Literary Challenge #35 : New Year's Resolutions
Hello and welcome to another edition of our writers' challenges! :cool:
Today we start the two-week run of the thirty-fifth Literary Challenge: New Year's Resolutions
While you've earned your rank for outstanding performance, there are a few areas that you'd like to see yourself grow in throughout the upcoming year. Maybe this is spending more time with your crew, or actually enjoying shore leave when off-duty, or maybe it's to complete that Holodeck program you've been attempting to get through for months and months. Whatever it may be, feel free to write a personal log entry and share it here.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!
The swaying deck shifted beneath her feet, and Lieutenant Meliden Bowen knew that if it were not for Lieutenant S'rR's Kane's arm round her, she would have fallen. She tried to take another step, but something snagged her foot.
"Wait! Wait! Something's got me!" she howled, trying to maintain her balance.
S'rR's looked back,
"You've got your heel caught in your dress again," she sighed, balancing her intoxicated friend against the bulkhead, and stooping to release the stiletto heel from the rucked fabric. "We're nearly there now, just keep going."
Once more, S'rR's slung Meliden's arm across her shoulder, then gripped her round the waist, guiding the Cardassian officer as easily as a small child.
"I know your Da-the Admiral can keep getting Romulan Ale, but how could you let me drink so much?!" Meliden protested, as she staggered forwards. "I know I'm Welsh, but I've got the early duty shift tomorrow! I'm gonna be a right mess!"
"Just drink lots of water before you go to sleep, and replicate a couple cans of Red Targ when you wake up, you'll be fine," S'rR's replied as they navigated round a corner toward the Chief Engineer's quarters.
"I love you, Siri, you're my best friend," Meliden declared, craning her head to kiss S'rR's.
Shifting her head, S'rR's caught the kiss on her cheek, and sighed. "I know, baby, I love you too," she replied tolerantly, reaching out and hitting the door control. As the doors slid open, Meliden staggered through aiming for her work desk, and not even wishing S'rR's a good night, she collapsed heavily into the chair, which spun slightly as the doors sighed closed. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a blinking from her desk terminal, and without thinking, reached out and slapped the control surface, only to see the screen fill with the head and shoulders of her adoptive mother.
"My God, Mel, you look a right state!"
"Hello, Mam, how are you?" she asked, knowing that it was too late to terminate the connection.
"Oh, I'm fine, love, but you look terrible, what've you been upto?"
"It's new years eve, Mam, I was just having a few drinks with my friends," Meliden sighed, leaning forwards on the desk, and resting her chin on her forearms.
"Meliden Olwen Bowen! Sit up when you talk to me, I refuse to have a conversation with the top of your head! And how many times do I have to tell you, they're not your friends, they're just people you work with! Your're as bad as your father was, always putting other people before his family. Your friends here are always asking after you, no one can ever get hold of you."
"I'm a Starfleet officer, Mam, I'm the chief engineer of a starship, I'm busy most of the time," Meliden replied, sitting back in her chair. "And you know Dad always had time for us. He had time for everyone."
On the screen, Caral Bowen frowned.
"You've done something to your hair..."
Meliden brushed a long bang of hair from out of her eyes. "I had it done the other day, do you like it?"
"Well, I can't see half your forehead and face, but I suppose it looks okay."
"Thanks, Mam, that was the idea," Meliden sighed wryly, her head spinning more slowly than before. "So how're things in the village? I hope the weather hasn't been too bad. Is Missus Thomas still teaching?"
"She is, and she still asks after you," replied Caral. "Which reminds me, I ran into your friend Chelsea Jones the other day, and she asked how you were doing. She said she was getting married in a few months."
"Mam, Chelsea Jones isn't my friend! I haven't spoken to her since year nine at school! After I went out with Tommy Webster, she got really nasty, and got all her mates to call me Kim Kardashian!"
"Well, if you will go on your camera without your clothes on, you have to deal with the consequences..."
Meliden closed her eyes, and sighed.
"Mam, I was just a kid then, I know you and Dad did a lot worse when you were my age. Look, it's really late here, and I've got an early start in the morning, I'm going to have to go."
"Alright, but I'll call again in a few days, and it would be nice if you're sober when you answer," Caral said archly.
