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Old February 10 2010, 10:59 PM   #91
CaptainSarine
Commander
 
Location: Lyon, France
Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Chapter 9

Bridge
USS Redemption
Federation-Hegemony Border

The sounds of the bridge were hauntingly familiar to Kalara, a painful reminder of her brief time in command of this ship.

Stood above the Pit, she stared around at the various bridge officers going about their tasks and tried not to feel totally useless. She had avoided spending any time on the bridge, not wanting to put herself through the constant nagging reminders of what she had lost. Now, though, she had no choice but to remain here and imagine what might have been. For three hours.

Ambassador Benjamani had left the bridge on Sarine’s heels, seemingly having made her point. She had ordered Kalara to remain, though, to oversee the communications' process when the Laurentii finally arrived. It had not taken Kalara long to realise that what Benjamani really wanted was a spy.

How did this happen? she wondered. For an instant, she flashed back to the conversation she had had over subspace with her mother. Was Elyra right? Had she lost all honor in accepting this position with the ambassador?

She certainly hadn't acted with honor when she had intervened in Benjamani's rift with Sarine. When Benjamani had begun to pressurise the captain, Kalara had found herself stepping to the ambassador's side and whispering in her ear that under Starfleet Regulations, Sarine would have been well within his rights to banish her from the bridge unti the official diplomatic mission began.

It had sounded good at the time. Of course, it had also been a lie.

Why had she done it? She didn't have an answer. She didn't feel any obligation towards Sarine, not after what he had done to her. So why had she stopped Benjamani from needling him?

The only thing she knew for sure was that this wasn't working. She was finding it harder and harder to stand the ambassador - she was a consummate politician, a manipulator who seemed to take pleasure from manoeuvering people where she wanted them. Kalara was coming to realise more and more that she herself had been manipulated by her. Had allowed herself to be manipulated.

But she couldn't see any way out.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a beeping coming from the Pit below her. She blinked and focused on Lieutenant Barani at Ops. Something was flashing on her holographic screen.

"Commander, we've got something."

Prin Ly'et had been sat in the captain's chair, studying something on a holographic display that surrounded her position in a cylindrical flickering of light. She rose now and stepped through the hologram, reaching Barani in a few short strides.

"What is it?"

"A subspace aperture just opened a lightyear away. We have movement coming out of it." She paused, studying her screens, then turned back to look at Prin again. "The configuration matches known Laurentii ship design."

"Tactical display, zoom in on the Laurentii ships."

As the deck, walls and ceiling vanished in a series of holographic ripples, Kalara took a step back from the railing that surrounded the Pit and tapped her comm badge. "Kalara to Benjamani."

The ambassador took a moment to respond. When she did, her voice seemed somehow colder than usual. "Ambassador Benjamani, here. Are they here?"

Kalara bristled slightly at the other woman's tone, but she forced down her natural reaction. "Yes, ambassador."

"On my way."

Stepping back to the railing, Kalara heard Prin end a conversation with Sarine. Her attention, though, drifted to the side where a section of the holographic display had changed rendering to zoom in on the approaching Laurentii ships. Kalara barely suppressed a gasp.

The Laurentii ships were huge, larger than any vessels Kalara had ever seen. She had heard talk of the famous biological engineering capabilities of the Hegemony, but even in her wildest dreams, she had not imagined anything like this was possible.

They were alive, that much was obvious. The closest comparison Kalara could make was to a Terran water-animal that she had seen on her honeymoon with Damien. A whale. The Laurentii ships appeared to be huge, space-faring whales. Their hulls had the texture of rough skin, covered in excrescences and boils. A massive bulky main body gradually diminished to what appeared to be a serpentine like tail.

"My god," one of the MACOs at Kalara's side breathed. "They look alive."

"Commander, we're being hailed by the lead ship."

"On viewer. Full bridge domain."

Kalara quickly dropped her own view-finder down over her eye, just in time to see the sight of the Laurentii ships vanish to be replaced by her first glimpse of a Laurentii.

The alien creature was visible from the shoulders up, giving her a glimpse of a silvery material covering his body. His face, though humanoid, carried a few obvious differences from those races Kalara was used to, starting with the twilight-black eye-strip that seemed to run all the way around its head.

"This is Commander Prin Ly'et of the Federation Starship Redemption. May I be the first to--"

"Where is the Sarine?"

Kalara saw Prin tense slightly as she was cut off by the Laurentii commander. She bristled herself at the tone.

"Captain Sarine is on his way to the bridge as we speak. In the meantime--"

"Have him contact us when he is there."

The screen went blank for a moment, then reverted back to the view of the approaching Laurentii ships, now much larger. Kalara could make out a series of metallic constructs that seemed to have been implanted into the flesh of the creature-ships, obviously some kind of control and habitat modules.

Kalara felt a surge of anger at the way they had been treated by the Laurentii, but she stamped down on it firmly. This isn't my problem, she told herself. This isn't my ship. Not anymore.

Prin stood there for a moment, as if lost for words, then she turned back to her seat. As she did, she caught sight of Kalara and smiled wanly.

"Friendly, aren't they?"

Kalara could only nod. Friendly, indeed.

Bridge

Five minutes later, Sarine arrived on the bridge. Kalara had remained at her station behind the railing, so she had a good view of him as he exited the bridge. Something seemed... different about him somehow. More relaxed almost. She would have sworn he had a smile on his face.

He walked along the railing and down the steps into the Pit, accepting a headset from a young eager Ferengi ensign stood at attention beside his chair.

"What have we got, commander?" he asked Prin Ly’et.

The commander seemed as surprised as Kalara by Ba'el's strange reaction, but she recovered quickly. "Three Laurentii Behemoths dropped out of quantum slipstream space about six minutes ago. They hailed us, demanded to speak to you, and then ended the transmission. They're holding position off our starboard side."

Prin's words seemed to dampen Ba'el's spirits somewhat and he frowned when she mentioned that they had ended the transmission. Sitting forward slightly in his chair, he stared at the Laurentii ships through the holographic display, then shook his head. Standing, he turned towards the front of the bridge.

"Alright then, Lieutenant Barani. Put them on."

Kalara watched in the viewfinder as the same Laurentii commander from earlier reappeared. With a little more time to study him, she noted the lack of a nose and the strange, tiny ears, which seemed to shiver every few seconds.

"Who am I speaking to?" the Laurentii demanded.

"Who am I speaking to?" Ba'el barked right back.

The Laurentii seemed slightly taken aback by Ba'el's reaction, but he replied. "I am Juny'ar, varec of She-Who-Is-Driven-Away. Are you the Sarine?"

"I am Ba'el Sarine, captain of the USS Redemption. I represent the United Federation of Planets and request that--"

"Actually, captain, you will find that I represent the United Federation of Planets."

Kalara couldn't help wincing slightly at the sound of Benjamani's voice. She turned to see the older woman stood just outside the turbolift, staring at Sarine. She clicked her fingers at one of the ensigns, who scurried over with a spare headset. She set it on her head like a crown, then carefully placed the viewfinder down over her eye.

