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Old March 31 2014, 02:39 AM   #1
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
UT-TFV: Quality of Mercy

Author's Note: This is a retooled version of the previous story, and it is a work in progress.

Historian's Note: This story takes place after the events in "Stealing Fire" and "No Win Scenario".

************************************************** **************

UNITED TREK:
TASKFORCE VANGUARD/DARK TERRITORY:
THE QUALITY OF MERCY


State Room
Starbase Bastion
Mid-2378

The transparent aluminum window was frigid to the touch. Captain Banti Awokou suppressed a shiver before removing his hand. The Starship Aldebaran, his latest command, floated before him. The moorings entangling the angelic ship didn’t mar its sleek beauty one parsec.

Stretching over six hundred meters in length, the Galaxy-class starship dominated the docking port, as befitting its class designation. Uncharacteristically Awokou smiled, thrilled at the prospect of returning to her.

“I don’t believe I have said anything in jest,” Rear Admiral Terrence Glover said by way of introduction. The younger brown-skinned man stood ramrod straight at the entrance to the room. Awokou’s smile quickly morphed into a look of concern.

He always knew that his protégé would one day rise to the admiral’s rank, but he hadn’t assumed it would be so quickly, or under such tragic circumstances. Yet so much had changed in Awokou’s universe since that fateful day in the skies above Lakesh.

The captain put the thoughts of that particular tragedy in the back of his mind. “My apologies…sir,” He nearly tripped over the word. It would take him a little while to get used to the idea of Glover being his superior officer. “I meant no offense.”

“None taken.” Terrence seemed oblivious to the fumble, which saddened Awokou. He would’ve thought the Glover he knew would’ve enjoyed showing off his fifth pip to his old mentor.

But a lot of bad things just hadn’t happened to Banti since the Dominion War; Terrence had been drastically changed as well.

The man seemed more closed off, his body language wary, his arms folded across his broad chest.

His expression was mildly impatient, at odds with the recollections of Banti’s wife Rozi, who told him how Glover had spent hours at his bedside while he had been in a coma.

“You wished to speak with me captain?” Glover prodded, gently but still insistent. Awokou’s heart sank further.

“Yes sir, I…I wanted to thank you,” Awokou began, not quite sure how to proceed, and feeling as awkward as he had on his first date with Rozi.

Glover’s head tilted to the side and he gave the captain a look like he was a curious new specimen. “I don’t follow.”

“I know you helped get me the Aldebaran,” Awokou said, recalling the scuttlebutt he had heard from some of his friends in the Fleet. “Not everyone thought I was ready for such a prestigious assignment.” He was one of those doubters, but only Rozi knew that.

“It was…a logical choice,” Glover shrugged, coming off even colder than many Vulcans Banti knew. “Your service record was exemplary before your accident.” Banti tensed at how sterile and antiseptic his old friend made it sound. “And with the dearth of skilled senior officers currently in the Fleet, and in light of your previous history restoring the reputation of Phoenix, it made sense to move Aldebaran past the incident.”

“I see,” Awokou nodded slowly, wondering if these were the same arguments Terrence had made to secure the post for Banti. There was a part of him that hoped that Terrence hadn’t been so dry when making those arguments though.

The captain chided himself. He had no right to criticize the man who had just helped him get a prestige command. Further, Awokou wasn’t taking into account how rough the last several years had been for Terrence, the emotional buffeting the man had received.

He had lost his father and his marriage; and before that his ship. That fifth pip must seem like cold comfort, and something that can’t replace what had been torn away from him.

“Admiral, Aldebaran doesn’t push off for another several days, if you would like to…tour her, that can be arranged, and then afterwards we could have dinner. Rozi would love to see you.” Banti was a laying it on a little thickly. Actually Rozi was a little peeved at Glover for not showing up while Banti was convalescing after reawakening.

But Awokou had cut the man some slack. Terrence was dealing with his own emotional turmoil and the demands of a new and possibly crushing responsibility. However, Banti also knew that his wife would smother any sharp words she had for the younger man and treat him with the respect he deserved.

The thought of his wife, her graciousness and compassion, made him smile again. “Am I wearing my uniform inside out or something?” Terrence asked, a glimpse of the man’s old mirth breaking through.

Laughing, Banti couldn’t help but give the man a quick once-over. The man looked resplendent in his long black jacket and matching trousers. Glover’s hair hadn’t been touched by gray while Banti’s had become snow-white. Terrence looked nearly the same as when he had commanded the Aegis, though he seemed even sadder now, with bags around his eyes. The major difference was the man’s neatly trimmed mustache and beard, perhaps a sign of his new office.

The man’s visage was still stern, but he had unfolded his arms at least. Now they awkwardly rested at his side. Awokou had never seen Glover anxious, even when they served on the Cardassian front.

“We’ll have to reschedule I’m afraid,” the admiral replied. “I have business to attend to at Starbase 27.”

“Along the Romulan Neutral Zone,” Awokou pointed out. “Don’t tell me the Star Empire is acting up again? Trying to take advantage of this whole refugee situation?”

“Let’s hope that isn’t the case,” Glover said, without adding more. Normally Terrence would add something, he would drop a hint, but that was the past, and Awokou had woken up to a much different future. Glover nodded respectfully before he turned to make his exit.

The man tried one more stab at it. “Lt. Rojas will also be at the dinner.” Glover stopped, but didn’t turn around.

Banti sought to reel him in. “She was gushing about seeing you again, well, not in so many words, but I could read the excitement on her face when she heard you would be here to review Intercept Group Four.”

Terrence turned around slowly. I think I’ve got the fish on the line, Awokou thought. “I appreciate you also recommending her for flight control officer,” the captain added. “We’re going to need someone with her skills navigating us through the Delta Quadrant.”

“Please send my regards to Lt. Rojas,” Glover said, “But I will have to get reacquainted upon your return.”

“Excuse me sir,” Awokou’s forcefulness erupted from him, “I know you’re grieving Terrence, but that doesn’t give you the right or excuse to turn your back on your friends!”

“I think you need to watch your tone Captain,” Glover’s nostrils flared and his eyes lit with fire. Banti knew that he was risking losing his ship even before he had made himself at home, but there were some things that needed to be said.

“I understand that your schedule is busy, but I really wish you could comprehend how much it would mean to all of us if you stopped by,” Awokou softened his tone, but not his stance.

“There’s no time,” Glover said.

“We could be gone for years,” Awokou rejoined. It was predicted that the mission would last at least five years, unless circumstances demanded otherwise.

“I’m sorry,” Terrence said, his neutral expression not giving a hint to his true feelings.

“It’s almost as if you want to get rid of us, shorn us off like dead skin or something,” Awokou felt his emotions springing forth and the words escaped before he could stop them. Since his awakening from the coma, his emotions had been harder to control.

“I’m an admiral now, things are different,” Terrence offered.

“No, the biggest difference is you,” Banti shot back. “Lt. Rojas had thought you were going to put her on your staff. She did all that extra training at Starfleet Academy to build up her resume and then you pass her off to me. I’m pleased, but it’s not what she wanted.”

“Is this what she told you?” Glover’s expression became hooded.

“No,” the captain admitted, “but sitting in that captain’s chair, you learn something about sapient nature.”

“Perhaps you are mistaken,” Terrence replied.

“Maybe,” Banti confessed, “But my gut tells me otherwise. You don’t have to push us away. You don’t have to do this alone. I can tell you from personal experience that you can’t do this alone.”

“Thank you…Banti,” Glover said. The captain’s voice caught in his throat. Awokou reached out, to grab the man’s shoulder, to pat it for reassurance, but the rear admiral fell back. “It’s going to take time,” Terrence offered.

“Fair enough,” Awokou reined in his emotions.

“Please relay that message to your wife and Juanita,” Glover said.

“I will do,” the captain promised.

“Now sir, am I dismissed?” Terrence asked with the heartening sliver of a smile.

“Yes sir,” Awokou smiled in return.
************************************************** ***************

The Watering Hole
Starbase Bastion

Lt. Kenule Dryer leaned half-way over the table to hear what the other man was saying even though he was practically shouting. If the music, pounding from archaic audio speakers lined along the bulkheads, wasn’t loud enough, the raucous crowd was.

There was dancing, singing, a lot of swaying, furious games of dom-jot and billiards among others. And the maddening clanging of glass and metal steins; often against rough wooden tables and bar tops as the patrons ordered more rounds. The scantily clad Farian and Orion waitresses were only happy to accommodate them. The gruff Nausicaan tending the bar looked tougher than any of the drinkers-including the Klingon ones, or the aggressive décor.

“Say again?” Dryer asked.

“This is great isn’t it?” Lt. Yori Shibata grinned.

“Huh?” Now Kenule was yelling.

Shibata got halfway out of his chair, and leaned over the table. His lips nearly brushed against Dryer’s ear. Still, the man cupped the sides of his mouth, “This is great,” he repeated.

Kenule winced at the shouted words bouncing directly against his eardrum. “If you say so.”

“Ah come on, don’t be such a buzz kill,” Shibata good-naturedly chided. Kenule had just met the man on the shuttle ride to Bastion. Both were late replacements. Despite Dryer’s desire to be left alone, Shibata had attached himself to Kenule like an Aldebaran mud leech. “This is great, a to the letter recreation of an Old Earth establishment called a biker bar,” Shibata said, clearly impressed.

The words were lost on Kenule and not just because he could still barely hear them. Against his better judgment, which had been happening far more frequently since Shibata had warped into his life, Dryer asked, “What is a ‘biker bar’?”

Shibata’s smile faltered, “Are you serious?”

“I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t,” Kenule rejoined.

“Oh, of course,” Shibata’s smile returned. “I forgot who I was talking to here for a moment. Mr. Uptight.”

