Star Trek: Full Speed Ahead: "To Triumph and Not to Mourn" (TFV)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Zefram_Cochrane, Mar 8, 2013.

  1. Zefram_Cochrane

    Zefram_Cochrane First Faster Than Light Red Shirt

    Jan 17, 2008
    Silicon Valley, CA, USA
    (Cover Credits: Defiant-class mesh by Skye Dodds. Gallant textures by Steff Walker and Michael D. Garcia.
    Earth & Moon background by NASA [public domain]. Cover lettering by Michael D. Garcia. Task Force Vanguard logo by CeJay.)

    In this story that follows the popular crossover novel
    between Star Trek: Gibraltar and Star Trek: Full Speed
    Ahead, The Chains of Error, continues with the USS
    Gallant as it is dispatched on a mission deep within
    Romulan space!

    Stardate 54571.54: Nuhir t'Aimne risks everything to rescue
    her kin from being conscripted into the Rihannsu's most
    dangerous order, the Tal Priax. Carolyn Kircheis and the crew
    of Gallant are tasked with breaking into Romulan space and
    helping her escape with her family before they're discovered
    and the fragile alliance between the Federation and the
    Romulans is threatened.
  2. Zefram_Cochrane

    Zefram_Cochrane First Faster Than Light Red Shirt

    Jan 17, 2008
    Silicon Valley, CA, USA
    Star Trek: Full Speed Ahead
    Task Force Vanguard

    To Triumph and Not to Mourn
    by Michael D. Garcia & A. J. Gertner

    "In private, grief with careless scorn. In public, seem to triumph and not to mourn."
    -- John C. Granville​


    It was raining, the last thrashing of a storm which had soaked the coast for two days. Everyone walking about the city was hurrying in the same way; head down to avoid the puddles and not dallying in the streets. She was just another person trying to avoid the weather while going about her business. Neither her heavy cloak nor her boots nor any other piece of clothing betrayed her station. For all anyone could tell by a glance, she was just another employee on her way to her job.

    She ducked into the communications center, quickly pushing back her hood to shake off the water in the entryway and made her way over to a free terminal. The center wasn’t yet crowded since it was so early in the day. She chose a screen further in the back, one less likely to be glanced at by a neighbor, even though she had no intention of recording her message where someone could overhear it. She removed an isolinear dataslip from her pocket and inserted it, uploading the recording she had made in the privacy of her own quarters at the family home. Despite her purposeful movements, she hesitated once the transmission was ready to send. Her finger stilled over the button as her doubts came once again to the surface.

    If she did this, there was no turning back. There would be no forgiveness if she was caught. Even thinking about sending the message was not just treason, it was a violation of everything she had been taught to believe. Everything she still believed. Their greatest strengths were their honor and their loyalty, their unity in the face of enemies from without and within. Could she really betray that?

    She looked away from the screen and towards the entranceway. She could easily walk away right now. As of this moment, the only proof that she had done something wrong was in her own hands. She could simply wipe the chip and no one would be the wiser. She hadn’t even told her cousin about the exact nature of the plan. There could... no, there had to be another way. There was no need to turn to outsiders and no need to betray her most deeply held values.

    Just then, a man entered the center as she watched the doorway with a small child of about five or six by his side. The man's attention fully upon the rain, he pulled the child further away from the doorway with gentle command, pointing out how the water was nearly entering the shop itself. It took only moments for the child to grow more curious about the place they had entered then the power of the storm and she saw that the child was a little boy when he turned his face toward her. He was plain-looking but still retained the adorable nature of the very young, with bright brown eyes and shining black hair. Before she knew it, she found herself returning his own shy smile.

    In looking at him, she felt her resolve strengthen. There was no other way. The family was barely a generation removed from the last time they had been “honored.” When her uncle’s oldest son made a rare trip to visit the family, her elders always whispered that nothing remained of the young man who had left them years ago. Their efforts to protect him had failed, as much due to those who really did see his conscription as an honor as the ineffectiveness of the plan to hide him among the family’s vast estates. He was humorless now, a man who spoke only of his religious devotion and his duty to the state. Everything that had made him an individual was gone. The cousin who had gladly entertained her as a child with fantastical stories could barely carry on a conversation about his own siblings. They didn’t even know much about his own children beyond their names and the name of their mother. He had never even seen fit to introduce them to the family of his birth.

    There were two boys whose own smiles would be threatened by the “honor” which awaited them scant months from now. Two boys whose futures were in her hands, even if they did not know it themselves. Her expression faded as she turned back to the terminal. She had to protect her family from the enemies within and without. She was upholding her most sacred oaths, taken as she became an adult. Honor did not forbid this course of action, rather it demanded she save her family. These boys deserved nothing less than her best efforts at freeing them from a future without laughter.

    Decision made, she sent the message without any further delay. Once the transmission was confirmed, she erased any record of the message on the chip itself, then pocketed it once again. Despite the pounding of the storm, she pulled up her hood over her own black mane and paused at the threshold to give the little boy a smile, one whose mere presence had given her the courage to save her own family. When she ventured into the rain once more, her steps rang confidently on the well-watered streets.

    There were many travel arrangements to be made if she was to be at the rendezvous at the right time.
  3. Zefram_Cochrane

    Zefram_Cochrane First Faster Than Light Red Shirt

    Jan 17, 2008
    Silicon Valley, CA, USA
    Chapter One

    NCC-74429 (USS Gallant)
    Standard orbit over Luna.
    Captain's Ready Room
    Stardate 54571.54 (28 July 2377)

    Lieutenant Commander Carolyn Kircheis tugged on the right cuff of her dress uniform jacket as she used the smooth and reflective surface of the large, deactivated viewscreen to check her appearance. Her tug seemed to help fit the jacket just right, as it had a tendency to feel as though it were sliding to the left whenever she wore it. She lifted her head to address the computer, as her desktop terminal displayed text to inform her that it was recording her words for posterity.

    "Captain's log; stardate five-four-five-seven-one-point-five-four. We have arrived in orbit of Luna after just over eight weeks in transit from the Badlands. Our duty as part of Task Force Indemnity, under the command of Captain Donald Sandhurst and USS Gibraltar, has formally been concluded and we're awaiting our next assignment while enjoying a brief respite in the Sol Sector. Along with the transfer of our prisoner, Commander Jesse Kincaid, we also conveyed the remains of Commander Ariel Elannis to her family on the moon's surface below," she began. On the last word, she felt her throat constrict involuntarily.

    In a strained voice, she quickly ordered, "Computer, pause recording." As the computer chirped in the affirmative, she spun around to place her hands atop her desk to support the full weight of her upper body. The surface of the desk directly beneath her eyes held drops as though a leak had sprung in the ship from above.

    "Get it together," she admonished herself aloud, her voice barely above a whisper. Kircheis brought herself upright, then wiped at her eyes with both hands. She held them there, after a couple of quick movements, then slumped into the chair. The muscles of her face painfully taut, she rubbed at her cheeks as she fought hard to maintain her thin composure.

    She allowed herself a teary-eyed chuckle. "How the hell am I supposed to make it through this thing, Ariel? I can't even make it out of my own ready room." Kircheis ran a hand over the top of her short, dirty blonde hair, and then cleared her throat.

    "Computer, play back the log so far, please." She listened to the sound of her voice and the words. Satisfied that she managed to hold it in beforehand, she ordered the computer to continue the log.

    "A memorial service for Commander Elannis has been scheduled for today, which I will be attending. Lieutenant Merrit Kelley, my executive officer, will mind the store while I'm away.

    "Gallant is also undergoing the standard crew rotation. We will be taking on a number of newly-assigned crew in the next few weeks as we will be stopping over at Spacedock for resupply. I would like to commend my crew, at this time, for a job well done in this most recent mission. Kircheis, out." She tapped a finger on the desktop panel, "Computer, end log. Attach to the final mission report and mark for the attention of Rear Admiral Krystine Leone, Deputy Chief of Starfleet Intelligence."

    As the computer responded once more, the ready room door announced a visitor with a five-tone chime.

    "Yeah?" she replied loudly.

    The single-panel hatch slid open to reveal the aforementioned Lieutenant Kelley. Unlike her commanding officer, she wore the uniform of the day. "Good morning, sir."