To Kalara's surprise, Ba'el didn't explode. He didn't make some cutting comment. Instead, he bowed his head and indicated with his arm that Benjamani should take over.

The ambassador seemed as taken aback as the Laurentii officer had been earlier. Still, she recovered quickly from her flustered state, speaking at the Laurentii.

"Kishiruru, talaca seefu dan, varec-to," she said, her mouth having difficulty making the hissing sounds seemingly included in the Seefu alphabet. She had obviously mentally deactivated the translation matrix for the time of the greeting. Looking for an edge.

"Kishiruru," the Laurentii replied. Then he went on, this time reactivating his own translator. "Now, Sarine, you will follow us."

Kalara would have sworn she saw Sarine grin as the Laurentii commander - Jun'yar - neatly bypassed the ambassador. "If you will transmit the coordinates to us, varec Jun'yar, I will instruct my navigation's officer to--"

"Surely we should exchange greetings, first, varec-to," Benjamani cut in again. Kalara thought she sounded desperate, desperate to maintain some kind of control over this conversation.

"The time for greetings is passed. The herd will flock. You must follow."

None of that made much sense to Kalara, but it seemed a clear enough indication that Benjamani should drop it. The ambassador, though, did not seem inclined to do that.

"I was told that the negotiations would begin with--"

"I do not care what you were told, kruvat. The time has passed. You will follow." From the slight shift of the incline of his head, the Laurentii was turning his attention back to Sarine. "You are the Sarine. We transmit the information. You will follow."

The transmission went dead, leaving them all staring once again at the majestic vision of the three Laurentii ships seeming to hover in space beside them. Kalara heard Benjamani mutter something behind her, and kept her eyes firmly on the viewscreen. I will not get involved. I will not get involved.

Sarine had turned to Lieutenant Barani at Ops, not paying any attention to Benjamani. He walked over to stand beside her, waiting for her to confirm that she had received the transmission. After a few moments, she turned and nodded.

"Good. Transfer those to Ensign Q'sar's station. Ensign, make the necessary calculations and transfer them to the other ships. And someone please drag Ambassador Qwert and Mister Grove out of the Alpha Quadrant."

As his people jumped to carry out their orders, Kalara sensed Benjamani draw closer. She did not turn, pretending to follow the movement of the Laurentii ships outside. Benjamani, though, didn't seem to have any intention of allowing Kalara to ignore her.

"A funny thing, Lieutenant-Commander."

Kalara made a non-committal sound in the back of her throat. Benjamani went on.

"After I left the bridge, I went to check Starfleet Regulations in the main computer."

Cursing to herself, Kalara turned and met Benjamani's gaze. If the older woman wanted to make something of this situation, she would stand and face her.

"It seems that there is no regulation allowing a captain to ban an ambassador from the bridge at any time during a diplomatic mission. I guess that was missing from your induction into Starfleet."

Kalara straightened. "Many things were."

"Indeed." Benjamani took a step closer. "Do not toy with me, Kalara. You have no idea what I'm capable of."

Kalara did not break eye contact with the other woman. She stared deep into her eyes, letting Benjamani see a hint of what lay underneath. "Neither do you."

The two women locked gazes for a moment more, then Benjamani looked away. "As long as we understand one another, Lieutenant-Commander."

As Benjamani went over to speak with one of her aides who had just arrived on the bridge, Kalara turned and looked back into the Pit. She discovered she was shaking from restrained violence. All she had wanted to do was reach up and snap the old woman's neck. She was more and more convinced that this was not working. One way or another, she had to get out from underneath Benjamani's thumb.

One way or another.

The Bowl
Deck 10
USS Redemption

Redemption's science bay, known as the Bowl, resembled a vast glass construct and took up three floors. Including a holographic stellar cartography department, numerous laboratories, and every possible scientific equipment Starfleet could get their hands on, it maintained a cold, austere atmosphere through liberal use of glass separators, and white and blue lighting.

Zoraya had been assigned a small corner in a vast laboratory, which she shared with a dozen other ensigns in Xeno-biology. Their boss, a frumpy Ferengi woman with overlarge lobes, had kept them busy running practice runs on samples taken from every Federation race she had been able to get her hands on, in preparation for their arrival in Laurentii space, when - she hoped - they would finally be able to spend some time studying some real alien biology.

Zoraya hadn’t complained though. The grunt work had given her numerous opportunities to continue her true work. Since leaving Romulan space, she had sent well over seventy-five spider programs scurrying down into Redemption's main computers. Designed by Starfleet Intelligence, the spiders were so-called because they were very good at connecting different points into a wide web of information. They were also known as cameleons for their ability to take on the code and characteristics of whichever part of a mainframe they were trawling through. As far as the techheads in S.I knew, they were absolutely untraceable.

I hope they're right, she thought. If one of them did trip an alarm, she would have a lot of explaining to do.

She sensed movement over to her left and turned to see Lieutenant Gluta, the xenobiology department head, come scurrying down the corridor. The rotund Ferengi woman seemed out of breath, as if she had been jogging.

When she reached the door into their small room, she was almost jumping up and down.

"Contact," she crowed. "We have contact people."

A murmur ran through the gathered scientists. Zoraya herself felt a surge of excitement. They had been waiting for their real job to start for days now.

"Are they onboard?" one of the ensigns, a jumpy human girl with short black hair, asked.

"Of course they're not," another ensign, a Romulan, sneered. "They won't be coming here, we'll be going there."

"Silence," Gluta cried in that shrill little voice of hers. Everyone stopped talking. Once she was sure she had all their attention, Gluta went on. "So far we only have the recording of the transmission between the bridge and the Laurentii ships that met us to work with, as well as some scans of their ships."

"Behemoths," whispered the ensign next to Zoraya, a Cardassian woman.

"We're going to form two teams and try and get as much information as we can out of both."

As Gluta began to separate them into two teams, Zoraya turned back to her station. She was only half-listening anyway, but when she saw the flashing icon on her screen, she stopped listening altogether.

Her hands shaking slightly, she tapped the icon, opening up a data transmission from one of her spider programs. This one had been directed to set up its web within Redemption's communication's sub processor and to trawl through the scraps of transmissions that came there to die. It looked as though it had found something. If she was reading it correctly, it had found a garbled, encrypted transmission made on the day of the Klingon attack. Zoraya felt her heart beat a little faster. This might actually be what she was looking for. Now if she could just...

"Would you care to join us in the real world, Ensign ? ?"

Zoraya flicked her head round to see that Gluta and all the others were staring at her. She felt her cheeks burn.

"Yes sir. Sorry sir."

"What exactly is so interesting on your screen that you feel the need to ignore me?"

Gluta began to come towards her, intent on seeing what was on Zoraya's screen. Panicking, Zoraya tried to find some way of stalling her when another Lieutenant came hurrying into their room.

"Have you heard?" he announced as soon as he was inside. "The Laurentii have agreed to hand us scans of the interiors of their stations."