“Uptight?”

“Never mind,” Shibata waved the query away. “I bet you never even went to your ship’s recreation lounge.”

“My last posting was at the Daystrom Annex on Galor IV,” Kenule huffed; miffed that Shibata had forgotten that already. “And no I didn’t frequent the recreation establishment there. I…was too busy. I often just ate in the lab.”

“Like I said, buzz kill,” Shibata’s words were belied by his smile. “Got to live a little Ken.”

“Kenule,” Dryer pointed out, now really peeved. He hated being called Ken.

“What?” Shibata asked.

“Kenule,” he repeated. “That is my name. Not Ken.”

“Like I said, way too uptight,” Shibata replied. “Anyway a biker bar is a made for bikers,” he paused, seeing if that would register. It didn’t. Shibata continued, “Bikers were people on Old Earth who rode motorcycles.”

“I’ve heard of them,” Kenule pointed out, a bit too proudly.

“Ah…good,” Shibata said, “Anyway, these bikers would sometimes form clubs and bars like these catered to them.”

“Oh, I get that,” Dryer said, “It’s like a themed-establishment, often like starship lounges.”

“Yes,” Shibata said, “Something like that.”

“Who would want to spend their time or their money in a place like this?” Kenule wondered, looking around again. He held up his golden Tenarian Schnapps, “The drinks are too potent, the food is subpar, and I sense a fight is about to break out any moment.”

Shibata laughed, “That’s the whole point. It’s the spirit of adventure, the unknown, and I mean, that’s what Starfleet is all about, is it not?”

“I suppose,” Kenule offered, starting to regret his decision to leave the comfortable environs of his lab. But Admiral Haftel had literally pushed him out. He said it would be good for Dryer’s career, and that he couldn’t hide forever. “If you wanted some real adventure you should try that Alshain restaurant on the promenade. I would go in there, except I don’t eat meat.”

“Damn, you’re a vegan and you barely drink,” Shibata shook his head, “What do you do for fun?”

“Well, I,” Kenule began, but paused as he struggled to formulate an answer.

“You know, hold that thought,” Shibata said as his head nearly cranked 360 degrees on his neck. Kenule followed his gaze. He saw an attractive blonde, dressed in low cut green blouse with matching skintight pants, making her way to the bar. Shibata wasn’t the only one paying attention.

“Hey, Ken, I’ve already paid for the drinks, so I’ll catch you around,” Shibata said, as he got out of his seat.

“My name is,” Dryer started, but Shibata was already gone. Kenule was both happy and sad that he was alone again.
************************************************** ***************

Last edited by DarKush; March 31 2014 at 03:02 AM.
DarKush is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 31 2014, 02:43 AM   #2
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: UT-TFV: The Quality of Mercy

************************************************** **********

USS Aldebaran

Chief Engineer Silane floated beneath Aldebaran’s ventral secondary hull. He wanted to see if the heavy-warp sled had been attached properly. The Mark III Heavy-Warp Sleds could travel at Warp 9.997 for up to five months and should significantly cut down on the voyage to the Delta Quadrant.

For most of that trip the crew would be in stasis, except for Silane. A Medusan, his non-corporeal form wasn’t subject to the ravages of time and space like many of his organic colleagues.

Beside him flew one such colleague. Lt. Selvin piloted the cargo management unit expertly beside him. The Vulcan was his closest friend on the ship. Silane wasn’t sure if it was because Vulcans, with the assistance of a special visor could actually look on his true form without going mad, or if Silane’s emotional spectrum was muted enough not to disrupt the Vulcan’s staid manner.

In any event he enjoyed the friendship and the companionship particularly at the moment. “What do you think Selvin?” Silane asked, though it was really the modulated computer voice from his containment sac.

The yellow-hued organic replied, “The couplings are secure.”

Silane approximated a nod, or at least thought he did, “I agree. I think it’s safe to report back to the captain that the sled has been successfully connected.” Once the sled’s warp coils were spent, it would be converted into a logistic supply node. It was truly a miracle of engineering and one Silane wished he had participated in conceiving and constructing.

“Denizens from Omicron Ceti III have an eatery onboard Starbase Bastion,” Selvin said. Silane tried nodding again. He knew that the Cetians were famous for their vegetarian cuisine, and Selvin, like most Vulcans, was a vegan. “If you are not busy perhaps we could dine there.”

“Unfortunately I have other plans,” Silane said, contemplating whether he should elaborate.

“Understood,” Selvin coolly replied, not quite able to hide the disappointment in his voice. The Medusan was certain he knew the origin for that disappointment. So he no longer saw any concern in spelling it out.

“Dr. Xylia has already asked me to dinner. There’s a new Alshain restaurant at the station. You are welcome to join us.” Even though Silane didn’t eat organic sustenance, he enjoyed observing the process and the camaraderie.

“Thank you,” Selvin began, his words frigid, “But I will decline.”

“You really shouldn’t be that way,” Silane said disapprovingly, “Xylia can’t help where she was born. Or choose her nationality.”

“I am well aware of that Silane,” Selvin replied frostily. “But I can choose who I dine with.”

After a long pause, Silane conceded, “Fair enough. I do want you to know that the offer still stands.”

“Thank you,” Selvin said. Through the workbee’s viewport, Silane saw the man dip his head respectfully. “I shall not keep you from your appointment,” Selvin added. The craft angled away from the Medusan and puttered back toward the Main Shuttlebay. Silane watched him go, pulsing softly all the while.
************************************************** ************

Conference Room
Starbase Bastion

The conference room, graciously volunteered by the station’s commander, afforded the captains a premium view of all of Intercept Group Four’s ships. Aldebaran and Wyoming already were ensconced in their warp sleds while work was proceeding apace on Palomar and Enzmann. Together the quartet of ships would join Empress. The Galaxy-class cruiser was the only surviving ship from the first IG-4.

The other five vessels had been lost in combat against the Kothlis’Ka, one of the species streaming out of the Delta Quadrant. IG-4 had tried failed to prevent the Kothlis’Ka Armada from proceeding on toward Romulan space.

Empress’s captain had refused to return home, but had acceded to Starfleet Command’s demand that she not take the Empress into Romulan territory. A Starfleet vessel anywhere near that infernal horde might trigger a hostile response from the Star Empire.

Command had also allowed the captain to send a warning to the Romulans, though so far neither she nor Command had received a reply, as far as Banti had heard. He suspected that Terrence’s rush to get back to the Romulan Neutral Zone was compelled by the oncoming Kothlis’Ka.

In the borrowed conference room, Captain Awokou held court with the captains of the taskforce he would lead into the Delta Quadrant.

He hated being one ship short for the new intercept group, but with the Satie Administration’s halt on starship construction and their new focus on unmanned warp combat vehicles, the Fleet was spread thin. Not only had a significant amount of men and materiel been thrown into Taskforce Vanguard, but there were still all the ongoing conflagrations that always demanded Starfleet’s time in addition to the standard missions of exploration.

“This business with the Kothlis’Ka is just ghastly,” Captain Blazek, of the Ambassador-class Palomar, shook his elongated, purple head. His bulbous, fire orange eyes blinked spasmodically as he contemplated the enormity of his own statement. “An entire group wiped out.”

“Not entirely,” admonished Captain Niann, of the Cheyenne-class Wyoming. The brown-skinned Akaali’s skin coloration was darker than Banti’s. With her broad nostrils, full lips, and brown skin, Niann could easily have passed for a member of Banti’s family, a daughter even, if not for the twin ridges bracing each side of her forehead and stopping just before they touched her eyebrows. “Empress survived,” she pointed out, “And she’s still ready to fight.”

“I think it was a mistake for Command not to recall Empress,” Commander Raul Gomes, of the Miranda-class Enzmann, spoke up. Despite his youthful square face, Gomes’s hair was steel gray. Gomes’s age made Banti wonder why he hadn’t reached a higher rank. Awokou suspected that the man’s long history in Starfleet Intelligence perhaps was the reason. Once he got to know the man, Banti thought he might ask him.

Usually Awokou brought his meetings to a close quickly after the main business had concluded, yet he was allowing this one to wind down naturally. He thought it would be a good thing for the captains to get to know each other better, especially before they all went into deep sleep. Who knew what situation awaited them once they were reawakened.
With a sense of gallows humor, he thought back to his recent return to the land of the living. Banti was still grappling with all of the changes the Federation had undergone in just two short years, as well as how he had changed.

Today he was far more amenable to sitting back and allowing his subordinates to speak their minds than he had been in the past. In fact, the idea that these were his subordinates felt odd to him, more so than it would have previously. They were his equals, all charged with bringing their crews home as safely as possible, and all nagged by the same fears and doubts.

“The pressures, the strains on that crew must be immense,” Gomes said. “I understand the need to tough it out, but can Empress’s crew be truly up to the task after such a harrowing ordeal?”

No one had a ready answer. They all knew that Gomes had been at Wolf 359, and had been one of the lucky survivors. He knew firsthand what it must have been like to fight and survive against an impossible foe.

“I guess we’ll find out soon enough,” was all Blazek could muster.

“There have been some positives,” Niann pointed out, “There have been some successful contacts, remember the Concorde?” Participating in the refugee side of the undertaking, Captain Selmek had helped repatriate the species he had encountered.

“What about Erickson?” Blazek just had to point out. “Just think what might have happened if the Venturi or the Tholians had gotten their hands on that alien technology?” The Erickson had helped avert a near catastrophe after encountering aliens who possessed a polaric ion generator.

Banti was concerned about encountering such dangers as well, but he didn’t want to encourage Blazek’s pessimism. In the past Awokou might have considered it realism, but now, he wasn’t so sure of that.

