Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Galen4, Apr 30, 2012.
Sounds like a party.
The fact that the singularity wasn't a weapon but a deceleration maneuver makes me feel worse, not better, about the aliens' intent.
And yeah, what good is some old, almost century-old 'bucket' starship going to be? Man, some ship's just get no respect!
Having seen Intrepid in combat under Captain Aubrey's able command, I'm going to have to take exception to Mr. Hadad's assessment.
Yeah me too. If this ship meant to show up that close to a planet, the inhabitants are in trouble.
Ah yes, old ships and their captains are not always welcomed with open arms, as other UT COs can attest.
And the alien ship doesn't seem to be going anywhere for a while, so one could say the stage is set.
Sorry to say there's going to be a lengthy delay before the next chapter goes up. I have a number of life things to take care of over the next few weeks. But I'll try my best to minimize the lag time.
Thanks for commenting!
Deck 3 – VIP Lounge
En Route to N’Skatia
King X’Gaf---all two and a half meters of him--- straightened to his full height and expelled coarse laughter. The rest of the royal family followed suite to one degree of another, standing to yelp out their approval and amusement as they beat their clawed hands together. The quiet thunder of their applause drowned out the more reserved clapping of the attending Starfleet officers.
A Vulcan woman with high cheekbones and jet-black hair rose from within the semicircle of beings and bowed politely at the accolades.
X’Gaf winked. “Ah, who would have known Vulcans could be such masterful story tellers, aye Captain?” Like all N’Skatians, X’Gaf was a humanoid fully enveloped by a coat of green fur. He spoke through a snout accented by protruding incisors. The N’Skatians’ most striking feature, however, was the bat-like ears that towered over their heads, constantly pivoting towards anything of interest.
“I’m as surprised as anyone.” Jason Aubrey admitted. Intrepid’s CO was every bit as undistinguished as X’Gaf was enthralling. Aubrey was in his early forties with a full head of dark blonde hair that crowned a friendly, oval face. For a command officer, his demeanor was curiously gentle and unhurried. He was known for dispensing orders in a conversational tone that carried the pleasing intonations of an English accent. By all appearances, he was a man who invested little passion in life. Only his radiant blue eyes hinted, on occasion, at something ragged just below the still waters.
Commander Shantok navigated through the intimidating throng, declining numerous demands for an encore performance. She made her way to the bar area of the lounge where Aubrey leaned on a stool near X’Gaf.
“Ah hah. Here is the star now.” X’Gaf cocked his head to one side in a disarmingly cute, and no doubt calculated, gesture. “’Star’…I did get that right, did I not?”
Shantok nodded. “There is no Vulcan equivalent of the term your majesty, but the sentiment is appreciated.”
X’Gaf bobbed his snout at Aubrey. “Captain, you’re welcome to take a turn. The mind boggles at the tales a Starfleet captain could impart.”
Aubrey tugged at the collar of his white dress uniform, which the infallible computer had made one size too small. He’d been chaffing under it all night but was held captive by etiquette. Now that the informal portion of the evening had begun, he was eyeing the exit. “Thank you for the offer your Majesty, but I’m afflicted with a dull and laborious oratory. In fact, my crew often dozes off at staff meetings. So unless it’s a bedtime story you’re after, I’ll decline.”
Shantok seemed to give the comment serious weight. “Captain, you’ll be pleased to know that during the last four years, I’ve managed to remain awake during all seventy-three meetings.”
Aubrey’s eyes widened. “You’ve been counting?”
The main doors hissed open and four caterers entered with a floating table between them. There were expectant grunts of approval from the Royal Family as they caught wind of the steaming trays of N’Skatian foul and vegetables that made up the entirety of the spread.
X’Gaf watched his six brothers, two sisters and even his daughter the heiress apparent, fall upon the meal with a voracious enthusiasm that harkened back to his people’s prehistory. “Your crew has done a superb job of preparing our native cuisine.” He observed. “Even more so as I understand that cooking is a lost art among your people.”
“Particularly among the people aboard this ship.” Shantok rejoined dryly. “However…I’m pleased that the results were satisfactory. Much of the credit goes to Master Chief Dunnery and his makeshift kitchen in Cargo Bay Three.” An eyebrow lifted pointedly. “My safety concerns not withstanding.”
“Lucky for us his great Aunt was a chef.” Aubrey put in.
“I am confused. Were you complimenting your crew or illustrating their shortcomings?”