Distracted by the announcement, Gluta stalled her forward motion and turned back to the man. All of the other ensigns were on their feet, excitedly asking questions of the newcomer. Zoraya took the opportunity to quickly transfer the data transmission to her personal station and then erased the message from her spider. She checked her screen to make sure there was nothing else there, and then went to join the other ensigns.
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Old February 11 2010, 05:49 PM   #92
kes7
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Great chapter here!

So Kalara is having second thoughts about the deal she made with Benjamani the She-Devil. Perhaps Bay will wind up with an ally in her, after all. Liked how Bay was all relaxed and smiley coming onto the bridge, too. A fortuitously-timed kiss can make all the difference, apparently!

The Laurentii are weird and alien and very well-described and well-handled here. The eye-strip really creeps me out for some reason. I assume they can see 360 degrees? That'd come in handy sometimes. The whale ships are a nice, otherworldly touch, too. Their unwillingness to deal with anyone but "The Sarine" is pissing Benjamani off. I'd be happy about that, except that I don't think it bodes well for Bay at all.

And Zoraya is back! I loved the whole scene in the science lab -- feeling the excitement of all the Starfleeters geeking out while Zoraya tries to handle her spy stuff on the fly without drawing attention to herself as a lowly ensign. Very cool dynamic there, and the description of the science area was great, as well.

Continued awesomeness, Joel! Can't wait to see what happens next!
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Old February 11 2010, 09:38 PM   #93
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

What Kes said. In spades.
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Old February 12 2010, 09:26 AM   #94
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Good to see Kalara back on the bridge, though I feel for her that she’s now thoroughly caught in Benjamani’s web. And speaking of the lovely, effervescent ambassador, getting to see her perfunctorily shot down by the Laurentii was a real treat! She will take a back seat to The Sarine, to be sure.
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Old February 12 2010, 07:49 PM   #95
CeJay
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

About time for Kalara to figure out that her boss is not the kind of person you want to be working for. But if things continue down this way, she'll run out of friends and allies pretty soon.

Nice to see the return of my favorite spy on Redemption. Maybe she can put an end to the craziness that is unfolding behind the scenes. Considering how you begun this volume, not very likely.
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Old February 13 2010, 04:58 PM   #96
CaptainSarine
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Location: Lyon, France
Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

kes

Thanks so much for your enthusiatic comment! Yes, Kalara feels that she is in way over her head with Benjamani, a fact that will become more than apparent in the upcoming chapters. However, I liked the fact that when Benjamani goes toe to toe with her, it is Benjamani who backs down. She knows that Kalara could so take her in a straight fight!

Glad the Laurentii continue to intrigue, I wanted them to be a step away from the classic ST aliens we're used to.Yes, they can see 360° with their eyestrips. Personally, I find the ventral breathing slits to be more creepy, but I suppose I can see how the sight strip would be as well.

Yes, Zoraya is back. With all the spying going on, she had to come into this somewhere. For now, though, she is more a pawn than a player, so we'll have to see how she progresses.

Mistral

What I said to Kes! In spades! Seriously, thanks for the comment, glad to see you're still enjoying this.

Gibraltar

Happy that you enjoyed seeing Kalara back on the bridge, and about time too, I say! Unfortunately, as you pointed out, she is still stuck in Benjamani's claws, something she is going to have to sort out eventually.

Glad you enjoyed this!

CeJay

Kalara always knew Benjamani was not the sort of person to get involved with, but she purposefully closed her eyes to it at a difficult time in her life. Now she's suffering for it, unfortunately, and things are not going to get better for our dear Klingon Commander!

Glad Zoraya is your favourite spy aboard Redemption. As you noted, though, it is doubtful she will be able to make things any better, and as we see in this chapter, she is actually turning out to be more pawn than player in this little game.

Thanks to you all for the comments,

Joel
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Old February 17 2010, 10:25 PM   #97
CaptainSarine
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Chapter 10

The Alpha Quadrant
USS Redemption

Somewhere in Slipstream Space

Colin and Admiral Qwert were on their third bottle of kanar when both their comm badges chirped.

The buzz of conversation surrounded them on all sides. The Alpha Quadrant had been modified that morning and now appeared liked a a hu-mon bar from Alpha Centauri, well known in the pre-Occupation Federation. Known as Harry’s, the bar had been done out in greys and browns, with comfortable leather chairs and low lying wooden tables spread throughout the room.

The comm badge chirped again.

Qwert glanced over at his hu-mon companion in time to see a narrow frown cross his face. The frown deepened as he tried to figure out where the sound was coming from. Holding back a smile, Qwert reached down and tapped his own comm badge.

"Admiral Qwert here."

"Admiral, this is the captain. Are you with Mister Groves?"

The Ferengi glanced at Groves, this time unable to keep the smile from his lips as he saw the Presidential aide still frowning at thin air. "Yes, Mister Groves is here as well."

"Good," Sarine went on. "I wanted to let both of you know that we are about ten minutes away from Onyx Station, if you would care to come to the bridge."

"We'll be there, captain. Thank you for letting me know."

"Sarine out."

The comm line went dead. Qwert looked back at Groves to see the hu-mon shake his head slightly, trying to clear some of the haze. "Are we there yet?"

Qwert smiled and slapped him on the shoulder. "Yes, hu-mon. We're almost there."

"We should go to the bridge."

"Good idea."

Groves stood, or at least he tried to. Somewhere between the idea leaving his brain and his legs actually moving, he got into trouble and stumbled forward, reaching out and catching himself on the table. The movement sent the glasses skittering across the surface, sloshing liquid onto the table top. Qwert hid another smile and reached out to steady the younger man.

"You don't look so good, Mister Groves," he said in his most solicitous voice. "Are you sure you're going to be alright?"

Groves nodded, obviously another big mistake, as he clutched at his head in pain. "Yes," he groaned. "I'll be fine."

"I'm not so sure," Qwert pressed. "You look like you might have had a little too much to drink."

"No, no," Groves insisted, trying to press forward, but finding himself stalled by Qwert's firm hand. "I'll be fine, I just need to get some air."

"What you need is some sleep," Qwert urged. "I don't think it's a very good idea for you to be taking part in important negotiations in the state you're in, now do you?"

Groves seemed to consider it for a moment, then shook his head, forcing another groan from between clenched teeth. "I... I suppose not..."

"Good, excellent," Qwert said, loud enough to cause another spasm of pain to cross Grove's features.

Straightening, he looked around the bar, eyes studying the various crew members spread around the rec centre. He picked out an ensign sitting at a table a few steps away, a young hu-mon male nursing what appeared to be a synthehol beer. Leaving Groves where he was, Qwert approached the young ensign, leaning on his latinum pressed cane.

When he saw Qwert coming, the ensign bolted from his seat, almost throwing the table and glass of beer onto the floor. He reached out just in time and grabbed the table edge to stop it falling over, saluting with his other hand at the same time. Wide-eyed, he stared at Qwert.