“Neither the Tholians, nor the Venturi succeeded,” Niann said. “I think you are worrying too much. I’m surprised that you signed on for this journey at all.”

“I didn’t,” Blazek replied, quieting the room. “There was a hole that needed filling and I follow orders.”

“Speaking of following orders,” Banti said, only slightly regretting his next words. “I have another engagement to attend to. Please remain if you wish to do so.” He got up from his seat.

He had been so engrossed in the conversation that he had forgotten his dinner date with his wife. While Terrence could blow off Rozi Awokou, Banti had long ago learned that was not the best course of action.

“Plans for dinner I take it?” Gomes asked, grinning. “I wouldn’t be late if I were you sir. Take it from a divorced man.”

Awokou paused and glared at the man. “How did you know I was meeting my wife?” He thought back to Gomes’s Starfleet Intelligence career with some disquiet.

Gomes shrugged, “I know that look sir. It’s a look that many a man has got when they are afraid they have displeased or about to displease their wives.”

Niann chuckled at that and the tension broke. Banti allowed the tension in his shoulders to ease. “Very apt Commander,” Awokou nodded. “Perhaps we can all meet for dinner, aboard Aldebaran, before we set out for the Delta Quadrant?”

There were accommodating nods around the table. Awokou managed a smile. “I will have my first officer make the arrangements.” He looked at each of his fellow captains before leaving, his eyes lingering a bit too long on the still smiling Gomes. Once dinner was over with Rozi tonight, Awokou planned to burn some of his capital to check more thoroughly into Gomes’s background.

Internally, Banti had just gone to blue alert.
************************************************** **************
DarKush is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 31 2014, 02:49 AM   #3
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: UT-TFV: Quality of Mercy

************************************************** *************

Esplanade
Starbase Bastion

“I can’t believe you convinced me to do this,” Lt. Juanita Rojas chuckled, feeling very underdressed.

“Oh, come on, red looks good on you,” Lt. Narcissa stopped and twirled in her own golden 23rd century-style uniform. Unlike Juanita, the tall, deep green, violet-haired Orion had the legs for the miniskirt. Completing the twirl, Narcissa said, “Doesn’t she look fetching Loto?”

Lt. Loto, the third member of their trio, hunched his massive shoulders, an anxious look on his face. The bald headed, tanned Arbazan nervously licked his lips and rubbed his ridged forehead, thinking of something to say or deflect Narcissa’s line of inquiry.

“Oh never mind,” Narcissa blew through her teeth. She pinched one of the man’s massive biceps and the gesture startled him. The Orion was unfazed. “Operations red does look good on you too though.”

Juanita couldn’t help but give a sidelong glance, which she blamed on Narcissa’s prompting. Loto’s compact, ripped physique in his crimson tunic was very eye catching. If he had been a little bit taller he would’ve put Juanita in the mind of her beau. And she was certain that Tai Donar would not be pleased that she was eyeing another man.

She stopped immediately and forced her eyes forward. From the periphery of her vision she saw that Narcissa had not. The Orion loved to tease the taciturn Arbazan. They had been at it long before Juanita had joined the crew.

“I can’t believe they have one holosuite dedicated to the missions of the Enterprise-1701-and 1701-A,” Juanita marveled. She also wanted to spare poor Loto.

“Why is it such a surprise?” Narcissa shrugged, “I mean it’s only the most famous ship in the Fleet. Even the Enterprises-D or E haven’t racked up as many achievements.”

“It’s got to be close by now,” Juanita rejoined, thinking of her dream ship.

“Not by a mile,” Narcissa asserted, “Besides Picard is too stuffy. He’s not as vivacious as Kirk.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Juanita shook her head.

“You’ll see,” Narcissa proclaimed. “Once we’re in the simulation and you see his holographic likeness up close.”

“Okay,” Juanita said, not coating her doubt.

“Which Enterprise captain do you think was the best?” Loto interjected. Juanita was shocked. Not by the interjection but that the man attempted to make conversation at all. He didn’t direct the question to either woman in particular. As it was Narcissa’s wont, she jumped right in.

“Come on Kirk.” Narcissa rolled her eyes as if it were a no-brainer.

“Well, I think Picard,” Juanita shot back. “What do you think Loto?”

“Well, there’s April, Pike, Kirk, Decker,” Loto rattled off the names of each commanding officer, “Harriman, Garrett, Picard, Riker, Picard, Jellico…”

“Seriously, Jellico doesn’t count,” Narcissa interceded. Juanita playfully jabbed the Orion in the ribs.

“Shush,” she admonished her friend. Now that the Arbazan was talking she didn’t want him to wall himself off again.

Loto had continued talking, wrapped in his own thoughts, and oblivious to their offside jibing. “Harriman,” he concluded. That drew surprised looks from both women.

“Harriman?” Narcissa was incredulous.

“Harriman?” Juanita’s tone was more inquisitive but still she was just as puzzled.

“Yes,” the Arbazan doubled down, still oblivious to the shocks he had generated. “It took tremendous courage to first take command after Captain Kirk and then to retain command after the shakedown cruise tragedy,” the man reasoned. “It is not easy to weather public condemnation.”

That brought Narcissa up short. She nodded sagely, an old pain etching across her face. Both she and Loto had served aboard Aldebaran during the now infamous incident. So they knew full well what it was like to keep their heads up while being pariahs.

“Maybe Harriman isn’t such a bad choice after all,” Narcissa conceded, her normal wattage dimming considerably.

“He’s a great choice,” Juanita said with forced cheer. “Good pick Loto.”

The Arbazan looked at her curiously, “You’re…welcome Lieutenant Rojas.”

“While we’re in our costumes, we’re all on a first name basis, okay?” Narcissa said, her clouds dissipating.

“So, what’s going to be the mission for this program?” Juanita asked.

“I don’t know,” Narcissa shrugged, “I think Loto should pick.”

“The mission where the Enterprise encountered the planet killer,” the Arbazan surprisingly had one already picked out. Surprising to Juanita because that inferred that he was actually looking forward to the holosuite program. She couldn’t read that in his stony disposition.

“Ooh that’s a good one,” Narcissa gushed. “I can’t wait to get inside the suit now.”

“Ah, guys, I think we might have to delay our session,” Juanita said, her pulse quickening.

“What’s wrong?” Narcissa narrowed her eyes, perceptive to the serious switch in tone. Juanita pointed across, to the other side of the Esplanade. “Fark!” She muttered as she saw Silane trying to intercede in vain between Dr. Xylia and three angry Klingons. “I see what you’re saying,” she replied. “Looks like someone needs our…”

Before the Orion finished, Loto took off, his sure physical movements speaking a lethal language that Juanita hoped the Klingons heard as loudly as she did.
************************************************** ***************

Esplanade
Starbase Bastion

“I would appreciate it if you would kindly stop doing that sir,” Chief Engineer Silane said, which naturally prompted another poke, this time harder, from the leader of pack of Klingons that had accosted him and Dr. Xylia. His containment sac could withstand the poking, but the constant jabbing was disconcerting…not to mention rude.

“And what are you going to do if I don’t?” The Klingon challenged. Wiry, yet muscled arms sprouted from his rusted metallic vest. His dirty blond hair was pulled back into a ponytail. Surprisingly the man sported no facial hair. His sagittal ridge was also less impressive than his compatriots. The muscle bound heckler with the heaviest forehead ridge had thick metal rings hanging from each ridge in addition to his ears. The third man was heavyset, with his thick hair just as unkempt as his slovenly dress.

None of the men wore Defense Force uniforms, to which Silane was both pleased and slightly alarmed. He was glad that the Defense Force hadn’t stooped so low in their recruiting program, but disquieted by the fact that the Medusan couldn’t fall back on using the shared wartime experience to deflect their anger.

“He’s just going to float away Joqala,” the disheveled one brayed, drawing laughter from the other two.

“Geq might be right,” chortled the pierced one, “Or if you poke a hole in that suit, he might just deflate.” The man added, with a dangerously curious gleam in his eye at the thought.

“And in the process drive you and almost everyone else within eyesight insane,” Dr. Xylia said, seemingly unfazed by their sudden admirers.

“Who said you could speak Romulan!” Joqala, the blond, snarled. “My grandparents died on Narendra III!”

“My apologies for your loss,” Xylia said coolly.

“You don’t sound sorry,” Geq, the thickset one, lumbered forward. “She doesn’t sound sorry one bit, does she Ch’taak?”

“No,” the ringed man shook his head, causing the metal rings to jingle. “But I got something that might make her feel sorry,” he grinned, and made a show for reaching for the large serrated blade at his side.

“What are you doing with that?” Silane asked, floating closer to Xylia. “You were supposed to hand over all weapons upon entry onto this starbase.”

“And what are you going to do about it?” Laughed Ch’taak. “Report me? You’ll be dead before you touch your combadge.”

“And so would you,” a new, familiar and welcome voice entered the fray. The Klingons turned to see Lt. Loto standing behind them. Lieutenants Narcissa and Rojas were bringing up the rear. Silane pulsed with relief. Xylia merely arched one eyebrow.

Loto stood calmly, his arms folded across his muscled chest. His expression was impassive, his voice level. “I would recommend that you gentlemen proceed on your way.”

“No one calls me a gentleman!” Joqala said, pushing past his compatriots to square off against the Arbazan. He glared down at Loto, his nostrils flaring, his lips pulled back in a snarl. “What do you mean by that? Do you think we are soft, like humans?” He gave Juanita a quick glare before returning his gaze to Loto.

The other Klingons moved to flank the stoic Arbazan. Narcissa moved to engage them, but Loto held up one hand, and she stopped in her tracks. Lt. Rojas also stood at the ready, both hands curling and uncurling, her body language taut and anticipating violence.

