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pwebranflakes 12-11-2012 05:23 PM

Literary Challenge #34 : Souvenirs
 
Hello and welcome to another edition of our writers' challenges! :cool:

Today we start the two-week run of the thirty-fourth Literary Challenge: Souvenirs
Write about a gift that you were given by a species during a first contact meeting. Maybe it is a memento that is important to their culture, or a bottle of their finest liqueur, or maybe even something that if not taken (no matter how much you wanted to leave it there) would be offensive. Let us know about it and it's importance to the species.
This is the writer's thread -- only entries should be made here.
The Discussion Thread can be found HERE.
We also have an Index of previous challenges HERE.

The rules may change from one challenge to another, but I'd like to remind everyone what the base rules are. These may grow as we move on, so also feel free to give feedback!
  • Each Challenge will run for two weeks. For 2 weeks we will sticky the challenge and let you make your entry.
  • There are no right or wrong entry.
  • The background story, questions I ask, and format requested are only to serve as a platform that you can start your writing from. Feel free to change up the back-story or the way you deliver, as long as the entry stays on topic of the original challenge.
  • Write as little or as much as you would like.
  • Please keep discussion about the entries in the appropriate Discussion Thread.
  • In the Discussion Thread, feel free to write what inspired you and what your thoughts on the topic are.
  • A few other important reminders:
    • Please heed the rest of the forum's rules when submitting your entry! All of them apply to these posts.
    • Each poster can have one entry. Feel free to edit your post to fix typos or add/ remove content as you see fit during the next two weeks.
    • After two weeks time, the thread will be locked and unstickied, as we move on to the next challenge.
    • We'll have two threads: One to post the entries in and one to discuss the entries. **Cross-linking between these two threads is acceptable for these challenges ONLY!!**

marcusdkane 12-11-2012 07:26 PM

Feeling the familiar shiver of the transporter beam ripple though her, Lieutenant S'rR's Kane saw the structured familiarity of the Valkyrie's transporter room solidify about her. Beside her, Commander Rynar Lambert kept a firm grip on the Tal Shiar operative, who had become considerably less violent after being rendered unconscious and bound with flexi cuffs.

Lambert glanced over at S'rR's. Her left hand, and much of her lower uniform, was covered with the unmistakeable hue of Romulan blood, and her face appeared slick with sweat. In reality, it was an insulating fluid, high in lipids, which Pentaxians secreted while sleeping, or in reaction to cold conditions.

"Go get yourself cleaned up, Siri," Lambert said, as they stepped down off the transporter platform, rain dripping on the deck from their uniforms. "I'll escort our friend here to the guest suite, I think the Captain is going to have a few questions for him."

"Aye, Commander," S'rR's replied, before leaving the transporter room and heading for the nearest turbolift.

As the doors to her temporary quarters sighed closed, S'rR's opened her uniform jacket, and dropped it to the floor with a wet splatt as she pulled her feet from her boots. The polymer and synthleather jacket had kept the torrential rain from soaking her undershirt, but her arms, back and torso still felt clammy, thanks to the arctic-cold winds which had caused her to h'vae.

Heading for the bathroom, S'rR's stripped off the remainder of her uniform as she walked, pulling her hair out of its tight queue, and involuntarily starting as the cold, wet strands slapped against her upper spine.

"Computer," she said. "Set water temperature to sixty degrees celcius and activate shower."

"That temperature is above recommended safety level," the computer obligingly informed her.

"Override safety protocol, authorization Kane Beta Nine," she replied. To a Human, such a temperature would indeed be dangerously hot, but to S'rR's' primarily Pentaxian physiology, it was a tolerable warmth, much like a Terran feline sleeping comfortably on a burning hot radiator.

The scalding water hissed from the shower head, and initially washing the copper-colored blood from her left hand and forearm, S'rR's allowed the water to cascade over her body, washing the cold rain from her shoulder-length ice-blonde hair.

"Computer, play some music," she said, closing her eyes and turning her face toward the burning water.

"Please specify selection," responded the computers' accommodating voice.

"Something ambient. Ethereal electronica," S'rR's clarified, resting her right arm and forehead against the back wall of the shower, feeling the water hammering onto her shoulders and running down her spine, driving the penetrating cold from her body, and replacing it with a luxurious heat which relaxed her muscles, as moments later, soft, atmospheric tones drifted through the air.

S'rR's listened for a few moments before opening her eyes and looking down at her left hand. The blood from the disemboweled Romulan was gone, and her eyes were then drawn, as always, to the geometric designs which had been tattooed on her arm a decade previously while on the first contact mission with the Zildarni.

She had been twenty four years old, and barely come to terms with her repatriation to the Federation, after her half-decade of incarceration in a Cardassian gulag, but Marcus had insisted that she take the mission, to help her ease back into active duty.

The Zildarni had been a kind, noble people, towering over the away team at nearly nine feet tall, and with grey, leathery skin like Terran rhinoceros. Despite having achieved warp capability, the Zildarni maintained an almost stone age level for their social customs and rituals, and they had insisted upon tattooing each member of the away team as a way of solidifying their contact to the Federation.

Initially panicked at the idea of being thus marked, but knowing that to refuse would have been an unforgivable insult, S'rR's remembered sitting cross-legged on the floor of the spirit house, listening to the almost hypnotic rhythm of the tapping sounds of the sharpened tools being hit repeatedly, driving the crude black ink into her flesh.

Her accelerated healing abilities had caused the wounds to heal almost immediately, much to the delight of the shaman, who had never seen his work heal so quickly and perfectly. The flawless healing of each line inspired him to continue working far longer than he had on any other member of the away team, even the Captain, and after twelve hours, S'rR's looked down, seeing intricately enjoined squares, triangles and lines extending from the deltoid muscle, all the way past her elbow to the middle of her forearm, each line crisp and clear, each colored segment dark and bold.

"Does this design have any meaning?" she had asked, to which the shaman nodded.

"It will protect you on your travels," he had replied. "Bringing you prosperity."

"Thank you," S'rR's had said, kissing the shaman on both leathery, horned cheeks, before standing and picking up her uniform jacket, reluctant to cover the artwork which had been uniquely done just for her, and carrying it in her hand as the away team left the spirit house.

The chiming of the intercom snapped S'rR's out of her reverie.

"Go ahead," she said, inwardly frustrated for the interruption to her shower.

"Lieutenant, please report to the conference lounge," said the voice of Captain Amanda Palmer.

"Aye, Captain, I'll be there immediately," S'rR's replied, stepping out of the shower and briskly toweling herself dry, before heading to her closet and quickly dressing in a fresh uniform. As she shrugged into her new jacket, she watched the tattoo vanish beneath the black and mustard-colored synthleather, before heading for the door of her quarters.

amurorx0 12-12-2012 10:48 AM

Unquestioned answers
 
"Please, take this with you, Captain. A token of our newfound kinship." Zi said, presenting a small statuette of a figure I found alarmingly familiar.
"What is it?" I asked, hoping the similarity to be mere coincidence.
"It is a relief of one of our deities. She appeared to our ancestors over 5 millennia ago, bearing a message of peace which we moulded our society around. Her name is Yeager" Zi said, with a smile on her face.
"Thank you, your eminence." I thanked her, bowing "If you'll excuse me, I have to report back to the Diplomatic corps, I hope we see each other again."
I took a few uneven, noisy steps and tapped my combadge "Aquarion: one to beam up." I waved to the high priestess as I felt the familiar dischord of the transporter beam.