    "Good morning, Merrit." Kircheis gestured toward the only open seat within the office and watched as her Amazonian first officer seemed to glide across the floor gracefully. It always amazed her to see Kelley move so swiftly in spite of her size. Kelley was a contrast to her in almost every respect; over six feet tall with brunette hair that she kept long enough to tie up in a French braid or a ponytail in a pinch. "What can I do for you?"

    Kelley peered at Kircheis briefly. In her dulcet contralto, she expressed her worry in her tone, "Sir, have you been crying?"

    Instinctively, Kircheis' hands flew to her face again to wipe her cheeks from wet to damp. "Yes, I was. Just... still dealing with it," she managed to stammer out.

    "Captain..." she said while approaching the desk. "If you're not feeling up to it... I'd be happy to go in your place."

    "Absolutely not!"

    Kelley blanched at the sudden, rather loud rebuke.

    "Sorry... I... I didn't mean it to sound that harsh," Kircheis said quickly with a wan smile. "I only meant that this is something I have to do. I wouldn't dream of sending someone in my place... not for Ariel."

    "Of course, sir," replied Kelley. Her eyes drifted down to the deck. "I wouldn't dream of insinuating disrespect toward Commander Elannis."

    The right half of Kircheis' lips lifted up in a smirk. "You meant well by it, I'm sure." She swiveled around the desktop terminal to face the executive officer and changed the subject. "Looks like we're losing a third of the crew to rotation."

    Kelley jumped at the opportunity to discuss ship's business. "A little under twenty enlisted and one officer, yes, sir."

    "Who did we lose?"

    Kelley reached into her uniform jacket to retrieve a PADD that was much smaller than its standard-sized cousins. This PADD was designed especially for engineers, but somewhere during her career, she appropriated one for her own use. "Ensign al-Adel. Oh, I guess it's Lieutenant al-Adel, now. He was selected for promotion in the last promotion cycle and it was confirmed earlier today."

    "I'll have to pass my congratulations to him, then."

    "I've already done that, sir."

    Kircheis' smirk grew. "Thank you."

    "No problem, sir." Kelley continued, "We're also losing Chief Skarn and one more NCO."

    "Not Karis, is it?"

    "No, sir."

    Kircheis let out a relieved sigh. Senior Chief Petty Officer Karis Amdal was the ship's chief engineering officer. His years of expertise with the Defiant-class had been invaluable, so much so she had written to Admiral Leone directly on his contributions to their team in the recent past. "I don't know how we'd get on without him."

    "Agreed," Kelley said, distracted by the stream of information. "It's a petty officer, if I recall correctly. Petty Officer, uh... there it is, one of the operations NCOs, Petty Officer Eugene Lassard."

    "Gene's heading out, too? I guess Hiroko's going to be disappointed by that."

    "I didn't really know him that well," admitted Kelley. She did not bother to look up from her PADD.

    "He was the specialist we had running the decryption on those Cardassian intercepts nine months ago," explained Kircheis. "I wrote him a letter of commendation?"

    "I know who he is, I'm merely stating that I didn't get to know him."

    "He was on the ship for over a year."

    Kelley offered nothing more than a light shrug, as was her nature. In spite of her position as the executive officer, she tended to keep her own counsel when it came to her free time.

    The computer chimed once, then announced, "This is your pre-scheduled warning. It is now thirteen-forty-five hundred hours."

    Kircheis touched the control panel on her desk to silence the alarm. "I should get going." She rose up from the desk and looked at her reflection once more, only to tug on the left sleeve this time. Kelley rose from her seat, as well, out of respect.

    "Sir, if you'd like, I could have the uniform fitted for you."

    "Merrit, you're not my yeoman," Kircheis sighed. She placed her right hand on the arm of her first officer. "But, thanks all the same. You have the ship."


    The effects of the transporter beam lingered for the briefest of moments after materializing Kircheis on the surface of the moon within the Starfleet transporter room adjacent to the Tycho City base. With a nod toward the transport petty officer, she strode out into the complex.

    Among the many uniformed personnel, she stood out in the dress uniform of all white. That particular dress uniform was reserved for use by ship captains, and even though she only wore the two solid and one open pip of a lieutenant commander, her position as commander of the Gallant entitled her to the privilege. She was one of the minority who were merely Captains in title but were not yet bestowed with the four solid pips of a Captain’s rank. Whenever she stood among others in dress uniforms, she stood a little taller knowing that she could stand alongside those who commanded starships.

    Today was not going to be one of those days.

    The short trip outside of the main dome of Tycho City and along the outskirts into Ariel's childhood home of suburban Lake Armstrong was new to Kircheis. She wondered briefly how often Ariel had gazed upon the line of small residential habitation domes that touched the edge of the lake while making this same trip from the city. The magnetic levitation train slowed, then stopped to allow her to disembark and walk the distance toward the memorial gardens where Ariel's family had invited her friends and colleagues to join them as they mourned their loss.

    Lines of other Starfleet personnel in similar dress flowed into the open-air garden. Rows of white seats faced a small gazebo with ivy wrapped in its supports. Kircheis did not recognize many of them, assuming they might have worked with Ariel at other times during her long career.

    Her eyes continued to scan for familiar faces, when a hand touched her left shoulder. She turned and found herself looking at Commander Gregory Aspinall.

    His expectant grin turned into a wide, warm smile. "I thought that was you. How're you doing, C. J.?"

    Kircheis wasted little time in embracing her old comrade from Farragut. "Oh, my God, Greg!" He held her for a moment, before separating with a step back. She said, "I haven't seen you in years. How's Abbie?"

    "I'm doing just fine," he replied with a chuckled emphasis. "Thanks for asking." He nodded to someone standing to the right of Kircheis. “And naturally, Abbie’s doing great, because I’m here to remind her how much she loves me every day.” She could almost hear Captain Abigail Atherton’s eyes rolling in response and turned towards the other woman to greet her as well.

    "Hey!" Kircheis said, thankful to see another old friend. "I meant to thank you both for your messages last year."
    Greg took his wife's hand in his as they stood next to each other. "We knew you were busy," he said.

    "I was, but I still felt bad about it."

    "You can make it up to us, later," Abbie said. "Where are you sitting?"

    Kircheis turned to look at the crowd. "I don't know. Is there assigned seating?"

    "No, but I thought maybe you'd want to sit with the rest of us," Abbie replied. She gestured with her free hand toward the open gate. The trio moved into the garden and took their seats. Within minutes, she had Abbie to her left and Commander Wilson Nieves to her right.

    Her row filled up quickly with others from their former ship: Commander Petra Bartlet and her successor as chief engineer, Captain Diego Hererra. Commander Allen Tomita and his family sat in the next row, while the admirals all had front row seating to the memorial. Rear Admirals Leone and Monica Covey, Vice Admiral T'Cirya, Vice Admiral Joy Aspinall, and Fleet Admiral Alynna Nechayev were naturally all in attendance. She saw that seated nearby Admiral Leone were her parents, retired Vice Admiral Angelina Leone and her husband, Commander Patrice Leone.

    Before she could spot anyone else, the service began with a single male voice speaking over the garden's address system. Kircheis recognized it as belonging to the man standing within the gazebo, wearing his dress uniform, although its design was far older than hers. Of small stature, he commanded the attention of those assembled simply with his presence. He stood before a black-and-white two-dimensional photograph of Ariel, smiling while wearing her dress uniform. It was obviously a candid shot, as the image depicted her winking at the camera, while pointing a finger as though it were a gun.

    "My name is Master Chief Petty Officer Patrick Katayama. My wife, my family, and I would like to thank you all for coming to honor the memory of our daughter, Ariel," he began in his gravelly voice. Kircheis had met him once while serving on Farragut and another time when they all met at Admiral Leone's house for a reception for her son, Dominic. "In the weeks we've had to prepare for this service, we've agreed to let a few of Ariel's family and friends say a few words."

    Ariel's mother, Henda, took the center of the gazebo and spoke about her daughter, followed by her cousins on her father's side. After that, the Starfleet contingent made their presence known; Fleet Admiral Nechayev spoke, then Admiral Aspinall, followed by Vice Admiral and Commander Leone.

    Finally, Rear Admiral Leone rose up to take her place. Unlike the others, she did not seem to take prepared remarks to the podium. With downcast eyes, she turned to face the crowd, only to shift again to address the image of Ariel.

