This is the second story of the USS Nightingale series. The first story can be found here Stardate 53208.3 Council Chambers, Gorn Homeworld Slov was pushed forward as he stumbled into the council chambers central stand, cuffed like a slave. The cuts from his brutal arrest still stinging under the barrage of salt that his fellow Gorn had thrown into the wounds, this was no way to treat a man in his position. But he knew that his fate, sooner or later would take him down this path. He had too many enemies, was too prominent in politics and too much of a risk taker for this fate not to become him. The ways on the Gorn homeworld were harsh, but they made sure that the fittest survived and only the strongest were in command. Of course Slov knew he was still one of those stronger members of his race, but even he couldn't defeat a team of eight on his own. Looking up he saw the ring of seats on the upper balcony where the leading council members sat; each one looking down at him from their illuminated positions. Slov couldn't help but feel small; it was how the room was designed to make the person in the centre feel. As he let the rage and anger build up, he anticipated a fight. He knew his entire existence was hanging in the balance and there was no way that he was going down without a fight. "General Slov you are here before this council, stripped of your position from the ruling body," the leader of the council announced in his booming voice. Glorth had been a strong ally before the second Geckonian - Gorn war, now he was leading the opposition to have him gutted. "Your plan and leadership in the recent war was a complete disaster," another member shouted, "You weakened our military and made an enemy of the Federation." "Our plan was to annex some of their worlds, once the threat of the Geckonians had been eliminated," Slov snarled back out of turn. "Your sloppiness brought them into the war," Glorth screeched, spit from his mouth flying out, almost touching Slov on the face. "It was not my fault that the Federation was able to respond," Slov continued, "My plan almost worked." "Almost is just another word for failure," Glorth snarled, his lips moving in ripples at the word 'failure'. "Yet no Gorn world has fallen to either of our enemy," Slov tried to gain some respect in the room, he had once had all their admiration. "The Federation nor the Geckonians want our worlds," another member shouted, "And our attacks against Federation border worlds have been repulsed with heavy losses." "However," Glorth seemed to compose himself, holding a hand up at the other council members, "You can't be completely to blame." Slov detected a slight reprieve from his participation in the war. "After all your condition does seem to, 'distract' you at times." The way the word distract was used seemed as if it was a euphemism for something more sinister that the council members were thinking. Even Slov had to admit though, his condition despite being nothing more than old age, was starting to get a hold of his thoughts, making him more compulsive and less careful. "We have decided," Glorth said, "That the Geckonian situation can be remedied in a different manner. One in which is far less obvious and costly." "And what manner is that?" Slov bellowed. "That is none of your concern," snapped a member on the opposite side of the circle. Glorth raised his hand again, "But we do need your help Slov." Slov tilted his head slightly, "I'm listening." "We need the Geckonians and the Federation to be off balance for our plan to work," Glorth looked menacingly at either side of him, where both council members gave a stern nod, "We have arranged for you to negotiate a peace treaty, mediated by Starfleet." "The Federation may buy into this," Slov replied, "But the Geckonians are not so stupid." "The Geckonians will go where the Federation will lead," Glorth stated, "After all they have applied for Federation membership." Slov felt the shock of that hit him hard, he had not expected that the Geckonians would want to join the Federation. If they were allowed to, that would alter the balance of power in the whole region, the Federation would get larger and more powerful and the influence that the Gorn could administer would diminish again. "I agree to the mission," Slov said his head held high. Stardate 53208.4 USS Nightingale - Docked at Starbase One One Two - Deck Two, Lieutenant Shrak and Visitor's Quarters Chloe's eyes fluttered gently open, gently adjusting the low lighting that she set before she fell asleep. She found herself as she remembered going to sleep, on the outside of the bed, with her arm over that of Shrak. She quietly attempted to roll herself out of bed, attempting to keep the snoring Andorian asleep. As looked down at the soft skinned bunk mate she did an internal sigh, she had hoped not to get so deeply involved with another officer, yet there was something so alluring about Shrak, something that she couldn't understand or fight against. Chloe slowly slipped her uniform on, staying as quiet as possible and checked the ships time. Zero six forty five. Her shift didn't start for nearly two hours, but being early was never anything to be frowned on. She decided that she would get to the bridge quickly. Walking out of the room, Shrak nearly woke by the bright light that shone from the outside corridor, Chloe waited as the Andorian settled back into her deep sleep. Stardate 53208.4 USS Nightingale - Docked at Starbase One One Two - Bridge Chloe paused as she exited the turbo lift to see the Captain standing in the middle of the deck, she had not expected him to be on duty at the moment. Normally Captain's didn't do night or early morning shifts. "Good morning Captain," Chloe said as she passed him down to her helm station at the front of the bridge. "Lieutenant Visitor," the Captain seemed surprised to see her, she just gave him a small smile, normally one that would melt most men into thinking she was nothing more than a cute innocent girl, though again this morning she felt anything but that innocent. "What are doing up this early?" He