UT:TFV – Part IV – Solitary Frontier

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Gibraltar, Mar 8, 2017.

  1. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    I'm loving this. We already established that Izawa is an old-school kind of captain in more ways that one. Now we get a Prime Directive quandary waiting to unfold? Well, you can't go much more old-school in Trek storytelling than that. Champing at the bit here to find out how this captain and crew will handle what comes next.
  2. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    An interesting find - a Starfleet shuttle being checked out by a pre-warp civilization. Or is something else going on? Either way, you've presented an interesting quandary for Izawa and the crew. Good stuff!
  3. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    The briefing would be a necessarily hasty affair, as Valhalla was underway at transwarp speeds towards the star system where the Starfleet shuttle had been located. They would arrive within thirty minutes, which gave them exactly that long to come up with a plan of action that would allow for recovery of the shuttle without violating the Prime Directive.

    Izawa slid gingerly into the seat at the head of the conference table, resting his cane in the crook of the juncture between table and chair arm. “Have the probes given us any biological information on the species themselves?”

    “Very little,” Maddox admitted as he lowered himself into his own chair. “Thus far the probe’s scans suggest than an unmanned robotic recovery team is extracting our shuttle from a cave on a Class-L planet. No life-signs have been detected at that location which would indicate sentient life-forms.”

    Cybel offered, “That’s in our favor. Given that this is a pre-warp civilization, it’s likely that their technology is sufficiently unsophisticated as to allow us to hack their operating systems and deactivate these robots.”

    From across the table, Raffaele gave Cybel a raised eyebrow and a smirk as he mouthed, ‘Ironic, no?’

    She ignored him.

    Maddox cast an amused look at Cybel before turning back to Izawa. “I don’t foresee that as being problematic, given our available expertise, sir.”

    Izawa chuckled in response. “Suffice to say you have my confidence, Commanders. So, our primary plan will be to reconnoiter the situation, then if the scenario warrants, we'll deactivate their robotic devices and beam the shuttle aboard while keeping our electromagnetic profile at an absolute minimum to avoid detection.”

    Cybel was relieved to see a spark of the Izawa she’d known decades before, with his recent embarrassment and hesitation seemingly forgotten.

    The commodore continued. “Now that we have a primary operational plan, we need one or two backups. As the old adage goes, no plan ever survives First Contact.”

    Cybel nodded and turned to Ressessk. “Lieutenant, what can we expect in regard to this species’ offensive and defensive technologies?”

    Ressessk referenced a pad in her hand before replying. “Their offensssive capabilitiesss include mega-watt lasssersss, explosssive projectile weaponsss and jacketed ion emittersss. No sssignsss that they posssesss external ssshielding, though perhapsss polarized hull plating.”

    Next she looked to the engineer. “Chief, what’s their level of spaceflight technology?”

    “Roughly equivalent to early 22nd century Earth tech, sir, without having achieved a faster-than-light breakthrough. Titanium and hexa-tritanium analogues, but nothing remarkably metallurgically advanced. I’d estimate that at best their ships can achieve one-sixteenth impulse speed, but as we’ve seen no indications that they’ve mastered inertial dampening technology, their biology might not be able to withstand the g-forces of even that level of acceleration.”

    “I have some suggestions,” Maddox said…

    * * *​

    Shuttlecraft Freya

    The shuttle’s stealth coating made it nearly invisible to passive sensors, and very hard to track by active scanning. It wasn’t a cloaking device, but it was the next best thing.

    Maddox occupied the copilot’s seat, studying his sensor returns as Beresha worked to keep the shuttle in position among the planet’s thin band of dust and ice rings.

    The chief engineer, outfitted with a mobile emitter, worked alongside two of his subordinates in the shuttle’s cargo area to calibrate a series of specially designed transport pattern enhancers. These would be placed around the abandoned shuttle in order to allow Valhalla to beam the entire craft aboard from a longer-than-usual transport distance of some half-million kilometers from the planet’s surface.

    As he looked into his sensor scope, Maddox noted that the robotic alien drones that were working to extract the shuttle from the mouth of the cave system were not having an easy time of it.

    Discrete sensor returns from the recovery site indicated that the aliens’ efforts at extracting the shuttle from its makeshift ‘hangar’ had been hampered by more than one avalanche of cascading rock from the escarpment.

    Maddox gestured for the engineer’s attention and pointed to the readings on his display. “Our recon probes are showing some odd striations in the rock cut into the face of the cliff above the cave system. I’m no geologist, but those look a bit too uniform to be natural.”

    The engineer frowned, and reached past Maddox to toggle the interface, scrolling through multiple screens. “Those are deliberate,” he assessed finally. “See here? Those were cut into the rock face with phasers. The weapon’s resonance traces were left in the magnetic elements in the rock, like the grooves in an ancient vinyl record.”

    The science officer tugged absently at his mustache. “Someone intentionally weakened the rock face?”

    “Boobytrap,” the hologram replied with a nod. “My guess is whoever parked the shuttle in that cave buried the entrance in the initial rock-fall. Then they cut those striations into the cliff face so that any tampering with the rubble at the base of the cliff would bring the rest of the cliff face down.”