    "I miss you, Ariel," Leone began with a expulsion of breath. Her hands broke free of one another and slapped against her thighs. "I remember the first day that we met on Victory. You were two weeks out of Officer Candidate School as an ensign with everything to prove since they commissioned you from the ranks. No one wanted to sit with you because you didn't go to the Academy, but there was something about you that drew me to you. That first dinner together, I knew that we would be friends." Her words came just a bit too fast and Kircheis saw the rear admiral lean up against the right support of the gazebo.

    "We hit it off pretty quickly, and you told me about your parents and what it was like growing up near Tycho City. Our first leave together was on an outpost that had nothing but a bar, and two dom-jot tables, but you managed to drink me under the table every night and hand me my ass over the dom-jot every day." That brought the obligatory round of chuckles from the crowd. Kircheis joined in, but for a different reason; Ariel had once told her that between the both of them, they combined for twenty-three very fatigued men and women. Ariel was responsible for twenty-two of them.

    Leone continued, "That was just the beginning. Throughout our time in service over the past twenty years, no matter what game we played, from poker to dom-jot and your favorite, chess... you were always the victor. You never let up on me, you never once stopped, uh..." Her voice softened and trailed off. She pumped her fist at the photo a couple of times, seeming to buy herself some time to keep a tighter grip on her composure.

    Kircheis fidgeted in her seat, feeling the ball of sorrow in the pit of her stomach grow as she watched Leone ramble. She took a moment to swivel her head around and saw the same growing look of concern on Greg and Wilson's faces. When Leone cleared her throat, Kircheis drew her attention back forward.

    "The first time I brought you to meet my parents at Starbase Six, you became an instant hit with them," Leone paused to turn and look at her parents. "We lived through Victory together, and you stood as my maid of honor at my wedding. You were the godmother of my son, Dominic, who you loved... just as if he was your own, for so many years-" Her voice cut off again and her head bowed down. Several Farragut officers, including Kircheis, rose up out of concern for their former commanding officer.

    Vice Admiral Angelina Leone stood up, apparently ready to go and aid her daughter. A few steps later, she grabbed at her the rear admiral’s hand and pulled her close for a hug. It seemed a strange display of support from a woman who everyone knew to be a distant mother at best. Kircheis sucked in her breath roughly, sinking back into her chair, while most merely watched in stunned silence. Only Abbie seemed to be able to react, her tone quiet but sharp. “For the love of God, get that woman away from her. She's not there to comfort her."

    Rear Admiral Leone turned, her eyes and cheeks a watery mess. She leaned in to her mother's shoulder and brought their joined hands upward to her chest. "I'm all right," she said into the audio pickup. "I'm all right, Mom."

    Her mother leaned, seeming to offer some words, but it didn't get carried over the speakers. Kircheis watched Abbie’s head shake as Rear Admiral Leone stiffened visibly, then nodded a few times. Kircheis thought she heard a "Yes, sir," from the rear admiral, but she was not entirely sure that she did. The vice admiral retreated to her seat and silenced the concerned inquiry of her husband with a curt look.

    Still standing, Rear Admiral Leone pushed herself upright and regained her composure noticeably. Leone turned to face the crowd and the evidence of her tears glistened on her cheek. "I apologize," she offered with a weak smile. More tears fell, and she looked down at her hands, letting her long reddish-brown hair fall in front of her face.

    Kircheis felt her heart ache more over the sight and stood up. She pushed past Wilson, much to his surprise and entered the aisle. Others followed her lead, but by the time she made it to the front, Henda had stood up and embraced Leone tightly.

    Within the warmth of the embrace, Leone sobbed openly before everyone. Kircheis stopped in her tracks and without realizing it, she felt the tears fall from her eyes. Henda turned her head and gestured for them to hold off for now.

    Her distance reduced to only a couple of meters, now, she could now hear Admiral Krystine Leone telling Ariel's mother, "I'm never going to get to see her again and tell her how much I love her."


    "I heard you had a hell of a mission in the Badlands," said Wilson Nieves as he sipped a glass of champagne. Kircheis, along with the rest of the mourners from the service, had migrated to the reception held within the recreation facility at Lake Armstrong, where Ariel was said to have spent her teenaged years competing in swim meets.

    Kircheis grimaced slightly. "Yeah, you could say that."

    "And how's that little ship of yours handling?"

    She smiled. "Extremely well. She's light, fast, and has enough firepower to leave you changed after you taste her rage."

    Wilson took another sip and noted, "Most of those Defiants are overpowered, but I heard they really came through for us during the war. Did yours see any action?"

    "I didn't hold command during the war, I was on the-" She was interrupted by another touch on the shoulder, this time from Captain Diego Herrera. "Captain," she said with a smile.

    The larger Hispanic man pointed with the hand holding his glass. "Is this young man bothering you, C. J.? I'll be happy to sort him out, straight away."

    Wilson chuckled, "Good to see you, sir." He shook hands with the man. "You look good for a chair-warmer."

    "Oh, you wound me, sir. Wound me right to the core, with your slanderous.. ah, shit, I can't keep that up for long," Hererra let loose with a chortle. "Actually, the desk hasn't seen me in some time. They have me on a consulting job over at the Utopia facility giving some advice to this really hotshit lieutenant commander who's determined to push through this new class, and-"

    "And that class is something you shouldn't be talking about, isn't it, Captain?" said a stern voice.

    All three officers straightened their posture around Fleet Admiral Alynna Nechayev. "Admiral," said Kircheis with a nod.

    "Commanders, Captain," Nechayev said with a succinct nod. "In the interest of changing the topic of discussion, I presume that all of you are aware that the family has asked for Farragut alumni to return with them to the house tonight for dinner and dessert?"

    The mood sobered up at the mention of the family's wishes. Kircheis nodded her understanding. "Yes, sir, I received the invitation."

    "Then I shall see you all there." Nechayev turned just in time to see Rear Admiral Leone and two Vulcanoid officers approaching. "Krys," she greeted warmly. Her hand reached out to touch her forearm gently. She added to the trailing officers, "Commander, Lieutenant."

    "Aunt Alynna," replied Leone with a weak smile. After pleasantries were exchanged, the fleet admiral moved toward the other guests and Leone joined Kircheis' group. "Gentlemen, lady, I believe you remember these two."

    Kircheis grinned widely. "Ariennye and Teelis," she said. Inwardly, she held her exuberance in check at seeing the two Romulans wearing Starfleet uniforms. She had met them over seven years ago when they sought refuge aboard Farragut. Ariel was the officer who "rescued" them from the Empire. Since then, Ariennye served as a medical officer attached to a marine division, while Teelis was only eight months out of Starfleet Academy. "How are the jarheads treating you, Doctor?"

    “When I received the posting, I had been told that the Marines were quite vigorous,” Ariennye replied, her mouth curling slightly in mirth. “I haven’t found them to be that taxing, though.”

    Wilson offered a thin smile and gestured with his glass toward Teelis. "Congratulations on your commission, Lieutenant. You must be dazzling the engineers at Utopia."

    “Naturally,” Ariennye answered on behalf of her younger sister, turning to give her a beaming smile. “I’d expect nothing less of a valedictorian with her scores.” Her gaze flashed back to Wilson, adding, “S’Harien just entered the Academy and we expect him to follow the trail Teelis has blazed for him.”

    Herrera flashed a toothy smile toward Ariennye as she spoke of their younger brother. "High expectations that I'm sure he'll live up to, though, I hope that he brings satisfaction to himself before others."

    Ariennye merely raised a brow, a deft mimicry of the expression of so many Vulcan officers. “If he does it right, he’ll be more than satisfied, Captain,” she assured him.

    Teelis glanced quickly at her older sister, and once the commander gave her a subtle nod, she interjected. “He will do very well, I am sure, Captain. Our mother, by the way, does send her regrets. She had hoped to be able to come to the memorial service with Llaiir and Freddy, but they couldn’t arrange transport in time. S’Harien too. Unfortunately, he’s in the middle of first year training exercises. They had wanted to see you all again, sirs.”

    Kircheis couldn’t help but smile again. In contrast to typically abrasive older sister, Teelis remained the polite young woman she remembered. “Are you enjoying your assignment on Utopia?” she asked.

    “Freddy?” Wilson questioned.