Clunking off the transporter pad, I banged the comm panel by the transporter room door, "Helm, set rendezvous course for the Dendrobium, maximum warp!" I barked over the intercom, then headed to my quarters with the statuette firmly in hand.

As we neared the rendezvous, I ordered Cagalli to be ready to beam aboard the Aquarion as soon as we were in range of her transporters. I had a few answers on my desk to questions I had yet to ask Cagalli about her past.

Cagalli materialised inside my ready room as ordered, with her gaining control of her body I motioned for her to sit down. She did so promptly, as I had a look on my face that would strike fear into Q himself.

"Why the long trip?" Cagalli asked.
"I am in need of a history lesson." I said, "One only you can provide. Look at that statuette and tell me what you see." I continued with the most deadpan expression.

"I see a voluptuous female figure with antennae upon her skull, standing on an unusual rock formation. There seems to be a symbol emblazoned just above her left bosom. She appears rather tall, seems to be an Icon of some sort. Why do you ask?" Cagalli asked, turning to face me again as she did so. "Where did you acquire this thing? If you don't mind me asking."

"I was given that relief as a gift of goodwill from a species we just made First Contact with. What I want to know is why this figure looks so much like you, is standing on what looks to be the torso of your Gespenst, and has a contemporary Starfleet combadge pinned to her unitard! What does the name 'Yeager' mean to you?!" I asked, almost shouting myself hoarse.

Cagalli's face spoke volumes "Oh crap. Guess I should explain all the details of that encounter with Q a while back..."

...Some time later...

"So I eventually stumbled back into the correct temporal co-ordinates and resumed my duties here." Cagalli took a heaving breath and slumped in her chair.

"Thats... one long story, haha." I chuckled, "You really roundhoused a Q?! That makes two Starfleet captains with the cojones to pull that off" I couldn't stop laughing.

"You believe all that?" Cagalli asked, looking perplexed.

"Why wouldn't I. It's too unbelievable to be a fabrication, plus it explains a few things."

We continued long into the fourth watch, at which point I let Cagalli resume her duties and ordered the Aquarion back towards Sol, such that reporting in would be easier. I may have to displace the statuette for a while though...

jennnmarshall 12-12-2012 04:03 PM

Simple Things
 
The captain bounded through the fields of long, golden grass savoring the feel of the dirt beneath his claws. The day was crisp and clear, the perfect temperature. The chilly breeze he felt through his fur was a refreshing change from the usual stuffiness of climate controlled starships. Business is what brought the crew of the Deliverance to this remote planet, but the captain believed in finding pleasure in the beauty of simple things.

The captain leaped through the grass until he came to a small barn at the top of a hill. He peered into the building and, finding it empty, his heart sank. He looked outside, straining his eyes to see the outline of the small town he'd walked from. His sigh was loud and rumbling. Suddenly, a soft giggle sounded directly above him. He jumped away and there she was, smiling down at him. With a twitch of his tail he leaped onto the roof of the barn.

"You're here, I thought for a moment you wouldn't come," said the captain.

"Captain Meowmers," she crooned. She ran her hands through the thick tufts of hair at his jaw and he leaned into it with a deep purr. "I don't want you to leave," she said finally. He sat down on the roof and beckoned her to do the same. Their feet hung off the edge.

"I'm lucky to have found you, Mari. I am lucky to have spent these past two weeks with you and your village," Mari looked up at him, her bright gold eyes shining in the sunlight. He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her in close. "But mostly you."

"Now that I know you're up there, how can I be happy here?" she asked. Meowmers looked off, gazing at her village in the distance.

"You would be an excellent candidate for Starfleet Academy, Mari. You are strong, dedicated. It would be valuable for your people to have someone in Starfleet to speak for them," he said. The sound of the transporter beam made Mari jump. "Your supplies. I think your doctors will find our medical devices to be an improvement," he grinned.

Mari crossed her arms, the color of her skin was beginning to change from deep red to purple. Emotions or the temperature, the captain figured. He hadn't asked her about her skin. There was so much he had yet to know about her and her species; the simple things.

"I am needed here. Not everyone is as quick to trust Starfleet as I am, and I am sure I will have to do some translating for both sides," said Mari. Captain Meowmers leaped down from the roof and held his arms out for her. He caught her when she jumped, and held onto her hand.

"Well there it is," he said.

"I guess so. I have something for you," she said. Mari reached into her bag and pulled out a glass sphere the size of her palm. Inside the sphere was a flower that seemed to have every color in the spectrum represented.

"It's beautiful," said the captain.

"We call it the eternity bloom. It's a symbol of prosperity and happiness for my people, but I'm giving it to you as a token of good luck," she said, smiling. "It will bloom for you for a hundred years, just keep it in the light."

The captain took the sphere in his hand, watching the colors in the flower petals swirl and reflect the sun. He knew then that this would be the last time he saw her. He was shocked at how affected he was by this woman from an previously unknown species. In just a short amount of time his mind had been completely consumed with thoughts of her. Had he known this first contact mission would be anything but routine, he would not have done anything differently. She was so strange, yet so familiar. There was something about her that reminded him of home.

The captain pulled her close and buried his face in her hair. She smelled like rain and grass and flowers. Mari looked up for a moment, her eyes intense with an emotion that the captain could only begin to guess. Then, his mouth was on hers. Her arms wrapped around his neck, her fingers tangled in his mane. The captain's purr vibrated on her lips and he felt her deepen the kiss. He inhaled, memorizing her scent.

"Captain," she murmured into his chest.

"Call me Catface," he said, smiling at her. Mari's smile wrinkled her nose.

Captain Catface Meowmers clutched the eternity bloom as she faded away, leaving him standing alone in the Holodeck. He cleared his throat and smoothed his whiskers before stepping through the doors. Looking at the bloom in his hand, the captain was wistful and hopeful, but most of all he was energized. He pulled at the hem of his uniform jacket. "Meowmers to bridge, report," he said, and walked briskly toward the turbolift.

bortjinx 12-14-2012 05:17 AM

Jinx banged her head on the lip of the jefferies tube.

"Ouch, that damned kid. What does he think he is playing at?"

She held her position for a few minutes, to let the pain in her head subside. While she did so, she thought back to her first meeting with the boy.

******

Jinx leaned back against the log and smiled. The heat from the fire was doing as much to warm her outside as the drink was warming her inside. Looking around, she could see other members of her crew similarly relaxing and having a good time. For being such a primitive species, these Raktarans knew how to throw a party.

It wasn't your typical first contact. In fact, it shouldn't have been a first contact at all, but the Klingons were involved, and they always complicated matters. Now, Jinx and the more human-ish members of her crew were being hailed as powerful heroes from a distant land, having come and fought off the "Sky Demons" that invaded this land.

