Literary Challenge #40 : Redux
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Join Date: Feb 2013
03-28-2013, 03:28 PM
Literary Challenge 2: Taking Command
The Orions, like many other cultures, had a tendency to anthromorphize things. It seemed a universal constant that a concept or thing could only be understood if one were to treat it as a person, and attach emotions or motivations to it. To the Orions, luck and good fortune were typically seen as female, in much the same way as the Humans believed in "Lady Luck." Lynathru had never considered how appropriate this comparison was until now: like most Orion women, luck was fickle, vicious, and seemed to have it in for him.
He could almost hear luck's mocking laughter now as he stared out the viewport, his frowning green face lit an unwholesome olive colour by the murky red lighting of the spacedock control room.Before him, the vast window was dominated by the hulking shapes of the KDF fleet moored at Qo'noS' main spacedock, the Klingon birthworld and the vast expanse of space barely visible in the background. The upper half of the viewport alone was encompassed by the vast shape of a Negh'var class battlecruiser sitting proudly at rest, like a pugilist awaiting his next fight. Around it, Lynathru could see other warships of the Klingon fleet: a Somraw-cass Raptor stood docked to the lower left, its wings outstretched and looking like a predator in motion even while moored. Further in the background, a Vor'cha class battlecruiser drifted past the spiked, sea monster-liked shape of a Nausicaan warship, and a trio of Birds of Prey turned in a tight formation. And in the corner, Lynathru could just make out the garguntuan shape of a of a Bortas-class dreadnought, its prow alone dwarfing everything else visible in the orbital yards.
His vision, however, returned to the ship at the lower corner of the viewport. Dwarfed by every other vessel moored at the station was a Qul'Dun-class Bird of Prey, and one that had clearly seen better days. The ship's jade paintwork was faded and burned in many places, exposing ugly glints of metal beneath. The entire ship looked like it was slowly succumbing to some sort of rust infestation, and Lynathru almost felt physically ill looking at it.
"You can't be serious," he muttered aloud.
Next to him, Battlemaster Khe'Rath turned towards him, raising an impassive eyebrow. "I beg your pardon?" she growled. Lynathru had discovered a long time ago that Klingons tended to growl everything when they communicated. Aggression was practically encoded into their DNA.
Lynathru gestured to the ship. "You're giving me command of
?" The ship barely even looked capable of impulse, let alone warp, and he didn't even want to consider how much its systems would be hampered by the structural damage. For all he knew, it would fall apart the moment it left the dock.
The Battlemaster's expression hardened. During the year Lynathru had been training under this old Klingon, he knew this expression as a sign that he was tempting her anger. He had faced that anger enough times to know that he did not want it: Khe'Ras may have been a grey-haired hag of a woman, but she was still physically fit enough to rip Lynathru's arm off and beat him to death with it if she was so inclined. She reminded him, in so many unpleasant ways, of his long-dead mother, although she was much less subtle.
"Watch your tongue, you green petaQ," Khe'Rath growled. "The
has seen dozens of major battles, and twice as many skirmishes. Its scars are a mark of pride, the mark of a true warrior's ship. They are nothing for you to complain about or be offended by."
Realizing he was stepping on thin ice, Lynathru modified his behaviour. An Orion living on Qo'noS had to be careful to watch his tongue and play to the Klingons' values of honour and tradition, or else his or her head would end up on a spike. "Forgive me, Battlemaster, I meant no disrespect," he said with a bow to his instructor. "I had never expected my first command to be so...damaged, that is all." Truth to be told, he was more upset by how small the ship was. A small ship meant a small cargo hold, which meant only a small amount of plunder that could be store. Not for the first time, he felt an intense jealousy towards the Orion privateer captains in the KDF who got to keep their own, Orion-built raiding ships with substantial cargo holds.
As usual, though, the old hag saw right through his respectful gestures. "If the ship is damaged, you will make do as best you can, and triumph in spite of it," she growled. "You are not Klingon, but you have trained with the KDF, so you are the next best thing!" Her eyes narrowed. "Just remember, this ship is a raider, not a full battlecruiser. It can surprise any unwary foe with a well-timed decloaking attack, but do not be so foolish as to take on a large warship by yourself. Be smart, use your instincts and the lessons you have learned, and you will frighten the enemy like children in their beds." Her arms folded in a stern gesture, as they did whenever Khe'Ras concluded a lecture. "Now, before you take command of this honoured vessel-- a command, Lynathru, you should feel unworthy of-- what else should you remember?"