"I will, Mam, I promise, once a week, new year's resolution," Meliden assured her, reaching out to turn off the monitor, plunging her quarters into darkness.
Bryan stepped into his quarters and threw off his jacket, which landed on one of the chairs near his private table.
"Finally off duty." he said to himself. It was about then that he remembered the pile of reports and assignments that awaited him as one of the XOs of the fleet. He resigned himself to the chair at his desk in the corner near where his bed was located. One of the reports from the Azure sector reminded him of a promise he had made to Ibalei several months earlier
"Admiral, we've entered the Azure sector," Ensign Aara, an Orion that had defected form the Klingon empire called from her station at the aft of the bridge.
"Good." Bryan responded, "Helm, set a course for Starbase 234."
"Sir," Ibalei said from her chair to Bryan's left, "If we're ahead of schedule, could we please visit the Azure nebula? I've never seen it before, so I'd like to take the chance to do so, if we have the time."
"Sorry, Ibalei, but we're actually a little behind." Bryan responded sadly. "Next time we're in the sector, though, I promise that we will."
"Athena." Bryan called out suddenly.
"Yes Admiral?" The ship's AI responded.
"What is the current Earth standard date?"
"December 28, 2411, sir."
"Compose a new message. Trigger send upon the ship's arrival in the Azure sector. Recipient: Myself. Title: New Year's Resolution. Message Reads: Remember your promise to her, Bryan."
"Orders confirmed. Anything else?"
"No. Thank you."
"Logging you out, Bryan."
Bryan smiled to himself as he felt the ring in his pocket. "That would be the perfect time for that." He whispered as he went back to finishing the fleet reports.
"New Year's Eve, and where am I? Stuck on some forsaken station in the middle of nowhere!"
"Yes, we know," sighed her Andorian companion R'shee. "You've said so several times already."
"Really? Huh." Captain Mazoo was past the point of recall.
"You are in the finest bar and grill this side of Vulcan!" said the kindly older Ferengi host. "Deep Space Nine may not be the most glamorous posting, but Quark's is the best place to be, any holiday, I assure you."
Mazoo ignored him, and continued on her rant. "First I miss Ecks-mas, stuck in the Gamma Quadrant, hiding in a nebula fixing a broken ship, and now I'm missing the best time of the year on Terra. Even though I saved the Empire, YET AGAIN, they don't have the courtesy to call us home and pin some admirals' pips on me. Just another silly medal, delivered by mail."
"You know," answered Yinus, her Trill engineer, "we could have been to Terra in minutes with the transwarp drive, but you we-"
"IT'S TOO LATE FOR THAT! Those, those...JERKS at Starfleet told me to stay here and wait...for...stuff."
"I think you're drunk," said the Andorian.
"Absolutely so. You've stopped swearing."
"...Oh. Maybe you're right." R'Shee had been Mazoo's first officer since her very first command; she had learned to recognise just the point when her hard-drinking captain changed from merely tipsy to full-on inebriated. "But who wouldn't be? We conquered this place how many decades ago, and it STILL smells like Bajorans and Cardassians. And Klingons. But especially Cardassians!"
"That may be the Kanar, actually." Yinus and R'shee were just drinking Synthale; they knew that the captain liked to get sauced on New Year's Eve, and somebody had to watch out for her (or rather, any non-humans that glanced at her funny during her rants).
"Why the heck would I order Kanar? That's not something I would do! I hate Cardassians!"
"You obviously like Kanar," answered her first officer.
"And you ordered the cheapest drink on the menu," added the barkeep. "Not a whole lot of Cardassians about on the station; I'm selling this at a loss, and still no one wants it. At least, until you came in tonight..."
"CARDASSIANS!" Mazoo started to rant again. "I have a New Year's resolution: take it down, Number One. I am going to kill a hundreeed Cardassians! Bathe my blade in their blood!"
"Captain, first, we're off duty, so I'm not taking anything down. Second, the Empire is at peace with the Cardassians; we can't just go over there and start killing them, no matter how much they smell, or how much you like Kanar."