The captain presented a jocular smirk. “Both. Remember, for a Vulcan that was very near a gushing compliment.” He yanked irritably at this collar. “Your Majesty, I hope you’ll forgive my brief absence while I change uniforms. When I return, I’d ask you again to consider my request for a private audience. I have information that may be pertinent to the crisis on your home world.”
X’Gaf nodded quickly at the reminder. “Oh yes, yes, of course. I’m sorry it’s taken so long.” He gave a throaty sigh. “However, the official obligations to my family have at last run their course. There’s now time for a brief meeting, captain.” His brilliant red pupils glinted with bemusement. “As to your uniform, I can only say it’s about time. You’ve been clearly uncomfortable all night.” He shook his head. “You and your suffocating garments. Your people should discard them all together as we have done.”
“Right now,” Aubrey huffed while pulling open his collar, “That sounds like a superb idea.”
Shantok frowned in alarm.
He had taken barely three steps before his combadge chirped. “Adol to captain.”
Muttering under his breath, he tapped his badge. “Mr. Adol, if you want me on the bridge, I’m going topless.”
There was a confused pause on the other end while his Andorian security chief tried to reconcile the comment. Then he heard Lt. Commander Adol clear his throat. “Actually sir, you just received an encoded message from Starbase Bastion. Priority One.”
“It can’t be regarding my report. Starfleet won’t receive it for another week at this distance.” He looked back questioningly at Commander Shantok. “Unless the Soto Array is already online?”
“Unlikely.” Shantok answered. “At last report it was months away from completion.”
“I agree sir,” Adol said through the communicator. “The sign wave doesn’t show an amp signature. This message definitely wasn’t bounced off a listening post. That suggests our outgoing message wasn’t either.”
“Thank you, Commander. I’ll pick it up down here.”
“Captain.” Aubrey stopped short at the grave formality in X’Gaf’s tone. “I expect to be advised immediately of anything relating to the situation on N’Skatia.”
“Of course, but you needn’t worry. Given that the message is a week old, it’s unlikely that it would concern the alien incursion at all.”
X’Gaf’s thoughtful expression advertised a shrewdness consummate to his decades on the throne. “One would think so.”
Noting the suspicious undercurrent, Aubrey acted on impulse. “You’re welcome to join me, your Majesty.”
The N’Skatian scanned him with a dubious eye, as one does when evaluating whether or not to call a bluff. “I accept.” He said after a moment.
Refugee Crisis / Intrepid-"Hydra's Arrow"
They made their way into a spacious side office, one of two that accommodated the VIP lounge. X’Gaf’s broad, hairy shoulders just barely squeezed through the entrance. Once inside, he pressed into a sofa along the far wall, while the captain slid behind a desk across from him.
“Computer, begin priority message from Starbase Bastion. Authorization Aubrey Vanguard Five-Nine-Two-Alpha.”
A wafer-thin monitor unfolded from the desk. It was dual-screened, affording X’Gaf a view from his side of the room.
The hardened face of Admiral Saban Brandies appeared. His taught, square jaw and the deeper than usual crow’s feet around his eyes conveyed a level of distress not seen on him since the war.
As Brandies spoke, he stole hurried glances at a PADD in his right hand, indicating he’d had little time to prep for his communiqué.
“Captain, by the time you get this, it may be old news to you. If not, then at least you’ll have some advance notice.” He drew in a profound breath and began. “Approximately a week after you departed, Starbase 323 intercepted an open transmission from a Xindi prospector near the Athena Cluster. They were conducting tachyon sweeps in the hope of detecting a stable wormhole. Instead, their scans picked up the echo of what appears to be a cloaked vessel, moving in the general direction of the N’Skatiee Sector.”
The screen split in two. On the admiral’s left was a ghostly imprint; a streak of sand grains etched across a sunburst of red and yellow scratches.
“This image is all that was captured. From what we can tell on this end, the ship is at least five kilometers in length and doesn’t fit our species/vessel index of known parties. And based on the faint energy wake that was detected, there’s every reason to believe it’s warp capable. If it begins a superlight trajectory along its projected flight path, it may arrive in the N’Skatiee system ahead of you.
“Our resources are spread thin right now, for reasons you already know. And that’s deep within our borders. Considering you’re on the fringe of Federation space…” His mouth tightened with frustration. “Well, it’ll take weeks to get you any support. I’m sorry captain, but for all practical purposes, you and the staff of Virgo One will be on your own.”
No longer consulting his PADD, Brandies peered directly into the screen, his voice dropping into a somber baritone. “Given all of this, I’m taking the preemptive step of unlocking all of your Vanguard protocols for the duration of this crisis. This includes preauthorization for the deployment and use of Alpha Weapons, based solely at your own discretion. Let’s hope all of this turns out to be a false alarm. Keep me informed as best you can. Brandies out.”
