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Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 1,203
# 35
03-31-2013, 12:08 AM
Star Trek: Online
Tales of Alyosha Strannik

LC #3, "My Haven"

"Who Sings the Song of Hosts"


I, Alexei Ivanovich Strannik, having been appointed Captain, United Federation of Planets Starfleet, do solemnly swear that I will represent the Charter of the United Federation of Planets in my service, that I will support and defend that Charter when necessary, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office which I am about to enter.

So help me God.

I still couldn't believe it. I had made it.

Just an hour ago, I had been standing in Admiral Quinn's expansive office on Earth Spacedock with a small cadre of those who had helped me to get to this place. My foster parents. My best friend, Thraz, a fellow commander stationed on the Laikan. My current commanding officer, Captain Teeglar, the diminutive Roylan captain of the exploration cruiser Avandar. Admiral Kane could not be present, but he had sent his regards.

Quinn had smiled, his features filled with subdued warmth as he regarded me standing at attention before him. "It's good to see you here, Alexei." His demeanor in that moment had reminded me of the late, lamented admiral J.P. Hanson. And how far both of us had come since that awful day at Starfleet Academy...

"You'll be assigned to the 77th Fleet under Admiral ch'Harrell, to the Chin'toka. I know you were expecting a science ship, not an escort. We still intend you to engage in exploration...but with the war, there are times when that's going to have to be backed up with superior firepower. I know you can handle it."

"Is Admiral ch'Harrell briefed, sir?"

Quinn nodded. "Believe me," he said in a low voice. He hadn't just been looking at me--but at my foster parents, the Azarovs, as well. They--and he--had all aged since then...and I had adjusted my human image accordingly...but he had to have remembered them from that call in the commandant's office. "I don't send my officers into traps. Ch'Harrell needs only an officer's honor to judge him by. Your record shows a competent officer who is right for this position.

Then Admiral Quinn had pulled a small case out of his desk drawer and opened it to fourth pip--a gold parallelogram in the 25th-century style.

I had actually worn a real dress coat for the occasion instead of shapeshifting it as I did the rest of my clothes. It felt like it must feel to a human to have sunglasses on, since it blocked a large section of photoreceptors on my body--far larger than what my commbadge did. True, I could and often did restrict my visual field in order to understand what my humanoid colleagues saw, and could not see, but I didn't particularly care for not having a choice in the matter.

As uncomfortable as the dress coat made had been absolutely worth it for that.

Admiral Quinn led, and I had sworn the oath. Though my new rank would only be effective at 0001 hours the next day, the unaccustomed weight of the coat and the feel of its fabric brushing against my skin...not to mention the strange sensation of the Trill-human hybrid reaching up and pulling on the coat's collar in order to clip on the new rank pip...these drove the enormity of the moment home.

Despite everything...I had made captain. That was a cause for celebration--one that very, very few people would ever understand the true extent of. I had certainly not been one of the many below-the-zone captains that had entered into Starfleet's O-6 ranks of late, now that personnel shortages were starting to hit. Not even close. And I'd had to fight for every on-time promotion I had received. But I had made it. I, Alyosha Strannik...first and only Devidian in Starfleet, had achieved command rank.

But it was also a moment for reflection. I was not merely a captain. I was a wartime captain, with all the grave responsibilities thereof. And I had been assigned the command of an escort. Cast in an exploratory role or not, I would see battle, and it would be up to me to protect my crew and get them out of each mission alive.

Captain Teeglar and I walked side-by-side through the corridors of the Avandar for one last time--except that this last time, the same rank insignia sat on both of our collars. The small, ceratopsid-looking Roylan favored me with a long look with his ink-black eyes. "It has been an honor serving with you, Alyosha. I'll miss you. And Dr. Sei. I understand why you're taking her from me--and that's why I agreed to the transfer--but you will both be keenly missed."

Teeglar stopped in the middle of the corridor. He glanced in both directions--no one was coming. We faced each other now. "It's a matter of trust. When I brought you aboard the Avandar...I knew that you of all people would look past my relatively small stature and voice, and understand the need to be not just my executive officer in job function, but to demonstrate your support and respect--without fail. That what you did as first officer would be reflected in the conduct of the crew.'

"'Do unto others'..." I said.

"Exactly. The impact of that will be felt upon this crew long after you're gone. Still..." He emitted a nearly inaudible...well, 'whimper' was the best term for it. "I wish I didn't have to part with you." Teeglar shook his head. Then he refocused upon me--though to be honest it was the change in his neural energy that let me know of the greater intensity of his gaze, than his solid black eyes. "You must want out of that coat."