Joqala placed one thick finger in the center of Loto’s chest. “I asked you a question,” he said. “Do you think we are soft?” He repeated, before pressing an indentation into the Arbazan’s chest.

“Grishnar cat got your tongue?” Geq asked, and Ch’taak guffawed.

“Perhaps this Arbazan is intimidated by real men,” Ch’taak offered.

“Well, he is wearing a child’s garments after all,” Geq declared.

“I heard their kind don’t like seloh,” Ch’taak added.

“Is that right?” Joqala asked Loto, his face contorting in disgust. “Just what manner of ‘man’ are you?”

“One that is about to kick your asses,” Narcissa couldn’t help herself.

“What are you doing here Orion?” Geq’s fat head turned toward her and looked her up and down. “I didn’t know Federation starbases had pleasure mazes.” All three men laughed at that, and Narcissa’s face turned a shade of green he had never seen before.

Almost too fast for Silane’s optic receptors to capture, Loto grabbed Joqala’s pointed finger, twisted it until it popped. Joqala squealed in pain before a thrust to the throat silenced him and a chop to the back of his head felled him.

Loto, not slowing down, moved on to a still smirking Ch’taak. The jeweled Klingon was slow on the uptake. Unfortunately for him, Loto was not. Two kicks, one low, the other high, and Ch’taak joined Joqala.

Next, the methodical Arbazan turned toward Geq. The hefty Klingon backed away, stopping when he bumped into Narcissa. He threw back an elbow, to knock the woman out of his way. The Orion ducked beneath it, and drove her own elbow into his side.

The man crumbled, protecting his side, and left everything else exposed. Narcissa made nearly as quick work of Geq as Loto had of his comrades.

Once Geq had joined them on the ground, all three grumbling an admixture of moans and curses, Loto nodded with satisfaction and Ryse grinned. Loto casually walked over to Ch’taak and extricated his blade. “I’ll be confiscating this. If you want it back, file a report.”

Silane glanced at Xylia. The Romulan’s eyebrow was nearly to the roof, and Lt. Rojas was looking just as stunned. The two Aldebaran security officers had taken down the Klingon toughs within seconds, before the station’s security could respond, or even be made aware of a potential hostile situation. Narcissa was completely nonplussed. “Now, that we got that little warm up in,” the Orion said, “I’m ready for that holoprogram.”
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Old March 31 2014, 02:52 AM   #4
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: UT-TFV: The Quality of Mercy

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Ready Room
USS Aldebaran

“Did I catch you at a bad time Captain?” Captain Banti Awokou asked his counterpart, not attempting to hide his curiosity.

The holoprojector displayed a head-to-toe image of Captain Tan Erasia, of the Starship Empress. A medical apron was draped over the woman’s uniform. “No,” she said, her voice strained, “I have a few minutes before surgery.”

“Excuse me?” Awokou hoped he hadn’t balked, “Did you say surgery?”

“Yes,” the Efrosian nodded, “I was a doctor before pursuing the command track. We lost our chief medical officer during the battle with the Kothlis’Ka Armada. While we still have some talented medical technicians and a functional EMH, I like to pitch in when I can.” The woman leaned close, lowering her voice, more so from habit than necessity, “Besides, I really don’t trust those medical holograms. Too cold and antiseptic.”

“I see,” Awokou nodded, more so to move the conversation along than because he agreed with her. “I wanted to provide you an update on our progress,” he said.

“Could you just send it through subspace?” Erasia asked. “It might take a little while to get here but it’ll arrive certainly before you do.”

“One can hope,” Awokou said. He was hoping to develop a rapport with his counterpart, similar to what he had done with the other IG-4 captains. Banti knew that establishing a relationship with Erasia might be tougher due to Aldebaran replacing Empress as the lead taskforce ship. In the first IG-4 iteration, Erasia had taken charge of the taskforce after the lead ship Narcissus had been destroyed.

Not only had that group been decimated, with Empress incurring casualties and massive damage, but Erasia had been eclipsed by him and the Aldebaran. Banti hoped that there wouldn’t be any hard feelings, though he couldn’t put it past her if there were.

In any event, he was hoping to clear the air before they arrived in the Delta Quadrant and begun working together. “So, how are things going?” Banti found himself asking. Inwardly he winced. In time’s past he had been more direct.

Erasia looked befuddled. “You didn’t receive our latest report?”

“No, oh no, I’ve read that one and all the ones you’ve sent,” Awokou rushed to clarify. “I meant, how are things…with…well…” He paused, gathering himself, but unable to stop his cheeks from warming, “you and me?”

“I wasn’t aware that we were going steady,” the Efrosian quipped.

“Oh no, not that, I wasn’t asking you…” Awokou grew flustered. Finally he managed, “I’m a married man, a happily married man.”

“Cool your thrusters sir,” Erasia chuckled, “I was just joshing, as my XO is fond of saying; trying to ease some of the tension.”

“I see,” Awokou said, feeling a great burden lifting off his shoulders. He would hate to have to explain this portion of the conversation to Command or his wife. Rozi definitely put more fear into him any admirals.

“I really don’t have much time,” Erasia said, “but I want you to know that I am fine with you taking command. I’m not going to say it was an easy thing to accept…at first, but right now, I have more important things to patch up than a wounded ego. It definitely keeps things in perspective.”

Thinking of his own injuries, Banti nodded in understanding. “It certainly does.”

Erasia smiled, “Well, I guess this is the start of a beautiful relationship.”

“I certainly hope so,” Awokou matched her smile.

“Well then, I guess the only thing left to say is that I can’t wait to see you in the DQ,” the Efrosian said. “Now, permission to go deliver a baby sir?”

“Permission granted,” Awokou laughed.
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Captain’s Quarters
USS Aldebaran

Captain Awokou stepped into a room filled with laughter. His ready-made apology for being late died quickly on his tongue. His ability to adapt was something he hadn’t lost Banti was glad to realize. The captain’s stomach grumbled as the aroma of the food found his nose.

He headed right into the dining area. His wife was standing opposite their guest. Both were placing dishes onto the table as they finished their laugh. Rozi was dressed in a simple, elegant royal blue dress while their fair-skinned guest still wore his uniform.

“Counselor Banyan, dear,” Awokou nodded at both of them. “I’m sorry to interrupt.”

“Oh don’t be silly,” Rozi waved away his apology. “Banyan was just helping with programming the dessert, and he was telling me about the first desert he made while a student at the Nausicaan School of Culinary Arts.”

“There’s a Nausicaan cooking school?” Awokou asked, incredulous.

“Oh yes captain,” The Lumerian counselor stood up to his full, imposing height. His thin frame and the twinkle in his brown eyes made him seem less imposing. The marking on his forehead wrinkled slightly after his expression and voice took on a serious cast. “The Nausicaans take great pride in their cuisine and especially their desserts. I can also tell you that failure was not an option.”

“I can only imagine,” Awokou chuckled, “So what was your first dessert?”

“Bloodfruit cake,” Banyan looked wistful.

“I take it that since you’re here recounting the story with my wife that it met with approval?” The captain asked.

“Actually the chef hated it,” the Lumerian shrugged.

“Well it is fruit cake after all,” Awokou laughed again and Rozi joined in. Banyan looked at both of them, a perplexed look on his face.

“It’s an Old Earth thing,” Rozi explained, “There is an Earth dessert also called fruit cake, which it appeared no one liked.”

“At least according to Old Earth television,” Awokou added.

“Television?” The counselor inquired.

“Ah, let’s save that for the meal,” the captain advised. “And what are we having today?” He asked, as his eyes roved the table. The counselor stood at attention and nodded respectfully in Rozi’s direction before gesturing grandly at the repast. His wife chuckled again.

“I thought it would be fitting to introduce you to the Delta Quadrant before we get there, with a sampling of several dishes,” Rozi smiled.

“I knew you had been dying to try out some of the recipes Voyager sent back,” Banti grinned. Courtesy of Project Pathfinder, the stranded Starship Voyager had sent a lot of information about the Delta Quadrant, including data about its flora, fauna, and foodstuffs.

“To the best of my ability I was able to program the replicator to reproduce Leola rice pilaf, Gabosti stew, Talaxian bread, and for dessert, Jimbalian fudge cake with L’maki nut frosting.”

Plagued with a sweet tooth, Awokou’s eyes went directly to the purplish round cake.
“I had some trouble with programming the L’maki nut, and that’s when our gracious counselor chivalrously offered his assistance.”

Banyan bowed. “It was all in the furtherance of greater galactic understanding.” All three laughed.

Once they had settled down, Banti clapped his hands. He was ready to eat, but he was also ready to talk, to relax, and with his wife and the irrepressible counselor as his dinner companions he knew that both were going to be as plentiful as the helpings.
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Old March 31 2014, 02:56 AM   #5
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: UT-TFV: The Quality of Mercy

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Guest Quarters
Starbase Bastion
The Next Morning…

This part always made Lt. Yori Shibata nervous. It was always easier to get into situations than to extricate yourself from them.

He propped up on one elbow and looked down at last night’s lover. The stunning blonde was wiping sleep from her olive-green eyes. Both of them were still tangled in a purple bed sheet. “Ah, listen,” he began, a bit reluctantly-he always thought putting a hitch in your voice worked best-“Last night was fun.”

She nodded and smiled. “It sure was.” The woman mimicked him by propping herself on one elbow to face him.

Shibata resisted the urge to reach out and brush an errant strand of hair from over her eyes. What’s wrong with me? He wondered. Attachment scared him, but there was something about this woman.

“I’ve-uh-got to go,” Shibata began, eager to nip whatever incipient feelings might be sprouting for this woman. It wasn’t like he was going to have time for them to grow anyway. The Delta Quadrant awaited. “I’m due back on my vessel. We’re shoving off soon.”