"Admiral!"

"At ease, ensign," Qwert said genially. Being friendly to the help never cost anyone a single strip of latinum, said the 677th Rule of Acquisition. "We're all off duty here. I actually wanted to ask you a favour."

Pressing out his chest proudly, the ensign nodded eagerly. "Yes, admiral. Of course, admiral."

"Good. You see that man over there?" Qwert turned to point at Groves, who was now slouched down over the table. The ensign nodded warily. "I need you to get him safely back to his quarters."

"Is he... Is he alright?"

Qwert smiled. "He'll be fine, he just needs a little sleep. Careful, though, this is Mr. Colin Groves, Deputy Chief of Staff to President Baxter."

The ensign's eyes widened even further. Qwert could see his hands begin to shake. "Are you up to this, mister?" He put a little steel in his voice, causing the ensign's back to straighten.

"Sir. Yes sir."

"Good."

Hobbling slightly, Qwert waddled back over to Groves. Leaning down, he lay a hand on the hu-mon's shoulder. "Mister Groves? The ensign here is going to see you back to your quarters, alright?"

Groves stared up blearily, his eyes glazed over and unable to focus. He nodded, a little drool falling on his shirt. "Unh-unh," he grunted.

"Splendid," Qwert said, smiling widely. "Now get some rest."

Turning with difficulty, Qwert started to make his way over to the door out into the corridor. He turned as the doors opened and glanced back at Groves and the ensign. The younger man was struggling to get Groves up and out of his chair, one arm draped over his shoulder, the other swinging dangerously close to the ensign’s crotch. As Qwert watched, though, an attractive young blond hu-mon sauntered over for another table and bent down to speak to Groves. From the look on Groves' face, he seemed to know her.

Qwert frowned slightly as the young woman waved the ensign away and began to put her arm around Groves. Who is she? he wondered. Shaking his head, he reminded himself that he had more important things to deal with. Turning away, he marched out into the corridor, heading for the turbolift.

Bridge

As he stepped out onto the bridge, Qwert leaned more heavily on his cane. He had found it useful throughout his life to appear weaker than he actually was, a relatively easy feat considering the way that most people considered the Ferengi. He remembered vividly how many times he had been able to stick a knife through Vorta or Jem'hadar because they could not believe that a lowly Ferengi could possibly pose them a threat.

One of the many ensigns serving on the bridge scurried over with a headset as soon as he stepped out of the turbolift. Qwert accepted it, adjusting it slightly to fit over his large lobes. As he did, he caught sight of Lieutenant-Commander Kalara stood at one of the wall stations above the Pit. He brushed the edge of his lobe as he studied her, sending a shiver running down his spine. Magnificent. Truly magnificent.

Turning away as she seemed to sense his scrutiny, Qwert saw Benjamani stood at another station, talking furiously at someone through her viewfinder. He held back a scowl - the woman was a bitch, there were no two ways about it. That stunt she had pulled on Sarine during the meal had been over the line.

Speaking of Sarine... The captain had seen him arrive on the bridge and had made his way up out of the Pit. Qwert forced a smile. Sarine made him uneasy, had done since he first met him down on Romulus. There was something dark about the man, as if he had nothing to lose. Qwert had known men - and women - like that during the Occupation. They invariably led their people into dangerous situations.

"Admiral," Sarine greeted him with a short bow of his head. "Glad you could join us." He looked around. "And Mister Groves?"

"Slightly the worse for wear I'm afraid. Kanar doesn't seem to agree with him."

"He won't be joining us then."

Qwert shook his head. To his surprise, Sarine smiled at him with an almost conspiratorial air. "What a shame."

So the man does have a sense of humour! As his moogie always said, miracles can be brought if you can find the right price. Qwert wondered idly what Sarine's price had been.

"Would you care to join us in the Pit?" Sarine offered.

Qwert smiled, but shook his head. "I think I'll watch things from up here." He tapped his leg with his cane. "Not as mobile as I used to be."

Sarine nodded. "Of course. Well, if you'll excuse me..."

"Please." Qwert very carefully allowed Sarine to turn away before reaching out and grabbing his shoulder. "Oh, captain?"

The Romulan turned back to face him, his eyes flicking down to the hand on his shoulder and then back up again. Oh, this one really doesn't like to be touched. "Admiral?"

Qwert glanced over at Benjamani, then leaned in, playing the conspiratorial angle for all it was worth. "Just remember, this may be her mission, but she's your ship."

Sarine's eyes widened, just a fraction, but Qwert could tell he was surprised. Still, he nodded. "Thank you." He looked at Qwert for a moment longer, as if wondering whether he had anything else to say. When he was sure there wasn't, he nodded and walked back to the Pit.

Qwert watched him go. Feeling eyes on him, he turned to see Benjamani staring at him, barely restrained hostility evident in the depths of her eyes. Qwert took great pleasure in smiling at her and bowing his head. She only scowled and turned back to the wall station. She hates knowing that she can't touch me. Hates it.

He was still looking at her back when a beeping sound rang out through the bridge. Qwert turned back to the Pit as that scrumptious looking Cardassian woman Sarine had chosen as his first officer announced that Redemption was about to drop out of slipstream space.

"All hands, prepare for reversion," Sarine announced.

Qwert hobbled over to the rail and pressed against it as the bridge crew burst into a flourish of sudden activity. Dropping the viewfinder over his left eye, Qwert was able to watch as Redemption followed one of the hulking Laurentii ships into a side corridor of slipstream space. A few seconds passed, and then the coruscating energy patterns that formed the slipstream walls began to collapse. Turning to mist, they dissipated and crumbled and finally vanished in a flash of white light that returned Redemption to normal space.

Qwert heard more than a few indrawn breaths as they got their first view of Onyx Station. Even he had to admit that the sight was worth a few strips of latinum.

The solar system where the Laurentii had grown Onyx Station had a single star, which blazed red against the darkness of space. Three planetoids danced around the sun, one a gaseous giant that scintillated purple, the other two yellow Class-N worlds the Laurentii apparently mined for an unidentified mineral that was key to their production facilities.

The station herself orbited between the two planetoids. Qwert mentally commanded his finder to focus and zoom in on the station so that he could get a good look.

The station was very obviously organic. Where the starships that had escorted them seemed based on an acquatic model, the space station seemed more plant-like. A single cylindrical trunk spun slowly on its axis, sprouting ephemereal tendrils from its top at the ends of which lay what appeared to be pods. There were no exterior lights - rather the very skin of the station/creature glowed with a golden light.

Qwert had never seen such amazing feat of biological engineering. He felt again a giddy sensation of opportunity like he hadn't felt since his years as a trader back before he joined the rebellion. My lobes are tingling.

His attention wavered slightly as he heard Sarine speaking in low tones to his Ops officer, another attractive female, though this one was hu-mon. Does this ship have any non-attractive females?

With his lobes, he could easily hear Sarine's words. "Lieutenant, how many Behemoths are out there?"