He felt his cheeks burn. Khe'Rath had beaten this answer into him quite thoroughly during their training, but he still felt humiliation at having to say it aloud. "I am a warrior now, not a pirate," he replied, doing his best to keep the bitterness from his voice. "I should seek my enemy's destruction, not their cargo. Everything I do, I now do for the glory of the Klingon Empire."
I will also dance over your grave one day, you miserable hag,
he added mentally.
Khe'Rath seemed satisfied by this answer. "Conduct yourself with honour, Lynathru," she said. "We allowed you into the academy, and trained you to command, because we saw potential in you. Potential that is of benefit to the Empire." Her eyes narrowed. "Remember, the eyes and ears of the KDF are upon you. You can either serve with distinction and rise in rank...or you can dishonour yourself and go back to slaving to belly dancers in the ghettos of the First City. The choice is yours, Lynathru."
Biting down his hatred, Lynathru reacted as he had been trained to, slamming his steel-clad forearm against the chestplate of his red cuirass. "jYaj!" he barked, the Klingon word grating at his throat. He felt conscious that he was acting and reacting like a trained dog, taking Khe'Rath's abuse and responding just as she wanted. At the moment, he didn't care. In a few hours, he knew, he would never have to deal with Khe'Rath or the Academy ever again. In fact, if he was lucky, he might never even see Qo'noS again either.
He spun on his heels, and was turning to leave for the turbolift-- and, he knew, towards the next few years of his life-- when Khe'Rath cleared her throat audibly behind him. The sound caused him to stop in his tracks, as it always had during training.
"One more thing," Khe'Rath added. "Only Klingons can go to Sto'Vo'Kor. That is simply the way of things. It is not a place that was ever meant for Orions, Nausicaans or Gorn. Even so..." Her needle teeth pulled back in a grin. "Die well, Lynathru."
Lynathru stiffened. In all honesty, he had no intention of ever dying at all if he could help it, but then he had learned a long time ago that Klingons had very odd ways of wishing people well. He turned, and gave Khe'Rath a quick bow. "Thank you, Battlemaster."
Hopefully, he thought to himself, that was the last time he would have to say that to her.
To be an Orion in the KDF was not uncommon. Ever since their subsumation into the Klingon Empire, the Orions had found endless (and surprisingly legal) opportunities for business, commerce, and prosperous military service within the Empire itself. A fairly substantial "green district" had grown in the First City on Qo'noS, and the most common Orion businesses-- pleasure-houses, slavery, and the aggressive confiscation of other people's spaceborne valuables-- were tolerated within the Empire, albeit frowned upon. With their long history of piracy and spaceborne adventuring, the Orions proved to be suitable officers and helmsmen for Klingon ships. And while the Klingons openly scoffed that the Orions were "honourless pirates" and worse, the truth of the matter was that, despite their lack of any vaunted codes of honour, the Orions valued strength every bit as much as their Klingon overlords. In Orion society, strength and cunning were needed, either to advance in social standing, or to make sure one didn't get oneself assassinated in the process. These traits, combined with the interesting hormonal traits of their species-- the overwhelming seductive domination of the females and the impressive physical stamina of the males-- made the Orions valuable additions to the Klingon Empire, whether the Klingons themselves liked it or not.
This may have been fine enough for other Orions. For Lynathru, though, it was a cruel reminder of how far he had sunk.
A decade ago, he had been the only son of a powerful house on Ter'jas Mor, one that enjoyed the personal favour of Melani Di'an herself. He had gained accolades and a worthy reputation through countless raids, privateering voyages and smuggling operations in Federation space, and had survived every single attempt on his life by his rivals. Although the power and authority of the house would inevitably go to his sister, as was the matriarchal custom of the Orion race, Lynathru would still have enjoyed a position of rank in the house's military and fleet arm once his mother passed away. Best of all, he would have gained captaincy of the
the family's trade barge, a powerful vessel and status symbol. For a time, it seemed that all of these things would inevitably be his.
Unfortunately, fate had had other ideas. In one botched privateering raid, his idiot of a mother, while commanding the
, ended up in an uneven battle against a Federation starship commanded by some Human named Sulu. His sister had been on the ship as well at the time, but instead of dropping into warp and retreating like a sensible person would have, she and Mother had instead decided to stand and fight. The end result was a disaster: the
was destroyed, and everyone on board, including Lynathru's mother, sister, most of the experienced officers of their house and a lot of raided wealth, was lost. In an instant, Lynathru's house had suffered a crippling blow from which it would never recover, and Lynathru's coveted inheritance was lost.