“Oh really?” The woman’s eyes brightened. “So am I.”

“You are?” Shibata’s heart thumped, with both dread and possibility. He hadn’t considered that the woman might be part of Taskforce Vanguard, or even in Starfleet. Admittedly neither had spent much time talking.

“Are you in Starfleet?” Shibata asked. The woman nodded.

“What ship?” he followed up.

“You first,” she said, a playful gleam in her eyes.

“The Aldebaran,” he said proudly. It had taken him a long time to work his way up to a Galaxy-class vessel. Even if it did take Command almost a little too long to recognize his abilities.

“Impressive,” she observed. “You’re into communications.”

His eyes widened. Now he was the one impressed. “How did you know that?”

“You’re a good talker,” she smiled. “Seemed like a good fit.”

“Okay,” he nodded. “You got me there. Enough with the mystery. What ship do you serve on?”

“Well, umm,” she grinned, “Oh, I’ll just come out with it; I also serve on the Aldebaran.”

“Get out of here,” Shibata tried to control his racing heart. He wasn’t sure why it was galloping. Was it fear or excitement? “Small galaxy huh?” He tried to sound nonchalant.

“You could say that Lt. Shibata,” she replied.

“How do you know my name?” Now confusion was thrown into Yori’s emotional cauldron.

The woman sat up halfway in bed and extended a hand. “I’m guessing we should’ve done this first. I’m Lt. Commander April Thayer, first officer of the Aldebaran.”
************************************************** ***************

Ready Room
USS Aldebaran

April Thayer smoothed her uniform more out of nerves than necessity. She gathered herself, took a quick breath, and pressed the door chime.

The ghosts had been haunting her as soon as she saw Aldebaran on her approach to the station, but now they were screeching something awful, as well as pulling and clawing, doing their damnedest to pull her back into the past.

“Enter,” she heard the voice call out strongly from the other side of the door. “Here goes,” she muttered, right as the door opened. She stepped across the threshold, holding the apparitions at bay.

She had had some fun this morning, unfortunately at poor Lt. Shibata’s expense, but now playtime was over. Captain Banti Awokou stood up from his chair, laying a padd onto the neat stack of others on his desk. He came around his desk and clasped her hand in a firm grip. He nodded as he spoke, “Commander Thayer, welcome to the Aldebaran,” he paused, “Or should I say welcome back?”

She winced uncontrollably and the other man grimaced. “Was that impolite?”

“No, no sir, it wasn’t,” she said, “It’s me, I mean; this is all…” she waved her hands, at a loss for words. “Permission to speak freely sir?”

“Of course,” Awokou said, taking a step back from her, as if he was expecting a blow.

“Why did you request me?” She asked.

“Your sterling service record,” he said bluntly, “which was only embellished by your actions during the Talarian Incursion.”

“My second chance I guess,” she said, with a nervous smile. “I never asked to be thrust into the spotlight.”

“Many, who are, seldom do,” he replied, “But it’s what you do with that spotlight that matters.”

“Or what the Fleet decides to do with a newly minted hero,” She said, “which I find it a bit odd that they would want to stick me back on the ship that tarnished that sterling record.”

“You didn’t have to take me up on the offer,” Awokou said.

“No sir, I didn’t,” she admitted, “But I felt I owed my friends and crewmates, I owed this grand ship more.”

“Redemption is a powerful incentive,” the captain nodded, “I should know.” His gaze was imploring, “You’ve heard about my mission to Lakesh?”

“But sir, what happened to you at Lakesh wasn’t your fault,” she offered.

“Tell that to my nightmares,” he shook his head, his expression becoming hooded. “Or the overconfidence that fed into the disaster. We all have our crosses to bear Commander.”

“I see sir,” she said, feeling a bit less apprehensive and grateful to feel the tension ease between her shoulders.

“Have a seat,” the captain gestured as he made his way back around to his chair. “We have a lot of things to discuss before we disembark.”
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Old March 31 2014, 03:00 AM   #6
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: UT-TFV: The Quality of Mercy

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Quantum Café
USS Aldebaran

Lt. Kenule Dryer couldn’t believe he was sitting across another table, sharing another drink with Yori Shibata. He had been acquainting himself with the Astrometrics lab when he had gotten the call from Shibata. The man had sounded so desperate, even through the tinny speaker of the combadge that Kenule couldn’t help but come to his aid.

He was regretting that decision more and more. Already on his third drink, Yori threw his hands in the air, gesticulating dramatically. “My career is over, done, kaput, just like that. I mean, all that striving to make it to the big leagues, to get a Galaxy or Sovereign assignment and it’s over in a nanosecond.”

Kenule shook his head, his scientific brain irresistibly drawn to the man before him, because it was as if another being inhabited Shibata’s body. Gone was the assured man of just one day ago. Now the communications officer was just moments of way from blubbering into his beer.

Dryer touched his own glass and then thought better of it. “You care to tell me what happened?” He didn’t add finally to the end of that sentence, though he sorely wanted to.

“Oh man, I screwed up, big time.”

“I got that part, but maybe it would help, or help me help you if you told me what you screwed up exactly.”

“You remember that supernova blonde that came into the bar last night?”

“Not particularly.”

“Are you serious? You’ve got to be joking right?”

“No,” Kenule replied.

“Oh come,” Yori gave him a disbelieving look. “Are you telling me you’re the only head she didn’t turn?”

“I guess so,” Dryer shrugged.

“Yeah, whatever,” Shibata was still skeptical. “Well, anyway, that blonde and I got very close and personal, if you catch my drift.”

“I do,” Kenule grimaced, “Please don’t provide details.”

In spite of himself, Shibata grinned. “I’m a gentleman, I never kiss and tell.”

“And what is this exactly?”

The communicator officer’s face fell, “The end of my career. That’s what this is,” he said with solemn certainty.

“And would like to tell me why that is?” Dryer griped, his patience finally wearing thin.

“You’re not going to believe this.”

“Try me.”

“Well, that blonde, well, she’s aboard this ship!”

“Okay,” Kenule digested that nugget. Shibata waited with bated breath. “What’s the problem?”

“Don’t you see?” Shibata threw up his hands again.

“No, I don’t,” his voice trailed off as he noticed a person approaching the table. Shibata was oblivious to her approach. Kenule rose out of his seat, prompting a curious look from Yori.

“Commander Thayer,” Dryer announced, standing at attention and Shibata nearly jumped out of his chair. He clamored to his feet.

Lt. Commander Thayer stopped beside Shibata. Similar to the two men, she was dressed in her black and gray Starfleet uniform. “Gentlemen,” she said, “At ease please. This is a bar; we’ll leave the ranks for the bridge.”

“Of course,” Dryer dipped his head as he relaxed.

“So what are you boys drinking?” She asked, a twinkle in her eye.

“Slug-o-Cola,” Kenule offered. Thayer made a face.

“I’m sorry Lieutenant but how can you drink that stuff?”

“Good point, but it was one of the few non-alcoholic beverages on the menu.”

“There’s synthehol,” Thayer offered. Now Dryer made a face.

“I’ve never liked the stuff.”

“Well good luck with the Slug-o-Cola,” she said before touching Shibata lightly on the shoulder. Yori nearly knocked over his drink. “And what’s your poison Lieutenant?”

“Ah, ah, Warnog,” he said, his face reddening.

“Good choice,” she opined. “Might try some myself.”

“Care to join us?” Dryer asked, not really wanting to extend his stay in the bar, but feeling the question was the next progressive step in the conversation. Shibata looked mortified at the prospect.

“Thanks for the offer,” Thayer beamed, “but I’m meeting someone. Perhaps next time?”

“Of course,” Kenule said.

“Next time then,” she smiled at them both before walking away.

“You know you could’ve at least said hello,” Dryer chided Shibata after the first officer wasn’t in earshot. “You’re going on and on about your dim career prospects and you give the XO the cold shoulder.”

Shibata tugged at his gold collar. “What’s up with the silent treatment?” Kenule prodded.

“Th-that’s her,” Shibata said.

“Who’s her, what?” Dryer asked, sitting back down. The man’s weird behavior was nettlesome.

“She’s the blonde, from the other night.” Shibata said. He still was standing.

“Are you saying that you slept with Commander Thayer?” Kenule cocked his head to the side, his eyes following where she had walked. Thayer was now greeting a lithe Orion.

“Not so loud!” Shibata said as he retook his seat.

“Are you serious?” Kenule was incredulous.

All Yori could do was throw up his hands again. The communications officer looked flustered and probably for the first time, at a loss for words.

Dryer finally took a sip of his soft drink and nearly gagging as the thick liquid slimed his throat. “Yeah, you are in trouble.”
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Old April 1 2014, 12:59 AM   #7
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: UT-TFV: The Quality of Mercy

************************************************** **************

Quantum Café
USS Aldebaran

“I see the café hasn’t changed,” Thayer took in the old haunt, a recreation of the Earth establishment. During her Academy days, she had frequented the real thing quite a bit. She ordered a Warnog from an attentive waiter.

“For good or ill,” Lt. Narcissa smiled. “It’s good to see you again sir.”

“After what we went through, I think April is fine.” She returned the smile. The Orion’s expression turned dark, but only for a moment. The waiter brought the Klingon beer back to her at warp speed.

“Okay April,” Narcissa tried it out and found she liked it. “It’s good to have you back.”

“Thanks,” Thayer said with less confidence. “I’m not sure yet if it’s good for me to be back,” she admitted.

“You should never have left,” Narcissa replied.

“Well, the inquiry board had something to do with that,” Thayer gamely smiled.

“You did nothing wrong,” Narcissa said.

“Yeah, but it took me a long time to do right,” the first officer countered, “and when I did, well…mutiny isn’t looked kindly on, even for the right reasons.”