    “Oh, I am, sir. I’m learning quite a bit from my superiors,” Teelis replied before answering the other commander’s question. “Freddy is the nickname my brother, Friedhlov, earned shortly after we arrived in New Athens.”

    “They couldn’t pronounce Friedhlov correctly,” Ariennye noted dryly.

    “Your family is still on New Athens?” Wilson wondered.

    “Yes, sir. Mother is an integral part of the environmental science division. We all enjoy it there,” Teelis quickly explained.

    Herrera's eyes focused on something behind Teelis and Ariennye. "Oh, my God." He nodded his head toward someone. "Was he here the entire time?"

    All heads turned to look at the subject of his query, and Commander Jesse Kincaid in dress uniform, flanked on either side by two members of Starfleet Security, stood at the entrance to the recreation center. His hands appeared to be free, which was not the manner in which Kircheis had left him when he transported over to the courier vessel that took him into custody.

    "I didn't see him during the memorial," Kircheis said, her voice strained at the sight of him. She scoffed and turned her head away from the man. "I'm surprised they allowed him to appear, given everything that happened."

    Wilson and Hererra shot Kircheis an admonishing look. Wilson said, "He served with us, surely he's welcome to mourn Ariel as much as the rest of us."

    Kircheis opened her mouth to fire off a retort, but closed her mouth without saying a word. Given their sympathies toward their former executive officer, it was not politic to speak against their ideals in that setting, she figured. Instead, she fumed silently as she watched Kincaid moved toward the table where the non-alcoholic drinks were served. Abbie greeted him warmly, but had to keep her distance as the guards moved to prevent her from making physical contact.

    He shouldn't even be here, she wanted to scream aloud. She wanted to walk up and tell him that he was responsible for the memorial in the first place, that if he hadn't decided to go rogue, Ariel might still be alive.

    Leone broke the mood with a simple question, "Captain Kircheis, might I have a word in private?" She gestured toward the outside area through the double-doors as her intended destination.

    Kircheis nodded once. "Of course, sir."

    "If you'll all excuse us?" Leone asked, but did not wait for a response as she moved off to lead the way.

    Once outside and away from the multiple conversations within the center, Kircheis immediately asked, "Are you all right, Admiral? Is there anything I can do for you?"

    Leone tilted her head. "I'm fine. Why do you ask?"

    "Earlier, when you were speaking..."

    "Oh." Leone blushed as she relived the memory. "That. I'm fine," she repeated. "I wanted to speak to you about your next assignment."

    Kircheis thought to herself. "Yes, sir?"

    "I'd like to see you in my office tomorrow morning at oh-nine-hundred. I'd very much appreciate it if you would also dispatch your latest ship status reports."

    "Already done, sir. I signed the last one just before I beamed down."

    Leone smiled. "I should've guessed. Thank you."

    "Anything else?"

    "No, that'll be all."

    An awkward moment passed as Kircheis and Leone stared at one another, the commander waiting for her friend to continue onto the more personal matters of the day. It took her half a minute to realize that wasn’t going to happen. “Oh, well, uh. Yes, sir,” she confirmed awkwardly. As she walked back into the reception, she shook her head. There wasn’t anything she could do if her friend wouldn’t let her.

    When she stepped back inside, the tip of her boot caught the bit of striping along the carpeted floor and her loss of balance caused her to stumble across the threshold. A pair of strong arms reached out to steady her before she fell too far forward to recover. Her brief view of the floor suddenly ended when she pulled her head up and met the concerned gaze of Lieutenant Commander Pava Lar'ragos. He had commanded the Special Missions Team assigned to Task Force Indemnity and was in the same firefight that resulted in Ariel's death.

    "You all right, Captain?" he asked after helping her stand upright.

    Chagrined, Kircheis composed herself and straightened out her dress uniform. "Thank you, yes." She glanced down to confirm her presentability, then looked at him. "Are you all right?" she asked with genuine curiosity.

    Pava's eyes moved away from Kircheis' briefly; they focused on the large image of Ariel on the far wall of the center. In a soft tone and a lost expression, he answered, "I don't know... I really just don't know."

    As he stalked off into the crowd, Kircheis felt uneasy about the tone of his voice. She wondered if Pava would ever be all right again.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2013
  4. Zefram_Cochrane

    Zefram_Cochrane First Faster Than Light Red Shirt

    Jan 17, 2008
    Silicon Valley, CA, USA
    Chapter Two

    Starfleet Headquarters
    San Francisco, Earth
    Office of the Deputy Chief of Starfleet Intelligence
    Stardate 54573.63 (29 July 2377)

    The last time Kircheis sat upon the couch waiting for admission to Admiral Leone's inner office, she had been "requested and required" to assume command of Gallant. The same sounds of people working within the office brought back the memory of her anxiously waiting for the admiral to finish up her previous appointment. That had been nearly a year and a half ago, barely a month after the end of the Dominion War.

    She remembered how sweaty her palms got in the minutes leading up to the door opening. She smirked at the thought that had run through her head; they could change their minds and choose someone else for the position. Maybe they made a mistake and selected a different officer.

    "Something funny, sir?" asked the admiral's flag lieutenant, Lieutenant (jg) Charity Szostak.

    Kircheis looked up, broken out of her reverie. "What?" She paused briefly. "Oh, no. Sorry, just reliving some memories, is all."

    Charity's attention remained on her as she expected more of an explanation.

    She continued, "I was sitting right here when-"

    The door to the inner office opened and Admiral Leone stepped through. Charity and Kircheis got to their feet automatically as the admiral approached her desk.

    Leone stepped in close to her desk and waved off the lieutenant, allowing her to retake her seat. She chucked a thumb back toward her door and said, "Give them a few minutes to get reacquainted and then make sure they're on their way after that."

    "Aye, sir," replied Charity. She activated her desktop terminal and set a reminder for herself.

    The admiral added quietly. "Do it gently, please."

    "Of course, sir."

    Without waiting a moment, the admiral asked, "Do you have the mission profile for Vanguard?"

    Charity looked through a couple of PADDs before selecting the proper one. "Right here, sir."

    She accepted the PADD and scrolled through the lines of information. "They're still looking for a captain to join," Leone noted aloud to herself.

    "Yes, sir."

    Leone applied some information to the PADD's data and then handed it back to Charity. "Inform Starfleet Command that I'm recommending Captain Donald Sandhurst."

    Charity looked down at the small screen before she returned her gaze to Leone. "Uh, sir, you're adding him to-"

    "Yes, I am. Make sure the Corps of Engineers is aware, right away. I made a promise to him and I intend to keep it," Leone said as she pulled away from Charity's desk and exited her outer office. Apparently, her eyeline never crossed paths with Kircheis, and she rose from her seat to follow.

    "Admiral," called Kircheis.

    Leone stopped, then turned around to face her. "Captain, I'm sorry. I was tending to the matter of Commander Kincaid and following up on the final report from Indemnity. . We're set up in the conference room down the corridor, if you're like to join us."

    "Of course, sir." When they progressed down the corridor, she asked, "I heard you talking about Captain Sandhurst?" Kircheis wondered if the admiral would indulge her question or not.

    "You remember that task force that Admiral Jellico is building for Delta Quadrant ops?" Off of Kircheis' nod, Leone continued, "He's looking for captains and crews for a few of the intercept groups and I'm sending him one of the best we've got."

    "No arguments on that, sir."

    Leone chuckled. "I read your report. You were very taken with his leadership."

    "With good reason, Admiral."

    They both turned into the proper conference room and there were a couple of people already waiting for them. Both of them wore the support services gold turtlenecks. The man was a captain and the other was Lieutenant (jg) Teelis Tei.

    "May I present Captain Theodore Lo, of the special projects group at Utopia?" began Leone, with an outstretched hand toward the male captain. "And you already know Lieutenant Tei, of course." She took her seat and said, "This is Lieutenant Commander Carolyn Kircheis, the commanding officer of USS Gallant. Gallant will be the field vehicle for this mission."

    Lo gave a curt nod toward Kircheis, while Teelis stood for a moment and acknowledged both senior officers.

    "Why don't we begin with an overview of the project, Captain," Leone said once everyone was seated, "with particular empahsis on Gallant's role."

    The captain touched the small panel on the conference table to activate the viewscreen. "Aye, sir. Utopia Special Projects has been developing a new kind of stealth system for smaller vessels such as runabouts and shuttles over the course of the past few years. The project was actually born just before the beginning of the Dominion War and didn't produce a working prototype until six months after the Treaty of Bajor was signed on DS-9."