As the party progressed, Tukatu, the elder/shaman (Jinx wasn't really sure on the exact term) of the village approached, leading a small child by the hand. Never once letting go of the child, Tukatu started gesturing with his free hand, once again regaling the village with the tale of the foreign heroes come to drive out the 'Sky Demons' and restore peace to the people.

When he came to the end of his tale, telling his people how the great heroes would have to move on, as there were other evils in the world that needed defeating, Tukatu promised that their great deeds shall never be forgotten, and to ensure that the great heroes shall never forget the people and the village, they would send one of the village sons with them, to learn the ways of the great heroes, and perhaps become one himself.

At hearing this, Jinx sat bolt upright. These savages were presenting her with a child???? She heard a whispered voice in her ear. It was One, following the proceedings from the bridge of the Nightingale.

"Captain, you cannot refuse this request. Species 146, as the Borg know them, place great store on their honour, and for you to come along, save them, and not receive something of great worth in return is an insult. They know they were doomed when the Klingons arrived, until we showed up, and the only way they can repay us for providing them with a future, is by providing us with part of their future. I suggest you bring the child along, and we will foster him out to someone on Earth, or even Trill."

"What? You cannot be serious, One! You expect me to bring a child with us when we leave???"

"Yes Captain, or be reviled just as much as the 'Sky Demons' you fought off."

"Well, you heard the elder, or whatever he is. He hopes the child will become a great hero, just like us. I guess that means we sign him up for the Academy." Jinx sounded rather perplexed by the entire situation.

She was still sitting there desperately trying to think of a way out of this when Tukatu presented her with the hand of a small, frightened looking boy. Without knowing what else to do, she smiled and thanked Tukatu, then smiled at the boy and patted the log next to her. He sat down next to here and stared in awe at the great hero he had just been adopted by.

******

Shaking her head again, Jinx pressed on through the jefferies tubes, looking for the boy who soon be fostered out properly, to an actual family living on a farm on Earth, as opposed to running half wild through the guts of a warship.

Oh yes, that was one first contact she's not going to forget any time soon.

ironphoenix113 12-16-2012 05:55 AM

Bryan once more grabbed the elegant sabre off of the wall and sheathed it on his belt, completing his dress uniform

"Ok, I have to ask," his first officer, a beautiful Trill women named Ibalei Zera asked as she walked into his quarters, "Why do you always wear that with your dress uniform?"

"I guess it's a little bit of nostalgia." He laughed.

"Oh? Notsalgia for what?"

"Back in the old days, when Earth was still heavily divided, blades such as this were used to denote someone of an upper rank. It saw extensive use as a weapon by mounted units until what we called World War One. Afterwards, it mainly became a ceremonial item for officers."

That though brought him back to when he was gifted the blade

********

It was about a year earlier, somewhere off in the Delta Volanis cluster. Bryan was still in command of the Dakota class U.S.S. Omega. His ship had responded to an anonymous distress call. A ship from a previously unknown species had been attacked by a Klingon Negh'Var class battleship. Bryan responded, and the Omega joined the fight. He saw quickly why the species had issued the distress call, for they were still around the technology level of Starfleet when Kirk commanded the first U.S.S. Enterprise. The Omega quickly engaged the Negh'Var, drawing its attention off of the unknown vessel. Shortly thereafter, the Negh'Var was crippled and ended up retreating. Grateful for the assistance, the captain of the unknown ship invited Bryan aboard the ship.

He personally greeted Bryan in the ship's transporter room, saying "Thank you so much for your timely rescue. I hesitate to think of what might have become of us if you had not arrived"

"It's both in our regulations and a personal policy of mine to respond to any distress call, regardless of whom it was sent by," Bryan said with a faint smile.

"You may call me Captain Kar'Shara, of the Seldonian Democracy."

"Commander Bryan Mitchel Valot, United Federation of Planets. This is my first officer, Lieutenant Commander Ibalei Zera."

"It's an honor to meet you, Captain." Ibalei said calmly.

"The honor is mine. You have saved my life, and that of my men. The least I can do is introduce who we are to you."

The captain led them to an area that was not too dissimilar from the lounge on the Omega.

"Can I offer you two a drink?" he asked.

"Nothing that will get us intoxicated. Technically, we're still on duty," Bryan laughed.

The captain waved over an officer, told him about their request, and the officer went back to get the drinks. The three officers were soon joined by Kar'Shara's second-in-command, and they each discussed the similarities and differences between their two governments and peoples.

Eventually Bryan and Ibalei had to return to their ship, but the captian stopped them just before they left and said, "before you go, I would like you to accept thes as a gift from me and my XO." at which point he and his XO removed the sabres from their belts and each held them to the two Starfleet officers.

"You're giving me your blade?" Bryan asked, moderately surprised.

"Yes." he stated calmly, "Among my people, the gift of a blade, especially one as significant as an officer's blade, represents the ultimate debt of gratitude, one that can never be repaid. I sincerely ask that you two take these blades, out of friendship, if nothing else."

"Thank you very much. I can tell this means a lot for you."

"No, It is I, who is in your debt."

********

Bryan drew the sabre, and admired the elegant carving within the the blade, patterns more detailed and intricate than any other blade he had seen. Bryan finally looked up at his first officer, and saw that she, too, wore the sabre she had been given.

"They truly are beautiful blades," she said.

"Indeed," Bryan Responded as he sheathed his sabre. At that, the two smiled, and left the room.

keepcalm 12-16-2012 11:36 PM

Octavia sighed as she slid back into her ready room's large, comfortable seat. After a few moments of relaxation she straightened, ignoring the noises from her shoulders and back.
"Computer," she said quielty, knowing that her voice would still be picked up. "One carrot. Raw, unpeeled."

Crunching away at her snack, she found her eyes drawn to the newest addition to her desk clutter. Nestled between a half-empty bottle of Aldebaranian whiskey and a disassembled type 1 phaser it was hardly the most exciting thing there, merely a smooth, flat stone, rounded by the flow of water and marked by tiny, carefully carved figures.
Yet, that little stone was a memory.

Picking it up with her free hand, Octavia considered the stone as she chewed. It had sat on her desk for a month now, a gift given from one captain to another.
They had been on a standard patrol route, running their sensors over one of the quieter edges of Federation space when the First Contact Office had called them in. They had been observing the development of warp drive on a local world called Lahuit by its natives. The ship they had intended to meet the experimental warp ship had been delayed by an encounter with an Orion raiding ship, and Octavia and the Allegrezza had been given the task instead.

Privately Octavia reflected, she had probably been a better choice than the original captain.
Not that Captain T'Pril was bad at her job, but there were certain conceptual differences between Vulcans and Lahit that her own people shared. The stone in her hand had almost a dozen names; memory, gift, bond, promise ... and each of those words were it's name to the Lahit, the stone's name shifting and changing from moment to moment as one facet of it's existence became more relevant than the others, and it was far from unique in that regard - every object and being in the Lahit language had names as fluid and shifting as the stone's. While the universal translator could handle this, the deeper connotations behind each name would be lost, the translator fixing onto a single, unchanging name.
When the Lahit captain was setting the trend for future relations between his people and the Federation, Bellwether had been a good translation for his name. But afterwards when he was escorting the Allegrezza to his homeworld Octavia had needed to override the translator, which had been insisting on using the earlier name.