“I know,” Narcissa said, staring into her azure drink. Narcissa had joined in Thayer’s plan to retake the ship, turning on her immediate superior in order to do so.

“And what ship’s commanding officer would want to have a subordinate who might not only second guess them but take up arms against them as well?” Thayer asked. “I was lucky to get the backwater assignment that I got on Galen IV. Of course who knew that the Talarians would attack there during their incursion?”

“Well they certainly didn’t know who was there to greet them,” Narcissa’s smile was vicious.

Thayer grimaced, not wishing to relieve the desperate fight for survival as she helped the colonists fight off the Talarians.

“I would rather not think about it,” she confessed. Narcissa dipped her head respectfully.

“Then we’ll discuss something else,” the Orion said.

“Okay,” Thayer replied, but then came up short. Her friendship with Narcissa had been forged in the kiln of the mutiny and was still in its infancy. The last time she had seen Narcissa the woman had been a member of the Security Division and not running it. A lot had changed since she had first served on Aldebaran.

“How does the old crew feel about me coming back, honestly?” Thayer asked. Aldebaran was a mixture of the old and new, with some of the personnel on both sides of the mutiny still serving.

“For the most part I think many are relieved to have you back,” Narcissa replied, “Which I am assuming was part of the captain’s reasoning for selecting you.”

“Yes, I was thinking the same thing,” She took a sip of the beer. She didn’t add that she hoped she could live up to the captain’s expectations. Though April wasn’t a fan of ranks, she didn’t want to express the deep well of her doubts to Narcissa.

She didn’t want to throw her problems in the other woman’s lap. It wouldn’t be fair to her. So instead Thayer asked the woman about her life after the mutiny. Narcissa glowed as she talked about her new role as security chief.

“And how are things with Lt. Loto?” Thayer asked. This question drew the Orion up short, which prompted a raised eyebrow from April. Was there more going on there than just work, she wondered.

“What do you mean?” Narcissa finally asked, punctuating it with a nervous sip of her drink.

“Oh, I, uh, was just talking about you splitting the bridge duties,” Thayer explained.

“Things are fine in that regard,” Narcissa answered, with some relief. “Neither one of us, Loto especially, clamor to be on the bridge, so there’s no jockeying among us or the staff about that assignment.”

“Good to hear,” Thayer said, feeling bad that she might have touched a nerve. Though it did make her curious. Reining herself in, she took a long draught from her beer stein. The two women settled into a comfortable silence, each keeping company with their own thoughts.

“Care if I interrupt?” A young, bronze-skinned woman asked. It took Thayer a moment to remember the woman’s name from her file.

“Lt. Rojas,” She said, smiling. “Please. The more the merrier.”

“Absolutely,” Narcissa said. Rojas pulled up a chair and settled into it. The waiter appeared like magic again and the young helmswoman placed her order. He came back nearly as fast.

“You look tired,” Narcissa offered.

“Yes,” Rojas admitted, swirling her straw around her glass. “It’s been a long day, calculating the voyage. I don’t like the idea of the ship flying without a pilot at the helm.”

“It is an adjustment,” Thayer said. April had her own misgivings about the crew being put into stasis until they reached the Delta Quadrant.

“At least Chief Silane will be awake,” Narcissa said, as a way to make the best of a bad situation. Being non-corporeal, the Medusan wasn’t subjected to the same strains that corporeal lifeforms were.

“And we will be waking periodically,” Thayer said, “It won’t be a full five month sleep thank goodness.”

“I’m glad for that,” Rojas smiled. “I don’t want to get rusty.”

“From what I’ve read of your file, I have serious doubts that’ll happen,” Thayer smiled back.

“Thank you Commander,” Rojas said.

“While we’re off duty, it’s April,” Thayer replied.

“Yes sir…I mean, April,” Rojas responded. April laughed.

“You know, I like this impromptu girls’ night out,” Thayer said. “So, what do you guys do for fun on this boat these days?”

“Perhaps we can take this back to Starbase Bastion since for a final night,” Narcissa offered.

“I don’t see why not,” Rojas said, “I guess it would be a waste of a good starbase if we didn’t.”

“You two make excellent points,” Thayer grinned.

“And maybe we should invite those two guys along,” Rojas said.

“Who are you talking about?” Narcissa asked.

“Those two,” Rojas tried to point without being obvious. Thayer threw caution to the wind and just looked back. Lieutenants Dryer and Shibata hastily looked elsewhere. She chuckled.

“They’ve been staring holes into the back of the commander’s head since I got here,” Rojas said. The three women laughed.

“Looks like I might finally have some competition on this barge,” Narcissa replied.

Thayer was flattered, in spite of herself. Competition to an Orion woman, especially one as beautiful as Narcissa was high praise indeed, even if it might have been in jest.

“Do you think we should ask them?” Rojas pondered.

“Nah,” Thayer said, “Let’s not embarrass them further.”

“Your call,” Rojas said.

“Least we can do is walk by their table,” Narcissa teased, “One of the pups might jump out of their seats.” The three women shared another laugh.

Been there, done that, Thayer thought, but she said, “I don’t see the harm. Let’s do it.”
************************************************** **************

Captain’s Quarters
USS Aldebaran

Captain Awokou couldn’t sleep. Rozi placed a hand on his chest. “Trouble sleeping?” She asked.

“Yeah,” he admitted.

“I thought you would be tuckered out from the dinner,” his wife replied. They had finally had the big gathering with all of the taskforce captains. Banti was tired, but sleep wouldn’t come.

“You’re thinking about tomorrow, aren’t you?” Rozi asked.

Awokou raised an eyebrow, “Sometimes I think I married a Betazoid.”

His wife chuckled, “Have you ever considered that you’re not that hard to figure out?”

“Never.” The two shared a laugh. Banti continued, “Yes, I’m keyed up about tomorrow. We’re finally going to begin the voyage, and I’ll be going into another deep sleep.” The prospect of going into such a long slumber made him anxious.

“This time it will be a simple, controlled procedure and monitored by the EMH,” she said, in her most reassuring voice. “Nothing to worry about.”

“I know, but still,” he said, turning to face her. “It feels like I just woke up. I don’t want to go back.”

“You could stay awake you know, but it will be a pretty lonesome trip, because I’m getting my beauty sleep,” Rozi declared.

“You don’t need it,” Banti said, stroking her cheek.

“Oh stop it,” Rozi coquettishly batted her eyes.

He moved in closer to her and kissed her. “I see where this is going,” Rozi said.

“And you have a problem with it?” Banti asked, with a chuckle. “Are you too tired?”

“I will be. After,” Rozi said, cradling Awokou’s face in her hands as their lips met.
************************************************** **************
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Old April 7 2014, 08:59 PM   #8
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: UT-TFV: Quality of Mercy

************************************************** **************
Cargo Bay
USS Aldebaran
Three months later…

Chief Engineer Silane ran a tentacle over the captain’s stasis pod. The man looked pensive, as he had for the last three months. He wondered if organics dreamed while in stasis as if the captain was having a bad dream, or went into deep sleep with a troubled mind.

It was one, of a variety of questions, he had about corporeal lifeforms. His fascination with them had led him to Starfleet. Whenever he thought he had a good grasp on them, he met a new sapient that upturned that view.

It left his mind in a constant state of adaptation, which Silane valued highly. The crews’ hibernation had made these last three months the loneliest he had ever endured. He missed their conversation, their laughter, their arguing, their auras. And the Emergency Medical Hologram had been a poor substitute.

He floated over to the unit that held Lt. Selvin. In contrast to the captain, the operations officer looked peaceful. More so than when he was awake. The Vulcan was nestled in one of hundreds of pods in this cargo bay. All of the other cargo bays were filled as well, with the plus thousand crew and personnel sleeping through the voyage to the Delta Quadrant.

All except Silane. Being noncorporeal had its benefits and its drawbacks, it would so appear. The captain had left him in charge of the ship, making sure its systems ran smoothly and that everything would be shipshape when they arrived at their destination.

So far everything had gone swimmingly, which afforded the Medusan a little time to spend among his friends.

He was just making his second circuit around the cargo bay when the main computer spoke through the bulkhead speakers, “Receiving distress call.”

That pulled Silane up short. “Computer,” he said, “Play message.” The message was garbled, but the Medusan could detect a frantic edge to the voice. Someone was being attacked and they were calling for help.

Starfleet’s standing orders were to respond to all distress calls. But this was a highly unusual circumstance. If he altered course Aldebaran would miss their rendezvous with the rest of the intercept group.

He was plagued with indecision for the barest of seconds, which was too long. “Computer, alter course, to source of the distress call. Deactivate warp sled.”

“Acknowledged,” the computer said, and the ship stopped with a jolt, before he felt it shift, as the ship’s own warp engine asserted control.

Approximating a human gesture, Silane sighed before he approached the captain’s stasis pod. He wasn’t sure how Captain Awokou was going to react to what he had done.
************************************************** ***************
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Old April 12 2014, 01:53 AM   #9
CeJay
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Re: UT-TFV: Quality of Mercy

Okay, took me a minute to catch up with this second edition of your story.the changes you've made must have been quite subtle as I didn't immediately notice them other than the renamed ship. I do prefer Aldebaran.

I really like this new crew, especially the younger officers and Thayer. Mutiny is rare in Starfleet so her backstory is immediately fascinating. And now an unexpected change of plans. I'm naturally hooked.
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Old April 12 2014, 02:46 PM   #10
DarKush
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Re: UT-TFV: Quality of Mercy

Thanks CeJay for reading and commenting. Yeah, the changes weren't that different. However I dropped the Klingon subplot.