"Peace is stupid! Why, when I'm Empress-"
"Ma'am! Captain! Please, watch what you say!" The Ferengi suddenly got quite nervous - there were lots of Starfleet types around, and they didn't take kindly to bartenders getting captains so drunk they started having delusions of treachery. "I think it's time you got off the Kanar, and got some good beer instead."
"I thought the Kanar was the cheapest stuff; she ordered the cheapest stuff." R'shee liked watching lesser folk squirm.
"Well...free is cheap." Yinus was just as nervous as the bartender; she was part of Mazoo's personal...staff. If her captain, to whom she swore an oath of loyalty, got in trouble, it'd be her head rolling, too.
The Ferengi considered this for a very short moment. "Yes, free is rather cheap. Here you go, one beer, on the house. It's a holiday, after all. And look, the New Year started just now."
Captain Mazoo carefully took a sip of her drink - even in her state, she knew Ferengi don't give things away for free, even to a Starfleet Captain. It was really good... "Hey, this isn't beer; beer is gross! I hate beer!"
"It's root beer. I think it's time you layed off the alcohol for a while, Captain."
Mazoo couldn't help but take it. The Ferengi were Allies of the Empire; he owned the restaurant, and he called the shots. Plus, it was tasty.
"Captain, I strongly recommend you choose an alternative. Either take an away team or leave her to her fate." The Andorian tactical officer was able to keep up with her Captain's quick pace as they left the Quartermaster's Office. Captain Kathryn Beringer was strapping the Kit over her shoulders as they walked to the Shuttle Bay.
"Anthi, your suggestion is duly noted. But those Orion slave-traders will not get away with this one, not when I have the chance to rescue her from a terrible existence."
"Sir, I present options that safeguard yourself or the crew. The asteroid base is larger than anything we have encountered before. Starfleet has already been notified of its existence. I don?t have to be Vulcan to know your current plan is reckless, if not illogical."
Kathryn stopped and turned to her First officer, her face lined with controlled anger. She leaned in and used hushed tones to prevent from losing control. "Anthi, we've been together since your first assignment from the Academy and you know my history is tied to that girl waiting in that cell. I'm not going to pull rank but I know what needs to be done and where to go. An away team will just endanger them and Starfleet is too slow to respond." Kathryn started walking and focused on checking the charge packs in the pistols holstered to each hip. "I know I can"t save every slave in the galaxy, but I know I can for this one. You may call it reckless, but I've made resolutions to prevent what happened to me to the best of my abilities. I keep my promises, you know that."
Anthi followed one step behind and persisted. "You should not go alone."
"Options are off the table, Anthi. If she is still alive, then the risk is worth the effort." They reached the doors to the Shuttle Bay. "You have the con. Be sure to stay 50 kilometers out and- "
"Use the asteroids as cover, I know Captain", Anthi interrupted. "It"s not the first time we"ve done this."
They stood at the doors in silence for a few seconds. Kathryn knew Anthi approved of her decision; she was just doing her duty. The Andorian looked at the doors, "What if the girl is dead?"
Kathryn smirked, "Then the Solaris will get to test his new Quantum Torpedoes on a stationary target."
Stardate: 84012.78 (one hour before midnight, December 31, 2409)
Markus stood next to the window, holding a glass flute of champagne as he waited for the new year to ring in. He was reviewing his thoughts about what happened during the last year.
"Penny for your thoughts?" A subtle voice asked him, Markus turned to look at the woman standing next to him. She wore a dress uniform with a black skirt that went halfway down her legs. Her blue skin shined from the light coming from the nebula.
"I don't think that my thoughts are worth just a penny, Mirra." He responded, causing the woman to smile.
"No they're not." she turned herself to face the window, looking out towards the nebula they were monitoring, "So what is on your mind?"
"Just remembering the past year. The good and the bad." He replied, leaning up against the railing. He felt Mirra's hand run across the left side of his face where the tattoo he got from the Iracis still shown deep red.
"Some bad things turn out to be good things." She remembered when he received the tattoo and went with him on his pilgrimage, as a federation diplomatic envoy. Markus gave a nod, tilting his head into Mirra's hand.
"Yes. There were some good things that came out of the bad." Markus stood a bit straighter, reaching with his free hand to Mirra's, "Some of them were closer than I expected."