Normally, with no female heirs, control of the house would have gone to Lynathru, but with the loss of the family wealth, his newfound inheritance didn't mean much anymore. In order to ensure his house's survival, he was forced to mate with the head of a rival house. Unfortunately, that relationship didn't end well: Nateri, while a very attractive woman, had also wanted to consolidate her power through Lynathru's removal. One week into the marriage, Lynathru was forced to flee for his life, abandoning his house and his homeworld and boarding the first ship to the only place where he would be relatively safe-- Qo'noS, the throneworld of the Klingon Empire.
And now, here he was, a man who at one point had seemed destined for prestige and wealth, now forced to grovel before Klingon overlords, serve Klingon commanders, fake adherance to an antiquated Klingon honour system, and command a dilapidated Klingon warship, all in the hopes that he would scrape by some smidgens of plunder whenever his Klingon masters permitted it or weren't looking. Although he was experienced in serving on and commanding a ship, experience in the Orion fleet counted for nothing in the eyes of the KDF. He had been forced to go through the KDF Academy, endure their Klingons' bone-breakingly harsh training regimen and the mocking insults, fight his way through his fellow candidates in the brutal final officer's exam. And through it all, he had done so with the knowledge that it was either this, or living in the slums of the First City with Garrad and the rest of his lowly ilk.
has sent confirmation that they are ready to recieve you," a gruff voice said, snapping Lynathru back to reality. "We are ready for transport." The Klingon transporter officer was looking at him expectantly, obviously waiting for some confirmation to beam him over to his new command.
Inwardly, Lynathru sighed.
I suppose I might as well get this over and done with,
he thought to himself. There was no going back now. For better or worse, his future was tied to the dilapidated excuse of a starship that he was about to take command of. He gave the Klingon officer a curt nod. "Energize."
Lynathru rematerialized in the spacious cargo hold of the
with the entire crew assembled in parade formation to greet him. As per standard KDF procedures, Lynathru was inspected to make an inspection of the crew and get a measure of the men and women who would be serving under him. It was, in many ways, a chance for him to sift the useful from the useless, the valuable from the expendable, the allies from the enemies. The latter was especially important: as much as the loresingers and ranking KDF officers on Qo'noS preached the official motto of several races under a united Empire, the bitter truth was that there was a lot of infighting between various houses and races in the KD itself. Lynathru didn't expect things to be any different here on the
There were seventy-five warriors and specialists who made up the small ship's crew. Most of them, as usual, were Klingons, but Lynathru saw fellow Orions in the mix as well, men and women both, as well as a few hulking Gorn, some surly-looking Nausicaans and the lean, sinister shapes of two Ferasans. All of them wore the standard KDF uniform of beaten leather cuirasses and broad shoulder pads, with the ranking officers wearing clinking chainmail sashes across their chests to denote their status. Lynathru, in his own red metal cuirass (thankfully without ridiculous shoulder pads) stood out from his crew. Even though some of the races represented were a head taller than him, Lynathru had always compensated with a straight posture and an intense stare, and he did so now, doing as much as he could to give the impression that he was someone to be taken seriously.
He was quickly introduced to the ranking officers-- the men and women with whom he would be interacting the most for the next few years, for better or worse. The introductions were led by the ship's first officer, Ku'Tagh, son of Gragh-- a glowering, aged specimen of a Klingon whose white beard had been elaborately braided and trailed down acros his armoured chest. From what Lynathru had read of the briefing report, Ku'Tagh was a member of the old guard, a veteran of the Dominion and Gorn Wars who had recently fallen into disgrace due to his family's affiliation with the House of Martok. Just by looking at Ku'Tagh, Lynathru got the sense that he was a lot like Khe'Rath-- surly, stern, and hard to impress, though his resentment at his disgrace would probably make him doubly hard to work with. Lynathru decided he would either have to tread carefully around Ku'Tagh, or do something to earn the old Klingon's respect. Either way, the man was going to be his First Officer, so there would be no avoiding him, no matter what.
The ship's only other Klingon officer was the doctor, Ferra, a woman who was much younger than Ku'Tagh and who, thankfully, did not have his scowling disposition. Her hair was tied back in a series of dreadlocks, and she had a slender, yet fit build to her. She came across as gruff and as proud as any Klingon, but Lynathru got the impression that she was willing to give an Orion captain a chance. This was a relief: he knew from experience that a lot of Klingons were adverse to serving under aliens, and felt quite strongly that it ought to be the other way around. Through Ferra, he could potentially gain the respect of the other Klingons on the ship as well. Either way, he decided, it would pay to get on Ferra's good side: he knew from experience that Klingon medicine involved zero anaesthetic and a lot of rough handling, and he didn't want to find out how much more painful the experience might be if the doctor in question disliked him.
Moving on, he met other officers in quick succession. The ship's engineer, Rresh, was a hulking Gorn with a frighteningly toothy grin and a good-humoured nature, who had greeted his new commander with apparent enthusiasm.
