Tales of the Valkyrie:
The Princess of Pentaxia:
Anticipation. Thirteen years of anticipation had brought her to this point with nothing to show for it. Zh'unt'ari Ch'K'rr, empress of the Pentaxian Dynasty strode through the halls of the imperial palace, her body language projecting a confidence and self-assurance she did not feel. Her coronation may have been completed, and her position as zh'unt'ari finally confirmed, but the events of the past three days had been what the Terrans would call an 'emotional roller-coaster'. She had renewed old acquaintances, formed new friendships, nearly been killed twice, hiked through the ca'll sh't'ya, the ghost canyons, for eight hours, attended a burning, and ordered an execution. Her tutors had taught her to look back, to review where she had come from, so she could see the progress she had made, so she did so now as she walked through the polished orange marble halls. She had been barely eight years old, barely mature enough to give rational, if frequently self-serving, orders when the death of the emperor elevated her to the throne. She had ruled by fear, as fear was all she had known. Fear of the d'v'ash't'ya, the floating wraiths who could appear anywhere at any time, and drained the life from her mother. Fear of the fanatics who had assassinated her father. Fear of being seen as weak. She remembered the first time she had seen Marcus Kane.
His alien features filled the viewscreen as the warship had pursued his tactical shuttle out of Pentaxian orbit, protesting his innocence -- not with the pleading subservience Ch'K'rr was accustomed to hearing in all who addressed her, but with a calm, almost offended dignity. Although he appeared uninjured, the collar and chest area of his shirt was covered with dried blood. To Ch'K'rr's perspective, his dark hair and pale eyes were striking and exotic.
"I have committed no acts of espionage nor treason against you, Empress," he stated, his hands flying over the console, sending the shuttle spinning out of the way of the disruptor bolts, but never breaking eye contact with the child-monarch. "My mission was to intercept miss-appropriated Federation technology, and arrest the operative responsible for its presence on your world. The technology is destroyed, and Sloane is in your cell."
Ch'K'rr had giggled at that thought: A knowing, sinister laugh which would have been unsettling from an adult. From a child, it was positively terrifying. She had heard the cries of pain and violation echoing through the dungeons as the interrogators had plied their trade on the captured operative before she boarded the warship to pursue the Federation shuttle. She had not known what was being done to him, but it had been like music to her ears.
"You are harboring a traitor on your vessel," she snapped, seeing Ahd'r K'm'rn standing behind Kane's seat. Once the platoon leader of the A'nla sh'k assigned to the planetary capital of Ja'Kell, she was now a fugitive. A traitor who had inexplicably turned on her own troops in defense of an alien spy. "She must face justice for her betrayal."
"Ahd'r Kah... Ku aah," He can't even pronounce her name! Ch'K'rr thought with smug superiority, but he persevered. "Ahd'r Ka'aahmairahn has requested political asylum within the Federation."
"Ahd'r K'm'rn has requested political asylum," Kane repeated, this time, the vowels flowing easily from his tongue. "As a Starfleet captain, I have granted her request, and intend to escort her to Federation space. Further attempts to destroy or capture this vessel could constitute an act of war between our people."
The viewscreen returned to its view of the fleeing shuttle, as it headed towards a gas giant, plummeting instantly into its turgid depths.
"Follow him in!" Ch'K'rr howled, and the officers scrambled to obey. A vicious, spoiled child she may have been, but following the assassination of the Emperor, she was the heir-Empress -- her word was law, and to disobey meant a one-way trip to the dungeons and the horrors within.
Immediately, the deck began to shudder and roll from the atmospheric buffeting against the warship's hull.
"Highness, we must break off the descent!" Ahd'r H'rK'tt c'r'nai, the ship's commander advised. "The hull was not built to withstand this kind of pressure."
"If the Human can survive it, so can we," Ch'K'rr stated, with the bravery born of ignorance. "Maintain the pur-"
She was cut off as the deck dropped away beneath her feet, as the grav-plating went off-line, and explosions tore from consoles around the bridge.
"What's happening?!" Ch'K'rr screamed, grabbing hold of a railing to keep from floating around the bridge.
"The bussard intakes have overloaded from the pressure," H'rK'tt reported. "Engines are off-line, and systems are failing. We've lost navigation and are in an uncontrolled descent. We have less than a minute before we reach a depth which will crush the hull like an egg."
Suddenly, the viewscreen sprang to life, the swirling taupe clouds were replaced with the face of the Human captain.
"I have your ship in a tractor beam and am pulling you clear of the gas giant," he reported. "Once you are clear, I will disengage, and return to Federation space. I understand that by your customs, I now own your lives. I request that you use them productively, and repair your ship rather than attempt to pursue me."
"Thank you, Captain, your assistance is-" began H'rK'tt, but Ch'K'rr over-rode him.