    “No wonder we didn’t detect the shuttle’s beacon or comm-signals from under all that debris.”

    The engineer brought up another sensor display that showed metallic debris crushed beneath the most recent rock-falls. “Our new friends have lost at least three of their excavator drones in multiple avalanches over the past day.”

    Maddox blew out a breath. “That’s going to play hell with our plan to beam that thing out of there.”

    “Even with the pattern enhancers we were pushing the envelope of Valhalla’s transport range and capacity, especially with something as large as the shuttle.” The engineer stepped back and folded his arms across his chest. “What’s the most appropriate colorful invective for this circumstance, sir?”

    “Too many to choose from,” Maddox answered with a sigh.

    Beresha glanced up from the helm controls. “Perhaps it’ll be necessary for you to hack their drones after all, Commander?”

    Maddox inclined his head, conceding her point. “So it would appear. I’ll alert the commod—“

    A warbling alarm drew their attention to an auxiliary display. The engineer moved quickly to silence the alarm and assess the situation. “Well…” he said disbelievingly, “that’s a problem.” He directed his surprised expression at Maddox. “One of their observation drones just grabbed our stealth recon probe, sir.”

    “What?” Maddox fumed. “At their level of tech, they shouldn’t have been able to even detect our probe, let alone capture it!”

    “I thought our probes emitted a holo-mimetic field?” Beresha said.

    “They do,” Maddox and the engineer replied in unison before sharing an irritated glance.

    Maddox keyed a coded sequence into his console. “I’m triggering the probe’s auto-destruct.” He looked to Beresha. “Better tell the ship what’s happening. We may have to abort the mission and come at this from another angle.”

    * * *​

    USS Valhalla
    Main Bridge

    “Sir, shuttle Freya reports one of their recon probes has been captured by the alien recovery team and had to be destroyed.”

    Izawa stood in response to Raffaele’s announcement and hobbled to a position near the Ops console. “How is that possible?”

    Somehow, Raffaele managed to keep his voice free of irony when he replied, “It appears the aliens in this new galaxy may possess some unanticipated abilities, Commodore.”

    If Izawa detected the sarcasm, it didn’t show. Rather, he turned back towards Cybel. “Recommendations, Commander?”

    She stood and joined him between the Ops and Flight Control stations. “Now they know someone is observing them. I’d recommend withdrawing the probes and Freya until we can figure out how they caught on to us, sir.”

    Izawa appeared disappointed, but resolute. “I concur. Withdraw our probes, Lieutenant, and tell Commander Maddox to return to Valhalla.”

    Raffaele affirmed the order, but as Izawa and Cybel turned back to resume their seats, he exclaimed, “What the—?”

    Izawa came about in his tracks. “Report.”

    “Uh… sir, one of the alien drones in orbit jus—“ he blinked. “Correction, it vanished, but now I’ve reacquired the drone on sensors. It’s now two-hundred fifty thousand kilometers from its last position.”


    Raffaele shook his head. “I can’t, sir. It appears to have just… jumped. It vanished from one place and reappeared in another. There’s no warp or transwarp signature to explain its change in position.”

    “That’s not possible,” the ensign manning the Flight Control station offered amazedly.

    “Well someone ought to tell them that, because they just did it,” was Raffaele’s bemused reply.

    On his sensor returns, the alien vehicle vanished yet again. “A second jump,” Raffaele noted. “Sir, its movement appears to be in a direct line towards our shuttle.”

    Valhalla to Freya,” Izawa called out, opening a comms channel. “Fall back to the ship at best speed. It appears you may have been detected.”

    “Affirm, Valhalla,” came Maddox’s voice. “We see it, too. Cybel, do you think they could be employing a dimensional shift?”

    She queried the ship’s sensors without moving, completing an analysis in her head in seconds. “I’m not seeing any of the accompanying radiation or fractious dimensional rebound that folded-space transport generates. Whatever this is, it’s not that.”

    * * *​

    Shuttlecraft Freya

    The drone’s next jump put it directly in Freya’s path. Beresha’s stomach tried to crawl up into her throat as she threw the shuttle into an abrupt evasive maneuver that sent them into a rolling corkscrew pattern around the vehicle, clearing it by mere meters.

    “We’re being scanned,” the engineer noted from his station.

    Maddox’s hands were frozen on his console as his mind tried to catch up with the near-collision that had taken just over a second-and-a-half. “Nice flying, Lieutenant,” he rasped through a suddenly dry mouth.

    * * *​

    USS Valhalla

    “The aliens’ sensors aren’t tracking Freya itself, sir,” Raffaele assessed. “It looks like they’re picking up the shuttle’s impulse wake.”

    “Can they bring the shuttle in unpowered?” Izawa inquired.

    “If they cut thrust now and proceed under inertia it’ll take another three hours for them to get to our position.”

    Izawa cast a glance to Cybel in the next seat over. She shook her head. “Too long, sir. They could flood the area with their other drones and it’s doubtful the shuttle’s stealth coating would keep them hidden against that level of intensive scanning.”

    “York, please try and compromise their drones’ command and control network,” Izawa ordered.

    “Aye, sir.”

    She cocked her head slightly and the life seemed to vanish from her eyes. It was the first time that Izawa had witnessed Cybel exhibit what he would describe as android-like behavior.

