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Old November 23 2010, 12:04 AM   #1
Deranged Nasat
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November Challenge: Vital Work.

So I've finally posted something. This is only the second piece I've written and the first I've shared. I'll repeat that; I'm new to this, so don't expect anything amazing. There's no real sense of a truly realized world, I'm just experimenting. But I like to think I did well enough .

I was trying to fit quite a bit into around 10,000 words. I went overboard by about 200, so it's up to the judge if he wants to accept it. Also, given the scope of the story and that word limit I decided to go for writing that's deliberately unevenly-paced. So, it jumps about a bit, rushes by in places, has moments of focus and then far more "blurry" moments. I wanted a sense of a period of years shoved into a short story form. Whether it's in any way successful or just a bit crap I don't know (), but there's a warning. I sort of hoped it would read like a stream of blurred memory or something. It would probably be more effective if it were longer and better paced - maybe I'll expand it some time.

The Andorian four genders (Chan, shen, zhen and thaan) are from the novels.
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Last edited by Deranged Nasat; November 23 2010 at 12:25 AM.
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Old November 23 2010, 12:04 AM   #2
Deranged Nasat
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Re: November Challenge: Vital Work.

“His name is Thaylak” said Helkash, much impressed.

It wasn’t that impressive, though. The vessel was hardly there, hidden within itself. It was too dark, black like all Jashearl spacecraft, and somewhat over the top with it, as if its designers were frightened or ashamed somehow. Like they wanted to hide it. Still, the boy examined it, silently. Thaylak.

“Do you like him?”

Him. Not like Andorians, where ships were “she”, sometimes “it” if you were SubPole. Jashearl referred to their craft as “he” instead. His teacher said it was something to do with their biology and its dictates on their social structure, which the boy had decided meant it was something about sex. The name was unusual, though. Not Jashearl, because all their names had “ash” in them. Actually it sounded Andorian. He wondered what that was about. Realizing that Helkash was eyeing him, he remembered she had asked a question. He answered affirmative, antennae twitching left, and there was no way it would have fooled another Andorian, but Helkash’s people didn’t see things the way his did. To her, a twitch left was Andorian for “yes”, and that was that. She couldn’t read his eyes.

Still, best to play it safe. “Yes”, he answered aloud, leaning his hands on the railing. He wanted to ask about the name, so after a few seconds - don’t seem too eager - he did. “Why is it called that?”

“That?”

“Why is its name “Thaylak”?

He kept forgetting you had to be simple with Jashearl; Andorian talk confused them.

“You inquire reasoning?”

A long silence.

“You wish to know why the vessel has been given the name?”

“Yes. What does it mean?”

Helkash swept at the dust with a leg. Jashearl had six of them, and two lengthy arms with sharpened claws. They were dark too, just like their ships and buildings. To the boy, they’d at first seemed dangerous, like walking shadows, but these it turned out were friendly. Friendly shadows.

“Thaylak was an Andorian. The ship has his name”.

Patiently, the boy asked why.

2374 (16 years earlier)

Important questions.

“Where is my toolbox? Fralk, where the crap is my toolbox?”

Thaylak watched, immensely satisfied. This was almost certainly the best day ever, better even than sled racing at Thalzren Central. That’d been fun, but this was important. There were Starfleet people in the village!

They had come that very morning, though of course they’d had it arranged for days. Thaylak only found out the night before, when Torhf had leaked it “accidentally”. Ethtillith had given Torhf a dirty look, no doubt anticipating Thaylak’s reaction. Usually he felt dutiful enough to reign himself in when this happened - he was astute enough to realize he was ammunition in Torhf’s endless war against Ethtillith - but this time he couldn’t help it. Unable to sleep, he’d pestered the others until they’d effectively banished him, sent him to rest in solitary so he’d stop disturbing them. He did eventually sleep, but he was up again at dawn, waiting until he could see the ‘fleeters. They were here to perform vital work (so he assumed, unquestioning), an essential mission for the war. Thaylak had never heard of anything important happening in the village - it just wasn’t big or old enough, and the mountains were mostly empty. Now, he’d get to see an actual Starfleet operation. He’d spent much of the day in the keep, of course – there were chores and studies, and he had a schedule. If he was being honest, he’d pretty much ignored it, dancing between rooms, almost certainly getting in everyone’s way. He was told a few times to calm down and attend his studies. He probably should; he didn’t care. Eventually - clearly nothing was going to get done today, anyway - Ethtillith let him leave. Satisfied, he’d raced down into the market; a good a place to start as any. Somewhere in the village were Starfleet and he was going to find them.

It didn’t take long, really; they weren’t exactly hard to spot. Apart from Rajiv the human, aliens weren’t found in the village, at least not often. The ‘fleeters were two humans and a Bolian, and their simple abnormality was interesting enough, for a time at least. No antennae; he’d never get used to that, and the humans were worse than the Bolian, they weren’t even blue. He knew Rajiv, of course - it wasn’t like he didn’t know an alien - but sometimes Rajiv wasn’t like other humans; not like the ones in his books. These were like the ones in books – unpredictable and jumpy, and they talked a lot. They were also Starfleet humans, though, and so they talked about actual things that mattered, not because they were just scared of quiet. They were working on a communications post, apparently, though it didn’t look very impressive to Thaylak. He wasn’t stupid enough to approach the trio; that’d just make them leave. No-one liked annoying youngsters around, and Thaylak guessed he was quite annoying. No, better to watch. You got slightly less but for far longer; and he was pretty sure that worked out in his favour.

The ‘fleeters were talking now. Exchanging intelligence was the correct term.

“I haven’t got your toolkit. Rachel has it; she needed it to fix the transceiver. Make do with the general-use stuff”.

“I’m not a general-use sort of guy”.

“Ha ha. No, I’m serious; just use the tools here and get your own later. Rachel isn’t going to lose them or anything”.

“She’ll put them down and lose ‘em while she’s reading that local news-mag thing, you just watch. Andoria at War, isn’t it? It’s not even a good one - where they get their information is beyond me. You’d think they’d know better than to print that wormhole rumour, right? I liked the Tellarite one better - at least the debates were funny”.

“What’s the Tellarite one called?”

Tellar at War.”

“Ah. What was that thing she was reading on the way in, then?”

Purple Hills. More local stuff. It’s some 2120s thing, a novel – I glanced through it once”.

“Pass me the specs, will you? I’m sure they’ve fouled this up again. I told them we needed twelve power cells. Twelve. Not ten. I know we’re facing shortages, but this is ridiculous...”

“It’s one of those quest things they like so much. All I remember is that this guy gets garrotted or something by the quiet librarian.”

“Sounds nasty”.

“Yeah, it’s usually the quiet, logical one who’s the traitor. I think Purple Hills was actually a propaganda piece. They were at it with Vulcan again”.

“At it with Vulcans?”

“You want me to come over there and hit you with this, ‘cause I will?”

He didn’t get all the references, but obviously these people knew an awful lot. Not just Andor stuff, but Tellar and Vulcan too. Maybe more. Yes, Thaylak was sure of it. Vital work!

.............................

“They’re going to be staying?”

Torhf nodded heavily, confirming the news not only for Zhathrizar but for the benefit of anyone else watching. Here we go, thought Thaylak. He knew the warning signs.