"Very well, you may leave my space, Captain, and take the traitor with you," she snarled. "You may indeed have saved our lives, but I could still order my ship to destroy yours. By allowing you to leave, I am saving your life. I trust you understand what that means."
On the screen, Kane nodded uncomfortably, and behind him, K'm'rn's eyes narrowed with resentment.
And she had let them go. Over the intervening years, her vile rages had eased. Advisers and tutors managed to instill a sense of generosity and humility in her as they prepared her to assume the throne upon coming of age. She began to see the wisdom of her father's desire to forge an alliance with the Federation, and so she had requested a diplomatic envoy to witness her coronation and return with an application for membership. She had not known what to expect by requesting that Marcus Kane be the attending representative. Maybe hoped that he would see the educated woman she had become, and overlook the arrogance and vindictiveness of her youth... But he had had her with him: The traitor...
Her arm linked through his as they entered the great hall, a sign to all present, but to Ch'K'rr in particular, that he was her man. Hers alone, and she had not forgotten Ch'K'rr's childish claim of j'sh'an ha'lock.
In the face of her guests, generals and representatives from a dozen worlds, nobility from her own, and her cherished ward, S'rR's, Ch'K'rr had forced the resentment down and swallowed her pride. Accepting K'm'rn's position of seniority, and embracing her as a sister. The anticipation of all those years cast aside to be replaced by, not rejection, but redundancy.
Ch'K'rr had not known what to feel when R'sH'd had launched his coup against her. He had been her most trusted advisor, and yet all that time he had plotted against her. She had felt satisfaction upon seeing his head parted from his shoulders, knowing that the man who had killed her father, imprisoned her guests, and killed K'm'rn, albeit accidentally, had sufferered sufficient shame to repay the depth of his betrayals.
The halls of the palace seemed strangely lonely without S'rR's at her side. For three years, she had been her constant companion, absorbing knowledge like a sponge, and fitting into the elite circle of the imperial court as if she had been born to it, rather than created in a lab in an experimental program Ch'K'rr felt thoroughly ashamed to have authorized. Her flawless memory had made her the perfect companion: able to keep months of scheduling at instant recall, as well as providing surprisingly stimulating conversation and witty banter. She had been a gentle girl, without a malicious bone in her body, yet people averted their gaze and shied away from her as if she harbored some terrible disease. Eventually, Ch'K'rr ordered them, under pain of death, to treat S'rR's as they would treat her, and that had worked. Those who had shunned her before hid their distaste and afforded her kindness, and she had flourished in the dynamic environment. Upon learning the truth behind her creation, and where the Human DNA which augmented the A'nla sh'k sample had been sourced, S'rR's only desire, her obsession, had been to visit the Federation, and following the coronation, Marcus had accepted her request to do so.
Entering her private chamber without so much as a glance at the guard, Ch'K'rr moved to what appeared to be a large vanity unit, but which contained a powerful computer terminal. Her hands moving over the reactive interface, she called up the security footage from the balcony camera, where Marcus had stood between her and S'rR's, observing R'sH'd's execution. Save the moment of the departure of the Endeavour, this had been her last time in his presence, and though he was gone, she would always have her recordings.
Kane stood beside S'rR's, his beautiful assistant Amanda between him and Ch'K'rr . The executioner drew the sword, preparing for the upward slash. With a hand on the back of her head, Kane turned S'rR's' face toward his shoulder so she would not witness the decapitation.
What she saw next, made Ch'K'rr's breath catch in her chest, and her scalp prickled with anger. That Marcus had held S'rR's thus to spare her the sight of the decapitation was understandable, and clearly a gesture of kindness rather than impropriety, but from the angle of the camera, Ch'K'rr saw something else she had not realized at the time, and she tabbed the replay control:
S'rR's slid her arms round Kane in an embrace, her fingers momentarily flexing against the white fabric of the jacket of his dress uniform, before she stepped back.
Had she seen what she had thought she had seen? Two vertical furrows appeared between Ch'K'rr's brows as she replayed the images, zooming in and enhancing, and yes, it was there as clear as the suns in the sky. Openly scowling now, and calling up the feed from another camera, Ch'K'rr watched as they filed off the balcony and into the corridor. At the time, she had known that she could say almost nothing to Marcus: With K'm'rn dead at R'sH'd's hand, severing a bond which all could see had been unbreakable, anything but the most mundane conversation with the Fleet Captain would have been unthinkable. A bond of thirteen years meant a mourning period of thirteen years... Ch'K'rr would be thirty three before she could approach Marcus without shaming herself and embarrassing him... Almost another lifetime... She had waited before, so could wait again, and he would be as he was now, unchanging, eternally youthful and in his prime, a fitting consort for an Empre- Ch'K'rr's train of thought was derailed by what she saw on the screen:
Ch'K'rr passed out of the view of the camera, Amanda closely following behind her, when S'rR's stepped closer to Kane, sliding her arm through his, and then staring directly at the camera. She had known Ch'K'r would see this, and the message in her eyes was unmistakable: One day he'll be mine and there's nothing you can do about it...