Intrigued, Qwert used his security clearance to access the tactical readouts. He frowned as he saw what Sarine was getting at.

"Thirty-five, captain," the Ops officer responded. She looked up at Sarine, eyes wide. "And at least seventy other ships of varying sizes."

They've gathered an armada out here, Qwert thought. That can't be good. What exactly are they playing at?

Sarine seemed to be thinking along the same lines. Before he could give any further orders, though, the same Ops officer turned back to her screen at a chiming sound and announced, "We're being hailed by the station, captain."

Instead of ordering the transmission to be put through, Sarine turned to Benjamani with a raised eyebrow. Qwert followed his gaze. The old hu-mon woman was frowning, her mouth open. She had obviously been about to demand she be allowed to speak to the Laurentii. She'd been caught off guard. Qwert turned away, smothering a smile. Well done, captain, he silently saluted Sarine. Keep her off balance. Well done indeed.

"Would you like us to put you through?" Sarine offered geniely.

"Thank you, captain," Benjamani grated through clenched teeth. Those words must have hurt coming out.

"Lieutenant Barani, connect the transmission to Ambassador Benjamani's headset, everyone else incoming only."

When Barani had finished, the view of Onyx Station and the Laurentii armada vanished to be replaced by the face of a Laurentii officer. A varec from the markings on his forehead and cheek.

“Federation vessels, this is varec Shy’at aboard Ispaoreai Hyps’rat. Please identify yourselves.”

“This is Ambassador Benjamani aboard the USS Redemption. May the Seefu guide you through the void, varec.”

“And out into the light,” Shy’at said. “May I ask, where is Captain Sarine?”

Even from his position, Qwert could hear Benjamani grinding her teeth. “He is here.”

“Good. I am sorry to be so abrupt, but the kruin would like the negotiations to get underway as quickly as possible. Can you beam over?”

“Of course. My staff and I will be happy to- -“

“Please make sure that Captain Sarine accompanies you.”

Benjamani stiffened again. She nodded, a harsh movement. “Of course.”

“Good. We will await you at these coordinates.” He pressed his hand to the wall behind him, transmitting the transporter coordinates. Out of the corner of his eyes, Qwert saw Barani nod to Commander Ly’et, confirming reception.

“Thank you, varec.”

“We will see you soon.”

The transmission went dead. Everyone stood there for a moment, watching Benjamani, waiting to see what she was going to do. The only person whose full attention was not on the ambassador was Sarine himself. He was studying the readouts from the station, though Qwert didn’t need to be a Betazoid to know that his full attention was focused on Benjamani.

Finally, the ambassador spoke through gritted teeth. “Captain Sarine?”

Sarine looked up, seemingly surprised that she had adressed him. “Ambassador?”

“Please accompany the away team over to the station.”

Sarine stood there, looking at Benjamani, his eyes boring into hers. There was not the slightest hint of good humour, nor graciousness in his expression. Qwert wondered whether he was going to refuse, or make her beg him. After a moment, though, he nodded.

“With pleasure.”

An audible sigh of relief rippled over the bridge. Another confrontation averted, Qwert thought. He just hoped they would be able to avert one with the Laurentii.
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Old February 17 2010, 10:26 PM   #98
CaptainSarine
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

(continued)

Transporter Room 7

A group of security officers were waiting in Redemption’s transporter room, led by the chief of security herself, a towering Xindi insectoid, whose mandibles clicked loudly enough to send shudders down Qwert’s spine.

Apart from the security officers, Benjamani, Sarine and Qwert himself, the away team was made up of a young ensign who had been assigned as Sarine’s aide, two humans on Benjamani’s staff and Lieutant-Commander Kalara. Qwert had to admit to feeling reassured to have her there – no matter what lecherous comments he might have made about her in the past, he was at least lucid enough to know what a formidable warrior she was.

Minutes later, the transporter beam faded around them and Qwert saw the varec who had communicated with them, stood in a transporter room about the size of Qwert's closet.

The varec stepped forward and bowed before Benjamani. After going through a ritual greeting that both Benjamani and Sarine seemed well versed in, he closed his eyes, seemingly communing with the station. Moments later, to Qwert’s surprise, the wall behind him irised open, revealing a passageway beyond.

"If you will follow me," Shy'at said, "I will bring you to the kruin."

As Benjamani followed him, Qwert held back slightly, preferring to walk with Sarine. As they passed through the opening, the captain stumbled slightly, reaching out a hand to catch himself against the wall. Qwert caught at his arm, stopping him from falling.

The moment Sarine's fingers touched the surface, he tensed up. Qwert glanced up at him to see his eyes had rolled back in his eyes. A nauseous feeling settled in Qwert's stomach.

"Captain?"

Sarine continued to stare off into space for a moment, and then he shook his head and focused on Qwert. "What... What happened?"

"You almost fell."

"I... That's so strange."

"What?"

Sarine didn't seem to be listening to him. "Captain Sarine?"

Blinking, Sarine smiled wanly. "Sorry. Not sure what just happened. I'm fine now."

Qwert nodded. He was not convinced, no matter what Sarine said. He could hardly order him back to Redemption, though. Still, he would definitely keep an eye on him.

Stepping away from the edge of the portal, Sarine set off after the others, Qwert a few steps behind. They caught up with them at an intersection with another passageway. Benjamani glared at them. Qwert just smiled.

He took a moment to look around. The passageways did not seem solid, like the corridors of a Starfleet vessel. Instead, he got the feeling that they opened and closed as needed, almost like veins. He reached out himself, dragging the tips of his fingers over the surface. To his surprise, it rippled slightly, contracting beneath his touch. It's alive, he realised. This is all part of whatever creature was used to create this.

The group had continued on, so he stumbled after them. The floor was ever so-slightly springy beneath his feet, more like muscle than metal. It was going to take him a little while to get used to it, especially with his cane.

His attention was drawn away from his study of the station itself to the sound of a heated conversation going on up ahead. He looked up to see that the group of Starfleet officers had come to a halt. By the time he reached them, he realised why.

Seven Laurentii, their skin colour varying from the same greyish tinge as their guide through a deep blue and a livid purple to black as dark as space itself. Their eye strips were also coloured differently. All of them were tall, though, and muscular. And their anger seemed to wash over the Starfleet people like radiation from a neutron star.

As Qwert reached the group, he heard their guide speaking urgently to one of them.

"Please," he was saying, "you must let us past. I must bring the kruvati before the kruin."

The tallest of the Laurentii, a large purple skinned male, sneered at Shy'at, his thin lips pulling back to reveal teeth almost as pointed as a Ferengi's. His ventral air flaps also opened wide, apparently another sign of anger or scorn.

"The kruin does not speak for the yazsmoot, kispa. Nor does he speak for our people. These kruvati will be brought before the yazsmoot for these discussions."

"But I have orders..."

"I do not care about your orders. You serve the yazsmoot and you will obey me."