It was evening, and Thaylak was surprised at how tired he was. He hadn’t done anything except watch the Starfleet people; maybe he’d gotten over-excited and that was to blame. Probably. Whatever the reason, he wasn’t in the mood for a loud conversation. Unfortunately, Torhf knew no other kind. Having delivered news of the ongoing Starfleet presence to the other elders in the Keep, he was clearly just waiting for the opportunity to stoke some controversy. Zhrathrizar hadn’t disappointed; evidently the news did not go down well with him, for the old thaan’s antennae shot up and writhed in outrage, much of it probably forced. Torhf’s eyes narrowed in what was suspiciously close to satisfaction, before launching into one of his mini-tirades. The game was afoot. “Flooding disgrace, this is. Parliament needs a good clean-out. Out of touch, they are - Starfleet doesn’t need to be up here in the villages, they’ve got cities for that”. From the other side of the room (and Torhf was obviously speaking as loud as he was in order that’d she’d hear) Ethtillith turned to meet the challenge. The dignified matriarch really knew better - as unofficial leader of their little, loosely organized clan, she knew everyone’s tricks - but Torhf got under her skin. “They’re staying for a few weeks, Torhf. You know this isn’t permanent.”

“Might as well be!” huffed Zhathrizar.

This was a regular occurrence in the keep, with Torhf attempting to breach the peace and old Zhathrizar chiming in to help. Zhathrizar, if not a friend of Torhf, was at least a trusted comrade in the low-burning war against Ethtillith’s orderly management. Quite why the pair did it was unclear to Thaylak. It wasn’t like anyone disliked Ethtillith.

“...never needed no Flooding offworlders here like this before, don’t see why they’ve got to go around disrupting people...”

“This is hardly a disruption, Torhf”

“I heard they’ve already been down Yathris way, why’ve they got to come here too? They’re just....”

Thaylak listened for a while, but soon tuned them out. As far he was concerned, Starfleet could stay as long as they wanted. Realistically, he couldn’t go see them too often - he’d had his fill today, he had to be sensible (and actually do his work sometimes). He’d make sure to get as much out of them as possible, though.

Thaylak had been in the village most of his life. His parents, all four of them, had died in an accident – something to do with malfunctions in the spaceport docking systems, he didn’t really recall - and he was very young at the time. It was unusual, but there was no crisis in choosing what to do with him. That’s what clans were for. He was housed at the communal lodges and raised by the village as a whole (the village itself being one of many founded as a haven for those whose birth clans had dwindled and no longer had lands of their own. There’s was a clan of spares. Leftovers, really; everyone was a bit of an outcast and no-one really minded). The village was home and Thaylak had always been happy enough. Truthfully, he didn’t feel he was missing out on anything. Lately, though, he’d had the creeping suspicion that he was getting older, and might one day have to go out and find those things he wasn’t missing. What he’d do when that day came, he didn’t know. He usually decided to think about Starfleet instead.

...........
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Old November 23 2010, 12:05 AM   #3
Deranged Nasat
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Re: November Challenge: Vital Work.

To Thaylak’s disappointment, work continued with no indication of anything momentous happening. Making up for it, though, was the chance to get to know the ‘fleeters, which he did through several eager stake-outs in his spare time. There was Fralk, the portly Bolian, a Denobulan named Rahmlos and several humans, including the mysterious Rachel, who finally showed up while he was present on the fourth day. Despite his policy of non-interference, his curiosity grew with each “visit” and soon he was bristling with eagerness to talk to them. On the fifth day, though, he found he didn’t need to because Rel already had. Rel had spoken to them – personally – and had learned vital secrets about the war. Thaylak didn’t usually trust Rel, but he was far too curious about this and Rel knew it, so there was no point pretending. He asked for the information and Rel excitedly told him: there had been a battle! Starfleet had fought the Dominion only a few days ago, and recaptured some space station, the one near the wormhole. Apparently the Dominion had sent a massive fleet and it had turned out the wormhole had eaten them or something, because the wormhole was on Starfleet’s side....

“That’s stupid”

Rel paused in his tale, seemingly surprised by the comment. Thaylak glared. If he didn’t have any actual news, there wasn’t any point in talking.

........................................

There were other people to talk to. Thelset would have something to share, for one. She always did. She would call him an idiot at least once, but she’d talk, and she’d know all about the war because she’d run some errands for the Starfleet people. (Why can’t I run errands?! Thaylak moaned, but Thelset was shen and he wasn’t; the flow of communication was her duty, not his privilege). When he was younger, he’d spent an entire season insisting that Thelset and he would be bondmates one day. They’d live together and wind up with lots of children, and he would do chan things while she did shen things. That was before he realized he didn’t actually like her.

He certainly didn’t like her today. She did have news on the war, but more importantly she knew the specifics of the Starfleet people’s work in the village.

“So they’re just talking to people?”

“That’s what he said. There’s some relay system in orbit that lets them talk to their ships, and it needs their communications post to make it work when the sun makes these emissions. It’s part of some network that they’re building; they’ve already been to some other places, like Thalzren”.

Thaylak thought for a moment, casting around for ideas. This could still work.

“But they’re talking to really important people? Admirals or something...?”

Thelset’s eyes flashed again, with what would have been contempt had she been engaged enough to show it. She handed him a datapad, onto which she’d evidently downloaded something with Starfleet logos. How does she get this stuff?

“It’s a leaflet, they’re handing them out to people”.

Thaylak took the pad glumly.

“Notification of essential construction work, to be carried out within Zhell-Tahztha Village, Thelisevrath, Zhevra Continent, Andoria, AVC 1872, Second Moon Minus Seven. Representatives of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers, with the authorization of Starfleet Command and the Andorian Empire, submit requests for local cooperation in a manner of vital importance -

“It says vital!”

“Keep reading”.

Glumly, Thaylak continued.

- To the maintenance of effective Federation communication networks. Non-disruptive work crews will be granted temporary accommodation in communal lodgings until work on local communications post is complete. Disruption to local affairs will be kept to a minimum. Starfleet presence for the duration of the conflict is expected to be unnecessary. We extend our thanks to local communities for their support during this period of upheaval and to their service in our time of need. All contributions, however minor, further the cause of resistance to Dominion tyranny”.

“So...we’re just “minor”? Somewhere not-important that the messages just pass through...?”

This time there was definite contempt in her eyes. “Come on, Thaylak! What did you expect? This is Zhell-Tahztha, not Laibok!”

Ok, that was dumb. With an uncomfortable feeling of mild embarrassment, Thaylak realized he hadn’t though this through. It was a communications post, yes, but he hadn’t realized that was all it was. I thought the post was for whatever mission they were on, I didn’t think it was the mission! Now he was simply confused.

“I know that!” he snapped, in what was likely a futile attempt at damage control. So he got carried away with Starfleet. He knew he got excited, but who wouldn’t? It was better than endless normal days of Torhf and Ethtillith bickering or Faslelv’s brothers telling boring stories or Sharlin and friends up the tavern getting drunk. Rajiv was interesting, though he wasn’t Andorian. But the village on the whole was dull, and needed something new, and he’d hoped the Starfleet people would help.

“You never think about stuff, Thaylak. You just act like a stupid little kid with no sense. It’s so predictable”.

That stung. Thaylak thought he had plenty of sense, and he certainly wasn’t predictable. He let his displeasure show, antennae pressing back against his skull. Rajiv said he had “hard eyes, like blades”. The blade bit he could do without, but he liked the sound of “hard eyes”. He trusted Thelset saw them now.

She wasn’t going to apologise. She never did.

.................................

