encompass a million peoples by ignoring a hundred.’

Within her helmet she nodded. ‘Of course, you are right. Goddess forgive me.’

‘We should return to the shuttle. I will bring the Pax.’

And with that the warrior reached out and grasped the Federation ship, the vessel nestling delicately in his palm as the two scouts turned back towards their small shuttle.

A shuttle that- had the Pax been sentient- would have appeared to it as large as a Borg cube…

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