Qwert watched with interest as the darkness in Shy'at's eye strip faded, turning to a dull grey. Some kind of photo-sensitive reaction to emotion? Very interesting. He wondered whether there could be any kind of commercial application. His thoughts followed that track for a moment, then snapped back to the present as Shy'at finally spread his arms in what appeared to be a gesture of surrender.

"I obey."

The Laurentii who had ambushed them did not respond, but simply turned and began to walk down the corridor. Shy'at turned and glanced at the Federation officers, almost as if he were begging for them to do something. When no one said anything, though, he made the same wide-armed gesture and turned to follow them.

Qwert made sure to walk alongside Benjamani. He leaned in towards her.

"What was all that about?"

Benjamani looked down at him disdainfully, but she answered him anyway. "There seems to be some kind of power struggle between the kruin - the master of Onyx Station, if I understand it correctly - and the yazsmoot, which is the leading council."

"And this yaszmoot is the leading council of the whole Hegemony?"

To his surprise, Sarine - who had been walking a few steps in front - was the one who answered.

"No, only of this section of the Hegemony, which is centred on Onyx Station."

Benjamani glared at him, but didn't contradict what he was saying. Qwert barely noticed it, his mind playing through what Sarine had just said.

"So the people we're negotiating with, they do not represent the whole Hegemony?"

Benjamani shook her head curtly. "Not at this time, no."

"Then--"

Before he could ask the obvious question - how would anything they negotiated be accepted throughout the Hegemony, or were they going to have to negotiate with every damned Laurentii in Hegemony space? - the corridor before them opened out into a large chamber. Some kind of council room, Qwert guessed.

Vaguely spherical, the chamber’s floor descended into a hollow where a large table seemed to have been extruded from the floor itself. The only light was provided by the walls, which glowed with a dull luminescence. There were no other fixtures or features.

Sat around the table were a dozen other Laurentii, their skin colour as varied as that of the group who had intercepted them. They seemed to have been in the middle of an important conversation when Qwert and the other Federation representatives were led in. Two or three stood at the arrival, raising their voices in what sounded like angry confusion.

"This doesn't look good," Qwert heard Kalara whisper to Benjamani. The ambassador shook her head violently, but didn't make any other comment.

Shy'at turned and motioned for the Federation officers to stop. Qwert watched as he then hurried to catch up with the purple-skinned Laurentii from earlier on. The two of them then approached the table.

"Is there a leader of the yazsmoot?" Qwert asked after a moment, looking over at Benjamani.

The ambassador shook her head again, tight-lipped. She doesn't know, Qwert realised. He looked to Sarine, but the captain only shrugged. Qwert sighed loudly. His briefing papers had made it clear that the Federation knew very little about the way the Hegemony was organised, but this was ludicrous. How could he negotiate when he didn't know who had the final word?

Shy'at and the purple Laurentii seemed to both be stating their cases before the yaszmoot, most of whom seemed very agitated at the irruption. One of the members of the council stood near the purple-skinned officer, and seemed to be supporting him. A smaller Laurentii - did that mean he was older - stood by Shy'at.

"They look like they're split about something."

"Us," Sarine said.

After another few minutes of heated discussion, a very large Laurentii, his body muscular and scarred beneath heavy robes, turned to face Qwert and the others. Qwert could feel the anger - and even hatred - washing off of him in waves. If he had been Ferengi, he would have been glaring. As it was, he raised his hands and then two streams of yellow liquid came streaming from his ventral lips, splashing to the floor. A foul odor arose, filling the enclosed space. Once he had finished, the brawny Laurentii turned and stalked towards the far wall, which flowered open to allow him access to a corridor beyond. A handful of others followed.

They all stood there for a moment in silence, not sure what to say. Finally, Qwert spoke up.

"What by the Material Continuum just happened?"

"He spat at us," Sarine said.

"That was spit?"

"What passes for it, anyway. I've seen it happen once before. Basically, it means he thinks we are unclean and he wants nothing to do with us."

"Oh, that's good."

Shy'at had climbed back up the hollow walls and now approached them. From the jerky motions of his hands and head, Qwert guessed that he was nervous and uncomfortable. When he reached them, he looked to Sarine.

"The yazsmoot has agreed to see you and hear your requests."

"We--"

"Are happy to accept their gracious offer," Benjamani interjected. She stared daggers at Sarine, who simply nodded in agreement, though Qwert saw him stiffen somewhat at her tone.

"If you would come with me."

As Shy'at led them down towards the table, Qwert couldn't help but glance at the yellow stain on the floor. As he watched, the ground itself opened up and sucked the liquid down. His eyes widened at the sight, and he looked away quickly.

Oh, we're off to a wonderful start, he thought. A wonderful start indeed.
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Old February 18 2010, 10:46 AM   #99
Gibraltar
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

I think this probably isn’t going to go down as a spectacular opening gambit in the annals of diplomacy!

I’m loving the continuing animosity and power-struggle going on between Sarine and Benjamini, and how much Qwert is enjoying the show.

At first the Laurentii appeared simply enigmatic and mercurial, but now we discover their culture is as discordant as any other humanoid society. Those divisions will obviously complicate these delicate negotiations…

Yeah, that could have gone better.
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Old February 18 2010, 09:40 PM   #100
Mistral
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

I liked the way you told it from the Adm's pov. An interesting dynamic that served to make the character more than one dimensional.
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Old February 19 2010, 07:08 PM   #101
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Qwert is one of those very rare Starfleet Admirals who actually comes across as a likable guy. Which is quite surprising considering his racial handicap.

It was obvious that this deal with the Laurentii wasn't going to work out easily but I didn't expect them to be this divided. This is adding an interesting new dimension, not only to the Laurentii but to your story as well. My gut is telling me things can only go worse from here.
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Old February 19 2010, 07:55 PM   #102
CaptainSarine
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Location: Lyon, France
Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Gibraltar

I think this probably isn’t going to go down as a spectacular opening gambit in the annals of diplomacy!
LOL! No, definitely not. The Laurentii are not happy to see the Federation group, thus showing that the reason they are there may not be the one that Benjamani and the others thought it was.

Glad you're enjoying Sarine vs. Benjamani. This was initially a really difficult chapter to write, but when I rewrote it in Qwert's POV it came together. He's a really fun character to write for, and he has a very particular way of looking at things.

Yes, the Laurentii are as divided as other races, perhaps even more so because of the basis of their civilization, which we will learn about as the story progresses.

Thanks for the comment!

Mistral

Thanks! As I said above, this was actually quite a difficult chapter to write until I moved into Qwert's POV - I'm glad you enjoyed the fleshing out of his character and his dynamic with the others. We'll be seeing more of him in the next few chapters.

CeJay

Yeah, Qwert is a likeable guy, but I hope this chapter also showed that he is also quite the sneaky tactician and a formidable warrior in the past.

Yes, the Laurentii are divided. I think the next few chapters will show how much and by the end of the next ten chapters or so, you should be able to better understand why.

Thanks to you all for your comments, really glad you're still interested in it!

