Literary Challenge #37 : Mirror, Mirror on the... Viewscreen?
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Join Date: Jun 2012
02-05-2013, 03:50 PM
held station on the outskirts of the Badlands. The commanding officer of the
-class starship paced in front of the viewscreen. The waiting had started as tedious, but had lately become nerve-wracking. The quiet warble of the proximity alarm was a welcome relief.
"Distance and direction to the contact?" he barked, a little more abruptly than he would have liked.
His executive officer replied with her typical Vulcan efficiency. "Bearing 026 mark 014, range 8.4 million kilometers. Contact is closing at approximately one-half impulse."
The familiar outline of an
-class starship filled the screen. "Is it her?"
T'Valas nodded. "Short-range sensors have resolved her markings. She is the
"We're receiving a hail." Commander Chol said.
O'Ryon turned to her and nodded. "On screen."
"Hello, Terry," said Colonel Tarius O'Ryon of the Office of the General Inspectorate. "I have a favor to ask."
"It's funny," replied Admiral Tarius O'Ryon of the Federation Diplomatic Corps. "I was just about to say that."
The scarred face twisted into a cruel parody of a smile. "Then my timing is impeccable. As usual."
Moments later, the Terran colonel admired the luxury of the Federation ambassador's ready room with a sigh. "I really should abduct your interior decorator sometime. Mine had no sense of color coordination."
"Have you shot him yet?" Ambassador O'Ryon poured two cups of coffee.
"Pfft. Of course not." Colonel O'Ryon crossed the room to pick up the proffered cup. "I had him shot. Do you think I handle the messy details myself? We're both delegators, you and I..." He trailed off and looked into the cup. "Cream and Syrup of Squill?"
"I know me too well," replied the diplomat. His counterpart was an odious human being, but the colonel didn't top the list of odious beings he dealt with during his career. It was a close call, though. He raised his cup in salute.
"Cheers to me!" The colonel returned the salute and took a slow sip, clearly savoring the moment. "I had to bribe four customs officials and blackmail a fifth for my last bottle of syrup. I finished it months ago." He looked up at the ambassador expectantly.
"I'll send you home with a case, presuming we can come to an accommodation."
"Down to business! Just the way we like it." He took a shorter, faster, larger gulp of his coffee and set the cup down on the ambassador's desk. "I have some turf issues on my side of the dimensional barrier."
"How awful for you." Ambassador O'Ryon sat down in his chair and gestured for his counterpart to do the same. "I imagine the alternate-universe-technology-theft market is quite contested."
Colonel O'Ryon sat. "You should know. You've personally wrecked two of my projects."
"Part of the risk of the business. You break your agreements and you should expect the penalties." Another sip. The opening rounds of negotiations were tedious, but necessary. If the parties could tally up exactly who owed whom what and how much, the actual bargaining phase would be short. Anything to get this reprehensible officer off his ship faster... "You promised that you would approach me with requests for technological assistance. Instead you kidnap and replace a Federation scientist and build an
-class ship from stolen blueprints."
The Terran raised his hands in mock surrender, "Excellent points, brother." Colonel O'Ryon knew that was the ambassador's least favorite form of address. "But now shall we address the ever-growing list of officers that I have helped you retrieve from Imperial custody?"
"Retrievals which no doubt embarrassed your rivals and increased your influence and power with whatever circles you run in."
Not good enough, "brother,"
he thought. "I should think you'd be nigh-invincible now, what with all the 'help' you've given us."
"Oh, if only that were the case!" He feigned a swoon against the back of his chair. "Alas, brother, your last bit of interference was truly damaging." He sat back up and leaned across the desk. "Do you have any idea how many people I had to kill to keep my job and my ship?" He slowly shook his head back and forth. "It was not a short list."
"I'm trying to find it within my heart to forgive myself." The ambassador matched sarcasm with sarcasm, pounding his heart gently with his fist. "Oh, good, I found it."
Colonel O'Ryon laughed. "I should know better than to try that with you -- me! You're not the typical Federation slug. So, I'll stop this negotiating dance and tell you what I need."
"Please proceed, Colonel."
Colonel O'Ryon rose from his seat and meandered over to the window. "Your signal arrived at an opportune moment. My ... difficulties ... caused by your most recent meddling in my affairs have come to a bit of a head. The competition for acquiring technology has grown even more fierce. Commensurate with the recent weakening of my influence."
"More than just the Tholians?"
Colonel O'Ryon nodded. "I've discovered that not only are there factions within the Empire working directly with those spiders, but there are 'independent' operators working for their own ends."
Ambassador O'Ryon crossed his arms. "I had always lumped you in with the 'independent' types."
Colonel O'Ryon laughed. "A common mistake. Most of those who make it die quickly." He returned to the desk but didn't sit. He leaned over it, looming over his seated counterpart. "Most. But not these newest competitors. They've crossed me, but managed to stay hidden. I have to find out who they are. If they succeed in bringing significant technologies across the dimensional barrier without the kind of ... shall we say "filtering" ... that my organization provides, the Empire will be torn apart from the inside."
The ambassador uncrossed his arms and considered his doppelganger. "Coincidentally, that's exactly what I was going to ask you."
The colonel scowled narrowed his eyes in suspicion. "What are you talking about?"
"I believe your rivals have undertaken a project or two that has come to my attention. I'd like to know who they are, what they want, and how I can stop them from getting it."
Colonel O'Ryon's scowl turned into a smile. "Oh, how fortunate for the both of us. It looks like I might take home a case of Squill after all."
Last edited by kineticimpulser; 02-05-2013 at
. Reason: Proofreading and punctuation