Ch'K'rr felt rage boiling up within her, her scalp contracted and she leaped to her feet.
"You little BlTCH!!" she screamed, driving her fist through the screen, and sending shards of tempered glass cascading to the floor. With a savage cry, she swept everything from the surface of the vanity unit, before upending it and sending it crashing away from her. Spinning on the balls of her feet, Ch'K'rr lashed out, her claws rending drapes and a four century-old tapestry, before slamming her fist into a wall, feeling the skin of her knuckles split open. She pulled her fist back and slammed it forwards again, a bone in her hand shattered and agony shot up her arm, but in her rage, Ch'K'rr barely noticed.
Behind her, the door flew open, as hearing the commotion, the guard rushed in, his tetryon blaster drawn in case the Empress was under attack. The floating wraiths could appear anywhere and at any time to suck the life-force from the unwary, but there was no sign of any d'v'ash't'ya, just destruction, and the empress in a combat stance, blood dripping from her hand.
"Highness, is everyth-"
"G'ron'sh'r!", Ch'K'rr screamed. F**k off!
Unsure of what else to do, but obey what technically constituted an order, the guard quickly backed out of the door and sealed the room.
Eventually, Ch'K'rr's rage subsided, and she collapsed to her knees. In all her life, she had never felt so alone.
M'riY'na entered the reception room, and saw Ch'K'rr already seated.
"I understand you worked under S'ld'n on the project which created S'rR's," the empress began.
M'riY'na felt her pulse accelerate, and tried to keep her voice steady. She had not forgotten how S'ld'n had been removed from the project, and never seen again.
"Yes, Highness, I am a geneticist specializing in fertility treatments," she said. "I had nothing to do with the way she was treated, I always gave her extra desserts and shared my audio files with her, when her memories were lost, I played them to try-"
Ch'K'rr held up a hand.
"I know that S'ld'n was responsible for the abuse S'rR's suffered," she said. "That is not why I summoned you. I have been told you are the leading fertility specialist in your field. I wish to conceive, and require your assistance."
"I don't understand, Highness," M'riY'na admitted. "Surely the empress has no need for such services."
"What do you think it means to be empress?" Ch'K'rr enquired lightly.
M'riY'na shook her head.
"I... would not presume to guess, Highness," she replied.
"Allow me to enlighten you," Ch'K'rr said. "To be empress, is to sit in silence in a crowded room, because no one will dare begin a conversation. It is to spend my nights alone, because no suitor would dare to approach, considering me already bonded due to childish arrogance. It is to know that obligation must always come before the self.
"For three years, S'rR's was like a daughter to me, but now she is gone, and obligation requires that I provide an heir. I need them to be enhanced as the A'nla sh'k, so they will never experience the weaknesses I have. You are acknowledged as the leader of your field, and I would entrust that task to no other."
M'riY'na tried to keep her jaw from dropping, and nodded gracefully.
"It would be my honor."
V'sh'K'rr threw the roadster into a sharp turn through the canyon, the roar of the engine almost drowned out by the rushing wind which whipped at her hair. The pitch of the engine grew, and not lifting her right foot from the accelerator, in a single movement, she jammed her left foot on the clutch and dropped her hand from the steering wheel to the shift, changing up a gear. Glancing down at the locator, V'sh'Krr saw she was still on course for the rendezvous. An imperial princess she may have been, but V'sh'K'rr had been schooled by the most skilled drivers in the militia's motor pool, and racing was her greatest passion. It was the only time she was free of the constant observation and bodyguards. Not that she needed them. At her mother's insistence, advanced critical neural pathway formation therapy in her childhood had pushed her intellect and reactions far above normal levels, and gave her the strength to fight half a dozen combat tutors without breaking a sweat. But there was still the unwanted entourage.
On the horizon, V'sh'K'rr saw the McKnight memorial: A simple statue in tribute to the first Human to die on Pentaxia in the service of the imperial family. Hauling the wheel over while pulling the e-brake, V'sh'K'rr brought the roadster to a gravel-spewing halt.
Beside the statue, attempting to remain within its shadow, a Human male. His blonde hair would allow him to pass for Pentaxian at a quick glance, but the scar on his cheek was eye-catching enough to draw too much attention for the illusion to last more than a few seconds.
"You're late," Franklin Drake said as V'sh'K'rr climbed out of the roadster and approached him.
"Remember your place, spy," she warned. "Ensuring solitude is not easy for one in my position. Unless you want my mother's guards finding you new quarters beneath the palace. The last member of your organization who visited them did not enjoy the hospitality..."