Mirra smiled, looking at the clock before taking a sip of her champagne. "Well I'm glad that you found some good things to think about." She squeezed his hand as she brought it down next to her.
Markus and Mirra stood there, watching the nebula as they awaited for the count down into the new year.
"So I hear that from Earth there is a time honored tradition of starting a resolution for the New Year." Mirra stated, leaning against the young man next to her. Markus nodded to her statement, "And what would that be?"
"Something you'll have to find out." He replied, rubbing his thumb across the back of her hand.
"I look forward to finding out." Mirra gave a soft smile as the clock chimed that it was midnight. In the background, the human and Earth-born crewmates began singing Auld Lang Syne, "There is another tradition I heard from Nasera, that you kiss at midnight."
"Wouldn't want to break that tradition, now would we?" Markus leaned in and kissed Mirra as the rest of the chimes echoed around the lounge of the Kano.
A cube. Multi-segmented. Six colored facings. Rotational assemblies allowing individual facets to be manipulated. Curious.
It was an odd puzzle, but Commander Khas Ker'at was certain that a careful application of his twelve kilo engineering mallet would provide a solution. Eventually.
He had raised the mallet over his head, preparing the first of a dozen exploratory strikes on the delicate, unspeakably priceless antique when a polite cough interrupted his mechanical reverie. Khas looked up from behind his desk and tossed the hammer carelessly onto the floor, where it landed with a dull thud. He gave a curt nod and scowled. "Lieutenant Commander. You require something." The words came out rough, craggy, and combative.
His first officer, a tiny, blue-skinned humanoid with white hair and antennae returned the scowl ferociously. "Why else would I speak to you?" she spat out, her own voice growling with contempt. He nodded subtly in approval and she broke into one of those ridiculous humanoid grins, her forehead eye-fur arching in an expression of amusement. Her grasp of the traditional Arkathian greeting was getting better. "The crew are just wondering if you'll be joining us to celebrate the New Year. You didn't forget about the party did you?"
"No, no." Khas rumbled. He stroked the flat-faced, stony spikes of chitin on his lower mandible thoughtfully. He hoped it looked thoughtful, at least. His own grasp of human gesticulation was spotty at best. "I've simply been studying this ancient Roobiksian Hyper-spatial Cuboid. I find it restful to meditate on the pointless tedium involved in solving its terrible puzzle."
Lieutenant Commander Shanda shook her head, still grinning. She had served with Khas since she was an ensign and he was a freshly-minted Lieutenant. She'd stuck with him ever since as she was one of the few serving in Starfleet who both understood the Arkathian commander's odd body language and found his numerous quirks amusing. She also knew this was the first time he'd even been invited to a new year's party of any sort. The dutiful, methodical, and scowling Commander was usually considered to be kind of a downer. "Well, we're sharing resolutions soon and we'd hoped you could share yours."
Khas Ker'at's scowl intensified and he slowly blinked one eye and then the other. He was uncertain. "I am unfamiliar with this custom. It's not...is a 'resolution' some sort of casserole? I am given to understand humans tend to share casseroles on joyous occasions, such a holidays, ad-hoc social gatherings, and the death of a loved one."
"No, Commander. New Year's Resoltuions are an ancient and popular human custom. The new year is an opportunity improve one's self by letting go of unfortunate habits and promising to do better this time."
"They wait an entire year to do this?"
Khas muttered appreciatively. Or angrily. It was hard to tell as they both sounded like a string of sotto voce expletives either way. "That sounds both pointless and tedious. Very well, I will be there momentarily."
Shanda nodded again and sauntered out the door. Khas sighed. He understood she was attractive by humanoid standards, but he found most humanoids rather sickening to look at. And he could never remember which foreheads belonged to which species, either. For a moment he pictured a fine Arkathian Type 2 Primary Female Morph, her delicate flesh-rending maw plated in iridescent chitin and twin sets of enormous scything claws scented with fresh Boji flower. He shook away the image sadly.
Khas stood up, surreptitiously dumped a casserole into the disposal bin, and adjusted his sleeves. This year he would remember what "resolution" meant. And also try to remember what foreheads belonged on what humanoids. Maybe find a pretty Arkathian primary female morph to pair up with provided she can hold off on the traditional post-nuptual devouring of the groom until after his service to Starfleet was over. Hmm...better not mention that last one.