"And you must want to get off of the ground," I replied in kind.

"I would fix that for know." I shrugged. Teeglar knew quite well why--out here in a public corridor, where there were cameras, wasn't exactly the place to use my telekinesis.

Then it registered with Captain Teeglar...I guess I can call him just 'Teeglar' now, without getting in trouble...where we were standing: just outside the entrance to Holodeck 3. "Feeling the muse?" he asked. I nodded, understanding what he meant by that. "Must be pretty rough if it even beats getting out of your dress coat."

I nodded again. "I can always find someplace to hang it in-program. But yes...I really need to cut loose."

It was more than just a muse. More than just the passion for singing that constantly followed me. I could not even laugh according to my own nature--could not cry--could not shout for joy--without scaring the devil out of everyone around me and giving away my very non-humanoid nature. Even among those I knew well, I still restrained myself most of the time out of respect for their sensibilities. And while I could often sublimate it into the sound of human laughter, or into a wasn't easy to force down my natural emotional reactions. I was no Vulcan, after all; if I was any indication, apparently Devidians were no more wired for that than humans.

Teeglar smiled. "Then don't let me stand in your way...'Captain' Strannik." True, I still had a few hours left as a commander, but Teeglar's message came across loud and clear. "Have fun."

"I will."

I keyed open the holodeck. Once the door slid shut, I called, "Computer--begin program Abbey Road Studios."

As soon as the entryway materialized, I ordered the computer to produce me a coat rack, and I gratefully slid the dress coat off and stretched. As I did, I released myself from my human form. I still needed to remain in human phase, of course, to interact with the program, but it gave me one less thing to have to focus on. But one of the great things about the 25th century was a lovely little setting in most holodeck programs that could, if you so choose, require the characters to ignore each and every characteristic that might set you apart from the species you happened to be roleplaying in the story at that moment.

So it was that as I entered the studio--even though I'd selected a time period in the 22nd century where humanity had had very little contact with any other species than the Vulcans, that the holographic employees simply smiled and calmly greeted me as I gave each of them a polite nod, not noticing or caring that my features corresponded only in the barest of ways to their own, or that my feet only intermittently happened to be touching the floor.

One of them called out to me as I passed him in the corridor. "Will you be needing me to call any session musicians for you today, Mr. Strannik?"

I shook my head--even in my natural form the impulse came too readily to ignore. "That will be all right, Mr. Kelsey. I'm doing some remix work today; the DJ has already prepared the recordings I'll need." Which in reality had been me, in a previous session.

"Very well. Just let me know if you need anything."

"Of course," I replied in a pleasant tone that was sufficient for the holoprogram to read and cause the photonic producer to respond as though I had favored him with a smile.

I slid the door to the studio shut, and started working my way through the relaxing routine of bringing the 22nd-century recording equipment online and calling up the song I wanted in the precise way required by voice recognition software of the time, which pre-dated the introduction of the Universal Translator and still hadn't quite mastered all of the nuances of humanoid grammar.

An airy, electronic song with traces of dubstep and Orion trance music, of the type of music that had dominated humanity's musical output in the immediate post-First-Contact era burst forth from the studio's speakers, quite a bit louder than most humanoids could tolerate. But then again, since I heard in such a different way, I had no tiny inner-ear organs to damage by cranking the volume.

It took me the first thirty seconds of the song to find my footing--but I decided on that day to dispense with all pretense of a human voice.

I cried out at a pitch far too high for all but a human first soprano, with a timbre and power completely Devidian--the shriek of a Nazgul, almost, but in this case sweeping up-up-up again, a cheer, a cry of jubilation rather than predatory glee.

Then the sound morphed almost of its own accord, as the notes of the centuries-old song wrapped almost tangibly around me, into a soaring electric violin. Nothing but what I knew of the instrument restricted me from creating as many notes at a time as I felt like; I spoke...I sang with a natural transducer rather than larynx, lips, and tongue. I knew instinctively what sort of waveform I wanted to create...and I sang, my technique an eclectic combination of metal guitar solo, Arabesque violin, and Orion sahad-mur.

Only a few had ever heard me sing in this way...not even Captain Teeglar had heard me this unrestrained. I gave thanks for the gift given to me on this day. I pleaded for intercession. I poured out my hopes and fears in a way I suspected even my own species would never comprehend--my song understood only by myself and my God.

At least for a moment, in my own small way, I joined the great song of hosts.
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