A new chapter should be up tonight!
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Old February 19 2010, 10:52 PM   #103
CaptainSarine
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Location: Lyon, France
Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

Chapter 11

Chamber of the yaszmoot
Ispaoreai Hyps’rat (Onyx Station)

Ba’el rubbed his fingers against his temples as surreptitiously as possible, trying not to bring too much attention to himself.

Beside him Benjamani and Qwert droned on, their voices echoing around the cavernous meeting room as they presented the Federation's hopes for peace and economic plenitude – Qwert’s own words – to the Laurentii yaszmoot. Even after what amounted to little more than diplomatic pleasantries, Ba'el could tell that things were not going well.

Forcing his fingers down and trying to ignore his headache, Ba'el phased out Benjamani’s latest speel, studying the Laurentii themselves from his place at the far end of the table. Though he knew that all of the Laurentii present were high-up members of the ruling circle, he was trying his best to work out exactly who was in charge. Every little piece of information helped.

He had more experience of the Laurentii than most, and yet he had still to make sense of exactly how they were organised. Though he had heard various terms banded back and forth - kruin, varec, havac - none of them seemed to indicate who was clearly in charge. If he had understood correctly, all of the members of the yaszmoot were havacs, though one of them had been called ish'kruin as well. He shook his head, then winced as pain lanced through his temples again.

The headache had been growing steadily worse ever since he had touched the station’s wall, shortly after beam over. Starting slow, it had slowly grown until Ba’el had begun to worry that he might black out.

Of course, the headache had not been the only thing that had happened when he touched the wall... For a single moment, he had heard a voice in his head. The voice hadn’t spoken, not in words, anyway. And yet Ba'el was sure it had been talking to him. If he closed his eyes and concentrated, he felt as though he would be able to make sense of...

His eyes snapped open as he heard the slap of flesh against the table. One of the Laurentii, a havac who had introduced himself as Lkinym, had taken to his feet. With one hand pressed against the table, he was glaring at Qwert.

"Do you think we care anything for commercial gain? For your latinum?" A little liquid spattered out from his ventral pouches, splashing on the table surface where it was quickly absorbed. "We are a sacred people, kruvat. We have no need for your latinum, or your assistance. Not when the--"

One of the other Laurentii, tall with skin the bright orange of a setting sun, reached over and grabbed Lkinym's sleeve. Lkinym glanced at the fire-skinned havac, who shook his head. Lkinym bristled visibly, then subsided.

This is getting out of hand, Ba'el thought. Knowing how Benjamani would take it - but not really caring at this point - he stood himself. All eyes turned to him, and he felt Benjamani's glower.

"Perhaps now would be a good time for us to take a slight recess. I am sure we would all like to consult with our respective groupings and come back fresher and more able to talk."

The yaszmoot seemed unsure, but Shy'at, the younger varec who had met them in the transporter room, interrupted.

"That seems a good idea. We will arrange to have you shown to your temporary quarters."

Qwert nodded. "A fine idea. I'm sure we could all use some time."

After a moment of tense silence, the fire-skinned Laurentii who had calmed Lkinym nodded as well. "A good idea." He turned to look at Shy'at. "You will arrange it."

Shy'at bowed and scurried over to another Laurentii stood beside the wall. Ba'el watched them whisper together, then another wave of pain washed over him and he stumbled down into his seat, clutching at his forehead.

He felt a hand on his arm and opened his eyes long enough to see Kalara staring at him, worry lines evident on her face.

"Are you alright?"

He nodded, not even able to speak. Kalara didn't seem convinced, but she nodded and took her hand away.

By the time one of the Laurentii came to lead him to his quarters, Ba'el could hardly stand. Forcing himself to his feet, it took him all of his concentration to continue putting one foot in front of the other. The headache seemed to have spread down to his neck and collar bone, a constant pounding, like drums in his mind. Careful not to touch the walls again, he stumbled after the Laurentii through corridors he hardly noticed, until one of the walls irised open to reveal a small chamber.

As Ba'el stepped inside, his guide pointed to a table against the far wall.

"We have installed technology much like your own to allow you to work or contact your ship if you need to," he said.

Ba'el nodded a thank you.

"I will return to collect you in one hour."

Stepping back, the Laurentii pressed his fingers to the wall and the door irised closed again, leaving a perfectly uniform wall in its place. Normally, Ba'el would have felt worried at being trapped like this, but with the pain in his head, all he could manage was a controlled tumble down onto the bed behind him.

As he fell, one of his hands straightened unvoluntarily and his fingers brushed against the wall behind him. Ba'el felt another surge of pain before darkness enveloped him and dragged him down into a vision.

xxx

Ba'el screamed.

The probe slid forward, the hard point piercing the skin just below his eye, drawing blood from his cheek and sending pain rushing through his body.

"Why are you doing this?" he yelled, struggling wildly against the bonds that held him down to the table.

He turned his head just enough to see one of the Laurentii looking down at him, his eye-strip white with sadness.

"We had no other choice," the alien said, pressing the cold skin of his palm against Ba'el's forehead just as a second probe sliced through the skin on his belly...

xxx

With a gasp, Ba'el jerked his hand away from the wall. His whole body was shivering in the aftermath of the vision.

What the hell was that?

The dream had been so real, as tangible as if Ba'el had lived through it seconds before. He shook his head, surprised to find that the headache was fading.

What is going on here? he wondered, his breath coming out in great gulps for air. What is happening to me?

Slowly, his breathing started to come back under control. With his headache fading, Ba'el was able to start thinking clearly. He replayed the vision in his head, trying to make sense of it. Had it been a memory? Something suppressed from his time amongst the Laurentii during the war? If so, what had they been doing to him? And why?

He needed answers. The only place he could think to turn was Prin. He still hadn't had a chance to ask her about the missing time that Captain Robau had mentioned. Now seemed as good a time as any to talk about it.

As he reached for his comm badge, though, he heard a beeping from beside him. He turned his head and saw a light flashing on the console fitted to the table beside him. Some kind of transmission.

Hopeful it might be Prin, he sidled across the bed until he could reach the console. It seemed to be a standard Klingon interface, one that he had used before during the war. Making sense of the Klingonese writing, he activated the screen.

It wasn't Prin. Instead, he saw the varec who had greeted them - Shy'at. He was about to ask the varec what he wanted when Shy'at spoke up.

"Sorry to contact you this way, captain. I just wanted to ask you whether the headaches had started yet?"

Ensign Zoraya’s Quarters
USS Redemption

Zoraya slammed a hand down on her desk in frustration, turning away from the console and running her other hand through her hair.

Dammit!

She had been working on the encrypted transmission since she had gotten off shift. Checking her chrono, she realised that it had been over two hours. And she had still to find some way around the code.

Pushing herself away from the desk, she stood up and stretched. She had been so hopeful after seeing the hidden tranmission appear on her system, but all of that hope had slowly drained away when faced with the obvious lack of progress. At this rate, I'm never going to decrypt it.

She heard a tentative knock on her door and suppressed another sigh. Stretching again, she walked over and pressed her hand to the plate.