    Without warning a cacophonous shriek emitted from Cybel’s mouth as she pitched forward out of her seat onto the deck, her body writhing. Izawa started, coming half way out of his own seat as he moved to cover his ears.

    The commodore knelt painfully near the flailing form of Cybel, careful to remain just out of reach of her thrashing limbs as he continued to hold his hands over his ears to protect against the awful clicking, popping screech issuing from his first officer.

    Behind the Tactical arch, Ressessk thudded insensate to the deck, her biology unable to cope with the high-decibel assault.

    Though the rest of the bridge crew was also largely incapacitated, Raffaele staggered over to reach behind Cybel. He located and pushed a discrete switch along her spine just as one of her flailing arms caught him across the temple and threw his unconscious body rolling across the deck like a rag-doll.

    Cybel now lay motionless and Izawa clambered awkwardly back into the command chair, shouting orders which no one else on the bridge could hear.

    He felt Valhalla surge into motion and saw the star-scape on the viewer swirling as the ship maneuvered.

    As he tried to get his bearings, Izawa saw the viewer flicker as the starship briefly entered and then exited transwarp space. He looked to his armrest display to see words appearing there.

    ‘This is Cybel. The ship is safely away from the planet, and shuttle Freya is with us in a tractor beam. It appears we underestimated the aliens. Those weren’t drones after all. They’re members of a hive-like machine intelligence. The Cybel android was overwhelmed by the complexity of the mind she was trying to infiltrate. We made sure she was sequestered safely from our mutual network before we attempted the hack, so there’s been no compromise of the main computer.’

    Izawa stifled a groan as he shifted in his chair. Though he could not hear his own voice, he ordered, “Recover our shuttle and stand to yellow alert.” He touched his ear, withdrawing fingers tinged red with blood. “And get a medical team up here, York.”

    * * *​
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2017
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  4. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    So the Valhalla is 0-1 in first contacts in the Andromeda Galaxy, rapidly catching up to the USS Endurance first contact record of 0-2. :lol: Starfleet is having a rough time with extra-galactic exploration!
    Seriously though, there were some scary moments here. What looked like a milk run recovery of that shuttle craft nearly turned disastrous. Hope they can repair the Cybel 'droid. She should still be under warranty. ;) And what of the buried shuttle craft? Perhaps Pava's katra is stored in the food processor?!?

    That would be cool. :cool:
  5. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    You, sir, are an unrepentant smartass! :guffaw:

    Yeah, the LMC hasn't been too kind to Valhalla so far. But, it may take some time for their captain to brush the dust off. They're just fortunate that this particular ship can get itself out of trouble if and when the crew is up the proverbial stinky creek sans paddles.

    As for what's in the shuttle's replicator, I doubt Pava's rattling around inside. Now, his recipe for El Aurian pruurta-seed cake, perhaps. :nyah:
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  6. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    Pretty good addition. You mention Pava. Is he making a return in some impossible and unexpected way?
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  7. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    Oh man, so much for spying on a seemingly primitive, pre-warp civilization. That's some poor intelligence, guys, gotta do better. At least Izawa's words turned out to be prophetic about no plan surviving first contact. Now let's hope those backup plans pan out.

    Great little twist to this, taking us in unexpected new directions.
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  8. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    USS Valhalla
    Observation Lounge, Deck 1

    “In conclusion, the aliens we’ve encountered are members of a collective machine consciousness, though from all signs a relatively benign one. Whatever exotic faster-than-light propulsion system they’ve created, it seems to work at interstellar distances as well. Our probes to other local systems now confirm this species has a presence in a number of them. In our initial assessment, we mistakenly believed they were native to the second planet in this system. It now appears that planet is simply a colony.”

    A holographic representation of Cybel finished her report and looked to Izawa. Cybel’s holo-doppleganger was so perfect the commodore had to remind himself that her actual physical body was presently undergoing an extensive diagnostic in Maddox’s cybernetics lab on Deck 5.

    Before the commodore could speak, Raffaele took the opportunity to distill Cybel’s findings for the benefit of the group. “So, though it’s undeniably a botched First Contact, we didn’t technically violate the Prime Directive. Only half-bad, then.” The lieutenant still sported a small neural-synaptic monitor on his temple to record the progress of the medical nanites that were treating the serious subdural hematoma he’d suffered when Cybel had inadvertently struck him on the bridge.

    Izawa frowned dourly but otherwise did not acknowledge Raffaele’s flippant assessment.

    “The good newsss,” Ressessk offered, “isss that though they had the opportunity, thisss ssspecies did not fire on our ssshuttle.”

    “True,” Maddox agreed. “However, I fail to see how our attempt at compromising their control systems could be seen as anything but an attack. If our positions were reversed, we’d certainly feel threatened.”

    Cybel interjected, “We can’t know that for certain until we can take my android’s positronic net out of quarantine and I can integrate her memories of the encounter. The overload to her neural-net may not have been a malicious act on their part.”

    “Meanwhile, our shuttle remains in their hands… so to speak,” the engineer observed.

    As the junior-most officer present, Beresha had been hesitant until now to speak up. “Now that we know we’re not violating the PD by contacting them, why don’t we simply open communications and ask for our shuttle back?”