Finishing the last of her carrot, Octavia sighed. From what she had read, the Lahit's language was almost as difficult to pin down as the Tamarians had been, at least for the Federation.
Her own people, while nowhere near as fluid as the Lahit, were much closer when it came to names. When she had applied to the Academy she had become Octavia, the eighth of her people to join Starfleet. Before that, a Federation translator would have rendered her name, at least in a professional setting, as Muso. Her parents had always known her by another name, and lovers by another, not that there had been many of those.

Talking to the Lahit had been refreshing, if a challenge to keep up with the shifts in language. With them, words had a much fuller, much more precise range of meanings than what she had grown used to over the years and there simply wasn't any ambiguity. When a Lahit said something, what they said was completely and precisely what they meant.
Grinning, Octavia set the stone back down. She knew that Starfleet linguists were still working on the Lahit translations and would still be at it for years to come.

shevet 12-17-2012 05:36 AM

Personal log: Tylha Shohl, officer commanding, USS King Estmere NCC-92984

"Damn," Anthi Vihl says. "I left my PADD on the console."

She sighs wearily and starts to scramble up the slanting wall of the King Estmere's bridge. She reaches the top of the wall, does a neat forward roll... and now, from my perspective, she is sticking out from the sloping ceiling overhead, walking up and along it. She retrieves her PADD from the glowing bridge console, walks back down the ceiling, does another roll onto the wall, and scrambles back down to meet me. Just another one of those everyday moments spent dealing with Tholian ship design.

King Estmere is a prestigious assignment, a powerful ship... but it's weird. And hot. The environmental settings are cranked up as high as we can stand, and even so, there are continual problems with thermal stresses on the structure. The Recluse carrier was designed, after all, for a Tholian atmosphere. Part of one deck still has it; the Tholian cadre officers are comfortable there. The rest of us... have to deal with the heat, and the confusing layout, and those insane icosahedral displays on the pop-out consoles. We used to twit Dr. Beresford about her ever-present data monocle, but now most of us are wearing headsets or earpieces of our own, using as much help as we can get to interpret the control setup. My ear aches from my earpiece, and I'm far too hot, and too tired, at the end of a long watch. I think we all are. I nod to Commander Sirip. "You have the bridge," I tell him.

"Affirmative," says the assault team commander, looking crisp and efficient and generally very Vulcan. Damn him. I'm going to my quarters, where I can crank the temperature down as far as it'll go, and maybe catch a few hours' sleep. The earpiece is chattering at me, and in my other ear there is a noise that sounds like a catfight, and very possibly is. The Caitian flight deck officers are in a tight huddle around a console, and they are too far away for the universal translator to kick in and let me know what they're saying, but there is much bristling of fur and switching of tails over there.... Well, let Sirip deal with it. Damn efficient Vulcan.

I make my way along the twisty-turny corridors of the Tholian ship. By now, at least, I know my way between my own quarters and the bridge. And my quarters have, at least, been set up in a sensible configuration; if you ignore the pop-out console on one wall and the data stalagmite in the corner, they look almost like they belong on a Starfleet ship.

I almost make it to the door, when I hear a voice say, "Felicitations upon this auspicious encounter, my venerated Admiral!"

I turn around. Commander Thirethequ is standing in front of me, looking hideously cheerful, or possibly just hideous. A Jolciot from the recently-joined Federation world of Magamba, Thirethequ is short, with a massive barrel-shaped body, thick stumpy legs, and prodigiously long, muscular arms. Some Jolciots shave their facial hair and prune their keratinous forehead ridges, but Thirethequ has let his grow into a truly impressive beard and crest. And he talks - well, like most Jolciots. Flowery language is part of the culture. There are times when I rather like it... but not now.

"Hello, Commander," I say. "Settling in well?"

King Estmere has already cost me one officer, though not in a bad way; after supervising the refitting work, Shrin Izini has gone on to Starbase 193 with a long-overdue promotion to Captain of Engineering. His assistant Dyssa has taken his place... and, to fill her place, Starfleet has sent me Thirethequ. Well, it could be a lot worse. The Jolciots are nothing if not inventive. They are the only species I ever heard of who managed to get a warp engine running off a fission power plant - which was how they came to be found. The humans were discovered when a Vulcan ship happened to come within detector range of their Phoenix; half the quadrant was in detector range of the Jolciots' Efflorescence of Technological Ingenuity when it - somehow - went to warp.

"Magnificently well, I do assure you, my valorous leader," says Thirethequ. "The crew, ah! noble comrades in arms! have been the very quintessence of hospitality, and as to my quarters -" he makes a sweeping gesture with those incredibly long arms "- positively palatial in their scope and amenities! I bless the day that Starfleet accepted my unworthy presence into its august ranks."

Despite my tiredness, I raise a smile. "I'm glad," I tell him.

"Though, if I might make one inquiry?" Thirethequ adds. "A minor matter, perhaps so trivial that I hesitate to bring it to your attention. But the issue nags and prickles at the back of my mind, like a burr. Is it a Starfleet custom of which I am unaware? Is it a human cultural tradition, of which I am still so woefully ignorant? Or is it simply a defect in the otherwise estimable universal translator? I refer to the vocalisations - 'ook ook ook' - of some of the human crew, in my presence. I hear the phrase repeated, and yet its significance remains the darkest mystery to me."

Oh, damnation. My lips thin with anger. "I regret to tell you," I say, "that it's probably derogatory. I suppose, in a way, it is a human tradition... they do like what they call their 'hazing' rituals. Nonetheless, it's not acceptable in a Starfleet ship, and you'd be well within your rights to make a formal complaint."

"Ah!" says Thirethequ. "I think my poor fogged brain begins to comprehend... the initiation rite, yes? The teasing and testing of the newcomer until he or she gains full acceptance into the band? It is not unknown on Magamba. And I do assure you, my most noble commander, that I shall endeavour to take it in good part. After all, am I not a stranger, from a backwards, almost primitive, world, allowed by sufferance to take my place in your awe-inspiring fleet?"

"You're a Federation citizen and a Starfleet officer," I say, "and that entitles you to the same respect I get myself, or any other of my crew." All too true, I reflect. The phrase "psycho smurf" still gets bandied about from time to time. "As for backwards - well, I've visited your world, and I certainly wouldn't call it that."

Thirethequ slaps his forehead, producing a terrifying rattling sound from his keratinous ridges. "I abase myself for my obtuseness!" he cries out. "I prostrate myself before you as the most abject and impercipient dullard! How could I have failed of recognition? You are that Tylha Shohl!"

"I'm sorry?"

"Of the USS Aquitaine! The Starfleet vessel that came to enlighten our ignorance and set us upon the path to true galactic citizenship! Every schoolchild on Magamba learns all the names of that munificent crew!"

"I was only a very junior ensign at the time," I mutter. Am I famous? On Magamba? I suppose there are worse places to be famous....