    The viewscreen showed the technical specification as the captain spoke. He lifted himself out of his seat and walked toward it to point out some of the details. "We're using a different approach with this idea. The Romulans use a cloaking generator to obscure and mask their emissions from sensors. What we're trying to do is use those emissions, but present them in a different light, like the warp core signature of a different class or another ship altogether in order to fool the enemy into thinking that it is not a threat vessel."

    Kircheis furrowed her brow. "Forgive me, and I'm sure this has been discussed in another room with much higher ranking officers than I, but how this not a violation of our treaty with the Rihannsu?" She glanced at Teelis, noting the lieutenant's small smile at her use of the proper name for her race.

    “The Treaty of Algeron forbids the Federation from researching, investigating or developing a device which cloaks or masks the emissions of a ship, resulting in the sensors of another ship being unable to detect its presence. It does not forbid the Federation from developing a system to emit false sensor readings, which is what the new systems are designed to do, sir,” Teelis explained.

    Before Kircheis could voice her objections, Leone ordered, "Let's move on. Suffice to say that this project was vetted by the aforementioned higher-ranking officers. Please continue, Captain, Lieutenant."

    "Yes, Admiral." Lo touched the panel once more and a Danube-class runabout appeared. "As Lieutenant Tei indicated, we're not pursuing a method employed by the Romulans. Instead, this device will use holography and shadows to achieve the same effect. We outfitted the prototype device to the runabout Cuyahoga within the auxiliary craft laboratory at Utopia."

    The scene played out on the viewscreen; the runabout appeared to have small dots which Kircheis assumed were holodiodes similar to those seen within a holodeck. The dots lit up all at once and the runabout now appeared as a Ferengi scout vessel. Lo paused the playback at that point and turned to view the reactions from the non-engineers in the room.

    Kircheis did nothing to hide her astonishment at the success. "That's incredible. Is the device limited only to projections of comparable size? Does it actually show up on sensors as the projected vessel?

    Lo replied, "The emissions from the runabout are modulated through a filter to approximate the Ferengi-type emissions. This smaller prototype had a margin of error, of course. But that's why Lieutenant Tei was brought onto the project and why we need Gallant for the third phase of testing." He looked at Teelis, expectantly, yielding the floor and the viewscreen to her.

    “The margin of error has been reduced significantly since that particular test. Now, we estimate that only a master engineer who had been working with a particular vessel for many years would be able to detect the errors after careful scrutiny. We need to test the device on larger ships in transit. Naturally, we can only do limited testing within the Utopia yards. The Gallant, being a Defiant-class vessel, meets the requirements of a light, fast ship for the next phase of testing.” Teelis glanced at Captain Lo once more, who gave her another nod, before continuing. “That phase of testing also requires we move from the protected yards to open space.”

    Kircheis grinned. "We're happy to help out." She glanced back at Leone. "And that's the extent of the mission, sir? You made it sound like it was a more dire situation than testing a prototype."

    Leone did not reply to Kircheis' words, instead touching the panel once more to show an overview of the Neutral Zone shared with the Rihannsu Star Empire. "Approximately three weeks ago, a message was received from within the Empire from a Galae officer named Nuhir t'Aimne. She holds the rank equivalent to a lieutenant commander. This officer had served aboard a Starfleet vessel just under a year prior as part of an exchange program, and sent the message to the captain who had commanded that vessel. He passed her message to Intelligence, and we found a couple of encrypted messages layered onto the original."

    The viewscreen began to playback the original message, and as it did, lines of decrypted text began to appear overlayed on top of t'Aimne's speaking image.

    The coded message read: “Captain James - Two of my family members are in great danger from the Tal Priax. I am asking for your assistance in getting the boys, their mother and myself out of the Empire. We will be at the following coordinates on Stardate 54701. I hope you will be able to help us. In order to insure the cooperation of your superiors, I have classified information regarding the size, movements and operations of the Galae, which I will provide to you once we are safely within Federation territory. My family needs a new life, one free of the Empire.”

    When the playback completed, leaving the text on the screen, Kircheis swiveled her head in both directions. "I don't understand. Who or what are the Tal Priax?”

    Leone's lips turned downward into a frown; it was clear she had knowledge of the group. "Ah, that's right. You weren't cleared for that information back then." She turned her head toward Teelis and gestured to Kircheis as she spoke, "Lieutenant Tei, if you wouldn't mind explaining to Captain Kircheis...?"

    Teelis responded at first with a quick nod. In a quiet voice, she explained, “The Tal Priax are a military order whose sworn duty is to protect the Imperial family. More than just an Imperial Guard, the Tal Priax also functions as a home guard for ch’Rihan. They are to protect the homeworld at all costs, the final line of defense for the Rihannsu people. They are driven by certain dictates, upholding within their ranks the highest standards for racial purity, excellence, religious devotion and physical beauty. All members of the Tal Priax are conscripted at the age of fifteen, after children have successfully completed their Rite of Passage. Conscription is compulsory, as is breeding with another member of the Tal Priax. Almost all children of the Tal Priax become Tal Priax. The rest usually commit ritual suicide after they have failed to gain entrance.”

    "I'm no expert on Rihannsu culture, but how is it that this isn't common knowledge?" Kircheis wondered. "It sounds utterly barbaric, almost... Klingon."

    “The Federation first became aware of the Tal Priax approximately eight years ago. Among the common Rihannsu, it is an honor to be selected, to have a child whose life will be one of great honor and status. Among the noble Rihannsu, it is also an honor, an affirmation that their bloodlines are pure. Most consider the Tal Priax to be an honor guard, and a line of defense that will never been used, thanks to the strength of the Galae. As a result, they are not discussed with outsiders, lest an attacker take into account their size and strength.”

    "Wait a minute, wait a minute..." Kircheis raised her hand briefly, as she thought back through her limited recall of Rihannsu history. "Haven't there been a number of Imperial assassinations? If they're that good, how could they have allowed their charges to die so easily?"

    “The Tal Priax are defenders of the integrity of the Imperial bloodline. It is widely believed that no assassination has occurred without their permission and even assistance,” Teelis replied bluntly. “As I recall from my study of human history, the Praetorian Guard of the Roman Emperors was suspected in several of their assassinations as well.”

    Kircheis leaned back in her seat. "Those were the good ol' days, I guess." She shot Teelis a look as though she had an epiphany. "Eight years ago? That's around the same time as when you showed up on Farragut. Unless I'm missing something, that can't just be a coincidence."

    Teelis looked down at the table underneath her hands. “I am a refugee from Tal Priax conscription, sir.”

    "I'm sorry, I didn't know," Kircheis replied softly. The details and motivation behind the Tei family’s sudden appearance in Federation space had been classified, but she was merely an ensign and obviously too low on the food chain to have that information. Her eyes focused on the conference room table and she took in a deep breath as she thought aloud, "It makes sense, though. If they were looking for paragons of Romulan excellence and beauty, I mean."

    To Kircheis’s surprise, Teelis actually seemed to blush. Teelis Tei might be the first modest Rihannha she had ever heard of, much less seen in the flesh.

    Leone cleared her throat. "Yes, well. The importance of this mission with the possibility of gaining invaluable intelligence on the Galae warrants the use of the stealth prototype to secure a route for Gallant to proceed beyond the Neutral Zone."

    Captain Lo added, "And we'll be assigning an engineer from Lieutenant Tei's team to assist in the operation of the device. Gallant will need to proceed to Utopia Planitia for installation of the system."

    "I'm sorry, an engineer from her team?" Kircheis asked pointedly. She stood up and walked to the viewscreen to peer at the tactical map, then folded her arms and levied a gaze directly at Leone. "Admiral, if I may be so bold, I would rather have Teelis with me. Not only is her technical prowess an asset, but she has insight into Rihannsu society that would be equal to our task, here."

    Lo was quick to object. "Admiral, with all due respect, I need the lieutenant to remain on Utopia for the project. I don't believe it is necessary to risk her life and experience in the field."

    Leone listened to both officers without comment. Her eyes drifted toward Teelis, who remained stone-faced through the discussion. The admiral tapped the index and middle fingers of her right hand on the table once, then decided, "I agree with Captain Kircheis. Lieutenant Tei will report to Gallant for the duration of the mission."