At least it would be an interesting year.
Nightingale dropped out of warp, the small blue, green, and purple world of Trill hanging underneath her.
Less than half an hour later, an even smaller vessel slipped out of the shuttle bay and headed on down into the atmosphere. The registration on the side of the Captain's Yacht, Jinx's personal shuttle, named it the USS Symbiont, a fitting name for the vessel a Joined Trill was returning home in.
Completely ignoring the major settlements, Jinx's course took her down to a small island in the middle of Trill's largest ocean. Anyone who knew Jinx and saw the shuttle would never suspect that she was the one flying it. She was flying sensibly for a start, with none of the flamboyance she normally exhibits when piloting. Her rather subdued flight today matched her mood very well.
Settling her Yacht down very gently on a long familiar stretch of beach, Jinx climbed out of her shuttle. Before closing the hatch, she reached back in and pulled out a small bag, a bottle of something and a bunch of flowers.
A short, five minute walk down the beach brought Jinx to her destination - a small plaque embedded in the rock face with a memorial enscribed onto it.
"For the memory of one who yet walks.
When she returns home,
this is where she will lie"
Glancing at the small container at the base of the rock face, the flowers she left here last year were long dead. Jinx frowned. That would not do. Pulling the dead flowers up, she replaced them with the fresh ones she had carried from the shuttle, then emptying the contents of the bag, the cleaned the plaque up as best she could.
Then she dropped to sit in the sand, popped the top off her bottle, raised it in salute to the plaque, then took a drink.
"You know, life is difficult without you," she said to the plaque. "I'm sorry I've not been round much, but you know the life of a Starfleet officer. Always stuff to do. You would not believe the stuff we've had to deal with this year."
The next few hours were taken up with Jinx telling the plaque all about the past year, her encounters with the Borg and other species. The founding of New Romulus, and her adoption of Toram (a young boy given to her care by a tribe of primitives and named after her mentor from Trill). Jinx laughed sadly a little when she explained to the plaque that Quinn had no idea what to do with her now, and how he had told her that Starfleet Academy was a lot more sedate without her there.
"Well, that's me done," Jinx said after draining the last of her bottle. Standing, she finished with "Sorry again it's been a whole year. Tell you what, this year I'll make a New Year Resolution. I'll be back to visit at least every other month. See you soon, my friend."
With tears in her eyes, Jinx turned and walked back to the Symbiont, where she let her mask slip for a few minutes to permit a few tears to roll down her face, before plotting a course back to the Nightingale and her oh so complicated life.
Personal log: Tylha Shohl, officer commanding, USS King Estmere, NCC-92984.
I'm still cobalt in the face with rage as I storm off the transporter pad.
"Welcome to Spacedock," says Ch'Thras.
"What? - oh, yes, thank you, Chief," I say abstractedly.
"Admiral Semok is on deck 18 sublevel 2," says Ch'Thras. "And I suppose, for form's sake, I'd better remind you that strangling a superior officer is considered insubordination."
I stop in my tracks and really look at Ch'Thras, after that. His face is a study in careful lack of expression. Of course he knows why I'm here - there's very little that Earth Spacedock's transporter chief doesn't see or hear. He probably knew about my new orders before I did myself.
"I'll try to bear that in mind, Chief," I say. It's not going to be easy, though. The main transporter room seems more than usually full of blundering idiots, and then the turbolift takes forever to reach deck 18. Maybe there's something wrong with it. Or maybe - just maybe - I'm in a bad mood.
Sublevel 2 of deck 18 turns out to be almost empty, with rows of inactive workstations along the walls, and only one office with any lights showing. Either people have just moved out, or they're about to move in. More likely the latter, since Semok's damned Experimental Engineering Task Force is a new project. I head for the only light, my boots ringing on the deck, ominously, I sincerely hope.
There's a Tellarite yeoman on duty outside the office. "Vice Admiral Shohl?" she says. "You're not on my list... but you can go in anyway, I know the Admiral won't mind." Thank goodness for Tellarite directness, anyway.