The communications post was finished a few days later, but the Starfleet people didn’t leave. There was still the testing and the linkage to the network, and that would take time. After that, they needed to monitor its first few days in use, check for potential problems and record its efficiency levels. It was all very complicated, apparently. A few nights into the second week, Thaylak was woken from sleep by commotion; loud shouts and the sound of people moving. It took him a few seconds to register he was awake, but once he did he shot up in bed. Crisis! He leapt excitedly to the floor and dashed into the hall, hoping to get a sense of the problem. Ethtillith was up. Rajiv wasn’t, disappointingly, but Selniath was there at least. Selniath liked him, so he’d get some answers. “What’s happening?”

“We’ve lost the comm. signal. Nothing to worry about”.

“Is that important?”

Selniath’s reply was cut short by a commotion in the doorway, as several of the Starfleet humans ran past into the depths of the keep. “They need to borrow some tools” said Selniath, in response to Thaylak’s eager, questioning eyes. He felt his excitement growing. A crisis! Okay, that wasn’t actually a good thing - of course not, something might be really wrong - but maybe he was going to get something out of this “vital work” after all. Maybe the network’s down and only we can save it! We might get ours working and stop a message getting lost or delayed! It was worth waiting for, and he settled happily into a corner to watch.

Thaylak stayed there for two and a half hours, despite frequent reminders from a distracted Ethtillith that he should be in bed. Eventually, though, as nothing interesting continued to happen, save for a few further tool-runs from the humans, he felt his excitement drop off in favour of a dull tiredness. He made another valiant effort to pay attention, before giving up and slinking back to his room, slumping back into bed. In the morning, he eagerly rushed back to the hall to check on the situation, but things were disappointingly quiet. Everything was apparently running smoothly again.

That was pretty much it for the communications blackout. It wasn’t a real crisis and it didn’t have any actual impact on fleet operations, besides a rather testy call from some local power coordinator that morning and a few revisions to the network. Fralk may have used a swear word, too, or at least Rel insisted it was a swear word; it might have been someone’s name.

.............
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Old November 23 2010, 12:06 AM   #4
Deranged Nasat
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Re: November Challenge: Vital Work.

After two weeks of disappointment, Thaylak began to think. He needed to forget about Starfleet and find something else to do, or he’d just be hanging around near their worksite again, waiting for something he knew wasn’t coming. He decided to go and see Rajiv, the village’s only alien, because he’d been neglecting him recently. Thaylak usually visited regularly (at first, of course, to see the alien; later, because he liked Rajiv and the old man liked him). Today, Thaylak wanted to talk about himself, but Rajiv was talking about Ellis. Usually the human was a good listener - and he liked Thaylak very much - but Ellis was a big thing nowadays. Ellis was older than Thaylak; he knew her of course (it wasn’t a big village) but he didn’t spend any time with her, or consider her a friend. She was clever, though. And apparently about to leave.

“Ellis is leaving?”

“She might be. She’s trying to get into the Federated Schooling Exchange program”.

Wow. He knew Ellis was smart, but you had to be really smart to get into that.

He knew people came and went, of course. It wasn’t like they were one of those weird villages that shut themselves off and never dealt with the world. People moved down into the cities. Sometimes people moved up, and joined them. They weren’t Aenar or anything. Still, it was a strange thought, leaving. Strange and enticing. He wondered if he would leave when he reached Ellis’ age. He said as much now, hoping Rajiv would have something interesting to say in reply.

“That’s one way to go, yes, but you should really think about staying, too” said Rajiv, in a voice that Thaylak knew was hopeful, “you could easily help out for one of us here, help me with my maps...”

Rajiv was good with maps, but they weren’t the interesting kind. They were some sort of study on rocks.

“I don’t know if I want to leave; I might do that”.

“Well” said the human, eyes lighting up, “there’s a lot of interesting things you could do. Take me, then, for example, I might need someone to help me take the more precise measurements in the harder-to-reach places. I’m not as agile as I used to be, and we can’t afford a probe. You could be very useful, and it’s good, outdoor work, could be quite exciting...” He launched into a rather lengthy description, as if he’d been practicing. Thaylak listened for a while, enjoying the human’s meandering speech, before noticing it was almost time for Evening meal. Rajiv seemed somewhat surprised when he said so, but shook it off and told Thaylak he’d see him again soon. On the way out the door, Thaylak was reminded again of the wonders of local cartography. There were plenty of books he could read on the subject, “if he was interested”. Thaylak decided he was. He knew Rajiv would help; the human always had good ideas. Tonight, rather than think about Starfleet, he’d look up some of those map-books.

The night itself, however, seemingly had other plans. As soon as the food arrived, it became obvious Torhf was in one of his sly moods. The nonsense began when Methrisil offered a casual thanks to Uzaveh. With the slightest twitch of the left antenna, Torhf indicated in her direction, before emitting an overblown snort. Taking care not to look at Ethtillith (who, obviously, was the real target of the coming storm), Torhf made the opening declaration of his latest assault: “Uzaveh? Uzaveh’s just a story. Ha!” Not his finest or most sophisticated provocation, but it got the job done: Ethtillith’s eyes darted upward, locking onto him. She had warned him of this behaviour before. Torhf’s antenna twitched again; he was monitoring. Now the game was truly on. “No Uzaveh here, is there? The farms brought us that food. Didn’t see no Uzaveh do it”. Methrisil looked scandalized, and Zharithzar cleared his throat loudly. Now he would get in on the performance, Torhf having made the opening move. Thaylak’s eyes rolled at the stupidity. And Thelset said he was the predictable one! If he was, he had just caught it off the others. Suddenly eager to get away- somewhere that isn’t predictable and dull – Thaylak cast around for an exit. As the Guardians would have it, he wasn’t the only one eager for a way out. Selniath caught his eye briefly, evidently noted something in there, and then made an announcement. He would like to excuse himself so as to take a drive down-valley, deliver some supplies for his company. It would be a quick journey down into Thrortran’s Urn. Would Thaylak like to accompany him?

On the way out, Thaylak was suddenly conscious that it had been a long time since he had left the village. He was now doubly glad for Sel’s invitation. This was how you found something interesting, not through hanging around getting worked up over Starfleet. Stupid communications relay. It’s just talking. As they drove down, he asked Selniath what his company actually did.

“We supply an offworld shipping concern with locally-registered trade beacons, they’re actually based on Tellar, but the cargo runs take them through Alrond...”

Offworlders. Funny how they seemed to be everywhere now. But they’d always been here, hadn’t they? Selniath and others had worked for them. Thaylak suddenly had the suspicion that there was obviously a lot he was missing, especially if he could get himself so worked up over one stupid bunch of Starfleeters. This must be how little kids looked to older kids all the time. Vital work.... He almost snorted, though there was more amusement in it than anger.

“What are you laughing about?”

Suddenly conscious he was snorting to himself like a drunken Tellarite (he’d seen one of those once, too), Thaylak blushed. Trying to come up with a good response, he found himself tugged towards a question. The more he considered it, the more he had the odd, creeping feeling he needed to ask it.

“Sel? The next time you make the trip to Alrond, do you think I could come?”

“Ah, well -”, the thaan began, which Thaylak immediately translated as “no”.


2377

The Federation won the war, of course, though it was close, apparently. Thaylak had tried not to let it worry him; as it was, he had too much studying to let it occupy his mind for long. Ellis made it offworld after all, winning a placement in some Vulcan academy for gifted “underprivileged” youth. He found he missed her, surprisingly. He didn’t think he’d notice she wasn’t there. Before too long she wasn’t the only missing face at communal meals; old Zharithzar passed on in the spring of ‘76, presumably out of some combination of age and spite. Torhf was more subdued after that.