    "Admiral, I must protest," Lo's worry lines appeared on his face at the news. "Her presence on my team is irreplaceable!"

    "I'm afraid that the lieutenant's expertise in Rihannsu culture is the deciding factor in my decision, Captain. You will have to make do without her for a while."

    Lo's worry turned to anger. "Admiral, I insist that you reconsider!"

    Leone rose from her seat and narrowed her eyes. "You forget your place, Captain. I realize that this will alter your delivery timetable on other projects, but the admiralty has decided that this mission is paramount to the security of the Federation. You will carry out your orders and detach Lieutenant Tei from your command. I want those orders on my desk by the end of the day."

    “Sir,” Teelis began, addressing Captain Lo. “You needn’t worry about me. If I was captured, I would not be killed. I will also update all my files today to insure you have the most up to date specifications on the projects to which I am assigned.”

    Lo looked between the three women within the room and suddenly placed his hands in front of him in surrender. "I understand, Admiral. I will make sure you have those orders as you've directed. By your leave, sir?"

    Leone gave him a brief nod in reply. Lo, on his way out of the conference, stopped by Teelis' seat and said, "Thank you, Lieutenant."

    “Of course, sir.”

    Once Lo left the room, Leone continued with the mission briefing to outline the further details to Kircheis and Teelis.

    =/\==/\==/\==/\==/\= ​

    "I feel like I haven't seen you in over a day," Kircheis said as she saw Merrit Kelley waiting for her in Gallant's transport bay. She stepped down from the small pad and walked toward the exit.

    Kelley kept pace with her as they headed for the mess hall on deck two. "Actually, sir, it has been over a day. You got in very late last night and you left for your meeting on Earth before I reported for duty this morning."

    Kircheis turned into a hatch that led to the service stairwell on the port side of the ship. Her uniform boots clattered against the metallic surface as they made their way down to the second deck. It was her preferred method of travelling, if it was only one deck down or up. "Time flies when you're having fun, I guess," she noted as they descended. "Are they all ready?"

    "Yes, sir. They're all waiting in the mess hall for you," replied Kelley.

    Because Gallant was a four-deck corvette with a little over fifty in total crew, it did not warrant a great many luxuries found on larger ships. It had no holodecks and no conference rooms. That meant for meetings with teams or the senior staff, they commandeered the mess hall. The senior staff for Gallant consisted of seven or eight individuals depending on the circumstances and assigned crew.

    When Kircheis and Kelley entered the mess, all of the officers got to their feet. Not out of habit of respecting the commanding officer, but out of concern.

    Lieutenant Hiroko Yamamoto, Gallant's chief of operations, was the first to step forward. "Sir, are you holding up okay?" The others looked on, interested in what Kircheis had to say.

    "I'm doing as well as can be expected, thanks. I got to see a lot of very old friends that I'd not seen in years, but the reason for the event..." their captain trailed off. She forced a smile on her lips and nodded. "I think Ariel would've approved, to be honest."

    The sight of their captain in better spirits had the appropriate effect. They smiled in response and then returned to their seats. Kelley remained standing behind Kircheis, holding her PADD out so she could read it.

    Kircheis noticed that there was an unfamiliar face in the group, belonging to a tall and thin officer with the single gold pip of an ensign on the collar of his gold turtleneck. She pointed toward him while looking at Kelley. "W-Who is this?"

    The owner of the new face pointed at himself, in an attempt to confirm that he was the subject of her question. When Kircheis nodded, he smiled confidently and introduced himself. "Ensign Frederick Schweinfurt, sir, come aboard to join. It's an honor to be here."

    "Schweinfurt?" asked Kircheis. "Who are you?" She turned to Kelley for an explanation.

    "Replacement officer, sir," Kelley said immediately. "Backfilling Lieutenant al-Adel's spot on the roster. Communications specialist."

    "Right. Okay." Kircheis faced the ensign and dropped her pointing finger to wave at him, instead. "Hello, there. Welcome aboard." She turned back to Kelley, "Schweinfurt?"

    Schweinfurt helpfully noted, "Sir, your pronunciation is correct. Schwein means ‘pig’ in German. I was even called ‘Piggy’ at the Academy and most of my classmates know me by that name." Far from being embarrassed, he seemed pleased that he was so well known.

    Yamamoto remarked, "Took the midshipman all of two seconds at the Academy to come up with that one."

    "Yeah, I'm not a midshipman at the Academy, so I'll stick with Ensign Schweinfurt," Kircheis noted, unable to hide her displeasure with the suggested appellation. "In the meantime, I assume you'll be reporting to Lieutenant Yamamoto."

    Piggy nodded. "Yes, sir. And we already know each other, since we went to the Academy together."

    "I was a fourth year when he was a plebe," said Yamamoto quickly, gazing around the table to accentuate her point that she did not know him particularly well.

    Kircheis closed her eyes as though she were pained by the exchange and shook her head as the conversation between the officers grew. She snapped her fingers a couple of times and ordered, "All right, let's get started."

    Once everyone was settled in again, the captain began, "We've been tasked for another intelligence mission by the admiral. This time, we're really going to be pushing the limits of our training, because our destination is deep within Romulan space." She stopped to let that sink in, and when she saw very little reaction, she continued with the briefing and described the impetus and the goals.

    "This will mean that we'll be taking on some additional personnel, a few will be temporary for the duration and others will be permanent additions to the crew," explained Kircheis. "One person of note is Lieutenant, jay-gee, Teelis Tei. She is the project lead over at Utopia Planitia special projects, and will be assisting engineering." The captain paused for dramatic effect, and then informed them, "She's a Romulan refugee and recent graduate of Starfleet Academy."

    That got their attention, especially Kelley's. For reasons passing understanding, Schweinfurt held a grin larger than before at the news, while Yamamoto had a brief look of consternation. Kircheis heard her executive officer shuffle closer and say softly, "Sir, is that true?" The others followed suit with various questions of their own with the exception of the two junior officers and the chief engineer, the Andorian Senior Chief Karis Amdal. He sat only with his antennae twitching, possibly at the sudden commotion.

    With outstretched arms to quiet them down, the captain told them, "I've known Lieutenant Tei for seven years. She is an outstanding and brilliant woman, and she worked hard to earn her rank. Whatever issues you might have with having a Romulan serve on our crew, stow it someplace where it won't show. Admiral Leone's orders. As a further note, she prefers and I expect that you will call her people by their proper name, the Rihannsu."

    On that, everyone quieted down, including Kelley.

    "In addition, we'll be taking on a new tactical officer, Warrant Officer Ephraim Grey. He's coming out of the Third Special Missions Team. Questions?" she said, opening the floor.

    "Will Mister Grey's team be joining him?" asked Kelly.

    The captain shook her head. "No, we're only receiving Mister Grey. And one more point on that subject: he is a permanent assignee to the crew."

    "Captain," said Chief Donald Hogan, the ship's master-at-arms and de facto head of security. "Are there to be any special security arrangements for the lieutenant while she's on board?"

    Kircheis folded her arms. "I don't understand. Why would we need them?"

    "Sir, allowing a Rom... I mean, a Rihannsu access to unsecured system might be hazardous," he clarified.

    "Lieutenant Tei has a security clearance above yours, Chief," Kircheis explained tersely. "She will require access to key systems in order to bring the stealth system online. Therefore, I don't accept the premise of your question. Who's next?"

    Yamamoto asked, "Do we know approximately how long we have for testing before we make the rendezvous point?"

    "Thirty days for installation and programming, I believe. Lieutenant Tei can probably answer your questions in more detail after she arrives later today," replied Kircheis. "I'm sure that your division will be critical in helping her and the Engineering team in the next four weeks."

    "We'll be ready, sir," Yamamoto promised with a quick nod.

    Piggy raised a hand. "Captain?"


    "Can I be the one to greet her when she comes on board?"

    Kircheis rolled her eyes and sighed loudly. "Anyone else have a question? No? Dismissed."

    =/\==/\==/\==/\==/\= ​

    Warrant Officer Ephraim Grey stood in Transporter Room Four at Utopia Planitia, his duffel at his feet. He had arrived five minutes prior to the appointed time for his beam-up to the Gallant and was currently waiting for Lieutenant Tei to arrive. While doing so, he coolly evaluated the curious look he was getting from the Terran transporter chief.