"But destined always for greatness!" Thirethequ positively capers on the deck in front of me. The anthropoid resemblance is, actually, quite marked. Of course, the humans might be more cautious with their 'ooks' if they realized that those long Jolciot arms have all the superhuman strength of an anthropoid ape - if Thirethequ ever loses his temper with his tormentors, they're going to be in sick bay for weeks. But he's a good-humoured sort... but everybody snaps sometimes, even Vulcans....

Maybe it's time I got to know him, I think. See what he's really like, under that Jolciot grandiloquence. And I guess I have a pretext, of sorts. "Actually," I say, "that reminds me. Perhaps you can help me with something?"

"You are my commander, and a member of the Aquitaine crew," says Thirethequ, "so my very life is at your disposal, o admirable Admiral. Say the word, and I leap to obey."

"Step into my quarters for a moment, please," I say, waving my hand at the sensor so the door hisses open. "It's something that came from the first contact at Magamba, actually." I step through the doorway, but Thirethequ hesitates on the threshold. Oh, damn, I'd forgotten Jolciot sexual mores. "Please remember, Commander, I'm not actually a female."

"And yet you are the epitome of feminine charm," says Thirethequ, but he steps into the room. That, at least, is pure flattery; I'm too tall, too thin and too blue even to approximate Jolciot female attractiveness. I look around. My souvenir from Magamba is, at least, out in plain sight, standing on a table by the Tholian data stalagmite. "We were all presented with mementoes of the occasion," I say. "I received this from your college of engineering studies."

The memento is a squat, hollow, metal cylinder, elaborately engraved and decorated with fluting and abstract curlicues on the outside, mirror-smooth on the interior. "And you have retained it ever since?" says Thirethequ. "You do us such honour!"

"It was an honour to receive it," I say. "But... well, I was only a very junior ensign, as I said - and I never had the nerve to ask. What, actually, is it?"

"Ah!" Thirethequ jumps forward to inspect the piece. "Let me see... yes! Allow my feeble luminance to enlighten your perplexity, o my Admiral. It is an item apt for your career; a drive component from one of our earlier, unsuccessful, endeavours to transcend the limitations of the light barrier." He traces a fingertip over the decorative designs. "A coolant booster nozzle from the Effulgence of the Application of Knowledge. Not, of course, from the ship itself - a spare, I fear, though the interior surface shows it has seen actual usage at some point. The Effulgence of the Application of Knowledge, alas, became... excessively effulgent shortly after takeoff. Indeed, at one point six two gigatons, it was the largest nuclear explosion to take place on Magamba. Something of a setback for our space programme, in fact."

"Well, thank you," I say. "You can tell all that from the surface decoration?"

If Thirethequ has an answer, it's lost in the screaming of a red alert.

---

I reach the bridge at a run, tiredness and heat forgotten. Sirip points to the angry red spot on the triangular screen. "Tholian vessel, Orb Weaver class," he says crisply. "We will be within its weapons range in one minute thirty-seven seconds."

I turn to F'hon Tlaxx at the comms station. "Are they answering hails?"

F'hon shakes his head. "Sorry, skipper. I'm trying every channel, but -"

But the Tholian is in no mood to talk. And there are plenty of Tholian commanders who know King Estmere used to be one of theirs... and take the whole thing very personally. My gaze sweeps the battle displays as my bridge crew take their stations. "Launch fighters."

"Aye, aye, sir." Anthi Vihl is all professionalism, as always. "Launching." All eight hundred and seventy-one metres of King Estmere shudder as the Widow fighters slam out of their launch bays. "Alpha flight, clear. Bravo flight, clear. Prepping Charlie and Delta flights."

"Confirm Orb Weaver's weapons hot," says Zazaru from the sensor console.

"Hostile engagement authorized," I order. For the record.

The Orb Weaver is a smaller, lighter vessel than ours... but still nothing to mess with, and the Tholian commander seems confident. Perhaps he thinks we don't have the expertise to work our ship effectively, yet. He's about to find out he's wrong, the hard way.

Space glitters with deadly blue Cherenkov light. "Tetryon fire incoming," says Anthi. "Minor damage to forward deflectors. Alphas one and three engaging." Tetryon beams stab out from the fighters. Anthi is nudging King Estmere into a shallow curve at low impulse speed, bringing her round for her main armament to bear. The light turrets, though, are opening up already, flashes of disruptor light sparkling on the Tholian's shields. The Orb Weaver is firing, but damage is minimal so far... which means most of his power is being diverted from weapons to other systems... which means....

"Web nodes inbound!" yells Zazaru. My lips pull back from my teeth in a mirthless grin.

On the main screen, orange lines gleam in a precise, geometrical arrangement. The Tholian web.... The Orb Weaver is trying to trap us, wall us off, so he can finish off our fighters and then pour fire into us while we hang helpless in the web's spatial inclusion. It's the classic Tholian tactic. And one for which we have our own answer.

"Prep for maximum fire," I tell Anthi. "Subspace jump - now!!"

Tholian technology isn't all we've mastered, or incorporated into King Estmere. The subspace jumper, "borrowed" from the Klingons under circumstances best not described, gives us all a yawning, lurching sensation in the pits of our stomachs, as it flips us, the whole massive ship, across a subspace discontinuity and across several kilometres of space -

- and we are comfortably tucked in behind the Tholian's stern, as the web hangs gleaming in space; imposing, threatening, and now completely empty.

"Launching Charlie. Launching Delta. Firing," Anthi reports.

The Orb Weaver has reinforced its forward shields to cope with the fire from Alpha and Bravo flights; now, under a tachyon pulse and the concentrated rapid fire of King Estmere's forward polarized disruptor cannons, its rear shields shatter like glass. The next two flights of Widows howl out of the launch bays. The Tholian ship seems to stagger - the commander has realized his peril, is trying to fight clear and escape.

"Tetryon grid," I order.

Tholian technology, this time, unique to the Recluse carrier; impalpable blue lines reach out from my ship to its swarming fighters, reflect off them, reach out to savage the Orb Weaver. Its much-abused shields fail completely, and it hangs there, naked, in space, as the Widows fire their torpedoes and their tetryon bolts, and a heavy disruption torpedo from our thermionic launcher crawls towards them... crawls up to their port nacelle, and doesn't stop, ploughing through alloys and superdense ceramics and leaving devastation in its wake. The disruptor cannons, too, are still hammering away, raking the Tholian from stem to sterm with darts of sick green light. The Orb Weaver yaws wildly, glowing clouds spilling from its ravaged hull; red-orange Tholian atmosphere, and brighter, greener lights of warp plasma now -

"Hard to port!" I shout. "Scatter fighters! Full power to starboard screens!"

The Tholian ship is about to die; the red and the green glows are washed out in the eye-hurting brilliance of an incipient core breach. The Widow fighters break for safety; two of them are in flames themselves, their structural integrity fields barely holding them together. King Estmere rolls, presenting her strongest shields as we make for safety range, outside the blast radius -

- and suddenly those crazy Tholian controls turn even crazier, as warning messages spawn over their surfaces and alert symbols flash, and the lights flicker ominously, and for one heart-stopping moment my feet leave the floor as the gravity fails.