    “An excellent suggestion, Lieutenant,” Izawa finally spoke up. “However, I believe for the time being we will wait until we can determine if what happened to Commander Cybel on the bridge was an attack. Until then, we will continue to monitor the situation as best we can from a distance to gather as much information as possible on this species.” He placed his hands on the table top. “Thank you all for your input, this meeting is adjourned.”

    The officers filtered out until only Izawa and Cybel remained. She inspected the older man for a moment before speaking. “Normally it would be in Dr. Zelbin’s purview to ask this, but have you been sleeping, sir?”

    Izawa took a moment himself, staring into his mostly empty tea cup before responding. “Not really, no.”

    A comfortable silence followed as the two old friends waited for the other to fill the void.

    “Your aren’t going to suggest I see the doctor, or perhaps the ship’s counselor?” Izawa inquired, looking askance at his XO.

    “Respectfully, commodore, you’re a big boy. I trust you to know if and when you require such intervention. I would not presume to suggest otherwise,” she counseled with an impish grin.

    He actually managed a smile at that. “Thank you. I’m… not used to getting a bloody nose right out of the gate.”

    “It happens to the best of them, sir. Archer and the Klingons, Sisko at Bajor, DeSoto and the Tholian Incident. At least in our case, nobody got hurt. That’s something.”

    Izawa raised an eyebrow. “Lieutenant Raffaele suffered significant cerebral-cranial damage.”

    “Nobody important got hurt,” Cybel amended with a wink. “Rafe occasionally needs a good knock to the head. It brings him down to our level.”

    “I’d remind you that you’re likely more intelligent than the aggregate intellect of all the homo sapiens who have ever lived.”

    She held a finger up to her lips. “Shh, sir. You’ll give me a swelled head, not unlike Rafe’s.”

    Izawa laughed. “Thank you, again. I have a terrible tendency to brood, I know that. It’s difficult to do with you around.”

    “All part of the service, sir.” She stood.

    “Good work getting us out of there,” Izawa offered in parting praise. “If we hadn’t departed the area when we did, who knows what might have happened? It seems Starfleet was correct in allowing an AI aboard a starship after all.”

    Cybel grinned. “I appreciate that, sir. I’ll also be sure to rub it in with M-12 at Daystrom. It takes itself almost as seriously as you.”

    Izawa shook his head. “Forgive me. It’s strange to hear you talk about your AI peers in such terms. One would think that such competitiveness would be an exclusively biological trait.”

    “You forget, sir, a crucial component of sentience is ego.”

    “Ah,” he nodded appreciatively. "Totemo yoi.”

    Cybel paused on the threshold of departing. “We’re having a dinner party tonight with the senior staff, sir. You’re invited, of course.”

    “I thank you, York. However, I’m going to take the opportunity to engage in some meditation and self-reflection. I need to rediscover the me that I last saw on Yorktown’s bridge. Please send my regards to the others.”

    “I will, sir. Good night.” With that, Cybel abruptly vanished, startling Izawa who’d once again forgotten that she was a hologram and not her android avatar.

    He chuckled to himself as he limped towards the exit. “Silly old man.”

    * * *​

    Deck 8

    The door to Cybel and Maddox’s quarters chimed.

    Maddox commanded it to open, revealing a smiling Raffaele in civilian clothes, holding a bottle of expensive Rigellian wine. “Though I have arrived fashionably late, I thought tonight’s festivities were a suitable occasion to open a bottle of the ’44.”

    Maddox stepped into the doorway, making a show of inspecting the bottle before allowing Raffaele admittance. “Lorshian Estates… hmm. Yes, I think that’s acceptable.” He gave the younger man a quirky smile. “Please come in, Rafe,” he added, using his wife’s nickname for the man.

    Raffaele entered just in time to see Ressessk with her head back, dropping a live mouse into her mouth from above. “Oh, c’mon!” He made a sour face and lost some of the color in his cheeks. “That has to be against a law or regulations or something?”

    Ressessk, clad in the formal robes favored by her people, chewed with relish and then swallowed before giving the Italian a smile full of sharp teeth. “Do you complain thisss much when you sssee Klingonsss eating gagh?”

    The man huffed as though gravely insulted. “The Klingons and I are no longer speaking. They know what they did.” He abruptly turned and walked away, leaving Ressessk staring quizzically after him.

    The engineer stepped up beside the security chief, holding a holographic drink in his hand. “And the others find me strange,” he remarked with no small amount of irony.

    “You’re not ssstrange, merely photonic,” Ressessk countered. “That, however, isss a very confusssing mammal.”

    The hologram nodded sagely. “You know what they say on the Gorn homeworld. More mammals, more problems.”

    Now Ressessk turned her curious expression on the engineer. Realizing he’d probably said something wildly inappropriate, the hologram busied himself sipping at his illusory ale as he studied his fingernails with feigned interest.

    Cybel nodded to Raffaele in acknowledgment of his arrival while deep in conversation with Dr. Zelbin. The Tiburonian physician nibbled from a plate of hors d'oeuvres, enjoying Valarian canapés and miniature Bajoran hasperat.