    Such an appraisal was nothing new for him. Seven generations of Terran-Vulcan interbreeding had left him looking more or less Vulcan except for his heterochromatic eyes. Vulcans did not have such a trait. His green eye and his blue eye definitively marked him as someone who was not exactly Vulcan. After a minute, he took pity on the man and noted, “I am of mixed human and Vulcan descent,” and noted with satisfaction that the chief visibly relaxed.

    The distinctive whoosh of the doors opening announced the arrival of the lieutenant. Grey turned with interest, eager to get his first look at one of the Romulans serving within Starfleet. He knew each of them by name, but had yet to serve with any of them. Despite knowing her history, he was taken aback by his first sight of the lieutenant. Not one person who had spoken to him about this mission had indicated she was exceptionally beautiful.

    “Mister Grey, I presume?” Lieutenant Tei inquired after a look at his uniform. She was carrying a duffel of her own.

    “Indeed, sir,” he replied with a slight nod.

    “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mister Grey. I look forward to working with you on this mission,” she returned.

    “Likewise, sir.” And privately congratulated himself on correctly predicting her surprised reaction. “My family follows a slightly different interpretation of Surak, sir. I have been known to smile and even crack a joke,” he explained.

    The lieutenant took a moment to absorb that information and her smile blossomed anew. “It will be nice not to be the only Vulcanoid aboard who smiles, Mister Grey. Shall we?” she invited, gesturing to the transporter pad.

    He nodded his agreement, finding himself rather liking this new officer. “Yes, sir,” he replied as he hefted his duffel and stepped onto the pad. When they were both ready, the lieutenant turned her attention to the chief. “Chief Berensen, if you will?”

    Within moments, they were materializing in one of the transporter rooms onboard the Gallant. When his vision cleared, Grey saw that a gold-uniformed ensign was waiting for them. The man was somewhat taller than normal for a Terran, with red-gold hair and light eyes which were completely attentive to the lieutenant.

    “Lieutenant Tei,” the ensign greeted her enthusiastically. “Welcome aboard Gallant. I'm Ensign Frederick Schweinfurt, but you might remember me as Piggy. I don’t know if you remember me, but we had Comparative Religions and Quantum Mechanics together at the Academy.” Eagerness to be recognized infused the young man's tone.

    Grey heard Tei’s intake of breath as soon as the ensign began talking. He had no doubt she recalled the young man and her next words confirmed it. “Yes, Ensign. We also had Command Ethics together,” she acknowledged, her tone calm and polite. This recollection caused the young man to grin. Before he could further press the lieutenant, Grey spoke up.

    “I am Warrant Officer Ephraim Grey,” he introduced, stepping off the pad and extending a hand to the ensign. “Could you direct us to our quarters?” he inquired, trying to remind him of his task.

    Piggy seemed surprised that Grey was also in the room. “Of course, Mister Grey. I was just going to get the lieutenant settled first.”

    “I only need to be directed to my assigned quarters,” Tei replied hastily. “I am very familiar with the layout of Defiant-class vessels.”

    “Whereas I would need a tour,” Grey added.

    That seemed to deflate the ensign somewhat. His shoulders slumped but he nodded. “Yes, sir, Mister Grey.”

    As the lieutenant disembarked from the pad, she shot the warrant officer a grateful look. Grey understood then he would probably be spending more than a little time running interference for the Romulan. The ensign clearly had a long-standing infatuation with the woman.

    Well, at least it would provide some entertainment on the cruise.
  5. Zefram_Cochrane

    Zefram_Cochrane First Faster Than Light Red Shirt

    Jan 17, 2008
    Silicon Valley, CA, USA
    Chapter Three

    NCC-74229 (USS Gallant)
    Docked at Special Projects Dock Bravo, Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards, Mars.
    Engineering Compartment
    Stardate 54661.3 (30 August 2377)

    Part of the white noise of any engineering compartment aboard a ship with a warp core included the rhythmic thrum from the matter and antimatter injectors as they fed the dilithium reaction chamber. To Gallant's chief engineering officer, Senior Chief Petty Officer Karis Amdal, it was the heartbeat of the ship. Gallant was small enough that he could feel the vibration when he placed his hands flat on the bulkhead near his bunk in the aft section on deck three.

    During periods of refit or maintenance, however, an offline core meant silence within the compartment. To Karis, it felt wrong to have the ship be that silent, and though he would not admit it to anyone, it annoyed him. He missed the gentle purr of his warp core and bustled through the stealth system installation steps in order to bring the core back online as soon as possible. Karis worked alongside the Romulan for the three and a half weeks the ship had spent at Utopia Planitia. He spent every waking minute installing, adjusting, testing, and starting the cycle all over again in the hopes of getting the warp core back online sooner.

    The Romulan certainly did not make his task any easier. Each day was a clone of the one before. She would announce the day's tasks in the refit and they would begin. Then he had to make it all work.

    "There," said the senior chief in a tight tenor tone. "The new waveguides are showing a positive connection and assuming they don't blow out the main energizer, should feed power to the holographic system." He leaned to the side and shouted to a nearby petty officer third class, "Send two to deck four to lock down that damned secondary, now!"

    As the petty officer slapped his commbadge to pass the order, Teelis raised her eyebrow. "Is there a problem, Senior?"

    Karis slapped the side of the console. "Defiant-class ships have always been overpowered little ships and the secondaries are used to route excess plasma to the other systems."

    She understood immediately and finished the thought aloud. "As a result, the system must overload regularly. You must go through a lot of parts."

    "You might be a bit too young to recall during the Dominion War, the Defiant-class would churn through phaser power cells," he replied while he waited for a report from the maintenance team on deck four. "Normally, you would see a burned out cell once every six to eight months. With the cannons firing non-stop, those cells were burning out once every week. That's a result of that excess energy being fed to the systems."

    Teelis listened, but her eyes were focused on the status display. "You have an unusual talent for handling this class, Senior."

    "I was assigned to the class prototype at Utopia Planitia," he admitted. "I served aboard Defiant as a petty officer before the war began and had the good fortune of working with Captain Sisko while he was a Commander at Utopia and under Senior Chief O'Brien when the ship was attached to Deep Space Nine. I've been aboard Defiants ever since."

    "This is the first one I've stepped aboard, although I studied the design previously."

    "There we go," he said on the heels of her words. "Secondaries are locked down on deck four and we can proceed with a power test to the new node."

    Teelis' hands quickly moved over her console. "Standby status confirmed and the EPS power taps are ready to feed."

    Karis tapped his commbadge. "Engineering to bridge."

    The voice of the ship's executive officer replied over the comm system, "Bridge. This is Kelley. Go ahead."

    "XO, Lieutenant Tei and I are ready to perform the first power test. You wished to be notified," he reminded her.

    At the mention of Teelis' presence, a noticeable tension entered the exec's tone. "Very well," she said, clipping her words slightly. "I will notify the captain. Kelley, out."

    Karis allowed himself a quiet smirk. The only good thing about this refit was that the presence of the Romulan had sparked something in the personality of the XO. "As I was saying, I've served on Defiants for years. On Gallant, just over a year and a half. I've served with Lieutenant Kelley for most of that and this is the first time I've ever seen her act like that around anyone. Didn't know she had it in her."

    Teelis said nothing in response, as if totally engrossed in the task before her.

    "Did you and her serve someplace before or something?"

    "The lieutenant and I have never met prior to my arrival aboard this vessel nor am I aware of her having served with my elder sister."

    Karis' antennae twitched slightly. "I see. So, she's irritated on spec?"

    "I am not familiar with that idiom, Chief."

    A long pause followed as he considered her irritatingly Vulcky attitude. The engineer folded his arms and tried another tack; "Maybe she doesn't like Romulans?"

    "Who doesn't like Rihannsu?" said Kircheis pointedly as she took the final step to stand behind them at the master situation monitor.

    Before Karis could frame a reply, Teelis turned to face her friend and temporary commanding officer. "Idle conversation, Captain. Would you like to be updated on the status of the project, sir?"

    Kircheis appeared to hold the pair of them with a curious expression before she nodded toward the display. "Where are we?" In tandem, both engineers brought her to the most recent accomplishment, to which Kircheis gave an understanding nod. "And once we pass this power test, we're cleared to move on to the next phase?"