Thaylak was no bundle of excitement himself, surprisingly. Work and the necessities of close study had hit him hard after a few years. His shelthreth would be coming in a fiveyear; as a prelude to the union, he’d been informed of his genetic screening tests and his chosen bondmates. He’d found that two of them were on track to one of the top Skills Institutes. It meant, if he wanted to make an impression, he’d have to play catch up. Then, after the shelthreth ceremony, he’d see to getting a job somewhere, preferably outside the village. Rajiv was disappointed. That was no surprise, really; Thaylak had worked out some time ago that the old human would never be anything but disappointed, wherever Thaylak went. Anywhere but as Rajiv’s own apprentice, if he was being honest. The old man had liked him a lot. He supposed once he would’ve felt guilty, crushing the human’s dreams like that, but now, that was too bad. Rajiv should’ve had a kid. The cartographer would have to work it out himself; Thaylak hoped he could.

The night the Jashearl came, he was working on a minor utilities construction site half way between his village and the next. It was a bit of credit and general experience in addition to his studies, an opportunity to expand his horizons beyond the village (really, he’d had no idea they were so dependent. He’d always assumed they were nearly self sufficient). He wasn’t particularly enjoying himself tonight, largely due to the presence of Urt. Urt, the Tellarite “philosopher”, was the only offworlder, and he simply didn’t gel with the group. With the exception of Tohrf’s deliberate provocations, Thaylak had never met anyone so pointlessly aggressive. Tonight he was on about some book.

“I think you fail to comprehend quite what I’m saying. This is a masterful portrayal of the Dri Shilik Nala. The cornerstone of Darkening philosophy has never been so skilfully woven into rhetorical prose without succumbing to--”

“Oh for Flood’s sake, shut up Urt”.

At the fellow worker’s exclamation, Urt‘s face clouded, and he marched off, muttering. Thaylak smirked, then thought better of it because he felt bad for him. I do feel bad for him. Really. Because his conscience was eying him gravely, obviously unconvinced, he got up and stretched. Hoping to find another way to offset his guilt - which would fade soon, because, let’s face it, no-one can stand Urt - he glanced around for another spectacle to hold his attention. There were several ships clustered around the perimeter - small cargo craft bringing the site its equipment - including one that looked like it might be spaceworthy. Yes, some insectoid - a Nasat, he believed, - was arguing with a human colleague by its cargo lifter. Offworlders. Again.

“If we didn’t need to stop off for your damn side-jobs, on wherever this is...”

“Andor”.

“You know, I’ve never been...”

“You’re there now, you moron”.

“I mean before now”.

For some reason the exchange angered him, and that in turn left him somewhat confused. He hadn’t realized he was this frustrated. Was it just Urt or the whole general situation? He didn’t know, but he could tell he was settling into a bad mood. No, he was lying. He knew what it was. These people had found a life in space. They moved between worlds like it was nothing, but here they were on Andor and they acted just like the people in the village. They had an engine that could take them anywhere and they didn’t even appreciate it, instead they bickered over odd jobs running building equipment. What was the point in an opportunity if you don’t even notice it? Thaylak scowled, and returned to work in a dark frame of mind.

........
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Old November 23 2010, 12:06 AM   #5
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Re: November Challenge: Vital Work.

The rest of the evening was no better. The rains had set in and everyone was miserable. Well, Torhf was miserable - he hated rain - , and so that meant everyone had to be miserable. That was how Torhf apparently saw it, anyway. Thaylak had once actually enjoyed the rain, but Torhf had long ago ruined it. Dinner was a modest affair tonight, Kaziz sprouts mostly. Ethtillith had become concerned in recent months that they weren’t eating well, and had asked the kitchens to provide more nutritious fare. This hadn’t gone down well with everyone. In the weeks since, Torhf had initiated a subtle resistance movement against this mealtime tyranny. Subtle by Torhf’s standards, that was. Rather than offer obnoxious comments or start pointless arguments, he had instead chosen to undermine Ethtillith through exaggerated commitment to her policies. He had taken to leaving his Sugarnut pie prominently and supposedly unwanted on the side of the plate, evidently making sacrifice the core of his struggle. Thaylak was slightly proud of this more understated assault, although he wasn’t sure exactly how it was supposed to work. Ethtillith becomes consumed by guilt at Torhf’s noble suffering? So far no such development was in evidence. Usually, Rel took the martyred pie instead. He’d gotten greedy, Rel.

Excusing himself early, Thaylak felt the need to walk. He didn’t have a destination in mind; just walking helped. He supposed all that energy he’d absorbed in his younger years needed an outlet, now it couldn’t be released through random bouncing. He walked for a long time, down past the work site and far outside the village boundaries. As he went, he smouldered. He wanted to think, but something in him wouldn’t permit it now. Instead his mind just lurked there, angry, as though daring the world to do something wrong and justify its dark outlook. Soon he reached the outcrop before the crossroads, and really, although he wanted to keep going, he supposed he should turn back. By this point, he’d gone far enough that while he wasn’t tired now, if he went much further he would be before he reached home. This didn’t help his mood any. The ice flats, he decided, would make a good “turning point”. They weren’t much further ahead, and he never really liked crossing them anyway. He rounded a final bend, walked out onto the ice and was confronted by a most unexpected sight.

Uzaveh. It was a crash. An honest-to-Uzaveh ship crash. Right in front of him. A small, metallic black ship was smouldering quietly and Thaylak had absolutely no idea what to do. He stood there, frozen.

Flood. Flood flood flood.

Had no one seen it come down? Worse, there appeared to be movement, right there, like something alive in the wreckage; was there someone in there? Well, yes, idiot. Ships don’t fly themselves!

Flood, what do I do?

Somewhat panicky, he ran across to the craft, wincing as he came closer and was confronted by foul-smelling smoke. He didn’t even know what the ship was, it didn’t look Andorian or like anything else he’d seen. And it wasn’t, there was an alien – never seen it before, what is it? - and it looked hurt. Maybe badly. Crap!

As he knelt down next to it - a strange, shadow like spider-thing, it turned on him with deep black eyes, incomprehensible. It must need help. “Okay, it’s okay....flood....er, just, hold on!” Was there a translator on its person?

The creature - alien, it’s not a “creature”, - reached out its leg. Thaylak nearly recoiled at it, but no, the crea--the alien was seeking comfort; he let it grasp his arm. Nothing else happened. It took Thaylak several seconds to realize the being was simply following instructions.

“No, hold on means you...you try not to die, right?”

The alien made no sign of having understood, but at least it seemed the translator was intact. Okay. Okay, there was a crash, yes? This had to be a flight route. Some other ship would pass over soon, and he’d - he’d wave or something. No, they’d see the wreckage. They’d have to report it at least. He just had to stay with the alien. Or should I run back home for help? Crap, I don’t know what to do! The leg touching his recoiled suddenly, jolting his mind back to his charge. The alien unfurled something else, some sort of feelers from beneath its snout, twitching. Antennae? The thought was comforting. It was always a relief when aliens worked normally, even if they were black rather than blue. As he looked closer, he saw the organs were more akin to whiskers, like on a brook-fish. And – he was horrified to realize the being had been doing this for long seconds without him catching on – they were pointing at something. Something in the ice, blown clear in the crash. Oh. Oh, sorry. The being tried once more to indicate, before collapsing, clearly too badly hurt to keep up. Crap. Needing to do something and knowing nothing about medicine, Thaylak rushed to where the alien was pointing.