"Apologies," Drake replied, bowing deeply. "I am merely aware of how dangerous and prone to incursions these canyons can be."
"I would not have expected a man of your experience to fear the d'v'ash't'ya," she mocked. "The wails of their approach are warning enough to prepare."
"I shall not embarrass myself by attempting to pronounce your name for them," Drake replied. "But I know how dangerous these beings are, and have no desire to become a meal for them." You would like that, wouldn't you, Alexei Ivanovich... He thought darkly. For me to become prey to your ravenous brethren, as I allowed to happen to members of your crew while attempting to capture them...
"You should learn to live dangerously, Mister Drake," V'sh'K'rr replied, taking a deep breath, then letting out a high pitched shriek which set Drake's teeth on edge.
"Are you mad?!" Drake demanded, looking about nervously, but no Devidians appeared, and V'sh'K'rr simply leaned back against her roadster laughing.
"We're waiting on the test results," she chuckled, in a way Drake was unable to tell if she was being serious or joking. In the end, he gave up.
"To business," he said. "I've spent much of my career pursuing a particular offshoot of the Human genome which creates immortality. I know that your geneticists cracked the code nearly four decades ago, and I want to acquire that knowledge."
"The spy is afraid of death?" V'sh'K'rr sneered scornfully.
"I don't seek it for myself," Drake replied. "The quadrant is facing dangerous times. Borg, Klingons, Orions, Romulans. The time is coming where people might be able to accept augment platoons, and making those augments as durable as possible is -- logical."
"I can offer you two options," V'sh'K'rr said. "The original research files and notes, which might allow you to recreate the effects you desire, or, I can point you towards the goose that lays the golden egg, and you go direct to the source."
"Ambassador S'rR's," Drake acknowledged, to which V'sh'K'rr nodded.
"My beloved sister," she replied disdainfully. "Her blood may be weak, but it should give you all the information you need. If I can be assured of... backing, at a time of my choosing, I can arrange for you to get what you are looking for."
"We have a deal, Highness."
For ease of reference/visualization, here're the actors I would cast if I was filming this tomorrow...
Ch'K'rr - Scarlett Johansson
Ch'K'rr - Morgan Lily
Marcus Kane - Matt Bomer
K'm'rn - Peta Wilson
H'rK'tt c'r'nai - Sean Bean
Guard- Jake Shears
S'rR's - Elle Fanning
R'sH'd - Alexander Skarsgard
Amanda Palmer - Ashley Greene
M'riY'na - Beverly D'Angelo
V'sh'K'rr - Sienna Miller
Franklin Drake - Casper Van Dien
Any feedback will be gratefully received :)
Really great stuff there. I always enjoy learning a little bit more about Marcus, and I like the way you keep returning to him to peel the onion just enough to see the next layer of his character.
Great bit of casting, by the way. :cool:
Sienna Miller in a roadster... I'm picturing a Jaguar E-type series-I with 700+ hp... I'm... gonna need a minute here...
Tammit, now I have to read all the material that came before...
I'm guessing H'rK'tt dies?
Actually, the 'official version' of events was that H'rK'tt used a tractor beam to pull the warship out of the gas giant, after it had been incapacitated by Marcus ;) A title and public adoration would have followed :D
Yikes...looks like the Empress' daughter was raised to hate Siri, after seeing exactly what Siri's designs on Marcus were. It could've been even worse, given the borderline sadistic little girl we see she was, in that flashback (enjoying the screams of those being tortured...).
I would definitely be afraid of her daughter's administration...
It's also interesting to see the effects you mentioned, of Devidian incursions on Pentaxian history. Especially that they claimed the life of the Empress' mother. :(
I imagine, too, that if Alyosha knew the name the Pentaxians had given to his species, he would find himself wondering how humanity and the Pentaxians managed to give such similar names to Devidia, given that the Devidian language likely bears no resemblance to humanoid languages. (Though I can see by context that the "sh't'ya" part of the Pentaxian name means "ghost.")
Interesting possible motive for Drake to have sent Alyosha to deal with the incursions on Drozana, suspecting the Devidians would seek to kill one of their species found to have been "raised by wolves."
And let's just say Alyosha thinks there's a spot in Hell with Drake's name already on it. He would've paid real money for that recording of Drake looking like he was going to "douse his drawers," as you put it, at that fake Devidian scream. ;) Not sure he would've enjoyed watching a feeding frenzy, but he would certainly not mourn Drake's death. And would regret that he couldn't have taken Drake down the "old fashioned" way (fists, feet, telekinesis, and claws, in his case ;) ).
Something worth mentioning on that regard, which arose from our conversation, is I felt there needed to be a difference in cognitive developmental rate between Humans and Pentaxians. With a five year comparative variance, at twelve years old, she would have had the intellectual and emotional responses of a Human girl of seventeen, so known exactly what she felt, and what she was doing.
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