    "The emitter test, yes, sir," replied Karis. "We can then move to the automatics testing and so on and so forth."

    The captain gave a quick nod. "I don't think that I need to be told at every little step of the way. Let's proceed toward the final test with all due speed. People are waiting on us."
    Teelis gave him a look and he responded to the captain for them both. "Yes, sir."


    The mess hall was busy during this time of the evening, with first shift getting dinner and third beginning to show up for breakfast. Despite that, there were a few tables where no one asked to join those already there. The first was the Captain's table, where Kircheis was already seated. The second was occupied by both Vulcanoids on board and they were speaking in low tones.

    Grey passed a PADD back to Teelis with his inputs on the display. "Would I use this conjugation with that context?" he asked softly. His eyes drifted over toward the Captain's table a couple of times as he did so, out of habit.

    "No. That would be more appropriate for a high-ranking person addressing another person of similar social status," Teelis clarified after looking over the words. "You will be mimicking a common member of the House and as such, you would not have need for this conjugation." She seemed to have no interest in the activities of others in the mess hall.

    He pressed his lips together and flared his nostrils as he exhaled. "The learning curve is a bit steep with this language. It has a passing relationship with some of the older dialects of Vulcan, but I think that I may use a form incorrectly and betray the fact that I am not a native speaker."

    "Think of it as a more structured form of Vulcan. That is what my sister believes occurred during the passage from Vulcan to ch'Rihan; the settlers formalized the language and tenses. When I see ancient Vulcan, it is like viewing my own language through a cloudy lens. It looks familiar, but nothing more." As she spoke, Teelis made a few changes to the PADD. "I have erased all the tenses you need not bother to learn at this juncture. Hopefully, this will enable you to streamline your learning." She smiled encouragingly as she looked up again.

    Grey accepted the PADD and his eyes glanced over the contents. "This is less overwhelming, to be sure," he said, his fingers tapping the display downward. "And I would say that modern Vulcan is far more logical a language. No need to couch our verbs in formal or informal forms; we simply prefer clarity over all else."

    "Our culture prizes knowledge but not necessarily the transmission of knowledge far and wide," Teelis admitted. "There is a lot of deliberate ambiguity in our language, as well as many indicators of status. It does complicate the language but when you are born into it, it seems quite natural."

    "'Never use one word where ten will suffice?,' I suppose," Piggy interjected. The ensign had made his way into the hall and picked up a tray without the lieutenant having noticed. Only she expressed some surprise when he spoke.

    "I suppose," Teelis allowed slowly, glancing at the warrant officer as if asking for his assistance.

    Grey chose to misunderstand her look. "A twist on an old Terran saying. It's supposed to be 'never use ten where one will suffice.' The ensign is attempting levity."

    Nearly over Teelis' murmured, "I see," Piggy asked eagerly, "Mind a third for dinner, sir, Mister Grey?" He did not exactly wait for a response to his query, already having set down his tray before Teelis could nod slightly, resigned.

    "More language lessons?" Piggy plowed on in the conversation he was having with the other officer.

    "The installation schedule does not permit me much time to tutor the warrant officer on language and cultural norms except over meals at this juncture," Teelis noted succinctly. Grey noticed that her back had straightened and her tone had become more formal. He doubted that Piggy noticed. Or cared.

    "I've always been fascinated by the Rihannsu culture," Piggy eagerly noted. "Like the naming conventions, with the honoring of your ancestors and the use of geographical locations as middle names."

    "Apparently," Grey affirmed.

    "I do not think that is terribly different from Terran naming norms," Teelis answered, carefully cutting into her clam pancake.

    "Definitely not. My last name, Schweinfurt, is actually a city in Germany. When my ancestors moved from that region to the Americas, their name was inadvertently recorded as their hometown. But they used it anyway because it was easier for non-German speakers to pronounce."

    Despite his instinct to remain silent, Grey asked curiously, "What was the original surname of your family?"

    "Pflueger. It's a strange consonant sound in English," Piggy answered the man, giving him only a brief glance.

    Despite her own obvious reluctance, Teelis seemed drawn into the conversation. She admitted, "When my family immigrated to the Federation, we also changed our surname. We were t'Khnialmnae, which means of the House of Khnialmnae. When we arrived, we choose the name Tei, which is the name of the House in which my mother was born. We dropped the possessive since we are not of that House, merely genetically related to it."

    "Why didn't you just keep Khnialmnae?" Piggy wondered.

    "We felt it was inappropriate to keep the name of the House that would execute us if we were ever caught."

    Grey looked from one officer to the other before pronouncing, "Her story is better."


    Within the same mess hall, the table nearest to the replicator bank on the portside was informally known as "the captain's table." Gallant's size precluded a captain's mess, as larger starships often carried. In lieu of that, Kircheis often chose to sit at a particular table out of habit and over time the rest of the crew simply accepted it as an unspoken norm. Of course, Merrit Kelley often dined with the captain, as she did that evening. Ship's business was sometimes conducted over meals, so long as it was not sensitive information.

    When the executive officer arrived, Kircheis noticed the sudden change in her demeanor, but could not ascertain what caused it. "Something wrong, Merrit?"

    Kelley took her seat, with a mug already in her hand and set it upon the metallic table. Her tone briefly distracted, she replied, "Uh, no, sir. Nothing's wrong."

    The captain decided to take her at face value, and changed the subject. She kept her tone low as she intimated, "I spoke with Captain Tersh'on this morning. He mentioned that he's looking for an officer to command Audacious."

    "The new construction?" Kelley said. "I'm sure you're an excellent choice, sir."

    Kircheis chuckled. "Well, thank you. However, the officer I recommended was you."

    Kelley sat quietly for what seemed to be a long time. "I don't know what to say."

    "How about, 'thank you?'"

    "Thank you, sir," came her quick reply. "I'm not sure that I have enough seniority."

    Kircheis picked up her mug and brought it to her lips. Before she took a sip, she mentioned, "You will in six months. The timing is perfect, because she won't be ready until then. They have a series of modifications in mind for her. Probably if our mission goes well, this new holodevice will be one of them."

    "Even so, sir, I'm sure there are more senior lieutenants in the fleet who're primed for command."

    "Actually," Kircheis showed off her teeth as she smiled, "you're among the group at the top of the list in seniority. At least, of those serving within the squadron." She paused to consider the sudden lack of confidence. "Do you not want command? I can go back to the captain and let him know to look at someone else."

    Kelley shook her head. "No, sir. I'm very gratified by your confidence in me. I would be honored to assume command, it's just that I was taken aback by the news. I assumed that at the end of the year, I would simply put in for another tour aboard Gallant."


    "Yes, sir."

    Kicheis put her left elbow on the table and leaned in to stress the sincerity of her words. "I would have thought to see a little more excitement from you on this. Or are you more suited to just being my XO?"

    Kelley swallowed before responding in an earnest tone. "Sir, I've been privileged to serve under your command. The last year and half, we've seen more action than the typical Defiant-class ship, given our attachment to Admiral Leone's flag."

    "All right."

    "I guess it never occurred to me that command would come this early in my career. I saw myself being transferred to a larger ship, taking a staff position aboard and so on and so forth."

    "It works a little differently when you're working on the smaller ships, of course. But, I see what you're saying. You thought you would be moving out of the squadron and onto a light or heavy cruiser?"

    Kelley nodded slowly. "When I sought my appointment to the Academy, I had visions in my head of standing on the bridge in command of a Galaxy-class starship on the edge of known space." Off her captain's amused expression, she shrugged. "At least, that's what the recruitment propaganda always seems to show."

    "Seen those, yeah."

    As Piggy walked by with his tray to join Teelis and Grey, Kelley continued, "Like I said, it was a surprise."

    "A pleasant one, I hope."

    "Absolutely, sir. Thank you for your recommendation."

    "You more than deserve it," Kircheis turned back to her mug. "And for what it's worth, I wouldn't mind keeping you aboard as my XO for another tour of duty, but as your captain, I also have to do what's right for your career. Staying aboard Gallant might seem like the safer option, but Starfleet needs good, experienced officers to lead in the field. You are one of those people, Merrit."

    Kircheis could not help but smile at how the compliment caused her exec to flush under her scrutiny. Kelley's eyes stared down at the table, but lifted up her gaze to meet Kircheis'. "I won't let you down, sir."