It was an egg-shaped device, black like the alien and strangely textured. Thaylak picked it up. And nearly dropped it in shock; it was throbbing under his hands, almost as though it were breathing. For a horrible moment he thought he’d picked up an animal of some sort, but as he stared, tense, he realized it was some sort of power cell. But for what? His antennae were picking up strange energy fields, something contained within the casing, almost like someone was trapped inside it. There was nothing like a mind, though. Just the energy. Thaylak was stumped. The alien had wanted this thing, it was obviously important. Why? It was throbbing....alive, but not a mind, just some sort of energy...and then it clicked. A medical device! This thing was some sort of portable life-support battery! Uzaveh, he could actually do something! He rushed back to his charge, and, provoking another minor panic only slightly controlled by what he’d discovered, found the alien unconscious. Still breathing; those were lungs (he hoped) moving its torso. Fumbling with the device, he saw it was obviously – yes, of course! - supposed to fit with the alien’s biology. Those slots on the shoulders, these string things on the device, they went together...

It took him some time, during which he battled several episodes of pure angry desperation which proved nothing but counterproductive, but eventually he was able to connect it all up properly. After several seconds, and to his tremendous relief, the throbbing of the device shifted in frequency, and the being stirred as something - energy, life - was transferred over. Yes! A portable life support system! How clever! Thaylak stepped back, hopeful. The alien was still unconscious, but it was breathing more stably and overall seemed...he didn’t know, just healthier. Not out of danger, but it appeared the being would last until proper help arrived. He was about to make a run back to the village, when the welcome roar of engines announced another arrival, provoking a second burst of pure relief. A ship!

The cargo shuttle, slightly larger than the tiny alien craft, settled gently into the snow next to them. It was the Nasat from earlier that evening. As soon as the alien emerged, blinking in evident confusion (or was it shock?) Thaylak waved his arm and called out.

“I need help here! I mean, this alien needs help!”

“Yeah, I can see that. How the Floor did this happen?”

“I don’t know!”

“Okay, okay, don’t worry. Help will be here soon, right? I just called ‘em.”

“You called the Mountain Rescue?”

“Nah, Starfleet”.

“You’re with Starfleet?!”

The Nasat tinkled, which Thaylak guessed meant laughter. “With them? Wear a combadge and crawl around on some stiff-stick Admiral’s orders all day? Not probable. Independent cargo and transfer service. Got a beacon, though. All Federation registered craft do, and mine’s working just fine. Made the right modifications, done a Citoac and buzzed ‘em. Starfleet I mean”

This beacon, it seemed, would bring in professional help - or, at least, could easily be configured to emit a distress call. Starfleet’s orbiting station, once the message got through the atmosphere and reached them, would beam down a rescue team faster than anyone else could. In the meantime, and checking to ensure the fallen alien was still breathing (it was, and stably), Thaylak tried to calm himself down. The worst was over; he’d done his part. He talked to the Nasat, distracting himself by asking simple questions; what was the insectoid’s name?

“C6 Yellow. Among the humans I’m Sea-Sick. Ha ha!”

“Sure...”

A Starfleet response team arrived within minutes, having been alerted by Sea-Sick’s beacon. Certainly the Nasat took the lead in giving details, despite having gotten there himself considerably late in the affair. Thaylak hoped to be useful, but really he wasn’t. The ‘Fleeters, led by a stern Tellarite woman in captain’s insignia, worked with professional speed to secure the crash site. So too did they work on the alien, moving it carefully onto a portable biobed/stretcher-thing (Thaylak didn’t know what it was but it was clearly helping). Thaylak himself wound up nowhere near it. Instead he was occupied giving a statement to two humans he could tell, even though the species barrier, would much have preferred working on the crash.

Towards the Deepening, there was some commotion from the alien. It had awoken and seemed agitated. It was searching for something, imploring. A search was organized for the desired item, and they swiftly found it. It was the life support device Thaylak had used to stabilize the alien. As soon as it was presented with the casing, the crash victim began stroking it with those odd feelers, once, twice. Desperate. Whatever it was trying to do, it wasn’t working. The alien, strangely, seemed to fall apart, collapsing back onto its bed. Over the translator, Thaylak caught a mention of the phrase “egg sack”.

It started slowly, creeping up through his body before his conscious mind truly registered it. And then it blossomed out, filling up his entire being. An all-consuming, sickening guilt.
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Old November 23 2010, 12:07 AM   #6
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Re: November Challenge: Vital Work.

2381

Claudia Haywood fiddled with her stylus. She faced a mountain of paperwork, and it was, she reflected, the Borg’s fault. If the Borg hadn’t invaded, bringing with them death and destruction the likes of which the federated worlds had never seen, she wouldn’t be here in the Jashearl capital. In the months since the invasion, the Federation had needed every resource it could get its hands on. Minor allies and new contactees had been flooded with requests for aid, often to the degree that they were overwhelmed. Some backed off, frightened by the desperate manner of the UFP emissaries (usually the Federation would never come on so recklessly, but that was back when they still had Deneva). Others were more responsive, seeing the opportunities for increased status in a changing galaxy. Among this latter group were the Jashearl. Since initial contact during the fallout of a civilian scout’s crash at Andor, relations had been stabilized to the degree that their ruling Mothers were receptive to alliance. So here they were. Here she was. Ambassador to the Jashearl Civility. Drowning in paperwork.

.................

He gotten used to the air. He’d been on the Jashearl planet for several weeks, and it was still too dry, too hot. It hurt to be there.

After the crash, Thaylak had tried to get on with his life. What else was there to do? He’d thrown himself back into his studies, becoming ever more committed. It paid off too, when it came to results. And when, at night, the events of that evening played on his mind he tried to reason with himself. It hadn’t been his fault. Flood, she could have more eggs, right? And obviously the eggs were meant to do that if the mother was hurt, it was something natural. But what if she wasn’t going to die? Starfleet would’ve saved her, and then the egg would be okay too. Whatever the right choice, he hadn’t made it, and whatever he reasoned he couldn’t escape the simple fact: he had killed that egg.

He hadn’t told anyone, and if the alien knew what had happened – she had to, surely? - it hadn’t made a point of it. At first he thought he’d be arrested or something, but the being apparently recovered from its wounds and left and nothing came his way. He had mentioned a medical device in his statement, but no-one seemed to know that it and the egg were the same thing. Had the being covered for him? – that made no sense, surely? Maybe it just didn’t care anymore. With that, Thaylak thought he could sympathise. Eventually, he decided to get away. The village was too small for him now and he couldn’t wait around anymore. Initially he’d thought he’d head for a city down-valley, but then Sea-Sick, who stuck around for the Federation investigation into the crash – new species, first contact, etc – had offered him a small job with his shipping line. Thaylak wondered if the Nasat somehow had an inkling of what had happened, though he didn’t know how. He’d kept a tight check on himself. Either way, the strange alien had taken enough interest to offer Thaylak an opportunity, and he’d taken it.