Aubrey scratched his neck through his unbuttoned tunic. “Well…old news as he said, but the effort’s appreciated.”
X’Gaf shifted his ponderous weight forward. He flattened his long ears while affixing Aubrey with a contrite gaze. “'Vanguard Protocols'? 'Alpha weapons'?” He rumbled softly. “What are you not telling me, captain?”
Aubrey met the accusatory stare without hesitation. “Precisely what I wanted to meet with you about, your Majesty. The incident on your home world may be part of a bigger problem.”
The leader of N’Skatia had no tolerance for being spoon-fed information. He glowered ominously, waiting for Aubrey to continue.
So he explained, watching X’Gaf’s mood grow darker with each sentence he uttered. By the time he finished, the N’Skatian was looming over Aubrey’s desk; looking uncomfortably like a green Grizzly bear who had just awoke on the wrong side of his cave.
“An armada of alien ships is descending on the Alpha Quadrant, and Starfleet has seen fit to withhold this information?” It wasn’t a roar precisely, but only because X’Gaf was a seasoned official who, fortunately for Aubrey, had a deep vein of self control to draw upon.
The captain stood and craned up at the carnivore unflinchingly. “This decision was ultimately made by the Council, not Starfleet, your Majesty. But I admit they did so based on our recommendations.” He paused. “Please understand that some of our allies would have acted impulsively, endangering any hope of a diplomatic resolution. They’ll be informed soon, but we needed the lead time to evaluate the threat level.”
X’Gaf snorted dismissively.
“We’ve already seen to that.” Aubrey continued, undeterred. “A response is underway as we speak.”
“And at what point were you planning to inform me?”
“Today, as a matter of fact. That’s why I’ve been requesting an audience all night. It’s also why I chose to share this classified communiqué with you.”
X’Gaf realigned his upper torso, as though adjusting an unseen robe about his shoulders. He was making a visible effort to gather his composure. “We don’t know that the newcomer on my world is part of this incoming ‘migration wave’ you mentioned. We’re not even sure if any of these vessels are hostile.”
Aubrey took the quieter tone as an opportunity to turn down the heat. He made a point of sitting down again before he replied. “Nothing would make me happier than to be proven wrong. But given how aggressively that ship arrived on your world, I’m betting against a friendly visitation.”
Accepting Aubrey’s gesture, the ruler of N’Skatia sank carefully into the sofa, the furniture’s smart material once again morphing to accommodate his dimensions. “So…this explains the rumors.”
X’Gaf harrumphed. “I may distrust Starfleet, but I’m well connected within your organization. My contacts have spoken to me of curious happenings; ships absent from their assigned patrol stations, mysterious construction projects, command officers being called into high level meetings…” He attuned both of his sizable ears towards the captain. “And then there’s you.”
“Yes, you----a celebrated combat veteran. Decorated nine times during the Dominion War, if I’m not mistaken, for feats of valor.”
That fact that his war record was once again defining Aubrey nearly made him squirm. Out of reflex, he trotted out a well-rehearsed statement. “With respect your Majesty, I’m not a soldier. I’m just happy to resume Starfleet’s original charter of exploration.”
X’Gaf let an agonizing silence creep by before gracing the captain with his next words. “I’m sure.” He finally allowed. “Yet, Admiral Brandies made a point of choosing you to take us home. A war hero whose ship carries a mission profile specifically tailored for this crisis----complete with something called ‘Alpha Weapons’, no less.”
“I can assure you----”
X’Gaf silenced him with a wave of his arm. “Starfleet was obviously expecting this incursion. That is why you were given this assignment. And now you have the audacity to feign surprise?”
Aubrey took a mental timeout to marvel at his lousy karma.
The Federation diplomatic team wasn’t aboard as they should have been. Intrepid had been assigned at the last minute and was already late picking up the Royal Family. A detour to collect the diplomatic attachés would have added three days to the trip, a delay that X’Gaf had declared intolerable. Nor did his Majesty travel with aids or ambassadors of his own…he detested speaking through subordinates, especially when abroad.
So once again, here Aubrey sat, facing down the ruler of an entire world while trying to justify policies and decisions made far above him. And he didn’t have the luxury of switching on the monitor to let Brandies or the Federation Council placicate his Majesty’s ruffled feathers.
He took a calming breath. “Your Majesty, you heard it for yourself; the admiral was just as surprised by this development as the rest of us.”