Semok's office is up against the Spacedock's outer skin; the windows show the blue curve of the Earth against the blackness of space. There is no decoration, no personal items; I don't know if that's Vulcan austerity, or if Semok just hasn't had time to put anything up. Semok himself is short, round-featured, almost tubby; he looks up from his desk as I enter, and I could almost swear there's the start of a smile on his face as he looks at me. Well, I will soon change that.
"Vice Admiral Shohl," he says, "what an unexpected pleasure. Please, take a seat."
"I'd rather stand, sir," I say.
He looks a little surprised at that. If he does the eyebrow-quirk thing, I'm going to kill him. I am personally convinced that every conflict between Vulcan and Andoria started with some arrogant damn Vulcan doing the eyebrow-quirk thing.
He doesn't do it. Thankfully. "Is there some problem?" he asks.
I take a deep breath, then go into one of the several speeches I planned out and rehearsed. "There are numerous problems, sir. I need hardly remind the Admiral of the security situation - or, I hope, of my efforts lately. King Estmere has been very busy, handling threats from insurgents in Tau Dewa space, and pushing back Breen attacks against the Deferi. We've accomplished a lot, sir, but both situations are still grave. In the circumstances, to have me reassigned to your unit - pulled off the front lines and off King Estmere when I've only just got her running properly - well, sir, I question your logic."
And I hope that stings.
Semok blinks, which is close to hysterics, for a Vulcan. "I see," he says. "It seems I have made an error, for which I apologize. Please sit down, Vice Admiral."
It's my turn to blink. I wasn't expecting it to be this easy - I wasn't expecting to get my own way at all, in fact; questioning orders never turns out well. I sit down.
"My error lies," Semok continues, "in failing to word your orders more explicitly. There is no question of detaching you from front-line service, Vice Admiral Shohl, nor of requiring you to transfer your flag from the King Estmere. Unless you yourself find it desirable. May I explain further?"
I have a distinct sinking feeling, now... as if I've taken a swing at someone, and missed, and made a damn fool of myself in the process. "Um," I say, "I, um, think that would be helpful. Sir."
Semok nods. "It is your record with the King Estmere," he says, "that brought you to my attention. Starfleet has been using captured Recluse-class carriers for some time, of course, but rarely with the level of efficiency you have brought to your ship. Moreover, you have successfully integrated multiple different technologies aboard the ship... and continue, I believe, to do so. Advanced Starfleet technology, Klingon devices, and now I understand you are using Jolciot materials and some experimental Romulan devices?"
"Um," I say again. "Well, building in the Aegis systems seemed an obvious step - I'd worked extensively with those, refitting the Sita - and the subspace jumper was practically a necessity, with King Estmere's weapons setup. The Jolciot poly-stable alloys have been a big help - more Commander Thirethequ's idea than mine, though - and, as for the new Romulan weapons - well, D'Tan's people have been very helpful."
"My understanding is," says Semok, "that they consider you, too, to have been very helpful, in various endeavours on New Romulus."
"I do what I can," I say.
"And somewhat visibly," says Semok. Is there a trace of humour in those measured Vulcan tones? "I have to concede that it would be... inappropriate, from a public relations viewpoint... to find a desk job for the Pirate Queen of the Vastam Heights."
Oh, damn that reporter, damn and blast him. My face is still flushed a deep, deep blue, but now it's with embarrassment, not rage.
"In any case," Semok continues, smoothly, "it is this field expertise of yours which I want to recruit, Vice Admiral Shohl. Theoretical studies can only go so far.... My unit is engaged in multiple technological integration projects, but there is only so much we can do in the laboratory; it is impossible to predict all the factors which may come into play in actual mission situations. Consequently, I would need you to carry out your normal duties, while at the same time liaising with me and my development staff to determine which... technological amalgams... yield the best practical results."
"You need me to report on the changes we've made to King Estmere?"
"Or to whatever vessel you may choose to use," says Semok. "For example, you have recently obtained access to a functioning Breen warship, I understand."
"Well, yes," I say doubtfully. "One of Q's... games. But I thought it'd be helpful to have a fully operational Chel Grett for Starfleet to study...." The encounters with Breen slavers in Deferi space have produced a lot of bits of Chel Gretts, but this is the first time I've got my hands on an intact one.