    As Maddox opened the wine bottle and added it to the growing number of exotic liquors set out on a counter-top, he spotted Beresha admiring a painting of the late Lt. Commander Data that adorned one bulkhead. He stepped over to join the youthful Deltan woman, who was clad in a delicate, colorfully flowing gown of Tholian silk that seemed to swirl gracefully around her as she moved.

    “It’s an original, a self-portrait. Data left it to us in his will.”

    Beresha turned to inspect the older man. “I had no idea you and he had grown so close. Most everyone knows about the case you brought against him… it’s taught at the academy.” She smiled awkwardly. “I’m sorry if that’s a painful subject, all things considered.”

    “No,” Maddox demurred, “not at all. I’m a very different person now, in large part due to what I learned from Data during that whole affair. Losing that case is one of the best things that ever happened to me.” He gestured to Cybel and the engineer from across the compartment. “The ruling on Data’s sentience not only set legal precedent for the holograms’ case a decade later, it literally set Cybel free. Until then she’d been stored in an isolated mainframe at the Daystrom Institute, cut off from everything as a ‘precaution’ against her doing something similar to Dr. Daystrom’s machine intelligence.”

    Beresha’s eyes widened. “I’d just assumed she was granted her independence when Yorktown returned to Federation space.”

    “Far from it. In fact, Captain Izawa narrowly escaped a general court-martial for not having deactivated her after he realized she’d developed self-awareness.”

    The Deltan shook her head gently in amazement, a human gesture she’d picked up during her time at the academy.

    Across the room, Cybel approached Raffaele, a regretful expression on her face. “I am so sorry, Rafe. How’s your head?”

    “You’ve already apologized, but it never hurts to hear you grovel.” He laughed. “Seriously, though, I’m fine.” He looked around the cabin. “The commodore isn’t joining us?”

    “No, not tonight.”

    Raffaele evidenced a conspiratorial smirk. “Old man isn’t pouting, is he?”

    Cybel cocked her head disapprovingly. She leaned in to whisper, “That’s our commanding officer you’re talking about, Lieutenant. Our friendship notwithstanding, I won’t have you disrespecting him like that, especially not in the presence of the other senior officers.” She appeared to reign in her emotions before adding, “You promised me you weren’t going to be like this. I can repeat the entire conversation verbatim for you if you’d like.”

    He nodded fractionally, blanching. “You’re right, sir. I’m sorry.” Raffaele sighed. “I know it’s not his fault. I just don’t like being caught out like that, especially here in uncharted territory. Starfleet’s been doing this for over two-hundred years. Newly discovered species aren’t supposed to get the jump on us like that. Literally, in our case.”

    “It’s supposed to keep us humble,” she replied. “The moment we get too comfortable or conceited, someone like the Borg comes along to remind us otherwise.”

    Raffaele nodded. “True enough,” he conceded before wandering off to peruse the hors d'oeuvres.

    The engineer stepped up to take Raffaele’s place, sipping at his artificial drink. Cybel gave him a knowing smile and an identical drink appeared in her own hand.

    “I’ve never been good at this sort of thing,” he waved his drink towards the others in an all-encompassing gesture, “mingling.”

    Cybel offered, “There’s an art to it. If you like, I can give you a copy of one of my social subroutines as a baseline reference.”

    “What do you think about initiating a limited reboot of your diagnostic cycle?” the engineer said, then blinked, looking confused.

    “Wrong conversation,” Cybel told him with a wry grin. In another compartment several decks away, identical versions of Cybel and the engineer were conducting a painstakingly comprehensive diagnostic on her android body.

    He sighed in response. “Sorry. Damn. I can’t believe I can’t keep that straight.”

    “You’re learning, Chief. It can be frustrating, certainly, but in the end developing your own socialization programs will be far more satisfying than uploading them from someone else. It’ll also give you a stronger sense of individuality. If you wanted, you could download all the Voyager doctor’s social interaction programs, but then you’d be indistinguishable from him.”

    “I’d rather be my own man, so to speak,” he confirmed.

    She raised her glass in a toast. “Hold tight to what is most yourself, don't squander it, don't let your life be governed by what disturbs you.”

    The engineer inclined his head. “The wisdom of Abu al-Ala al-Ma'arri.”

    “None other.” Cybel’s eyes widened and her expression was one of surprise. “Interesting, we’re being hailed…”

    Then her voice came over the ship’s public address. “Senior officers to the bridge. We are being hailed by the aliens recovering our shuttle.”

    Raffaele was halfway through pouring himself a second drink. “Wait, are you on the bridge?”

    Cybel nodded, “Gamma watch duty officer.”

    “And you’re fixing yourself in the cybernetic lab, and you’re here, too?”

    She smiled enigmatically. “I like to stay busy.”

    Near the door, Dr. Zelbin held up a hypospray. “Okay, everyone. Sobriety-in-a-can on your way out, doctor’s orders.”