The Orb Weaver blows up. White-hot debris scatters through space, flailing into King Estmere's hull through shields which aren't there any more. The blast wave of the explosion picks up the whole enormous ship and shakes it like a child's toy.

My earpiece is screaming at me, but it's just telling me things I already know. Warp power offline; weapons offline; deflectors and shields offline. "Engineering, report!" I snap. What the hell just happened to my ship?

---

"It's the main plasma manifold for the EPS," Dyssa D'jheph tells me glumly.

We are standing, a group of us, on a triangular platform in the cubist nightmare that is Main Engineering. Above us, or possibly below us, depending on which way the gravity plating is set up, King Estmere's warp core is throbbing with lurid light. Off to one side, the central distribution point for the electroplasma system... it's here that Dyssa is pointing, and even her antennae are drooping with fatigue and dejection.

"How long to fit the replacement?" I ask. Dyssa's face turns even more woeful. "Let me guess," I say. "That was the replacement."

"Our last spare," says Dyssa. "Sir, it's the same problem every time - the thermal stress on the tubing is just too much; microcrystal fractures open up, they spread, and then -" she waves one listless hand in the air "- all of a sudden, bang."

When the thing fails, it fails catastrophically. And the specialist parts include materials we can't produce with our general-purpose replicators. Plasma manifolds are one of the many things in short supply across Tau Dewa - I remember, not fondly, the endless haggling and horse-trading for parts around Nequencia Alpha. "So what are our options?" I ask.

"Evidently," says Sirip, "we must send a subspace message to Starbase 234 requesting a tow."

Evidently. "There'd better be something else we can try first," I say.

"Andorian pride, Admiral?" Sirip quirks his eyebrow at me. Damn stereotypical efficient Vulcan.

"Not so much that," I say, "as a concern that, if we send a distress message out, Starfleet might not be the first to respond. There are a lot of Tholians out there, and we just saw they're pretty keen to take King Estmere back. Before we announce we're helpless, we'd better make sure that's our only option. Besides, we can figure that the Orb Weaver got a distress call off with its escape pods." We've picked up two hundred and two Tholian survivors in pods; the Orb Weaver's complement is around 1200... that's a big butcher's bill for wounded Tholian pride. "My best guess is that Tholian patrols will be here before a repair crew from Starfleet. So we need to get moving, fast." I've seen Tholian prison cells from the outside, on Nukara. I don't fancy getting any closer to one.

"Your pardon, my esteemed superiors," Thirethequ speaks up for the first time. "May I be excused, a moment, to make a visual inspection of certain details?"

"If you think it'll help," says Dyssa. Her face is screwed up in a frown. "We still have the original Tholian manifold... but it won't hold up to the temperature gradient. So... we could convert the engine room back... replace the control sets and flood it with Tholian atmosphere."

"Our people can't work in EV suits," Anthi objects.

"We can rig the same sort of focused environmental support we use for the Tholian crew," says Dyssa. The Tholians, here and aboard the Sita, move in a sort of force-field bubble that enables them to wander the crew decks freely, without using EV suits of their own; it works, provided you don't go barefoot on a deck a Tholian's just walked over.

"It'll take too much time," Anthi says. "We'd have to get into all sorts of odd nooks and crannies, in here, it's not like simply charting a path from A to B on the mess deck. We'd need to set up constant adaptive algorithms, and test them in detail...."

Thirethequ, meanwhile, appears to be getting into odd nooks and crannies of his own. Reaching up with those long arms, he swings from stanchion to stanchion across the engine room, dangling now at a strange angle, where the local gravity plating is different from mine. He hangs by one arm over the wrecked plasma manifold, studying it with a tricorder in his free hand. It looks precarious; I hope he's not hanging over a fall that might kill him.

"We can get the Tholian crewmen to run the engine room, then," Dyssa suggests.

"Are they qualified?" asks Sirip. The answer, of course, is no; the Tholian cadre officers are combat specialists, not engineers. And there is no chance the survivors from the Orb Weaver will help... or is there? I don't know what motivates Tholians, how their politics work, even how their minds work....

"Serendipity!" Thirethequ yells from his perch. "O most felicitous fortune!" He tucks his tricorder into his belt and starts to swing back towards us with a worrying disregard for gravity. "Our troubles," he announces, as he drops heavily onto the platform beside us, "are at an end! That is, if our valiant Admiral will consent to the use of her prized possession for such a simple and mundane purpose."

I stare at him for a moment before the penny drops. "My, um... my memento?"

"The diameter of the ruptured tubing," says Thirethequ, "is within seven millimeters of that of the booster nozzle. That is also, by happy chance, within the tolerance range specified by that most sacrosanct Starfleet engineering manual. To fit the Admiral's memento in place of the damaged component will be the most trifling of technical challenges, the work of mere moments. And, once it is in place, the power will flow once more!"

"Wait a moment," Dyssa protests. "Are you telling me we can use some - some antique -?"

"Positively!" says Thirethequ. "My confidence is unbounded."

"But -" Dyssa stares wide-eyed at him. "But we don't know how this - this thing - will handle the stress, or the temperature gradients -"

"No," I say, "we do. It's a component from an early Jolciot warp drive, and they were engineered to stand insane physical and thermal stress levels. The difference between our atmosphere and the Tholians' is... barely noticeable, by comparison. If the thing fits, physically... this will work."

"And I know the physical dimensions of all our components to a nicety," says Thirethequ. "Moreover... I have files, should my noble masters care to peruse them, regarding the specialist alloys used in the construction of our components. Thermal stresses, as our illustrious Admiral has elucidated for us, were always in the forefront of the minds of their developers. Should such information prove of benefit, it is yours for the asking."

"Thermal stress has always been our biggest issue," says Dyssa reflectively. "If we had components made of stable alloys to handle that... we could upgrade the whole electro-plasma system, we could boost the structural integrity...."

"We could sneak the onboard temperature down to something liveable," adds Anthi, with feeling.

"Indeed," says Sirip. "That alone would improve crew morale, I estimate, by a factor of at least fifty-seven per cent, with concomitant increases in overall ship efficiency." Vulcans, who can figure them? Not me, that's for certain.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," I say. "Before we make any plans for the temperature, let's get this ship moving. Mr. Thirethequ -" I turn to him "- you know where my souvenir is; I would esteem it a signal honour if you could bring it to us."

"I hasten to obey!" says Thirethequ. And he does, brachiating away out of main engineering as fast as his stumpy legs and long arms will take him. The rest of us watch, in what seems a bemused silence.

"Anthi, Dyssa," I say, finally. "Pass the word among the crew, will you? My compliments... and the next person who goes 'ook' around Commander Thirethequ is going to have to walk to Starbase 234."

zidanetribal 12-25-2012 11:55 PM

Commander Naomi Wildman glared furtively at the stone box left on her desk as she pondered her choices of action. Technically, Vice Admiral Remus Lee outranked her, and it would be improper for her to refuse a ranking officer's gift. However, Vice Admiral Lee was also notoriously laid-back and, as Admiral Lee's XO Commander K. Taylor was fond of pointing out to her, was not above playing the occasional prank on fellow Starfleet officers. Still, Admiral Lee's jokes only hurt people's pride, and almost always ended in laughs all around. Commander Wildman's attention returned to the box on her desk, and the PADD placed in front of it. She activated the PADD and scrolled to Admiral Lee's After Action Report.