Maybe he’d just wanted to escape the ice and its memories (and he refused to make them truly his; they belonged to that ice now and he’d never go back for them). Some of the elders flatly refused to let him leave (how they’d stop him he had no clue). Ethtillith supported him, though; it was important for young people to leave - as in really leave the village - and no, Ellis wasn’t enough, they needed more than one, thank you. Falsin, a particularly unyielding opponent, thought he had a winning argument when he brought up the shelthreth, but Ethtillith told him, with a somewhat uncharacteristic withering tone, that if he thought she hadn’t remembered that, he was going senile. Thaylak could still return for the rituals just fine – he wasn’t on some deep space cruise; besides, he was chan, the sex traditionally least involved in child rearing. If he wanted to earn the family an income in space, it was doubtful the clans involved would stand against him. So he went. It was a life, he supposed. Not the finest, but it kept him occupied and he didn’t have to think too much.

Then the Borg came. He wasn’t directly affected, but that didn’t mean much. In the invasion, the entire quadrant was shattered. Once the chaos and terror was over - well, the former was over, he supposed, the latter would probably never truly go away, not after this - he started thinking things through again. He’d tried to deny it, but he was running away from his life, from living. That couldn’t continue, not now. The Federation, after all, had gotten a second chance; perhaps he should try for something similar. He wasn’t the Borg. They could only offer death; maybe he could do what they couldn’t – make it balance by giving new life. Make it make sense again. In all this wreckage, there was much life that needed seeding.

He’d be returning for the shelthreth of course, and there was new life there, but that was scheduled for two years time and he needed to help now. The Allied Aid Initiative program was set up to provide the damaged worlds with a lifeline, to reach out to newly contacted species and (essentially) beg for help. It was a chance to help rebuild Andor and reaffirm ties to its neighbours, to make home and other work in concert again. There was one world in particular Thaylak was drawn to. The alien from the icefield was Jashearl. It was the necessary choice.

...........

He actually found her. He’d tried to convince himself early he wasn’t looking, but of course he was. Eventually he gave in and looked her up. She was the first contact; naturally she was on record. In the ultimate of ironies, she was headed to Andor, for the counterpart mission. Although given her personal history - what she lost there - maybe it wasn’t irony at all.

He had to be there when they left, just to see her. She didn’t look different, but then he couldn’t read the Jashearl, not yet. He knew enough to identify her among the crowd - those spikes on their abdomen, they’re different for each one – but she was still just a black shadow, as strange to him as she had been the first time. Black eyes, too, those deep, ambiguous eyes shared by all Jashearl. There could never be smiles in those eyes, and in this case he thought it crushingly appropriate. It took him several seconds, but he finally realized, in a moment that knocked the breath out of him, that she still had the egg casing. She was carrying it on a pouch slung to her torso. At first he was horrified, hit by a wave of pure guilt that struck like a punch in the stomach, but then he secured himself, stabilized. Don’t be melodramatic, not now. For all you know that’s normal in these situations. He sneered at himself, mostly to distract him from his churning gut. A “situation”. What a terrible way to describe her loss! Still, there might be some cultural reason why she’d have it, more than just a personal comfort. He felt himself becoming alarmingly agitated, almost distraught. Why would she still carry it?

There was an inscription on it, tattooed somehow. A label? He didn’t remember that, but he wasn’t sure it was new, either. They were definitely Jashearl glyphs. The translator could read those now; he quickly pulled out his AAI comm.-chip and took a scan. At the very least it might offer him a clue – why does she still have it?! After a moment, the translation program told him; “Helkash”.

He stood there for a long time, pondering.

...................

“Claudia?”

“Hmmm?”

“You’re the expert on the Jashearl”.

“So they tell me”.

“I need to know something, about their reproduction. I can’t find it in the diplomatic files”.

She looked at him. His eyes - always so hard and unyielding, like stones - were alive with fire. Evidently he was deeply concerned with something. She sighed inwardly. Whatever pressing intellectual mission he was on, she hoped it wouldn’t complicate matters.

“Yes?”

“Their egg sacks. The ones they carry and nurture. They have a transferrable energy, like a yoke in an egg, it stimulates the growth of the...the baby, gives them the energy...”

“Yes. I don’t fully understand it. I think the father provides the, the “energy”. In times of famine, the mother can sort of “absorb” it, like some beings naturally abort a foetus if the mother’s too weak. In fact I --”

“Yes. Absorb it. But they can still carry them? When they’re drained. Even name them or something?”

She gave him an odd look. “They can restart the incubation process at a later date”.

He nearly shot out of his chair. “They can?!!”

“Yes. They don’t really die when the “yoke’s” transferred, they just stop growing. I don’t know...suspended development, or something. Look, I’m not a scientist, ask the medical people”.

“But why would they wait? Why not do it right away?”

She told him the specifics. He got a funny look after that, and soon left.

Back to paperwork.
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Old November 23 2010, 12:07 AM   #7
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Re: November Challenge: Vital Work.

It was a long trip back to Andor. The transport’s passenger compartment was crowded, and he wasn’t in the mood to share his space with anyone. He wanted time alone. Eventually, Thaylak could stand it no longer. He murmured some excuse about needing to find a ‘fresher (they all knew there was one just outside) and left the compartment. The ship was small, and didn’t offer much room for walking, so he settled for a sitting position in a transport booth. No distractions for his thoughts here. He tried to think about his upcoming plan, but if anything was too excited to do so. It shouldn’t be too difficult. He wasn’t sure it would work (they just didn’t know enough about Jashearl), but he’d try. He was almost giddy.

There was sudden movement, and he was joined by another, who seemed surprised to find him there. It was, of all people, the Nasat, C6 Yellow. So much for no distractions. Thaylak yelped (or snapped; he must have sounded irked): “What the Flood are you doing here?!” This was slightly unnerving.

“Hello. Just searching for a little spot to curl up in, go over my inventory...”

“I meant on the ship”.

Sea-Sick blinked at him. “Business back on Andor”.

Of course. He’s not here for you, idiot. He barely knows you. Not everything’s about you.

“Quite a coincidence, then?”

“Ha. There’s a saying among Nasats...” He paused. “Never liked Nasats really, excepting myself of course! Bunch of tremulous grubs, really. But they have their moments, when they stop quivering. One thing they say: “Meeting someone is a mistake; one you’ll inevitably repeat”. Get it? Of course, it sounds nicer in our own language, not this Basic blabber...”

“How does it sound in your language?”

“Ha! I’ll turn off the translator”.

“I didn’t know you could...”

The Nasat tinkled, and pulled a mechanical device from a pouch on his sash. It was blinking with orange lights but was otherwise unimpressive. It also looked far too nondescript to be completely legal, as though there should have been logos which had since been pulled off. Sea-Sick waved it proudly. “Disrupts the translator matrix. Useful if you’re trying not to be understood – ha! Listen”. He threw a switch on it and then opened his mouth. A string of oddly soothing noises emerged. It sounded like bells, clear and fresh. Or like birdsong in the mountains. Something that spoke of renewal, of life. Sea-Sick snapped the switch back.

Thaylak considered the Nasat for a few seconds.

“You’re not supposed to have that device, are you?”

The Nasat tinkled again. “Floor, no!”

Their antennae twitched - Andorian and Nasat in strange combination - and they both left. Thaylak returned to the passenger compartment, having nowhere else to go. He wasn’t in the mood for interruptions, and evidently he wasn’t the only one who wandered. Best to just take his seat and rest. Wandering, he thought darkly, wasn’t an answer to anything. He realized he was growing bitter, and checked his mood. This was a time for joy. He was going to bring life where it wasn’t – where it had once been taken, taken by him. This was redemption. He took a deep breath, trying to calm his rising excitement. He was here, he was doing this. Better make sure he had everything he needed.