asked with a genuine concern in his voice, "Your duty sift doesn't start until zero eight thirty." "I was awake, Captain," she replied, trying to put on her young voice, "So I thought that I would get started on the diagnostics that I planned to do; if that is alright with you sir?" "I think you've done every single diagnostic routine this ship has Lieutenant, at least once," Wilcox's voice seemed very concerned, and he had moved next to the helm control. Chloe could sense his breath on her neck, something that she didn't want to have to deal with. "It's better to have them done loads of time to be sure than not at all sir," Chloe stumbled out, trying to hid some feelings that she didn't want admit to. The feelings of being trapped by her continued relationship with Lieutenant Shrak, her wanting to get out of the relationship and the contradicting feeling of love that she had for the Andorian were all things she wanted to hide. Yet some of those thoughts were fighting their way to the surface, she felt the need to tell someone, just not the Captain, he would not understand. "Well your timing couldn't be better actually," Wilcox said, "I need someone to take over the watch while I and Hans go and see Admiral Naarg about our new deployment." "We're ready to go out?" Chloe asked, the distraction of actually piloting something might take her mind of her 'problems'. "Yes later on today if I get my way," Wilcox said smiling at her, she sensed the feeling that he was trying to be supportive, "So you up for a little officer of the deck time Lieutenant?" "Me sir?" Chloe said, not realising that he meant she could take command for a time. "Of course you," the Captain responded almost laughing, "I only have four people capable of taking command at the moment, Me, Commander Hans, Lieutenant Shrak and you." The Captain paused to move closer to her, "I prefer to have more, but the Doctor failed her last three attempts at the Bridge Officer exam and is no mood to complete it at the moment and V'ras says it's illogical for him to take it." "Illogical?" Chloe had to ask the question; to her it seemed very logical for the fourth most senior officer to have the ability to take command at any point. "Something about he is rarely on the bridge," the Captain smiled, letting Chloe know he didn't buy the engineer's answer. "What about Lieutenant Torlik and Ensign Williams sir?" Chloe asked, both officers were at the opposite ends of the experience spectrum, Torlik was a twenty year veteran of Starfleet while Williams was barely out of the academy; however she herself was barely out of the academy as well. "Torlik is currently banned from taking command due to his record," the Captain said, the disdain for the record evident in his voice, after all Torlik had probably saved all his lives in the maiden voyage with the little technology he had devised, "And Ensign Williams," John paused for a moment, Chloe saw the pain he was going through trying to come up with a diplomatic response, "Well let's just say I think he needs more seasoning before he gets an opportunity to take the test." Chloe blushed, the fact that the Captain already thought of her as a seasoned officer and capable of looking after his ship was a huge compliment. She stood from her station and signalled for a Petty officer from across the room, manning a science station to take her place. "I'll be glad to take the watch sir." "Good," the Captain smiled at her, making her feel reassured she would do a good job. "Now I've got to get station side with that darn Geckonian of a first officer who is like you Lieutenant." "What do you mean sir?" "He never sleeps either," the Captain said walking into the turbo lift. Chloe felt herself giggle a little as she moved to the command chair to sit in it. For the first time, she took a look around the bridge and saw the amazing view that the Captain had all the time. It did a lot to re-enforce the reasons why she joined Starfleet, to be a Starfleet captain. Stardate 53208.4 USS Nightingale - Docked at Starbase One One Two - Lower Engineering V'ras stood at the dilithium matrix readouts and raised an eyebrow, "I did not expect that," he said curiously turning to the executive officer stood next to him. The Geckonian, stood as neutrally as he was stood. If it wasn't for his occasional emotional outbursts and the green leathery skin, the yellow eyes and the while hair, V'ras could imagine him as a fellow vulcan, almost. "The readouts say a six percent increase in efficiency," Hans said, his amazement straying away from his normal composure. "That should boost our top speed and improve engine efficiency," V'ras replied walking away from the console and picking up a padd on the chief engineer's desk. "The Captain would be most pleased." "I'm sure he would," Hans replied raising his own padd. "It should make our next mission go quicker I am sure." "Have we received orders yet?" V'ras raised an eyebrow, he had heard nothing that would constitute as a mission, and he was on the senior staff. "Nothing concrete yet Lieutenant," Hans said, V'ras could tell that the senior officer was annoyed by the question. "The Captain and I will let you know when we have orders Lieutenant." "That would be logical," V'ras said returning back to his, "According to my schedule, we are complete on the repairs and the few upgrades." "Then we better get to our briefing Commander," the Captain's voice came from behind them both. V'ras turned around and nodded at his approval. V'ras noted that Hans stood very upright at attention. "Stand easy Commander," the Captain continued, "We're got to get to a briefing with Admiral Naarg, I suspect we will be getting our orders there." "Good, I'll be glad to get going sir," Hans said walking towards the exit placing the padd he was holding on the desk of the chief engineering officer. "Me too," replied the Captain walking out of the room with the first officer. V'ras raised another eyebrow; it seemed as if the Captain would have wanted the ship out again before she was ready if he had the chance. That would have been most illogical.