Quote:

SOPHERIA NEBULA AFTER ACTION REPORT
Greetings and salutations on behalf of the crew of the Lord English, Commander Wildman! Kay has been anxious to return to K-7 and finish the session of Adventures of Flotter on Risa she started with you last week. We'll be returning to Tau Dewa next Monday, however.

As for our mission in the Sopheria Nebula, suffice it to say it was eventful. Following the trail of the lost 23rd scout ship SS Tir na nOg, we encountered a hitherto unknown pre-industrial civilization on the planet we've dubbed Wildman-1025. This civilization had built itself into the wreckage of the Tir na nOg and have progressed to the point of technical aptitude with Federation equipment, as we found out when the leader of the civilization invited us planetside.

As we met with the leader of the Wildman-1025 residents, we learned that they had learned about the Federation and about the technical schematics of the Tir na nOg from the ship's Holodeck, which had malfunctioned and materialized the entire hologram database of the ship with full self-awareness. The civilization had then split into two as a small cult arose from followers of one of the programs, but this cult had self-destructed soon afterwards. This cult had apparently had a reverence for face-painting and the Tir na nOg's electromagnetic plating and frequently used the ship's replicators to shower their followers with consecrated liquid in mass ceremonies. This box contains some of that liquid, as given by the Wildmanites to get rid of as the last vestige of this horror cult. And now I give it to you! Enjoy!

End Report
Commander Wildman put away the PADD and opened the box. She reached into the box...

... and pulled out a bottle of Faygo.

markusseikyo 12-26-2012 06:04 PM

"Lieutenant's log. Stardate: 83184.51." Markus held the PADD in front of him as he tried to record one of his latest away missions he was picked to go on, "So far this has been a very interesting day. And not one that I would say as difficult either." The young man sighed and stretched his arms up above his head once he set the PADD down. "The Kano was ordered to make a detour to a planet that was discovered a few hundred years ago, and was just now entering warp-capable speeds into space. We were told to make first contact with them before the Klingons do." He rubbed his chin nervously, "Well no one told me I would be needed on any first contact missions, as I didn't study diplomacy very well at the Academy." He rubbed the engraved tattoo on his face. "It all started like this..."

-----

Earlier that day

Markus entered the ready room of Lieutenant Commander DeSoto. A tall Trill woman with auburn bangs past her eyes, looked none too pleased at the fact she was having to speak to one of her engineers individually.

"Sit down Darmoth." DeSoto barked, causing the young man to find the chair in front of her desk. While she didn't have any qualms about this specific engineer, the fact that her Captain had asked for one of her junior engineers to accompany him to the planet surface irked her. "What I have to say to you is for your ears only. Please don't be passing this around."

"Yes Ma'am." Markus responded, settling into his seat.

"I've been asked by the captain to select an engineer from my crew to be a part of the away team for this contact mission. The reason why I don't want you to say anything beyond this room is that I wish I was going instead. But the captain feels that the junior members should take the place of a more senior member. To give them the experience." DeSoto's shoulders dropped as she thought about her response. "So if I was to pick a junior member of my team, it would have to be the best that I can give him." She smiled at Markus, "Tag, your it."

Markus groaned lightly as he leaned back against the back of the chair, "You've got to be kidding me?" He looked at his Commander to see if she was joking in any sense. The look he got back was not encouraging, "but you know I don't do anything diplomatically." His mind began to wonder if his Commander really was taking a joke too far.

"Unfortunately I'm not joking here Markus." The older woman sighed, knowing that she would have to order him to go on this mission. "The only thing that you need to worry about is that their systems are working fine and if there is anything that we can do to help out." DeSoto slid the PADD over to him and leaned back herself, "Everything we know about this species says they're just at the cusp of achieving warp 2 flight, but we didn't catch them during their first warp test." She pointed to him, "You will be our engineer to help them refine their process just enough to get them past their roadblock."

"I'll see what I can do, Commander." Markus replied and picked up the PADD, standing up and leaving her office after DeSoto's quiet dismissal.

-----

Markus had returned to his quarters and reviewed information. Once he felt he was ready, he gathered his things and met with the away team once they arrived at the planet.

"Are you ready for this?" A blue Andorian woman said, gently patting his arm.

"About as ready as I can be." The woman smiled at him, knowing that he would be fine.

"Energize Chief." The thirty-five year old captain said to the transporter chief and the pattern buffers energized, beaming the away team to the planets surface.

Once on the surface, the away team was greeted by a being that was taller than anyone in the team itself. She was hairless, with very little reptilian features across her neck and high pointed ears like a rabbit. Robes covered her length from neck to foot, and she walked with a style and grace of a dancer. "Welcome to our world, Outsiders. We bid you peace and great tidings."

Captain Tresh stepped forward, looking up into the woman's eyes. "Greetings, I'm Captain Tresh, of the U.S.S. Kano. We're from the United Federation of Planets and bid you great tidings as well." The woman gave a slight nod at the captain and turned to look at the others with him.

"And who else is with you, Captain Tresh?"

The Andorian woman who was next to Markus stepped forward, "This is Lieutenant Mirra sh'Zarath, Tactical officer on the U.S.S. Kano."

Another woman stepped forward, this time with markings across the sides of her face and down her neck, indicating she was a Trill, "This is Ensign Nasera Call, Science officer on the U.S.S. Kano." The captain spoke again.

Markus took a step forward, meeting the woman's gaze as the others did, "This is Lieutenant Markus Darmoth, Engineering officer on the U.S.S. Kano." Markus gave a brief nod before stepping back.

"An engineer. We understand you have achieved faster than light travel much earlier than we have. And have breached past the higher levels of travel." The woman looked at Markus specifically. The engineer nodded slightly. "Then we will be discussing things very closely." The woman nodded her head, "Forgive me for not introducing myself. I am Ralsha. Engineer of the F.T.L. Ship Trachal." She began to lead the away team to the city center.

-----

"So what do you think, Engineer Darmoth?" Ralsha lead Markus on a brief tour of the ship. To Markus, it resembled the old submarines of long ago.

"A tight fit in some places, but quite understandable." Markus stated, running his hand over some of the interior plating. The ship was still in their drydock undergoing some refits to the power source. "But it seems that you are working towards warp two."

"Yes. We seem to have a hard time reaching that speed. Each time we get to that barrier, the field collapses."

"I could look over your calculations, maybe the field is collapsing because..."

Boom

Markus was knocked to the floor with Ralsha as an explosion rocked the ship, air seemed to be escaping for a brief moment before the airlock doors shut between them and the gaping hole near the engineering section.

"Oh no." Ralsha exclaimed, looking at the doors as she tried to get up, "The Terachs."