The door slid open to reveal her roommate, Molna. The Ferengi smiled slightly, then peered past Zoraya at her room.

"Are you alright?"

Zoraya nodded. "I hit my knee against my desk," she said.

Molna nodded, but her eyes were studying the room intently, as if hoping to find some clue as to what Zoraya had really been doing. Zoraya purposefully let her look - there was no way that the Ferengi would be able to make anything of the complex code scrolling across her screen, especially not from this distance.

After a few moments, she coughed. "Do you need something?"

Molna blinked and turned her attention back to Zoraya. "Oh. No. Just wanted to be sure you were alright."

"I'm fine."

"Oh. Good. Well, I'm going to the Alpha Quadrant with a few others in about half an hour. You want to come?"

Zoraya opened her mouth to refuse, then remembered her training. She needed to maintain her cover just as much as she needed to decrypt that transmission. If anyone started to get suspicious... She forced a smile. "I'd love to."

Molna seemed surprised. "Great," she said, not sounding all that enthusiastic. "Half an hour?"

"I'll be ready."

Then she reached over and tapped the door panel again, sealing the room. Damned nosy Ferengi with her stupid big ears!

Cursing softly, she walked back to the desk, closing her eyes and massaging her temples. She sat down, took a deep breath, then opened her eyes and prepared to get back to work.

Someone had sent her a message. A small rectangular box of text had appeared on her screen, over the top of the scrolling decryption software. Eight words.

Have you tried a Klingon Intelligence Decryption Key?

Zoraya blinked. Her heart beating faster, she called up a tracing bot from her inventory and activated it. As it tried to backtrack the origin of the message, she sat back and thought about what the message had said.

A Klingon Intelligence key? She hadn't tried those yet, assuming that the spy onboard Redemption would have been using Federation tech so as not to set off any alarms. However, now that she thought about it, it made a certain amount of sense. The spy would need to have identified his or herself to the Klingon fleet, which meant some kind of Klingon Intelligence authentification.

The bot returned after a few seconds, empty-handed. Zoraya shrugged - it had been a long shot anyway. She wondered who could have sent her the message. A friend? Or someone trying to use her? Her mind flashed back to the Cardassian she had met briefly on the shuttle, the one who had seemed slightly "off" to her. If he was another agent of S.I, maybe he was trying to help her. If so, why not do it upfront, though? Why go through back channels like this?

Shaking her head, Zoraya pushed away the questions. Either way, it couldn't hurt to try the suggestion. Calling up the inventory of decryption keys she kept locked away in her personal console's memory, she ran a standard Klingon Intelligence key decryption. Minutes later, the transmission appeared on her screen.

Feeling a surge of excitement, Zoraya sat forward intently. When she was who was on the screen, though, her excitement devolved into unease, shock and fear.

This was... This was huge. If the transmission was real, then Lieutenant-Commander Kalara, Ambassador Benjamani's aide, was a spy and a traitor. If the transmission was real.

Her mind was whirling with the implications. Zoraya forced herself to take a step back, both physically and mentally. Standing up, she walked away, closing her eyes and pacing the room while she counted to thirty. It was a little exercice that she had been taught during her training, allowing her to purge herself of the emotions that could cloud her judgement and would help her to concentrate on the situation at hand. By the time she reached thirty, she knew what she had to do.

Returning to her desk, Zoraya sat down and started to write a message to her boss. She needed to talk to him no matter whether the transmission turned out to be real or not. As soon as she had dispatched the message requesting for him to contact her over secure channels, she turned back to the transmission and began to run it through every single authentification program she could think of.

Diplomatic Quarters
Onyx Station

Ba'el felt a surge of anger, precipitated by the memory of his vision. Springing to his feet, he stalked towards the console screen, as if he could somehow reach through it and strangle the varec.

"What the hell did you people do to me?" Ba'el growled.

Shy'at lifted his hands up as if to ward Ba'el off.

"Please, Captain Sarine, you have to understand that what we did, we did because we had no other choice."

Ba'el reached the desk and leaned on it, peering down at Shy'at and glared. "You did something to me, last time I was here." It wasn't a question, but Shy'at nodded.

"You played around with my mind, with my memories."

Shy'at nodded again, then his lips pulled back and down in an approximation of a frown. "I can't talk about it."

Ba'el felt the urge to laugh. "You can't talk about it? Then why the hell are you contacting me?"

"I am working on behalf of someone who can talk about it, someone who is able to explain everything. He wishes to meet with you. In private."

Suppressing a groan, Ba'el ran one hand over his face and through his hair. He missed having long hair sometimes.

This is all I need, he thought. In the middle of what could be the most important negotiations that both the new or the old Federations had ever taken part in, and this man was trying to drag him into the middle of some kind of Laurentii power struggle. He wanted to tell the man to fuck off and leave him alone.

He didn't, though. Part of him remembered that part of the reason he had agreed to this mission in the first place was to discover why the Laurentii had insisted on him leading it. That part of him had grown stronger since he had learned about the missing time from Robau. This was not a mystery he could just turn away from.

"Who?" he asked finally. "Who wants to see me?"

"Please, I don't know whether they will be able to listen in on our conversation, and we're running out of time. Will you agree to meet with him?"

"Who?" Ba'el asked again. "Who is--"

Shy'at wasn't looking at him anymore, his whole head turned away. Ba'el saw his eye-strip ripple, something he had learned to recognise as the Laurentii equivalent of widening eyes.

"They're coming. I have to go." He turned back to Ba'el. "Please, will you come?"

Struggling against the little voice in his head telling him this was a bad idea, Ba'el nodded. "I'll meet with your master."

"Thank you. I will come for you as soon as I can, at night. Do not trust the yaszmoot. They do not like you, nor trust what you are."

Before Ba'el could ask him what he meant, the line cut off, leaving the blank screen once again.

Sitting back on the bed, Ba'el shook his head. What have you gotten yourself into now, Bay? he wondered. More trouble. Just what he needed.

He needed to talk to someone about all of this, someone he could trust. Only one name came to mind.

As he lifted his hand to call Prin, though, the wall before him swirled open and one of the Laurentii guards stepped through. Ba'el let his hand drop back to his leg.

The Laurentii stood straight, as if about to salute.

"The yaszmoot wish to recommence the negotiations."

"Of course," Ba'el said, standing. "Lead the way."

As he left, Ba'el vowed that he would find the time to talk to Prin. He needed to try and make sense out of all of this before he met whoever had sent Shy'at to speak with him.

Before all hell broke loose.
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Old February 22 2010, 09:44 PM   #104
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

What he is????? I caught that-now I'm pondering the meaning. Did you name that guy Shy'at because that's how the others treat him?
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Old February 23 2010, 05:02 AM   #105
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Re: Star Trek: Restoration - Onyx

The Laurentii are being revealed as an increasingly complex and fractured society, and with their previous manipulation of Ba'el, that undoubtedly spells potential disaster for the whole diplomatic mission.

Loving this!
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