************************************************** **************

Main Bridge
USS Aldebaran

Captain Awokou yawned and stretched. He moved his neck around and rolled his shoulders, but the crick in his neck wouldn’t dislodge. He gave up and smoothed his tunic.

It felt good to be awake again, even better to be back on his bridge. He glanced around at his bridge crew and saw some as enthused, while others were less so and then a third were still wiping the sleep from their eyes.

“Mr. Loto, what do we have here?” He asked. It had been a long time since he had been in a fight and Banti hoped he was up to the task. In response to this question, the sculpted Arbazan quickly perused his terminal before looking up at him.

“The capital vessel is conducting an orbital bombardment while smaller vessels are engaged in dogfighting.” The man said. The large ship in question was a spherical center within a rotating disk. Smaller, faster versions of the vessel were engaged in a tumult with a nearly as large triple-hulled ship and darting pyramidal fighters that reminded Awokou of Tholian spacecraft. The saucer ships seemed to have the upper hand, but the other side was valiantly scrapping.

“Reading intense hypothermic energy buildup,” Loto said. Seconds later a blinding bluish white javelin of energy shot from the three-hulled vessel, smashing into the biggest saucer. It stopped the bombardment…temporarily. Smaller saucers swarmed the three-hulled ship preventing them from taking another shot. The largest saucer resumed assaulting the planet.

“The distress call came from the surface below,” Lt. Shibata said from the upper deck, touching the earpiece in his ear. It was an unnecessary affectation that the old Awokou wouldn’t have tolerated, but he had mellowed in his old age. “It appears to be a major city, perhaps the planetary capital. There are reports of mass casualties.”

“My God,” Rozi muttered from the seat beside Banti’s. As the mission’s first contact specialist, this was certainly not the way she envisioned the first meeting with new lifeforms.

“I guess that decides what side we’re on,” Lt. Commander Thayer said, seated on the other side of Awokou’s chair. The young woman was on the edge of her seat, ready to jump into the action.

Awokou was torn. While he shared Thayer’s desire to help, he wasn’t as clear cut about her which side to assist. Instead of ordering Loto to power weapons, he requested Shibata to send a general hail.

“Disputants,” Awokou began, “I am Captain Banti Awokou of the Federation Starship Aldebaran. I would like to render any aid I can in bringing this conflict to a peaceful resolution while aiding the injured on the planet below and on your vessels.”

He waited tensely for a few moments. “Aldebaran…” came the static filled reply, “We need immediate assistance….Alien assailants have attacked our planet…our defenses are failing…”

“Sir, we should do something,” Thayer urged. The woman was halfway out of her chair. She sat back down after Banti gave her a disapproving look.

“Who are the assailants? Why have they attacked your planet?” He had to ask.

“We…don’t know…the attack was swift, sudden…devastating.” And likely victorious, Awokou surmised.

“Attacking vessels, why have you selected this planet?” He asked next. There was no verbal response, but one of the smaller saucers paused to take a shot off the Aldebaran’s bow.

“I think they want us to butt out,” Thayer said.

“I got the message,” Awokou said dryly. “Mr. Shibata, try hailing them again.” The tension was thick on the bridge. It wasn’t just Commander Thayer that wanted to get into the action.

But the captain was still cautious. He didn’t want to potentially drag Aldebaran into a larger conflict, especially when he didn’t have the rest of the intercept group for backup.

“Raise shields and charge weapons,” he ordered. “And let’s try to reason with them again.”

This time the larger saucer fired. The ship rumbled, “Minimal damage to shields,” Lt. Loto informed them.

“Sir, that’s twice we’ve been fired upon,” Thayer pointed out.

“I’m aware of that commander, but both times we’re not attacking blows, both were warning shots.” He tapped his chin, pondering his next move as the battle unfolded around him.

“I’m inclined not to take sides here, but I think we can assist the injured,” he said. “Lt. Rojas, take us closer to the planet on my mark.”

“Aye sir,” Rojas quickly replied.

To the fighting ships, he announced, “We are going to lend medical assistance to the planet below. We are not taking sides in this conflict. We merely want to save lives.”

“Take us in helm,” Awokou said. The ship moved away and beneath the battle. He tapped the combadge on his chest. “Dr. Xylia, be on standby with a medical away team. Once we’re in transporter range I’ll be sending you down.”

“Yes sir,” was the doctor’s reply.

“Lt. Shibata, try to contact someone on the surface. Tell them we want to offer help.” The man quickly began putting out calls.

“Federation starship…this is the office of the Rector…any help you can…”

Lt. Shibata looked up, annoyed. “The line has just been cut.”

“I wonder who?” Thayer said, not hiding her sarcasm.

“Saucer fighters moving to intercept,” Loto called out.

“Target their engines and weapons,” Awokou said, “We want to incapacitate, not destroy.”

The fighters fired in succession, their volleys crackling across the ship’s shields. The deck plates trembled, but the shielding held.

“Return fire,” Awokou ordered. Loto quickly translated the captain’s orders into action. Fingers of phaser fire stroked the fighters and stopping their advance.

“Capital vessel moving to engage,” Loto said next. Though Awokou could see that with his own eyes.

“Power to forward shields,” he instructed. “And arm quantum torpedoes.” Before the large saucer ship fired the triple-hulled vessel flew between it and Aldebaran, firing salvoes of hypothermic charges. The large saucer backed away, as did its fighters. The fighters circled the larger ship and for a moment the captain thought they were preparing to strike again. But instead the contingent warped away.

Awokou held in the sigh of relief. He didn’t shy away from battle, but he preferred peaceful resolutions.

He wasn’t sure how peaceful or long lasting this resolution would be however. “Receiving a hail from the lead starship,” Lt. Shibata’s words broke through Awokou’s reverie.

“Onscreen,” Awokou ordered.

An attractive fair-skinned humanoid, whose face was marred by a purpling bruise running across the nose to her right cheek, smiled at him. The woman’s swept back hairline revealed an enlarged forehead bisected by a slight ridge running down to the top of her nose. “I am Lotura,” she said, “Thank you for coming to our aid.”

Awokou nodded in acceptance. He had a lot of questions, but he could deal with those later. First, there were hopefully lives they could save. “Where do you need us?”
************************************************** **************
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Old April 12 2014, 09:55 PM   #11
DarKush
Rear Admiral
 
Re: UT-TFV: Quality of Mercy

************************************************** *************

Planet’s Surface

As soon as Captain Awokou materialized he began choking. The air was coated with smoke. Fires blazed across the city and there were small ones still melting consoles within the large, circular office. He swallowed hard several times and got control of the hacking as he took in the trashed environs.

“Captain Awokou, apologies,” the humanoid man rushed to him, prompting a tensing from Lt. Narcissa. The young Orion reached for the phaser at her hip. Awokou motioned for her to stay her hand and maintain her position.

The humanoid reached out to Awokou and the captain mimicked him. He grabbed the captain by forearm and squeezed. Awokou returned the gesture. This man looked different than Lotura, possibly of a different species. He was reptilian, brownish-yellow and pebbled skinned, and with a crest of colorful feathers flowing from his head down his back. He wore black robes that simulated wings. His sharp, red eyes took in everything.

“I am Rector Chaun,” he announced, “Welcome to Eonessa Prime.” A member of Lotura’s race, another female, stood quietly behind the reptilian. The steel-gray haired, dark hued woman was regarding them just as expertly as the rector.

“Thank you,” Awokou nodded, “I wish it could be under better circumstances.”

“So do I,” Chaun agreed, “but the work your medical teams have done thus far, not to mention your other crewpersons has saved lives and for that I am grateful.”

“I regret that we couldn’t do more,” Awokou said sadly. He had yet to personally tour the devastation, but reports from Dr. Xylia and the other away teams were pretty heartbreaking and sobering. If Aldebaran hadn’t arrived when it did the city might have been completely razed.

“It is a blessing that you arrived at all,” Chaun nodded, “Our distress call was meant for our colonies. They are pretty far flung and have yet to arrive. If not for you, by the time they would get here there might be nothing left.”

“Thank you but I think you are overstating the case,” Awokou said, “The actions of Commander Lotura are to be commended.”

That prompted a small smile from the other woman. As if sensing that, Chaun turned to her. “May I present Vinaren, leader of the Vaphoran community on Eonessa Prime.”

“Greetings Captain, and other members of your crew,” Vinaren nodded at all of them.

“Forgive me for not acknowledging the rest of your esteemed crew,” Chaun interjected.

“It’s all right,” Awokou said.

“No, we owe much to all of you,” Chaun would not be mollified, “and it is the least I can do to recognize that truth.”

“Thank you again,” Awokou simply accepted the man’s effusiveness.

“Vaphorans?” Rozi stepped forward. “Are you not native to this world?”

“No, we aren’t,” Vinaren turned to the captain’s wife. “Our homeworld is far from here.”

“In the Delta Quadrant,” Rozi surmised.

“Yes,” Vinaren nodded. “How did you know?”

“Our original mission was to meet refugees streaming from the Delta Quadrant and help them acclimate to the Alpha Quadrant,” Captain Awokou said.

“Were you uprooted by the Borg?” Rozi asked. “We’ve heard reports that many civilizations were, were you among those?”

A pained expression fell across Vinaren’s face and after a moment, she slowly nodded, “Yes. Yes, we are refugees from the Borg.”

“But now they are welcome citizens of Eonessa Prime,” Chaun declared. “If not for the saviors, perhaps millions would’ve died from brain fever. Their medicines saved us, including my own hatchling. And now, we’ve been rescued again by visitors from the stars.”

Vinaren looked a little embarrassed. Awokou could relate.

“Were the attackers also from the Delta Quadrant?” Narcissa asked.

“I wouldn’t know,” Vinaren said.

“They were not a species that you came across in your travels to here?” Awokou asked.

“None that I would recall,” the Vaphoran replied.