Sitting down, he decided to check his credit chip. It took him several minutes of rooting around before he realized Sea-Sick had taken it. He sighed.

...............................

It was cold on Andor, thank Uzaveh. Too cold for Jashearl, though. He found her back in his home mountains, no surprise. The Jashearl embassy was in Eshrilith City, not particularly nearby, but she had evidently found the ice fields regardless. This was the right part too, just as the village road turned into them. She was obviously trying to find the general area, in remembrance. Or maybe it was the exact spot. Those feelers were pretty impressive when it came to sensing. How long had she stood there? How many times had she come? Nothing he’d read on their culture had suggested an answer. This wasn’t a ritual, then; it was just her.

She had the egg sack with her. Helkash, was its name. Or would have been. Would be.

Did she recognise him? How could she? She had been delirious, he an adolescent.

As he approached, she turned to greet him, but without words. She just stared, big black eyes unfathomable, like shadows without anyone to cast them. She made no further move. Waiting for him to leave?

For a long time, he stood there. He tried to talk. Eventually, and as the long silence burrowed into him, churning up memories, he found the courage – or the sheer power of need - to explain. He didn’t even remember most of it, afterwards. He honestly thought he might have forgotten she was there. Blocked her from his mind, most probably, or he couldn’t have bore the shame. But he told her. At least those bits she didn’t already know. What he was expecting he had no idea. Maybe that she’d attack him. Maybe that she’d turn and run, unable to face him. He wouldn’t blame her for that. Instead she just continued to stand there, deep black eyes staring back, unnerving.

Slowly, the inscrutable alien reached out a feeler. Thaylak didn’t move, letting it find a handle on his face, pressing to his temple. There was a brief sense of pressure, and he understood. Its father had given most of himself, and hadn’t enough left to renew it. Who else would offer? She would not ask it. But that was alright, because he’d willingly give it.

He heard her then, in his thoughts. He didn’t think it was telepathic, not truly. Something on a lower level, he couldn’t quite describe it. Alien, he supposed. The “voice” was painful - deeply so - and yet soothingly peaceful. She was a kind soul.

You did nothing wrong.

It was hard for her to understand this, but intellectually she knew it, and, painful as it was, she accepted it. Not knowing if she’d even hear, he replied -

Not intentionally.

This had been harder. His eyes filled with tears. I’m so sorry.

She wanted to know his name. He didn’t even know if sounds would transmit this way, but he tried. She was owed that.

Thaylak.

There wasn’t much to do after this. He placed his hands on the casing; she showed him how. It wasn’t the natural way, but the eggs were versatile things. They could make it work, if he truly committed himself. Life was life, and there was enough overlap to make a conversion. Her feelers found his antennae, and in the similarity of the neural sensors, the match was made. Biology was a wonderful thing, really. The process didn’t take too long, and besides feeling kind of sleepy, Thaylak didn’t feel much in the way of side-effects. He thought of the village instead, and the times he’d spent there. And there was Thelset and Ethtillith, and Rel and Rajiv of course, but how close did he really feel to any of them? Who else was there? His bondmates whom he never saw and hadn’t chosen, his long-dead parents he’d never paid much thought to, a multitude of faces and he hadn’t touched a one. He had a life in there, somewhere. But he had lost track of it some time ago, if he’d ever found a sense of it to begin with. And it wasn’t really his life anymore.

He was done.

He pulled away. He didn’t feel different. Slightly drained, he supposed, but not different like he was sure you were meant to. For a moment he was scared it didn’t work, but one look at the Jashearl confirmed it had. Black eyes like shadows became open to him. There was something else there besides darkness. Acceptance. Gratitude. He supposed that was enough. The egg-sack was throbbing now, like it was the first time. It wasn’t guaranteed an easy hatch, not after this long, but it should begin the process anew. The stalled seed of Jashearl would live. Helkash. He wondered what it meant.

Her eyes stared back at him still. Alien again. Incomprehensible, an endless well of dark. Closed. He felt a lump in his throat, and stood up. There was nothing more to say. Or, more likely, there was - but he had never been good at saying anything. Had he ever truly talked to anyone? He bowed, not knowing if she even understood the gesture. She dropped her feelers in that way they had; she’d understood.

He walked away with tears in his eyes.

.........................

He made it back to the village for Spring Festival. Most of the old crowd were still around, of course. Rel and Thelset were there, at least. He bowed politely to Thelset; she inclined her head in acknowledgement. She was preparing for a minor job in an embassy somewhere, a good starting position but really, she could have looked happier. He considered her, and all the locals, as he walked between the houses and Festival stalls. It was a reasonably nice day, and it was good to breathe in the air of home again. Really, he spent too much time in space. Maybe after his shelthreth duty was done he’d come back permanently, spend his remaining years here. He had to respect every minute now, and he should start living again as soon as possible. He passed a few familiar faces and acknowledged them with commendable cheer. Didn’t Falsharin have a shei now? Maybe he should go see her. He’d see old Rajiv while he was here, of course. The human didn’t have too long left, really. Thaylak thought it best not to mention that neither did he, now. Rajiv had always loved him.

By the estimations he’d made - and, admittedly, these were uncertain, there wasn’t exactly precedent for Andorians - he had six or seven, maybe eight years. Time enough to live a life, if he really put some effort into it this time. And he would live it free of his own disgrace.

As he arrived at the communal hall, he found Rel had matched his speed, for his old friend was waiting outside. He approached Thaylak excitedly. “So, you managed to show up again, after all! Good to see you, good to see you. Look, I don’t want to make a scene, okay, so you just meet me for a drink this evening, yes? I have to go find that old fool Torhf, he still has my communicator...” Thinking about it now, Rel had become a bit obnoxious. Hopefully his bondmates were patient, forgiving types; they might have to put up with it for a long time. Thelset was there too, stepping out from behind Rel, smiling in a teasing fashion. “I hear you were out on the ice fields a couple of days ago. Wasting time again?”

“I was out there”.

“And what were you doing out there?” she prodded. “Vital work?”

Oh, she had to mock. He almost considered being sarcastic, before deciding he couldn’t be bothered. He simply offered her a smile. She might understand one day, if he wanted her too. It was his choice, after all. And if they didn’t understand, that was hardly their fault. She - and Rel, and old Torhf over there moaning to some newcomer, and the rest - they were what they were. He’d just have to live with that. For as long as he could.

He nodded. “Vital work.”

He went to check on Rajiv.

...............

The Thaylak launched in 2390, toward the end of the Andorian year. It was a minor affair, an official but semi-memorable “event”; the first flight by a Jashearl craft built on Andor’s soil. A benchmark for a growing political and economic alliance, one of a string of minor partnerships sprung from the rebuilding efforts. The ambassadors showed up, a few local politicians (or more often their aids representing them), and just a few spectators. The ship made its first flight as planned, lifting off the ground smoothly to polite applause. Rising steadily, it swung into flight position, then kicked in its secondary engines and shot through the clouds.

Helkash watched it, bittersweet.
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Last edited by Deranged Nasat; November 23 2010 at 01:06 AM.
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Old November 23 2010, 01:33 AM   #8
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Re: November Challenge: Vital Work.

Just read, firstly the writing is very good, there is a real authentically in the characterisation and the dialog and the premise is interesting.

The question I have is what is the redemption being sought? Maybe its me being a incompetent reader but I don't immediately see it, perhaps after several more readings.