"Who are the Terachs?" Markus coughed out, rolling onto his knees and dragging himself up.

"Traitors to the Union. They feel that we've broken some spiritual law by creating this FTL ship and we're destroying our land." She raised her arm up as Markus helped her stand. "We have to get out of here before they find us."

"Markus to Kano. Get a transporter lock on us and beam us out of here."

"Negative Markus. Something is blocking the transporters ability to lock on the two of you. You'll have to move away from where you're at." the transporter chief responded. "We will keep working on getting a lock on the two of you and beam you out when we can."

"Roger that Kano. Notify Captain Tresh, he's still on the surface with the rest of the away team."

"Will do Markus, Kano out." And the comm went dead. Markus pulled out his tricorder and began scanning the area while placing a hand upon his phaser.

"Engineer Darmoth, we have to head to the front of the ship. There might be a craft able to transport us away from here." Ralsha began leading him away from the engineering section of the ship towards the front.

"Do you have space suits in case there are any hull breaches." He was looking around corners as they got to them, keeping his phaser in the holster.

"I'm sorry Engineer Darmoth, but if we did, they wouldn't fit you very well."

"Of course." Markus reminded himself that the species itself was very tall and thin. Him fitting into any one of their suits would cause it to tear. "Let's hope we don't meet anyone from this Terachs group."

Luck was not on their side. Markus looked around another corner when Ralsha pulled him back. She beckoned him to not speak as she pointed at the corner he was looking around.

"Did we get her? The she-devil who is trying to keep this going?" a male voice spoke, his tones harsh and unforgiving.

"We don't know, she was with the Outsider. The filth." Another male, growling out the last few words as if they were a curse, "They bring this upon themselves for using this technology. The unbelievers will fall and our Gods will smite them out of the sky."

Markus groaned quietly, pulling out the phaser and setting it to a low stun setting. Ralsha looked intrigued at the weapon before he leaned out once more. A few shots at the two unsuspecting traitors and they were down. "Quickly, we don't have much time." Markus grabbed Ralsha by the hand and pulled her in the direction they were originally heading. "Which way?"

"Take a left up here and the third door on your right. We can take the ladder up to the craft holding area." Ralsha explained. Markus nodded and found two more traitors.

"Stop, unbelievers!" They opened fire upon the two engineers, who ducked into a small alcove. The projectile bullets they were firing ricocheted off the hull plating and nearly hit the two. Markus leaned out and fired a few more shots, hitting one of the men and spooking the other into hiding.

"Kano, do you have a lock yet?" Markus yelled, taking a few shots.

"Almost. I can get one of you, but not the other. You may have to stick close to each other."

Markus growled and fired two more shots at the saboteur, "Well you don't have a lot of time to cut through this interference. we're pinned down now, and there might be more on the way."

"Roger Markus, we're boosting the signal on the transporter beam now. We should be able to get you two on to one pad."

"Hurry it up then." Markus looked at Ralsha. "We're going to have to get close for this to happen." Ralsha nodded, coming up behind him and wrapping her arms around him. "Markus to Kano, we're ready for beam out."

"Energizing Markus." And the two beings began to dematerialize, right in front of the traitors, before they were gunned down by the Union security guards.

Both patterns began to materialized in the transporter room on the Kano as they completed transport. Markus breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the transporter chief.

"Wow." Ralsha stated, looking at her hands as she let go of Markus. "Matter transportation. This.. This is just theorized only days ago." She flexed her fingers, then looked at Markus."

"We didn't want to spook you too much by beaming you onto the ship." Markus looked at the woman, "But we will transport you back to the surface via shuttlecraft if that will make you feel better."

"No.. I would like to experience this transportation again." Ralsha gave a light blush at her child-like enthusiasm of being teleported from one place to another. "You saved me from death. I will have to tell my Elders of this."

Markus gave a light nod, then looked at the transporter chief. "Beam us back next to the rest of the away team. I think that they were also talking to the Elders before we left."

The chief nodded and soon the two were beaming back to the surface.

-----

The away team sat in a small conference room that they were given once the two engineers arrived in front of the Elders. Ralsha began speaking very quickly for the universal translators to pick up and the Elders looked at each other before requesting that the dignitaries from Starfleet stay in the conference room until this matter was settled. During that time, Markus was debriefed by Captain Tresh.

"So you had the Kano beam you two out after participating in a firefight with a sect of followers who sabotaged the warp drive's power plant?"

"Yes sir. I didn't want to chance it that this First Contact would cause us to loose a new Federation ally. I'll gladly take any reprimand you give me if this goes sour."

"You might have broken a few Prime Directives, but you were also in a combat situation. I'm sure we can look over a few things." Tresh was interrupted by a guard coming in.

"Engineer Darmoth. The Elders would like to speak with you and your Captain." Markus looked over at Captain Tresh, who nodded and both followed the guard out.

"Engineer Darmoth, step forward." The high Elder spoke, Markus once again looked at his Captain for guidance, and was given the go ahead. He stepped forward and bowed to the Elders. "You've done a great deed for one of our own, and saved them from death at the hands of evil men. We humbly ask you to join us, as one of our own, and receive the mark to signify that you are friends of the Iracis." Markus followed Ralsha off to the side, where they had him sit down on a chair and lay him back. They brought up a device and rested it against the left side of his face. "This is a symbol of our friendship," the slight burning of the device tapped out the pattern, "The ink is the blood of our kinship." The device finished it's mark and was pulled away from his face. "And this signifies the love of family." Ralsha leaned down, kissing his temple where the mark was made. Markus was brought back to an upright position, a mirror was placed in front of him and he saw the tattoo on his face, even the slight kiss from Ralsha's lips was left upon his face. "You're now a member of my family, and are welcome amongst the Iracis."

"Thank you." Markus responded, looking at Ralsha with a soft smile.

"You will have to come back for the pilgrimage to complete the ritual. I will show you what you need to do when the time comes." Ralsha took Markus' hand and lead him back to his Captain.

"We'll let him come back to complete the ritual when it's time." Captain Tresh responded. "We will have some engineers come down and help with any repair work to get your ship back in operation."

"Thank you, Captain Tresh. We would like Engineer Darmoth to work with Ralsha on completing the project."

Tresh nodded, "He will be made available. For now we should head back to our ship and gather what we need to assist. If that is alright with you Elders?" The Elders nodded, waving them in a quiet dismissal. The away team bowed to the Elders and headed out of the building they were in.

"When will I see you again Engineer Markus?" Ralsha asked as the team got into position.

"In a few standard hours." Markus replied, noticing the change in his designation.

"Then I will await your return." Ralsha responded, leaning in and rubbing her cheek with his.

-----

"So in a few more hours, I will be returning to the surface. Captain Tresh said to go ahead and help them past Warps 2 and 3 as a sign of good faith. Even though it violates some of the Prime Directives. Ralsha also told us when the next pilgrimage was happening and Captain Tresh already blocked out the time for me to go on leave, even if I didn't have enough requisitioned." Markus ran his hand back over the new tattoo. "I guess that makes me a part of Ralsha's family. I hope I didn't just get married." Markus remarked, before turning off the terminal.


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