"This is a case in point," says Semok. "It is my intention, Vice Admiral, that this vessel should be attached to your squadron - for, as a flag officer, it is normal for you to command more than one ship - and adapted for Starfleet use. The technical challenges involved will make for a useful study, from my viewpoint - and, from yours, the vessel itself should prove a viable tactical asset. Similarly, your old ship the Sita is to be reattached to your command, for the purposes of providing a baseline for performance comparisons. You enjoyed some success in operations with that ship, I believe. The possibility of other vessels being assigned to you for study will be left open - but I fully believe that such assignments would have value."
"You mean," I say, cautiously, hardly daring to believe it, "you're giving me access to a range of different, high-powered warships?"
"With full authorization, and my encouragement, to use them however you see fit," Semok replies equably. "No lesser test would be satisfactory, for my purposes. Vice Admiral Shohl, I believe that, with these resources, you and I can help test the integration of multiple different technologies and design philosophies - selecting from them the best, the most practical, of the various options available. We will, in this way, help determine the development of the next generation of Starfleet warships. I believe this to be a project of some importance, and I hope for your fullest assistance."
I feel about two and a half inches tall. To think that I thought he was moving me into a desk job... I'm an idiot, sometimes. "You'll have it, sir," I manage to say. And then - because I am, at least, an honest idiot - I add, "I owe you an apology - I'm sorry, sir. I jumped to conclusions - I really thought you had some desk job planned for me -"
"As I said," Semok says, his tone mild and reasonable, "I feel at fault for not phrasing your orders more definitely. For not preventing this misunderstanding.... I hope that we will come to understand each other better, in time."
"I hope so too, sir," I say. And I mean it.
"Excellent," says Semok, and I swear he actually smiles, for a fraction of a second. "In that case, we should commence by addressing the question of the Breen warship.... I will tell you frankly, I am a theoretician, and therefore I prefer to avoid the early morning rising favoured by you front-line officers. So, I would appreciate it if you would return to this office tomorrow at 0930, with a preliminary plan for the conversion process, which we will then discuss and finalize."
"Yes, sir." And my embarrassment starts to drain away, almost as fast as my anger did, as I start turning that issue over in my mind. The Chel Grett's crazy design - a human friend described it as "a bunch of armour-plated croissants nailed together" - poses all sorts of problems, quite apart from the low-temperature internal environment.... the existing control runs won't be adequate for Starfleet standards... we would need to install a complete new bridge, just to begin with....
"Excellent." Semok's voice breaks in on my internal reverie. "Carry on, then, Vice Admiral Shohl."
And I leave his office in a much better mood than when I arrived... confronted by new challenges, filled with a new resolution. Semok is right, the insights I've gained in fitting out the Sita and the King Estmere need to be passed on, need to become part of the overall body of Starfleet engineering knowledge... and I can draw on those lessons myself, for the problem of the Chel Grett...
In short: there is work to be done.
I feel better already.
Live and lose
Off in the moorlands of Ayrshire, left untouched due to unstable minshafts below, Amuro lay between the rolling mounds, reflecting on fallen allies as he catches his breath.
"Ready to try again?" Cagalli asked. She was holding a PADD linked in to the mobile hologenerator that stood beside her.
"Tell me again, just how does this thing work?" I asked, pointing to the belt and a strange device in my other hand, which looked like an early 21st century communications device.
Cagalli shook her head "Again, using Quantum entanglement theory, a permanent transporter fix is maintained between the belt, and the armoury aboard the Aquarion. A modified transporter in the armoury houses one half of a quantum entangled pair of particles, the other being in the belt itself. Through this pairing, the armoury can beam a suit of armour around your body, provided you can maintain the required position to accept the transport." She drew a deep breath, almost to higlight her frustration... again.
"Wait... whaddaya mean,'accept the transport'?!" I asked, emphasising my point with airquotes.
"Well... If your out of position by more than an inch or two, the transport sort of... fouls with your anatomy..." Cagalli sighed.
"NOW YOU TELL ME! I COULD'VE LOST SOMETHING IMPORTANT!! LIKE MY-" I started, but before I could finish, we were interrupted by my XO and wife, Zazhid.
"Head, I believe you were about to say."Zazhid said while tilting her head, smiling. "I really don't believe Cagalli would let you try something so dangerous without a safeguard, would she?"