I have to confess something and I hope that you don't take this negatively, but the story did not grab my attention however this could be because I'm such a big Cardassian/Romulan fan that I did not see the true brilliance of what you where going for here. For which I apologize.
(also for mangling the English language so grotesquely in the above paragraph.)

Like I said I shall give it some more readings before I make a truly informed decision.

Bloody good show though
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Old November 23 2010, 04:19 AM   #9
Deranged Nasat
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Re: November Challenge: Vital Work.

Thanks for reading it.

Thor Damar wrote: View Post
The question I have is what is the redemption being sought? Maybe its me being a incompetent reader but I don't immediately see it, perhaps after several more readings.
I'm actually really glad you said that, because I was hoping to try a different "take" on the whole idea of "redemption". I mean, the obvious thing to go for is some sort of big event with major consequences that is then atoned for by the character (Like Thaylak and the egg). But, the tendency to make redemption focus around some meaningful event overloooks that the desire - the need - for redemption doesn't have to work on a being after some sort of major mistake or crime. It can be found in the minds of those who objectively don't need to redeem themselves at all. What I was trying to do here - with the story being really about the character's life, not about the event he thinks is driving his need for atonement - is show that his underlying need for redemption was something more low-key, a lack of a sense of purpose or meaning and so of worth to his life, almost a mundane sense of guilt and waste. You might call it a psychological illness, but I wouldn't go that far. Some people are just like that (which itself was the point behind the Nasat character- he's someone with a similiar aimless, in his own eyes potentially "meaningless" life who is perfectly fine with it. Some people just make it work, no problem, others don't. And my young Andorian was supposed to be one of those people who don't).

Thaylak's using the egg incident (in part at least) as a vehicle for what is actually something more complex, deeper and less extreme. His guilt over the incident and ultimately successful ability to find a redemption for that mistake is really - though he doesn't see it - a means of dealing with the low-burning sense of waste and lack of purpose in his life. That's what really needs "redeeming" in his subconscious appraisal - his life. And by the end he's rather happy with his newly martyred status because he's thrown off that sense of general wastefulness by having done something meaningful with that life. His worthless life is redeemed! Yay! Of course, that's not supposed to be a happy ending because it's ridiculous that someone his age should feel that their life has not been meaningfully spent. But people do. He does. Really, he's thrown most of his future away for a good cause, in aid of another - which isn't to be sniffed at of course - but while he thinks he's redeeming himself for that one terrible mistake, really he's "redeeming" something he shouldn't have to, that doesn't need redeeimng. And that's what I was trying (perhaps rather pitifully) to do - play with redemption the need, and how it drives people rather than go for a big, meaningful "NOW I AM REDEEMED!" moment.

I suppose you might take from that that I was aiming for a sort for a wistful tragedy, but I doubt the story actually communicates any of what I'm saying here well. Then again, this is just my first. It's more an experiment than anything. Keep in mind, I'm not a writer (well, not of fiction). If I failed to communicate what I was trying to, I'm not too bothered about it; this is how I learn.

I suspect I was being WAY too ambitious with my theme for a first piece....


(PS: If I do one next time, I'll make it a nice Cardassian or Romulan piece for you, TD )
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Old November 23 2010, 05:54 AM   #10
Nerys Ghemor
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Re: November Challenge: Vital Work.

Hmm...it feels a lot like the feeling I used to get after reading books by authors like Faulkner or Marquez, or The Good Earth: very desolate and arid. I don't think "tragic" or "nihilistic" are the words I'm looking for, though (this is not Hemingway or Shakespeare in tone).

I really wish I could do a better job explaining.

That said, I really liked the moment when he found out that the egg could be "restarted" and simply born at a later time--that was like a light shining out in the middle of the darkness. Maybe in some weird way, it turned out to be a blessing, because the child won't remember the Dominion War or the Borg Invasion.

Same for the moment when the ship lifted off bearing Thaylak's name...honoring him, I think. I really wondered if the real Thaylak had any idea he'd been honored.
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Old November 23 2010, 08:23 AM   #11
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Re: November Challenge: Vital Work.

Wow. That was a really absorbing read. The effect you wanted to achieve, of presenting a life span of memories was achieved. I got caught up in Thaylak's life journey, beginning with his curiosity and suspicion of the 'fleeters, to his racing offworld in order to escape what he deemed a horrible offence without truly knowing the why and the what of what had happened, to his seeking redemption by giving up his life energy in order to help the eggs restart their development. It was an honourable and courageous act on his part. Yes, perhaps he did not have need to redeem himself, for he did not know nor could he know what he had done, however to himself he felt he needed to atone for what he had done. In that way it is very fitting.

However, I think this story is beyond even the challenge for the breadth of the scope you seek to cover. Firstly, in tracing part of the lifespan of Thaylak. Then in giving an insight to an aspect of Andorian culture. The way the village seemed to be remote and partially cut off from the wider universe by dent of its attitude and approach. We get a glimpse of this village life with its personalities clashing for authority and petty rivalries. All very interesting and really well conveyed. With a society that is obviously very complex considering the four genders, you gave a window into how complex and yet normal it might be. The Andorians are a fascinating species but so little is done to flesh them out and I love how you have managed to illuminate some through this tale of one Andorian. Likewise, we get insight into a totally new alien species, which is made to be very alien and different and of course weaved into the story so well. [Also the guest star of a Nasat - whom other than your avatar name I know nothing about but you made them sound interesting too]. In fact, considering the many other works out there covering Cardassians and Romulans I'd have to say this was all the fresher and more interesting for being new and different. Yet with even what it reveals about Andor it is not definitive, it's not a tour guide approach, simply the life of one individual. Bravo for that.

The scope also covered a span of momentous Federation history and it is funny how much about the wider Federation and Starfleet was unknown to this isolated Andorian clan. However, the sense of the span of history was conveyed in how the wider world was translated by Thaylak and his clan. From intrigued and seeking rumours about the wormhole and the war with the Dominion to the chaos, horror and terror of the Borg devastation ala the TrekLit universe. The sense of its impact only touched upon really here was very viable to me a reader who has not read any of those published works.

I know, all of the above is so very rambling. But I just wanted to say that I was very impressed by this tale. It was absorbing and very 'full'. For a second attempt and a first sharing, it is wow! This of course means that you must write and share more!
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Old November 23 2010, 01:57 PM   #12
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Re: November Challenge: Vital Work.

Very well done. You said you wanted to have a different take on the idea of redemption, and I believe you have done just that.

It's 5am here, and I haven't gone to sleep yet... So I won't say much right now. I will try to come back later though.
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Old November 29 2010, 01:01 AM   #13
Rush Limborg
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Re: November Challenge: Vital Work.

A very well-written tale. I agree, Nasat...while the story does take an unorthodox approach to the formula--still, in no way does that hurt it.

Frankly, it shares that element with my own tale, I think. By that, I mean...both our stories, rather than dealing with an actual tragedy and a character's recovery from that...it's more of an "internal" redemption. For my tale, it was Ezri's guilt over having, as far as she was concerned, driven someone so dear to her heart so very far away.

For Thaylak, it's his finding absolution and forgiveness, in that a burden is being lifted off his shoulders, a burden that was only there due to ignorance on his part--but a totally understandable ignorance.

In both instances, it's a kind of self-redemption. No one else is really affected...but it is because it is so personal that your tales speaks so powerfully as it does. My compliments.


BTW...what "war" concering the UFP are you referring to in the tale? Is it the Dominion war, or a "trade war" between SCE and private contractors, or...what?
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