My first ally on this ship,
Lynathru had thought with a grin. The main navigator, Sarta, was a fellow Orion, who wore a leather brassier in place of a shirt in the custom of their race, had her hair done back in a long ponytail, and...Lynathru had caught himself at that point and stopped taking in her physical details at that point.
To stare too long at a woman is to became her property,
the old Orion adage went, and given the power of an Orion woman's hormonal effect, it was usually quite true. He and Sarta briskly exchanged greetings, and when asked, Sarta told Lynathru of her navigation credentials from past privateering experience in the Syndicate. Even as Sarta spoke, Lynathru imagined he could see a power-hungry gleam in her eye. He resolved to keep a careful eye on this woman, lest she try to replicate the matriarchal nature of Orion society on this ship. He had not gone through the hell of the KDF academy to have his first command robbed from him by a female's charms.
Last, but by no means least, Lynathru moved on to the Science Officer...and froze when a pair of blood red eyes stared back at him. Or rather, stared
him. A cold sweat formed on the back of Lynathru's neck as he felt himself locked into that gaze, unable to look away. His feet felt rooted in place, his limbs briefly shook as though from palsey, and he felt his heartbeat pounding in his ears as those two, unblinking red eyes bored into his very being...
And then, as quickly as it had all happened, Lynathru suddenly felt free and aware of his surroundings. The Science Officer-- a hairless, bone-ridge creature with mottled yellow and black skin and piercing red eyes-- introduced himself as Rezik.
He spoke in a soft, quiet voice, and stated how much he was looking forward to working with Lynathru in the future. Lynathru had simply nodded, and, maintaining as much of his outward composure as possible, walked onwards, wanting to put as much distance between himself and the Lethean as possible.
After the introductions were done, Lynathru gave the first order of his KDF career by having his new crew move to their stations. From there, he and his officers made a trip to the bridge. As Ku'Tagh briefed him on the status of the crew, Lynathru noted, with distaste, how flat, bleak and laconian the architecture of the
was. It was nothing but dull red lighting and flat, steel panels everywhere, with the odd symbol here and there of the Klingon Empire daubed in crimson. No feeling or embellishment or decoration, just flat, spartan unimaginative orderliness.
The bridge of the
was no better, little more than a round room decorated in a dull, scabrous red (which he had double checked to make sure wasn't actual rust). The lighting was dim and cavernous, consoles arrayed in a circular fashion around the captain's chair operated with a jarring, angry buzz to them instead of the more pleasant beep of Orion computers. The atmosphere was unpleasantly warm, and the air filtration must not have been working, as the entire place smelled of blood and sweat. He remembered, with more than a little nostalgia, the leather seats and comfortable atmosphere of the Orion ships he had served on. The rest of the Bird-of-Prey was probably just as bleak as the bridge, which meant that he would probably be sleeping on a hard metal slab of a bed tonight.
Upon entering the bridge, Lynathru's new cadre of officers stood upright at their stations, looking at him expectantly. Ku'Tagh turned to Lynathru, obediently but not without disdain. "This ship is yours, Captain," he growled. "We await your orders."
Welcome to the rest of your life, Lynathru,
he thought to himself. Straightening up, he glanced back at Ku'Tagh and gave him a slow nod, before striding to the centre of the bridge and sitting down in the command chair. The hard metal of the chair offered no comfort, and the hard edges of the arm rests bit into his forearm. It was an uncomfortable chair, no doubt designed to remind a captain that he had an uncomfortable responsibility.
And yet, strangely enough, as Lynathru looked out of the viewscreen, none of that seemed to matter. Past the slowly rotating orb of Qo'noS and the steel mass of the KDF fleet in orbit, Lynathru saw the endless expanse of space and the glittering stars in their multitudes. Out there, he knew, was the promise of adventure and danger, of hope and of terror, and above all, of opportunity. And in this chair, he would, for once, have some control over fate instead of being it's unwilling victim. All of his bitterness and regret seemed to recede as he stared out into the endless starscape.
So be it then, he decided. If this was the rest of his life, then he would face it head on. He had been dealt a half-dead wreck of a ship, and a crew full of people who would probably be out to kill him, enslave him or use his mind as a playground. Despite all of this, he vowed to himself, he would succeed. He would prosper. He would survive the worst the universe could throw at him. Because right now, he was captain of his own ship, and that for the first time in ages, that was something that he could call his own.
He leaned back in his chair, inviting the cruel, unforgiving hardness of it against his back. "Miss Sarta," he ordered, "set a course for deep space and take us out. Engage."
Last edited by ambassadormolari; 03-29-2013 at