    Raffaele set the drink down and looked petulant. “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

    * * *​
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  9. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    I liked the slower paced, casual mingling of these officers following their run-in with the aliens. So Maddox is married to Cybel? Very interesting, considered his admitted former stand against Data during the early TNG years. Seems he's really done a 180. Raffaele is still a bit of a puzzle to me - obviously brilliant but with a chip on his shoulder. For a lieutenant, he seems a bit too quick to criticize the actions of Commodore Izawa. Well, hold that thought . . . The aliens are holding on line 2.
  10. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    Wow, Cybel and the Chief remind me of Romy from Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda. I like this crew and how well they work together. I can also understand why Rafe and the Klingons aren't speaking anymore. I had a character once upon a time who got violently ill, eating gagh and puked all over a Klingon general's lap.
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  11. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    Continue to enjoy what you are doing with this crew, and nice to see them here with their hair (or simulated hair) down. Gotta enjoy this nice and quiet interludes, probably not going to get many of these.

    Also quite excited to find out more about these aliens. Are hostile or benign? Will they give up the shuttle willingly? Do they have knowledge of Europa's whereabouts?
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  12. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Main Bridge
    USS Valhalla

    Cybel’s expression was one of wry amusement as she announced. “Now trying lingua-code variation forty-three.” She glanced to her husband at the Science station. “How are you doing on the mathematical referents algorithms?”

    Maddox shrugged, stifling a yawn. “Nothing so far, which is amazing in and of itself. Lingua-code can be hit-and-miss with a new species, but math? This progression worked with the Pakleds for pity’s sake!” He rubbed his eyes. “We’ve tried base-three, base-ten, base-twelve, et-cetera, et-cetera.

    “And still no luck with what they’ve sent us?” Izawa inquired hopefully.

    “The Universal Translator can’t make heads-or-tails of it, sir. It’s like they’re speaking gibberish.” Under his breath Maddox added, “Coded gibberish with a helping of word salad.”

    “Perhaps it’s something like the Tamarians? Socio-historical references that we don’t understand?” offered Beresha from the Helm.

    A patient smile flitted across Maddox’s lips at the young officer’s earnest desire to be helpful. “In the case of the Tamarians, Lieutenant, the UT could decipher the language itself; we just couldn’t comprehend the metaphorical allusions.”

    Multiple alarms sounded and Raffaele sat up straighter at his station as he announced, “One of their drones just jumped in next to us, forward-port quarter, distance twenty-seven-point-one kilometers.”

    From the Tactical station behind them, Ressessk inquired, “Ssshields, Commodore?”

    Izawa held up a belaying hand. “Stand by on shields.” Grabbing hold of his cane, Izawa stood and hobbled to a point equidistant between his seat and the forward control stations.

    “Ops, where did the craft originate?”

    “Unknown, sir. The drones we’ve had under surveillance in the three nearest systems are all still accounted for.”

    “We’re being scanned,” Maddox noted as the bridge lights began to flicker, accompanying the sound of power systems waning.

    “Intensive multi-spectrum sensor probe,” Raffaele added. “It’s overwhelming primary power systems.”

    Cybel turned to say something to Izawa but abruptly vanished at the same moment the engineer on the bridge’s upper level also wavered into non-existence.

    “Shields,” Izawa commanded in a firm yet calm tone.

    “Ssshields are inoperative,” Ressessk hissed with evident irritation. She surveyed her displays. “Weaponsss ssstatusss fluctuating.”

    “Well, this isn’t good,” Raffaele remarked in a subdued tone from his station.

    Izawa’s expression hardened. “Helm, back us away, one-quarter impulse.”

    “No response from the helm, sir!” Beresha answered breathlessly.

    “Even less good.”

    “Thrusters?” Izawa inquired.

    Maddox quickly reconfigured his Science station into an Engineering interface, attempting to run diagnostics as his screen flickered. “Inertial control thrusters appear operative, sir.”

    “Helm answering sluggishly, sir!”

    The shaky viewscreen image of the alien craft began to pull back as Valhalla inched away from it. Her chemical reaction thrusters were opened full-throttle, but the mass of the ship necessitated time to build momentum.

    “I’m seeing a power surge in the drone,” Raffaele observed.

    Izawa turned back to fix a grim visage on Ressessk. “Do we have enough power for a phaser burst?”

    “Barely, sssir.”

    “Will it be sufficient to destroy that drone?”

    “Unknown,” she answered gravely.

    “I’d remind the Commodore that those aren’t merely drones, but life-forms,” Raffaele advised. “Members of the species themselves.”

    “Thank you, Mister Raffaele. I’m well versed in the value of non-biological life.”

    Izawa hesitated. He had more than sufficient provocation to defend his ship, but something about this didn’t feel like an overt attack. However, Valhalla was vulnerable, and growing more so by the second. If he did not act definitively soon, any forthcoming attack might well overwhelm them.

    He closed his eyes briefly, silently reciting, “My opponent is my teacher, my ego is my enemy. I am samurai; I do not strike recklessly or without thought.” Outwardly, Izawa called, “Lieutenant Ressessk, target that craft an—“

    The bridge lights resumed and the groan of flagging power systems ceased as suddenly as it had begun. Cybel and the engineer reappeared with a hum, both looking disoriented.

    “Sir,” Maddox called, “the drone is gone. Our shuttle is now occupying its last known position.”

    For once, Raffaele was speechless, merely grunting in surprise.