"Indeed, there is a safety in the command protocol that shuts off at the first sign of fouling, plus the transport is adjusted to match the micro-nodes Zazhid has sewn into your uniform, so it shoudn't foul in the first place. And the control device won't activate if the phase variance drops below three times standard transport tolerance.
Let's begin the first phase, use code 335 for this test." Cagalli shifted the subject, tapping away at the PADD, causing the projector to display a solid stone wall. "Remember the safeties are disengaged, so that will feel like a real brick wall!"
"Alright..." I mumbled while entering the code. 3. 3. 5. Enter.
"Standing by..." The control device droned in a snide tone.
"Henshin!" I spoke into the device before slotting it into the buckle of the belt, holding my left arm out to my side as I had trained for this test.
"Complete." The belt droned in the same snide tone.
A solid plate of plasteel enveloped my arm, separating my body from the servos and electronics of the powered armour. I felt the transport complete as the weight of my arm dramatically increased.
"Whoa, it's heavy!" I winced at Cagalli.
"It'll be much more tolerable when the entire set is complete. Til then, just suck it up." Cagalli said, mockingly.
"Easy for you to say, little miss behemoth" I muttered under my breath.
I cautiously made my way over to the 'wall', cocking back my arm, and threw my entire body weight behind an almighty right hook...
"Amuro!" Zazhid and Cagalli both cried out, Cagalli also placing her face into her palm.
"What?" I asked.
Thus began the most surreal confab I have experienced, between myself and Cagalli.
"code 335 forms the left gauntlet, right?" Cagalli started off.
"And you just punched through a 'solid stone wall'."
"A solid stone wall with your Right arm." Cagalli's antennae twitched.
"Ohhh... you sure?"I asked, jokingly while confused. Cagalli sighed and ended our confab with 3 short words.
"Just look down..."
So I did, and sure enough, I had punched through the 'solid stone wall' with my bare right arm, as my left hung there like a dead weight.
"Oww." I muttered. "Why didn't I feel anything though? Maybe the safeties weren't as disabled as you thought?" I started to wonder, but those questions were answered for us as the wall flickered, fading away to reveal I had punched clean through the generator, a thick ooze of unusually vibrant blood oozing from a deep wound between my index and middle finger.
"This ain't right..." I said, just before passing out.
I woke up in the all too familiar Sick Bay aboard the Aquarion, my left arm in a sling, my right without bandage or plaster.
"What gives, Doc?" I asked Jelun... but he wasn't there.
Only myself, Zazhid and Cagalli were in the room.
"Amuro, what we say here does not leave this room, for your own safety." Zazhid said in a hushed tone before leaving.
"Wha?" I mumbled, unable to get my bearings.
"It seems that during our battles together, some interaction between us has had a peculiar side-effect" Cagalli began one of her monologues. I motioned as though to speak, but she placed her finger to my lips and continued, "Let me finish." I just nodded.
"At some point, we have had, somewhat of an intimate moment, as it seems some of my genetic material has passed on to you."
I raised an eyebrow, surely she can't be serious.
"I am serious, and don't even think about calling me Shirley, even as a joke. Now, this transferrance has melded into your own DNA, altering your bodies' design. Your muscle and bone density have increased, the repair centre of your brain is working at 500% 'normal' capacity... and you also weigh 380 lbs when you should only weigh 150" She said, cracking a smile. "Pretty much everything that an Augment was, minus the psychosis... so far"
"So that's the reason for the secrecy" I blurted out as I realised what was going on.
"I have to ask; Why did you push for the test, knowing the armour needs to be complete before you can wear it?"
"Oh, it's part of my New Year's resolution: To never leave anyone behind again, even if it means dying to do so. I figure pushing for this test would give you a bit of a push to finish quicker, heh" I chuckled, then clutched my rib in agony "I guess I broke my arm and a few ribs landing on the gauntlet, huh."
"Pretty much." Cagalli nodded, "You'll be fine in a few hours, trust me." Cagalli turned to leave, but I still wanted to ask her one thing.
"Hey! What is your New Year's resolution?" I asked.
Cagalli turned, a single tear making it past her normally steely facade "To find my Son."
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