“Then why would they attack this planet?” The captain pressed.

Vinaren looked askance. Chaun spoke up. “It could’ve been a new enemy one of our colonies dredged up. Space can be unforgiving, as you can imagine.”

“Yes, I suppose so,” Awokou said. There was very little he knew about the Vaphorans or the Eonessans for that matter. Perhaps they were an aggressive, expansionist power and this was a case of the chickens coming home to roost, pun not intended. It would bear further investigation.

“Do you think they will come back?” Narcissa asked.

“I hope, no, I pray to the Sky Walkers that they don’t,” Chaun said, looking heavenward.

“If they do, we will do what we can to engender a peaceful resolution to the conflict,” the captain promised.

“Thank the Walkers,” Chaun said, “if that is so, then we will have been saved thrice.”

“Perhaps,” Awokou replied, feeling less convinced.
************************************************** *************

Last edited by DarKush; April 13 2014 at 03:16 PM.
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Old April 13 2014, 12:52 AM   #12
CeJay
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Re: UT-TFV: Quality of Mercy

Very interesting. Me thinks a lot more is going on here than meets the eye. I'm guessing that either Chaun or Vinaren aren't completely honest. My gut feeling tells me the Eonessans are being played by their so-called saviors. Of course that's just my suspicious mind. Something else might be going on here. Regardless, I desperately want to find out.
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Old April 13 2014, 08:07 PM   #13
DarKush
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Re: UT-TFV: Quality of Mercy

Thanks again CeJay,

Perhaps something fishy is going on. Continue reading to see what that could be. Or maybe it's just all in your mind.

************************************************** *************
Ready Room
USS Aldebaran

Captain Awokou was tired, but he knew he needed to take this call. It had been several days of grueling work, helping the Eonessans and Vaphorans pick up the pieces of their shattered city and lives. He fell into his seat and activated his desktop computer. The Federation symbol morphed into an image of Captain Tan Erasia. The Efrosian had a concerned look on her face.

“Captain Awokou, I hope all is well,” the Empress Captain said.

“As well as can be expected Captain Erasia,” Awokou replied. “You have received the new orders from Command?”

“Yes,” she nodded. “I will take command of the intercept group once they arrive,” she said. The woman didn’t seem as pleased as he would’ve thought to be restored to her position of authority.

“Is everything alright?” He felt compelled to ask.

“I just want you to know, I didn’t want this,” Erasia said. Awokou nodded.

“No one could have anticipated this turn of events, and with you being the most familiar with that part of space, and with your past leadership, it makes sense that you take the reins.”

Erasia leaned forward, “It’s my past leadership that gives me pause.” Awokou sat back and regarded the woman. He mentally flipped through Erasia’s report of the intercept group’s fateful battle with the Kothlis’Ka armada. There had been some questionable calls made, but Awokou wasn’t certain he wouldn’t have made the same decisions. And he didn’t like second guessing a fellow captain.

“You were faced with a no win scenario and you got your ship through it,” Awokou said. “You’re more than capable of shepherding the new taskforce through whatever might come next.”

“Thank you for your confidence,” the woman gamely smiled. “Sometimes I find it a bit lacking in myself,” she admitted, “especially after the Kothlis’Ka. For a while I was upset that Command had taken away leadership of the taskforce from me, I felt it was a vote of no confidence, but then I got to thinking, maybe they were right to do so. Right now, I don’t quite know what to feel.”

“I understand,” he said, “I’ve had my own doubts. Coming back from my incapacitation I wonder if I still have what it takes,” he said; Awokou felt he should and could share this with Erasia since she had been so open with him.

“Thank you for being honest,” she smiled again, this time it was warmer. “I know you have a lot of work to continue to do at Eonessa Prime. Any advice for me?” Erasia asked.

Awokou opened his mouth and then stopped himself. He was going to tell her to keep an eye out for Commander Gomes. His check on the man’s background hadn’t dredged up anything, which inexplicably made Awokou even more suspicious. But at the same time, he was willing to concede that his feelings were a rare affliction of paranoia. And with no evidence, he didn’t think it would be right to prejudice Erasia against one of her colleagues.

She was a sharp woman, a hardy survivor. If Gomes wasn’t on the up and up, he was confident Erasia would figure it out and be able to deal with him. He saw that the Efrosian was waiting expectantly.

“Stuff your doubts and continue doing your job,” the captain said. It was advice he would do his best to adhere to himself.

Erasia nodded, “Wise words.”

“Good luck to you Captain,” Awokou said.

“And to you, Captain,” Erasia smiled again. Awokou ended the communication. Afterwards he sat back, his tired bones thanking him for the respite.

And they complained when he forced himself back to his feet. “Miles to go,” he muttered to himself before stepping out of his office and back into the hurly burly.
************************************************** *************
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Old April 14 2014, 08:36 AM   #14
CeJay
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Re: UT-TFV: Quality of Mercy

Logical that Erasia is tapped to take over while Aldebaran is otherwise engaged. I just hope the next contact with the Kothlish'Ka will have a different outcome or Awokou will find himself in the same position as Erasia did, a task force commander without a task force.
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Old April 24 2014, 11:43 PM   #15
DarKush
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Re: UT-TFV: Quality of Mercy

CeJay,

I have no immediate plans to revisit the Kothlis'Ka, though I'm not ruling them out for a future story. Of course they are out there for you or another UT writer to detail their path of destruction.

************************************************** *************

Private Quarters
USS Aldebaran
Two months later…


Lt. Juanita Rojas shrugged out of her jacket before sitting down at her desk. She activated her computer. Minutes later, the welcoming visage of Commander Tai Donar appeared. She shared a smile with the Angosian.

“How are things on the Erickson?” She asked.

“They are going well,” he said, “Still acclimating to being the ship’s XO,” Tai admitted, “It’s a whole new level of responsibility.”

“One I’m sure you’re adapting to well,” Juanita said confidently.

“I suppose,” he grinned, “Angosian super soldiers are highly adaptable.”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Rojas blew through her teeth. “I was hoping it would take a little bit longer before the promotion went to your head.”

“How can it with you keeping my feet solidly on the ground?” Tai offered.

“When did you become such a smooth talker?” Juanita asked, “Is that another adaptation?”

“Perhaps,” the Erickson first officer conceded. “So, how are things at Eonessa Prime?” Juanita sighed at the question. “That doesn’t sound good,” Donar leaned forward, suddenly concerned, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Juanita replied, “I guess.”

“This definitely doesn’t sound good.”

“I don’t want to alarm you,” the helmswoman quickly said. “It’s just…,” she lowered her voice and leaned closer to the screen. “I wish we hadn’t been diverted to Eonessa Prime.”

“Why?” Tai asked, surprise at her reply evident on his face.

“I really wanted to explore the Delta Quadrant,” she admitted. She had been reluctant about taking on the assignment at first, of being away from Tai, her family and other friends for five years, but the thrill of flying through an uncharted sector of space eventually corralled her.

“You’re pretty close to it,” Donar offered. It was true that IG-4 would be exploring the part of the Delta Quadrant closest to the Alpha Quadrant and Eonessa Prime was near the desired stretch of space.

“Close but no cigar,” Juanita said. The Angosian looked at her askance. “An old Earth phrase,” she explained. He shrugged.

“You’re doing good work on Eonessa Prime, helping rebuild after the attack,” Donar said.

“I know,” Juanita conceded, “and I’m glad we are able to lend a hand.”

“And you have some exposure to the Delta Quadrant with the Vaphorans,” Tai said. Juanita had filled in him about the Eonessan ‘saviors’ in previous conversations. Juanita scowled now at their mention.

“I know that look,” Donar said, “What’s wrong with them?”

“Nothing,” Rojas said, “absolutely nothing.”

“Uh oh,” Tai said, approximating a human phraseology. Juanita chuckled.

“It’s just that they are very closed, very standoffish. Nice, but too distant.”

“And that makes you suspicious?”

“Well, yeah,” Juanita said, as if the question didn’t even need to be asked.

“Not every species is as gregarious as Earthlings,” Tai pointed out.

“Don’t I know it,” Rojas tapped the screen. Donar gave a closed lipped smile. “But still it would be great to learn more about them. I mean, they’ve shared some information, but it’s mainly medical data about a wealth of species they’ve encountered.”

“So this was a medical ship that arrived at Eonessa Prime?”

“No,” Juanita shook her head, “I don’t think so. They’ve just collected very extensive data on other species physiologies.”

“Similar to what Starfleet does with stellar phenomena?” Tai asked.

“Yes, I guess so,” Juanita said, not having thought of the comparison.

“So, they are explorers of a different sort,” Donar surmised.

“It would seem so. Yes.” Juanita agreed.

“Have they done anything else to arouse your suspicions?” The Angosian asked.

Juanita shook her head. “No, they’ve worked alongside us, and continue helping the Eonessans. However once the work for the day is done they retreat to their ship and their domiciles. The Eonessans, on the other hand are very welcoming. I can’t wait to share some of their liquors with you. I think they might test even your constitution.”

Tai chuckled, “I doubt that.”

“We’ll see,” Juanita replied.

“At least we’ll find out sooner, with Aldebaran returning to back to the Federation at the completion of your mission,” Donar said.

“Yes, I guess there is a silver lining to missing out on the Delta Quadrant,” Juanita smiled.

“When I see you again, I’ll do my best to take your mind off the Delta Quadrant,” the Angosian promised. Juanita cocked her right eyebrow.

“I don’t know if even you are up to that challenge,” she said.

“Now that the challenge has been made, I have no choice but to meet it and exceed it,” Donar said, with mock solemnity. He touched the screen. “I can’t wait to see you again.”

“You’re so on,” Juanita declared.
************************************************** *************
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