    Izawa spared Cybel a brief nod. “Welcome back, Commander,” he said before turning to Ressessk. “Scan the shuttle thoroughly for any signs of tampering or booby-traps, though I doubt we’ll locate any. Once it’s passed muster, bring it into shuttle bay three. I want engineering and forensic teams checking that craft down to the molecular level.”

    He gestured to Maddox. “Commander, please conduct a level-two diagnostic on both the XO’s and the chief’s holo-matrix, just be safe. Mister Raffaele, until Commander Cybel is cleared to resume her duties, you have the bridge.”

    With that, Izawa limped at a stately gait towards his ready room door. Once inside, he let out a long, controlled breath, the slightest hint of a smile gracing his lips. For the first time in a very long time, Takeo Izawa felt like himself.

    * * *​
    CeJay, mthompson1701 and admiralelm11 like this.
  13. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    Sounds like it's time to call in a communications wizard to see what these aliens are doing.
  14. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Close call. Glad the Commodore made the right decision here but that could have gone either way. Looks like his instincts are still good. Hopefully this will give him a confidence boost.
    Hope Cybel is okay. From this first contact encounter it would seem she is quite vulnerable. I'm sure Commander Maddox will be looking to improve her security protocols. She doesn't need to go all Tin-man every time it rains.
    How nice of the drones to return the shuttle craft! Now, perhaps, we'll have some clues as to the disposition of Europa, et. al.
  15. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005

    Just getting into your story, reading the first two sections. An intriguing set up so far. I do like new crews and missions. Unfortunately I'm not up to date on the latest happenings with Gibraltar/Europa so it took me a moment to settle in. It looks like you're developing a fun crew for the Valhalla and that's cool to stretch that funny bone and write some offbeat characters. I also like the look of the Valhalla. Cool ship. Looks like it can kick some tail.

    Cybel has made the biggest impression on me so far. I really like the idea of an AI officer. Reminds me of Science Officer 0718 that was in Into Darkness, though with more personality. And I also got a Number One vibe from her as well. And I can't help but think of Lexa Doig in Andromeda when I read her parts now. Raffaele is a little unorthodox but I'm sure by the end of this story we'll see why Cybel knows he's the best man for the job. I like the inclusion of Bruce Maddox as well. It might be unfair but I still don't trust that guy.

    I also like that you are using the commodore rank. It's very cool and I wish the 24th century shows had used it. I don't know what the stardate is but I could see Izawa being a contemporary of Samson Glover. I don't think I ever put it in print but I imagined Glover was born around 2305. I'm assuming that this story takes place in the 2380s. The commodore would be a few years older than Glover but not so much they wouldn't still be contemporaries.

    Looking at your stardate, does this story take place in 2383?

    Last edited: Mar 29, 2017
    Gibraltar likes this.
  16. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    ^ It does, yes.
  17. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005
    Read two more sections today. I'm liking what I'm seeing here. I think the political scene you set up is very intriguing and how forces might be using Izawa and the Valhalla crew for nefarious purposes. And I like how Izawa didn't know it, that he's a bit rusty. I also liked how Rafaelle had some grasp of the real reason for the Valhalla's mission.

    I'm enjoying the relationship you've showed between Cybel and Izawa. They have a unique history and relationship. It reminded me of Sisko and Dax. I also like the Chief, a neat way to include a now classic character onto Valhalla while making him fresh and new as well. And I like the Selay security officer. I've always liked the Selay. I can't remember if I've ever had a Selay officer on one of my ships but it's something I had thought about.

    Also, thanks for the shout out for Samson Glover.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2017
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  18. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    TheLoneRedshirt and DarKush like this.
  19. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    I keep visualizing Mako or Pat Morita for some reason as Izawa. The picture makes more sense. Thanks for sharing that, Gibraltar.
    Gibraltar likes this.
  20. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Chapter 3

    Main Bridge
    USS Valhalla

    The muted thump of Izawa’s cane-tip on the bridge’s carpeted deck heralded the commodore’s arrival at the aft Science station. “What do we have, Commander?” Izawa asked in response to Maddox’s summons.

    “The shuttle is the Aventine, registered to the starship Venture. It was believed to be the shuttle Sandhurst appropriated for his escape from Venture during the battle with the Romulans, and now we’ve confirmed that.”


    “Yes, sir. The DNA traces recovered from the shuttle are from a human/Amon hybrid, with the human components matching the DNA on file for Donald Sandhurst. Additionally, the shuttle’s bussard-collectors have been reconfigured, as have some of the power waveguides in the EPS system.”

    “Let me to guess,” Izawa postulated. “The modifications allow for the collection and consumption of Amon life-essence energy?”

    Maddox nodded soberly. “Precisely, sir.”

    “Do we know how long he was in possession of the shuttle for?” Izawa inquired.

    “The shuttle’s maximum speed is warp five-point-two, and it would have taken just over nine weeks at that speed to reach this system from Shul’Nazhar. That journey expended the shuttle’s deuterium and anti-matter supplies. It appears he hid the shuttle in the mouth of the cave system, buried the entrance, and then booby-trapped it to prevent anyone else from accessing it.”

    “And no indication of where he may have gone from there?”