X’Gaf was unmoved. “Or so it appeared. But you military men are skilled at deception.”
It was at this point that Aubrey’s conciliatory bearing started to crack. He glared back, showing irritation for the first time. “So you believe I’m deceiving you as well?”
“Perhaps not intentionally. But you may not be privy to what your superiors know. Either way, Starfleet has yet to fully secure our trust.”
That declaration uncorked a well of emotion in the usually unflappable starship commander. He had almost come to grips with the tribulations of the war, but the death and anguish that had plagued Intrepid’s post war missions in the Gamma Quadrant were wounds yet to heal.
“Yet to fully secure your trust?’” The captain echoed contemptuously. “So it means nothing to you that untold thousands of my colleagues gave their lives to keep the Alpha Quadrant out of the hands of a brutal regime? And by the way your Majesty, those sacrifices were also for worlds not aligned with the Federation at the time----like your own.” The words oozed out of him, slow and frigid. “You don’t trust the military hierarchy? You hate duplicity and propaganda? You despise a government that uses force against its own population? Then I don’t think you’d fancy living under the Dominion.”
Something about Aubrey gave X’Gaf pause. His anger wasn’t the flash of heat or the blustering that he was accustomed to. Instead, the captain was emitting cold fire, his blue eyes narrowing with a sort of ruthless detachment, like a pair of gun sights that had just resolved their next target.
While X’Gaf was far from being intimidated, it was enough to break the momentum of his diatribe and make him reconsider his approach. Predictably, one of his father’s cautionary aphorisms chose that moment to resurface: A noble tongue can smite a thousand swords or smite a thousand lives, so wield it with care.
It occurred to him that on this day he was still in need of his late mentor’s counsel.
“I may have overstated my concerns, captain.” X’Gaf said, his timbre noticeably softer. “I did not mean to cast disparity on all of Starfleet. While I stand by my reservations, I could have chosen my language with greater care.”
Ever so slowly, sunlight pooled back into Aubrey’s predatory expression. Once he was ”fully human” again, he put out his signature half-smile. “It was I who should apologize. My outburst was inexcusable. You’re a visiting dignitary, the leader of an entire race, which is facing a probable invasion on your own soil. The burden of good behavior falls upon me, not you.” He shrugged disarmingly. “Sorry your Majesty, I’m afraid I make a lousy politician."
X’Gaf stood, causing Aubrey to follow suit. “And you have no idea how refreshing that is. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been absent too long.”
“I’ll keep you updated on reports from Virgo One.”
X’Gaf bowed slightly. “And I will do likewise with any briefings from N’Skatia.”
To Aubrey’s immeasurable relief, the imperial ruler of N’Skatia ducked under the doorframe and exited the room.
Remembering his need of a proper fitting uniform, he circuited the desk.
Well, at least that bit of unpleasantness is over with and we’ve gained some mutual respect for one another. After this, I doubt I’ll have to butt heads with the Royal Family again.
Jason Aubrey walked out of the room, not realizing just how wrong his prediction would turn out to be.
Boy, it's been a while, huh?
Glad you haven't given up on this story.
Really like Aubrey here. Like many of his fellow starship captains, the man is not a born diplomat and it shows in that last segment. And yet he did a admirable job to keep his anger in check. In the end, strong words are exchanged, everyone's sorry, no harm has been done but the message has been received loud and clear.
Now I'm eager how he's going to handle these unwelcome 'refugees' once Intrepid arrives at her destination. Don't let us wait another 7 months to find out, ok?
I’m so glad to see this story carried forward!
Aubrey and Intrepid are once again holding the short end of the stick, and during a delicate diplomatic event no less. The awkwardness of the captain's having to explain the refugee crisis, and the Federation Council’s concealment of the threat really added to the tension of the conversation.
I loved Aubrey’s reaction to X’Gaf’s flippant observations about Starfleet’s loyalties, and its demonstration of how close to the surface the pain of the Dominion War still remains in those veterans who survived it.
I was pleased to see Shantok interacting with the other crew and their alien guests so casually, especially after the mental wounds she suffered so recently in Treacherous Waters.
Fantastic stuff, and again, I’m delighted to see you back at the keyboard!
CeJay and Gibraltar: Thanks for commenting!
I hope to continue this without such a big delay next time. Just trying to get my original works done as well.
I can promise another headache for Aubrey and his crew before this is over. As to Shantok's apparent return to normalcy, well...you may want to reserve judgement on that until you see the rest.
Thanks again for dropping by!
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