    “Not as yet, sir. Though I could hypothesize that the Class-M planet in system LMC-043923 must have been destroyed by the time he reached this region, or Sandhurst would have attempted to rendezvous with the Amon there.” Maddox turned to observe Cybel exiting the turbolift, adding, “I’ve got the chief going over the shuttle’s computer logs to see if Sandhurst left any indication of where he went next.”

    Cybel approached, giving Izawa a nod of greeting as she placed a hand on Maddox’s shoulder. “Forgive me for eavesdropping, but it bears pointing out that without the bio-essence energy collection capabilities of the shuttle, Sandhurst would have been limited to whatever essence-infused food stores he could have replicated before abandoning the shuttle. That would have severely limited his options.”

    “Perhaps he rendezvoused with the Amon here?” Maddox offered.

    “If so, why hide and booby-trap the shuttle?" Cybel countered. "He’d have just taken it with him aboard the Amon cube, or scuttled it. Booby-trapping it suggests he thought he might have use for it again.”

    Maddox conceded the point with a thoughtful bob of his head.

    Cybel turned to Izawa. “The chief and I have finished our diagnostic series on my avatar. We’re just awaiting Bruce’s final go-ahead to bring her back online.”

    Izawa squinted at his first officer. “Her? Don’t you mean ‘you’?”

    The hologram gave the commodore a tolerant smile. “She’s ‘her’ until I incorporate her memories, sir. Then we’ll be ‘we’ again.”

    The older man shook his head fractionally in amazement. “It’s a bold new dimension in sentience we’ve embarked upon. To be able to divide one’s consciousness and then reintegrate it later, I doubt many organic minds could cope with such divergent input.”

    “Very true, sir. It has its advantages. However, as recent events have demonstrated, my various forms are also vulnerable in ways that ‘biologicals’ are not.”

    “Our differences are the source of our strength,” Izawa recited. He then bowed slightly to his two senior officers. “Please see to her activation, Commanders.”

    * * *​

    Cybernetics Lab
    Deck 5

    “Final diagnostic checks out,” Maddox observed. “No damage to her positronic net, and no signs of subversive or invasive programming introduced through her link with the aliens.”

    From his display station in the lab, the engineer advised, “Standing by.”

    The Cybel hologram stood off to one side, monitoring the procedure through the ship’s systems.

    Maddox reached behind the Cybel android and pressed her activation toggle along her spine. “Time to wake up, Sleeping Beauty.”

    “I think I’m getting jealous,” the Cybel hologram remarked sardonically.

    “No pity for the poor man whose wife suffers from multiple personalities?” Maddox replied with a grin.

    The android’s eyes opened and she seemed to take in her surroundings for a moment before asking, “How long?”

    “Two days,” Maddox answered. “Your contact with the alien data-stream locked you into some kind of catastrophic feedback loop.”

    The android looked to her holographic twin. “May we integrate?”

    “Integration initialized,” the holographic Cybel announced, and then vanished.

    Cybel stepped out of the diagnostic capsule as she assimilated the events of the last twenty-six hours. “A remarkable experience. I thought I was hacking into a primitive command and control system and instead made contact with an AI.”

    “We’ve still been unable to establish meaningful communication,” Maddox advised. “Can you be any help in that area?”

    She touched a hand to her head, wincing. “Oh, yes. In fact, deciphering their language is the thing that crashed my systems. This must be what a headache feels like.”

    “What are they like?” the engineer asked, turning his chair to face Cybel and Maddox.

    “Unique,” she summarized. “Utterly unlike any artificial lifeforms we’ve encountered before. Ridiculously antiquated in some respects, unbelievably advanced in others. Their language is nearly unfathomably complex, almost a living thing in and of itself, constantly changing to suit the species’ needs and experiences.”

    “Will you be able to update the Universal Translator so that we can talk to them?”

    “In the short term, yes. However, in a matter of days, we’ll no longer recognize their language because it will have evolved so drastically from what it is now. Every time we contact them in the future, we’ll have to repeat this whole process. I’d suggest constructing an enhanced tertiary computer core solely for that purpose, because I am not going through that again.”

    Maddox swept an arm towards the exit. “We’d best update the commodore.”

    Cybel moved for the exit, only to be stopped on the threshold by Maddox’s hand on her arm. She turned to face him and he planted a delicate kiss on her lips. “You scared me,” he confessed. “We need to be more careful in the future. I don’t want to lose you. Any of you.”

    She reached out a hand and stroked his cheek. “Danger is our business, husband. If you’d wanted to stay safe, you could have remained in your ivory tower at Daystrom. I’m an explorer, like my father. It’ll take more than this to make me run for cover.”

    He nodded slowly, an accepting smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “I was afraid you’d say something like that.”

    “If you two need the room, can you please let me out first?” the engineer asked pointedly from behind them.

    Cybel cast a glance back at him. “You don’t need doors,” she remarked with an exaggerated frown. “And given the amount of time you spend invisible on the holodeck watching others’ holoprograms, I’d think you’d be a bigger fan of voyeurism.”

    “I… uh- ” and with that the engineer vanished.

    Maddox looked pained. “That was rude, Cybel.”

    She shook her head and proceeded out the doors. “No, that was the XO snapping the chief engineer into line, dear.”

    * * *​